Contained in the Constructive Workforce Tradition Accelerating Hawaii’s Turnaround

Inside the Positive Team Culture Accelerating Hawaii's Turnaround

KNOXVILLE – After lacking the NCAA ‘A’ reduce by lower than a second on the MPSF Championships in Utah final month, the Hawaii ladies’s 400-yard freestyle relay workforce had a choice to make: preserve chasing an computerized bid to the nationwide championships or head dwelling to the seashores of Honolulu.

Nonetheless exhausted at 1 a.m. within the resort foyer, first-year Hawaii head coach Mike Stephens gave fifth yr Laticia Transom, senior Anna Friedrich, senior Gabby Scudamore, and freshman Holly Nelson half an hour to decide on. They had been already the quickest quartet at school historical past by almost 4 seconds, however they nonetheless wanted one other .64-second drop to turn into the primary Rainbow Wahine relay since 2005 to qualify for the NCAA Championships.

The choice was all of the harder for Transom, Hawaii’s lone particular person qualifier within the 50 free, 100 free, and 200 free. Attending Georgia’s Final Probability meet the subsequent weekend meant extra touring and a tighter timeline earlier than her final NCAA Championships.

“I feel as a result of I already certified and I don’t do effectively with flying, my preliminary thought was, ‘I don’t need to go to Atlanta, fly all the best way again to Hawaii, then come all the best way again right here within the span of three weeks,’” mentioned Transom, a graduate switch from USC who gained a Pac-12 title again in 2020. “That simply felt like quite a bit for me.”

Then Transom considered what it will imply for NCAAs to be a workforce expertise as an alternative of only a solo journey. Scudamore wasn’t simply her relay teammate — she was a former membership teammate from Australia who grew to turn into her finest buddy. Scudamore was the primary cause why Transom selected Hawaii as her fifth-year vacation spot over Alabama, NC State, and Virginia.

“I assumed, ‘What do we have now to lose?’” Transom recalled. “I might moderately exit giving it all the pieces within the relay and having the ability to do one thing for this system. Our teaching workers this yr, I acquired fortunate this yr. I got here into Hawaii not figuring out who was going to be there. I actually wished to do one thing for them. The considered having a workforce right here — not simply me and the coaches — that was actually thrilling, particularly Gabby. I actually wished to expertise this along with her.”

So the quartet determined to go for it, which concerned a 5:30 a.m. bus trip to Las Vegas just some hours after that fateful deliberation within the resort foyer. The remainder of Hawaii’s workforce returned to island life whereas Stephens took the 400 free relay group to Atlanta for a couple of days of coaching and consuming their means by way of the town.

“We had been clear: We may go to that meet and never go sooner and that may damage much more,” Stephens mentioned. “However there’s something particular about placing your self on the road and opening your self as much as failure for the possibility of one thing actually nice.”

The Rainbow Wahine’s first two makes an attempt fell brief the next weekend in Athens, Georgia. Earlier than their last alternative that Sunday night time, no phrases had been exchanged between relay members on the best way to the Gabrielsen Natatorium. They knew what wanted to be executed.

Buoyed by the assist of different groups in attendance akin to NC State, Georgia, and Auburn, Hawaii crushed its earlier program document by almost two seconds with a 3:12.76 — the ninth-fastest time within the nation this season and a full 1.34 seconds underneath the ‘A’ reduce. Every member of the relay posted a personal-best break up between Nelson’s 49.07 leadoff, Transom’s 46.66, Friedrich’s 48.55, and Scudamore’s 48.48.

“We had been considering that we’d scrape a 4:13.09 and get the reduce by 0.01,” Scudamore mentioned. “However touching that wall and seeing 3:12, I used to be like, ‘Oh my gosh, what did we simply do?’ That was probably the most surreal second for me in my entire swimming profession, not to mention this season, as a result of Mike put the NC reduce into our minds a couple of months in the past and to truly make it and consider that we’re ok to be right here was probably the most surreal second.”

When Confidence Turns into Contagious

As a senior finally yr’s NCAA Championships, Transom scored 12 factors individually for USC with a Seventh-place end within the 200 free. She additionally positioned Seventh as a part of the Trojans’ 400 medley relay squad. However after on daily basis of NCAAs and Pac-12s final season, she referred to as her mother in tears.

“I used to be swimming actually quick however I simply didn’t need to be there,” Transom mentioned.

Within the span of two years whereas at USC, Transom suffered 4 or 5 concussions attributable to fainting from a situation often known as Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (PoTS), which went undiagnosed for many of her profession. Struggling along with her bodily and psychological well being, she informed her mother and father that she wished to switch to Hawaii to reunite with Scudamore for her last collegiate season. Her precedence can be her happiness, not the pool.

“I didn’t take into consideration swimming or faculty in any respect,” Transom mentioned. “I simply wished to have enjoyable and expertise my final yr along with her.”

The one drawback? Her mother and father mentioned no. They inspired her to concentrate on swimming, so she took journeys to Alabama, NC State, and Virginia. She leaned towards Alabama, then again towards USC, earlier than finally deciding on the choice she knew would make her really feel most at dwelling.

“As soon as my mother and father mentioned no, I used to be taking in all of the opinions from coaches and relations and I wasn’t listening to myself and figuring out what’s finest for me,” mentioned Transom, who had sufficient cash saved as much as purchase a airplane ticket to Hawaii regardless of her mother and father’ disapproval. “Figuring out that this was for myself, I simply am in a a lot better place mentally and bodily as effectively. I feel that’s made a distinction this yr.”

