Sports Person of the Week
Lewis Made a Great Call to Start Swimming
Raymond Lewis didn’t anticipate being a swimmer in high school, but the North Haven senior recently wrapped up a nice career participating in the sport. (Photo courtesy of Raymond Lewis )
Raymond Lewis came to North Haven High School with plans of playing soccer. However, after receiving some encouragement from a few friends, he decided to also join the boys’ swimming and diving team.
North Haven’s athletes ultimately merged with athletes from three other schools to form the Greater New Haven (GNH) Warriors co-op swimming and diving squad. Throughout the past four years, Raymond, now a senior, made significant strides in the pool and grew to love a sport that he didn’t even plan on participating in.
“I had a couple friends on the team. They told me I should try out. Swimming was a different sport. It was something new to try. I thought I might as well,” Raymond says. “I was planning on only playing soccer, but I thought swimming would be a great full body exercise, and I wanted to play another sport. I might as well give it a try.”
Raymond felt a little nervous when he first started swimming. It was stressful for him to try and learn a new sport, but Raymond was able to quickly acclimate to both his teammates and North Haven’s coaching staff. Raymond learned a lot about swimming by staying after practice to work with diving coach Bob Lewis.
“I was very stressed a lot. I was nervous. But the team and the coaches were really inclusive. It helped out a lot,” says Raymond. “We had a really small team freshman year. The diving coach taught me after practice how to swim. I quickly worked my way up to competing at meets.”
Raymond entered his sophomore season with much more confidence. He had grown stronger with more endurance and started to see the results of that with improved performances. Even more than his physical attributes, Raymond gained mental strength as he realized how much he liked swimming and that it was something he wanted to continue.
When Raymond was a junior, the North Haven boys’ swimming and diving team joined forces with athletes from East Haven, North Branford, and Guilford to form the GNH Warriors co-op. It took a little time, but Raymond and his teammates bonded throughout the season to become a family.
“At first, it was a little weird. I had never experienced anything like this before, joining teams with another school, especially since my previous two years, we competed against these same kids,” Raymond says. “With time, everyone kind of built a family. We were all brothers and sisters. We had a tight bond.”
Raymond primarily competed in the sprint freestyle events for the Warriors. During his senior season, though, he took on the challenge of swimming the 500 freestyle. Head Coach Martha Phelan says that Raymond’s ability to compete in the grueling distance event showed just how far he had come.
“Ray came to our program with no experience training or competing as a swimmer. It’s not an easy feat to take up swimming in a varsity program,” says Phelan. “Ray competed in the longest and most grueling event his senior year. It was gratifying to watch his team cheer him on. His growth over four years was a source of great pride for me and Ray.”
When he was a freshman, Raymond didn’t talk to many people on the team. He was shy and mostly kept to himself. However, as a senior, Raymond came out of his shell and started motivating his teammates by getting them pumped up before every meet. Raymond says there was always a positive atmosphere on the pool deck and that, when times got tough, it felt good to know that he always had his fellow Warriors by his side.
“There have been a lot of times I have wanted to quit the sport. It gets really hard at times. But I just had to keep pushing through it,” Raymond says. “I’m glad that I did.
If I had quit, I wouldn’t have been able to meet new people and enjoy the success that the team did,” he adds.
Raymond also spent four years competing for the North Haven boys’ soccer team. Raymond played his first three years at outside midfielder before moving to defense as a senior. Raymond also joined the boys’ outdoor track team as a sophomore and is serving as one of the team’s captains this spring. Raymond says that his experience in soccer helped him become a better communicator as a member of the swim squad.
“I’ve learned communication on the soccer field, talking to my teammates,” says Raymond, who recently committed to attend UConn to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering. “I can bring that communication and team-building exercises to swimming.”
While he never expected to swim in high school, Raymond says the experience has had an immense impact on his life. Raymond feels grateful that he followed his friends’ advice and jumped into something that he came to love.
“It is a huge honor to call myself a swimmer and swim with this team. Not many people can do that. A lot of people can’t take that chance to pick up a new sport, especially swimming,” Raymond says. “Swimming is a completely different sport. I’m so glad I did it. The experiences I had, the friendships I made have been incredible. I would have regretted it if I never did it.”