By Abby H.
This past March, I had the opportunity to swim in Orlando, FL for the National Age Group championship meet for 4 days. I have qualified to compete in this meet for the past 3 years. Going this year was better than ever! I had time to hang out with my swim buddies and I did better this year than the past two years. I brought home 8 medals and 4 ribbons, including 2 bronze medals for individual events, 3 golds and 1 silver for team relay races. This is a national championship which means that I was racing really fast swimmers from all over the country! It was live streamed so my family back at home could watch and cheer me on. As they were watching they would send tons of text messages with their encouragement.
I had worked very hard to achieve the fast swim times to qualify for this meet. Being a swimmer-student is extremely challenging, trying to juggle and prioritize all the time commitments to school family, church, and swimming (and trying to have free time to be a normal 12 year old). I have 2 hour swim practices 6 days a week, with the exception of Sunday. Once or twice a month there are swim meets that are 5 hours long, usually Saturday through Sunday and occasionally Friday through Sunday. The championship meets are usually 3-4 days long. Sometimes we have to fly or drive hours to get to a meet. I’ve competed in Maryland, Virgina, Westchester, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, and even Buffalo, NY. Even with all this, my parents remind me that school comes before swimming so I have to keep up my grades and keep up with the schoolwork. You will see all the swimmers bringing their big backpacks to work on schoolwork in between races in their hotel rooms and on the airplane.
At the meets there are more challenges you face like when you add time or when a coach is not happy with you. It’s not unusual to see swimmers upset and even crying. That’s where you get to see the swim team act like a family. Your teammates will comfort you when you’re having a hard day and also share in your great days. There are many times of great excitement, cheering each other on in the races, and celebrating when you’ve crushed it! Even though there are costs to swimming, I enjoy almost every minute of it. And, yes, I do complain about the practices (especially the ones where you have to be in the water at 5:45AM before school!) and, yes, I do sing “Woah, we're halfway there, Woah, livin' on a prayer….” from Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” to motivate myself to keep going when I am half way through a really hard practice set, but in the end, I love swimming.
What have I learned about myself through swimming? I’ve learned to set goals, to work hard and not give up trying to achieve my goals, even though sometimes I fail along the way. I also learned not to set too high expectations for myself.