Steve Prefontaine (Pre), one of America’s greatest runners has been quoted as saying “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” I first saw this quote on the wall of my swim coaches’ office. As an athlete this quote became my motto. On days that I did not feel like working out, or after not performing well at a workout or swim meet, I visualized the quote on the wall and it would encourage me to keep at it and to continue to go after my dreams.
When I was ten years old my parents, in hopes of preventing the endless “I am bored” syndrome of summer, encouraged me to join a local swim team. I quickly fell in love with the sport, with the team camaraderie and the competition. I started to achieve “A” times and to earn “most valuable awards”. I began to move up the swimming ranks by competing at bigger competitions, junior nationals and then nationals. I earned a college scholarship, swam at the NCAA championship meet, earned All-American honors and qualified for the United States Olympic Trials. All of my accomplishments as a swimmer confirm that hard work and commitment will help you to reach your goals.
My belief is that it does not matter what your passion is, as long as you make a commitment and work to your fullest potential, you will be rewarded. I spent countless hours swimming lap after lap. Every morning I was in the pool by 6:00 a.m. for my first of two workouts. After my morning practice, I was off to school and at the end of the day when all my friends were headed home; I was back in the pool. And the next day I did it all over again. In order to continue to have success as a swimmer I had to forgo Friday night football games, hanging out with friends and my senior prom. During some very intense training times I suffered two injuries, one to my knee and the other to my elbow, both of which required surgery and rehabilitation. It was a struggle to get back into shape, but I had a goal, I believed in myself and I was not giving up. When I earned a full-college scholarship to college I knew that my efforts and my sacrifices had paid off.
I have learned that, as in swimming, life’s successes often come in small increments. I know that, by consistently working towards my goals I can accomplish what I set for myself. I have faced adversities in my life, the death of my grandparents, leaving my family and moving from California to Texas, and a divorce after 10 years of marriage. The lessons that I learned in the pool have helped me through each of these events, and through everyday challenges.
Every morning when I wake my son up for his cross country practice I see a poster of Pre hanging on his wall. On that poster is the same quote that I first saw many years ago in my coaches’ office. When I look at that poster in his room I have a rush of emotions. Something that had encouraged me so many years ago is now my son’s inspiration. Pre motivates him every morning, rain or shine, to get out bed, lace up his shoes and run the best he can that day. When we talk about his running, his goals, and plans he always tells me the same thing, “I’m not wasting the gift.”
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