It's in the Kick
UNH Women’s Swimming and Diving Team heads to America East 2012 Championships
The sound is like thunder. Swasey pool churns with white foam. The UNH women’s swim team is doing a kick drill. All at once the team turns off the wall and suddenly it’s silent as 21 swimmers streamline underwater, then it begins again as they stitch back and forth, lap after lap.
Scrutinizing every move is Joshua Willman, head coach of UNH Women’s Swimming and Diving for the past 20 years. Named Coach of the Year 12 times—10 by the America East Conference and 2 by the Eastern Conference Athletic Association (ECAC)—under his direction the team has won six conference championships, including the 2011 ECAC team title. Notably, UNH swimmers have set 73 America East records and 17 ECAC, and the team consistently qualifies as an Academic All America team.
“Technique? Well, it’s not all about the arms anymore,” Willman says. “People used to think that kicking didn’t matter so much, now it’s seen as a significant propulsive force. Core body strength is fundamental as well. Also the short axis strokes, breaststroke and butterfly, are flattening out. ”
On Thursday, February 23-26, the team heads to BU for the 2012 America East championships. Seventeen swimmers and three drivers will compete; eight are first-year students. “We’ve done really well so far,” Willman says. “We’ve won all of our meets except for two.”
Willman is known for his ability to bring out the best in each athlete: “For me coaching is a partnership. I get to know each athlete and learn what really works for her.”
Swimmers, Willman notes, have learning styles that range from audio to visual to kinesthetic. As he puts it, “Some swimmers just train into a technique.
“I tell the team a workout is not a list you check off. It’s like a puzzle, you have to engage yourself in thinking about what that practice is supposed to accomplish.”
Team captain and exercise science major, Jessica Little from Ontario, Canada, is one of several international recruits. She swims breaststroke and individual medley (IM).
“It takes a very dedicated person to be a member of this team,” Little says. “But, for me, every second has been worth it. Our team is young, and we're expecting great things from everyone!”
Photos: first year Katie Mann. From top right: head coach Joshua Willman, sophomore Jenna Bull and Mann cheer the team, junior Ellen Pelletier, team huddle.
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Written by Carrie Sherman, Editorial and Creative Services. Photo of Joshua Willman by Doug Kapustein. All other images by Greg Green.