Just Keep Swimming
By Cheryl Hansen
Neither of my kids has embraced a sport yet, and their sensitive selves may not be cut out for competition. I’ve always been pretty open-minded about their activities—eager to help them find their individual passions, whatever they may be. But swimming was the one activity I personally added to their lineup—both for safety reasons and the whole life skill thing.
So when a friend suggested I sign them up for a neighborhood swim team this summer, I was intrigued. Well, at least until I heard that practices start early—6:30 every morning. I am not a morning person. Plus, it’s summer time—sleeping in is part of the deal, isn’t it? Then there’s that competition thing. My kids don’t deal with pressure very well. (I wonder where they got that?) I could almost envision the tears (theirs and mine). But in the end, the coach and I agreed to try it out for a week to see how the kids did.
I was sold on day one.
Both kids were thrown into the deep end—literally. The coaches’ expectations of the new kids are identical to those of the veterans. When they offer guidance, they watch to make sure the swimmer is doing what they’ve asked. Ahhhh—accountability. Nice. I was both shocked and amazed at my little swimmers’ progress after just a few days.
They have cried. They’ve struggled with the pressure—though it’s a gentle, kid-style pressure that one finds on a neighborhood swim team. I’d planned to sign them up for one event each for their first swim meet, but they both volunteered for three events when I wasn’t looking.
The end of this story isn’t that they surprised everyone and won shiny blue ribbons across the board. They didn’t. But they swam well (for them) and were proud of themselves—particularly when I pointed out to them that they both improved their times from their individual freestyle to their freestyle relay (same distances).
It seems that you can’t learn to deal with pressure unless you actually face it (gentle, kid-style is a good way to start). And when you see how well you can handle it, you realize you’re capable of far more than you ever imagined.
Their second meet was cancelled due to weather last weekend. I wondered if the kids would be relieved—excited, maybe, that they didn’t have to get up early on that Saturday. And they were—sort of. “I am happy that we get to relax tomorrow,” my 10-year-old told me. “But if you don’t swim, you can’t improve, can you?”