Editor's Note: As the UConn men's and women's swimming and diving teams prepare for the American Athletic Conference Championship in Houston from Feb. 18, Husky junior Walker Hill will write a daily diary on the team's preparation. Here are the first entries.
Monday, January 23, 2017
Day After Senior Weekend And Last Home Dual Meet
Every sport that represents the University of Connecticut competes in their respective Championship Season. For football- the conference championship, basketball-March Madness, baseball-the conference tournament and NCAA tournament, but for swimming and diving, our championship season begins with the conclusion of Senior Weekend.
The sport of swimming incorporates about a two to three week long `taper' that leads up to our championship meet. Yardage at practice is reduced and there is an added importance of technique, speed, and intensity to ready our bodies to perform at the highest possible level.
Senior Weekend is one of last dual meets of the season marking the beginning of championship season. The following day Coach Bob Goldberg decided to make practice optional. Coach has the experience to know that giving his athletes a practice to decide what is best for them allows the staff and the swimmers to rest physically and mentally. Physical rest is a large component of day-to-day tasks, but mental rest at a time of year when school is beginning to pick up and the stress of performing successfully is rising is key.
To swimmers on any team at any level, it is a collective agreement that optional practices are very productive. Swimmers are able to get creative and use past experiences to determine what will best prepare them at the conference meet. In the locker room, on the pool deck and in the pool there is a different atmosphere and a different connection between athletes. Teammates find themselves analyzing and discussing practice and recent performances.
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Many collegiate sport team make weight lifting part of their training regime. During our training trip in Puerto Rico in January, our coaching staff decided to make a shift in our lift. Instead of continuing to lift in sets with different exercises, the coaches made the shift to more of a circuit style lift, incorporating seven stations; a style where volume is decreased and intensity or explosiveness is the main focus.
With the elimination of volume in the weight room, there is now an increased focus on speed and with this addition there is a spike in competiveness between the members of the team. Athletes become more fixated on beating teammates and are subconsciously practicing racing against our competition. Each station is only five minutes in length and mimicking the concept of the championship meet.
This method of training combines endurance, strength and speed into a single workout. Every day our practices are structured in the sense that swimmers are expected to practice at a given time, perform certain tasks with excruciating detail and, of course, be respectful. Our practices now shift to more specific work depending on the needs of individuals.
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Our practice schedule includes double practices on Monday (two swims), Tuesday (lift/swim), Thursday (lift/swim) and Friday (two swims). On Wednesdays, we have morning practice off with our afternoon practice starting at 3:30 p.m.
During our path to the conference championship, the coaching staff approaches Wednesday in one of two ways. The first way is utilizing the single day as a recovery day to ensure our body is fully rested come the end of the week. Or secondly, hammer the yardage and give us a tough practice.
The effects of this methodology impacts members of the team differently. Some athletes enjoy the idea of allowing their body to take a mental and physical break in the middle of the week, whereas other swimmers like to push themselves until `real taper' begins.
In my group specifically, Coach Bob Goldberg decided to separate the group into individuals who specialize in a stroke (butterfly, backstroke or breaststroke) or people who swim the individual medley. The practices were completely different; the IMers were pushed to the extreme both physically and mentally due to the distance and tight intervals within the set. The practice allowed swimmers to focus mainly on speed on a fast interval, simulating the pain experience during the conference meet.
On Mondays and Wednesdays during both the fall and spring semester, our team captains organize a group study hall in which all members of the men's swimming and diving team required to attend. In addition to the study benefits, it also allows the upperclassmen to step into a leadership role and provide any help to the underclassmen that they might need in getting acclimated to the college work load.
After study hall, which ends at 9 p.m., individuals usually head to the Student Union to grab a late night snack. That can include a cookie, some pasta, a burrito, or my favorite - a croissant. The snack is a necessity for our bodies because are metabolic rates are so high. After grabbing some food, individuals will head to where they live and either finish up some studying or get a head start on some sleep. It is a difficult balance we need to keep track of: proper nutrition, stellar grades, athletic performance and proper sleep.
Thursday, January 26, 2017
As explained this past Tuesday, the team began the day in the weight room at 6 a.m. sharp. The session commenced with a long and stretch-emphasized warm-up. As we get closer and closer to the conference championship, this aspect of our training becomes increasingly important. It is a little comical how much we enjoy weights -- because it has nothing to do with water, which is ironic because that is the largest component of our sport.
