Freshman Rebecca Waterson lives at school and the pool. You will find her catching a nap in the car on the way to practice, staring at the black line at the bottom of the pool for hours every day, being yelled at to go to bed because she has to be up in four hours for morning practice or grabbing a snack in the kitchen. Waterson writes the biweekly blog “Chlorine Chronicles” on her life as a competitive swimmer training with the DART at Sacramento swim team.
It’s the holiday season, and the annual invite to an ugly sweater party is in my mail. I look it over, then look at my swim schedule, then finally at my mom. She shakes her head.
“I’m sorry, but you can’t go to this one either.”
My response to every party, gathering and social event usually turns out like this. My busy swim schedule always gets in the way, and I spend my time during swim practice staring at the black line and wondering about all the fun my friends are having.
It’s almost ridiculous how often swim gets in the way. I’m not able to talk to teachers before or after school because of it. I’ve had to leave social functions because of it.
Sometimes swim gets in the way of my parents’ plans, too. Over winter break my parents wanted to go tiki-torch sledding, where you hold sparklers or tiki-torches while sledding down a steep hill. My swim practice got out late, though, and it wasn’t until 9 p.m. that we arrived home. By then it was much too late to do anything outside in the freezing Tahoe temperatures.
Their anniversary also always falls on the day of a swim meet, meaning they celebrate at the pool instead of going somewhere nice.
Vacations are a hassle as well. Spending more than a day away from swim can get you in trouble.
One problem many swimmers experience after taking a day or two off is difficulty in swimming, including stiffness in their limbs. As my former coach Debbie Meyer used to say, a day off of swim practice is equivalent to taking a week off of any other sport. So missing a regular week of swimming can be devastating.
Once, without knowing the consequences of not swimming, my family took a three-week summer vacation in Hawaii. Thinking I would be fine, I didn’t swim, except for some strokes in the Grand Wailea Resort pool – nothing to count as a swim practice, however.
When I returned to practice, I forgot how to breathe. I could do only the simplest of freestyle, and I didn’t remember how to turn my head! I could barely swim a 25-yard lap without stopping in the middle of the pool to reorient myself.
Now that I’ve learned the lesson of vacations my family and I are tied down. I often look on social media, including Instagram, and envy the people who go to Hawaii, Europe or even Disneyland – anywhere besides staying home for break.
Sometimes I wish I’d never picked up the sport; then I could enjoy vacations with my family. Yet whenever I think that, a little voice always says, “I would never give up swimming for a vacation or party of a lifetime.” There is no place I’d rather be than in the pool!
—By Rebecca Waterson