It’s officially wintertime and that means the swim season is here! The team is coached by Julia Shannon and newcomer Lisa Sommers, and they are ready to splash the opponents out of the water.
As the season has kicked off, Coach Shannon said it’s been going “fantastic… The first couple of meets give us a good idea of where each athlete stands and what skills we need to work on to get everyone performing at top levels in January.” So far, the athletes are determined and working hard to hone their skills.
“Any athletic team is constantly evolving as athletes grow, graduate, and new athletes join,” Shannon explained. She went on to describe how “team spirit, support, hard work, and attention to detail” have always been the core of the swim program. Over the past five years, Shannon has seen great improvement in swim times, swimmers’ work ethic, and the team’s sense of unity, with “athletes working together to support each other both in and out of the water.”
Shannon first took up coaching while living in a small Colorado mountain town after her kids’ swim coach retired. She believed she would enjoy working with the team and helping kids grow. In her 20-plus years in coaching swim, Shannon said her favorite part about coaching is “watching the students develop as strong athletes,” and even more so, “watching them grow into wonderful, thoughtful young adults.”
When asked how the team has performed since being coach, Shannon pointed out that there’s been some great swims and some pretty ugly ones too. They’ve had some state championships and some deeply costing disqualifications. “We have had kids that I thought I was going to have to jump in and save on the first day who ended up able to swim all four strokes and full 4000+ yard practices at the end of the season,” Shannon emphasized. “We have had kids of all skill levels and from different schools work together and cheer together. They consider themselves teammates, friends, and family. That interpersonal performance is the defining point of the team,” Shannon said.
Shannon’s process in building a strong team dynamic consists of first believing in and accepting all athletes, regardless of swimming skill or speed. “Only by truly respecting and appreciating what each athlete has to offer the team, can you build a culture of inclusion and unity,” she explained. Additionally, she likes to allow blocks of time for the athletes to “work together on skills with minimal interference from me, so that they can build those interpersonal relationships, grow leadership skills, and have a little ‘skin’ in each other’s growth so they can truly take pride in the accomplishments of their teammates.”
Shannon reiterated the fact that attitude is a huge factor in winning. “Winning doesn’t always mean taking first place – winning is growing and caring enough to perform at a level greater than you had previously believed possible,” Shannon said. In the comparison between culture and performance, Shannon said that culture is the most important of the two. “You can sometimes win a race without really working hard or being a good teammate – it’s an empty victory. With a good supportive culture, everyone wins,” Shannon said. All things considered, Shannon said her hope is that “these kids will look back on high school swimming with fond memories of hard work, strong friendships, learned and observed resiliency, and fun dinners after meets…even after swimming their most terrible race ever.”
Good luck to our athletes- we hope your season goes swimmingly!