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We take our sports seriously. The professional baseball, basketball, and football fanaticism that returns such passion from above certainly filters down in high school athletics. So it's only natural that a sport like swimming sometimes only qualifies for second class citizenry in terms of the attention it receives among the student body, in the community, and the local media. Nonetheless, with a long string of unparalleled success in Chappaqua, the Horace Greeley Swimming and Diving team prefers to defer on the so-called green card. Instead, they simply go about the business of winning.
“I think they let their actions speak for them,” said Meg Kaplan, long time coach of the team.
The Quakers are 62-17 in Ms. Kaplan’s nine seasons. That includes only four meet losses since 2004 and a 13 match winning streak.
Post season wise, they are two time divisional and league champs and have finished in the top five in sectional one for the past six seasons. Of course, Horace Greeley is looking to one up themselves in the section before the final hundredths of seconds click off the season's end in February.
Time Commitment and Dedication
The margins separating victory and defeat, though, are not really measured in time increments that a blink of the eye can easily miss. Year round, "I'm in the pool seven days a week," said Captain Josh Saccurato.
Specifically, that means two hours of daily practice at SUNY Purchase, and if they swim for a club team like Josh, that's another two hours of practice.
Making their parents' paltry commutes into New York City seems pleasant, Saccurato counters with a wake up call. “It's 9 o 'clock at night and I haven't been home since 6 in the morning," said Saccurato. "I'm dead tired, I just want to go to sleep, and I still have homework to do.”
In the end, it's the thirst for competition that keeps him going. Demonstrating a self-motivation that pervades the program, the swim team's dedication certainly reduces coaching duties for Coach Kaplan.
A Full Team Effort
In other words, Kaplan can leave the pseudo-psychology to head coaches elsewhere. So for instance, if a team member feels they deserve a center lane along side the first tier competition, she responds without trying to push buttons that lie somewhere in the subconscious. "My answer is good, then show me," said Kaplan.
In turn, results create opportunity. So the next time they swim away from the walls of the pool, where the water more readily bounces back into the face of the swimmer, their pace is slowed.
Unfairly, it could be said, that results don't always correspond to the heats or styles that suits a swimmer's strength or preference. Manipulating the lineup across the board is a key element to maximizing scoring. "You might not be able to swim your best event in order for the team to win," said Captain Braden Clarke.
But that willingness to put the team first defines a cohesive unit in a sport that should not be considered individual. Showing just that characteristic, Braden credits the success of Horace Greeley to what would be described as having a deep bench.
Each team has their star state qualifiers, but it's the second tier swimmers that make the difference by racking up third, fourth, and fifth place points. "It's been our most important asset over the past three years, said the senior swimmer, who's among Greeley’s unsung contributors.
The accolades and effort aside, successfully navigating the life of a swimmer implies quite a bit more, according to Deb Rosen. “To commit to this kind of swimming at this level, you have to really have your act together in other areas,” said Rosen. “Time must be managed as efficiently outside the pool if scholastic requirements are going to be fulfilled.”
Complicating the time constraints is the daily 30 minute bus run to SUNY Purchase for practice. But the boys definitely make the best of it and build camaraderie as the wheels on the bus go round and round.
Coach puts in her time.
Unfortunately, they actually sing on the bus to the great dismay of their coach. “They are horrible,” says Ms. Kaplan. So she certainly would welcome a pool even if a bit of team chemistry is sacrificed.
Aside from facilitating the swim team’s efforts, Kaplan believes a pool can only be a community asset, which ultimately pays for itself. “Those pools are packed from 5 in the morning until 9 at night,” she said. “The initial investment should payoff within five years.”
Regardless, she’ll yell and scream about this as much as she does with her swimmers. Without ever delivering pep talks or making pre-game speeches, her approach never requires a closeup. “I don’t get in anybody's face. My answer to them is, you have been trained to know what you need to do and you need to do it.”
Beyond the hours of research she puts into preparing lineups for each meet, coaching mostly means teaching. “When you want to fix your turns or fix your starts or fix your strokes, you come to me,” said Kaplan. “I will take the time to work with you.”
Parents and Classmates Help with Workload
The rest is left to the parents, according to Braden. A coach himself in the summer, he tells parents that the commitment is mostly on them. “Your kids will do it, that won’t be a problem,” said Braden. “It’s driving them every morning to practice, getting them to meets, and going long distance on excursions to Buffalo, Long Island or Florida.”
Close by, though, the team accepts the partial vacuum in which they live. But it’s greatly appreciated when they do get recognition from their peers. “It’s a comforting factor when people ask how the swim team is doing," said Braden.
It’s even nicer that they can boast another successful season and that the ending is looking pretty good again.
If you are looking for photography coverage of Horace Greeley sports at any level, please contact me at 914 318-0997, [email protected] or on Facebook