Courtesy: Donna Hale
It is that time of year when I see hundreds of posts from parents wondering whether their student should pursue college swimming. There is no right or wrong answer. For my swimmer girl it has been life changing and worth the sacrifices. And it was her lifelong dream.
Here are some things to consider as your athlete navigates this decision.
1. Educational goals must dominate. Swimming needs to fit around those. Do not pick a school for their swim team. Coaches resign. Team dynamics are often not as they seem from a visit. You might get injured. Fall in love with the school first. No exceptions.
2. Figure out what swimming means to you. I believe if you choose to compete in college, you do it because you love it with your whole heart. That passion – and your athlete knows if it’s in them and so do you – is what carries you through during the toughest times. It is not easy to manage practice, dryland, meet travel and school. If your student, like mine, is in a STEM major, toss in labs.
3. A sport like swimming generally gives you a built-in support system of best friends. This can make college adjustment both easier and more fun. My daughter and her teammates love and support each other. This has been an almost constant in this sport for her. College, when you are in the right place, is the absolute icing on the cake. She respects her teammates and loves the dynamic created with a real team.
4. Research shows that competing at the college level impacts success in the working world. It’s even more profound for girls. The latest stat I read is that over 50 percent of top business leaders is US were once college athletes. That is a powerful statistic. You have to learn time management, supporting the needs of your team, sometimes before your own, and how to navigate winning and losing so they do not define you. These are amazing leadership skills. This may be the single greatest lesson my daughter learned from swimming. No moment defines you but the way you handle yourself in all the moments, good and bad does. Character matters every day of your life. Savor the whole journey.
5. Answer the question honestly: why do I swim? If you can’t do it for the logo on the cap and with an unselfish approach then college swimming might not be for you. College is about the team outcome. Do you want the inspiring, crazy, responsibility of supporting your teammates, honoring your coaches, and representing your school? Remember as the saying goes; “to whom much is given, much is also required”
Donna Hale is 16 year swim mom. Her daughter swims at University of Lynchburg.