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Building the Swim Community Anew

Written By: Maggie Foight

Hi there! My name is Maggie. I’m a rising junior at Kenyon College, a small liberal arts school in rural Ohio.

Ever since I was a kid, I dreamed of competing at the collegiate level. 12 years later, despite many internal battles, and I’ve made it. Self-doubt, anxiety, and fear challenged my success. If I’m being completely honest, they still test me - but I acknowledge my struggles, and when I need support to overcome them, I turn to my team, my second family, for strength.

Weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic spread to the States, I was getting ready to compete in my first North Coast Athletic Conference championship. I remember feeling overwhelmed with nervousness and worry that I was unprepared and that I would fail. Hiding my emotions has never been a talent of mine, so several of my teammates quickly picked up on my uneasiness. The upperclassmen took me aside, offered their experiences and assured me that hard work pays off in the end. They told me to trust the process, but more than that, to enjoy it. Hi a XR

I took their advice to heart and it was not a moment too soon. Suddenly, campus was evacuated, pools were shut down and everyone was locked inside. Through it all, I held onto my teammates’ words. I gathered equipment from around my house and started doing dryland workouts every other day, and when the weather warmed up, I bought myself a bungee cord and harness to use in my backyard pool. Training alone wasn’t ideal, but I held on to the thought that I was able to train at all - and I was happy enough with that.

If this past year has taught me anything, it is the importance of community, especially amid difficulty. If I hadn’t had my teammates encouraging and enduring alongside me, I’m not sure if I would have been able to continue my pandemic training. I owe my persistence to my team.

Beyond an awareness of my support system, 2020 offered me a second look at the camaraderie of the International Swim League.

As an alternative to FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natación), the ISL offers increased transparency, cooperation, and shared earnings between competitors and organizers. Additionally, the ISL allows swimmers access to a more open, collaborative and bureaucratic structure. After the ISL made its debut in 2017, FINA discouraged its competitors from participating by threatening disqualification. A year of negotiations between the organization yielded a full, approved ISL season.

The ISL is also attractive to current athletes because of the meets’ extravagant, entertaining format that energizes the athletes and spectators. The organization introduces a new team dynamic to swimming as well; athletes of mixed nationalities find themselves on the same team and competitors may be traded between seasons, creating a sharp sense of friendly competition. Also, the focus on placement over time eliminates the need for preliminaries. The new changes and the enthusiasm they bring modernize the sport and bring swimming to a professional level on par with the likes of the National Football League.

The dramatic development of the ISL’s popularity over the past year has shown the swimming community’s desire for fellowship. We want to have the kind of international, intersectional relationships that other athletic teams have. That sense of solidarity will allow us to grow together in morale, dedication, and most importantly, love of common sport.

Maybe the ISL is still a little distant and inaccessible for the majority of swimmers, but it nevertheless gives swimming a new direction. We have more opportunities to find belonging, something incredibly important to me. The community that swimming offers is one of the main reasons why I swim.

Why do you?

“Confidence comes from what you do in practice every single day.” - Jordan Wilimovsky

Maggie attends Kenyon College and is in the Class of 2023. She has just finished her second season with the Lords and Ladies as a mid-distance breaststroker and IM’er. In the past, Maggie has worked as a lifeguard (six years), a coach (five years), and a swim instructor (two years). She started both her swimming and coaching careers with the Lincoln Park Sharks in Pennsylvania. There, she found her love of the water and her appreciation for small-town, tight-knit, fun-loving team dynamics. She strongly believes that every team excels when they are respectful, vulnerable, committed, communicative and above all, passionate. Maggie is working towards her bachelor’s degree in English, with a minor in Spanish and a concentration in Public Policy. When she’s not on the pool deck, she enjoys spending time outside with her family. She loves reading, watching movies, hiking, walking her neighborhood and finding new, fun ways to make memories.


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