4 mins read

Finding a Niche at an Early Age

Reflecting on early experiences

My vices are few, and I think they relate to such good experiences that I can’t help but to have fallen in love – with Chocolate, Gaming, and the Shower…  (I know, not what you might expect to see following the word vice, but they work for me)

The last of these because of the insights I find letting the water splash over me.
[you’re not the only one .. I do some of my best thinking in the shower … ed.]

And this morning? A trip back to summer camp as a 5th grader, and one of the lessons there.

Come along and you might find something to think more on…

Defining what you’re not

As a fourth grader, Johny D and I were the fastest in our class.  We both happened to be rather small, but we made up for it in effort.

But as kids grew in the middle school, I didn’t.  And that meant I wasn’t likely to star in those activities that required size and strength…


And while swimming isn’t necessarily a strength sport, I had difficulties picking up the forward crawl.  It could have been the lack of body fat for buoyancy, but no matter – it took me a while to master that.

But I made up for it – by being able to swim underwater from one side of the pool to the other.

And then back again.

And again.

My own style

And I didn’t care much for moving my arms when doing it – since my arms didn’t give much of a push, it was faster to simply leave them at my sides and torpedo through the water with my legs.

It was unusual, but effective for me.
(and would later make me quite successful at sharks and minnows…)

Summer Camp

And this all sets me up for the summer after fifth grade – and my first experience with camp.

As one of the youngest and smallest in that session of 5-8th grade, I suffered through some initial home sickness but began to enjoy the activities and setting.  Just a year or two earlier, the Summer Olympics of 1972 featured the amazing wins of Mark Spitz.

And so the camp featured it’s very own “Aquatic Olympics”, but that was not necessarily something I was looking forward to – as you might expect.

Underwater swim and breath holding competitions

But there it was on the event chart – the things that I did so well!

I confidently told the counselor that I’d like to do the underwater swim and hold my breath, and while I think that was received with some shock, I got signed up for both of them plus a relay of some sort.

The results

The pool was 25 meters long and the underwater swim started on the deep side. (I checked google maps to see the camp while writing this – it still looks the same;-) I swam the whole distance and got another good kick off the far end – and came back 3/4 of the way – clearly taking first place.

The holding your breath underwater didn’t go as well.  I was under and saw all of the other competitors stand up – and casually rose out of the water – only to see an older kid simply floating on the top of the water with his face down – Ack! My second Gold yanked away. (I believe I tried to suggest that he wasn’t “under” the water to no avail…-)

But there I was – learning the lesson that it didn’t matter if I wasn’t great at everything. That I could still bring points home for the team as long as there was something that I could be better at, and that would be ok.

What are your specialties?