The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

Livingstone finds her calling after earning gold medal

42 days ago
Georgia Athletics
Photo: Georgia Athletics

The following story, written by Tori Heck, was originally published on GeorgiaDogs.com.

Samantha Arsenault Livingstone climbed off of the Olympic Podium at the 2000 Sydney Games, and her path was changed. It was shortly after earning a gold medal that she realized her true calling: educating people and helping athletes like herself.

In July, Livingstone was named to Georgia's 40 Under 40 Class of 2020. She is the founder and CEO of Livingstone High Performance. Through her company, she works with athletes, CEOs and other high-performing individuals.

After the 2000 Olympic Games, Livingstone went into her freshman year at Michigan, where she started her college career before transferring to Georgia. She was a biology major on a pre-med track. Quickly after, she fell in love with sharing her life story and working with children. She added an education major to her undergraduate studies, and went on to earn both a bachelor's and master's degree in education.

"I felt so at home at Aderhold," Livingstone said. "I always saw myself in the classroom."

Livingstone worked in her own classroom in Norcross, GA for six years before becoming a stay-at-home parent for her four daughters. Even after leaving the classroom, she volunteered on multiple boards, revamped a local preschool's programming and found new ways to utilize her teaching skills outside of the classroom.

During this time, one of Livingstone's daughters was diagnosed with a heart defect. Livingstone was in shock. Her daughter was only nine months old and needed open heart surgery. In post-op, her heart failed three times and she was on life support for an extended period of time. The experience changed Livingstone forever.

"Teaching in the classroom and then this life event of my daughter's open heart surgery," Livingstone said. "I felt compelled to pay forward what I was learning ... how to live with PTSD."

As Livingstone worked through post-traumatic stress disorder after nearly losing her daughter, she began to unpack layers of herself. She discovered how many things she was holding in -- and how much suffering it was causing her. As she began to share her story, she realized that other people were suffering in similar capacities and that she wanted to help them.

Livingstone High Performance was born from Livingstone's desire to help people.

Coming from an education background, Livingstone was not a trained businesswoman. When building her business, she relied on what she calls "high-performance skills," that she acquired throughout her time as an athlete. She got really clear on her vision, analyzing what it was that she ultimately wanted to do and why.

Her "why" was simple. Livingstone suffered through abuse and toxicity at the club swim level. She saw athletes sacrifice themselves for their sports. When she built her business, the "why" behind it was to make sure athletes don't have to keep living like that.

"I want every athlete to know they are not alone," Livingstone said. "They are not broken. [I want to] ultimately create an empowered village where all athletes feel brave and seen and supported."

Once she knew her goal, she reverse engineered her business. She broke down the steps of how to get there. She figured out who she needed help from, and what she needed to learn.

Livingstone calls these skills her "magic." All of the tools she used to build her business were part of the magic that lives inside of her. For years, she used her magic to be an elite swimmer. Now, she uses it to run a business that helps others.

"When sport ends, all the skills that you hone, they transfer," Livingstone said. "We just choose a different vehicle."

Livingstone's vehicle is entrepreneurship.

Tom Cousins Swimming and Diving Head Coach Jack Bauerle saw this magic in Livingstone before she ever got to Georgia.

Bauerle worked with Livingstone at the 2000 Olympic Games, and he quickly recognized that she was not only a quality athlete, but a quality person. When Livingstone made the decision to leave Michigan, the Wolverines' head coach Jim Richardson put in a phone call to Bauerle.

At the time, Livingstone was suffering from a shoulder injury and couldn't even complete one-third of Georgia's warm-ups.

Bauerle saw the magic inside of Livingstone and took a chance on her, despite her injury. He offered her a full scholarship to Georgia.

"We were really fortunate that we had money available and I offered her a full," Bauerle said. "And I'll tell you what -- She was worth three of them."

Livingstone went on to have an incredibly successful career at Georgia. Her college career climaxed with a National Championship in 2005. All along, she was unknowingly honing her magic and preparing for life after sport. Livingstone said it felt good to be acknowledged for something outside of her sport by being named to the 40 Under 40 2020 Class. She was honored to represent the Mary Frances Early College of Education and to be recognized for the work she has done since retiring from the pool in Gabrielsen Natatorium.

"Swimming accolades aside -- I had a lot of those," Livingstone said. "It felt really good to be acknowledged and be seen in that way."