As of 2017, I’ve been swimming with the Ann Richards team for 3 years. In those three years, I’ve learned the value of team breakfasts, tasty vegan queso, spent at least $500 on coffee from Wheatsville, and grew to appreciate parkas more than I ever thought I could. I could go on and on about how it feels to wake up before traffic lights are operating (you think 7 am is an early practice, soccer team?), but one thing I’ve reflected on this past season is fear of the future. Really, just fear in general.
When I was in 8th grade, I went to the swim team interest meeting, only just having learned we had a team at all. The meeting was outside of the college center, where the small cluster only took up about half of the hallway. I left excited about this new opportunity, and bought my first swim cap for tryouts.
I won’t discuss the tryout process much, but it suffices to say it was terrifying, I performed horribly, and by the end I was swimming blindly, my brand new cap had fallen off, and I had completely lost track of time and barely grasped onto what lap I was currently swimming. I did my best, my dad said to me in the car afterwards, while I gulped down a bottle of Gatorade. If this was my best, I sure did not want to see how I would feel at my worst.
Besides “making the team,” (a loose term here; in retrospect, my swimming on the team was more of a happy accident than anything else, as I had 0% athletic ability), at tryouts I gained a friend, or at least an acquaintance, Shilah Chhadua. Shilah was a year older than me, but equally as nervous as we sat together on the wet tile bench in the Texas School for the Deaf natatorium.
Recently I watched Shilah receive a Blue Star for her work as team captain. While I stood behind her for our last relay, her last swim on the Ann Richards Team, I couldn’t help but get a little nostalgic about that horrible tryout I endured in the hope that swimming would be fun.
Thank God for that; thank you, 8th grade me, for being optimistic enough to go out on a total limb and do something athletic. And thank you to 9th grade me for floundering through that swim season with a smile on my face.
As we left the UT Swim Center a little over a week ago, one of my teammates turned to me and told me she joined swim because I was on the team. And she convinced another teammate of ours to try out with her. I could make up some sob story about how this made me break down in the basement athlete’s exit, or how I vowed to gain a massive following for the swim team after this confession, but all I can say is that it made me feel proud to be so fiercely loyal to our little team.
Next year, a year approaching with frightening speed, I will be team captain. Not by vote, not through argument, just by seniority. Seniority? What?! Just yesterday, it was my first day of practice, having to unspool the lane lines and dropping the extenders in the water! But I’ll be the swim mom, making sure everyone has rides and every absence is excused; making sure to always have a Sharpie on hand for heat times, and getting us somewhere else to practice when the pool heater breaks.
There’s something really rewarding about having been a part of an organization for enough time to see it grow. We’ve gained swimmers, lost them, have had injuries and dropouts – but the result is a team like family.
Since that tryout, I’ve been able to grow closer to Shilah as a teammate, and have seen her kill it as team captain this year. Shilah tells us her little sister can’t wait to get into Ann Richards and swim on the team – it’s a big order to fill when you know you have to ensure the continuation of your team, getting students excited enough to go out on a limb like I did.
I guess I’m in for some big changes. But I’m going in with my little 8th grader optimism, just knowing that this year we are going to work even harder, and do even better, and, in the words of our coach: “Swim fast! Have fun!”