I tried out so many sports was when I was little: basketball, tennis, softball, gymnastics, cheerleading, jazz dancing, and soccer. My sister and I also took ballet and tap lessons for five years, beginning so young that we had a class that we could bring our dolls to. Our teacher would show us something, then would say, “It’s your turn Dolly!” and we would make them dance too! Even after leaving the toys behind, we still loved going every week and getting dressed up for the recitals every few months.
However, we grew up in a homeowner’s association, which came with access to a nearly-empty outdoor pool. My sister and I spent most of every single summer there, not at all minding the Las Vegas heat while we paddled around on an inflatable orca, dove ten feet for pool toys, and crunched on frozen Capri Suns on the deck. Some of my best childhood memories are feeling the anticipation of summer that came with the first trip there after the winter, filling up water balloons with my best friend and caring for them like babies in the pool, and celebrating my birthdays with sea-themed parties on the adjoining lawn. Water was just part of my life.
When I was eight, my sister and I joined a summer swim team. Five nights a week, my parents took us to the pool around dinnertime and the lifeguards there directed our swimming while they gobbled down pizza in front of us hungry kids. Despite the trauma that inflicted on my poor empty tummy, I was doing well at the meets, especially the 100 IM event. A combination of all four strokes, it was a daunting event, and I was one of the few swimmers who knew to save as much energy for the last half as what I used for the first part. Maybe I just had a better grasp on the limit of my bodily strength. Anyway, by the end of the summer, I had made the all-star team and then won first place in the 8-and-under girls’ 100 IM in Clark County.
That’s where my competitive swimming ended for a few years, and I just stuck to playfully racing my friends in the neighborhood pool. Then when I was 13, I moved to Utah, and spent the better part of the school year doing my best to make new friends, despite my crippling shyness. When I heard a school announcement one morning for the high school swim team informational meeting, I didn’t think twice about going. Instead of floating around a pool the next summer, I spent it weight lifting and running stairs, and by the fall, I was racing in my first meets in five years.
I’ve been a competitive swimmer since, and both my high school and college teams are where I met my first boyfriend as well as best friends that hold that title to this day. It’s also where I learned about lifeguarding, which turned into a summer job for four years, and realized that gaining weight doesn’t matter, especially if it’s muscle. Because it permeates just about all aspects of my life, it’s where I discovered the most defining term for myself: a swimmer.
How did you get your start in your favorite sport or hobby?