Thursday, February 21, 2008

Losing Your Hair

The 2008 Centennial Conference swimming championships begin Friday at Franklin & Marshall College's Kunkel Aquatic Center. One of the favorites to bring home multiple medals is one of our bloggers - Anne Miller of Swarthmore. Today, Anne talks about the team's preparation for the weekend and the hair-raising (and removing) experience.

Most swimmers look forward to taper all season. For those of you unfamiliar with the term “taper” it means a gradual and beautiful decrease of yardage and increase in time between sets before a big meet. It allows the individual to be rested and at his/her peak the weekend of competition. The change in the water and weight room is exciting and relieving when you’ve been working hard and pushing yourself to the limit all season.

However, it is generally acknowledged that taper is about more than just the physiological benefits. Much of taper and the pre-championship preparation are about being prepared mentally. For many swimmers, and certainly on the Swarthmore swim team, part of the mental preparation involves an obsession with hair. While shaving can reduce drag, it becomes a ritualized and mental tradition for many. Starting a couple of weeks before Conference, guys start to chop off their hair in stages – going from a mohawk to a shaved head, for example. In another tradition involving hair, much of the men’s and women’s team will gather together to dye our hair about a week before the meet. Finally, the night before conferences all over campus, sometimes in small groups, there will be swimmers shaving their legs and in some cases arms and heads. For girls who haven’t shaved since training trip (or in one case Christmas) this is an exciting and freeing moment.

Throughout other preparations for Conferences, whether it be creating a pump up mix with a song picked out by everyone (therefore including songs ranging from Britney Spear’s “Piece of Me,” Bloc Party’s “The Prayer,” “Be a Man” from Mulan, to Daddy Yankee’s “Lo que Paso Paso”), trying on new super-tight suits, or going to dinner as a team, the obsession with hair will not fade.

Editor's Note: Miller finished third in the 500 free in 5:09.96 on Friday night to earn a bronze medal.

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