A Young Man's Thoughts On Quitting Swimming

A Young Man's Thoughts On Quitting Swimming

Not another yard.
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I'm a swimmer.

That four syllable phrase may not mean anything to a lot of people, but for the past 16 years, it's been a pillar of my identity. Love it or hate it, I have continually defined myself as a denizen of the pool for a variety of reasons. And as of yesterday, Sunday, Feb. 21, I will never do it ever again.

And that's not a bad thing, necessarily.

Coming up, I was never really that great at swimming, mainly because I was never really that great at anything. I was a weird, introverted kid, and swimming was just a nice after-school activity my mother signed me up for because she was worried my father's obsession with all things nautical would get me dumped into the waters of the Puget Sound one day. But as time went on and my family relocated to Portland, I began to appreciate that swimming could be okay.

From just after school until 7 p.m. every night (and often on mornings and Saturdays), I would be around people who were just a little bit like me. The one negative aspect of swimming is also it's greatest virtue: swimming is a low-impact sport. Coaches don't feel that bad about putting bodies in the water for five hours a day if the need arises because, in theory, you can't hurt yourself that badly swimming. So during the summer, when school won't get in the way, a swim team becomes a circle of homogeneous zombies who are at pools more than they are away from them.

Put simply, swimmers have no lives, because we don't have the time. Don't get me wrong, it's still a privilege to have idle time for athletics (especially for a water sport in a drought), but that doesn't negate the amount of time every day swimmers spend in the pool.

When I came to college in Southern California, I had the swim team billed to me as a "built-in group of friends." Now, having a ton of friends, that sounded pretty awesome to me. And for the most part, it is.

If you see any of the 70-odd people who routinely wear PPS&D gear around campus, be aware that we know or have known every other person who wears that gear just as well as you know your closest friends. We have bathed in the same purifying flames, inside and outside the pool. We've seen each other at our highest, but more importantly, at our lowest.

I'm not sure if I have the same sort of passion writing on swimming from the athletic side, simply because I don't know if constant competition is good for me personally. I notice myself getting more aggressive, quicker to anger, and less empathetic during the peak of the season. Yes, I did get a little better because of the passion I was swept up in, but I'm not my favorite guy when I'm surrounded by that much testosterone. It's one aspect of sports that I'll be glad to get out of my life.

And yet, I don't want to let that undercut the core message here; I will miss the team once swimming wraps up and I head back to the ranch. There's something different about a college team who undertakes this commitment together, especially at a D3 level. The team comes together, binds over the suffering of our completely optional sport, like some ridiculous Dantean scrum.

And while this stupid thing complicates personal and professional relationships and gives a healthy middle finger to petty things like "time management" or "mental health," no one has the time or inclination to ask, "Why the fuck do we do this colossal time suck?"

I still don't know if I have a personal answer to that question at the moment. I know that minor injuries incurred in the sport will accompany my now borderline asthma for a long while yet. And I know that Swim and Dive teams will continue to lure young people into commitments that will challenge their sanity and force them to choose between the things they love and a sport they share nothing but a long personal history with.

And yet, all things considered, swimming's been good to me. I've made friends I intend to keep, and I've learned things I will not forget.

But now, I'm done.

Cover Image Credit: Jenna Haufler

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The Coach That Killed My Passion

An open letter to the coach that made me hate a sport I once loved.
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I fell in love with the game in second grade. I lived for every practice and every game. I lived for the countless hours in the gym or my driveway perfecting every shot, every pass and every move I could think of. Every night after dinner, I would go shoot and would not allow myself to go inside until I hit a hundred shots. I had a desire to play, to get better and to be the best basketball player I could possibly be.

I had many coaches between church leagues, rec leagues, personal coaches, basketball camps, middle school and high school. Most of the coaches I had the opportunity to play for had a passion for the game like I did. They inspired me to never stop working. They would tell me I had a natural ability. I took pride in knowing that I worked hard and I took pride in the compliments that I got from my coaches and other parents. I always looked forward to the drills and, believe it or not, I even looked forward to the running. These coaches had a desire to teach, and I had a desire to learn through every good and bad thing that happened during many seasons. Thank you to the coaches that coached and supported me through the years.

SEE ALSO: My Regrets From My Time As A College Softball Player

Along with the good coaches, are a few bad coaches. These are the coaches that focused on favorites instead of the good of the entire team. I had coaches that no matter how hard I worked, it would never be good enough for them. I had coaches that would take insults too far on the court and in the classroom.

I had coaches that killed my passion and love for the game of basketball.

When a passion dies, it is quite possibly the most heartbreaking thing ever. A desire you once had to play every second of the day is gone; it turns into dreading every practice and game. It turns into leaving every game with earphones in so other parents don't talk to you about it. It meant dreading school the next day due to everyone talking about the previous game. My passion was destroyed when a coach looked at me in the eyes and said, "You could go to any other school and start varsity, but you just can't play for me."

SEE ALSO: Should College Athletes Be Limited To One Sport?

Looking back now at the amount of tears shed after practices and games, I just want to say to this coach: Making me feel bad about myself doesn't make me want to play and work hard for you, whether in the classroom or on the court. Telling me that, "Hard work always pays off" and not keeping that word doesn't make me want to work hard either. I spent every minute of the day focusing on making sure you didn't see the pain that I felt, and all of my energy was put towards that fake smile when I said I was OK with how you treated me. There are not words for the feeling I got when parents of teammates asked why I didn't play more or why I got pulled after one mistake; I simply didn't have an answer. The way you made me feel about myself and my ability to play ball made me hate myself; not only did you make me doubt my ability to play, you turned my teammates against me to where they didn't trust my abilities. I would not wish the pain you caused me on my greatest enemy. I pray that one day, eventually, when all of your players quit coming back that you realize that it isn't all about winning records. It’s about the players. You can have winning records without a good coach if you have a good team, but you won’t have a team if you can't treat players with the respect they deserve.

SEE ALSO: To The Little Girl Picking Up A Basketball For The First Time


Cover Image Credit: Equality Charter School

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Dear Oklahoma, Please Take Care Of Jalen Hurts

He's one of the good ones, we promise.

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Dear Oklahoma fans, coaches, and players, please take care of Jalen Hurts.

When Hurts graduated in December of 2018, everyone in the Alabama fanbase knew that a transfer was coming soon. After showing his distinct character and loyalty to the Alabama Crimson Tide by choosing to play the 2018 season, even though he would be second in line to Tua Tagavailoa, Hurts deserves this chance to make the best decision for himself. The selection process regarding where Hurts would end up this upcoming season was kept relatively private, which of course open the doors to countless predictions from fans and analysts.

However, I can confidently say that I was not the only one shocked at his choice, but I whole-heartedly support it.

Home to two Heisman-winning quarterbacks, Oklahoma is a more than a smart choice on Hurts' behalf. Within that program, he will be given ample opportunity to improve his craft in order to put himself in the best position for a successful career post-college. The Sooners obviously have an incredible program that leads players down the best paths to be as successful as possible, and that is all Alabama fans want for our beloved quarterback.

With all this being said, I, as an Alabama fan, just ask the Oklahoma Sooners to take care of Jalen and realize how special of a player he is.

With Hurts at quarterback, you will never have to question his effort or loyalty to his teammates. He will always carry himself with grace, no matter the situation. If you give him an opportunity to succeed, he will put forth all of his effort in order to take advantage of it.

Jalen Hurts is one of the most special players, and young men, to ever wear an Alabama Crimson Tide uniform. All that we ask is that you support him as we have these past three years.

Roll Tide.

Sincerely,

Every Alabama Fan

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