For the second year, the William Jewell men’s swimming and diving team – and now, the women’s team – have brought home the Great Lakes Valley Conference Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (GLVC SAAC) Sportsmanship Award for the 2014-2015 winter season.
According to William Jewell Athletics, the honor is one awarded wholly by the swimmers’ conference competitors. The teams receive recognition from their peers through a voting process that includes every GLVC school’s SAAC representatives.
Captains Shane Ahrens and Rachel Kaegi, juniors, maintain that sportsmanship is not just something practiced in the pool, though.
“Of course our team does a really good job of telling the other team ‘good luck’ before each race. We shake hands and congratulate our opponents whether we have won or lost. I believe our team does a good job of not being sore losers,” Kaegi said. “But as a captain, I would say that sportsmanship has a different sort of criteria too. It’s not just about shaking hands and congratulating the other team – which is important – but it is just being overall courteous to others. We don’t get out of the water until everyone has finished. We clap when someone has done something phenomenal.”
Ahrens noted that, while sportsmanship is meant to be genuine and not simply “a show,” he does believe that the things the Jewell teams do make them noticeable.
“We cheer for each other a ton. Other teams sometimes sit around and lounge until their next events, but if you attend one of our meets, you’ll see that our teammates are right there on the side of the pool every time, yelling their heads off. I hope that other teams see that we are a team of teammates, not a team of individuals. When someone, even from another team, sets a record, we cheer for them. We know how hard swimming is, and we know how much every person from every program puts in, so when we show that respect and that sportsmanship to our own teammates and others, we mean it,” Ahrens said.
Kaegi believes the support of which Ahrens speaks acts as a means to success for the team and the sport as a whole.
“Swimming is so often seen as an individual sport, but there is actually so much more emphasis on being a team. We support our teammates in and out of the pool whether it is with academics or a club or just something they care about. The team really pushes each other to be better in all dynamics of life,” Kaegi said.
Ahrens views sportsmanship in swimming as more than just a trophy. He considers it a life lesson and the first stage in constructing an entire worldview.
“Why do we always cheer for others both on and off the team? Because we know the effort that all student-athletes put in. We definitely believe in supporting other athletes, helping our classmates do well and practicing good sportsmanship in everything we do. We take our goals very seriously, but we also know that when it comes down to it, it is a game. Why would we tear down our opponents when we could build them up? Everyone in that pool deserves recognition and respect.”