You are officially a Swammer now. You swam a best time in your last finals session last night and you hung up your goggles on a high note.
Swimming has given so much to you along the way – and shaped your character as a man – and I want to thank you for including me on your journey as I benefitted as much as you did.
It all began when you were 3 years old…. You were taking swim lessons from the head coach of your brothers’ summer league team and she told you that you could join the team if you swam the entire length of the pool. Even at that tender age, you were not one to shirk from a challenge so you took off and swam. The coach turned to me and said “that will be $65, mom, and he’s on the team for the rest of the season.” You loved it and were soon begging to swim year-round. I finally decided to let you try it, fully expecting it to last as long as piano, soccer and t-ball did.
Here we are 15 years later and what a time it has been – with many highs and lows, sometimes all in one day! I celebrated your successes and my heart ached with your failures and disappointments. You developed resilience at a young age and this has benefitted you in everything from academics to college recruiting to the medical school application process. Having to pick yourself up after a disappointing race only to do it all again a few minutes later isn’t easy, but you did it for years.
You were influenced by many coaches, both good and bad, and you learned as much about life skills as you did about swimming from all of them. Goal-setting is a necessary part of being a swimmer and sometimes you needed your coach to push you and other times you needed a reality check when your goals were too lofty.
All sports require a high level of commitment but I believe swimming is at the top. Most sports do not require you to enter a freezing cold pool at 5:00 am before a long day of high school followed by 2 more hours of swimming and dryland at the end of the day. Your ability to manage your time and to continue that dedication for so many years is truly admirable.
The life of a year-round swimmer requires a lot of sacrifice and you debated quitting many times. In fact, I lost count of the number of times you considered it but you always dug deep inside yourself and decided you were not done yet.
You made so many life-long friends through the sport and I did too – some of my best friends are fellow swim moms. We bonded sitting in the stands together cheering for everyone’s kids and while volunteering at meets and we will remain friends long after our kids are done. A swim team is a family – whether you are talking about a club team, a summer league team, a high school team, or a college team. These are the people you spend the majority of your time with and the ones who support you through the rough times and rejoice with you when you accomplish a goal – this applies to both the swimmers and the parents.
There are so many memories that it’s hard to pick the best ones but my Top 10 swim memories are:
10-Driving to travel meets with you as the quality time in the car together was special. The quality of the drive home often depended on how the meet had gone!
9-The staff at O’Charley’s in Greensboro recognizing us because you ordered steak, broccoli and mashed potatoes 3-4 nights in a row every single time you had a meet there. You were a creature of habit and ate the same lunch and dinner every meet.
8-Parents trying to get our kids to fall sleep in the hotel room so we could sneak down to the lobby to socialize during away meets.
7-You crying your eyes out before your first 200 IM when you were 8 because you were scared to swim it. Your coach took you aside for a pep talk that lasted at least 10 minutes. You were still scared but decided to do your best and you ended up breaking a team record in that event in college many years later.
6-The college recruiting process because, while it had its frustrations, it led you to a school that was a great fit where you would excel in both swimming and academics. Because of the frustrations involved, it led me to begin a business to help others navigate the process of being recruited to swim in college.
5-You, as a 12-year-old, dragging an older, bigger girl to the surface of the water after she had a seizure and was on the bottom of the pool. The Determination Award you won for this selfless act is one of your greatest honors.
4-Your perseverance when you were 12 and 13 and the other guys were growing faster than you. It was demoralizing to have kids you’d beaten for years suddenly be faster than you and you seriously considered giving up swimming.
3-Taking you to see your first College Conference Championship Meet when you were 9 and it was held locally. I asked you which event you’d like to watch and you picked the mile. At the time, I thought it was like watching paint dry. After you swam the mile for a few years, I understood the strategy much better.
2-Watching you swim the 200 Butterfly. You always paced yourself to come from behind and watching you gain on the rest of the pack in the last 50-75 yards was exhilarating. It was a few years before I learned not to worry when you were behind at the 100 yard mark.
1-The enormous smile on your face last night when you finished your last 200 fly at finals and looked up to see your time.
Last evening, after the meet, I reminded you of how I’ve always told you that I never tire of watching you swim the 200 fly. You replied, “Well, Mom, I gave you a good one to end on.”
You sure did, son. It was a great race and it has been a great journey.
Michelle Lombana is committed to helping parents like her whose children want to swim in college. When she’s not explaining recruiting rules for college swim programs, she can be found at www.collegeswimmingguide.com.