I stood in the crowded restaurant with hundreds of my other teammates while everyone was jumping and screaming at the TV, cheering on a past member as he raced to achieve his Olympic dream. I stopped and looked around the room, taking in the moment. I saw little kids waving their American flags and grown-ups screaming so loud it was as if they thought they could be heard all the way in Omaha, Nebraska. I saw people standing on the seats of their booth holding their breath until the very end of his race and kids holding hands until he finally touched the finish pad. It was in that moment that I realized what I was seeing, I was seeing a team.
I understand the misconception of everyone thinking swimming is an “individual sport”. The times you swim in your races and how hard you train in practice really only affects you, but it is also so much more than that. You come to rely on your teammates for encouragement to get you through that last set, comfort for when you barely miss your goal time, and laughter to remind you why you wake up before the sun every morning. Without that constant support, I do not think swimming would mean so much to me. It is because of my teammates that I want to do my best and make them proud.
If your alarm clock goes off at four a.m. and you jump into that freezing cold water six days a week, people think you’re crazy. They think you’re crazy when you have to skip countless sleepovers because you have practice early Saturday morning. They think it’s crazy that you can’t do homework together after school or on the weekends because you have to return to the pool for yet another swim practice or meet. It may seem crazy, but as I was standing in that restaurant among hundreds of my teammates, old and young, I knew why I did it and why I continue to do it. It is that feeling of having so many people behind you and supporting you that forces me to not hit “snooze” when my alarm clock rings.