Voices from the Crowd: Doak Schultz – Swimming Changed My Life

Doak Schultz

Contributing Writer


My journey through the sport of swimming has been unconventional. I spent my last two years of high school chronically ill, barely able to compete. Up until graduating from high school, I swam with everyone, from Olympic gold medalists and world record holders to local neighborhood kids.

My first year at Wooster, I committed to try and make a name for myself as a collegiate athlete. Coming to Wooster represented a fresh start for me socially and athletically, but soon after arriving on campus, I encountered many obstacles. I immediately began to fall behind academically and was soon diagnosed with ADHD. Although I was struggling in the classroom, I was swimming very well. I was consistently healthy for the first time in two years, and by the end of my first season at Wooster, I was swimming the fastest I ever had.

Coming home for the summer after my first year on campus, I learned that my dad had lost his job while I was at school and that my family would need to move. During my sophomore year, I learned that my mother had cancer and I decided that I needed to withdraw from the College. Because the swim season spans from September to February, I did not complete my second season.

I spent a year-and-a-half away from Wooster. During that time, the pandemic began. My family moved around as we tried to find a permanent place to live. We eventually became homeless, living in the basement of my dad’s coworker because there was nowhere we could afford to rent. So many things had taken over my life: the pandemic, moving away from my family and friends, the end of a three-and-a-half-year long relationship, unstable living conditions, the death of a childhood pet and emotionally supporting my parents through hardship and illness. My swimming career seemed like it was over. Only 13 percent of college dropouts return to graduate in five years.

Over time, my dad got a new job and my mom became healthy. We found a beautiful place where we could afford to live, and I started taking classes at community college. This year, I made it back to Wooster. After a year-and-a-half out of the water, I was welcomed onto a team of the most amazing people I have ever met.

I would not be the person I am today were it not for the love and support of my teammates and the coaches of the swim team. This year, I joined a team that was 70 percent underclassman­ – nobody knew me, yet we inspired each other. My teammates listened to my story, and I listened to theirs. Together we achieved the second highest score at the NCAC Conference meet in school history, were almost undefeated in dual meets and won the Wooster Invitational for the first time in 11 years. This season, I learned that home is the rush of the water and the blur of the tiles gliding by below me as I race with the people I love.