Sportsmanship: Throughout the years sportsmanship has been one of the most valuable qualities SAIL has taught me. I began swimming when I was five years old and it became my first sport and first love. I loved the fact that I could go from one end of the pool to the other without having to touch the bottom. I loved that it was fun to do on a hot summer day. Occasionally I loved the competition. But most of all I loved the sense of community and friendship with everyone else. SAIL taught me the true meaning of sportsmanship when I was very little and every year I continuously see examples all around me. One of the earliest examples I can remember is when I was in the 8 and under and 9-10 age groups. During meets we sat on the bench with the other team or teams waiting for our events. Now I don't know if it is true for boys, but for girls this is a real bonding timel We spent that waiting time playing games, telling jokes, and as it got closer to being our turn to swim we would wish one another good luck (which consisted of pulling one another's bathing suit straps back as far as possible and letting go ... a strange tradition I know). When we finally got to the blocks we would say our last good lucks and then we would swim our race. At the end of the race we would wait for everyone to finish and we would say good job. Nobody really cared who won or not, we were all out there just to have fun. After the few seconds of competition we would go back to being best friends again. As I have grown up we don't tell jokes or play games anymore, the competition becomes more evident in the older age groups, but that sense of comradery and sportsmanship is still there. Last year I was almost brought to tears during our meet against Gower when one of their swimmers, who is handicapped in some way, swam the 50 freestyle. While others finished in less than 40 seconds, this girl took minutes to complete her two laps and had to touch the bottom several times along the way. Swimmers and parents from both teams cheered together for this persevering swimmer as she made her way to the end with the help of her coach. Everyone on the pool deck stood and cheered for her and the other swimmers waited in the pool until she finished to tell her good job. At that moment I was struck with the feeling of what a loving community SAIL is. That was a Red Division meet against two very competitive teams and people could still take time to forget the pressures of making a good time or beating the other team and remember why we are truly here for these meets. SAIL brings people of all types together, whether you are good at swimming or not, and brings them together to forget our differences and have fun together. SAIL has taught me to be compassionate and to always have good sportsmanship in and out of the pool. The things I have learned from swimming the past 13 years will stay with me the rest of my life. I have learned to be humble in my victories and able to stay dignified in my defeats.
Leadership: SAIL has helped give me several leadership attributes that I can use on and off of the swim team. Although I am not the best swimmer on the team I feel like many of the younger swimmers look up to me as a role model. I remember when I first began swimming I wanted to be just like all of the coaches and older swimmers, and that has stuck with me to this day. I see other younger swimmers now looking up to me so I try my best to be the best leader I can be for them. I am one of the only older swimmers left on my swim team and many of them do not go to practice or many meets anymore. I strive to go to every practice and every meet that I can make. In the mornings I volunteer to help with our guppy swimmers, which is a great experience in itself. The coaches chose me to help because they have seen that I am loyal to the team and love helping the new little swimmers. I know that if I did not grow up in SAl L I would not be able to be the leader I am today because it has taught me so many things like to always put others first and lead by example.
Mentoring: There have been numerous mentors to me throughout my swimming career. I have had several coaches that have each impacted my life in their own way. Some have made me a better swimmer while others have made me a better person. As I have grown up in the swimming community I have learned so much and have been able to meet many people that I have been able to be a mentor too. One example that comes to mind is this little girl name Ala. Ala is a 9 year old girl from Bellarus that comes over and stays with a family at my pool every summer. She has been able to come the past three summers and each summer we become a little closer. She barely speaks any English and everyone at the pool loves her and wants to be around her, but for some reason she really likes me. I remember the compassion my coaches and man'i at the parents at the pool had toward me as I grew up in the pool, so I try to show that same compassion towards others now. Ala and I became good friends. I would help her with swimming, play games with her, and teach her some English (and she would try to teach me some Russian). Eventually she was able to swim in some swim meets and she was so excited. I was right there with her family at the end of the lane waiting for her to finish. Every year when she would go home at the end of the summer I would be sad, but I am also very proud that I have impacted someone else's life in a positive way, which is an experience that would not have happened if it were not for SAIL.
Team spirit: Where do I even start on Team Spirit? Team spirit epitomizes SAIL. I am not a very competitive person when it comes to sports, but whether you have a single competitive bone in your body or not, you have team spirit! SAIL was what first taught me what a team was. Even though swimming is a very individual sport, because besides relays you are on your own in the races, SAIL teams stress the importance of working together as a team and makes everyone feel a part of that team whether they are the best or worst swimmer. Ever since I can remember Stone Lake would have big parties and parades to get ready for meets and especially the week before Divisionals. Everyone knows that that is the most important weekend of SAIL and although it can be nerve-wracking, it is the most exciting week of the summer. As a kid, my friends and I waited all summer for Divisionals because there were so many fun activities like cookouts, parades, fingernail painting, body painting, making signs, etc. One prime example of how far team spirit can get you is how far Stone Lake swim team has come. When I first began swimming for Stone Lake we were in the Green Division but as our team began to grow we got better and better and began to move up divisions year after year. We were in purple year the longest and were able to win Divisionals the year of the 40th anniversary of SAIL, which was definitely one of the most exciting memories I have ever had. Now we are finally at the top- Red Division. I know that we would not be where we are today if it were not for the spirit that our team has. We may not have the numbers that some other teams in our division have, but we definitely have the spirit, and that is what helps us compete with them so closely. Team spirit in my mind is what defines SAIL and it what has helped me stick around and keep swimming this long. Without the team spirit and fun, SAIL would not be what it is today. SAIL has meant so much to me and it has been a major part in shaping me in the person I am today. I will never be able to give enough thanks to what it has given me. My experiences from the eight short weeks of SAIL the past 13 years of my life have brought some tears, so many laughs, and infinite memories that will last a lifetime.