Student helps coach a summer league swim team

April 7

This is it. My first day working. I gaze out at the stands by the pool, filled with screaming kids and their parents. How can so many kids fit in one pool? I sincerely hope that babysitting has prepared me for this.

April 10

It turns out that babysitting two kids, no matter how hyper they can be, is very different from trying to control seven to eight kids in the middle of an extremely crowded pool. Shocker. But coaching is surprisingly fun. Right now, I’m coaching 5 to 8-year-olds in the Head Start program for the Lost Creek Cruzers. Head Start helps kids who have some trouble swimming work on their techniques. Surprisingly, even though a lot of the kids can’t technically swim, they have no problem throwing themselves into the deep end of the pool, apparently without any fear of drowning. However, when it comes to actually doing swimming and kicking drills, they are much less enthusiastic. I try my best to keep them focused and help them improve, but most of them refuse to change the things I tell them to change. It’s pretty frustrating to watch the same kids make the same mistakes over and over again. This is probably how my own swim coach feels.

April 27

Today is the first day of regular Cruzers. This means about 50 more kids for everyone to keep track of. It’s a little nerve-wracking counting and recounting kids to make sure none have died or run away like I tried to do when I swam with Cruzers. But, at the same time, it is now a lot easier. The kids involved with Head Start have greatly improved, and the ones who have just joined Cruzers didn’t need Head Start. Suddenly, coaching is much simpler. It’s less hands-on and more about encouraging than teaching.

May 8

The last Cruzers practice before the first meet of the summer league season. This practice is different. It’s the first time the younger kids will swim the whole length of the pool, and the head coach has set up the machine that will tell the kids when to start the race. We spend the practice working on starts and trying to convince some of the more hesitant kids that they can swim the whole pool without help. By the end of the practice, they all do.

May 10

It’s the first Cruzers meet of the season. And so far, it’s going really great. My all-important job is to help the kids know when to go for relays and to remind them to take their mark and dive. Also, the other junior coaches and I just try to encourage them and help them have a good time. Mostly, we just stand behind the lanes of kids, clapping as loud as possible and cheering like maniacs. It feels a bit odd being a coach at a swim meet instead of a swimmer, but it’s not a bad feeling.

May 12

At the end of this practice, we herd the kids to a spot in the grass and have them all sit down before we begin handing out ribbons. Some kids get a first place ribbon, some get a personal best ribbon, and some get a ribbon just for finishing, but every child receives at least one ribbon. The look of awe and joy on their faces as they get their prize makes me smile. We live in a society where people complain that “everyone gets a trophy.” But if that trophy helps bring a young kid pride and happiness, then what’s the harm? I hope that getting those ribbons will make the members of the Cruzers want to stick with this sport, one that teaches them about determination, competition, the ability to both win and lose with grace and how to get back up when they’re down. I know that swimming has taught me that, and it all started with a personal best ribbon received at a Cruzers practice.