A little background, if I may: I began swimming competitively when I was about 9 years old. Apparently, I had a little talent in the sport. I made it to national meets by the time I was 13. I loved swimming. I was one of the weird ones who didn’t mind getting up at 5am to swim before school. I enjoyed being the first one to practice. I was one of those year-round crazies that swam 2-4 hours a day, 10,000 yards a practice, 50 weeks out of the year.
In college, I received a music scholarship and had to choose between swimming and music. It was a Big Ten University with a stellar swimming program. I made the team but not with any financial help. Since music was paying for some of my schooling, music won. But I had been coaching summer league swimming since I was 17 and found a part-time job as an assistant coach in a year round age group program in college. I could enjoy both of my loves. I was set. I coached for 12 years.
When my children came along I always steered them toward another sport. I knew how pushy/obnoxious/ignorant swimming parents could be. (Little did I know, they’d be the same way in every other sport) I didn’t want to become one of those parents. My youngest son wasn’t buying it. He begged and pleaded and practically went on strike until we’d let him swim. He started his first team experience a week ago.
Parents are required to volunteer at three meets per season. Because we started late, there weren’t many volunteer slots left to choose from. Except for Stroke and Turn Judge, which requires a training class. I attended the training class yesterday afternoon.
What an experience.
Background information #2: I’ve decided not to advertise my background in the sport. Many parents involved in swimming, if they haven’t competed themselves, think that because they’ve watched the Olympics a few times and can pick out Michael Phelps in a line up, they are experts at swimming. I’m a people watcher – a people observer. In short, I’m looking forward to seeing some of these “experts” in action.
“For those of us who arrived 4 minutes early, what did we miss?” asks a woman from the back, obviously annoyed that the instructor has started on time. Yes. He started on time. I know, because I’m a stickler for punctuality when it involves missing time from my family. I secretly shake my head and decide that those who choose any kind of officiating role must be control freaks.
The instructor is trying to find out what kind of experience we have in the sport.
“Raise your hand if you’ve officiated before and this is just a refresher course,” he asks.
Of course, my hand is down.
“Raise your hand if this is your first time taking the course.”
I raise my hand.
Because he thinks he knows the answer, he grins and says, “Keep your hand up if this is your child’s first season swimming.”
I’m the only one with my hand up.
He looks at me with wide eyes. “Your child has never swam before?”
“No sir,” I reply.
He shakes his head. “Then sharpen your pencil. You’ve got a lot to take in.”
I certainly do, I think, smiling inside.
About half way into the session, a woman asks, “Is this going to run much longer? My daughter has her last soccer game today.” We’ve only covered two strokes. We still have two more and relays and IMs to cover.
“You’ll need to sign up for another course,” the instructor replies, “You can’t be certified if you only complete half.”
“But my dad was an official at the Pam Am games,” she answers.
“Is he going to come with you to every meet?” asks the instructor.
She pouts and stays to finish the class.
We work in groups, analyzing different infractions. One of my group-mates boasts that he swam in high school and was never DQ’d (disqualified) so this is going to be a piece of cake for him. And I think, yeah. That’s because you swam four months out of every year and probably only swam the freestyle. If you haven’t been DQ’d, you haven’t been swimming very long.
As we turned in our tests and they were graded in front of us, the instructor – obviously impressed with my score – said, “You must have been an excellent student in school.”
I smiled and nodded, afraid to open my mouth and betray my true experience.
This is going to be an interesting season.