Wednesday, May 27, 2009

And this is Marcia, my . . .

Outside of the pool, my swimmers have a hard time describing me. No one feels right saying "this is Marcia, my coach," because most of my students don't really think of themselves as professional athletes. And not too many are sure enough about calling me "friend" because in my job it's not really a give-and-take relationship. I give orders and they take it. It's a little like the exchanges between me and my 12-year-old daughter at home.

"Get in!"
(Swimmer: silence)
(Daughter: silence)
"Let's GO!"
(Swimmer: fiddles with goggles)
(Daughter: fiddles with iPod)
"I don't have ALL DAY!"
(Swimmer: slowly puts on cap)
(Daughter: slowly puts on shoes)

That's just not how most people talk to their friends.

Having a coach is a little weird when you already have another job and are over the age of 22. But I love it -- it's a sweetly charming thing to say about me. Personally I would be embarrassed to say I had a Personal Trainer. It's just a little too bourgeois. Plus, no great swimmers would dream of having a personal coach. Maybe for a little technique work once in a while, but since racing is what it's all about, having an empty pool just means you never learn how to do that.

I have lots of professional people in my swim classes at Laney College, but few of them even know what their lanemates do outside of the pool. I do, just because I chat with people in the two minutes before they get in each day. But unless you share the Locker Room Experience with someone, it's hard to get to know a lot of details during workout.

Do we really need to? It's so wonderful that we're all just judged on ridiculous criteria like:

Can/Can't Do Breaststroke
Non-lethal/Dangerous Torpedo Sculler
Goes Out Too Fast and Dies Like a Pig/Smart

One of my students recently received her PhD and I got everyone to sign a card for her. The best comment ever was "Congratulations, Matt (Lane 2/3)." Gotta love Matt, who identifies with his lane. At 6 a.m., that is often all some swimmers know about each other.

Everyone is begoggled, most people have caps on, and there aren't many people wearing suits that aren't black. When someone tries to describe another swimmer to me -- whose name they don't know -- it is often "She's got a blue cap and swims over there" (vague gesture north or south). What they WANT to say is "She is the worst kicker I've ever seen, never knows what the set is, and I can totally kick her ass on the 4x100s." But of course, we're too nice for that.

So I think saying your lane is completely appropriate. Marcia is "the coach," you're "Lane 2" ("Lane 3" when none of the good people come.) That settles it.

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