Meredith was a high school sophomore who went out for the summer league swim team. She was an incredibly hard worker who gave 110 percent to each workout. Her swim coach, Ms. Nida, liked Meredith right away and, as her coach, naturally wanted her to experience success in the pool. If we look deep enough into anyone’s eyes, we will see the smoke from a battle raging within. It was no different with this young lady. You see, Meredith had been labeled a “choker,” meaning that she swam well in practice, but when it came time to perform in a swim meet, she always seemed to come up short.
Meredith’s swim team, the Lake Shore Sharks, was preparing to swim against one of their strongest summer league rivals, the Kahkwa Cruisers. Both the boys and girls teams were excited and nervous about the annual swim meet. The week prior to the event, they turned their excess energy into making signs and slogan-bearing T-shirts and a lot of splashing and hollering. This swim meet was the highlight of the year! The 200-meter freestyle relay was the most anticipated event of the meet. All the swimmers waited anxiously to see whom the coaches would choose to enter in the relay.
Ms. Nida decided that this was the right time to intervene in Meredith’s story. The relay assignments would not be posted until the day of the swim meet, but she had a chance to speak with Meredith the prior to the race. She told her that she was so pleased with her work ethic in practice and that it was time for that effort to produce some results. Ms. Nida let her know that she had the “right stuff” to be a champion. These were words Meredith had heard before, but this time the coach went a step further. She gave her a quest, her own Gorgon to slay. Well, maybe not a literal monster, but a hobgoblin of the heart, which is no less terrifying. Ms. Nida told her that she had decided to give her the coveted anchor position on the girls’ 18-and-under relay.
The blood drained from Meredith’s face. It was indeed a gift, but she didn’t see it as such . . . yet. The lies of the villain Meredith had believed about herself began to flow out of her mouth like water. “I’m a choker! The other girls will hate me if I don’t win it for them! I can’t do it!” But her coach simply said, “Meredith, I believe you can.”
Meredith didn’t get much sleep that night, thinking about her race the next day. Finally, the day arrived. Banners, crowds, cheers, and nerves filled the natatorium. As they headed into the final relays, the pressure was on! When Meredith stepped onto the starting block to anchor the 200 freestyle relay, the cheers erupted. Her heart was racing!
Did Meredith win in a close race allowing Lake Shore to prevail? No. This story didn’t end with a win. Quite the contrary, Kahkwa beat Lake Shore handily. However, a victory was secured that probably went undetected by most. Meredith swam her heart out! She didn’t choke. They didn’t win the race, but Meredith swam the fastest time of her life! People must have thought it strange that day to see Ms. Nida, the swim coach, jumping up and down with excitement on the pool deck as the team was losing to its rival. She was cheering for a team member who didn’t even win the blue ribbon!
Despite what some parents and coaches might say, youth sports aren’t about winning; they’re about building character and heart. The battles for the heart are often subtly won or lost, like the marathon runner who places 127th, but finishes the race. Meredith’s Medusa was slain that day; she just needed the gift of the magical sword with which to dispatch the hideous monster. In this case the sword was the anchor position on the girls’ relay team. Her new identity began to form as one who could come through when it counts. She was no longer the choker.
Labels: anchor, choker, country club, freestyle, gifts, hobgoblin, Kakhwa, Lake Shore, Meredith, monster, Nida, practice, relay, story, swim team, swimmer