Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Swim Team: The Agony and the Glory

"When I run, I feel God's pleasure." --Eric Liddell, Olympic runner and missionary

We had our first swim meet last night, which we won by a landslide (am I mixing metaphors here?). It was a time of high excitement and celebration, since last year we won only one meet (by a very slight margin) and the year before was winless. If you've never had the pleasure of attending a meet, let me tell you that they drag on and on. We were at the pool from 5:00 p.m. until 10:30. If I were a decent parent, I'd insist that my family leave for home right after their last event, but no. They beg to stay to hear the final score report, and I relent. I'd be lying if I said I was not excited, myself.

For someone who is lukewarm toward sports in general, not competitive herself, nor good at any sport whatever, I change personality at swim meets. I cheer for every swimmer by name (we have a heat sheet, so we know who's swimming; they all look identical is their team swimsuits and caps). I rabidly cheer for my own. But at the risk of sounding pathetically sentimental, I'm not cheering for a win, but for an effort. And that's the attitude of everyone there.

Sadly, our culture places a high emphasis on our children excelling in everything. The idea(l) is so prevalent that we even give trophies to everyone just for merely existing, so as not to hurt anyone's feelings. To my mind, swim team is different. Sure, everyone gets a ribbon for each race (different colors for different places). But each child swam the length of the pool at least once to earn those ribbons.

As spectators, we can easily see the beauty and grace in the older kids who've been swimming for years: their speed, their agility, the perfection of their strokes. Yet there is also beauty and grace of a different kind in the five-year-olds dog-paddling, struggling down the length of the pool, looking up to see how much farther, hanging onto the ropes to rest a moment, doing their best to just get to the finish.

I recall one little girl in particular. Everyone else had already reached the finish, yet she soldiered on. To me, she looked seconds away from drowning as she flailed in the water, then grabbed the rope for a breath, repeating the process every foot or so. It was almost too agonizing to watch, but what a trooper! She finally touched the wall and we all cheered. Her dad, who'd been encouraging her at the end of the lane the entire time, swept her wet body up out of the pool, kissed the top of her head, and then wrapped her snugly in a towel.

1 comment:

  1. So imagine how swim team is for someone who is already competetive! I know one neighbor was horse for two days after cheering on her kiddos!


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