Winter Break in Wisconsin can almost guarantee cold and snowy conditions. Unless you are a part of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point swimming and diving team, who brought about half of their team across boarders to the warmth of Puerto Rico for a week.
Going away for a team vacation is nothing new to UWSP swimmers and divers under the regime of head coach Al Boelk. He said he has brought his teams to other places such as Hawaii, where they stayed near the historic Pearl Harbor.
“We’re at the back half of our season and we can’t be taking off weeks and then try to come back and compete at the highest level, so it is pretty common for the sport as a whole to continue being active and training during the break. It’s an extra treat to be able to go somewhere else to do so,” Boelk said.
For some of the student-athletes, training trips give them a chance to see parts of the world they would not otherwise see throughout their four years of eligibility.
“You know, it’s pretty cool to just interact with some of the different cultures of these places. We get plenty of free time to venture around and do some of the things we want, but we know we’re still there to train,” senior Joe Hollman said.
This being his fourth trip, Hollman said he has gotten to see a variety of different areas during his time at UWSP. Others though are taking their first crack at a training trip.
“It was a lot of fun, I had heard about how great these were so I was excited to go, and hopefully a trip like this propels us into the end of the season to do well at the conference events,” freshman Reilly Donnellan said.
There were as many as 20 college teams in the Puerto Rico area during the break at various times. UWSP was there at the back end of their time off and only got to see a fraction of those teams.
“We’re not really doing any competing, but the kids can mingle with some of the other teams at certain times and it gives them a chance to talk and make friends or learn some things,” Boelk said.
A trip like this might seem like it is meant to improve performance in a different element, but Boelk said that it is almost to the contrary.
“You know, I don’t really think this necessarily helps with how well these guys perform when we get back from the trip, cause we got the other half of the team who couldn’t go here working and training as well with less distractions, which helps a lot, but the trip is more so giving the guys and girls a chance to experience something that they wouldn’t otherwise have gotten to do,” Boelk said.
Boelk said he drew from his own college swimming career to see the benefits of a trip like this.
“I went on four of these things while I was at the University of Minnesota, and each time I was going somewhere that I know I wouldn’t have gone to otherwise,” Boelk said. “So for the kids that go, it is an opportunity for them to go out and expand the things they’re able to see.”
Despite the fun and games that come with a voyage to Puerto Rico, as the swimmers arrive back in the states, it is business as usual.
“We work all season to peak at the end of the season. We don’t really have a win-loss record, so to say. It’s all about the results in the conference meet and so on to see if we can extend our season, so hopefully our guys and girls are ready for the challenge,” Boelk said.
The sentiment was felt throughout the team.
“This is my last chance to compete at a WIAC Championship, so I am looking to do very well there and finish my career strong with a trip to nationals,” Hollman said.
UWSP will compete in the WIAC Championships Feb. 18 to Feb. 20 in Brown Deer, Wis.