Standing on the edge of the pool I am blown away by these kids, the ones who swim like lightning, the ones who make it all seem so effortless, and the ones that struggle through and push hard. The ones whose googles fall off and keep going anyway, the ones who shave seconds off their time. I never could do anything like that when I was a child and so their movement, their ease, their courage, their dedication, their endurance seems magical to me and at the end of every event, I want to celebrate them, jump up and down, kiss them on the head and bless them–exclaim to the world that they are a miracle.
Instead, I tell them their time as they climb out of the pool and whisper something like “great swim”, “that rocked”, “great focus”. The quiet encouragement is what they need right then, as they make off to celebrate or lick their wounds or jump up and down and scream their heads off for their teammates. So I tell them their time and sneak in a silent blessing, a quiet alleluia for their growing up, their personal victory.
This swim is something that is theirs alone.
No parent, or teacher, coach or teammate pulled them along or won for them. But man, how they all did yell.
It is gorgeous to watch them, the kids lined up along the deck, screaming and cheering for each other. They hover behind me, their teammates, and they say things like, “wow–best time ever” to the kid who came in last, the one who is improving steadily steadily week after week. Every kid is made to feel a rock star, a prize fighter, a hero in the moment of their struggle. It makes my heart swell to think of all they are learning. To think of how kindness and encouragement flow like water here. To think that this is the real strength training, here at the poolside.
Every personal battle is just one swimmer in a pool–moving as gracefully as she can. Hoping to keep it together, do a little bit better than last time. He is racing against himself. No one can do it for her. No one else will make or break this for him. And yet he knows that the cheers, the yells, the high fives and the hand to pull her out of the pool are what keep her going hard. The team and their love–it is what allows each swimmer to pull the strength out of his belly and do one more stroke.