A Leap of Faith

Jack Hoagland

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

I’ve been diving off boards since I was two.

You know the feeling.

The wind beneath your belly as you free-fall into the pool.

As a kid, I was fearless.

The higher the board, the better.

If I’m being honest, the thrill was addicting.

But now, as a collegiate swimmer, I understand that diving into a pool is symbolic of life.

It’s about being fearless, embracing the moment, and making the most of it.

In that regard, I’m still that two-year-old kid jumping off the diving board.

The other reason I got into swimming is that I’ve always looked up to my cousin, Kris Tillery.

He went on to swim for the Air Forceand he was a great swimmer.

He inspired me, and I wanted to be just like him.

His influence led me to start competitive swimming at the age of six.

It’s been 18 years of chasing the thrill in the pool, and Kris’ impact on my life and success cannot be overstated.

Leaving my mark

When I was in high school, I’ll be honest, I got a bit disinterested in swimming.

I was getting tired of the early morning and late-night practices.

There were days when I just wanted to hang out with my friends instead of being stuck in the pool.

Thankfully, my parents and coach stepped in and helped guide me in the right direction.

They reminded me that swimming was my ticket to a great education and the foundation of my future.

God blessed me with a gift, and I discovered that if I committed to it, I could go to am incredibly prestigious school.

That was the push I needed to get back on the right track, and by my sophomore year, I was competing at a high national level once again.

I committed to Notre Dame, and I had a very successful career there.

However, I ultimately decided to leave for grad school because pursuing my MBA was at the forefront of my mind.

I was looking for a school where I could grow not only as a swimmer but also as a person and in my faith.

And I found all of that and more at SMU.

In a single season, I became a three-time first-team All-American, which breaks the previous record here at SMU, set in 1997.

Collegiately, thus far, I am a 8x First Team All-American and 7x Second Team All-American.

It’s a complete honor, and somewhat hard for me to believe I’ve accomplished such a feat.

I didn’t even know that was possible a year ago.

But here I am.

And I owe it all to my faith and the people who have poured into me along the way.

I was looking for a school where I could grow not only as a swimmer but also as a person and in my faith. And I found all of that and more at SMU. I knew this was the place God was leading me to. I was right back in my groove. And I was doing things I never thought possible.

A positive mindset

When I got to SMU, I knew I was capable of great things.

But I was also in uncharted territory.

I didn’t know what to expect.

I had to adjust to a new school, new coaches, and new teammates.

It was a lot to take in at first.

But once I settled in, I quickly realized that my mentality was the biggest inhibitor to succeeding.

If I went to practice every day with a negative attitude, I wasn’t going to get any better.

So, I made a conscious effort to change my mindset.

I focused on the positive.

I told myself that practice was going to be hard, but I was prepared to give it my all.

I continually reminded myself to detach from the outcome and focus on excelling in the process.

It was a game-changer for me.

I started to swim faster and continually break school records.

I was no longer afraid of what might happen if I didn’t perform well.

I was confident in my abilities.

But my mentality wasn’t the only thing that contributed to my success.

The team culture at SMU played a huge role as well.

We’re a group of guys that hold each other accountable.

We’re not afraid to call each other out.

We know that it’s coming from a place of love, and we all want to see each other succeed.

We push each other to be the best versions of ourselves.

And it’s working.

We’ve already broken into the top 20 as a team, and we’re only going to keep moving up from here.

This year at NCAA’s, we finished 18th, which marked the best result in over 15 years. 

I think it’s a testament to all of our hard work and the culture we’re building here at SMU.

It was a surreal experience and perfect way to start my post-grad career at SMU.

Always a Mustang

I’m so grateful to be a part of this team and to have the coaches that I do.

They’ve helped me become the swimmer and person I am today.

Looking back on my journey, I’m amazed at how far I’ve come. 

From being a little kid jumping off the diving board to becoming a three-time first-team All-American in a single season, it’s a feeling I’ll hold close to me forever.

I owe this achievement not only to my faith, family, and team but also to the dedication and resilience I’ve cultivated along the way. 

As I continue to grow as a person post-college, I’ll carry with me the lessons learned from every leap, every stroke, and every challenge overcome. 

And as I move forward, I’ll always be proud to call myself a Mustangforever grateful for the inspiration and support that led me here.