At the crack of dawn, just before the morning sun strikes the statue of Mary, and makes its way down the sandstone walls of the main building, a group of Joeys boys are well into their final week of swim training for the 2020/21 summer season.
This group of young men are the last to participate in a ritual that has taken place every summer for the past 63 years.
In a few short weeks, the old seven-lane pool will be drained, dismantled and become part of Joeys past. But there is still a lot of love for the old War Memorial Pool.
As the boys take in coach Mr Felix Jonson’s advice from the pool ledge, GPS Swimming Convenor Mr Cameron Hart remembers playing in the pool as a young boy. “I actually went to school across the road at Villa Maria primary and we used to come on a Sunday,” he said. “It was very much a community pool open to the public and we used to have so much fun using the diving board.”
Inside the pool’s fence, marble statues of the seasons have watched over generations of College swimming carnivals. Recently, they have borne witness to an upsurge in participation as boys embrace the team ethos Messrs Johnson and Hart have been trying to promote. The result has been improved GPS carnival performances across the board. A new spirit of togetherness has worked wonders.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work on team building, being in the water together,” Mr Johnson says. “I think it’s because of this support that the boys are doing better. Swimming can be quite a lonely sport doing laps up and down the pool by yourself, but knowing your teammates are there supporting you and being able to have a good time with them means they enjoy it more and improve.”
“Felix has been great, he really helped with my stroke rate in the butterfly – it was too fast and he got me to slow down and stretch out.”Liam StUART – Year 12
The appointment of captains for the senior, intermediate and junior divisions has also paid dividends, challenging boys to take more accountability for their actions in the pool. Senior captain Liam Stuart (Year 12) said the emphasis on teamwork has made his final swimming season at Joeys one to cherish.
“It’s a really good group of blokes. Everyone can have a laugh but also switch on when they need to. Felix has been great, he really helped with my stroke rate in the butterfly – it was too fast and he got me to slow down and stretch out.”
Liam also has fond memories of the Memorial Pool.
“It’s not the best pool out there but it’s special to Joeys. I remember one of my first days here, and all of the other boys were here in the pool. It was great fun.”
It’s a sentiment shared by Year nine student Johannes Logan: “The pool is great for recovery, training or just mucking around with mates. I have lots of good memories.”
Year seven boys Zac Anderson and Ashton Brown are two of more than a dozen students who joined the squad this year. The added bonus of swimming is that unlike other sports, students of all ages can train together, which means younger boys make friends with seniors and feel more a part of the College social fabric. Zac has made it on to the GPS swimming team and says the social aspect of swimming at Joeys has been a bonus. “I’ve met a lot of friends and it helps your swimming. At practice, we always try to get faster and beat the time we had. The competition pushes you.”
Ashton agrees: “It’s really enjoyable swimming with mates.”
Ashton, Zac and their mates are looking forward to the new pool. Doubtless, it will attract legions of new squad swimmers eager to experience its state of the art features. It will also be heated, ensuring greater use in the winter months. Mr Hart is excited by the possibilities the new facility brings, although he jokes that a heated pool might cause Joeys to lose a long-held psychological advantage.
“I always said to the boys in August when we start training that we’re going to be tougher than the other schools because we’re swimming in a pool that’s colder.
“But no, the heating will make a huge difference in bringing more boys to the sport. It will be used all-year round, whereas now there are almost six months of the year where not much happens. And it will be an awesome facility that everyone wants to use.”
As the boys towel off after another successful training session, the old cerise and blue diving blocks are still standing proudly at the city end of the pool. They will be gone soon, but their departure will signal a new chapter in the history of swimming at Joeys. A bright new chapter that puts the College firmly at the forefront of school sport.