The Importance of Zones

Next month the Osprey will compete in our 15th annual Zone 1 South Championship meet. That first year in 1997, we had 26 swimmers, and managed to finish 22nd out of 24 teams. Last year we finished our highest ever, 6th out of 21 teams.

We've come a long way from that first meet, and developed a first class program, thanks to the hard work of all the swimmers, parents and coaches who've been a part of the team, not only today, but over the years.

Why is Zones important? It's one of the two local meets on our schedule that is a scored meet that is open to every level of swimmer on the team. From C to NRT, every Osprey can compete in this meet and every Osprey can help score points for the team, as each level of development amongst the swimmers is scored separately. Zones and  SVSL's are the only scored meets the Osprey have each year where all of the swimmers on the team will be participating. Each meet is always an opportunity to test and develop race patterns for our swimmers, and at Zones we measure our progress as a team against the other teams in our local Zone1 South. This year the teams will be divided into 3 categories based upon size; large, mid sized, and small. The division is based upon the number of swimmers each team has registered as of the day of the meet. We currently have 105 swimmers registered on our team, and hope we can enter most of them. So based upon the registered numbers, we will be categorized as a mid-sized team. Here we see the importance of all of our healthy, able-bodied athletes swimming the meet, to give us the best chance to finish as high as possible.

We have a chance to improve our placing and we will battle throughout, making every effort to do our best. Regardless of the outcome, Zones is above all, a team building meet. All of the Osprey are able to see their teammates compete and each swimmer is paired with a buddy in order to build team unity and fellowship. It is also a chance to demonstrate for another year to the rest of Zone 1 South what we all already know, that swimmer for swimmer, we are the best team in the Zone, that we have the most spirited team and our young people are second to none in character.

Zones also has relays at the end of each day and they are always filled with excitement. Each team is allowed to field only one relay, so it's an opportunity for a small or mid sized team to race and win against the larger teams with their 150 to 250 sized swim rosters. The Osprey have won several relays over the years and we always have a few that are in the running for 1st place. The relays are also scored double points, and so are critical to a team's placing. Each top 8 finish is a huge boost for the team.

Consequently, Zones is the only non-trials and finals meet where we ask and expect ALL OF THE OSPREY SWIMMERS to stay until the end of the meet each day and either swim for and/or cheer for relays. Osprey parent support of the team goals here is crucial to our success, and their cheering is also a big part of any relay success we have. If any swimmer knows they might have to leave early for an important reason, (and we can expect the meet to go until 4 or so each day typically) their parents need to inform the head coach sometime during the week before the meet, not during the meet, as to their pressing reason and their possibility of needing to leave early.

In order to foster this team spirit and camaraderie, the team makes a big push in several areas, and we've found the swimmers love all of the extras that goes with Zones.

We start on Friday with a shortened practice. Everyone is out by 5:10. From there we go to the high school cafeteria for a team pizza poster party, from 5:30-7:00. Kids can be picked up in front of the pool just as they are from practice, and not in front of the cafeteria as there will likely be a basketball game going on. It's important to have all our swimmers picked up by 7:05 so we can get them home and to bed early as we will expect our swimmers to all be at the pool no later than 7:00 am on Sat. in order to get a good spot in the stands at Santa Clara. Remember the rule is that you can't save any room for the team as a whole, so we all have to be there in order to get a team area.

The pizza poster party is one of the premier Osprey events of the year. The swimmers socialize, the head coach gets them fired up with a short talk, and there is a contest for the best Osprey posters, where the buddies have a chance to work together in groups.  The top 3 Poster making winners receive gifts certificates for ice cream.

Over the course of the meet, we have as special awards, ice cream gift certificates for treats to the swimmers who distinguish themselves in several categories. Awards go to  the top 6 boy or girl point scorers in the meet, also, for the 3 best pairs of buddies (for their mutual support of one another and the team) and for the top 6 individuals who distinguish themselves in cheering for their teammates and relays throughout the meet. This year we will also recognize the top buddy tandem or trio who have the best average time dropped in seconds.

All these ice cream certificates are awarded at a post meet team dinner at Harry's Hoffbrau on Sunday evening right after the meet. There's a great deal going on at Zones, as a coach I've come to understand over the years what an opportunity this is to build the team, and give our outstanding swimmers a very special experience for and with each other. I make out the buddy list each year, the few weeks prior to the list going out I am always asked a great deal about it and when it will come out. It is a suggestion a friend made to me in our 2nd year, and after agreeing to it, I've come to realize it's one of the best things about the Osprey. The swimmers love it!

We expect everyone to come and enjoy themselves. The swimmers will have fun, cheer, compete their very best and stay positive in their outlook. We know the parents will come, work when necessary, cheer, and support not only their children, but all of the children on the team and the coaching staff.

The swimmers and the coaching staff have all worked hard to make this meet a big success.