Aryana’s journey into competitive swimming
Written by: Hatboro YMCA
Aryana P. '22 is a very special nine-year-old who learned how hard work and motivation can lead to achievement.
Competitive swimming wasn't part of Aryana’s life when her teachers and family had to push her to complete her schoolwork. However, in May 2016, Aryana joined the swim team at Hatboro YMCA for the summer season before 2nd grade, and things suddenly changed.
Through competitive swimming, Aryana found the motivation that impacted so much of her life.
Her father Vishal explained the positive influence of Coach Sheri who "does such great work with kids," including kids who have never swum competitively or may not be in good physical condition. "She encourages them to put in the time and motivates them, and they see progress." Coach Jenny also has a special way to encourage kids to practice. Team members set goals they wish to achieve that season and their goals are posted on the team’s bulletin board. Vishal has found the coaches:
• Provide great instruction;• Are considerate about different age groups;• And teach kids about the importance of hard work.
Following her first season, Aryana had found a love of competition when she returned to school in second grade. Her teachers noticed how highly competitive she had become in class. In the past when she may not have always been motivated, she now tried to be the best. She loved to compete and achieve but still hadn’t made the connection between hard work and success. With the help of the Hatboro YMCA swim team, that realization was coming.
Aryana swam that ensuing Winter season finding plenty of success, achieving personal best times in all her events. She placed in the top 30% of her age group at their League Championships in the 25-yard Freestyle, despite having started competitive swimming only six months earlier and being a year younger (7) than the eldest of her age group (8).
At the conclusion of that season, Aryana traveled to India to visit family. When she returned to swim practice, a month had passed since she’d been in the pool. Her teammates had already resumed practice, preparing for Summer season. Battling a combination of jet lag (10.5 hours time difference), classes resuming, and a loss of conditioning from her time away, Aryana struggled to consistently attend practice. When she did practice, she’d arrive late, tired, or not always focused. Many of her teammates were practicing more consistently and harder. By not working and focusing as much as them, when Summer season races began, Aryana didn’t perform as she expected. She never matched or beat her best times from Winter season in almost every event. She looked on as teammates who’d outworked her in practice had more success achieving their goals than she.
After that disappointing Summer season, she committed herself to spending the Summer offseason working harder to get back to where she wanted to be for the following Winter season. Aryana took lessons with Coach Sheri that offseason to improve her technique. Following the direction of Coach Sheri, she would come to the pool in her free time to swim laps during the week and weekend to improve her conditioning.
When the Winter season started in September 2017, she was much better prepared and focused than she had ever been. In her first race, she broke personal best times in every event and achieved her personal goal- all accomplishments which had eluded her since her first season. Her improvement culminated in medaling at League Championships. With the help of HATY Swim, Aryana finally had the realization that if one works hard and allows personal defeats to serve as motivation, they can achieve their goals in life. What had started as a joy of competing grew with the epiphany of appreciating and enjoying practice and preparation. Today, Aryana applies this discipline to interests beyond swimming including advancing in piano, Aikido, and school.
Aryana recently won a reading competition at her school. The Head of School set a challenge for each student to read as many books as possible over a few months. Aryana not only won but read more than double the student who came in second. Recently, she earned a nomination from her Head of School to attend the National Youth Leadership Forum, held over the summer. The invitation states he "recognizes her as a student who already demonstrates exceptional maturity, scholastic merit, and leadership potential even at her young age."
It is not just about what you do when you are here in the Hatboro YMCA, for Aryana it is about who you are when you leave.
Congratulations to Laxmi M. '16 who had two of her writing pieces published in Philadelphia Stories Jr. Her story was the only prose piece selected for this issue!
Best Vacation Ever
I stood facing my mom in disbelief. “Again?” I gasped. “For the sixth year in a row?”
“I’m sorry dear. This summer is just not a good time.”
“It’s never a good time, is it?” I just couldn’t believe it. Every summer since I was six, my parents have promised to take me to California, Los Angeles specifically, but something always gets in the way. The first year my mom had a baby, then we moved into a house because our apartment was too small. Then my grandpa got sick, my parents opened a bakery, and when I was 10 we renovated our house. Now, for the sixth year in a row, our trip was being canceled.
