Student Journalism at San Rafael High School

Off the Leash

Off the Leash

Off the Leash

Hunter
Narratives
Hunter
Nico Clark, Contributor • June 23, 2024
Taking a Sibling to Rehab
Narratives
Taking a Sibling to Rehab
Oscar Jordan-Shamis, Contributor • June 12, 2024
The Lacrosse Family
Narratives
The Lacrosse Family
Hannah Chamberlain, Contributor • June 11, 2024
Magic Minnesota Summers
Narratives
Magic Minnesota Summers
Taylor Brown, Contributor • June 11, 2024
The Night We Truly Met
Narratives
The Night We Truly Met
James Rider, Contributor • June 11, 2024

Coach Paige

I started swimming because I hated tennis. Now I’ve become something of a Swimarin legend.
Coach+Paige
Paige Bussi

I started swimming because I hated tennis. My grandparents signed me up for tennis lessons every year for my birthday because they are huge tennis fans and wanted my brothers and I to play. My birthday is in May, so my lessons were at the start of summer, when the sun starts to create little heat waves across the cracked concrete and the sticky syrup of melted popsicles trickles down your hands. I, an unhappy little girl in a visor and skirt, would stand on the sweltering green courts holding a racquet with no coordination. This was not my idea of summer fun.

The last time I received my gift of sweaty obligation was in third grade, when instead I was given a gift of a swimsuit and goggles. So for the past nine years, I’ve been swimming for the Swimarin Sharks, my local recreational team.

My role as part of this team has matured from just a swimmer to a coach and exemplar. The head coach of Swimarin, Joe Doyle, reached out my sophomore year to ask about coaching. Needing a bit of extra cash, I took on the job. But as time went by, it grew to mean so much more to me than money.

Coaching the “Shark Pups” (Swimarin’s learning to swim program) takes a different kind of leadership. I had to learn to develop my “baby voice” – drawing out syllables too long and raising the pitch – in order to get four to six year olds to respond to me. I felt very silly at first. But I’ve spent so many hours perfecting the voice that now I’m a pro.

The pool is cold, especially for little kids. Many times I have spent the entire session trying to help one or two kids just dip their toes in the water. Crying, screaming, and outright refusal are all familiar to me as I try to hold their hands down the stairs into the pool. Most of the time it works, but sometimes it doesn’t. Those days are hard.

“My goggles are too loose!”

“I have to poop!”

“It’s too cold!”

“Now you made my goggles too tight!”

These are all pretty common exclamations for these toddlers. Another common occurrence is a full-on mucusy cough to my face. I just continue on coaching with a smile.

These kids are so funny without even realizing it, because they are actually serious. It gives me an in on understanding how their brains work. They are so innocent and the world is so black and white to them, and it’s hard to imagine that I was like that once too.

Just a few days ago, one girl complained the whole time about practicing. She kept groaning, “why do I haveee to practice kicking? It’s annoying!” To which a boy replied through gasps and speed talking, “Because, because, if you’re swimming in a lake, and there’s crocodiles, the crocodiles that will swim fast after you and eat you, so you have to practice swimming to be able to get out of the lake before the crocodile eats you!”

I’ve never been in a lake swimming away from crocodiles, but I do understand that learning to swim is a vital life skill. Especially in our geographic location surrounded by the bay.

I’ve become something of a Swimarin legend. A lot of the parents know who I am, even when I (unfortunately) don’t know their names. “Go with Coach Paige, she’s so nice!” and “look, your favorite coach is here!” is what I hear from parents persuading their children to get in the water. I even babysit for a few of them.

Teaching the sport that I hold so close is incredibly rewarding. I’ve seen a swimmer start at not being able to swim at all to advancing skill group levels and moving on to the next age group smoothly. I saw a swimmer go from hating the water to refusing to get out after practice to the point where I have to carry her out (her giggling the whole way). I’m so proud of all of the swimmers that I’ve coached over the past three years. Seeing their improvements, efforts, and most importantly smiles, is so fulfilling.

It’s bittersweet knowing that this is my last season as a swim coach for Swimarin. But I’m so grateful for the skills it’s taught me and the memories I’ve made. My hope is that I inspired at least one swimmer to continue down the path of swimming and one day take on coaching.

 

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Off the Leash Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *