Courtesy: Donna Hale
As the mom of an NCAA Athlete, I have listened to athletes and parents in all sports – but especially swimming share, comfort and console during this awful pandemic. Yes there are worse tragedies that come in our lives than the loss of a season or a championship. We love you and in this community we understand.
I suggest we encourage our student athletes to feel the sudden loss and support them in mourning during this surreal point in time. The pain and the lack of closure is very real.
Imagine dedicating your life to pursuing excellence in swimming for 14-15 years and then the closure you anticipated never really comes. There’s no final race. No one more time to huddle with your team. The clock runs out when you did not realize it was running. This is to all the athletes, coaches who supported you and parents who helped you. It is okay to be sad. It’s imperative to talk about. And just as the sport of swimming has always taught my athlete way more than how to butterfly, there are lessons here. Embrace them as part of your journey. some things to remember:
1. Every moment counts because you never know when it will be the last. It does not take a pandemic to halt your journey. Injury can do it. Chronic illness. Program closures. Treasure the journey more than the outcome. It is the journey that creates bonds, memories, and unspeakable happiness.
2. Appreciate the unique opportunity of being a college athlete. Yes you worked hard to get where you are. But rejoice that you are afforded something a very small percentage of young people will ever know: what it’s like to be on a team where you have an obligation to the greater good more than to your own personal goals. It’s a powerful lesson in self-sacrifice you will carry with you always. You are lucky.
3. Be a mentor to those who come behind you. Perhaps you have more seasons to compete. Be a role model of sportsmanship, hard work and support. You will influence so many even when you think no one is watching. It is an honor but also a responsibility. It goes way beyond how you react to a race. Be invested in the success of your teammates. Guaranteed they will be treasured friends.
4. Embrace every challenge with an infectious attitude. Don’t wait for tomorrow to be your best self – not just in swimming – but in life. Someone is always being inspired by your Perseverance.
Here’s a shoutout to all the coaches finding ways to give their athletes last moments like Intersquad meets and final bonding events.
Remember most of all what this means to you. As a parent I have wondered how I will react to the last race, last glance at the clock, and the reality that a way of life is ending. I cannot imagine how much harder it is if you have no idea it is coming at all – especially as an athlete.
The best advice I have is from my daughter. Be sure you are in a place that brings you joy. If you find that, you are blessed.
Donna Hale is 17 year swim mom who’s daughter swims for the Lynchburg Hornets.