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Notre Dame designates swimming as club sport

| Tuesday, September 6, 2016

When Kevin Best came to college, one of the first things he did was head to the pool. After swimming every day in high school, it just seemed like the natural thing to do.

“There’s way more people who swim at Notre Dame than you would think,” Best, now a junior, said. “There’s way more people who swim at Notre Dame than I would have ever thought.”

This community of swimmers — once an informal group of people bonded by a love for the sport — now has an official name: the Notre Dame Swim Club.

The club received official recognition from the Student Activities Office (SAO) beginning this academic year. Swimmers trekked out to the Rockne Memorial pool Monday for the inaugural practice.

Best, the club’s president, said more than 100 students signed up at the team’s stand at Activities Night.

“I think one of the really good things about this is all of our freshmen have this built-in community that they can go to — something we’ve always been used to having with our swim teams,” he said.

The club holds practices five days a week; they might add an extra one once football season ends. Junior Stephen Spittler, club treasurer, said there are no requirements for swimmers — the commitment can be as big or as little as one wants it to be.

“Some people will come every day and try to relive the glory days of high school,” he said. “And some people will show up once a month. It’s all fine.”

Mandy Madden, assistant director of club sports, said swimming is just one of 46 sports offered by the University at a club level. There are some perks that come with the new status, Spittler said.

“Before, we were just going and swimming at the Rock or at Rolfe’s,” he said. “But now we actually get lanes set aside for us, which is really nice.”

The team also gets to issue official athletic apparel and receives funding to travel to meets. They’ll finally have an official team cap to swap with other teams, Spittler added, a long-lasting tradition at swim meets.

“Every team will come and swap a cap with each other,” he said. “It’s one of the little things that’s new and we’ll now be able to do.”

Best said he’s most excited to represent the University in a new capacity.

“I think it will be really good for us to compete under that name,” he said. “It definitely gives us more credibility.”

The club plans to travel to at least two meets this semester — one at Miami University and one at the University of Pittsburgh. They hope to attend even more during the spring semester. And they’re hoping for a big finish: nationals.

“Every college club team from the country goes to a big, three-day meet in Georgia,” Best said. “That’s where we want to be at the end of the year.”

It’s always fun and exciting to compete, Best said. But for him, it’s more about being a part of a team.

“I love going and seeing the same people every day,” he said. “Knowing I’m going to see my friends at this time — friends outside my dorm, outside of my classes — it’s just something I look forward to.”

There’s a lot of benefits to be gained from swimming, Spittler said.

“I love alone time,” he said. “Swimming is a very productive type of alone time — because yes, you are out there with people. But when you’re underwater, you can’t talk to people. Having that kind of mindless activity just really helps me to relax and calm down after long days.”

Both Spittler and Best have met some good friends at the pool, including an assistant rector, an Indiana University South Bend medical school student and upperclassmen in their own dorm.

“It isn’t intense or crazy,” Spittler said. “It’s more for the enjoyment of the sport.”

Best said 42 swimmers came to the club’s first practice — a number he hopes to increase. The co-ed team welcomes people of all ages, from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross College.

“Most of the time, we say to come try it,” he said. “There’s only one way to find out if it’s for you.”

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About Katie Galioto

Katie, the Observer's current Managing Editor, is a senior majoring in political science, with minors in Business Economics and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She's a former Walsh Hall resident who now lives off campus and hails from Chanhassen, Minnesota. Follow her on Twitter @katiegalioto.

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