'Trust the Process. Work for the Family'
Experience abroad provides valuable perspective for GW swimmer
Nicolas Reeves of GW men's swimming and diving is spending the school year studying Arabic as a Boren Scholar in Amman, Jordan. As a sophomore last season, the Virginia native helped the Colonials secure their first Atlantic 10 title, highlighted by a 15th-place finish in the 200-yard backstroke. Here, he checks in after his first semester in the Middle East.
"Trust the process. Work for the family."
Even though these words have become a part of my vocabulary to the point that all of my friends have probably heard me say them at least once, it was not until after the Atlantic 10 Championships my freshman year that I thought about the real meaning of the motto.
I had just finished the most emotionally draining race of my college career, the 1,650-yard freestyle, in which I had been lapped by the field not once, or twice, but three times.
Demoralized, I walked over to my coach, James Winchester, after exiting the pool, and exclaimed, "I'm not happy with my race. I tried my best, but the time isn't good enough to get into the Top 16, and that means I'm not going to score. I've let the team down."
Coach James pulled me to the side before he responded:
"You didn't let the team down at all, and if you think so, you don't fully understand the purpose of this program. My main concern isn't to make you a better swimmer. Ultimately, my goal is to make each of you a better person. That's why I would always take someone who gives his all and makes his teammates better in the process over someone who scores 50 points at A-10s but is in it for himself."
At that moment, I realized that "working for the family" isn't just about putting points on the board.
Since then, I've spent a lot of time thinking about how I can develop and project my strengths, both inside and outside the pool, to contribute to the team in my unique way. At the same time, I've looked to my teammates for inspiration in my areas of weakness.
Over the past year, I have found that the best way I can serve as an example to my teammates is through my work in the classroom. In turn, I have looked to leaders like Gustav Hokfelt and Josh Monacelli to see how I can best translate my work ethic into results in the pool.
Yet, it took me until recently -- after having largely put my GW swimming career on hold for the last four months to study abroad in Amman, Jordan -- to clearly appreciate and embrace my role within the program, as a teammate first and an individual second.
Over the last semester, I have done my best to completely immerse myself in Middle Eastern culture, an opportunity that has greatly enhanced my Arabic skills. My progress speaking the language has allowed me to have meaningful conversations with Jordanians, an experience that has given me a clearer idea of which Middle Eastern topics I would like to focus on going forward.
For example, a conversation with a taxi driver from Hebron who came to Jordan as a refugee inspired me to study the Palestinian Conflict for a research paper. Further, eating Iraqi, Palestinian, Jordanian and Lebanese cuisine has made me think about the diverse array of cultures that converge in Jordan and how this has changed the country's national identity over time.
Then, there was a meeting with an engineering graduate who works by day as a janitor at the university and as an auto repairman by night, which helped me better understand the economic challenges the country faces.
Interestingly, the more I discovered about my professional interests during my fall semester in Jordan, the more I thought about what Coach James said to me at the end of my freshman year, and the more it started to make sense.
During my first two years at GW, my life revolved around academics and swimming. For that reason, my individual success as a swimmer constituted a large part of my own perception of how I was doing in my life as a student-athlete.
My experience in Jordan, however, has awakened interests that have largely put my individual swimming accomplishments into a new perspective.
Studying abroad has shown me that there are more important things in life. A championship ring on the mantle looks nice, but as the dust settles and the silver tarnishes, the things that will live on are the memories and relationships made along the way.
Those realizations have not dampened my passion for the sport of swimming. Rather, the opposite has occurred. I am more excited than ever to give my best effort, both in and out of the pool, to help my team win another A-10 Championship in 2019 after I return from Jordan in May.
My senior year, I want to strengthen those bonds one more time by fully embracing my role as an encourager in the pool and a leader in the classroom, while using the strengths of my teammates to grow as a person. All the while, I'll be trusting the process and working for the family.
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