By Rory Dickson
It was 8th September 2019 when I moved to Stirling University, and it was a wild time in my life.
After a decade used the routine of school and club swimming with North Ayrshire I was ready for a change.
Looking forward to the prospect of meeting new academics, new people and a different training regime, the buzz was unreal.
The first thing any new student needs to navigate Freshers Week (except for those unfortunate enough to have been starting in 2020, of course).
I learned it's important to embrace all the new experiences – but all in moderation!
You need to be smart on the nights when you have training the next day, but make sure you enjoy it.
There is no need to follow any formula because you, as the athlete, should have a good idea of the right thing to do.
What struck me on my first week at Stirling was how coaches are extremely interested to get to know you.
Aspirations and goals are talked about in a lot of detail, so be ready to share.
I remember my teammate Josh and I discussing benchmark times and them being written down in front of me, in the middle of a spider diagram surrounded by building blocks.
Embrace The Change
Be prepared that whatever you did at club level is about to be blown out of the water.
You’re going to be surrounded by people with a completely different mindset from you.
Personalisation is probably the single biggest change when you step up to university swimming.
Think of a standard speed set, written down, with variations for each stroke, and with the meters tapered within for everyone’s program. That is what most sessions are like. It’s not often will you be doing exactly the same set as half a dozen peop le.
Embrace the change. You must commit absolutely, and trust the process and the knowledge around you - it is different from club swimming for a reason.
You must remember you are now almost an adult. Recovery takes longer, therefore it takes more effort outside the pool to reach your tapered state.
This brings me on to my next point, commit to your new colours.
If you spend too much time trying to salvage what you used to know, university swimming will have run away from you before you know it.
Every time you stand behind the blocks, training or racing, think about the knowledge and planning in the team which surrounds you.
All this was brought home to me at my first competition with Stirling.
I entered the weekend with a PB of 1:05.5 in the 100m breaststroke.
I had no idea what to expect. I’d absorbed all the knowledge and experience of the team around me. I was excited and ready to roll, but I hadn’t done any tapering ahead of the meet.
I hit the wall and I’d dropped a 1.02.71 - almost 3 seconds faster!
Two months later at Scottish short course that 1:02.71 became 1:01.51, and I tore 7 seconds off my 400m IM.
I was loving the buzz and the results speak for themselves. Those months from September to February were without doubt the happiest point of my swimming career so far.
Coming to University has given me the best years of my life so far, but they will fly in, so don't leave anything behind.
Embrace the change and enjoy everything.