By Melissa S. Daigneault, College Station Tsunamis Coach
In 2013, my two oldest kids became eligible to join the College Station Tsunamis summer swim team. But until I attended the parent meeting, I didn’t realize I’d been waiting 30 years for this to happen.
It wasn’t as if my life has been built around competitive swimming. Except for one year in high school, I was a summer league swimmer myself for only six years. If you asked people back then, most probably didn’t even know it.
Still, from the time I was four years old until the summer I turned 11, the best thing about the end of the school year was the beginning of summer league swimming.
The first swim meet of the season was always the first Saturday after the last day of school. The night before, I’d diligently pack my duffle bag with goggles, towels, books, playing cards, and especially the 1980s version of a Game Boy that featured Snoopy and Woodstock. I’d lay out my team suit, team t-shirt and flip flops, then crawl into bed anxious and excited.
I don’t remember any of my race times or where I placed, but I do remember competing and wanting to improve. Sometimes I tasted the sweetness of victory, and sometimes I faced a disappointing outcome.
When I was old enough, I’d ride my bike to swim practice feeling very grown up. I’d laugh and giggle with my friends while the large pace clock on the deck taunted and encouraged us to work harder. Every week, the coaches would tell us the next meet was the biggest of the season, and we all had to swim our best. We always believed it, too.
When I wasn’t competing, I’d sit with my friends under a team tent, learning card games and cheering on the other swimmers. Through all the laughter, I made friends I wouldn’t have met otherwise — older and younger kids as well as those from different neighborhoods and schools. I was an introvert, and being part of the team helped me learn to develop friendships.
We had plenty of playdates, sleepovers, and parties with snow cones and popsicles. I also got to know many of my friends’ parents, who were always volunteering to work the meets and helped make those Saturdays so magical.
While I have only vague memories of the summer league races, I vividly recall the fun and my friends. We’ve all grown up and live in different places, but I still stay in touch with many of my former teammates.
From the time I was 11 until I was in my 30s, swimming wasn’t a big part of my life. But as I reflect on my summer swim team days while watching my kids participate, I realize how often I apply the lessons I learned. Summer league swimming has changed, but the things that matter — friendships, fun, family involvement, and fitness — have stayed the same.
My summer swim team experience taught me about dedication and hard work, and to enjoy swimming as a sport and a way to keep fit. I also learned how to win and lose gracefully and to appreciate the amazing energy teams can create — something better than the individual parts.
Every day, I saw parents, families and communities working together to help kids grow, relate, dream and achieve. Without consciously realizing it, I’d yearned for my children to enjoy the same experience.
That’s why I’m honored to be part of the College Station Tsunamis team as a coach this summer. With the 2016 season just around the corner, my goal is for every swimmer to have a positive and memorable experience.
Registration is underway and runs through July 8. The cost is $125 per person. Swimmers between the ages of 5-18 who can swim one lap (25 meters) unassisted are invited to participate.
Melissa Daigneault is in her first year to volunteer as Tsunami swim team coach. She is vice president of business and legal affairs at Lockard & White in College Station and was previously a lecturer and undergraduate program coordinator at Texas A&M. Melissa earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M in 1999 and graduated from the Wake Forest School of Law in 2003.
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