Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Making a Difference

On Sunday I spoke at the Dallas Mustangs swim team banquet on behalf of one of my sponsors, Speedo. I traveled to Dallas with the intentions of speaking and going home. What happened was something I didn’t expect.

The seniors on the team gave speeches. I couldn’t believe some of them. They were so insightful, so heartfelt, so filled with emotion and thought. These were merely seniors in high school but they spoke as if they were much older. Their lives had been affected by this swim team and those around them in a very dramatic way. One swimmer talked about how his coach, Mook, had been the most influential person in his life. How all his teammates had been with him through everything. A lot of them cried. Most of them had a hard time getting their words out. I was almost speechless. I was listening to young minds speak with such poise and wisdom like they had seen it all. Their structure and word choice was not always perfect but the intention and thought process behind everything came through like the sun comes through your window bright and early on the most perfect day.

I looked at the coaches who were sitting on either side of me and I thought to myself, “what lucky guys.” These two men have made a dramatic influence on so many young people. Sometimes I wonder why coaches do what they do. Their compensation is probably not high for all the work they do. They deal with pain in the butt parents. They spend long hours on the deck at practices and meets as well is probably much more I don't even know about. Why do they do it? I feel like that day in Dallas it finally clicked. They do it because they can see they’re making a difference and that they’re helping people.

The look on these young faces, the appreciation, the deep seated emotional gratitude, the laughs, the smiles, the tears…everything was real. I could barely believe my eyes and ears. My mind sat idle wondering what I would ever do to maybe come close to helping someone to this extent. I thought of whether or not I’ve ever affected anyone in such a dramatic and real way??? I honestly don’t know. My mind changed gears and thought about what I do now. I thought about what I want to do with my life. Will my life include such love, such emotion, such positive differences in other people’s lives? I can’t answer that. A tear almost dripped from my eye.

Mook and Doug (the head age-group coach) were making a difference. My coaches, Eddie and Kris, have made a difference. My former coach, Randy, made a difference. I want to make a difference. I’m sometimes so wrapped up in what I’m doing that I don’t have time or the extra mental capacity needed to think about helping others. My guess is that someday I will get there. Someday I too will help those around me more. I couldn’t stop thinking about how lucky these guys were. Of course everything is not easy and fun and happy. I could tell you that. The truth of the matter is whether or not we’re making a difference. Eddie always says our purpose on this earth is to help people. Are we doing it? Am I doing it? Watching these seniors in high school I realized that there is a lot that can be done to help others. I realized that it’s not all about the big things that I want to do in life. I want to help people.

12 comments:

mzzzveee said...

I think u have already made a difference....u r a role model, u r someone that people look up too, u have a fan following , blog followers, even athletic foodie foodies.....u r focused and u r driven and u r young.....I really think u r on track when it comes to making a difference!

Garrett said...

Thanks for the kind words. I try to make a difference whenever I can.

Your apron is beautifully displayed in my kitchen...Thanks so much:)

ginblossom said...

If you see the commitment that my l'il 10 yr old cousin shows to his swimming since we saw you guys win the 4x100 freestyle in Beijing, that in itself shows the difference you made to one kid! He was so wired when we got back to the hotel after the race, we didn't think he'd ever go to sleep! He has watched that race so many times and approaches his swimming now with so much discipline - yet enjoys himself at the same time. I remember him saying to me during the medal ceremony "that's me one day!" He's American-born but raised in Australia so at this point he says he's "unsure" who he'd like to represent. He's already selected himself to go to the Olympics as an athlete and not a spectator next time :) I love kids with ambition!

Kait said...

Wow. That was really moving and very insightful.

You already do make a difference. So many people look up to you. There are many people out there who aspire to be like you.

Helping people and making a difference is one of the most amazing feelings there is. I teach swim lessons (usually 3-9 year old kids) and just seeing the improvement they make is so rewarding. And it is very touching when parents come up to me and say "my son or daughter really likes you. I hope to see you next session." It really is a great feeling.

But you are already helping people and touching people all over the country. Being an Olympic athlete you inspire people all over to strive for the best, to work their hardest and achieve their goals.

If you keep doing what you are doing, I'm sure you will continue to touch and inspire all over. You really are making a difference already.

shelly drori said...

hi garrett
keep looking for your opportunity to make that difference, you have the power to do it, and this world is lucky to have you. one day you will be doing something and think, thats it!!
it happened to me when i was helping out at the red cross swim session. a 9 yr old boy , joe was given to me and i was told to "walk" him in the water. he had cerebal palsy and i was told to be careful and not to go in the deeo wend with him. i saw a twinkle in joes eye when i asked him if he wanted to swim. i sneaked him into the deep end and he had the time of his life floating around. i was reprimanded by the red cross instructor, but in the weeks that followed i gave joe secret private (free) swim lessons. joe swims on a swim team now, and his mom is forever grateful that i took a chance on him.
me, i am just a swim teacher in suburban nj, changing one small life at a time, boy does it feel good!! you can do this big time!!
hope you find your way.
shelly drori

Nicole said...

Sounds amazing. You have definitely influenced me. I started swimming again after watching the 400 free style relay. I seriously wanted to be one of you guys standing on the podium at the Olympics last summer. I knew I was never going to get there if I didn't start then. So I started swimming. If you want to know how much that relay changed my life.... http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2007332&id=1429701561#/photo.php?pid=30287519&id=1429701561
This was a great blog post!

PepperPotts said...

The coaches could also be thinking "the athlete foodie in the audience has inspired so many people, way more than I have helped". There is probably an age gap between you and the coaches, you have plenty of time ahead of you to help others. Right now, I see it as you helping yourself so you can help others... later.

Jane said...

I think many people forget that by living they are helping. I have always been taught that supporting by just turning up, can make a difference. So your turing up to practice and working hard you are helping your coaches, helping other swimmers, making a difference in their lives. You are giving them something to dream for to work for and in your smiling at the end of a race or a simple thank you you can be making a big difference in their lives as it makes it all worth while knowing that they are appreciated. Also it encourages people in what they do, if your teammates can rely on knowing that you will be at the pool when they get there to train they know that they can rely on you for support when they are going through a hard time and will turn to you.

So you are being helpful and can be helpful just by being there, being a friend and being a swimmer. keep it up you are making a difference and helping, it doesn't have to be big gestures or great things and you don't have to be aware of it, you just have to want it for it to happen.

Garrett said...

I can't thank all of you enough for all the thought and insight you put into your responses. I really appreciate your follow and feedback. Thank you:)

J said...

Keep up the inspiration! I had a great professor, who was a great mentor after a really tough semester one year. She had this ability to challenge us, and use different teaching techniques. After our final project, she really recommended our group. For me its a really boost to my confidence. Your ability to inspire swimmers is a real gift, as well as other people. Your words and ability to share your experienc can really influence the positive aspect of life. Thank you for taking us along for the journey, and being able to inspire!

Devin Compan said...

Garrett!

My name is Devin Compan, and we met at the Mustangs Banquet (I was wearing the purple shirt, you gave me your DVD as you were leaving). You talked to me about staying consistent and having a good diet. I'll be watching you at the World Championship Trials this July! (My mom is taking me for motivation)

Please e-mail me, I'd like to discuss some things about the trials.

THANKS!

kitkatkayt said...

Great blog. I love swimming but have only recently found your site! I'm so excited for Rome, a few friends and I are driving there (from the UK). Can't wait! xx


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