You may or may not know, but the Australian National University Swimming Club started before ANU even had a swimming pool on campus. The backstory was, in fact, quite serendipitous.
In my undergraduate days living at Ursula Hall, a group of us were chatting about why swimming - a relatively common sport and basic survival skill - was not an activity offered at the University. Well, it turns out that the simple answer was because ANU did not have a pool (Note: this was around 2012, before the new Kambri precinct with swimming facilities was built).
At that point, it seemed quite obvious that we should at least try and offer students an opportunity to partake in this popular sport, which a group of us enjoyed (and some were even very good at). That's how it all started. We decided to make the Canberra Olympic Pool in Civic our base and started training there as a group multiple times a week - I fondly recall many freezing bike rides to and from Constitution Avenue during winter. We organised sessions for beginners, coached by more advanced swimmers, as well as more 'hard core' technical sessions for those who were looking to go competitive .It didn't take long for more people to join us, and very soon after, we decided to register with ANU Sport and officially established the ANU Swimming Club.
In our first year, I was both the Sponsorships and Social Officer. I worked to secure funds to participate in competitions, like the Australian University Games (AUG), and focused on strengthening the camaraderie in our sports club outside of pool training. Fun fact: we secured enough funding to participate in AUG in Cairns in 2013 and even bagged a few medals, which we celebrated in a BIG way. For a young sports club, being able to represent ANU in a competitive swimming environment, despite having little resources, felt very rewarding.
Little did I know that, years down the line, the community building skills I developed through the club would come in handy. After university, I joined DBS (the largest consumer bank in Singapore). In my eight years with them, I created a new area of online community to build engagement with young adults and families, and supported the community of social enterprises under DBS Foundation through philanthropy and capacity building.
The lines between online engagement and real-world interactions are greatly blurred in the world we live in today. We transition seamlessly across both realms in so many aspects of our daily lives, so much so, that being able to connect, empathise and build trust with people from different backgrounds is an essential skill. Having the opportunity to engage from a more human side of a large corporation to customers and social entrepreneurs is something I hold close to my heart. In many ways, it reminded me of the early days of setting up ANU Swimming Club, as I needed to be resourceful and creative to make things work.
As I reflect on this period of my university life, I realise that ANU Swimming Club was more than the sport for me. The friendships I formed with some of the co-founders and members remain strong until this very day - a decade later. We live in different countries, pursuing careers, and starting families. While we definitely don't meet up weekly to swim and have a burger and beer after, we have been there for the big moments of each other's lives, and stay in touch regularly. I think that's proof of how unifying sports can be.