Through The Eyes

An Oakland Athletics site

Following in My Family's Footsteps

By Ian Allen

I come from a large family of competitive swimmers.

On my dad’s side, swimming is a tradition.

All seven of my aunts and uncles swam competitively.

My dad, John, and my uncle, Tom, both swam at Oakland and were part of the team that won the first conference championship in 1976.

Uncle Tom set many records during his time there, swimming from 1976 to 1980. He was also the captain who led Oakland to their first NCAA Championship in 1980, the first national title ever for Oakland.

So, you could say that swimming is in my blood.

Growing up around it, it was the obvious choice for me to give it a try myself.

Starting Young

I started swimming at a very young age.

I vividly remember one moment that sparked my interest.

I was about four years old and saw my dad swimming in the hotel pool.

It looked fun, so I jumped in and started swimming alongside him. I guess I showed some early talent, and from then on, I was encouraged to pursue the sport.

When I was younger, my dad was my coach.

While this can be a challenging dynamic for some, it wasn’t the case for me at all.

My dad embodied positivity.

He never uttered a single negative word about my races.

He was always encouraging and never put down my abilities.

He was strategic in his methods of motivation.

There were many mornings when he would wake me up super early for practice, and often, I wouldn’t want to go.

But, when I got there and saw the 45- or 50-year-old men pushing themselves, I knew I had to get focused.

If they were putting in the effort, I had to, too.

These are the ways my dad motivated me without being forceful.

He was always strategic, and I feel incredibly lucky to have had such a positive and healthy influence early on in my career.

Choosing Oakland

Throughout my career, I looked up to my dad and uncle.

When I was younger, I always dreamed of swimming at Oakland.

When I visited my Uncle Tom, I saw the plaques he earned during his time competing there, and I dreamt of having my own one day.

So, when it came time to choose a school, Oakland always had the edge.

While I was recruited by other schools and considered them, there was a different feeling when I visited Oakland.

I just felt connected and at home.

I can attribute that to the influence my dad and uncle had on me throughout my career.

I was so excited to have the opportunity to follow in their footsteps.

Living Up to the Legacy

That being said, being an Allen comes with the pressure to perform at an elite level in the pool.

Coach Hovland, who also coached my uncle, would often tell me how much I reminded him of Tom.

I always took that as a compliment and an honor.

That’s how I view being a part of the Allen legacy within the swimming community.

While I see the similar traits I carry, I also recognize that I am my own unique person.

I was excited about the opportunity to have my own experience at Oakland and pursue personal success.

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When I was younger, I always dreamed of swimming at Oakland. When I visited my Uncle Tom, I saw the plaques he earned during his time competing there, and I dreamt of having my own one day. So, when it came time to choose a school, Oakland always had the edge.While I was recruited by other schools and considered them, there was a different feeling when I visited Oakland. I just felt connected and at home.

The Student-Athlete Community

When I first came to Oakland, I knew about the tradition and what it meant to be part of the swim team, but I didn’t fully understand its depth.

It wasn’t until I became a student-athlete myself that I truly grasped the significance of representing Oakland.

Our pool displays the conference records for everyone to see, and NCAA banners are hung throughout.

It gives you a feeling that you are part of something bigger than yourself.

It’s a constant reminder of the history and tradition that we carry on every day.

This, in turn, fuels our motivation to contribute to that very history and tradition ourselves.

Last year, we came close to breaking the 4-decade streak of conference championships.

We were the underdogs on the final day, and everyone was nervous.

No one slept that night.

We were all pacing back and forth in our hotel rooms, hoping and praying for a comeback.

And we did it.

It was an incredible feeling to be part of something so much bigger than myself, knowing that we achieved something no one else thought we could.

It was a testament to our team camaraderie and the belief we have in each other.

Building that camaraderie is not something we take lightly.

We dedicate a lot of time outside the pool to strengthening our team bond, sometimes in unconventional ways.

The Origin Story of Shaving our Heads

One way of team bonding came in the form of shaving our heads at a basketball game recently.

Before I delve into the details, let me rewind a bit.

Supporting other athletic teams is part of the culture here at Oakland.

And for us swimmers, it builds team spirit.

We show up at volleyball matches in our speedos, cheer loudly at soccer games, and even attempted to attend an eSports event last year, only to discover spectators weren’t allowed.

Through these displays of support, we build camaraderie beyond the pool.

One of our recent traditions involves shaving our heads.

I was among the few remaining teammates who hadn’t yet participated.

I promised the team I would do it before the Cleveland State basketball game, as we had already planned on going as a team.

One teammate jokingly suggested doing it during the game.

Initially, it seemed like a funny idea, but it gradually gained traction.

If I were to shave my head at the game, I decided, there had to be a way to benefit the team.

Thus, I came up with the idea to do it during a free throw to create a distraction.

The act went viral, but it was simply a way to combine our passion for supporting other teams with carrying on this new tradition.

These moments are what make being a student-athlete at Oakland so special.

My Roadblock and Recovery

One of these team-bonding activities, ironically, led to my injury.

During a pick-up soccer game, I collided with another player’s shin and heard a popping sound in my knee.

It turned out to be a torn ACL, requiring surgery the following month.

The pain was excruciating, and I worried about the impact on my swimming career.

Looking back, I’m kind of grateful for the injury, though.

After fourteen years of never taking a break from swimming, being forced away allowed me to return with a fresh perspective.

Before, I viewed swimming as something I had to do, a constant push to be the best.

Now, however, I see it as an opportunity, a privilege to be a student-athlete.

Instead of dwelling on time goals, I simply strive to give my best effort every day. That’s the only thing within my control, and it’s the only goal I carry now.

This newfound perspective has undoubtedly made me a better person.

I’m less focused on the end result and more invested in the journey and the person I’m becoming along the way.

Leaving a Legacy of My Own

That’s the legacy I aspire to leave at Oakland.

I hope to be remembered not just for my accomplishments but also for the kind of person I was.

While I followed in the footsteps of my family, who were some of the best swimmers here at Oakland, they were also incredible individuals.

Uncle Tom, for instance, was remembered for his humor and his ability to brighten everyone’s day.

Just as we are recognized as athletes, I hope we are also remembered for our character and the positive impact we have on the Oakland community.

Representing the black and gold is an honor, and I will cherish it for the rest of my life.