Monday, July 22, 2013

Don't Say You Didn't Try

I swam in high school. When I decided to go to Clemson University I asked my swim coach if he thought I was good enough to swim there. He said no.

In 1995 I was swimming eight times a week but for all that work, I'd only dropped three seconds off my 100 butterfly. I'd seen myself get stronger and faster but I'd need to drop four more seconds to make the team at Clemson, my coach said. Four seconds seemed impossible.

So I finished the high school season and the summer season and when I went to Clemson in August I joined the crew team.

Say it was a chance to do something new.

A couple of people to whom I've told that story said they would have responded differently. 

My friend Rob, a 1997 Naval Academy graduate, said, "See, that's when I would have worked my ass off to prove him wrong."

Just the other day a woman I'd only just met, a nurse and mom of three, a part-time tri-athlete who said things like, "I just want to do something," when describing her workouts, agreed with Rob. She said she'd work extra hard to prove my old swim coach wrong. Then she said her daughter was the same way and it was very frustrating for her.

And I thought, "How does Hollie react when she's told she can't do something?"


Does she work harder, get better, and prove she can? Or does she consider her strengths, her capabilities, and decide to change course to something she'll be better at? Who taught her that? Who taught me that?

I can remember thinking that it would be incredibly frustrating to beat myself into some kind of Clemson-ready shape only to fail. When I got to Clemson, though, my roommate walked on the track team. She just went and tried out and made it. Apparently people just did that. They just gave it a shot. But not me.

Say you were burned out.

The third person I told about my high school coach's assessment was my Masters coach at Team Greenville. It was 2005 and I had been swimming on my own at the Y for three years when I finally joined Scott's team.

He asked about college and I told him that I wouldn't have been able to make the team. Then I added what I'd learned when I got to Clemson: their 100 butterfly times were only two seconds off mine, not four. The records were seven seconds faster, but their competitors were not that much faster than me. And I'd only been swimming 100 fly for one season. Until I was a senior my coach said it would take the whole meet for me to finish that race.

Scott said, "Kasie, sometimes it's not the swimmer. Sometimes it's the coach."

Say you believed what you were told.

I'm HB's coach. I don't want her to be pigheaded and delusional about her own capabilities. I also don't want her to give up so easily that she never realizes her full potential. How exactly am I supposed to teach her that very rare balance between ambition and realism?

I haven't let all the naysayers win. (You know who you are, naysayers.) I have a pretty high level of achievement on my resumé. Still, there are wasted opportunities in my history, as I'm sure there are in everyone's. 

While I love where I am and I'm proud of the way I got here, I wonder if there weren't a few chances I should have taken. 

When have you been limited by others' assessments of you?

2 comments:

  1. Being limited by someone else's assessment of one's capabilities is probably one of the toughest challenges to overcome. It is sometimes especially difficult if the person has any self-doubt as to whether she can meet the challenge. Such was the case when I graduated from high school and met with the Admissions Counselor at Francis Marion College to discuss my enrollment in the nursing program. He looked across the desk and said to me, "I'm not sure you will be successful in the nursing program here at Francis Marion. It is a tough program and I don't think you will be able to do the work based on your science grades." Your Nana was there and when we left she said to me, "You know you can do this if you truly want it." However, rather than listen to her vote of confidence, I changed my major to psychology and decided I would go into teaching which is where he thought I would be more successful. Of course, I did eventually go to Marymount University which has one of the most rigorous nursing programs in the country and graduated near the top. Your Nana said on the day I graduated she wished that admissions counselor at Francis Marion could see me now. All of that being said, I wonder sometimes if I had gone to nursing school then would I have been better equipped to meet some of the other challenges which came my way. Throughout life all of us are met with challenges and sometimes we do need to back down and go another route. I believe when we give our best in whatever we endeavor to do then we are living the life we should be living. Once again, you have given me food for thought, my beautiful and very talented daughter! Don't worry about HB; you are her best role model!

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    1. Thank, mom. I appreciate you reading and sharing this story with me. I didn't realize you'd experienced that at Francis Marion. I guess you knew exactly what I felt, then, when I was not admitted to the PhD program at Clemson.

      Sometimes people pass us up. While it may just be we're not the right fit, the rejection and self-doubt can be difficult to face.

      Having the courage to persevere is as important as having the courage to walk away.

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