Junior Grant Burgess of the St. Mary's College of Maryland men's swimming team writes about his experience as a student-athlete at St. Mary's.
Being a student-athlete at St. Mary's College of Maryland has been a unique and rewarding experience for me. Joining the team in 2012, I did not know what to expect. I had been competitively swimming for almost my entire life with pretty much the same teammates, and I did not know if I would fit in with this team or if I would be able to handle the challenges that came with being a student-athlete. After the first practice, I was totally convinced this is where I belonged. Everyone on the team was very positive and welcoming, which made it easy to feel accepted and valued. Starting college and moving away from home is challenging for everyone, but my decision to join the swim team and become a student-athlete definitely eased my transition.
However, the benefits of being a student-athlete come with a certain amount of sacrifice. The balance between athletics and academics is a key feature of Division III sports, and finding time for class and homework in addition to practice and meets is not an easy task. A typical day for me during the season could consist of waking up at 6:00 am for an hour-and-a-half of practice, going to class all day, going back for another 2-hour practice in the afternoon, and then doing homework at night. This rigorous schedule has taught me how to effectively manage my time and become a more organized person. These are skills that are not only essential to being a successful student-athlete, but will also have a crucial influence on the rest of my life.
During my time at St. Mary's, I have formed countless friendships with many of my teammates. These friendships are built on a common dedication to our sport, and the shared experience of six months of practices and competitions a year. Since we are Division III, everyone on the team is here solely because they are passionate for the sport, and not because they are on a paid scholarship. This shared passion is what sets Division III apart, and creates the unique experience and team dynamic.
Even though swimming for the most part is considered an "individual" sport, the team dynamic is an extremely important aspect of a swimmer's success in the pool. Without my teammates by my side practicing and pushing me in the pool, I can confidently say that I would not be reaching any of the times I have reached at this point. It goes back to that great team dynamic that many Division III teams have and is definitely present here at St. Mary's.
My decision to become a student-athlete at St. Mary's was one of the best decisions I ever made, and I look forward to finishing what has been a dream career next year.