Every year when the weather began to turn warmer and summer seemed so close, my mind was not thinking about all of the fun times at the beach I would have this summer or the amazing vacations I would take, but instead my mind would be continually thinking about Snee Farm Swim Team and wishing practice could start that very afternoon. It was never really about all the laps we would swim or the meets we would win: it was about the good times and memories we would gain. Each summer would be filled with hilarious stories told by you in the corner, life lessons disguised by just plain having fun, and the relationships and friendships we made and made stronger. You made practice so much fun that hardly anyone would complain about coming twice a day. We all looked forward to coming. I’ve realized, since my very last meet as a Snee Farm swimmer, that the cliché is true; you never truly know what you miss until you lose it. Now I know I will be a team member for life, but the fact that I can no longer help the team by swimming saddens me and makes me feel old.
This feeling has been with me since last summer, my last summer swimming, and it has carried on until a month ago. I have had a change of mind. You taught us the skills to help the team without actually swimming. Through helping the younger kids with their technique, learning the names of the team members and simply saying “hello” to them to make their day, and cheering the team on from the sidelines, the entire population on the pool deck helps the team to win. I’m not exclusively speaking of winning points-wise: I’m referring to winning in life.
You’ve taught us the simplest things (that one would never think would matter) can matter a whole world to a younger kid that is shy and can’t easily make friends. Especially since I’ve been regarded as an older kid on the team, I have seen the effect I have on those younger than me and could possibly look up to me as a positive role model. That kind of selflessness raises young kids’ self-esteem and confidence and that is what summer league swimming is all about.
Through your stress on sportsmanship, I have made so many friends through swimming and so many relationships that I would not trade the world for. I have not only practiced sportsmanship in my 11 years of swimming, but it has carried over into my college experience and essentially the real world. It has taught me to respect others if I expect the same treatment back. Treating others kindly yields benefits that are not possible by ignoring others or by being boastful. Respecting others will also create a good reputation for yourself that will be important in applying for jobs and getting along with coworkers.
Finally, each one of your swimmers has new self respect that values intrinsic rewards over extrinsic ones. This motivation is most advantageous to have when working with younger kids – like when I am coaching. Each kid is special and you never know who will improve greatly and turn into the team’s star swimmer in a couple of years.
Be fair. Be kind. Be respectful. Have fun while still working hard. Think of others’ feelings before you take action. Live your life with no regrets, but live it courteously. Making relationships is one of the most important goals in life; without them, life will be meaningless and less gratifying. You have taught me all of these things, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for always believing in me, even when I was first mean and boastful as a young child. Without you, I would still be like that and I would not have the insight on life that I do now. I thank you for everything you’ve done for me and my family and all of the time spent on shaping my character. I would never trade our friendship for anything, and I will always be there for you when you need help and I know it will be reciprocated. Thank you for sharing all of your summers, and thank you for being a truly inspiring role model and coach.