Attitude adjustment serves swim team well

By By Jon Gilbert

By Jon Gilbert

After every practice and every weight training session, the Utes gather together and end their meeting with a team yell. Popular choices include “Go, Utes!” and “Conference Champs!”

These Utes don’t wear shoulder pads or dunk basketballs.

They perfect backstrokes in the pool and somersaults off of a diving board.

The Utah swimming and diving team is embracing a whole new attitude under first-year coach Greg Winslow. They’re hoping that attitude will take their performance to the next level.

“We are trying to create a team atmosphere for an individual sport,” Winslow said.

Winslow arrived in Utah in late June after serving four years at Arizona State University as an assistant coach. Now in his first collegiate head-coaching gig, Winslow is shaking things up a bit.

“He brought the team together and formed us into a united team,” junior Marco Ferraro said. “We care for each other and help each other through rough practices — something that we didn’t have before.”

Rough practices haven’t been the only bonding experience for the athletes. Winslow required every swimmer and diver to learn Utah’s fight song, “Utah Man,” and sing it in front of the whole team to earn his or her equipment.

No one received so much as a swimming cap before the vocal audition was passed.

“We’re trying to instill school pride,” Winslow said.

Winslow is also pushing the team to focus on the Mountain West Conference, said Ferraro.

“The dual meets within the season are here to improve our race tactics, boost our confidence and put us in a racing environment,” he said.

Those experiences are designed to prepare the team for conference competition. Competing in the MWC last season had mixed results.

After breezing through an undefeated season in dual meets, the women’s team tripped up in the MWC Championships for a second-place finish after taking the crown the year before. The men’s team pushed through an up-and-down year and finished fifth in the MWC Championships.

This season, both sides are looking to do more. One way of getting to the conference’s pinnacle is to become a team through a common outlook.

“Our major focus has been on team attitude,” Winslow said. “We are working on a sense of community.”

Winslow seems to have things moving in the right direction. Ferraro referred to the team as a “big family.”

The team has been paired off into a pseudo-buddy system. Each athlete is responsible for understanding his or her partner’s goals. Also, they need to know how they are coming along in accomplishing those goals, Winslow said.

Success in swimming and diving still comes when individuals perform well. Winslow hasn’t let that notion go by the wayside.

“The practices are tailored to every swimmer individually,” Ferraro said. “This is a very hard task if you have 40 individuals on the team.”

Nevertheless, the task is being completed with the help of leaders on the team.

Winslow said that sophomore Annie VanLeeuwen has bought into his system and her individual performances lead by example.

“At this point, she would jump off a cliff if we asked her to,” he said.

Adam Oliver and Michel DeCarolls have provided leadership for the men’s team. Oliver and Winslow have worked together in past years at different levels of competition.

Ferraro, named to the all-MWC team last season in the 1650 free, must also help Winslow put his system into place.

Winslow has picked up most of his motivational techniques from his past coaches and mentors. When it comes down to it, he just wants his team to have fun.

“They seem to be pretty excited and having fun at practice,” Winslow said. “Having fun and being good go hand-in-hand.”

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Jarad Reddekopp

Coach Greg Winslow instructs members of the Utes swim team on how to improve their technique.