One special tradition members of the Seymour High School boys swim team enjoy annually doesn’t take place anywhere near the pool.
In late January, 15 members of the team got together at Jackson Park Barbers for their annual bleaching.
“It is something we do before the conference,” Seymour head swim coach Dave Boggs said. “It’s fun, and they like to do something silly before the end of the season. They get it cut a little shorter, and they get it colored blond.”
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Harrison Cottrill, a senior member of the team, said he participated in the tradition for three years.
“We go back every year because they give us haircuts and use of their shop for free,” he said. “They are very supportive of our community and local athletes.”
Fellow senior Trevor Layne said bleaching hair is not only a tradition for Seymour swimmers but for others across the country.
“I think it’s a fun team bonding experience, and our hair is dead from chlorine anyway, so why not bleach?” he said. “The process is fun because most of the team can get together and have fun for a night. Many kids also cut their hair or shave their head, so the bleach blond is gone anyway. Hair grows back, and the memories last for a lifetime.”
Ric Temple of Jackson Park Barbers said the annual event began when his son, Ian, was a diver for the Owls swim team 16 years ago.
“I cut and bleached his hair, and when I did it to his hair, everybody liked how blond it came out, and the cut was good,” Ric said. “He asked me if I could do a couple of the other swimmers. They wanted it done, too. They came in after hours, and I did a couple more.”
Ric said he bleached the hair of six boys that year, and it has expanded since then.
Barber Larry Meyer helped out many times.
“He started volunteering because he saw what kind of work it was,” Ric said. “We’ve had some gracious sponsors. Sally’s has donated the products. Sonja’s Party Plus donated the tables and chairs. The swimmers typically bring in pop and pizza and a boom box. They just turn it into a big party here for the night, and it’s all about team camaraderie.”
Ric said the event lasts about four hours.
“They get together and pull pranks on each other,” he said. “They’re laughing at each other whenever their hair turns a little gold because some of the really dark hair, when you bleach, it comes out a little more brassy, but they have a lot of fun together. The parents have been coming in lately. Three of the mothers show up to help smear the bleach. I’ll mix it for them, and then they apply it to them.”
Cottrill said some of the younger swimmers are edgy about the process.
“It’s fun to watch everyone get their hair cut and bleached, especially when the kids are really nervous or don’t want to change their hair,” he said.
“To the underclassmen who either didn’t participate or didn’t come to the shop with us, I would say to get involved,” he said. “Hair grows back, and as long as we all do it together, no one looks goofy. You only have four years of the high school experience, and before you know it, those years are over. Make the most of every opportunity.”
Layne, a team captain who advanced to the state meet in the 100 breaststroke the past two years, encourages future swimmers to keep the tradition going.
“I say to anyone who didn’t do it that you shouldn’t worry about what people think of your hair not growing back because it does grow back and it’s only blond for a couple months, so what’s the fuss?” he said.
Bryce Miller, a junior and team captain, said he likes being a part of the tradition.
“Getting our hair bleached has been an event the team does every year ever since I can remember. It’s fun for me because the team stands out in school,” he said.
“Many new swimmers and underclassmen are reluctant to bleach their hair because they think it looks goofy and isn’t their style, but it’s not about that,” he said. “It’s about everybody on the team participating or else they will be the only ones that really stand out.”