By Emily Orthwein
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
U.S. Olympian Michael Phelps started swimming at the age of seven. TCU swimmer Cooper Robinson started much later.
“My parents kind of threw me into it as a summer activity and something to do,” Robinson said. “I ended up loving it and decided to pursue it further into high school.”
Robinson, a Katy, Texas, native, really started to love swimming when he tried out for a summer league after eighth grade, when he was around 14 years old.
Age didn’t matter, though. He may have started later than other talented swimmers, but that hasn’t affected his success in his collegiate career.
Robinson, a junior, is now known in TCU’s record book for being the first ever Big 12 Conference champion for his backstroke performance in 2013.
“It really means a lot to me that I can be in the record book representing TCU,” Robinson said. “Going into the meet, I had no clue that would’ve happened. It was unexpected, but in a good way.”
Robinson came to TCU following the advice of a previous TCU swimmer, Josh Bagby, who he looked up to as a mentor on his club team back home.
“He was a good friend and a good swimmer to look up to,” Robinson said. “When he told me to look at TCU, I visited and liked the team atmosphere along with the academics, so it felt like the perfect fit.”
Robinson has many mentors on the TCU swim team. Especially head coach Richard Sybesma, who is coming into his 35th season coaching the Horned Frogs.
“Being a swimmer under a coach who’s been here so long like Sybesma is really cool,” Robinson said. “He knows so much about the sport and offers good advice to us.”
During his time as head coach, Sybesma has inspired his swimmers to reach their full potential. Before every race, he motivates Robinson to race to his full capacity.
“He always knows how to calm my nerves and clear my head before a race,” Robinson said. “He just tells me, ‘Go out, have fun, you know how to swim this,’ which is really helpful when I get stressed before a meet.”
Sybesma, along with Robinson’s teammates, think highly of Robinson’s hard work and dedication to the team.
“Cooper is one of the hardest working and dedicated athletes ever to swim for TCU,” Sybesma said. “He is driven to be the best he can be and loves competing for TCU.”
Swimming has brought Robinson some experiences that he would have never had otherwise, such as traveling all around the United States and meeting new people.
“I am so grateful that I have been able to travel all over the U.S.,” Robinson said. “I never knew I would be able to go to Seattle or New York. It is really cool that I’ve been able to travel and meet new friends along the way through swimming.”
Robinson, who is a geography major, loves the opportunity to travel around the world and experience new cultures.
“Growing up, I would always have tons of maps hanging in my room,” Robinson said. “I have always been interested in different cultures and would love to travel all over someday, but I feel like every twenty something year old says that.”
One of his favorite swimming experiences came his sophomore year of high school, when he broke his school’s record in the 100-meter backstroke at a regional meet.
“It was really cool for me because I never thought I would be able to go that fast,” Robinson said.
Robinson said that despite his busy swimming schedule, he considers himself to be a “geeky” college student in his free time.
“I’m a huge geek,” Robinson said. “I enjoy geeky stuff like playing my game boy and reading comic books.”
Robinson, who ran cross-country in high school, also enjoys running in the off-season to keep in shape. Swimmers are not allowed to be in the pool for healing and resting purposes.
Robinson was also involved with the Big 12 Leadership Summit for Cook Children’s Hospital, which gave him the opportunity to interact and play with kids.
“Going into it, I was nervous that the kids would hate me,” Robinson said. “But it ended up being a really rewarding experience seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces.”
As Robinson finishes off his junior year with the Frogs, he has started thinking about where he might want to be in the future.
He said he has several options in mind – graduate school programs, traveling the world and going to Tokyo, Japan or swimming professionally.
“Traveling is something I would really like to do with swimming,” Robinson said. ‘I’ve also been thinking about trying to swim after I graduate because there is an extra year before the Olympic trials.”
Robinson still has plenty of time to think about his future, but for now, he is focused on finishing strong in his swimming career for the Horned Frogs.