Team envy

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life34 Comments


Have I talked much about my illustrious high school swimming career?

Oh, I haven't? Okay, got it. It went like this: I swam my freshman year of high school because up until that point in my life I had done only two sports, competitive swimming from ages 9 to 11 and figure roller skating from ages 11 until my junior year. Because most high schools don't have figure roller skating teams, I knew that if I wanted to earn a letterman's jacket, swimming was my best shot.

The problem was, I wasn't all that good.

Or let me clarify: I wasn't all that fast.

When I swam as a kid, I was pretty good for my 9-to-10-year-old age bracket. I managed to snag a number of ribbons and make qualifying times allowing me to claim AAA status. But when I turned 11, all the times you needed to stay in AAA dropped by a few seconds in every event, and that was the beginning of my swimming demise.

I had peaked at age 10.

So by the time I decided to turn out for high school swimming, developmentally, I was still swimming at an 10-year-old level, and it never really changed.

Sure, I had nice, competent strokes. I even swam 100-yard butterfly at nearly every school meet. But placing in the top three happened only a handful of times (and by 'handful' I actually mean 'once' I placed third.)

In high school sports, you typically have to earn enough points to be awarded a coveted letter. I came no where near the required mark, but my coach, Mrs. Pringle, pulled me aside one day and said because of my positive attitude and work ethic, she had decided to award me a letter afterall.


I probably wore my Cascade High School letterman's jacket with more pride than any other athlete in the history of that school. I also never swam another high school meet.

Truth be told, I wasn't sure if that positive attitude was enough to get me another three bars on my jacket.

Essentially, I went out on top.

And I think that's my life lesson for today: if you're not that good at something, be really positive about it and maybe someone will give you something you didn't technically deserve.

And if they do, by all means, wear that jacket with pride.






Cathy ZielskeTeam envy

34 Comments on “Team envy”

  1. #1
    Lisa S.

    Love that story, we don’t have to be the best, just enjoying the journey and being grateful is what counts. Hey, you should have inclued a cute little photo of Ms. Cathy in her swim suit. Betcha you looked good too!

  2. #2

    Can I just say, I love that you still have the jacket and I hope you (or your daughter) have at least one occasion to wear it.

  3. #4

    LOL! The other day while cleaning out our garage I found my letter jacket. I got a letter in “flag.” The ones who can’t play an instrument but desperately want to be in marching band? Heck, I even tossed my flag into the tuba guy once. But yeah….I wore that letter jacket like I was the coolest thing ever. I loved this story Cathy!

  4. #5

    Awww, love that! I always got good marks in gym because I “tried really hard” which we all know was code for uncoordinated klutz. Thanks for the sweet story and I am totally going to take that life lesson to heart 🙂

  5. #6

    I still have my cheerleading uniform even though I fell off of my 2 1/2 foot stool under the Friday night lights for all to see. Real life ain’t the movies! Thank God!

  6. #8

    You went to Cascade?? One of my best friends went there. I mean, *other* best friends, of course. 😉

    I went to Sammamish. Don’t be a hater.

    Have a great day Cathy!

  7. #10

    Go Bruins! i’m an ’87 graduate…..with no letter in anything! i was one of the geeks/wallflowers! (and proud of it!) 🙂 great story, cathy!

  8. #11

    I love seeing the Bruins come out of the woodwork! : )

    So I was a senior when you were Freshman? My math is horrible. Something like that!

  9. #12

    I love this story and the fact that Aidan wants to wear your jacket. LOVE! Thanks for sharing this bit of your glorious athletic past. Go you! 🙂

  10. #13

    Oh my goodness. I just figured out you are a ringer for the swim portion of the triathlon. Seriously you will kick my heiny!!

  11. #14
    Christine H

    My senior year of high school I opted to take a Creative Writing class that was for college and high school credit combined. I am a science girl. Term papers…no sweat. Dissection of some critter….love it. Come up with a one page description of something gross….write a fiction story that shows what love means to me…..ugh, not happening. But I tried really hard. Wrote and re-wrote. Even hung out with the best writer in class, who just annoyed the crap out of me. No dice. This straight A student got a C on everything. But at the end of the year, the teacher asked me to stay after one day. She told me she was giving me a B because of my effort and never gave up trying to improve. Awesome! Did I go on to write the next great american novel…nope….I’m a nurse…go science geeks!

  12. #15
    Jenny B.

    Fun stuff! That is the exact same reason I joined the swim team, and I was sloooowwww too. All we had to do was “compete” in the state meet to get a letter jacket. So, the person who came in last place (me) got one too. I’m pretty sure they changed the rules after that year. 🙂

  13. #16

    I lettered in Drama! Did I ever have more than one-line part, nope! I was usually stage managing all the behind the scenes stuff. But I was so proud of that letter jacket!

  14. #17

    So funny! I lettered in track because you could letter if you placed at a major conference. I was on a relay team that placed at semi-finals because one team had to forfeit and we must have actually managed to beat one other team! I didn’t care – I had that letter!

  15. #18

    I love that you got recognized for your positive attitude and work ethic! What a great story for your kids.

  16. #22
    lynne moore

    ugh, missed my high school letter in track – just needed to be 3rd in one race… highest place I made was 4th. But then at age 39 I won 1st place in a regional tournament for Tae Kwon Do and received a trophy… Done with tournaments! Going out on top by age 40… lol… the best part was beating all the 20-somethings.

  17. #23
    Liz Oram

    Thanks for the giggle…love your outlook! As the wife of a coach I understand the value of work, and the value of knowing when work just won’t make you any better and you should “go out on top” and cut your loses as success :0)

  18. #24

    Love your story! You’re better than me though! I earned a varsity letter in boy’s basketball because I was the team statistician! They had never awarded letters for that position before, but I researched the school’s athletic regulations and it stipulated you only had to participate in more than 50% of the contests, which I did. So there. Sitting on a bench and counting rebounds and such earned me a varsity letter. Ha!

  19. #25
    phenter mine

    Excellent site, keep up the good work. I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks,
    A definite great read…

  20. #26
    Cindy P

    Go Bruins! My son is only 10, but is supposed to go to Cascade. I, myself am a Lynnwood Royal, Class of 84! He is currently at James Monroe Elementary and is getting ready as I write this to go to the Skate Party at the Everett Skate Deck. I think of you every time he goes there! 🙂

  21. #28
    Julie S

    Ahh… Cascade High School, The Skate Deck. This is like memory lane! I hope that there is a scrapbook page in the future for this story.

  22. #29

    can oh so relate to this… letter in swimming my sophomore year, quit to go work like crazy instead. though I never got the jacket. my letter sits in a box somewhere because I always wanted to put it on a felt pillow instead.

  23. #30

    What a small world! I came to comment to see if your Cascade HS is the one and same in Everett. What fun to discover I’m not the only Sammamish alum that is following you! I vividly remember our football team getting destroyed by Cascade. Lol
    Fun post. Thanks for taking us down memory lane.

  24. #33
    Lori Hudson

    Cathy, that is my EXACT story. I set a state record in 10 and under 100 backstroke. I peaked at 10. I swam my heart out freshman year. Never missed a workout, morning or afternoon – mostly because I had a crush on my coach. I was so slow, my coach had me swim the 200 IM because he saved his fast swimmers for events they could win. Like you, my coach rewarded my hard work with a letter jacket. I figured the rest of the school didn’t know how bad I was. So I was very happy. Sadly I moved to a new school sophomore year. I didn’t swim anymore because I was knew I wouldn’t make the new team. Sigh…

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