By Donna Hale
I’ve been around the sport of swimming for a decade and half including summer, High School and USA Meets at many levels. Next year I will be able to experience college meets as my daughter becomes an NCAA swimmer completing the circle. It amazes me how many swimmers, parents and sometimes even coaches do not understand that swimming is truly a team sport. If a swimmer cannot embrace this idea and live it they will never be a true champion. They might win some races but they will not earn the respect due a CHAMPION.
Here is what makes a champion whether you’re swimming in the summer, high school, USA, and even college.
A good teammate:
Puts the needs of the team in any given moment before their own desires to win or swim their favorite or perceived best events. I’ve watched the lobbying by parents and kids go on for too many years. Coaches should do their best to win and swimmers should respect this in every meet. I’ve seen the consequences of letting the kids control.
Understands that hard work and dedication is an obligation to each of their fellow teammates. Too many swimmers want the glory without embracing the gutsy determination to push themselves beyond their comfort zone. I have known kids who can get by with mediocre efforts but still achieve great results. But they are not only failing themselves but the kids who look up to them.
Celebrates the successes of others with true joy and comforts in the hard times with caring compassion. If you are in the sport long enough your rough moments will come. You’ll get injured. You’ll get sick before the big meet. Or you’ll just plain fall short sometimes. You can only change the things that are within your own control. Attitude is one of them. In Sports, as in life, character is everything.
Places sportsmanship above everything. You must win with grace and lose with dignity. Your teammates look to you – especially as you get older. Nothing warms my heart more than the heartfelt embrace of two competitors after a good race. How you react and act is what people remember most not the time on the scoreboard.
Appreciates the intangibles of competitive swimming and has the heart of a competitor. I am convinced that the friendships, grueling workouts, travel trips, team dinners and ten extra minutes spent in the locker room to chat are the jewels of swimming. They are the treasures you’ll remember decades from now when your trophies are collecting dust. The lessons learned go with you. And it’s your teammates who make these memories with you. Appreciate them. You are part of something bigger than yourself. That means you are blessed. Enjoy the ride.
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.