Sept. 25, 2013
With the 2013-14 season approaching for both the men's and women's swimming and diving programs, MGoBlue.com sat down with head coach Mike Bottom, men's associate head coach Josh White and women's associate head coach Rick Bishop to get the pulse of the program.
What are your expectations for the teams?
Mike Bottom: We expect that everybody in the water gets better.
Josh White: I like Mike's answer.
Rick Bishop: To be better than we were last year.
MB: Realistically our goals are to be in the top five (at NCAAs) on the men's side and on the women's side to be in the top 25. Those are solid, concrete goals. It's going to be tough to get in the top 25 for the women and tough to get into the top five for the men, we'll have to swim well to do both.
What are the biggest challenges the teams are facing?
MB: We're a young, young team. We have a lot of freshmen in the water. They have to buy into an understanding that they aren't going to be allowed a freshman year. They have to be contributors right away. They can't come in here and have a year or two to develop. We need them to be performers this year.
RB: Just staying healthy. We work so hard that you get a lot of bumps and bruises along the way -- pulled groins and twisted ankles. If we're healthy, and we're at our best, we can perform well.
JW: On the men's side, it's that we've been in the position of being reigning Big Ten champions. I think being reigning national champions is a new position. Anytime you're doing something different and new, understanding how to adapt is going to be a little bit of a challenge. We do have that experience of having been the team that people are shooting for in the Big Ten, but to have that nationally -- along with the expectations that accompany that in some people's minds -- will be a new situation for us in comparison to any year we've had before.
Who are the athletes to watch?
MB: Our senior class, on both the men's and women's sides. We want to watch them, and we want to watch them develop. They are now our leaders, and it's important to have our seniors perform and stand out.
JW: One of the exciting things about our teams in the past is that it's the person you're not watching who suddenly does something exceptional. I hope that will continue this year. You have to pay attention to everybody because there is someone out there doing something special.
What does the Big Ten landscape look like this season?
JW: The Big Ten is an incredible conference for swimming, occasionally overlooked. If you look at the men's side, of the current national team athletes that still have college eligibility, more than half of them are from Big Ten teams. Either seven or eight teams in the Big Ten have a representative on the national team. which is incredible. The depth in the Big Ten is always unbelievable. There will always be great teams in addition to great individuals every year, be it Indiana, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and there's a new coach at Penn State, so you never know what will happen there.
MB: I think if you're going to single out a team that will come at us on the men's side it is Indiana. We beat them last year in their pool to win. They're coming at us with a whole truckload of divers and some great swimmers -- they will be tough to beat.
RB: From the women's side, we were sixth in the Big Ten last year, and one factor that will certainly help us this year is diving. There are at least two teams we would've passed last year at Big Tens with better diving performances. We have Carey Chen back healthy and with the contributions of transfer Nicole Honey and two freshman divers, we have a strong contingent of divers, and we should be able to move up. You look at teams like Indiana and Minnesota, who were both top-10 teams nationally last year, and you see that the Big Ten is a competitive landscape. We feel good that we can improve and are optimistic that we can be better.
What are the "must-see" home events this season?
MB: One is this weekend, the Water Carnival (Saturday, Sept. 28 at 11 a.m.). It's going to be amazing. It's an event in which we can demonstrate that Michigan is powerful in our swimming, powerful in our diving and powerful in our water polo. Aquatics sports in general are something that carry everybody forward in a positive way. You don't need 100,000 people in a football stadium to be inspired. You can get a few thousand in Canham Natatorium, and that's great inspiration. Plus we have the men's Big Ten Championships in February (Feb. 26-March 1) -- how do you miss that one if you're a spectator? You can't miss that one.
What type of team can fans expect?
MB: What I'd like a fan to say leaving a meet is that they'd like their son or daughter to be like those Michigan guys and gals. We want them to say that they want their kids to be like them in the way they carry themselves, in the way they compete, in the way they win and the way they lose. As a coaching staff, we hope that we are producing men and women that will lead this world to a better place.
RB: Competition creates ebb and flow. Like in a football game, you get ahead and everyone is doing great, and you're emotionally high. Then when you get behind it tests the measure of your character. For the women there were several times in a lot of meets when we were behind. Take Wisconsin to open the season last year, we were behind going into the last event when we finished 1-2-3-4 to come from behind and win. Watch the ebb and flow. A Michigan athlete doesn't give up and doesn't back down -- there is no quit in them. They will fight until the end and fight for Michigan. That is the type of character you will see in this team.