Transom was cleared to return to swimming throughout the third week of the season in September, and inside a pair months she was serving to the Rainbow Wahine break faculty data within the 200 free relay (1:29.63) and 400 free relay (3:16.45) on the SMU Invitational. That’s when Stephens first planted the seed about doubtlessly hitting a relay ‘A’ reduce this season — a feat that hadn’t been completed previously 18 years.

Transom credit Stephens for working along with her throughout her comeback and permitting her to have enter on her coaching. Their partnership culminated in her making the A-final within the 100 free (47.39) on Saturday night time, tying for Seventh place after inserting twenty sixth within the race finally yr’s NCAAs. She grew to become Hawaii’s first A-finalist since 2019, when Phoebe Hines positioned fifth within the 1650 free (15:50.13).

“(Stephens) by no means yells, or raises his voice even. I feel for me, I would like that as a result of I’m somebody who likes to be calm,” Transom mentioned. “When it comes to what we do within the pool, it was much more for me swimming-wise, however I feel I actually wanted that after the six months off from final yr. He did push me at occasions and say, ‘You must do that.’ I’m actually glad that all the pieces labored out, and I feel for everybody in our program, we would have liked one thing greater than what everybody was doing final yr.”

Scudamore agreed, including that observe units this season at all times felt like that they had a objective, versus previous years. Final season, there was a cloud of uncertainty surrounding this system as former head coach Elliot Ptsasnik was positioned on an unexplained depart of absence in 2021.

“Anna (Friedrich) and I had been speaking final night time, that is the primary yr we’ve not solely loved competitors however going into observe on a regular basis and simply being with the workforce,” Scudamore mentioned. “Mike’s at all times so optimistic. He has a plan behind why he’s doing these units. Typically we’d get units again within the day and we’d simply be like, ‘What’s the purpose of doing this?’”

Nelson, who additionally hails from Australia, praised Stephens for his infectious positivity. In her first yr as a Rainbow Wahine, she shaved greater than a second off her season-best time within the 100 free with Transom as her major coaching associate.

“I feel he has this loopy optimism that provides you no alternative apart from to consider in your self,” Nelson mentioned of Stephens. “I feel you want confidence to be able to swim quick and I feel it simply rubs off. He’s so optimistic about all the pieces.”

Stephens says he can’t assist it — the previous Boston Faculty head coach genuinely loves what he does. At each BC and Hawaii, he shortly introduced stability to rocky teaching conditions. If Ted Lasso had a school swimming counterpart, it’d simply be Stephens.

“Plenty of my positivity is as a result of I actually benefit from the individuals I get to work with,” he mentioned. “I really feel actually grateful, each place I’ve coached, whether or not it’s at BC or right here, I like what I do. I actually love the game of swimming, however I actually like the concept of making an attempt to construct a program into one thing higher than it was. I felt like Hawaii, we had a extremely good begin this yr, however there’s simply a lot extra to go.”

Persevering with the Worldwide Custom

The final time the Hawaiian ladies certified a relay for NCAAs 18 years in the past, the workforce was additionally led by a star from Down Beneath: future Australian Olympic gold medalist Melanie Schlanger. The all-foreign quartet of Nelson (Australia), Transom (New Zealand), Friedrich (Germany), and Scudamore (Australia) is constant an extended custom of worldwide swimming expertise in Honolulu.

Friedrich hypothesized that lengthy flights that dissuade some recruits from Hawaii could not appear as formidable to worldwide athletes already touring lengthy distances for school.

“Since internationals already should journey type of far, the additional step throughout the ocean isn’t as daring because it may be for some Individuals to make that journey,” Friedrich mentioned. “The situation is clearly wonderful.”

Transom, for one, feels a particular connection every time she’s in Hawaii, which marks one nook of the Polynesian triangle alongside along with her native New Zealand.

“I feel there’s a grounded-ness about Hawaii that’s similar to Australia and New Zealand,” mentioned Transom, who moved from New Zealand to Australia as a child. “My household are Maori, like native New Zealand, so the Polynesian tradition could be very related. I don’t know if it’s simply me, however you are feeling completely different and relaxed whenever you’re in Hawaii. Australians, we like to banter, and I feel all of the internationals get round that. I feel that’s the place we bond.”

Stephens tries to benefit from his environment by organizing seaside exercises each different Saturday throughout the fall that includes open water swims. He talked about seeing pods of spinner dolphins and stingrays throughout his personal open water swims.

Transom had a distinct spotlight from their workforce journeys to the seaside.

“I’ll simply say the women like to tan, in order that’s actually our spotlight of seaside practices,” she laughed.

When you ask Stephens, there’s cause to consider the worldwide pipeline to Hawaii has a vibrant future even with out Transom returning subsequent season.

“Most individuals dream of approaching trip to Hawaii,” Stephens mentioned. “We’re extremely fortunate with the setup we have now. It’s previous, nevertheless it has unbelievable character. On a regular basis you get to get up with a phenomenal dawn, stunning sundown, you see rainbows on a regular basis. It’s among the best coaching atmospheres that I feel you might be in. If a world athlete is trying like, ‘Hey I actually need to come to the US and practice at a high-level program,’ I feel we provide you with that, and plus, the ambiance is unmatched.”

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