I first learned to love swimming in the summer of 1972, when Bruce Rinker was the chief lifeguard at the Sidney Municipal Pool. Later that summer, Mark Spitz would win seven gold medals at the Munich Olympics. Caught up with the Olympic spirit, kids from all of the villages in the area spent June and July competing in a newly formed swim league. Bruce coached Sidney’s team and outfitted us in the same suits that Mark and his teammates would wear in September. Although I don’t remember how we did, I loved swimming that summer because I was part of a team. We played card games and shared candy and cheered each other so loudly we lost our voices.
The swim league folded after a few years and, as I grew older, swimming gave way to Boy Scout camp, summer jobs, and college. I never swam competitively again and eventually stopped swimming altogether.
I fell back in love with swimming starting in 2001 when our daughter Abby joined the Mariner Swim Club. For the next seven years, swimming was one of the most important things in her life and I lived it with her, one swim meet at a time. No one trained with more dedication than Abby or tried harder to make every swim the best one yet. Backstroke was her favorite and she could spend hours gliding effortlessly up and down the lane on her back, sometimes so lost in her thoughts that she would start singing.
Inspired by watching Abby grow up as a swimmer, and with a lot of free time after she left for college, I decided to join a Masters swim team. I now train about seven hours each week with people who I barely knew a year ago but now consider to be my dearest freinds. They have inspired me to swim farther than I ever thought I could. My adventures with them have included crossing the Chesapeake Bay and the widest part of the Potomac and swimming up the Hudson past the Little Red Lighthouse that sits below the George Washington Bridge. Tomorrow morning I will add another swim to that list.
And for all this I thank Bruce, who first taught me the joy of swimming with a team, and Abby, whose love for the Mariner Swim Club inspired me to get back in the pool.