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August 29, 2018

Synch and swim: What I did when life threw me a curveball

Heraclitus is quoted as stating that “the only thing constant is change.” Every now and then life will throw us a curveball, that obscure event that changes our game plan, maybe even the rules of play. Some curveballs are random, seemingly out of nowhere, and others might be by our own choosing. And this is how I found myself trying synchronized swimming.


Dreams on ice: Falling in love with hockey



I grew up outside climbing cedar trees, playing manhunt at recess, and watching the Leafs play on Saturday nights. I also grew up right next to a lake. Water safety paired with my own mother’s success as a competitive swimmer will explain the inevitable swimming lessons my sister and me took. This was for the sake of practicality - I may have loved being in the water but I always wanted to be a hockey player.


I wanted to be on the ice, take a pass from my linemate (Mats Sundin), slip one past Marty Brodeur, then have Curtis Joseph (my favourite player and first celebrity crush) come over and high-five me. Hitting the fast forward button on my personal history, I wanted to quit most things I was enrolled in, so understandably gave my parents the impression that after spending a significant sum on hockey equipment I would probably want to quit that too. I distinctly remember my mom telling me “hockey is expensive. You can play when you can afford to pay for it yourself.”


It took me until I was 15 years old and a few weeks of saving at my first job but that’s what I did. I saved my money, kept my dream of being the next Cassie Campbell alive, and finally got myself on the ice.


With my newly-purchased still-clean-smelling equipment in my bag, I played hockey for the next three seasons. To be fair, my mom was right. Even the used equipment I bought was expensive. I was by no means going to be representing Team Canada at the Olympics but I did enjoy playing and never thought I would stop.


A Change in Plans: Discovering synchronized swimming


Fast-forward once again, this time to my second year of university. I had decided to transfer schools and – incoming curveball – my new university had no girls hockey league! True, there was an intramural league but it was mixed and held at arenas off-campus. As a house-league player with three seasons of girls leagues under my belt – and not to mention the fact I was not only going to a new city but didn’t have a car to get myself to an arena – I came to the tough decision to store my hockey bag and find something else for a while.


I swam laps on non-game days during my first year and when I was researching my new university’s clubs and athletics, I found a blurb about joining Trent University’s synchronized swimming club. Willing to get back in the water, I mulled this over for a bit but did have some concerns. What if I don’t like it? What if I’m terrible? I quit dance after a year and a half and I don’t exactly have rhythm… Luckily, these negative thoughts weren’t enough to stop me from emailing the club’s president and asking a few questions. And the reply quite literally changed my university experience.


What I learned: Useful information for university students who want to give synchro a whirl


If you can swim, you can join the sport. The Canadian University Synchronized Swimming League (CUSSL) provides a synchro community for university students across Canada.  


There are two divisions for synchronized swimming in university and they are based upon your level of experience. If you have been previously registered as a synchronized swimmer prior to school, you qualify for the competitive team. If you have not been previously registered as a swimmer, you are considered a novice (like yours truly). The Canadian University Synchronized Swimming League (CUSSL) will have both divisions in all categories at their competitions.


The club is open to everyone.  They do host ‘try-outs’ which are held mostly to give potential swimmers an idea of what the sport and practices entail but technically you cannot be cut from the team. So returning to my situation, no experience necessary was all I needed to hear to attend the try-out and from that first time in the pool I knew I found my (temporary!) replacement for hockey.


Life in the pool: All you need is a good attitude and a willingness to learn


My duet partner, Katie-Marie, and I at Eastern Qualifiers 2012

Intrigued? More reasons to give synchronized swimming a try:


Synchronized swimming is great fun, an awesome workout - you lift people - and I made so many great memories and friends doing the sport.


A bonus for any student, it is surprisingly cheap to do – especially compared to hockey. The registration fee included one competition swimsuit as well as the pool/lifeguard fees and it was a surprisingly reasonable amount. 


Competition is a great motivator to come to practice, work hard, and then have a lot of fun showing off your hard work and seeing other universities’ routines and campuses. While Nationals is generally hosted in Ontario, every three years it is hosted at a university out West so during my third year of university we did a lot of fundraising and travelled to Calgary for our competition. And we made the most of it by exploring the city and sneaking in a quick trip to Banff for a day. Talk about a field trip.

All you need is a good attitude and a willingness to learn. The only two things you need to know before you get in the water is how to swim and how to count to 8. I’m not exactly a skilled dancer but if you can physically move on your count you’ll be fine. It’s almost like ‘painting by numbers’ with your body. A good coach will be able to take it from there and teach you how to do the positions and moves.

When life gives you lemons....

I got into synchronized swimming because my beloved sport just didn’t seem feasible to me that one year but you know what? I ended up having such an amazing time that I swam for another two years – even after I got a car and could’ve driven to the arenas for hockey. And now I get to look back at my time as a synchro swimmer fondly and miss being in the water with the girls, practicing our routines and getting psyched up for competition.


Try as we might to stick to "The Plan", Heraclitus was right and life will sometimes hand you lemons. Maybe it’s an injury, or a move, or simply a life event that alters your situation. We at SeeWhatSheCanDo challenge you to make lemonade. Stay resilient. Stay optimistic. It’s all in your perspective - you can choose to sink or swim – or even perhaps synch and swim.


Me and my Trent University teammates reflecting on our season and bronze medals at Nationals 2013


Looking to learn more? Explore our Synchronized Swimming activity page for articles, videos, and great community resources.

Check out our Athlete Advisor, your online business directory for more information on golf in your community. Find, rate and review synchronized swimming clubs, swimming programs, local community offerings and businesses that will help you do your thing!

Find or attend a synchronized swimming event on our SWSCD Hub.

Do you have a good resource for those learning to swim or a story about your time in the pool? Tell us about your experience directly on our Discover blog or by using #seewhatshecando on social media and inspire others to get active. 


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