Friday, July 24, 2009

After a hiatus of blogging, we are back. The young man we have been learning about, J, has still been swimming. The team took a week break from competition, still had practice, and we have had two meets since the last post.

J is making strides as we finish up the summer season. Only one week of practice left and then championships. We enjoy watching him meet new goals. Two weeks ago, although he had a grandmother visiting and really wanted to impress her, his swimming did improve technically but his time stayed relatively the same. He did lose some seconds, but not across the board in all of his events like he normally does. His grandmother was able to see him swim in a relay, in freestyle, breaststroke and an IM, earning red and white ribbons in his division (divisions are based on age and times). Regardless what J does or doesn't do, grandma is always one of his biggest cheerleaders.

J then admitted that he hasn't been kicking while he swims. This was stunning news to his parents. This led to the biggest question, What would he be doing if he was kicking? And, it also begged them to ask, Why are you not kicking? The answer to the first question remains to be seen fully. The second question, though, was answered. J decided that kicking was useless and so he wanted to experiment as to what would happen if he didn't. His coaches laughed, deciding that only J would experiment like that and still have it be beneficial. But, they also worked on kicking drills for the whole week....with the whole team.

Although the official times have not come in for the most recent meet, J had an excellent evening last night. The plan was for Joseph to swim in a relay, breaststroke, IM and butterfly. He was able to complete all but the butterfly and that was because of lightening and the meet was called. His team was winning at the time it was called. J, was winning, too.

His relay won the heat, with J as the anchor doing freestyle. He literally kicked his leg hard then. We think they won in the age group in this event, but we are not sure yet as the parents are unable to remember how many heats there were in that event.

J came in third for his breaststroke, dropping a few seconds. One of his best swim team friends came in second and both sets of parents were pleased when they reached across the lane lines and shook hands with each other.

The big news of the night was the IM. He dropped behind a bit in the first leg, then he actually caught up and began to take around his biggest opponent with the backstroke. All without putting in any true power. He slowed again on the Butterfly leg, touching the wall after his biggest opponent by several moments. But that's when the change occurred. His opponent began to tire. J had just begun to swim. And he did swim. And he kicked like never before on his freestyle. J's dad was timing the opponent and his mom was at the end of the pool cheering with all of the little girls that seem to have taken a liking to him. Other mothers were on the pool sides. Joseph's timers were cheering, louder than his mom. And he won the heat by just a few 10ths of a second! He didn't even realize what he had done until they handed him the heat winner ribbon. The other mothers including the timers jumped up and down some. His mom had tears in her eyes. It was the best swim he had done and it had paid off. We think he won the age division but more than that, he dropped about 13 seconds off of his previous time.

That's the "thing" in swimming. Yes, there is a competition to an extent, but it is mostly about personal times and beating yourself from a previous time. It is fun to swim against somebody and get the heat winner ribbons, but you have a greater sense of accomplishment when you have done something within in yourself to be proud of.

The team has their banquet this Sunday where awards will be handed out, one week of practice and Championships on the weekend. Suddenly the summer swim team season is coming to a close. The family is feeling a bit of let down; J is, however, excited to sleep in again.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Final results are in from last week's meet. J did fine, a couple of rough patches, though. He picked up a blue ribbon in his division for Breaststroke and two 2nd place ribbons, one for relay and one for freestyle. He was entered into an IM again, but was disqualified. His times stayed essentially the same.

J had some friends visiting to cheer him on and thinks perhaps he let the pressure get to him. He knew, however, exactly when he made the mistake in the IM and looked directly at his mother when it happened. J hesitated and then finished his race. His dad was probably more disappointed than J but both parents were pleased, at least, that he could pick out his mistake and that he still finished his race.

The visiting team had a professional photographer with them and he chose to take a few pics of Jas wel l.

J has already embarked on a new week of practice but the team gets a break this week as there is not a scheduled meet. His practice so far, though, has been difficult, to say the least. The coaches are pushing the kids hard, not to win but progress and achieve personal goals. This morning, they had no rest time at the wall, and did backstroke and freestyle constantly for an hour. J came out of the water happy, but out of breath and tired.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Meet #3

Another week has past and we have seen this young man achieve much at a swim meet. Going into the meet, J a bit nervous as they had assigned to him his first IM in practice. An IM in this league is 100 m, but each 25 m, they switch strokes, from Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke to Freestyle.

J competed in a Medley relay (each member did a different stroke), an individual freestyle, individual breaststroke and the aforementioned IM. Dropping seconds in each event, the biggest difference was with the IM where he dropped over 1 minute from his base time! He was not first in the heat, but he didn't care since he dropped his personal time. "That's the neat thing about swimming---you may not win the race, but you may beat your time," as J would say.

Each of the weekly meets are two teams from the league. There are volunteers for timing-3 people per lane and meet half, volunteers to help the little swimmers, volunteers to be judges, to be scanners, to be computer people, to run the concession stand, to assign ribbons, to calculate scores, to be water runners, to organize the kids into the right lanes and lifeguards for safety. There are referees, and the meet directors and announcers. It is a major undertaking and a lot of work done by the swimmers and parents. That is just for the meet itself. There is also set up and clean up and the duties of the coaches to assign events and to match abilities with the other teams. J's mom has assigned ribbons, making sure that all of the statisitcs for the earner is securely attached to the ribbon won as well as an extra hand during the practices with paperwork, etc. while J is swimming. J's dad is a timer at each of the meets. It really takes everybody to make it happen and work together. J's grandfather was amazed at the precision and effort to make it a success for the kids.

