Synchronized with Brandon
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Synchronized with Brandon
By Sean Maraj
For some people, learning to swim is hard enough. Imagine trying to co-ordinate your own flailing movements to those of others, knowing that each move is being scrutinized and one wrong kick could mean disaster for your team.
It's a problem which is unique to Western's synchronized swimming team and this week's 20 questions dives in with synchronized swimming head coach, Hilary Brandon.
Brandon is a London native who graduated from Western last year with a honours degree in philosophy. She's been involved in the sport for over 12 years and has coached at Western for the last two. Sitting on the deck of the Thames Hall pool watching her team practice, she took the time to answer some questions.
The role of coach is never easy and for Brandon, who is looking towards teacher's college next year, there's a lot of work involved. She said the hardest part of her job was keeping her team motivated throughout the season. "Because we practice six days a week for five months, the hardest part is keeping myself and everyone motivated on a day to day basis."
However, despite the daily hardships, there are definitely perks which make the task rewarding. "Seeing them in competition is my favourite part," she said, adding their smiling faces were always a plus.
Team captain Sarah Gravel commented on Brandon's strength as a leader outside the pool and named her as a guiding force behind the team's efforts.
"She's our friend. She can relate to us in the water and knows what our strengths and weaknesses are and she has been in the water alongside us recently," Gravel said. "If we have weaknesses, she is not afraid to tell us."
Brandon's career as a coach may only be just beginning, but the memories are starting to add up. Her favourite moment, she said, belonged to the team's first number one finish over rival Queen's University, in a meet two weeks ago.
Many people do not realize how challenging this sport can be and Brandon was quick to defend the level of skill needed to perform successfully. "Getting through a five minute routine and making it look like a walk in the park," Brandon said was the most difficult aspect of the sport.
Fortunately, her team has been putting out strong performances all year and the future looks even brighter. "We're really strong in a couple of events and we need to get strong in another few. If we do that, there's a good chance we'll finish first."
It goes without saying that sports which are not mainstream can go unrecognized by the larger public a problem plaguing all smaller teams at Western. Brandon confirmed this is a reality for her swimmers. "People don't know we even have a team," she said.
Away from the pool, Brandon named her mom and dad as the biggest influences on her life and a major reason for her success. "They're constantly pushing me to do my best and to do new things."
The future for this coach points to the classrooms and Brandon said she hoped to someday teach more than synchronized routines. When contemplating how long she saw herself coaching the Mustangs, she was wary of giving a definite answer. "I don't know, since I'm planning to go to teacher's college next year. If I go to Althouse [College] there's a good chance I'll still be here," she said.
When asked to provide a metaphor for life, Brandon had to think before finally giving her answer.
"In order for any group to emerge victorious, they must unite and become one. In no sport is this more crucial than in synchro swimming."