Just Keep Swimming

I took a deep breath and cleaned my goggles with my thumbs one more time. I put my foot on the step up to the block and glanced to my left side to see my swim coach Matt Wolfe. I was only a freshman in that first meet, and I wanted to prove I deserved a spot on varsity.

I looked down into water and heard the buzzer go off. My fingertips hit first, and suddenly I couldn’t breathe. My body reacted instinctively: my arms pulling me up and out, and my legs propelling me forward.

That taught me to be alert, to be ready, and that I’m not the best in the 200-meter freestyle.

Now it’s that time of year again: tryouts. This year is different. The seniors left us to fend for ourselves. Our coach decided to take a break to spend time with his children, and now we have to be ready for whatever our new coach brings.

Toward the end of last season, Wolfe told us he needed to spend more time with “this one and this one,” moving his hands down to the height of his children. I completely understand the need to raise your children and not miss out on their lives, but it was sad to see him leave. Wolfe was the first coach who really encouraged me and cared about my performance.

I’ve known people who drop classes because they don’t get their favorite teacher, or leave their sport because their coach left. Although some student athletes leave their sport for a number of reasons, a change in leadership shouldn’t be one of them.

Swim (or jump or run or dive or throw) because you love to it, not because you believe no one else will be as good a coach.

With a new coach comes new rules and expectations. By that same token, new leadership brings passion and excitement, and the opportunity to grow in a way that only a new perspective can bring.

I’ve been swimming since I was 6 years old. My mom is always proud to tell the story of how I was the one who would wake her up at 7 in the morning to go to Shawnee Sharks club practice over the summer.

Her point? It wasn’t about who I was swimming with, or who was coaching. I just wanted to swim.