Courtesy of Donna Hale
Any parent who is raising or has raised a swimmer, knows there are many hidden gems lurking beneath those hours swimming before the sun rises, unexpected twists of fate, and countless moments spent with crazy friends who become more like family than teammates. A friend recently asked me how I would sum up this journey for my own daughter and the hundreds of others she’s befriended along the way. My answer shocked them because it wasn’t about competition or medals or even goal setting. Sure these are a part of swimming.
When all is said and done Swimming is about Loss, Laughter and Learning. And many times they all converge together like the alignment of the solar system.
Loss refers to many things that have nothing to do with racing. Loss can mean working tirelessly for months and giving it your all only to be sidelined for days, weeks, or even months by an illness or injury. Loss can mean not making that special meet and yes it can mean getting beat by your fiercest competitor who is also your closest friend. Loss is one of the greatest gifts swimming bestows. It teaches you to truly appreciate the sacrifices it takes to be a winner. Most of all it teaches swimmers the true meaning of champion. Champions are made through self-sacrifice, attitude, and perseverance. Loss is a tool to all of the above. And yes it applies to goggles too.
A mentor once told me that nothing is worth doing if it doesn’t bring you joy and expose you to moments of laughter that you feel right in the pit of your stomach. Coaches, by now you’re rolling your eyes. But if you’re one of the great ones, you’re nodding your head with approval. You understand that the purest joy of this sport is friendship. Locker room gab sessions. Sharing your headphones for the pump up songs before a big race. Eating the rest of your teammates pancakes after downing two orders of your own. Or better yet, coach are you finishing that?
I have said a hundred times that the life lessons of swimming teach you more than you’ll ever imagine as a four year old learning to fly. Sacrifice: swimming has got it. You give up many social outings and parties to be a swimmer. Time Management. Swimming is the ultimate learning tool. You have to be able to manage a schedule to swim 50000 yards a week and still be a good student. Good Nutrition. It takes energy to fuel those grueling workouts and that means learning what your body needs to thrive. Grace. One of the certainties for all athletes is failure. This sport teaches you to win with grace and lose with that same trait remembering that tomorrow is another day. You also joyfully learn to embrace this journey with and for others. As the famous quote you see around swim meets says: “courage doesn’t always roar.” Swimmers know the pool isn’t going anywhere. You apply the lessons. Embrace the loss. And laugh loudly and often.
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.