The swim league is based on neighborhoods in the region. J's team would also be considered the city team. The family has had great success with the teams and coaches and couldn't ask for a better. This is J's 2nd year on the team.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Meet #2

Thursday evening, we watched the team swim again as we went against another neighborhood team in the local league. It was a nice evening and the team did well, although J's team did not win. J, however, did quite well, even dropping more than 20 seconds from his previous time for the Butterfly Stroke. He also competed in a Freestyle relay, freestyle and breaststroke. Official times have not come in yet but it appears that J dropped time in all individual events.

We are all still hoping that the weather holds during the morning practices so the kids are not rained on (well, the parents, actually) as they swim their laps and perfect their strokes. J has been annoyed by the drills they have been instructed to execute but is beginning to see how the drills in practice do help in the meets when times and legal strokes count and progress is being made.

On a side note, there seems to be a lot of young boys J's age this year on the time. It has been fun for J to have a group of friends and, in some ways, interesting for his parents to watch him giggle as the girls walk past as they sit at a distance.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Meet #1

We have survived the first meet of the summer season. The team that young J is a part of won, 651 to 569. It has been awhile since the team has beaten this particular opponent. It wasn't just a team success, though. The week before the meet, J was timed in all of his events. At the meet, J competed in 1 relay and in 3 individual events. In his relay, he said they came in 2nd, although the calling of events was so quiet in the beginning, even his parents missed the race.

His individual events, J not only made sure his parents were watching by sending the coach over to get them at the end of the pool, but he dropped about 8 seconds from Freestyle, about 10 seconds from Breaststroke and about 15 seconds from Backstroke. All resulting in very good times for J, especially the first week out. Looking at the official print out at practice this morning, J has also moved from lowest scoring division, the White level, to the middle tier, the Red Level and seemed to be first and second within the Red level. His goal this summer is to move into the top tier, the Blue Level. Scoring divisions are based on each swimmers performance and ribbons are awarded within each division.

Many of the practices this season has been in the rain. J asked his mother when they were going to have a "dry" practice. Although they have yet to look at a weather forecast for the rest of the week, this concept seems to be a bit of an oxymoron. We would all like to get through a week without rain and have a bit of warmer weather return with the sunshine.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Week 2 of practice "My muscles are Sore"

We are just now finishing the 2nd week of practice. It seems to be more like training, though. J has been watched from afar doing feats in the pool that his parents dream about but would be hard pressed to try themselves.

Earlier this week, the goal was to work on the Butterfly Stroke. The kick for Butterfly is often called a "dolphin" kick. This week however, they started out with their arms in a streamline (Hands/arms straight above the head, not moving), turned on their backs and used ONLY their dolphin kick to move them up and down the pool. The effect was like doing crunches in the water but only using the legs. The length of the pool is 25 m. J was instructed to do this the equivalent of 500 m. Yes, his stomach muscles are little sore.

The other days of practice were just as difficult but not as noteworthy. The biggest struggle for the team seems to be listening to the coaches and doing what they say; lots of chatter at the wall when instructions are being given. J is annoyed by this some, he says.

Time trials are next week. And soon the first of the weekly competitions.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Practice Woes

Unfortunately for J, the water has been too cold for the team to actually practice in the pool the first two days of practice so the team has been doing calisthenics.

J has had his lifetime fill of jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, walking lunges and running laps. Land exercises have also proven to be a little difficult for him. The lunges work well on his regular leg but when the weight gets transferred to the prosthetic, it buckles at the knee, as it was designed to do. For lunges, the buckling doesn't help, causing J to fall to both knees and then having to regain his balance all over again. The coaches are aware of this, but let him try each move a few times before assisting J in an adaptation.

They seem to have adapted the running speed to accommodate J's lagging behind as well. The game they play is that if you are at the end, then you have to run up to the front. J is forever trying to run to the front so the coaches not only slow down for him but also run backwards giving him plenty of time.

Despite this type of practice being J's least favorite activity in his current stage of life, he still is coming away with a smile...and begging the coach for the water and SOON.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

2009 Summer Season Begins

This is our last day before the summer team begins real practices. For the last few weeks, we have been doing 45 minute "tune-ups" every so often, giving J a chance to return to the pool since the previous summer. There are some new kids this year, and mom thinks that this could cause problems of curiosity regarding the leg, but keeps her mouth shut, she should earn a medal, too. It is hard for her to keep her mouth shut.

Returning swimmers immediately greeted J, some with hi-5s. The new swimmers, one in particular made a comment "I bet I'm better than you with that leg of yours." J just laughed, and so did the friends he had made the season before. The coaches greeted Joseph and were so happy to see him return. They told mom and dad the previous season that J has a good work ethic and natural talent in the water.

J jumped into the pool and waited for instruction. Disappointed that they were wanting the swimmers to work on drills and not use their arms, J did it anyway, making his way across the pool. The new parents got quiet almost immediately. The new swimmers were too busy catching their breath to notice.

"The tune-ups have been really fun. It felt so good to be back in the water. I love it!" says J.

When asked about the comments from the new swimmers, "Well, I don't really care. All I want to do is swim and get better each time and have fun. They'll be my friend eventually."