“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”  – Thomas Edison

In the last two days at practice, every Group 4 and 5 swimmer, except for the two who were unable to make it to practice, completed the 500 Freestyle for the first time.

Many, if not most, did not believe they could do it – but I knew they could.  After 20 years of watching kids swim, I was so confident that I told Nora Blanchette if she could not do it, I would jump into the pool with all of my clothes on.  It was an easy promise to make because I knew I wasn’t going to have to get wet.

Over the course of my life, this basic truth has become core to my belief system:

You can always do more than you think you can do.

This truth is also rooted in our Catholic faith.

During the 1,000 days of His ministry on earth, I do not think that Jesus said anything unintentionally, so I have often pondered why he told the Parable of the Talents.

It is my favorite passage in the Bible, and it speaks to me as a Swimming coach.  I think he was telling us that it is our obligation to get the most out of the abilities that he gave us.  Yes, it is true that we have all received a different number of Talents for swimming, but that’s not what matters.

What matters is that you double whatever you received – and that will never happen if you are unwilling to push yourself beyond your current comfortable state.  We all need to get more comfortable with discomfort.

You’ve probably all heard me say, “Swimming ain’t about Swimming”.  This is an example of what I am talking about.

In our lives, there will always be people wanting to line up to tell us that we are not capable of doing something (Sometimes it is even our well-meaning and loving mothers 😉).  Why do we so often jump to the front of that line ourselves?  As many of you experienced with yesterday’s or today’s swim, we are often our own biggest obstacle.

Let me give you three more examples:

First, I have lived this personally, and as a result it has become deeply ingrained in me.

Most of you have never been 57 years old – but I have been 15.   I know what it feels like to be a young person learning to push yourself past what you thought was possible and feeling extremely anxious about it.

Ever since I was a mildly handicapped kid who was not given very many Talents in the athletic realm, the experience has become so personal to me that I made it the topic of my talk at last year’s Swimming Awards.   Here’s a link to the talk, which is also under Banquet Speeches:  Let’s Literally Astound Ourselves

Secondly, I can literally think of a few hundred examples on just the Seton Swim Team alone in the last 20 years – including the 25 examples I just saw in the last two days – but one of the most dramatic examples I have seen is the story of 2011 Seton graduate Jonathan Rosato.

Jonathan went from an 85-pound, 7th grade boy who was afraid to jump off the blocks at the Freedom Center to a senior who won the DAC Championship in 100 Breaststroke – without ever swimming for a team other than Seton.

You can find a video of his 2011 DAC Championship 100 Breaststroke under the About/Videos menu or you can click here.  Before you watch this video, scroll down, and read the complete story that I have included below the video window.

And finally, we have the story that inspires all of us who volunteer at Seton.

In 1975, a young woman, with no prior business or school administration experience, founded a small school in Manassas, Virginia.

With only her deep faith and the divine guidance of her patron, Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton, Seton School has grown from just a few students to the enduring institution of faith and learning from which we all benefit today.

I sometimes wonder if, in her most private moments, Mrs. Carroll doesn’t occasionally sit back and feel completely astounded by herself.  It’s not her way, I know.  I am quite sure she simply views herself as an instrument of God’s plan with the courage to let that plan work.  But that level of courage is itself astounding, I think.

Tomorrow many of you will be racing the 200 and/or 500 Free – most for the very first time.

Let us follow the courageous example of our Seton School Founder, Mrs. Carroll, and astound ourselves with what we can do if we are just willing to have a little faith and never quit.

I assure you that your accomplishments tomorrow will not astound me at all, because I already know you can do it.

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