Monday, October 31, 2011

Band of Brothers: The Almost Inspiring True Story of NDP Boys' Swimming

   “Notre Dame Swim: Stop Laughing.” This was the t-shirt proposed by team captain Jack Poupore during our spirit shirt brainstorming session. For most of the season, I thought Jack was just being funny, but after a futile post to the Dog Pound Facebook page looking for anyone who wanted to come out to our last home meet, I realized that the chances of any sort of student presence at an NDP swim meet were next to none. Mrs. Treadway could not even make it. Ouch.
   It was fitting, because the guys’ swim team at Notre Dame has had their backs up against the wall all season. The average size of a high school swim team is probably around 15-20 kids. NDP started the season with 10. After a week, we were down to nine. It only snowballed from there. We have had some kids, who shall remain nameless, leave due to external conflicts (some things are just better left unsaid), others due to academic issues, and others just because they care more about the things they make in their toilet at night than the swim team.
   To make a long story short, we ended the season with six swimmers. You know what you have when your team is made up of six swimmers (Hint: it is not enough people for two relays, so that is out)? You have a band of freaking brothers, and while I could put more fisticuffs and donnybrooks (look ‘em up) in this article than a story about turf wars, we emerged from these tussles as a swim family.
   Despite this end result, however, I think there was a point for each and every one of us on the team where we absolutely wanted to punch someone else in the mouth (and trust me, a few of us tried). As the only senior, I was deemed immune to any sort of physical abuse (even when the purple-nurples turned into twists of love), and even though I refrained from the bloodshed myself, that does not mean I did not see my fair share of locker room scuffling. All I will tell you is that Joe Starkweather still has a stretch mark on his right pectoral. He would probably show it to you if you asked him (Hey Joe, you are welcome).
   It just occurred to me that this is probably the only connotation where nipple-talk would be appropriate (Yes, I just coined the term “nipple-talk”, feel free to steal it), but after Riley Denton pointed out that us swimmers have seen each other more often shirtless than fully clothed, I do not really feel bad about bringing it up. Dare I digress.
   As the season went on, and our less-than-valiant teammates began to realize that they actually wanted to maintain a social reputation in high school and quit, we hit a turning point as a unit. It is all because of the 500. The longest race in high school, it is twenty laps of a dear-Lord-just-end-me-now funfest (unless you’re Jack Poupore, in which case it’s twenty laps of a why-is-this-sport-so-easy yawner). During an invitational, our 200-free relay missed our race. Coach Brian (“Bri-Bri”, but not to his face . . . well sometimes to his face) was less than pleased, so he decided to slot three of us into the 500 for our next dual meet. That meant that one of us was off the hook. How did we decide? What better way than a good old round of nose-goes. First three people to lose swim the race, simple as that. The final round came down to Jack and I, as it seemed destined to be, and I pulled off the win with the fastest pair of “moose ears” I could throw up. Jack still says he had no idea what moose ears were. I did not know either, I just copied Brian. He could have done a handstand for all I knew.
   Ten minutes later, as I watched my three colleagues dive in, I realized that I was this close to actually feeling bad. I should be in that pool swimming my little life out of me too. That is when I knew: this was a team that had each other’s backs. Props to Jack, Joe, and Riley for swimming that 500. It may not have been the fairest form of punishment, but you guys did it. The mark of a team is a group of people who would be willing to sacrifice for one another, and you guys sacrificed yourselves. You may be thinking that it is pretty easy to say all of this when I am just sitting on the side cheering while I count Joe’s laps for him (He won, by the way. I take no credit), but if I had been swimming I probably would have been thinking more about those freaking moose-ears than my teammates in the lanes next to me.
   But it was not all I learned from my first and only year of high school swimming. Some of it was disturbing, and some of it was hilarious, but it was all memorable. Here are some highlights:

1.       Riley Denton has an extremely weak bladder.
Maybe, maybe not. But this kid went to the bathroom so many times during practice; all I had to do was put two and two together. You could just say he was trying to skip a workout, which is much more likely, but this is more interesting.

2.      Eliot Parker enjoys singing.
We heard him. Every time I hear Avril Lavigne from now on, I will think of him. If you are wondering if that is a good thing, it absolutely is. He is going out for the musical, and everyone should go cheer him on. If he is so much as a backup singer in that thing, consider that a ticket sold to the entire swim team. What a guy.

Emile Kassir has the longest nipple hair I have ever seen. We wanted to cut it for him. Seriously.

Warning: Proceed with caution (and if you are reading this on an iPhone, it is already too late).
Step 1: Copy the bolded lines above.
Step 2: Paste them onto another document.
Step 3: Change the font to anything outside of Wingdings.
Step 4: Remember that I warned you.

I swear the devil made me do it.

4.      Emile Kassir enjoys the 500.
He swam this at the very last meet. We practically had to force him onto the starting blocks. His first words afterward, “I think I’ll do that next year.” He loved it. That is the heart of a true NDP swimmer right there.
It almost makes up for that other one, huh?

5.      Jack Poupore is so incredible, he is receiving a spin-off article entirely in his honor.
Coming soon.

6.      Joe Starkweather is the only person who does not know he is a Native American.
With nicknames that include “Squanto” and “Chief Running Water”, I do not understand how he has not accepted what is clearly his true heritage. Just look at the guy. If it was not for Sebastian Rodriguez-Wakim, he would have had the darkest complexion on the team. He says he is white; everyone else disagrees.

