When Gabe was eight he broke his leg on a trampoline. In truth, a hulking kid broke Gabe’s leg on a trampoline by landing on it. That summer, from his couch prison, Gabe watched Michael Phelps stun the world by winning four Olympic gold medals. We’re not much of a TV-watching family, even the Olympics, but…summer…busted leg. An active eight-year-old can stand only so much reading. Before the leg break, we were a staunchly soccer family. No reason, really, except with four children homeschooling, it streamlined things. Gabe didn’t love soccer, and the Olympics planted the idea that he could try something else.
One week before Gabe’s first how-to-swim class, I bribed him with an ice cream cone to jump in the pool without holding his nose. The deal was, you had to start at the lowest level if you couldn’t jump in without holding your nose. That $2 ice cream cone saved me $50 in a swim level. It was a good investment and the beginning of Gabe’s 10 Year Swim Odyssey that ends this weekend– AT THE OHIO STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS!!!
Gabe doesn’t appreciate when I tell the story about his first-ever swim meet, so I won’t tell it here. Except with a picture. Let’s just say he had some preconceived notions about what he’d signed up for with this whole swim thing.
It was an imposing first meet, the Pentathlon. Every swimmer completes all the strokes plus an individual medley. Gabe never did summer swim league and had under his belt exactly one summer of how-to classes (where he was dubbed an Olympic hopeful by his astounded teenage coach, Annie). Because he’d never swum before, they put him in the basic class. When he swam circles around everyone, they pushed him up a level. And another. And another. And on and on until Annie could only exclaim that Gabe needed to be more professionally coached. Which, of course, we did.
In club swimming, Gabe thought he was supposed to keep up with the other seasoned swimmers. The fact that he was on the verge of puking the entire practice, well, he thought that was how everyone felt. But the misunderstanding made him good, fast. It was like the representation of that football movie where Brock carries the coach on his back down the length of the football field because he’s blindfolded and doesn’t know how far he’s gone and he thinks it’s just a few yards. That was Gabe’s swimming reality. He made it to YMCA zones his second year swimming.
Finishing his swim journey by going to the State championships is a fitting, dare I say glorious, end. Gabe will swim the medley relay, butterfly leg. It will be one of the best weekends of his life, no doubt. And I’m glad. He’s worked hard these many years. I forgot just how hard until, in writing this post, I came across another one from when he was ten. I wrote about the sacrifice one makes to be amazing. But there were funny moments, too, like when 10-year-old Gabe bested a drunk Scottish swimmer in a hotel pool, and she slurred that he’d definitely go to the Olympics.
What I believe to be the best takeaways from swimming are one, the friendships. Gabe met some of the most amazing people through swimming, and he will be ever grateful for the impact and inspiration of so many beautiful souls. And two, swimming is a sport parents believe will teach kids how to survive the water, but the sport of swimming teaches how to survive the whole of life. If you can handle the rigor of swimming, you can do anything.
Ten years later. Gabe faced and defeated his swim demons and gave the sport everything he had. Here he is with his high school team.
And here, with his fellow states qualifiers.
So there you have it. Ten years. What a journey. Gabe not only worked hard, but he carved out enjoyment for himself in a sport that can be brutal. Gabe’s sense of balance in life is absolutely inspiring. My blog has morphed into more of a writerly space, but I still want to post about the milestones. This is definitely one of those! 🙂 I am the proudest mama EVER. Words don’t do it justice, even for this writer, but this post is my attempt at a snapshot. When I look back at posts about any of my children, the times I bragged on them, it always makes me smile.
5 thoughts on “10 Year Swim Odyssey Wraps Up With a Trip to STATES”
Ahhhhh, goosebumps! I love it. I love when kids find their passion–and all the wonderful stuff like friendship and work ethic and life-survival skills to go with it. Good job, Mama!
I know, right?! We gymnast/dancer types get it, but still. I think some swimming in my younger years would’ve been good for me. I’ll just have to get a time machine, go back, and do it over again.
The whole passion thing. It’s weird, right? To be wholly consumed by an activity (not saying that’s your son, but that’s how I was–and maybe how you were). One of my boys is a real dabbler. Loves to try all the things. Very well-adjusted and not at all neurotic. I’m like, where did you come from, child? I am not a very good swimmer, which is one reason I’m fascinated by it, I think, and stick it in so much of my work. You find that time machine, and I’m coming along!
That’s amazing! Congratulations to Gabe. 🙂
I love how something so good (competitive swimming inspired by Michael Phelps) came out of something so horrible (summer broken leg). And how his momma remembers every step of the journey!