At the age of five I started swimming. Today, at 21, I am still swimming. Throughout the years I have done a handful of other sports: soccer, softball, track, cross country, basketball. I always laugh when I think back to when I was attempting to do three sports at once. I loved all of these sports (except for maybe basketball) and I couldn’t imagine growing up without doing each and every one of these sports. Seventeen years later I am still competing and I credit the support of my family for being one of the main reasons I have made it this long. My parents always made sure I was at as many practices and competitions as possible. They made sure I had the equipment needed (shout out to the for spending thousands of dollars on swimsuits) and snacks I could ever wish for. No matter what, my parents were there for me, cheering me on, during the good and bad.
The other day I picked up a book and couldn’t put it down. It was about a walk on basketball player who played for Wake Forest (obviously a sports book because those are the best). There was something about this book that made me keep reading. Maybe it was the simplicity of the book, or maybe it was the lessons that came along as the book progressed. There was one quote in particular that caught my attention while reading, and that’s what this post is about.
Growing up there were obviously good days and bad days in the pool (focusing on swimming because it’s what I am still doing). Some days I would swim best times, other days I would add ten seconds. My parents were always supportive, no matter what. Yes, there were times that they weren’t happy with my performances, but that is understandable. They were unhappy because they knew how much work I had put in at all of those practices. They knew everything that I had sacrificed to make a practice or make a swim meet that was hours away.
One thing I can confidently say is that my parents let me live out my swimming career as if it was my own. I never once felt that my parents were living vicariously through me (although when I got DQed they benefited from it too). I don’t know if my parents ever felt that what I was doing in the pool was something that they were living through me for. I have always had the ability to choose what events I was swimming. I was able to tell my parents if I wanted to take the day off from practice or to not go to a swim meet.
As I meander around the pool deck these days, too old to be hanging out with 8 year olds, I realize that what I had growing up was exactly what I needed. My parents allowed me to be myself. I was able to show off my talent in a simple, and pure, way. I was able to dive into the pool knowing that at the end of the day, no matter what, my parents would be proud of me. Walking on the pool deck and seeing parents in the stands I get scared for these little kids growing up in the era of hi-tech equipment. I see parents spending thousands of dollars on suits and goggles on an eight year old just learning to swim, only for the kid not to perform as well as THE PARENTS WANTED. I have seen too many kids, and even teenagers and college swimmers, get yelled at because they did not perform well enough for their parents. This isn’t the parents sport. This isn’t time for the parents to get the spotlight. The child is in the sport to better themselves, not to better the parents.
I don’t really know where I am going with this, and if you have read this much shout out to you. I just really hate that I see parents living through their kids. I hate seeing kids having mental breakdowns after every race because they didn’t swim well enough for their parents. I hate that these kids are scared that they will get yelled at because of a sport. There is more to life than sports, and the sooner people realize this, the better life will be.