What Does Olympia Bear Girls Swimming Foretell About the Future?

The hard working, talented, quirky goofballs suggest the future is brighter than all the doomsdayers would lead you to believe.

We just completed our first five extra-long practices. Everyone put in the necessary work and got along well. Coach is seemingly trying to disprove my thesis from awhile back–that people don’t change. He’s more flexible than before, letting his hair down and deferring to the captains and his assistant coaches. Relaxing.

Because they applied themselves, the girls improved their technique and began to get in shape. Lots of impressive new ninth graders. I ran stairs with the team in four groups, the ninth graders, the sophs, the juniors, and the seniors. I told the ninths that I didn’t know what to call them. They didn’t really appear to be freshmen. Freshwomen might be a tad racy. The politically correct term on college campuses is “first years”. Then a brilliant suggestion, “Fresh”. Some of the Fresh are going to make life miserable for their elder teammates. In total, three girls had the audacity to run the stairs faster than me. I told them they may have to switch to x-country.

I told the team that Coach just celebrated his 47th wedding anniversary and was planning on swimming 1.75 miles in Lake Washington over the weekend. I pointed out that’s the amazing thing about swimming, you can do it a heck of a lot longer than football, soccer, probably any other sport. During this preseason, the girls are unplugged for four hours every morning, running stairs, talking, stretching, talking, planking, talking, practicing, talking, racing, talking.

At one point, Sixteen yelled over during a kick set, “Hey dad, tell me to ‘Pick it up!’” “Okay, ‘Byrnes, pick it up!’” She then hoisted her posterior 8 inches higher above the water. All of her lanemates laughed uncontrollably. Fool me once.

I ask one senior where she wants to go to school and she says Stanford. Backup, USC. Unacceptable I tell her. A Chinese-American fresh jumps out to stretch a sore shoulder and says “It’s probably violin practice.” I’m guessing there’s a Tiger Mother behind that tiger.

My hope is the coaches and parents can focus broadly on the process this season instead of narrowly on district and state time cuts. In the broad scope of things, high school is over in a flash. The most important questions aren’t how fast did you swim or how many points did you score, but did you learn to work hard, did you swim to the best of your abilities, did you gain confidence in your physical strength, did you get along with others, did you enjoy it enough that you want to continue doing it well into the future?

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