The student newspaper of Clark University

The Scarlet

The student newspaper of Clark University

The Scarlet

The student newspaper of Clark University

The Scarlet

Diving Back into the Season with CUSDF

Excerpts from an interview with the women’s swim and dive team captains reveals the tight-knit community of the team.
Morgan Martin
Women’s swim and dive team Captains.

Clark University Swim and Dive Family (CUSDF) has officially returned from their training trip in San Juan, Puerto Rico and are diving head-first into the continuation of their season. I had the opportunity to meet with the women’s swim and dive team captains, Sarah Kersting-Mumm (senior), Cai Hall (graduate) and Mackenzie Landsittel (senior), prior to winter break in order to discuss their outlook on the season, team dynamics and overall experience as captains this year. 

This is the first season for each captain debuting in a new position for the team. Therefore, the captains were able to share their thoughts regarding what stepping into a leadership role for the team meant for them, as well as the challenges they have faced in doing so. 

The swim team is really, really tightly knit. So there’s a desire to stay really close to everyone while also balancing that you need to be the representative of the team…I want to have a close bond with everyone but also make sure that, you know, what needs to get done gets done.” – Kersting-Mumm

[It’s] challenging figuring out that balance between being a leader and being a friend, and sometimes that can become a little bit uncomfortable. But overall, we have a really close team. The first years, sophomores and juniors this year are all absolutely fantastic. We just got really lucky.” –  Landsittel

Being the only non-undergraduate captain on both swim teams, as well as the only dive captain, Hall is placed under different circumstances from her fellow captains on the team.  

It has been super interesting stepping into this position of being a captain. I think the time commitment has been an obstacle for me. I am a master’s student and my schedule looks a bit different than undergrad… I have taken on a full-time job and two part-time jobs that make it difficult to meet with the other captains” – Hall

Despite challenges regarding particular boundaries and time constraints, each captain has shown that communication above all is a top priority for the team. 

We definitely have faced obstacles so far and I think that in dealing with those obstacles, it’s really all about communicating with one another. It’s really hard to resolve obstacles when the other people involved in the issue don’t communicate with you, and unfortunately there’s not a lot you can do if the other person doesn’t want to communicate. It’s not really on you to force someone to do that… I think so long as we keep going into issues with the desire to communicate, people who actually do care about becoming better people and wanting to be on this team will reciprocate that communication.” – Kersting-Mumm

Having spent semesters abroad while on the team, Landsittel and Kersting-Mumm were exposed to the realities of being apart from their sport for an extended period of time. The two captains were also forced to speed-run relationships in order to maintain the tight-knit community they described. 

I think being abroad was the first break I’d ever taken from the team. I was still in communication with everyone, but it was the first time in my life, since I was 12 years old, that I wasn’t actively in a pool every day with people that I swim with. So it really gave me a chance to reflect on just how important that is to me, and in particular how important the people on my team are to me. I really missed everyone that I wasn’t seeing everyday” – Kersting-Mumm

I went abroad after my sophomore year. That fall, I missed meeting all the first-years. I missed all of the swim events that we would have in the fall and the meets, so I was really sad. And then coming back, it jumped right into training trip in Puerto Rico, which was very challenging. After not swimming for four months to then be swimming doubles and running around in 99 degree weather… and I was just really nervous about meeting all the first-years and kind of figuring out where I fit on the team again.” – Landsittel

Luckily, for Kersting-Mumm and Landsittel, they were met enthusiastically upon their return. The team worked hard to make sure no one was left out after spending time away. 

All the first-years last year, so the sophomores now, were really welcoming and just kind of accepted me for who I was as soon as I got there. I felt right back at home, so it was good for me.” – Landsittel

There is a larger number of freshmen on the team this year than in previous years. Having a greater number of underclassmen on a team can alter the ways in which relationships are formed as it is the duty of upperclassmen, especially captains, to help their younger peers adjust to team customs. When asked about the influx of freshmen on the team this season, the captains responded enthusiastically.

As a diver, it has honestly been so fun and exciting to have all the new freshmen join the team…We were lucky to get a new dive recruit who is amazing and a few walk-ons who have embraced the sport. I think it makes my job more fun as I have more people to practice with and set up times with outside of the pool” – Hall

We got really lucky with this incoming class. They all really want to be involved and really wanted to get to know us and become a part of this team really quickly. So really, it’s been easy and they’ve just made the team so much better.” – Landsittel

In order to further support the relationship between the underclassmen and upperclassmen on the team, the captains created subgroups called “pods” to ensure team bonding. Doing so allowed for relationships to flourish with speed and efficiency, as the pod structure encouraged teammates to meet outside of the pool.