Bodies vary drastically in physique, therefore individuals need different methods of training. The men split up into two groups -- sprinters and everybody else. Sprinters' bodies require the most amount of rest due to the amount of muscle use done by swimming and because the events they swim require impeccable fast twitch muscles. Without going into details, let's just say there was some friendly banter in opinion between sprinters and others on who was more athletic due to the need for rest.
Tuesdays and Thursdays are the most difficult for men on the team academically leading to a mentally challenging afternoon workout. Across the sport of swimming many coaches have differences in methodology over what the best taper is for certain swimmers.
This afternoon, the main focus of the practice our coach gave us focused on lactate. Our set included swimming for a short time at a very high intensity, while resting for an extended period of time. Men on the team often times like these sets because it gives the body a break from yardage, plus the duration of the practice is shortened considerably.
Friday, January 27, 2017
Our team finished out the school week with a double swim today, but instead of Coach Goldberg continuing to grind us down, the morning swim was a light recovery practice. Practice only consisted of warm up, a kick and drill set and finishing up with an aerobic free set and cool down.
As soon as the swimmers were aware of the recovery practice, a typically eerie Friday morning swim turned into a loud and talkative session. As much as the practice helped our bodies to recover, it also allowed our minds to rest from an exhausting week. Providing our bodies with time to recover typically only comes once in a blue moon during the bulk of the season, but during championship season it is critical to allow our bodies to rest.
Little did we know Coach would make up for the intensity in the afternoon. Although the team was preparing to race Dartmouth on Saturday, Coach took the afternoon to ensure our physical and mental shape was up for anything. Every set our group swam this afternoon, with the exception of warm up, involved high intensity but little volume. At first, many individuals were not excited about the difficulty of the practice especially before the meet.
As practice carried on, energy between us began to fill the air and we were getting pretty pumped up about practice because of the speed we had. By the end we were exhausted but had a good feeling about practice and a positive mind heading into the meet on Saturday!
Saturday, January 28, 2017
At Dartmouth for the final dual meet of the year
The team's morning began bright and early at 7 a.m. for a wakeup swim before we traveled three hours north to race Dartmouth. After we arrived at Dartmouth and stretched as a team, individuals began to do their normal warm up routine, but as soon as we got acclimated to the water, the team soon realized how cold it was on the pool deck. Right behind the blocks were three air conditioning ducts blowing cold air directly onto us.
Today was a testament to our mental strength, not only as individuals but also as a team. Although our performances were nearly as good as last week against Seton Hall, we still managed to fight through it and crush Dartmouth. The team sent the seniors out with a victory and also Coach Goldberg in his final dual meet ever.
Our day concluded with a bunch of guys going to Moe's for dinner and later that night playing some Monopoly -- currently the team's favorite thing to do. Most guys called it a night very early because of the physical and mental exhaustion sustained throughout the course of the week.
Sunday, January 29, 2017
Every individual who has swum competitively knows that Sunday is the best day of the week because there is no practice. Our team use Sundays to catch up on sleep, eat, do (a lot) of laundry and of course do work for classes.
On Sundays, Putnam Dining Hall becomes the team lounge as we might spend up to two hours eating and socializing with each other. Although we very much enjoy being couch potatoes and slugs all day, our coaches do advise us to do something active in order to keep our blood from `pooling'. Staying hydrated is extremely important after a day of travel while also exercising so all the bad `juice' in our bodies are flushed out. Many individuals will go to the training room to get treatment.
Sundays benefit us in more than one way and usually allows to reset. So we can do it all over again.
Monday, January 30, 2017
At the beginning of every week since the start of the season on Monday mornings, we train either as an entire team or in groups separated by short and long distances. This morning I was in the short group and we had a kick intensive workout.
The mental focus was absent from many morning was it is always tough to find that Monday morning motivation. As soon as the clock strikes 7:30 a.m., the mood becomes exuberant and we all get to enjoy scolding hot showers.
For some though, the only fun thing about Mondays is when the day ends. Teammates, including myself, have class at 7:35 a.m. on Monday mornings, so we hop right out of the pool and have to run to class.
