Over the course of your swimming career you will experience a litany of emotions. You will learn how to challenge yourself, how to set goals, and how to push yourself beyond your wildest expectations. There are also a series of firsts, a common set of rites-of-passage that we all share and experience at varying points of the relationship we have with the pool.
They are the memories that will last with you long after you have hung up the jammer, put away the swim goggles, and rinsed out your head of chlorine with a swimmer’s shampoo for the last time.
Here are eight swimming milestones that you will never forget–
1. Your first swimmer crush.
They come into our lives unexpectedly; sometimes it is from the lane over, from another group, or that guy or girl you only ever see at meets. Your first swimmer crush will be of the puppy love variety, but it doesn’t make it any less real. You’ll test your limits to swim in the fast lane with her, put your bag near hers at swim meets, and angle for the seat next to her on the coach bus for the ride home.
2. Your first team road trip.
I know I will never forget mine. A coach bus, the cold winter of the Prairies snapping at the window, and the ability to buy whatever food I wanted with the handful of mom-funded bills burning a hole in my pocket. With great power comes great responsibility, and the first time I was parent-less on a team road trip I ate nothing but 7-11 cherry strudels and Mountain Dew for the first 2 hours of the bus ride. Lucky for my swimming (and resulting tummy-ache) the chaperones took care of the meals for the rest of the weekend.
3. Anchoring a relay in front of a packed house.
Goosebumps? Check. Full-blown, 32-valve adrenaline blasting through your blood? Yup. The opportunity to swim like a boss in front of a packed house? Giddyup. No matter whether or not you are or were a relay swimmer these are the moments that we spend those long hours in the pool training for, it’s what we day-dream about when we should be doing homework, what we visualize when we are in bed at night waiting to fall asleep.
4. Your first big meet.
The loud, aggressive pump up music during warm-up. The swimmers on deck who you have read about online and seen in various swimming magazines. These big meets introduce a host of new things; a ready room, media, massage tables, and lanyards. Take it in and enjoy this new, bigger stage; ideally this meet format will only become routine.
5. That ‘perfect’ swim.
The effortless race. It was a moment where everything simply came together in a perfect symphony of effort, skill and technique. The dive was flawless, your catch superb. It was exactly how the sum of your hard work should have felt. Looking back on it now through the nostalgic filter of time makes the swim seem other-worldly, perhaps even flukey, but no matter how our recollection of it becomes inflated over time, you never forget how it made you feel.
6. The first time you got DQ’d.
Yeah, this one probably stung a little. You swam your little heart out, eager to get your 8-year old mitts on that medal or ribbon, only to have a tall, white-clad official walk over, blot out the sun and hand you a little piece of paper signalling you that you’d been DQ’d. Whether it was a false start, doing a kajillion dolphin kicks during a breaststroke pull-out, or deciding a one hand touch was sufficient for your breast-free turnover, your first DQ is a necessary step in the evolution towards becoming a competitive (and legal!) swimmer. And also helps explain why your coach emphasized those seemingly benign technical details during practice.
7. Swimming against your idol.
The age group champ, the NAG record holder, the Olympic champion.
We all have those moments when we look at the lane next to us and see that swimmer who has always appeared bigger than life itself. While this moment can be daunting, it is also one of profound satisfaction, a moment that you have earned, a moment that signifies that you belong at this level.
8. The first time you took significant time away from the pool.
Our reasons for taking time away from the pool are varied, and sometimes complicated. Whether it was because of injury, burn-out, or the desire to indulge in a richer social life, the first time away from the pool is bittersweet. Sure, waking up in a state of half-panic at 5:07am until realizing that you don’t have to be at the pool is a great feeling. But once this novelty wears off, and you start thinking about your friends chasing the black line without you, and sharing the inside jokes and brotherhood/sisterhood of chasing excellence together,you begin to miss the sport, sometimes terribly.
For most, regardless of how much time has passed, we find ourselves back at the pool, whether it is months or years that pass. For some it’s coaching, for other putting their own kids into the sport, or for many strapping up the goggles again for fitness and enjoyment. In those moments it becomes clear that while we may have left the pool, it’s clear that the sport has never left us.
ABOUT OLIVIER POIRIER-LEROY
It combines sport psychology research, worksheets, and anecdotes and examples of Olympians past and present to give swimmers everything they need to conquer the mental side of the sport.
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