Courtesy of Donna Hale
Last week was another milestone in my daughter’s long swim career when her school held a signing ceremony for athletes headed to college for their sports. So many times last week both she and I have been asked if swimming in college is really worth it? What about the time commitment? The sacrifices? Why bother?
My daughter just finished her last high school race a few days ago and the tears flowed from both of us. I knew then what I’ve always known about her. She’s just not ready to let go of the sport she loves so much. I am sure there will be tears when she does her last USA race and her final laps at her much loved summer pool. So many endings. Her answer when she is asked why swim in college is always the same -I love it. It’s who I am
Here are a few reasons why being a college swimmer is so worth it:
You will make lifelong friends who will be at your wedding, life celebrations, and there when you need a familiar and trusted friend. People pay a lot of money to join sororities and fraternities in college to create connections. Swimming gives you this and so much more – bonds and memories that span time and space. We’ve been told there is nothing that compares to college swimming. It’s life changing and just plain fun.
You don’t have to stress about the freshman 15. One of the perks of swimming is you can eat. Yes you can eat. It’s not just carrots and celery for you. You can eat pasta and pizza. You are training your butt off and it takes fuel to make those grueling workouts possible. Yes, mom and dad they need the full meal plan.
College relays rock. As any swimmer can attest, relays are one of the true joys of swimming. You come together with three of your teammates to put in all on the line. It is no coincidence that many swimmers do their best splits in relays – adrenaline on fire. You are responsible to your relay mates to give every stroke your all to the final splash. For my daughter is was one more chance to swim her beloved butterfly. And there is nothing like coming into the final lap of 800 free relay and winning in a photo finish. True exhilaration.
College athletics, just like your lifetime of swimming, teaches discipline that you will carry with you forever. You understand what it is like to make a commitment and honor it. Future employers will recognize that. When you need to balance family, work and other grown up obligations you will be ready. You’ve been juggling for decades.
Swimming is good for you. It’s a sport you can enjoy your whole life through. You have a tool to stay active and happy and maintain great health doing what you love. It’s a love you can pass own to others whether your own kids or through coaching others.
College swimming also teaches you how to fail and get back in the next day and overcome the setbacks. Life is full of disappointments. You’ll learn how to cope with disappointment. But on the flip side you will learn the absolute elation of giving it your all and succeeding – not just for yourself but also for others.
Finally, and this is something only you can decide for yourself, it’s a passion you’re just not ready to abandon. The day may come when you hang up your goggles, stop shopping for suits and quit setting your alarm before the sun rises. But not just yet. There’s a lane with your name on it. Your swimming is just beginning.
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.