The Life of a Competitive Swimmer – vol. 2

Continuing our look at what it’s like to be a high school swimmer, here are a few more videos that feature students from swim teams across the country:

First up, CBS Chicago does a feature on the Evanston High School Girls Swim Team — you’ll hear specifically about how a relay race works, and one student’s daily routine:

In this clip, Becky Dionne from Alvirne High School discusses what got her into swimming and how she pumps herself up for competition:

This video showcases a few boys from Rose Bowl Aquatics, each talking about why they love swimming:

Quick Question: What’s a Rainbow Party?

…That’s like Rainbow Parties. My parents were so freaked out about those and I was like I wish I was invited to a Rainbow Party you know? Like you get to wear burgundy lipstick or something and give a guy head in a cool den.

Rainbow parties first came into wide public awareness in the early 2000s after several frantic media reports about the phenomenon, including pediatrician Meg Meeker’s 2002 book Epidemic: How Teen Sex Is Killing Our Kids, a widely publicized episode of Oprah, and the publication of the YA book Rainbow Party by Paul Ruditis. In a New York Times article from the time, the parties are described as:

…group oral sex parties in which each girl wears a different shade of lipstick, and each guy tries to emerge sporting every one of the various colors.

Whether or not rainbow parties are real has been an ongoing debate for a while. Most experts believe it’s an overblown urban legend without any basis in real teen behavior. Sociology professor Kathleen A. Bogle examines the media coverage around rainbow parties and other teen sex panics in her book Kids Gone Wild, and spoke about the validity of the legend in an interview with Salon.

Ester’s Swimming Role Models

Ester, like many young competitive athletes, certainly has some role models in her sport that she looks up to. Whether she models her training regimen after them, or studies their technique, here are a few top swimmers from recent years that she might follow:

Missy Franklin

Missy Franklin has become one of the most popular female swimmers in the US in recent years, largely due to her huge success at the 2012 Summer Olympics, where she won 4 gold medals at only 17 years old. She currently holds the world record in the 200-meter backstroke and American records in both the 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke, and has won twenty-seven medals in international competition so far. Franklin currently attends college at the University of California at Berkeley and is a member of the U.S. national team with plans to compete in the upcoming 2016 Olympics.

Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time, winning 22 medals total: 18 gold, two silver, and two bronze. Phelps is also the long course world record holder in the 100-meter butterfly, 200-meter butterfly and 400-meter individual medley. His success over the past decade has led to a boost in swimming’s popularity, both with young athletes and TV viewers alike. Although he has stated the 2012 Olympics would be his last, he recently announced he was considering coming out of retirement to compete again.

Simone Manuel

Simone Manuel, an 18-year-old freshman at Standford University, is one of America’s current top freestyle sprinters. She, her teammate Lia Neal, and University of Florida swimmer Natalie Hinds, recently made history when they finished 1-2-3 in the women’s 100-yard freestyle, respectively, marking the first time three African American swimmers swept the medals in an NCAA championship event. At those championships, Manuel set an American record for her time of 46.09 in the women’s 100 yard freestyle, making headlines and cementing herself as an athlete to watch in the coming years. She is training for next summer’s U.S. Olympic Trials, and hopes to get her Olympic debut at the 2016 games in Rio.

Allison Schmitt

Allison Schmitt is a six-time Olympic medalist who specializes in freestyle events, competing in both the 2008 and 2012 games for the U.S. national team. She began swimming competitively at age 10, and started training alongside Olympian Michael Phelps beginning in her senior year of high school. Schmitt began suffering from depression after the London Olympics, which started to impact her training and race results. She eventually made her struggles with depression public, hoping to help others who were also experiencing mental health issues.

Cullen Jones

Cullen Jones is an Olympic medalist specializing in freestyle sprint events. He holds the world record in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay as part of the U.S. national team, and won silver medals in the 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay and the 50-meter freestyle, and gold in the 4 x 100 meter medley at the 2012 Olympic Games. Jones is the first African-American to hold a world record in swimming.

