Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Visual Contact Rule

Mr. Coach has been a coach for a long time. We’re talking centuries now. But no matter how many years he coaches, no matter how fabulously his athletes do, he will never master the intricacies of the Visual Contact Rule. And why is that? Because he is not a mother. And never will be.

Let’s demonstrate the Visual Contact Rule with a factual anecdote.

Every summer, one or both of the Little Coaches compete on a park-league swim team. Every Wednesday evening during those summers, the Coach Family is headed somewhere within an hour’s drive to spend the next 4 to 5 hours on the perimeter of an outdoor pool, watching kids of all shapes, sizes and ages defy the rules of organized swimming.

On one such Wednesday evening, I had some work to finish up with the newspaper I write for, so Mr. Coach was in charge of getting 7-year-old Little Mr. Coach ready and transported to the meet site. I would meet them there later.

I arrived just as the team was finishing its pre-warmup meeting. Little Mr. Coach came over to where Mr. Coach had set up our lawn chairs, and proceeded to strip down for his warmup swim. And when I say “strip down,” I do mean “strip down.” Down went the sweat pants and then up went the sweat pants, and in between those two actions, approximately half the team found out that Little Mr. Coach is definitely a male.

I finished my sip of Gatorade, turned and looked at my husband.

“Where’s his suit?” I asked, screwing the cap back on the bottle.

“You said you had your suit on,” Mr. Coach said to our son.

“I think I forgot to put it on,” Little Mr. Coach whispered.

“He said he had it on,” my husband said to me. “I asked him if he had it on before we left.”

And there, for those of you who aren’t mothers and who aren’t nodding knowingly at this point, is the Visual Contact Rule in, if you will, a nutshell.

“Did you actually see the suit?” I said, more rhetorically than anything else because I knew what the answer was. No, my husband – the non-mother – had not made Visual Contact with the suit.

We scrambled at that point to find Little Mr. Coach a suit because his non-mother had also not made sure he had duplicates of everything (suits, goggles, caps, towels) in his swim bag (although he did have all his Yu-Gi-Oh cards, one fin, two bendy straws, half a candy cane, and a complete Mousetrap board game set).

The 12-year-old brother of a teammate lent us a pair of board shorts. You know how you see those pictures where track sprinters work out with a parachute attached to them, just to increase drag? Yeah, that image pretty much describes Little Mr. Coach’s meet that night.

But at least they couldn’t disqualify him for nudity.

(Instead they got him for swimming breaststroke on the butterfly leg of the medley relay. But it was an otherwise legal breaststroke.)


  1. So technically, your son screwed up his first deck change at age 7. Wow. He's way ahead of the curve. :)

  2. OK, there's the silver lining when you look at it that way. Thanks, Vike!


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