Minutemen, Minutewomen have time off from competition before heading to Puerto Rico

By Nick Bellofatto

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As the semester draws to a close, the Massachusetts swimming and diving teams are not only practicing 20 hours a week, but are also studying and working academically to finish the semester on a high note.

Minutewomen coach Bob Newcomb explained that with this burden of finals week, the coaches must work hard to get the swimmers in the pool as much as they can.

“We really try to keep them in the water as much as we can while balancing around their academic needs and we have a pretty elaborate exam week schedule where they can come when possible,” Newcomb said.

The word focus is consistent with the values of the swim team as a whole, as both head Newcomb and UMass men’s coach Russ Yarworth stress the value of being mentally focused for competition.

Yarworth explained that this focus is not only instilled on the swimmers when they are competing, it also correlates to their exam week.

“I do not want these kids mentally focusing for a competition style this week, they [have] got to focus on their academics and those types of things,” Yarworth said.

At the end of finals week, both swim teams have one last practice next Saturday and then head home for a 10-day holiday break.

Both Yarworth and Newcomb felt the same way about those 10 days, because it is imperative for the athletes to continue their training while not under the supervision of the program.

“They’ve got to make sure they continue to work out at home because they can essentially lose everything that they have managed to do over the course of the semester just by going home sitting and eating and doing all that stuff,” Newcomb said.

The coaches understand that the lack of access to pools and other common training methods is a big part of the problem, but it is up to the swimmers to make do with what they have at their disposal.

In such a situation where the athletes are training 20 hours a week and competing on the weekends, the sport can take a real toll on the body.

“They definitely need some rest, their bodies are pretty beat up right now and after finals they will be mentally beat up too,” Yarworth said.

Both the men and the women will get some rest during those 10 days spanning Christmas, but come Dec. 28, they are back in the Joseph Rogers Pool. With only four days of what Yarworth called “re-entry,” the swimmers train until Jan. 2 and then head to Puerto Rico for 10 days of competition.

“We need to re-enter and get them back into training mode,” Yarworth said. “Then we can get them mentally back into training mode and that is when the focus and concentration for competition gets going again.”

The trip to Puerto Rico is an alumni-funded event that allows the students to enjoy the nice hotel, great pool and beautiful weather. Even with the change of setting, the swimmers are still working hard, lifting and training for a different style of competition then they are used to.

“The big difference is it is a 50-meter Olympic sized facility and this takes different types of training that requires a higher stress level,” Newcomb said. “Because of this, we must be very careful we do not overtrain them at this meet.”

As soon as the swimmers get back from their trip, they train back at UMass for a few days and then head to the Rhode Island Innovational on Jan. 14.

After winter break, UMass has eight weeks left before the Atlantic 10 tournament.

“We want to hit the ground running in those last eight weeks, continue to get better and bring that mental focus along the way with us,” Newcomb said.

Nicholas Bellofatto can be reached at [email protected]