I like to win as much as the next guy. To this day, my competitive juices get flowing as I turn most things I do into a game. How fast can I unload the dishwasher? Can I get my son to swim practice without having to stop at a single red light? Am I able to achieve a personal record on the treadmill today? I will note that I have long gotten away from competing with other human beings and instead compete within myself. There was a day when beating the person next to me or the other team was the prime directive and there certainly are situations where that becomes the goal today, but it’s no longer my default.

Last week, my son competed at the Speedo Winter Junior Nationals held at the University of Texas – Austin. For those not familiar with swimming, this event brings together the most promising swimmers aged 18 and under, less those who have qualified for Nationals or Olympic Trials. Through the hard work he put in this summer, my son was fortunate enough to compete in four events this year. Unlike any other swim meet he has participated in, he did not qualify for finals in any of these events and he had no expectation that he would. That said, by the end of the weekend, he had achieved personal best times in all but one event, making it a successful meet. I think these words, shared by his first swim coach from years ago who still takes in interest in our son’s progress, put things in the right perspective before the meet even began:

“…WHO CARES how he swims. He’s at Junior freakin Nationals!!! Enjoy every second. Take it in. Learn. Meet people from all over. This is the tune up and beginning to many more high level competitions for him. He should be a kid in candy shop! Best wishes…”

The success was in the just being there.

As I mentioned, the meet was in Texas. We live in Northern California. The thought of flying all that way and spending four nights in a hotel to watch what amounted to less than four minutes of competition is difficult for some to get their head around. I know that because we, to include his grandparents, were the only family members of the four swimmers who qualified from my son’s team to make the trip. This is not a knock on them at all, but a reminder for us. We didn’t get much time with him as he traveled, lodged, and ate with his teammates…as it should be. It was important for us to be there because we are committed to doing our best to witness as many life milestones as we are able. Yes, we spent a fair amount of money. Yes, I took time off work. And yes, we made other sacrifices just to be there.

Our objective was just being there.

Sometimes it’s not the winning that matters, it’s the honor of just being there. And sometimes it’s not the amount of time we get to spend with those we are supporting. It’s the fact that we wanted him to know how important it is for us to see him enjoy the fruits of his labor. He swims every day, but we rarely get to see the results of all that practice. Showing up for the big meets is what it’s all about: his effort in practice and our time spent taking him to and fro (not to mention the fact that he spends more time in the pool than he does with us). My parents made it to every significant milestone, and almost all of the less than significant events in my childhood. That mattered to me. Doing the same for our son matters to both my wife and me.

Just being there matters.

  • When was the last time just being there was what mattered to you?
  • How do you feel when you look over your shoulder and see that a loved one was able to be there for you?
  • When was the last time you made just being there for someone else the priority?