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The Rowdy Gaines Experience: ND Style

Oct 16, 2012, 2:32 PM EST

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Photo by Kaitlyn Kiely

Everyone in the swimming community, and even many outside of the sport, only need to hear one voice to know that a swim meet is on TV – the voice of Rowdy Gaines. In fact, I cannot recall watching a major televised swimming event without hearing his voice. He has become synonymous with televised swimming. I have always thought to myself what an awesome job he has. He gets to explain the art of swimming to both swimmers themselves and to the public at large. That would be on my list of dream jobs.

I have always loved swimming, probably because it was the only sport in which I wasn’t awful. At least in swimming, if I practiced enough I could disguise my athletic clumsiness (hence I quickly found myself in the distance events – the ones that no one else wants to do). After completing my career as a competitive swimmer in high school (my last race was … you guessed it, the 500 free), I thought that I was done with the sport on a competitive level. Then I journeyed to Notre Dame and I found the perfect college job: working with the swimming and diving programs for the Media Relations Department. There was nothing better than getting paid to cover swimming and diving. Then last week, I got an email saying that Fighting Irish Digital Media was curious if I wanted to help commentate the Dennis Stark Relays live on und.com. I couldn’t help but instantly think, “I am going to be the Rowdy Gaines of Notre Dame Swimming and Diving.” But let’s be frank, I am no Rowdy Gaines and the Dennis Stark Relays is not the Olympic Games. But for me as a senior in college, the opportunity to articulate the sport that I loved at the school that I consider my home was something that I knew I would always remember. Before I went on air, I already considered myself to be a mini Rowdy Gaines.

The nerves built as the time before we went live dwindled. But once I started talking about Dennis Stark and the men’s and women’s programs, I felt right at home. Being around both programs for the past three years, I was able to add my insights and observations of years past. I was also able to use my career as a swimmer to try to explain to our audience the fine points of swimming while comically using my career as an example – usually of what not to do. That being said, I instantly found it isn’t always easy on the headset. Whether it is the dozens of names in any given heat of a relay to look through, constantly being able to have something to say or making sure you and your partner have a good chemistry on the air, being an announcer isn’t easy. That can be especially true during the 1,000 yard freestyle relay, a race that takes 10 minutes to complete. I remember thinking to myself, “I wonder if we can go to commercial break!” For someone who thought they could talk about Notre Dame swimming and diving forever, it was funny how sometimes I was at a loss for things to say. But by the conclusion of the event it felt so natural to be on the headset calling the meet – something you wouldn’t expect from a civil engineering student who rather crunch numbers than write essays!

At the end of the day I was a miniature version of Rowdy Gaines. It will be a day that I always remember and for that I am extremely thankful for everyone with the digital media department at Notre Dame.  For those two hours, I got to experience one of my dream jobs.

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