How Swimming Kept a Young Girl on the Right Path
By Melissa Wickes
December 1, 2021
A seven-year-old girl who was raised in a small town surrounded by the Kama River and Sequoia Forest was rejected to join the swimming team because she didn’t meet the minimum height requirement.
She pleaded with a coach to give her a chance and let her prove herself. The coach offered to let her start in a lyagushatnik (small froggy pool). He told her she had one month, and then she needed to swim 25 meters across the deepwater pool without drowning. If she could do that, she could join the team.
After learning the basics and foundation of swimming in the small pool, the little girl realized there was no way she could swim 25 meters without sinking. She couldn’t keep her body afloat, she couldn’t breathe, her lungs were always full of chlorinated water. She often wanted to put her legs down in search of the pool’s bottom. She thought maybe it was best to learn by watching experienced athletes during training.
So she visited the pool complex early before her training session began and watched from the balcony as the older athletes practiced. Once she got into the pool, she tried to do the same leg kicking and hand positions.
After one month when the test day came, she was ready to face her fears. She decided that the best choice would be to swim on her back so she could catch some breath. Her kicks were weak with knees above water and she couldn’t point toes as you were supposed to; her arms were swinging like paddles with big splashes; her heart was beating beyond control; yet she managed to finish 25 meters successfully, the longest distance in the deepwater at the time for her.
She became a member of the team and for the next seven years, swam competitively around the former Soviet Union.
The sport kept the girl away from gangs, drugs, and alcohol. When she lost a few neighborhood friends to drug overdose or death, swimming allowed her to say no to bad influences and remain the “uncool” kid.
Training twice a day, getting up at 5 a.m. and walking before sunrise to the pool, and then after-school training kept her very busy.
The swimming coach would become her father figure, as she was raised by a single mother. She never met her father and often on the way to the pool complex from her home and back she would look into men’s eyes walking by in hopes that one of those men would be her father. The father would be proud of her high grades and achievements in sport. The father that would love her unconditionally and accept her for who she is. At that time, the coach managed to partially fill that void. He instilled in her that sport is not just an athletic activity, but rather it is a daily grinding, it’s sportsmanship, it’s teamwork, it’s a determination to improve and get better.
Swimming helped the girl to have a purpose in life and to become the part of the family she always wished to have. It infused self-discipline, self-motivation, and self-perseverance.
Her teammates she has known since age seven remain her friends today, although she now lives far away from them. She talks to them daily via WhatsApp group chat, where they often talk about swimming days and share pictures of the past or the present.
Now many decades later, that little girl, named Liliya Frye, works as a director of QA engineering at LeagueApps: a fast-growing organization, powering thousands of clubs, tournaments, leagues, camps, and facilities with a platform that reaches more than 10 million participants nationwide by creating amazing sports experiences for all.
Sports are a mirror of society—they can perpetuate unjust aspects of society, but they can also develop people. If not for sports and internal determination, Liliya would not have achieved all that she did in this life, and would not have developed the determination to achieve even more.
A few weeks into working at LeagueApps, Liliya received a “Dog Award” for passion and team; for being passionate about quality, having a great attitude, and always creating a collaborative environment.
Learn more about LeagueApps SPORTSDOG values and how the whole organization believes in them.
If you would like to be a part of building the greatest youth sports company in the world, click here to apply to join the team.