Earning my flippers

As a synchronized swimming coach, at any given time, my swim bag contained the following:

  • At least five or six noseclips
  • One pair of goggles, more if someone else had left theirs at the previous practice
  • Two or three swimsuits, one of which was solid black
  • Two towels
  • One binder with the levels I taught
  • Any extra paperwork I did as head coach
  • Any other binders another coach might have forgotten or had given to me if I was cutting their music
  • At least one iPod, possibly a couple of CDs and in my early days, some tapes
  • Bobby pins and hair elastics

I won’t bore you with all the other things I’d add to my bag during an exhibition, but it usually ended up being I needed a couple extra hands or bags to carry everything. The main thing is though, I used to have numerous noseclips — pretty much the definition of a synchro swimmer. Some were mine, others I’d collected as girls forgot them at the pool the previous practice and I’d dole out again the following practice. But I always had a noseclip — I can’t flip upside down without one, though I’ve coached girls and swam with a close friend who have learned to hold their breath and flip without one.

In December, I left the club I swam with for over 12 years when I left the city, though I did swim in their year-end exhibition (two of my close friends still run the club and I swan a duet with one of them). I haven’t been in the pool much since, and I talked earlier about how I was surprised how much it affected me.

Right now, when I’m doing lengths of sculling, I’m thinking about tensing muscles that I haven’t had to think about in years, it just automatically happened. Last week, when I was doing lengths, I stuck to mostly swimming lengths and some sculling, this week I did a couple more synchro-related techniques.

Lengths are good for technique and strengthening — my girls hated when I assigned sculling lengths, but their inverted figures looked better afterwards. And unders (breaststroke underwater for a full length in one breath) are good for breath control. But we don’t run our whole practice on lengths, we consider them warmup or punishment for not paying attention, so it’s always felt a little strange to me to get in the water and just do lengths without breaking to practice some figures or run a routine.

Come to think of it, the last time I got in the water just to do lengths was in third-year university when I was mad at a boy.

Somehow though, in the past year, I’ve lost all the noseclips I’ve had. The pool stocks some swim gear, but they were out of noseclips last week. I still don’t have one — I didn’t check this week if the order had come in — but now, I’m not letting myself buy one. I want to be able to do unders again and ballet leg holds (lay down flat on the floor and stick one leg up in the air, so your legs form an L, and then try and do a full length of sculling like that) and not think about tensing muscles to keep my body flat on the surface when sculling.

This is the ballet leg double figure — I miss being able to do these too.

When I can do that again, I can have my noseclip back.

(Note: I was going to call this post “Earning my noseclip,” but “Earning my flippers” sounds much more fun and a little less dorky to non-synchro swimmers).


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