To all the kids in the SHAQ community I would just like to say, you are not alone. This last year has been a truly life changing event for most people around the world. I understand the global significance of what this pandemic has brought, but today I want to address the local impact.
I have been coaching water polo for 24 years here in Marin County and I consider myself to be very lucky to have found this great community. In the 24 years that I have coached swimming and water polo I have coached roughly 150,000 kids. Now that number is probably way off, but it feels like I have met 1,000’s of kids over the course of my career. Working with kids is a truly incredible experience that keeps you young, on your toes, grounded and motivated. I love what I do and the kids I coach are truly at the heart of everything.
Seeing the impact on our kids over the last year has been devastating for those of us who get to work with these smiling excited kids everyday. The social, competitive and health benefits of being a part of an athletic community cannot be undervalued, and I know how important it is for most of our kids to come to practice and be with their team.
Since we started returning to action at the end of last summer I noticed that there were kids who were slowly disengaging from our family both mentally and physically, and certainly by no fault of their own. I have heard from parents and kids that this last year has taken a real toll on them, and I want to tell everyone who has experienced anxiety, stress, negative thoughts, depression, body image issues, social withdrawal, eating issues, drug or alcohol abuse, fear, or any other mental or physical feelings that you are truly not alone.
I want to let all of you out there know that what you are going through is; A. not your fault, B. completely and totally understandable, C. something that can be helped and healed, and D. something that is ok to admit and understand that there are others who absolutely have the same thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and that it is ok. You are not alone.
We as a community want to embrace you and bring you back into our family where you were thriving before. There are kids who I used to see everyday at practice who I haven’t seen in over a year, and I want them to know that we, the coaches, players, and parents of SHAQ want you to come back and thrive. We miss you, and know that together we can return the lost spark that was once there. The enthusiasm and laughter and team chemistry that you have experienced in the past is waiting for you, and we are here to embrace you again. We have not forgotten or turned our back on you, we are here and we are ready to begin the healing process.
You are not alone, and I am reaching out to you to bring you back to where you belong, with those that love you. The first step is always the hardest, but I truly believe that once the first step is taken, the next steps will feel natural and good and lead you back to the things you love. You are young, you are loved, you are missed, and you are not alone. I can’t wait to see you again soon…
Coach Swanny and the Whole SHAQ Family