It was a Wednesday morning of Summer 2013. I was extremely tired, yet at the same time I was quite excited. I wasn’t exactly ready for it but I knew that this would be one of the most important days of my life. I rolled out of bed while listening to my “daily morning song”. The aggravating blare of my Timex alarm clock made me roll out of bed and stumble to turn it off. I took a glance at my blurred window. I went into the bathroom to wash up. I came back in my room and put on my Speedos, then my fitted, but slightly loose trunks.
We pulled up to Lee Cultural Center, park, and pool. I had been here many times before but this time it felt very distinct. As I got out of the “soon to be gone” Toyota Sienna my parents finally released the butterflies in my stomach and said bye.
I walked inside the building and my coach, Boston walked past me.
“You ready for today Tim!?”
“You know it!” I yelled back, not exactly knowing if i was or not.
“That’s what I like to hear,” he replied as he hopped over the 3-foot tall wall and entered his makeshift office.
I walked right through the locker room. It felt strange walking through there and not having to change my clothes. I came out on the other side staring at a gate that opened up to the pool. For some reason everything felt new...like I had never been there a day in my life. I kept walking until I reached the pool deck. I took my purple towel out of my bag and spread it on the ground. I wasn’t the only there. Most of my teammates were also there. Amina, Isaiah, Trey, Tryce and Romeo pretty much all towered me as we began with our stretches. Today we did two sets of ten of everything, including burpees, push ups, curls, and leg stretches. After we finished we all slowly walked towards the gate and threw out the lane lines. One after another we all jumped into the freezing cold water. By the time I was in the middle of my third lane line the butterflies came back. I got back out of the pool and got my swim equipment including a kickboard, a pair of webbed swimming gloves, and a pull buoy.
As soon as I got back in the pool Boston was already standing over us on the deck, telling us what drills we were doing today.
“10 kicks, 10 pulls, put it together, then do it all again with you second and third stroke.” Boston told us while trying to keep a moderate temper.
Now, that may sound like a lot to you but we all looked up to him and sighed in relief. That was less than half of what we normally do. We immediately got to work.
After two more hours of drills, swim practice was finally...half way over. We all swam to the opposite side of the pool and unhooked the lane lines. Afterwards my teammates and I got out and put our clothes over our swimwear. We all were hungry but the food that they were giving the camp wasn’t exactly the best thing for us to eat...especially not after swimming over 1,000 meters. We all went to the corner store across the street. We tried to get as much as possible but at the same time keep it somewhat healthy.
When we returned we ate our food and it was pretty much time to get back in the pool.
Today was the day of my first swim meet. I wasn’t really worried. According to my coach I didn’t have much to worry about, the competition that we were going up against wasn’t any real threat.
We changed back into our swimwear, jumped in the pool, hooked up the lane lines and started up our drills again.
We got it over and done with within a matter of minutes. When we finished warming up we all got out and put our equipment away. We all grabbed our bags and towels and went to our spots for the race. We were up against a gate. The way it was set up we had the best view on the pool deck. We were able to see everyone in all of the lanes and whether they won or lost their heat they had to walk past us as if they needed our approval. It felt good to know that half of the other kids there were scared out of their mind, that gave me even more confidence.
I was in the first group of boys to start. I thought that I would start shaking as I walked up to my lane. I was nervous, but not because of the people I was racing, it was because of the people who were watching. The captain of my team was behind me. He told me that all of the other kids here couldn’t even swim half of the pool. After that, I was no more good. A massive jolt of energy and tenacity ran through me. I was officially ready.
As I entered the pool there was nothing that could stop me now. I felt like a horse with blinders.
“Swimmers, on your marks…” the man over the PA system said.
“EEEEEOOOOOOOHHHHHHHNNNN!!!!” the air horn sounded.
I was off. Everything that I ever learned kept circulating in my head. And I promise you, that was the longest minute of my life.
I felt my hand touch the wall and I was eager to get out of the water. My timer told me time. I didn’t know what it meant at the time, but I do now. One minute and twenty six seconds.
I walked back to where my team was, looking confused and at the same time anxious. My teammates were so hype. They told me that I had dusted everyone in my heat.
A year later the preparation was the same but the whole race went totally different. I didn’t even place in my freestyle heat. I also didn’t place in my backstroke heat. That was one of the most upsetting days of my life. I had really tried hard that year too. I knew that I had disappointed my coach, even though he never told me directly. My teammates didn’t know what to say, so they said nothing.
I told my dad that I wanted to quit swimming. He told me that he wasn’t going to let that happen. Instead, he gave me a break, considering how upset I was. He signed me up for a tennis camp that following year. I kinda missed swimming but at the same time it felt good to start something new.
After that year was up, my dad told me that I was going to go back to the swim team/camp. I told him that I didn’t want to go back. He said that he at least wanted me to think about it first. About a week before the camp started I got a letter from the swim camp, asking me to come back. I knew that I would go back to the team. I couldn’t let down my team especially not this time, considering that it would be my second to last year there.
I followed the same exact procedure that morning. Tre, Tryce, Isaiah, and Romeo had all left. There was just me, Aminah, a new kid named Elijah, and one of the swimmers who was top of his division in the younger class two years ago. His name was Vincent. He was only about 10 years old.
The training wasn’t anything difficult for him. I feel like he was used to all of the hard work because there was more expected of him. I never knew how fast he really was. Apparently he had to be pretty dang fast to be moved up a whole division at 10 years old. Now was his time to show off.
My coach introduced us to him. He seemed really confident in himself and his capability, which was a great addition to our team. Other than Aminah, and I the rest of the team was really lifeless and doubtful. That’s not ever good for a team. Not only do you lessen the chances of your potential but sometimes you create dispute for your teammates.
After he introduced himself, and we finished warm ups, we all waited for the other teams to show up. We all took our places on the bench. I watched all of the other races. I tried to trace any patterns and see what made me lose last year. The races were interesting even though still, all of my teammates won all of their heats. It wasn’t until they called my group that my stomach started to clench up.
I started walking to the deck, and I jumped in the water at my lane. This tyme before I took my mark I noticed some of my family on the sidelines. That gave me a “jolt of confidence”. I knew, once I took my mark that I would do good.
The air horn went off again. I immediately dove under the water. The surge that I felt this time was unlike anything that I’ve ever felt before. I felt like nothing could stop. What I felt was true. I had beat all of my opponents by almost half the pool. I felt so excited that I don’t even remember what my time was for the event!
After getting my medal for that race I never treated the sport of swimming the same. Even to this day when I look at it, I think about where I would be if I would have given up and not raced. I think about how much it hurt to still go on even when I didn’t feel like it. It’s a life lesson that I will never forget.