Courtesy Donna Hale
Just returned from my first Conference Champs in the NCAA where swimmers actually competed with athletes in another conference – an opportunity to make new friends, test your endurance, and observe the sport from a new perspective. What an adventure. Even after being in the sport as a mom for 14 years, I learned something profoundly important last week. Through great success and heartbreaking disappointment, to truly make a difference, be the one who shines!
In the real world, all you can do is your very best with where you are. If you do this then you are a winner. You may not get to do your favorite events, you might have to race 4000 yards, and you might have to deal with “swim drama”, but your participation is a privilege. Honor it with your best. Most of the time you’ll be surrounded with supportive teammates and competitors. And when you are not, honor your sport by setting an example. Don’t tolerate the negative. Be the one who shines! Congratulate your opponents. Hug your teammates. Immerse yourself not only in your own success, but that of your teammates. Long after your goggles are hung up and your college career is over nothing will matter more than how you conduct yourself.
Parents this applies to you too. Every young swimmer deserves your support. Whispering in the halls should end in middle school. You do not know what battles a teammate or competitor might be enduring. Celebrate everyone’s success whether they win an event or drop 50 seconds. Get to know your fellow swimmers. I saw many examples of amazing sportsmanship. And I saw other examples that I would never want my daughter to model. While we’d all like to believe that our swimming world is without its darker side, we know that’s not true. Parents, be the ones who shine.
One of my own swimmer’s hallmarks is she keeps on smiling. Her club coach taught her this. These are races. These are competitions. They don’t define you. What does reflect on you is how you respond to winning and losing. Laugh. Cheer. Create and orchestrate team spirit. Laughter will ensure everyone swims better. Of course, you always want to reflect on your race and do your best. But sometimes when your fastsuit shreds in the locker room, all you can do is laugh. As a member of college team, you are making memories. One day soon you will be in your last race and your final meet. Keep smiling. When you look back have no regrets. Your participation is the reward. Be the one who shines.
Being a college athlete is such an honor Swim only if you love it. I mean really love it. You can instantly spot the athletes with passion. It shows on their faces. You can see the pure love in their hearts. They will swim anytime and anywhere. One of my daughter’s swim friends coined a great statement: Dance Up to the Blocks. These swimmers love their sport. They can’t imagine life without it. I am not a coach, but just a mom. But I can tell you this. If I were a coach I’d want a team of athletes who love to swim – even if they were not quite as fast. You can teach technique. You can teach racing. But you cannot teach passion. You can do harm it if you cannot embrace each athlete’s reality. But love of swimming can never be truly taught. I’ve seen many athletes with mega talent but very little heart. Love your journey. But, be the one shines.
Donna Hale has been a swim mom for 14 years. Her daughter is a freshman swimmer for the Davis & Elkins Senators.