I am not an athlete. Not even remotely. But even at eight, Braden is an athlete. For Braden, athleticism comes naturally as part of a gene mutation he got from his dad (who is also naturally athletic). Think I am too biased to proclaim that my son is athletic--you might be right; after all, it is very mommy-like to consider your child good at everything they do. But as someone completely void of any athletic ability, I can identify such weakness in others from miles away and Braden, though a little clumsy at times, adapts to athletic situations with ease.
Braden tried team sports with three seasons of soccer and one season of basketball, but had little patience for sharing his team's success with the team. He, even at 5 and 6, was a ball-hog and a show-boater--not very endearing behavior. Upon some advice from a friend, I put him into swimming. Swimming, a sport you play against yourself, is ideal for him. So, Braden is a swimmer. This proclamation makes my friends Stephanie and David, who have unsuccessfully attempted to persuade me into letting him loose on a football field for three years now, cringe. But for now---and secretly in the recesses of my heart forever--he swims. Like a fish. Like the next Michael Phelps. Like no other 8 year-old boy on his team.
This season marks Braden's second in year-round swimming. When he came into this season in August, he swam a 25 back in 23.55; 25 free in 31.06; 25 fly in 31.54; and he rarely swam the 25 breast without DQing. Last weekend, he ended the short-course season with these times: 25 back in 18.20; 25 free in 16.28; 25 fly in 18.50; and 25 breast in 26.62. In total, Braden shaved over 32 secs off this season and he can swim the breast without a DQ.
At districts here at Mizzou, he left with a first place medal in the back, 4th in the fly, 5th in IM relay, and 14th in free. At State, he left with a 9th in back and a 15th in fly. But the medals are only half of the accomplishment. He's stronger. He's more focused. He's confident. He's proud. He's an athlete.
And I love watching him swim.