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Archive for July 18th, 2014

*This is a post from three years ago, but it is one that is relevant to ‘swim families’ past, present and future. I miss such regular reminders of grace and love that swim people show.

Well, like a bowl of bad clams (I just love this saying) we’re back! Back to what? Early morning practices, afternoon practices, wet towels, broken goggles, last spring (where I live there has been little ‘spring’ anyway) and summer weekends … SWIM CLUB.

About nine years ago, our family entered the world of competitive swimming, through our oldest daughter, then nine. With the exception of a year, SHE has been part of the speed swimming community, as a swimmer, and as a coach. Her younger sister, took a longer hiatus … about four years. But she’s back … therefore WE are back.

I was rudely reminded of what I haven’t been missing on Saturday morning, when my alarm went off at 6am … I was so hoping it was just a bad dream! And, really we were lucky … it could have been (and will be in the weeks to come) earlier … much earlier!

So, off we went, for her 7:10am warm-ups! (Yikes, throw me into a swimming pool at that hour and ‘cool down’ might be a more accurate reflection of what I’d be feeling). I drop her off, and go in search of swim meet survival tactic #1 … coffee! And once that essential need is met, I am ready to cheer, towel off, and sign up for timing races (this has two benefits .. one is it makes the time go faster, and two is it gets you involved).

The meet begins … late (I sometimes have thought that is part of the meet … starting late), and the first race is IM (Individual Medley). Now in IM there are four strokes that are to be done in a particular order, and this is how I was taught the order … butter (butterfly) your back (backstroke), your breast (breast stroke) is free (freestyle, or front crawl, for those who are old like me). So, depending on whether it is 100m (one lap for each stroke), or 200m (two laps for each stroke), the number of swimmers, and the age of the swimmer (could be as young as six years old), this race takes a long time.

There was one heat that reminded me of why I love swim club. There were boys swimming the IM, and they were about thirteen years old. When the second to last swimmer touched the pad, to complete his race, there was still one swimmer left slogging away. And he was only halfway through backstroke! So we watched, and we waited …

Watching him swim was … painful! My first thoughts were, ‘he must be a new swimmer … poor guy … how humiliating.’ But then, as I watched his arms and legs flail (and I do mean flail), I recognized how VERY uncoordinated his movements were, and I wondered, if the boy struggling in the pool (with all his might, I might add) might be one with a disability.

Then … it happened … the thing that happens at EVERY swim meet I have ever attended, when a particularly slower swimmer is coming to their finish … the crowd began to cheer. No, the crowd began to chant … his name. The building was booming with the chant of this boys name, over and over … to the finish. The crowd of family and friends and strangers, his teammates and all the team, the officials … everyone in the building was chanting and cheering him on. When he finally touched the pad, you would have thought that Michael Phelps had just broken another world record! The smile on his face said that he felt as though he had just broken a world record (and that he had given it his all). Fellow swimmers were giving him high five, and patting him on the back.

I spoke to the mom of this boy, later in the day. Indeed, he was new to competitive swimming, and indeed he lives (and she, who lives with him) with asperger syndrome. He told me he loves swimming, as he headed off to marshalling for his next race.

It was all worth the early morning practices, afternoon practices, wet towels, broken goggles, lost spring and summer weekends … just to have that taste of being part of the lives of others who struggle … not that we all share the same struggles, but that we are all struggling to give it our all.

And that boy, and all cheering him on that day, gave it their all!

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