I was too mad to talk to my parents, so I stomped to the freezer, yanked the door open, and ripped out a green apple popsicle. I slammed the door shut and marched to my room. The sourness of the popsicle matched my mood perfectly. Only when I had shut the door to my room and flopped onto my bed did I realize that I hadn’t even asked why the trip had been canceled this time.
I woke with a start at 7 a.m. when my alarm started beeping. My hair and pillow were sticky with melted popsicle. With a sigh, I groggily slipped out of bed and walked to the bathroom to take a shower and get all the stickiness out of my hair.
When I got out of the shower, I dried off and threw on a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. I then went to the kitchen where my dad was stirring pancake batter for breakfast. I noisily plunked myself onto a chair.
“Good morning, Wink,” said my dad cheerily.
“Hi.” I said as I crossed my arms.
“What’s up with you?” he asked with a frown.
“What’s up with me is that I don’t know why we’ve canceled our trip for the sixth time in a row,” I responded.
“Oh, your mom didn’t tell you? Well,” he said, plopping a stack of chocolate chip pancakes drenched in warm syrup in front of me, “the bakery hasn’t been doing so well over the past year. So, I’m going back to college so that I can hopefully get a better job.’”
“Ugh,” I groaned. Another summer spent in the same old place. Boston might be a big city, but I’ve seen everything that there is to see.
“Eat your pancakes, Wink,” said my dad.
“I will,” I said. I started picking at my pancakes, spearing them on my fork, and pushing them off again.
Just then, my four-year-old sister, Emerald, came running into the room, yelling, “It’s my birthday!”
With a small laugh, my dad scooped her into his arms and said, “Not yet, sweetie. Your birthday is tomorrow.”
“Oh,” she said, looking distraught for a second, then shrugging it off and wiggling out of my dad’s arms. She walked up to me, put her face right next to mine, and instructed me to, “turn that frownie upside downie!” A small smile spread across my face. I loved Emmy more than anything else in the world. Even if I couldn’t go to Los Angeles, at least I would be with her.
When my alarm went off the next morning, I turned it off and went back to sleep. What seemed like 10 seconds later, my sister crawled into my bed and whispered in my ear, “Wakey, wakey, come eat some cakey!” I sat up in bed and asked, “There’s cake?”
“Of course there’s cake, silly. It’s my birthday.” She grabbed my hand and tried to yank me out of bed. I jumped out of bed and followed her to the kitchen, where my parents were, indeed, eating cake. “Good morning, sleepyheads,” said my mother.
“Guess what, Mommy!” Emmy said, crawling onto Mom’s lap.
“What?” She asked.
“It’s my birthday!”
That day was filled with festivities, five other four- or five-year-old girls, party games, lots of cake, and presents.
For the next week and a half, I sat around my house doing nothing. One day, I was watching Doctor Who on Netflix when my dad came into my room.
“Is dinner ready?” I asked.
“Yup,” he replied.
I followed him out of my room, down the stairs, and into the living room when I stopped. The whole living room was decorated like Los Angeles and Hollywood. They had set up a red carpet spanning the entirety of the room. In the corner, there was an exercise bike with a sign taped to the front of it that said “Venice Beach.” My parents had taken all of the pictures in the house and put them all in one corner of the room with a sign that said, “Los Angeles County Museum of Art.” There was a bright purple sheet pinned to the wall with a basket of accessories next to it. The basket had a sign on it that said “Hollywood Photo Booth.” There was even a “Griffin Park and Observatory” sign propped up against my sister’s nightlight, which projected stars onto the ceiling. Then my sister ran out in an adorable black dress with white polka dots and white sandals. She presented me my own dress and shoes and said, “Go put them on so that we can get this party started!” I hurried to the bathroom to change.
I unfolded my dress and gasped in amazement. It was a gorgeous white lace dress with a black bow tied around the waist. I slipped it on and then put on my shoes, which were perfect black, open-toe kitten heels. I went back to the living room, and we started to party.
We took plenty of pictures in the photo booth, rode the Venice Beach bike a couple of times, watched the stars from the Griffin Observatory, said acceptance speeches, and Emmy and I even walked the red carpet a few times while our parents used the camera from the photo booth and pretended to be paparazzi. When the night was over, I thanked my parents profusely.
That was the best night of my life.