Former Royal Oak swimmer, Bateman, helps set school records at Albion College

By: Mark Vest | Royal Oak Review | Published February 5, 2014

For a lot of NCAA student-athletes, a moment may come when they realize the unique opportunity they have to be part of a collegiate sports team.

While Albion swimmer and Royal Oak High graduate Austin Bateman knew in high school he could have the chance to compete at the college level, he recalled one day in particular when the opportunity he had really dawned on him.

“It was the first away swim meet we had my freshman year,” Bateman said. “We got on one of those touring charter buses with the TV, air conditioning, Wi-Fi on the bus. We were all dressed up in our warm-ups; we had our swim bags with us. I looked around and thought, ‘Wow, this is kind of cool. I’m here with my team. We’re about to compete against another NCAA college team.’ Not to sound cocky, but I kind of feel like I accomplished more than I thought I would.”

While there may be plenty of perks to being a collegiate student-athlete, earning that opportunity doesn’t happen by chance, and Bateman cited some of the keys to making it as far as the college level.

“Putting a hundred percent of myself into class has helped me keep the grades up so that I don’t have to worry as much when I get into the pool,” he said. “Also, you have to have self-motivation and determination to get up at 5 a.m. to work out or go lift. You have to be willing to take a couple hours of sleep out of your day. You have to be willing to work harder; you have to be willing to push yourself more than you think you can.”

Receiving the chance to compete collegiately and doing something with that opportunity are two different things, and Bateman seems to have done both, as since joining the Britons he has been part of relay squads that have broken three school records and one pool record. He has also placed first as an individual.

Accomplishments like those may not have happened without support he has received along the way.

“My family has been more than supportive,” Bateman said. “They encouraged me to take up more of swimming. And then, Darrin (Millar), my high school coach, was encouraging. Royal Oak is one of those programs where the kids don’t swim all year ’round. They go to Darrin, and they don’t really have that much experience swimming. Darrin gives you that realistic expectation of what it takes to be a swimmer. Tough love is what he provided.

“And then Jake Taber here at Albion has completely changed the way I look at training. He’s a great person. He taught me how to be a leader, how to put your faith first, how to take care of yourself. I think it’s a combination of personal encouragement from high school, my parents and Jake Taber.”

Bateman was selected by his teammates as one of the team captains. While there may be various styles for how to best serve in that role, he prefers the lead-by-example approach.

“I think one of the things I’ve learned is the only way to be a successful leader is if you’re willing to go places that you want to lead your team to,” he said. “I think stepping out of my comfort zone and really reaching for things that I don’t normally want to — I think I’ve become a little more comfortable with myself. You have to be able to connect with people on a personal and emotional level, and be able to push them academically. And then you have to be in the water, working just as hard as everyone else, if not harder.

Bateman is majoring in music education and indicated he would like to go on to teach at the elementary or middle school level. He has already thought about life after college.

“I’m really excited to move on to the real world,” Bateman said. “Eighteen years of schooling gets to be a lot when you look back and see how you transformed academically. I’m excited to kind of start using my skills I’ve learned along the way.”