[INTO THE DAWN] Excellence Odyssey

“Do you know how big the trophy is for being the fastest in the County at the Championships?’   I asked my eight year old daughter Skylee.  She looked at me and shook her head, her expression consternate. ‘Well I don’t know either but we’re going to find out because you’re going to win it!” I said, doing my best to encourage her.  That brought a winning smile to her face.

Minutes before she was telling me she didn’t think she would be able to break our team record in the breaststroke, and yet she’s on track to do just that!  She’s only got three weeks and two meets left to do it, but her times have been dropping every week and she’s only two seconds away.  Earlier in the week I told her she would make the top ten in both the IM and in the breaststroke at our All Star meet.  Her response was that she didn’t think so and then on the day of the meet she went out and swam her best times in both events and grabbed #6 in the County in the breaststroke and #10 in IM!  Can she move up to #1 in the breaststroke?  If she makes it to the top of the county or not, if she breaks the team record or falls short, the results don’t matter so much to me as whether or not she gives this her best shot.  That’s something I need to make sure she understands, because how other swimmers prepare and perform is out of her control.  She can only do her best and see where that takes her.

Every week it seems we’ve had to raise our expectations for my little shooting star Skylee.  It started out that she just wanted to make the All Star meet, at least in one event.  She worked extra hard, and has been for weeks now, and her breaststroke times dropped from consistent 26’s, to consistent 25’s, finally to consistent 24’s which easily got her into the All Stars on the last possible meet when she could qualify.  She also ended up qualifying in the IM on that same last meet.  Now she’s swimming in the low 23’s and today in our recently warmed up pool, which swims slower, when everyone else saw their times rise hers fell to 23.11, her new best time!  The team record is 21.05, so she’s still got a lot of work to do but if the pool were cool like it had been her times would have likely been around 22.5 or less.  God I hope the next pool we swim in is cooler, because if so I would not be surprised to see her time under 22 seconds and in reach of the record.  Skylee has 3 weeks left to get there, and at her rate of swimming .75 -1.0 second faster every week she should be swimming under the record by the Championship meet!

Whether or not she can become the fastest 8 and under girl doing the breaststroke in the County this year is another story.  The best girl in the county got as low as 21.22.  If that girl stays there Skylee will hopefully beat her.  If Skylee’s competition can drop her time she will become more and more difficult to catch.  There are also girls behind her improving their times.  What Skylee has in her favor right now is the fact that it’s summertime and we’ve got no plans other than to take her to the pool every day and help her get faster.  If she gets the record it will be an incredible achievement.  If she doesn’t I will be extremely proud of her anyway because she has tried so hard and done so well.  Never in my craziest dreams did I imagine her being this fast, and she’s only getting faster!

In the meantime this week my six year old daughter Sabrina practiced only twice, and she pretty much maintained her times in her events, not bettering any of them.  We’ll look back on this week next year and point out the fact that she didn’t practice and didn’t get better, so she needs to practice.  Sabrina has been very impressive and now swims with the fastest swimmers on both teams in the first heat of both the breaststroke and the backstroke.  She knows that next year she’s going to be one of the fastest 8 and under girls on the team, and she’ll be doing the type of things that her older sister Skylee is doing now, getting first places all over the place!  The following year watch out, team records should fall.  It’s evident that Sabrina’s got a lot of work to do to get to where Skylee is now, and hopefully she will follow her older sister’s example and dedicate herself to getting faster.  There are other six year olds on other teams who are faster now.  Sabrina’s natural talent is only carrying her so far, and I continue to coach her on my own because she won’t swim with the team in practice, only in meets.  Next year she is going to need to start swimming with the team if she wants to do some damage at the meets every week, or I’m going to need to learn a lot more about being a swimming coach.

I’m equally proud of both of my girls.  I’d be just as proud if they weren’t great swimmers.  The fact that they are out there trying and learning about the virtues of effort and experiencing tangible results is what makes me so proud and hopeful.  It would be one thing if they weren’t trying, but they are and they’ve both gotten better over the course of the season.  Sabrina has had valid reasons beyond her control for missing practices this week and I’m sure if she had been able to make one or two more practices she would have gotten better times.  It’s okay though, they’ve both got years to get better, in everything they do.  And in the meantime we can point to Sabrina’s older sister and she can see just what’s in store for her in the years to come as she puts forth great effort as well.  Sabrina is fond of saying, “I’m going to be better than Skylee when I get older.” Only time will tell, and I’m grateful to have such wonderful, healthy, motivated and successful girls!

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