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 Katie Walther, a swimmer at Homestead High School.
Spectators at the 2018 Boys Indiana High School State Championship back in February may have seen some kids decked out in blue and gold, waving signs that said: “NOT TIRED.” Those same spectators might have wondered what that phrase meant, or why these kids were so enthusiastic in their cheering, but few could understand how an incredible team atmosphere was built on those two words.
Rewind to 2016, when as a scrawny 8th grader, I walked onto the pool deck after a full season of cross country running to meet a new swim coach. Months behind my peers, I came to that first practice in December out of shape, apprehensive, and a little skeptical. After all, our team had experienced massive turnover in coaching staff, and I didn’t even know what to call this coach. (First name? Last name? Come to find out, he went by a nickname I never could have guessed anyway.) After the awkward introductions, I dove into that practice and worked my hardest for the first 30 mins, after which I hit quite the wall due to my lack of aquatic training for the last 5 months. However, even as I struggled, I noticed that around me, my teammates were being supportive and there was little trace of the all-too-common grumbles and complaints, even though the main set was difficult. Instead, the swimmers surrounding me were positive and encouraging, touching the wall then turning and cheering for others. During those first few weeks, I was appreciative of the new coach’s encouragement to me and the whole team, especially the shouts from across the pool before the last round of sprints or the last kick. My favorite of these was when the coach would come up and say, “C’mon guys, not tired, not tired.” This would always get a chuckle from some of the swimmers because of course, we were tired, actually exhausted! Nevertheless, by telling ourselves we were “not tired” we made the decision to push the pain out of the way and keep going, mustering that last ounce of energy and determination to get the job done. As we saw, this type of encouragement was helpful, especially during the hardest sets when it was so easy to mentally check out. So, we emulated the positive encouragement we knew to work and began to form a habit of supporting each other. I may not have realized it then, but I realize now that the entire atmosphere of the team had shifted, and this was just the first stage in a new era.
Over the course of that season, as the difficulty of practice increased, so did the fervor with which we cheered and encouraged each other. Two years down the road, this trend has only continued, and nowadays, we cheer for each other like no other team does at meets, and there is never a quiet moment in practice. Every swimmer contributes to the hoots and hollers of encouragement, and many of us still shout “Not Tired.” (I recently wrote it in block letters on my parachute as a reminder to myself.) Whether its two rounds left of a set or we’re diving in for the last two sprints, there’s a good chance someone asks “how many left?” to the gleeful response of “Dos Mas!” Afterward, we end each practice with a team cheer. As my coach recently reminded me, anybody can be happy and chipper when we’re not working hard, but in the midst of training, when faces are red and there is never enough oxygen, it takes a conscious effort to be strong and positive, keeping the team going in the right direction. I and my teammates take pride in shifting the team culture. Our coach may have been the catalyst, but we were the swimmers who kept the reaction going.
The impact of this team atmosphere has been astounding. Sure, it makes for a pretty Instagram-worthy picture when 20 teenagers are gathered behind the lane of a 10-year-old during their 100 fly, but that picture can’t describe the pride and happiness that 10-year-old feels as a smile creeps onto their face, even mid-race, knowing they have the support of all of the big kids. When the meet is over, all of us have a sense of that camaraderie and support that is always present in practice. This season, I looked forward to our team’s Wednesday night lactate sets because I knew that even though a gut-wrenching workout could be expected, I would enjoy pushing myself alongside a hard-working group of kids as we all kept each other going. It’s rare to see competitors cheering each other on, but that is exactly what happens across the lanes of our pool. Now, it’s the expectation that if you’re not swimming, whether at practice or a meet, you’re supporting those who are. Needless to say, our team continues to reap the benefits with massive improvements across the board, from statewide placing to cuts achieved, and these victories are always a little sweeter when the rest of the team is waiting for your hand to touch the wall so they can congratulate you.
So, as our men’s team got ready to go on the final day of the state championship this year, they looked to our cheering section for a reminder that no matter how many races they had swum, they were “Not Tired” and as always, had the full support of their teammates. As for the rest of the team in the stands, we couldn’t wait to get back to the pool to train, compete, and holler our way into the next year.
About Katie Walther
I’m a 16 year old swimmer and junior at Homestead High School in Indiana. I swim for my high school and my club team, SWAC. I grew up in a swimming family and have been in the water for 10 years, running for a couple as well. I love everything about the sport, whether I’m swimming, cheering, or lifeguarding!