The Beautiful Sacrifices of a Swim Mom

McClain Hermes - Swim Mom

The Beautiful Sacrifices of a Swim Mom

My friends and family always seem to laugh when I say that I can count my best friends on one hand. My dog, my mom… yes, my mom is on that list. My mom, Carmen, is one of my best friends in the whole world. She means so much to me. She and the rest of my family have sacrificed so much to help me accomplish my goals and dreams both in and out of the pool.

Not only did mom give up her career as a teacher, but she has often given up time with her friends and family to help me with my online schooling and drive me 30-plus minutes, one way, to practice multiple times a day. “We made the decision as a family for me to put my teaching career on hold so I could drive McClain to swim, accompany her to meets, and be present daily to provide the accommodations needed for a blind swimmer to train with her peers,” Carmen Hermes said.

My mom would wake up early, and with that first cup of coffee in her system, drive me to practice. She carried her pillow and blanket in the car so she could sleep in the parking lot while I swam. “We felt it was most beneficial for McClain to train with a club that was 30 plus miles from our home in metro Atlanta. This often meant that we were leaving the house at 4:30 a.m. to be at 5:30 a.m. practice and then returning in the afternoon for another practice.”

McClain Hermes

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As a blind teenager, let alone athlete, I have needed a great deal of assistance and support from my parents throughout the years. Naturally being unable to drive myself to practice combined with living in an area with no public transportation meant that my mom had to take me to practice every day. It made me feel guilty when I was younger seeing my mom miss her “Friday night club,” tennis matches, family events, holidays, and so much more while she was being a devoted “swim mom.”

When I am swimming, and competing, I think about all the sacrifices that my family has made to help me become the person that I am today. My joy comes when I know that I have made my parents proud. “McClain’s athletic success is her own,” Carmen said. “She sets her goals and as parents, we will do our best to support her. Her athletic success really has nothing to do with me. All I can do to help her succeed athletically is to make sure she has transportation to practice, eats well, and stays focused on what is important to her.”

MeiMei and Kelley White

My mom is not the only mom that has sacrificed her career to help her child accomplish her goals and dreams. Kelley White left her career as an audiologist when her daughter, MeiMei, was 3 years of age due to her medical needs. Since then, White has been fully dedicated to helping her youngest daughter succeed academically and athletically.

MeiMei White with her parents

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MeiMei White, a Paralympic swimming hopeful, says she feels blessed for the sacrifices that her mom has made to help her advance in her swimming career. “When I was 11, my mom and I moved from Georgia to Florida to find a more competitive swim team and have better opportunities for competition. My mom and I lived in Florida for 5 years.”

White has seen her daughter have major success in the pool. After earning a gold and silver medal at the 2019 Para Pan American Games, MeiMei was diagnosed with depression. Even though MeiMei is a talented and strong athlete, she has struggled with her mental health for the past several years. White says, “She has been working very hard over the last few months as her mental health is more important than anything else. Watching her go through this has been the hardest thing we as parents have been through as parents with any of our children.”

Throughout all the hardships, MeiMei still says that at the end of the day, seeing a smile on her mom’s face makes everything worth it. “My mom watching me succeed in my sport is what makes her happy and I enjoy seeing her face light up when I accomplish something major.”

Lawrence and Dee Sapp

Another mom who has watched her child succeed in and out of the pool and become a hopeful for the Paralympic Games is Dee Sapp. Her son, Lawrence, earned a silver medal for Team USA at the 2019 World Para Swimming World Championships. Even though Lawrence is now attending college at the University of Cincinnati, he and his mother still have a close relationship.

Lawrence Sapp

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Sapp has made quite a few sacrifices for her son to be able to accomplish his goals in the pool. “There’s the 4:30 a.m. swim practices (so we’ve sacrificed sleep), the long meets on some weekends, lots of travel. There’s also the money that has been spent on training, equipment, travel, competition suits, etc.”

Lawrence says about the sacrifices that his mom has made to prepare him for swimming and college: “I work hard and never give up. I know that she loves me and it feels good that she’s willing to do it and doesn’t complain. I like to make her proud.”

Although Lawrence’s family has made some difficult decisions to support his career, seeing him succeed in the pool means everything to his mom. “It’s everything. It means that all the early mornings, late nights and long trips were worth it. It’s always nice to see the fruits of your labor.”

Robert and Linda Griswold

Linda Griswold, mother to 2016 Paralympic Games bronze medalist Robert Griswold, says that she sacrificed a great deal of her time to help her son while he was pursuing his dreams of equality at school and in the pool. “As the parent who devoted almost 18 hours per week, fifty-two weeks per year for eleven years traveling to and from practice alone, not to mention meets, I could not work full time and was limited in part time jobs due to time constraints. My sacrifice was definitely of my time.”

Robert Griswold

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As a child, Robert struggled to be an equal to his peers and teammates. As the only swimmer on his team with a disability, his achievements in the Paralympic swimming world were not celebrated by his able-bodied peers. His mom says that the biggest struggle they faced was getting Robert the recognition that he deserved. “He certainly had a strong work ethic and absolutely loved swimming but was clearly at a disadvantage competing against able-bodied kids. Watching him want the success of winning or being recognized for his hard work so badly but experiencing the disappointment of not being able to achieve his goals was heartbreaking for us as parents.”

Even though Griswold had to make some adjustments in her schedule for Robert’s swimming career, she says it was well worth it in the end. “Although I did give so much of my time, it has been worth every minute to watch my children succeed.”

Robert reflects on the sacrifices that his mom made which enabled him to train and compete and which have led him to be a stronger and more successful athlete. “My mom has been there through everything in my swimming career when nobody else believed in me and every success that I’ve ever had is a result of her love and sacrifice.”

All the athletes mentioned above would not be who they are, or where they are, without the love and support of their mothers. Every swimmer, athlete, and child has been impacted by the support of their parents or guardians in their athletic or academic careers and life. I am thankful that I can count my best friends on one hand and my many blessings on another. My mom, and the sacrifices that she has made for me, are counted on both hands. Thanks to the moms everywhere who love and support their children’s dreams and ambitions.

I love you mom. Thank you for helping me chase my dreams every day.

10 comments

  1. avatar
    Julie Austin

    Nicely done, McClain!

    • avatar
      Anonymous

      I too am a swim mom, even have the teeshirt to prove it. Although my child is ablebodied, Im sure these parents will agree. This isnt really a “sacrifice”. It’s what a mom does. PS I was also a basketball mom and a soccer mom, and I hope every other kind of mom my kids hoped for

  2. avatar
    Susan Whitfield

    Very impressive families behind these athletes. Great recognition.

  3. avatar
    Teresa Coan

    Great article! These moms are superheroes!

  4. Monica Remington

    Should be titled “the joys of a swim mom!”I would not have it any other way!

  5. avatar
    Mary Buzeta

    Beautiful article McClain! Makes me think of our stay at six acres 😂, no way was Carmen letting us stay there !

  6. Susan Covell Whitfield

    Sounds like these swimmers have some unconditional support behind them. The article is a nice tribute to their mothers.

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