TVHS GRADUATE & SWIMMER
For 18 years of her life, it was rare for Michelle Bird not to spend a significant part of every day in a swimming pool. Michelle started swimming competitively when she was four years old, and didn’t stop competing until she graduated from college.
Although she acknowledges that she missed out on some things spending so many years swimming year-round, she also says if given the chance, she wouldn’t change a thing.
“Just like any competitive athlete, I missed out on birthday parties. My family didn’t go on vacations in the summer,” Michelle says. “As a kid, it was harder to see the benefit of it, but looking back on it now, everything good in my life is because of swimming.”
Michelle has worked for Larimer County since 2012, and currently serves as the Director of Public Affairs, overseeing communications and engagement, in addition to many other responsibilities. Like many athletes, she credits having a foundation in sports with helping her to accomplish her goals and find success in her career.
“I was very lucky to have great coaches growing up,” Michelle says, referring to Tom Hewson who coached her at the Club level, and Kris Ayers, her coach at TVHS. Michelle also believes that her sister Nicole, who is seven years older than Michelle, shaped her as an athlete. “I grew up watching her swim. I learned a lot about my attitude toward competition from her. She was a sophisticated athlete. She always went into races mentally ready.”
In high school, Michelle routinely got up at 4:30 in the morning to swim, but that was nothing compared to the grueling practices she encountered in college.
Michelle earned a full-ride swimming scholarship to Texas A&M, where she was a Big 12 Conference Champion and a Division I All-American in 2004. Swimming for a collegiate team meant several hours spent in the pool every day, in addition to classes, weightlifting, and aerobic workouts.
“I didn’t have a social life like a normal person in college. We had some time with our team and had fun, but everything was basically built around swimming. That’s what they were paying us to do,” she says.
But it was all that hard work – in addition to a very supportive family and some excellent role models – that Michelle says shaped her into the adult she became.
“I learned that failure isn’t fatal. It’s OK to fail,” she explains. “Also teamwork, being able to work with other people, and being able to build relationships. And that being nervous is OK. It just means you care. You get nervous before a race, and you learn that that’s OK. That’s your body’s natural reaction to caring.”
Michelle believes that if it weren’t for her many years spent swimming, she wouldn’t have the career she loves today.
“I know I am who I am today because of swimming and my family. I very much pride myself on my work ethic,” she says.
Michelle also credits the legislation enacted by Title IX for giving her the opportunities to excel.
“My mom came from a very athletic family, but there weren’t athletics for her,” Michelle says. “My mom never had that opportunity, but in one generation, we went from my mom not being able to do that, to me being able to have my education paid for because of athletics. I’m incredibly grateful for that, and I realize how lucky I was to be born when I was and be able to compete because of Title IX.”