As coaches, we get just as nervous leading up to the big meet as our swimmers do. Often for some of the same reasons: knowing we’ve prepared yet wanting things to go well, looking forward to seeing hard work pay off, and itching to get to the pool and get the show on the road already.
That yearning to see them race really sinks in about four or five days out. Having swum in these championship meets myself and coached in many more of them, I know the thrill that lies ahead. Sometimes you just want to start racing and watch fast swims by your team. But, this would leave out some of the necessary and inevitable buildup…
I love seeing our team’s excitement grow to higher and higher levels those last few weeks of the season and the unity this entails. Because the big meet is about swimming fast, but it’s also about team. And the teammates you spend hundreds of hours with through a season. Lifting them up and allowing them to lift you to higher levels than you thought possible.
Seeing seniors swim lifetime bests in their last college meet. The look on a freshman's face when she sees the Goodwill Games pool for the first time at warm-up the night before. Or that same freshman upon making finals and standing behind the blocks as each athlete is introduced. The breaths you see them take to calm their nerves.
That moment when a swimmer touches the wall and I look to see a ridiculous time on the scoreboard. I always glance quickly and then look right back at our swimmer because that moment of realization on their face is an absolute highlight of coaching. There is sometimes shock before the elation. Sometimes a whoop and a splash and other times a hand over the mouth. Disbelief.
It also involves a mega-dose of logistics to keep people fed, rested, moved from venue to venue, and just generally supported the best way we can. This team is a joy to travel with. Professionalism is something we value and something we see from them.
We celebrate what we’ve done as a team and we also take another moment to celebrate our SENIORS for their final time on that bulkhead as undergrads.
When it’s all said and done, one of the best feelings for me as a coach is just to sit back on the bus ride home and listen to our team laugh and talk and soak in those last hours and minutes of a season well spent and a meet well-contested. I share in great conversation with amazing young people who have shared so much with us.
We can quantify our weekend with more than two dozen changes to our top-10 rankings and more lifetime bests, big finals, and All-Conference finishes than last year. And we do tally those. But, the season is more than that and what the team builds together is more than that.
It has been a great season and this is a great team.