My daughter is a pretty good swimmer, better than either of her brothers. She’s not amazing, she won’t break any records or set the world alight with her swimming, but she has beautiful technique and she’s reasonably fast. It’s two years since she finished swimming lessons and I never take her swimming (it’s just too cold and too wet), but remarkably she seems to have hung onto her skills. So she was picked for the school swimming gala.
I love her school. I’ve loved it for nearly 11 years now. Scrap that, I’ve loved it all my life. It’s the school I went to when I was little. It’s good at so many things.
Apart from sport.
It’s crap at sport.
They enter a lot of competitions, but they always come last. Natural talent isn’t nurtured, so kids who could be really good end up being mediocre at best when pitted against schools who take sport seriously.
So it was time for another graceful defeat. Even the kids know they’re not going to win. They know which schools win everything. They know their place, but they’re happy to take part (and just very slightly sad that they never win).
Disappointingly, the school cares so little about sport that they had failed to even list the kids’ names in the programme, unlike all the other schools. Representing the school is a proud moment for any child. They want to see their names in print! So do all the parents.
My daughter was in the under 10s relay – five year 5s and a year 4, four girls and two boys. They were in the third heat against four other schools, with a total of 17 schools in the competition.
And they’re off! They started quite slowly. They picked up a bit. They tailed off a bit.
My daughter was the fourth swimmer. She swam beautifully and pretty quickly, but it was all too late. They had three fastish (my daughter and her two best friends) swimmers and three not-so-fast swimmers in their team. My daughter’s best friend swam a good final leg. But we all knew where it was going to end.
When you go to a non-sporty school you take pleasure in the small things.
‘Well at least they weren’t badly last.’
Some schools were beaten by two whole lengths, they were only beaten by a few seconds.
And so that was it. All over for another year. Now the really long wait to watch all the other races. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching the other races, but it was very hot in the swimming pool and it was getting rather late. It would have been nice to just take the kids home to bed.
Much later, my daughter and her best friend started frantically waving to us and mouthing.
‘We’re in the final!’
No. No way. They’d got it wrong.
My daughter is an eternal optimist. She believed it could be true. She sees the very best in herself and her classmates. The people she describes as ‘really good’ might win races at her school, but they’re don’t fare well at all against other schools. The races were timed and not based on position, but still… How could a team that had come LAST have been faster than the teams who had come first in other heats? They’d got it wrong, bless them.
Except they hadn’t got it wrong.
They were in the final!
The under 11s relay team didn’t make the final, nor did the individual boys and girls.
They’d changed the order round a bit for the final and started with a faster swimmer. He took off at a good pace. All of the swimmers swam faster than they did in the heat. My daughter swam very well. But they were definitely near the back. In the final length, we cheered my daughter’s best friend as though she was winning the race. The reality was, we were just cheering for her to hold onto fifth place and not come last.
She made it! She was fifth. Not last!
Fifth in the FINAL.
Except, when the final results came through, they were actually fourth. One of the other teams must have been disqualified. They nearly got a medal for flip’s sake!
Fourth out of 17. Not bad at all for a school that is crap at sport.