One of the risks of being a swimmer in a swim-coach family is that your coaching parent is friends with the officials. Now most people might say, "Oh, but that’s great! Officials are the most powerful people at a swim meet! Knowing the officials must be a definite plus!"
You would think. But I vividly remember the first time my son, Little Mr. Coach, swam a 100-yard Individual Medley. Now, mind you, Little Mr. Coach was only six years old at the time so Mr. Coach’s and my expectations were not high. But he and all his 8 & Under buddies had decided they wanted to try 100 IMs. (If you have to ask why, you’ve obviously never had an 8 & Under Boy in your household. When they’re not daring each other to try 100 IMs, they’re either perfecting their armpit-farting technique or licking electric sockets. Sending them out to screw up a 100 IM is a fairly safe and socially acceptable use of their energies.)
So anyway, Little Mr. Coach swam his first 100 IM and you didn’t have to be a meet official to know his result that day wouldn’t count. But you did have to be a meet official to disqualify him. Five times. At least that’s what the jolly official who came over to Mr. Coach afterwards said.
"Yeah," the jolly official said to Mr. Coach between guffaws, "we deked him five times, but we would have deked him anyway just for being your kid."
That’s a choice example of what folks in the officiating biz call "Official Humor."
Little Miss Coach and Little Mr. Coach have also learned they can count on meet officials to remind them of their parentage. Officials will look at a heat sheet and notice the last name.
"Hey, you’re not Mr. Coach’s kid, are you?" they’ll say, pretending to be all menacing about it. In situations like these, Mr. Coach and I have advised our children to deploy the gays-in-the-military strategy: Don’t ask, don’t tell.
But, to be fair, there are some advantages to name recognition. A coach’s kid is rarely going to get lost in the crowd and end up in the wrong lane or heat. And the officials figured out pretty quickly that if Little Miss Coach got DQ’d for something, it was kinder to discreetly tell her dad and let him handle the soul-rending swell of tears from those big brown eyes. Officials aren’t made of stone, you know.
But Little Mr. Coach is proving to be payback for Official Humor because to officiate a race that he’s in means you better know your rule book inside and out.
Walking during a backstroke? That’s disqualifiable.
Coming to a complete stop in the water because he couldn’t remember if he was swimming a 50 or a 100? Not disqualifiable because he didn’t touch bottom and he kept facing forward before starting up again.
Hopping onto the blocks after a heat has started and diving in (and even finishing first) when he was slated for the next heat? Actually, he got them on that one. The official deked Little Mr. Coach for "delay of meet" but Mr. Coach didn’t protest. He’s sure it wasn’t a "delay of meet" offense but he has no idea what exactly it was.
Hey, friends know when to cut friends some slack.