People gathered around the pool, breathing in the chlorine and tension filling the air. Underneath the surface of the water, there were five students, strapped with scuba diving masks and ready to win.
“Get set,” shouted the announcer sitting on a lifeguarding chair, a megaphone to his mouth.“Go!” Completely submerged, the students began. To any novice to underwater basket weaving, the players’ fingers may have seemed frantic as they worked on their baskets. They, however, had been training for months for this competition.
Atholton sports coach Will William kickstarted the team back in December. He was studying the roster for the school sports team when the realization dawned upon him that there simply was not enough diversity. Since then, the team has grown to about two hundred people, with players from all grades. Junior Kathy Anderson, who joined immediately, strongly agreed with his decision to start the team.
“Field hockey, basketball, lacrosse…it’s always the same. This school needed something new, and Coach took the matter into his own hands.”
Anderson had been playing for the school field hockey team when William pitched the idea to her, having coached her and seen that she was “extraordinary” on the field- he figured that she had what it took. Anderson rose to the challenge, dubbing the team the “Raider Sharks”, and taking second place in last week’s underwater basket weaving competition.
“Andy Ruiz made first,” Anderson said. “But I’m planning to train even harder for the next one in April, studying my basket textbooks and remembering to do index finger aerobics, so I’ll be ready for him.” Coach William wasn’t as worried about Anderson’s performance, and focused more on the energy of the competition.
“It was insane,” he said. “I mean, they’ve been training since the season began, and they were out there to win. They were out for blood,” he said, smiling proudly.
Already, mandatory underwater basket weaving practices take place six times a week, two hours a day. Students take a bus to one of the community’s nearby pools, which varies depending on their availability, strap on their scuba gear, get in the water, and weave. The average basket is about a foot in diameter, and takes about ten minutes to weave. The Raider Sharks are hoping to get that time down to eight minutes.
Sophomore Matty Nguyen was indignant when asked about the amount of time the students were expected to practice for. “We’re just as serious as any other sports team. People don’t think of underwater basket weaving as intense, but it is,” he retorted. “It takes focus, fast fingers, and if you forget the difference between coiled and plaited baskets, you could drown. That happens sometimes.”