As hard as it is to believe, I am starting my seventh year as a swim coach. Throughout those years, I have met so many different girls and boys all trying to achieve their goals through the sport. The goals varied from reaching the National championships or just getting in shape for basketball season – everyone has their own personal reasons when they join the team.
This week marked the beginning of high school season. High school season is always interesting. You miss the girls that graduated, but you can’t wait to meet the new girls that will start or add a new chapter to their swimming career.
As someone who was a competitive swimmer for almost 11 years, I know what it takes to be successful in the sport. And, I also know the heartache and pressure that young athletes face – regardless of their sport. Swimming is a sport that you can’t really afford to be self-concious because you’re in a swimsuit all the time. It can be difficult. I’ve suffered from poor body image for as long as I can remember. When I was in high school and during my very brief college swimming career, I had a tendency to use diet pills to give me that extra boost. They made me feel sick and my heart would race uncontrollably. There were a few times that I was scared that I wasn’t going to make it out of the pool. And, for what? To survive a practice? To swim a little faster? To lose a few pounds? It wasn’t worth it. And, it’s not something I admit freely. I was using the same kind of pills that killed a few major league baseball players and other athletes. Not cool.
Despite my poor choices, I’ve prided myself on being the best coach that I can be. I know that I am a role model and I know that girls look up to me. They come to me with their problems and I am honored that they trust me enough to talk to me about them. I may be a young coach, but already I’ve had to deal with eating disorders, bullying, domestic abuse, underage drinking, sexting and drug use. Kids today are subjected to a variety of issues that are extremely difficult including increased pressure from school, home and their peers.
There is so much pressure to do things a certain way, be a certain way or look a certain way. I can see the stress and fear on the faces of my athletes. I may not know exactly what they’re going through, but I can see the same stress and pressure that I faced during my own career. The stories may be different, but they all have one thing in common – we are all trying to fit into a particular mold – a mold that we may not fit into.
And, guess what! That’s okay!! We just need to be true to ourselves. I love all of my swimmers like they are my own daughters. I want them to feel beautiful no matter what. I want them to be stronger (physically, emotionally and mentally) tomorrow than they were today. Above all else, I want them to be happy and successful.
I absolutely love the message that Caitlin over at Operation Beautiful is sending. We need to end the negative thoughts because they hurt us. I know that I’m not perfect and I need to start practicing what I preach. And, that’s the plan.
I decided to start a Operation Beautiful Athlete campaign during this swim season. I planted the first post-it today in the girl’s locker room.
We’ll see if anyone starts to catch on. 🙂
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