🏊♀️ Keeping Up With The Freshmen: Erin Downey
Kansas swimming and diving had one of its most successful years in program history in 2019-20. In this latest series (Keeping Up With The Freshmen), we talk with the 2019-20 freshmen student-athletes to discuss how their first year of college went and what they learned over the course of the season.
Freshman Erin Downey joined her older sister, Haley Downey, on the KU swimming and diving team in 2019-20. Erin claimed four top-10 individual finishes over the course of her first collegiate season.
Q. How do you think your first year at KU went?
“I loved my first year at KU! Our school does a great job of creating an enthusiastic, supportive environment in our playing fields/pools and in the classroom, which made me actually look forward to going to class and practice every day!”
Q. What was your favorite moment of the 2019-20 year?
“The first practice back after Christmas break was a big moment for me because it felt like I was coming back home instead of the reverse. It’s pretty special that you can spend 99% of your time with the same 30 girls and still miss them after a few days of being apart! I definitely feel like KU is where I’m meant to be!
“As far as a favorite collective moment, I miss my room’s Saturday morning breakfasts the most. There’s truly nothing better than coming home after a long week of training and devouring a huge plate of chocolate chip pancakes then crashing for the next two hours. And a BIG shout-out to Mackenzie [Bravence] to introducing us to her pièce de résistance: peanut butter waffles drizzled with syrup!”
Q. What was the biggest change going from a senior in high school to a college freshman?
“Athletically, I really appreciate the individualized training styles at college. In my high school and club years, most of the training was focused on long yardage and getting as worn out as possible by the end of each practice. In college, we split into a variety of groups that allow us to train in the style that is most beneficial to us and our individual events. We also have a more regimented technique and recovery training so our sprint efforts can be stronger, faster and ultimately more sustainable!”
Q. How are you using what you learned this year to prepare for 2020-21?
“This year, my word of the year was ‘perspective.’ I’ve been dealing with shoulder and back injuries for the past few years, so coming into such an elite team without being at peak performance was pretty intimidating at first. It was difficult not to compare my progress to the progress of the other girls on the team. That being said, as the year went on it became clear that the team is extremely understanding of the personal progression and the fact that everyone can’t be swimming best times at every practice. In other words, I’ve learned that progress and healing aren’t linear processes, and that’s totally okay!”
Q. What advice do you have for the incoming freshmen to make their transition easier?
“Making mistakes is inevitable in your first year. As a collegiate student-athlete, you’re expected to handle an extremely busy schedule of events, all of which require high levels of effort and precision. Chances are you’re going to slip up eventually by forgetting a homework assignment or piece of training equipment! It’s easy to internalize these mistakes (I still cringe when thinking about the time I forgot my entire equipment bag to a particularly equipment-heavy Saturday practice), but at the end of the day, all we can do is learn from them and move forward! In the meantime, invest time to write literally EVERYTHING down in a detailed calendar or color-coded planner … you’re going to need it!”
Q. What is one thing you wish you would have known prior to starting your freshman year?
“I wish I would’ve known that it’s not only okay, but encouraged, for you to ask for help when you’re struggling with the college transition. KU has an endless support system for student-athletes! I’ve been able to release a lot of tension with the help of my teammates, coaches, advisors and especially KU LEADS. I wish I would’ve utilized those resources right from the start!”