Creating a culture of unity in a sport based heavily on solitary skill, aside from four swimmer relays, is a challenge that the MHS girls swimming and diving team has been tasked with.
“Even though swimming is an individual sport, the team aspect is insane. The swim girls are a second family to me, and I love that,” said Sophomore Nicolina Bottiglieri.
With team pasta parties, breakfasts on late starts and simply spending time together, the team has grown to be close.
“Even if I didn’t beat my best time or win in my heat, they were still proud of me,” said Junior Diver Alana Goodson.
The swimming aspect of the sport is a time trial, based off of four major styles of stroke: the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle. Often, races are differentiated by the style of which is accepted in competition, or in the case of an “individual medley”, swimmers provide a specific distance of each style during their trial.
The best of the North Suburban conference’s talent stems from schools like Mundelein, with a talented core group of freshmen and sophomores, such as swimmer Molly Mishler and diver Margaret Franz, and mixed with “veterans” such as Goodson and senior swimmer Tara Lawson.
“We really didn’t have a lot of issues or drama this year. We’re just accepting of each other and our faults,” said Lawson.
The diving portion of the sport focuses on the technique: the approach, the flight and the entry. Proper execution in each stage is crucial in order to gain a high score and avoid injury– making it one of the harshest sports for athletes to perform their best in without personal resolution and determination.
“I think [the team’s success is] because they are so close together,” said diving coach Bill Owens. “Diving is a sport where you’re alone, completely silent and being judged. It can feel like a lonely sport if you aren’t close with your coach and your team.”
The key to that statement is ‘individual’, as in focused on a single person, which is unlike the majority of high school sports which put a significant weight on physical teamwork.
However, although teamwork is not visually characterized in a sport like competitive swimming and diving, there is no doubt that the camaraderie of the girls swimming and diving team has had an impact on the strength and success of the team so far this season.
Goodson places the MHS girls swimming and diving team’s success on the shoulders of all the girls involved, citing their wins on the closeness of the team through spending so much time together out of the water.
A team’s issues are most noticeable at competition, and can be very obvious when a rift has broken the concentration on the goal of winning. Individual technique is a single person’s responsibility, but the true test of improvement comes from the performance of the entire team.