This year I took on the role of head coach for the middle school swim team.
I did this mostly because Number 4 had been on the team the previous three years and this would be her last season and there was talk of no longer having the middle school team and when I told her last October there may not be a middle school swim team for her final year of middle school her response was,
But Mom, I already know what I’m going to say in my speech at the banquet.
So I offered to coach the team.
I truly was mostly doing it for my kids initially.
Number 5 is in middle school too, and she had been looking forward to swimming with her older sister on the team for a long time.
So I campaigned to keep the team alive.
While the months of December and January were a little busy — okay REALLY busy — I am so glad I was able to have this opportunity.
Because now that the season is behind me, it really isn’t about my kids anymore.
It was so much more than that.
Here is what’s important to know about this middle school team.
It was started by the high school coach, many years ago as a way to introduce kids to the sport of swimming, get a taste of it, and develop a love for the sport and the desire to want to continue on to the high school swim team.
Compared to the year-round program that my kids swim on, it’s a rinky dink little team.
The season is about 10 or 11 weeks long.
We only practice once a week.
We have about five meets during our short little season, and then there are middle school state championships at the very end.
The most rewarding part of this whole season for me was not watching Number 4 win both her events and set a middle school state record in the 50 backstroke at the state championship meet.
It wasn’t seeing Number 5 kick butt as a 5th grader.
There were many, many rewarding moments.
But the biggest came from my little buddy.
I’ll call him A.C.
Two months ago I wrote this post about him.
If you missed that post, go back and read it really quickly.
So two years ago, my buddy AC could barely swim. Refused to put his face in the water.
Every week he came to my house for swim lessons two summers ago, and by the end of the summer he was swimming across my pool.
When his mom found out I was coaching the middle school team she asked if he could be the manager because AC and his mom didn’t think he was good enough to be on the team.
Tell him to bring his suit to tryouts, I told her.
He came in beach trunks and a swim shirt like he was ready to hit the Jersey Shore in August.
AC swam about 10 lengths of the pool in total that first day at tryouts.
He swam more in that one day than he had in all his previous years on the planet.
I’m not really exaggerating.
But he walked out of that pool with his head held higher than ever before.
He was so proud of himself.
That was a MAJOR moment for AC.
The next week he came to practice in a legit suit.
The swim shirt was gone.
HE WAS ALL IN.
He didn’t know how to dive off the blocks.
He didn’t really even know how to dive from the side, for that matter.
We started working on that at practice about 3 weeks into the season.
We had a meet a week or so after we started working on dives.
AC said to me, I’m not going off the blocks. I don’t feel comfortable.
I told him to get his butt on the blocks.
I told him he was ready.
He gave me a little bit of a death glare.
But he did it.
And after that, he just kept going off the blocks without hesitation at every meet we had.
He was starting to develop confidence.
He was starting to believe in himself.
And then something INCREDIBLE happened.
AC joined the ding dang year round swim team the last week of January.
HE JOINED THE FUCKING SWIM TEAM!!!
My little guy who didn’t think he could handle the little rinky dink middle school swim team, who couldn’t dive off the blocks, who showed up for his first practice ever less than two months earlier joined the year round swim team.
He never would have done that if it weren’t for this little middle school swim team.
This little middle school swim team that many year round swimmers and coaches might scoff at. Might call a joke.
This little middle school swim team literally changed the course of this kid’s life.
I’m not being overly dramatic and I’m not exaggerating.
This kid’s life is now on a different trajectory.
And it’s because of this little team.
We had our banquet two weeks ago.
I was so tired and drained by that night that I was more emotional than usual.
(my emotional bar is set pretty low to begin with)
I told everyone I was definitely going to cry when I was at the microphone addressing the swimmers and the parents.
I cried three times.
But when I gave AC the Most Improved Swimmer Award — an award he 100% deserved and earned — I completely lost it.
Like I-couldn’t-get-the-words-out crying.
Because while most other people at the banquet did not appreciate the significance of this award, I did.
From my perspective, it really didn’t have all that much to do with AC’s improvement in the pool.
It was his growth as a human being.
He was so proud of himself.
And rightly so.
After the banquet I was a little bit embarrassed by my level of sobbing in front of over 100 people.
It was pretty bad.
I mentioned it in this post when I realized I had way too much going on in my life.
And then I got this text from AC’s mom.
AC. He got it.
It’s the people who struggle the most who really understand other people who struggle.
But that wasn’t what I meant to point out in this post.
The most important lesson for me from this whole middle school swim team experience is that no matter how small your venture is, not matter what you are doing, and no matter who you are, what you do and who you are literally has the potential to change lives.
Is that over the top? Is it dramatic?
But it’s also true.
And I am so, so,
grateful, for this tiny little team.
It literally changes lives.
And I feel incredibly honored to have had the opportunity and the privilege to be a part of that.