If I had to choose the one thing that has had the biggest impact on my life, it would be the sport of swimming.
I’ve been involved with swimming in some capacity for forty-one years.
I started swimming when I was ten years old.
Many swimmers had already been on the team for two or three or four years, so I was late to the game compared to lots of other kids my age.
At the time I was also playing soccer and softball and piano and violin.
I had a lot going on.
I was always an athlete, and I loved all sports.
I was a decent swimmer, and decent softball player, and a very good soccer player. I was probably most naturally talented on the soccer field.
But swimming had my heart from the get go.
So when I got to high school and swimming and soccer were both fall sports, I had to make a choice.
I went with swimming.
That decision definitely had the most impact on the direction of the rest of my life than any other decision I have ever made.
I was rarely the best swimmer in the pool.
And I definitely wasn’t the most talented.
But something about swimming prompted me to be my best.
For eleven years, from the time I was ten until I was twenty-one years old, I swam competitively.
When I was sixteen I started coaching swimming.
My first job coaching was as an assistant coach for a country club team in the summers.
I loved it.
I coached every summer until I graduated from college.
During grad school I was the assistant coach for a high school swim team, and that led to a head coaching job of a club team in Pennsylvania.
I moved back to Connecticut in my late twenties, and I was taught full time and was an assistant coach for a Y team.
I took a break from club swimming and coached special olympics for a few years.
Then there was a short break for about five years when I was knee deep in babies. During that time I taught private swim lessons in the summer.
Then when Number 3 and 4 joined the swim team I started coaching club swimming part time again, and in 2019 I also started coaching the middle school swim team.
So I’ve coached just about every level of swimming there is to coach except for college swimming.
Swimming has been the single most guiding factor in my life.
As an athlete it taught me to set goals, push myself mentally and physically, to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, to handle failure, to persevere, to be a friend, to be a teammate, and to be a leader.
As a coach swimming taught me that swimming is a tool through which I can help kids become better human beings.
As a parent of a swimmer, swimming has taught me to be back off and it is actively and presently teaching me how to focus on the shit I can control and let all the other stuff go.
That’s probably the most difficult part of being a mom for me. So far, anyway.
For all of these reasons, I’m so happy my kids are also swimmers. Because I know they are going to receive an education (and a family) they would never find anywhere else.
The University of Swimming really prepares you for life.
My fifteen-year-old had a life-altering swim meet this past weekend.
And it’s not so much that his life is going to change in the short term.
It’s the mindset shifts this will help him make, and the experience he’ll have to draw upon, not so much because of how he swam this past weekend but because of everything that has happened in the two years preceding it.
It was one of those it’s-not-about-the-destination-it’s-what-you-learn-along-the-way moments.
The last time Number 3 swam really well was when he was 12.
And it’s been two years since he’s had a best time in an event.
This is an eternity for any swimmer, and especially a 13 or 14-year-old boy.
He was beginning to question why he was still doing.
It’s not fun anymore, Mom, he said to me not too long ago.
Those aren’t usually the four words you want to come out of your kid’s mouth when he’s involved in any sport.
Because once it’s not fun anymore, the end is near.
It’s the number 1 reason kids quit sports.
But we are also coming off of a pandemic and that means less swim meets.
Or no swim meets.
And for Number 3, the meets are the most fun part of swimming.
They aren’t so fun when you develop severe anxiety at them, though.
That’s what’s been happening with Number 3.
He swam incredibly fast when he was twelve, and then he began to feel pressure.
And things just escalated from there.
He was really struggling. For a long, long time.
The meet this past weekend had the potential to push Number 3 over the edge. I knew he was capable of swimming really, really well.
I also know what an anxiety-ridden brain can do to a performance.
So I was hoping for the best.
But I was prepared for the worst.
I was lucky enough to be on deck to watch the first night of swimming.
Number 3 led off the first relay. This time would push him in either a positive or negative direction and most likely determine his mindset for the remainder of the meet.
He killed it.
It was a best time by quite a bit.
THIS WAS GOOD.
The next event was a big one. It was one of his favorite events and he hadn’t swum a best time in it since 2019, and that was only a couple tenths faster than the time he swam when he was twelve. So he hadn’t really dropped much time in three years.
He killed it again.
He dropped just under four seconds. and he went under two minutes for the first time.
That’s one of those milestones a swimmer wants to achieve.
Any time you break 30 seconds or a minute or two minutes or five minutes in an event, it’s a big deal.
He was so psyched. He smashed the water.
(He did say afterward, I think I was little cringy after my IM. 😂 )
After that, I exhaled.
I felt confident the rest of the weekend would be just as good.
On Sunday night when all the swimming was done, Number 3 walked into the kitchen and said to me, “Mom. I feel like my old swimming self again.”
Oh that was nice to hear.
“I just needed a win,” he told me.
“What do you think was different?” I asked him.
“I stopped being a baby and worrying about everything and I just swam,” he told me.
This was a MUCH bigger victory than anything displayed on the scoreboard that weekend.
This was a mental Olympic gold medal.
He learned to not quit.
He learned that hard work eventually pays off.
He learned to be patient.
And he is learning about mindset and how strong it is, in whatever direction it’s set.
I’m so happy for him and I’m so proud of him.
And one day, when he’s older and struggling, I look forward to talking about these two years of his life, and reminding him that as long as he hangs in there, he’s gonna get to the good part.