Sami Nassif: Diving Into College Swimming

By Rachel Yang
Features Editor


ami Nassif ’17, a postgraduate who will be attending the Naval Academy next year, gave her Business of Sports Springboard presentation on a topic near and dear to her heart. Swimming, something that she has been interested in for “the past 12 years,” was the focus of her presentation, particularly women’s college vs. professional swimming.

As Nassif ’17 said in her presentation, many high level swimmers have to make the choice between swimming professionally and swimming in college. In order to illustrate the difficulty of this decision, she used Katie Ledecky, who, at the age of only 20 years old, has had enormous success. Because of this, she has been offered large amounts of money that she has had to turn down in order to maintain her amateur status and NCAA eligibility. On one hand, money from sponsorships could set a person up for life. However, as Nassif stated, swimming in college is a once in a lifetime experience and comes with an education.

Nassif herself was inspired to pursue this topic after watching the 2018 Rio Olympics. The project itself was in the form of a podcast, which consisted of interviews with people who were closely involved with or had been faced with this decision. This group was comprised of collegiate swimmers, professional swimmers, and athletic directors, including Mercersburg alumna and Olympian, Betsy Mitchell ‘83, and two time Olympian, Chloe Sutton.

After showing a clip of her interview with Chloe Sutton, Nassif then went into more detail as to why it is so difficult to make the decision between collegiate swimming and professional swimming and why it would not be feasible to change the rules to allow women to do both. Earlier in her presentation, Nassif had stated that she had chosen to specifically focus on women for her project, because of their specific physical peaks and progressions throughout their careers. She referenced this again when she talked about the difficulties women face, because, unless you are one of the foremost swimmers in the world, or it is an Olympic year, it can be very difficult to support oneself through professional swimming only.

Nassif considered the possibility of allowing swimmers to compete both collegiately and professionally. However, she stated that there were too many conflicts that would arise. For example, sponsorships come with certain obligations, such as competing at meets hosted by sponsors. If a meet held by a sponsor conflicted with a college dual meet, it would put the swimmer in a very difficult position.
Although Nassif made it very clear that doing both was not an option, she ended the presentation by giving her own opinion on the subject. For her, as she shared with the audience in her presentation, college swimming was not an opportunity to be passed up. She recommended to all those in the room that, if given the opportunity, they should swim for their college for at least one or two years before going pro.
A project of this caliber may seem daunting to many 11th graders who will soon choose a Springboard class. However, as she reflected on her work, Nassif said, “There was always so much to do so it didn’t feel like a whole year.”

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