Although I’ve recently retired from the sport of swimming, I swam for close to 20 years. I began as a summer league swimmer, and ended my career as a Division l, student athlete at NC State University. Throughout the years, two people have always been by my side:
My Mom and Dad.
I would consider myself to have a close relationship with my parents. I come to them for advice when I’m stressed or worried. They’re the first people I call when I receive exciting news. I send them funny pictures, or texts throughout the day just to say, “I’m thinking about you.” I always took our relationship for granted, but now I realize not everyone has close relationships with their parents. I never put much thought into how our close bond formed, but when I think about it, I can only come up with one answer:
Swimming gave me the chance to create a relationship with my parents that otherwise I might not have had. My parents and I spent countless hours in the car on the way to swim meets, and long weekends in hotel rooms that were too small. They comforted me when I had missed my goals and hugged me while I cried. They cheered proudly in the stands after I won a race, and smiled at me when I went a best time.
Over the years, my sport became theirs too. They learned the techniques, the practices, and the competition. My teammates’ parents became their close friends. And my passion became their passion. They loved to watch me succeed and have fun.
I learned I could be vulnerable with my parents and share my dreams with them, and once they knew what I wanted to accomplish, they did everything they could to help me. They cooked dinners full of carbs and protein so I would be properly fueled for the week of training. They placed vitamins on the kitchen counter for me each morning to make sure I was healthy. They gave me pep talks and wrote me letters of encouragement when I was exhausted. They bought me new competition suits so I would feel confident and swim my fastest.
Swimming was something we could talk about and bond over. I told them about my practices or funny things that happened at swim meets. I complained about hard sets and bragged about successful practices. Now that I think about it, if I hadn’t swum, I may have been more interested in watching TV or texting my friends. But I loved to spend time with my parents talking about swimming. We traveled to new cities and new states together through swimming, and shared experiences and memories we still talk about today.
If I wasn’t a swimmer, I suspect my teenage years would have been more focused on time with my friends rather than my family. All swim-families will tell you that the sport is time consuming, but the time we spent together brought me and my parents together, and I’m so thankful it did.