Three times a week, senior Tyler Wang wakes up at 4:30 a.m., knowing full well he is about to jump into a freezing pool, hours before the rest of Palo Alto has woken up.
For Paly swimmers such as Wang, morning practices are all too familiar, and Wang said these practices both challenge athletes and push them to grow.
This year, morning practices for the water polo and swim teams are not just challenges. They have become a necessity because of the number of teams who need pool time.
“We have four (water polo) teams here, two girls and two guys,” boys varsity water polo coach Bob Greene said. “So you’re limited to the amount of hours you can go in the pool.”
Because of the amount of training the teams put in, Greene said afternoon practices are often not enough to accomplish everything they need to do.
Morning practices allow the water polo teams to jump straight into scrimmages and technique work in the afternoon, because they’ve already done conditioning in the morning.
“I really love morning practice because you can get a lot of your conditioning done during that time,” Greene said. “It’s really effective because you can go right to game situations and set up scrimmages (in the afternoon).”
Water polo players and swimmers have mixed opinions on morning practices, though.
Senior David Gormley said even with the early start time, morning practices give him a great start to the day.
“Ever since I was 8 or 9, we’ve been having morning practices. I really enjoy them,” Gormley said. “You’ve already gotten maybe all the workouts you’re going to do for the day behind you. You feel good. You feel fresh. You feel like you’ve had a little spark to your day.”
But despite having had morning practices for years, senior Harrison Williams said he still finds them burdensome.
“In general, I’m not a fan,” Williams said. “I hate having to wake up at four in the morning, three times a week. It can be brutal, and it can make me really tired.”
While swimming and water polo are already time-consuming sports, morning practices add an additional burden of having to alter sleep and homework schedules.
With a later end time for school this year, as late as 4:10 p.m. on some days, some athletes said they find it difficult to finish their homework on time.
“The chunk of time after my morning practice ends before school starts. That’s typically when I have to get my work done,” Williams said. “I have a three hour window right there to do whatever I need to do. Also, a big part of it is just taking advantage of my preps to make sure I can get a good amount of work done there.”
Greene said he understands the impact morning practices can have on student athletes.
He takes measures to make sure student athletes are both performing at a high level and doing well in school, primarily by working closely with his players.
“The student and the coach need to work together,” Greene said. “You have to take the whole person to make sure that we are ready for the classroom, ready for the pool, and make sure that we are not making our kids exhausted both physically and mentally.”
While jumping into a freezing pool at 5 a.m. isn’t preferred for Williams, he said morning practices have shaped him into the swimmer he is today.
“They definitely taught me to be responsible for myself,” Williams said. “It teaches you to be really determined with what you do. You have to be willing to climb out of a warm comfy bed at 4 in the morning, knowing that you’re going to jump into a freezing pool. It teaches you to be really determined with your goals and responsible like that as well.”