I'll still never forget the first time I met you, just a red-cheeked naive swimmer huffing and puffing on the wall between sets. You angrily called out my name and I couldn't help but panic as my heart raced and my palms slipped off the wall, submerging my head back underwater. I knew you were about to rip me a new one on my underwaters, because I had decided to be lazy and not hold any of my streamlines as well as breath almost every stroke...oh, and not to mention lift my head on every turn. My head bobbed back to the surface but I decided to brace your coaching with a smile, so I flashed you the biggest guilty smile ever, teeth and everything. To my surprise it wasn't my normal coach yelling at me, it was the new guy Shawn. He looked at and said four words that changed my life: "You're better than that.”
Since that day you changed my life, because of those words you made me realize that I wasn't putting my heart into the sport that I used to love so much. I had lost my way and swimming had become almost like a chore, I just went through the motions every day never getting any better. I had honestly given up on myself, I didn't believe in myself. It was because of your coaching that I learned to believe in myself again. There would be Sunday's where I would be swimming laps up at the pool and you would come up to my lane and help me. You told me how important streamlines were, and that breathing was the devil. No other coach had ever given me this attention that I had lead me to believe that I was no good. Yet here you were, you saw the potential in me and the dedication I was willing to put in. You saved me from making the biggest mistake in my entire life.
I'll never forget the morning of my senior year of high school where I was swimming on my own at 5 a.m. before school. I was doing a kick set and you approached my lane and called my name yet again. I thought to myself, "not again." But instead of correcting God knows what I did wrong, you smiled at me and asked: “guess who I saw on TV last night?” At first, I was taken aback I had no clue what you were talking about, but before you gave me time to realize you blurted out, “You! I saw you singing on the news. Damn, girl. One day you're going to be on Broadway and then I'll be able to tell everyone that I coached that girl.” I started laughing embarrassed because I get embarrassed easily. The comment made me smile, though, and I just smiled up at Shawn and thanked him for his kind words.
There were many other times he boosted my self-confidence. My favorite compliment that he told me every time I was on the pool deck was about my smile. He told me I was always smiling and that my smile was a contagious ray of Sunshine that made his day better. He told me to never stop smiling and that more people should smile as much as I did. That certainly made my day, I liked making people happy and smiling.
I wasn't the only person Coach Shawn touched, he touched the hearts of every single one of my teammates. He made every single one of us feel important when he coached he made you feel like a champion. He cared about every person on the team, if you had personal issues he was there, he wanted to help.
I can't ever express just how big of a heart he had because I don't think his heart ever ended. It's sad to have lost such a wonderful person here on earth. But he wouldn't want us to focus on his death, Shawn would want us all to celebrate his life and all of his accomplishments. He forever changed loggerheads. My heart goes out to all the swimmers and families as well as Shawn's own family. They raised such a wonderful person and I can only imagine that they are just as compassionate as their son.
We will never forget you or your Star Wars obsession as well as your positive presence on the pool deck. Thank you for touching all of our lives, teaching us that you are in charge of how you swim no one else can control you. Thanks for the killer sets, the countless hours of yelling at us for breathing. Thanks for being there for every single member of the team whether you coached us or not. Thanks for having a pure caring heart and making everyone feel important. Thank you for coming in and not only touching our lives, but our hearts. We will miss you, but the army will swim on. You are in our hearts and we will never stop swimming for you. Here's to you, one of the greatest coaches to ever come to Loggerheads.
The Loggerhead Family.