Swimming is a big sport in Raleigh. Our neighborhood swim team has 20 girls in the 7 and 8 age group. Many of them swim year-round like Big Girl, and because she is 7, many of them are older than her.
So, it came as no surprise that she wasn't in the fastest heat for any of her races at the first meet of the season a few nights ago.
What did come as a surprise was how competitive she was.
All winter she has shied away from competition. Her coach had to twist her arm a bit to get her to go to just one meet.
But that wasn't the kid that came to the meet on Tuesday night. The kid at that meet was upset when she didn't win. She asked what she did wrong, and what she could do better. She responded to my momma coaching, "your dive was a little on the belly flop side, remember how your coach taught you to go far out?" and "you were winning until you stopped and looked around."
After several second places in heats 2 and 3, she was in heat 4 for the last event - butterfly. One of the slower heats, and she was pumped up to try and win. The only little problem was that she was in a lane next to her buddy Johanna.
As the girls waited behind the blocks they gave each other a little hug, and I thought to myself, "Here we go, Big Girl is not going to win."
So I stood to the side and cheered. She quickly passed her friend and only one girl a few lanes down was close to her. She had perfect strokes, and perfect breathing, and about two-thirds of the way down the pool passed the other girl.
All I could think was, "don't stop and look, you will get beat!" And by some miracle, she didn't look. And she won the heat.
As she climbed out of the pool, I congratulated her. She was glowing with pride. As she was handed a heat winner ribbon - a prize well won - her friend started to get out of the pool.
Anyone who has spent much time around 7 and 8 year-old girls knows they can be a bit snippy. So, I held my breath. Not sure what would come out of wither of their mouths next.
But there were no words. Instead there was a hug.
Big Girl reached out and hugged her friend. "You did really well," she said.
"But you won," said her friend.
"Well you got second and you were really close to me," Big Girl told her friend who I was almost certain came in 6th out of 6 swimmers. "And it was fun to race at the same time."
"Yeah," said her friend.
"You will win one next time," said Big Girl as they walked back to their towels.
There is a lot going on in out lives these days. Between school, work, church and trips to the library and grocery store, sometimes I'm not sure if the lessons I am trying to teach are sinking in. But it seemed like - at least on this day - she understood the importance of sportsmanship.
There are five more meets ahead of us this season. So; cross your fingers, say a little prayer, knock on wood; whatever you do to help things go your way - send some wishes to us - that the rest of the season goes as well as the beginning.