When I got my acceptance letter in the winter of my high school senior year, I was elated — not because I didn’t have to fill out another application, and not because I could officially kick back and take it easy for the rest of the year (though that did play a big role) — but because I was going to Yale! It wasn’t my parents or my teachers whom I wanted to thank the most, however; it was my coaches.

I left for Yale not knowing much about it other than who my new coach was and what facilities the school had to offer. I was unsure of what the student body would be like and how they would receive someone who did not get accepted on academic achievements alone.

My fears were confirmed soon after arriving on campus when I heard the joke that there are only three types of students at Yale: those who are geniuses, those who are brilliant, and those who are athletes. Yet after two years on the Yale women’s varsity swim team, I could not be prouder than to be associated with the latter of the three.

Being an athlete at Yale has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. When I arrived on Old Campus, I immediately acquired 60 new friends from both the men and women’s teams (we train together under one coach), who bombarded me with phone calls, advice and e-mail to make sure that I was transitioning well.

Though my experience as a student-athlete has been enormously positive, athletics at Yale has both its ups and downs — like most things in life. Being an athlete involves a huge time commitment. Though the NCAA only allows student-athletes to train 20 hours a week, sacrifices have to be made to fit practices and competitions in with class and work schedules.

There are so many things at Yale outside of the pool that I would love to pursue; however, swimming has forced me really to budget my time and has limited my options.

Still, being on a team has afforded me opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. There is an enormous amount of team bonding that occurs during team functions such as training trips, Mory’s nights, awards ceremonies, team dinners and even practices. We are especially fortunate to have a coach who serves as both mentor and parent to his team.

Swimming also allows me to take part in one of Yale’s oldest traditions: its rivalries. There is definitely something to be said for the complete sense of awe and humility one experiences when representing Yale and all that it stands for.

I’m getting shoulder surgery this summer, and though it’s a possibility I might not be able to return to the life of the student-athlete at Yale, I find comfort in the fact that even though Yale might comprise three types of people, you never know who is which.

Kim Richardson ’03 is a member of the women’s swim team.