LAWRENCEVILLE — Hayden Brown is very familiar with his mother as a swim coach, just not as an athlete.
“She still owns the 8-and-under breaststroke record at her local pool, that’s all I know,” the Mountain View senior said, finishing his statement with a laugh.
“I don’t even think we have a picture of that record board,” Amy Brown answered in response to her son.
It was at that pool in her native Northwest Ohio where Amy Brown developed a love for swimming, one that she shares with her son in dual roles — as mother and as coach. The part-time SwimAtlanta coach also is the Bears’ community coach, spending the last four high school seasons at meets with Hayden.
The pair’s last competition together is this week’s Georgia High School Association State Championships at Georgia Tech.
“It’s been great (to coach Hayden in high school),” Amy said. “It’s been a great senior year. Hayden’s had a great senior year. He had great finishes at county, his highest ever in fourth and fifth place. It’s going to be — the word bittersweet comes to mind. … It’s going to be very strange not having him here next year. His leadership and as a parent, there’s nothing like seeing your own kid compete.
“Besides missing seeing him compete, I will miss him and the tremendous contributions he’s made to the Mountain View swim and dive program, both as an athlete and a person. He’s been a great role model for the team of hard work and commitment, both in the pool and in the classroom.”
The love of swimming was evident early for Hayden.
Amy introduced both of her children — daughter Meredith attends the University of Georgia — to swimming at an early age, though she didn’t force it onto them. Meredith was a summer-league swimmer for a few seasons, but it never was a passion. That wasn’t the case with her younger child.
Aside from a brief football career between the ages of 8 and 10, Hayden has put his athletic focus into swimming, first in the Gwinnett County Swim League and then at SwimAtlanta.
“(Hayden) took some swim lessons, but then he didn’t do a lot with it because he was pretty young,” Amy said. “Then the summer that Hayden was 6, I said, ‘What do you think about swimming this summer? It’s a pretty good age to start.’ And he goes, ‘OK.’ His first summer he was really a natural, I think from watching other kids in the water. He got in his first day of practice and literally took off swimming. His coaches and I looked at each other like, who knew? He ended up going to county that summer in 6-and-under and was top 10 in both events. It was just a natural thing for him and some early success that led to wanting to continue to swim.”
Amy’s involvement in swimming likely fueled the desire to keep going, too.
“(My mother) kind of set the stage for my sister and I both swimming because she swam,” Hayden said. “She got us into it and at least made sure we knew how to swim when we were younger. I think my sister doing swimming when she was younger, I kind of wanted to be like her. So after I joined it, I thought that this is something I could imagine myself doing for a long time.”
Not long after Hayden broke into swimming, Amy became head coach of his summer league team, Rivershyre, for three seasons. While she coached at SwimAtlanta, she never was his main coach with the year-round club, so the high school experience has been both fun and unique.
It has tightened a bond that grew stronger by the year thanks to their shared love of the same sport. Their conversations have covered a range of topics, from fun to serious, over the years.
“It has been such a blessing (to share a love of swimming),” Amy said. “I know even when he was say 11 or 12 and we started taking trips out of town together to Auburn (for meets), we were going once or twice a year. We did a few meets together in Nashville. Just that time in the car, the time in the hotel room, being with the other swim parents, I’m so grateful for it. It’s a neat bond that we have. We talk times. We talk swimmers. Just all of it. It’s just something we know. It’s a lingo. It’s someting we share.
“It’s so fun. I did not imagine that we would have shared this together. I just took it year by year. As many kids do with sports and things they’re really passionate about and things they have high goals for, there are times where you’re doubting, like is this something I want to continue doing? We talked through all those times together, too. All these years, it’s been such a fun journey together.”
The discussions eventually led to Hayden electing not to swim in college. He plans to attend Georgia Tech as a regular student, drawing on his academic success — he has a 4.0 GPA and ranks seventh in Mountain View’s senior class — to double-major in biomedical engineering and business.
“It is a dream school,” Hayden said. “Both my dad and my grandfather graduated from Tech, so I’ve always liked Tech since I was a child. Going to games as a kid and being around it so much, I’ve always had aspirations of going there.”
While he won’t swim at Tech, Hayden said he plans to keep training through March, when he will reevaluate whether to keep practicing. He said the most likely scenario is that he will keep swimming with his club beyond March to stay in shape, but mainly to spend more time with his teammates at SwimAtlanta’s Sugarloaf facility.
“It’s weird (to think swimming will be over) because swimming’s taken up so much of my time throughout the years and a lot of my friends, and my best friends, are from the sport,” Hayden said. “I think it’s good for me to move on. I know I’m still going to stay in shape and work out. But I think it’s going to be good for me to develop my skills in something else.”
While Hayden graduates from Mountain View this year, his mother plans to remain at the school as a coach, which he said is a great thing.
“She’s meant a lot (to Mountain View),” Hayden said. “I think it’s really good we have a coach who has more experience in the sport. She’s better at planning the practices, whereas the other coach can still help out supporting the kids and encouraging the kids. But she knows how to train the kids more and what needs to be done at practice. I think it’s helping all the kids now and it will help the other coaches later because she’s kind of teaching them along the way.”
The Browns are in separate practices throughout the high school season because, as most year-round swimmers do, Hayden practices with his club team. That makes their time at meets even more important, and puts an extra emphasis on this last state championship meet together in Mountain View gear.
Hayden has high hopes for state after strong showings in both his individual events at county. He was fourth in the 100-yard backstroke in 53.81 seconds and placed fifth in the 200 freestyle in 1:47.04, in addition to leading a pair of relays.
He enters his final meet with school records in the 100 free, 100 back and all three relays.
“I don’t really focus on times anymore,” Hayden said. “I mainly focus on having fun, just because I know I’m going to stop swimming once I get to college. But I really just want to final this year and just help contribute and score points for the team. We haven’t had many guys score points at state before. So I think it would be special to set a new record for points at state.”
SWIMMING AND DIVING
What: State High School Swimming and Diving Championships
When: Thursday to Saturday
Where: McAuley Aquatic Center, Georgia Tech
9 a.m. — Class AAAAA-A Diving
3 p.m. — Class AAAAAAA-AAAAAA Diving
9 a.m. — Class AAAAA-A Swimming prelims
6 p.m. — Class AAAAAAA-AAAAAA Swimming Prelims
11 a.m. — Class AAAAA-A Swimming Finals
5:30 p.m. — Class AAAAAAA-AAAAAA Swimming Finals