Updated Mon, Feb 24, 2014 6:06 pm
Swimmers with bodies in perfect shape for their Mid-American Conference Tournament lie on the pool deck. They have been fine-tuning muscles for months now, but that’s not their only type of advanced preparation. They put on drag suits to make their exercises more difficult, but little do they think about their built in resistance: body hair.
Contrary to societal norms, the Bobcats, along with majority of other competitive swimming teams, have laid down their razors this season to raise their levels of success.
19 swimmers walked into practice the morning of Oct. 1, already knowing they won’t pick up another can of Skintimate or bottle of Nair until the MAC Tournament, with their competition season about to begin. Even though interim head coach Derick Roe still briefly reminded them that shaving their leg hair was now off limits, the ladies were way ahead of the game.
“This year I mentioned it and they were like, ‘We already know, we’ve already had the meeting,’ so it’s a team enforced policy,” said Roe, a former MAC athlete as a record-holding sprinter at Eastern Michigan.
Embarrassing tendencies are always easier when done in a group, and that’s just how the swimmers manage the extended period of time.
“I know it’s hard for the freshmen, not doing it and then coming into this, but you get used to it. It’s a team experience, team bonding,” said senior Laurin Williams, a veteran when it comes to this practice.
“Not shaving has been a thing ever since I have been around the sport,” Roe explained.
Although the tradition has been around for years, its origins are unknown. Most children serious about swimming start adopting this practice during their middle school years, but not as extreme as the Bobcats.
After five months of competition, swimmers go through the tapering process. Tapering is a gradual decrease in the distance they swim on a regular basis to make sure their bodies are in the best physical shape for the MAC Tournament.
The swimmers will enter the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio, in prime form, including the condition of their skin.
“When you’re growing you leg hair, it’s creating more drag when you’re in the water and you’re not removing those dead skin cells constantly with the razor,” Roe said. “It just creates a less aerodynamic feel in the water. [Shaving] allows you to be able to feel the water a little bit better while you’re at it.”
Many swimmers will go as far as shaving their backs, or the insides of their feet, or maybe the palms of their hands. Many women don’t have hair in these places, but it gets rid of the dead skin left on their bodies.
“It’s all just about removing those dead skin cells and getting a better touch for the water,” Roe said.
Practicing and competing with the hair and dead skin cells on their bodies has made the swimmers grow accustomed to the natural drag that comes along with it. Jumping in the water for the first time after shaving their bodies is a completely different feeling and is looked forward to as if it were a holiday.
“It’s so cool getting in for the first time after shaving because it’s so smooth,” Williams said. “I don’t know if there are any scientific facts behind it, but mentally, it makes you feel faster in the water.”
On Feb. 27, the ‘Cats will jump back into the competition waters with not only the softest skin they’ve had all season, but also rejuvenated bodies after they’ve completed the tapering process.
The Bobcats are hoping this combination of tradition will put them back on the right track after losing the past three matchups against MAC teams. With their final matchup imminent, there is no more wait to shave.
Competition eve will be a time of mental preparation, but also a celebration with the party favors in the form of gel or lotion to remove prickly practice aids as payment for a season’s hard work.