By: Sierra Altland
Samantha Heeren defines herself, above most things, as a swimmer. She has been swimming since she was 11 years old in All-Catholic leagues and continued throughout high school at Nazareth Academy. During her early swimming career she swam freestyle and butterfly strokes as a way to develop her skills.
Now, she is a junior at Arcadia University studying Physiology and minoring in Sociology. She is currently on the swim team here at Arcadia University, where she swims predominantly backstroke and sometimes freestyle. During her freshman year of college, she experienced her first sports induced injury where she was diagnosed with an intense shoulder injury. To this day she still swims despite her injury. Eventually she will need to have major surgery on her shoulder, which will most likely lead to her inability to ever swim again.
Sam takes her sport very seriously and she is wholly dedicated to it. However, there are some snags within college athletics that sometimes seem to leave some sports out of the loop.
Altland: What was your first memory of you swimming?
Heeren: When I was little, my aunt and uncle had a huge pool and I remember swimming with all of my older cousins and them making a whirlpool. And I just kept getting swept up and floating around it because it was so fast.
Altland: That sounds fun.
Heeren: Yes, it was lots of fun!
Altland: Do you remember when you first felt accomplished as a swimmer?
Heeren: The first time I ever felt like an accomplished swimmer was my freshman year of high school when I placed 6th in the 50 back (backstroke) for our grade school [championship]. It went up to your freshman year and it just felt really good because all of the hard work that I did up until then and it finally paid off and my coach was really happy for me. Seeing how happy he was for me made it even better.
Altland: Tell me about your injury.
Heeren: I have a slight labrum tear in my left shoulder and that happened freshman year when I was in the weight room. I was doing an exercise and I dropped a 15 lb weight the wrong way and I didn’t know at first what was wrong. So I just iced it and went about doing whatever. Then it wasn’t until sophomore year when I started swimming that I realized what was wrong. So halfway through the season I went to the doctor to see what was wrong, and we decided that I needed to get an MRI and all of that stuff. And then we found out that it was actually a tear and along with the tear I had multi-directional instability. So my ball and socket in my shoulder just rolls around all the time. And that is what causes all of the pain that I have when I swim. So, yeah that’s it.
Altland: How do you think it has affected your seasons?
Heeren: Well, it affected my season last year because I never got to finish it. And this year, it affects my season because I’m not…I can’t practice all of the time. I can never finish a practice. Or I have to do something else so I can finish a practice.
Altland: How do you feel about being a student athlete?
Heeren: Being a student athlete is very stressful because you have to balance your class schedule with practices and just like games and meets and everything. It’s hard, but at the same time it is very rewarding. There are lots of sleepless nights and worrying about your grades and worrying about making practices and stuff. But at the end of the day, if you didn’t like it you wouldn’t do it.
Altland: So, do you think there is a stigma against swimmers at this school?
Heeren: In the past I think there has been but the new athletic director, Brian [Granata], has done a good job helping us become more recognized. And having a new coach, a full-time coach, this year has brought us more recognition by other athletes and just the school in general. We’ve done a lot better this year and we keep getting better. I think people are realizing what we are actually capable of.
Altland: Do you remember a time where you really felt like no one appreciated the swim team?
Heeren: I feel like that could be different for each swimmer but I know it’s frustrating when, you know, not everyone comes out to the meets. You know, everyone goes out to the basketball games or the soccer game and stuff like that. But with the new coach this year, I think a lot of things changed for the better.