For athletes in general, Mondays seem to be the most difficult day of the week. Many athletes begin their week with a 6:00 a.m. or 7:00 a.m. practice so sleep is key in order to maintain mental and physical focus throughout the course of the week. The mind has the capability of being an athlete's strongest ally or worst enemy and the athlete deep down has the ability to decide which one it will be. For my teammates and myself, defeating this mental hurdle plays a major role in our success in the pool.
As for the afternoon practice, all three groups (sprint, mid/distance, and stroke) were physically challenged at a high level. The coaches took the opportunity to challenge our "fresh" bodies with a high intensity high volume practice. Some people on the team thrived and others `died', but our group unity encourages those who are struggling to finish with pride.
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
This morning began with one of our last weight sessions of the year. An added focus combined with the excitement of the conference meet getting closer formed a vibrant and talkative atmosphere throughout the workout. There was much more social interaction between athletes with one another and also with the coaches.
Every collegiate team looks to sharpen their concentration on succeeding with absolute perfection during championship season, but in the sport of swimming it is also necessary to incorporate a fun and light mood into training and competition.
Our American Athletic Conference championship takes up an entire week. We travel to Houston on Monday (Feb. 13) and come back to UConn the following Sunday. As student-athletes, I believe this is a phrase is put to test throughout the week leading up to conference meet and the week afterwards. As students, we are required to complete work before we leave or make it up when we get back, which shouldn't be too difficult for any student-athlete because we have been doing it for at least three years up to this point. Where we are challenged the most is maintaining our academics on the road while focusing on perfection in the pool during the meet.
Both the men and women hold each other accountable to ensure success is achieved in and out of the pool during a very hectic three weeks.
An extremely important aspect of swimming is maintaining the fastest possible speed for as long as possible. In order to do this it is important to `get out and hold on'. Many times jumping out with speed in a race can serve as a huge confidence booster and carry you through the remainder of the race. A set Coach Goldberg gave us this afternoon provided an opportunity to do that. We did 8x25's (eight one lappers) on a tight interval all at race pace four times.
I sought junior Patrick Kavanaugh and his interpretation of the past couple of days in and out of the pool. Patrick emphasized the saying "Trust the process" in his description of practices. Personally it relieves him mentally to trust what his coach says rather than try and fight it. That's a lesson I think many athletes should consider and will benefit them while training and competing.
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Per usual, Wednesday was our single day. The next week and a half is all about `us' the athlete. The team is already separated into groups based on specific events we swim and once into taper, the coaching staff takes into consideration all of the different body types within their respective group when they write practice.
This afternoon when Coach gave us a set of 6x200's stroke all on an easy send off with no speed requirement, it allowed us as individuals do swim with however much effort we wanted to and to focus on technique. Removing a speed requirement for swimmers during a set allows technique to take precedent, and additionally removes that stress of "whether or not am I going as fast as I need to right now?"
Throughout taper it is extremely important to maintain a balanced diet, which includes good food and, more importantly, a lot of liquid to stay hydrated. During the season we consume so many calories to account for all of our training, but throughout taper it is crucial to account for the amount of energy burned and replace it with only necessary food.
Tied into nutrition is the health. Over the past couple days, the flu has gotten around our team. On a team that is so close together that once a person gets sick at least three others will follow suit. It is vital that our team treats everything with extreme caution so once we land in Houston for our conference meet we are ready to go.
Thursday, February 2, 2017
This morning was our last weight session of the year! Strength is such a huge component of our sport so it is important to maintain that strength throughout the rest of the season.
Swimmers have the option of doing extra dryalnd work after our afternoon swim practices that may include abs, push-ups, medicine ball work and pull-ups, but all of it is at the discretion of the athlete. Remembering from yesterday about the topic of feel, extra work can improve beneficial or detrimental to one's season. Either way you can be right depending on the mentality you carry through the next two weeks.
As for swimming, Coach Goldberg incorporated power into this afternoon's practice. Our main workout solely focused on strength movement through the water; no technique, turnover, endurance, or even speed -- the main goal was to feel as strong as possible through the water. The men in the group got psyched up about this because of the way power was measured. A teammate was to stand on the side of the deck and hold a belt that was attached to you and let you swim in place. If you were strong enough, it was possible to pull him or her into the water, so there ended up being a friendly competition.
