# "Rachel's right. It doesn't matter what your body looks like." Our friend Rachel told us she was going to try out for the swim team. We wanted to be supportive but also show her that our community is inclusive of all shapes, sizes, genders, and abilities. So, we were really surprised when she said confidently that it didn't matter if her tummy stuck out or if her neck was too short. "It doesn't matter what your body looks like," Rachel reiterated with a wide grin on her face as she extended an arm towards me in a rough approximation of my own physique. "All that matters is how much you can do. How good you are. That's what matters." Rachel is a chubby kid who grew up in Canada, where there aren't organized sports for kids like her (and many smaller countries around the globe). She's also Canadian. This meant that she would spend hours playing virtually anything that resembled organized sports, whether it be tennis or hockey or soccer or golf or baseball or rugby or squash or cricket. When she finally discovered swimming, she fell in love with it because it allowed her to do these things "without getting tired." She was hooked. "I can swim, I can swim!" she would exclaim the first time she learned to tread water. She didn't see her body as a liability. She saw it as an asset that allowed her to do the things she couldn't do before. Swimming was a tool for self-expression. It gave her confidence and gave her joy. The cool thing about Rachel is that even though she's definitely not a conventionally attractive person, people just seem to want to talk with her and be around her. It's like they're drawn to the positive energy that pours out of her and just want to bask in it awhile. Rachel has always had a vivid imagination. She's always had this incredible desire to write. When she joined the swim team, she wanted to start an online blog or vlog about swimming. It didn't take her long before she started writing about everything else too. She started writing stories, poems, and jokes in the water. Within the year, other kids on her team started bringing their homework to swim practice so that she could edit it for them while they were taking laps. Then the other kids started bringing her notebooks so that she could do their homework for them during class time while they looked over their shoulder and watched her work on their assignments. Then they started bringing her notes on how to do their homework for them again. Then they started bringing her notes on how to do their homework for them yet again. Rachel had a different level of understanding of the world than most people of her age, and she brought it with her into the pool. She went from being a more or less passive observer of all the other kids on the team to actively assisting them in their studies and daily life. In grade five, she helped one boy who had been bullied in class come out more to everyone else by teaching him breathing techniques from swimming.


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