This is a homework assignment turned in by my daughter Anna who is now in 7th grade. I think everyone on the WNKM team can relate to this at some level.
My favorite memory started out as not so much my favorite. I was so nervous that my legs were shaking. Wait, let’s back up like 3 weeks or so…
It was Monday. I was trying out for the Express swim team. The try-out was at North High School. I was joining in the middle of the season. Everyone else was practicing. They cleared a whole lane for me to try out! Some kids were watching me, but most were still swimming.
Coach Bill (the Coach in-charge) told me to get into the pool and stretch a little bit. After I was done stretching, he said, “Okay, show me your Freestyle.”
I went as fast as I could without breaking my form; form is like how professional or perfect the stroke looks so that you know you’re performing correctly. Next, I did my Breast stroke and my Backstroke. Finally, I did Butterfly for half of 25 yards and switched to freestyle for the second half so I could show Coach Bill my flip turn. When I got out, I thought that Coach Bill looked really impressed with my skill level.
“You did a great job! If you decide to join, then you would be in Silver Three. Kyle, make sure to… (I kind of zoned out a little bit here). If you register any time this week, then you can start practicing as soon as next week Monday!” Coach Bill said.
Two weeks later, I am practicing as hard as the rest of the Silver kids, which, let me tell you, is a lot harder than the YMCA Competitive Swim Class.
Just to let you know, there are different groups of Express: Ribbons, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Senior One, and Senior Two (I’m in Silver). In each group, there are levels one, two and three, with three the most experienced and one the least experienced in the group (I’m in Silver Three).
When I first joined, I couldn’t believe I was already in silver, because my brother is going to join in the summer season and he’ll be in ribbons, which, like I said earlier, is the lowest.
The practices are tough, because we start with doing 300 swim and 100 sculling (all numbers are yards), which is 400 total just for warm-up! Sculling is when you do freestyle kicking and tread water with your hands. Even though you’re treading water technically, you’re still moving forward in the water. The 300 swim is just any stroke you want.
After the warm-up, we do drills depending on what stroke we practice that night (freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly). Usually, we go out into the middle of the pool and practice doing flip turns by swimming into the wall with whatever the stroke of the night is. The coaches give us tips on how to do better with the flip turns after each person has gone, as in, if I do a flip turn, right after the coach will tell us what we need to work on next. we usually get two or three flip turns done each.
Next, we do some stamina work. Sometimes, we do ladders, which means we would swim a 25, then a 50, then a 75, then 100, then 75, then 50, then another 25. Usually we would repeat that twice.
Finally, we work on our dives off of the starting block. First, you mount the block, next you bend over, with your feet shoulder length apart, your hips in the air. Your back foot should be the length of you big toe away from the front foot. When the starter says, “Take your mark…” you grasp the front of the starting block and lean back with tight, straight arms. Next the starter presses the button (this is in meets – in practices they just shout “go” really loudly) which triggers the start machine. It makes a loud, obnoxious beep. Once the start machine goes off, you push off the block with your back foot as hard as you can, while going into streamline position. Streamline position is when your arms and legs are almost perfectly straight so that when you enter the water you don’t go at a weird angle once submerged.
We swim for an hour (see above for what I mean by swimming) and then get changed for dry-land. Changing is just in the locker rooms, and it takes about 5 minutes at the most.
When we’re done changing, we go sit on the bleachers until around ten after the hour (which isn’t too long). After that, we just work out, like with the TRX, or we play games, like Capture the flag.
My favorite memory was my first swim meet. I was so nervous, that I almost didn’t enjoy it at all, until my race started…
My first event was starting. I got into line in the right spot, because there’s a specific order to get into (you line up by heat number). I was REALLY nervous. When I started, I felt really good on how I was doing. But when I got to the flip turn, disaster struck.
When you swim Butterfly or Breaststroke, you do a 2 hand-turn, which is basically where you grab the wall with two hands, then push off again ASAP.
The disaster was that, being my first meet doing a 50 in a stroke other than freestyle, I didn’t know that; so, when I did the turn, I only touched the wall with one hand. Of course, I went as fast as I could, because I didn’t know that I was DQ’ed (shorthand for disqualified). When I finished, my time didn’t show up on the scoreboard. I kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting…but it never went up there.
When I got out of the pool, I asked the timer what my time was (I don’t remember it – that was in November of last year). I went back to the bleachers, where my parents were sitting. My mom and dad both looked happy yet sad at the same time. I asked them what was wrong. They told me I was DQ’ed, and I collapsed onto the seat, sobbing. If I couldn’t get it right the first time, then how would I ever get it right later? After about 5 minutes, my mom told me that was the fastest time she had ever seen me swim. That stopped me right in my tracks. The time! I couldn’t remember what I had got!
“Mom, I forgot what the timer said my time was after the race.”
“Oh. Well, that’s okay. Because it didn’t go up onto the scoreboard, I didn’t see what it was. But don’t worry, because you got DQ’ed, the time won’t count anyways.” That was easily the worst thing she could say. “Hey, your next race is coming up!” She finished somewhat halfheartedly.
“But I don’t wanna swim anymore.”
“Yes you do! What are you talking about?” My dad wondered.
“I’m not any good at it though!”
“Yeah, you are. You just made one little mistake. I wouldn’t worry about it. You’ll get the hang of it soon.” His pep talk really helped.
And, to prove that it helped, my time in the 50 Freestyle was 34:52. I couldn’t believe how good I did; I even got a Heat Winner ribbon!
Ever since then, I’ve learned that disqualifications are just another hurdle in my way. I’ve only gotten one more since then, and it didn’t even bother me all that much. I just bounced right back up to try my next race. The coaches really help a lot, too. They give you advice on what to remember before each race, and help critique you after.
Now I love swimming so much that my first passions for it can be compared like a drop of water to an entire pool. Express has become a huge part of me, and the South High School pool has become my second home.