Courtesy of Swim Mom Donna Hale
I knew I was in trouble when my Swim Girl was nine months old. Hannah could already walk and before I knew it she had jumped in the deep end of our summer pool so drawn to the water she could not wait. That’s when this crazy journey of Swim Mom truly started. It was followed by lollipop races at three and USA swimming competitions at five. Today she’s 16 and still swimming strong. Hannah is a very good swimmer. She’s not a future Olympian and has to work very hard for her successes in and out of the pool. We always hear about what it’s like to be the mom of a Michael Phelps or a Missy Franklin. Truth is most of us mommies travel through this process with ordinary kids with extraordinary passion. If we are lucky we realize that for our kids, really all kids, it’s all about the journey. It took me many years to finally get this so here are my tips for surviving and soaring as the swim mom next door and what to tell your swimmer as you travel this journey together.
1. Choose your children’s coaches wisely.
Long after their last NCAA meet, what you want them to embrace for a lifetime is character. Be sure character trumps awards, credentials and everything in between.
2. Swimming should be about loyalty.
Loyalty to a team, teammates and coaches who give so much everyday. This is a life lesson. It applies to careers, relationships, and so much more.
3. It’s all about the friendships.
Perhaps more than any sport, swimming builds comaraidre. You spend more time with your teammates and other swimmers than you do family. Remind your swimmer to cherish every moment. These are your child’s best friends – the ones you’ll laugh with, cry for, and remember long after your 250 swimming t-shirts have faded.
4. Winning does not make you a champion.
Champions are the kids whose passion runs through their veins like chlorine through the pool. They practice hard. They rise above a bad race. And the are back to try again tomorrow. You don’t have to earn a medal to be a star.
5. Sportsmanship is everything.
At five years old, my daughter’s coach taught her that you always shake your competitor’s hand. As she has gotten older and developed friendships that span the nation, the handshakes are often heartfelt embraces. But the lesson remains.
6. Swimming is a lifestyle.
It’s going to school with your wet hair in a bun and in t-shirts and sweats most every day. It’s dozens of wet towels, never owning enough suits, and always looking in fridge for one more snack to fuel the grueling workouts. But it’s also being part of something only other swimmers get. You’re drawn to the smell of chlorine. You jump when you hear a beep. You’ve seen more sunrises than any of your non-swimming friends.
7. You gotta have the passion.
In other words, if you don’t love it and if you can’t live without it, choose a different journey. My daughter calls it an addiction. What she means is swimming is a part of her. There’s something about the water that draws a swimmer in. Maybe it’s the feel of the water as your body glides through. Maybe it’s the rush of reaching for wall on the 22final lap. I suspect it’s different for every child.
8. Savor the moment.
I have been at this so long that I’m not sure what I’ll feel when Hannah competes in her final race. I don’t know what she will feel either. Just remember you’re making memories. Be sure to embrace journey.