When I first toured Hollins as a junior in high school, I was pulled in by all that it had to offer. I loved its English department, its close-knit community, the beauty of its campus. I went to every admitted students day event with excitement as I anticipated all that my new home had to offer. Swimming was something I knew I wanted to continue in college, but I had no idea the positive impact college athletics would have on my life.
As I complete my collegiate swimming career at Hollins, I am increasingly grateful for all the opportunities Hollins Athletics gave me. I am the swim team captain, athletic chair for the Student Government Association (SGA), and vice chair for the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). My experience as an athlete has helped me socially and academically and has encouraged me to move past my comfort zone.
Not only did I meet some of my closest friends through athletics, but I learned how to handle conflict and work with a team. As a teammate and captain, I have learned to deal with my own conflicts and help others with their own. In the process, I’ve created life-long bonds with other athletes and have become a leader in and out of the pool.
Through swimming, I know how to challenge myself physically, and I am able to take up challenges in school. With hours each day spent at practices and in competition, athletes quickly learn how to balance their schedules and prioritize activities. One of the mottos of Hollins Athletics, and Division III sports, is “Student first. Athlete second.”
This doesn’t mean being an athlete isn’t important. But our school makes academics a priority, and honors teams with the highest GPAs. The Hollins swim team had the highest Fall Term GPA out of all the swim programs in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. Being able to balance school and swimming allowed me to double major while simultaneously receiving my Certificate in Leadership Studies from our Batten Leadership Institute.
Most importantly, being a Hollins athlete has allowed me to be comfortable challenging myself without the fear of failure. Our team has two-hour practices twice a day, where we are constantly taking ourselves past our comfort zones, all before the sun rises. All Hollins athletes push themselves every single day.
My experiences as an athlete at Hollins are some of my most cherished ones. It’s grown my love of college athletics so much that I don’t ever plan on leaving them. While my season will end and I’ll eventually graduate from Hollins, I’ll continue having collegiate athletics in my life in graduate school. After graduation, I am moving to Richmond where I’ll pursue an M.Ed. in Sport Leadership from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for Sport Leadership, one of the top programs of its kind in the world.
With my experiences as athletic chair and in SAAC, I’ve had the pleasure to witness this type of growth in my own teammates and peer athletes. While they play games and matches by night, they are biology majors, Academic Policy Board chairs, and Young Life leaders by day. They have aspirations to be teachers, surgeons, military officers, and everything in between. These student-athletes, who balance every aspect of their lives perfectly, are destined to go far after college.
Dani Raymond ‘18