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Missy Franklin: Why My Time As A Student-Athlete At Cal Meant The World To Me

By Missy Franklin, Six-Time Olympic Medalist Swimmer | April 06, 2017, 12:25 p.m. (ET)

Missy Franklin (R) high-fives Cal teammates at a meet.


Missy Franklin is an Olympic swimmer who won six medals at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Games. Before turning pro, Franklin competed for two years at University of California, Berkeley. To celebrate National Student-Athlete Day, Franklin blogged for TeamUSA.org about her experience as a student-athlete.

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I am proud to be a Cal Bear. Always and forever.

I have a lot of pride for my school, so I think it was important to get that out of the way first. I had the privilege of being a student-athlete at the University of California for two years and it was an experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything!

I was 16 years old and a junior in high school when I got home from the 2012 Olympic Games. I returned from London with five Olympic medals, four of them gold, but one of the most frequent questions I heard was always, “Are you going to swim in college or are you going to sign with agent and start working with sponsors and swim as a professional?”  

For me the answer was easy – I wanted to go to college and swim on a college team. 

A lot of people think of swimming as an individual sport but I beg to differ. Yes, many of our races are individual; however, it’s the support of my teammates and the camaraderie of my teams that has always meant so much to me.

I loved my high school swim team and I really wanted to have that experience in college too. I looked at a handful of universities but Cal was the absolute right fit for me. Not only did it have an amazing women’s swim team, but I knew it would also prove challenging academically. At Cal, the term “student-athlete” is all about balance and excelling both in the pool but also in the classroom.

I competed as a student-athlete for two years but the impact that those two years had on me will last an entire lifetime. I have so many fond memories with my teammates and I’m lucky to share such strong friendships with them. We support each other unconditionally and they truly mean the world to me. 

My final swim meet at Cal was the NCAA Championships in 2015. Our team worked hard all year toward the common goal of an NCAA Championship title. We had a very strong team and we knew we could do it if we all supported each other and did our best at the biggest meet of the year. Not to mention, we had so much pride in our school and we desperately wanted to win the team title and bring the championship home to Cal.

Well, spoiler alert, we did bring home the NCAA title and, to this day, it’s one of my most favorite memories. More importantly, I got to share that experience with my teammates – my best friends – and I loved every second of it. 

Fast forward two years and I’m still at Cal working toward my degree in psychology. I am now a professional swimmer but I look back at those two years as a student-athlete and I know that experience was truly invaluable. 

As a student-athlete you learn how to fine-tune a wide array of skills, including time management and goal-setting. But, more than anything, you are given the opportunity to represent your university while receiving a valuable education and forging lasting friendships.

I consider myself lucky that at 16 I had the foresight to know how valuable the student-athlete experience would be to me. Today we celebrate National Student-Athlete Day; however, it’s a group that I am grateful to be a part of each and every day. 

Go Bears!

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Missy Franklin