After a 2011-2012 season in which the Florida Southern College men’s swimming team finished third in the country, expectations are extremely high for the 2012-2013 campaign.
The expectations are warranted as the Mocs return six All-Sunshine-State-Conference performers, including the reigning conference swimmer of the year, Jeb Halfacre. Head Coach Duncan Sherrard, the 2012 SSC Coach of the Year, believes his team has lived up to their high expectations in the young season.
“They have raced really well,” Sherrard said. “On both sides, men and women, kids have gotten in-season best times. It’s exciting. We’re ahead of where we were at this point last year and the last two years.”
Although the Mocs appear to be a legitimate national title contender, Sherrard noted that the team’s main focus is to improve every day. The quest for improvement is a big reason that the Mocs faced such stiff early-season competition in Florida State, a top-15 Division I program.
“You always want to schedule hard competition because easy competition won’t help you get better,” Sherrard said. “It’s also a good gauge for my assistant Mike (Blum) and I to see how the kids are going to race at the end of the year.”
The daily goal of improvement can also be seen in the intense training regimen the Mocs follow. The team is known across campus for its work ethic. Sherrard said that recovery days are important to keep the swimmers from burning out physically or mentally.
“We have recovery days where Mike (Blum) and I put away our stopwatches and have a lower-intensity practice,” Sherrard said. “That way they can just swim and don’t have to worry mentally about, ‘Am I holding this pace? Am I going to make this set?’”
Sherrard said he is also a big believer in the use of readings and quotes to keep the team motivated and positive.
“Sometimes we’ll just stop and take ten minutes to have a meeting about inspiration and motivation and ways to keep a positive outlook on life. We try to find stories or quotes to just read them something and keep them mentally fresh,” Sherrard said.
All of Sherrard’s tools for improvement will be important if the Mocs are going to achieve the goals they have set for themselves. Since Sherrard has taken over, the team goals have become more ambitious each year, mainly because they need new ways to challenge themselves.
“We’ve won the 400-yard medley relay two years in a row on the men’s side. The first year it was a shock. Last year, we wanted to win it again but we really wanted to break the national record. This year, we want to win it again but put the national record out of reach for other teams where they can’t break it,” Sherrard said.
The Mocs will continue their pursuit of improvement when they travel to Fort Lauderdale for the Nova Southeastern Invitational on Dec. 14.