I understand that it is playoff week for football (GO BULLDOGS). Normally, I wouldn’t want to tread on any sports success. However, with this group of Bulldogs walking the halls this year, it seems every sport is going after trophies. They are eager for us to know they have a season for us to support.
In the case of the Altus High School swimming team, not only are the expectations for trophies high, but the boys are defending their state championship trophy. Saturday, the swimmers host some Wichita Falls schools beginning at 10 a.m. If you attend this event, or any home swimming meet, take notice of the starter/referee. He is someone you should know.
This is the first of many featured articles I have planned on doing since I started writing for the Altus Times.
It was an easy decision since I am a father raising athletes. Watching my young ones compete in sports is the most rewarding thing I have ever experienced in my life. It can also be the most unnerving activity I involve myself in.
Watching my father watch my son/daughter compete gives me the best feeling. Each season that went by in whatever sport at the time, I began noticing that all athlete’s successes and failures have a great deal to do with their fathers. In no way am I discounting the work the mothers are doing. We all know how important our moms are in our lives.
That is why the athletes get on camera after doing something great on the field and even with the sound down, you knew “Hi Mom!” was the quote from the lips. I may have just dated myself. As I typed that, I realize that we really don’t see cameras in the faces of the athletes on sidelines anymore after they score. They sure used to.
We tend to see the professional coaches on the television and put a distance between us and them. We forget that those men are usually sons of coaches. Somewhere in their everyday lives, most are involved in their sons/daughter’s sports in some capacity.
Jim Brown is the starter at the swimming meets. He is a local dad you should know.
“Jim will do whatever we ask him to do,” said AHS swimming coach Wiginton. “He supports all of these kids with love and high expectations.”
Jim is the father of two Bulldog swimmers, Daniel and Caleb. Caleb is a brand new AHS Bulldog freshman. Caleb will help the Bulldogs this season by scoring some needed team points along the way. More importantly perhaps, Caleb’s biggest benefit to the Bulldogs this year may be to keep a sharp eye on his senior Bulldog brother, Daniel.
Daniel is the current king of the Oklahoma high school swimming world. As a junior, Daniel burned up some wet swimming lanes to stake his claim to multiple state titles in the sprints and team relays. He enters this senior year as the state’s top speedster in the 50, 100, 200 and 200 relays.
I’ve known Jim for most of my life, and I have always respected his words. He has a unique ability to constructively criticize or evaluate a situation in a way that leaves you feeling as though you weren’t criticized. Maybe, it’s his smile as he does it. Maybe, it is his wife Sharon keeping him in line.
Either way, we are proud to claim this Bulldog family. Here is some of Jim’s response to my questions of him having to watch his son compete. I wanted to know how does he keep his fan hat on without being a judgd or coach.
Me: You weren’t a swimmer, Jim. Where did all this swimming dominance come from?
Jim: Daniel started competitive swimming at eight. We were typical parents driving to meets and taking him to practices. Daniel started a little late compared to a lot of swimmers and didn’t have the high level coaching the big city USA teams had. He slowly improved year after year and began finishing closer to the top by age eleven and twelve. Neither Sharon nor I swam competitively. I was a tennis player in high school. I have been very involved in both Daniel and Caleb’s swimming and other activities. I track Daniel’s times and help him with splits on longer races. I also video many races, so we can watch for areas of needed improvement.
After getting into High School I got my USA coaching credentials so I could take Daniel and other swimmers to the year round USA meets. It is very important that swimmers at this level stay competitive all year. Without apology, Daniel has climbed to his level of achievement because he has out worked his competition. He is an anomaly In that he is self-motivated, getting up on his own for 6 a.m. crossfit workouts and pushing himself when others are fading.
Me: Was it always swimming only with Daniel? Did he ever try other sports? Also, I understand times can improve. However, isn’t swimming much like running in that you know from an early age if you are fast or not? Has it been clear that Daniel has always been fast?
Jim: Daniel actually got his Bulldog letter jacket his freshman year by lettering in cross country. However, since that year he has swam exclusively. Most all top high school swimmers swim year round. Coach Wiginton provides a six week Summer Pride program. Additionally, Daniel does cross-fit style workouts, attends the Longhorn summer swim camp and swims various USA meets throughout the year. Daniel began setting team records his sophomore year and now holds the 50, 100 and 200 free records, as well as the 200 free relay record which is also a state record.
The only other Altus swimmer to hold as many team records as Daniel is Daniel Robbins. Daniel Robbins is also the most decorated collegiate swimmer in Bulldog history (one of Oklahoma Baptist University’s top swimmers on their four NAIA National Championship teams). Swimming, like track, has individual events (eight in high school). Though swimmers can excel in all events, most are better at selected events. Daniel currently excels at freestyle sprinting. Last year he was the fastest 50 free sprinter in the state. He backed up his State performance by winning the 50 free this past summer in Tulsa at the Oklahoma USA Long Course Championships. Daniel is one of the top 100 free swimmers in the state. Nationally, Daniel hopes to qualify for the Speedo Junior Nationals in 2016. He is very close in the 50 free and should accomplish his goal. That is the top swim meet in the nation. Only the best of the best qualify for Junior Nationals.
Me: Will this year be a little different having two Bulldogs on the team?
Jim: Daniel’s younger brother, Caleb is a freshman and swims as well. This is an exciting year as we get to watch both our boys swim. Yes, Caleb made the traveling team and swam at Harrah this past Saturday. Caleb is also a member of That Altus Band.
We have encouraged our boys to try several activities and we support them in the ones the do well in and the ones they don’t. We encourage them to pursue the areas in which they are gifted. It takes some trying to find out what that is. Daniel has found one of his.
Me: How do you separate your being a fan and being a critic?
Jim: Daniel is his own worst critic. My role is much more the “encourager”. I’m the starter/meet referee at our home meets. I’ve disqualified Daniel at two home meets. I get to enjoy the away meets like any other parent.
Me: How did the starter gig begin and how did the disqualifying happen? Did he not clean his room?
Jim: The coach asked me to be the starter Daniel’s freshman year. She was very aware of my involvement in USA swimming. One disqualification was a relay team he was on. He didn’t do anything wrong, but another time he was on a relay team and the guy in front of him still had a lap to swim and Daniel leaned to take off,realized he was starting early and fell in That’s an obvious disqualification. She was pretty upset. So was Daniel. I thought it was pretty funny.
Reach Brad Gilbert@482-1221 ext. 2076