BRISTOL - For individual sports, team bonding develops differently than it does for teams sports where the players are constantly working together.
With everyone working at their own pace towards their own goals, swimming and diving teams come together through spending time together out of the pool and building relationships that create a team environment.
But how does a group create this chemistry when everyone is being asked to stay separate for their own safety?
For many of the swimmers, these restrictions made them want to work harder to become close with their teammates.
“I wouldn’t say much changed, but even though it was supposed to bring us farther apart, I think it brought us closer together,” Bristol Eastern sophomore Samantha Rivard said. “We had to minimize a lot of things, while still making the most out of it. Team gifts, seniors leaving, I think it just brought us all closer together, showing how much we mean to each other as a team. I’m just so grateful that we got to even have a season.”
That sentiment of appreciation for the fall season was made possible from the dominant feeling throughout the state from high school athletes who spent most of their summer desperate for good news about whether or not they would be competing at all. So once able to come together, they were going to do everything they could to make the most of their opportunities and ensure they lasted as long as possible.
“We all know what six feet and 12 feet look like now,” Bristol Central coach Adrienne Bentley said. “We looked at obstacles a little bit differently and challenges a little bit differently. We didn’t want to focus on the negative things like ‘we can’t do this or this is different,’ we just looked at it like it’s a change and we’re going to approach it this way, there’s now a different way to do it.”
The competitive aspects of swimming have been altered in many ways this year as meets are held virtually and teams now split the pool in half instead of alternating lanes for in-person meets, but the swimmers made sure to give their teammates all of the additional fuel they could. No longer allowed to encourage swimmers from the edge of the pool, everyone was forced to cheer harder when they yelled from the stands at the Dennis Malone Aquatics Center.
“I just think we’re really lucky to have a season, when some sports weren’t able to have a season at all,” Phelan said. “Unfortunately, we missed a little of that camaraderie with the girls outside of the pool, but while they were here I saw nothing but them pushing each other wherever they could, making connections with each other.”
Expecting that they will have a less restrictive season next year, the ability to build strong relationships throughout the team will only be beneficial going forward. The excitement of having a full season after what happened this year will only motivate them more to be their best both in and out of the pool.
“Assuming it’s going to be a regular season next year, I think this is going to be a good stepping stool for them,” Phelan said. “Something they can continue to practice, continue to grow, we did have some really tough competitions this year. I know our record doesn’t quite show the effort that I saw from them, but it can only go better next year.”
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org