Sex Education in Florida

As we discover more about the setting of Dry Land and what being a teen in Florida is like, one of the things that’s come up is the state’s sex ed curriculum — what kind of information might teens like Amy and Ester receive about sex in school?


According to the Guttmacher Institute, Florida is currently one of 28 states in the US that does not mandate sexual or reproductive health education be taught in school. Most high school students must receive one-half credit in “life management skills” in either ninth or tenth grade in order to graduate, but there are no requirements or standards for the course content.

When sex ed is taught in Florida schools, it must be age appropriate, but there is no requirement that it be medically and scientifically accurate. The state also requires that instructors stress abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage as the expected standard for all school-age students, as well as cover negative outcomes of teen sex.

A 2007 study by the University of Florida assessing state sex ed practices in middle and high schools found that students received inconsistent instruction with a wide range of accuracy:

“What we found was quite concerning, particularly in light of the fact that levels of sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies continue to rise in Florida and the state ranks second in the nation in terms of annual incident HIV infections,” said lead investigator Brian Dodge, formerly of the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions.

The researchers found regional differences in program content in Florida’s public schools. Teachers in North Florida were twice as likely as teachers in Central Florida and three times as likely as those in South Florida to teach an abstinence-only curriculum, which typically does not cover the risks and benefits of contraceptives, said research team member Frank Bandiera, a graduate of UF’s Master of Public Health program and a doctoral student in epidemiology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

“Most people are aware that there are major cultural differences between, say, Miami and Tallahassee,” Bandiera said. “What we found in terms of sex education, though, is that these places may as well be on different planets.”

“More than half of sex educators used a ‘locally developed curriculum,’” Dodge said. “In reality this could be anything. Respondents to our survey reported using everything from formal state guidelines to random Internet information and outdated county curricula. In short, there appears to be no uniformity in terms of underlying value systems or philosophical foundations for sex education in Florida.”

It sounds like Florida teens might need some” target=”_blank”>help from John Oliver:

Quick Question: What’s up with the Rock Shop?

I used to hang out a lot at the Rock Shop. You know the store by the freeway where you can crack rocks that look like regular dull rocks but actually have this crazy dyed crystal stuff on the inside?

Amy is talking about geodes, which are spherical or oblong rocks filled with crystals. The crystals form when mineral-rich groundwater or rainwater seeps through porous rock, leaving behind mineral deposits. The minerals layer over time and eventually fill the rock cavity with crystals, though the type varies by location, temperature, acidity, and type of rock. Quartz crystals are some of the most common, but silica, hematite, dolomite, calcite, and “fool’s gold” are some other common types that might appear. Geodes are frequently cut in half, polished, and sold as souvenirs.

Here are a few examples:

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The Life of a Competitive Swimmer – vol. 1

To help get a sense of the day-to-day demands of competitive swimming and what life is like as a student athlete, we’ll be using this space in the coming weeks to look at videos, articles, and interviews about being on a swim team.

First up, in the video below, the coaches of the Seaford Barracudas talk about the sport’s recent rise in popularity, the basic training schedule for swimmers at the high school level, and the importance of involved parents in the success of the team.

Quick Question: Who’s Raymond Carver?

And like we’ll all read Raymond Carver and have debates about whether he was really that good or like if he just like wrote really short sentences and that was it.


Raymond Carver (May 25, 1938 – August 2, 1988) was a fiction writer and poet who is widely considered one of the most influential American short story authors of the 20th century. His work focused on the struggles and loneliness of everyday people from working-class backgrounds, and his stories often mirrored his own life experience — Carver himself came from a poor family, and struggled with alcoholism and a broken marriage.

His writing is sometimes categorized as minimalism or “dirty realism,” a style of fiction that emerged in the late 70s and early 80s. The genre is characterized by gritty depictions of mundane daily events and a spare, unadorned style of prose that relies on short, direct sentences.

