A very long time ago, in a rural town in Indiana, I was on the swim team. Backstroke was my specialty, and our year-end tournament was rapidly approaching. I was the favorite to win the race (obviously only in my own head), and I had been anticipating this day for months. I jumped in the water, settled in to the starting position…and false started. To this day I can still remember bawling my eyes out to my dad because I had been disqualified and forever ruined my chances of making the Olympics. Or, at least, that’s how it felt to an adolescent Aquila. I remember the sting of disappointment, the awful feeling in the pit of my stomach that I had let my team down. But you know what? As my girls grow older and start to show interest in sports, I’m going to put them in the exact same position. Hopefully they won’t jump the gun like their mother, but there are five reasons why I’m willing to take that chance.
1. I want my daughters to know the thrill of victory AND the agony of defeat.
Much like my oh-so-fond memories from swim team, I want my daughters to know what it is to lose. I want them to let it fuel them, to take it as a challenge, and to learn that if you get knocked down you get right back up again. I may not have made it to the Olympics, but I have certainly experienced more disappointment in my life since that fateful summer day, and I believe participating in sports taught me to take it in stride.
2. I want them to take care of their bodies.
Since both Orlando and I have both had our fair share of knee surgeries, I’m very aware that my daughters probably have a genetic predisposition for similar issues. A low-impact sport like swimming could help them learn to use their bodies and build their competitive natures, but hopefully have a smaller chance of injuring themselves. No sport is going to be injury-free, but if I can potentially save them the pain and heartbreak of an blown ACL like their mother, I’m all for it.
3. I want them to be safe around water.
I was very fortunate that my elementary school had a swimming pool and swim class was part of our educational routine. I grew up very comfortable around water, and we even had a pool in the backyard where I spent many a summer day. My girls have a community pool, but their elementary school doesn’t have one. I still want them to know how to swim, and beyond that to swim well. Competitive swimming will teach them not only how to survive, but thrive in the water. And that makes me feel good as a mom.
4. I want them to be team players.
This world is full of people who are out for themselves, and themselves only. We don’t need another Donald Trump in the world, we need more citizens willing to work together for the common good. Swimming on a team will teach my daughters that being a part of a team requires hard work and sacrifice. I can talk until I’m blue in the face about work ethic, but there’s nothing like waking up at 6 am for practice and joining your teammates in the pursuit of a goal to make you realize it’s worth it.
5. I want them to be strong women.
I went through my fair share of awkwardness growing up, but I can guarantee I would have been far more uncomfortable in my skin had I not played sports. Participating in volleyball, swimming, track, and basketball taught me a lot about myself, and as a woman I think that’s invaluable. I want my girls to feel secure in their bodies, sure of themselves, and to know that they can kick some booty in the pool and in life. When we attended the U.S. National Swimming Championships in San Antonio a few weeks ago I was so happy to see plenty of women walking around strutting fierce bodies and sharp minds. That’s the kind of people I want my girls to look up to. Women like Olympian Dara Torres, who spoke with us at length on the benefits of swimming and why she has her own daughter participating in the sport. Her heart for the sport and for competing was awe-inspiring, and Cora even got to jump in the water and swim with her for a bit!
Cora and Issa will of course choose their own paths when it comes to sports, but I hope by starting them early and making it part of our lifestyle they’ll grow to love it as much as I did. For all the reasons above, and more. Here’s to amazing athletes, and especially amazing women!
P.S. This post was sponsored by SwimToday, an initiative by USA Swimming. Don’t worry though, all opinions are my own!