As I was putting in my laps at the pool this morning, I heard an older gentleman giving his version of the "kids today" speech and I had to laugh. I am sure there are exceptions to the kids I come across, but it is all relative, right? The kids I meet on a daily basis are students and more often than not, student athletes in Severna Park, which turns my "kids today" speech from a negative into a positive.
Among the incredible youth I meet on a daily basis though, Sarah Bouchard stands out. Sarah is a 4.0 student at Severn School, a year round national level swimmer for the SPY swim team on, captain of both the cross country team and the swim team at her school and a writer for the student newspaper, The Anchor.
While many college applications are filled with impressive lists of activities, Sarah's will stand out for her leadership qualities. For Sarah, being a team captain is more than just a title.
"Sarah leads by example, always working hard in practice and balancing swimming with her studies. She has been viewed as a leader since her freshman year. As a freshman one of the seniors wanted to make her captain," said Carolyn Cosentino, Severn's swim coach.
Leadership is not something that can be taught and leading a group of teenage girls takes something most of us don't possess. For Sarah it has been a lesson in balance.
"The first time I had to lead a practice, I knew the job was serious," Sarah said. "I knew what the coaches wanted the girls to do and I knew what the girls wanted to do and I had to balance that out."
"I learned really quickly that the best way to lead a practice was just that, I had to lead it. I had to do the workout and they would follow," she said.
One of the achievements Sarah is most proud of was convincing her teammates to compete in Baltimore's Half Marathon two years in a row. And though she was happy to tell me how much fun they had and how proud she was of their performance, it was Amy Luca, assistant cross country coach at Severn, who told me about Sarah's performance at the 2010 Baltimore race.
Having completed the course in 2009 in just under two hours and finishing 18th in her age group, Sarah came back in 2010 to place second in her age group and cut almost 20 minutes off of her previous time.
When coaches speak about Sarah they talk about her ability too adapt to a new situation, to learn from mistakes and to improve but they almost gush when they talk about her ability to teach other students.
As an honor roll student at Severn School with the added pressure of being on one of the areas top ranked swim teams, it would be easy for Sarah to be self-centered. Instead, she uses her experiences to help her fellow teammates improve.
"We can ask Sarah to go into a lane and work with another swimmer and we don't have to give her direction from there. She knows how to help her teammate to improve and she has the confidence to do it," said Luca.
As parents we can choose to believe the horror stories we hear about "kids today" or we can look to the examples around us. Sarah Bouchard is a wonderful example of the students in our community. She is an outstanding student athlete but more importantly for her student community, she is a leader and an example of how much a student can achieve and how much they can give back.