Monday, July 5, 2010

My Short Career as a Swim Coach.....

When I was teaching in a traditional high school setting, a guy approached me one day about being the assistant swim team coach. I can swim, so I figured I could coach it. Never mind that I had NEVER swum competitively. But I had never turned down a challenge, so I agreed to give it a try.

Naturally we didn't have a pool at school, so we had to use the local "Y" for practices. The first time I showed up for practice, the head coach had told me the wrong "Y" to go to. That was a bad sign of how things were going to go. The correct "Y" was all the way across town, and I already lived 30 minutes from school. He didn't want to attend all the after-school practices, so he recruited me. I didn't blame him for not wanting to be there every afternoon.

We didn't actually do the coaching at the pool. Our swimmers were coached by college kids and other competitive swimmers; we just had to be there. Sometimes our swimmers weren't the most motivated in the world. They would swim to the other end of the pool and hang on the rope to gossip and socialize. When I started down the side of the pool to ream them a new one, they would swim back to the beginning. I wanted to kill them.

As for our divers, we never even saw them in action. They took what I guess were "private" lessons at the UGA pool, and they just signed up for a high school team to have an additional opportunity or two to compete. It was a weird situation.

We had a young lady sign up for swim team once who was so excited. She couldn't wait to get in the pool. However, we soon discovered that she had only learned to swim that summer. It took her an entire afternoon practice just to get across the pool once. We didn't exactly have kids beating down the doors, though, so we didn't have try-outs. Fortunately she saw pretty quickly that she was in over her head (ha ha ha ha ha - I'm hilarious) and she quit.

The head coach and I got along fine, and he tried to show me the things he had learned since he had been coaching. I learned how to set meets up, which kids to choose for which events, and just what it meant for a meet to start at 7:00 AM in South Georgia. In the winter.

We weren't really a team, though. I was more of a stand-in, someone to go to things when he couldn't. The communication wasn't there.

At one of our first competitions, the head coach asked me to take the diver(s) on Friday night before the main competition on Saturday. I had no idea what to tell our divers to do, but fortunately they figured it out for themselves. We had one really good guy, and he looked fantastic in competition. But I had no idea of the scoring, and I was unable to keep track of all the divers from the different schools. Besides, I was biased.

When they started announcing the results, they started with position number 25 or something like that. They kept announcing divers and kept announcing, and they never said our diver's name. It was getting close to the top, and he and I looked at each other like we couldn't believe we had missed his name. Finally they said his name -- in first place. He had won the competition, and I acted like we had just won the gold at the Olympics.

Fast forward to the end of the season. Again the head coach asked me to accompany our lone state qualifying diver so he wouldn't have to go both Friday night and all day Saturday. He told me what time warm-ups were, and Andrew and I agreed to meet at the school. We got to the location for the competition with plenty of time to spare. But when we walked in the building, it was eerily silent. We should have heard the sounds of warm-ups, divers splashing, shouts from coaches, fans milling around. Then we did hear a splash. Of a diver in competition.

The head coach had told me the wrong time. He had given me the time of competition, not for warm-ups. We had missed state championships. This kid was diving against the very same people he had beat at the beginning of the season, and he missed his chance for a state championship. I was furious. I called the head coach (this was before cell phones) and told him what had happened. Then I said that HE needed to call Andrew's parents and inform them.

The final straw was at the end of my second year of coaching. The season was long over, and I had been on a field trip with my students. We got back before the end of the day, and I stopped in the office to check my mail. I spotted the head swim coach in a jacket and tie as he breezed through the office. I thought that was odd for a Friday afternoon, but he was a pretty odd fellow anyway, so I didn't think a lot of it. Then a woman came in the office whom I recognized as the mother of one of our swimmers.

She asked me, "Aren't you coming to the media center?"

I was puzzled. "Ummmm..... why?"

Seems her son was signing a scholarship that day to swim in college. The head coach had called all the swimmers the night before so they would be sure to be at the ceremony, but he neglected to call me. I was humiliated, but I went to the ceremony feeling all awkward and gross in my blue jeans and t-shirt. I waited until school was almost out before I officially resigned. Damn, it was painful giving up that $300 per year that I made as an assistant coach.

I didn't mind doing the grunt work. I didn't even mind staying up until 4:00 AM one night printing lane cards for the invitational meet we hosted. I didn't even mind recruiting Katydid to give up HER Saturday to help me with that chaotic swim meet.

But I did mind being treated like a nobody.

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