Author

Ryan Batjes

Ryan Batjes
“Swimming as a Journey”
The Essay, Ms. Therese Jones

I was inspired to write this because I am very passionate and have a hunger for swimming. People often exclude swimming from their list of sports. I wanted to show how swimming can affect a person's life and bring some insight to it. Swimming is more than a sport, it's a way of life to so many.

Excerpt from “Swimming as a Journey”

“Swimming is more than just a sport, it’s a way of life. We’re not just a team. We're a family. We push ourselves and our teammates to our absolute limits, breaking them, and extending them even further. Swimming has taught me many valuable life lessons and skills such as teamwork, determination, leadership, responsibility, and work life balance. Swimming is my passion, and it has made me who I am today.”

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Swimming as a Journey
by Ryan Batjes

Ever wonder why people push themselves to their absolute limit, even though they're hurting themselves more? Throughout my journey in swimming, I have been with the same family of coaches that first taught me how to swim. They have pushed me to my limits to get me to where I am today. One of my two main coaches, Sharon, has long brown hair, average height, petite build with brownish eyes. When you first meet her, she is a very outgoing and caring person. Then there is coach John, her husband. He is very muscular, tall, has a football like- build, and has blue eyes, although one is fake. When you meet John, he can be very intimidating at first, but once you get to know him, he is very caring and strives to push people out of their comfort zone. Swimming is my passion, and it has made me who I am today.

I started my swimming journey when I was only 4 years old. At that time, I was enrolled in swim lessons at the Round Lake Park District (RLPD). One day when I was there, this coach was scouting me during my swim lesson and was talking with my dad about wanting me to join their swim team, the Round Lake Ducks. When that first day of practice came, I was very eager to get into the water and be part of the team. Everyone was wearing team uniforms. On the other hand, there I was “that kid” that always wore the swim shirt, because I would never want to take off my shirt. Therefore, I would wear a blue swim shirt with yellow board shorts, but not just any board shorts, SpongeBob ones (Fig. 1). One of the major components in swimming is being able to put your head underwater and I would never do that. I would be the only kid on the team that would swim with his head above water the whole time. Until one day, Coach Sharon and my dad pushed my head underwater. “Put your head under the water. Hold your nose and do it really quick! It's not going to hurt” Coach Sharon told me. My dad was in the water with me and he heard the coach say this so he just went for it. “One...two…” says my dad. He was counting for me to do it but before he could get to three, he pushed my head under the water. When he did this it opened a whole new world and experience for me. Now people can’t get me out of the water because I have a dying passion for and love it so much.

By the time I was in my teenage years, I was swimming full time with the McHenry Marlins. The Round Lake Ducks didn’t swim year-round, only during the summer and it was a beginning entry team. During my time with the McHenry Marlins, I was a freshman in high school and I was still with the same coaches, Sharon and John. At that time, I was having difficulties trying to balance school and swimming. I started swimming part time with the Marlins instead of full time. My plan was to get a hold of my schoolwork in the hope that by my sophomore year I could go back to swimming full time. After school my parents and I sat down and had a discussion on what to do about balancing school and swimming. Both my parents said, “We think that you need to balance out school and get it flowing properly before you can go back full time to swim. If you do all or most of your school work before you go to swim you would have very little to no homework to do after. This will make sure all of it gets done on time. Then we can talk about going back to full time.” When they said this to me I was very upset because I love swimming so much and it is my escape from everything around me. But, I knew that it was the right choice to make in order to keep up my grades. By my sophomore year, I was able to get back to swimming full time with the Marlins and then joined the swim team for Grant Community High School, the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs swim season was just a couple of weeks out of the year, so it made it easier for me to do the Marlins, the Bulldogs and balance school because I finally was able to manage everything all together. During my time with the Marlins and the Bulldogs, I flourished with dropping my times at competitions and achieving

At the start of my junior year of high school, I was still with the McHenry Marlins until my coaches had to leave and find a new team. While Sharon and John went off looking for a new team and place to coach, I stayed with the Marlins so I could stay conditioned. After a month or two, they announced that they would be taking over and coaching the Woodstock Dolphins. After hearing the news, I quickly transferred teams. Being with the Dolphins was a drastic change for me. This is because practices were bumped up to three times a day, requiring a lot more effort than before with the Marlins, and we were not used to it. This all took a huge toll on us as a team. Although, this did help us bond as a team. We pushed each other and grew more and more within ourselves with each practice we were at (Fig. 3).  Morning practices were spent at the outdoor pool in the cold mornings. We’d arrive before the sun rises. The steam would rise off the pool, creating an eerie calm glow that was only broken by the movement of us training. Our mid-day training was spent in the weight room. It was a very dim place. Weights would be clanging and smashing together as we lifted. Occasionally someone would drop them creating a thunder like echo throughout the room. Lastly, the final training for the day took place at the indoor pool. The weight room was connected to the pool by a long well-lit corridor with locker rooms on each side. The distinctive smell of the chlorine was strong. The pool was well lit with an office to the left and on top sat the balcony for spectators. During practice, John would yell and push us even harder. “You're here to work. You’ve all gotten this far. If you want to succeed you need to be practicing like you're racing. If you don't want to work the door’s right there. If you're gonna do it, you better do it right.” John's voice would echo across the pool deck to us with the whistles blowing in the background from the other coaches. When John was saying this to us we would just sit there and take it, because we all knew he had a very valid point that is worth listening to. Now that I am in college, my schedule is going back to the way it was during my freshmen year of high school. I am still practicing way more than I ever did. Instead of only practicing once or twice every couple of weeks like I did during the start of high school, I am now in college practicing daily but it is way more intense than before. Furthermore, I have figured out how to balance my school studies and my swimming schedule into a working routine.

Swimming is more than just a sport, it’s a way of life. We’re not just a team. We're a family. We push ourselves and our teammates to our absolute limits, breaking them and extending them even further. Swimming has taught me many valuable life lessons and skills such as teamwork, determination, leadership, responsibility, and work life balance. Swimming is my passion and it has made me who I am today.

 


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