On Friday, I wrapped up the office packing for the day. Most of O’Shaughnessy Hall was dark and, except for the humming of some fans and pumps, quiet.
I opened the door to the pool for the last time, turned on only two underwater lights, each at opposite ends of the pool, and dove into Lane 3.
Letting the memories of the old pool’s 70 years wash around me, literally, I swam quietly for 310 yards…ten yards for each year I’ve coached here. But I was so aware of all the years before my time, and all the swimmers who had swum so many yards in that pool. Aware of all the friendships created there, all the races, with their joyous moments of victory and the disappointments–where the greatest outcome is the lesson learned.
I was expecting to be tired…I’m not in great shape right now. But I was lifted…perhaps because I welcomed the spirits that were with me, but more likely because of the atmosphere and tradition of that great old pool, where no one in the Family ever truly swims alone.
Around 10:00 AM tomorrow, the last workout in O’Shaugnessy Natatorium will wrap up with a slow, easy 200 yard swim, and a long, elegant chapter in the history of St. Thomas swimming will come to a close.
It will be a quiet end to what was, at many times, a raucous and exciting era.
Last Friday, December 11, 2009, the old pool saw her final meet, fittingly against Gustavus. Jon Carlson brought up his best men and women, the week before final exams, to swim…thanks, Jon! So two teams, at the top of the MIAC (as they were when the pool opened in 1940) battled it out, with St. Thomas coming out on top with both the men and women.
But the racing took a back seat to the memories. About 70 alumni were at the last meet, and everyone from St. Thomas (and all but a couple Gusties) swam in the last event, in the last meet, in the Natatorium. When the last race finished, people began clapping…and then standing…and the ovation for the old pool lasted two or three minutes. What a special moment…one of so many moments that night, and in the 70 years previous. It was no wonder that the kids didn’t want to get out of the water…
So, a toast to the old O’Shaughnessy Natatorium……Bob Christensen’s vision….I.A. O’Shaughnessy’s generosity….and the home of hundreds and hundreds of Tommie swimmers and divers…swimming millions of yards…
Every swimmer and diver a link in a very long and strong chain…every link in the chain with a thousand memories.
How can you ever truly say goodbye to that?
Emma, TJ and I recently enjoyed a family tradition together … watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade … our favorite part of the parade is always the big balloons. Macy’s holiday season theme, displayed prominently on its store, is “Believe.” The final parade entry was Santa on his sleigh … signifying the beginning of the Christmas season, certainly a time of belief.
As we watched Macy’s parade, I couldn’t help but think about this year’s team and our “season of belief.” We are in the process of believing unconditionally in ourselves as individuals and in our teammates, coaches and program. The only way to grow and thrive is through taking risks, being vulnerable, depending on each other and being willing to learn from our mistakes. If we believe and give all of ourselves to that goal, success will be achieved. It’s not always easy however. Our society often reinforces the notion of taking the easy way out … playing it safe, keeping options open and being unwilling to fully commit. Very little can be accomplished by acting in those ways.
The wish I have for my players is to develop a solid belief system. First and foremost, I wish for them to believe in themselves, their abilities, and the beauty that lies inside. Nelson Mandela, Noble Peace prize winner, said,
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are born to manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone.”
Individually, I want each of my players empowered by who they are and to be ready and willing to offer their gifts to make the world around them a better place. As a team, I want us to come together to use our gifts for the common good and to act as one. Doing so will create a powerful and extraordinarily special experience. This coming together is where unconditional trust and understanding exist. The ability to put your faith in another person and believe in them allows the group to accomplish very special goals … and everyone is better because of what the team accomplishes together.
In this holiday season and beyond, it is my hope that you develop the belief in yourself to be the person you know you can be. Do not limit yourself and belittle the greatness that lives inside of you. Instead, use those gifts and talents to give of yourself to create something special.