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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

A new beginning for Brandeis swimming

Published: September 6, 2012
Section: Sports

The Brandeis swim team returns on Sept. 24 after a two-year hiatus, giving senior Brandeis swimmers their sport back and Brandeis a source of pride.

“Brandeis has had a history of swimming since the late 1960s. I call this Brandeis swimming 2.0,” Head Swim Coach Mike Kotch said.

Two years ago, the Brandeis pool was shut down and has since undergone massive renovations. First-years who came to Brandeis for swimming in 2009 were met with an unpleasant surprise when they found themselves unable to swim. Holly Spicer ’13 recalls her frustration.

“It was really hard when the pool shut down,” Spicer said. “A lot of the reason I came to Brandeis was because of swimming and that swim team family. It was really hard when they cut it to not have my sport or that group of people. It is hard for us to not do what we love.”

Today, Spicer and the five other senior class swimmers are all sharing a leadership position on the reborn team. While none of the seniors are officially captains, Spicer comments that “We are all working together to help run the captains’ practices and team events, and I think that’s the way it is going to stay.”

Kotch claims these seniors are an asset. “We rely on them for educating the first-years about the Brandeis way of life,” he said.

Kotch, hired in 2011, has been recruiting incoming first-years for swimming since the opening of the pool was announced.

A total of nine first-years have been recruited, from which Kotch gathers, “There’s a lot of excitement and enthusiasm.”

Spicer comments, “It is exciting to have a lot of new talent coming in.”

Kotch does admit that there were some challenges in recruiting first-years to what was, at the time, a non-existent team. He played on Brandeis’ academic strengths as a “common bond” and mentioned the history of the team. “It was hard to talk to the first-years about shutting the pool down, but I really encouraged them to just move forward.”

To avoid the imbalance of having only seniors and first-years on the team, some sophomores and juniors involved in the swimming team have been allowed to walk onto this varsity sport. Spicer believes that these are the students who were “willing to work really hard and be a part of the team. They were dedicated enough when they joined the club program.”

Kotch said that they were careful when accepting students because, “Swimming is a varsity sport. We did want to build our culture and foundation and let our talent evolve over time, but we were careful with walk-ons. We can’t take everyone.”

Kotch commented that women and men have swim practice together, for he believes that “swimming is one of the sports women can be in at the same level as men. The women are even tougher.”

What the swim team brings back to Brandies on Sept. 24 is more than just another athletic event.

“We have an opportunity to be a source of pride for the institution,” Kotch said.