by Donna Hale
It is that time of year when USA Swim Teams have their year-end banquets, recognize their seniors, and start their long course training. Bittersweet Endings. Kids you’ve known all your life reflect on their swimming careers, friends, coaches, and lessons learned. Wide-eyed eight and unders hang on their every word dreaming about their time to graduate, look towards college, and perhaps start a new swimming journey in the NCAA.
Next year I will begin my 14th year as a year-round swim mom. My daughter jumped in the pool at four years old and never looked back. She will start her final year as a part of this crazy, demanding, exhilarating journey between the lane lines. As I listened to her senior friends last week, it hit me hard. Next year I will be reflecting on this sport as surely as my swimmer. Though she plans to compete in college, I am no doubt coming to the end of a lifestyle. One more year! So here are some swim mom thoughts for one more season — one more new beginning.
Swim parents, I already miss you. We’ve bonded in sweaty pools for way over a decade. You know my family as well as I do. We endured it all. And what a journey. You are extended family. You’ve celebrated my child’s heartaches and elations. I’ve done the same with you. We’ve laughed, cried, cheered, and connected. You will forever be in my heart. Thank you. I already feel the void thinking about it.
Being the parent of a swimmer is a privilege. Amidst the wet towels, lost sleep, grocery bills, and marathon swim meets, take time to be thankful. Your child is pretty amazing. They dedicate themselves to amazing goals, chasing dreams and living life out loud in the pool. Their successes and failures are there for all to see. As their parent, you see their sacrifices every day. Swimming helped them grow in ways you probably never imagined. You are there: a front row seat to what swimming has given them.
In the end, it’s the process that trumps everything. Sure it’s nice to win an event, qualify for a big meet, or nail an important race. The sense of joy I have known from watching my daughter fly with power and passion is indescribable. But more than anything I appreciate the intangibles of her journey: lifelong friends, unsurpassed dedication to her goals, and memories she will always cherish. Swimmers share a bond. It lasts long after the goggles are put away and the medals and ribbons are put in their hope chest.
Enjoy the last moments of this journey. Be present. Celebrate every memory. And help your child do the same. In the end it doesn’t matter if they win or lose. Most are not Olympians. They are just great kids who fell in love with this sport without ever knowing how or why. It became a part if their souls. And a part of yours. They are about to leave the nest and move full speed into adulthood. Smile a lot. Cry if you must. But savor it all for one more trip around the sun.
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.