Behind the Blocks: NCAAs or bust tracks the training and development of former All Met swimmers working towards the goal of making the NCAA Division I championship meet in March during the 2013-2014 season. Each week the swimmers will post a personal blog about training with their respective school's swim program and the daily challenges of life as a student-athlete at the D1 level. Check back every Tuesday for new blog posts, and join us throughout the season for a behind-the-scenes look at some of the country's elite collegiate swimmers and swim programs.
Stephen Seliskar is a sophomore at Purdue University. He began swimming with the McLean Marlins in the NVSL and continued his career at Thomas Jefferson High School where he set the Virginia state record in the 100-yard backstroke. He trained with Nation's Capital Swim Club's Tyson's facility.
I often get asked when the swim season begins and when it ends. Truth be told, swimming is a year-round sport and those who want to be the best don’t take days off. Yes, the college swim season does have bounds and for good reason, but the college swim season starts fast and if you aren’t prepared, it shows.
My coach, Dan Ross, often talks about the three pillars of success: school, swimming, and social. Together they form a triangle that, if balanced appropriately, can help you become a better person as a whole.
First, you are in college to be a student. If you approach college with the mentality that all you have to do it work hard in the pool and party, you aren’t going to last very long.
Next, you are not only a swimmer, but an athlete who represents your school. Every action you take reflects not only on you as a person, but also on your coaches, your team, and your school. The privilege to be a collegiate athlete is much different than that of a high school athlete. Depending on the size of your school, you might be one of 30,000 students chosen to represent your school. Much of the student body might have low expectations for you. The typical athlete stereotype might include low academic standards and arrogance. Prove them wrong.
Finally, my coach defines the social aspect of the triangle as, “anything that you need to do in order to be prepared for the other two sides of the triangle.” For our team, this means getting to know each other because these are the people you who will be your training partners and best friends for four years.
With that in mind our coach asks the team each season to come up with several season goals, both as a team and individually.
As a team, we all got together and discussed what we wanted to do this upcoming season. Goals included everything from a quantitative goal like “top 3 at the Big Ten championships” to qualitative goals like “no negative comments at practice or in the locker room.” Part of this is discussing how we are going to accomplish these goals as a team. It is one thing to say that we want to place in the top 15 at NCAAs, but that is the easy part.
I remember thinking at times last year, “why am I doing this?” Any time you begin working with a new coach, trust is what will determine if you are successful or not. Even though I was confused at times, I trusted in my coach and it paid off at the end of the season. This time around, I have made it my goal to try and earn that type of trust from the new freshmen so that they will succeed as well.
While it is traditional that the upperclassmen lead the team because they have been on the team the longest, my team likes to think a little differently. We still have senior captains, but anyone can be a leader. If you are an underclassman, don’t be afraid to speak your mind and help set goals for your team. Let everyone know what you want to accomplish. The college swim season will be tough; double practices and a session in the weight room is no cake walk, but if your team focuses early on and sets the right goals, it will be a little easier.
We also included goals outside of the pool such as charity work in the community. This coming Saturday, we are hosting Purdue’s annual Breastroke 4 Hope charity event benefiting those battling breast cancer. Different members of the swim team pair up with members of Greek organizations at Purdue to form relays that compete continuously for an hour in order to raise money. If you would like more information or to support the cause, please follow the link provided:
Goals like this not only help us to become better swimmers, but better people and build a team mentality. A strong team mentality is what will determine how everyone copes with tough workouts and dual meets.