Credit Cavaliers for diving in

Published 9:17 pm Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It’s relatively easy for an athlete to find a healthy amount of motivation when he or she plays, or is looking forward to playing, in front of a big crowd.

As with Lakeland’s football success this fall, a couple of wins leads to classmates and folks around town being excited, which leads to the players being more excited, which often leads to greater success.

It’s also easy to be motivated when the team has a good shot at winning — perhaps not banners and trophies — but at least winning some games through the course of a season.

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Going out for a team, with tons of hard work being part of the bargain, while being virtually assured of being shorthanded is a trying test, and it’s what Lakeland’s brand-new swim team has faced in its first competitions against fellow Southeastern District schools.

Most of the Chesapeake schools have well-established swim programs with third- and fourth-string participants available for most events.

The Cavaliers, with only 22 swimmers bold enough to join up for the inaugural squad, can’t yet fill out each event.

Even city rival King’s Fork, itself now four seasons into a swimming program, has built up to the point of fielding two or three foursomes per relay.

On traditional squads, the expectation all of the swimmers, if they have hopes of ever climbing the ranks of their own team, is to swim through at least some of the offseason, if not year-around.

At this point, Lakeland head coach Heather Gastrell counts less than a handful of Cavs who have been on organized, competitive swim clubs before diving straight into a varsity meet. One of her goals has been building up some of her swimmers to be able to complete, and then compete in, certain strokes and distances.

If this weren’t enough to drive away most kids from trying out for team, practices require a 40-minute round trip for an hour of pool time, at the Franklin YMCA, three afternoons a week.

It reminds me of the old ice-hockey routine of a friend I know who’s from north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

With serious thanks to Mom and Dad, at least until age 16, for driving at such an insane hour — and often in a Lake Erie winter, to boot — it became habit to be at a rink on the ice at 4 a.m., on the dot, for reserved ice time.

This wasn’t actually hockey practice. It was the time needed to skate and stay in shape for actual hockey practice in the afternoon or evening after school.

Lakeland’s swim team will grow and improve in the next few seasons. Hopefully that will happen in time for some of the current Cavs to add a few wins to the pride they always should keep for building a new sport at their school.