What does the Tribe mean to you???
This is a question that was asked of students, time and time again throughout my career at William and Mary. I never really grasped the power of it, or comprehended it, until after I had graduated from The College. There’s a lot to unpack in my answer as it has evolved tremendously over the years. It’s such a compelling question that played an integral part in not only my commitment to Tribe Swimming, but more importantly how I would come to fully appreciate all the great people and experiences that I had the blessing of exploring and discovering in Williamsburg.
I truly believe that there are two main contributing factors to who we all become at our core:the relationships that we co-create and the memories that we make. My time with the Tribe crafted and molded me into the young adult I am now who is capable of so much more because of my TribeSwimming family. Through the highs and the lows, and even the plateaus, we stood by each other’s side and discovered our highest potential together. This potential I speak of was all inclusive; we pushed ourselves daily physically, demanding excellence from one another, to chase after our swimming goals and aspirations as a team. We consistently pushed ourselves mentally to achieve all that we hoped for in higher education. We endured the emotional roller coaster that would instill so many lifelong values within us. Tribe Swimming changed my life for the better and gave me the most rewarding experience of a lifetime.
Without Tribe Swimming I would have missed out on so much more than just the athletic endeavor. Our family was comprised of so many unique and genuine people that allowed for the best environment a student-athlete could have. The diversity of personalities, beliefs, and athletic ability was our backbone. We used this as a tool to stretch our capabilities as individuals and as a team which led to many great successes. During my time at William and Mary I grew so much because of who I was surrounded by. The team was my family and we operated as such; every meal was together, we lived together, we celebrated together, and we grieved together. Like nothing else I’ve been a part of since,Tribe Swimming connected me to my most authentic self and gave me the opportunity to thrive through failure.
Leadership within the family was a huge part of my growth and development as a student-athlete and person. When I think back to when I was going through the recruiting process I can recall the team, as well as the staff, sharing what they felt the Tribe was for them: family, dedication, excellence. Everyone had their own unique perspective and interpretation of what Tribe Swimming meant to them, but one thing was constant: there was a united camaraderie that fostered the pursuit of being a part of something greater than just themselves. I had never seen anything like this before so easily.
I was lucky to catch the eye of Matt Crispino late in my recruiting process back in 2013. I was a mid-tier high school recruit who had lots of improvement towards the end of my senior year and Matt was the only coach across the country who noticed it. To this day I’m beyond grateful for him taking a chance on me and fighting for me to be a part of Tribe Swimming. As you know, William and Mary is an institution that is highly competitive in the admissions process and I needed all the help I could get to have the opportunity to come there. Matt was able to vouch that I had a proven history of academic and athletic merit that would be a great addition to the family and culture that he had established within the
Once arriving on campus, I felt right at home. Over the course of my college career and even to this day, no one has had a greater impact on me than Matt Crispino. He showed me how to navigate this journey of life. He taught me countless valuable lessons and gave me the tools to transition into post-grad life seamlessly. Another person who strongly influenced me, especially during my freshman year, was Andrew Strait. His ability to lead by example yet also be outspoken, rubbed me the right way and put me on course for success. I can remember on numerous occasions him and I going to the training room together then “the Caf” afterwards to eat dinner after a long, tiring workout. He’d pick me up when I was feeling down and level me out when I felt on top of the world. I viewed him as the big brother I never had. That’s what Tribe Swimming was all about: the brotherhood and sisterhood that stemmed all throughout our wonderfully close-knit team.
These relationships that were formed during my time at William and Mary are just two examples of how Tribe Swimming impacted my life. There are so many other people that have touched my life in many special ways and that’s the beauty of Tribe Swimming -- once a part of our family, always a part of our family. Since graduating I have had the great privilege of taking what I learned as a student-athlete at William and Mary and give back to others within the swimming community. I hope to continue to give back as best I can and be a role model for those who need it, just as Matt and Andrew were for me. Tribe Swimming is more than just a swim team, it’s a family whose vision and mission lives on long after graduating or moving on from the sport. It’s a legacy of strong-willed people who have dedicated their time and efforts towards the benefit of the family. Thank you, Tribe Swimming, for all the good times, as well as all the struggles, for I know now that it served a purpose in who I was destined to be.
One Tribe, One Family
Alex Henderson 17’