I’ve always loved the water. So many of my favorite memories as a child revolve around all the times my parents took me swimming.
That passion for the water continued to grow, especially when we moved to California, where I could swim all year.
Over the years, I found my calling in the water, and it’s recently started to pay off. All the work I’ve put in, all the adjustments I’ve made to my technique – I’m finally getting what I believe was coming to me.
But, before any of the accolades or records, though, I had to be challenged. Someone special had to come along to get me to unlock a part of myself that I didn’t know existed.
I’m ever grateful to that person, even if he made me contemplate quitting.
We usually all have a person that pushes you to the next level.
While my family introduced me to my love of swimming, it was my club coach who helped me see my potential and, ultimately, find my place at Purdue.
I was a decent natural swimmer. My constant time in the water from an early age had made me just so comfortable in it.
Perhaps it was that comfortability that lulled me into some complacency into high school.
During my senior year of high school, my club team got a new coach—a well-known, highly-respected coach by the name of Mark Schubert.
Mark had done a lot of good things for countless swimmers around America before that.
He was a big name in swimming, but he was a tough coach.
He wasn’t afraid to get after his athletes, but also knew how to get results.
Fortunately, he saw something in me.
One day in practice, we were going through an event I was pretty bad at.
Even though it was just practice, he kept shouting at me to go faster and faster. I already thought I was going all out.
He ended up throwing me out of practice entirely!
“You can come back when you’re ready to train!”
Not going to lie, I was pissed. I played out the practice in my head a hundred times.
In my head, I thought I did the best I could. So, naturally, I didn’t understand where he was coming from. Frankly, this experience even made me wonder if I’m on the right track.
But as I got home, my mindset shifted.
“Maybe he was right. I mean, this guy knows what he’s doing. Perhaps, I need to trust him and shift my mindset.”
As you may have expected, Mark was right. The next time I competed in that event, I shaved ten seconds off my time.
It was a turning point for me. I had unlocked a newfound potential that I had never seen before. If I can unleash this for all my events, all my training, I may have a brighter future in this than I thought.
As my potential started to skyrocket, so did my recruiting process. After talking with my family, we thought the Big Ten, as a conference, seemed like a good fit for me.
I wanted to be back east, closer to Philly, where I’m originally from.
It’s a great competitive conference, and it would allow me to go home in the summers and still train in California.
I began putting my name out to a lot of the schools, but there was one particular school I didn’t reach out to.
As coaches from other schools started to call, most conversations seemed to blend together. They were all brief, couple-minute conversations about my times that weren’t very personal.
Then I got a call from Coach Ross that changed everything.
Again, Purdue hadn’t been on my radar. And please don’t ask me why.
But this conversation changed my outlook, and once again, changed my mindset on things.
He didn’t just ask me to rattle off my times. He didn’t just ask me if I was healthy. He didn’t just ask about my potential. He talked to me as a person. He asked me about Philly. He asked me about California. We chatted about our favorite foods and restaurants.
He wanted to know about me as an individual, not just an athlete. I respected that. I respected him.
As Purdue and I continued in conversations, I began to visualize myself as a Boilermaker.
On my visit, the team just seemed real. No fake politeness to impress the recruit.
No, it all felt genuine.
And I wanted to be a part of that. I didn’t need the bells and whistles. I just wanted a place to prove my worth.
The rest is history.
My freshman and sophomore years were quite the opposite.
Freshman year, all I wanted to do was chase the two senior leaders on our team. My motivation was to beat their times and catch up to them. It was a very driven mentality, but it also didn’t help me succeed.
After a good summer of workouts, I came in with a new mentality.
I wanted to be a team guy. I’d still challenge myself to get better, obviously, but I also wanted to establish goals for us as a team.
I think just trying to be a better swimmer as a whole, not just chasing two guys, helped contribute to my success that year.
After all the work I had put in, it felt like a weight off my shoulders to finally swim to my potential.
I know I’ve set some records. I’ve had some big wins, but there’s always another level.
With the Olympic swim trials coming up this summer, it would be my dream to make that team. If things play out perfectly, I think that’s a possibility.
Next year and beyond, I want to be regarded as one of the best swimmers in the country, continuing to put my name out there.
I know what it takes to achieve these lofty goals, and you may think it seems a little crazy, but as so many times in my life, I ask myself the same question:
Why not me?!