Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Fab Five

I love Michigan's Fab Five. I watched as many games as I could and read the book written about them when it came out. I even attended a rally at Crisler Arena with my dad after they returned from one of their Final Fours. I actually knew a little bit about Chris Webber and Jalen Rose before they were at Michigan since I grew up in Michigan. Coincidentally, I was at Chris Webber's final high school basketball game. It was the state finals and my high school, Albion, was playing against Detroit Country Day for the championship. So, before the game we all knew about Chris Webber. He was the top rated high school basketball player in the country. It was going to be a tough game. Unfortunately, our team did not win the game but after watching Webber play I began to pay a bit more attention to his career. I think he announced he was attending Michigan a couple of days after the state championship game and since I had already decided I was going to Michigan to swim (my dream since 6th grade) I was an instant fan.

When all the NCAA investigations started and they eventually forfeited all their records it was really sad. It was hard to believe they were basically erasing them from the Michigan athletic history books. They elevated Michigan basketball and completely changed the college game. You can't just erase something like that. However, after watching the documentary on ESPN (more than once, I have it on my DVR) I realized that while the banners in Crisler Arena are gone the journey those players took could never be erased by wiping their names out of the record books. In the documentary the players reminisced about the games, the travel and the team. All those experiences will never be taken away from them and those are truly the things that matter. They experienced things together, both good and bad, that have bonded them for life. Winning the games was important and that is what they were striving for as a team but ultimately I think the things that matter the most go beyond the court.

When I think about my experiences at Michigan with my teammates the first things that come to mind are tough practices we made it through, bus rides to competitions and having fun outside of the pool. While my goals in college regarding swimming were performance based my memory is not tempered by whether I achieved a time goal or not. The only reason I actually remember my times is because I have a photographic memory for numbers when they mean something to me. I won't expand on's really wacky. Anyway, my experience in college was about the journey I took with the women on my team. The things we experienced were exclusive to our team and we shared something special together. We changed, we matured and throughout it all we had common goals and helped each other to try and achieve them. I don't talk to all my teammates on a regular basis but no matter how much time passes or how things change in our lives the journey that we took together has shaped us into who we are today.

As I coach to my swimmers at UIC this was something I really wanted them to understand. While they had time goals for swims I always wanted them to focus on the now and understand that trying to achieve those specific goals was a major part of the experience. Let's be honest, we all train a lot for our races. Ultimately, we spend a lot more time training than we do racing. You have to really enjoy the training part and let the competitions be the reward. In 2009, I watched my swimmers at their championship meet when the competition came down to the last relay. Win the relay and our men's team was going to be the champion. Simple. As I stood and watched the relay prepare to swim and observed the team I hoped that no matter what, they would all remember the moment. It's great just to be in it. To have the opportunity to do something amazing. Yes, it would have been a bummer if they guys would have lost the relay (they won, that relay was money) but 20 years later I am sure they would have looked back fondly on the experience.

This brings me to now. I am happy to be on this journey. I am happy to throw caution to the wind and see what I can do. I have daydreams of running down the finishing chute in first place and that may happen. It may not. I might get 5th place in a major race and that might be all that I achieve but would that be so bad? 20 years from now I'll remember striving to be the best that I can be and giving 100%. As race season gets underway (here in North America) I hope that everyone remembers what really matters and what you will recall years from now.

The Fab Five may have lost their banners but their journey will never be forgotten. Go Blue!

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