Swim Team and Magnus. Swimming in a Sea of Sharks. A Must-Read.
My kids swim on our neighborhood swim team. It is an incredible program lead by Colleen Cox, a four-time NCAA champion, 22-time All-American and an Olympic silver medalist. This lady kicks rear and chooses to teach our kids how to swim every summer. She is amazing.
The coaches are particularly patient with my 7 year old, Magnus, who swims to the swish of his own fins. He has the attention span of a goldfish and I often hear his named yelled repeatedly at practice so that he will stop bobbing up and down in the water long enough to not miss his turn to swim. Often when he finally comes up for air, he wonders why everyone is already at the other end of the pool. He is a mess.
We had our first timing meet last week. It is a run-through meet of sorts where the kids set their first swim times of the season. It helps the coaches know what heat, or group, to put the kids in so that they compete against swimmers at their appropriate level of ability.
Magnus lined up with 5 or 6 other 7 year old boys. This is an Olympic-sized pool and it can be intimidating to the kids and more so the parents. Over the microphone, the announcer said, "Swimmers take your mark." The boys waited to hear the starting signal, but this time a boy next to Magnus jumped in prematurely. In swimming, it is called a false start. Magnus hesitated slightly, but jumped in quickly after him and began his 25 meter freestyle swim. As the boy returned to the starting block, Magnus swam ferociously. Like a roaring lion champion. There were flames coming up from the water. His arms were flailing wildly as hundreds of parents and children watched and yelled, "Magnus go back!" He was oblivious. It was hilarious. When he passed the half way point, the "go back" yells turn into, "Go Magnus!" and by the time he reached the finish line, the timers and coaches smiled widely and offered him a brilliant "Great job, Magnus!" He was even handed a blue Heat Winner ribbon. After all, he was the only competitor, and this was a practice meet. It was such a joy for me to witness. After about 30 seconds, Magnus sheepishly realized what he'd done, but he received so many high fives as he walked back to begin the race again, he didn't care. He was invigorated. Everyone knew his name. He loves joyful attention, he loves friendship, and he thrives on encouragement. After that day, he told me he didn't hate swim meets anymore. He said they are ok with him and he even met some new friends back at his age-group tent.
I played the scene over and over in my head for the following week. It was so cute and funny and full of hope. I loved it so much. If we could all be like that all of the time. I don't mean cheering on our friends as they swim like speed demons in the wrong direction, but encouraging them exactly when they need it as they swim their own race. I've seen friends and family do things that I wouldn't undertake precisely as they do. Sometimes we need to accomplish things our own way. My journey looks different than my neighbors. We are vivaciously original and it is miraculous. One thing is for sure, we ALL need encouragement. It is life-giving and life-saving. I wish I could instant-replay Magnus' entire swimming mishap so you could see it as clearly as I did that day. Encouragement was key. It changed his perspective and gave him the grit to go back and swim again without shame. It uplifted the whole group. He was happy. He even told his grandparents that he won in the next group and they were, "WAY OLDER!" He kills me. I love my kids so much, and I want to cheer them on so that they have the audacity to swim again.