I joined my high school’s swim team,
but I didn’t know how to swim.
It was my junior year of high school,
I convinced my high school AP History teacher,
who was also the head swim coach,
to let me join the team.
✅ I told him I didn’t need to compete.
✅ I just wanted to join the team practices.
✅ I wanted to experience being a part of a team.
I had never been a part of any sports team.
I couldn’t do any sports with my cerebral palsy.
But I told Mr. Diercks that I can swim.
“When we were in California,
I swam in our pool every day.”
And I did do that.
I was in Indiana now.
It was my first practice.
Coach Diercks introduced me to the team,
and asked me to swim 50 yards freestyle in the far left lane.
A few minutes later, Coach asked me to step out of the pool.
I smiled brightly and asked what he wanted me to do next.
He looked at me and said, much to my surprise,
that I didn’t know how to swim,
but that I did know how to dog paddle.
😲 🤦🏻♀️ 😲
Instead of judging or ridiculing me,
Coach Diercks did what all great teachers do …
He gave me the opportunity to learn something new.
I spent the rest of the afternoon with a few guys
from the boys swim team learning to how to:
🏊🏻♀️breathe properly under water,
🏊🏻♀️turn my head with each stroke of my arms,
🏊🏻♀️ and to kick my feet continuously above the water.
It wasn’t perfect or fast.
My legs and feet couldn’t really kick well enough for speed.
I never learned how to launch from the mini diving board.
I kicked off from the wall instead.
But I did it, and continued to do it with every practice.
That season, I even participated in swim competitions!
I usually swam 100 yards of freestyle in the 400 yard relay.
I remember hearing my teammates cheering me on as I swam.
They would walk across the pool and shout,
“Go! Go! Go! You can do it!”
It didn’t matter if I slowed down the time.
Coach Diercks said I was part of the team …
I am so grateful for my experience on the swim team that year.
And for my AP History teacher and Coach.
I learned that:
🔥If you don’t ask for what you want or need, nothing changes
🔥It’s ok to do things differently
🔥You can always learn to do something new
🔥I am accepted and celebrated
🔥I have permission to take up space
🔥 and be a part of this world (and this team)
When Coach Diercks signed my yearbook that year, he wrote,
“To a tenacious and gutsy kid. Keep it up. Nothing can stop you.”