By Sharon Robb
PEMBROKE PINES, May 13, 2020—Resilience is not letting setbacks destroy you, learning from them and trying again. It’s one of life’s great skills which Natasha Moodie has mastered since she was a little girl.
The Jamaican Olympian, University of Michigan and Miramar High School alum and former South Florida Aquatic Club swimmer shared her trials and tribulations with SOFLO swimmers, parents and coaches recently on Zoom.
Moodie, 29, is SOFLO’s full-time college advisor. Her life’s story is remarkable. She never rejoiced in easy victories because there were no easy victories for the injury-plagued swimmer. She recovered from failure and learned something about herself along the way. She is tough. And, that’s how confidence is built. She is confident in anything she takes on.
For nearly an hour she shared her own stumbles and showed swimmers that mistakes are totally normal and helps them take their own in stride. She also proves that being a good role model doesn’t mean you have to be perfect.
The theme of her motivational talk was “determine your success by committing to the development of your character.”
Moodie started elementary school in Kingston, Jamaica at 4 and was one of only three 6-and-under swimmers at the center.
“We made it from one end of the 50-meter pool,” said Moodie, who by age 6 was swimming year-round for a club. At 12, her family moved to New Jersey where she joined an age group team. In 2005, she moved to Miramar and joined the Comets/SOFLO club.
“It was very tough for me at first,” Moodie said. “Having Chris (CEO and head coach Chris Anderson) as a coach really changed my life. He consistently pushed me. There was not really a limit on our goals. Coach did not put a cap on me on what I could achieve.”
Early on Moodie injured her shoulder. “I had no endurance, I was slowest in practice,” she said. “It was the first time I was truly challenged. I made a commitment to swimming and to what I was doing. I really wanted to be better and meet Chris’ expectations.”
Moodie said that meant giving 100 percent at every practice, getting to the pool at 4:45 in the morning, going to school and then returning for afternoon practice.
“Every meet I gave my best even though I had to swim the 400 IM and 200 fly,” Moodie said. “I had to be humble enough to accept correction to improve as an athlete.”
At the high school state meet, she won the 50-yard freestyle and had the pool deck buzzing.
“Most people didn’t even know my high school had a swim team,” Moodie said. “No one knew who I was. I was beating people who were suppose to win.”
At that meet Moodie made her U.S. Open cut and it all snowballed from there. “I had no idea what the U.S. Open was and here Chris is asking me if I wanted to go and I said ‘sure, yeah.” The next two years I went to juniors and seniors. If Chris said jump, I jumped.”
Moodie only missed two days of practice for prom and graduation. She competed in several U.S. Opens, senior nationals, made the Jamaican national team, 2006 World Championships in Australia, 2007 Pan American Games in Brazil, 2008 Seoul Olympics and 2009 World Championships. She retired from the Jamaican national team in 2010.
Moodie was 15 her senior year of high school when she was being recruited by colleges. “At that time recruiting was different,” Moodie said.
At only 16, Moodie started her collegiate career at Michigan on a full scholarship. She is the youngest SOFLO swimmer to earn a Division I scholarship. She made several college visits but it was Michigan she had her heart set on.
“I went to Michigan on a recruiting trip and it was the most boring trip,” she said. “It was 20 degrees and I was shaking the whole weekend. But I needed a place with minimal distractions to be successful in college and that environment didn’t have distractions.”
It wasn’t easy when she arrived on-campus. She called her first semester “an absolute disaster.” She was reprimanded for being late her first day of practice. After the first two weeks, she injured her left arm and couldn’t swim in practice. She had the least endurance and was the weakest in dryland which she said her teammates thought she wasn’t working hard.
“I was injured and terrible in practice,” Moodie said. “My teammates didn’t think I was putting in the effort. They didn’t know my character yet.”
In addition to being constantly injured, she did not do well on her final exams and failed her first semester with an F average, making her ineligible to compete her second semester.
“It was devastating and really hard for me,” she said. “I disappointed myself, my family and my teammates. After that first semester I got tutors, made weekly appointments with my professors, met with my academic advisor and joined study groups. I had to humble myself and take those steps to meet my goals.”
Moodie said she took time to reflect on how badly “did I want that degree from Michigan.”
Moodie nearly failed another semester her junior year but met with a tutor every day and professors three times a week.
“I did whatever it took to get there,” Moodie said. “I couldn’t spend time comparing myself to others. I had to stay true to myself and character.”
Even though she had only her electives left her senior year she never got overconfident. Just because she was doing better, she never let up. She was also named team captain.
“It wasn’t my GPA or amount of team points I scored, it was my character,” Moodie said. “Even when I was failing I maintained my integrity. I didn’t cheat or cut corners. I made the necessary changes to make it through and become better. I started at the bottom and now I am here.”
Injuries continued to plague her body that senior year. She was the only swimmer on the team not to earn an academic award or any individual swimming honors. And, she fell short of her goal of winning the Big 10 Championships by .02.
“It did not change my character or goals, I always put in 100 percent,” Moodie said. “I never missed a pratice and never let go of my goals.”
Moodie walked away with her college diploma finishing with a 2.6 GPA or C average. She went on to grad school at Johns Hopkins University.
“My coach said my professor reached out to him and said how much he enjoyed having me as a student,” Moodie said. “I barely graduated but they saw my dedication and character. Despite my difficulties I stayed true to myself and developing my character. It was my character that set me apart from my peers. It’s not about my grades or accomplishments, it was my dedication to get things done.”
Moodie stressed achievements are not the only measure of success.
“We are taught to push past our limits,” Moodie said. “You have an opportunity to show what you are made of. To be able to push yourself past your perceived boundaries are privileges. You get a chance to prove what you are made of for yourself, not your coaches or parents or teammates.
“I urge you to commit to developing yourself and giving your very best at every practice. Be able to humble yourself to accept corrections. These are valuable lessons to you for the rest of your life.
“If you fully commit to yourself and future self regardless of what your accomplishments say on paper, give everything to accomplishing that goal and character, at the end of the day you can say you are successful.
“I made sure that my 2.6 GPA told my story of resilience, it wasn’t a story of failure,” Moodie said. “It was a sign I didn’t give up. I was able to exercise humility and was willing to work hard and face not being the best. My life was filled with defining moments and you will have those moments that will define you, too.”
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org