Whenever people ask me, “Oh you’re the sports editor, did you play sports?” I have a standard, rehearsed response.
“There’s a reason I cover them.”
Not for a lack of trying, however.
Sixth grade I rode the bench for my intra-squad basketball team.
Seventh grade I was briefly the starting quarterback for our middle school football on a team that ran the ball 90 percent of the time. One hundred percent when I was under center.
By the eighth grade and high school I had ceased nearly all athletic competition.
Except for swimming.
I started swimming in the summer when I was eight-years-old.
One morning my mother dragged me out of bed at an ungodly hour and said, “We’re going to the pool for swim practice.”
It changed my life forever.
I spent every summer of my youth not waking up when my biological clock dictated and searching for frogs down by the creek like my friends, but crawling out of bed at 5:45 in the morning and getting in the water by 6:30 a.m.
For a while I loved it. I got to spend time with some of my closest friends and travel all around the state with my family in our pop-up camper.
My mom left her orange juice on the roof of her car the morning we left for our first meet at 4 a.m.
It spilled all over her windshield when she stopped.
The summer sun tanned my skin and the constant exercise built the crafted physique I still sport today.
Something changed in high school though.
It became more of a chore than something I enjoyed. People were forcing me to swim rather than me wanting to do it.
By my senior year I swam because I had made the commitment and wanted to see it through than any other factor.
Every day after school my friend Aaron and I slink down in the seats of his Jeep for several minutes and ask each other, “should we go?”
“Yeah, we probably should.”
Once I got to college the swimming stopped. Partly I didn’t find time, but mostly I was burnt out.
This year though, I got the fever.
Whenever I rode my bike between Moby Arena and the Rec Center I would get a distinct whiff of chlorine and want to jump back in the water again.
Two weeks ago I did, and I’m so glad.
The world makes more sense under the water.
No sound. No homework. No worries.
Just clear blue, the white stucco of the sides and light reflections dancing like the fairy queen and her court on the bottom of the pool.
I originally expected to be able to just dive in and throw down 200s without a sweat. Nope.
Had to build through 50s and up to 100s, but I’m making progress.
I can’t hold my breath for as long as I used to and won’t dare to attempt the butterfly for fear of wrenching out my shoulders and crushing my abs.
Yet I feel good when I get out of the water, like I’ve accomplished something.
No one forced me into the chlorine, I made the choice and embraced it.
Swimming is fun again.
I’ve rediscovered the peace and serenity of the pool, where all that matters is your next breath and making it to the wall.
Swimming has also taught me one of life’s most important lessons: the water’s going to be just as cold now as if you wait, so take a deep breath and go for the cannonball.
Sports Editor Kyle Grabowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.