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The Real "Good Team"


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You want to know what makes a good team? I will explain it. It’s not franchise players like Derek Jeter who plays for the New York Yankees and helped them to five World Series titles. It’s also not about players like Terry Bradshaw who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and guided them to four Super Bowl titles in the 1970s. And it’s not even about stars like Michael Jordan who played for the Chicago Bulls and won six championships in the 1990s. Now, while all the athletes I just mentioned are and were incredible stars in their respective sport and have earned their rightful place in the hall of fame for their sport, many people fail to see the ingredients that make a sports team successful. Whether it’s a high school team, a junior college team, a college team or even a professional team, they don’t always understand how the team achieves their goals and become known world-wide. I was a swimmer for my high school swim team and I will explain how I got there.

Before I started competitive swimming at the age of 9, I was just another person. I only came to practices to swim. I never came to meets. I was 3 when I started swimming, but I didn’t swim in meets until I was 9. All I wanted to do was get in the pool, swim what I had to do, get out, and go home. I’ll tell you right now, that is not a true athlete. Pushing aside the fact that this was only a summer suburban swim team at my local pool, I still showed signs of bad sportsmanship. Eventually though, I realized that this could be a thing I would be doing until I leave school. I was right. I had been swimming for 11 years, more than half my life. I grew up, worked out, lost a substantial amount of weight and became a very good swimmer. I wouldn’t say I was a great swimmer, but I was very good. But the question is not “How many races did you win?” or “How many records did you break?” and especially not “How do you look in a Speedo?” the real question is “Gee Matt, I know swimming is a demanding sport. How did you keep pushing yourself and become a good swimmer?” If you want to join a swim team, or any team for that matter, there are three things you need to do to make yourself part of that team.

The first thing is dieting. Now many people consider dieting the hardest exercise ever. Why is that? Because food and drinks are a necessity and everyone needs to eat and drink. They help you live and give you muscles. But, too much food and drinks can be a bad thing. You want to eat healthy, but not eat bad stuff. Eating junk and a lot of cholesterol can cause serious problems later in life. You could become obese and have health problems, such as liver failure and blocked heart arteries. These are deadly. So if you want to lose weight but still get a good meal, eat healthy foods. Eat more fruits, vegetables, protein and carbs. In fact, carbs are probably the best thing a swimmer can eat. Load up on pasta and potatoes. Pasta is one of the main things that I eat because 1. I’m Italian and 2. It gives me quick energy to perform my best working out. Also, eat as much protein as possible when you’re a swimmer. The things you want to stay away from are burgers and hot dogs. Those have too much fat and cholesterol in them and can cause a gain in weight. But other than meat, try peanuts or other foods that have protein. Dairy is another thing you would want to have if you want to swim. However, never drink white milk. Drink chocolate milk if you’re a swimmer. It is, believe it or not, one of the best things a swimmer can drink because it has a lot of protein, but just don’t drink a lot of it. There are many ways a swimmer can diet when they are on the team, but the most important thing to remember is to eat smart. If you don’t, you can endanger your career, and even your health.

The second thing to practice as a swimmer is to get plenty of rest. I would consider sleep a necessity. Instead of doing an all-nighter with your buddies or girlfriends, try to get some sleep if you’re a swimmer. I would recommend at least 8 hours. Too little sleep can be harmful. After a workout, it is important to get a good rest before doing another workout. When I swam for my high school, we usually had doubles, which are two practices in one day. Believe me, when I got home from those two practices, there was nothing more that I wanted to do than lay in my bed and fall asleep. When you sleep, every muscle in your body relaxes and replenishes so you’re ready for another demanding workout. It is also a good idea to consider being warm when you sleep. This means you should wear pajamas that are ideal for the season. If it’s winter, wear flannel pajamas and a long sleeved shirt. Put all the blankets of your bed on you. Being warm is one of the best things for a swimmer, because it allows their body to relax. When you’re cold, you shiver and your body is out of control. This could be a factor of not performing well in a meet or practice because you can’t maintain control of your body. When you shiver, every part of your body moves. So remember to stay warm if you want to do well in the water and get plenty of rest.

The third and final thing to be sure of when you’re a swimmer is to come to practices…everyday. I know you’re probably thinking “What about Christmas?!” “What about my birthday?!” Well, even on your birthday you should come to practices. It is very important to come to practices because they show your coach and yourself how you perform at meets. In my school, I didn’t have to worry about Christmas practices because we had Christmas off. However, during our winter break, we had two practices a day. They were all mandatory. Did I hate that? Absolutely! But did I love the times I got in meets? Absolutely! The trick is, the more practices you go to, the better your times are in meets. And the better you do in meets, the more likely you are to make it to States. Esentially, that one practice you chose to miss will hurt your chances of standing up on the first place block at States. Also, if there are early morning practices, go to them. Now, I may have seemed to contradict myself in saying “go to early morning practices” and “get plenty of sleep,” but this contradiction is right. Why? Well, it is true that you need plenty of rest and you do need to go to as many practices as you can. But the trick to make my statement true is to go to bed early, so you can wake up early in the morning, not feel tired and go to practice while still getting 8 hours of sleep. Now, I know you’d rather sleep then swim in the morning, but trust me, morning practices help and you’ll see why if you do it. To quote the great Muhammad Ali: “I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion'.”

My question before I started talking about swimming was what makes a good team a good team? And I said that it’s not the all stars, but it’s the amount of blood, guts, determination, sacrifice and dedication of the athletes training and striving to be the best athletes they can be. Honestly; do you think Derek Jeter liked sprinting around the field everyday? Do you think Terry Bradshaw liked lifting weights everyday? Do you think Michael Jordan liked doing squats and high jumps everyday? And do you honestly think I liked sprinting freestyle and butterfly all out in a freezing cold pool, having no breaks and getting yapped at by a man everyday? No! But did I love my results in the end? Did Jeter, Bradshaw and Jordan like thiers? Yes they did, and yes I did!



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