Courtesy of Donna Hale
As the mom of a freshman college swimmer, the role that I play in her beloved swimming has changed so dramatically these last six to seven months. What has also changed is my relationship to the sport and how it impacts my life. A bittersweet time.
I miss my old relationship with swimming so much. Mostly I miss seeing the people who have been part of my life for 14 years. Just like my daughter, these people are forever etched in my heart. The time we spent in sweaty indoor pools and on sun-drenched outdoor pool decks have helped to define who I am. They were the ones I could count on not only to embrace my swimmer’s journey, but also to support me through tough times like the death of my parents, crazy career ups and downs, and just plain awful days. They are still there, but I don’t get to share awful coffee in the officials room, funny stories on deck, and hugs when our kids reached milestones. They are my friendships brought to you by swimming. And I cherish them very much. And I miss these people. Some have been in my child’s life since she took her first dive into the blue waters and fell in love. And remains in love so many years later.
Lucky for me, I am meeting new parents through her college experience, and that circle is significantly richer as it spans many parts of the US. We share our hopes, dreams and concerns as our swimmers try to find their way in a new and strange world. There are the ER visits, the self-doubts that follow every freshman I have ever known, and the videos we all share when we can make a college meet and they cannot. I have no doubt I am again making lifelong pals with whom I will share the races of my grandchildren
As I have adjusted to my new life as a swim parent, one absolute certainty has emerged. Friendships brought to you by swimming are one of the reasons my child fell in love so long ago with this sport that requires so much, but gives back even more. She still talks to the swimmers on her 9-10 relays, those on deck wearing all kinds of caps at every level meet, younger kids she has coached, and those who are now at colleges too numerous to mention. She’s even forged friendships with girls on her recruiting trips. She also learning that all-important lesson about life outside of swimming. Swimming is what you do and not who you are. But one life skill that is developed in this sport is how to get to know someone in the minutes before a race, the moments after a race, and in the long periods between races at meet after meet. The people she has meet on deck have included Olympians, kids fighting life-ending illness and tragedy, and passionate competitors who are the first ones to fetch you more water after the mile. Over the miles and through the tears and years, the bonds endure. Moments captured in photos more than a decade ago, bring back moments that feel like yesterday.
Swimming friends. May all of us, swimmers and athletes alike, be blessed with more water-loving soulmates traveling in a sport that we cannot imagine living without – even when the journey changes.
Donna Hale has been a swim mom for 14 years. Her daughter is a freshman swimmer for the Davis & Elkins Senators.