For 14-year-old Kayla Fu, swimming – and life – has become all about developing mental toughness, but still letting fun in along the way.
That mindset, she says, is largely due to the First Colony Swim Team, for which Fu has been swimming competitively for four years.
“My coaches and teammates have made things really fun for me, and that’s really what made me start to love swimming,” she said.
Fu, a Sugar Land resident and Fort Settlement Middle School student, is one of roughly 600 registered youth swimmers with the First Colony Swim Team, which has served First Colony, Sugar Land and the surrounding areas since 1981. About 450 of its swimmers, who are as young as age 5, regularly compete in events sanctioned by the Texas Swimming Association (TSA).
The team will begin evaluations and accepting registrations for its winter season in mid-November. Aside from cultivating a competitive environment that will push swimmers forward in the sport, coach Adrian Gomez said there also is a focus on merging a person’s passion for swimming with a mindset that can be applied well beyond the pool.
“We know that one day, swimming will be over. So I think we try to give them the confidence to take on unknown challenges,” said Gomez, who is entering his third season with the team.
As its numbers have grown, so has the team’s accomplishments and profile. This past summer, First Colony sent four swimmers to the 2019 Senior Zones
select camp at the University – the highest level of USA swim camps for the 13-14 year-old age group. Swimmers are selected for the camp based on USA Swimming’s IMX Scores, which are combined scores based on a swimmer’s performance in sanctioned events during a competitive season.
The camp, Gomez said, plays right into the team’s philosophy of staying away from concentrating on one particular stroke in response to a sport-wide trend in the younger age groups.
“Especially in the 18-and-under, we try to stay away from specialization,” Gomez said. “The human body keeps changing. … In our program, we believe they should be doing all four strokes and not avoiding any races.”
One of the beneficiaries of the philosophy is Fu, who was one of those invited to the Senior Zones camp. Fu didn’t find First Colony Swim Team until four years ago at the suggestion of a family friend, but has since turned into a well-rounded record breaker in several strokes during her time.
Two years ago, she broke a then-Texas Age Group Swimming (TAGS) record in the 11-12 girls’ 200-meter individual medley with a time of 2 minutes, 23.27 seconds. She also cracked the top 100 times for the 11-12 age group in the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle and 200 IM long course.
“Swimming requires a lot of mental toughness, so I can apply that to everything. I just have to be mentally tough through many aspects of life,” she said. “There are a lot of ups and downs, but my coach taught me to not let little things break me. So I’ve built up a lot of mental toughness.”
Though it may have encompassed just a small portion of her life so far, Fu said the environment the club has created – as well as the lessons she’s learned – has her making plans for the team to be much more prevalent for as long as she can slice through the water.
“They always push me to be better, and they’ve helped me through so much,” she said.
The same rings true for 18-year-old Ismael Castillo-Danforth, a senior at Travis High School.
“I’ve made lots of memories together with these guys,” he said. “I’m training with those guys about 18 hours a week, and the bond you share with them is a bond like no other.”
For more information on the team, visit swimfcst.com.