Anyone entering the rustic, wood-paneled Jackson Park Barbers shop in Seymour is greeted by a worn, standing chalkboard sign.
The sign reads, “Camaraderie is a spirit of good friendship and loyalty among members of a group!”
There was plenty of that camaraderie to be found Tuesday night as members of the Seymour High School boys swimming and diving team continued the annual tradition of going to the shop to get their hair cut short and bleached white.
For the past 10 years, the team has rallied at the barber shop at 527 S. Jackson Park Drive just before the regular season ends and the conference and sectional meets begin.
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“(We’ve done this) as long as I’ve been on the team,” senior Jon Montgomery said while bleaching his hair. “It’s fun. We’re going to shave it off entirely anyway.”
Fellow senior Sam Freeman, who also has helped keep the tradition alive for the past four years, said he believes the event brings the team closer together.
“It’s a chance to get the team together and bond,” Freeman said. “It’s a way to get to know everyone on the team. We talk on occasion, but not a lot outside of the pool. It makes good memories.”
Many swimmers from a handful of schools shave their entire bodies in the hopes of finishing with faster times.
“Shaving helps with swimming. We see huge cuts in time when we hit sectional, and a lot of it has to do with shaving,” Freeman said. “It helps with hydrodynamics.”
Barbers Ric Temple and Larry Meyer have served as hosts of the event for the swimmers since the start of the ritual.
“I think it’s great,” Temple said. “It’s a great showing, and it’s all about camaraderie, just like the sign says.”
It all started in 2005 for Temple, when his son, Ian, and the SHS swimmers started the tradition.
“My son wanted to bleach his hair for the team, so he did it, and soon, all the other teammates were doing it,” Temple said. “We’ve been doing this for about 10 years. (Ian) was on the swim team, and every year, he would grow it out until it was time for sectional, then cut it all.”
In the past, the Owls swimmers have sometimes bleached their hair purple since that’s the school’s main color besides white.
They quit doing that after the purple turned pink when it was exposed to too much pool water, Temple said.
Some of the high school girls supporting the team also came along to help with the dyeing process.
Sally Beauty Supply, right around the corner from the shop, donated the hair products Tuesday night, and Sonya’s Party Plus loaned several tables and chairs for the swimmers to use.
Temple said the most swimmers he has ever had in the shop for the event is 16 or 17, and the smallest was 12.
On Saturday, the Owls will travel to the Hoosier Hills Conference meet hosted by Floyd Central.
The HHC boasts some of the toughest teams in southern Indiana, including Jeffersonville, Floyd Central and Jennings County.
For Seymour, it’s one of the most important races of the year.
“I’m hoping for season-best times,” Owls coach Dave Boggs said. “It’s a big meet. It gets us ready for sectional. We need to make sure we show up physically and mentally for this.”
With sectional rapidly approaching, on Feb. 12 at Floyd Central, the Owls use the conference meet to gauge the strength of their future opponents, who also will be competing at the sectional.
“It’s pretty much all the HHC (at sectional),” Boggs said. “Our conference meet is probably a little bit tougher than sectional.”