Saturday, June 18, 2011

thanks, pete.

today marks an annual occurrence that i started doing when i was probably six. the actual event that i've been attending has actually been going on since 1994. so i guess i've been doing it almost the entire time it's been an event.

today was pete johnston.

that means absolutely nothing to you.

pete johnston is a summer swimming invitational held every june at park forest pool. it has mixed gender relays and an oddity called a crescendo relay that i absolutely loved when i was little. pete johnston was always a ridiculous amount of fun because i saw all of my friends on all the other summer teams. when i was little, i was actually a good swimmer, (something happened when i started to swim in college) and i had hopes of winning medals. it was all day. and the pool is right behind my best friend jacob's house and every once in a while, he'd come outside to watch me swim.

my parents hated pete johnston. as a young, naive swimmer who couldn't put on her own swim cap, i never understood why.

now that i am twenty years old and have been coaching a summer team for three years, i can understand with perfect clarity why my parents hate the memorial invitational that is pete johnston.

this morning, after i'd been dreading the meet all week, i pulled into park forest's parking lot at five forty-five in the morning. i was the first person at the meet, so i contented to sit in my car, sip my starbucks, and chastise myself for having only gotten four hours of sleep.

every year i know that pete johnston is long. and hot. and early. but i nonetheless get less than five hours of sleep. consistently.

once people began to arrive, then it was putting up the tent. then it was getting a heat sheet. then it was bending over the heat sheet and highlighting every single autumn ridge swimmer. and then it was actually dealing with the kids. kids that were as excited as i used to be when i was their age.

by seven, it was still chilly. i was still running on the caffeine of my starbucks. i hadn't felt my mosquito bites yet. i had energy to jump and yell and cheer and scream and be SUPER COACH EMILY.

by ten thirty in the morning, two and a half hours into the meet, it was ninety degrees. i was starving. my left arm was considerably tanner than my right arm. my voice was hoarse from screaming for my kids to swim faster. my hand was sore from giving high fives. i had accidentally written on myself with heat-scratching pen at least five times. i was dehydrated and i didn't have enough time between my kids' swims to actually go apply sunscreen. i had to pee. my feet hurt because i'd been standing for four hours.

i can see why my parents absolutely hated pete johnston.

but despite that pete johnston starts at six in the morning and usually runs until three in the afternoon and it's just constant standing and screaming in the intense glare of the june sun, it's fun. doing it from a coaching perspective is so much different that from a swimmer's perspective.

i truly love every single kid that i coach. i coach 141 of them, and i do not know all of their names, but i love them all. i love them for deciding to be swimmers, for coming to practice, for smiling at me, for doing what i ask of them. i love them for having team spirit and i love them for making me laugh. i even love them for my making my job an absolute living hell.

so it's hard to hate a gigantic meet like pete johnston where i see other coaches just like me loving their swimmers the way that i love mine. it's worth the sunburns, uneven tanlines, mosquito bites, the hunger, the foot pain, and the absolute no sleep followed by extreme exhaustion. everything is worth it.

no matter how much i bitch about pete johnston beforehand, during the actual spectacle, and after i get home and i'm drenched in sweat and my hair is curling in eight different directions, i love it.

i love it because i love my job, and i love my kids.

you know, at the beginning of this blog, i was possibly going for something funny and entertaining, but all i really got was sentimentality. i really gotta work on this blogging thing.

(this blog is dedicated to pete johnston, swimmer and friend, may 10th, 1974 to june 17th, 1993. thanks for making the world of swimming a better place.)

No comments:

Post a Comment