Courtesy of Donna Hale
Perhaps more than any other sport, swimming is truly a family affair. It takes more than 40 volunteers to run a small summer meet and some USA meets probably require three times that many. After being involved in this sport for more 14 years, I am still amazed and at times frustrated that meet directors and coaches often have to plead with parents to get out of the stands and on the deck. Parents, if you are not engaged in this sport along with your swimmer, you truly don’t know what you are missing. Here are five reasons that you should be an active parent volunteer for all teams that provide your child with the amazing life lessons, wonderful friendships, and pure joy that are a part of swimming.
1. Your children learn by watching you. If you want them to grow up to be engaged and involved citizens in their communities and world, set an example. There is no more important lesson that you can teach your children than the importance of being involved. Both of my girls are active volunteers. They don’t even realize there is another way. Your children are watching.
2. The hours spent driving to practices, washing towels, and traveling to meets mean so much more to you, when you get involved. You will fall in love with swimming like my husband and I even if you’ve never swam a lap. By getting involved, you too will start wonderful friendships with parents from all over the community and in some cases the nation. You will look forward to spending weekends on deck with your new family. Yes, swimmers’ families become your extended family. I am already feeling the deep void of not seeing my lifelong families as my daughter heads to college and the NCAA. My daughter grew up with these amazing people and many touched her life in amazing ways. Just maybe my husband and I did the same.
3. There is a volunteer role that suits every parents’ personality. If you like to be right in the middle of the action, you can time. You might get a little wet now and then, but this will feel awesome in the humid environment of indoor pools and refreshing on hot summer mornings spent at summer meets. If you thrive on understanding the technical end of the sport, you can become a stroke and turn judge or referee. You even get special shirts. If you love social interaction, you can volunteer for hospitality, program sales or as a marshal to help maintain safety. I’ve done practically every parent role at some point and as these final months of age group and senior swimming fade for me, I would not trade one moment spent helping my daughters’ teams. I’ve heard that in the NCAA, I will again be a spectator. Hope I remember how.
4. The sport can’t happen without you. I have heard many young parents say: “that’s why I pay for a coach.” Hopefully you pay a coach to teach your child the sport of swimming, good sportsmanship and the value of hard work. They can’t do their job at meets without your support in staffing the competition. I am always a little sad for the kids whose parents drop them off at meets and return at the end. What message does that send a child whose working hard every day?
5. You are making memories. The more involved you are as a parent volunteer, the richer these memories will be. I know there have been times when my daughter wished I was anywhere but on that pool deck. Let’s just say I’ve been a vocal cheerleader. But as she looks back on her years as a competitive swimmer, her dad and I will be front and center in these memories because that’s where we were — on deck and involved. She has even occasionally acknowledged in recent months how passionately we supported her dreams. She’s never had to doubt that because she sees it. Knowing that they are loved and that their dreams matter, provides children with an unspoken comfort and security in an uncertain world. Your support gives them the freedom to pursue moments.
Donna Hale has been swim mom for 14 years. Her daughter swam for The Potomac Marlins as well as high school and summer teams and next year will swim at Davis & Elkins College.