Swimming is not all about speed, trust me. I have been swimming for years and my lasting swimming accomplishment is moving to the second slowest lane on my swim team years ago…
Hi! My name is Sasha but some may refer to me as a fish. Not only because my go-to face for photos is the “fish face” but because swimming and water have been a huge part of my life.
Many of my childhood memories include sitting for hours on the beach, building sandcastles, crying over broken sandcastles, and chasing my brother into the water… after he broke my sandcastles.
Swimming on a competitive team came a bit later in life at age 9 after a traumatic near-drowning experience in Lake Michigan’s ocean-like waves that left my parents thinking “yeah, might be time to sign her up to a swim team…”
At the swim team try-outs, I found myself lunging into ice-cold water (why is it so cold sometimes?) and told that I’m going to swim for a time.
This was shocking to me; I had been swimming for so long but this whole new aspect of swimming was stressful.
I wish I could say that I sped through the water like a dolphin and shocked all the coaches. But, I took my time finishing my freestyle swim way after the other kids who came to the try-outs as well.
The coach of the team told me that my technique wasn’t bad but I could use some training in endurance and speed. To my surprise, she put me on the lowest level of the swim team. I was thrilled to even have made it in the first place!
Starting off as a Competitive Swimmer
Starting off as a swimmer on a swim team for the first time is quite the experience. I remember feeling so dead and worn out after the first practice thinking “I have to do this tomorrow too?!”
As time goes on, you get used to the daily practices, dry face, and damaged hair. But nothing stands out as much as the very first swim meet. The sounds of the buzzer, the bustling groups of kids huddling for warmth, and crowded pool deck create a vivid and competitive atmosphere.
Everyone is on their own schedule and feeling the anxiety that comes along with competition.
My mom still tells me about her experience as my parent at my first swim meet. When I was a solid 10 seconds off of my entire heat, she worried that I was going to quit. She tells me that she was shocked to hear me say “wow that was so fun, I want to swim more events in the next meet!” after my first-event disaster.
And yet, was it a disaster?
My Swimming Revelation
I’ve come to realize how important it is to enjoy yourself when doing anything in life.
Yes, in swimming the best athletes are categorized by their time trials and speed. You can’t get to the Olympics with a good attitude.
But how many swimmers actually get to that level of success?? Very few.
As competitive swimmers, we train for hours sometimes disappointed by our meet times. Thankfully, nobody can see the tears because we’re in the water anyways! (I’m partly joking…)
For some time I feared referring to myself as a “swimmer” because I wasn’t the best. In fact, I was far from it. It felt wrong contributing to conversations about swimming with peers who I knew were faster than me.
About two years ago I decided to become a swim instructor for younger kids at my local gym. This gave me a new perspective of swimming.
There I was getting to share this sport I love so dearly with young (and cute!) kids who shared so much enthusiasm that I had lost after so many years of swimming competitively. I got to see the kids go from crying on the wall to swimming a whole pool-length on their own and shouting “COOOOACH I DID IT!”
On a team, we often get so caught up in our times and techniques that we forget how cool it is to know this incredible skill! I had forgotten the childhood joy of going to the community pool on the weekend. Instead, it felt list another day at practice.
This is what I want to emphasize most:
SWIMMING IS AMAZING AND YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE FAST.
As both a swimmer and swim instructor I have learned how amazing it is to be able to swim.
In the professional world speed matters. It is also satisfying to beat a personal record after working super hard.
But don’t ever think that not being the fastest one on the team makes you any less of a swimmer. Have fun. Push yourself. And never forget that this sport is so unique and special. Knowing how to conquer the water is already a skill many dream of having.