Summer in Verona means more than just a break from school for the kids and sporadic trips to the beach for adults. For most kids, it means spending your days at the Verona Community Pool. The amount of events going on at the pool means you will never be bored, but one of the best parts of the pool is the Verona Waves swim team. Every morning, the Verona Waves are in the pool, no matter the weather, practicing their freestyle and perfecting their dives. For more than 20 years, hundreds of children have swum for the team and had the time of their lives.
The team is split into two parts–the A team and the B team–and three age groups–8 and unders, 10 to 12, and 13 and older. The A team is the travel team and swimmers must try out to be on it. The B team, which only participates in home meets, is fairly new and replaced a team called the Width Swimmers because team athletes swam the width of the pool’s deep end. The B team is now just as popular as the A team, having around 50 children on the team. It allows children who do not want the commitment of a travel team to still enjoy the perks of the Verona Waves. Being on the B team also takes a lot of pressure off the swimmers and allows them to give their all without feeling like it is not enough.
“For B team, I coach the eight and unders in one lane and when I tell them to swim butterfly, one of the harder strokes, they’re so enthusiastic about swimming and they all cheer,” says Will Sheehan, a rising Verona High School senior who is one of this season’s coaches.
Before the B team existed, anyone could join the A team. Now, in addition to tryouts, the A team comes with many commitments. Its swimmers are expected to be at every practice every morning, a difficult practice that trains its dedicated swimmers to be the best they can be. The A team also has to travel to meets, which are sometimes 40 minutes away, at least once a week.
Though the teams changed, the types of coaches who guide it have not. For years, Verona Waves coaches have been drawn from former team athletes. This may be one of the reasons the coaches are so dedicated and why the kids love them so much. Because the coaches used to be Waves swimmers they know exactly what they need to do in order to make sure the swimmers become the best they can be while simultaneously having a good time doing it. Before they were coaches they were just young children enjoying their time on the Verona Waves. Grace Endersby, a junior at Seton Hall University, is the head coach of the A team. By her side, in addition to Sheehan, is Linnea Endersby, a sophomore at Seton Hall; Matt Dillane, a freshman at Notre Dame University; Nick Giuliano, also a VHS senior; and Olivia Fisher, a junior at Mount Saint Dominic Academy.
A big benefit of having these veteran swimmers as coaches are the traditions they uphold. Year after year, Verona Waves swimmers cheer the same cheers and play the same games, keeping the swimmers hyped up and excited. Before each meet, the coaches lead the swimmers in a Verona chant. If it is a home meet the team stands around a lamp post on the grass. The coaches stand on top of the cement block and scream just as loud as the swimmers do and getting just as excited too. When the “One, We Are Verona” cheer ends, the meet begins. The Waves’ sportsmanship cheer ends every meet: Whether Verona wins or loses, the Waves finish the night off with a cheer that compliments the other team. “My favorite part of swim team was going to the meets and having fun with the team and cheering them on,” says past Verona Waves swimmer Sophia Francullo, who smiles as she remembered her meets.
While the cheers hype up the athletes during meets, the swimmers also need motivation during practices. Fun Day Friday is the motivation that makes the kids excited for the week to end. Sheehan notes that games still take place in the 12 feet after warmups, but before any real practicing can take places. The traditional “Sharks & Minnows” remains a Waves favorite. A slightly newer game is “Big Splash, Little Splash” and it has become another big hit for the kids. These games are also a nice break from the laps the kids endure during the week.
Traditions, some water, and excited kids are what make up the Verona Waves Swim team. They allow young athletes to find their love for swimming in a happy environment. Thanks to the Waves, swimmers are creating friendships with kids who they may not see in school that last longer than one month of swimming.