A longstanding tradition for Westminster swimmers, Midnight Madness is an event marking the start of the varsity swim season where the swim team crowds around the school pool, holds hands, and simultaneously jumps in. This even has been a customary practice for last 30 to 35 years, according to swim coach Pete Higgins.
“The kids expect it—they look forward to it. We blow it up, we try to make it bigger than it is,” said Higgins.
Midnight Madness, a beloved ritual of the swim team and fully organized by the captains, brings the swim team together, creating a bond between the athletes and offering an opportunity for the upperclassmen to familiarize themselves with the freshman and new swimmers.
“It was a lot of fun where you got to connect to everybody before the season started,” said freshman Lizzie Maxwell.
After the captains provided snacks for the team, everybody introduced himself or herself.
“[The captains have] grown up in it,” said Higgins. “They’re upperclassmen, and they know the drill, they remember what they did.”
Then, the coaches introduced themselves and presented a little background information on themselves and their roles as swim coaches. The captains, seniors Katie Christy and Patrick Leonard and juniors Emily Bassett, Chapman Lindgren, and Philip Stith, grouped their respective genders together and divided into a boys’ team meeting and a girls’ team meeting in order to acquaint themselves with one other.
“The kids have fun, there’s no particular pressure on them,” said Higgins.
Beginning at eight o’clock, activities are the captains’ responsibilities. The swimmers played games such as hide-and-seek around Turner, and at about a quarter of midnight, everyone changed into swimsuits, anticipating the ultimate objective of the night: jumping into the pool at midnight.
“It gives them a legitimate reason for staying up late,” said Higgins. “It’s a fun event for everybody.”
As usual, the swimmers thoroughly enjoyed Midnight Madness.
“It was very eventful,” said Maxwell. “We played lots of games to get to know each other better . . . We had an intimate talk about the season and what it means to the captains and what its like. Everyone regrouped and got back together and played some games like the Musical Boys.”
For the captains, the experience differed from past years.
“This year was really different because I [had to] lead and organize it,” said Christy. “I think that biggest thing I realized was that you’ll love your freshmen, as past [team] mates have always said.”
Stith agreed with Christy on this point.
“I actually had to lead everything, along with Patrick Leonard,” said Stith. “It was a bit more stressful, but still fun.”
After everyone swam the customary 500 yards, they separated into boys and girls again. Each group went to the house of a swimmer who lives nearby, bringing a sleeping bag to spend the night.
“It’s kind of a hand-me-down thing,” said Higgins.
The sleepover afterwards created a chance for the swimmers to bond with each other.
“We actually had a very small sleepover this year, only nine . . . It was really fun being with all the girls,” said Christy. “There were a couple freshman that came, which was nice.”
On the other hand, the boys’ section of the swim team did not bond as much.
“We watched a movie, so I’d say there wasn’t a ton of bonding,” said Stith. “I wouldn’t say we didn’t bond, but we watched a movie, like how much bonding can you do?”
Out of everything at Midnight Madness, each swimmer had his or her favorite part. Christy enjoyed playing games together, while Maxwell and Stith loved jumping in at the end.
“I thought that was very sentimental,” said Maxwell.
The Georgia High School Association prohibits swimming and diving practice before October 20, and the earliest date for a meet is Nov. 3. Practicing in September is forbidden, and coaches such as Higgins are unable to coach more than two people at a time. After the state meet, February 8, they are unable to coach until the following October.
“There’s a window of the season, which is true for all the sports in the state,” said Higgins.
Higgins has his own reasons for encouraging Midnight Madness.
“It’s my opinion that if you want to be first at the end of the year,” said Higgins, “You want to be first at the beginning of the year.”
As the swim season begins, the team grows evermore excited.
“I think it’s going to be a good year,” said Maxwell. “Everybody is really nice and welcoming to the sport. People help each other get through the practices because they are hard, but they say it’s all worth it in the end. I think it’s going to be an exciting year.”
The captains, too, have high hopes for the season.
“Hopefully we’ll do well,” said Stith. “We lost three of our better swimmers, but I think we’ve got a few good freshmen, and a lot of people have gotten faster, so it could go either way.”
Christy believes that if hard work is put into the practices then the swim team will be successful.
“Right now, I honestly think that it’s been a lot better than it has before,” said Christy. “Our team this year is really strong . . . I think the new swimmers are really going to help us win . . . Everyone’s excited and willing to work hard.”