Courtesy of Donna Hale
As I am preparing to become a college swim mom and people are asking me about whether year-round swimming is worth it. Here are some tips for someone who has spent more than a decade in and around swimming pools and meets. I can recommend swimming as a sport for children without reservations.
Gain perspective early on! For the majority of my daughters’ years in the pool, which so far have topped 14, she was totally focused on the next cut and the next big meet. Obviously, we all train to get better and stronger. But as her longtime coach kept reminding her: this sport is for FUN! Nothing is worthwhile unless you are enjoying yourself each and every day. As a mom, it took quite some time for that to sink in.
Surround yourself with great teammates and support them every day. I have heard so many people talk about swimming being an individual sport, and well my daughter and I could not disagree more. What feels better? Breaking a relay team record? Or getting your own personal cut for a meet? I’d say breaking the relay team record feels a lot better. The shared experiences are the best.
Take care of yourself. This is the only body you get. It should go without saying if you are a dedicated swimmer and train many times a week. But eating the right foods, getting enough calories, and including proper dryland are the essentials. As competitive swimmers, sometimes it is hard to get those excessive calories in. Especially for girls. You need to remember that diets and recovery are both crucial when it comes to our overall success and health. And if you get injured, take the time to heal. The pool is not going anywhere and a good coach will support your recovery. My daughter created a Facebook Page called “Swimmers 4 Healing and Hope” to help swimmers through process.
Love what you do and do what you love! Swimming is not the right sport for everyone just as we are not all meant to kick a soccer ball, swing a tennis racket or throw an orange ball in the net. I knew early on that the water was the place for my daughter. She loved nearly every minute which is why she started year-round swimming at five. It was just too long until summer came again. Only you know if chlorine runs through your viens. If it does, enjoy every moment.
Pass it on – your passion for swimming. My child was very lucky to start coaching when in the 8th grade. Remember that swimmers are not only teaching a life skill but also good sportsmanship. As you spend excessive time poolside younger kids begin looking up to older swimmers. Be a good role model and teach your child the same.
Thank those who help you pursue your dreams. No one can thrive in this sport without the support of others. This support comes in many forms: coaches, teammates, teachers, siblings, parents, and even rivals. When my daughter was a younger swimmer, she was afraid of the 200 fly. But her coach pushed me her push myself beyond her fears. Guess what became her best and my favorite event?
Hold on to your memories. My family probably have hundreds of swim shirts from many meets and several teams. We know that we probably need to let some of them go. But the stories behind these memories sustain in both the best and worst of times. And that is okay!
Be your personal best. This was a hard-learned lesson for me and my swimmer. Your personal best will not always be the same as everyone else’s, especially if you sustain an injury. Being able to accept that and celebrate others is so important. As I said earlier, we are all in the pool together,
Be an original! This is probably the most important advice that not only applies to swimmers but to everyone. Don’t copy other people’s decisions or their good and bad choices. Follow your heart wherever it leads you. Make your own mistakes and own them. It is how we learn. And it is what makes the hours of swimming between the lines so amazing.
Pursue swimming with your whole heart. Anything that is worth doing requires passion. My daughter gave this advice to younger kids a few weeks ago at the end-of-season banquet. She talked about pursuing the sport with your whole heart and declared that everything good comes after that. She was right,
Donna Hale is swim mom of 14 years. Her daughter is a high school senior and will swim next year at Davis & Elkins College. She swam for The Potomac Marlins, Lake Braddock Swim & Dive and the Burke Station Destroyers.