At the end of practice, after swimming some easy work, we had a small speed set- one that required little endurance and would allow us to focus on racing and getting ready to hit race pace in two weeks.
Friday, February 3, 2017
Typically morning practices begin at 6:00am sharp, but now as the meet gets closer it was moved up to... 6:30 a.m.
Practice didn't focus on anything specific except loosening our bodies up and getting ready for practice in the afternoon. Not many guys on the team have a lot of classes on Friday, so today was used to get much needed rest and recover for the meet tomorrow - the Husky Open.
As for afternoon practice, the volume was kept down before the meet but the intensity remained the same because we are still just a little less than two weeks away from conference, so it is important to maintain intensity throughout the first phase of taper.
For most athletes in the sport of swimming, taper usually consists of sustaining two hour-long workouts but minimizing the amount of yardage and fast sets. This afternoon we did a descending speed set by distance and by time allowing our bodies to really loosen up. To end practice, there was a 100 fast all out off the blocks. By the end of the week there are usually low expectations when it comes to speed, but with just a little bit of rest from a few practices almost everyone swam close to an in-season best!
The group's moral and mentality for the upcoming practices and meet really soared and you could see with the smiles on my teammates faces.
On a personal note, my family made the trip up from Florida to visit me this weekend. I probably spent a good five hours just talking and visiting with them. It is important as students and as student-athletes to be reminded how special the opportunity is to attend such a great University and participate at the Division I level by the ones who support you the most. For me, all of the stress built up from school, swimming, and figuring out where to work in the summer vanished once I got to spend time with my family.
Saturday, February 4, 2017 and Sunday, February 5, 2017
The Husky Open concluded the team's last swim meet, except for the American Athletic Conference Championship, for the 2016-2017 season. The conference meet calls for a 20-person maximum per men and women's team, which means not all members of the team are able to swim at the conference meet.
These individuals shave and taper for Husky Open to close out their individual season expecting to post lifetime bests and, depending on the atmosphere the rest of the team provides, it could be an extremely disappointing day for some or a jubilant one. It is difficult to get up and race the last meet of your season while your teammates still have two weeks remaining plus the conference championship, but the unity of our team is personified in moments like these.
The men on this team surprised me when I was a recruit, a freshman and now a junior because no matter the time, place or meet, the teammates I have surrounded myself with support each other no matter the event. Coach Goldberg occasionally reminds us that " in 20 years you aren't going to remember the time you go or how bad you feel during training trip, but the people you surround yourself with and the relationships that evolve throughout our time at UConn".
After a long swim meet like the one yesterday, recovery is vital to our success next week. The entire coaching staff pleads for us to do long extended warm-downs after the meet to allow our bodies to properly recover. Some individuals even swim on Sunday in order to try and flush the body clean of lactic acid and muscle fatigue.
Treatment such as stem, heat, stretching, and foam rolling are also methods of recovery my teammates do in order to ready themselves for this upcoming week. With the conference meet just about a week and half away, schoolwork is extremely important.
Athletes in every sport at the collegiate level are forced to acclimate to travel and still succeed in the classroom. The team misses an entire week of school for the conference meet and must take exams during the week of conference and complete homework while also maintaining focus on our athletic goals.
Monday, February 6, 2017
Sickness and the flu has been spreading through our team rapidly. So naturally, as soon as a individual feels unwell they deem they have the flu. Yes, teammates do actually contract the virus and are out for a few practices, but for someone to complain about not feeling well and not showing up to practice does not fly well with the coaching staff.
There were close to three or four people absent from morning practice and Coach made sure to address this during our meeting before afternoon practice. In the pool, it is usually difficult to feel `good' in the water coming off a meet. Coaches more often than not give a prolonged warm-up plus kicking sets to flush out the legs and longer swims to help loosen up the body, especially on a Monday.
I cannot leave out how wild last night was watching Super Bowl LI, so most of us were up watching the game, which led to little sleep. No problem, as swimmers find it very easy to make up lost sleep throughout the day with periodic naps.
Practice this afternoon began slowly with only 11 people in the stroke group either because of class conflict or illness. A short loosen-up swim was warm up and the following set incorporated IM, aerobic free, and stroke specialty to help get our bodies for some speed at the end of practice. The main set was 48x25's with a little power work before concluding with one 100 broken (swim a 50, rest 10 seconds, swim a 25, rest 5 seconds and finish hard to the wall the last 25. This many 25's for a mian set is slightly unusual for a Monday afternoon practice, but the anaerobic work allowed our blood to really get flowing and prepared us well for the fast 100.
