I swim in the slow lane. My coaches refuse to call it the slow lane, because to them, none of their swimmers are "slow." Personally, I don't think any of us are slow either, but with the exception of three swimmers, most of the swimmers on the team are slower than at least someone else on the team.
George's training group has three lanes. The left lane is the fastest: swimmers that can go about 25 seconds or less in their fifty yard freestyle. The middle is everyone between 25 and 29 seconds. The right lane... Well that's the lane I'm about to tell about. Our fifties are about 30 seconds or longer.
When I first started swimming on the team, I swam in the slow lane. A year and a half later, I still swim in the slow lane. Where I used to be literally the slowest swimmer, I am now one of the fastest in the lane. But I'm not here to boast or claim that I'm awesome or anything. I'm here to say that I've found myself in a leadership position. That's right, in the slow lane.
A lot of leaders and inspirations to the slower swimmers are in the fast lanes, but some of the most effective are the ones that are in their own lane. That's because we are right there training with them. They are the ones chasing us across the pool during sets. The leaders are the ones pushing them to be their best.
One girl in my lane always complains that she's slow. She down talks herself a lot. When I hear her and and watch her, I don't have to go back very far to when I was in her shoes... Or should I say flippers?
I know how destructive it is to down talk yourself. I know how hard it is to be in the back, get lapped during sets, and quickly fall behind. I know how easy it is to say, "I'm so slow!"
But I look at this girl and I see that, one season in, she is way faster than I was my first season on swim team. I see it as my responsibility to be a leader for her, and anyone else in our lane who needs some positivity. "Come on, girl! Work your hardest. That's what's going to make you drop time and get faster. Give it everything you have!" I tell her where I used to be. I tell her that George used to time my 200 free with a calendar... One day, two days, three days...
She has gotten a million times better over just a few months. She already moved up two training levels. When she first joined the team, she could barely do breaststroke, and she didn't know the first thing about butterfly. Now she rocks at butterfly. Look at where you were, and where you want to be. Not where you aren't.
You never know when one day, you suddenly find yourself in a leadership position, and an inspiration for other swimmers, even if you aren't the fastest. Being a leader and an inspiration is extremely rewarding. Leaders encourage others, and it boosts their own confidence in return.