Editor’s Notebook: Playing the game

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_D5C5045brianby Brian Clarey

Sunlight breaks through the cloud cover by mid-morning, but in my opinion it’s still way too cold for swimming. I myself don’t get into the pool until the temperature cracks 90 degrees. Because I’m a grown man, that’s why.

Still, it’s the day for time trials across the Greensboro at the city’s recreation-level swim clubs, which means these kids are going into the water whether they like it or not.

Mostly they like it at our little outpost off Lawndale Avenue, where I’ve been sitting with scores of other parents and 175 or so of our progeny, all swimmers displaying varying levels of skill and enthusiasm.

I’ve got two in this year, one of whom just cracked last year’s best freestyle time by like 6 seconds. He’s gotta be like half a foot taller this summer, with a wingspan wider than mine. He turns 14 in a week.

My boys subscribe to the have-fun-and-make-friends school of thought on youth sport, as do I. I spent half a YMCA basketball season screaming at my son from the sidelines before I realized that I looked and felt like a jackass. Sport at this level is about individual effort and team mentality — maybe it is at every level. I encourage my sons to work on their personal times rather than focus on wins.

I don’t remember the W-L records of any of my youth sports teams, and I played a few dozen seasons of soccer, baseball, hockey, lacrosse, swimming, bowling, basketball, wrestling, track and softball.

The only trophies I won from those days I’ve long since thrown away.

But I do remember individual moments from my unspectacular sporting past: a few big saves as a goaltender, some truly heroic plays in the infield and a homerun I took off of John Grupp, the kid who lived around the corner. I remember the first time I could run the hurdles without sprawling on the ground and how it felt to pick off a baserunner from third.

Now, in the pool, the kids are swimming the butterfly, a stroke I never mastered. Maybe one of my sons will pick it up and feel the exhilaration of teaching his body to do something new. Or not. As long as they have fun.