Courtesy of Donna Hale
Most of the pieces that I write on swimming are geared towards parents, coaches, or kids ranging from four year olds to college athletes. Yesterday began the early signing day for college bound swimmers. Parents, In a year this could be your junior.
This is dedicated to the thousands of kids all over tonight who are at a crossroads. Yes, it’s an important time in your life as you take the SATs, start visiting colleges, and figure out if this lifelong journey on which you may have embarked without realizing it will continue. You are a high school junior. I know tons of you. I’m proud to call one my daughter. You are my heroes. Your choices are unlimited. Your possibilities are countless. And you’re about to make one of your first really big adult decisions. What is the next step for you along this journey? And here’s why you’re all my heroes. With all the pressures to be the best, become the greatest, and live out someone else’s dreams,I know you. You are going to embrace your own place in the swimming world. Doing what’s right for you and forging your place in the universe takes the same courage, passion and perseverance that has made you a champion
Recruitment starts early for swimmers. But no year is more vital than 11th grade. By then most of you have decided to just swim for fun, join a club team, or take your training to the next level on a college team. The really great news is all the years and hours you have devoted to this sport prepared you well to make the choice that’s right for you. If you can’t imagine not waking up to the smell of chlorine, owning more swimsuits than dresses, and feeling the rush of water over your skin, you are likely bound for college swimming. Maybe you’d rather teach the next generation. It’s totally up to you. One thing is almost certain though. You’ll always be a swimmer. Every time you see a pool, memories will come rushing over you like waves on a stormy beach. So many thoughts of — I remember when. The chlorine never leaves your veins.
I have seen the phrase written many time about how kids play other sports. It is true. You play soccer. But you become a swimmer. If you’re one of the many who has chosen to continue in college, you have many things to consider. First and foremost swimming is the means to an end. Not an end in itself. You are not likely to make a living at swimming so first and foremost focus on your career. Now you’ll finally need to answer the age old question, what will I be when I grow up. You’re at a crossroads.
Do you want to be a small fish in a big sea or a big fish in a small lake? You’re probably choosing a place where you will make your lifelong friends — the memories you’ll cherish forever. Age group swimming is special. Your beloved coach will always be someone you text when you reach a milestone or beat a mark you could not surpass when you were young. But college swimming, from everything you read, is even more life altering. You spend even more time with teammates and you’re bonded behind a goal. It’s truly all about the team. We’re in this together takes on a new meaning.
To all those seniors who are making choices this week, congratulations. To the juniors beginning your next chapter this year, open up your hearts and minds to everything that awaits you. You are beginning a year of choices, chances and challenges you can only imagine. When you put on those goggles and caps so many years ago, you became part of a family. It gets even better from here. The pool is your home. And life is a journey that is forever and always homeward bound.
Donna Hale has been a swim mom for 12 years as well as executive of several nonprofit organizations. She volunteers regularly for her daughter Hannah’s USA Team The Potomac Marlins, summer team Burke Station Destroyers, and Lake Braddock Swim and Dive Bruins.