My name is Laura Bodine Duggins, W&M Swimming Class of 2002. It’s hard to know where to begin when writing a testimonial to describe how much my Tribe swimming experience means to me, with too many wonderful relationships, experiences and memories to recount, in addition to being so grateful for all of the opportunities for personal development.
First, I’ll start with the broader impacts of college athletics on our society, and how the offering of college sports has innumerable impacts on the W&M community and our world. Anyone who has competed at a level of athletics that would put him or her on a Division I caliber (or knows someone who has) is well aware of the many traits required to manage practices, competitions, academics, social interactions, personal integrity and accountability. As a high school student-athlete, the thought of competing in Division I drove me to work hard in the pool and in the classroom, developing a work ethic that has helped me well beyond my four years at W&M. My high school swimming accomplishments helped me gain admission into W&M, which I do not think would have happened otherwise (for which I will be eternally grateful). While at W&M, my teammates and I developed so many skills essential to becoming great employees, managers, educators, mentors, partners, parents and community members. Just to skim the surface of the skills developed: time management, leadership, commitment (especially when life gets hard), grit, loyalty, the ability to deal with many different personalities, etc., etc., etc. Doesn’t W&M want to continue offering hundreds of graduates per year the opportunity to hone in on these skills, then to be released into the world to accomplish so much? In fact, the admissions department in a top-rated graduate program at a nearby prestigious university conducted a study to help determine which factors predict success (ie. undergraduate GPA, test scores, work experience, etc.). The number one predictor of success? Participating in Division I athletics. Excluding these seven programs eliminates the opportunity for these students to develop these skills at W&M, impact the world in wonderful ways and surely continue to engage with The College in meaningful and impactful ways.
On a more personal level, some of the most important relationships in my life have stemmed from my time at W&M. First and foremost - I met my husband through the athletics program at W&M. He was a basketball player and we’d cross paths in the training room and weight room. We also often saw each other socially, since so many athletes often spent time together during evenings and weekends. We now have four boys (almost 12, 10-year-old twins and a 5-year-old). Two of our kids are year-round swimmers and have had plans of swimming at W&M since they could formulate such thoughts. In fact, one of the kid’s passwords is Tribe2032, the year he would graduate from W&M. I’ve also formed life-long friendships with my swimming teammates. We have traveled together, celebrated weddings together, held each other’s babies, watched our kids grow up together, mourned together, celebrated each other’s accomplishments, supported each other and spent countless hours recounting all of the challenging, fun and hilarious experiences and accomplishments we’ve shared. I will always be grateful for my time as a swimmer at W&M. I can not imagine my life without the relationships formed as a result of being a student-athlete at W&M.
The impact of W&M Swimming (as well as the other teams similarly facing this challenge) reaches far beyond swim practices and meets. It has helped us become the people we are today: educators, community leaders, partners, friends, parents, mentors to W&M students, donors to W&M. It would be shameful to the culture and legacy of The College, our communities and our world to eliminate this program.