Shouts From the Stands: A Letter to Me

SwimSwam welcomes reader submissions about all topics aquatic, and if it’s well-written and well-thought, we might just post it under our “Shouts from the Stands” series. We don’t necessarily endorse the content of the Shouts from the Stands posts, and the opinions remain those of their authors. If you have thoughts to share, please send [email protected]

This “Shouts from the Stands” submission comes from Maria Abrams, a swimmer at Boston College.

Dear Maria,

Thank You. Thank you for choosing the best sport in the world. Here you will learn how it feels to move and how it feels to be moved. You will learn how to float and how to fly. You will learn how it feels to win, but more importantly, how it feels to lose. Here you will find your limits and, rather quickly, grow addicted to the feeling of exceeding them. For every time the sport fills your heart, it will fill your eyes. You will meet people who constantly challenge you as an athlete and as a person. They will change the sport, and more importantly, change your life. Without a doubt, you will fall in love and you will never look back.

With time, your alarm clock will be set for earlier in the morning. It will be dark outside when you start, but light outside when you finish. You will come to love the burning pit in your stomach that reminds you that today is the day you get better. You will navigate the highs of both a team and individual sport. You will make friends and enemies with whom you are only connected by the numbers on the board. You will wear a swimsuit that reaches your knees and in these times you will feel really, truly, fast. Many team backpacks later you will take the training outside of the pool. You will slam a medicine ball against the gym floor until your body aches and your shoulders burn. You will learn the techniques of weightlifting. You will feel the high of your first pull-up. The next time you do it, you’ll weight it.

As with all the things we love, you will be hurt. You will cry heavy tears in your goggles and bite your lip. You will grow too familiar with the smell of the doctor’s office, and sports medicine will become your second home. It will hurt to go to bed and hurt even more to wake up. You will have goals that you will not achieve, but you will try again. You will pour your heart into the stopwatch and a hundredth of a second will let you down. You will beat the girl next to you when it doesn’t count. She will beat you when it does. You will feel unsatisfied time and time again. You will feel that for all you gave to the sport, it took infinitely more from you. The people around you will complain. Some will quit. But you will push forward because you fell in love. You fell in love with wet hair and chlorinated skin. You fell in love with a song that makes your heart race and brings your mind to the starting blocks. You fell in love with swimming and the good will always outweigh the bad. So even when it hurts and you want to quit, you will keep going.

Most of the time you will never feel like you quite got what you deserved. You will curse the board and hang your head. You will look at each swim as a chance to justify all the work you put in and you will constantly be let down. You will rack your brain wondering where you could have worked harder or given more. But you will grit your teeth and push forward. You will promise to work smarter and sleep more. You will think of the pool when you make decisions. You will put your goals in the back of your phone case, a reminder that what you want to achieve is quite literally always in your hands. But in the end you won’t achieve it. Somewhere along the line your hard work will be undermined by injury. The day will come where your body can no longer keep pace with your heart. Years of doubles, pull ups, and aerobic test sets will slowly etch away at your aging bones. You will lose sleep wishing you had gotten what you deserved. At some point in the heat of the grind you will hang a conference championship flag above your bed. Perhaps a reminder that seldom in this sport do we get what we deserve.

While you mull in self-pity and wallow in what could have been, you will fail to recognize all the incredible moments that made you, you. You will meet people who change your life and coaches who will push you as an athlete, and more importantly, as a person. At times you will have a hard time recognizing all that you did. You will fail to acknowledge the impact you made as a teammate, friend, and leader. You will enter a program that you love from the start. You will be proud to wear an Eagle on your swim cap and bleed maroon and gold. You will see room for growth and commit yourself to leaving the program better than it was when you started. You will put your heart into these changes and see to it that your impact extends well beyond your reach. You will have truly learned the value of discipline, teamwork, and grit: skills that will carry you through life. You will have learned the many challenges of leadership. You will be proud to intimately understand the difference between doing what is right, and what is popular. You will have lost countless hours of sleep in the process of discerning this difference but, in the end, you will be confident in the choices you made. You will cry. Actually, you will cry a lot. But tears of passion just begin to explain the love you have for the sport and your friends. You will cry for your teammates and their success. You will be proud of their passion: a passion that deep, deep down you know you helped cultivate. You will learn about life for good and for bad. Teammates will need you, and you will need them. You will see how the sport can both drown and keep afloat the people you love. You will make undeniable bonds with the people around you: special bonds that are far more valuable, and more tangible, than the 50-yard freestyle. You will never, ever, stop spreading your passion for the sport that you once fell in love with.

In the end you will never be satisfied. You never were, and never will be. You will have a hard time accepting that discontent is inherent to the sport and the very thing that kept you going all along. You will always wish you had done more. You will wish you had taken fewer days off when you wanted them, and more days off when you needed them. Though you will wish the ending had been different you will never, ever, regret choosing swimming or fall out of love with the sport. You will be forever thankful for the people and the life lessons. You will always love the feeling of touching the water and the deep stomach burn of true hard work. You will be thankful to have found something that so quickly captured your heart, something you loved more than you ever thought you could. You will not be content with the final few weeks of your career for a very long time. In fact, your final month of swimming will be the most physically and emotionally taxing period of your young life. But, with time you will be proud of what you gave to the sport, and the world that you got out of it.

Thank you for choosing the best sport in the word.

Thank you for sticking with it despite pain and disappointment.

Thank you for choosing Boston College and fighting to swim there.

Thank you, swimming.

Yours,

Maria

About Maria Abrams

Maria Abrams is a senior captain of the Boston College Swimming & Diving team where she specializes in freestyle and breaststroke events. She is studying psychology in the Lynch School of Education and hopes to pursue a career in athletics. She began swimming competitively at the age of ten and has loved the sport ever since.

4
Leave a Reply

4 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
4 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Eagles on the Rise

Great work Maria, thank you for sharing such true, pure feelings. Good luck to you!

googoodoll

Wow! Brought a tear or two to me eyes!!!

DAVID CORTENS

Just a fantastic article.

Want to take your swimfandom to the next level?

Subscribe to SwimSwam Magazine!