The Freshman Experience at Canisius College
By Laura Schmidt
Hello, USA Synchro! My name is Laura Schmidt and I am a proud Synchro Griff. For those of you who do not know, the mascot for Canisius College is the unique half-eagle, half-lion Griffin. Canisius College may be a relatively-small Jesuit school located in Buffalo, N.Y., but it has all-star Division I athletics that are nationally-renowned among universities like Stanford, Ohio State, etc. One of these teams is the synchronized swimming team! Last year, we took our sixteenth consecutive title in our Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference, placed fourth at Collegiate Nationals, and had three All-Americans.
Choosing a School
All accomplishments aside, I wanted to write this article to talk about the freshman college experience as a synchronized swimmer. Personally, I was petrified when choosing a college, a major, let alone a team my senior year. It becomes evident when choosing a school for a synchro swimmer, there are not many options at the varsity level, but more options for club level teams at universities.
I think for every prospective college student-athlete, there are a few key questions that need to be answered. What level do I want to compete at? What rigor of academics do I want to study? What kind of environment do I want to live in? There are obviously 1001 more questions to be asked about the college process, but these are the ones that I think help make the ultimate decision.
A Day in the Life
Everyone knows that there is nothing like collegiate synchro. It's scored differently, there is the high-point category, and there are different levels of figures. However, on the more personal side, collegiate synchro allows you to live, eat, and hang out all with your teammates. This social aspect is what I think contributes to the camaraderie that our team and many others have.
It does sound cheesy or maybe even cliché, but within a month our team was inseparable. Almost like the structure in a family, the upperclassmen play the role as the parents watching over the young, confused, and naive children -- like me, the freshman.
6:00 a.m.: My typical day would start with morning practice (I chose to room with my best friend Laina Gray, from ANA Synchro, because we get along really well and we would have similar schedules). The practice would be around three hours. Towards the beginning of the year, a lot of time was spent on endurance, but towards the end of the year the practices were shorter and harder due to swim-throughs.
10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.: - The first two semesters of college I took introductory business classes, general education classes necessary to graduate (religion, education) and French courses. During these middle hours of the day, I stayed around the academic buildings because I would be hopping from class to class, working on projects, and talking with professors.
2:00-3:00 p.m.: - Depending on everyone's schedules throughout the year, we had different groups for extra out-of-the-pool workouts. We did a mix of cardio, bosu (pilates/cardio), and weight lifting to improve our routines.
4:00 p.m.-scary hours of the night: – Library. Yes, I was a creature in the library. Whether I was tutoring or drowning in my own work, I would routinely consider sleeping there on one of the bean-bag chairs. As a freshman student-athlete, we were required first semester to do six hours of study hall each week. If your GPA was above a 3.0 first semester, you were not required to do it anymore. I think this requirement for student-athletes is necessary and extremely helpful because I learned how I like to study and how much I need to study for each class.
Life out of the Water
Aside from swimming, there are a lot of responsibilities as a student-athlete. Specifically at Canisius, each team has a match, game, or competition that all athletes have to attend; these games are called Athletes for Athletes (A4A). Our A4A was definitely a highlight of freshman year because all of my friends who were athletes, my friends, and parents got to see me swim in my home pool doing a sport that they might never have seen before; in high school, usually only close friends and family would attend competitions.
Another thing I enjoyed doing with my team was volunteering with other athletes. We, along with our Campus Ministry group, participated in a program called Meals on Wheels. This program is dedicated to providing meals to the local, underprivileged, and elderly who cannot afford it. Our team also helped in our local soup kitchen and family recreation center.
The most important part of freshman year, student-athlete or not, is meeting new people. Even though my roommate and I were athletes and chose to live together, we always wanted to branch out to other athletes and regular students. Since we were not from the area, we learned a lot about the Buffalo culture that seemed foreign to New Englanders like us. I recommend for any prospective student-athlete to live in a dormitory if possible. You make a lot of close friends and as freshmen everyone is in the same boat as you not knowing anyone so they will be more than willing to talk to you.
Everyone knows that competition season can be a stressful one. You feel like you are never going to be dry or breathe again. Sore muscles and joints are more than easy to come by. You dream in your routine music. Oh, we all know the struggle.
First off, I am going to say my daily struggles as a freshman were worth it. Competing in college is so different than competing in high school, because you know where everyone on your team stands. Yes, literally, but also everyone went to all those practices and workouts leading up to the meet for the same reason: to have success.
I think any college 'synchro-girl' can attest to this feeling during team finals at Collegiate Nationals. Right before we swam, we got in a circle, arms around each other, while our Coach Jill gave us a simple speech assertively. “You know it, just do it. Don't care about anyone else, just do it.” A moment I will never forget was walking out, diving in, doing our first lift, and feeling so proud of myself, my team, and my choices to come to Canisius.