I have spent 13 summers of my life as a Gator. During those years, I have set records. I have been on relays to help set records. I have gone to all-stars. I have won all-stars. But before all of those things, I was just another six and under with no ability to swim. In fact, I was a six and under with no desire to swim. At practices, I would shiver until the coaches would let me get out early and dry off. At meets, I would make it as far as the clerk of course before I started to sob and scream, until my parents had to pick me up before my race because I was so afraid of swimming. Then, when I turned seven -- for some reason -- I swam.
I tell this memory as my favorite one because, before the trophies, the medals, and ribbons, I was just like many kids who start swimming, scared and unsure. While swimming might not be where some kids end up finding their passion, it is where I ended up finding mine. After my seven-year-old debut, I was swimming year-round, not because I loved swimming, but because I loved the MVP Gator summer swim team. I loved racing down the pool as fast as I could because I loved winning, but mostly I loved being a part of the team, which is what makes summer swim so different and special.
Summer swim is about the race, not just the time, but the race. From this, we learn victory and loss, good sportsmanship, and the importance of collaborating and supporting one another; how to lift each other up for the good and success of the team. Summer swim is also unique in the fact that kids from age 5 to age 18 are on the same team, year after year. From this, we learn tradition and patience. We learn to be able to work and communicate with different people regardless of age or perspective.
As I continue my journey beyond the Gator Community, I would like to note that it is the love of my sport that pushed me to become a college athlete, and to study nutritional science and biological sciences at Michigan State. In addition, it is my love of coaching that has driven me to want to work towards becoming a secondary education teacher. Both my love of swimming and coaching would not have been possible without the support and guidance that came from my coaches and from my teammates in my Gator family.