If for some odd reason you have ever walked by the University Recreation Center at 5 a.m. and wondered who would actually be in the weight room that early, the answer is simple: the TCU swimming and diving team.Even in the offseason, the team dedicates itself to early morning practices to go along with some afternoon training sessions in order to better itself for the next season, head coach Richard Sybesma said.
“We have to make a commitment to the offseason to start with a stronger team in the season,” Sybesma said. “Offseason commitment equals in-season success.”
During the offseason, the team begins practice at 5 a.m. in the weight room for 30 minutes. This is followed by training in the pool for another hour and a half. Some days also have afternoon practices with 30 minutes of “land training,” for example, running or cycling, followed by skills training in the pool.
The H2O Frogs train two mornings and four afternoons per week during the offseason. Sybesma, who is in his 27th year of coaching at TCU, said that instilling dedication in his swimmers is a challenge at times, but the ultimate goal pushes the team to commitment.
“Motivating is hard, but winning takes care of the motivation,” he said. “We just keep talking about our off-season commitment as part of that motivation.”
Junior swim team member George Gooch said the team pushes each other to strive to work hard during the early morning practices.
“Everyone gets behind each other,” Gooch said. “We are all good support.”
Gooch also said that he enjoys the fact that practices are so early because it allows him to get a jump-start on his days.
“I really like it because it adds time to the rest of the day to get the things you need to do accomplished,” he said. “At first it’s kind of tiring, but you work through it together and get to be a team. It adds to the positive attitude for the team.”
Sophomore Keilah Walker said she agrees that early morning practices are beneficial because it gives the team more time to train together, especially when it seems the hardest to stay motivated.
“It’s a group effort,” Walker said. “It doesn’t necessarily get any easier, but you just kind of know that it’s something you are going to have to do. You get tired, but that’s the point of all the training, so that you can perform better at racing time.”
Sybesma said performing better during races is something on which the team will be focusing during its offseason swim sessions.
“We need to be more emotionally focused going into the meets,” Sybesma said
Sybesma said this mental focus was sometimes a challenge for the H2O Frogs in their most recent season, though the team did set six school records at the conference meet, along with two conference champions in 100-yard backstroke (Jonathon Berrettini) and 3-meter diving (Kelly Seely). The women’s team placed fourth, while the men’s team took sixth in the Mountain West Conference Championships.
“At the conference meet we swam extremely tough,” Sybesma said. “We need to do a better job of focusing on the first meet and being more ready to race. This season we had some trouble getting started.”
In addition to this mental preparation, Gooch said the H2O Frogs will use their early morning training sessions to work more on their breathing to better adjust to the different altitude levels at which they race in the MWC.
“The other teams have a major natural advantage,” Gooch said. “We just need to build up our lungs and work on our breathing control. The other teams have already adapted, but it will take us a little more time.”
Gooch said in order to expand their lungs, the swimmers will do exercises in the pool that specifically focus on lung capacity, such as only breathing alternately on certain strokes, as well as breathing through straws while underwater.
“A lot of our improvements in other areas of swimming will come with building our lungs,” he said.
When the regular season starts up again, Sybesma said the team will begin practicing more frequently, every weekday morning and afternoon, as well as on Saturdays. Still, the early mornings will continue for the water-dwellers, and Sybesma said that is just a part of the sport.
“We are creatures of habit,” Sybesma said. “Do we always like it? No. But it’s what’s necessary to get the job done.”
Both Walker and Gooch said the closeness of the team has helped make early mornings seem easier and has also allowed the H2O Frogs to perform well at meets.
“Our team’s really good at pulling together when we need to get it done,” Walker said.
Gooch also said because of the team’s ability to work as one, he expects further success from the Frogs, especially in the upcoming season.
“A lot of great things come from a lot of people coming together like we do,” Gooch said.