What Does Victory Taste Like?

Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

By Chandler Brandes, Swimming World College Intern.

During the summer, I coach a local swim team.

Swimmers-turned-summer-league-coaches everywhere know what that entails: more DQ sheets than we can count, thunderstorms that always roll in on meet days, and countless laughs and memories with kids who admire and adore us.

And those kids, as crazy as they are, have taught me more about the sport of swimming than I will ever realize.

One of my little swimmers—who would much rather spend all of his energy trying to run away from the pool than get in it—finally won his first heat winner ribbon at one of our Tuesday dual meets.


Photo Courtesy: Taylor Brien

Granted he was in a heat by himself, but to him, that didn’t matter.

He was so proud of the little blue ribbon. He carried it around with him the rest of the meet, showing it off to anyone he could find.

At one point during the meet, as a 9-year-old boy with too much energy does, he had his ribbon completely in his mouth. Jokingly, one of my other coaches asked him what it tasted like.

His answer?

“Tastes like victory.”


Photo Courtesy: Lilly Boardman

The other coaches and I laughed at his comment, one we definitely weren’t expecting. But his response, which he said so sincerely without batting an eye, got me thinking:

What is victory?

Victory is a process, one that does not happen overnight. It’s not something that’s handed to you. Victory is a long, tedious progression from mediocrity to being the best you can be.

It’s staring at a black line for two hours before most people are awake. It’s conquering the fear of trying that new dive. It’s years and years of dedication to the sport while waiting for that split-second moment you can call victory.


Photo Courtesy: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Victory is also missing the cut time or a record by the smallest of margins. It’s not executing your dive to the best of your ability and it’s falling short of your goals you’ve poured your heart and soul into.

But victory is also pushing yourself to do that one extra rep, to try that dive one more time. Victory is about allowing yourself to fail, get back up, and do it again. It’s the realization that failure is inevitable.

But by not giving up—by refusing to allow yourself to give up—you maximize your chances for victory indefinitely.


Photo Courtesy: Brian Jenkins-UVM Athletics

Victory is not one-and-done. One victorious moment creates a domino effect. You achieve your individual victory, you celebrate your success. And then you want more.

And more.

And more.

So you work harder. You work smarter. You do that one extra rep, you try that dive one more time. You fail, you get back up, you do it again.

It doesn’t matter if victory is a blue summer league ribbon or an Olympic gold medal. Victory is up to your own interpretation; it’s what you want to get from the sport, something no one else can decide for you.


Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Victory is what we dream about, it’s what we spend countless hours working towards, it’s what we sacrifice so much to achieve. In the end, it’s all worth it.

Because my 9-year-old swimmer wasn’t kidding.

Victory tastes sweet.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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6 years ago

Great article !!

Mark Youngblood
6 years ago

Very insightful. Well told! Thank you!