True colors of MIHS swim - A first-hand account of preseason 2006-08-31 by Gennie Gebhart Special to the Reporter It's the fourth week of August, and the Mercer Island High School girls swim and dive team is already in full preparation mode for the upcoming fall season. With two-a-day workouts, it's been a busy two weeks of training, but not all of the team's time is spent in the pool swimming endless sets. The swimmers' time between practices has been filled with a team picnic, a lake swim from Clarke Beach to the Beach Club, a fund-raising car wash, and, of all things, a three-hour meeting on personality types? The team of more than 70 swimmers met in Coach Jeff Lowell's classroom at the school last Friday evening after practice to discuss teamwork, communication and different personality types. Using a program called ``True Colors,'' Lowell is helping the athletes gain a better understanding of themselves and communicating with others to create a productive and close team. The basic theory behind True Colors is simple: to understand human beings, one must understand that all human beings have different needs, motives, and frustrations, as well as different ways of analyzing, understanding, and learning. While these differences may seem random at first, past psychological studies, such as the work of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and David Keirsey in his book ``Please Understand Me,'' have shown that this vast variation isn't accidental. Human personalities can be divided into four basic types. In the True Colors program, they're referred to with colors: Green, Blue, Orange, and Gold. According to True Colors, everyone has each color type in their personality, some colors shining more brightly than others. This combination of colors makes up one's personality `spectrum,' with each color embodying valuable characteristics and traits of the human spirit. Me? I learned that I'm primarily Green. Greens value intellectual competency and facts, and find challenges and accuracy essential. They excel in problem-solving, can't stand rules or unclear goals, and are some of the most confident people you'll ever meet. Greens are the visionaries, the thinkers, the inventors. Those with primarily Blue personalities are the natural romantics. The textbook Blue is a people person who, unlike a Green, values feelings and interpersonal relationships more than theories and knowledge. Ever-empathetic, a Blue would always take into account the feelings of everyone involved when making a decision. An Orange personality, however, would make that decision on an impulse. Oranges are spontaneous, independent, and living in the here and now. Being on time is difficult for an Orange person, while finding the adventure and fun in any situation is their second nature. Your typical Orange loves spending money, and lots of it. On the other hand, a Gold would put that money right into their savings account. One of my best friends is a Gold, and not only is she the most loyal friend I have, she's never been late to anything. Movies at 8:00? She'll be calling at 6:00 to get things organized. Golds like her are perfectionists who rejoice in structure and hold on tight to traditions. But it isn't as simple as finding the color that best fits you. As with anything, you can have too much of a good thing. When one color shines too brightly, it's not pretty. It's glaring. Remember my friend, the Gold? While I love her punctuality and consistency, both of which are areas in which I, as a Green, am lacking, it gets annoying when she's pestering me all day to be on time to the theater. This same flip-flop could take place in a Blue. There's no one you'd want by your side more in a hard time, but let's be honest; sometimes they can be a little too emotional. Herein lies where knowing oneself is crucial to understanding the way True Colors and other personality assessment techniques helps you interact with others; different situations will call for consciously switching between colors traits. Being able to make that jump will lead to less misunderstandings, more cooperation, and, most importantly for a swim team, the ability to focus on the group's goal. Although swimming is generally seen as an individual sport, Lowell constantly stresses the importance of the team. He reminds his athletes that ``individuals win races, but teams win championships.'' And a team that wins a championship is going to need to be able to understand each other. While we may be swimming individually in races, we're all practicing together every day, with up to ten girls in a lane. And the lanes aren't organized by color type. Each girl's enhanced knowledge of personalities will go a long way in building the team in and out of the pool. Because of what I learned with True Colors, I know that if I'm on a relay with a Gold, I'll need to be ready at the blocks long before our event is called, or else she'll get stressed and it will affect our whole relay's performance. And if I'm swimming in an event right after another Green, I'll be sure to congratulate her on her time specifically; we're really into the numbers. And maybe a conflict later in the season will force me to miss a practice. I know that Coach Lowell takes these absences personally because of his primarily Blue and secondarily Gold personality, so I'll make it a priority to tell him in advance why and when I'll be absent. Coincidentally, swim team co-captains Natalie Scott, Katie Stadius, and Melissa Taylor are all primarily Orange. What does that mean for the team? ``For sure we're going to have a fun season,'' Stadius enthusiastically commented, ``but to keep us organized, we're going to need some of Jeff's Gold.'' And so the teamwork begins. Gennie Gebhart is an aspiring writer and a sophomore at MIHS on the girls varsity swim team. Copyright © 2005 Horvitz Newspapers, Inc.