With the Olympic Games happening this week, the world is watching the world’s most elite and dedicated athletes compete for the status of being an Olympic medalist. For some of them, it will lead to short term glory, an endorsement deal and being a household name. For the majority of them, however, the ‘real world’ that we all live and work in awaits them when they hang up their gear. Let’s face it — the majority of athletes are not Michael Phelps.
In this vintage photo, you will see a super skinny girl in the second row on the far right. That’s me! For ten years of my life, competitive swimming was a huge part of my life. I joined the swim team because I thought it sounded like fun. It was — I still have special bonds with all of the people I swam with to this day. The first year I swam I was terrible — and I have the third and fourth place ribbons to prove it!!
That year, however, was when my competitive spirit kicked in. I wanted to be better and I knew if I practiced hard enough that could happen. I knew I couldn’t be selected for a relay team if I wasn’t a team player, yet I couldn’t be considered for one if I wasn’t doing my personal best. I had a lot to learn and a long journey in front of me. So I practiced many hours (many, many, many hours) and swam up to 8,000 yards a day six days a week, and ultimately became an excellent swimmer. There was drama, laughter, successes, and losses — just like the real world.
But I was no Michael Phelps. (Who is?)
In the real world (life after chlorine) I started a business in 2002. The feelings of anticipation were the same as when I started swimming all those years ago — I had to start somewhere. I wouldn’t be good at first but with dedication, practice and being a team player, maybe I could become a success. Around that time I began seeking out established mentors in my industry who could share their knowledge with me, their personal journey, and their lessons learned. I set up my business plan, website, packages and marketing materials. I sat back and watched all the drama (not just with brides — those vendors have a way of creating their own drama in the industry!), learned, and focused on how to make the business a success.
I swam competitively for ten years — a term that spanned through high school and college. By the time I stopped, the big ‘swimming fish’ had made a name for myself in her little pond. However, I was primarily known as ‘the swimmer’ by most people in my ‘pond.’ The whole time I was swimming I had earned decent grades, so my focus and that same discipline were then applied just to my academics.
I officially hung up my competitive swimming goggles 20 years ago, and a lot of new techniques and technology have made swimmers even better and more efficient than in my days. It is very exciting to watch all these Olympians destroy these records and swim these incredible times!
Today, eleven years into being a wedding planner, the entrepreneur journey has parallels to my swimming days. It took a lot of practice, learning, and being a team player. Like swimming, the journey has had lots of ups and downs, triumphs and losses. Today many know me as ‘the wedding planner,’ just like 20 years ago people knew me as ‘the swimmer’ in my little pond of Ohio. (That is exactly the reason I started this blog — there is so much more to me than just weddings! Yet another journey!)
I truly believe that playing sports gave me the foundation for the person I am today. It taught me discipline, teamwork, and gave me the confidence to know that hard work and focus can pay off in high rewards.
Statistically, 2% of all high school athletes will play in college, and of that total 2%, 1% of them will play sports professionally. So the odds are, if you are a college athlete, you’ll hang up your gear when you graduate from college, just like the other 99% of the people in that statistic. (I hung mine up after Freshman year of college, but hung up my goggles during college nonetheless!) On the internet I found a copy of the last article written in the school paper at LeMoyne College about my last swim meet. (After that I transferred to Xavier to become a life long Muskie!)
The real world is a fun place too! Life is great off the court and out of the pool as well!