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When competition takes a toll

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Why a national medal winner quit her sport

For the past six years, I’ve participated in competitive swimming. But this past September, I decided to quit.

Before I stopped, I was swimming five, sometimes six days a week, logging 10 hours per week of swimming plus two hours of dryland training. With all this work, I was usually at the pool for about three hours every swim day. Alongside schoolwork and everyday life, I got stressed out.

That’s when I decided to quit. Although stress was the main reason I left competitive swimming, there were many other little reasons for my decision.

When I began the sport at age nine, I loved to swim. Many people said I was a natural, and in some ways that was true. My brothers started in the Spartan Swim Club along with me, so I wasn’t alone.

Although we all began at the same level, I quickly left the boys behind as I improved. Soon, I was skipping levels and experiencing an adrenaline rush when I realized how fast I could swim.

In my second year, I qualified for provincial competitions. At those provincials held in Prince George, B.C., I qualified for nationals. However, our family wasn’t prepared to travel so we decided not to go. The following year at nationals, when I was 12, I won a bronze and silver medal. I loved the competition and races!

By my fifth year, I was losing my joy. I was always stressed out and would stay up at night worrying and thinking about the early morning (I had to swim from 5 to 7 am). I was continually tired and often got sick.

In my last year of competitive sport, the thrill wasn’t there anymore. By Christmastime, I knew it would be my final season. Trying my hardest to make the final year my best, I worked harder than ever to achieve all I could.

At provincials in June 2009, I exceeded all my previous accomplishments by winning one event, placing second in two, coming third in one, and placing fourth in two. At nationals in July, I came in the top 20 for most of my events, and 13th in the 50-metre freestyle (my best event).

Besides the medals and recognition, swimming helped me become a more disciplined person. I became more efficient with my homework, learned to say no to events that would tire me out, and understood the value of practice and preparation – life skills that helped shape the person I am today.

Whether I swim competitively or not, I’ve benefitted from my swim club experience.

Laurel Dick is in grade 11 at Chilliwack (B.C.) Senior Secondary School and attends Broadway MB Church.

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