When most people think of swimming, they think of people in pretty caps and speedos swimming up and down a pool all day, and there is some truth to that.
That is not what competitive swimming is.
Competitive swim is a sport that swimmers love and hate all at the same time. Dedication, commitment, and most of all, hard work is what swimming is. Most practices may be miserable, and competitive swimmers have to swallow their own vomit multiple times a practice and continue on. Swimmers cherish whatever rest they get, whether it be five seconds or one minute. Swimming is more difficult than it seems to the outsider.
Jessica DeGennaro, Woodland Girl’s Swim Team Assistant Coach, is a newbie to the sport. Previously, she has coached volleyball and tennis at Woodland, but she understands how swimming is much different. “I expected that we would have to work more with the technique, but I find that the girls are already strong swimmers,¨ said DeGennaro. ¨They know the different strokes, so it is more about fine tuning and the technique.¨
DeGennaro also knows how the mental part of the sport is the most important. From her perspective of a coach on the deck watching, the mental toughness required of swimmers is one thing that makes swimming distinct from other sports. She is very impressed by the tough workouts and knows that the swimmers have to go to practice everyday and know each day it is just going to be harder than the last.
Many swimmer, like junior Morgan Swift, believe that mental strength is the most important part of swimming.
“Swimming is season long conditioning. Every practice is different, but every practice is grueling work,” said Swift. ¨I’ve heard girls who do not even have asthma sound like they are having asthma attacks after certain sets. I’ve also seen girls’ faces turn shades of red that are brighter than a tomato.”
Swift also reveals how being able to push yourself through these practices are a test of mental strength. A strong mind is necessary to be able to work even harder and get through the practice when your body feels like it can’t move anymore.
Head coach, Mike Magas, knows the work that gets put into swimming. Growing up he was a swimmer and he got into coaching about 20 years ago.Magas took the girl’s coaching job at Woodland in 2004. He plans the workouts for every day and understands what he is going to put the swimmers through during practice.
“It’s knowing when to push the girls and when to back off a little bit. There is a lot of planning that goes into the practices.”
Swimming is sometimes perceived as something much different than it really is. Swimmers rarely stand around doing nothing at practice, and a long rest is hard to come by.
“I don’t think outsiders truly understand or appreciate how difficult the sport is,” Magas explains. “ I don’t think those athletes who have never done swimming before truly understand. Of all the sports that I’ve done, swimming was the most difficult.”