More Than Swimming: A Conversation with Coach Chris DeSantis

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I LOVED this conversation with Chris DeSantis, fellow New England swimmer turned father + husband + coach + entrepreneur - especially because he’s someone who turns toward hard in a way that’s both rare and refreshing.


I came across a blog post he wrote a few months ago, about a topic that’s just.not.talked.about a lot, especially in the sport of swimming: the toxic cultures born out of the belief that shame is a motivational tactic necessary for success; a belief perpetuated by the words + actions of some coaches in the swimming arena - words + actions that can have dangerous (and even deadly) consequences.

The piece Chris wrote opened my 37 year-old eyes to behaviors that my 14 year-old self thought were “normal”: Chucking kick boards at swimmers. Public weigh-ins for women only. Blatant body shaming. Sexually explicit language. Behaviors that had a MASSIVE impact on how I viewed myself and my body. Behaviors that are oftentimes swept under the rug when athletes are achieving. It’s an at-all-costs mentality that comes with a dangerously high price.

Reading his piece allowed me to further connect the dots, which ultimately has led to even deeper healing. I realized my experience wasn’t unique - bringing both comfort AND pain. So, I reached out to thank him for his courage and hence, this deeper conversation was born.

I was both nervous and excited about recording this podcast, knowing that it was a safe space to share my experiences as a 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 year old girl-turning-woman. I’ve committed to truth-telling, which means talking about the behaviors of my club coaches who talked about our female bodies, on deck + in our bathing suits in inappropriate and toxic ways. One environment was loaded with sexually inappropriate language that drove me into a darkness as a young teen, planting the deeply painful seeds that something was wrong with me. The other environment was loaded with perfectionist beliefs (and therefore harsh judgement) that caused me to tie my body fat to my worthiness and ability to perform which ultimately grew into a full blown eating disorder.

{{ To be clear: I’m not blaming my eating disorder and struggle with perfectionism on my coaches. I am saying that their words + actions (knowingly or unknowingly) contributed to my mental illness in major ways. Unfortunately, these kinds of issues are still pervasive. I believe we can shift the cultural current by helping our kids + parents + coaches cultivate the skill set to become mindful, brave, resilient leaders. It takes a village. And, equipping all stakeholders - including the athletes - with the tools to become more AWARE is the first step. }}


It’s so painful. All these years later.

Chris was an amazing host - our conversation was organic + authentic. I knew this. I felt this. AND. When his email came in that the podcast link was up - a pit grew in my stomach. What did I say? What will happen? Will I be found out? Did I exaggerate? Was it my fault somehow? It wasn’t that bad….

What I now know:

This is the voice of Shame.

This piece of my story took up a few minutes of this 60 minute conversation - though Shame would have me believe that it was all I talked about. Because, that’s how it operates.

Isolation. Judgment. Over-identification. SILENCE.

So, I’m walking the walk, and turning TOWARD the hard that sets me free by standing in my Truth.

Honoring all of my story.

Because that’s how we heal.

It takes courage to do this work. AND. It’s work we’re capable of when we have the tools + supports in place. My intention in sharing is to speak my truth - and by doing so, maybe inspire someone who’s been shoving down parts + pieces of their story to step more fully into their truths.

We don’t have to hide anymore.

We are capable. We are brave. We are worthy.

And we are loved.

I believe in you!!


To listen to our conversation, click on the picture below! Or head over here.


Samantha Arsenault Livingstone is an Olympic Gold Medalist, high-performance coach and consultant, transformational speaker, educator and entrepreneur. She is the founder of Livingstone High Performance, LLC. and the Rise Free Academy - inspiring, empowering and equipping athletes, coaches and women who lead with the skills they need to cultivate high-performance - to achieve AND feel fulfilled along the way. 

In addition to private and group coaching, Samantha consults with teams and organizations on athlete wellness, Mindful Sport Performance Enhancement (MSPE), leadership, courage building, rising skills and creating high-performance environments. 

A mama of heart warrior and mama of twins, Samantha and her husband, Rob, live in the Berkshires with their four girls. To learn more about her offerings, go over to