Think back to the first swim meet you ever attended. Whether your first meet was when you were 6 years old or a freshman in high school, remember how nervous you were? Did your nerves keep you up the night before? Remember the feeling of walking out on the pool deck and not being sure where you should go?

Now stop and think about the people that helped you that day and made your first meet easier. Did your coach watch out for you? Or was there a parent on the deck that made sure you got to your event on time? Or perhaps there was an older swimmer that told you when to warm up.

Go back to that time and think about the older kids on the team that were role models for you. Did they give you a congratulatory high five after your race or maybe even a fist bump? Did you watch there behind the block routine? Maybe they were even an inspiration to you as you watched them swim a whole 100 fly across the pool.

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Swimming is one of those extremely special sports where athletes of all ages are able to train and compete together at the same time. For many of the younger swimmers, they have the opportunity to watch the people they look up to race their hearts out. They don’t care if you go a best time, just watching the older kids means so much to them.

Something that we tend to take for granted as we get older is the effect we have on the people around us, especially those children. As you get older, it is so easy to get caught up meeting your time goals, that we more often than not, fail to notice the younger eyes that are looking up to us. Going out of your way to boost the confidence or ease the nerves of a teammate, can be the boost they need to swim just a little bit faster.  Something so simples as a high five behind the blocks or asking them if they have any questions can really help make them feel even more part of the team.

The best part about this is that you don’t need to be a college swimmer or even a high school swimmer to be a mentor or a leader for someone on your team. You can inspire your current teammates, or even be a mentor to someone that is older than you but whom might be new to the sport. We can always learn from each other.

As the holiday season and mid-season meets start coming your way, make sure you stop and appreciate all the little things the swimming community does for you. Then try to pass that on by doing something as simple as complimenting a younger swimmer on a great practice, or by congratulating them at a swim meet, regardless if it’s a best time or not. Being a mentor to a younger athlete might seem intimidating at first, but starting with something as simple as an encouraging gesture can make all the difference.   

We challenge you to be a better mentor by:

  • Advice: Go out of your way to give helpful tips and share what you have learned during your time being apart of the sport.

  • Guidance: Ask a younger athlete if they have questions or need any help if you notice that they are struggling.

  • Encouragement: Be there for positive support by congratulating your younger teammates no matter what.

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This post was written by contributing writer Mary Motch. Mary is a sophomore at the College of William & Mary and specializes in sprint freestyle, butterfly, and backstroke.