COLUMBUS, Ohio — Synchronized swimming is approaching the 2020 season with an emphasis on two themes – mental health and sustainability. These topics will be the focus of every aspect of the 2020 season with an overall message to ‘Break the Stigma – Be the Change.’
Visit any collegiate synchro meet and you’ll see captivating routines performed often to instrumental music. Ohio State, long known for its technical excellence and highly athletic gravity-defying lifts, has been both a trend-setter and consistent force in the synchronized swimming realm. The scoresheet is broken down into three components: artistic expression, technical execution and difficulty, all things Ohio State is highly regarded for. Many teams select themes for their routines at the beginning of the season to center suit design, choreography and performance around. In 2020, the Buckeyes are taking on the innovative themes of mental health and sustainability, concepts that will be adapted on a much larger scale than just in the pool.
This shift signifies a sense of responsibility the program feels to use their platform as collegiate student-athletes to be a voice and catalyst for change in the world. The innovative idea wasn’t mandated by coaching leadership. Rather, head coach Holly Vargo Brown and associate head coach Suzanna Hyatt approached the team with the concept and were met with passionate enthusiasm.
These two themes will not only guide performances for both the Scarlet and Gray teams, but will also play a role in their volunteer activities and social media presence throughout the season.
MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS
The Scarlet team will take ownership over the topic of mental health for their team routine, but it will be a focus for the whole program. Brown, who leads the Scarlet team, says that the entire program has placed an emphasis on having open and honest conversations about mental health; both within the team and between the student-athletes and coaching staff. With 1 in 5 adults suffering from some form of mental illness each year, the team is making every effort to break the stigma and promote conversation.
Head coach Holly Vargo Brown: “Our student-athletes are embracing the opportunity to use their sport as a means to raise awareness and create conversation about the importance of mental health. I admire their bravery in tackling what is often an uncomfortable and sensitive issue to discuss.”
Junior captain and Scarlet Squad member Rachel Jager: “Each year our coaches find amazing themes to swim to, but this season we are really hoping to create something that can have a major impact on people’s lives. In athletics, mental health is something that is often overlooked. Athletes are told to push through mental barriers and perform at their best. We want to make sure that not only fellow student-athletes but everyone knows that it is okay to not to be okay.”
SUSTAINABILITY AND ENVIRONMENTALLY-CONSCIOUS PRACTICES
The Gray team will be promoting sustainability, both literally and conceptually. Their team routine will feature ‘recycled’ portions of choreography, music and costuming adapted in fresh ways. Second to oil, the clothing and textile industry is the largest polluter in the world and reusing costumes is the team’s way of doing their part.
The gray routine will subtly incorporate such issues as melting glaciers and deforestation into their performance. The program feels strongly about not only preaching the need for change but being the change.
Associate head coach Suzanna Hyatt: “I’m both excited and nervous with the challenge ahead of us. The young women we work with every day have grown up with unlimited access to information about the world we live in. Empowering our student-athletes to push the boundaries of their sport while being the change within the team and our community is inspiring.”
Senior captain and Gray Squad member Kaitlyn Carboun: “This routine and season aims to demonstrate the need for environmentally sustainable actions and challenges our team and community to be the change needed in this world. Our team embodies this not only in the water through movement, but also throughout actions and choices outside of the pool as we carry out our commitment of contributing to the global effort.”
The Buckeyes are conscious of feelings their performances may evoke in spectators at home meets and have pledged to have both mental health and sustainability support staff resources on-site and available to the crowd.