“Take your mark…”
The twenty rows full of people rip in silence, and the blinding light of cameras in the crowd blinds me. Why do they have to do that?
The immediate buzzer sang to me like an alarm, and every time it feels like I am waking up earlier and earlier. After turning up the music in my earbuds to full blast, my legs press more resonant into the bleachers. Water splashes against my white crocs from the swimmers on their third flip turn. Oh god. That means they have two more heats to go before my event. Oh god. Oh god.
My leg rapidly begins to tick, and I crank up the music louder. “I’m coming out of my cage, and I’ve been doing just fine…gotta, gotta be down because I want. It. all……”
My body jolts in air to the cold, abrupt touch of my brother’s hand on my shoulder. I take out my earbuds. “Jeez, Michael.” My chest unclenches. He grabs the white towel from his shoulders and dries his chlorinated hair. “YOU READY?” His eyebrows rise.
“I mean, I..” I pull down the ends of my swim cap past my ears. “I…I–”
“No, none of that.” he steps backward. “Stand up, come on.” Without hesitation, I bounce back up. He grabs my shoulders. “ARE YOU READY????” he screams, “oh my god,” I chuckle, my face turning beet red. “YEAH YOU ARE!!” his friend next to him, claps his hands together.
I throw my parka from my shoulders on the bench. “ARE YOU READY TO CRUSH THE LAST FINALS RACE OF YOUR HIGH SCHOOL CAREER??” I jump up and down. “YEAH, I AM!!!” I holler back.
“GET LOOSE, shake the nerves out,” he says, slowly walking back towards the blocks. I swing my arms back and forth. The big “5” on the side of the white block was getting more and more apparent to my vision. “You’re gonna go fast; you got this,” he assures me. I smirk. “Remember…fast dive, fast kicks, long arms. Try not to breathe.”
I move up in line, and I am the next heat. I grasp onto the metal handlebars, looking down at the water, picturing myself with fast arms, fast turns, quick kicks, and a long drive. I got this. I am going to kill it. I have trained for six months, and now I made it here. Michael steps away, “Can’t wait to watch you win,” and pinches me one more time before stepping out of line. “GOOD LUCK SIS.”
When I was a sophomore in high school, my brother, a senior captain, was my role model. Throughout my time in high school, he showed me the ropes of swimming. If I were about to step up on the blocks before an event at a meet, Michael would be right behind me. Or, funny enough, during a flip turn in a race, I always see him through the water’s surface; his arm would intensely signal me to increase my speed or holler right in my ear the second I push off the wall to “GO.”
The more I dove off those blocks to the buzzer, the more I could apply what I learned. With time, I grew into a more confident, organized, and focused team player. I am more than grateful that I could discover my passion for this sport with my best friend and brother because I would not be the person I am today without it. Swimming has taught me three key lessons that have benefitted my academics and personal life that may also help you.
Manage YOUR Time
Swimming has taught me that time management is essential. I learned that I achieve better grades when I start my assignments a week in advance and work on them a little at a time. Also, time management has taught me to plan out my day and week, create schedules, and find a routine that works around practice times.
Whether it is setting a goal to drop a second in an event or make an interval in practice, swimming has taught me to put my head down and hustle. Focusing and putting in the work one step at a time to achieve goals that I set for myself gives me a direction of where and how I want to move forward in my life.
Stay Positive and Confident
A positive mindset correlates to positive outcomes. Encouraging myself and my peers results in high morale and a healthy attitude to push our limits in the pool. I always push myself and remain positive with a heavy homework load.