It takes more than an understand of the sport to become the coach of a synchronized swimming team. It requires organization, perseverance, sacrifice, domestic skills, a knack of raising money . . . and a car with a full tank of gas.
"Right now I'm in the middle of baking cupcakes," said Sonja Lazarowitz of Darwood, Md., a local synchronized-swimming pioneer and presently coach of the Rockville Municipal Synchro Team. "We have bake sales, swimathons, arts-and-crafts fairs, anything to raise money. I'm very involved in making potholders sell for a dollar. We'll sell anything we can to people to make a few dollars."
Dot Beavers of Silver Spring, coach of the Potomac Valley Aqualinas, changed her career plans to become involved in the sport. "I was going to go to medical school before I took the job with the (Arlington) Aquettes," she said. "I told myself I liked synchronized swimming and I'd take the job for two years. After three months I told my parents I didn't want to go to medical school . . . I wanted to work with synchronized swimmers. It's probably the girls as people that makes me like it. It's not acceptable with my parents, but I feel everybody should do something they want to."
Synchronized swimming is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States, expected to become an Olympic sport, possibly in 1980. Its popularity stems from its combination of strength and endurance with grace, rhythm, and exacting body control not usually associated with water sports.
There are two sections of scoring - required figures and free routines - just as in figure skating. The competition opens with each team member being asked to perform six figures, picked at random out of 36 by a judge. This means each swimmer must be able to perform all 36 figures.Scoring is done on a scale of 0 to 10.
Just as in figure skating, the free routine, performed by a team of four to eight girls, is most appealing to spectators. The squads offer a routine to music, which is piped underwater as well as through the air. Each swimmer's movements must be coordinated with both the music and the other team members. Each group is scored for both execution and difficulty of content.
The programs may last no longer than five minutes with out-of-water grace essential for the 20-second maximum entry into the water.
There are also singles and duets competition with four-minute-maximum free routines.
The greatest battle for a synchronized swimming team isn't always mastering the in-water skills. The ever-present problem is locating an available pool, as well as a place to practice out-of-water entry.
The girls must have willing parents, who will drive them to the distant available pools. The Aqualinas, which are a combination of the Aquettes and the former Rockville Sailfish, practice three nights a week at St. Maurice School in Potomac and another three evenings at the Ramada Inn at Tysons Corner, Va. Thirteen of the 20 squads girls, aged seven to 25 years-old, reside in Northern Virginia.
Lazarowitz's team practices solely at the Rockville Municipal Swim Center, but the coach must scrap for available hours and the squad averages only 5 1/2-6 hours of practice per week.
The Aqualinas charge $15 per month for the first girl in the family, $9 for the second, and $7 for the third. To become a member of the Rockville municipal group, a girl is assessed $10 each month if she belongs to the pool and $25 if she is not a member.
Synchronized swimming offers an outlet to those many swimmers who tire of those endless [WORD ILLEGIBLE] required to attain speed. It also allows gymnasts and dancers with other desites to still use their talents creatively.
"A swimmer who can swim fast has trained her body to a point where she can do something that doesn't come naturally," Beavers explained. "Synchronized swimming could take all the speed swimmers bored with swimming and make them [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Or if kids are coming in second in gymnastics or ballet, we could make them champions. I would like a good basic swimmer who can swim a half mile and still breathe and walk and do the things necessary for life."
Lazarowitz has one great advantage over Beavers. She is an employee of the city of Rockville, which has shown a great interest in the growth of the sport. Beavers receives no salary for her 30 hours each week and must additionally maintain a full-time job.
While the world may not yet recognize the beauty and grace of synchronized swimming, the girls still have their fun and with the help of car pools, make it to the right pool each night.
"It's not all speed swimming that gets boring. It's creative. Your music expresses a lot with your swimming," said Chris Wrigley, whose sister Jen added, "Lots of people know what synchronized swimming is. They always think of Esther Williams. Is that her name?"
Both the Aqualinas and the Rockville municipal team have limited openings. Beavers can be reached at 589-8974 and Lazarowitz at 948-1530.