New season, new attitudeSimonson emphasizes encouragement in first year at the helm of Red Wing swimming program
By: Ryan Nilsson, The Republican Eagle
Each day at practice members of the Red Wing girls swimming program are expected to offer 10 compliments to their teammates. It's a stipulation of first-year coach Jeff Simonson.
Since practice began Aug. 17, Simonson has preached the importance of positive encouragement and a cheery disposition.
"We're going to leave all of our troubles outside of the pool and we're gonna come here and we're gonna practice hard every day," Simonson said. "We're gonna be happy doing it and that's the winning recipe."
The Wingers will go for the first win of the Simonson era Thursday at River Falls. The meet is scheduled to start at 6 p.m.
Simonson, who also coaches the Red Wing Swim Club, admitted that when he was swimming at Red Wing and Gustavus Adolphus College he might have mocked such a feel-good approach.
"My coaches never really came out and said, 'All right, I want you to give 10 compliments,'" Simonson said. "We would have fun with that."
However, his swimmers seem to have embraced the call for an upbeat environment at the Twin Bluff Middle School pool.
"This year everyone is going the extra 110 percent to be positive," sophomore Abbey Schnaith said.
The 10-compliment-per-day requirement is part of the reason for the change, but the team's three senior captains — Graci Gorman, Michaela Holm and Maura Walsh — said there was another. They noted that Simonson's affirmations are contagious.
It's not hard for the swimmers to envision how all the encouragement will help them this season.
"In practice when people are encouraging you, you work harder," Walsh said. "It'll pay off. You'll perform better in the meets."
Added Gorman: "The disappointments aren't going to be as big of a deal."
Simonson also has instituted a new focus at practice. Instead of concentrating on yardage, the Wingers are working on sprints.
The shift is tailored to the composition of a high school swim meet. The longest event is the 500-yard freestyle. Of the remaining individual events, two are 200 yards, four are 100 yards and one is 50 yards.
"We're gonna cater to the lineup, the events we've been given," Simonson said. "We are gonna sprint all season long so that when we get to the end we know what that's all about."
Red Wing returns several swimmers with state tournament experience.
Schnaith finished third in the 50 free with an All-American consideration time and fifth in the 100 back last season.
Including her relays, Schnaith had a hand in 78 of Red Wing's 114.5 points at the Class A meet.
Gorman, Holm, Walsh and senior Kirstin Bigelbach also swam at the 2008 state meet and helped Red Wing finish sixth.
After one week of practice, though, the state meet isn't the top priority.
"Mainly, we're all just trying to cheer each other on and see if everyone can individually drop time," Schnaith said. "I think that's the main goal, for everyone to drop time this year."
Among Red Wing's four divers, freshman Jessica Kolsky is the leader. She is the only returning diver who competed at the Missota Conference and Section 1A meets last season.
"She's super positive," Red Wing diving coach Carrie Hansen said. "She has real good leadership for somebody who's quite young."