BY JEFF FALK
George Robertson is not a fish out of water. Nor is he a football player who’s all wet.
He’s just a student-athlete who made himself vulnerable. And by doing so, he learned something about the sport of swimming, and a little bit about himself as a person.
Robertson is a first-year senior on the Palmyra boys’ swim team. Initially the reason he went out was partly out of curiosity and partly to stay in shape for his spring-time pursuit of lacrosse.
At first, he wasn’t sure he made the right decision. But as the winter season has progressed, Robertson became more and more comfortable with his choice.
“I had never swam competitively before,” said Robertson. “For the most part, I didn’t know anyone on the boys’ team. I didn’t know anything about swimming. I just decided to take the plunge and do it.”
This fall, Robertson was a cornerback on a Cougars’ football team that went 9-3 and won the program’s first-ever playoff game, in its initial appearance in the District Three Class AAA postseason. And while football is certainly a physically-demanding endeavor, it is no match for the under-rated challenge of competitive swimming.
“What I discovered is that it’s (swimming) really, really, really hard,” said Robertson. “If I would’ve known it was this strenuous, I probably wouldn’t have come out.
“Football is really physically straining and mentally draining,” Robertson added. “Swimming is not mentally strenuous, but it is physically straining. It’s kind of relaxing for my mind. It’s nice to have time to ponder things and think.”
While football is the highest profiled scholastic sport, swimmers wallow in anonymity. But Robertson is not in it for the notoriety.
“To be honest, I have no clue why I came out,” said Robertson. “It was a really long strenuous football season. I wanted something low key, just to stay in shape for lacrosse.
“But swimming is the most physically demanding sport I’ve ever played,” Robertson continued, “and I’ve played a lot of sports. You use every part of your body.”
And as the season has worn on, Robertson’s body has adjusted to its new physical stress.
“It’s easier than it was,” said Robertson. “I definitely feel like I’ve got the technique down. I don’t feel awkward in the water any more.
“So many times I thought about quitting,” continued Robertson. “I even talked to my parents about it one time. But things never got that bad, and I made a lot of new friends too. I’m definitely glad I stuck with it. We have a great coaching staff and they were really patient with me.”
For the Cougars, Robertson competes in mostly freestyle, sprint events – the 50 freestyle, the 100 freestyle, the medley relay and the 200 freestyle relay.
“I do terrible,” said Robertson. “I come in sixth place every single time. At first, it was really difficult. I was never terrible at a sport before. But once I accepted it, it was OK.”
Robertson is a realist, and because he is, he has set modest goals for himself in swimming.
“My goal is to stick with it and not quit,” said Robertson. “Come to every practice. Have no regrets. And just do my part on the team.”