January 30, 2013
When I was 11-years old, the most pressing things that I cared about were two-fold: one was learning how to lift the puck in street hockey so I could properly punish my dad for winning all the time (take a moment to soak that in guys), and the second (which I was most passionate about) was growing out my perm as fast as humanly possible. Although I played softball in the summers, and I was decent at it, I certainly wasn’t obsessed with becoming the best ever or anything. I pretty much played because my Dad wanted me to play and I sort of liked the smell of the ball field dirt. Weird, I know.
This is why I am constantly amazed by my girls. Swim Girl is at the bottom of her age group (11/12) and has spent this entire year clawing her way to faster times by practicing all the time. On Friday nights, when many girls are heading out to the school dance, she’s at practice (her own decision) with one of her favorite coaches. While friends are hanging out after school, she’s at physical therapy, working to strengthen her leg muscles and ease the over-use/growing pains that happen when you’re an 11-year old breast-stroker. And when she gets home from practice, she’s reading her swimming magazine and articles that her coach recommends, soaking it all in and hoping that it, combined with her drive and hard work, earn her Junior Olympic qualifying times like last year.
Last year, as a 10-year old, she spent the entire season adding additional JO QT’s to her schedule of events for the big event in March. When the regular season was over, she was qualified in 11 events. This year, when you combine the much tougher time standards for 11-year old’s with the fact that USA Swimming made the QT’s even harder this year, she has had her work cut out for her. Still, she continues to drop time and chip away at those QT’s, being just a second or two away from several with just one month to go.
After Christmas, the girls both started doing to archery. It’s once a week, but it just so happens that it falls on a night at swimming that Swim Girl doesn’t like to miss. The initial excitement of it all had her miss the last three weeks of that night of swimming. However, with a month left to qualify, she made a decision this week. She was heading off to Coach Ian’s practices for the next two weeks. We had a conversation in the car the other day about how proud I am of her for catching up and moving right on past so many of the swimmers that she thought she would never be competitive with. There are a few remaining that push her and she asked me how she could close the gap. We talked about getting enough rest, eating the right kinds of food, working on core fitness and upper body strength with some daily push-ups. And each day, since that conversation, this girl has been giving it her all and doing exactly what it takes to get stronger and knock more time off. To help her, I told her I would do it with her. So far, the only thing I’ve lifted though, is a Hershey bar to my mouth. I’m not quite sure where her drive and motivation come from, but I wish she could bottle it and give a little bit to me.
Then, there’s Sassy, who has missed maybe two swim practices the entire year. Not going is just not an option. She has competed in several meets this year and although 7-year old’s are notoriously unpredictable when it comes to times, she has continued to shock and amaze me with her own abilities. Sassy went from doing just 25′s to swimming the 100 IM (most of the time legally) and in under two minutes. Her initial time was a 2:02 and she dropped it to a 1:53 in her last meet. Sassy wrote goals down for this year and our bulletin board at the pool if filled with her completed goals. 25 fly below 30. Done. 25 fly below 25. Done. In fact, she now swims across the pool in about 21 seconds, which is about the time it would take me to drown while trying to do that stroke. She dropped her 25 back from around a 30 to a 23 and she’s just about to break through the 20 second mark for her 25 freestyle. And she’s 7 years old. Seven.
The best part about her is that she doesn’t take things too seriously. Ask Swim Girl if she’s going to the Olympics one day and you see a light in her eye, a determination to do everything possible to be the most amazing swimmer ever. Ask Sassy about that and she’ll laugh in your face, turn around, braid her one coach’s hair and ask the other to play “Rock Paper Scissors” while whispering that she has a crush on another one of her coaches. The girls certainly approach things differently, but both ways have brought pretty amazing results.
Mid-March, we begin a four week break in swimming until the spring/summer session starts. Swim Girl asked me how long the break was the other day. When I told her four weeks she got very agitated. “I only want to take two weeks off,” she said. “You have to find me someplace to swim.”
I may not have much of a social life these days, but what I do have are a few very self-motivated kids (two to swim; one to climb everything in the whole house and rearrange all my cabinets with only a diaper on). It’s been a lot of fun to witness.