This is a printer-friendly version of an article from Zip06.com.Article Published January 17, 2019
Stephen Borrelli had zero experience as a competitive swimmer when he joined the North Haven boys’ swimming and diving team in his freshman year. On his first day of practice, Head Coach Martha Phelan fitted Stephen with fins in order to teach him the proper techniques in a controlled setting. However, Stephen worked hard to learn about the sport these past few seasons and, now a junior, he’s consistently producing points for the Indians.
“It was challenging. It wasn’t easy,” says Stephen. “My first day was difficult, because I didn’t really know how to swim much, but everybody on the team was supportive. Martha gave me time and made the practices easier for me.”
Coach Phelan employs an inclusive approach and wants to have as many athletes on her squad as possible. That philosophy proved beneficial for Stephen, who’s made huge strides in the pool since that initial practice.
“Stephen is the product of someone who kept working and has become a good swimmer. He’s also a real leader socially,” Phelan says. “Some teams have standards where, if you can’t meet them on the first day, you’re not eligible to make the team. We’re fortunate enough to have an eight-lane pool, so I don’t cut anyone if they’re willing to put in the work.”
Stephen regularly competes in the distance freestyle events for the Indians. He swims the 200 freestyle, in addition to doing the grueling marathon that is the 500 freestyle.
“I kind of enjoy long distance more than sprinting,” Stephen says. “Distance is more of a set pace that you can try to keep throughout an entire race. I like that more.”
Aside from the freestyles, Stephen also swims the 100 breaststroke, the 100 butterfly, and on the 200 medley relay. It’s exciting for Stephen that he gets to contribute to the Indians by competing in a variety of events.
“For learning new strokes, it was difficult, because they used different muscle movements from freestyle,” says Stephen. “It feels nice to score points for the team. It shows I’m not just there, but also helping us win our meets.”
Stephen has gone all-in on his offseason training as his swimming career has unfolded. Stephen swims throughout the year, so that he’s always in tip-top shape and ready to make a splash when the high school season arrives.
“I think I’ve progressed well. After my freshman year, I started swimming year-round for the most part, so I’m always going to practice,” Stephen says. “I believe that has helped a lot. It’s helped me improve how I swim, and it has definitely helped me get faster and get better with my endurance. Training has helped me hold different paces.”
While Stephen takes his training seriously, Coach Phelan says that he also knows how to lighten the mood around the pool.
“He has a great sense of humor and is quite the comedian. He took a picture of me while I was cheering, and I look evil. He made it life-size, and they keep it on the pool deck at all meets and bring it to away meets to display,” says Phelan. “He brings a really nice element to the team. He has really emerged as a great teammate and personal success story.”
Stephen loves the positive team atmosphere surrounding the Indians. The fact that everyone on the squad is so close makes Stephen look forward to getting in the water day after day.
“With the team, everyone is nice. I like swimming with everybody,” says Stephen. “When I go to practice, it’s cool to see everybody every day and swim with them.”