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 Megan Groseclose, a swimmer from Cincinnati, Ohio.
Perseverance is defined as the ability to keep trying in spite of difficulty. What people don’t always realize is that it is the hardest to display perseverance when things are consistently tough. It’s easy to want to work hard when things are going your way. What about when they’re not?
AS STUBBORN AS A MULE
When I was younger, I never really had to persevere in the same way that I have to nowadays. But, it would not be outrageous to say that I’ve always been a bit stubborn. That was a major understatement. I was REALLY stubborn. A perfect example of this was something I did when I was younger. Before choosing to start swimming, I liked to play basketball. My neighbor had a basketball hoop, and she would let me use it sometimes. One day she told me that she would give me a lollipop if I was able to make a basket from the end of her driveway. At the time, I was probably only six years old. It looked impossible to me, but of course, I had to try.
I missed the shot. I missed it again. Over and over and over again. I was there for hours. It was beginning to get dark. At this point, it wasn’t really about the lollipop anymore. It was something that I had to prove to myself. Finally, I made it. But it was late, and my neighbor was not outside anymore. I didn’t get my lollipop until the next day. I’m sure that I wouldn’t have minded if I never got it at all.
This trait never left me. Really, I consider it to be one of the reasons I fell in love with swimming. But I found that it became harder to find in myself as the sport became more and more intense.
A BALANCING ACT
Balancing school and swimming was not really a problem when I was younger. The commitment to swimming was not as high and it was just something I did because I thought it was fun. School was also not quite as demanding. As I got older, though, the intensity of the sport increased. On top of that, my school workload began to get a lot tougher.
This year, in particular, has proven to be the most demanding period of swimming I have had so far. My coaches decided that it was time for me to move up to the top group. They told me that I would want to quit. They told me I would not feel like I belonged in the group. A great athlete would rise to the occasion. They would block out the voice in their head, and not let the negative thoughts keep them from their dreams. I was not this athlete. I did have these thoughts. It was only sheer stubbornness that allowed me to keep my love for the sport, even as I began to doubt myself.
Meets were the worst part. I was always so sore. My muscles did not recover as quickly as everyone else’s did. While they were constantly improving their times and getting the time standards I was working so hard for, I was stuck at times that were not even close to my personal bests. Doubt began to cloud my thoughts and my actions. My confidence was gone. I was killing myself at practice, but improvements were not happening at the rate that I hoped they would.
At the same time, school was starting to suffocate me. The combination of school and swimming was proving to be too much for me to handle. I was constantly drowning, my body weighed down by an invisible chain. I felt like Atlas, from Greek mythology, forced to hold up the heavens for eternity.
A PERIOD OF CHANGE
I vividly remember one challenging practice that began a change in me. I was missing the time cycles over and over again. It just felt impossible. My coach got me out of the water and said, “You have two choices. You can either go home, or you can finish this. I know what choice you’ll make. But it is up to you.” I chose the latter option. I finished the practice and ended up having a great weight training session afterward.
My perseverance during that practice, in my opinion, marked a period of change. No longer did I feel like I was incapable. I began to embrace my failures, and celebrate my successes, no matter how small. I felt confident and excited to grow as a swimmer and a student. Now, when I struggle with a bad day at school or a difficult set at swim practice, I feel as though I can work through it. I may still get frustrated, but I do not doubt my ability to get the job done.
That doesn’t mean that swimming is any easier now than it was before. All swimmers know that our chosen sport is relentless. Nothing has changed apart from my own outlook on life. I’m sure that my younger self would be proud to learn that I have developed a deeper form of stubbornness.
I can now say that I accept that all of the difficulties I encounter are a part of my journey as a swimmer, and will get me where I want to go.
About Megan Groseclose
Megan Groseclose is a swimmer who currently lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. She started swimming competitively when she was eight years old and has been with the sport ever since. She doesn’t really have free time (thanks to the intensity of her sport), but she enjoys writing whenever she can.