Saturday morning dawned bright and hot. Snapper bounced out of bed, excited to get to her big swim meet. This was her first meet since she advanced a training level back in March. She has been swimming for an hour every Monday-Thursday, and it has been really fun to watch her stamina increase and her stroke technique improve. The fact that she has an amazing coach has helped a lot, too. After a quick, protein-packed breakfast, we piled into the car and headed out to Conway, Arkansas, for the meet.
This meet was so different from past meets. Never before has Snapper had the endurance to last through the non-stop 20 minute warm-up. This time she breezed right through it, and wasn't even the least bit tired when it was done. She was focused during the team meeting, and didn't have any jitters.
After warm-up and the team meeting, I always write her race information on her leg in a grid: Event, Lane, and Heat numbers. I noticed a difference as I wrote this time...her legs have really bulked up with muscle, and I didn't have to write small! Her quad is so much wider that every race fit on her leg with no problem. I love this photo because she is so focused on trying to flex her legs...check out the concentration on her face!
Snapper's arms have also bulked up. I hadn't noticed until I was putting sunblock on her last week. She's become a muscular, little studmuffin! Cracks me up, and she is so proud of her "guns." Seriously though, my arms didn't look like this when I was 7!
As a team spirit and confidence builder, I purchased temporary tattoos for the 7 kids from Snapper's training group who were swimming at the meet. Alas, I left the package of tattoos on the coffee table at home. Instead, I used a Sharpie to write on her back. Needless to say, it was a hit, and gave her a bit of a swagger.
Snapper has really bonded with her teammates at practice, and several of them were competing in this meet with her. It was great to see Snapper get really into cheering for each of them as they swam.
She also took the initiative to talk to her coach both before each event and after. Coach Tay has such a knack for encouraging her swimmer to do their best, and to help them evaluate each performance. When there are tears, she calms them. When there is a great swim, she pumps them up. We love Coach Tay, and will really, really miss her when we move.
Perhaps the biggest part of Snapper's day, though, was the swimming. She swam 5 events, all in the 8 and under age group: 25-yard Freestyle, 50-yard Freestyle, 25-yard Backstroke, 25-yard Butterfly, and 100-yard IM. The IM is a lap of each stroke. In her 4 previous meets, Snapper's best finish has been 12th place, which came in the 25-yard Backstroke. She has never won a ribbon in her meets with this swim team. This time was a different story. All the training and hard work has paid off, and she laid down solid swims in all 5 events. She set new best times in 4 out of 5 events, and her worst finish was 4th place!
When the results were posted, she finished as follows:
25-Free: 4th place out of 18
50-Free: 4th place out of 10 (the only 7-year-old!)
25-Back: 3rd place out of 16
25-Fly: 2nd Place out of 7 (only .06 seconds out of 1st!)
100 IM: 2nd place out of 2 (she has been disqualified every time before this!)
We left the meet on Cloud 9, with five ribbons in hand! Coach Tay encouraged Matt and me to keep our girl swimming. She sees potential for Snapper to become a great swimmer because she has a natural ability.
At this point I must stop my glowing report, and sing the praises of competitive sports. Snapper's life has been dramatically changed by her year of competitive swimming. I have watched her mature and grow in leaps and bounds.
-From the lost, nervous, bawling little girl at her first meet in October, she has changed into a focused, confident, strong athlete.
-She has learned to push herself, to channel her energy, and to work hard during practices. Gone are the days of jumping up and down and spitting water while the coach is talking.
-Coach Tay demands respect for coaches and teammates, and that each swimmer give his or her best effort in practice.
-She has learned how to perform under pressure, and how to be competitive at the right times.
-Sportsmanship and teamwork have been strongly emphasized as well.
-Snapper has overcome the fear that has plagued her since she was a tiny girl. She dives fearlessly, and is no longer afraid to try new things.
-She has learned through swimming to control her emotions so much better. Where meltdowns used to come daily, they now have almost ceased to exist.
-She has developed strong muscles, has improved coordination, and has increased flexibility.
-I've even noticed that she can run faster, probably a result of her overall better coordination and body awareness.
-Her asthma is under control! We no longer need to use a maintenance inhaler!
-She can't get to the pool fast enough each day, and leaves happy and content.
-Because she has a positive outlet for her energy, Snapper is much more relaxed and mellow when we get home.
I can't emphasize enough how great swimming has been for this little girl!
While sports are not for every child, I encourage you to explore your options and consider how competitive team sports may benefit your children. Research the sports together, and find one that is a fit for your child's personality, and give it a shot.