MEN'S SWIMMING AND DIVING: Cards lean on leadership heading into MAC Championships

Seniors tend to lead by example rather than vocally for squad

For a team to have any chemistry, direction or purpose, leadership is a must. Without leaders, a team will crumble.

For the Ball State University men's swimming and diving team, the leadership comes from the most seasoned of its members. The seniors on the team are the unquestioned leaders and have helped the team have a sense of togetherness rarely found in college. The members of the team agree that the leadership is effective in large part because it is less talking and more substance.

The Cardinals will rely on this leadership today when they begin the Mid-American Conference Championships.

Freshman Devon Hill understands the value of his senior teammates. The first year of college swimming can be very trying on anyone, and Hill is no exception. He entered the year thinking it would be taxing, but he no idea how hard it would be.

"It's really difficult, even more than I expected," Hill said. "In college, everyone is good at every competition, compared to high school, where there weren't many good swimmers until we went to state."

Hill said the practice load has been tough, and that's where the seniors come into the picture.

"They taught me that you can be really dedicated to it," Hill said, "but you can still have a lot of fun doing it. You can work hard and love swimming."

Showing him the ropes and making him appreciate what he does has had a huge impression on Hill, and he doesn't take his seniors for granted.

"A lot of people go into college sports, and they are intimidated by the seniors," Hill said, "but all of these guys have been really cool and approachable."

Senior Ben Battjes knows where Hill is. Just three years ago, Battjes was in Hill's position and didn't know exactly what to expect.

He said that he never envisioned himself swimming as many different strokes as he has done in college, but he has become a very useful member of the Cardinals' squad.

In his junior year, Battjes was named Second Team All-MAC and this year he has twice been named MAC Swimmer of the Week. Battjes said he hopes to add to his collection of accolades over the weekend.

Accolades are not all Battjes has brought to the table. Throughout the year, he has been a leader for the Cardinals. Not always the loudest person, Battjes prefers to influence his teammates in a different ways.

"There are two types of leaders," Battjes said. "The ones that are very vocal, and the ones that lead by action. I prefer to lead by example and let others do the talking."

Battjes certainly has led with his work ethic and vast improvements in the pool. His accolades and teammates' respect are both proof that he has come a long way and that he doesn't have to do much talking to make his mark on others.

Joining Battjes as someone who prefers to lead by example is senior Ben Karwoski. Karwoski points out that doing what you are telling others to do makes you a much more credible and respected leader.

"You can tell someone all day to do something," Karwoski said, "but until you actually do it yourself, it doesn't really matter what you say. You have to back it up."

For Karwoski, swimming at Ball State has made a huge impact on his life. He got to know his wife, Emily, better since they both swim at the university. Emily is a senior on the women's team, and the two were married in the summer of 2009.

Karwoski is looking to use the leadership skills that he honed as a member of the Cardinals after he gets out of college. Both Emily and he have applied to be members of Athletes in Action, a religious group dedicated to using sports as a platform to help people around the world with questions of faith.

"That is what is really important to me," Karwoski said, "Swimming is really just something extra."

Karwoski's phenomenal leadership skills have aided all those who have come into the Ball State swimming organization, and he hopes he left a good impression on those he left behind.

If Hill's opinion is any indication, he has.

"Ben, and really all of the seniors, are good guys." Hill said, "They've just been great."

Seniors like Karwoski and Battjes are seeing their careers come down to the end beginning with today's championships. But the lasting legacy they have left on the program will remain.

The seniors have made their impact on the swimming team, and it is not one that can be measured with a stopwatch.


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