Swimming has been a part of my whole life. From starting swim lessons when I was five, to joining my high school swim team, to now swimming in college. Needless to say, I have spent a lot of my life in the swimming community, and it’s not as obvious of a community as you would think. There are many subtleties that exist beneath the surface of what would appear to be a simple sport. The website d3swimming.com helps to illuminate these subtleties. The d3swimming.com forum provides a community to house the swimming community and provide structure for said community. The forum is a place where friendships are formed and broken in an instant, as the swimming community is a very volatile one.
The forum is separated into many sub-sites. Each of these sub-sites is the online location of a different division three conference, and the issues that pertain to each conference. Imagine taking the entire world. It would be impossible to know everyone. Now break this down into different countries; still too large of a community. Continue to break down the region until you have a manageable size population and you have achieved what the forum does. This essentially provides the lifeblood for the forum by allowing the communities to be small enough to form the necessary online friendships.
Before I discuss the nature of the online community, some background about the swimming community as a whole is necessary. Swimmers and their families are highly competitive; I would go as far as saying swimmers are the most competitive athletes. I believe this competition stems from how hard practices are. Imagine two hours of all out, strenuous exercise, on top of not being able to breathe whenever you want. No swimmer wants to think that all of the pain they endured at practice was for nothing. Every swimmer would like to believe that they are the best. A lot of times practices can even become a power trip as faster swimmers try to prove to everyone else that they are faster, similar to how an alpha male in a pack of wolves tries to assert his dominance over the rest of the herd. This breeds the highly competitive nature that is swimming.
While the highly competitive nature breeds competition and motivation, it can also lead to volatility of the community. Often times people disagree on who will, and should, win the conference title, nationals title, etc. This stems from the extreme competition that swimming breads and can lead to heated debate on the online communities. However, this debate is not specific to the online swimming communities. People have been discussing sports for years. The nature of swimming leads to a more heated debate about them. I believe that the debates in the real world moved online when the forum was created. As I have seen in my research, often times the debates resort to name calling, de-crediting another, or undermining one another. This is what I mean by the volatility of the community.
Despite its appearance as a nasty, hateful community, it still stays together as a community. I believe that the fact that most swimmer have swam since age 5 is the true reason that the community is able to stay whole. People who have been swimming their whole lives tend to find it hard to drop it after senior year. When you’ve known something your entire life, you don’t disregard it simply because you can no longer participate in it. Swimmers have also grown up with the community, so have come to accept it for how it is. Therefore, the community lives on, through social media sites such as http://d3swimming.com/forum/ . Although people seem to hate each other online and appear to be constantly fighting, underneath it all, a true swimmer can tell that is just the way the community is.
Overall division three swimming is a great thing. It breeds a family of close-knit people. All of my friends here at St. Olaf are part of the swim team. However, with all things there is a good and a bad. The bad is the sneaky, backstabbing nature that can sometimes arise from the competition of swimming. However, as horrible as it may sound to a non-swimmer, this is just par for the course. Many swimmers are thankful of the close community and the friendships formed by this community.