Courtesy: Donna Hale
Whether you are Olympic bound, swimming in the NCAA or just enjoying high school or summer swim, the most important ideal that you must embrace is: Be a Person of Character.
We read a lot on SwimSwam about the team bonding, lifelong friendships, and joys of teammates connecting over the 4 a.m. practice. These are all true about the sport of swimming, and issues I have written about for more than a decade.
No one likes to talk about the fact that in some instances, teams, swimmers and coaches do not embrace these ideals. Life gets in the way , and they stray from the actions that truly define character in this sport. I have been lucky to raise a swimmer with fantastic coaches from a young age who is the very mirror of what character looks like both in and out of the pool. Here are a few of the myriad things she has taught me on the topic: Be a Person of Character!
- Do not tolerate bullying or swim drama. I have seen this behavior in action, and it is ugly and not befitting the honor it is to be a swimmer. Speak up when you see it. Model great behavior. And stand up for anyone on any team if you see it happen. Much of this happens when coaches cannot see it, and it takes courage to take a stand. Be courageous.
- Support your teammates always. Honor them in the great swims. Comfort them in the awful races. Be the kind of friend you need when it is your turn to need support. In a competitive sport, where the difference in winning is milliseconds, embrace the team. It may be trite, but is true. There is no “I” in teammate.
- Realize early on that some things may be plain unfair. Rise about it and be your own personal best. The true leaders will see this and reward your dedication. And what the others think just does not matter. These moments become memories and offer chances to learn and inspire others. Be that Inspiration.
- Never give up. This is single greatest lesson my daughter has taught me. She has dealt with injuries, a chronic illness, and circumstances that would break many people. Don’t walk away. Find new dreams and set new goals. The resilience lesson is one that is one of the greatest gifts of our sport. Don’t give up. Get up and keep on racing. You never know who is watching and whose life you can change. When the racing is over , you can look back without regret knowing you gave it your all every day. This is something every athlete in every sport can and should be proud of.
- Be a leader every day. Sometimes this means leading with quiet actions at practice or at meets. Sometimes it means taking a bold and visible stand against something that is plain wrong. Do not be afraid to lead. This will serve you well for the rest of your life. Sometimes when leaders do not follow the crowd when the crowd is wrong you will catch grief. But at the end of this journey , you will never regret saying or doing the right things.
- Love your journey. One might ask what this has to do with character. The answer is simple: Everything! As an athlete you are a role model at school, college and on club teams. Nothing is more fun to watch than swimmers with passion. Race with passion. Laugh. Cry. Make every single moment count. Be a Person of Character.
About Donna Hale
Donna Hale has been swim mom for 16 years. Her daughter swims for Davis & Elkins College.