It’s been a subject of discussion among my parents and siblings that bodies of water – swimming pools in particular – have been an unusually important part of the lives of my own immediate family. I’ve spent the greater part of my career writing about all things aquatic while my son, Brett, has spent almost as much time literally and figuratively immersed in aquatic recreation and athletics.
His resume as a waterman is truly impressive. He could swim at age three, played competitive water polo and swam for eight years for a local aquatics club and kept at it right through high school. He has taught swimming, worked as lifeguard and in general shown a willingness to jump into any swimming pool, ocean, lake or river within striking distance.
Now in college, Brett recently completed lifeguard training for a local waterpark during which he was asked to write an answer to this sneakily profound question: “What would your life have been like without swimming?” Knowing that his old man shares much of the same fascination with water recreation, he e-mailed me his response:
“I can honestly say that without the presence of swimming pools, my life would have been completely different. Even though most people look at me and see an athlete, the truth is that swimming is the only form of exercise I enjoy at all. Even though it’s hard work, it has never really felt like it.
“If it weren’t for swimming and water polo, I might have spent all my leisure time playing video games, and high school would have been a truly mediocre experience. Instead, I spent thousands of hours in vigorous exercise with a group of like-minded kids, and many of them are now my closest friends. Swimming has given me health, personal recognition, discipline, friendship and, now, a really cool way to earn a good hourly wage.
“Swimming has been such a huge element in my life, I can’t imagine having grown up without it. And having worked as a lifeguard, I can see how older people use the water to stay in shape and recover from physical problems – and I guess this has shown me that much of my future will be spent in the water as well.”
Like most parents of great kids, I beamed with parental pride when I read his essay. Beyond the case of burst buttons, however, I have to add that watching Brett and his peers live the “life aquatic” has consistently and considerably bolstered my belief that watershaping is much more than a form of the architectural and construction arts. In fact, it offers all of us access to a dynamic way of life.
I can’t help wondering how many thousands of kids are positively influenced each and every day by the products our industry provides. Each and every body of water installed in any residence or public space carries this same potential to inspire, encourage and energize.
These thoughts all cascaded through my mind as I put finishing touches on the articles in this issue, especially the one on the ongoing evolution of modern public watershapes by Treadwell Jones (click here) – but the others as well: We simply never know how lives may be altered for the good because kids have places to explore their passion for water.
To paraphrase my son, it’s a really cool way to earn a buck!