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 Brandon Kim, a swimmer at Hampton Roads Academy.
In my young life, I’ve learned that there are three types of people in this world: terrorists, tourists, and team players. Terrorists are those that hold some form of malicious intent towards those around them. These people willingly take actions of self-preservation at the expense of others. In this context, a terrorist might elevate his or her confidence by the verbal degradation and ridicule of teammates. The second, tourists, are simply along for the ride. This type of person might be one to simply float along at the back of the lane during two-hundred Tuesday, or do easy breaststroke during a freestyle set. Tourists are those that join a sport just to get a state championship ring. Finally, there are team players. Team players are the swimmers that create a state championship winning team. It takes dedication to training, and a pure, unadulterated love of your team to be a team player.
During my freshman year of high school, swimming didn’t really matter to me. My school had a squad studded with superstars from the surrounding club teams, so I figured that I couldn’t really contribute much. My carelessness reflected in the pool as I just expected fast times to get handed to me. Consequently, I missed out on my first state cut by an embarrassing margin. It killed me to go to school and explain that I was too slow to go to the acclaimed state meet. Looking back, I know that I was simply along for the ride. I was a tourist.
Absolutely enraged by my lack of discipline, I decided I would make a state cut during my sophomore season. This time, it showed. I made my first cut in the 200 freestyle. One of my closest friends also made his first state cut that year. To the chagrin of our classmates, we would scream “STATES BABYYYY,” every day during English class for three weeks in the lead up to the meet. I ended that season with a personal best in everything I swam and my first taste of championship swimming. However, I lacked something major: love of team. I was so focused on goal times that I forgot to cheer and congratulate my teammates. Nonetheless, the hard work I put in that year was enough for my coach to compel me to run for a captain’s position. At first, I didn’t win the position, but after some unforeseen change of events, I was a captain.
After experiencing a championship meet, I realized that I wanted to be among the few that swim in finals. With this new fire, I joined a club team to get that extra edge (i.e. “the sauce”). It all backfired. My junior season saw me become selfish and egotistical. I saw myself as “more dedicated” than my non-year round counterparts because I payed a membership fee once a month to train with a club. At meets, I would put others down by saying “I’m faster than you,” or “that’s slow,” when I heard what times others had swum. To my absolute regret, I was so enveloped in the world of cutthroat swimming that I became someone else. I was a terrorist. No thanks to my captaining, we still managed our seventh consecutive state title. Realizing that my training wasn’t helping me, I stopped my club team to try other sports. It seemed that the passion I once held for swimming was gone.
Over the summer of my senior year, however, something clicked with me. During summer league, where I first fell in love with the sport, I started “feeling it” again. I was having fun. At the start of the school year, my two co-captains and I (none of whom were club swimmers) knew we had to go the extra mile to win our state title. Our team had star power, but not nearly of the same magnitude as before. We trained together for the entirety of the fall on our own with workouts from our coach. Throughout this season, we all got faster and faster, hitting times that had seemed far beyond our reach in years past. In practice, I threw myself into each set, going as hard as possible. At meets, I cheered, I helped carry the cooler, and, most importantly, I loved my team. Finally, the meet of the year came where we successfully defended our eighth state title. The scores, the times, and the training I put in no longer matter to me (and it’s only been two days). I cared that I was finally a team player (I now had “the sauce”). This season was driven by love, something incalculably greater than fear, ego, or a state title.
It is difficult to classify people into one of the three categories. Sometimes, there is an overlap, but more often than not, there is an evolution like mine. It’s pretty easy to be a tourist or a terrorist. However, if you want to be a team player, you can’t just work hard OR love your team, you need to do both.
Ultimately, I urge anyone to be a team player regardless of age, skill, or any other classifications. Don’t try to achieve one aspect; hit both. In hindsight, I would have performed so much better if I had mastered being, or at least made an effort to be, a true team player earlier. Don’t get bogged down thinking about times, scores, making finals, or getting a cut. It won’t help you. When you look back, you’ll never wish you hadn’t been a team player, but you might wish you had.
About Brandon Kim
Brandon Kim is a senior at Hampton Roads Academy. At the age of 10, he started swimming with summer league under his current high school coach, Jeff Scott. Outside of swimming, Brandon cooks, writes, and is interested in studying Political Science.