Not Your Typical Swim Camp

Several years ago the aquatics director asked me if I would be interested in running the swim camp.

“It wouldn’t be your typical swim camp,” I told her. “I don’t want to do freestyle on Monday and backstroke on Tuesday. I’d like it to be fun and a little goofy.”

She let me run with it.

I came up with the theme of “Swim Like a Beast” and chose a different animal for each day: jellyfish, golden retriever, otter, dolphin, and frog.

The best thing that came out of that camp was a game called Otter Island. My friend Katy was helping me. I told her I was thinking about a game like “Sharks and Minnows” (standard pool fare) but we could make it sharks and otters because sharks eat sea otters.

“Yes,” Katy said, “and we could put one of the big mats in to be an island where they could go for safety.”

The kids love climbing on the big floating mats.

The otter island mat

“When they’re on the island,” I said, “they run the risk of being grabbed by an eagle.” I had read that bald eagles predate on otters.

“So we can have kids on the side with noodles to act as eagles,” Katy said. “If they get tapped by a noodle, the eagle got them.”

Before long, we had concocted a game that was fairly crazy and totally fun.

I realized then how fun it is to collaborate with Katy. We both throw ideas around, bouncing them off each other, like the ping-pong balls that sometimes show up in our games.

Katy has ping-pong balls that look like eyeballs. She’s that kind of person.

I’ve never done the same theme twice for swim camp. One year we did Skull camp — and we did lots of sculling, trying to teach kids how to feel the water. One year we did the Incredibles and called it an Incredible Swim Camp.

In fact, as we were putting stuff away on the last day, Katy said to Mat, our other full-time helper with camp, “Next year it’s up to you. You could probably do the Incredible Swim Camp again.”

Mat stopped piling kickboards and said, “Wait — what?! Aren’t you two going to do it?”

Katy said, “No, this is my last year. I only did it so I could work with Sally one more time.”

I laughed. “It’s my last year, too. I only did it so I could work with Katy.”

I love collaborating with Katy.

This year’s camp was called A Quintessential Swim Camp — and we used the five classical elements: earth, water, air, fire, and æther. We did science-y things in and out of the water.

On Thursday night, as we were trying to come up with a bang-up game to end on, Katy and I bounced ideas off each other — and ended up incorporating those ping-pong balls.

“What if we had kids blowing ping-pong balls across the pool –” she said.

“Okay, that’s the air,” I said, mentally check-marking one element.

“And other kids could be splashing them or making waves in the water to make it difficult,” she said.

“That’s water,” I said. “How about it we have a third group of kids pretending they are stuck to the bottom — you know, can’t move — to represent earth?”

“Yeah! And they could be trying to grab the ping-pong ball or tag the person or something,” she said.

“It sounds chaotic,” Mat said — and it was. Chaotically fun.

Swim camp was fun — once we figured out those initial obstacles — but I’m not doing it again.

“I’ve heard that before,” one of my kids said.

This time I mean it.

Swim Camp

The other night I watched part of a Red Sox game against the Seattle Mariners with my father before I went to bed. In the morning I looked up the final score. The headline read: Sox can’t solve Leake as Rodriguez struggles

Leake was the pitcher for Seattle, and he has more pitches than numbers on a Bingo card.

“What do you think he’s going to throw this time?” one commentator would ask the other.

“I don’t know,” the other replied.

Apparently the Red Sox didn’t know either. Pitcher vs. Batter is such a mind game.

Seattle won 7-2.

Meh — baseball is a long season. I wasn’t too dejected.

I’ve been procrastinating planning swim camp for a while. I set up two meetings last week to discuss the nuts-and-bolts of swim camp with the staff that I would have. We planned activities and scheduled who would be where when. This is the 4th year that I’ve run the swim camp. I wasn’t cocky, but felt like I had a pretty good handle on it.

Plus I knew that a curveball or two would be thrown at me.

It goes with the territory.

Yesterday (Sunday) Bud and my children were covering little signs I had made with clear contact paper so they would withstand a week in the pool.

Last Wednesday I had 22 kids registered so I planned for 28. You never know.

This  morning I got up early to cut up our watermelon snack. 30 wedges should be plenty. I put it in a big bowl and brought it to the pool along with tape for my signs, sandals for my feet, and my whistle for silencing the small masses.

Curveball #1 — It turns out that I’m not allowed to tape anything on the walls. No worries, I thought. The signs were cheesy anyway.

Curveball #2 — Between last Wednesday and Monday (today), the camp had grown from 22 to 31. I didn’t have enough supplies for some of the activities. No worries, I thought. I have several sets of siblings and siblings can share.

Two of our three pools.

Curveball-slider-fastball-knuckleball-all-rolled-into-one — Two of the three pools were not available to me. AND the pool that was available was also being shared with adult lap swimmers and another camp. Maybe I could have three lanes.

I may have started hyperventilating.

Changeup pitch — Over one-third of the swimmers who signed up for my SWIM camp could not swim. One of the pools we couldn’t use was the shallow teaching pool. Now I had safety concerns.

We were told that we should have asked. Asked to use the pool for swim camp? A swim camp scheduled by the facility?

Apparently, it was my fault for not asking. Asking wouldn’t have changed anything. It just would have prepared me.

I was speechless.

So we fumbled (<– sorry, football analogy) through the morning.

The kids had fun.

Who knew that kids could have fun in such circumstances?

And I went home still feeling totally blindsided.

The prompt for today is my greatest regret. My greatest regret today was agreeing to run the swim camp.

It’s not my greatest regret, though. That has to do with far bigger things — missed opportunities with people I love.

However, today, I’m reeling.

The Red Sox couldn’t solve Leake, and I couldn’t solve Monday at swim camp.

BUT — tomorrow is a new day, with no mistakes in it yet. (Anne of Green Gables)

I can’t wait.