Passion for the Team

Running my hand into the touchpad, I spin my head towards the scoreboard, gasping for air. I almost had to laugh; the time next to my name couldn’t be right. I had gained not two, not five, but 10 seconds. My teammates were all celebrating—after all, we were winning by 100 points—but I couldn’t shake off the feeling of loss. In each event, I had performed poorly compared to my personal bests. On the four-hour bus ride back, I had to ask myself, “Was it worth it?” Was the long drive, cold water, and awful races worth joining the Lawrenceville swimming team?

Sports-wise, my II Form year proved to be a tough transition. Before Lawrenceville, I had swam competitively on a club team, and although the training was agonizing, I would always drop time in the few meets I would attend. Competition day was serious, no-nonsense, and completely performance-oriented. When I told my club coach that I had been accepted into Lawrenceville, he had warned me that I would regret high school swimming, but I thought nothing of it. Lawrenceville seemed like different world from my prior experience, since, in my eyes, swimmers seemed almost irreverent about their times. As I sat, huddled in my corner, sulking over poor times, I watched in utter confusion as my teammates jumped and down, cheering for swimmers they didn’t even know. “What a waste of their legs,” I’d think. My frustration only mounted with each second gained, with each bad race.

While I had ended the season with good times, coming into my III Form year, I still seriously reconsidered joining the Lawrenceville team. The hours spent in the pool just didn’t seem proportional to the frustrating times I was receiving. I had almost made up my mind when I received a phone call from an eighth grader who was considering swimming in high school. Her first concern was one that I had asked myself before: “Was it worth it?” Despite my earlier convictions, I found myself answering yes. I didn’t have an explanation until later, and I’m sure the poor eighth grader left the call more confused than when she began, but my gut feeling was yes, the hours spent were indeed worth it.

I had previously thought of the sport as a numerical balance, a quantitative analysis of the gains and losses, the profits reaped and the costs accounted for, and found Lawrenceville sports lacking. What I failed to consider, however, was what I couldn’t account for. There are a million small moments I share with the swim team. Pranks, jokes, psyches, dinners, laughing as the boys dye their hair an atrocious shade of orange, then bleaching my hair the very same color; and restricting my friend’s overconsumption of Welch’s Fruit Snacks. At the time, I couldn’t see past my own misery, my personal ups and downs, to see the vibrancy of the team and the irreplaceable bonds I’ve made.

Too often, swimming is seen as a solitary sport, one of individuals racing lane by lane, but even in the most isolated of sports, Lawrenceville creates a sense of community that I’ve never encountered in any of my clubs. We stand for each other, cheer for each other, in a way that is uniquely Lawrenceville.

While I’ll continue to aim for those personal bests in Hill’s frigid pool, when it comes down to it, the number on the scoreboard isn’t what determines the quality of my experience. I concluded that Lawrenceville is a place to strive for success, but going through our fleeting four years here with the sole objective of achievement prevents us from appreciating what Lawrenceville is truly all about—community. So slow down, take a breath, and pause to appreciate the moments overlooked.

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