Why I’m Thankful My Mom Wasn’t a Swimmer

Photo Courtesy: Tour The Triad via Flickr

By Sarah Lloyd, Swimming World College Intern

When I started swimming competitively at the age of 8, part of it was my dad’s doing. He had been a swimmer in high school and college before switching to rowing and he did a lot to foster my love of the water. I was a fish from an early age, so joining the summer league team was a natural next step after completing several years of lessons.

My mom, on the other hand, was never a strong swimmer. She liked the pool so that she could lie out in the sun and then jump in to cool off. She was athletic in her own right – she had played field hockey and lacrosse – but swimming was never a sport on her radar. When I started swimming competitively, she dutifully played her part as the supportive parent, even if she had no idea what was going on.

“Have fun, swim fast.”

In my early years of competitive swimming, I relied very heavily on my dad. He drove me to almost all of my workouts and meets, sat in the stands, helped me pick out suits and goggles, and was a resource that I could go to if I needed help with something. I remember asking him early on what the word “interval” meant– my coach had been asking a group of 9 and 10-year-olds to stay on the interval, but I don’t think half of us knew what she was talking about.

Grand Prixview Kids (3)

Photo Courtesy: Azaria Basile

It was only later in my career – probably high school – where I really started to rely on my mom more. I loved going to my dad to talk about times, workouts, and meets, but I began to realize how wonderful it was to have a mom that didn’t know anything about the sport. Heck, she’s even admitted that sometimes she can’t find me on deck when I have a suit, cap, and goggles on. I guess we all look alike.

My mom was always the voice of reason. If I was too sick to go to practice, she was the one refusing to drive me to the pool, insisting that I sleep instead. “You can afford one day off to get better,” she would say. While some parents strictly regulated their swimmers’ diets, ice cream for dinner on a hot summer night was always an option with her. By far my favorite thing has always been her customary line as I walk out the door for a meet: “Have fun, swim fast.” The emphasis has always been on having fun with the implication that swimming fast will be a byproduct.

No Pressure

When she came to swim meets (which wasn’t as frequently as my dad because I have three younger sisters that had to be at their own things), she was always the most positive and encouraging person there for me. She didn’t nit-pick about a bad turn, she didn’t critique my starts, and she certainly didn’t gripe about “bad swims” the way that I heard other parents doing with their swimmers. I appreciated the genuine “Good job, Bear” I always got when I went to see her after a swim, no matter what my time was.

While some teammates have felt that their parents were reliving their own careers through those of their children, I never felt that unique pressure from my mom. I’ve never felt that I needed to live up to a reputation, nor have I ever felt inadequate. She learned to love the sport because I love it and because I was (and continue to be) happy swimming and I will be forever appreciative of her for that.


Photo Courtesy: Sarah Lloyd

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