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What could be better than swimming under the sunny blue skies of Fort Lauderdale with all your teammates, aka best friends? The annual winter training trip for the Ursinus Swim Team took place over this past winter break. The entire trip is ten days long, with two travel days and one break day. For those two travel days, the team only has one swim a day, and for the remaining seven days of practice there are two-a-days (two practices). In her four years of being an Ursinus student-athlete, senior Charlotte Driver has only been on two winter training trips. Although she only experienced it twice, the impact the trip has had on her as a swimmer and teammate is unforgettable.
“Florida was awesome, training is really difficult down there. We swim a lot of yardage, and we all get really fast and we are all at peak training and performance.” The teams are working hard to focus on speed and details before heading back to PA to ‘taper down’ for conferences. For non-swim lingo people, “‘tapering’ means you are dropping down in yardage and getting more rest as your body has just gone through intense training. So, now everyone is really strong but still doing speedwork,” says Driver.
Compared to the team’s time together in Collegeville, Florida is all fun without the stress of academics and non-swimming extracurriculars. “It is the best bonding opportunity, when we get down there it is a playdate with your best friends. You might be having a terrible time in the water, it hurts and it is hard, but you would not want to be doing it with anyone else,” says Driver. After a long day of practices, each swimmer knows they can go back to their motel, eat, relax in the hot tub, and go on a walk to get ice cream, all together. Not only does a greater bond form with her teammates, but also with her coaches. “The way you get close with the coaches too is really amazing. They become parents in the best way, because we are at an age as young adults to have meaningful conversations and learn from great role models,” says Driver.
Driver did not only learn how to swim faster by being a member of the Ursinus Swim Team. She explains, “I would say being a student athlete is a really special experience, I noticed my growth in many different aspects of my life: organization, time management skills, dedication and motivation, I have watched myself blossom throughout my swim career.” Not only is swimming a physical sport, but like any other, there is a deeper level of mental strength it takes to swim competitively. “You’re just swimming back and forth and staring at a black line in a pool and a hole in the ground that’s filled with water, like, it’s weird. You spend a lot of time with your thoughts and most of the time you are thinking about what you are doing with your body, but also for 60%-80% of the time it is always something else,” says Driver. If a swimmer was swimming a 1000 meter, that is 40 laps in the pool, “that is you locked in the black line for forty laps and it is all a mind game.”
With the intensity of the Conference Championships looming, the atmosphere of swimming in Florida allows an escape from the intense competition ahead. “Swimming in Florida is so much easier, it is going to be like a gorgeous sunset, we are swimming outside, it is really picturesque,” says Driver. As they finish up their second practice of that day, the sun will be setting into a pink sky and all the swimmers look up to their swim to feel a little bit better.
Driver says she would not trade her swimming career at Ursinus for anything else, but with a slight laugh she claims, at this stage she may not physically be able to do it again. As the Aqua Bears finish up their season shortly, get down to the pool to see their intensity and wish them luck at the champs. Go Bears! #SKOBEARS!