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West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Sep. 22, 2022 3 days ago

For Foundation Academy swim team, strength is in the numbers

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Four years ago, the school incorporated a swim team into its program. This year, the Lions are undefeated.
by: Andrea Mujica Staff Writer

The Foundation Academy boys and girls swim teams currently stand at an undefeated 3-0 record. 

Four years ago, the Lions founded both their swim teams with only 10 athletes. Today, there are 22 girls and 19 boys that swim for the team. 

“Each year during swim season, we want to make it a great experience for them,”  head swim coach Chad Sundermeyer said. “The kids are having as much fun as they can, working hard.” 

For Sundermeyer, the most important aspects for the culture he has been working to have among his swimmers are fun and family. 

“It’s a family culture, and just to have fun,” he said. “(I want to) challenge them and start to teach life skills to a lot of the younger kids about discipline, dedication and all that through the sport of swimming. … Whatever happens with wins and loses doesn’t matter as long as they are having fun and continuing to acknowledge themselves and learn from every day of practice.” 

For junior and the boys team captain Samuel Hoenstine, 17, being a part of the team can also offer competitiveness between its members. 

“In the guys team, we are all competitive with (one another),” he said. “We try to be better, ... we are always talking, having a good time and cheering each other up. … Everybody has got a good attitude, and we like working to get better ourselves.” 

For junior and the girls captain Emma Sundermeyer, 16, the culture provides fun and inclusion. 

“The culture is very fun and very inclusive,” she said. “Everyone is a part of it — no matter if this is their first year swimming or fifth. We all come together, especially at meets. We all do relays with (one another), and we all score points for the team.” 

Of Foundation’s 41 swimmers, at least 15 had no previous competitive swimming experience prior to joining the team this year, so Chad Sundermeyer has been working on teaching them the four strokes. 

“Probably the biggest thing I am trying to work on is to get a lot of the newer swimmers to be able to swim at least two, if not three, out of the four stokes,” he said. “It’s not easy to pick up some of the strokes other than freestyle. … My goal is to get a lot of the newer swimmers to be able to swim multiple strokes and swim (them) legally — to be able to do the full stroke correctly during a race.” 

Besides having new members, this year the team is young, with just a handful of juniors, no seniors and a higher mix of sixth-, seventh-, eighth-, ninth- and 10th-graders.

“(It’s) great for the future,” Chad Sundermeyer said of the Lions’ youth.

Regarding sportsmanship and leadership — and motivating swimmers at both practices and meets — Chad Sundermeyer likes to delegate that task to the two team captains and the team. 

“I try and let the team do that and the captains do that,” he said. “With having such a young team, a lot of them are already motivated and nervous.”

Emma Sundermeyer believes leadership is executed by actions. 

“Instilling leadership is acting like a leader every day, and just be willing to help someone out when they need help or if they need getting a drill explained or something like that,” she said. “Stepping up and be able to do whatever for the team whether it’s leading your lane or help someone get their cap on. I think those are the little things that help me become a leader.” 

Hoenstine believes leadership comes by motivating others to become better athletes. 

“At practice, usually I try to push my teammates up and make sure they are trying their hardest and giving their best effort,” he said. “During a meet, I usually ask them what their time was and what their previous time was. If they went faster, that’s great. If they went a little slower, I give them words of encouragement and tell them that next time, there is always another change and that they can do better if they work harder at practice.” 

Because the team has grown so much since its inception, it is struggling with some pool space at the National Training Center in Clermont, where they practice. 

“We have to deal with pool space and lane space, because we have so many kids in a lane,” Chad Sundermeyer said. “It’s some of the normal growing challenges, … (but) it’s better to have that challenge than (still ) having 10 kids or less.” 

A coaching method that Chad Sundermeyer believes has been positive on the team is his ability to relate to the athletes. 

“I just like to ... get to know each of the kids — and let them know that I may be their coach but I’m in their corner in life,” he said. “(I) try to be there and be a friend and hopefully a mentor to some of them. … (It’s about) bonding with the kids and getting the best that you can out of them, both in the pool and in whatever stage in life they are at however old and whatever grade they are in.” 

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Andrea Mujica is a staff writer for the West Orange Times & Observer, the Southwest Orange Observer and OrangeObserver.com. She covers sports, news and features. She holds both a bachelor's degree in journalism and an MBA from the University of Central Florida....

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