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New Varsity Sport: Swim Team

By Ellen Oliver

Nashoba swim coaches Katie MacDowell (left) and Carly White work with their team at their home pool, Atkinson pool in Sudbury. Ellen Oliver

The Nashoba swim team is ready for the big leagues. After two years as a club team, the sport was officially added to Nashoba’s varsity roster for the 2012-2013 winter season. “We are a new varsity sport this year. We are not a collaborative – just Nashoba,” said Athletic Director Tania Rich.

The team is co-coached by Carly White, who was an assistant coach on the club team last year, and Katie MacDowell. White and MacDowell were teammates in high school on the Littleton/Bromfield collaborative team before each went on to swim in college – White at Hartwick College and MacDowell at Clark University. White also brings a connection to Stow, the granddaughter of John and Eila Makey, longtime Stow residents.

Along with competitive swimming experience, the coaches also bring very unique local expertise. “We swam in all these pools,” said MacDowell. “We know the water at Tantasqua tastes funny and which pools are faster. There’s only one pool on our schedule where we haven’t competed.”

Transitioning from a club team to a varsity sport adds intensity to the schedule and changes to the roster. “It will be different this year,” admits senior co-captain Julia Reverdy. “We have 11 meets. Last year we had three.”

Another change from club to varsity is who is eligible to make the team. Last year, the club team had 30 kids, but allowed middle school students to join. As a full fledged varsity program, the middle schoolers are no longer eligible; however, some of those former club team swimmers are now freshman or sophomores on the current team and already know many of their teammates.

After try-outs where swimmers had to meet a baseline of tests, the coaches were happy to admit all 26 potential swimmers to the team. White and MacDowell spend their practice times working on techniques, leading the swimmers to cover more yards with improved techniques. ”The other day we worked on turns and starts,” explained senior co-captain Kelsey Keenan, who returned to the swim team after a year off. “I played volleyball, but I missed swimming,” she said.

“Some of the kids have been swimming a long time. A lot of kids swim on [private club] teams, so it’s not their first time on a swim team,” said White. “But a few have never been on a swim team before.”
One of the biggest obstacles for new swimmers may be mindset. According to Reverdy, swimming is a challenge because it’s a team sport comprised of individuals. “It’s about individual times, but you’re working as a team. You have to be more self-motivated in swimming. It’s just you in the water,” she said.

The three captains, Keenan, Reverdy, and Elena Goldman  lead stretching and warm up exercises. Reverdy’s favorite event is 100 butterfly, while Keenan has a different preference.  “I like the 100 breast stroke, but I usually end of doing what the coaches think is most useful,” said Keenan.

The captains are planning team-building events like pasta dinners, and laughed while remembering an exercise they did called “human pretzel.” In the bonding exercise, the team forms a huddle, grabs a hold of two teammates hands and then tries to untwist without letting go. “It got our communication up,” laughed Reverdy.

The coaches feel a responsibility to guide the team, but also to set the stage for future athletes and coaches. To do so, they are tapping into the nine seniors on the team. “The seniors are only on the team for one year, so we told them it’s their role to set traditions to make it memorable and fun,” said MacDowell. “We want them to come back years later and say ‘I started that.’”

The goals of the 2012 team are modest, yet competitive, according to the coaches. “Overall, we want the kids to improve their times and techniques and look back on the season and be proud of their accomplishment,” said White.