Director Dickhead

I was not always the amazing swimmer so many of you have come to know and love. My first swim meet was a complete disaster. I was the kid who came in so last, everyone in the entire place was rooting for me just to finish, probably worried they were going to have to jump in after me.

Pathetic? Yes. My fault? I say no.

The entire experience was obviously created by some sadist, some retired swimmer who never made it past summer league and was looking to make sure some of us three to five year olds didn't seek out swimming for sport or fun ever again. In my opinion, the competition was flawed from inception. First of all, the first race a kid can enter should be a do-whatever-movement-you-can-to-make-it-to-the-other-side type of event. And maybe not all swim meets do this, but the only event this one had available for my age group was flutter kicking with a kick board. What the fuck? That's not even a real event.

It's as if someone thought it'd be hilarious to make a bunch of kids hold onto kick boards so they only had their legs to rely on for forward movement...just so they could then disqualify any poor sap who made the mistake of letting go. The event creator, or Director Dickhead as he is probably known in most circles, also made it a rule that no other types of kicking would be permitted. What horseshit. Flutter kick is still my least favorite. I even once swam breastroke in a triathlon, winning that portion of the race by the way, with no disqualification. And we're talking about a race for five year olds and under?

Then to top it off, they made us start in the water holding onto the side using just a push off instead of jumping in or semi-diving. I'm excellent at jumping in. I'm fairly certain I would have kicked everyone's ass if they let me jump in to start. But they didn't, and I'm so competitive, that even though I was multiple body lengths behind every else in about five seconds, I never once let go of that damn board for fear i'd be dq'd. I kicked and kicked with all my energy. I'm positive my splashes reached epic heights those first few feet.

Of course at the time, because I was like three or four, I was unaware that big splashes didn't necessarily equate to efficient kicking. And then it was like I was caught in some underwater current that prohibited me from moving forward, a current that was also essentially sucking my legs down until I was practically vertical, deceiving me, teasing me into thinking, into believing, I could maybe just touch the bottom to get a little push when obviously that was impossible for my little body.

Plus, if I had beat the odds and somehow managed a push off the bottom with my tiptoes, that was just another way to be disqualified. I have this vivid memory of me basically stuck in the middle. All I remember for those remaining yards was everyone watching me, and me trying so hard to touch that wall. Upon finally reaching the other side, a huge sigh of relief was released in the form of cheers from all who were watching. Did their adulation make me feel good? Hell no. I felt like an asshole who couldn't swim and who was being pitied because of it. I probably cried the whole way home. I don't know, I must have blocked it out.

However, this is a happy ever after story. Director Dickhead's ploy did not work on me. He's lucky I practically lived at the pool every summer and quickly learned that other events were available to me. He couldn't create every meet, every event and I learned to stay away from most events that centered on swimming freestyle for anything over one hundred yards. Those types of events required a strong, steady flutter, and those races, obviously, just weren't for me.


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