Why every kid should be a swim team kid

Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,

I failed out of swim lessons. I’ve never even heard of a kid failing swim lessons, but your nana swears that I did when we lived in Belgium. Apparently I was the kid who wouldn’t even get in the water. I was your age back then, Max and Kate. So give me a break. What sort of swim teacher fails a kid, anyway?

When I was 10 Nana and Papaw joined Indian Lake Swim and Tennis Club in Hendersonville, TN. That summer they signed me up for swim team. I was a disaster. I could swim, but being put onto the City Championship team was hard for me.  The Indian Lake Warriors had a proud tradition, meaning we won the city meet every year. We were the team who chanted “Kill! Kill! Blood makes the water red. Kill! Kill! Blood makes the water red” before meets. I feel bad for the kids on the other teams now.

The first couple of years I was a 3rd heat / C-relay kind of swimmer. Lots of the other kids  my age swam year round and I was the kid who could hang for 25 yards, but once we hit the backstretch I was done. The 100 freestyle was an exercise in humilation for me every meet.

By the time I was 13 or 14 I had improved and was swimming in the outside lanes of the 1st heat and bouncing back and forth between the A and B relay team, depending on who showed up.

I swam summer league all the way through the summer after high school graduation, along with lifeguarding at the pool. I was never a year round swimmer as a kid, but summer meant two things: swim team and wrestling camp. Over those 8 years I made a lot of memories on swim team:

  • cold mornings in late May when everyone’s lips would turn blue after 10 minutes in the pool
  • swimming fun/wacky relays at the end of practice: raft races, swim ring races, water wing races, etc.
  • playing red river or alligator in the deep end after practice
  • my buddy Bo and I getting punished for goofing off every day – our punishment often included standing on the pool deck having a muscle “pose down” while the rest of the team swam
  • the chants
  • writing slogans and taunts on our bodies to intimidate the other teams
  • the giant pixie sticks poured over small cups of ice
  • pizza buffett’s after every meet
  • sweat shirt practices (normal swim practice, but at night – while wearing sweat shirts)
  • huddling up with blankets, games and cassette walk-man’s during the city meet every year
  • Later: hatching plans for our infamous lifeguard parties during swim practice. The birth of the Indian Lake Lifeguard Toga party was planned during a swim practice. It may or may not have been my idea. I may or may not have participated in the annual tradition beyond my teen years.

All in all, it was worth those hard first weeks as a 10 year old. I was unsure of myself at 10. I was still the new kid in town and I felt like everything I did was under a microscope. As a kid you often live under a microscope. It’s how you handle yourself that matters. How you handle it doesn’t define you, but it matters. Everytime I come out of the water at or near the front of a triathlon now I’m thankful that hung in there as a kid and didn’t give up. I wasn’t a great swim team swimmer, but I’m a darn good triathlon swimmer. Things work out.

Now at this stage of life I find myself back in that spot again sometimes. As I approach 40 I’m wondering when swim practice will get easier. I feel like I’m swimming in the 3rd heat sometimes – stuck on the C-Relay waiting for someone to “notice me” and put me on the B-relay. But that’s life and the best thing we can do is to keep swimming. Things work out.

Here’s my advice on swim team, wrestling, triathlon, and life: Enjoy the small moments, like sweat shirt practices and ice cream eating contests. Be able to laugh at yourself. Have fun. Make life what you want it to be, instead of waiting on complacent people around you to do something for you.

Izzy, you’re doing such a great job balancing swim team and gymastics now. I love watching you giggle with your friends at swim meets. And I hope you’re learning about more than swimming.

The time flies by so quickly. One day you’ll look back and 10 years old will be 27 years ago and you’ll want nothing more than to go to a sweat shirt practice or to Mr. Gatti’s Pizza after a swim meet. In fact, as you’re reading this now, those years are probably already long past. I hope their  a beautiful  summer time memory for you now.


– Daddy


Sat: Rode 2:30 minutes

Sun: Rode 1:50 minutes / ran 26 minute as a BRICK


Tues: Swam 1800 yards / planned bike ride