I feel an adventure coming on. Tomorrow I will head to the Northwest Regional Swim meet here in Virginia. Two coaches, one bus driver, eighteen teenagers. Sounds simple enough. The only problem is that Murphy tends to follow me on away meets. (You know, that guy that invented Murphy's Law?)
I am fortunate that most of my regular season meets are at the pool around the corner from me. My team typically only travels at most twice a year except for post season. And we almost always get lost. Sometimes we don't realize that the bus driver was given the wrong destination until after we miss our exit. Some pools are incredibly difficult to find...and the bus driver won't ask for directions. And other times, no one has directions and we end up relying on some 16 or 17-year-old to help us find the pool. Now that's adventurous.
Yet, with all of the times we have taken wrong turns, chewed our fingernails as the bus tried to do a U-turn on a residential street, or placed our faith in a teenage driver's sense of direction, we never get lost during our post season. (Well, maybe a wrong turn on occasion, but not really lost.)
I expect this year might be a bit different. You see, we are swimming at a new pool...in a town I haven't visited since before I started coaching thirteen years ago.
The funny thing is, I'm kind of looking forward to getting lost. All throughout this swim season something has been missing on my team: a sense of unity. Most of the swimmers advancing to regionals are underclassmen, and many of them swim on year-round teams in the area. The thing I've always loved about high school swimming is that sense of team. I love the way these kids who have been trained to think only of their own personal times start stepping outside of themselves and start thinking about their teammates. I enjoy the strategy sessions when these talented teenagers start understanding my sometimes far-fetched logic that helps us win as a whole even when it doesn't make any one of them the superstar.
Looking back on this season, I realize that we didn't have any real adventures. Sure, we had to rely on a teenager to direct us to our one away meet, but we didn't really get lost. The swimmers were so talented that they breezed through their regular season undefeated without having to understand how we did it. And as a result when we faced a uphill battle to go for the district championship, they didn't know how to reach for the goal as a team. Could we have won? I don't know. We were supposed to lose by forty or so points and these kids narrowed the gap down to less than 10. I'm proud of them individually, but I can still see so much untapped potential for them as a unit.
So as I prepare myself for the next championship meet, I find myself actually hoping for a wrong turn or two. Maybe some shared experiences will help them all see that we can succeed as individuals and still reach for the same goals.