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Taking off with team sports: An interview with a former student-athlete

While in love with the sport, a number of student-athletes have considered leaving their respective teams as a result of the challenging atmosphere that comes with being a student-athlete. This strenuous decision occupies many athletes’ minds. 

Dylan Walsh `23, a former member of the Colby swim team, walked The Colby Echo  through his journey as an athlete at the College by exploring its perks, his relationships with his teammates, the reason he left the team, its impact on his education, and his own personal growth.

Born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, Walsh spent about twelve years swimming. He swam for nearly twenty-five hours a week alongside his friends. One of the perks of being an athlete at the College, he said, is the rapid assimilation into friend groups during one’s first year. This is one of the social pressures that inspires athletes to remain on their teams.

“[On the] weekends I never had to think about what I’m gonna do because I could just be like, there’s a men’s team thing. I could go to the men’s swim apartment and just drink. I never had to worry about any social scene so the decision to leave a team is also kind of tied to like giving up your right to be able to go to those,” Walsh explained.

Walsh elaborated on what he thought was the athlete’s primary concern when considering leaving a team.

“[A big concern is] the social pressure of, all your friends are on this team. When you’re in season you’re spending an absurd amount of time with these people because you’re doing a morning lift and then a three-to-four-hour afternoon practice most days of the week and then traveling together. So you’re going to lose out [on] a lot of time socially with those people and, you know, that can cause divides. I think, for me, that was one of the biggest things, and I think that would be the same for a lot of other athletes.”

While he loved swimming, Walsh said he would rather do it for fun rather than compete. That’s why he chose to swim Division III at the College. He later found out that “It was so … tense.” Walsh believes that his participation in swim negatively affected his academic performance.

“Yeah, absolutely, but honestly, it actually helped me,” he said. “This is again individual because I have recently learned I have ADHD. So structure helps me a lot. When I know that I only have like two hours to get my work done I have no other choice, you either get it done or you don’t, so for me, it helped.”

Walsh added, “My academics have dropped since because I lost that structure. Still, I think for most other people that could actually function, they’d be able to do so many more clubs, social things, do better in classes, take part in extracurriculars [if they didn’t play a varsity sport]. Sports really kind of tie you down at Colby.”

While sports are time-consuming for some, other athletes have found that their varsity schedule helps them structure their life in a way where they’re able to reach deadlines without procrastinating. While he admitted that it had its perks, Walsh eventually gave up swimming competitively.

“I was in love with swimming, but I think I was more in love with the team aspect of it. I think I realized that more as I got older. The main reason for me specifically leaving was for mental health reasons. I didn’t think staying on the team was beneficial for me,” he explained. “It helps you learn to let go, to change, to adapt.”


~ Bryan Thiam `25

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