Today was huge. Today was the last meet of the 2014 San Fernando Catholic School League Swim Season. It’s been a good swim year for P. She medaled in the breast stroke in every meet. Half way through the season she started competing in all four events: back, breast, free and fly. She was never disqualified for improper technique which is huge at 6 years old. Last year she was the only one in her class on the team, this year she gained 5 first grade team mates. It’s been a fun and productive year but today was huge!
Today we had a break through and not just in swimming. Today she learned a life lesson. All season P has had an issue with finishing strong or putting in 100%. In practice she was cutting off the beginning and end of each lap AND stopping half way. I let it go until I noticed that in meets she was starting out strong and practically coming to a halt at basically the very same spot where she was stopping in practice. She was performing the same way she was practicing. So we had a talk.
We talked about what giving 100% looked like: swimming wall to wall and not stopping half way. I told her I preferred her to give 100% for half an hour instead of giving 50% for an entire hour. She promised to give 100% and I promised that if I saw her short change her practices I’d pull her out of the pool. I also promised to listen to her as she listened to her body. If she was feeling tired or sore we would skip swimming that day. Our open communication was working well.
The next meet came and again I saw her nearly stop half way in every single event. One of the parent-coaches said it could be lack of strength which was normal for her age. The issue would resolve itself with time. But to me there was a mental aspect I saw missing. She had a couple bad practices. I called her out of the pool once it was so bad. She returned to practicing strong. We incorporated a few fun core strengthening exercises but still I felt the issue was mental more than physical. I felt that if she could power through the moment she starts to feel tired or the burn it would only take once for her to see it was worth it. But how could I get her to do it on her own? No way was I going to get her to do it with threats or harsh discipline.
Last night, the night before her last meet, we were having fun and getting her pumped up. She was listening to her favorite music. I started thinking about what use to get me fired up. Rocky! I wasn’t sure the music without the movie would do much for her. But thanks to YouTube I found a compilation of all the training scenes from all the movies put to the Rocky theme song and Eye of the Tiger. P was so into it! I was able to point out how Rocky pushed through the tough tired moments to train harder and that’s what got him stronger. I could see something was clicking but who knew if it would translate to the pool.
The meets start out with the backstroke. We did our usual little routines which includes a little pep talk before staging. I reminded her of Rocky. I reminded her to push through. These were the last four races she had to do and she could give them her all. And then the breakthrough came! She pushed off the block and she swam hard. The half way point came and she continued to swim hard without slowing down! I was literally on the verge of tears. It clicked! It finally clicked and I knew the feeling she had just had. That sense of accomplishment that tells you I control my body! When she got out of the water she was out of breath and tired in a way I had never seen before. They gave her her time and it was 6 seconds faster than her previous best time. I was so proud. She was so proud.
The other 3 strokes were the same. She swam hard wall to wall. She knocked nearly 6 seconds off all her strokes except her best stroke, the breast stroke. But I was expecting it. Breaststroke came two events after backstroke and she was still tired. She needed to gain her mental strength again, also something new to her. By the third event she was able to gather herself back together and give it her all once again. At the end of each race she was exhausted and I’d ask her “did you leave it all in the pool” and she’d say “there’s nothing left”.
At the end of the day I had to sit and talk with her. To me this was such a momentous occasion and I wanted to make sure she understood why. I told her i was incredibly proud of her. I explained that it wasn’t just about the swimming. It was about her knowing she gave it everything she had. She would never wonder if she “coulda, woulda, shoulda” done something more could she had finished better? And the same thing applied to all things in life. If in everything she did she did her best she would have no regrets or wonder if it could have been better. I also explained that the more she pushed through the tough parts, or when it starts to burn, the stronger she would become. It wouldn’t necessarily become easier but she would find comfort in knowing she could break through the tough barriers. And the uncomfortable point would become comfortable. The life lesson was clicking in.
Today she finished:
10th in breaststroke with a time of 39.32
15th in butterfly with 45.52
20th in freestyle with 30.82
25th in backstroke with 35.09
Today was huge!