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Oh how swimmers love taper! This morning there was no morning practice on a Tuesday for the first time since September. Aside from the mental and physical components of swimming, giving our bodies plain simple rest is a huge factor during taper. The goal is to allow plenty of time for our muscles to fully repair themselves after being constantly strained throughout the bulk of the season.
Swimmers vary when it comes to stopping doubles, but for most athletes doubles usually stop a week and a half out of the championship meet. Because of this variation, there are few swimmers who enjoy maintaining their `feel' for the water more often and therefore will ask to swim in the mornings.
There are many ways to get the body and mind ready for championship meets; extra stretching, meditation, yoga, hot/cold tubs and staying up on sleep.
This afternoon, Coach decided we should practice a cheer we will do during the meet next week in order to get us pumped up. At first. I could tell by observing the reactions of my teammates it was not a very popular idea but afterwards it was different. People were more social and there was this added energy to practice and this showed in the pool.
For practice, we split into two groups for the main set: individuals who will swim the IM next week and those who will just focus on just one maybe two strokes. The IMer's had a challenging set and, if not for the cheer, I believe it could have been much worse -- but instead they swam lights out.
For the other people not doing IM, including me, the main set concentrated on drills as well as swimming our main stroke for a longer distance.
An interesting thing to note is how different swimmer's bodies can be from one another. Coaches strategize at the beginning of the season how much rest their swimmers will need and will then train accordingly. Come taper time, sprinters will rest their bodies the most and might get out of practice half an hour to a full hour before the original end time. Whereas for distance swimmers, their practices will still be close to two hours and the yardage will decrease much more slowly leading up to the meet.
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Once again to create a fun and positive atmosphere we began practice with a cheer, except this time it was new. It sounded good on paper, but nothing is perfect on the first try! The cheer includes more sounds than actual words so yelling them with a group of 40 people it is a quite difficult. There were more laughs heard than the actual cheer, but the effect of being together and interacting as a team creates this atmosphere that gets us excited to swim.
Practices during taper are much more than just swimming lackadaisically through the water and hoping to swim fast in two weeks. Just like in football during preparation for bowl games, a team will not completely abandon tackling during practice - it is necessary to maintain that anger, aggression, and toughest.
It is important to be comfortable swimming through pain, so it is not uncommon for coaches to mix in a relatively difficult swim practice during taper time. Our bodies and mind need to know it is okay to be in pain and swim in pain. Losing this `sense' could shock the body when you race for the first time in three weeks.
In addition to all of what I have written so far, academics take precedent. As student-athletes, we have a huge responsibility of maintaining a solid academic standing while representing UConn during athletic events. Absolute success is expected in both. For the conference championship alone, the team will miss an entire week of school during a time when midterms are most often assigned. This requires us to either take exams during the meet or make them up afterwards. Most importantly, we are student-athletes and I believe it speaks volume for our team, as well as other teams on campus, when athletic success is paralleled with academic success.
Thursday, February 9, 2017
Practice is organized for us based on our personal feeling with Coach still pushing us to force the speed in our main set. Many swimmers believe that swimming with intensity during taper will harm them once the meet comes around, but this is commonly misunderstood. It is better for the body to remember that race feeling and constantly updating itself to feel the difference between rest and training. During our main set of 6x100's that we were supposed to descend 1-3 and 4-6, I was planning on holding back, but Coach insisted I push myself just like a normal practice. Afterwards my body felt pretty good but my mind felt better knowing my ability to maintain speed through some distance was there.
Friday, February 10, 2017
Sleeping in is a wonderful thing for athletes! When there is a day with no morning classes or practice, it is almost like a holiday -- especially while on taper. For two of my teammates and myself, our Fridays began roughly around the hour of 10:00 a.m. There was no need to rush getting out of bed and the only thing scheduled for the day was practice that afternoon. There was a bit of a hiccup at breakfast; when we were eating the McMahon fire alarm went off so breakfast was cut short. We went back to our apartment and other teammates went back to their dorms to relax the body and mind before practice.
