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  • Mahmoud Said

ON QUITTING

It was a sunny summer day, I met with my swim team and coach in front of the club building in my hometown, we got on a bus and headed to my first swim meet location, a short 30 minute ride and I was very nervous. I was in 7th grade and loved my year-round swimming training. It gave me pride among my friends, I swam for my hometown club, pretty cool.

We arrived at the meet location and my nerves didn’t let up, I wanted to do well, I needed to earn the respect of my teammates and my coach. I didn’t wait long before it was my turn to get on the jumping board, there were 8 swimmers in this event, and I was in lane 6. This is it, my anxiety peaked while I assumed position to jump-start the 50-meter Crawl.



I sprung of the board as soon as I heard the whistle and fair to say, I gave the first 25 meters my absolute all, as I peeked through my goggles while taking side breaths, I didn’t make out any swimmers ahead of me, am I winning this race? I sure am in first place so far. Seconds off the halfway line, I felt a body thrashing the water in my lane right in front of me and I stopped. Confused for few seconds, I realized that it was a false start, we had to redo it because of an early jumper. My heart sank, I was already spent. I paced back to the starting line gasping for air to recover.

As you may expect, I didn’t win the race, I didn’t care to find out how I did, I was defeated. The meet ended and we drove back to our club building, I was still not feeling well, my coach spoke to us as we formed a circle around him, he had words of encouragement to everyone but ended the talk by asking myself and another average swimmer to not show up to the second leg of the meet the next day.



I was crushed, I walked home that day along with the other kid and we enjoyed a session of bashing the coach and his family. I got home and burst into crying to my mom and dad, I told them that I would never ever go back to this team, I will never train at the club again. I did not want to see this coach or any of the swimmers on the team ever again. My dad looked at me and said: Ok son.

That day was the end of my very short competitive swimming career, I spent the rest of that summer deflated, put on weight as I didn’t participate in any other sport activity, I never trained seriously again for any sport, I carried on the rest of the teenage years being overweight and miserable.

That incident happened more than thirty years ago but it never left me, I’m always reminded of the danger of how easy it is to quit something. Especially with my kids, my daughter wanted to quit Martial Arts so many times over the years, I remember the tears and the resistance to go to training, conversations with my wife regarding why she should quit and try something else. My conviction always kicked in, to not allow quitting to happen; to try to mitigate the anxiety and the fear, by taking a week off applying motivation techniques, change the schedule or replace the gear. I always found a way to stop quitting from happening to my daughter’s TKD career. She is now a second-degree Black Belt and participates in tournaments often, a five-year renewed commitment to a goal.

I try not to think about it too much but I never forgave my dad for letting me quit so easily, I don’t pretend that I know the reasons why he did, but it still haunts me, my life would have been different if he pushed me a little more or negotiated a deal where I go back after a short period of time. He didn’t and I’m still pissed about it. I never thought any higher of the coach either, that conversation should have been private and dealt with delicately instead of being an asshole, embarrassing us in front to the team. Those are feelings I should someday quit having.

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