When I first told you about my time on the swim team, or rather clear lack thereof, I felt like something was missing. Although I made my point, or at least I believe I did, I was left with negative feelings.
I need to make something clear to you.
I know I’m a good swimmer. I haven’t hit the pool in some time & I probably won’t ever be able to call myself an Olympian (or Paralympian). Regardless, I’m a swimmer.
My father is an Eagle Scout & being his only child scouting was a nonnegotiable. A good portion of your camp day involves water safety also known as swim lessons (grouped with the help of the Red Cr0ss). My 2nd year of camp I was in the “swimmers” unit. The unit that got more pool time in order to put on a water show at the end of the session. It was pretty awesome being able to have such likeminded friends. Plus I really progressed as a swimmer
My next year at camp I chose a different unit & was actually pretty excited about it, until the first day of camp came around & all of my friends from my old unit were in another unit, together. I figured I’d get use to it & see them quite frequently, until I found out where our units were located.
The next day I asked to switch units. It was pretty obvious that I wanted to be with my friends. Everyone in the office knew it, including the camp nurse (a friend’s mom) who probably told everyone before I arrived with my request. However, “I want to be with ALL of my friends” does not count as a legitimate reason. So, I came up with another reason.
“The unit I’m in is so far from the flagpole”
(Which is considered the center of camp)
It wasn’t the most far-fetched reason. My unit was in the furthest possible location, from everything. A portion of camp is located on a mountain, which is where my unit was. It wasn’t that bad really. I had been to that unit location before, years before when I was younger than & not as able as I was making my case. But no one who could O.K. my unit switch knew that.
I used my disability to my advantage. I admit it. But it was one of those times when a girl just needs to pull out the heavy artillery.
I moved to my “new” unit the next day.
We weren’t “the swimmers” unit our second year together but we were very much the same unit, except that our assistant leader was now our leader, and we now had an overlook to our old unit location, and there were maybe 3 new girls.
Typically, each year someone attends camp they have the opportunity to take the swim test to move up to the next level. I was “still” at level 3 at the beginning of my third year (I had started at 2, like most). No one had approached me to test at the end of the previous year so I took matters into my own hands & asked to take the level 4 test.
I had even asked my friend, whose mom was the nurse, if she thought I could pass the test, since she was the best swimmer in camp (councilors, lifeguards & her own mother included). I knew I could pass the test, but assurance is always nice. I was so sure I would pass I threw my swim cap into the trash. I was getting that yellow cap.
The next day I jumped in the pool with the level 4 group. Something just didn’t feel right to me, but I gave it my all hoping what I was feeling didn’t show.
It turned out the night before they changed the chemicals they used to treat the pool and I had a small leak in my goggles, which didn’t help matters.
I was handed a new white cap and told to go back to the level 3 group the next day; on top of an eye infection that developed the next day from the change in chlorine.
It felt like the first day of camp all over again, the day everyone gets checked for lice.
I didn’t understand it. I was ready. I was willing to work hard. Most importantly, I was able.
The only comfort I had in this situation, if you can call it that, was that my friends felt the same way. They knew I didn’t belong where I was. In fact they encouraged me to ask to take the test again at the end of camp, if I wasn’t offered the opportunity.
During the last days of camp, it was announced that there would be camp Olympics (since it was an Olympic year) and many events were to take place at the pool. The former “swimmers” unit was ready for it all.
Someone suggested I be on the relay team.
Me? The girl who less than 2 weeks before failed her swim test. Swim the relay?
I (unknowingly) achieved the dream for every special needs/disability parent out there.
”Her first year of swim team, I think she was an inspiration to her teammates. The past two years, though – and especially this year – I think she’s just another kid to most of them”
I agreed, and swam the first leg. I didn’t want to be the reason for our unit to lose. I’m also no idiot. Everyone knows swimming the anchor leg is an honor, one reserved for your best swimmer.
We weren’t the runaway winners at the “swimlympics” that year, but we put on a good fight when we needed to. I don’t even remember how we placed. What I do remember was that we had the best show of unit pride and teamwork at the pool.
I never officially “made” the swim team (or officially got that yellow cap) but the Pips girls were my team when I needed one.
(I still wish I could make that coach eat his words though)
*A similar version of this post was written on August 28, 2012