Nine weeks into the season, and the daily drill of morning practice, classes, after school practice or a meet, and then homework had all of us exhausted and cranky. Everything hurt: our shoulders, our legs, our backs, and, in some cases, our pride.
Too many girls visited the trainer to ice injuries and stretch stiff limbs. Some wore therapy tape on their arms and backs to relieve their aching muscles.
The younger girls started to slack off, missing intervals, wimping out in the weight room, whining, complaining, and crying.
The more experienced swimmers pressed on, knowing from previous years that hard work and pain were necessary to perform well and make the best of our season.
It was a grueling time for all of us.
To add to the misery, the end of the first marking period was in sight and we had projects, reports, and exams to contend with too. The seniors also had to check out colleges, take the placement tests, meet with visiting admissions counselors, work on a winning application essay, and figure out what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives.
The swim recruiters were also swooping in, sending head-spinning letters and emails, begging us to check out their programs, visit their campuses, attend a meet, spend a weekend with their team, and apply to their schools.
Navigating all of this without falling apart is what separated the winners from the others. Those who kept their mental game on and proceeded with blinders would do well in the Division Championships, and maybe earn a spot on a college team. Not all of the girls planned to swim beyond high school, but the ones who did – me, Tati, Mel, Erica, and a few of the juniors - talked nonstop about which coach sent the latest letter and which school they’d visit next.
My plans were still undecided, but the pile of mail on my desk grew taller each day as recruiters and coaches tempted me to consider their programs. I’d received dozens of letters in the past, but tossed them in the trash unopened because I was interested in only a handful of schools and had no interest in the others.
Now I stacked them, many unopened, in a corner of my desk, and picked through them at least once a day, weighing the possibilities. Swimming remained in my future. I just needed to figure out where it fit and how much of my time and energy I wanted to devote to it.
Physical exhaustion, injuries, tests, projects, reports, and worries about college and life beyond high school had everyone’s nerves on edge. The last thing the team needed was unnecessary drama. My win at the Long Island meet and Jordan’s campaign to discredit me added a new dimension of stress and tension. A few of the girls ignored Jordan and supported me. Jordan’s minions supported Tati and gave me the cold shoulder. Mel and Erica remained neutral, not taking sides, like Switzerland. Our team was split in two. All of Mel and Tati’s hard work to build a cohesive unit was crumbling, and it was my fault.
Sometimes I wondered what I was doing here.
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