Dec. 22, 2016
by Jon Cooper | The Good Word
Tis the holiday season, a time when people come together.
For the Georgia Tech men’s and women’s swimming and diving team, the best way to do that was by getting away from everything and everybody.
That was the mission over the past week, when the team visited Naples, Fla., for a week of training and fun. Based on what came out of the trip, they’re locked in and united, having shown great results, ideally, with even greater ones ahead in the coming weeks.
“We’ve done it the past couple of years,” said Head Coach Courtney Shealy Hart. “We have a GREAT facility at Georgia Tech, obviously, but it’s always nice to kind of get out of your environment, only be with your teammates, not have any other school work, any other people around, just really, really rely on your teammates for these days while we’re down here.”
The team headed South last Friday (they returned Thursday), put in some quality practices, participated in — and emphatically won — a dual meet on Monday, then had a few more practices. When out of the pool, there also was a series of fun team-building events.
It’s the fourth straight year the team has made the trip and it’s something Coach Hart believes really pays off as far as improving team chemistry.
“I really, really enjoy this trip and I think it helps this team continue to grow,” she said. “We’ve created a culture here the past couple of years and we’ve gotten better every year. We’re building this team and I think this absolutely helps in that process.
“We work really, really hard, we push each other,” she added. “We do team workouts within this but we also do group workouts within this, just really, really push ourselves when we’re tired and when we’re sore. We rely on our teammates to help take us to that next level.”
The Jackets were at a different level than Cincinnati and host Florida Atlantic, as the men and women both easily handled the Bearcats (the women won 116.00 to 89.00, the men won 134.00 to 71.00) and host Owls (169.50 to 35.50 for the women, 168.00 to 37.00 for the men), with first-place finishes in 15 of the 22 possible events.
“Cincinnati is a great team. They already have a female that’s qualified for NCAA’s,” said Hart. “We knew it was going to be a great meet and it was. I told our kids, ‘We’re working hard but we want to come out of the gates strong and aggressive and we did that. We had good energy throughout the whole meet and it was fun. A fun college dual meet.”
“I think Florina Ilie, 2:17 in the 200 breaststroke, is very fast right now so I was really proud of her. She stood out to me,” she added. “There were a lot to choose from. It was a good day. Obviously, the people that normally step up stepped up but I think the whole team did a great job. That’s important as we continue to move through this part of training and into championship season because obviously we need everybody firing on all cylinders for championship season.”
As pleasing as the way the team worked as one IN the pool was the way they bonded throughout the series of activities meant to bring them together outside of it.
“We break them up into teams within our teams, so we have what we call ‘Winter Olympics,’” Hart explained. “We do different competitions. We had a Karaoke contest. That was kind of fun. We did a sandcastle-building contest, we did a synchronized-swimming contest. We have little competitions within the team to do team-building. That’s one of the ways we help facilitate that within the team.”
The karaoke was especially entertaining.
“We had a couple of really good performers. Joonas Koski had a good performance, while Tamir Gonen Cohen had a good performance. Colt Williamson did a really good job,” Hart said. “Those were a couple that stood out.
“I’m sure there are people that thought they were better than they were,” she added, with a laugh.
(To get a taste of some of the fun, check out the Swimming and Diving Team’s Twitter feed, @GTSwimDive).
Hart especially likes the way the activities within the relaxed setting allows for the individual team members to open up and show themselves after the stress of finals.
“You can tell when we do the team activities it brings out their personalities, which is fun because you don’t always get to see that when they have the stress of school and swimming back on campus,” Hart said. “It kind of really shows their personalities and lets them have fun in different ways.”
As the Jackets prepare to go their different ways they do so in good spirits — having shared a good laugh together in addition to the laugher of a meet.
Now comes the important part for the team members: building upon the foundation they laid in Naples for the upcoming season during the break. The season begins on Jan. 6 and 7, with a double- dual meet against Kentucky and Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, followed by Alabama on Jan. 20, and Florida State and SCAD on the 28th, both at McAuley Aquatic Center, then the ACC’s and NCAA’s.
“It’s very important that they continue to train and stay on top of everything when they go home,” Hart said. “We’re back on [Jan.] 2nd and then we leave on the 5th for Virginia Tech. They know that what they do at home helps determine how we’re going to do during championship season AND who makes our championship team. We do have a selection process. We can’t take the whole team. We can only take an ‘A’ team to the ACC’s and so they know they have to continue on this hard work and come back ready to go so we can select the best team possible.”