In a sea of 40-something speedo-clad college swimmers, I stick out like a sore thumb in my khakis and dress shoes. Chlorine fills my nostrils and "Someone Like You" by Adele fills my ears. Swim Coach Nate Parsley has been giving directions to his athletes for the past hour and a half, but now he leads them in a passionate sing-along.
You would never guess it's 7:30 in the morning.
Amateurs may see swimming simply as paddling your arms and kicking your legs but, as I found out over the course of a few days with the Salisbury University swim team, it’s a lot more than just splashing around.
“It’s a big commitment,” Parsley said. “These guys work a lot harder than some people think and they do it with a smile.”
Coach Nate Parsley leads the swimmers in a sing-along of Adele’s “Someone Like You.”
The team is split into groups for the early practices; one group lifts while the other is in the pool.
What I thought would be the most daunting task of them all turned out to be no big deal, as I actually woke up before my 5:30 alarm on Thursday. I walked to the Maggs Physical Activity Center pool for my first practice, one of two held weekly at 6 a.m.
After a few rounds of stretches, the first group of swimmers hit the weight room. Nearly every swimmer went through their workout routine grinning ear to ear while songs like “Hoedown Throwdown” by Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift's “Shake It Off” played through a speaker. The uncharacteristically-high spirits at such an early hour had me wondering if I simply caught them on a good day.
Sophomore swimmer Daisy Holder is all smiles during a 6 a.m. workout in the Maggs Physical Activity Center.
“It’s pretty much the same thing every day,” said Clayton Jameson, one of the many first-year students on the team. “If you don’t put on a happy face, you’re gonna be miserable the whole practice and the attitude tends to spread.”
The playful practice atmosphere gave way to the typical teammate ball-busting you’d expect from any sports team as the swimmers ate breakfast together in The Commons.
Freestyle swimmer Daisy Holder said that the early mornings become much more manageable once a routine is formed.
“[The early practices] actually help me, because now I’m ready to go,” Holder said. “Yes, I’m tired in the evenings, but right now I’m wide awake and have all morning to be productive.”
Holder said the mental obstacles to swimming are just as challenging as the physical ones, so supporting each other as a team is crucial for keeping a positive mind in and out of the pool.
“Even though it’s a team sport, it can feel very isolated swimming back and forth by yourself for hours,” Holder said. “That’s why we are always hyping each other up and whistling and cheering as loud as we can when we’re competing.”
Saturday, I attended my first swim meet as the Sea Gulls faced the Marymount University Saints. To my surprise, it was among the loudest college sporting events I’ve attended. The pool was filled with horns, whistles, shouts and chants echoing from start to finish.
Frankly, it wasn’t a close competition. SU Swim crowded the podium in almost every event. Chants of “SEA-GULLS! SEA-GULLS! SEA-GULLS!” got quieter and quieter out of respect, or maybe exhaustion, after each race.
If poppin’ , lockin’ and polka-dottin’ at 6 a.m. is the secret behind the Sea Gulls' historic 6-0 start to the season, I won't question their methods.
By RYLAND CRISMAN
Gull Life Editor