Darcy McBride, 66, York, Nebraska
Darcy McBride has more than 6,000 blessings to count. The Nebraska native retired from a 28-year physical education career in York public schools eight years ago, but until last year she continued to practice her passion – training youngsters how to swim. Last year, when she finally stepped away from the program she initiated in 1984, the town threw a party to honor her as a “Super Hero” for teaching more than 6,000 elementary students how to swim over the years. Along the way, her husband and son also pitched in to help.
An avid swimmer since the age of ten – she quips “I was a late starter” – Darcy says she found a swim team at her YMCA and caught the competition bug. “I didn’t swim for my high school or college since it was before Title IX and it was not available.” When she began her career at York Elementary, she credits her principal’s support, and approval by the city to use its public recreation center pool, for allowing her to teach her 4th and 5th grade students how to swim. Before long, she organized a swim team for the youth. “I had the idea, but they gave the support to make things happen,” she says.
“I truly believe that if you have a skill or talent you should share it with others, and that’s what I did. All children should know how to swim, and I wanted them to be safe and happy and enjoy the water.”
Darcy revived her own competitive flame at 37, swimming in the all-ages Cornhusker Games each year, then diving into state Senior Games in Nebraska and South Dakota when she reached 50. Her first National Senior Games appearance came in 2005 in Pittsburgh. “I got two 4th place ribbons there, but that just made me want to win a medal. I’ve worked on my starts and turns to take my game to the next level. There’s no senior team here in York, so I had to swim and train on my own.”
Since then, she collected several more 4th place national ribbons, and her patience and persistence were finally rewarded when Darcy earned a bronze medal in her 200-backstroke event at the 2017 National Senior Games presented by Humana in Birmingham. Reaching the goal only spawned another. “To be able to get that medal was exciting to me, but now I want more!”
In typical teacher fashion, the Cornhusker got her husband into the act too. “First, I just wanted to get him in the pool for his health, but after traveling with me to a couple of these events, he said he was tired of being a towel holder and wanted to give it a try.”
So, how do her former students feel about seeing their teacher still racing laps at the age of 66? “I’ve gotten amazing support from them, and their families too. I did all of this as a volunteer, and when you do that you get incredible help from others.” One example was a phone call last September from a student who is now in her late 20s. “She told me she had started doing triathlons and that I was in her head when things got tough in her first race. That just meant the world to me.”
Darcy likes continuing to be a role model. “Age is a factor, but it’s not a barrier. It doesn’t keep you from doing things.”