Waking up at 5:30 every morning and walking down to the pool in 42 degree morning chill isn’t most people’s idea of fun. Actually, it isn’t Lizzy Kosin’s (senior) idea of fun either. But for some reason, she’s been doing it for the past 18 years.
“Shouldn’t I have learned by now?” Kosin said, laughing. She’s wearing a sweatshirt and her blonde hair is tied back in a loose ponytail.
“But it’s the fact that you do keep getting up,” she said. “It’s the people that are there. It’s the fun you have through all the pain.”
Kosin has been on the women’s swim and water polo teams at Occidental since her first year. She’s been swimming since she was four and playing water polo since she was eight.
“I tried other sports,” Kosin said. “I mean, little kids just try all types of sports. I’ve tried gymnastics, not flexible at all. I’ve played basketball, I’ve played volleyball, but I’ve always done swimming and water polo. I’ve always been an aquatics person. And I think that’s just something that’s come naturally to me.”
Kosin went to Lyons Township High School in La Grange, Illinois, a school with competitive age-group swim and water polo teams that were the kind of programs she said people wouldn’t want to quit. Kosin was a starter on the women’s team her sophomore year when the team became the first from a public school to win the Illinois state championship.
In high school, Kosin realized she liked water polo more than swimming, and she toyed with the idea of dropping swim once she got to Occidental. She’s been on the team for all four years.
“That was mainly because of the team,” she said. “The sport in itself is not really my favorite. I’d much rather have my head above the water, be able to talk to people, play water polo, shoot a ball into a goal, as opposed to just swimming up and down the pool.”
She has been an integral part of making that community what it is today.
“She initiates a lot of good things with our program,” swim head coach Thomas Iannone said. “She will lead a cheer. She will be the first one to console an athlete after a disappointing performance.”
Lauren Poppenhagan (senior) has been on the swim team with Kosin since they were both first years and considers her one of her best friends.
“Lizzy’s great,” Poppenhagan said. “She’s always the first one on the pool deck. She’s always in there doing lane lines before anyone else is. She’s one of the hardest workers I know. We have a Facebook group, and she’s always the one to post funny videos for everyone to cheer up on a Monday morning.”
But being an upbeat teammate isn’t the only thing Kosin adds to her swim record. Iannone emphasized that she has one of the most difficult training programs offered in the sport because of the events she chooses — and she rarely complains.
“Of course she’ll say ‘I’m tired,’ of course she’ll say ‘I’m sore.’ Every athlete says that at least once a season,” Iannone said. “You’ll never hear her say, ‘I can’t do this, this is too much, or I’m not doing this.’”
Kosin is graduating this year as a psychology major with a neuroscience minor. She currently works off-campus as a behavior assistant for Positive Behavior Supports Corporation and does Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy (ABA) with children on the autism spectrum. The therapy focuses on conversation and teaching daily living skills one-on-one. She’s currently working with a 13-year-old girl.
“We sit down, and the first thing we do is talk about school,” Kosin said.
After talking for an hour and a half, the rest of the therapy are activities Kosin admits seems a little dry, like how to appropriately brush hair or how to count money so she can know what change she should get back at a store. It seems small, Kosin said, but the children really make progress and even the littlest thing to an outsider may be huge for the child’s family.
She is looking at graduate school programs to become licensed as a clinical social worker, and she hopes to have her own practice one day. Although she is not sure where she might end up going to school, one thing she knows for sure is she is going to find a Masters program with swimming or water polo.
“I keep joking that I’m never going to swim or play water polo again once it ends but I know that’s not true,” Kosin said. “It’s hard to balance being a student-athlete, but for me it’s what I need to be successful in the classroom and in the pool.”
She has loved being part of the Occidental athletics program during college, in which she said the passion of people in every sport is obvious. Kosin said there’s a lot to respect and admire about that kind of community. She is crossing her fingers for a new pool for her teammates even as she graduates.
“I will be very sad to see her leave.” Iannone said. “Because I feel like someone like Lizzy doesn’t come around very often.”