Courtesy: Donna Hale
Ok, we have had enough. How many more swimming programs will be cut in the NCAA before the swimming community steps up and stops the madness? I woke up this morning to the latest tragedy and shed a few tears. I cried for the young adults who made a commitment to the school to have their dreams dashed right before the school year ends? Really? The school did not know this until end of April.
Why is this really happening? Well here are a few reasons and there are most certainly others.
1. College athletics more and more is about the almighty dollar. Let’s face the truth: Many smaller colleges use their sports scholarships to attract students. They reward them with enough dollars to make smaller private colleges affordable compared to state schools. Then they add sport after sport to attract more students which equals dollars. Then other programs have to go. The latest loser has a strong and winning program. Here is a new flash Athletic Directors and College Presidents. Honoring the scholarship does not make up for what you are stealing from these athletes. Most are passionate about the sport. They love it.
2. USA Swimming does not do enough to promote collegiate swimming. The number of future Olympians is small. It is an honor and a privilege to be a college athlete. These elite kids pay your way for many years with their dues. When are you going to step up to the plate and advocate for the majority of your athletes? I challenge you to do more. Speak up and speak out. We were lucky. My daughter had amazing club coaches who reminded her about the college option from time she was in middle school. And it opened doors for her in many ways. Swimming teaches resilience to the extent many sports cannot. There is truly no off season.
3. College swim coaches: you need to do more. Since my daughter is a college swimmer, I know that these athletes are the community service champions in your communities. Do you recognize this at your banquets? I’m betting no. Do you promote their service? Teaching kids to swim who may never learn makes an impact far beyond your campus. My daughter’s team does this. Honoring and promoting character is tangible. Keep in mind that other than the highest D1 programs, wins versus losses does not protect your program. So stop making your programs about one or two athletes and be certain you inspire character and community and tell the world. Swimmers are making a difference that makes our world better.
4. Corporate swimming giants, and you know who you are, become stronger advocates for college athletes. I don’t have the numbers, but I would like to know if corporate support has declined? Providing suits and donating for training trips can make a difference in survival or demise. Isn’t it worth it to do more to save college swimming? Aren’t they more likely to do Masters and buy from you later on.
Student athletes, you’d better dig deep and choose wisely. I know this from experience. You have a right to know how strongly your future college home supports swimming – before you sign on the dotted line. This trend is not going to reverse if we don’t work together. In this battle to save college programs, “Be the One Who Shines.”
Donna Hale has been a swim mom for 14 years. Her daughter is a freshman swimmer for the Davis & Elkins Senators.