You know it all seems so cool, seems so awesome. What could be better than being a competitive swimmer?
Since I was a kid the TV brought scenes of Olympic swimmers during their meets, and events, and heats. Watching the US Swim Team crush everyone in Los Angeles during the 84 summer games was amazing. That was the Olympics of Rowdy Gaines, Pablo Morales, Dara Torres, and Mary Meagher. The US bagged 21 gold medals. From there we got Atlanta and then Sydney and the first appearance of then unknown Michael Phelps from Baltimore. The coverage of swimming at the Los Angeles Olympics all the way through the latest games in Rio has been breathtaking.
You want to know what that coverage wasn’t? Accurate.
Now I’m not saying it was fake news. No, everything we saw was real. What I’m saying is we didn’t get to see everything. Lie by omission? Probably not. But if the unwashed, such as myself, could see what went into to those super cool swim meets, what happened behind the scenes… Well let’s just say my kids might have had to live with a very non-super cool ten dollar slip and slide during the summer instead of the swim team they go to each day.
Swim team practice itself is great. Takes an hour and they can go to the morning session or the evening session or both. Two nights a week the evening session is on the campus at the University of Tennessee. That’s way cool.
Practice is just what you might expect. Swimming. They literally swim laps for an hour. Great exercise and they do it every day. In the final few minutes of practice any kid who wants to can jump from the diving board. Mine have really enjoyed that part. They used to be deathly afraid, now even AM jumps right off. The confidence building in them both is visible.
But the swim meets. My god the swim meets. Tuesday night was my first time. What an indoctrination. My wife and kids got there around 4pm. The meet started at 6. I got there around 5:45. I was greeted by utter chaos only to be told by a dad from the other team that this was one of the most organized meets he had seen so far. No one from my family had seen me yet. The desire to flee was palpable. Instead I braced and forged on.
Should have run when I had the chance.
I found my wife at the check in tent, volunteering as usual. The kids appeared soon after with colorful but weird markings on their bodies. Across their backs, a sharpie induced tattoo of their last name. On the underside of their forearm some hieroglyphics that looked something like this: 12/1/1.
That bit of info indicates his event, heat and lane. So for that example he would race in event 12, be in heat 1, and swim in lane 1. Frank swam in 4 events so he had a mini European train schedule on his arm. But once it was explained to me it was easy to follow. Until I took a closer peak.
Frank why does the last one say 42/3/3?
Cause I swim in lane 3 for my last race.
Wait are you saying you are swimming in event 42? Tracy is he swimming in event 42? There are 42 events?
The answers were yes, yes and no. Absolutely should have run before I was made.
Yes he was swimming in event 42, but no there are not 42 events. There are 72. I’ll write that out for you non-numerically inclined. A swim meet has seventy-two events. And every swimmer swims at least one event. The opposing team had 160 swimmers added to our 60+ swimmers.
Frank is not even that good at this and he was swimming the maximum allowed four events. He was slated for events 12, 22, 32, 42. Great for ease of counting, not great for getting to bed anytime before midnight. Once more, there are multiple heats to each event. So from the above example Frank swam the first heat in event 12, but there were 4 heats in that event. So event 13 did not occur until all heats for event 12 were finished. And of course we had a record breaking 8 heats in event 16. Of course we did.
AM was easy. She swam 11/1/1. Event eleven as it turns out was very early on in the festivities. Problem: Wife was volunteering the whole meet, and I had to stay for all of Frank’s races. Issue: AM has to hang out waiting for her brother to finish his last race in the third heat of event 42. Forty two?!?! How do I tell a kid she has to sit there and watch other people swim but she, still in a bathing suit, can’t go in the water? The waiting is a lesson in endurance. And for a 5 year old she did great.
And yeah we blew town the minute he emerged from the water after his last race. Look I’m all for team work and team spirit and all that other business, but it’s Tuesday night, quickly becoming Wednesday morning. I don’t even want to tell you what time I get up for work. (4:30am) but there is a good chance they still might be swimming when I’m hopping in the shower before heading to the office.
I ran into a friend who was volunteering as a lane watcher or something. His kid was swimming in event 64. Poor bastard. I almost passed out when he told me. Speaking of… did I mention it was 98 bazillion degrees out there? Mrs Frank’s Place was almost a causality. Which is bizarre really. To pass out or suffer from the heat or dehydration a mere five steps from a large pool of water would be one of the universe’s cruel ironies.
All my whining aside it was a great thing. To see your kids perform in an environment like that at such a young age is a treasure. Coach Joe is an amazing dude. He is responsible for running the meet when it’s at our pool. By all accounts it went off without a hitch. Which is staggering considering all the logistics that go into something like that. So kudos to him and the staff and Team Smokin Salmon!
Here are few shots from the swim meet that never ends.
So yeah it sucked in some aspects. And now that I know what to expect and how to prepare it will suck a whole lot less next time. But there was a whole lot of greatness happening too.
The camaraderie Coach Joe has cultivated on a swim team with kids as young a 5 and as old as 18 is amazing. Older kids I’ve never met stopped to congratulate AM on her first race as they were on the way to check in for theirs.
In a middle of the road type race, Frank’s kick in the final stretch of the Individual Backstroke got him from 6th to 4th, picking up valuable points for his team. Honestly I thought I was the only one who noticed. Wrong again. Several people came over to him with encouragement and excitement of his final move in the last few meters.
When Frank was so focused on beating one of the kids from the other team off the block he forgot to slide his goggles down over his eyes. He went the whole race without them. He took the kid from the block and at the wall. Mission accomplished. Two of his coaches were laughing. There goes Frank the Tank without his goggles. No he has goggles, he’s just not using them.
The kid has a nick name. Who knew? An easy alliteration of his name to be sure. But apparently it also refers to his determination to do something like prove he can swim the length of the pool without moving his arms, jump from the diving board without getting his hair wet, and swim a race with his goggles on his head instead of his eyes because he was intent on getting off the block first.
The things you learn about your kids.
It’s a good squad with good coaching. We are lucky to have this experience. And my kids are learning important life lessons from swimming I thought they might only get from golf.
Hmmm Swim Team, who knew?
Feel your pain on the swim meets! My stepdaughter did it last year!
I’m just a whiner. It’s been good really. Thanks for the read Gary.