My son Josh is fortunate to be a member of the swim team at Grinnell College, where he is completing his sophomore year. This weekend, Grinnell’s head swimming coach, Erin Hurley, received the Richard E. Steadman Award from the College Swim Coaches Association of America. The Steadman Award is given to a coach who “has done the most to spread happiness in Coach Steadman’s beloved sport of swimming and diving.” While Grinnell is a Division 3 school known for the excellence of the liberal arts education it offers instead of for the visibility of its athletic programs, in other years the Steadman Award has been given to coaches at high profile Division 1 programs like Princeton, Georgia, Michigan and Notre Dame as well as those at Division 3 powerhouses like Tufts and Johns Hopkins.
Both my wife and I swam at the college level. (My wife was an All-American at Hopkins under previous Steadman Award winner Tim Welsh. I was awful but enjoyed it anyway.) All three of my children have swum at the college level. I was also a member of FSU’s Athletic Board for a few years, and saw college athletics from a different perspective there. We know the value that college athletics can have for young people. We’ve also seen it go wrong.
In her remarks at the award ceremony, Coach Hurley put into words the experience of a coach when college athletics are at their best, as they are on the Grinnell swim team:
Regardless of the accolades and achievements [the student-athletes] receive, or that they fall short of, we watch them learn and grow. We see how these experiences contribute to their development and growth as passionate and productive human beings. Each time we witness an extraordinary effort, incredible determination, willpower, an act of sportsmanship, gratitude or selflessness, we share in the joy, and the purpose and the happiness these experiences inevitably bring.
We are grateful to Grinnell for giving our son the opportunity to swim and grow with Coach Hurley.