“Thank You” For A Great Season

by SwimSwam Contributors 1

June 11th, 2022 Lifestyle

Courtesy: Kelly Call

The following is a letter sent to Kelly, coach of Occoquan Swimming (OCCS), from one of her swimmers, Jack, thanking her for the past season after only joining in September.

Dear Coach Kelly,

Last summer was the first summer since my parents split up. My mom had just moved and we were joining a new summer swim team called the Makos. On my new team, there were a lot of people on year-round teams. I could swim faster than most of the year-round kids, so, I didn’t worry about it. But one meet I was getting ready to race as usual and a big year-round kid got up to race, “No big deal,” I thought “I might beat him.” When it was over, he beat me by at least a flags length and went on to crush me in every other race. I was jealous of how good he was, and I wanted to be like that.

One day my mom and I were talking, and we thought it’s weird how many people are doing year-round swimming. I realized how good year-round swimmers are, and I thought of that one kid. We start talking about me being on a year-round team. My mom asked me if I wanted to “look into it” and I, wanting to beat that other kid said, “Sure!” not knowing what I would be getting myself into.

The day came for my tryout, and you met us at the aquatic center to see what my skill level was. I was at the pool for a long time earlier that day and I was tired. But somehow, I made the team and was placed in your more advanced group with kids who have been swimming year-round.

The first month or two were awful. Every swim practice was worse and harder, and I felt like I was going to die. But I signed up for it, so I had to do it. You promised it would get better and someday I would “thank you” but I really doubted that. But, I kept going and pushing myself into the water every day. Practice was so hard, but I couldn’t let myself quit and fail. Every practice felt like I was somewhere between swimming and drowning. I thought to myself, “I have to do this if I want to beat those other kids and become faster,” so I kept pushing. I wanted to stop all the time in the middle of a set, but I could never bring myself to do it. Then suddenly, it wasn’t as bad. I had finally caught up with the other kids and things were better. I got better. I even started qualifying for special meets and I was proud of all my hard work. I qualified for the West Virginia team travel meet and I was so happy & proud. Not only did I get to miss school and go without my parents, but I was also excited that only after a short time of year-round swimming I qualified for a lot of events.

West Virginia was one of my favorite trips. I felt like I was starting to fit in, and I was having so much fun. I broke two records with my relay team, and I can still remember Leo and Ian’s faces after we did it. I was starting to feel like part of the team. I was surprised too. I never knew that you could go on all these trips through swimming. Although I was crazy tired, and the bus ride was super long, I thought it was an awesome trip and definitely worth it.

After West Virginia I started to get sick a lot. I would improve, get sick and lose progress. I did that a lot. Even as I’m writing this, I haven’t been to swim in almost a week with an ear and sinus infection. After doing that for a while Junior Olympics came around and somehow, I got well enough to go. I don’t know how I still swam fast, but I did. I thought it was a big deal and was in a ton of relays. Relays are fun. I went with my mom on the trip and haven’t woken up that early for that many things–ever. I had a lot of fun, and it was the biggest meet I had been to. My favorite part was the relays of course.

After JOs, my very fast teammate Ian aged up and I had improved a bit. I wasn’t sick as much and I was top 5 in a lot of events. I kept improving and think I had the longest time of not getting sick in this period. This is when I learned about the trip to Florida to attend the ISCA Showcase Meet. I thought it would be a normal fun trip like before, but I had no idea what was going to happen.

I was with my dad the week we left, and he dropped me off at the airport with you and the other swimmers. I got the sticker for my bag, and I was ready to go. We got on our plane to go to Florida but first had a layover in New Jersey. We got off the plane, ate and boarded the connecting flight. For at least an hour, I was on the sunny side of the plane, and even through the window blocker, I could feel the hot sun. After another, longer, flight (without Wi-Fi) we reached our destination, got our stuff and an eternity later, finally left the airport. The drive to the hotel was very pretty. I don’t know what side of Florida I was even looking at, but it was cool. We arrived at the hotel, and I met my roommates Ian and Leo. You and the coaches told us to get some rest before we head to the pool, but we didn’t listen, we were way too excited!

The pool was huge, and you could see the ocean from it. The ocean smelled bad though, but they used enough chlorine in the pool to hide it. After a meet warm up it was too crowded to do anything else, so we didn’t stay very long. After that you took us to buy food at the grocery store, we got a lot of stuff that we didn’t eat. I got some fudgesicles that melted, Ian and Leo got berries that they didn’t eat, and after Leo didn’t put the top back on the jelly, we didn’t eat that either. But we bought enough candy throughout the trip to make up for it.

The first day of the meet came around and it was early. Getting up on our own and getting breakfast was hard at 5:30 in the morning. Warms ups were even harder. Getting in that cold pool at 7 am stung. After warmups, things were calm for a while before the parents came swarming in. It was so crowded and so annoying. I guess they couldn’t read the signs telling them where to go because I had to squeeze through parents to get to my races, but I think I did well. Some of my friends on other teams were their too, and it was fun.

