a short story about competition sports
| Competitors often feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment or awesome rising of strength and inner joy. For me, pre-race jitters wasted energy that should have been focused toward my upcoming challenge. In fact now, when I shake hands freely at the wrist, I am taken back in time as I recall my swimming days. I don't know if this moment or race was my favorite but it is the one I remember most.
It was mid-season my sophomore year, at a home meet. I was swimming my favorite heat the 50-free, or two lengths of a 25 foot pool. Down and back, I went but the story doesn't start here; it starts after warm ups. It had to have been that. I had just stepped off the ladder that lead from the pool to the deck at the shallow end. I hadn't been on the pool deck long before I had fallen from standing to a cross-legged seated position. The fall looked so natural that no one guessed I was in pain. I took a moment of being still but I didn't feel any pain. Anticipating pain, I rose slowly to my feet and another observant swimmer asked me, "Are you alright?" I said that I was because walking the deck didn't seem strained. If I'd known then what I know now, maybe I would have reconsidered my answer. That takes us to the race I was swimming!
I calmly focused myself as I prepared for the race or heat as I'd call it now. My heat was next and I wasn't extremely jittery. The announcers called the heat and I took my place behind the block. A block is the object at the deep end of our pool from which swimmers preform a kind of dive, or start, to begin a race. In the memory, the block I stood behind was blue. Whether it's true or not is irrelevant to the story I am about to tell! That's when I always let my hands fall loosely at my sides shaking my hands at the wrist in smooth half circle motions until the announcer calls out, "Swimmers step up!" Next, "Swimmers take your mark!" This may seem like an odd comment but what it means is: get into position. I could bore you, the reader, with more details of this sort but it would be unnecessary. Needless to say, the heat was started with a bang or beep if we had the more modern system by then. I don't remember where team technology was at the time.
Why might I have reconsidered my answer? The answer lies in the race itself. it was during my heat that I realized just how worse off I was for my fall. From the minute my feet left the block in a smooth start, I knew something was wrong with my left ankle. It wasn't until I gave my first kick with it that the pain hit but of course by then it was too late to stop the race so I did the only thing I could do - keep on swimming. The only thing I really wanted to do was get in and out of the pool as quickly as I could. Fighting the pain, I kept myself going but the only thing I thought to myself as I swam down the lane and into the turn.
Kick, pain, kick, pain as I went down the lane and kick, pain, kick, pain as I swam back following my flip turn. I didn't stop this pattern of thought until my hand touched the pad or wall whichever the case may be. Then, I climbed out bracing the block for support. One of my fellow swimmers approached me to note what a good swim I'd had and my expression must have looked half sour but I thanked Melanie. Even standing still hurt and though I wasn't moving yet, my ankle throbbed painfully. Though normally I would have smiled at such a compliment, the smile that formed on my face was forced only for Melanie's benefit.
Straightening up, I attempted a step on my bad ankle and limped horribly away from the block in lane one closest to the bench our team was on. Melanie, knowing I wouldn't accept help walking, asked me, "Do you have anything left?" Of course, though I hadn't anything left to swim, I wasn't thinking of that. I just knew I had to get off my feet and sit on the bench rather than the deck. The coach seeing my condition met us between the block for lane one and the bench where the team sat. She asked me If I had any races left because if I did she would have taken me out of them. Any coach with sense wouldn't let a competitor compete unless the coach felt the person could handle it or that it wouldn't make things worse if the individual did.
How much better is a team with all its players than without a member! Tons; that's what I think anyway. When Love and concern shows up, in so many different ways and concerns, it's easy to be confused by my later complaints against the family-imitative group of girls I was on a team with. The one thing they all seem to have in common is understanding, acceptance, and trust. Without these, the people don't love in any form and that is imminently sadder.