Sunday, September 4, 2011

It Finally Boiled Over

The Viking is gonna be typing a little slower than usual for a while...

I have hardly blogged all summer. I have just been too busy. Renovations, teaching, high school swim, summer league, USA coaching, swim lessons... in a small town the swim program can often seem like a one horse show. I have tried a few times to write about it all, but have abandoned the post every time. The frustrations I have are aimed in too many directions, and none of it is really anyone's fault. It just all adds up to being more than one person can handle.

I put in at least four weeks of over 100 hours on the clock this summer. Physically, that isn't so bad. For a large chunk of my life that has been the norm. That is the coaching life. I chose this over commercial fishing. At age 15, the first job I ever had took me away from home for a week where I worked shifts as long as 41 hours, and I was sea sick for most of it. I can handle the grind, but now that I have two little girls at home I struggle with missing them. I cried when I missed their first jumps from the diving board because I had a Sunday night meeting. I can deal with being tired and watching my body slowly fall apart, but this is new.

My classes started today. My renovations aren't done. I am not ready at all. Not ready for class. Not ready for high school swim season. We are hosting a meet this Thursday and I can't find our stopwatches and back-up buttons. I can't secure an official. We still have no seating of any kind and we have about 90 lockers on the deck that were supposed to be installed over a week ago. The new filtration and chemical systems aren't adjusted and automated yet. I don't have time to do the things needed to get the pool ready. We are using it and can actually swim, but when kids are in the water, my hands are tied regarding getting anything else done. What in the hell kind of a job can you work from 5:30am to 8:30pm six or seven days a week and still have work to do when you get home? No one would ever guess a swim coach could claim that. The other teachers laugh and give me a funny look when I talk about how stressed I get. Especially in the summer.

Tonight is also the first practice for the club. Since we could not find a coach, I am back in the game. I love doing it. The club is my baby, but it is a huge sacrifice for family and my stress level. I am not handling it well and the season hasn't even started yet. I had my main assistant back out on me, which means that since I have so many conflicting high school meets the club won't have any coach at all on deck for about half of the meets on the schedule. Another part of the stress is simply that I am in a state where high school coaches can't coach their high school swimmers outside of the season, which means that when I have to coach the USA program, my school gets screwed. I am making all of the other schools better and am forced to exclude my swimmers from the elite groups. They are swimming (if I find an assistant,) but they must swim with the novice groups because they cannot be directly coached by me. There is no way around it. Once again, small town kids get screwed. The cities have multiple clubs to swim at; the small towns don't. My club serves multiple small towns and with it being so hard to find coaches, it puts my swimmers at a disadvantage. I heard once that coaches in Michigan won a lawsuit to force their state to drop those restrictions, but I don't have the time or money to pursue that. I would if I could. Every year we search for coaches, and there just aren't any. The rules are supposed to be about making things equal. Right now they are keeping my athletes from getting the same opportunity as everybody else.

Either way, it doesn't matter. The only other option would be to shut down the club. I am not okay with that. It would doom me to never having a chance to have success for the remainder of my career, and more importantly swimming in our area would go back to the dark ages where swim moms didn't understand why their swimmer who wins all the time in the summer league isn't being offered full rides and Olympic team spots. Before my club got here, no one knew about the great big world of swimming out there. The kids who live here deserve the chance to truly pursue excellence. That is why I built it and I was fully aware of the high school restrictions when I did.

The problem is, I am starting to crack. This life-consuming job is fundamentally changing who I am. I have developed anger issues. Today I got angry about the stupid pool vacuum. I punched the wall. I have three fractures in my wrist. I am an idiot. I haven't always been an idiot. I promise.

My wife told me "please don't punch anything else today."

My response: "You don't have to worry, baby. I look like a dork when I throw a punch with my left hand. I don't want to look that stupid."

I have already started telling the kids I got attacked by ninjas. I don't think they're buying it.


  1. I hope the universe sends you some help soon. The law keeping your high school swimmers out of elite competitions is ridiculous. I mean, I get the reasoning behind it, but the law of unintended consequences... well, this one should have been foreseeable by the powers-that-be and provisions should have been made to work around it.

  2. The life of a swim coach.
    I have two little boys at home. Two years old and 3 months old. And yes, it's hard to be away for most of the time, to hear their first words on the phone/Skype, watching them grow up from pictures sent by mom :(

    I did the fishing part as well, was sea sick all the time for 5 weeks once, needless to say, I hated it!
    Those long hours.. been there.
    But then my life looks good compared to yours.

    "high school coaches can't coach their high school swimmers outside of the season"

    What is this all about? I guess there is a reason for those restrictions, but can someone enlighten me?

    "Before my club got here, no one knew about the great big world of swimming out there. The kids who live here deserve the chance to truly pursue excellence. That is why I built it and I was fully aware of the high school restrictions when I did."

    This sounds great and familiar, except for those restrictions.. I hope the sport of swimming wins this one. Good luck!

  3. Since writing this, a lot has happened. My first meet came and went embarrasingly with both a failed PA and start system; I failed miserably trying to find an assistant coach in time for club sign-ups; and I had surgery this morning to put two pins in my wrist. BUT still, my spirit is in a better place: I have lots of hydrocodone to get me by; I learned I can still crack crab even when I can only use my left hand, as we had a king crab feast last night; And I packed a suitcase-- I am heading to Alaska for my first time in eleven years. It will be the first time my family will see my home town. A friend is getting married... and I can't believe we are able to go!

    Thank you to all who gave kind words of support and understanding. If you know anyone looking for a coaching job, have them look me up.