For many people, a bad collegiate experience would turn them off from their sport forever. For Ryan Paisley, it was only the beginning of something much greater.
By: Hannah Boudreau
BLOOMSBURG, Pa.− Imagine yourself being one of the best athletes at your high school. Your hard work has seemingly fallen into place and you start to look at colleges to find the best swimming program for you. You begin to look at and visit division one schools and finally decide on one that you feel is perfect for you. The overnight visit went well and you’re excited to begin.
After moving in and beginning training, you suddenly realize that this was a big mistake. You become more and more unhappy with your college decision by the day. You decide that you don’t love to swim anymore. You quit the sport. You take a year off. You transfer colleges.
For most people, this nightmare would stop them from swimming forever, but for Ryan Paisley, this was only the beginning.
As a freshman in high school, Paisley joined the water polo team because he watched his sister participate in the sport. His love for the sport of water polo sparked his interest in swimming; something he would continue on to break various school records and participate in at the collegiate level.
As a senior in high school, Towson University in Maryland expressed interest in having Paisley on their team.
“So my recruiting trip to Towson, looking back on it, was very staged. I had a really good time and the team was great.” Paisley said. “Looking back on it, it was not that at all.”
After beginning training at Towson, Paisley quickly realized swimming was taking over his life, causing him to lose sight in the academic aspect of college.
After swimming his freshman year at Towson University, Paisley took the summer to think about whether or not he wanted to swim again. Midway through the summer, he decided he needed to quit. “I physically and mentally cannot do this anymore,” Paisley remembers thinking.
At the end of his sophomore year at Towson, Paisley remembers being unhappy. Never quite finding his niche and still continuing to struggle academically, he finally picked up the phone, called his parents and told them he couldn’t do it anymore.
Paisley looked at Bloomsburg without even considering the swimming aspect of it. “It was in close proximity to home and my cousin had been there and he always enjoyed it,” Paisley said.
At first, Paisley planned to be done with swimming for good. Still angry and bitter from his negative experience at Towson, Paisley wasn’t sure he’d ever be in the water again. One weekend, when picking Paisley up from Towson, his dad suggested the idea of joining the swim team at Bloomsburg. He told Paisley, “You should seriously consider swimming again. I think you have a lot more left to give and I think it will make your transition a lot easier.”
These words stuck with Paisley. Although he was scared his experience at Bloomsburg would be similar to his experience at Towson, he took the time to think about what his dad had said. After speaking with some teammates who he had swam with in high school, and even some who had also transferred from Towson to Bloomsburg, Paisley decided to give it another shot.
Stu Marvin, the head swimming coach at Bloomsburg, recalls his first encounter with Paisley. “I was here in the summer time and he walked onto the deck and pretty much said ‘I’m coming.’”
Coach Marvin, who took notice of Paisley’s outstanding high school career, had actually reached out to him before, offering the opportunity to swim at Bloomsburg when Paisley was a senior in high school.
After falling out of love with the sport at Towson and taking an entire year off of training, Paisley spent the entire summer before coming to Bloomsburg training and getting in shape, and people took notice.
“He made an immediate impact. He was in shape, ready to go, he had a great attitude and is a great person. He’s laid back, focused, and very goal oriented” Coach Marvin explains.
During Paisley’s first meet as a husky, he swam his life time best time. “Everyone stood up and took notice,” said Coach Marvin.
Paisley continued on to have an incredible season at Bloomsburg, setting multiple personal bests, becoming an All-American at the NCAA National Swimming meet in the 200-free relay, and becoming a Conference Champion in the same relay. Paisley also excelled individually in the 50-free at the PSAC Championship meet, placing an impressive sixth place in 20.80 seconds.
“He came in ready to go and sucked everyone with him. He turned some heads and the they all followed his lead,” said Coach Marvin. “He didn’t have to do anything, all he was, was Ryan. He didn’t come here to try and make a statement or turn the program around, he just wanted to swim and revitalize his career and do great things. And people saw that for what it was worth.”
Bridget Hilferty, assistant coach at Bloomsburg, would agree with Coach Marvin’s words about Ryan.
“The fact that he gets it and wants it so bad draws other people towards him,” Coach Hilferty says. “I think that’s why he has changed the dynamic of the team. He brings this mentality and demeanor to practice and people want to be a part of it.”
Paisley, the newly voted team captain for the 2016-2017 season, hasn’t only accomplished significant things in the pool. Paisley was the winner of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Sportsmanship Award. The PSAC Sportsmanship award is given annually to an athlete or team who exemplifies good citizenship, a good public image, and represents his/her institution in a positive way. The full article on Paisley’s award can be found on the Bloomsburg Huskies Athletic Website.
Paisley could not be more fitting to earn this award. Constantly supporting his teammates and encouraging them to be the best versions of themselves as possible, he is the true depiction of the word “sportsmanship”.
Paisley’s response to achieving this award sincerely explains just why he is so deserving of it. “To be even nominated for an award like that is just a testament to where I’ve been and where I am now. It was extremely humbling. I have it hanging up on my wall, it is something I’m very proud of,” he said.
When speaking to others about Paisley, it is not difficult to tell that everyone who knows him speaks very highly of him. He is described by friends and coaches as “laid-back”, “kind”, and “humble”.
When life gives us lemons, it is often times easy to decide that making lemonade is simply too daunting of a task. For Paisley; however, this is never the case.
“It really came down to knowing the tough times weren’t going to last. They say ‘this too shall pass’ and that’s something I would write on a sticky note in my room and hang up,” said Paisley. “I knew better days were coming and I just tried to wait it out and be as positive as I could, and it has paid off.”
Life has a way of throwing us unexpected obstacles at inconvenient times. We can choose defeat, or we can choose positivity as we wait out the storm. For people like Ryan, waiting out the rain is always worth it in the end.