We are excited to announce a new blog series on our site called “What’s it like?” where we will interview past and present collegiate and professional athletes on what it’s like to be high level/elite athlete. We train all ages of athletes and clients who routinely ask ‘what’s it like and what does it take to make it as an athlete in college or at the professional level?’ So, what better way of telling you than having the athlete’s tell you themselves!
For our inaugural interview we are starting with Ms. Cameron Balkom.
Cameron is a senior at the University of Houston where her leadership helped the Cougar’s Swimming and Diving team win the program’s first American Athletic Conference Championship this past season. She primarily swam breaststroke throughout her four years as a Cougar and because of her poise and self-determination was voted team captain as a junior and kept the title through her senior season.
I had the pleasure to coach and watch her develop not only as an athlete but as a young woman getting ready to tackle the world…so without further ado, our interview.
Oz: Today we have Cameron with us. Cam thanks for taking the time to join us today!
Cameron: No problem, I’m happy to help!
Oz: Cool, well you’ve had a crazy season this past year with you being a senior and helping take the Cougars Swimming and Diving team to an American Conference Championship and winning it all. How’s it feel and what was that like?
Cam: It definitely was a crazy year. It’s been a crazy last four years but to come out on top and to do something never done in the history of the program was amazing. The whole thing was kind of surreal. I wasn’t surprised though… it was like once we got to the meet in my mind we were going to win because we had put in so much work all season. I refused to believe there was any other option. Since I have been here I never felt the team was as close as we were after training camp. That camp really changed the team dynamics and helped propel us forward into the final few weeks of our season. Being able to walk away from this sport knowing that I helped plant these seeds for this team is a great feeling and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them.
That’s awesome! I’m proud of and for you…I know you’ve left the team in good hands! Well, here at Clarke Athletics we have a great opportunity to work with all kinds of athletes from middle school to the professional level. A question we get from our younger athlete’s and their parents is what’s it like being a college/professional athlete so our goal is to give them some insights on what it’s like to participate in collegiate/professional sports. You ready to begin?
Cam: Yeah! Let’s do it!
Cool! Alright, to begin, how long have you been participating in your sport?
I’ve swam for most of my life. I didn’t start competitive club swimming year round until I was 13. (I’m 22 now) so 9 years basically, 10 just round up lol.
Why Swimming? What drew you to participating solely in swimming?
From the second I jumped into a pool, I loved it. I had an older brother who started lessons before I did, so naturally I had to do whatever he did. My mom always said I loved it from the start. When I started swimming club I fell in love very quickly with the intensity of the sport. I was proud to know that I was doing something a majority of the world wasn’t. As crazy as it sounds, I LIVED for the 4am workouts. I just loved the insanity that came with the sport. Anyone who is voluntarily willing to stare at a black line for 20+ hours a week has to be a little crazy. My other favorite part of the sport was “the chase”. I had goals when I was 15 that I ended up chasing for YEARS. I never reached some of them but it never was about the end result. I loved the day to day chase and fight.
So you’re a bit of a crazy person, huh?
Yeah, I guess you could say that…or you could say I wasn’t afraid of hard work
HAHA! OK so what are/is the biggest difference(s) between high school and collegiate athletics?
High school swimming is very individual on many clubs and college swimming or more team based. Your individual achievements matter to you but how you preform really matters to the team. I would say that’s the biggest…AND THE WEIGHT TRAINING! Most club teams don’t do weights and they swim A LOT, and you are trained for every event but in college everything is more specialized to the events you swim at conference meets.
In college do you have say in what events you swim or does the coach make that decision?
If you are very multi-talented…aka can swim anything…then no. You will swim what coach needs you to swim. However I never had a choice lol!
How were you able to balance the three aspects of your life as a college athlete: social aspect, athlete aspect, and the student aspect? Where there major adjustments you needed to make in order to succeed as a UH Swimmer? (Scheduling, nutrition, training, getting rid of certain things, adding certain things, etc)
The way to balance is just to know when to give and when to let up. College swimming is about sacrifice and what you’re willing to give up. I guess the only adjustments I had to make was when I wanted to get more Involved academically than I was athletically. You have to choose. You can still get a great education and be minimally involved in accelerate programs or extra activities. I also learned what was more important the older I got: swimming well at practice or partying the night before. Freshmen love to party but seniors like me love to sleep and know what we need it to perform. We learn to take care of our bodies.
Can you name some Pro’s and Con’s about being a collegiate swimmer/athlete? What were some things you absolutely hated and loved about being a collegiate athlete?
Cons- everything you have to sacrifice. If you’re not willing to give then aren’t willing g to get what good comes from it. I guess other than sacrifices, one major con I struggled with was being extremely fatigued a lot and no one seemed to understand why. That’s what I hated the most was I never had free time and I was always exhausted all the time.
What I really loved was “the chase part” of the sport. Setting a goal and chasing it all season long is what always drove me. Whether I made the goal or not….at the end of the day it was the daily chase that I enjoyed most.
What are your fondest memories as a UH Swimmer?
My best memories will be winning a conference championship and having my freshmen and sophomore teammates tell me “I’m so glad we got to do this with you” and ” I’m so glad I got to be here with you”. Knowing I had the ability to influence them in a positive way and make an impact on their life will be better than any medal I could’ve received!
If you could choose to play any other collegiate sport what would it be?
I always wish I would’ve run track because I’m good at running. But I also believe that o wasn’t good at running until swimming helped me aerobic capacity.
Do you have any advice for young athletes looking to play collegiate sports?
College scholarships are not just “given”. They are earned. So work your ass off every day and don’t stop until you get it. Be prepared to sacrifice. I gave up so much to be a student-athlete. I picked a major that worked well with my practice schedule, I didn’t join clubs or sororities, I missed out on parties and social events, and I never did an internship because I wasn’t willing to give up the practice time. Throughout my senior year I remembered all these things very bitterly and asked myself if it really was worth it and the answer is 100% yes. No club, program, sorority or cool internship would ever give you the experiences you get as a student-athlete. Remember… you only have four years to be a colligate student-athlete. You have the rest of your life to basically do everything else. Don’t waste the opportunity.
So you lead me into my next question which is, was being a collegiate athlete worth it?
YES! It was a big question I asked myself all year long, but the answer is yes. And even during times it didn’t seem like it, it was and still worth it. The experience you get as an athlete is better than any internship, any part time job or organization you might join. Yes it’s worth it. The first two years of my collegiate career were terrible but all it takes it one moment to make everything worth it. For me it was seeing my freshmen succeed this year and knowing that I left something with this team… started something special. And as much as I wish to continue to train with them….I am even more excited to watch them succeed!
That’s great to hear! Well that’s the end of our short interview on the being a collegiate athletes. Are there any shout-outs you want to give to anyone who helped you throughout your swimming career?
So many shout outs, lol!!!
The coaches I had in high school and the program I came from gave me an incredibly strong foundation. I am forever grateful for that because it allowed me to persevere and be successful when I got to the college level. I had many coaches in college and they all brought something good to my swimming. Whether it was just a swimming thing or they were making me laugh because I was having a really bad day. All my coaches are very special to me and I could not have made it through 4 years of college swimming without their constant encouragement and belief. I could name them all but the list would go on forever. They know who they are 😉
Perfect! Well Cam, thanks for your time and insights. It’s truly appreciated. I wish you best with graduation right around the corner for you and wish you the best of luck with your future endeavors!
You’re Welcome and Thank you!