Matt and Chris: February 2017
I promised to write...
We want to thank you, of course. Conor’s William & Mary swim team experience hasn’t just shaped his time in college. It has changed his life.
But that’s not what I was trying to say yesterday morning as we were leaving Duke. What I wanted to say is that you both should be very proud of what you have created in the basement pool at the Student Recreation Center. It’s inspiring, unique and quite remarkable.
Most recently, the essence of this thing that you have built was captured on the pool deck as Conor prepared to swim the mile. Watching that whole team help our son prepare for and complete his last race as a William & Mary athlete was inspiring. That support was genuine, abundant and – for us, anyway – nearly overwhelming. Within a few days, Conor will forget his time for that race, but I suspect that he will never forget how he felt as he got up on the blocks and heard and felt all of that support from his teammates.
As moving as that was, we've been paying attention long enough to know that that support wasn't an aberration or simply a demonstration of support for our son. It's something that you have carefully, deliberately and insistently created.
“One Tribe. One Family” looks good on a t-shirt. It’s a nice slogan. It certainly was the kind of sentiment that we wanted to hear as parents when we dropped our son off at college three and a half years ago.
But we have spent the last 40 months learning that it’s a lot more than that. It’s a culture that you have built into the program and it’s clear that it permeates everything about how your swimmers think, prepare and interact with one another. I don’t have to explain it to the two of you or give you additional examples. You made it.
So, if I’d been able to get the words out, I would have thanked and congratulated you for creating that environment, for teaching our children so many different things about how they can live their lives, strive for excellence, and -- especially -- look after one another. I don’t know much about Division I NCAA athletics, but I know enough to know that what you’ve built is uncommon and, from my perspective anyway, the essence of what college sports should be about.
And I think your swimmers know it, too. At some point this weekend, as Conor was reflecting on his soon-to-be-finished swimming career, he said, “I’ve learned so much more that matters from my swimming than I ever did in the classroom.” He didn’t need to explain; we understood exactly what he meant.
You built that environment and fostered that dynamic, not just for Conor, but for all your swimmers.
Conor is a terrific young man. We know that and we appreciate very much that you have recognized it, too. But, you have created an environment in which Conor and Georgie and Nick and Selina and Alex and Joe and Sophie and all the rest have been able to better understand how much they are capable of. The blue ribbons and rings are nice, but the real prize is that gift that you have given to them.
So, thank you, again, and congratulations.