The Club That Swims Together Stays Together
Ryan Troy arrived at Penn State eager to get involved, but he wasn’t in pursuing the sport he had played all his life. Since he was six years old, Troy was a swimmer. He represented his middle school, high school and various club teams in between, but by the time he arrived at Penn State, he was burned out. He had no intentions of swimming in college until his friends on the club swim team convinced him otherwise.
“My friends told me how different swimming was here, and I came in and gave it a shot,” Troy said. “It reinvigorated my passion for swimming.”
Now, Troy serves as the president of the club swim team, and he and his friends represent just a few of the team’s 150 active members. In order to be considered an active member, each student must participate in practices, meets, social events, or any combination of the three. The team holds practices four nights a week in the natatorium as long as the space is available.
“We get the pool at night when the varsity team and high school teams aren’t using it since they have priority over us,” Troy said.
Club swimming attends two away meets each semester. Last fall, it represented Penn State at the Maryland and James Madison invitationals. However, it has been known to travel as far as Georgia, like it did for the club swimming championship meet.
The design of the meets, practices, and the club in general is intended to attract swimmers like Troy who did not want to recreate what they experienced in high school. Instead of being involved in a negative, high-pressure environment, all practices and meets are entirely optional. Swimmers who attend meets are even able to pick which events they compete in, instead of having a coach decide for them. Having this freedom to participate at will is what Troy believes is a crucial aspect of the club’s success.
Club member Christine Sibley is another prime representation of that. She joined the team as a freshman and has been very involved ever since. Unlike Troy, her decision to join club swim began before she even set foot on campus. When choosing colleges, she knew she was interested in pursuing her love for swimming, but she was aware she wasn’t capable of making a division one team.
“I joined the team because I really wanted to swim in college. However, I also fell in love with Penn State, a school I could not swim at. So I decided to club swim and then have the change to enjoy other things on campus,” Sibley said.
Since joining club swim, Sibley has been able to utilize the flexibility the team allows her to get involved around campus. Not only has she joined other clubs but she serves as the recruitment chair for her sorority, Phi Sigma Sigma. The freedom she has with club swim is a primary reason she continues to participate and is able to continue her love for the sport.
The love for the team extends not only in the pool, but outside it as well. The team is almost entirely self-funded by its members through dues and alternative fundraising efforts. Besides a small contribution from the club sports office, if the team wants to attend an invitational, book a hotel room, or arrange transportation, it is entirely up to the members to organize and pay for it.
“Everything we are able to do is because we made it happen,” Troy said. “Whether it’s the officer board or everyone on the team committing their time, everything happens because of our hard work.”
As club president, Troy is responsible for making sure hard work pays off. He controls all the behind the scenes operations, including communicating with visiting schools, maintaining a positive relationship with the club sports office, and delegating tasks to the swim club officer board.
Between swim related commitments and fundraising events, the team spends a lot of time together. This creates a family atmosphere between members that Troy described as one of the most rewarding aspects of being involved in the club.
“When I joined my freshman year, I was overwhelmed. This is a big place, but within a few weeks, I met my best friends through club swimming,” Troy said. “Everyone has different interests, but you still feel like everyone is there for each other. Whether it be in class or in a meet, we support each other, and it all started with our appreciation for swimming. We came to swim, but we stayed for our friends.”
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Garcia is the first known Penn State student to die after contracting the virus.
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