Photo from Baugh
My arms never felt heavier than they did the second day of swimming practice my sophomore year. I never had so much trouble breathing, never knew my shoulders could grow so sore. I never felt so inadequate.
It was the week before classes started, and I thought joining the high school swim team would help me get in shape for baseball season. I didn’t sign up to feel the way I did that August workout: physically and emotionally defeated.
As I trudged down the outermost lane of Shaw Park Pool, Coach Rob Laux called my name. I grabbed hold of the concrete wall and looked up, sucking in air.
“Peter,” Laux said. “On the last day of the season, you’re going to think back on this practice and realize how far you’ve come.”
I don’t know if I would have quit the swim team had Coach Laux not talked to me that day, but I know his words ensured I didn’t. I was a pudgy, relatively unathletic bundle of hormones, but I had someone who believed in me.
That’s what I needed.
For a long time, Clayton High held a peculiar place in my heart. I loved it, yes, but I resented the way it made me view myself. I felt pressure to take challenging classes and never saw myself as the smartest in a room. When I chose to go to an in-state, public college, I felt lesser than my classmates.
Those emotions were valid. Clayton has a distinct, intense environment, and that’s not easy to navigate. But the high school also brought tremendous good into my life. It gave me teachers to look up to, lifelong friends, and memories that still make me smile.
I can trace my current passions back to CHS. The Globe instilled a love of storytelling within me. Now, nearly eight years since I joined the paper, I’m set to graduate from journalism school. I cherished my high school baseball and swim teams, and those are sports I still write about.
Where would I be if Coach Laux didn’t pull me aside my first week of swim practice? If the Globe office didn’t become my second home?
High school is a perfect time to discover a passion. Students, embrace the groups and classes that bring you joy. Don’t sacrifice what you love for an extra AP class. Join a club because you care about it, not to boost your resume.
Teachers, realize how much your words impact our lives. You have the power to believe in growing minds, and that can make all the difference. Just look what Coach Laux did for me. It doesn’t go unnoticed, and we appreciate you.
The Globe has never hesitated to point out Clayton’s flaws. Neither have I, and that’s because I care. I’ve seen the good our community can do, and I see the strides we still can make. We need a more diverse environment. We need to bridge the achievement gap. We need to believe in all students, even the ones struggling academically and the ones barely making it through swim practice.