My Pitch

Learning to like swimming

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The 2018-19 high school swimming state championships were held over the weekend at Brown University. Sure enough, the Bishop Hendricken club wrapped up a first-place finish on the boys side, while Barrington won the girls competition.

I’ll admit, swimming is not exactly my sport of choice.

I’ve never been much of a swimmer outside of the casual summer parties or trips to the beach. It isn’t really a sport that I understand in terms of coaching or competing in, and to be frank, it’s not a sport that I jump out of bed excited to cover.

Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely nothing against swimming, it’s a great sport that takes an incredible amount of physical conditioning to compete in … it’s just not my cup of tea … but that may all change.

While I was poolside at Brown, I was going through the motions of being a reporter. Took photos, some notes, watched the races, etc. Midway through the race though, I chatted up a fellow media member who told me that it was his favorite event to cover throughout the year. My first reaction was, ‘everyone is different,’ but by the end of the day, I had a change in heart.

I have covered state championship swimming for the past 4-5 years over multiple states, and looking back on it, they really are all great events.

What I do enjoy about swimming more than maybe any other sport, and it was on full display once again on Saturday, is the positivity coming from the stands and the sidelines.

It doesn’t matter what the level is, sports can be pretty negative at times. Between coaches and players jawing at the refs, the hecklers in the crowd, the angry parents and whatnot, there are times when big games or events are dragged down because of some of the negativity and poor sportsmanship that is displayed.

However, in swimming, that negativity is almost non-existent, and the sportsmanship is something that I have always appreciated. The teams cheer on their own guys, not against their competition. Coaches are also more invested in their own clubs instead of the opposition, even the parents and spectators are cheering with no complaints.

It isn’t some strange phenomenon … at the end of the day it is very hard for someone to cheat in the pool or for a ref to make a bad call. A race is a race … from what I can see, there are not many avenues for a team to get an unfair advantage, it really does come down to who swims the fastest and most efficiently.

It makes sense that swimming is a sport where there is not a whole lot of complaining or controversy. It is just something that I never really took the time to notice or think about in my years of covering the sport.

On top of it, some of the races are just flat out fun to watch. I won’t go into a breakdown of each event, but the ones that I like the most are the relays.

I can understand why some people may not be into watching swimming … it’s a fairly simple concept. As I said, there doesn’t appear to be a great formula for winning, it is about putting together the best lineup and performances on the day of the race.

The relays are bit a more tricky though. Each swimmer must be on the same page communicating in terms of understanding where the competition is in the race, they also need to be in the most efficient order, but overall, there is the balance that the team needs to find in terms of one swimmer slowing down and the next one diving in to pick up the slack. It is always interesting to see when a team falls behind if they can climb back in it … or if a team that is leading can continue to cruise the rest of the way. It may not seem enthralling on paper, but at big meets like the one of Saturday, it can be extremely entertaining when everything is on the line and the best of the best are going head to head.

The last thing that hit me was the time of year.

There is nothing like this time of year, when you first start noticing the days getting longer, the temps rising ever so slightly, the snow piles shrinking bit by bit. That is one thing that I love about the winter sports playoffs, is that it does feel like a wrap up of what in my opinion, is the toughest time of year to get through. I was forced to walk about a third of a mile to the complex since the lots and streets were filled early in the day. Although I was a little annoyed as I left my vehicle street side, I ended up enjoying every second of the walk since it was the first time this year that it felt like a spring day.

Am I now going to hit up the YMCA and sign up for swim lessons and pursue an Olympic Gold Medal? Nope. However, I will absolutely appreciate the sport a little bit more next winter, and will look forward to covering the state championships once again.

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