6 Ways Swimming Will Change Your Child

by SwimSwam Contributors 11

March 12th, 2017 Lifestyle

Courtesy of Donna Hale

My daughter just competed in her last ever SCY Champs Potomac Valley Swim Meet.  Sure there is the long course season, summer swim, and for her college swimming in the NCAA. But this an ending to a journey of a five-year-old competing in her first ever SCY race in the 25 fly at a college pool in VA  coming full circle last weekend at an even bigger college pool racing in the 200 fly SCY one last time.  I did not know whether to smile or sob, but my heart took over and the moment was a little of both.  I wish I could say it  was her best race ever.  But the truth is it was not even close. She has struggled through injury and illness so the beauty for me is that she loves swimming so much that she’ll do anything to compete.  At that moment I saw the little swim princess  who had no idea that those early days would take her all the way to the NCAA.  In her early years that race would have reduced her to tears. On this day, she took it in stride and celebrated her fastest 50 free ever. Swimming has taught her to savor the journey. To fail with grace. Succeed with dignity.  And embrace what might be possible tomorrow.

This is for all the parents of the little eight and unders starting out and maybe too for the senior parents I have met and loved along the way.  Here is what we’ve learned in this crazy, amazing, tumultuous, and incredible journey.  I would not trade even one moment.

If you are a young swimmer or a parent who wonders sometimes if there are better ways to spend your weekends, evenings and money, the answer is absolutely not.  Not only will Swimming change your child, it will also profoundly impact you.  Here are just a few jewels from our 13-14 year journey

1. Passion is mandatory if you are to get the most from this sport. The swimmers who have the most impact on their teams and the sport, and these are not necessarily the Olympians, love the water, cherish the sport, and will walk through fire to compete. It’s literally in their veins.

2.  Winning is not everything. But giving each race your personal best is vital. It’s all anyone can do. Push to the limits in that race on that day.  It is the hallmark of courage and character. And it is the backbone of champions.

3.  Every coach has something to teach you.  To expect a flawless relationship, especially at the highest levels is not realistic.  There will be periods of complete disconnect, disappointment over unmet expectations, and much more. This is why so many senior swimmers change teams so often. But there are lessons to be learned through loyalty and tenacity. They will stay with you for a lifetime.

4. Your teammates are your everything. They are your companions on this long whirlwind journey. And sometimes they wear different caps. They are there for the good, bad, and everything in between. Cherish them. You will remember them forever. Locker room antics. Mounds of pasta consumed.  Tons of wet towels.

5.  Swim parents are the unheralded angels of this sport. Cherish each other. I am already trying to imagine life without seeing the many friends I’ve met in this sport. It’s a void I can’t even imagine how I can fill it. They are treasured  by me and my swimmer.

6. The sport belongs to the swimmer – period. Coaches, parents, and swim officials are there for the journey. But it is up to each athlete to choose where they will go. Many incredibly talented athletes forgo college swimming. Others, who have maybe not as much pure talent, pursue college swimming with an intense passion. In the end, it is your child’s choice.

I am privileged and honored to have been a swim parent. And it looks like I am lucky to hold this title a few more years. Enjoy it fellow swim parents – every race, every moment, every sleep deprived early morning meet. To those I have known and loved along the way, thank you.   I love you.  The journey goes on.

Donna Hale has been a swim mom for 12 years as well as executive of several nonprofit organizations. She volunteers regularly for her daughter Hannah’s USA Team The Potomac Marlins, summer team Burke Station Destroyers, and Lake Braddock Swim and Dive Bruins.

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D\'Ann Rhoda
5 years ago

I could not agree more with this article! I have 3 kids who participated in all different sports, but my youngest was a swimmer who started with summer swim club at age 7! I never thought he’d stick with it, but he did, and he went on throughout his high school years swimming on a highly competitive year-round club and high school teams. He was captain of his high school team, which taught him leadership. Swimming taught him grit!!! Pure and simple!!! He is my one child who will never give up, and is not afraid of hard work. These two things will really take him far in life!!! I always recommend swimming to my friends with younger children. I… Read more »

Nikki Metz
5 years ago

Donna, I could not have said it any better. My daughter is swimming NCAA this year and red shirted, lots of practice but no competition this year. It has been the toughest year of her life not being able to compete. And as I read your article with tears in my eyes I recall the friends, struggles, successes, and failures it has taken us to get to this point. I have said many of these words to her myself, to keep her spirits ups (and mine). Next year she will compete again and I will join a new set of parents, and make new friends on our journey. I wish you and your daughter the best, and if our paths… Read more »

Sue
5 years ago

Great article My daughter is now 24 and has just qualified as a Social Worker. But before that she was a swimmer, competing from the age of 8 to her swansong at the London 2012 Paralympic Trials. Looking back I don’t know how she (and we) did it. Training before school, after school, weekends, eating on the run, mad dashes in the car, schoolwork, homework, exams, and then you add in the 20-odd hours of training each week and the never-ending swim meets, as well as me working! We must have all been absolutely mad! But do you know, I wouldn’t change anything (and I know she wouldn’t either). She got so much out of it. The friendships, the discipline,… Read more »

CoachK
5 years ago

We are rapidly staring down the waning days of my daughter’s swim career. She started at the relatively old age of 12, but very quickly was all-in and her swim friends became her universe. She has her final high school meet this weekend (State Championships). The following weekend will be her YStates and then the first week of April her final YNationals. So many good times have come from the journey. I will miss it so much. She will miss it more.

Alice
5 years ago

So true.. Watched our daughter swim from age group all the way through college. Now she coaches a Masters Team and her 6 year old is on a swim team . Circle starts again!

Joyce Davies, Shetland Islands, Scotland.
5 years ago

My daughters started swimming twelve years ago, they were four, six and eight and its been six days a week ever since. Taught them so much more than swimming technique, its a total life skill, its about hard work, commitment, friendship, coping with success, coping with failure, being in a team, independence, travel skills, concentration, focus, so much more. Don’t regret a minute of it, oldest now a third year medical student and teaches swimming to young children three days a week, middle one now a first year Nursing Student and swims for her University team, youngest still 16 and at school and has swam for the British Team, so much has been given to them and they give so… Read more »

Tammy
5 years ago

Thankyou for such strong encouraging comments of mothers who enjoy children’s decisions to swim in the front or back-very important!! Thanks again!!!

Charlene Tallen
5 years ago

I am here with you Mom! My swimmer is napping behind me, recharging for tonight’s finals. Then tomorrow, it’s over. She started at age 9. She hasn’t “pulled the trigger” and chosen a college yet, but very soon. Many tears have been shed this year. Final High School season, and tomorrow’s final “club” meet. The friendships, the life lessons, the wonderful coaching, the high and lows……every bit of it-worth it. Great article. Swim Mom for life!!