This has been the theme of the last Language Arts unit for L. It seems like a very fitting one, especially for today.
Seven years ago, L announced to us that she wanted to be on a swim team. Trying to be supportive, yet realistic, we wondered how this would come to be since she could barely swim the length of the pool in freestyle, little lone any other stroke, did not like to be told what to do and thought most things that were repeated more than once were stupid and boring. How being coached how to swim laps for 90 minutes a practice seemed like a thing she wanted to do, we were not too sure. But she was determined, so we talked to the coach and he took her onto his team. She started off using flippers to keep up and within a few weeks was able to swim the length of the pool front and back and she hasn't looked back since. The repetition of swimming laps proved to be very therapeutic for our very energetic child and soon we were trying to figure out how we could get the calm she had after 90 minute practices on non-practice nights.
Swimming didn't come naturally for her. She worked hard to learn strokes. Worked hard to learn to dive off the blocks rather than falling in or looking like a frog in a slingshot coming off the bock. There were many DQ's, many times she was frustrated because she didn't do better, didn't make State or Regionals and many times she wanted to quit because her brother (or a friend) were able to swim faster despite her having swam longer. She was hard on herself and set very high goals (still is). She was her own worst critic.
Two years ago dance and swimming were competing for her time and she needed to cut back on her time in the pool to accommodate both. Last year, she decided she was going to quit swim team and focus on dance. After the first couple of practices of the season, she missed it so much that she talked with the coach and he agreed to let her attend one of the four practices so she could continue to do both. She was frustrated with her seemingly inability to cut time down yet didn't really see the correlation of one practice a week to that goal.
At the end of last season, L and her friends R, L ,Ke, S,and Ki decided to join the neighborhood high school team as underclassmen. They went in hoping to gain experience for when they were freshmen. The last 2 weeks before school started, they were up at 6:00am every morning for a 2 hour swim practice. I thought for sure that my non morning person child would want to quit. She never complained. After those initial 2 weeks, R and L got moved up to the varsity practices as they were a harder workout and more hours per week. L had conflict with dance and was on the cusp for race times to place her in those practices and had not stood out tot he coaches as having the ability to keep up. After a week or so, it became clear that the junior varsity practices were just not challenging. Being new to the team and high school sports, we were unsure how to get what she wanted, a more challenging practice. She was getting very frustrated with the non-challenging practices and was seeing her friends enjoy the experience she had hoped for. Then a few weeks later, Ke was moved up to varsity and once again L felt frustrated as she wanted so badly to have more challenging practices. Her dance schedule meant she missed 2 of the practices but since they practiced more, it was still more time in the pool per week and definitely a more challenging. She asked her coach what it would take to get onto varsity once again (she/we had asked without any response previously) and he told her she could try it for a week and he would provide her with feedback at the end of the week. He never directly provided the feedback but she remained on the varsity team. She finally got the more challenging practices that she had hoped for but it was 2/3 of the way through the season.
Throughout the season, she has had obstacles she needed to overcome. She has a hip that "pops" out and has been problematic in dance and swimming the past 6-8 months. When she finally shared what was happening mid September, we were able to get her into therapy/chiropractic to address the issue (her hip bone doesn't sit completely into the socket and this was an issue as an infant/toddler as well)and it is slowly giving her less trouble. Her allergies that have not bothered her since she was a preschooler came back in full force this fall. Bronchial spasms resulted in "coughing fits" during practice that often forced her to exit the pool and not win favor with the coaches. Two weeks ago we were able to address the issue and the coughing has been reduced although it remains an issue.
At the beginning of the season, when the practices were so frustrating for her, we had told her to set her own goals and work for them on her own. Spending time practicing alone (which is never fun), talking to her coaches from B and working on her own. She set goals, talked to her coaches and was allowed to practice with her Y team one day a week. She wrote down two goals on her white board. 50 Free:sub 30 seconds and 100 Breast sub 1:25:00.
She has thoroughly enjoyed the high school team experience. The girls on the team are very encouraging and accepting and it has been a very positive experience. L has gained confidence and really grown a lot the past 3 months.
About 6 years ago, L swam in her first sectional swim meet.
Tonight she swam in her first high school sectional meet. This was the preliminary round and the top swimmer's advance to the finals and then compete for State spots. She didn't win any of her races but just as the theme of her LA unit states, its the journey not the destination. She has learned so much in the past few months. She has learned to ask for what she wants/needs, to make her voice heard, to believe in herself and her abilities and to see that she has skill and talent even when no one else seems to see it. She learned to set goals and find ways to achieve them, to find joy in the experience even though it wasn't quite what you had hoped for. She learned to admit that this was not what she was hoping it would be ("this is the worst experience of my life" after a series of heartbreaking frustrations) but instead of merely enduring it or quitting, she pushed aside the frustration, found a new determination and set forth to meet her goals finding her own way to do it.
I am so proud of my girl. As I stood at the back of the crowd and watched, I saw many parents cheering loudly for their daughters that were the winners, broke records or advanced to preliminaries. For me though, it was more about the fact that L was even there. She had been dubbed by her coaches as not having what it took to be a varsity swimmer. Her season should have ended 2 weeks ago when the junior varsity finals were over. There she was holding her own at the meet having not had the same training (since she didn't have the same vigorous training for the entire season). She met 3 goals tonight. She didn't finish last in her events. She swam in 2 events and got personal records/personal bests in both and also broke the goal she set at the beginning of the season for her 100 Breast. What an incredible way to end her first high school season of swimming.
What a journey this has been L. Swimming has certainly been a big part of your life for the past 7 years and I look forward to seeing where it will take you in the future. So proud of you girl!!!