This is my daughter Emily. Emily is 8 years old and is our #3 of 4 children. Emily is a great kid. She excels at school, loves her friends, and has been swimming about 18 months. Emily swims at Phoenix Swim Club which is a year round swim team. In January, Emily was promoted to the next level, the Rising Stars and in the first week won Swimmer of the Week. At the end of the winter season she was awarded the Coaches Award for her dedication and passion. Emily was so surprised and excited when she got the award and was giddy when Coach Mo told her to make sure to get an extra long shelf because she was sure to be getting more of these.
The awards seemed to fuel her love of swimming even more. She couldn’t wait to go to swim practice and started really showing a competitive side which we hadn’t seen much in her up to that point. She had just started swimming so she was use to large time drops every time she swam. So even if she didn’t win a ribbon, she was excited because she had a personal best time.
Then came our first travel meet to Flagstaff. Emily dropped time in her first event which was the 50 Free. Then came the 50 Fly…
Jeff and I commented how she looked tired from the start. All the times were quite bad, but her time was off by several seconds. And then she looked back at the clock…
Then she looked directly at Jeff and I. I was glad I had my camera in front of my face. I knew she swam poorly but I didn’t think she got it. I was wrong.
Before and after each event, swimmers are supposed to go speak with their coaches. She stated, “That was horrible. Not only did I not qualify for regionals, but I worsened my time by a lot.” All I could think of was how does a little kid who is still under 50 pounds know about swimming qualifying times? But oh, did she know. So off she went to speak to her coach.
Jeff and I had no other children with us so I just shot tons of pictures. And to this day I am so glad that I captured this visual reminder of this lesson on my camera. Emily approached Coach Mo (whom she adores) and I could tell Emily’s voice was very quiet and almost cracking but I couldn’t hear. And then this happened…
The tears flowed. And the vein in the side of her neck almost blew. But Coach Mo had some great words for her. And boy have they stuck with her. Coach Mo told her that she was a champion. And that champions don’t cry because they expect to fail at times. They will have bad swims and worsen times. But then they get back into the pool and work harder so that they improve the next time. Coach also asked her if she gave 100% effort and Emily told her yes. She told Emily that she has no problem as long as Emily gives 100% effort. If she didn’t give 100% then they would have to talk because then there would be a problem. Then Coach Mo reminded her that she chose her for the Coaches Award because she was a proven champion.
Then Emily started catching her breath. And I wondered how the rest of the swims would go. And quite frankly, her times all worsened. She was still a little tearful but ended the meet with a trip over to a family restaurant/brewery with 2 other swim families. Great food and friends quickly changed her mood. But I wondered how she was going to deal with this. And Jeff and I talked at length how we wanted her focus to be on fun and her teammates as much as qualifying times at this age. I know all to well the consequences of burnout in swimming.
And the next meet, Emily had fun. And in addition to fun, she qualified for her 2nd event for Regionals. She was going to be traveling to Tucson for her first Regional Tournament in the 50 and 100 back. She was beyond ecstatic and she kept telling us how hard she was working and she knew it would pay off. And she was right.
Then time for Regionals came and we traveled to Tucson where almost 30 family members from both sides of our family came to cheer her on. Here is Emily with the proud mama.
And the proud daddy. Very proud daddy I might say.
And the big moment came. Her first event which was the 50 back. She was one of only 3 eight year olds swimming with the 10 and under girls. And she dropped 1.5 seconds off her time. Good swim love.
Then the next event came and it was the 100 back. And with all her family cheering her on, in the middle of her event she did this…
She looked over at my sister in the middle of the race and smiled. What?! At first I was bewildered and confused as this little fireball had become so competitive so quickly but then I was kind of excited in a strange way that she was showing her age. 8 years old. What a great time to be young and smile at your Aunt Juju. There is plenty of time to grow up. But then my focus switched to “How is she going to handle this?”
She got out of the pool and said, “That was a horrible time.” I said, “Yes, but you did smile at your Aunt during your race.” And she smiled and I told her to go to talk to her Coach. She came back stating that Mo said “You know why I like you Emily? Because you want to get better and you work hard. You want to win.” And she had a grin, ear to ear.
So the family started packing up and her cousin said, “How did you do Emily?” Emily stated, “Well I did great last night but my time was terrible this morning. But that’s ok. Champions sometimes fail.”
And that my friends is a lesson learned for all of us. Champions often fail many times before they succeed. Wow- powerful stuff. And I am so excited that I have another future athlete coming behind Emily, Ben, and Rebecca. And she will learn from them all.