A note from Badger Parent Advocate, Mike Conaton.

As a swimming parent at this year’s Olympic Trials, it never got old watching…

…the best of the best.

…Excited participants opening their goody bags filled with cool stuff including personalized water bottles and kick boards with their names on them.

…First time qualifiers on the starting blocks smiling and looking at themselves on the huge Jumbotron over the pool, right before they swam.

…Young qualifiers shaking in their boots with nerves and fear before diving into the seemingly endless pool in the cavernous arena in front of 14,000 spectators…even during prelims.

…Veteran qualifiers shaking in the same boots.

…First time qualifiers being interviewed by some of the hundreds of media in attendance….”that’s about 14,000 more people than I had ever swum in front of before” said one.

…”The wave” and hearing “U – S – A” chants from another 14,000 every night.

…Veterans…and rookies…signing autographs for the hundreds of young swimmers in attendance.  The rookies trying not to smile too much.

…Young qualifiers trying to act normal in front of the likes of Phelps, Lochte, and Ledecky but basically trying to stay out of their way in the warm up pool.

…Swimmers sipping on free smoothies and backpacks filled with free bananas, bars and munchies from the competitor’s lounge.

…Baseball…getting free tickets to the final game of the neighboring College World Series to help fill the stands of an unscheduled make-up game from a rain out the night before.  Probably more swimmers and family there than Coastal Carolina fans.

…Personal best times in the coolest venue and most important meet on the USA Swimming Calendar.

Never got old watching…

…The dedicated fan, who was probably a parent, family member or friend who awaited their loved one’s swim with a nervous calm, sweaty palms and a stomach ache.

…The enthusiastic fan who had no relative swimming, who loves the sport and event, traveled from faraway places with a young son or daughter, and watched every single race with unbridled emotion, cheering, standing at starts and finishes and crying during the medal ceremony.

…The enthusiastic fan group, which was usually an entire age group team sitting together in the upper deck of the arena cheering as loud as they could for their older teammates participating or for their favorite pro.

…The fastest swimmers, with perfect starts, strokes, turns, and underwaters.

…The dominant winners, and feeling the thrill for all the first and second place finishers who would make the Team.

…The battles for second and third and feeling the heartache for the alternates.

…The parents, family and friends of kids who made the Olympic Team – some with matching shirts, hugging, screaming, and crying…some groups 20+ strong.

…The Olympians coming into the stands to hug their parents and be mobbed by the entire family unit…and any spectator in general proximity.

Never got old hearing the stories of motivation and determination – the 19-year-old breaststroker who ate his goggles at the start (yes it happens to veterans too), didn’t have a great race, but wasn’t too disappointed to tell his dad afterwards that he was going to make the Olympic Team someday.  Yes, his dad teared up when he told me the story.

Never got old watching the dedicated and tireless coaches taking the best care of their swimmers so they could swim as fast as they could – attending coach’s meetings at the crack of dawn, shuttling swimmers to and from the hotel all day long, waiting in massive lines to sign kids up for time trials.  And always being there for the congratulatory hug or the sympathetic shoulder to cry on.

Never got old watching the best of the best…in and out of the water.

Help your kids get there some day if they want it.  I heard more than one swimmer say it was the best experience of their life.

Michael Conaton, Badger Swim Club Inc. and Badger Swimming Inc. accept no liability for the content of this article, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided.

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