This fall, if you asked an Iowa Hawkeye swimmer who their captain was, they might ask you for the date.
This season, Hawkeye coach Marc Long and his staff instituted a ‘Captains for the Meet’ system for the first semester, with the team voting each week on who would represent them as captain come competition time.
“We’ve done captains differently in the past,” Long said. “This year we thought it would be good to try meet captain votes for the fall semester. Then at our training camp [over winter break], we voted on captains for the rest of the year.”
Long said the votes produced a wide range of meet captains early on before the team eventually came to a midseason consensus and named Elise Borja, Lindsay Seemann, Kyle Noser and Grant Betulius as full-time captains to close out the season.
Inspiration for the idea came from well outside the pool – several other Hawkeye athletic programs work with a captains-by-game system coupled with a leadership council for more consistent, stable leadership. The Iowa football program is one high-profile example.
“I went outside of our sport to see what others were doing,” Long said, and decided to adopt the idea of captains by meet as well as a leadership council for the Swimming and Diving program in 2013-2014.
“We don’t want to vote captains just to vote captains,” Long said. “We don’t want it to be a social chair position.” He said the new process allowed the team to see various athletes put their leadership into action throughout the season so the team could think more deeply about what they wanted and needed in their captains.
“Ultimately, we’re trying to produce great leaders, and people that will be able to use those skills in the future with their careers and adult lives.”
Long said the captains-by-meet idea is still developing in its first year in practice, but will likely continue to have some effect on the way Iowa selects its leaders in the future.
“We’ve got a lot of data from this year, and we’re still not sure what it all means,” he said. “It’s still very much a work in progress, but we think we’ll use at least a modified form of the idea moving forward.”
SwimSwam also got to talk with Long about Iowa’s still sparkly-new swimming and diving facility, which opened just over three years ago. Earlier this winter, Iowa was announced as host of the men’s 2015 NCAA Championships, and will also host the Big Ten Championships that season.
“It’s a very exciting process,” Long said. “When we were designing the new facility, we had it in mind that we’d like to host big meets like that, but you never know if you’ll get the bid or not. We’re very happy that we do get to host an NCAA championship meet next year.”
Iowa’s is an interesting pool, with a very new and polished look, but also a feel of a classic dual meet pool like the old Iowa Fieldhouse pool the team left in 2010.
“We wanted a tight feeling and a real grandstand feeling to the new pool as opposed to just a few rows of seating,” Long said. “We tried to work that into the design and I think it really came through in the new facility.”
The pool is already beginning some preparation for the big meets it’ll host in one calendar year, working on updates to starting platforms and planning spaces for athlete amenities like hospitality stations and ice baths. Iowa has some experience to fall back on after hosting the men’s and women’s Big Ten Championships in 2012.
The Iowa men and women travel to Notre Dame this weekend for the Shamrock Invitational, which will be the second-to-last meet for the Hawkeyes before post-season swimming begins with the Big Ten Championships in late February.
“Our women have really been coming together this season,” said Long. “We’ve worked hard on raising expectations in competitions, and it’s been nice to come out with some dual meet wins.”
“On the men’s side, we set up the toughest dual meet schedule really in modern history, starting with #1 Michigan on the road. I think that schedule has really prepared us well for what we’ll see at the end of the year.”
The Shamrock Invite is a 3-session event in South Bend that Long said should help his team prepare for the coming multi-session championship meets.
“The Big Ten is as deep as ever – that’s what makes it exciting and challenging. I really can’t sit here and predict where anything will come out in the conference. Our main goal is to be scoring points at the NCAA Championships, so we’ll have to swim well at Big Tens to give ourselves that chance.