Wednesday, July 26, 2006

last swim practice

Coach Jimmy gave me a superfish cap!

He gives them to kids for meeting a goal. He gave it to me as a general congratulations on how far I've come, but I was very happy today to do two 50 yards freestyle each under a minute. In fact the first one was 54.6 seconds and the second one was 56.9. We did a set of 75s--first and last 25 work on stroke count (swimming the length of the pool with relatively few strokes) and then middle 25 swim fast trying to keep the same stroke count. Then we did 4 50s fast, with several minutes of rest in between. I did one free, the fastest one, then one fly, which was 1:20something because I run out of breath after about 35 yards, another free, and then one backstroke in 1:04, which I was happy with because I thought my backstroke was really slow.

The swim team goes on vacation now for nearly a month, and I am sad to hear our coach may not be back in the fall. I wrote an email about him that said in part:
I came to this team a year and a half ago, having decided I wanted to do the Clemson triathlon. I was 49 years old and had never been on a swim team of any sort. In fact, I had hardly even swum laps in a pool--I had swim lessons as a child but they and almost all my subsequent experience were in open water. It was a very hard thing to do, to show up to a coached workout knowing that I really didn't know what I was doing, either in technique or etiquette. Jimmy has taught me and pushed me along, without ever once making me feel I didn't belong. I dreaded for almost a year when was he going to have us work on flip turns, and the first day he did I thought I would never be able to do it, but very quickly I was proud of myself that I could. This year I'm doing more and longer triathlons and very excited about the progress I have made.

I've thought a lot about a college coach (women's sailing team) who was an important reassuring figure in my life. I heard a phrase once that captured what I felt--that a good coach gives unconditional positive regard beneath the teaching and pushing. There aren't very many people who can do that, and in his quiet way Jimmy is one of them. That is a gift to me, and it must be an even more important to the kids on the team.
I'm grateful.

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