   There you are. That is your final 6, including myself. We had one victory all year, but that was against a Coronado team that was more than double our numbers (a couple of those kids on Coronado looked more like small boats than swimmers, but they say a win is a win). Despite this, we celebrated that win, because at the end of the day we just did not want to be those kids who never did anything.
   Well, we sure did something. We created a unit that managed to hang tough in a stormy season. We saw our fair share of struggles, and while some we swept aside more gracefully than others, they all built character. At the beginning of the season, I was seriously concerned that being the only senior was going to be a problem, and I could not have been more wrong (it probably bailed me out of a ton of pranks and other shenanigans anyway).
   This year’s swim team was one that I will never forget, because we were a family. Some of us might not have worn Speedos, some of us might not have used a cap, and some of us might have even painted our nails during a meet, but none of us quit, none of us backed down, and none of us cared what the rest of the world thought of a few guys swimming for fun. Even through all of the bickering, dead-arms, and missed relays, we were a band of brothers to be sure.
   But seriously, stop laughing.

There’s that infamous 200 free relay. Daswick, Poupore, Starkweather, and Denton. I still don’t know who I’m waving to in this.


  1. considering were family and all, I'm a little ashamed to say that reading your blog is the only way I know about what is going on in your life. But I must say, we all knew you'd be a writer! This is amazing, and I'm glad to see/hear (read)that your swimming again. It must be something in the Swanson/Daswick gene pool.

  2. Tyler Daswick. The Dazzler. The writer. The source.

    Great Blog!


    Coach Bri Bri

  3. Coaching high school swimming this year has been a little nostalgic, often hilarious, sometimes discouraging but overall a pretty amazing experience for me. So, obviously as the days continue to pass at the speed of light I have been thinking about the approaching end of the season and how much I am going to miss (although questionable) this aforementioned “Band of Brothers”. While Tyler mocked that the NDP men (also, questionable) have adopted an embarrassed version of the Marine mentality “The Few, The Proud”, I think that there is actually a shameless collective attitude that each of you brings to the pool everyday… or in Riley Denton’s case, as often as he felt like showing up.

    If I could sum up each of these “brothers” it would go a little more like this…

    E Mile.
    Emile is like Grumpy. Yes, I am referring to the dwarf. He was a little standoff-ish and rather cold at first, maybe intentionally and perhaps not… and like Grumpy, he wanted nothing to do with this chick that had suddenly made herself a part of his life. Once it was established that I was trying to make a nickname by saying “e-mile” and not just being verbally incompetent I feel like it all changed. I found that Emile really wanted nothing more than to be a contributing member of the team. I mean, he did take it fairly well (NOT) when I volun-told him that it was indeed his time to shine in the notorious 500 freestyle, but he has promised to “come to my rescue” next year when we need a man to put in the 500.

    Elliott Parker.
    Elliott is like the main character in a movie called Once. The main character sells vacuum cleaners by day and sings by night (which has no literal correlation, obviously) and sort of just follows his own beat. I respect Elliott for this. For having the tenacity to put up with the other members of his “band”. While the others played with each other underwater in land 7 (cough, cough, Jack…) he swam in his lane and gave swimming all he had to give.

    Riley Denton.
    Dennis the Menace. Hands down. To give an example, Riley spent one entire day at the skate park because he would rather have stayed there than come to swimming… a penchant for mischief! After many a missed practice, lots of after school detention and a few other speed bumps, Riley got his head in the game and decided he was going to prove to all of us that he could not just talk the talk, but walk the walk. Breaking 25 in a 50? Never thought I’d see it! Did it happen? Abso-fricken-lutely! So why, Dennis you ask? Cause you have to hate liking the kid, but you just do!

  4. Joe.
    Maybe you’ve seen the movie Swingers and maybe you haven’t. Joe is Mike. And I don’t mean in the sad, pathetic way that Mike is in the movie, but in the way that he just doesn’t know how money he is. Joe is hands down one of the best people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. He works hard and has fun doing it. He just needs to believe in himself the way that his teammates and his coaches do. You’re money, Joe. Go mess those people up at state! You’re a monster!

    I think that when it comes to swimming, Jack ran the gamut. Somedays we’d get Tyler Durden… somedays we’d get Ron Burgundy. What we never did get that I would have loved to see was Rocky... why settle for as good as you are when you can be the best? At first I was a little annoyed at Tyler’s summation of Jack, as I felt they should not put his “play first, work later (if I get around to it)” mentality on a pedestal, but Jack really is their little leader. He loves them all and they all love him. And, if there was anything that I regret at all from this season it would be to not have reigned in Jack’s talent. He has all the talent in the world at his fingertips. Don’t let him fool you.
    P.S. You better swim next year, you big bully.

    The Dazzler.
    I was hoping to stay away from clichés in my response, but I think that I would peg Tyler as Mel Gibson in Braveheart. Tyler is more of the heart and soul of this team than he is willing to admit. We got apologies from him when the team missed their relay cause he felt like he should have been more responsible. True? Maybe. What I do know is that he led them fiercely for the rest of the season, sans blue face paint. I will miss you tons…

    Although it seems that the most important part of swimming this year for your so-called brotherhood was the way you became a family, for me it was watching that all happen and getting to (somehow) be involved in that process. So thank you.
    Thank you, Emile for trying new things.
    Thank you, Elliott, for staying through tough times.
    Thanks Riley, for proving me wrong.
    Thank you, Joe, for your wanting to do better.
    Jack, you’re a pain in the ass.
    Thank you, Tyler, for being a leader. In the pool. Out of the pool. On the deck. In the locker room. At school. And in all of our hearts.

    Saints on three…