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Ellie Devens: Touching the Wall

At 11 years old, Ellie’s life centers on a single dream: to swim in the Olympics. She qualified for the 2016 Texas Age Group Sectional Championships (TAGS) in 50 Breast, 100 Breast and the Individual Medley. The Olympic rings are surely only a few strokes from her grasp.

HFM: You are a soon-to-be 6th grader with a very specific goal in life. Tell us about that goal.

ED: The biggest goal in a swimmer’s life is to make it to the Olympics. To me, making it to the Olympics would be a dream come true, but in order to get to the Olympics, I need to work hard! As my coach reminds me, I can’t rest until my good swimming is my better swimming, and my better swimming is my best swimming. Never rest until good is better and better is best.

HFM: How old were you when you learned to swim?

ED: I was four years old when I first began to swim. I started by swimming on my neighborhood summer league team, The Deerfield Dolphins.

HFM: Did it seem immediately apparent to everyone that you had a natural ability for swimming, or did you just really like to swim, and worked to build your skill?

ED: As a starter I had to work to have good strokes, but once I learned to swim I got really good really quickly.

HFM: Mom, how do you remember Ellie’s start as a swimmer?

MOM, NICOLE: As a four year old, Ellie was very nervous about safely making it across the pool. Summer league provided an atmosphere of positive peer pressure to encourage her to be brave while learning. She quickly learned the basics of freestyle and backstroke. But her Summer League and Cy-Fair Swim Club (FLEET) coaches have provided her consistent guidance and input to improve her technique and form in all four strokes. At age eleven she may not recall how hard it was to learn Breaststroke, and I see that as compliment to how seamless good coaching can make learning feel!

HFM: Ellie, What do you enjoy more: swimming or competing?

ED: Competing, because I love racing. Going to a swim meet, seeing what you can do and sometimes surprising yourself is the best feeling.

HFM: Is anyone else in your family athletic?

ED: Everyone in my family is athletic. We love staying active, a healthy family is a happy family. We love to swim, bike and run. My little brother, Chase, is also on the FLEET team so we spend a lot of time around a pool.

HFM: A lot of kids swim on summer swim teams, or on school swim teams during the school year. How old were you when you realized you wanted to take it further than that?

ED: When the 2012 Olympics were on TV, I loved watching them race! I said, “ I want to be like them someday.” I was seven years old and I asked my parents to swim year round. That fall I started swimming for Cypress Fairbanks Swim Club, “FLEET.”

HFM: How much time do you spend training/practicing?

ED: At FLEET, we have two different swim schedules for the school year and summer. During the school year, we swim nine and a half hours a week (Mon – Sat). During the summer we swim fifteen hours a week (Mon – Sat with two-a-days twice a week).

HFM: Do you have friends both in and outside of the swimming world?

ED: Yes, I have a lot of friends inside and out of the swimming world. But, all my friends outside the swimming world know the phrase, “No, I can’t, I have swim practice,” and they are very supportive and understand that I am very passionate about swimming.

HFM: Who are your role models?

ED: Some of my biggest role models are:

My parents, because they do everything for me like fueling me up for swim meets, cheering me on, comforting me after I don’t have the best race and so many other things. I want to be like them and put all my time and effort into practicing hard for swim meets.

My coaches, especially Coach Colin. Some swimmers look up to their coaches as a friend, a teacher and/or a leader. My coach is all of these things to me. He pushes and challenges me everyday. I look up to him and also expect him to be the best coach he can be so I can follow him and be the best swimmer I can be.

HFM: I’m sure there are times you don’t feel like practicing/training. What do you do or what do you tell yourself to get over that hump and into the pool?

ED: On days when I don’t feel like training I tell myself that in order to get to the Olympics I have to train my hardest each day. So I just swim my hardest and I see those Olympic rings ahead of me. I usually feel better when I get out of the pool.

HFM: What are some of your interests outside of swimming?

ED: I enjoy reading, listening to music, watching the movie Touch the Wall, biking, running and playing with my friends and brother. I am also in Girl Scouts.

HFM: How have your parents and family supported you in achieving your goals?

ED: My parents’ cars say “Swim Taxi”. They do a lot of getting me where I need to go, feeding me (swimmers eat a lot!) and giving me the time to practice and race. My parents are always there cheering me on and giving me chances to prove myself at meets. They let me choose to go to a meet even when the rest of the family may be going to do something else.

HFM: I’m sure you’re looking forward to watching the Olympics in August. Do you have any favorites you’re keeping an eye on?

ED: I am going to be watching Cammile Adams, Maya DiRado, Katie Ledecky, Dana Vollmer, Chase Kalisz, Michael Phelps and Connor Jaeger.

HFM: Do you have a personal motto, philosophy, or driving principle that guides you through life?

ED: The motto I follow is “Be proud. Work Hard. Dream Big.” What this means is I need to be proud of what I accomplished yesterday, work hard today and dream big about things I want in the future. To remind me of my motto my Dad made signs for my room that say “Be Proud”, “Work Hard” and “Dream Big.” These signs are red & white and my room is Team USA themed – Red, White and Blue.

HFM: What advice do you have for other kids about pursuing their goals?

ED: Always work your hardest. To get far in swimming you have to love swimming. Always believe in your coach… he/she knows what they are doing and they will guide you to achieve your goals.

HFM: Any advice for their parents?

ED: Never stop believing in us. We do our best when we’re cheered on.

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