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!