Almost as important as being positive and really jacked up for before a big athletic event, it is equally as important to have a calm and fresh mind. Mental relaxation can provide many benefits that may include zero stress behind the blocks and just allowing you to race instead of thinking about your race. Coach Goldberg reiterates time and time again never to overthink our races. He explains there is no need because we have been doing it for at least 10 years and our bodies know what to do. A calm head will dramatically increase an athlete's chances of success during a major competition.
For practice this afternoon, the yardage was shorter than most days, but the yardage that we did was all intense. Usually a warm-up consists of around 2,000 yards, but this practice was only 700. The preset got our heart rate up and a following fin set got our bodies and minds feeling faster than normal. The main set was very short, but all fast. Previously mentioned, Coach wants our bodies to remember the feeling of racing with pain and reminding us mentally that it is ok to swim in pain. Reducing our yardage but maintaining the intensity is one of many strategies for taper, and our group seems to be coming around nicely right in time for conference.
Saturday, February 11, 2017
As the days get closer and closer to the conference meet, coaches and swimmers usually take time to reiterate technique. This may include relay starts, stroke, technique, normal starts, underwaters and turns/transitions.
This morning's practice was at 9:30 a.m., about the time warm-up is for conference and the yardage was the lowest it has been all year. The focus of practice was to get our bodies ready for racing in the upcoming days. There was a lot of additional rest in between and during sets. And the distance of swimming was cut, as well as the duration of intense swimming.
During a meet it is typical for a swimmer to do a general warm up, sit around for a while, warm up again, race, cool down, sit a while, warm up again, race and finally cool down. Mimicking this in practice gives our body and mind a glimpse of what is to come in the upcoming days. After practice almost the entire team went to breakfast and ate together. We spent about an hour and a half there and afterwards it was extremely important for everyone to make sure that academia was taken care of.
Getting work done before hand or making study guides for the trips are only a few things swimmers will do. Missing an entire week of classes is not unordinary, most conferences for swimming will have student-athletes miss an entire week of school. With the help of our academic advisor Lindsay Darcy, other school advisors, and TA's, UConn does an excellent job in making sure we are able to take exams on the road and properly communicate with professors here and academic staff with the other university to ensure our academic success.
Sunday, February 12, 2017
The day before we leave! Exciting for any athlete at any level is the day and night before you head out to the event. But before packing and going over travel essentials takes place, there are a few more things that need to get taken care of before you leave.
In addition to being in pristine mental and physical shape before a big meet, there is one more thing vital to our trip. Laundry. Any college student knows this struggle. Being gone a week, it is necessary that we have all of our sweats and issued clothes all clean. From personal experience I know swimmers are meticulous when packing for big meets - clothes, swim gear, bags, school work, technology, anything the student-athlete deems vital for the week will be laid out in some form or another and them all neatly packed for the next day.
Monday, February 17, 2017
The conference championship is finally here! This morning classes were cancelled due to weather, which gave us a little bit more time to get our morning swim in before we headed to the airport. The bus left at 9:30 a.m. sharp, headed to Bradley to catch a 12:15 p.m., flight to Atlanta and then to Houston. Before I continue, it is important to note that during big invitationals or championship meets, the UConn swimming and diving team has faced many logistical challenges. The best way to describe what happed today is through a timeline.
9:30 a.m. Leave for Bradley Airport
10:15 a.m. Arrive at Bradley Airport
10:20 a.m. Learn that our flight has been cancelled to Houston.
Now typically a team would be absolutely crushed that on their travel day transportation gets all messed up. All our team did was laugh; I mean how could we get mad at something that always happens to us.
Coach Goldberg works his magic and dins a flight to Atlanta at 6:30pm. That's right almost a seven and a half hour delay. So what do we do? The team plays charades, cards, homework, sleep and, of course, jam to music.
Most of the team has made it through security and begin the search for some lunch. Eating is extremely important while traveling before a big meet. You must be careful not to over indulge on snacks and also make sure you are hydrating.
Now the waiting game. For the next five hours we sat in the airport watching movies, doing homework, talking to family and some more sleeping.
The team boards the plane to fly to Atlanta
We arrive safely in the Atlanta airport and once again search for food. This time most people ate a lot because it was the first time eating since lunch.
UConn women's basketball game against South Carolina and their quest for 100 wins starts.
