By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
One Feather Asst. Editor
LEAGUE CITY, Texas – Rebecca Wolfe Damas won accolades for swimming at the high school, collegiate, and national levels, and now she has been honored by her local school district. Damas, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, was inducted recently into the Clear Creek Independent School District (League City, Texas) Athletic Hall of Honor.
“I felt extremely proud, humbled, and honored,” said Damas of her Hall of Fame selection. “I have been removed from the sport for so long – I retired after the 2004 Olympic Trials – that it was very special to get the recognition.”
Damas started swimming at the age of 6. When asked what drew her to the sport, she noted, “First and foremost, I was having fun. My friends were on the swim team. By that age, I had also found by trial and error that I simply was not good at anything else. Lastly, I really liked that it was up to me to determine my results.”
Seven years into her swimming career, Damas won the U.S. Swimming Junior National championship for the 200M butterfly race – her signature event.
“The 200M butterfly was my most dominant event,” she said. “I did also compete in the Individual Medley (200M in high school and 400M in college and nationally) as well as distance freestyle.”
When asked why she gravitated towards the 200M butterfly, Damas commented, “I like to say it found me. It just seemed to come naturally for some reason, and it really rose to the top as far as the stroke I seemed to excel in the most. I also really love challenges and plain old hard work, which I think any swimmer would attest that butterfly provides just that.”
She swam collegiately at the University of Missouri where she was a two-time Big 12 Conference Champion in the 200M butterfly as well as receiving All-American and Academic All-American status. Damas was chosen to be on the Big 12 Conference Swimming and Diving 10th Anniversary Team in 2006. Damas also swam at the U.S. Olympic Swim Team Trials in 2000 in Indianapolis, Ind. and 2004 in Long Beach, Calif.
Damas graduated cum laude from the University of Missouri in 2004 with two bachelor’s degrees – communications and psychology.
Damas has the following advice for young swimmers, “The landscape of swimming, and youth sports as a whole, is so different than it was in my day, but I would say this: take every success and let it be the baseline for what’s next. Enjoy the moment, and then get back to work. Trust and listen to your body, and make sure that you are always still finding fun in the sport. Compete with the clock and yourself. Don’t get lost in comparing yourself to others.”
Damas no longer swims but does stay active. “While I credit my swimming career for shaping my entire life and who I am, it is also a very intense lifestyle to have had from the age of 6 to 21. When I hung up the goggles, it was for good. I stay very active with running and barre classes.”
She is very thankful to those who helped her swimming career over the years. “As with anything, it takes a village. My mom and dad, and brother, endured endless hours at the pool. My first coach, Barbie Morris, helped me always keep the fun in swimming. My club coach, John Little, introduced hard core training and pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable of. My high school coach, Kristina Stinson, was a great role model as she was fresh out of a very successful swimming career at the University of Texas. My college coaches, Doug Humphrey and Anne Kampfe Sievers, took what I had and helped me reach new levels.”
Damas lives in League City, Texas with her husband Colin, and two sons, Renner, age 5, and Hutton, age 3, who are both EBCI tribal members.
She sums up her swimming career, “My favorite quote is by Tim Notke, ‘hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard’.”
She worked hard, and it paid off.