It's Saturday morning. 7:00 a.m. Good luck prying a college student out of bed for a free meal... A fire drill even - never mind an early-morning practice. But in the case of Providence's swimming and diving senior captain Seth Brockman, a seven o'clock swim is an opportunity to do something he loves, than an untimely inconvenience. A four-year member of the squad, this biology major has seen his share of pre-sunrise swims, not only at Providence College, but throughout a career that began at the age of six. This fall, gearing up for his last season of athletic competition, Brockman came across one of his toughest assignments yet.
A native of Louisiana, Brockman's family lives minutes outside the "Big Easy", in Kenner, Louisiana, an area ravished by Hurricane Katrina in September of 2005. Brockman was preparing to return to PC, when he and his family evacuated the state and headed north to Texas. Spending time in Dallas during the storm, Brockman actually flew out of Houston to arrive in Providence for the start of classes.
"I felt bad about coming back to PC because I didn't want to leave my family," Brockman said. Additionally, as the youngest sibling in his family, he has a sense of concern regarding his parents who have matured in years.
"I wanted to do something, anything, to help them... and when Jon (Caswell, Swimming & Diving head coach) came to us with the idea of a Swim-for-Support in conjunction with the (Rhode Island chapter of the American) Red Cross, I was really excited and jumped at the opportunity."
Collecting more and $1,200 by himself, Brockman set out to ask anyone - teachers, students and staff members - for small donations.
"Everyone was very giving," he noted. Not that it surprised him that people were receptive to the idea, but the fact that students especially would find $20 without the blink an eye, really hit him.
"As supportive as the professors and administration were, I was more surprised by the students," Brockman recalled. "It meant a lot to me to have their support."
"Seth is a good kid who made a tough decision to come back to school early (for pre-season training)," said Caswell. "His performance and leadership with the fundraiser meant a lot, and the other kids on the team recognize that. The support our kids showed this event was great, but I was even more impressed with the generosity of the students on campus. 75% of our fundraiser came from students here at PC."
The actual Swim-for-Support came in late September as a typical Saturday morning practice was augmented with student-athletes on both the men's and women's teams joining in a labor of love. With donations or pledges (based on a certain amount per lap each swimmer completed), the Friars worked out for 200 laps at PC's Taylor Natatorium.
"Seth really leads by example and the Swim-for-Support is another instance of this," Caswell remarked. "He is on pace to graduate this year and posted his highest semester-GPA this past spring. He's our captain and go-to guy - all the kids look up to him. I couldn't ask for more."
Brockman also credits Caswell, who is in his third year with the Friars, for the program's development, not only in pool, but with events (like Red Cross Swim-for-Support) that have brought great change and excitement to campus. With an impressive win over Fairfield in their season-opener, ("I've never seen Coach so fired up!" said Brockman.) the team has generated interest and success around it.
"Everyone is excited and wants to swim fast," Brockman explains. "Since my freshman year, Jon has really turned the program around so that everyone wants to be there everyday. It's a completely different attitude."
Looking back, is there anything Brockman would have done differently?
"Nah," he points out, as a friend of his at Tulane (New Orleans, La.) hasn't been able to practice at all. "If he heard me complain about practicing, he'd kick my butt! I've come to realize that I have it a lot better than most."
7:00 a.m. practices included.
By Michael Coyne for the Providence College Digest