Sunday, April 20, 2014

Why I Ended Things With My Swim Coach

A few reasons, actually. Now, I don't want to say bad things about this girl. (Although, how old was she, anyway? 16?) But it just wasn't working out for me and her.

First, and worst, she argued with me when I told her I sucked.

Am I alone in preferring an honest assessment of my skills or lack thereof? If I say, "I suck at swimming," it's not a global statement of all of my abilities. Swimming is just ONE of my abilities. Agreeing with me that I suck at swimming is not the same thing as telling me I suck at life or am a terrible person. My conclusion that I suck at swimming has been reached by considering all available evidence: 1) absolute lack of improvement over the past several years, 2) comparison of my swim times with Ironman and 1/2 Ironman swim times, and 3) my observations of the way that I feel when swimming (expending huge amounts of energy but barely moving at all). Those are pretty objective pieces of evidence, in my opinion. When someone says, "You don't suck! You're good!" after observing a sucky swim, both that person's knowledge and my ability to trust him or her are in jeopardy. If I can't trust her to validate what's right under her nose, how can I trust her to make me better?

Second, she never gave me an actual plan to follow, or any explanation of how I was going to improve, or even any drills. When I asked her for a plan, she gave me a flyer for the Master's Swimming program and told me I should go there. (Well, maybe I should. But it's at 7:30 at night and there is no way I'm staying out that late after a day of work.) Is it irrational of me to expect to get a plan or a schedule or SOMETHING from a coach who's being paid to help me?

Third, she told me that there probably wasn't anything to do to improve my kick so I probably just shouldn't worry about it. This was after watching me kick two lengths and telling me I kicked too hard with my right leg and not hard enough with my left, and that I should try to kick equally with both. When I tried to do that, I literally stopped moving forward at all in the water, and just floundered, kicking increasingly harder but getting nowhere, which caused her to give up. She also told me I needed to be kicking from my hips, not my legs. I understand this academically but have no sense of how to actually do it.

Fourth, I know that I would need thousands of dollars of lessons to make any kind of improvement. $400 in Tucson brought me marginal improvement which promptly disappeared when I moved away from Tucson and quit swimming. I don't have that kind of money and wouldn't spend it on swim lessons if I did. (These lessons were free. Well, they were not exactly free, but I paid for them with "Lifetime bucks", which is imaginary money good only at Lifetime and earned by referring friends to join.)

I remember my swim coach in Tucson. I don't remember his name, but I remember how good-looking he was, all tan and blond. He agreed with me that I sucked. He had a systematic plan for improvement. He was confident in his ability to make me get better. He was a grown-up, not a kid. He had actual workouts that he designed just for me. He cared about whether I improved or not, and if he was checking out the other lifeguards during my lesson he wasn't obvious about it. All of these are things I aim for in my own teaching. Being a teacher myself, I know crappy teaching when I see it.

I have decided that it is okay to be a crappy swimmer and still do the 1/2 Ironman. I will just accept that my finishing time will be worse than it would be if I weren't a crappy swimmer. Shrug. There are worse things. And luckily, the sport that I am the worst at is also the smallest percentage of the overall course, so it's much better to be a lousy swimmer than a lousy cyclist or a lousy runner.

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