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Into the Water

Standing at the side of the pool with twenty kids screaming was starting to make my brain turn to mush. The little high-pitched voices were coming from everywhere. I wasn’t sure I could take on the job of being a swim coach. When I applied, teaching kids how to do what I love didn’t seem so difficult at the time. But now I couldn’t get the kids to stay quiet and pay attention long enough to get a word out of my mouth, let alone a sentence. This was going to be a long summer.


I was having a hard time trying to teach the kids how to do what came naturally to me. Streamline like a torpedo or scoop the water like it is ice cream: these metaphors weren’t hard for others to create, but for me it seemed like brain surgery. As the kids struggled, I struggled with them. They looked up at me from the pool below shaking with blue lips and confused eyes as I was saying high elbow because to a six year old their elbows can’t get any higher. By the end of practice I had had enough.


The next morning, I took control. A friend of my came to help me coach and we split the kids up into manageable chunks. I could breathe again. My co-coach and I became a great team. The kids started to progress, the ones that could only take ten strokes before holding on to the wall were now taking twenty. The belly flops into the pool began to resemble dives. We were growing together as a team: the swimmers and their coach.


Soon the first meet arrived and we were expecting a close score only because the other team was always at the same level as us: the bottom. We came out of the meet with a win which started the season off with a bang, but as the second and third meets approached our attitudes changed.

We weren’t expecting to win because the other teams were just too big and too advanced to compete with. I imagined the teams like I imagine the East German swimmers from the 1976 Olympics; fast and filled with steroids. When the second meet arrived we told the kids to expect a loss but to give them the best competition we could. Throughout the meet I would check the score to see how much we were losing by, each time the scores getting closer and closer. Mot long before the end of the meet our team lost a few races and we were sure we would lose. When the score was announced the kids started to scream as I fell to the ground in tears. At that moment I knew that our team would be fantastic.


The next meets seemed to fly by as we continued to win and win. Practices became easier to create because I knew what they liked and wanted to do. We would begin practice with a few lengths then do some drills incorporating different equipment and it became easier to relate swimming to the small world of a six year old. I would end practice with something that every one of them loved to do: dive.


As we went through the season our team grew stronger and faster, going undefeated and becoming division champions. Watching the team succeed showed me that I can accomplish great things. The team started as a small swimmer with no technique and a lousy dive only to end up on the podium receiving the gold medal. We won.





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