Ethan’s streamline, 2012 (photo credit: Christian Espinoza)

When Ethan was 7 years old we enrolled him into swimming. At first he couldn’t swim or keep himself afloat, and found the practice quite tedious and frustrating. Fast forward 7 years and many lessons later, Ethan is now in the Mini Squad team at his swim club, and will soon need to make the decision of either progressing into the competitive swim team, or surf life saving.

Those 7 years in between however, were not easy for him, and I watched as he fought his own learning. He couldn’t make sense of the movements, he was having difficulty keeping his stamina up, and with every lesson he grew more resentful. For a long time he did not understand why he wasn’t getting better, or faster. I watched the resistance every step of the way and I saw the defeat in his eyes at the end of his lessons, but I convinced him to stick with it.

It wasn’t until I signed him up for an inter-club competition a few years back when I saw the turning point. Ethan had been swimming in isolation with his coach, so when placed next to other children at his level he finally gained some perspective. He blew his competition out of the water! Ethan is a big 13 year old, at 6ft and 85kg, he tends to stand out (which I am sure does not help with his self esteem at times), but in the pool his stride and kicks propelled him on every race. A taste of victory, this changed everything, and his willingness to keep going soared.

We are all fragile, vulnerable beings, easily breakable despite our best efforts. Our own self awareness and ability to understand that and somehow overcome failure, defeat, and loss is what sets us apart in this life.

At some point we all need encouragement to keep going. Practice on its own may feel empty, so we look for challenges. We need to believe that the seeds we plant today will someday grow to become greater than ourselves. Persistence and practice is the way, belief is the key.

If you want to be the best, you have to do things that other people aren’t willing to do.”

– Michael Phelps

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