A note from Badger Parent Advocate, Mike Conaton:
Swimming from inspiration can be very different from swimming “for” someone else. When the kids are mature enough to understand the nuance, experts believe it’s important for them to swim for themselves, for their own reasons and goals: putting in the hard work for themselves and enjoying their own challenges and rewards. We have all read the warnings about parents being careful not to put the burden and pressure on the kids to try to please US and appease OUR hopes and dreams for them. It should be THEIR hopes and dreams…and inspirations…that motivate their dedication and hard work.
It is certainly natural and can be very beneficial for a swimmer to be INSPIRED by another person, coaches, parents, swimming heroes, events…using other people’s experiences, characteristics, accomplishments and stories as motivation and stimulus.
This story about Glenn Mills will help me explain my thoughts on this subject better. Many vintage Badgers and swimming world types know Glenn – a 1980 Olympian, NCAA breaststroke champion, and today the founder and owner of GoSwim Productions, the leading producer of swimming technique videos. Above all, we all know Glenn as an outstanding human being, tireless swimming advocate and loyal friend.
Glenn was recently named one of The Top Ten Most Impactful People of 2015 by Swimming World Magazine for launching his new GoSwim online teaching platforms and coaching aids and being picked as the official video training partner of USA Swimming.
My favorite story about Glenn involves his inspiration – his older brother Kyle. During Glenn’s middle school days, Kyle lost his leg to a rare cancer. Kyle’s struggle with his illness and his courageous recovery from that bout made a huge impression on Glenn as he describes it. “If I had a tough practice one day, I would just think of Kyle getting along with his one leg and somehow practice wasn’t so tough anymore”, he once told me. Glenn loved and admired his brother even more from the experience. Which is all the more reason why Glenn was so devastated when Kyle passed away from his recurring cancer when Glenn started high school. Swimming took on a new dimension for Glenn. The article linked here from 1981 about Glenn and his family includes the following quote:
“I’m probably always thinking of Kyle. A lot of times I’m swimming for him and myself. I’m always thinking about Kyle because I like to have some extra incentive. He helps me out a lot.”
Glenn dedicated his training to Kyle and made the 1980 Olympic Team. It was even more impressive as Glenn was just an 18 year old on his way to the University of Alabama.
Of course Glenn had to be a great swimmer and dedicated athlete to achieve such a feat. I also know of the sacrifices he and his family made which contributed to his training and success, including moving to another city and switching high schools to attend an elite swimming program 250 miles from home. But there also can be no doubt that Kyle was Glenn’s greatest motivation and inspiration contributing to this story book ending.