Courtesy of Donna Hale
This one is for all the amazing college swimmers headed back to the NCAA or NAIA for a new season. Some of you are starting out with your freshman season, others transferred to new schools, and others are returning to their college teams for what might be their final season of competition. There is also a group of high school seniors making their choices for next fall.
What constitutes a college dream team? While it is nice to win NCAA titles, sweep championships and demolish records, these are the outcomes of college swimming. The things that matter in the day to day experience of the athlete run deeper and can you change you forever. From my 15 years in this sport, here are the components of a Dream Team. The good news athletes is you can control much if this. It starts with you.
1. Dream teams are loaded with amazing teammates who value the team above their own achievements. They are there with an extra towel and water bottle when you swim awful. And they are there with a hug when you break a record -even if it is theirs.
2. Dream teams have amazing coaches who get it. They understand that this sport is full of amazing moments and bittersweet races. They know the outcome does not define the swimmer. Instead they know that the leaders are the athletes who return and give it their all. They never quit.
3. These teams are filled with spirit. Teammates cheer each other on. Yes, they make the noise. Because these athletes know that spirit and cheering can count in races defined by milliseconds. There is nothing better than seeing and hearing your teammates cheer you on. If you are part of your team it is your obligation. If you are a coach you should foster an environment that makes this spirit natural.
4. The Dream Teams give back. Every team my daughter has swam for made service a part of team experience. It was Kennedy who said “to whom much is given, much is required.” Service builds character. And character builds leaders and they become champions in life.
5. Lastly the best teams minimize the drama. Teammates talk to each other and not about them. Each swimmer makes being a true teammate the top priority. And it’s not always easy. But the rewards of being part of something cannot be measured in wins or losses, but in how you play the game. It’s what you’ll remember forever.
The good news is there is no limit to who can have a Dream Team. But it starts with you.