Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I coulda been a contenda.

Last night at swim practice we had a bit of change of pace--much needed, I think. Granted, I was thrilled to be back in the water after a couple of days of shut-down (one of which, technically, was Sunday, when we never have practice), but any routine gets to be, well, routine after you do it for, say, 5 months straight.

Part of the issue, I suppose, is my attempt to be less goal-focused in my swimming, to enjoy it for itself. The downside of this approach is that it gets easier to slack at practice, or convince myself I am too tired to go swimming, or otherwise to be lame. And the sense of routine does still accumulate, for even though I am not counting down to May as I did last year, I am still aware of the passing of weeks and days.

Lately I have been trying to counteract this sense of routine with a more of-the-moment approach to thinking about practice, and that helps. Instead of trying to get through a set, or thinking about how tired I am, or wondering whether I took a set out too fast or too slow, or thinking always about the person in lane 3 and whether I am lagging or leading, I am trying to focus instead on how the swimming feels at any given moment. What is it like to be kicking in streamline, looking at the I-bars in the ceiling? How is my hand placement doing on freestyle--am I getting power from the power part of the stroke? How to enjoy the pleasure of a great streamline or a really long wall?

But last night one of the people who usually swims in the morning but was forced to swim in the evening since there was no morning practice yesterday, said to Coach, "We never really had a special before-Christmas practice. Could we have an after-Christmas special? You know, do something different?" "Like play waterpolo!" I exclaimed, and he immediately assented.

I did not know at that time that he had played waterpolo in college, and so had another guy on our team. But after 3500 yards of swimming, we spent the rest of practice playing a sort of modified half-court game in the diving well. One person was always the goalie, and when the ball changed teams you had to take it out past the diving board, and we were three on three, hats v. skins, which meant boys v. girls.

I don't think we actually kept accurate score, in part because we never fully settled on whether a goal had to go between the rails of the ladder or just hit it, but things seemed pretty fairly matched. Nobody played particularly rough, although I heard that the PP was bad for grabbing an opponent's ankle as she was swimming for the ball.

But all in all the game reminded me why I did not last long in co-ed club volleyball in college: I was just too daunted by going up against a huge guy to take a shot or defend the goal. It's frustrating, too, because I have decent ball-handling skills, strong legs for treading water, reasonably quick movement in the water, and in a low-key game like this I was able to score a couple of goals.

But the important part was the break of routine. Coach pointed out towards the end that we probably could put together an awesome synchronized swimming team....

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