Only when you can be extremely pliable and soft
can you be extremely hard and strong.

Zen Proverb

Pain 3
Mobility 7

Not much change on the pain front, I am still in a fair amount of pain, but being careful to maintain my mobility as much as possible. I have started back at the gym again, and unfortunately have blown up like a balloon as my old muscles fill with glycogen once again, pushing the limits of my scale and wardrobe. I am hoping that once I am over the first growth spurt that I will start to reduce in size once again, especially since I will be active in the evenings, moving house and basically reducing my couch time to zero for the next couple of months.

We arrived an hour early for coaching… that was my fault. I went into the washroom to change into my shorts and T-shirt and tried to stretch my back a little on the mats while nobody was around. Nicole was in the office talking to the bigwigs and slowly the other coaches started to arrive. We found out right away that we were to be the only group for the first part of the night, with most classes being there for the latter part of the evening. Each night’s activities are divided into groups, forming 2×2 group sessions, one early at 430 and one later on lasting until 8pm. This makes for a hectic night, but that in itself is a blessing giving you little time to become bored or distracted. So it was a relief in a way that the evening was off to a slow start, only one other coach (although the assistant for the other group was late – not a good way to start your year) and the gym relatively quiet. As we hung out in the main gym talking about what we were going to do, I could hear the volume slowly beginning to rise from under the door in the dressing room. It was like those bad 80’s horror movies where the light and smoke comes from under the door to indicate impending evil… it was not far wrong let me tell you. As soon as a coach opened the door these little demons spilled out on to the floor tripping over each other, screaming and shouting and giggling, running around like demented rabbits and basically raining mayhem on the staff. Kids are funny though, once they had exploded onto the scene they suddenly realized that they were surrounded by strangers, even the ones who had been at camp all summer were subdued by the appearance of odd faces, gappy smiles and crazy hairdos. This few moments were sheer terror for all involved, but true to their vast experiences and much like old English Sheepdogs the coaches moved in to herd their groups together and corral them into manageable areas. It was really a thing of beauty to see it happen, amid all the screams and the shouts and the tears there arose a sudden calm as each child was picked out and told where they belonged. I guess it was akin to jumping waist deep into a cold swimming pool, that first sharp intake of breath that cannot be helped is gradually replaced with calm resignation and as the kids lapped around my feet I started to feel a little more at home…

After all, someone has to be in charge, right? Thank God it was Nicole and not me!

We started off with some name games to try and drill 9 names into our heads knowing that in a couple of hours there would be 9 more then 2 more days and 9 more… I am not sure I have room in my head for another 27 names! We had them throwing pit cubes at each other (big square pieces of foam that fill the pit so you can throw children in without hurting them) shouting their names, other kids names and whatever would get them used to being around each other. Since it was the first class we went over the rules, who we were, what we expected and so on, but it is hard to gauge just how much sinks into a 7 or 8 year old brain when you can tell all they are thinking is trampoline, trammmpoooooliiiiiine… We introduced them to some of the equipment, had them show us what they could do as far as each rotation was concerned and for Nicole and I tried to sort out how we were going to divide the labour so as to keep the little leotard lemmings happy.

The first half of the night was really tough, but being small kids at least they got over my imposing size relatively quickly, I think I probably went from Godzilla to Shrek in record time in their eyes. The second part of the evening presented a slightly different challenge since it involved competitive girls that knew me last year as Nicole’s sidekick but who would need to realize that this year I was not going to be the happy goofy guy. It was easier because at age 12 or 13 kids start to realize their place in the grand scheme of things and they start to take some responsibility for who they are. They also are still in that phase where they like to try to please people and to fit in with each other so it is in some respects an ideal situation. However they never shut up. Never. They are like the Energizer bunny on crack when it comes to talking and to get a word in edgeways you have to be loud, angry or very large in order for them to pay any attention at all. Part of it can be put down to the fact that for some of them they are at new schools this year, and this was their first day back making the gym their only secure frame of reference for the day. Part of it can be put down to their not having seen each other for a few weeks and they have a million camp stories to share, regardless of the fact that most of them spend all day on MSN with each other… In any case, the energy was sky high, the gym was absolutely crammed full of kids with a full 4 sessions going at once and so the only logical thing to do was have fitness testing!!! It’s always best to get it out of the way early, I remember at the start of rugby season the first 2 weeks were nonstop conditioning and if I had to do it… well, you can guess the rest…

And so it went on, the fitness and skills testing were over in a flash and with a flurry of high-five’s they were gone leaving me wondering how I was going to make it home, or for that matter to work the next day.

I have to say it was really great to see the kids again after the summer, they really do grow up so fast and even though it had only been 10 weeks since they were last here, they all looked so different. It will be funny to see the videos from last year’s classes and competitions and see how young they look in comparision. I am sure there will be some red faces when we go through the meet videos to prep for this year, but I hope that above all they enjoy and cherish the times they have with us, since they have no idea just how soon they will be moving on to different places, different people and different lives.