fish bowlFor every swimmer there will be one last race.

One time when you hit the wall, look up at the score board, see “Jones, P   1:03.07” for the last time. Or “Lane 6 56.83”. Or “Lane  3 – 2:45.71”

And in that one moment, how do you want to remember your swimming career?

And in that one moment, how do you want to be remembered as a swimmer?

And in that one moment and throughout the next 50, 60, 70 years…..what will you remember about swimming?

What will all those early mornings, long sessions, tough gym workouts and competitions mean?

It would be easy to measure a swimming career in terms of medals, cups, trophies, ribbons, records, titles, championships and podium finishes: to measure your swimming career in terms of your competition performances.

But that will reduce a career of wonderful experiences and life changing events to a few dollars worth of plastic, metal and cotton.

What has swimming really meant to you?

The world has changed.

Everything is fast, instant, immediate and entertaining.

Swimming on the other hand stayed true to old fashion values like hard work, commitment, dedication, being selfless and working with others, being part of a team.

Swimming taught you lessons – not just about fly and back and turns and starts but about the things that really matter.

It taught you to set goals and work hard to achieve them.

It taught you that when things got tough, you got tougher.

It taught you that hard work and a positive attitude could overcome any obstacle.

It taught you to be humble – how to deal with losing.

It taught you to be humble – even in victory.

It taught you about honesty – about the importance of giving all you had to give and letting people see what you were capable of.

It taught you to deal with pain and discomfort.

It taught you about discipline, about time management, about being organised.

It taught you about nutrition, about health, about fitness, about taking care of yourself.

It taught you to stand up and face challenges – to be assertive – to never be intimidated by anything or anyone.

It taught you about confidence and believing in yourself and in believing anything is possible.

Swimming was the best teacher you ever had.

So what if you didn’t win the State final.

So what if you didn’t break the World record.

So what if you didn’t get that Olympic gold.

You became so much more than a flashy piece of metal – you became something far greater.

You became a person who achieved amazing things. A person who could push themselves through barriers other people see as insurmountable. A person who could overcome adversity and meet any challenge life threw at them. A person who gave everything they had to chase a dream and even if they came up short, got up and had another go at achieving it….and another….and another.

You became an outstanding student: staying up late to study for an exam was nothing compared to driving yourself up and down a lane 20 hours a week.

You became a great parent: having a child and losing some sleep was insignificant compared to travelling over night to a meet, racing all day, driving home and then getting up for training at 4 am the next day.

You become a wonderful partner: dealing with the differences between you and your partner was a small issue after working so close to a team of people pushing themselves to their limits day after day after day.

Don’t measure yourself or measure your career by gold or silver or bronze. Don’t measure it by ribbons or medals or titles.

Measure it by the only things that really matter – how much you enjoyed doing something you loved with people you loved being with. Or how many fun times you had with mom and dad on the way to training or on long, sleepy drives home from meets. Or by the jokes between repeats that went on and on and on and had you laughing under water most of the session. Or by the friends you had when you were ten who would still do anything for you 20 years later.

Or by the lessons you teach to your children: passing on the swimming experience and life lessons to the next generation and helping them be all they can be.

So when it is your last race, whether you grab the gold medal at the Olympic Games and retire on top or if it is swimming 3:35 for 100 free as a 92 year old in the State Masters championships, take a moment or two to smile, think about what you have achieved and feel very, very satisfied.

You did it.

Wayne Goldsmith (written for and inspired by Helen Morris)