By Andrew Smolar
Being a Division I athlete is something every athlete always dreams of. Although, it’s something few get the opportunity to do, especially for a program as successful as Rider University Athletics. I am blessed to say I am a member of Rider’s Swimming and Diving Team (RUSDT).
My name is Andrew Smolar and I am a freshman majoring in sports media. I am from Washingtonville, New York, a small town in Orange County about two hours from Rider. I am a proud member of RUSDT.
I started swimming when I was in first grade. I played several other recreational sports in my childhood years such as basketball, baseball, football and soccer, but it quickly became clear that swimming was my passion.
I tried out for and made my high school’s varsity swim team when I was in seventh grade. Those six years taught me a lot and truly prepared me for the next chapter I am thankful to have here at Rider. I learned how strongly I felt about swimming and how to be the best version of myself I could be. I have swum year-round for several years and have fallen in love with the sport, even when it’s not always fun or easy.
Early morning practices, doubles and swimming a ton of yards daily, tests you. It tests you physically and even more so mentally. Swimming is a never-forgiving sport and only rewards you with what you put into it. Most swimmers will tell you, most of the sport is mental and my never-ending desire to get better is a big reason I am who I am today.
After my sophomore season, I missed the New York State cut by .3 seconds in the 500 yard free, a goal I had since the end of the previous season. I was devastated and heartbroken but realized I could be a lot better. This only motivated me even more to reach my true potential.
Everyone will hit a bump in the road at some point in their life that makes them realize they need to be better. This was without question the turning point in my swimming career.
Rider seemed like the perfect fit ever since I heard about the school. It was one of the few schools that had my very specific major and a competitive swim team that had an environment I felt I could thrive in.
The location was perfect and I loved the size of the school. It felt just right for what I wanted.
I love how you’re not just a number here — my teachers and coaches all care enough to get to know me personally and build positive relationships to help me thrive both in the classroom and in the water.
Even though COVID-19 has thrown a major wrench into everything this year, I could not have asked for a better environment to walk into my freshman year of college. The upperclassmen, coaches and teachers have made adapting to this difficult situation very easy and helped me every step of the way.
Balancing practices with classes and homework can be overwhelming for any student-athlete. Rider certainly makes sure there is no excuse for failure with all the help professors make sure is available. Being a student always comes before being an athlete.
Being part of a program as successful as Rider comes with great expectations. Rider swimming and diving has a rich history of greatness that I am ready to help contribute to.
My road to being a Division I athlete at Rider wasn’t always easy, but I can confidently say I have found my home for the next several years. I am ready to grow both in the classroom and in the water.
Thank you Rider for welcoming me with open arms, I am ready to roll. Go Broncs.