After some early success publishing a few stories in various magazines, Carver’s first short-story collection Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? was released in 1976 and was shortlisted for the National Book Award. He was eventually able to stop working his various day job to focus on writing full time, and his later anthologies What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (1981), Cathedral (1984), and Where I’m Calling From (1988), as well as his collections of poetry, continued to raise his profile. He died from lung cancer in 1988.

To get a sense of Carver’s style, you can read his short story “Cathedral” online, or hear him read his most famous story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” via OpenCulture.

Design Inspiration: Institutional Spaces

In some of our early conversations with the production team, we’ve been looking at institutional spaces like schools, hospitals, and even prisons for design inspiration. These spaces have very different functions, but often look remarkably similar — repetitive tiling on the walls and floors, symmetry in design, and sterile, easy to clean surfaces are present in each one. Almost the entirety of Dry Land takes place in a high school locker room, and we’ll be looking for ways to incorporate some of these elements into that space.

Take a look at some of the design concept images below:

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Quick Question: What are bath salts?

Bath Salts—don’t you like eat cat’s faces and shit?

The term “bath salts” refers to an emerging family of recreational synthetic drugs that typically take the form of white powder, granules, or crystals that resemble true bath salts like Epsom salt. They are often especially dangerous because they frequently contain other, unknown ingredients that can have additional harmful side effects.

Users of bath salts report hallucinatory effects similar to drugs like LSD or MDMA. Paranoia, panic attacks, and violent behavior are also associated with use, and media reports about the drug frequently highlight these tendencies.

One of the news stories Ester is likely referring to in the text above is from a 2012 report out of Miami, sometimes called the Miami Cannibal Attack, in which a man named Rudy Eugene was caught on film attacking a homeless man on the side of the highway. The video of the incident showed Eugene, who had stripped naked, beating the homeless man, removing his pants, and then biting off the upper half of the man’s face, ultimately leaving him blind in both eyes. Police reports of the incident initially suggested bath salts as a potential factor in the attack, and subsequent news stories were quick to spread that theory, but toxicology reports later showed only marijuana in Eugene’s system.

Florida State & Seminole Swimming

Florida State University, founded in 1851, is located in Tallahassee, Florida — within a few hours’ drive of the high school where Dry Land takes place. As Amy mentions, “Like half of the people who I know who graduated last year go there.”

In the Fall 2014 semester, 41,773 students made up the student population of Florida State, and the in-state tuition rate for undergrads was $5,644/year. FSU’s school colors are garnet and gold, and their mascot is the Seminole.

The Florida State Seminole

The Florida State Seminole

In the play, Ester’s visit to Florida State for her swimming tryout is the only time we leave the high school’s locker room. The prospect of attending college and possibly getting a swimming scholarship is a big deal for Ester, and while we don’t see swim test, she does share her anxiety about it with Victor, a current FSU student. While sitting and talking in a dorm hallway, they touch on the sports culture of the school:


Sorry, it’s just that this school can make you a little sports-averse if that’s not your thing.

I’m sorry it’s just like hard for me not to see you as like—I don’t know I’m sure this sounds completely ludicrous to you, but— an oppressive force.


An oppressive force?


Not you. But like. I don’t know. You’re getting scouted for swimming.
Like you’ll probably get some boyfriend like my roommate you know? Or at least your picture on the wall or something with your whole team, smiling, being really physically fit together. Eating all the meat in the dinning halls in your sweat pants and wet hair—at your reserved table. Smiling.
And I’ll be like listening to the Vampire Weekend Pandora station in the common room with my RA named Fred.

Florida State’s sports teams compete at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I level, which is the highest level of intercollegiate athletics. They have a robust athletic program that includes nine men’s and eleven women’s teams, ranging from football and basketball, to track and field, swimming, and tennis. FSU has been ranked among the top fifty NCAA Division I athletic programs in the country since the early 1990s, and spent nearly $87 million for its sports teams and facilities in the 2014-2015 school year.

Below are some images of the FSU campus, including the swimming facilities that Ester likely used for her tryout. You can also take a virtual campus tour online, or check out more Florida State swimming photos and information at the Seminoles Swimming and Diving webpage.

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