When I was younger, the Michael Phelps of the day was Mark Spitz. As a young swimmer, I remember being so excited to see swimming taking the spotlight for the first time, and spent the summer of 1972 at the Western Springs pool working on my butterfly, hoping to one day to be able to drape a few gold medals around my neck, just like my hero.
Well that dream never materialized, yet from that inspiration, swimming became a central part of my life. At that time I was already swimming year round, but I did so with a greater commitment and goal. Olympic dreams faded, transitioning to being able to make Junior Olympics, then simply making the top relay. I never came home from awards night with the MVP trophy, receiving several special awards for being the “hardest worker”. I know as time goes by, we all become better athletes in our minds, yet looking back, I can say I was an average swimmer, at best. However, I stayed with the sport all through my school years, even limiting my college search to schools I could compete at. My dreams of being an Olympic Athlete transitioned to new hopes of being a teacher and coach, possibly a coach of a one day Olympian.
Recently many stories and articles have centered on the “millennials” and the “soccer trophy” generation. While there are many overly broad generalizations that are included in these stories. The concept that “everyone is a winner” is not one easily sustained, nor realistic. For myself personally, I look back at how much I would have missed in my life had I quit once I realized I would not be the next Speedo model, let alone top Lyons Swim Club Swimmer. By being provided with the proper perspective and support from my parents, I was able to enjoy what successes I personally realized as I improved from hard work, “winning” by achieving goal times I set. While I never reached those Olympic dreams as an athlete or coach, I cannot imagine what my life would be like without the opportunity I have had through coaching and education to work with countless students and athletes, many of whom I now have the privilege to still know today as parents, several in our schools. It is thanks to my parents that I have this opportunity and the proper perspective to realize what winning really is!