It’s funny. My wife says to me occasionally as we walk, ” Hey- you are duckin.” I laugh and say-” well maybe that is because of all the breaststroke I did as a kid?” Duckin is her word for saying that I walk like a duck. Left foot pointed left and right foot pointed right in a kind of fast waddle. I am kidding but as I remember back, all of us kids who were breaststrokers, walked like a duck. Perhaps it was a hallmark of the physiology needed to do the whip kick that is the engine of the stroke. The Rose brothers, me, Johnny Kane, Dru Duffy, all battled it out in the community pool wars and the YMCA teams. We all ducked. Even the Rose girls ducked ( sorry Annie and Mary). Breaststrokers all ducked. That is the way it was and apparently still is. I still duck.
So as the days dwindle down for our community pool, I do take advantage of what we have left until Labor Day and swim some breaststroke from time to time when the pool is not crowded. Breaststroke was always a natural stroke for me. I could freestyle and backstroke, but the butterfly? No way. But breaststroke came natural and I competed as a kid for our community pool- Valley Brook Swimming Club, The Allegheny YMCA and also Shannopin Country Club. My dad drove me back and forth between venues a lot so that I could catch my heats. I would no sooner finish a heat in a relay or individual event when my dad would rush me into the car to catch the meet at Shannopin which started later. Breaststrokers were a valued commodity and all three teams needed a breaststroker for individual events and medley relays. There was a lot of competition between all of us “strokers” but it was a fun part of the competitive side of growing up.
Today I find that swimming in my community pool is relaxing and as I “stroke” along, I think about how the sport has changed. Watching swimming on TV I see the rules have changed as well. It used to be that you needed to touch both hands on the wall before you could turn. When you did turn, you had to push off the wall and get your arms above your head and make one giant pull under water and kick to surface and start swimming the next lap. Today- you can dolphin kick for as long as you can and then surface and start swimming. You also submerge your head after each stroke. In my day, your head could not go below the surface of the water. I try the new breaststroke and it is definitely more efficient and faster. But the main reason I swim is to stretch out. I tend to get tight from mountain biking and swimming helps me stretch out and relax those tight leg muscles. As I swim along, I think about all those old meets at Trees Pool at Pitt, with the Jello sticking to our feet. The energy powder in those days was Jello and it spilled all over the floor and made our feet sticky and we sported the many colors of cherry, grape and lime. I think about the summer meets at Valley Brook and the other away meets and finally think about how hard it was to jump in the pool at the Allegheny Y or Allegheny High School in the winter. Wool hats and parkas to Speedo suits in the indoor pools.
So as the countdown begins, I will try to take advantage of all the great summer days left before the fall takes the pool out of play. Another guy from the neighborhood swims every day and he is amazing. He plays golf every day and swims every day and I just found out……..he is 80 years old. Doesn’t look it. Swimming is a wonderful form of exercise – even if it makes me duck. Thanks for reading.