By Michael Lennon (UConn Junior Swimmer)
Each year, the University of Connecticut Men’s and Women’s swim team partakes in a sunny tradition unlike any other. The annual training trip, which spans anywhere from fourteen to nineteen days, encompasses hard work, dedication, and team bonding in an effort to achieve both individual and team goals by season’s end.
This year, in sunny San Juan Puerto Rico, the team spent two weeks preparing to end the season on a high note.
“The trip is one of the things, among many, that gives us the opportunity to be good at the end of the year,” head coach Robert Goldberg said. “It allows us, as a team, to focus on training for a few weeks without the distractions that school brings.”
The team kicked off the trip at the 11th annual Copa Coqui meet at the Encantada Pool. The meet, which is swum in long-course meters, pairs UConn against other college teams who made the trip to Puerto Rico.
Individual honors on the men’s side were won by UConn senior Felix Samuels, who won the 100-meter freestyle in a time of 53.52 seconds.
The women’s individual winners included senior Chinyere Pigot, junior Laura Hyland and sophomore Christine Pedersen. Pigot won the 50-meter freestyle in a time of 27.46 seconds, Hyland won the 100-meter breastroke in 1:18.09 and Pedersen won the 100-meter backstroke in a time of 1:08.06.
The Huskies then turned to the training aspect of the trip, which was broken into four cycles, each spanning three days. Within those cycles, the team was broken into four groups depending on each swimmer’s best events.
Head coach Robert Goldberg runs the “stroke group”, which encompasses those who specialize in the butterfly, backstroke and breastroke events.
“Each group practices their trade, and I feel that the stroke group is a hybrid group that combines both speed and distance,” Goldberg said. “Meeting the need of the hybrid is where success is achieved.”
Second year assistant T.J. Natal coaches both the sprint-freestyle and middle-distance groups.
“Sprint brings that purely explosive aspect, as it’s all about fast twitch as opposed to aerobic,” Natal said. “Middle distance is different, as it combines both explosive and non-explosive elements.”
First year assistant Matt Donovan coaches the distance freestyle group.
“It’s the smallest group out of them all, which makes it more individualized,” Donovan said. “But at the same time there’s a reliance within the group. If one person has an off day, it affects the group way more than a larger one.
While in Puerto Rico, the team trains entirely in long-course meters, although the conference championship meet is short-course yards.
“Long-course training has its pluses and minuses,” Goldberg said. “On the plus side the conditioning factor is much greater than you would get with short-course.”
However, Goldberg went on to say long-course swimming may not be an entirely beneficial method of in-season training.
“Some people don’t adapt very well to long-course,” Goldberg said. “Coaches also may not adapt to meet the needs of the swimmers very well, making long-course unbeneficial.”
Out of the Pool
The format in which the practices are held allow for the team to take part in many extra curricular activities. On the days when team only has morning practice, the vast majority can be found on the beach afterward, taking in some sun or tossing around a football.
Another popular single day location is Old San Juan. Here, many swimmers can be found taking in the sites and sounds of traditional Puerto Rican culture.
“The importance of downtime is all in the eye of the beholder,” Goldberg said. “Some coaches may not see it as important at all, while others view it as quite important. I myself see it as important,” Goldberg said.
“The beach, the hotel pool, team bonding happens there,” Goldberg said. “It’s a whole dimension that you don’t get at school. With no exams or studying it gives the team a chance to mesh, which I view as important on our way to achieving our end of season goals,” Goldberg said.
The team also took part in the annual “date night” in which the men’s and women’s teams were randomly paired with one another in an effort to spice up the team chemistry.
During the final cycle, the team took part in the annual Catamaran trip. Here, the Huskies stopped at popular snorkeling sites off the Puerto Rican coast.
“The trip is a nice way to wrap up a few weeks of hard practice,” Goldberg said. “The team really seems to enjoy it, and it’s a good way to bond with each other.”
The Huskies will swim at the American Athletic Conference Championships in Greensboro North Carolina from February 18 to the 21st. The men will swim against SMU, ECU and Cincinnati. The women will swim against Cincinnati, SMU, ECU, Houston, Tulane and Rutgers.