Finding Your Path

Annabelle Corcoran

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This series is brought to you by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

  • Fifth-year student-athlete
  • Women’s Swimming & Diving
  • Master of Science in Management (Cox School of Business)

Sometimes, the best life lessons come from the most unexpected places.

As a swimmer for most of my life, my busy schedule never allowed me the chance to take a service trip.

So, when I packed my bags for Costa Rica along with a few other student-athletes, I had no idea what to expect.

Our goal was to build a basketball court for the local children to play on, something that took us over a week to complete.

With no cell phones or other distractions, it was a time of bonding among my fellow athletes and the local families.

In that community, traditional gender roles were the norm — women stayed in the kitchen and raised a family.

As a result, the young local girls were blown away that we (the SMU women) were athletes and that we were part of a coed team building the court. 

When they saw us work so hard, it seemed to inspire them to gain greater confidence in themselves and their own abilities.

This experience influenced me to minor in Women and Gender Studies.

More importantly, it sparked my desire to help people in communities around Dallas and around the world.

Becoming a swimmer

Long before I discovered my interest in community service, swimming became my first love.

Growing up on Long Island, in New York, I was almost always surrounded by water. Like many parents, my mom was worried that I’d fall in the water and drown – so she signed me up for swimming lessons.

From day one, I just loved the water, the people, and the racing. I was hooked.

I tried other sports, namely lacrosse, but swimming was always where I felt the most passion. I won’t lie, part of the reason I love swimming is that I hate the feeling of sweating — obviously not a problem in the pool!

My love for swimming runs deep. Swimming is a lot about putting faith in yourself, training hard, and working on yourself. In many ways, swimming has shaped who I am and many of my life decisions.

I’m so fortunate that it led me to SMU.

My mom received a Masters from SMU, and she encouraged me to look at the school.

I knew she thought SMU was a good fit for me, but I needed to feel it in my heart first.

SMU was one of three schools I visited, and when I got on campus and met all the girls on the team, I knew it was the right place for me.

Five years later, my passion for SMU is just as strong as the first day I stepped on campus. And this year I am fortunate to be able to take advantage of the NCAA extra “COVID” year.

Blazing my trail

In order to inspire change at SMU, I quickly got involved with SAAC (Student-Athlete Advisory Committee) after I returned from Costa Rica.

One of my favorite experiences with SAAC was a community outreach program in Dallas.  Along with other athletes, I participated in a program called Move for Miles. We spent time playing with childhood cancer patients to help them forget about what was going on in their lives. In those moments, the kids were able to just be kids and have fun.  It was a rewarding experience for the kids and the athletes, and it reaffirmed my desire to help others in the community and to inspire my peers to become involved as well.

I joined SAAC as a general member in 2019 and later became an official representative for Women’s Swimming.  Last year, I worked side-by-side with my roommate, Elise Johnson, who was the 2021-2022 SAAC president.  She inspired me to run for president this year and use my skills and abilities to lead others and enact change. 

Now that I’m the president, there’s no more time for brainstorming–It’s time for action!

When I returned to SMU from the service trip, I knew I wanted to pick up a minor in women and gender studies. More importantly, that experience truly sparked my desire to help people in communities around Dallas and around the world. I hardly know where I’d be without it.

Bringing change

For me, there’s no better support system than a community.

One of my major goals is to make a bigger community for our athletes across sports. On a basic level, that would help individual athletes make friends and strengthen the athletic department as a whole.

It’s also important because mental health is something I’ve struggled with personally, and it can be tough for student-athletes.

Juggling a sport, school, and our personal lives can be stressful, but having a support system in place can help my fellow athletes overcome their challenges.

We need to make sure our resources are easily accessible to everyone.

Even though it’s a sensitive topic, outreach is very important for that and I look forward to working with our on-campus experts to achieve a more mentally-conscious campus.

Another key goal for me is to re-institute trips like the Costa Rica one because it impacted me so heavily.

Understandably, COVID held us back from keeping programs like that going on for the past few years.

But, the world never stands still, and neither do I. The importance of seeing another culture and growing human connections will never fade, so I still believe in the effectiveness of these programs.

Lastly, a long-term goal I have for myself is to increase overall water education and prevent drowning deaths. Outreach and education, even on a small scale, can go a long way to avoiding that.

As I look back on my college career, I’m proud of how much I’ve grown since stepping on campus as a freshman.

SMU, and that initial service trip, have definitely changed my life for the better.

In the time I have left on campus, I want to make sure all SMU athletes have the ability to have an eye-opening experience like the one I had.

If it could help me find my path, maybe it’ll help them find theirs, too.