Why do I use that hashtag? Because I literally learned how to swim before I could walk. My grandma had a pool at her house, and she started me in the water by throwing me in and then guiding me to the wall. Then she taught me how to float. Now obviously, I have zero recollection of any of these lessons; all of these stories came from my Mom. There was lots of screaming and tears, but I always came back for me (I guess not much has changed, huh?? :))
My earliest memory of swimming lessons harken back to when I was 4-ish. I remember my Mom taking me to the Y. I also remember more tears and more screaming, but again, I always wanted to come back. I kept taking lessons, and decided that I really wanted to join the swim team. So when we moved to Boca Raton, that’s exactly what I did. Mom brought me to tryouts for the Boca Raton Swim Club, and I never looked back. I was 8. My first coach was Barb Bertram, an amazing woman whom I still keep in touch with on FB. At some point soon after, David “Duff” Tyler joined Barb, and he became my primary coach. Duff holds a place in my heart that no one else will ever occupy. He was, and still is, soooo much more than a swim coach. He’s my Dad, Coach, Counselor, Ass-Kicker… I could go on forever. Duff brought me to the highest of highs with swimming, and guided me through the lowest of lows. By the time I turned 12, Duff was convinced he could bring me to the Olympics. But, in the summer of 1985, I hurt my shoulder doing pull-ups, and nothing was ever the same. This is a terribly long story, so I won’t bore you with all of the details. Here’s the nutshell: my left shoulder had a genetically loose joint, and all of the swimming, weight work, dryland exercises, etc took their toll. My shoulder would pop out of socket at the drop of a hat, and I would put it back in by slamming my arm against the wall. Then I’d get right back in the water.
I started seeing a chiropractor when I was 15. I backed off of the swimming distance because I just couldn’t do it all. But I kept plugging along. I would do thousands of sit-ups (literally) while my teammates were on the swim bench (if you don’t know what that is, Google it: total tortune device!). I started doing a lot of PT exercises to keep all of the muscles around my shoulder joint strong so it wouldn’t pop out so much. Finally, when I was 17, my orthopedic surgeon told me he could operate, but there was a 60/40 chance that I’d never lift my arm above my head again (clearly technology back in the 80s was not what it is now). My Mom very politely said hell no, and that was the end of that. I still graduated from St. Andrews as a high-school All-American, which was one of my goals. I headed off to Emory, not able to swim more than 3000 yards at a time, but I still became an Honorable Mention All-America my freshman year. I had to stop swimming after my sophomore year because my doc there told me that I would have scars as long as my body from him trying to find my tendons when they snapped…. Ummmmm… yeah. No thanks.