Courtesy: Donna Hale
Every day I hear about more cuts to athletic programs, the elimination of swimming and diving, and the outright closure of colleges. Some were floundering already, but this pandemic just pushed too many over the edge. And it may not be over yet. It is heartbreaking.
There is no doubt that the cancellation of many summer leagues where many kids first develop their love for life in the fast lane, the lack of open pools where clubs can train, and the limited to nonexistent long course season could change the future of the sport we love for a very long time.
Swimmers, swim parents and alumni, it’s time to take a stand against this assault on our sport.
We all know that swimming is seen as a non-revenue sport, unlike football. And it is horrible what this pandemic has done to education and sports. First, we need to acknowledge that athletic directors face hard choices. However, if we want our grandchildren to enjoy this opportunity then now is the time to promote what our sport offers to thousands every year.
First, swimmers are generally excellent students. They raise the GPA of many a sports program. This is definitely related to the incredible work ethic of swimmers. There is no offseason.
Because they must balance many practice hours with academics they develop skills that translate into the workplace. In other words, swimmers make great employees.
There is a culture of giving back that is fostered at a young age. My daughter’s club team taught her the value of service, whether it was helping with Special Olympics, raising money for breast cancer or collecting food for the hungry. Many carry this culture of service into their community as adults. Swimmers are great citizens.
In other words, it is about more than generating revenue. It’s helping enrich the educational experience of our student-athletes. This makes our academic communities richer, deeper and more well rounded.
What can we do?
There are the obvious answers such as fundraising from the alumni, building in when needed contributions from parents, but that won’t be enough. We need the swimsuit and gear manufacturers to step up. Yes, colleges and conferences need their financial support – especially those that are struggling. We also need to protect summer, club and high school swimming so the love for this sport is being protected for future generations. And we need our Olympians to speak up and out. Your voices matter. Especially right now.
Let’s challenge higher education athletic departments to stop catching everyone off guard. The latest program cut that I heard about was East Carolina. Surely student-athletes do not deserve to hear about this decision at the start of summer break. Perhaps there needs to be more transparency between ADs, coaches and student-athletes. When a student makes a commitment to swim for a college and university, the responsibility is mutual. Much is required and demanded to be an NCAA swimmer. Honor this commitment with candor and respect.
Donna Hale has been a swim mom for 17 years. Her daughter swims for The University of Lynchburg Hornets.