Incredibly my eight year old daughter Skylee has gone from last year literally thrashing her way across the pool in an effort that was at times painful to watch to now having her sights set on a 27 year old team breast stroke record of 21.05. Last year when her best friends who were a year older were swimming faster and winning heats in the 8 and under division I distinctly recall telling Skylee that this year she would ‘rule the pool’. She just needed to be patient, her time was coming. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t entirely sure that would be the case, what mattered was that Skylee believed it.
This spring when she got back in the pool she still wasn’t exactly the picture of grace crossing the pool, but she was significantly faster and her strokes had mostly smoothed out. The extra year made all the difference and sure enough in the three individual heats she swims she is either #1 or #2 on the team. Two weekends ago she barely missed the breaststroke all star qualifying time of 25.30. Last weekend she easily made the all star team with a time in the 24 second range. This weekend she brought the time down further to 23.33, and the coach now believes that with a month left in the season she has a realistic shot at breaking the team record. How did she come so far in just one year?
Desire has everything to do with it. Skylee loves to be competitive and truly wants to get better. She is willing to put in the time and effort. She’s exceptionally smart, if I do say so myself, and takes direction well. Physically she also has the tools, with a long, strong body. It doesn’t hurt that her birthday is in July, right after the season ends, so she’ll be shooting for the 8 and under record while in all practical purposes being 9. If she had been born in April I wouldn’t be writing this and she would be competing against older kids.
After the meet yesterday when Skylee got her new best times in both the breaststroke and IM (she’ll also be competing in the all stars in the IM) the coach asked her if she wanted to do what it took to get the team record in breaststroke. She didn’t hesitate in her affirmative reply. So she’s going to be swimming at two practices a day this summer, which officially began for us just the day before the meet. We figure, what else does she have to do this summer? She may as well get motivated and try to create a little local / family lore. How often in your life do you get a chance to break records anyway?
I asked my mother the question after the meet, if anyone in our family had ever broken any records? I was one of four brothers who were all pretty good athletes and I was not unaccomplished. In fact when my mother told me nobody had set any records and added, ‘Skylee could be the first real athlete in the family,’ I took a little offense to the comment. As a kid I was on several all star baseball teams. I won the county wrestling championship in 7th grade, and in 8th grade I took a very close second place to a wrestler who was one of the best in California. As a freshman I had the most catches on our football team for the season, I’ve been a surfer since I was 15 and as a senior in high school I was on a defending national championship rugby team. ‘Mom, you’re telling me I was never an athlete?’
My mother corrected herself. My daughter could be the first ‘record breaking’ athlete in the family. I probably should not have been so sensitive, but I consider myself an athlete to this day, just not a competitive one. I surf when I can. I ride my bike to work often and I swim with my six year old daughter Sabrina practically every day because she won’t swim with the team. Watch out for Sabrina by the way. She had been sick this week and she still pulled off two best times in the freestyle (23.75) and breaststroke (30.87), putting her ahead of where Skylee was at age seven last year. It would not be surprising to see Skylee break the 27 year old breaststroke record this year and the Sabrina either break it as early as next year or the year after. Like Skylee she just needs to get a little longer and stronger, and of course she will need to put forth the effort.
Are my daughters going to be better, more accomplished athletes than me? God I hope so! I feel like I could have done a lot more athletically, and that I didn’t get the most out of my talents because I simply didn’t have the self motivation or proper direction from my coaches. I hated working out as a kid! I vividly remember going out for the wrestling team in high school and quitting after the first practice. I didn’t want to put in anywhere near that effort.
Fortunately neither of my daughters seems to have inherited that slacker gene from me. Skylee already did a few double practices in her earlier successful efforts to make the all star team. So this month she’ll be doing lots of doubles, either swimming in the morning and evening, or swimming two back to back sessions in the evening. I’ll try to get Sabrina to do as much as she is willing to do with me at the same time. It will be just as interesting to me to see how much better Skylee will get with her efforts as it will be to watch Sabrina.
The great thing about swimming is that efforts and hard work truly do pay off. Kids learn that when they try hard they get better. The results are tangible. With any luck and a lot of that hard work hopefully Skylee will be the first Falk to break a record. I may even bristle less the next time she’s called the first ‘real’ athlete in my family.
Andy Falk is a father of two incredible daughters ages born in 2001 & 2003, Skylee
and Sabrina. Andy is very active in the lives of his daughters, from coaching soccer to supporting them during swimming season to just plain doing homework or hanging out. Andy also surfs regularly, bicycle commutes and is a successful Realtor in Marin County, CA. Andy earned his MBA from San Francisco State University with an Internet Marketing concentration, and holds a BA from the University of California at San Diego where he studied and surfed in the 80’s.