My daughter Arden recently wrapped up her fourth swim team season. There are always challenges that come with being a visually impaired swim team parent, but every season I add new strategies. Since the normal cues of clothing and hair are removed in the pool, each kid looks the same in their team swim suit and swim cap (even to normal-sighted parents). Since she knows I can’t pick her from a crowd, Arden’s a good sport and keeps me up to date on her whereabouts.
I make a large print cheat sheet for myself using a thick sharpie to indicate her race number, heat, and lane. I strategize ahead of time where the best viewing spot will be and whether it makes sense to take some photos with my iPhone. I finally figured out during the last meet (better late than never) that it’s best to turn VoiceOver off before snapping the photo so I have a better chance of catching the shot I’m aiming for. In the absence of the VoiceOver double-tap delay, I was able to capture this great action dive photo of her. Without seeing the image on the small screen, you just have to know where to point, when to snap, and hope for the best.
For the home meets, we can easily walk the half-mile to the pool, but even transportation to the away meets has been a breeze this year. Local lodge owners, Trish and Sal Asciutto, have a big vehicle and two daughters on the swim team – Sarah, 11, and Emily, 10. Without the pleasure of riding with them, I would never have learned about their own interesting swim team tale; and it’s a doozy.
During last year’s mid-season swim team picnic, Emily bent a few fingers back during a cartwheel exhibition and spent many hours at the emergency room before getting a big waterproof cast. The season ended abruptly for her, right when her hard work was paying off. Exactly one year later, again on swim team picnic day, another trip to the emergency room was in order, this time for Sarah. She had stopped short on her bike, launching her over the handlebars, and landed on her wrist, which promptly broke. This time, Trish had to fight to get a waterproof cast. “She’s a swimmer! She needs to be in the pool, even if her competitive participation ends for the season.” Just like her sister the previous year, it looked as though her goals for the season were to be put on hold.
After the pain subsided, Sarah was able to start practicing again, cast and all. And to everyone’s surprise, she got the go-ahead to compete the following week! Did I mention that these sisters are fast? How exciting it was to see Emily and Sarah compete in the same race, the 200-meter freestyle, at the next meet. And since they posted the two fastest times, they had the two middle lanes, side by side. Her wrist was feeling fine, so Sarah decided to do a dive start, despite her cast (perhaps to avoid giving her little sister another added edge). The race began; true to form, they quickly took the lead in the middle lanes.
After a few laps, Sarah had the edge by several strokes. But on the last lap, Emily stepped it up a notch and it was exciting all the way to the finish. They both came out winners; Sarah toughed it out and won the race despite a brick on her arm, and Emily was just one second behind. This was a first for her – she had never been so close to catching her big sister. They both were pleased. Smiling, Sarah told me, “It wasn’t my best time.” I said, “Well, duh!!!”, looking down at her cast.
So, I’ve learned a little bit about gutsiness from our youth, and they learned that sometimes you have to change your goals or put them on hold, listen to your body, and find different ways to do things. These are great life lessons for the future, for those times when you’re body doesn’t always do what you want it to do. When asked about what’s in store for next year’s mid-season picnic, Trish said, “We’re staying home and I’m wrapping all three daughters in bubble wrap!!”
Footnote – we traveled to the state meet this weekend where Arden achieved some personal bests, and Emily placed in the top 5 for every race she competed in. And Sarah drew some attention in the stands when onlookers wondered what that purple thing on her arm was… perhaps it was good luck. She broke personal bests, and contributed to a second place finish for the freestyle relay team, a mere one tenth of a second behind the winners. I think you could safely say that the cast slowed her down at least that much. One thing is for sure – it will be another good season next year, whether or not the Asciutto’s attend the team picnic – after all, a little handicap here or there doesn’t slow them down all that much anyway.