The Florida A&M University men’s swimming and diving team is familiar with the phrase “Whatever doesn’t kill makes you stronger.”
After the premature ending of its last season, the team now looks forward to getting back to its goal of success in the upcoming season.
Before the launch of the 2005-2006 school year, students and coaches of four sports, including swimming, were informed that they would be dropped from the athletic program because of a lack of funding.
This left many of the students and staff members involved with the swim team discouraged.
“It was heartbreaking,” said senior Roderick Barnett.
“It happened the year before and then they brought it back. But when it happened again during my junior year, I was turned off from swimming.”
During the 2005 Homecoming Convocation, university Interim President Castell V. Bryant said the swim team – along with the three other sports – would be reinstated.
After receiving the news, many students were elated about the possibility of competing again. “I was relieved,” Barnett said.
Although Barnett was frustrated about the state of the swimming program after last semester, he said new head coach, Ian Lee, would point the team in the right direction.
With Lee at the helm and new team members in place, FAMU could have a high-quality performance in this year’s swimming and diving division.
In the first year back since the team was discontinued, Lee’s main focus is rejuvenating the squad.
“I want to rebuild programs, rebuild the number of athletes interested and rebuild a solid foundation for the team,” Lee said.
Mejahid El-Amin, a swimmer who will compete in the U.S. Open this fall, said he almost left the FAMU program.
“I was on the verge of transferring to Florida State (University),” El-Amin said.
But with the team’s return, El-Amin is confident about the upcoming season.
“Now that we’re back, we’re going to bring that pain,” El-Amin said.
El-Amin said that Lee has brought a lot of excitement to the program.
“He came in the first week of school, got everything together, pretty much working from scratch,” El-Amin said.
Coach Lee’s enthusiasm can be heard every time he speaks of the Rattlers. “I am very excited about my athletes,” Lee said.
Lee has shown his knack for selecting athletes by recruiting nearly 25 members on the team. Although he insists that the process is not yet complete, he knows that the show must go on.
The swim team competes in the Northeast Conference – not the MEAC. They will compete against teams such as Howard University and North Carolina A&T State University.
The Rattlers host their orange and green meet Oct. 7 at noon. The season opens up with the historically black college and university relay, held Oct. 13-14 in Greensboro, N.C.
With a new beginning, members of the FAMU swim team remain optimistic about the year.
“We’re going to have a great season,” Barnett said.