By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Growing up in a town where football was the most celebrated thing an adolescent male could do, I’ve heard it many times before: “Swimming’s not that hard.” Or some variation of it. Swimming isn’t as hard as [insert other sport/activity here]. The comments weren’t necessarily mean-spirited — more like a friendly jab in the ribs — but still. After a few times, it got to me.
Maybe you’re a wordsmith capable of sound thinking whenever confronted with Neanderthals; I’m more of a “Yeah, well, that’s just like your opinion, man,” kind of a guy (only to later lay awake at night staring at the ceiling thinking of all those awesome comebacks I should have said).
Michael Phelps, NBC, USA Swimming, and so many more people and organizations have changed the perception of the sport since I was a young kid growing up in a rural farm town. In the past twenty years, I’ve seen it first-hand. The majority of people respect swimming as an incredibly hard sport that requires copious hours, weeks, months, and years spent staring at black lines with a heart rate above 150. But, I believe sometimes, somewhere, young swimmers still hear this diabolical slander against our wonderful sport.
And, so, these pre-written comebacks are for you.
1. “If you can swim a 200-yard butterfly legally without being disqualified in under 4 minutes, I’ll give you 20 dollars.”
In other words: Challenge that Neanderthal. Tell them, “Most 12-year-olds can do this.” Or pick any other challenge you think is appropriate. Chances are, the money will be enticing, that person will try, and epically fail.
2. “You come to a swim practice; I’ll go to your practice, and we’ll compare.”
Once, a football player came to one of my high school practices. Here’s what happened: He dove in, swam about 175 yards, gasped for air, coughed on the gutter, got out, and said, “Nope, not doing this.”
3. “How many belly guts do you see in Olympic swimming? How many belly guts do you see in baseball, football, or golf?”
4. “There’s a reason why swimmers swim upwards of four hours a day, six days a week, for twenty years, for one race to come down to a hundredth of a second.”
That reason? IT’S HARD, AND IT’S HARD TO SUCCEED.
5. “You’re right. Nothing is hard when you love it.”
No one can take away the passion you have for your sport. So when someone tries to disparage what you love, just reaffirm that you love it. When people try to disparage what you do, they’re looking for retaliation.
Sometimes (most times), taking the high road is the best answer.
Nod, walk away, and just keep swimming.