Courtesy of Donna Hale
It’s the beginning of a New Year. No, I don’t have my calendar mixed up. Everyone knows that the real New Year is upon us now. School is starting and we are staring directly at a new SCY swimming season. We will get less sleep, drink more coffee, and spend countless weekends in crowded pools. For us veteran swim parents, it’s a rite of passage. Just as surely as the leaves will turn golden every fall, we will embark on a new journey with our swimmers. For those of us with older swimmers, only a precious few of these beginnings remain. Bucket lists are all the rage these days so here is my version for swim moms (and dads).
Our kids will realize their dreams — whatever they may be. All of us want our children to enjoy the sport and reach their goals. You can see it in the stands at meets. The cheerers who think their yelling will propel their kids through the water faster. (That’s me and my daughter has even promised to go faster if I’ll just be quiet.). The nail biters who watch every stroke intensely as if they can somehow will just a few more seconds out of their kids. Then you have the ones who act cool and calm as if it does not matter to them at all. Meanwhile, they are likely the most stressed of all. It’s ok mom and dad. This really is normal. Just remember it’s their dream. You’re just along for the ride.
Our swimmers will nurture and develop new friendships. This is hands down the best part of swimming. Swimming creates enduring friendships not only among the kids but parents as well. If you are regularly practicing six plus times a week and then spending weekends together, you grow close to those on this same journey. This is what they’ll remember long after their goggles are put away. It’s what you will remember too. And not always with just kids who wear same logo on their cap. The number of amazing children my child has gotten to know from this single sport is staggering.
Coaches will understand what truly matters. It is not always what the clock says at a race’s end. We all enjoy it when our children nail a swim. They love it too. But some of the moments I will remember most and which have taught my daughter the best life lessons were about failure. They were pushing to do the last swim of the meet even though the weekend was massively disappointing. She learned how to fight back, by turning out one of the best swims of her life, after swimming one of the worse the night before. Swimming is all about going forward and not giving up.
A team culture that values giving back. It is a privilege to be a swimmer. It is also a privilege to raise one. Many kids never get this opportunity. There are no teams. No pools. Or they can’t afford it. My daughter is one of the lucky ones. Her team is constantly reaching out to help the community all year long. It’s setting an example that she will remember forever. “To whom much is given, much is required” is one of the best known and quoted scripture verses. That is because it is true.
The journey this year will be fun, invigorating, and life changing. No one knows what a season will bring. You set goals at the start of every season. You work hard. But the truth is you can’t foresee the outcome. This is just the reality. If you can’t celebrate the simple moments, you are in the wrong sport. Some of the most dedicated swimmers I have ever known never got that sectionals cut. Does that mean it wasn’t worth the ride? I’ll bet if you took a poll, 90 percent would do it again. Sometimes you have to redefine success. If your child is having fun, working hard, and wants to swim, that has to be enough. Because in swimming, there is always another hurdle. And sooner or later, your swimmer will fall short. We all fall short. Swimming teaches kids that failure is never final. That deep blue water is there waiting for you between the black lane lines tomorrow.
A few “ah ha” moments. As a swim parent you know what I mean. For my daughter last year, there were several: her first open water swim, a bet with teammates that led to a respectable sprint time in the 100 free for a lifelong distance girl. All the while the kids who made the bet were cheering her own.
This was a travel meet but thanks to the power of technology, I learned about it right away. I was proud of the swim and her achieving a goal she has been chasing for years. But most of all I was grateful to those teammates — a life lesson on loyalty and friendship. You see it on deck all the time. (The high fives between teammates.) (The embraces after races whose outcome is measured by a fingertip.) (The profound moments between coach and swimmer when everyone else is invisible on a crowded pool deck.) This is why my daughter loves the sport. And so do I. Be there when you can. Not as a coach -you’re paying someone to critique and teach. Be their parent. Your reward is the “ah ha” moments. They will come when you least expect them. And they are wonderful treasures.
Here’s to an amazing season and countless “ah ha” moments for everyone.
Donna Hale has been a swim mom for nearly 12 years. Her daughter swims for The Potomac Marlins as well as her summer and high school team.