We sat down and brainstormed who should go into which groups, deciding which first year seemed to have things in common with which upperclassmen, and so on. Each pod was [about] three to four first years and a couple seniors and then a junior or sophomore, since they’re much smaller classes. We would get together with our pods, [for example] my pod did a Great British Baking Show themed day and we watched a lot of H2O. I feel like I really got to bond with my pod a lot, and they got to bond with me too. It was a great chance to just get to know some of the underclassmen and even some of the upperclassmen as well that I just didn’t know as well.” – Kersting-Mumm

Like any sports team, the swim and dive members have traditions that they commit to each year that help relationships develop early on. Many of these traditions include both the men’s and women’s teams, as they spend the majority of their time together (both competing and practicing). However, many of the traditions are celebrated separately by the teams. 

We [the women’s teams] started a new tradition called ‘fuzz-giving’, like secret santa, where we exchange fuzzy socks, which is fun. We also do a thing called secret psycher where we get someone on the team a little gift or snack before certain competitions. We reveal the gift-giver at NEWMACs” – Hall

[Secret psycher] can be anything from music recommendations to coffee. Just little things, like little notes cheering your teammate on. It’s just something that the women’s team has done for many years. It’s a really fun way to get to know each other” – Landsittel

Having been to a couple of swim meets myself, I had noticed that there are often posters surrounding the pool deck on which “TL” is written, especially during the final meets of the season. Unaware of the meaning behind these posters, I asked the captains what the posters symbolized.

I believe TL stands for “team love”. It’s a tradition where we shout out someone who did something great. It is a great way to end a meet and highlight someone on the team” – Hall

At the end of every meet, we gather and we give each other TL as a sort of shout out- it’s a recognition of something. Kind of like a kudos. It’s really just a way to acknowledge how people have contributed to the team. I think a lot of people try to use it as a chance to acknowledge the people who don’t get a lot of it. Everybody uses it differently, but for me it’s a chance to make sure people know how much we care about them and how much we appreciate them for what they do for the team and how hard they work” – Kersting-Mumm

The largest tradition that the swim and dive teams commit to is their training trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico during Winter break. All three of the women’s teams captains had attended training trips during past years, and shared excitement about being able to do so again. 

The training trip was such a wonderful experience last year… It was a great time for me to get to know the swimmers better and connect with the whole team. I got some great quality time with many of the swimmers” – Hall

Training trip is definitely a bonding experience. You get to know the entire team, which looks different every year. We get to spend a lot of time together, and it’s great bonding. Any relationships that you had yet to fully form, they’re formed on a training trip.” – Kersting-Mumm

The training trip is not all fun and games though, as the name suggests, as it is a time for each swimmer and diver to train their bodies, and strengthen their abilities within the pool. The team practices everyday in an olympic size pool, much larger than the pool in the Kneller, in order to push their limits. 

Training trip is wonderful, but it’s also overwhelming and stressful. It’s tiring, I mean, you’re getting up at 5:00 every morning and taking either vans or buses to get to the pool, and then you’re swimming for two to two and a half hours. Then, you go back to the pool a few hours later to swim for another two to two and a half hours, do some lifting and then go back for dinner- it’s repeating for an entire week. So it’s grueling, it’s a lot. I think it’s worth it though.” – Landsittel

Hopefully we will see how the swim team has grown after their training trip this year as their season continues. The captains are optimistic for the season, and are looking forward to seeing how the underclassmen step up in the following weeks. 

I think everyone has been doing amazing so far. I would like to see the divers grow in their confidence, they are all talented beyond belief and I am excited to see them continue to flourish at competitions” – Hall

This is the best team I’ve ever been on, and so I’m really looking forward to [the rest of the season]” – Kersting-Mumm

The team has a few meets left this season, with the next one scheduled to occur on January 27 at home in the Kneller Pool against Brandeis University. This meet also serves as “Senior Night” for the team, celebrating the dedication and effort the graduating teammates have put into the team throughout their years. Looking forward to it, as well as the rest of the meets the team will be competing in this season. Swim fast Cougs!

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