My swim coach

December 14, 2009
Have you ever met that one person that you would do anything for because you couldn’t bear the thought of them being even remotely close to disappointed with you? You would stay long after practice working as hard as you can to see their smile when you finally got it right. You would leave nothing behind and just keep pushing forward even when you could barely take it any longer. For me this person is Jim Abt

Jim Abt is my 63 year old swim coach. He is the head coach for the Cleburne Swim Team and does a magnificent job at it. He has been the coach here for 16 years, but I have only known him for 9 of those. I joined the TAAF (Texas Amateur Athletic Federation) swim team when I was 7, and I never quit. I swam one and a half hours three times a week with my coach Luke Chambless. I would have a swim meet every week in the summer, but the one thing I remember most is staying and watching the high schoolers practice. I was in awe seeing them swim at such speeds I only imagined in my dreams. They sprinted and sprinted. I would look up and I would see this old guy yelling for them to go faster. I thought to myself “Well, aren’t you just a grouchy man? Can’t you see that they are sprinting their hearts out?” This was my first thought about Jim: that he was an old grouchy man. He scared the living daylights out of me and, whenever he walked up and down the lanes, I made sure that I was swimming so I didn’t see him glaring at me

I swam TAAF for about 5 summers and then I joined the USA club swim that practiced year round. I got faster and faster until I was moved up with the high school kids. This frightened me because I knew that my new coach would be Jim. I walked in and quickly jumped into the pool, trying not to rest for long so he wouldn’t yell at me. I did this as long as I could, but Jim called us all to stop so he could speak to us. He spoke about the high school meet that was swum on the weekend, and he started complimenting all the good swims that were given. He talked about how we need to streamline as hard as we could off the wall so that we could drop our times much easier. His voice was so peaceful and calm it was a joy to listen to. I thought to myself “Where is the old grumpy man I remember?”. Well, right when I said that Jim announced that our next set was going to be 10 sprints of 50 freestyle. I swam the first one all-out and came up to hear the raised voice of Jim, but it wasn’t really a yell. He was saying you can go faster, and you can do it. This is when my opinion on Jim changed from and old grumpy man, to a caring coach.

Over the years working with Jim, we have gotten closer and tighter. He would keep me after practice 10 or 20 minutes trying to get a turn, or a stroke down. I would never complain, because I didn’t want to let him down. Jim has this strange way of making you feel bad about little mistakes that you make. I’m not sure how he does it, but he is an expert at it. If I missed a practice, the next practice he would ask me why I missed. I would state my reason, and no matter the reason, if it was valid or not, I would feel horrible for missing that one practice. Maybe it’s the way he asked, or his facial expression afterword, but it sure could make you feel bad. I just can’t stand the thought of disappointing him. I have told my parents that I would rather have them disappointed in me, then ever come close to having Jim disappointed in me. It just hurts to see a person that has so much hope for you, disappointed in you.

Jim is an absolutely amazing person that wouldn’t hesitate an instant to help me if I asked. He has always been there for me when my home life got rough, and was able to push me through it. He has taught me how to find happy things in my day even if they are small. He listens to my dreams, and helps me realize them. Jim isn’t just a coach to me. He is a friend. He is a father. He is a mentor. He is a fan, and he is my role model.

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