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Synch or Swim

Junior Parker Silagy makes Troy High School history as first male member of the synchronized swimming team.
Laith Hermiz
Junior Parker Silagy poses outside of his Anatomy classroom.

Parker Silagy is many things, but a coward is not one of them. While most might be daunted by joining a traditionally all-girls synchronized swimming team, the junior takes it in stride. 

“I don’t really care about that,” he said. “It’s definitely something that crossed my mind but it never made me uncomfortable. It was more like, yeah, I’m going to be the only boy on the team and it’s going to be noticeable.” 

The team, colloquially referred to as “synchro,” doesn’t limit boys from joining. Recently, during the recruiting process, the team’s captains have begun actively seeking out the boys’ water polo team for new swimmers. It was during one of these recruitment meetings, alongside encouragement from an assistant coach, that Silagy made the initial decision to join. 

He started synchronized swimming on a trial basis with pre-season workouts, simultaneously attending pre-season workouts for the boys’ swim team which he  had previously been part of. Many water polo swimmers join during the winter to stay in-shape, but as a goalie, he found that synchronized swimming was better suited. 

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On a technical level, both synchronized swimming and water polo share many similarities, namely the treading technique known as “eggbeater.” As someone who seeks to improve, continued practice of the shared technique seemed like the only way for him to train appropriately during water polo’s off-season.

Ria Gupta

“A lot of it is sculling too. There’s so many ways to do it and knowing when to do it,” Silagy added. Sculling is a specific arm movement used by swimmers to propel themselves within the water. He continued, “One of the basic things I need to work on is getting myself up out of the water besides treading, like jumping and pushing myself up.”

The junior joined the Troy United water polo team in his freshman year, becoming a goalie at the end of the season. Taking on the role was a natural process, as Silagy was always a naturally defensive player.

 “I was really good at defense,” he admitted. “From the start, I just had a better tread than a lot of the other boys on the team.”

He had started out as a field player for the Troy United water polo team until conflicts prohibited the junior varsity goalie from participating in a game. Since then, the junior has slowly risen up the ranks.

Silagy didn’t make his final decision for the winter season until after he earned his place on  both the swim and synchronized swimming teams.

“That was the hardest part,” he said in regards to the swim team. “Saying to Coach Larson, yeah I made the team and now I’m quitting. I really do respect him.” Still, he added, “I was also on the swim team last year. There’s plenty of swimming in water polo, but swimming isn’t what I like about it. I enjoy the game aspect of water polo. I really struggled with the swim team last season because it was just swim and I didn’t have the motivation for it.”

Another part of this decision was determined by the team’s atmosphere, Silagy shared. During synchronized swimming’s pre-season practices, the coaches would round up the swimmers for a series of games, including tossing the yellow ball he was accustomed with during the water polo season. 

“I just had a lot more fun there than I was at swim practice,” Silagy shared. “There’s a lot more team-bonding activities. In swim, it’s more like you’re in the same lane and swim next to each other. I liked having time dedicated to being a team, but it was more the content that drew me to synchro.”

One of the junior’s favorite moments included Skittles, which he assures aren’t his favorite candy, but rank decently high on his list. Each Skittle color represented a different move, like torpedo, which is a specific form of sculling. So, when the synchronized swimming coaches had the team compete using Skittle colors during practice, Silagy found himself becoming competitive.

“Everyone was laughing the whole time and cheering each other on,” he recalled fondly. “Even if you got last, everyone was telling you that you did great. It felt great.”

Ria Gupta

At the end of the game, the coaches handed out packets of Skittles,  one which still remains on Silagy’s nightstand.

The swimmer does draw parallels between the synchronized swimming team and the swim team when it comes to meets. “The difference is, since I only did compulsory, I was kinda just watching a lot of it, “ Silagy commented.  

The synchronized swimming season is split into two parts, figures and routines. During figures season, swimmers practice holding certain poses in the water. There’s a compulsory duo required for all competing swimmers, the ballet leg and barracuda, the latter being Silagy’s favorite. More experienced swimmers compete in other rounds with more complicated figures. During routines season, swimmers dance to choreographed music relying on figures from the previous season and lifts.

On watching his teammates compete during the non-compulsory portion of a figures meet, Silagy shared, “We were placed at the top of the bleachers and it was really hot, so everyone was having a miserable time up there while also enjoying watching everything that was going on. It was an enjoyable experience.”

Silagy has been adapting to the team well and has found himself improving immensely, in large part to the synchronized swimming team coaches. “I always find it helpful that they tell me exactly what to work on,” he said. This isn’t just limited to coaches, however, he added, “One of the captains, Sonia, I don’t remember what it was, told me something about my ballet leg that instantly improved it. It just clicked.” 

Silagy has already noticed notable improvements to his sculling, treading and stamina since becoming a synchronized swimmer. He looks forward to rejoining the sport next year for another season.

This story was originally published on The Chariot on February 8, 2024.