There’s a diligence to swimming in the mornings. There’s a willingness in rising early to suit up and shake off the solemnity of slumber in order to make your body do something it doesn’t want to do. There’s an accomplishment to the training, the exercising, the stroking, the breathing, the kicking. The reach of the stroke seems to express the metaphor of one reaching toward the new day. “I’m ready for you,” it says. “I’m coming for you and I’m intentional in my pace.”
I love that our school offers swimming as a class period and that, at least this year, it is how two of my children are starting their day. It means growth and it means strengthening for each of them, much more than just in an athletic sense. It also exposes them to coaching, teaching, mentoring, and training that mirror what we are striving to do at home. Their coach is a more experienced voice to answer to and someone to receive correction from in order to make them think and act more intentionally with each stroke, with each breath, with each placement of the elbow, with each pull.
We don’t swim for the competition so much as for the character. We don’t swim for the times so much as for the training and self-discipline that results. When kept in perspective and properly applied, sports can become the vehicle by which our children have an opportunity to be tested and tried, challenged and coached. Participating in school sports, our children are positioned to learn what Paul wanted to teach Timothy—that bodily exercise does indeed profit some, yet what begins as an exercise for the body can result in a discipline and intentionality of spirit that yields godliness, contentment, and great gain.