Learning Life Long Lessons - Bella Perry

CDA student athlete Bella Perry shares her inspirational story of how hard work, the passing of a loved one and her relationship with God taught her to be a champion in and out the of swimming pool.
Throughout my life, I have always felt drawn to the water. No matter where, at the beach, in the backyard pool, or even in the bathtub, I feel at home. Although I have tried many sports such as dance, soccer, and gymnastics, swimming has always stuck with me. Practicing before and after school, every day of the week may seem grueling; it has made me a stronger person physically, mentally, and spiritually. That is exactly why I am thankful for swimming and why I suggest everyone try athletics for CDA.
           
Of course, swimming has made me a stronger person physically. Swimming is one of the easiest ways to get in shape and push you. Practicing before and after school, up to 9 times a week, typically 22 hours a week can be grueling. Many may think this is overboard and a ridiculous amount of time, but this makes me a stronger person and helps me learn lessons I can use later on in life. I have seen many unathletic looking swimmers go very far in swimming because of hard work and a strong mindset.

Swimming is one of the easiest sports to get started in, and at least do recreationally, because it is so easy on joints. Many older people, or people recovering from surgeries, use swimming as physical therapy and a path to recovery. But, you are able to go very far in swimming as a competitive athlete just from a strong work ethic.
           
Swimming has been able to push me to my limits mentally. Often, it is easy to grow anxious before a big race. The pressure of doing well and winning is constantly looming in the back of my mind for weeks before a meet. I know that I am not the only person that deals with this pre-race anxiety, which is helpful when I am preparing to race.

Knowing that everyone else is at least a little bit nervous too, helps me feel better. Also, the strong friendships I have made with my teammates can help distract me from my upcoming race. These teammates, which I can practically consider my brothers and sisters, never fail to cheer me up and push me to my limits. Striving to push past mental blocks and bad practices will most definitely help me overcome challenges later in life.

Swimming, while it is generally an individual sport, also relies heavily on team practice and training partners. Sometimes, I wonder if I would be able to make it through a tough practice without my training partner to laugh (and complain about the practice) with. I am thankful for my lifelong friends I have made via swimming, and look forward to hopefully joining them again in college. I tend to look up to a lot of my old training partners that swim in college now. I find them to be great role models and help remind me of the end goal in swimming for me, to be a college athlete. Through these friends, I have learned what to do to help make me successful in the future and they always help remind me that everyone has tough spots.

Swimming, most importantly, has helped me grow spiritually. About 2 years ago, I lost an incredibly important person in my life. My coach, Kyle Tilley, lost his life due to a reckless driver at way too young of an age. This was not only a tough time for me, but also for my teammates and coaches. Many of us had him as our coach since a very young age, sometimes as young as 5 years old. One of my coaches attended high school with him. As we all worked through this trying time as a team, God constantly showed his presence throughout my life. Nowadays, I often relate Philippians 1:3 to him, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” I don’t look at Kyle’s death as something that angers me anymore because he was taken so young, but instead, I look at it and am reminded of God’s power over all and how thankful I am that he was able to impact so many lives so positively.

Swimming can sometimes grow time-consuming, and occasionally overwhelming, but I always look to God to help me. I feel like that without swimming, my faith would not be as strong as it is today.

One of the highlights of my swimming career was being able to step on the podium in all 4 events I swam last year at state. The pride of being able to represent my school at such a high level was overwhelming, and I hope that at some point in life, everybody will get to feel how I felt in that moment. Memories and accomplishments like these are what helps me get through mental blocks, and knowing that hopefully at the end of this season, I will get to feel that pride again.

No matter how much experience you have in a sport, or how old you are, hard work and a strong mindset can take you very far in athletics. Being able to represent your school at any level, not just at state, is an incredible feeling and I encourage you to try athletics for Coram Deo. 
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