The team is called to board for our flight to Houston
Now the team is beginning to antsy, in addition to all of our traveling delays, now we can't even watch our women's basketball team do the unimaginable.
Flight to Houston takes off. Because of the time difference, we land in Houston approximately at 11:20 p.m. only to discover that our bus is not there. Coach Goldberg spends the next 40 minutes trying to figure out how to transport 60 individuals to our hotel.
They decide the best way to get to the hotel is via taxi. So, we start piling into taxis. Thankfully, around 12:25 a.m. a bus shows up to take the rest of us to the hotel.
The entire team has been checked into the hotel and headed to the rooms.
By the time my roommate, Patrick Kavanaugh, and I were in bed it was close to 1:30 a.m. ending a day of traveling totaling around 17 hours.
Tuesday, February 18, 2017
The mentality of this team surpassed any other team I have been on. Never once throughout the day was there any negative atmosphere. This morning we were so amped to get in the pool and swim off all of the travel from Monday. During breakfast everyone was chatting and getting hyped for the day when all of the sudden on the TV a tornado warning was issued for the area of Houston we were in. A TORNADO WARNING?! ARE YOU KIDDING?
Not thinking much about the team headed to the pool at 9:00am. When the team arrived, before we could make our way into the pool, the staff informed us that because of the tornado warning all of the recreation facilities were closed including the pool. Well lets just say that Coach was not too thrilled.
But not to be denied, our team just laughed and we went and sat on one of the basketball courts. Shortly after we got situated in the gym, the team captains, Margot Manning and Sophie Nothnagle, led a team stretch for the women and James Donlevy and Kevin Konarksi led a stretch the men.
After the stretch we were still not allowed into the pool for another 15 minutes so some of the guys took advantage and got creative to pass the time. `Bottle flipping' was the most popular. Most teams going through what we have encountered not even 24 hours into the trip would begin to mentally breakdown. But our charisma and cohesion as a unit during all of these delays has almost relieved stress and nerves. Everyone began to enjoy every moment rather than think ahead.
This afternoon we had another swim at 3:30 p.m.. The goal of this swim was to continue loosening up from yesterdays travel but also incorporate some speed work in order to get our blood moving and prepare for tomorrow night.
Every year it is tradition to have a women's team meeting and men's team meeting the night before the meet begins led by the coaching staff. At the beginning of the meeting, the team went around in the circle and every guy gave a few remarks on the team and what they were looking forward to this week; it was made clear that everyone was `excited' to be here and ready to swim fast. To conclude, Coach said a few things that really got us amped up and informed us that it was clear nothing can keep us from being here and nothing can diminish the spirit of this team, so lets go out there tomorrow night and show them what we are made of.
Wednesday, February 18, 2017
An early swim to get the day going was at 9:30 a.m., nothing long, maybe some fast swimming but nothing over bearing. Mentioned before in prior entries was our important schoolwork is to this team and to student-athletes across the country.
Yesterday and today. a total of about nine different people needed to take exams during the afternoon. It is difficult enough for students to take exams when they are originally scheduled and individuals on this team are taking them during their conference championship.
After lunch many, of my teammates try to get some treatment in and take a good nap in order to be completely rested and feeling good for tonight. For those swimming tonight it was the 4x200 free relay and 4x50 medley relay plus women's 1 meter and men's 3 meter diving.
To quickly recap tonight...
- Will Kearsey led off the 4x200 free relay in a school record time of 1:36.07
- Both the men's and women's squads broke the school record in 4x200 freestyle relay
- In women's 1 meter diving, Ali Butera, Monica Marcello and Michelle Kalupski swept the first diving event
Right from the start of the relays the team atmosphere outshined all of the other teams and more importantly we backed it up with our swims. Leading up to this evening no one would have thought this team would have started the way we did. A testament to our mental and physical strength shows how incredible this team is.
To close out the night was a very vibrant and electric team dinner. After we ate, Coach said a few words, "this was only session one and probably our best first session in a couple years. Now it's time to focus, not on session three or six, but session two tomorrow morning. Let's continue with this energy and get after it in the morning".
A few cheers and then everyone dispersed back to their rooms to shave. A big mental component of the sport is shaving. Generating a better feel for the water in addition to taper gives swimmers added self-confidence for the meet. It was an extremely good first night, time to carry the momentum through tomorrow morning and the rest of the meet!
