My heart felt like a jackhammer pounding in my rib cage. I had just finished the race that would decide if I would qualify for regions or not. Only the top six fastest girls would get to go, no more, no less. I hurried and glanced up, hoping that I was top six. Instead of celebrating however, I was trembling, stammering, and gaping straight ahead in shock. What were the odds of this happening? As I got out the pool and glanced back up at the times posted on the giant clock above the pool. A rare event happened that day. There were two names next to the words "sixth place." A dead tie between two girls. That would mean seven people qualified for regions which was not allowed. Now to me this wouldn't even be a problem in any given situation, but today, one of those two names just happened to be mine.
The judge came up to me and told me that I had five minutes to prepare before my swim-off. It took me a second to process what he just said. The girl I had tied with would have to swim against me again. Whichever one of us wins would get to go to Regions and the loser would be eliminated. But this time we didn't have eight other competitors in the lanes next to us, it would just be us two, with the whole stadium watching us. No pressure.
That day, while I was still shaking about what was going on, I saw you in the crowd. You were wearing my old swim t-shirt that was two sizes too big on you and your hair was in tiny pigtails that flopped up and down when you cheered for me. Little sis, this event might happen to you one day. Because you've started to swim on a club team, there are some key things you should know if you ever get into a situation like mine.
The reason I want to share this is because at the time I didn't even know what to do. My emotions overcame me. I could feel all the pressure weighing down on me. My coach was there to calm me down, but all I wanted to do was cry.
I don't want this to happen to you one day so over the years, looking back at what happened, I formulated a plan. This plan will prepare you for your future as a high school swimmer.
The most important thing a swimmer can learn is preparation. On the day before your meet, you need to rest, go to bed early, and eat a nutritious breakfast. A good diet is vital for swimmers. What you eat for lunch the day before can affect the whole outcome of you race.
Once you are at the meet, you need to make sure to focus on what you're going to swim next. Don't goof around and waste your energy doing things that aren't important. You're here to race, not to hang out with friends and get distracted.
Just before an event, it's imperative that you warm up. This helps loosen up your tight muscles and keeps you from becoming sore or injured. Do a couple laps in the warm up pool and strectch. Stretching is a swimmers best friend in times like this.
However, tying someone in a race is rare, so this exact situation might not happen to you… it may never happen to you. You have to touch the wall at the exact same time, at the EXACT millisecond. And when there is a tie, most of the time a swim-off isn't even necessary because it's okay if two people get the same times. However, the only time it is NOT okay if it compromises the rules of the regional meet; which in my case it did.
While I prepared myself for my unexpected race that day, millions of thoughts flew through my head. My chances of making regions were all decided on this moment. It was all based on who could dive in the fastest, swim the strongest, and most importantly, who could get their hand on the wall first. The pressure was overwhelming. I couldn't concentrate on what was going on, until my coach came over and told me a piece of advice that I will never forget: You are stronger than you think you are.
Those words echoed in my head for a while, until I actually started to comprehend them. I was strong. And the truth was, I doubted myself the whole time. I looked around and all my friends were on the other side of the pool screaming at the top of their lungs. My parents were in the audience with you, smiling with pride, and my coach was there supporting me. They were all there because they believed in me; so shouldn't I believe in myself too? I was so worried about all the things I could do wrong, when I should have been thinking about everything I could do right.
So little sis, when you're up there on the starting blocks one day, just remember everything I've said. Mentally prepare, physically prepare. Just prepare. But most of all, remember that you are strong. This helped me accomplish my dream of making it to Regions, because I believed that could no matter what life throws at you; always have faith in in yourself. You are capable of so many things if you keep a positive attitude and look forward. Because at the end of the day, it's not who comes in first place, it's about finding your strength and using it to your full potential.