I have no memories of when I learned to swim. I feel like I always knew how to swim, because all of my summer memories, dating back to when I was probably three years old, are of me swimming at the pool in my neighborhood at home in Frankfort, Kentucky. There are pictures of me as a baby with floaties and sunglasses on, smiling happily in my mom or dad’s arms in a sunny pool. I never remember being afraid of the water, at least the clear turquoise water of a nicely chlorinated pool.
I began swimming competitively on a team when I was five or six years old. It was just a summer team that was made up of other kids in my neighborhood. We were called the Frankfort Country Club Flippers and our mascot changed from a dolphin to nothing during my 13 summers of swimming there. Those were the best summers. I would wake up, go to swim practice, spend the rest of my day at the pool with all of my “swim team friends” (three of whom I attended Furman with), and gain a nice one-piece Speedo tan, which to this day, comes out when I get sun on my back. We would spend our days bothering the lifeguards, playing “Gator”, “Blindsman”, or seeing how many underwaters we could each do. It was always a competition with us, but definitely always friendly.
My first swim meet took place when I was five or six years old, during the first summer I was swimming competitively. I can’t remember if I had ever tried diving off of the starting blocks before, but I do remember being so terrified I was shaking a little. The official blew his whistle for us to get up on the blocks; me thinking it was 20 feet high, my knees shaking. The announcer said, “Swimmers, take your mark…BEEEEEEP.” I will never forget the sound of that horn. I have heard it countless numbers of times between ages five and 18. Right when I dove into the water, my goggles immediately came off. Wonderful, I thought. I was only swimming a 25 free, but it felt like a 500 butterfly. By the time I got to the other end of the pool I was bawling and couldn’t catch my breath. I got out of the pool, ran to my parents, and avoided my coach like she had the plague. Finally I got up the courage to go talk to her, once I had calmed down, and she looked at me and said, “Heather, how did that feel?” I surprisingly replied, “I WANT TO DO THAT AGAIN!”
At the end of every summer, the club teams have a conference meet that lasts all day. All of the teams go to one pool, either my team’s or one in Lexington, and at the end of the day the winning team is announced. By the end of that summer, I had won high point for my age group, 8 and under, at the conference swim meet. I had come from bawling the entire way down a 25 free, to winning high point because I swam the 100 Individual Medley. Unfortunately, that was my peak and I was rather average from there on out. Freshman year of high school I hit a wall and was no longer dropping time or enjoying myself. I swam a couple of years in high school for my high school team, but that marked the end of my competitive swimming. Even though at the time I thought I no longer enjoyed swimming, I have come to realize that it instilled in me something no other sport could have. I am more disciplined with my work, open to try new things, and determined to achieve my goals because of what I learned through my practices and meets for 13 years.