Today’s lessons from my father contains two of them.
I’ve just got in from watching my former high school compete in a championship swim meet and like it usually does it has me thinking back.
I came out for the team my sophmore year after having quit swimming a few years earlier. I wasn’t good when I quit, and I wasn’t good when I came back. I was lucky to have a coach that admired my work ethic, also gave me the super awesome nickname of Kassabi, and was willing to keep me on the team.
The way swimming works is there are three post season meets. Each one increases the area of competitors and the top times go head to head. This was my first season back and the most impressive thing I had accomplished was not quitting.
I entered the water for what I believed would be my last event of the season and in a little over a minute I would be done with my first season. By some miracle I dropped more time than I had any right to, not just dropping my time, but putting myself ahead of other teammates to give me a chance to go to districts.
So, what does my father have to do with any of this? There are two weeks between Mid-Penns and Districts. You don’t find out until after the first week if you’ve made districts or not. My time was right on the cusp. I would either just make it to districts or not.
My teammates were encouraging assuring me that they thought I would get in. My coach, though pumped for me, kept his expectations realistic. Most years my time wouldn’t have got me into districts. And here is the part where my father comes in.
The first day after Mid-Penns I came home from practice destroyed. I was now swimming with kids who had way more endurance than me. I relayed to my father how positive the team felt about my time, but how I felt I had no right to be there. I was way out of my league.
He told me that I had to stay in the fight and I couldn’t beat myself before the results were in, but I also had to keep in mind that you can’t drive through a red light just because it could turn green. With that in mind I returned to practice, giving everything I had to give as the fast kids lapped the crap out of me, fully embracing the fact that I wouldn’t be there the following week.
The second results were sent to the coaches on a Sunday. When I left practice on Saturday my coach said he would call me one way or the other. I got my phone call and expected coach to tell me that he was sorry, I should be proud of my season, and he’d see me at the banquet. Instead I was told I made the 24th spot of 24 swimmers.
No fairy tale ending here. I swam at districts, dropped more time, didn’t score points, but all in all had a pretty good first season for what I expected to do.
Here is the second part. After meets and games there is always a gaggle of parents raining praise on their kids. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. Parents being positive is great. I just had a more honest dialogue with my father. Strengths and weaknesses, that type of stuff, so our conversations happened at home.
I always knew where to find my father in the stands. Ever since I was a kid he would always go top row to the left side of the complex. He was coming in from a business trip that day and wasn’t sure he would be able to make it to the meet in time to see me swim. I hadn’t found him before the race, but after the race I looked up to the area I expected him to be and he was there. He gave me a thumbs up, I returned a nod.
I’m sure we talked about my season as a whole and how I felt I did and things I should work on before the next season. I’m sure we talked about a lot of things. But the two things I will remember is he made it to my race, and the thumbs up. A dozen years later I don’t remember my time or what place I finished in, but I remember the thumbs up. Actions will stick with a person forever.
P.S. Congrats to all swimmers who had awesome races this weekend at Mid-Penns.