Finding passion through swimming

For Jessica Nauman ’23, swimming isn’t just a sport: it’s a way for her to learn the importance of communication and what it means to be dedicated in an activity.

Sudden silence fills the room, except for the soft hum of air conditioning and the occasional whispers among members of the audience. The stench of chlorine stains the air, and wet footprints mark the cold, tiled ground. A beeping sound resonates in the room: a sign for the swimmers take their marks, ready to plunge. The swimmers wait tensely and hear a second beep, quickly diving into the cold water as the audience begins to roar. This is what Jessica Nauman ’23 lives for: the adrenaline rush that swimming brings.

Nauman has been swimming for almost three years, and first started getting into swimming in seventh grade when she joined a swim team called IFly, also known as Iowa Flyers. Although it was a struggle to get used to the sport and the swim team, her love and enjoyment grew as time went on.

“In IFly when I first joined, I was really bad compared to everyone else on my team,” Nauman said with a laugh. “Eventually, I got better and better and then I got moved up to a better group, but when I first started, everyone was around my age in that group. I just wasn’t very good.”

As well as being part of IFly, her passion for swimming led her to join the West High swimming and diving team during the start of ninth grade. She found that joining the West swim team motivated her to continue swimming, especially since the community was very supportive and kind.

“West swimming is really fun because it’s such a good community and we always do team bonding and stuff, so we all get along pretty well,” Nauman said. “They’re not very judgmental, they just support you even if you’re not as good as everyone else. They include everyone and they make sure that everyone feels like they have a place on the team.”

I would expect any of my athletes to respect me as their coach and feel like they can approach me about non-swimming issues. I think we have that without me being in their TikTok videos.”

— Byron Butler, West High Swim Coach

Byron Butler, the swim coach, also emphasized how important communication and team-building exercises are. 

“It is important for any team to have their athletes feel like they are welcome and can grow. Relationship building is the main way. I just wish there was more time to get to know athletes and make connections with them,” Butler said. “I would expect any of my athletes to respect me as their coach and feel like they can approach me about non-swimming issues. I think we have that without me being in their TikTok videos.”

In her swim team IFly, Nauman is currently in the junior elite level and has a fast 50 yard freestyle time, lying close to 28 seconds. Her dedication to swimming has caused her schedule to become full with workouts and practices, spending a total of three to four hours either doing weights or swimming a day.

Although Nauman has a strong love for swimming, there are often many daily challenges she must face as well when pursuing this sport. One of Nauman’s teammates, Greta Kraske ‘23, states some of these hardships the swim team faces often.

“It takes up a lot of time going to practice twice a day most days. You have to have the commitment too because with swimming if you miss a couple days in a row you can get really out of shape,” Kraske said. “You also have to manage your time really well so you can get your homework done on time.”

Swimming impacts my life by always challenging me to try my best.”

— Jessica Nauman '22

Although swimming is a very challenging and strenuous sport, it has had a significant influence on how Nauman tackles different conflicts and scenarios in her life. She claims that it has especially taught her how and what it means to be truly passionate about a certain activity: a crucial skill to learn early on.

“Swimming impacts my life by always challenging me to try my best,” Nauman said. “It has such an impact on my life and it makes me want to encourage everyone to try out for that one thing that they have always wanted to do.”

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