Courtesy of Donna Hale
For my entire lifetime as a parent, I have been a swim mom. I can probably count the races that I have missed on one hand and always for reasons out of my control. Until now.
This season my daughter is a freshmen in college and swimming in the NCAA. Not practical to always be there, and honestly not the best thing for her either. It’s a new chapter, and she deserves the opportunity to do this all on her own. I don’t get to marshal on deck, sell shirts, time, or place stickers on ribbons. Occasionally I can watch from the stands and enjoy a post swim meal. But my role is different and maybe even a tiny bit sad. But this is all about her. It always was, but never quite real until this last month.
The college swim mom gets it. I’ll bet my swimmer girl wishes I’d learned a few things sooner. Here are some samples
1. I am her mommy, and not her coach. She has never wanted or frankly needed me in that role. I’m her cheerleader and biggest fan. But I’m not an expert on swimming the 200 fly. My advice is a hindrance not a help.
2. It’s really all about the journey. Trite but oh so true. They won’t remember the ribbons and races. But they will forever cherish the friendships and the fun. Win with grace. Lose with Dignity. Try again tomorrow. Life lessons.
3. The sports is theirs. They will feel the pain, and enjoy the amazing highs of being the first to touch the wall. We don’t need to say a word. We just offer a hug and some chocolate milk. And move on.
4. Encourage your child to do it because they love it — because they can’t imagine life without soggy towels, ripped caps, and broken goggles. Yes, swimming opens doors. But it only matters if it’s in their veins and etched in their hearts.
5. As a parent, savor every moment. College is different. It’s 100 percent about the team. You will miss the three day meets, sweaty pool decks and early mornings. But you are giving your child an extraordinary gift. Lessons learned. Friends that are cherished. And a great foundation to grow into an amazing person. And that’s what matters most. Be grateful you are part of the journey.
Donna Hale has been a swim mom for 14 years. Her daughter is a freshman at Davis and Elkins College in GMAC D2 Conference. She swam club for The Potomac Marlins.
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.