Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Hairless Wonders

I know there are a lot of people in the swim world who think that British sports journalist Craig Lord singlehandedly brought about the banning of high-tech swimsuits.  But, as I watched Mr. Coach watch his athletes with more trepidation than usual this past week, I realized there are other people who may bear responsibility for the demise of those full-body flotation devices.  And that would be Messrs. Schick and Gillette, followed closely by Mr. Band-Aid and Mr. Neosporin.  With the loss of the high-tech suit, we have regained a commitment to hairless bodies gliding through water, and I am sure these other gentlemen are very happy about that.

It’s been a few years, I’ve also realized, since the buildup to conference championships brought with it a nervousness that goes beyond hoping that everyone hits their taper correctly.  It’s a nervousness that had Mr. Coach monitoring Facebook the night of the boys’ big shaving party for embarrassing photos and reports of uncontrollable bleeding.

Of course there are no such worries with the girls, but I don’t want to turn this into yet another “Differences Between Coaching Girls vs. Boys” blog.

Oh, who are we kidding, of course I do. 

Difference No. 582:  Girls can shave their legs without cutting off their legs. 

Difference No. 583:  Girls may come up with a lot of strange excuses for socializing (decorating baked goods for major holidays, scrapbooking, and discussing the moral failings of entire fraternal organizations) but removing hair from their bodies usually is not one of them.  Shaving down is just one more of those purpose-driven activities with girls, so they tend to hunker down and “git‘r done” without the benefit of pizza or homoerotically-charged bonding rituals.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that!  Some of my best friends have been men who shave their bodies and wear spandex, sometimes even latex, all year long, and they’re not even swimmers.  It’s just that when they are swimmers, there’s an increase in giddiness and a decrease in fine-motor-skill control that makes their coach very, very nervous. 

But you know what?  It’s kind of nice to be buying Band-Aids in bulk again.  As they say on those road signs on the way into Maine, it’s “The Way Life Should Be.”

* * * * * * *

And on this vivid note, I’d like to take my leave of the Mrs. Coach Chronicles.  I never really thought I’d do this for as long as I have, but I also promised myself that I’d stop before I ran out of things to say.  All I set out to do in the beginning was create a record of my family’s experiences in this sport, and I feel as if I’ve accomplished that and then some.

I’d like to thank everyone who has found the site and especially those who have come back every week for more.  If you’d like to drop a line and say hi and introduce yourself, I’d love to hear from you (there’s an email link in my profile).  It’s been an absolute delight to look at the site’s traffic reports and see some of the locations around the globe where people are logging in from.  But if you don’t, that’s OK, too.  Just know that I appreciated your taking the time to read. 

And don’t worry – I’ll be leaving the site up as an archive.  I’ve had some very kind suggestions to get this whole thing published as a book, but honestly, I don’t know of a publisher who’d go for something as specific in topic as this.  But if you do, by all means, send them my way. 

In the meantime, I hope that swimming and all that surrounds this crazy sport continues to enrich your lives the way it has mine.  And think of these stories as having been my little Valentine to the world of sport.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Blame Australia

So here’s a really dumb new swimming problem I’ve discovered that I have:  my flip turns.

See, I first started getting somewhat proficient with this swimming thing about six years ago when the whole family decamped for Australia where Mr. Coach was doing his teaching sabbatical.  He was working long hours at the Australian Institute of Sport there in Canberra (it’s like one of our U.S. Olympic Training Centers but with a looser dress code and more beer).  The kids were young so I wasn’t able to get out for daytime runs very much.  But I was able to go for lap swimming at odd hours like 10 or 11 p.m. because that’s how it is in Australia.  They are not kidding when they say swimming rules Down Under.  We were living in a city of about 300,000 people:  Canberra had only one running track (at the AIS behind locked gates) but at least seven 50-meter indoor pools that were open to the public no less than 18 hours a day.  So just for the convenience alone, I was doing a lot more swimming than I had ever done before, and the habit has stuck with me ever since. 

Fast forward to Florida and six years later.  For the first time since Australia, I’m having to share a lane with more than one person.  At my home pool at Mr. Coach’s university, I rarely have to share a lane and when I do, it’s only with one person and we just each take one half of the lane.  (And I’m not telling you where this pool is because I don’t want you showing up, thinking you can get a lane to yourself.)

So there I am, tucked in with my kids and the college kids, eight or nine to a lane, and I come flipping off the wall…and nearly plow right into whomever was behind me.  This happened several times until I figured out how to either swim far enough ahead of people or far enough behind them that it didn’t matter.  And of course it’s a towering testament to my swimming inexperience that I couldn’t figure out what the heck was wrong until a week later when we got back home.  (I didn’t want to bug my husband with it because he had enough on his plate, dealing with a sociopathic bus driver and the daily onslaught of strained pinky toes on the team).

So you know whose fault my inability to flip-turn without giving myself a hernia was?  Australia’s.  I remembered that I had learned how to flip turn down there and come off a wall -- in a clockwise direction.  Which is how they circle-swim in shared lanes in Australia.  You flip over, push off and hang a right.  And that really works well for me because I’m so dominantly right-handed.  In the U.S., however, you need to hang a left coming off the wall unless you want to do a corkscrew to get yourself over to the other side of the lane (hey, I’ve met swimmers who like to get dizzy doing corkscrews). 

OK, so you who have been swimming since you were toddlers are right now saying, “Ah ha ha, that dumb Mrs. Coach!”  But you know what?  You probably never thought about this until I brought it up.  You learned how to do your counter-clockwise flip-turn when you were 3, and that was that.  Granted, it’s not impossible to make the switch but, just like learning how to drive on the other side of the road, it’s a skill where I can’t just zone out and let instinct take over.  I’m always going to have to remain ever so slightly self-aware and remember to turn left and not right.  And that’s just ridiculous because I’m American and I am programmed to flip-turn like an Australian. 

Friday, February 5, 2010

Bonus Round Friday!

If you've ever wondered what Mr. Coach and his erstwhile English Channel swimmers look and sound like, this is your lucky day!  They're the stars of some NCAA On Campus In Partnership with CBS College Sports TV thing this month.  So have a peek and then say to yourself, "Yup, they sure do like they could use a new pool there."