Finally the deck. ‘Oh how I’ve missed the cholrine smell.’ However this time, Jeremy and I walk onto the deck, into a crowd of people. All of them of course athletes, because we all had our swim gear bags with us. After introductions we would have a practice.
We weaved through the bodies looking for a familar face. We spotted Timothy by one of the pool ladders. We made our way to him. “Hey Timothy,” I said as we met up with him, “how long have you been here?”
“Not too long,” Timothy hushly answered, “But thankfully I got here before the huge crowd of people showed up. I’m amazed at how many people are trying to join the team; will there even be enough space for us returnees to have space in the pool?”
Jeremy laughed, “True. We might have to swim in the outdoor pool as well.”
I looked out the windows at the outdoor pool. Maybe once the season changes, but right now that pool must be fridged out there.
“Have you seen Anotnio yet?” Jeremy asked searching the crowd.
“He is not continuing this year,” Timothy answered.
“What!?!” Jeremy and I both exclamied at once. Then we remembered our surroundings, “What do you mean not coming back?” in a more hushed tone.
“He was planning on staying, but last minute he decided to return home. I think something happened in his family, but that’s just my own thought,” Timothy said expressionless.
“You doing okay? He was your roomate for two years,” I swung my arm around Timothy’s shoulders.
He shrugged it off. “Yeah. I lost a brother, but at least he is back home. But be careful with your actions George. The older swimmers here are not to be taken lightly; show no weakness in front of them or your life here is going to be miserable.” Timothy had turned his attention to the left.
I looked in that direction and saw what he meant. The upperclassmen had walked in through the opposite side door. They walked in with the attidude that Timothy was talking about. That they would crush you if you gave them the chance.
“Don’t worry about that with this one,” Jeremy thumbed at me, “he…” Jeremy stopped abruptly as Coach Jones made his appearence on the deck.
“Now. Is everyone here? I’ll give the few straglers one minute more, but if they are late they will have to wait outdoors,” Coach said as he watched his watch.
Silence filled the room.
‘The no nonsense Coach had returned.’
Two athletes ran onto the deck just as Coach yelled time.
“You two barely made it,” Coach said as he walked past the newcomers and to the doors behind them, and dead locked the doors. As Coach walked away knocking began on the doors. “Leave them,” Coach said walking back to the front, “if they wanted to be here they would have been here on time.” Coach turned to his new assistant coach, “Go out the side door and tell them to either leave or wait the two hours.”
The new assistant followed the order and went to crush those athletes plans.
“Now. As you can see, attendence and punctuality is key on this team. Some choices are determined by those two key points. Moving on,” Coach pulled out a clip board, “All my Montana athletes move to my right. This includes my returning College athletes and my high school athletes.”
Timothy, Jeremy, and I started to walk to Coach’s right. But also many faces from our high school days also followed. Then all the upperclassmen joined all the freshmen on Coach’s right. Which only left about thirty athletes still standing in front of us. One of those faces were fimilar though, it was Stephine from orientation.
“Good. A larger group this year than the last,” Coach continued to gaze down at his clipboard. “Timothy,” Coach glanced up and straight at Timothy who was beside me, “Where is Antonio?”
“Nevermind, tell me after today,” Coach returned his attention to the athletes in front. “All athletes are welcome to join. My Montana high school athletes will all start on the B string, unless changed later. All you new athletes will be on the C string. To participate in invitationals you will need to be a B string or better. Hard work will determine your string. Now, all my freshmen on my right move to my left.”
Once again the three of us and a huge percentage moved to Coach’s left side.
Once all us freshmen had moved, I look to Coach’s right side. All the athletes that stood next to Coach were all the upperclassmen; and there in the middle stood Bryan from the hazing before. Being teammates with him is going to be a pain all in itsef. ‘Life here at school is going to be difficult, especially since we are no longer at the top of the food chain.’
“Good. These swimmers on my right, are your upperclassmen or seniors. Show them the respect they deserve; they will be your targets for the next few years. Your goal as freshmen is to bump these top athletes out of their spots. And you upperclassmen need to hold onto your spots; but know, there are a few here that will take your spots within the first weeks if you don’t up your effort.” Coach paused side glancing me.
Thankfully no one saw him or I would already have that target on my back.
“On that note. Practice begins. Each string will have an assistant coach. I will be overseeing everyone and deciding temporary strings today. Nothing is set in stone,” Coach walked away and down the deck.
Whispers erupted from everyone. ‘And I mean everyone.’ The upperclassmen were the loudest.
“What does he mean he will pick temporary strings? I thought my spot was final for awhile!?” Similar statements were being said until the assistant Coaches told us to get changed and start stretching.
As we walked into the locker rooms, “At least all of us have a fresh chance,” Jeremy started to change.
‘Yeah. We all have a fresh start.’