Sportsmanship: Swimming requires discipline and a personal desire to succeed. It forces the swimmer to focus on exactly what he needs to do to improve, from perfecting a turn to developing a breathing pattern. Swimming teaches that hard work and attention to details can result in a faster time and a feeling of success. The more work is done, the more improvement occurs. Results can also be found in racing opponents; a fellow swimmer may create a goal for a particular race or for achievement in swimming overall. Swimmers quickly learn that though they may be the best on their team, there will almost always be an opponent who can reach the wall first. During my years in SAIL, I discovered that true success lies in improving ©>personal time rather than beating the swimmer in the next lane. I knew that if I worked hard enough, one day I would be able to beat the person who finished before I did, but that I must improve my time gradually through hard work. I usually swim the 100 m freestyle and the 50 m butterfly, and often I am the only girl in my heat, so I race against the 15-18 boys. Though I am racing at full speed, it is unlikely I will do as well as if I were racing against other girls, which means that my race can only be judged by my time as it compares to my personal record. Only by making this comparison will I know what to improve and where to focus in my week's practice. I learned not to be upset when I lost a race, but to use the loss to improve for the next meet. That is exactly what swim meets are about; they are weekly progress reports. Only through losses can improvement be made, and one's individual achievement is measured by their own expectations and work ethic.
Leadership: I have swum for SAIL for thirteen summers, and I remember looking up to the older members of the team when I was little. They were so fast and strong, and I wanted to be like them. Now that I am the oldest girl on the team, I do my best to be someone the younger swimmers can respect. I go to every practice I can, and I make it a point to be on time. I never complain about the workout for the day, and I try to encourage a good work ethic in other members of the team. I take swim team seriously, and I want our swimmers to do well. I cheer our swimmers on in meets and in practice; I help keep our tent under control during meets. I always keep playing cards with me in case boredom sets in, especially at longer meets like Divisionals. I was awarded the Founder's Award, our team's highest honor. The award is given to a swimmer who exhibits dedication and leadership on the team, and it meant a lot to me to receive it. SAIL is a large part of my summers, and it was nice to know I made an impact. My time in swim team has taught me the value of a good example and that I can make a difference for those around me. The oldest members of a team set the tone, and I hope that I have set one of dedication and of a passion for swimming.
Mentoring: The attention of an older member of a team can mean a lot to a young swimmer. When I was eight, my relay needed a person to swim the butterfly leg of the race. I didn't really understand the stroke, but I gave it my best, and I really started to enjoy it. One of the older swimmers took me under his wing and taught me how to swim butterfly correctly, and now I have been a proud butterflyer for ten years. His attention made an impression on me that a little kindness can go a long way. I try to get to know some of the younger swimmers, especially if they're new to the team. One little girl in particular was extremely shy, but we found a bond in that our towels were identical. I have given countless piggyback rides and adjusted numerous pairs of goggles. I frequently give swim lessons, and I've enjoyed helping younger swimmers improve their strokes and their times. Several of them reported back to me their changes in times, and it was nice to feel that I helped them accomplish what they wanted to. SAIL has taught me that older swimmers can make a significant difference in the SAIL experience for the younger member of a team. A little attention can really bring out a passion for swimming in a swimmer that was hidden before. I've learned that I have influence, and I do my best to create an air of kindness and welcome.
Team spirit: Swim team has been a part of my life for thirteen years, and I will miss the sense of community as I leave for college. I have played innumerable games of Sharks and Minnows and have participated in some pretty messy shaving cream fights. I've chanted the team cheer as loudly as I could before meets, and I've led team scavenger hunts, carrying a child or two along the way. I've painted my car red and white and have worn everything from bandannas to leg warmers to cheer on my team at Divisionals. I have loved being a member of my swim team; I have loved getting to know the people in my neighborhood and working hard alongside them to improve. I have enjoyed being a part of a community that forms every summer. Each year the team is slightly different, but it always remains a source of excitement and determination; swim season is a time of year that is unlike any other. In the summer I feel like I have a whole team of siblings. We work hard together every day, and we celebrate when we do well. My years in SAIL have taught me so much about responsibility and about growing within a small community. My time on swim team has been extremely rewarding; I will take the lessons learned in those summer months about determination, stamina, and leadership with me as I move toward my future.