Courtesy of Donna Hale
It is dark outside. Many kids are enjoying their last week of sleeping in. But for the swimmer, today is a new beginning. It is a new season. The sun has not risen and the pool glistens with possibilities. Their are dreams perhaps not even yet imagined. They are doing drill sets and pushing through the pool on kick boards. They are checking on their precious fins. As the days go by, the yardage goes up and the muscles burn like fire. Many are too young to realize what swim parents already know. For each athlete, a season is a lifetime. It begins in the wee hours of August and September bursting with possibilities like the autumn leaves. How it ends will be a reflection of what they do going forward. It starts today. Here’s what you can remember so your swimmer enjoys this particular lifetime.
Support your child’s coaches. There is a very simple and uncomplicated approach. Let them teach. If you’ve done your job well you have chosen a great role model. Your child’s coach is passionate about swimming. But they also care deeply about your swimmers journey as it is different at every age. For mine it is junior year and college looms large. What she needs now in this lifetime is much different than the six year old struggling to dive well or learn an awesome flip turn.
The canvas is blank but the paint brush belongs to your child. It is your job to be sure they have access to great nutrition, prioritize their academics, and treat their coaches and teammates with respect. They ultimately need to decide the rest with their coaches’ guidance. They have to set the goals and work towards them. It’s the beginning of a new lifetime. Most kids who stay in the sport for the long haul have amazing seasons, heartbreaking years and everything in between. The lessons are there. Every ending is a beginning. A season is a lifetime.
Everyone student athlete needs goals. But, realize theirs may not be what you want or believe is right. Let your swimmer fashion their destiny. They have to live with their choices. In reality, you have virtually no control, especially as they get older. If they are ready to make the sacrifices they need to reach their potential, you’re there to support. You will surely find these will change with the launch of a new lifetime – another journey. It may be the hardest thing you ever do, but let it go. You’re there for the good swims and bad swims with a shoulder, a hug, or a reminder that there is tomorrow. It is their sport. It does not define them. Each of them defines this sport. A season is a lifetime.
Cherish this moment — only a limited number of new seasons remain. You can’t hold on without letting go. If you had told me 12 years ago that I would willingly get up before the sun rises, I would have surely laughed rather loudly. My daughter believes that this sport chooses you. Perhaps she is right. She truly believes there is a moment for every swimmer where chlorine runs through your veins so purely and seduces you. You can embrace it and have the time of your life. Or you can walk away. If you can help them minimize the regrets and remind them that life is about balance, you’re a great swim parent. A season is a lifetime.
The lifetimes for your athlete are special. They are captured in videos and priceless photos of amazing success and heartbreaking defeat. Each lifetime is measured by moments and milestones. One day you’ll look back. So will they. It will be a lot like looking at that quiet pool in the early hours every late August or early September: a reflection of opportunities seized, friendships forever grounded, and a journey that begins anew each year. But for now the pool is calling. Time to take the plunge.
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.