We got a raise yesterday. An 18% increase. An extra $270 per month. Total now is $1,770 per month.
Loud shout out from me to Adam Van Koeverden for putting this together. AVK was like Mel Gibson in Braveheart attacking guys with bigger swords and more horses for a long time. Van Koeverden wouldn’t let this issue go away and had a pretty big victory yesterday. Props to him. Thanks to Canadian taxpayers. I’m not sure when it will eventually funnel down to me because these sorts of things move slowly. There’s a winter Olympics coming up and those athletes likely need money right now, which is cool. In fact, I may never see a nickel since every Canadian middle school girl believes they can slay the swimming world because they saw what Penny did. Half our current national team might be replaced by the avalanche of GenPenners who see people like me as collateral damage as they confidently set their sights on the likes of Efimova and Katinka. That’s cool too.
I remember when I received my first carding cheque in the mail. It was October 2009 and I was 15. I was still in high school and living at home paying virtually no expenses. Receiving a $900 government cheque every month was like winning the lottery as far as I was concerned. This windfall back then meant I was to help out paying for some of my expenses, I was able to take my mom out to a restaurant and pick up the tab. We could fly to places like Edmonton or Calgary instead of driving. I was able to buy compression pants to wear on long flights, I could shop for organic groceries at Urban Fair and Nestor’s Market instead of Superstore. In sum, it made a difference but not a huge difference at that time in my life. I would have swum with our without the money.
Completely different story today. People automatically assume there’s some sort of great sacrifice involved when you’re an elite swimmer representing your country. Fact is, at least for me, it never seemed that way. I enjoyed going to the pool every day with my friends. I showed up for optional practices the Monday after meets. I loved it from day one, still do, and never minded missing all the things I missed out on. At some point in high school my non swimming friends stopped inviting me to their parties because I always said no. It seemed I was always in Kamloops, Vernon, Penticton, Vancouver or Victoria. I didn’t mind too much though because the tradeoff seemed worth it. Other than that, I can’t think of a single sacrifice I made.
Other people certainly made sacrifices for me. My mom and dad would say with straight faces that they preferred sending me and one of them to Winnipeg/Regina/Saskatoon in January instead of spending that money on a normal vacation. Emil, my coach at the time, made sacrifices. Instead of taking time off in the summer after age group nationals, he’d be at the pool every day with me training for something. When higher volume was needed he would pick me up at my school most afternoons and we’d drive to the pool for long afternoon workouts. That couldn’t have been much fun and I’m sure he’d prefer doing something else. We were all proficient at cutting costs down when traveling. Being from Nova Scotia, my dad would phone his mom and ask if we had a relative in (insert any Canadian city here). Even if we didn’t I’d get a phone call about a half hour later from a 306 area code from some displaced Nova Scotia family in Saskatchewan who knew someone who heard I need a place to stay. And Emil was even better at this. As a last resort Emil would open a phone book in a random city looking for Bulgarian sounding names, phone them, and ask if we could stay there. If Emil had a hundred dollars to his name, he would quietly give 50 away to a swimmer who didn’t have spending money on the road.
Through this wonderful ride I’m on I’ve met some of the most amazing people who’ve had an enormous imprint on my life. My favourite meet is in Mission Viejo just because of the family I’ve stayed with twice. Same for Austin. Same for New York City….Glen Mills and Rachel Stratton let me hang out with them for a week and I’ll never forget it. Same for Calgary, Same for Vancouver. You get the picture. There’s a family in Minneapolis, who I knew from Canada, who I’m so close with now and they mean so much to me I’d give them a kidney if one of them needed it and they’d do the same for me. My point is that people everywhere will help out financially if they can. They all understand what I’m trying to accomplish and why I’m asking to sleep on their couch.
With my NCAA career over five days ago, I’m the one who’s going to have to start doing some of the sacrificing. I’m 23 now and see my high school friends getting married, driving decent cars, buying condos, wearing nice clothes, going on vacations and starting families. They’ve started their careers and are beginning to make their way in this world. DAMMIT, I WANT THOSE THINGS TOO! Swimming laps back and forth for the next 3.5 years while most in my age cohort are getting on with life just isn’t worth $1,500 per month. Don’t misunderstand, I’m grateful for this money and wish I could thank each and every Canadian taxpayer. I know we have hospitals to run, bridges to build and the firetrucks need gas but my goodness $1,500 Canadian doesn’t go far when rent is $750 American.
Fact is, there’s little money in swimming. There’s little money in amateur sports. There’s little money in women’s sports. The good news is that there’s a little bit more today than there was yesterday. Yesterday was a financial win for amateur athletes in Canada and we don’t get many of those. $270 won’t make Ryan Cochrane change his mind about retirement but it will make a difference in the lives of a lot of people. WTG AVK.