Water Polo?

swim startI made the East Haven High School swimming team in my junior year.  I was on the short side, a little scrawny and my coach said I had a Red Cross freestyle (NOT a compliment).  Our school didn’t have a pool so we bused to the local YMCA for practices.  I worked hard and swam in a variety of events, including the 100 fly, the 200 individual medley and the relays.   I wasn’t the fastest guy in any event but I was versatile and worked hard to improve.  The summer after my junior year I worked as a lifeguard at a local lake, swimming laps during all my time off duty.  I also hit a growth spurt and returned 6 inches taller with … hello … muscles.   When my coach saw me, he said, What happened to you?  He was even more pleased when he saw my times.

I have two favorite memories of my senior season.  Our first meet of the season was always against the Yale University freshmen.   That year, Steve Clark, the world record holder in the 100 yard freestyle was a Yale freshman and I got to swim against him in the individual medley.   I’d like to tell you I gave him a good race but he was out of the pool, showered and on his way to his next class by the time I finished.  But how many people can say they competed against a world record holder?  The other memory was the one time my parents got to see me swim.  Our meets were in the afternoon so they weren’t able to attend … except for one meet at Hillhouse high.   My coach had been working with on my butterfly…. where “working with” meant poking me with a pole every time I tried to switch to an easier kick.  It worked because my parents got to see me win the 100 yard fly for the very first time.

Reed wphorse poloNow, my oldest grandson, Reed, is a swimmer but, although he competes on the swim team, his love is water polo.  Nope.  No horses in the pool … just 7 men or women playing a hockey style game while they swim or tread water, handling, passing or shooting with a volleyball-sized ball for four exhausting quarters. Generally, quarters are seven minutes but because the clock is stopped when the ball is not in play, the average quarter lasts around 12 minutes.  Two refs on either side of the pool are continually whistling fouls which generally result in turning the ball over the other team or ejections, which generally only last until the shot clock expires.  It seems like chaos to me but somehow, the refs, coaches and players seem to work it out.   In one year, Reed has progressed from a occasionally-scoring novice to his team’s captain and leading scorer.  I don’t have to understand the rules to know how lucky I am to be here to watch it happen.  Here is a video of him scoring the winning goal in a shoot out.   Go, Reed!!!

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