Perspective and Encouragement

Joy swims with the Summer Swim League here in Augusta. There are many swimmers in the league who swim on one of the year-round teams, as well, but Joy has never been a year-rounder. When placed up against a child who swims year round, she is at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to time in the water, technique and strength since the summer league begins around mid-May and wraps things up by mid-July. Eight weeks isn’t enough time to see grand improvements in stroke or strength … but swimming is still excellent exercise so my kids have always been a part of the summer league.

Because she isn’t a year round swimmer, Joy doesn’t come in first place in her races because she swims against girls who do. I don’t believe she has ever placed first overall.

Our summer swim league team generally competes against one team at a time. We participate in about five or six meets per swim season. Joy’s best strokes are back and breast. This summer, she came in fifth in these strokes out of 20-25 girls, depending on the meet. At the end of the season, at our Division Championship she did well enough to make the cut and earn the privilege of moving on to the All-Star meet.

The All-Star meet is composed of the top three fastest swimmers in each age group, in each stroke, from each team. So, Joy was one of the three fastest swimmers from our team in the 11-12 girls in backstroke and breaststroke. At the All-Star meet, she came in 13th overall in breast and 19th in back out of a total of nineteen swimmers in each race.

Do you see that? She was last in backstroke.

In the backstroke heat, she swam against Maggie who is the coach’s daughter. Maggie swims year-round most years. She is one of four siblings who swims under their mom’s excellent coaching instruction. Maggie works really hard and is an excellent swimmer. Maggie came in 13th above Joy’s 19th in backstroke.  Though the difference in time was only 2.29 seconds, Maggie was, yes, faster than Joy. I tried to explain to Joy that she shouldn’t compare herself to anyone … especially a year-round swimmer.

She is SO hard on herself. That night and through the next day, she was so sad. She was terribly disappointed in herself.  You would have thought that she was the slowest of a.l.l  the swimmers in the entire state. No amount of encouragement from me seemed to help.

So, I began to do some research.

I wanted to
put her placement
into perspective.

As I did research, I found that our swim league is made up of 21 individual teams. There are 18 counties represented in the CSRA league with 4 team divisions that are placed in each division by team size. Our team, the Makos, is in Division I because we have a large team.

The one statistic I could not find on the site was the total number of swimmers in the league.

So, I sent a quick apologetic email to the league secretary asking if he knew a number off the top of his head. If not, I asked him to please not worry about doing research. I really didn’t want to be a bother … I just wanted to encourage a disheartened pre-teen swimmer.

Within minutes, he sent me back a reply.
I called Joy over to the computer so she could see the screen.

“Do you see that number?” I asked, as I pointed to the string of digits in his reply.
“Hmmmmm” she grumbled.
I choked up as I spoke.
“You came in 19th
out of 2,100 total swimmers.
Do you see that? Two.thousand.one.hundred swimmers?” 

I continued with a pep talk about perspective and doing our personal best …
and about how important it is that we have all the facts.
I told her how proud I was of her and that she had worked hard
and did an amazing job this season.
I mentioned that, IF we choose to look at how we compare overall,
we should, at the very least, have the proper perspective.

In reality, I don’t want to encourage anyone to look a.r.o.u.n.d at others
to compare themselves
or find self-acceptance.
Truly, we should trust in God …
what He has to say about us …
what He asks of us …
how He wants to direct us …
how He evaluates us …
to find our perspective on ourselves.

But, in this case, a little looking-around perspective was a good thing.
This was a competitive event.
In this case, my girl was choosing to focus on a very.small.few
rather than the overall group.
So, in this case, I was happy to broaden that perspective and show her
that she was being illogically hard on her own performance.

I think we all do this.
Or maybe I should just speak for myself: I KNOW that I do this.
And it is so helpful when someone comes alongside
and says, “You’re doing a good job. Don’t be discouraged.
Let me put things in perspective for you.”

I am always thankful for words of encouragement. We all need it … daily.

So, I want to encourage you today.
I want to encourage you to be sure that you’re looking at the big picture
when you do find the need to compare yourself to others.
And, if and when you fall short,
even then, don’t be discouraged …
for God looks at your heart.
He forgives you when you sin. He loves you in spite of your messes. He does not expect you to measure up to the standard of others, He only asks that you obey Him and do your best. And, even.then, He has compassion and mercy when you fail … because we all do.

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