Column: Team closeness is vital

Christmas break called for Nerf gun fights.

Swimming is unique because it is such an individual sport. Unlike other sports, success in swimming and diving is not centered on working with one another to make plays or formations work.

In swimming, we don’t even get to talk for the majority of practice, and everyone swims his or her own race.

Even though we spend most of our time with our faces underwater, the swim team is extremely close. To say that we are a family doesn’t quite do it justice. I never spent as much time with my family members as I do with my teammates.

We almost all live in the same neighborhood. We eat every meal together at the Missouri Athletic Training Complex. We hang out with one another in our free time. We compete against each other every chance we get, whether in the pool or outside in pickup football or basketball games or in the team fantasy football league.

With 32 members, our team is the perfect size. It is small enough that everyone can be close with one another but big enough that whenever you want to go to lunch at the MATC or get a sand volleyball game together, others will always be available.

Although I am close to everyone on the team, I am especially close with the other sophomore guys. Last year, I showed up to campus not knowing a single student here. The guys in my class quickly became my best friends, and our bond has only grown since.

Last year, we roamed campus in a pack, everywhere we went. We would rearrange the tables and chairs at dining halls so that the nine of us could all sit together. When we were on campus over Christmas break, we had Nerf gun wars in Hawthorn Hall.

Now that we don’t all live in the same building, it would be easy to drift apart a bit, but we still remain about as close as possible. My two roommates are sophomore swimmers, and all of the guys in our class live in the same subdivision. We still eat dinner together frequently and play pickup football games in a field nearby.

An outside observer might not see swimming as a team sport, but I can attest to the importance of having such a close team. During the hardest training, it is extremely beneficial to have a group of friends who know what you are going through.

Only other swimmers can fully appreciate the demands of our sport, and as a result we can hold one another accountable for our effort and attendance at practice as well as our decisions away from it. Plus, we all have similar schedules, so there is always another swimmer around if you want to hang out.

And when it comes time to perform, having an intimately close group of friends to fight for is the best motivation. In a big meet, nothing gets me more excited than watching the people I have trained with, laughed with, and struggled through pain with swim fast, then hearing them encourage me.

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