We take our sports seriously and the professional baseball, basketball and football fanaticism that returns such passion from above certainly filters down on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons in high school athletics. So it's only natural that a sport like swimming sometimes only qualifies for second class citizenry in terms of the attention it receives among the student body, in the community and the local media. Nonetheless, with a long string of unparalleled success in Chappaqua, the Horace Greeley Swimming and Diving team prefers to defer on the so-called green card, as they simply go on about the business of winning.
I think they let their actions speak for them, says Meg Kaplan, long time coach of the team. They are 62-17 in Ms. Kaplan’s nine seasons, having lost only four meets since 2004 and currently boast a 13 match winning streak that dates back to last year. Post season wise, they are two time divisional and league champs and have finished in the top five in sectional one for the past six seasons, including a second place finish last year. Of course, they are looking to one up themselves in the section before the final hundredths of seconds click off the season's end in February.
The margins separating victory and defeat, though, are not really measured in time increments that a blink of the eye can easily miss at poolside. Year round, "I'm in the pool seven days a week," says Captain Josh Saccurato. Specifically, that means two hours of daily practice at SUNY Purchase for Horace Greeley, and if they swim for a club team like Josh, that's another two hours of practice, ending at about 8:45.
Making their parents paltry commutes into
seems pleasant, he says, “It's 9 o 'clock at night and I haven't been home since six in the morning. I'm dead tired, I just want to go to sleep, and I still have homework to do.” In the end, it's the thirst for competition and the idea of having commitments beyond video games or accumulating Facebook friends that keeps him going. New York City
Demonstrating a self-motivation that pervades the program, the swim team's dedication certainly reduces that end of the coaching duties for Coach Kaplan - leaving the pseudo-psychology to head coaches elsewhere. So, for instance, if a team member feels they deserve a center lane along side the first tier competition, she comes across clearly without trying to push buttons that lie somewhere in their subconscious.
"My answer is good, then show me," she says. In turn, results create the opportunity next time to swim away from the walls of the pool, where the water more readily bounces back into the face of the swimmer – thus slowing their pace.
Unfairly, it could be said, that results don't always correspond to the heats or styles that suits a swimmer's strength or preference. Manipulating the lineup across the board is a key element to maximizing scoring. "You might not be able to swim your best event in order for the team to win," says Captain Braden Clarke, but that willingness to put the team first defines a cohesive unit in a sport that should not be considered individual.
Showing just that characteristic, Braden credits the success of Horace Greeley to what would be described in other sports as having a deep bench. Each team has their star state qualifiers, but it's the second tier swimmers that make the difference by racking up third, fourth and fifth place points. "It's been our most important asset over the past three years, says the senior swimmer of
’s unsung contributors. Greeley
The accolades and effort aside, successfully navigating the life of a swimmer implies quite a bit more, according to Deb Rosen, who’s seeing her second son through the program. “To commit to this kind of swimming at this level, you have to really have your act together in other areas,” she says, and time must be managed as efficiently outside the pool as in it if scholastic requirements are going to be fulfilled.
Complicating the time constraints is the daily 30 minute bus run to SUNY Purchase for practice, but the boys definitely make the best of it and build camaraderie as the wheels on the bus go round and round. Exactly, they actually sing on the bus to the great dismay of their coach. “They are horrible,” says Ms. Kaplan, and she certainly would welcome a pool even if a bit of team chemistry is sacrificed.
Aside from facilitating the swim team’s efforts and making meets more accessible to the student body, she believes a pool can only be a community asset, which ultimately pays for itself. For any community with a pool, “Those pools are packed from five in the morning until nine at night,” she says, and the initial investment should payoff within five years.
Regardless, she’ll yell and scream about this as much as she does with her swimmers. Without ever delivering pep talks or making pre-game speeches, she says, “I don’t get in anybodies face. My answer to them is, you have been trained to know what you need to do and you need to do it.”
Beyond the hours and hours of research she puts into preparing lineups for each meet, coaching mostly mean teaching. “When you want to fix your turns or fix your starts or fix your strokes, you come to me and I will take the time to work with you,” she says.
The rest is left to the parents, according to Braden. A coach himself in the summer, he says he tells the parents of grade schoolers, “Your kids will do it, that won’t be a problem.” It’s driving them every morning to practice, getting them to meets and going long distance on excursions to
, Buffalo Long Island or . Florida
Close by, though, the team accepts the partial vacuum in which they live, but it’s greatly appreciated when they do get recognition from their peers. “It’s a comforting factor when people ask how the swim team is doing,” he says. It’s even nicer that they can boast another successful season and that the ending is looking pretty good again, he concludes