Saturday January 19, 2013

Having good swimmers is obviously critical to having a successful team. Having a lot of swimmers, while not quite as critical, can also be important.

Just ask Pittsfield swim coach Jim Harrington. The Generals currently are able to field swimmers for every event and run multiple relay teams. It wasn't more than five years ago when he only had two boys on his roster.

"They got to choose pretty much whatever they want to swim," said Harrington. "Secondly, it's all about focusing on their personal improvement versus team scores.

"It's got benefits in that fashion."

The Monument Mountain boys team, for example, consists of seven racers. Individually, they are all quality competitors. It can make winning meets against teams, especially in six-lane pools, a little more problematic, though. That's because the Spartans, or other small teams like the Hoosac Valley or New Lebanon boys, might only be able to field one team for a particular relay event.

"It's nice to have a moderately small team," said Monument swimmer Derrek Rueger. "I know for a fact that eight to seven makes that much of a difference. Eight is still a small number, but it lets you make two relay [teams]."

"It's always good to have more kids, and I hope that more kids join every year," said Monument swimmer Will Palmer. "It gets tough when you face teams that have more resources, and the points add up."

Take Tuesday's meet at the Pittsfield Boys and Girls Club for example. When Pittsfield and Monument met at Simon's Rock earlier in the season, Pittsfield had an easier win because of the six-lane pool. On Tuesday, Pittsfield beat Monument in the final relay to clinch the victory.

Palmer said that the small team does help with camaraderie and bonding. Monument head coach Jill Svirida said it can help in training.

"The benefit of it is that in practices, there are [fewer] kids in lanes and they can get more individual attention from myself and my staff," she said.

Harrington said one of the disadvantages, other than just counting points, is when a small team falls behind. That makes it difficult to catch up, and he said that could keep some swimmers from hitting outstanding times.

"Kids really excel when there's a team score that's close and they know that their swim is going to impact the team's outcome of a win or loss," said Harrington. "That's really where you see a lot of kids come up with times that they might never come up with, just because they want to go fast."

Being on a smaller team can be for a swimmer like going to a buffet for dinner -- you don't just order one item. The Monument swimmers, for example, get to do a lot.

"They get to do a lot of different events, and I try to mix them up as much as possible so that they can develop a range and be a strong, overall swimmer instead of always swimming the same two events," said Svirida.

Palmer smiled when the topic of swimming multiple events came up. He said that he truly likes doing it. Palmer said that in a tight meet, he might just swim his best strokes. There are numerous times that he might get to go into the water in a stroke that isn't his strength.

"I have had the opportunity to swim, I think at this point, every event except for one. That's really great," he said. "Everyone needs to chip in and be good at all the events. I think that's what makes a good swimmer."

To reach Howard Herman:
hherman@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman.