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Sports and Social Media

August 31, 2010

Today a post of mine was published on PitchtotheRhino.com, a site dedicated to Sports and Social Media that was created by some awesome leaders in the social media community in South Florida.  They were gracious enough to make a me a Visiting Rhino even though I am no longer a South Floridian and I am not what you might call a sports fan.

I think one of the reasons I’ve never gotten into following sports is that even as a kid I was never into playing sports.  But for a few summers and then a season my freshman year I was on the swim team. The only trophies I got, however, were “Most Improved” and “Most Dedicated,”  and as an adult I know these are the type of self-esteem awards given to people who keep showing up even though they never place in meets.

But for me, it wasn’t about winning. In fact, I dreaded standing up on the block and diving into the water at the starting gun.  My right knee has always dragged a little bit behind me, and I was regularly disqualified from the breast stroke due to incorrect form.  Doing backstroke, I was always afraid I was going to hit my head on the wall so I watched too closely for the flags above my head signaling that I was approaching.  Butterfly left me feeling awkward and out of breath. Flip turns? Forget it. I’d get so crossed up sometimes I’d end up in somebody else’s lane.

So why did I keep coming back day after day? Why did I spend my summers waking up at 7:00 am and walking down to the neighborhood swim and tennis club? Why did I ride that bumpy school bus to the other side of town to the high school that had an indoor pool where we waited for the other team to finish practice so we could hop in? Why did I wear out the seat of my swimsuit sitting on the sidelines?

Why? I loved practice.

I loved counting down the laps. I loved the silent solitude of swimming back and forth, back and forth trying to get better. I loved the silly flippers we used for leg drills and the goofy floats we held between our knees as we worked out our arms. I didn’t mind being assigned to the slow lane where I could work at my own pace, increasing it a little bit at a time every week. My favorite moment though, the one that made the three-mile run and the one-hour swim worth it, was when I leaned against the edge of the pool with my arms on the scratchy concrete floor around its edge. I’d reach up and pull my goggles off my eyes, feeling the grip of the suction loosen and knowing there were red rings around both my eyes.  Then I’d peel off my swim cap, lean my head back and feel the cool, cool water rush through my hair.

Only one thing compares to that reward: it is the moment when I’ve finished writing when I hit publish or send or save and lean back into the words I’ve just spent the last hour or two getting just right. It feels like a flood of cold water as I reread them for the first time.

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