PAWTUCKET – It's the time of year when interscholastic coaches begin preparing their respective squads for the winter season, and Kim Hewson, the Shea High head swimming coach, was one of them on Tuesday.
He stood on the deck explaining to a few of his more inexperienced aquatic Raiders the nuances of proper stroke and rotary breathing techniques: that is, how the hands should slice the water, not slap it; how the body should rotate in order to breathe correctly to either side; how to close the fingers and turn them down slightly to create a “paddle” for each stroke.
It was familiar territory for the coach – but only figuratively speaking – because Hewson conducted his workout at rival Tolman's pool – since this season the Raiders won't have one in which to practice or compete.
Long-time Shea athletic director Ray McGee said Tuesday that the school’s aquatic center had been officially closed due to “issues” not with the pool itself but the ceiling.
“They had all kinds of staging in there back in September or October to check the ceiling; I don't know exactly what was wrong with it, but it was deemed unsafe,” McGee stated. “That's when we started working on (an alternative). I talked to the superintendent (Deborah Cylke), and she agreed we could go over to Tolman to practice. We're going to have meets there as well.”
He noted he and Tigers' AD John Scanlon had spent the past few weeks discussing the issue.
“We didn't know if we were going to have a pool or not,” McGee said. “They didn't know what the problem was with the ceiling, or if we were going to be able to use it. When I talked with John, and I told him what the superintendent had said, he agreed.
“I've known John forever; in fact, he was the best man at my wedding,” McGee added with a laugh. “He said, 'Of course your team can swim here.' When I told Kim (Hewson), he thought it was a tough situation, and he wished that wasn't the case, but the good news was we were still going to have a program.”
He said he and Cylke had met before Thanksgiving, and she approved that the contingent could train with the Tigers.
“It's going to be a day-to-day thing,” McGee offered. “We may have a day or two (each week) where we're not in the pool but doing dry-land drills. You do what you've got to do for the benefit of the kids who want to participate. Everyone (was) extremely cooperative – to the superintendent to John to the coaches.”
While Hewson's bunch began its warm-up session, first-year Tolman head coach Lauren Sepe and assistant Kelly Gilheeney conducted dry-land exercises – including stretching exercises, push-ups, sit-ups and the like – on the THS auditorium's stage.
Sepe and Gilheeney expressed being impressed by the amount of boys and girls (approximately 25) who turned out for Monday's first practice.
“John Scanlon came to us and said that because Shea's pool was closed, we'd be sharing the pool,” offered Sepe, a 2005 Bay View Academy graduate who earned state finalist laurels in her two specialties, the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard breaststroke, her final three seasons.
“(Hewson) and I are going to come up with a schedule that suits both teams,” she added. “It's a rivalry, but we don't mind at all. It's all about the kids doing what they want to do, and that's swim.”