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Chasing My Dreams: Q&A with an Otters Youth Swim Team Alumna

By YWCA Minneapolis and Natalie Sims
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When Natalie Sims was 13 years old, she joined the YWCA Otters Youth Swim Team. In less than four years, she grew from a beginner to one of the fastest youth swimmers on the team. In 2013, Sims qualified in the S9 classification for her first Paralympic meet. She was named to the U.S. Paralympic Swimming Emerging Team, competed in the 2014 Can-Am Paralympic Championships in Edmonton and swam for Team USA at the Rio 2016 Paralympics. She is currently in Colorado training to hopefully compete for at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

In the Q&A below, she shares her experience on the Otters team and how she grew her love for swimming through her years with YWCA.

What first got you interested in swimming?

For as long as I could remember, I’ve always loved the water. Cabins, waterparks, anywhere with a pool or a lake I would always be the last out of the water. I didn’t think about swimming competitively until eighth grade – and I’ve been swimming ever since.

What led you to join the Otters Swim Team?

The Otters Youth Swim Team is a welcoming community with people like Dave, Whitney, Jordan and Tim who shape and mold incredible swimmers. Otters is also a great team environment surrounded by encouraging and supportive teammates!

I joined the Otters because there was a girl on my high school team who was an Otter. I decided to give it a try and I connected with Dave and the coaches. I also got along with the other swimmers and enjoyed the fun and friendly atmosphere.

What swimming goals have you achieved and which are you still striving to accomplish?

One of my goals that I achieved was qualifying for the Rio 2016 Paralympics and coming back for finals in the 400 free – as well as making the move from the emerging team to the National B team in the 100 free at Rio Trials. Now, I am striving to make the National A cut in the 100 free!

Which swimming lessons and classes have you taken with YWCA?

I have taken a lifeguard class through the YWCA and private swim lessons with Dave and Tim. I really enjoyed taking private lessons because it gave me the hands-on learning experience I needed to improve my swim technique and utilize that in practice and meets.

YWCA is a family-friendly place that wants to improve the health and well-being of its members. The staff is very welcoming and there to support and encourage the members and athletes. The staff is very open-minded and is more than willing to help.

What advice would you share with those who may have a disability and are looking to achieve their dreams, maybe even be an Olympic athlete someday?

My advice is don’t let your disability define who you are. If you want to chase your dream, there is nothing standing in your way except yourself. It’s going to be hard, grueling work but the reward is knowing you gave it your all. Just because you have a disability, that shouldn’t limit what you love to do. Let that motivate you and inspire others.

“It’s going to be hard, grueling work but the reward is knowing you gave it your all.”

What have been your greatest memories or moments with YWCA Minneapolis?

My greatest memories have been of the coach and teammate relationships I have formed. I have met some great people that have played a very influential part in my life. Without the support and encouragement from my teammates and coaches, I would not be where I am now. I am beyond grateful that I made the decision to become an Otter. I have made memories that will be with me for years to come.

Learn more about YWCA Otters Swim Team

Learn more about YWCA Swimming Lessons