Starting as a young girl, Natalia Ryng loved being in the water. She relished jumping off the starting platform and racing for medals until high school.
While she’s no longer competing in the pool, Ryng still benefits from the training she received as a competitive swimmer in her college basketball career at Wichita State.
“Since I was five years old, it was the first thing I loved actually,” Ryng said. “My dad signed me (up) to the swimming school and I started to swim and I was quite good. I joined the club, and it was kind of a professional club. I was swimming 10 hours a week.”
Ryng spent her time in the water training for the 100-meter backstroke and the 200-meter butterfly. When she was 14, the Gdynia, Poland native set the state Polish record for fastest time in the 200-meter butterfly.
“I need to be with someone to play together, so that’s why I chose basketball.”
Before enrolling at SMS Pzkosz Lomianki, Ryng was interested in continuing basketball but had to make a choice to stay on the hardwood or stay in the pool. The people that she surrounded herself around made the choice clear.
“I had to drop school or stay with basketball and I made a lot of friends with basketball,” Ryng said. “It was completely different sport because during swimming, you’re alone in the pool. I need to be with someone to play together, so that’s why I chose basketball.”
Long flight but our last arrival is here….welcome to Shocker Nation Natalia Ryng 🇵🇱 📚🏀 pic.twitter.com/cGxvMs0QkA
— WSU Ewa Laskowska (@CoachEwa) August 15, 2018
Even though Ryng was no longer a competitive swimmer, she did not shy herself away from the pool. After tearing her ACL, she went back to swimming in order to help her recovery.
That allowed her to keep a clear head and focus on getting back on the court without the thought of not being able to help her teammates.
“When I was really mad during my rehabilitation because I could only watch my teammates play basketball, I went to the swimming pool,” Ryng said. “It really helped me to think because you can be alone in water. It’s kind of the practice, but right now for me, swimming is [about] getting my mindset together.”
Swimming not only helped Ryng recover from injury, but it has also allowed her to stay in condition when she’s sprinting up and down the floor.
“My back got stronger and my lungs [got stronger],” Ryng said. “One of the coaches said when you are swimming, your lungs are kind of bigger. With the conditioning, when we have to run for a long time, I’m really good and it’s because of swimming.”
— Wichita State WBB (@GoShockersWBB) October 22, 2018
Head coach Keitha Adams elected to redshirt Ryng for the 2018-19 season, but she still plays a pivotal part behind the scenes. The 5-foot-10-inch freshman forward plays on the scout team running the opposing team’s sets and is one of the biggest cheerleaders for the team from the sidelines.
Adams wants Ryng to improve her strength and absorb Wichita State’s system, but the fact that Ryng is willing to do anything to learn and help the team win only benefits this year’s squad.
“All those little things make a big difference,” Adams said. “She’s just so coachable that she’s really willing to do whatever you ask her to do. You tell her to go over in that corner and do this, ‘yes coach.’ She’s a very coachable young lady. You tell her to go box out, set a screen, she’s going to attempt to do whatever you ask her to do.”
— Natalia Ryng (@nataliaryng) September 27, 2018
Coming from Poland to the United States was a tremendous adjustment for Ryng, but she feels right at home with the help of the coaching staff and her teammates. With the team embracing her, she knows her importance with conference season underway.
“Everything is new, so I’m really glad that the staff and everyone here is trying to help me,” Ryng said. “They understand that I’m a foreign player and I believe in that system. I like the system. Every day I’m getting used to it. I’m preparing for next season. But during the practices, I’m still with the team. I feel like I’m with this team.”