The calm before the storm. The cliché used to describe tension before a natural disaster or the beginning of a war is often attributed to something as minute as a competition.
Although overused, it is a very accurate description of the preparation for the Sunshine State Conference Championship meet that every swimmer experiences. As hours in the pool begin to dwindle – part of the resting process – school becomes a big focus for the student-athlete.
The competition lasted for a total of four days, Feb. 19 to Feb. 22. However, the team left for the event on Feb. 17 in order to settle in and completely accommodate the competition area.
Part of preparing for the competition is maintaining rituals that an athlete practices throughout the year.
Every swimmer has his rituals. They range from quiet meditation to listening to loud music. The ritual helps to keep the athlete grounded in his routine. All of the training throughout the year led up to this one competition, this one moment when the hard work has paid off.
That much pressure can be distracting to the psyche. Rituals help to maintain a calm demeanor, which is necessary for effective competition.
Evan Coleman, sophomore swimmer and Human Movement and Performance major, uses rituals to stay relaxed and focused.
“I like listening to music. I also try to envision my race every night before I go to bed,” Coleman said.
Even coaches experience the pressure of the competition. Head Coach Duncan Sherrard shared nervous feelings prior to the start of the meet.
“I was extremely nervous. The men’s team has gone through a lot of ups and downs, and our women’s team was going to do well, too,” Sherrard said.
Every student-athlete, regardless of sport, is obligated to maintain his GPA and class standing. Part of remaining calm and collected is to stay ahead of schoolwork, an undeniable stress.
“I plan my week out every Sunday so I know what I need to do. I set goals for myself for every day to make sure that I get everything done on time,” Coleman said.
After the first two days of competition the men’s team was first by the narrow margin of 25 points. Following a solid morning session, the finals session put the team significantly ahead of the other competitors.
Two days of competition and nerves found their way out when Sherrard began celebrating along the side of the pool as the final event of the night – 800 free- style relay – was nearly finished.
“After the first day, a lot of my nerves calmed down. The second day was not as good as we wanted and that was frustrating,” Sherrard said. “It was a culmination of two days of frustration. I was overwhelmed with excitement.”
The competition came down to the final event of the final day. After last year’s outstanding win of outscoring second by over 180 points, this year could not have been any closer with the Mocs winning by just nine points.
This is the third year in a row the Mocs have won, a feat no other team in the conference has accomplished.
“I didn’t know we were going to win until the last relays. We were up 25 points going into the last event, but we still needed to have good finishes and not get disqualified,” Sherrard said. “I enjoyed the last session, but it was nerve racking.”
Next the Moccasins head to Indianapolis for the NCAA National Championships.