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A Swimmer's Commitment: An Account


[Say: /kəˈmɪtm(ə)nt/]

Commitment—say it again.

And then twice over.

It seems strange, doesn’t it, how such a profound word begins to lose its meaning, slowly and then, all at once? It sounds like gibberish syllables looming in the air. In asking you to indulge in this repetitive rut, I was seeking to establish a notion, pivotal but not merely limited to sport—words hold no worth unless you consciously act on them!

You have, at some point in your lives heard the age-old adage “commitment is the key to success” be it from your coach or your parents. Although this is a banal statement, it doesn’t rob the saying of its essence; commitment and thereby, the motivation to remain committed is the journey you have to make in order to reach your goals.

Speaking of goals, all of us who have been dedicated to our respective sport disciplines for a while have realised the weightage of setting SMART goals, gradually. Back when I started swimming, I barely knew anything about it.

Even as I talk about swimming, I cannot help but tread back in time to my first-ever aquatic meet. I remember it was the second Sunday of May, 2007. A plump, enthu-cutlet, I stood behind diving block, numbered 6 at the Calcutta Swimming Club, Kolkata. I was competing with well-trained, lean-bodied twelve-year old girls, confidently stretching their muscles before the race. I too, gathering that it was a customary practice, stretched a muscle or two. I wore my goggles and took my mark. In that moment, I saw myself as the greatest gift to humankind possessing an insurmountable skillset. While we’re at it, might I also point out that I had never before trained in that sport.

“Go!”—the starting hoot goes off and I jump into the pool, reassuring myself that I was going to win; jumping into the pool would still be quite a charitable term to use in my case. I threw myself into the pool with a loud painful thud, trying to make my way through the water bubbles, none of which was enough to burst my own. The ten-year old me sure did have unreasonably large gogGOALS; I was obviously not going to bag a medal.

Looking back, the first step to remaining dedicated to something is setting realistic goals for yourself. That being said, the dynamic nature of sport makes fulfilling a commitment seemingly difficult. Conversely, I also feel that difficult situations are best modes to test your commitment so we should thrive to capitalize each one of those passing moments. Sure, it is easy to choke under pressure. But a strong mental headspace and the intrinsic need to achieve your target should transcend trivial impediments.

I started off on the wrong foot, as a swimmer both in terms of my mental and physical approach to the sport. I discredited the value of staying true to my sport. What’s important is that I saved myself from drowning at the right time. Perhaps the biggest blow to me was the fact that I did not qualify for my school team in grade 6. Being the daughter of one of the fastest swimmers in school, I took for granted that I had magically inherited the same skills as my mother.

I flipped that around and I restarted as a more serious, more committed individual and prepared for the following year(s) to come.

I had no fairy tale beginning to the following year. I got turned down even in the 7th grade. Physically I may not have been good enough for the team but this didn’t shake my mental strength. I went a notch higher with my training schedule and practiced, twice a day on most days, in swimming pools, in lakes till I finally swam my way from being an amateur splasher to a University swimmer. From barely knowing how to dive to winning my first international medal in Malaysia.

And here I am today, blogging about this. In any realm of life, I guess the harshest failures are lessons in disguise. It all comes down to your resilience to keep at it and channelize your energy in the right direction—much like a flip turn!

- Simran Panchamia

Swimmer and a keen learner of psychology of an athlete!

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