GREENSBORO - Hard work and preparation goes into gearing up for competition in any sport, but the North Carolina A&T swimming team has the paperwork to show the effort and thought they have put into the last six weeks of training.
Each swimmer has to complete a Meet Goals worksheet, specifying their goal times, stroke count, breathing pattern, focus points and race strategies prior to each race. At their season 6 p.m., season opener Friday at Corbett Sports Center against Campbell University, they will see how close they were able to come to their first meet goals.
"What you put in ink, you tend to think about it more," said Head Coach Shawn Hendrix, who has been utilizing the Meet Goals worksheet as a learning tool for the past four years.
The goal of the worksheets is to help give the swimmers ways to self-evaluate, strategize races, and keep focused on how to best keep trimming seconds off the clock. The end goal of all regular season competition is to get the best time possible to report for the CCSA Championships, which will be held in February.
"The clock never lies," Hendrix said. "The clock will always tell me what you have and haven't done. The clock holds you accountable."
These worksheets help N.C. A&T swimmers learn how to analyze their performance, learn from any obstacles or challenges, and be accountable for their efforts in the pool. If the Aggies don't meet their goals, they can use the worksheet to figure out where they can improve. If they surpass their goals, they can set new ones.
"It's all about doing the small things," Hendrix said. "If you're continuously and consistently doing the small things, it prepares you for the big opportunities."
These Meet Goal worksheets are going to be a great tool for the 2011-12 squad, especially since it's the youngest Hendrix has led in her 13 seasons with the program, featuring eight sophomores, a freshman and three walk-on athletes in a 13-person roster.
The team will be missing senior Jasmine Gurley, who was the club's strongest backstroke swimmer. She will not be serving on the team this year, after being elected Miss A&T earlier in the spring.
"It's been pretty challenging having that senior not here, but she's serving the University in another capacity, in a really positive way," Hendrix said.
New to the team this season are walk-on swimmers LaBraya Milton, Jacquline Maxwell, and Aleah Rosario. Among the 10 ladies who attended an interest meeting earlier this fall, those three were the swimmers who followed through with tryouts.
"All three are enthusiastic and hungry to gain knowledge and experience," Hendrix said, adding that she anticipates huge developmental growth spurts from them as the season progresses.
Returning this season are senior Carolyn Pratt, junior Lauren Bowling, and sophomores Erika Eisenman, Christian Hill, Courtney Jefferson, Akaela McGinty, Aarin Miles and Courtney Wilkins. Freshman Danielle Jackson and sophomore Sara Simmons will round out the swimming team this season.
Hendrix is expecting this season to be a development year for the program due to the youth on the roster, but is excited about the strides each swimmer has made to date, and about the growth she has seen in team communication and camaraderie.
"The advantages of being a small team is that you all become really close," Hendrix said, adding that having a smaller roster also means swimmers learn life skills such as flexibility, by competing in events not suited toward their primary races. "The disadvantage of being small is that if one person is sick, it dramatically affects the rest of us. There's more accountability with us than with a bigger team."
And the Aggies will be facing plenty of bigger teams this season. A majority of their opponents in the CCSA are larger Division I schools. Because they are larger teams, opponents can fill out more lanes in more heats, giving them an edge in generating more team points in meets.
The Aggies will compete in three meets before attending the Highlander Invitational at Radford from November 17-19. They will host Radford at Corbett Sports Center in their only other home meet on January 20, 2012. They will compete at Campbell on January 27 before the CCSA Duals and Championships.
But because each school in the conference is working to get the best times for the championships, Hendrix explained that the Aggies don't get absorbed into what other teams have, but focus more on perfecting their own skills.
"If you consistently compete with yourself, you are going to improve," she said.