Not everyone can multitask like the Michigan women’s swimming team can. During the last week of winter break, the Wolverines took on many different roles: They were athletes, competitors and, most importantly, ambassadors.

Every year around this time, the team takes a trip to somewhere tropical for about a week to concentrate entirely on getting into top shape for the final grind of its season. This year, the Wolverines’ annual winter training trip took them to the island of St. Lucia in the Caribbean. There they participated in five days of rigorous training, swam in an exhibition meet against both Notre Dame and some St. Lucia locals and managed to fit in about two days of traveling.

Michigan swimming coach Jim Richardson plans these types of trips every year with two main focuses in mind: intense training and recovery. He loves the idea of having his athletes give complete attention to their conditioning and nothing else. When put into this relaxing environment, they are able to eliminate many stresses they face on an everyday basis during the semester, including going to class and staying up late studying or writing papers. Richardson also gets their undivided attention for a week and can push them to work their hardest and get into the best physical shape.

“We can do a lot of very focused work,” Richardson said. “We are able to do some things technically with people that they can apply without thinking about this exam tomorrow or wherever else their mind may be normally.”

Richardson also emphasizes the team bonding that is an important part of these trips. The athletes travel together and spend a week away from home, living very close to their teammates. They are together constantly for the entire trip, which means they see each other on a much more frequent basis than during the semester. Richardson claims that this sort of intimate and prolonged team exercise gives the Wolverines their identity; it defines them as a team and helps them operate as a team.

Richardson is most proud of the cultural impact that his players had on the people of St. Lucia and the lasting effects the people of St. Lucia had on his athletes.

“Our kids get to see a different place in the world,” Richardson said. “They see people from different parts of the world who don’t live the way they live in some respects. It also gives those people a glimpse of students at Michigan and what they’re about and what this institution is about.”

The people of St. Lucia have a swimming program of their own that helps train native children and teenagers to become more dominant swimmers. Richardson hopes that a visit of this nature could encourage some of these swimmers to be interested in becoming future Wolverines.

This was Michigan’s first time venturing down to St. Lucia, where both Richardson and his swimmers marveled at the extensive swimming facility. Mertha, a popular company that produces pools for the U.S. Olympic trials, manufactured the impressive pool where the Wolverines swam during the week. The resources available in St. Lucia made it a very attractive location for Michigan’s swimming program, but that was not the only incentive for this vacation.

At the exhibition meet in St. Lucia, the Wolverines also got a sneak peak at the Notre Dame swimmers, and they hope it will help this weekend at the Notre Dame Invitational in South Bend.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.