Synchronized swimming provides an opportunity for growth for Rachael Pashturro.
January 11, 2023
As soon as she dives into the water, she is at peace. The same water that got her through the most depressing moments in her life now sustains her during her last year of high school.
Rachel Pashturro, a senior at CHS, has done synchronized swimming since she was eight years old. Throughout her career, she has been on three synchronized swimming club teams, and is now on Pioneer’s team. Her favorite part of being on a team is how much it feels like a family as well as the connections she has made with her teammates through the sport. She believes that all the teams she has been on have been unique and tight-knit families.
While swimming, Pashturro’s mind is only focused on what she is doing in that moment. Synchronized swimming is similar to dance in the sense that while swimming, Pashturro is constantly counting the beats of music in her head, which helps her to stay on pace with her body and her mind.
“[Practice is] the one place I can go and I know that once I get there all I’m doing is [synchronized swimming],” Pashturro said. “I’m not thinking about what happened at school; I’m not thinking about who texted me; I’m just thinking about what I’m doing in the water and how I’m going to do better than I did last time.”
Synchronized swimming has helped fuel Pashturro’s journey towards self-discovery, but this did not come easily.
“I’ve struggled a lot in my years as a synchronized swimmer with coaching and peers on my team, but I learned to individualize myself and my needs as a swimmer and that helps me get through a lot of practices,” Pashturro said.
During practices, Pashturro has learned, through trial and error, that she improves the most by taking videos of herself swimming, watching every step and misstep and being self-aware while swimming.
As she has improved, though, her goals have changed. When Pashturro was younger, she watched girls on her team continue onto college teams, such as Louisiana State University, and wanted to be like them, but now she does not plan on swimming in college. This is for many reasons, but it ultimately comes down to her mental health.
“Growing up in a sport where the perfect image of a swimmer was skinnier and leaner, it was harder for me to accomplish what they were accomplishing,” Pashturro said. “I have grown into the idea that I don’t want to do it in college and it’s something that I can do on my own and know that it’s an escape.”
There are many ways society promotes unrealistic, skinny body types; this toxic body image expectation started affecting Pashturro at age 11.
“When I grew up and started realizing I don’t look like the other girls, it was eye opening,” Pashturro said. “When I moved here I started realizing, ‘Oh, I’m never really going to look like these girls; everybody looks different and that’s not my fault.’ But it wasn’t something that was very easily learned. It was definitely harder to achieve the things that they were achieving, and it was very hard as a young child to comprehend that there might be a way that I will never be as good as them or even better.”
Now, Pashturro feels she has finally earned her confidence, but this came with time, effort and struggle. Coming from competitive club teams, she is able to feel confident on Pioneer’s team and enjoy her time on the team without all the stress of club. During this journey, Pashturro realized that what really mattered about synchronized swimming, and life, was how she herself felt about it.
“It’s okay to not be better than other people because at the end of day you have to be better for yourself,” Pashturro said.
Pashturro is better for herself now, and she continues to become better. She has improved as a swimmer, but also as a person with a little help from synchronized swimming and her best friend.