When Dennis Ploessel, head coach of Chapman’s swimming and diving team, first arrived at Chapman 20 years ago, the team’s dynamic was very different.
“There have been a lot of changes since then,” Ploessel said. “When I first arrived, there were four female swimmers and seven water polo players. Now we turn away water polo players because we have about 50 come out every year.”
Swim and dive team members’ days start at 6 a.m. with an hour of swimming practice. Then, they head to their classes, before returning to the pool at 2 p.m. to practice for another hour and a half.
“The great thing about Chapman is that it allows you to have a social life and focus on academics too, along with playing a sport,” said sophomore Connor Broughton, co-captain of the swim team. “Swim only demands 10 hours a week right now, so I’m part of the Alpha Kappa Psi fraternity and a mentor at Money Think, a financial literacy program at Orange High School.”
The swim and dive team combines the men’s and women’s team, unlike other sports which are divided and play separately. Their meets generally take place on Saturdays and go from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Southern California area. However, the team sometimes takes long distance road trips.
“We actually took a really cool trip to San Francisco three weeks ago now, to attend an invitational where both the men’s and women’s team came in second,” Broughton said. “We stayed there two nights and it was fun because a lot of the team is from the Bay Area, so their families came out to watch and it was a great bonding experience.”
Due to the large size of the team, co-captains Broughton and junior Mary Welton often plan team-building activities to get the members closer together.
“We’re always trying to find the little things to get people to know each other,” Broughton said. “We planned this game of ‘assassin’ at the beginning of the semester, where you have to find your target on campus and get video proof of that. You keep moving on to your next target until there’s only one person left standing.”
The team also tries to plan at least one activity — like a pasta dinner or taco night — each week.
“We get together and do a team dinner before every meet and sometimes we’ll do beach practice, where instead of coming here to the pool, we hang out at the beach,” Welton said.
According to Broughton, while the team has had support from the community, there is room for improvement.
“A lot of the school spirit has to come from the team itself and we’ve had no home meets yet, so we can’t tell what the turnout would be like,” Broughton said. “In the past, it’s been more families and not as many students, but we’ve always had a small student section at our meets.”
Welton understands why there is not always a high turnout for the team.
“We have a couple of fans here and there, but it’s no way near what other sports get,” she said.
According to Welton, both the swim and dive teams are very supportive of each other. While there is a different captain for the diving team, all three of them share responsibilities and the titles of co-captains.
“One of the divers won the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) and went to regionals last year,” Ploessel said. “This is the best Chapman team we’ve ever had — men and women’s. We will break the majority of school records and score higher in SCIAC than we ever have before. It’s just a really solid team with some good people.”
The team will have its first home meet of the season on Nov. 19.