A3 Performer Bridgette Alexander recently announced her difficult decision to step back from her competitive swimming career and embrace her next chapter of life. For many swimmers, there is the peace of mind knowing that one day our time will come and our swimming career will come to an end on its own, whether it’s after high school or after college. For professional and post-graduate swimmers like Bridgette, however, there is the difficulty of eventually having to make the decision to be done on their own terms. The decision to retire from professional swimming was not an easy one for Bridgette, but with a new chapter ahead, we wanted to take this opportunity to recognize and celebrate Bridgette’s incredible career and to get excited about everything that is to come for her. We asked Bridgette some questions about her career and what’s next, and her responses are definitely worth the read!
What are you most excited about in this new season of life?
BA: I am most excited about the new opportunities, places, and people I will meet in this new adventure I am embarking on. As a swimmer, yes, I’ve met new people and have traveled to amazing places, but I’ve always been sort of stuck in my own little swimming world. I am excited to truly experience all the sport has to offer.
You’re a goal setter – so what new goals are you setting for yourself moving forward?
BA: Setting goals is so important to me. I am a firm believer that if you don’t have goals, there is nothing moving you to improve and be your best self. A couple of goals of mine include putting my health (mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual) at the top of my priority list and to be hired at a Division I, Power Five institution within five years.
You’ve been coaching as a volunteer assistant at the University of Kentucky this past year. I assume that you’ll finish out the year and then what?
BA:I will finish out the year with Lars Jorgensen and the University of Kentucky Wildcats, but as their season comes closer to an end, the more I am on the search for open coaching positions elsewhere. I love motivating, leading, and helping inspire college men and women to be their best because that is what I received in my time during my collegiate career. If the opportunity arises, I would love to stay and learn from my mentor, Lars, but I realize the timing has to be almost perfect for this to happen, so I am keeping my options open within Division I swimming.
You’ve been swimming all your life – what was your fondest memory of your competitive swimming career?
BA: This is a very difficult question. There are so many great memories from my 16 years in competitive swimming and SO many people. I can’t help but feel so lucky to have been given my talents as a swimmer that have opened so many doors and opportunities for me. If I had to choose just one memory, though, it would have to be when I was competing at the US Olympic Trials in 2016. Racing right next to Missy Franklin in the 200 back and qualifying for the event final is a feeling that I can’t put into words. It was more than the race, but the feeling of complete excitement after I touched the wall – I had reached my ultimate goal of so many years, earning a top-eight finish at arguably the fastest meet in the world.
Once a swimmer, always a swimmer, but what will you miss the most about being a competitive swimmer?
BA: As obvious as it may sound, the thing I will miss the most is just the feeling of racing. Good, bad, best time, or not, the rush of adrenaline when it comes to racing is something that is hard to match. It truly is a high.
How has swimming prepared you for the rest of your life? What are you taking away from the sport?
BA: Well, to put it shortly, swimming IS my life. Swimming growing up allowed me to get away from people that just didn’t understand.. the bullies. Swimming was an escape for me in a way. I always felt more like myself in that tank full of water than I had ever standing on two feet. As I grew older and my talents developed, I realized that my love for swimming could take me farther than I had ever imagined. Swimming allowed me to leave home, get both my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees coming out debt-free, and swimming helped guide me in figuring out who I truly was as a person. Swimming brought me to my coach, Lars. Lars saw this potential in me that reached far from the pool.. well maybe not so far ;). He made me realize my passion for the sport wasn’t something weird, or something I should hide. He helped me realize that I can use that passion for the rest of my life. He was a big part of finding my identity and as to why I am deciding to go into collegiate coaching. Swimming has not only defined who I have been for 16 years, but it is also defining who I am going to become 5, 10, 15 years down the road and I can’t be more excited about it.
You’ve put a lot of work into swimming, especially as a pro – what/who helped you come to your decision to retire? Can you take us through who you relied on the most during this process and how you went through the process?
BA: Obviously, this decision did not come lightly. Honestly, I didn’t talk much about what I was going through with anyone. I didn’t want to bring anyone down. I talked some with my coach, Lars, but ultimately, it was my decision, and I knew if I didn’t want any regrets I had to work through the process myself. I always believed that to be strong, you never give up and you just push through the pain. My mindset has now changed. I think the strongest of people know that to grow and to be the best self that you can be, you sometimes need to let go of what you truly love most. I battled this within myself for quite some time, but I realized that I didn’t have to feel that way. Why should I feel that way? I’ve worked too hard, and have too much love for the sport to feel the way that I did. Since making my decision, my parents, friends, and teammates, and my coach have been nothing short of loving and supportive. I am so blessed.
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