Recreational Swimming or Varsity Sport?

by Jessica Saunders '16

by Jessica Saunders ’16

 The swimming program at Groton School started a mere seven years ago, when Coach Carol Smith asked whether she was allowed to borrow the recreational pool—built in 1998 with the intent that it be used solely for recreation, as it is too small to host a swimming meet—to start a swimming program. The program has grown much since then, and its athletes, much like all other winter athletes, push themselves to do better each day at practice. They compete hard in a few meets each year, leading the program to be recognized by Groton with a varsity letter. However, swimming still faces with the question: do its athletes deserve varsity letters?

For one thing, there is the aforementioned problem that when the Groton swimming pool was first constructed, it was designed to serve a recreational purpose only and not a competitive one. It is too small to host invitationals, a major issue compounded by the fact that the Independent School League does not include swimming as one of its sports. Thus, Groton swimming competes only in the larger NEPSAC, resulting in large gaps of time between meets. In fact, though swimming has meets against local swim clubs and high schools like the Nashoba Aquatics Club and the Mystic Valley High School, swim meets usually happen only once every three weeks, meaning that on most weekends the swim team is free. Being on a varsity sport is a major time commitment, which the members of the swim team do not have to make.

In addition, the swim team is available as an afternoon activity for all students, regardless of ability or experience in the pool; to get onto the varsity swim team requires no try-out, and there are no “lower teams” such as JV or Thirds in other sports, where less experienced athletes can go to develop their skills. Swim team captain Hadley Stack’14 argues, “Swimming should be a varsity sport because it is an incredible work out.” But as a comparison, such afternoon activities as strength and conditioning, or even the recently started rugby FSA are just as physically intense as swimming. Gates McGavick ’15, the starter of the Groton Rugby Association, doesn’t believe that the rugby team has earned a varsity letter, due to the lack of interscholatic competition. So  should swimming deserve one?

This is not to bash the hardworking and talented swimmers of Groton; there is simply no merit for the program to give out varsity letters yet. In order for swimming to become a legitimate varsity sport, it needs to play other ISL schools, have tryouts, and have more athletes in its program. With these requisites fulfilled, it will convincingly settle the question of whether Groton swimmers should be awarded a varsity letter.

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