What SAIL Means to Me - 2009 Winner

Jonathan Belfore - SL

Over the years, SAIL swimming has brought me several vivid memories and many exceptional lessons that will never be forgotten. Several people have brought me to the place I am now, whether they know it or not, and through SAIL I have learned sportsmanship, leadership, mentoring of young swimmers, and team spirit.

Sportsmanship: To most six year olds, the word sportsmanship is a word that is completely unknown to their brains. SAIL was where I first learned the word sportsmanship. My first SAIL coach gave out lollipops to the swimmers she saw shake hands and congratulate the other swimmers, whether he or she won or lost. I am not going to lie; at first, good sportsmanship was just for the candy, but soon we were weaned off the candy, and the concept began to dig itself down deeper and deeper. At first, the concept of sportsmanship seemed a little confusing, but race after race, the concept began to grow. I began to give high fives and shake hands without even noticing. Sportsmanship soon became a subject during not only competition time, but also something that could be carried away from the pool. I began to see sportsmanship's relation to manners and that the praise you gave to others was returned in a favorable way.

Leadership: As sportsmanship quickly drove itself down into my ethics, leadership soon became a quality I began to see among the older kids. As a little kid, I always wondered if the older kids even knew my name. 1 remember swimming the 100 I.M, as a young 7 year old, and as I began the backstroke leg of the race, there one was standing behind my lane. An infamous 15-18 swimmer was cheering for me to complete my grueling 100 I.M. 1 could not believe it. That one swimmer led me to start seeing what a difference cheering for a young swimmer made. As I got older, I remembered how that one older swimmer's actions led me to try to have positive influences on the younger swimmers. Even a mature older presence seemed enough to me when I was younger, but as I got older, I wanted to exceed the expectations of the younger children just like that one 15-18 year old did for me. The leadership qualities shown by the infamous 15-18 swimmer influenced me to show leadership qualities later in my SAIL career.

Mentoring: As a younger swimmer, leadership seemed like an amazing quality I could not wait to one day possess. Then some older swimmers decided to take leadership to a new level, and I began to see the leaders mentoring the younger swimmers. My first mentoring experience came during my first divisional meet. The team was getting ready to march in for the divisional parade. As a 6 year old, I quickly got lost among the crowd of towering older kids. Then someone pulled me to the side and asked if I wanted to sit on his shoulders. I proudly sat upon his shoulders as the team marched on to the pool deck. Later that day, the same boy came back to ask me what I was swimming. Being my first divisional swims meet, I was a little nervous. He talked to me about what I was swimming and how I should swim my races. I still think about my mentoring experience every time I talk to a younger swimmer. My first mentoring experience showed me how something as simple as talking to a young swimmer could motivate and inspire him or her.

Team spirit: When SAIL season rolls around, everyone knows it is a time of cheering, pride, and team spirit. Dual meets are filled with their fair share of team spirit, but when it is divisionals time, the color hair spray, beads, and face paint vividly illustrate the display of team spirit. Not only is team spirit shown through displays, but also it can be shown through actions. Often, leaders quickly take the role of starting cheers and helping decorate cars and other various parts of a child's body. I remember one specific coach coming around the tent with color hair spray making sure everyone had neon green hair for the parade. Once the parade began, she led a cheer, and we became the loudest team there, by far. Without her, the team spirit would have been there, but it would have been rather dull. She showed how with a little vigor, team spirit could be brought quickly to life. Her motivation to the team led me to believe in her faithfulness to the team. Today, her actions are reflected on what I believe team spirit to be, and her spirit has been carried with me. She showed the importance of team spirit and its relationship with the team as a whole.

Over the years, SAIL has brought several people into my life. These people have embodied what I believe SAIL is and what SAIL has meant to me. Sportsmanship, leadership, mentoring of young swimmers, and team spirit, are all knitted together in a unique way, and each has taught me something that go hand in hand with one another. Each has taught me something that will be carried away from the pool. Sportsmanship, leadership, mentoring of young swimmers, and team spirit are what embody SAIL, and together, each quality illustrates what I have taken away from SAIL swimming.