There are a lot of things I love about my girlfriend Sue. We share a ton of interests. Even beyond the running, riding and swimming, we love the arts, live theater and watching John Oliver.
But there’s also a thing I admire about her specifically. She’s a very good swim coach. I’ve seen her in action. Working with swimmers takes focus and patience. Learning to swim, as I have done this past year, is a difficult endeavor. You start out so slow and out of breath. The stroke seems impossible to sustain.
Here’s the funny thing. She hasn’t been MY swim coach, per se. I decided that the best way to learn to swim was to get instruction from a gal at the club where I swim. Being the student of your bestie has its upsides, perhaps. But I did not want to explore the potential downsides.
Getting through the frustrations of learning or re-learning swimming (which was my case) requires a nudge now and then. It helps to have that objective voice to say “You can do this. Here, focus on this…”
As the process grew in my instruction with a coach named Whitney there came breakthroughs that I’d share and check with Sue. She put up with my overly enthusiastic musings about finishing a 100, then a 200. Then the workouts grew.
So it’s interesting to see her coach other athletes, and hear about their struggles and triumphs too. Many of her students I know at least casually. Some I get to know strictly from our conversations. Her descriptive abilities in relating how they got through a particularly difficult aspect of swimming actually help me learn as well.
But it’s her presence on the pool deck that I most admire. She has a wonderful ability to spot what needs to be fixed or improved in a swimmer’s stroke. Her ability to communicate these things has helped many a beginning swimmer gain confidence. She has also helped a number of serious triathletes improve their endurance and speed in the water. She coaches for Experience Triathlon doing Swim 101, Masters Swimming and video analysis.
It makes me think back to that day in Governor Dodge State Park. It was early in our relationship. We were floating around in the water together, just swimming around like kids. She asked me to swim a little ways to show what I could do. “You’re not terrible,” she said, or something on that order. I found that encouraging.
Then she swam a bit on her own and I was mesmerized. She was like a seal in the water. It made me want to hug her. And I did. Our bodies bumped together under the water and we kissed. Then we both swam some more, enjoying the cool water after a long bike ride in the heat earlier that day.
The summer sun was on that angle where everything looks joyous and restful. There was no one left on the beach. Just us and the call of evening birds in the pines. We were learning how to swim together.