McKenna Rooney is a 12-year old swimmer with the Stateline Aquatic Team in Beloit, Wisconsin. This long course season, her coach Scott Kitzman started a program called the “Olympic Club,” where they challenge swimmers in 5 aspects of the sport of swimming to match the 5 Olympic rings. The goal of the Olympic Club, according to Kitzman, is to get swimmers to take a more active role in their own success, both in and out of the pool. One ring of the Olympic Club is to read a swimming related article or watch a video once a week for inspiration, stroke improvement, or any other purpose. For extra credit, Kitzman suggested that swimmers could write an essay about swimming of their own.
Rooney did just that, and her essay, which can be read below, gives great insight into the thought process of a young swimmer.
It’s Regionals, the last big meet before State. Three grueling days of racing. It’s Friday night, day one.
The normally packed Rec Plex, (one of the biggest aquatic sports complexes in all of America) is pretty empty – there must be very few crazy people like me who want to start their weekend off with a distance race.
I’m waiting to swim the 500 free – 20 long laps of music going through my head over and over again. Ugh.
As I get up to approach the blocks my coach, Scott, said to me “I want you to break seven minutes.”
I gulped and said “Okay? Sure?” My seed time was 7.11.96, meaning I had to drop almost 12 seconds off my best time to achieve this new goal. I nod my head, but in my mind I’m thinking, “You’re insane!”
I’m standing behind the the blocks, waiting for my race. This is my time to focus. I start to get nervous, as I do every time. I tell myself “No!” I refocus my mind and step up on the blocks.
As I dive in the music in my head begins to play. Oh, no! Twenty laps is a long time for “Do: a deer, a female deer.” Why does the Sound of Music have to be my mother’s favorite movie?!
One of my teammates is at the opposite side of the pool. She kneels down and holds a number board under the water for me to see what lap I’m on.
Scott is pacing on deck, watching my every move. He frantically signals my teammate to move the board up and down as a sign for me to go faster. She pulls it out of the water just before I flip and push off the side.
“Ray: a drop of golden sun”
I’m in the far lane, and as I swim I can see Scott pacing above me. I hope I’m able to pull this off!
“Me: a name I call myself”
Usually I can hear the crowd while I swim, but tonight it’s so silent it is almost eerie.
“Fa: a long-long way to run.” Hmm… Maybe that should be fa: a long, long way to swim!?
I’m thankful for my teammate keeping track of my laps – I’d never be able to remember what lap I’m on without her.
“So: a needle pulling thread.” I’m starting to get tired and a little bored. Maybe that thread can pull me through the water faster. Less than 7 minutes, really?
“La: a note to follow so.” One of my teammates, the coach’s son Jack, is on deck next to Scott. He is motioning and yelling- a miniature version of his father. I giggle, and think drowning would be a bad way to end this race. Time to refocus.
“Ti: a drink with jam and bread.”
UGH! STOP ALREADY!
As I approach the wall I see the red square that signals my last turn. Time to all out sprint.
“And that brings us back to do.”
I make my final touch and pull my head out of the water. My goggles are too foggy for me to see my time, but I think I must have done it because I can hear Scott and Jack screaming behind me.
I take off my goggles and get out of the pool. Scott gives me a big hug and tells me my time: 6.59.44. Wow!
Maybe the Sound of Music isn’t so bad after all…