I’ll be the first to say I was not a specialized athlete until much later in my career. Swimming was always the sport I came back to, it was always the thing I loved the most. I love being in the water, and I just love the competitive element of it, that at practice I could compete, and I could race someone, and I could beat someone on every single thing that we did at practice, and I think that was really what solidified my decision in choosing swimming.
Something that I grew up that was really important to me was to stand up for myself, and to be myself, and not be scared to voice my opinion. If I was getting bullied when I was a little kid I was taught to say something and not go get the teacher. That was what I was taught, so I think that’s why I’m the way I am now, and why I’m such a happy adult is because I’m unapologetically myself. Being yourself and standing up for yourself is pretty satisfying. It can be scary at times, but in the end it’s worth it, and people will respect you for it. So, just have no fear, go out and do it.
Something that a lot of people do or can do to practice sportsmanship, is something I do, is always congratulate your competitors, but also reading the room. I know if I look to someone who thinks I’m their mortal enemy next to me and they’ve had a bad race, they don’t really want to talk to me after that race. So, just reading your competitors, I think, is a big part of being a good sport and a good winner.
I’ve always liked to say that I was never the most talented swimmer, but I work the hardest, so I think just knowing that you won putting the work in and doing it the right way is competing with integrity and really being a good sport, doing things the right way. The athletes know right from wrong, you know who’s working hard, you know who’s not, so do the right thing. It’s not too hard, it’s a pretty easy decision to work hard, and to be a good person, and to congratulate your competitors and things like that.
I was really lucky that I grew up with a great group of people. Obviously, I have great parents, I’ve had many, many incredible coaches, and I’m lucky that I have those people who have known me for a really, really long time, even before I was this successful swimmer. They know me as Lilly the person, and not as Lilly the swimmer, and they definitely keep me in line for sure. And it’s as simple as that, I’m surrounded by an incredible group of people, they make it worth it, and they definitely push me to be a better person, as well as a better swimmer.