Reflections on a Division 3 Championship

Today I’m going to just reflect on the weekend at Divisions that we just had.  No discussion of points, or PBs or individual races. No recitation of endless statistics (that I like so much!). Instead, I’ll let my mind wander over scenes and instances that stood out for me.

Now bear in mind that I cannot even pretend to be an impartial bystander looking on at the events in front of me. These will be reminiscences of somebody in the middle of a benign maelstrom, a rush of images, feelings and observances.

My main recollections are, of course, of the swimmers. From the moment they walked on deck for each session its clear they recognized this wasn’t a normal swim meet.  Of course, the gorgeous 75 m pool no doubt had something to do with it. But it was the energy level that showed. The kids were dancing, jumping, acting silly, talking nonstop, and showing all the signs of having the time of their lives.

Then when it got close to race time, big differences showed up. We had very few calm swimmers. Many, even seasoned seniors were telling me, “Coach, my stomach hurts.” or “My chest doesn’t feel right” or “I don’t think I can swim this race.”  Some were nervously bouncing on their feet 30 minutes before race time, and no doubt would have continued bouncing until they collapsed if we didn’t stop them. Others tried eating continuously.  Still others wanted to go over the race plan for the 12th time. It was so adorable. I doubt they realized at the time that these were moments they will remember for decades.

I especially remember determination on the faces of the relays. There was a true camaraderie and trust as they encouraged each other before taking on the challenge.

The races speak for themselves. Incredible heart and drive. Some made mistakes, and even better, some avoided past mistakes. This was the point where all that practice took over, and allowed them to shine. Which they did, often.  Coaches understand and appreciate those moments. It’s a partnership with the swimmers. A shared moment.

The reactions of the swimmers after the races will have us all smiling for years.  Some had some disbelieving looks on their faces at what they had done. Others displayed 1000-watt smiles that lit up their faces when they saw their time. There were smiles of pride, looks of relief at it being over, and even some tears of perceived failure.  All memorable. And who can forget our 10 & under boys posing and dancing while waiting to climb the podium, all in front of the loudest and largest crowd they could possible imagine.

There were some moments of true athletic maturity as well. Some of our senior boys had incredibly tough back-to-back, or triples and even in one case quadruple swims in the finals. An excellent race was filed away for celebration later so that the planning and preparation for the next race could start immediately.  One of the hardest things in swimming is to get right back into the warmup pool with an exhausted body, and start the process of converting that lactic acid back into energy for the next race by swimming moderately hard.  Then popping out to get back on the blocks.  The last senior boys relay was a perfect example. Between the four of them they had already swum 7 races that evening, and yet they still all went faster than their PBs on their way to a silver. Incredible. That took a level of maturity that will stay with them forever.

I vividly remember the parents as well, probably because I’m used to seeing them as normal people during the day to day life of being a swim parent.  Not at this meet.  I saw some parents silently watching their children swim, while gripping the hand railings as if they wanted to twist the metal into pretzels, contorting their bodies and leaning one way or the other in an effort to speed their child along. Others, screaming their heads off, no doubt with no recollection of what they were screaming, only the knowledge that if they stopped screaming their child would slow down. Many could not watch while sitting down, instead a furious pacing preceded the race, while intense jumping and arm waving and all manner of calisthenics accompanied the race. I have no doubt they burned as many calories as the kids.

And the last recollection was of coming back to the hotel to find lots of healthy food. I think a significant factor in our success was the extra resting / sleeping time our swimmers had thanks to Jorge and Marta’s significant efforts here.

There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child. In our case, it takes parents, tireless supporters, and coaches to raise a swimmer.  Well done to all.

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