It’s 5:30 in the morning and I’m driving into the East parking lot, as opposed to my usual 7:30 arrival time. The abundance of empty spaces tell me it’s way too early, and sliding into a staff parking spot does not make up for the early morning time. I go through this every Thursday morning and I still don’t know how I managed to get myself out of bed for this.
I pull into a parking spot as close to the door as possible, minimizing my walk in the sunless and frigid outdoors of early March. I sit in the running car for an extra moment to enjoy the heated seats for as long as I can, savoring those last few moments of tranquil warmth before I summon up the courage to open the door and begin to walk inside. Once I finally muster the courage to open the door, I’m greeted with a gust of wind and goose bumps crawling up my legs. I’m completely miserable and don’t know why I chose to do this.
Entering the nearly empty school doesn’t make me feel much better about my situation. I’m here for junior varsity (JV) Swim, and these early morning practices are one of the many rituals that make JV Swim so infamous.
I’m not here for the dream of qualifying for state, for the moment of standing on the championship podium or for the varsity letter. I’m a JV swimmer and I won’t ever have any of those moments. I will have moments of pure bliss when I laugh with my teammates over our inability to complete a 100 butterfly, or our mutual dislike of jumping in the pool at 5:30 in the morning. Moments like these, and the occasional workout, make JV swim’s early morning practices worth it.
The East pool will never be the most welcoming environment. Entering the pool, the overwhelmingly hot, stuffy air will slowly suffocate you as your bare feet walk across the floors. You can’t help but wonder what kind of fungus is crawling up your legs, and the moldy aroma is a stark contrast to the usual “fresh outdoorsiness” most athletes enjoy.
Even though the pool will never go down as one of my Top Ten Places to Hang Out in KC, and I often consider never returning to the pool again, I always find a reason to just keep swimming.
Sometimes it’s the homemade Rice Krispy treats that our loving coach brings to every meet. They have become one of the highlights of swim meets, seeing our coach enter the pool with her fresh batch of baked goods she’d prepared with her daughter the night before. I remember to thank God every day that I have a mom as a coach. That’s what makes JV Swim so fun. We aren’t at the meets to be competitive, we’re at the meets to eat homemade Rice Krispy treats and cheer on our friends.
We JV Swimmers spend a majority of our time talking about our mutual dislike for swimming, saying everything from “I’d rather be in bed” to “Why I am I here right now” and even “I’d rather not eat Chick-Fil-A for a month then get in the pool”. However, eventually we do get in the pool, and when we do really swim, often times those are our most iconic moments.
There will never be a greater moment in my swimming career than the time I swam the 500 – 20 laps freestyle for the first time. It was freshman year and my coach was reading off everyone’s events from the heat sheet. He got to the 500 and everyone got a little quieter. This event is notoriously known as the worst thing you will ever do in your life. You automatically gain pity from everyone if you’re swimming it – even your coach feels a little bad for putting you through it.
Sure enough, he reads off Courtney McClelland and my mind went blank. All I could think is really? I’m really swimming the 500? What makes you think I’m qualified to succeed at that, let alone finish the race?
Despite my skepticism, I finished the race. I was barely able to pull myself out of the pool. It took me a good ten minutes to catch my breath again and I had to swim another relay immediately after that, but I finished. I don’t think I was ever more amazed with myself. After swimming it, you can’t help but feel like if you can swim 20 laps nonstop, including flip turns, you can do anything.
Sure, swimming the 500 wasn’t exactly what I would call fun, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to do it – and do it over and over again at the following meets. It’s something not a lot of people can say they’ve done, but because of my JV Swimming career, I can say I’ve accomplished it.
A little part of me will always wonder why I do JV Swim; I complain about practice each and every day, the workout kicks my butt and the pool doesn’t exactly scream, “come hang out in here”. However, let it be known that under all that hate and dislike of swim, I come back every year because I love it so much. From the team bonding over our shared hatred for swim practice to complimentary treats, those are the reasons I get up at 5:30 a.m. for JV swim.