My youngest daughter made the varsity cross country team as a freshman. She was fast, strong, and was seemingly invincible in her attitude towards her sister, her parents, and life in general.

Fast forward to this year, her senior year. She’s spent the last two years dealing with leg issues that we’ve spent $$$$ for to only have her crying because her shins hurt so bad. This year, she decided to swim. Just when we got our Saturdays back (our oldest daughter swam four years), BAM, we are back into the grind of six days a week! 🙂

It’s been fun to watch the progression of our youngest and her year of high school swim. While she was always very proud of her oldest sister, I don’t think she always respected the fact that she was a swimmer. Suddenly, it’s “I’m so tired”, “I’m so sore”, “I can’t believe that we swam four miles in practice today!”. The effort level had to be amped up to meet the level where her teammates are at. And, it’s been humbling for our youngest because she’s swam during the summer, she’s run, she’s played basketball, and been fairly successful in all of what she did. Swimming, it’s hard. It’s really hard and she’s not had the success that she was thinking she might. Has she dropped time? Heck yes. Has she had a ball with her new team? Oh goodness yes! Has she realized that she has to do some work to move forward? Finally, yes!! 😉

My hope, that this tiny little piece of growing up, figuring our her effort level is equal to her success level (and yes, we celebrate the little things) will translate into different areas of her life. She’s a monumental time waster (more so than I, and that’s saying something) and if she could take half the time she spends worrying about a misstep on social media and use to better herself, I would not worry about next year in college.

She’s openly admitted that she “wishes she’d listened to us” and swam four years. It’s been a joy to see her happy with her team, something that’s been a struggle for years. The Decorah team has been widely known in our area to have this great chemistry, and this year is no different. This year, there are four school districts competing under the Decorah umbrella, and I love that.

I love coaching basketball and will probably do it until my wife says “enough”. I miss going to cross country meets, seeing former students running their hearts out, yelling encouragement, and see that recognition of “hey, Mr. Johnston is here cheering for me!” But there’s nothing like a girls’ swim meet. The cheers they do at the beginning of the meet, the crazy parents, the way everyone encourages each other to swim their best, and how each meet is a competition between teams, but also a competition for yourself. No one can fumble the ball, no one can strike out, no one can miss the shot, it’s about you, the water, and how much better you can become as a swimmer.

I’ll get on my soap box here a bit with how cross country runners and swimmers are treated. Because it’s not the “traditional” fall sport of football or volleyball, it’s been called a “junk sport”. I’d love to see one of the top football players climb in a swim one of their workouts. Same with volleyball, jump in to see how “easy” swimming is (both daughters have been told their sport is easy). In fact, a few years back, one of the top cross country runners for Decorah climbed into the pool during summer swim, swam the workout, and said, “You guys are nuts!” My youngest came home and said they swam about 4 miles during their practice. But, I digress. 🙂

I’m a bit sad with this season as I know it will truly be our last. I’ll miss the pools, the dorky high school kids just having fun, and the competition. But most of all, I’ll miss my daughters in the water. Each has been able to make themselves into better swimmers and grow personally because of this experience.