EDITOR’S NOTE: Watch for Barry Mingo’s new column, Making Waves, every month in the Truro Daily News.
My heart was in my throat. My daughter was on the blocks.
"Take your marks", the official trumpets.
"This is it", I said to my wife. "Our daughter is going to be an Olympic swimming champion.”
The starting buzzer sounds, and the swimmers dive in. Well, plop in. After all, my daughter was only nine at her first meet as a Truro Centurion and barely knew the difference between backstroke and breaststroke. To me, that didn't matter. She was awesome.
This story has played out with every parent of every child since Truro Centurions Swim Club (TCSC) began in 1977, and for the past 36 years our club has been creating swimmers who not only excel at learning the four strokes of competitive swimming – freestyle, backstroke, butterfly and breaststroke – but as people, teammates and friends.
Each week the swimmers dedicate themselves to their sport. Back when we were new I did not realize the dedication swimming took. After six years of being involved, three as president and having three swimmers on the team, I understand how dedicated these youth are.
Your average senior swimmer (ages 12 to 18) is in the water eight times a week, including three morning and five afternoon practices. During these times he or she can swim up to 5,000m (not a typo) or 5km each practice. These young people happily swim 40km per week while getting prepared for the next meet.
One of most amazing aspects of this sport is how the swimmers compete. In the early levels (Nova Tech), the younger swimmers only swim against their own times. Moving up into new and more challenging training comes with performance, not winning races. This format for competing never pits two swimmers against each other. The most compelling benefit to this is team spirit. These kids cheer for each other with no animosity, no jealousy and with complete pride in each other. As a parent, it is a joy to watch.
Our junior and senior levels compete a little differently. They now have the opportunity to place at a meet and win medals. The older swimmers are always trying to reach ‘the times’ set forth by Swim Nova Scotia and Swim Canada to qualify for large provincial and national meets like East Coast Championships or nationals. These times are tough and are the reason swimmers work so hard every kilometre they swim each week.
Sports Canada has designed a Long Term Athletic Development Plan. This plan identifies the level and type of training each age group should have. As importantly, it identifies what level of qualification the coaches need to have to safely train the swimmers.
Swim Nova Scotia is very serious about this and will only sanction events and practices when a qualified and registered coach is present. This is comforting as a parent. I had no knowledge of any of this when we started but was exceptionally happy to find out this sports’ governing body pays attention to such detail, and to the safety of our kids.
I could not tell you how my daughter did that day of her first meet. I can tell you I have watched my daughter and her teammates grow older, more confident in themselves, become great time managers and academically successful. Swimming above all teaches ‘with hard work and dedication comes success.’ This lesson now permeates all aspects of their lives.
When we registered that first time I only wanted my children to know how to swim well. They learned that the first month. What they learned in the following six years is what really makes the sport of swimming unique and amazing.
TAGLINE: Barry Mingo is a parent and president of the Truro Centurions Swim Club.