SouthLake is swimming and bonding equally
by Staff Writer
by Cliff Mehrtens
It’s as much a family as it is a swim team.
The SouthLake Christian boys and girls swim teams, coached by Gary Anderson, foster an attitude of fun and sportsmanship. They’re also some pretty good swimmers.
The Eagles girls have finished first in all five meets this season, and each meet includes five or six other schools. The SouthLake boys have finished first twice and second three times.
More important to Anderson is the feeling of unity that exists.
“We’re very, very team-oriented,” he said. “We don’t allow any of our kids to leave the water (during races) until all the other swimmers are finished.”
All the SouthLake swimmers cheer for their teammates during races. They also encourage and congratulate swimmers from other teams.
No Eagle swimmer slinks into the stands and slips on headphones, waiting for their next event. It’s a definite all-for-one attitude.
“If you’re not swimming,” Anderson said, “then you’re cheering. It’s a very positive experience for the team.”
When the swimmers are on the bus, no electronic devices are allowed. The music, videos and phone calls can wait. Anderson said the swimmers talk, which helps create camaraderie, and they concentrate on their swimming during the ride.
“My whole goal is, yes, you want to be good swimmers, but it’s for them to be a team,” Anderson said. “Years down the road, that’s what they’re going to remember. Sure, they’ll remember certain races, but they’ll remember who swam in the relay with them and the dynamics of it.”
Anderson said two team events that have become good memory-makers are the senior dinner at the state meet and the boys’ leg-shaving.
Each senior gives a speech at a dinner during the state meet each year, and
Anderson said they “share their heart, and we’re all laughing and crying at the same time.”
The leg-shaving involves – and this is with chaperones always on hand – the girl swimmers shaving the boys’ legs before the meet. Anderson said it’s always a noisy, fun exercise, and the boys actually feel they swim faster with less resistance created by the shaving.
“The bonds those things create last a lifetime,” Anderson said. “They never forget that.”
The boys team is swimming well, despite not having any juniors or seniors. SouthLake Christian lost five seniors from last year’s squad, and several other swimmers transferred. Sophomores John Baker and Joseph Bryant have been the boys’ largest point producers. They’re the lone sophomores, and the rest of the squad is freshmen and 8th-graders, including standout freshman Austin Meletiou.
The girls team is led by seniors Brittany Bisese and Ashton Rotella, junior
Moriah Anderson (the coach’s daughter) and freshman Taylor Harkey.
Anderson dealt with the lack of senior leadership by going to his captains, and top-level swimmers, and telling them they needed to lead. It worked.
“They have risen to the occasion,” he said. “They’re always making sure the other swimmers are ready. They get the relay swimmers together, things like that.”
Moriah Anderson said she enjoys the closeness among the swimmers.
“It’s more like a family, where everybody knows each other,” she said. “We’re not like club swimmers. We have freshmen and beginners, and we’re all together.”
She also said it’s cool to be in the water and hear teammates cheering as she’s racing. Anderson competes in the 100-year breast stroke, 50-yard freestyle, medley relay and freestyle relay.
Gary Anderson said the goals are somewhat different at a Christian school.
“The headmaster, Mr. (C. Wayne) Parker, every year thanks me and then asks ‘Did you represent the Lord?,’” Anderson said. “When you were on that pool deck, did everybody know there was something different about us?”