The next few days flew by for me, repeating the meet schedule, having fun with my friends, and enjoying my freedom with my money. Before I knew it, it was the last day, and I was warming up for finals. I was excited. I pumped up my relay team earlier, and we had placed in those relays, so I wanted to do that again and leave feeling proud. I got in the water to warm up for the last time. I got out and finals had begun. I didn’t make finals that day, so I had a while until my relay. So, when Alena and Sabrina invited me to the beach, I said,” yes.” I left everything at the pool except for my friend’s hat that I stole from him before the trip because we did not plan to be gone that long. Out of nowhere, big gusts of wind started to blow sand in our eyes and big dark clouds took over the sky in a matter of seconds. They closed the pool because of lightening so I couldn’t get my stuff. Alena was the only one of us with a phone and luckily, we found you to help us and Ryan’s mom let us pile into her van until the storm blew over. It didn’t take long for them to open the pool again. Once on deck, we piled our stuff under one of the tents that didn’t get blown over. Then it started to pour but they started the meet anyways. The rain was pounding down, and I wanted to be helpful, so I helped set up the tent. After it was up, I went to go get my stuff and everything was soaked. My parka, towel and my clothes were drenched. I only had my suit and my friend’s hat. I was so cold in the rain. It felt warmer inside the pool. Eventually, the rain stopped, and the cold air had set in. You taught me a survival skill and showed me how to get a towel from the lost and found (which I still have).

The time finally came to gather my relay and warmup. Leo had just finished his 200 free and was exhausted. This relay was a long one too, it was the 400 free and I was going first. We lined up pretty early behind the blocks, but it gave us time get excited. I could tell Leo and everyone else was tired because everyone was quiet. So, I said, “It’s the last race of our trip, so let’s make it a good! I know you guys want to go home with another medal so let’s make it happen!” We all said stuff but that’s the most I remember. I think the other guys had hope we would place but looking at the other team’s times and where we were seeded, I wasn’t sure we could do it. I just didn’t want to go home feeling like I could have done better. It was almost time to get on the blocks and we were all pumped to swim like we never had before. Leo was still quieter than usual, and I wasn’t sure what he was thinking, but before I could do anything it was time to race. I got up on the blocks, ready to start. This time it felt different. The energy I had felt different. Then EAAAAAN, I was off. I swam so fast that night. I felt so alive during that race. I flipped and went onto my second 50 holding second place and it felt great. My arms hurt, but I didn’t care. I thought of those kids that used to beat me before and I wouldn’t let it happen again. I touched the wall and looked up, dizzy from how hard I swam. But I saw 54.71 on the board (I couldn’t believe it) and was so happy. I was in shock, I thought maybe we could do this. It felt like as soon as I got out of the water Ryan finished and Jacob dove in. I congratulated Ryan and went to cheer for Jacob. Jacob was coming in from his last 50 free. We dropped to 4th maybe 5th place at that point. I thought it was over and we wouldn’t place. Then Jacob finished and Leo dove in. Out of nowhere he came up from the water and was swimming like a maniac! I don’t know where he found the energy, but he was determined to win no matter what it took. He started to catch up with the team next to us. The last lap they came out from their flip turn and were neck and neck. I couldn’t believe it. How was he doing this? Everyone was cheering so loudly. Everyone on OCCS was screaming and going crazy for Leo! He touched the wall and we all looked up at the board. We got second place! I was in disbelief, I thought we would be lucky if we got 3rd. But somehow, we did it. He pulled himself out of the pool, and we were all so happy and surprised that we did it. We then cheered for the 13-14 group and went back to the bleachers. We couldn’t stop talking about it, Ryan said it was the most excited he’s ever been in his life. Alena cheered so much that she lost her voice which has never happened before.
After we warmed down, you and the other coaches took all of us to the beach and we had pizza for dinner on the Gulf of Mexico. It was so fun, and I couldn’t imagine a better way to end the trip and my spring break.

In just under a year, I am now starting long course and have learned so much through swimming. I learned how to work hard, how to be flexible and how to balance a lot of things. At the beginning I thought it would be simple and I would just get better for summer swim. But it was a lot more than that. I had so many experiences I never knew I could have. Swimming opened a whole new world, and I met a lot of nice people. But now I think I’m ready for summer swim. You helped me so much this year, I wouldn’t be here without your help. You helped me grow so much in such a short time and I had so much fun doing it. You push me to be my best, keep a good balance of hard work and good times. By giving us tough sets, I learned how to push through challenges I don’t think I can achieve at first. I don’t know who I would be without swimming, and I don’t know if that person would be as happy as I am today. I’m so grateful I was put in your group and am excited for what will happen in the future. I’ll miss you next season since I am moving up to the next group, but I will see you at meets!

Oh ya, I guess I owe this….”THANK YOU!”
-Jack

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Zh.
2 months ago

In a world of Cinderellas waiting for the slipper this one shows up for the dance. So much not said here, how many of us were going through something and couldn’t wait to get to practice or the meets.