~By John Leonard
I got a letter the other day from a coach in a foreign country, who wanted to know how the USA recognized all the contributions made by its "ordinary guys"...in coaching....who give clinics, write articles, take care of swimmers who are not on their own team and don't score any points for them, help parents who are in need, (and not on their own team) and generally "did good in the swimming world".
I thought about it, laughed and said, "In the USA, we do that stuff because we want to, not for awards, money or recognition".
He sent me back a note implying that not only was I lying, but I was hopelessly naïve. Well, I'm not lying and I'm definitely not naïve.
So I thought about it some more. Why didn't he get this?
And I realized why swimming coaches in this country make contributions like the above.
First, we love our country and the incredible privilege of living in such a remarkable place (not flawless, surely, but.....remarkable....) where we have the freedom and support to be what we want to be and do what we want to do. MOST other places in the world, we couldn't do that. So we feel blessed. And when you feel blessed, you have no issues in need of further recognition.
Second, we love our sport, and the incredible privilege of working in such a remarkable field. (not flawless, surely, but....remarkable..) where we actually get paid something for doing an activity most of us would do for free if someone couldn't pay us. Because we feel the privilege of working in swimming, we want to contribute back and feel a deep responsibility to do more than take....and it feels SOOOOOOOO good to contribute instead of taking.
Third, we love the other people in our sport, and the incredible privilege of working with such remarkable people. (not flawless, surely, but....remarkable).
When you love the people around you, you want to help them, contribute to them, make them feel like family and without thought of benefit, gain or recognition, just "do the right stuff by them." American Swimming IS a team, as Chuck Warner (Head Coach of Rutgers Women) constantly reminds us, and because it is, it's not a corporation, (though there are corporations who are a part of it) it's not a business (though lots of business is involved) and it IS a Family.
And we are all thrilled to be a part of the family. Most families don't hand out awards to each other. They hand out hugs and knowing and appreciative smiles to each other.
And that's plenty.
Very sincere and well written article. I think John hit the nail on the head! This is the way it is in small and large swimming "communities" across the US. And it the smiles and hugs that mean the most........