Thursday, December 15, 2011

Being back at the pool

I may have been a swimmer for more years than I was anything else except a basketball player, but I never really learned to love it. Sure, I was competitive and worked hard at it, but to me swimming was always something that kept me in great aerobic shape for other sports that I preferred. And so of course my first coaching job should come in swimming, as the interim head coach for the Valdez Torpedoes Swim Club. That was fairly easy, with only about 6 kids*, no meets to coordinate, etc. Once that summer was over, I figured that I was done with coaching it for good, because swim season at the school level (in most places) is concurrent with basketball season, and as has been stated in this space before, coaching basketball was the overarching goal.

*I say "kids" even though I myself only turned 18 that summer, and all but one of my swimmers were also teenagers.

This year, at my new school, there weren't any openings in basketball, but there was one in swimming, specifically with the middle school team. And since I would otherwise be bored with drastically curtailed coaching responsibilities (club volleyball practice is only twice a week), I took the opportunity. So I have discovered how weird it feels to be a swim coach at a meet.

Unlike the sports that I typically coach, there is no real interaction with your athletes while they're performing in a pool. I suppose the same is often true in track, but in swimming there is the added hindrance that a coach can only vaguely be heard underwater. Thus, you have to resort to pacing up and down the pool deck with your stopwatch, shouting encouragement that they can barely hear and making goofy gestures when you think they can see you.

Fortunately for me, ten years away from a pool deck hasn't hurt me too much. I can still demonstrate and critique technical details of various strokes**, and particularly provide needed advice on their starts and turns, which was the area of my personal expertise as a swimmer. But I don't need to do too much, because although our team is small (eleven, not quite enough for three relay teams), most of the girls swim away from school, and it shows. Of those eleven, we have one absolute stud who breaks school records, and can confidently put together two strong relay teams with the rest. At our first meet, despite our small squad, we beat two of our three opponents head to head, and for example one of our weaker swimmers finished 12th in a field of 48 in the 50 yard freestyle.

**Except butterfly. I was and certainly still am absolutely horrible at butterfly.

So this experience is new, but not really, and it is different, but at the very least we have a good team of good kids, and it's keeping my coaching acumen sharpened. Should be a fun season, and hey, we're already 3-2.