I Love the Smell of Chlorine In the Morning; It Smells Like Victory | Teen Ink

I Love the Smell of Chlorine In the Morning; It Smells Like Victory

November 24, 2007
By Anonymous

I stretched my arm out in front of me, reaching for the concrete wall ahead. “One stroke, two strokes, three, four, okay now one more, you’re almost there.” I popped my head to the surface and stood clinging to the side for a minute, sucking in every bit of oxygen available to regain my composure. My chest was heaving as if I might puke any second and my cheeks were surely the vibrant red color of ripened strawberries. I settled down enough to notice the head swim coach walking in my direction. As I was gasping for breathe after the 100 yard timed swim that had concluded our practice, he put his arm around me and said very simply, “Congratulations Renee, you made it through your first swim practice. It will be difficult, but we need people like you on the team who are willing to put in effort. It encourages the other girls.” After that day I kept coming back. Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

Chlorine became my signature scent when the team started practicing eight times a week. All of a sudden, my days started at 5:45 a.m. for before-school swims and ended at 6 p.m. after our afternoon work-outs. Not to mention 9 a.m. Saturday practices and the endless swim meets, team outings, sleepovers, car washes and countless other “bonding” activities. When forty girls spend almost every day together pointless drama and irritating arguments are inevitable. Nearly two years later my ears are still ringing with Becky’s yells of, ‘Don’t anyone even think of taking my shower!’ or ‘If you freshmen don’t hurry up and go put the lane lines in, we’re eating all your bagels!’ Despite the petty disagreements, I have yet to come in contact with a team that was more supportive or encouraging. All forty of those girls showed me what it means to be dedicated, accountable, and driven to succeed. If someone didn’t come to practice or refused to wear the team t-shirt they would have to withstand everyone else berating and badgering them to show that we are all in this together, and sometimes the only thing that would keep us going is seeing another struggling face in the lane next to us. I learned the value of sticking to commitments and being there to cheer on my teammates to reach their personal best.

Those few words that my coach had said in February, after the first practice, seemed to have been spoken a lifetime ago but, they remained in the back of my mind to remind me of why I was still here and proceeded to stick with me as I pushed my way through the next three months on the Girls Varsity Swim Team. I got through one day at a time and just kept putting my entire being into getting from one end of the pool to the other. My teammates were persistent in their encouragement and stood at the edge of pool cheering and waving like lunatics at me during races. If it hadn’t been for their screams of enthusiasm and their belief that I really could do it, I probably would have passed out in the middle of the second lap. If I could make it through one really difficult moment that seemed to last an eternity then there was no reason why I couldn’t survive the moment that followed.

Except for splashing around the neighborhood pool I had never swam competitively or seriously. I had spent the majority of my childhood being the overweight, non-athletic, self-conscious girl who hardly had the self confidence to show her face in public. I had never challenged myself to work as hard I could which is why the intensity of swimming caught me off guard and had opened my eyes to a brand new experience. Every aspect of how I viewed myself changed I discovered an unleashed determination and drive that had been hiding deep within the depths of my mind and had finished out the remainder of the season as well as my sophomore year with a completely different self-image and newfound self-respect.

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