I can’t swim. I don’t like water. I have a healthy respect for it.
Envy swelled on Wednesday inside the Ramsey Center as I watched youngster half my age and younger diving bravely into the deep end of the pools with smiles on their face.
Being in the water is a good experience for them, while I stand next to the pool praying nobody bumps me and I fall into the water.
Their bravery was only one of the things I left applauding the area’s summer swimmers for. Last summer I penned a column highlighting the bright future that the area’s swimming programs have.
Much of last season I saw the gap close between Summer Hill, Shamrock, and Oconee Club. Once the results from the Oconee Swim League Championship came in last June, Summer Hill had won their third straight title.
It felt like the next summer (this summer) would be an even closer race. It was, but at the end of the night on Wednesday, the Barracudas had the trophy still.
The did it with almost 100 points separating them from second place Shamrock. That’s impressive. As a former athlete, seeing someone repeat any performance twice is pretty outstanding.
I’ve been taught all my life that no matter who returns, how much better the best player gets, no team is the same the next year.
“You’re either get better or worse, you never stay the same.” As my offensive line coach Forrest Paulson used to say.
These aren’t robots, they’re kids. Only robots and the New England Patriots can be expected to achieve the same results year in and year out. Summer Hill now has won the Oconee Swim League four years in a row, in four different ways. With a reputation of championship winning performances there’s pressure. Even at the recreational levels. There are expectations.
I applaud the swimmers of Summer Hill for not succumbing to the hype that is four straight championships. How easy it is to defeat yourself inside your own head before ever stepping in between the lines of play in athletics.
I can remember playing in the Athens recreational league championship game in my first season playing football. I made every mistake possible leading into my first big championship game.
The days leading up I didn’t sleep well. I tossed and turned in my Batman sheets and walked around school with butterflies in my stomach. I shook the butterflies long enough to engage in some pre-game trash talk with my classmates and relatives who played on the opposing team.
By the end of school on game day, I was all over the place. I wanted to go listen to angry music to pump myself up, so I did. By the time the game started, I had a headache and I was mentally exhausted from the buildup.
We lost. Badly. I learned a lesson. I also gained an appreciation for what the young kids of Summer Hill were able to accomplish last week. Though there were anxious faces as the scores were being announced, the Barracudas did what they had to do. As youngsters do, they also made sure their celebration was fun. They took a dip in the deep end of the pool along with their entire team and their coaches.
Not the way I would celebrate, but hey, it’s been a while since I’ve been in a position to win a championship and water is for drinking not celebrating.
Jeremy Johnson is the sports editor for The Oconee Enterprise. Opinions expressed are those of the writer.