Thursday, February 12, 2009

Upcoming Adventure

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 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.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Trophy seeking

The past few days have had some interesting ups and downs. On Saturday night I was at the district swim meet. My team was the long shot to win, but I was hoping and praying we could pull it off. My swimmers did great, they dropped time everywhere, and even broke a school record. And we still took second place. Oh, well. There's always next year.

Though I would have loved for my team to have walked away holding that trophy, I got just about everything else I wanted on Saturday night. Nearly everyone who had a shot at advancing to Regionals did so. Several kids outperformed even my expectations and we walked out of the meet knowing that as a team we had done our best.

Yesterday, I was playing the underdog role once more. You see, the finalists for the Whitney Awards were being announced yesterday morning. I was extremely fortunate last year to have my novel, The Deep End, named as a finalist and I admit I was hopeful that at least one of my novels would earn me that honor once more.

What I didn't expect is what actually happened. BOTH of my 2008 novels were named as finalists...and they are competing AGAINST each other. That's right. Freefall and Royal Target are both finalists in the mystery/suspense category for the Whitney Awards.

I find myself both excited and mystified. You see, while both of my books can certainly be categorized as suspense novels, neither one of them are purists in the category. Freefall would really be better classified as government action/intrigue with some romance thrown in. Royal Target I consider more of a romance with some government suspense thrown in.

With this said, and knowing that judges are likely to vote for a book that truly fits the category, I want to congratulate all of the Whitney Finalists. And until April 25th I will continue to wonder which of the other three authors in the mystery/suspense category is going to beat me out not once, but twice, to win the award.