Anatomy of a MAACs Swim Competition

The Burt Flickinger Athletic Center in Buffalo, NY was the site for this year’s MAAC Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships. It was the gathering and celebration of Eastern U.S. colleges’ best.  I attended it to watch my grandson, Scott, perform the breaststroke, both 100 yard and 200 yard events. But, in that process, I also saw young adults participate in a very competitive environment with respect for each other, with respect for the rules of the sport, and with loving acknowledgment of their parents and loved ones in the bleachers.

Typical of parental activity there, one couple in front of me was waving frantically, trying to get the attention of their daughter who was on the swim deck clear across the pool. She finally waved back, smiling. The father said, “There she is! She saw us,” and his laugh suddenly got huskier.

I saw opposing swimmers shake each others’ hands at the end of each heat.  I saw swimmers bend their heads, nodding, to listen to last minute words of “swimdom” from their coaches. I saw team members shout and whistle and gesture encouragement and support to their fellow swimmers. The athletic center echoed with cheers and noisy support from the bleachers. I have no doubt that many parents had sore throats and no voices by the third night.

This was Scott’s final (well, there’s one more championship event later this week) swim competition, so it was very special for that reason. He’s a senior at Niagara University, so soon he’ll be competing in very different environments. He wanted to do well–and he did.  But he discovered that other people thought this was special, too. His older brother, Brian, a very effective swim coach himself, attended and consulted with Scott on his performance, offering his own expertise. I just loved watching the two brothers interact with such enthusiasm.

Then, we were surprised by their grammar school YMCA swim coach, Brad Street’s visit. He came from Rochester, along with former Aquinas Institute swim teammates, to watch Scott perform. What a heartwarming reunion!

So what can we learn from all this? The competition is certainly a lesson in rivalry with respect, in playing by the rules, in accepting judgments with grace and dignity. Would that our world leaders studied that book!

For myself, I got to spend precious time with my grandsons, watching one of them swim like greased lightning. And I was able to meet and spend a little time with Scott’s Niagara friends. These moments are treasures. Treasures that I’ll hold in my heart for years to come.

Here’s a picture of some of Niagara’s swimmers, showing their happiness with their scores and with the knowledge that the meet is just about over!