Coaching again

In the 'be careful what you wish for' category, I'd like to offer myself up as an example. I started coaching swimming back when I was fresh out of high school and the pool where I worked needed someone to coach the summer club team. When I moved to Colorado, I found that EMT jobs were paying just above minimum wage but I could land a coaching job for $10/hour. Back in the mid-90s, that was GOOD money (the sad thing is that wage hasn't really changed - the team my daughter swam for recently doesn't even pay their assistant coaches $10/hour...20 years later!) so I took it and began coaching year-round swim teams. I've coached summer club in California, age-group and summer club in Colorado, high school swim and water polo in California, and high school and age group in Alaska.

I stopped coaching once my daughter was born and have been ITCHING to get back on deck ever since but for one reason or another it's not happened. My daughter finally joined the swim team where we were living before Korea and I tried to get on deck with them but it never worked out. The experience of sitting in the stands while my daughter swam about drove me nuts. I did my best not to pick the practices apart (thank goodness she had a technically solid coach) but I couldn't sit there for long so I gave in and became certified as a Stroke and Turn judge. At least now, at swim meets, I had something to DO. But I still craved deck time.

Then we moved to Korea.

The circumstances on this peninsula are...frustrating. Status of Forces Agreement stipulates that a certain percentage of all employees on post are local nationals and that percentage is quite high. One of the ways the Army gets around this is that all of their coaches and officials are volunteers. Yay - working for FREE!!! There is no governing body for sports here. Back in the states, there is USA Swimming. In Europe, there is the European Forces Swim League. Here, we don't even have Stroke and Turn judges. You can tap dance your way through a 50 Breaststroke and it won't matter because there's no one to DQ you.

Our swim team is the ONLY activity on post that functions year-round. We have two competitive seasons: summer and winter. In between the competitive seasons, our swim TEAM turns into a swim CLUB - same hours, same goals, same types of workouts...just no competitions. We take a short break in between seasons but, for the most part, we function year-round. For free. Did I mention I'm not getting paid? Because it's a volunteer position.

I have 35 kids 37 kids 40 kids on the team.

In THREE lanes  My 5 fastest swimmers have one lane and the other 32 split the other two lanes.

And I had to beg, pester, and cajole the management into allowing us the use of that third lane. In addition to that, I get to defend our program to those that come to me complaining that we are 'taking up the whole pool' when they want to lap-swim. The other day I was approached by someone who asked if they could have our third lane. "You can just scootch your kids over into the other two so I can swim, can't you?"

Um, no. And when I explained that I would not, and the reasons WHY I would not, they stormed off in a huff to lodge a complaint with the management.

The pool where we practice is one of THREE pools on post. Our pool is the smallest and the oldest. The Splish & Splash park has a beautiful Olympic-sized outdoor pool with two lap lanes continuously open during their (usually-poorly-attended-because-they-jacked-the-cost-of-season-passes-up-by-150%-this-year-in-an-amazing-display-of-business-ignorance-on-the-part-of-the-company-that-operates-said-park) operating hours. We aren't allowed to use that pool for practice. The manager, when asked, chose to pretend that the question didn't exist and has never given us an answer or an explanation for the lack of answer. And the lifeguards...oh, the lifeguards...but that's a different rant. My blood pressure is already through the roof today.

The other pool - part of the newly-opened Super Gym, has been down for repairs since last year. LAST YEAR. The anticipated re-opening date for this pool is October December but, given the delays that other construction projects on post have faced, I suspect it will be spring 2015 before we see that pool reopened. And based on the lack of access we've been granted to the Splish & Splash park, I am not hopeful that we will be 'allowed' to hold practices at the Super Gym.

Lest you think I do nothing but gripe, I will tell you my team is great. We have kids ranging from 6 years up to 15 years of age. I have some kids that do a passable freestyle but nothing more and I have some kids that have been lucky enough to have swum with high-caliber year-round swim teams back in the states. And I have an awesome assistant coach that swam competitively with a Division I college (something I was never good enough to do) and who brings with her a wealth of insight into stroke technique and high-level competition. We have great parents that want the best for their children and a local CYSS staff that do their best to helps us function smoothly within the confines of ridiculous amounts of DoD red tape.

I am thoroughly enjoying being back on deck. I love coaching. I love watching my swimmers 'get it' when it comes to making adjustments in their strokes to help them swim smarter and to swim faster. I am looking forward to watching their times drop this summer as we get ready for our competitive season.

But I hate the Army. The Army does its best to suck the joy out of my coaching and it's exhausting to keep it from doing so. Talk to me after our first meet and maybe my perspective will have changed.



- hfs

1 comment:

DL Sly said...

The VES was on the inaugural swim team for her high school this last year. They, too, had to cajole swim time from the local athletic club (because the large athletic club in the large town nearby is already used the that large town team, donchaknow) in order to use their three lane pool. However, that was about as much concession as the team got. The only times given for them to use were at 6-7:30 am before school, or 7:30-9 after school.
That's ok, though. After the year they had, with the VES anchoring the team, the need to justify the girl's team at least has been put to rest. We'll have to see if that translates into better pool times next year.


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