Coaching Change Causes Competitiveness, Confidence

Jimmy Fisher, Reporter

With Feb. 16 marking the end of the regular season, teams have less than a month to go, but the swim team team is way ahead: Swimmers finished their season with their final meet against Messiah, and results are promising.

Swim coach Matt VanDerMeid, the team’s new head coach. led the men’s team to a 4-5 record, and they finished in second place out of seven teams at the two-day Diamond City Invitational. The women’s swim team finished with a record of 5-6 and also finished second place at the Diamond City Invitational.

With a new head coach comes new team strategies, workout routines and philosophies.  VanDerMeid knew that things would be different with this squad, but he said every team should expect changes when a new head coach takes the lead.

“My program is much different from what they’ve been doing in the past,” said VanDerMeid. “Athletes responding to a new program always adds another variable to some other variables.”

VanDerMeid’s believes his players have responded very well.

“I think as a group they’re doing a bit better than I might have anticipated,” he said.  “On the other hand, you try to come in with your expectations not too terribly high because, again, a new program and that can be very, very challenging if that program is a lot different from what was happening before which happens to be the case here. I think they’re responding well to the challenge. It’s tough, it’s really, really hard.”

VanDerMeid said he made it clear that he did not want any one specific thing improved, but rather everything swimmers had been working on.

“In this sport, in my opinion, it’s all about details in this sport,” said VanDerMeid. “There is almost no end to how much focus you can bring and so where everyone is at is a function of where we’re at. Right now I’m seeing a level of encouragement that make some think that we’re going to bring many more layers into the program next season which in my opinion is important in terms of long-term success.”

While the records of both teams may not reflect a standout season, the swimmers feel they have also responded to coach VanDerMeid’s  routines in a positive way. Sophomore swimmer Dana Hallam said that she improved as an individual and the team got a lot better, too.

“I think for me as an individual it’s gone a lot better with having a new coach and everything,” said Hallam. “I think it goes the same for the team. I mean we lost a lot of swimmers but we’re kind of coming closer together and I think we’re going to surprise each other at MAC’s.”

One of the key differences between the workout routines of coach VanDerMeid and previous head swim coach Jason Morini was the physical conditioning routine.  S

“Last season we were a lot more lifting-based,” Hallam said. “We did a lot more stuff in the weight room than we did this year. We didn’t do anything in the weight room this year. We had a lot less yardage and were more rested for dual meets.”

Sophomore swimmer Nick Essington said the new scheme helped him to decrease his time.

“Compared to last year I’ve dropped a significant amount of time, and I mean we’ve been doing a lot more distance yards this year so that’s what’s been helping me. With a lot of the other kids they’re not used to so much with all the distance work, but it definitely is helping out because all really have more stamina and we’re dropping a lot of time, so it’s doing well,” he said.

Essington said that while dropping time was goal for this season, he said the start of a new head coach is often a building year. He said the new workout routine includes a dramatic increase in yardage.

“With our other coach we used to do maybe 3,000-4,000 yards a day and a lifting program, but then with this coach we’re doing at least double, but no lifting. That’s probably the biggest change for all of us.”

Essington expects that the positive changes will catch on with the team, and swimmers will see significant improvement in the near future.

“I think we’ll definitely get better and get used to this program,” said Essington. “When next year comes, and if we’re doing the same thing, it’ll probably be a lot easier because we had this year, so we know what to expect and just keep getting better.”

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