By Eric Herman
Did your high school have a swimming pool? If so, you were lucky. In my case, the high school I attended did not have a pool, and only now do I fully see how much I missed out on as a result.
My son, Brett, is currently a 15-year-old sophomore at El Dorado High School in Placentia, Calif. – a school that produced Olympic and world champion swimmer Janet Evans and has long placed emphasis on all aquatic sports. Brett plays goalie for the water polo team in the fall and is a breaststroke and butterfly specialist on the swim team in the spring. As a result of these activities, a huge portion of his everyday life is spent in and around the water at the school’s well-worn pool.
As I suppose is true of any parent whose child has found something he or she loves to do, I’m proud of Brett’s accomplishments and even more thrilled by the positive effects his participation in sports has had on his life in general. As I stand on the pool deck watching his comings and goings during water polo tournaments and swim meets, it’s clear to me that he and the other student athletes have been granted a wonderful mental focus and social outlet.
It’s a lot of fun to watch the casual swagger their sports have given these athletes. They look great, feel great and are obviously proud they can do things in the water that most of us can only dream of doing. And when they get in the water, their level of physical skill, strength, explosive speed and agility is something to behold.
My experiences with Brett have put me to thinking about how significant a swimming pool is to a place like El Dorado High, how much I missed by not having access to the same opportunities – and, because of recent trip I took, how the benefits of aquatic programs can come even to small communities that are willing to put thought and effort into meeting their citizens’ recreational needs.
I just came back from dedication ceremonies for a new aquatics center in Sierra Vista, Ariz. The indoor/outdoor facility was built by the city for use by the town’s 35,000 residents. As you’ll see in the article on the project by William Rowley and Scott Mackey (click here), this sparkling new facility is certain to be a hub of activity and interest for its tiny municipality for decades to come.
What struck me most about the facility is how much cutting-edge programming was delivered so effectively on so narrow a budget. It makes Brett’s school pool look even older than it is, and the degree to which it will encourage lifelong aquatic participation makes me feel good about the future of the sports he’s enjoying so much.
So while I feel as though my high school’s lack of a swimming pool left me somewhere out in the cold, I’m happy that my son has had the opportunity to do what he’s been doing and satisfied that I’ve been granted the opportunity to watch development of the next generation of community aquatic facilities – and can help spread the good word through the magazine.
It does my heart good to know that these facilities are there, right now, for huge numbers of young people as well as for those who know that the power of water can help us all feel stronger and more alive – if not even young again, sometimes.