I would like to take you along on this one experience, one ambitious goal, that I feel was a big defining factor in my life. It was my first time competing at the BIG East Conference Swimming & Diving Championships for Rutgers University.
It all started during the year I took off from college. I was life guarding during swim team practice and I came up with this “crazy” idea that I wanted to walk onto the Rutgers University Division 1 swim team and represent the University as a Scarlet Knight. Mind you my competitive experience in the sport of swimming was one season of high school during my senior year. I was now four years out from that and typically a division 1 swimmer has swum competitively most of their lives.
Thankfully, at the time, I was not aware of this. Ignorance is bliss I suppose and I had myself my first big ambitious goal.
To make this vision happen I produced a simple plan:
- Learn how to train in swimming
- Learn how to compete
- Learn and refine the basics of my swimming technique
To accomplish this, I read books on swimming, watched videos of swimming, and watched everyone swim. Mind you, this was before YouTube and the internet. Basically, I made up my own Masterclass on competitive swimming. Curiosity was my main drive. I embraced the beginners mind and asked questions such as;
- What makes them move through the water like that?
- What allowed them to keep their goggles on when diving in?
- What makes them look effortless?
This led to “how” questions.
- How can I learn to move through the water like that?
- How can I keep my goggles on when diving in?
- How can I become as effortless as them?
I would get in the pool and just play around with each of my answers seeing which one worked. I asked my friends if they could watch me and let me know if there is anything I could improve on or offer any feedback. I also joined Masters swimming so I could be coached and compete. I even went away to a sleep away swim camp where I was as old as the camp counselors. All this was so I could experience what training was like at that level.
Before the school year started, I set up a meeting with the Head Coach of the team and asked him if I could walk on. He answered with “sure, but you probably won’t compete in any away meets or the BIG East Championships.” To that I just replied with “that’s fine, I just want to swim!”
The first day of practice rolled around, to say I was nervous and out of my element, would be an understatement. I didn’t know anyone or what to expect. I literally felt like a fish out of water. But, I continued to show up for each and every practice.
Here’s a paradox for you, I was the slowest person on the team but was placed in the sprint group, not because I could sprint but because they practiced less yardage than everyone else.
I had to figure out the quickest way to improve and the best plan I had for that was to ask the coaches for endless feedback and hone my swimming technique, accordingly. Each practice was a challenge for me to figure out how I could get just a little better than I was before. I kept asking the coaches for help, could they show me things, like start off the blocks properly, do a proper flip turn, etc…and they were more than willing to help me out!
Our first competition rolled around, which was our intersquad meet, where we competed against our teammates. Our team’s captain put me in the 500 free and the 200 fly. They only happen to be most challenging events in swimming.
I looked at him and said, “are you sure?”
To which he replied, “just finish them legally.”
I was elated when I touched the wall completing that 200 fly! Afterwards, my coach said that we can work on that and it became a staple for me at just about every competition, including the away meets.
Fast forward to the BIG East Conference Swimming & Diving Championships. My coach wanted me to swim the 100 free, 100 & 200 breast. We are only allowed to compete in three individual events. I wanted to finish out the season with one more 200 fly, to which my coach replied with, “just make sure you are ready to go the first night of competition.”
Trusting him, I made sure to be ready. In order for me to swim the 200 fly, one more time, he cleared a lane in the warm-up pool and had my teammates line the lane to cheer me on! This race was just for me, not for the competition.
I got to swim the first race at that meet for my team. It was such a special experience, this day, still brings up all kinds of feelings just thinking about it. I don’t remember my time; I just remember the love and sense of team during that moment.
When I asked if I could walk on, my coach told me I probably wouldn’t compete in any travel meets or the BIG East Championships, but here I was, finishing up the season, competing at every meet including this one. It was my last time competing in intercollegiate athletics due to eligibility, but it all started with the ambitious goal and vision of swimming for Rutgers and being a Scarlet Knight.
After I completed the season, the team captain said to me, “I don’t know how you did that, we have been doing this for our whole lives and you walked on and stuck it out.” Another friend couldn’t believe I walked onto a division 1 swim program. My best answer at the time was that no one told me I couldn’t do it.
That experienced has carried over into everything I do. I also use the story to impart the courage onto others to go for their dreams and visions. If you put your mind to something you can accomplish almost anything.
What did this experience teach me?
Leave your expectations out of it.
- I didn’t expect anything through this. I just had fun and played. Learning, growing and improving.
Define your vision and set your intention.
- See and feel what you envision so much so that you have already achieved what you see.
Chunk it out into smaller and more doable parts.
- Once you see and feel that vision the next step will become clearer and then take one step at a time.
Curiosity is key.
- Ask lots of questions and then go play to help answer them. This can be through physical, mental, reading, asking others, etc…Curiosity helps keep things very interesting. There is no right or wrong way to do something we just find better ways through curiosity.
Ask for help
- Asking for help is a strength. People will help you along your path. Not only help you but encourage you and become some of your best cheerleaders.
- My coaches and teammates helped me get so much further than what I could have figured out on my own.
Mastery is achieved through play.
- Do something better each and every day and the results will take care of themselves. I didn’t strive to get better I just played and learned from each and every experience.
The only limits that exist are the ones in your mind.
Do you have a first time ambitious goal? A sport you would like to compete in? A business you want to start? Or another first time ambition? Could you use some help, support, and encouragement to do it? Join us in the #365FirstsChallenge Facebook Group and let’s talk about it.