Please Don’t Come to My Swim Meets – You’ll Embarrass Me!

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From June 2008 until October 2008 there was a not so silent argument going on in our house.  Our son decided to attend Fairfield University and “walk-on” to the varsity swim team.  His coach explained that if you go to practice and work hard you will be in the line-up.  You may be swimming “off events” but you will be in the line-up.  What an incredible opportunity for a kid who earned full tuition – a chance to be on a team!  But, no, he did not want us there.  He didn’t know what to expect and did not want the extra pressure of having us in the stands in case he did not actually get to swim.

For those of you who are not familiar with a competitive swim team please see my next blog “My Child is Enrollment Management?”  As I describe, mid-major swim teams traditionally are used more as enrollment management, with few scholarship dollars, than responsible for generating revenue in ticket sales.

If you know me, you know my husband and I try to attend most of our son’s swim meets.  Last year we only missed one and it was one that was rescheduled due to an equipment malfunction.  Remember, every meet is an away meet when your child goes to school seven hours from home.  So, how did we get to this point when two years ago he didn’t even want us in the humid cavern known as a natatorium?

The first meet was at Holy Cross, another wonderful Jesuit institution of higher learning in Worcester, MA.  My husband and I insisted we would attend his first NCAA Division I sporting event – you would have needed an act of Congress to keep us away.  We would respect his wishes the rest of the season, but the first meet? Of course we were going to be there!

Sure enough, when he climbed on the block, pushing his goggles on his eyes with the palms of his hand like I had seen him do 100’s of times before, I could see the smile on his face when they introduced him.  In lane one, swimming for Fairfield University, Anthony Caserta!  I could see my husband’s chest expand – nothing can describe the feeling of having your child compete in intercollegiate athletics – absolutely nothing.  I can safely say it is right up there with marriage and birthing babies – seriously, it is!  It is the validation that all of their time and effort in training and academics was worth it.  It is also validation that all of your parental sacrifice of time and treasure helped them achieve a dream.

So, how did I end up here, at a Courtyard Marriott in Worcester, MA following his second meet, two years later, at Holy Cross?  Turns out, he glanced up to the stands while he climbed up on the block and saw his blubbering parents standing there cheering him on.  As a freshman, he still did not know any other parents so, if we were not there, who would cheer for him?  He came up to the stands later to thank us.

The next meet was the following Friday against MAAC rival St. Peter’s College at their home pool on campus.  My husband and I must have gotten ten texts a piece from him telling us about his swims and complaining that no one knows him and is not cheering for him.  I am sure that is not true as we cheer for all of the kids but to a lonely freshman it was his reality.  It was those texts that made us change our plans and decide to travel to as many meets as possible and we haven’t looked back.

To this day, I still do not remember how he did his first race.  How could I see it through my tears of pride?

Life is good!

Jude

Twitter: @JudeTheFoodie

Facebook: JudeTheFoodie.com

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I’m a Swim Mom!

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I’ve had many titles in my life…many jobs that I’ve done and some I even let define me (shame on me!). I’ve also been called a lot of things in my life (to my face…likely a bunch of unflattering ones behind my back), sweetie by my parents, Jude by my siblings and friends, hun by my husband of over 29 years. I have been called the hammer, the receipt Nazi, the queen of forms by my colleagues but nothing makes me happier than to be called Ma!

Today I pack up the car once again and set off this time to Baltimore for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships. The MAAC had to postpone the meet a week while the city dug out from under two snow storms. My husband and I calculated that just this season alone we have logged over 5,000 miles on his SUV and the MAAC’s will put us well over 6,000 miles.

Just a few short years ago I would have wondered about a family that did such a thing. I have worked in college athletics as long as my son has been alive…going on 20 years ago but nothing could have prepared me to be the parent of an NCAA Division I student athlete. I have met many proud parents throughout my career at Canisius College. Most of them have been wonderful, devoted folks whose sacrifice began well before their child stepped onto the playing field (or in our case swimming pool). These are people who gave not only their time but in many cases (hockey parents are a classic example of this) their treasure. Equipment, facility rental, lessons, coaches, tournament fees…it goes on and on…these things cost a lot of money. Swimming is awesome…goggles and a Speedo and off you go!

So, as my Fairfield University sophomore son steps onto the pool deck tomorrow and I once again burst with pride, I would like to congratulate the parents who made this all possible.

Jude Russo Caserta

Twitter: @JudeTheFoodie