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Boom! What an awesome first day for both the men and women's team. I like comparing swimming to golf because of the longevity of the competition. As important it is to get off to a fast start, you can't win the meet on Thursday but you can lose it.
On the men's side, the American Athletic Conference only has four men's swimming and diving teams making the conference a very strategic meet. Typically for the finals session, 16 swimmers make it back to swim at night, but our meet is so small the importance of making top eight is magnified.
At the end of the day, between the men and women a total of three school records were broken and that was just the beginning. Sophomore Matt Dagenais broke the school record in the 200 IM and junior Emma Smith broke the school record in 500 freestyle while also winning the event overall. Being on the team the past two years and experiencing the conference meet, today's atmosphere surpassed any meet I have swum at since at UConn. Every time a UConn swimmer got up to race, there would be a line of us on the side of the pool deck cheering. For such a big meet with not as swimmers, creating a competitive and fun environment was all up to us.
Thursday, February 17, 2017
During swim meets at any level, they tend to get repetitive. Every morning and every night for dinner and breakfast you have to have the same food. For breakfast, our options ranged from eggs, oatmeal, cereal, bagels, fruit, and yogurt. Every night for dinner was salad, veggies, pasta, chicken and bread. Even with having the option to eat whatever for lunch, my teammates tend to eat the same thing for every afternoon for lunch.
Right before every session during the meet the team gets together to do a cheer and if the energy level is just a little but low, the cheer usually gets everyone hyped up. To begin the finals session tonight, I led the team in a roller coaster cheer. It is essentially 45 seconds of all of us just screaming. Cheers are one of my favorite parts of championship meets just because there is an added bit of excitement due to the stakes of the meet. Sometimes the women and men will split up and do a cheer passed down through the team's seniors and that provides an extra bit of enthusiasm for the team.
On top of the three records broken yesterday, an additional four school records were broken. On the men's side captain James Donlevy broke the 100 free, freshman Will Kearsey and senior Jamie Brookover broke the 100 back record, and the men closed the night out breaking the 400 medley relay record by just four tenths of a second.
At the beginning of the season Coach Goldberg informed the men's team there would be some big shoes to fill. The previous senior class held multiple school records while also doing exceptionally well in school. Well, I'd say the guys answered the call. All three of the previous seniors were almost completely wiped from the record board and there is still one more day of competition. I believe this speaks volumes about Coach Goldberg and the individuals he tries to recruit. Developing individuals to succeed in the pool and in the classroom serve as short term goals, but long term Coach aims to develop the personal character of his recruits so they are set up to succeed in the future.
Friday, February 18, 2017
The last day of the season for freshmen, sophomores, and juniors, and the last day of swimming for the senior class began today. Although the battle for the team title on the men and women's side has been essentially decided, our team still competed for school pride. To end the last day of the competition between the men and women, another four school records were broken. Sending Coach Goldberg out with a bang in his final season of coaching was extremely important and he stated in our meeting after tonight's session how pleased he was.
On a diving note, the divers for our team only practice on the one and three meter springboards. Every year the divers still do their best to compete on platform in order to get points for the team. This year, senior Spencer Beaulieu surprised everyone on the pool deck. To close out one of his diving events for UConn, he won the men's platform. No one expected this and when the last diver went the entire team went crazy.
As for swimming, to finish up competition once again another three school records were broken. Will Kearsey capped off an incredible freshmen year campaign breaking the 200-back school record and winning the event overall. Captain James Donlevy got the elusive 100-free school record and the women broke the 400-free relay record. Coming away with nine new school records is an incredible accomplishment.
To conclude the conference meet every year, Coach invites all of the parents to join the team for dinner and end the week together. Coach begins by summarizing all of the accomplishments our team achieved during the meet and then throughout the year. He talks about the seniors and the legacy they will leave behind. It is good for everyone to remind ourselves that it is just a swim meet and no matter the result of an individual or team accomplishments, the experience and people we share it with will resonate us forever.
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Not much to write about for my last entry other than our travel, which brings my entire three-year experience full circle. Our flight from Houston to Atlanta was flawless, everyone was on time for the bus, the team made through security with ease and the flight was quick. We then learned that our flight from Atlanta to Hartford was delayed, but we finally made it home.