By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Thursday, December 7, 2017Throughout her swimming career and even now as she works toward her master’s degree and coaches high school athletes, Ashley Steenvoorden Wise has operated by two simple philosophies.
Live your life with no regrets and you can accomplish anything you put your mind to with a little hard work and belief in yourself.
Considering her long, successful NCAA and National and international careers culminated in 2014, Wise has made good on both and continues to live life by them every day.
“My parents always said, ‘If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything,’” she said. “That’s something that I took with me as I matured. Hard work helped me develop in high school and then into college.
“With a little bit of hard work, you can accomplish anything. I’m using this as I complete assignments for my degree and in my coaching – educating my students and athletes on the value of hard work.”
In the three years since she finished her competitive swim career, Wise has experienced some pivotal life milestones.
She coached as an assistant for two years at the University of Indianapolis and taught swim lessons before returning to Minneapolis – where she was a 9-time All-American and 6-time Big Ten Champion as a distance freestyler at the University of Minnesota – to complete her master’s degree in education.
She’s currently student teaching first graders and working as the head coach at Hopkins High School. She said it was her time teaching swim lessons in Indianapolis which ignited her desire to get into teaching.
Coaching is something that’s always been part of who she is and what she loves.
“Coaching has helped me stay involved in the swimming community, and I’ve enjoyed helping my team reach their goals,” said Wise, who married husband, Greg, in July 2016.
Swimming was always Wise’s favorite sports outlet growing up, as she and identical twin sister, Kristen, excelled early and often.
Their mom managed a local pool in their East Brunswick, N.J., neighborhood, and they accompanied her often to work.
Being around water that much made water safety a priority, and their love for the water evolved from there.
“I participated in other sports, but in middle school, I decided to focus on swimming because that’s what I enjoyed the most,” she said. “I honestly believe that the hard work was worth it.
“In the moment when you’re in the middle of a hard set it’s hard to see, but the results at the end of the season for me always proved to be worth the hard work and commitment.”
During the course of her competitive career, Wise said she had many accomplishments for which she’s very proud.
She said none rival the multiple conference titles she won for the Golden Gophers or the silver and bronze medals she brought home from the 2013 World University Games in Kazan, Russia.
She added that swimming for the United States – even though she never had the opportunity to compete at an Olympics – was a profound experience that she’ll never forget.
And the many friendships and relationships she made and has maintained from swimming over the years are equally important in her life.
“Seeing the flag raised and representing the best country in the world is an incredible feeling,” she said. “The sport of swimming has given me so many memories and lifelong friends. My college roommates were bridesmaids in my wedding and I’m attending weddings for these great friends in a couple of weeks.
“Swimming gives you lifelong friends that’s for sure. I think that’s why I love coaching. It’s a way to keep me involved in the sport but share my love and passion with others.”
Her own passion for the sport came into question during the months preceding the 2014 Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships.
After the meet, she made the decision to call it a career – and never regretted her decision to continue chasing her swim dreams after graduating in 2012 and missing making the 2012 Olympic team.
“The time was just right for me after I graduated in 2012, but I wasn’t ready to be done,” she said. “I felt like I still had more to accomplish. After Olympic Trials in 2012, I qualified for WUGs at US Open and decided I would go another year since I was given the opportunity to represent the United States.
“Swimming in the Olympics was a dream of mine growing up, but I don’t feel disappointed that I never had a chance to reach that dream. I was able to represent my country and the University of Minnesota. I got to work with some incredible coaches, and meet lifelong friends. I am so glad I had that opportunity. But over time, I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. That’s why I knew it was time to retire.”
And while she said she never considered herself to be a great athlete from the start – originally swimming the breaststroke before switching to distance events – she said she knows swimming has given her many valuable experiences and gifts that continue to positively impact her life.
“The friendships swimming gave me, I could never repay,” she said. “Most of my friends have been involved in the swimming community, and no matter how long we go without seeing each other, we pick up right where we left off. Because of these friendships, I’ll be forever thankful for having been in the sport.”