Many of you may know that when I am not expounding marketing and advertising brilliance on a daily basis at Wheelhouse Creative, my wife, Mary, and I officiate high school swim meets. Over Valentine’s Day weekend I had the privilege, once again, to act as referee for the Ohio Eastern Sectional Swim Meet at Steubenville High School. More than 400 young men and women began what they dreamed would be a three- week journey to stand atop the platform in Canton, Ohio as champions during the Ohio State Swimming and Diving Finals. Unfortunately, for many, it also represents perhaps the last time they will ever swim competitively. As a swim parent of three children and as an observer to thousands of swimmers over the years, let me tell you, they are all champions.
The life of a swimmer consists of finding available pool time, being that at 5:30 a.m. or 8:30 p.m. It means driving 45 minutes one way to find an available pool to practice in at 5:30 in the morning. It means swimming miles, yes, miles everyday. During this time you are in an alien zone, surrounded by water, unable to communicate with friends and teammates, just you alone with the water stroke after stroke after stroke. I cannot think of any other sport that is so difficult, you by yourself in a body of water testing yourself against the clock time and time again. When the practice is over, going outside rewards them with wet hair into sub-freezing temperatures to repeat the 45-minute drive back home.
The life of a swim parent is equally rewarding. Sitting on hard bleachers in overheated balconies looking down on swimmers going lap after lap after lap of a 500-yard event. To paraphrase Apocalypse Now, “ I love the smell of chlorine in the morning.” What it has done to my sinuses I shudder to think. I cannot begin to tell you the joy when my oldest daughter got her drivers license so that my wife or I did not have to get up at 5 a.m. to drive our kids to 5:30 a.m. swim practice.
This weekend I will again have the honor of acting as an official at the Ohio State Swimming and Diving Finals in Canton. Many of the local young men and women who competed in Steubenville will be vying against the best swimmers the State of Ohio has to offer. The sacrifice these young men and women make has been an inspiration for years. I wish them good luck, both in and out of the water.