By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Wednesday, February 8, 2017
When one plots out the hierarchy of swimmers’ favorite holidays, Valentine’s Day usually lurks near the bottom of the holiday pool. Not because swimmers don’t enjoy the occasional card, candy, or bouquet — we do — but because food isn’t as much of a Valentine’s Day-priority as other days of celebration, like Thanksgiving, Halloween, or July 4th (feasts, candy, and barbecue, respectively).
Fact: Swimmers’ favorite holidays are directly correlated to food. No holiday beats Thanksgiving, which means a day off of practices in exchange for a day of gluttonous glory. Valentine’s Day, on the other hand, typically sends swimmers into varying amounts of apathy. Swimmers think: What’s the food situation on Valentine’s? A box of artificially-sweetened sugar-hearts? Meh.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t help make a swimmer’s Valentine’s Day exactly what they want it to be. If you know a swimmer, and care about a swimmer, and want to find a way to express to that swimmer you care, here is a helpful Valentine’s Day Guide for Swimmers… Here is exactly what they want. (Based on my previous thirty Valentine’s Days as a swimmer.)
1. Non-candy food. And lots of it
Enough with the weird-tasting sugar-hearts. No one likes those, even if they do have interesting (confusing?) sayings on them. Instead, gift a swimmer food. Bring a swimmer a bouquet of candy, that swimmer will probably like you. But if you bring a swimmer a 20-pound box of porterhouse steaks, that swimmer will love you forever.
Flowers die. Why give something that will die in three days? Swimmers don’t want flowers. Swimmers want warmth. Find the biggest, fleeciest hooded sweatshirt you can find. A hooded sweatshirt that will go down as the greatest sweatshirt of all-time. You’ll spend the same amount that you would have on flowers, but clearly, a sweatshirt is far superior.
3. Give them one hour of sleep
This works if you’re a parent: Excuse your swimmer from his or her daily chores, and let that swimmer sleep. Give them a card that says: “Here’s one hour of sleep. Go.” More meaningful than a card telling that swimmer you love them; instead, let them escape from the monotonous dish-washing duty, and let them snooze.
4. A get-out swim
If you’re a coach, show your team that you care with a chance to get out of practice early. This is best done in the form of a get-out swim. Pick a few swimmers, give them goal times, and if each swimmer accomplishes this goal (make it easy, because you never know what swimmer is going through what kind of rejection that day), the entire team gets to leave 10 minutes early. Valentine’s Day can be a day where some people feel bad; make them heroes. Make them champions. There’s no easier, faster way for a swimmer to win the respect of their peers as when that swimmer is directly responsible for a faster end to practice.
5. A compliment
Easier than a gift. More meaningful than a card. Just pay someone a compliment. Really. Find something good in another person, and tell them. Here are a few Example Compliments (you can steal these if you need to):
You have a nice smile. You are always trying your best. I appreciate how you often put yourself in other people’s shoes. I like how you don’t judge others. Thank you for being you. You are enough.
So don’t fret. Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. Whether you give a swimmer a hooded sweatshirt or just a few kind words (or, coaches, a get-out swim!), together, we can make Valentine’s Day, well, maybe not spectacular, but at least a day that’s mildly tolerable.
Follow Mike on Twitter @MicGustafson.