That’s a splash!

Well, I have been in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans within one week of each other and that’s about how my summer wraps up. I got to witness some of the best coaches and swimmers in the nation have success in Irvine at nationals. I practically rubbed shoulders with some of my idols but unfortunately not very many pictures as proof because we were all asked to leave the superstars alone and allow them to be at the meet and focus on their competition.

I didn’t want to come home to New England for the upcoming winter months after being in North Carolina all summer. After being in Irvine, Calif., I definitely had a hard time returning to New England, where we’re already wearing pants and/or sweatshirts. It is nice to be home with my friends and family I did miss many of them and I’m glad I’ve had a short amount of time to reconnect with all of them. I’ve also had about a week to reflect on my summer experience whilst preparing for my final semester at Springfield College.

A few things for which I have a deeper appreciation are swim coaches from the largest programs in the country to the smallest programs in the country are ultimately all trying to do the same thing and we most certainly all speak the same (at times, colorful) language. Standing behind a coach during the 100 free at nationals, I was listening to him discuss with one of his assistant coaches regarding some high profile athletes showing up to start preparation for major competition (January instead of September) and that he expected spectacular results in a time frame that this coach considered ‘too little, too late’. As well as how lazy practice habits show up at important times, like finals at U.S. nationals where your placement in the event decides whether or not you make a national team. Even at the most elite level coaches face the same battles.

I also noticed how few female coaches (assistant and head) there are. Granted swimming has more than other major sports, particularly at the elite level, but after spending a summer with a female assistant coach who was juggling a newborn baby, a sprightly two-and-a-half-year-old, her family, and career responsibilities, I can completely understand why that is. As much as I’d like to stress how important it is that women are just as capable/educated/willing to do a job as a man, there is still a glaring difference between men and women in the workforce (any workforce, not just coaching). The part that makes women the child-bearer creates difficulties that even the best partners/fathers, who help as equally as the birth-mother with the child seemingly gets let off the hook from responsibility more often than the birth-mother. I suppose that the other parent picks up other responsibility (i.e., chores, finances, etc.) but the amount of time and time away from home that goes into coaching (and doing the job well) creates complications which seem to be easier to handle if you’re not the birth mother. It is most certainly something to consider as I move forward in my career and evaluate what I want out of my life (career vs. family or career and family). I am hopeful that more women will push for the cooperation of their employer and supervisors to work with them to find a better balance. Although I am aware there have been significant changes and movements to help with this I did witness first hand some of the major struggles that could be my future.

I am truly thankful to the UNC coaching staff with whom I spent my summer. It is fabulous to know that there are great coaches who have found success who are still willing to help out a newbie. Not once did even the smallest/silliest question go unanswered. I received much more than I could have ever imagined in Chapel Hill. I walked away with more than friends but people I truly consider family. A deeper appreciation for the time and dedication which goes into coaching if you want to be a part of a successful program. And lifelong memories which truly ignite my passion for coaching and give me the push to power through my last semester at Springfield in pursuit of my degree and my future career. An enormous thank you to Head Coach Rich DeSelm, Associate Head Coach Mike Litzinger, and Assistant Coaches Christy Garth and Aaron Workman!  I am looking forward to watching the Tar Heels swim season unfold and wishing all of the athletes I had the pleasure of working with and getting to know this summer the best of luck in their seasons!

As I often find myself telling my own athletes: Trust your training, trust your coaches and, most of all, trust yourselves. I will reach to this advice as I begin a new adventure this semester away from a pool deck and into a classroom with my final few months at Springfield College, being absorbed by student teaching and data collection for my thesis. It has truly been so much fun and a summer I will treasure for the rest of my life!

Just keep swimming,

GO HEELS!

Kait

 

Remembering Guatemala: Days Three and Four

After a good nights’ sleep, Day three of our journey in Guatemala began. We started at Corazones de Los Ninos, which is an after-school program and health care facility for families in San Pedro Las Huertas (a small town located on the outskirts of Antigua). Here, we took a tour of the facilities, learning about the value of community, Guatemalan culture, socio-economic status, and education. The aspect that shocked me the most was their health care system; but that could be simply because I’m an OT student. In Guatemala, there are only a few health clinics available to visit, besides the hospitals, which are very costly. On staff, there was only one doctor who was in charge of more than 300 children, who have their “physicals” three to four times a year. That doesn’t even include sick visits!

In addition to the overwhelming number of patients, there facilities reminded me of a make-shift high school science laboratory with a bench. They explained that they don’t have a lot of money to spend on supplies, but they buy what they need, and keep everything as clean as they can.

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The laboratory for any/all medical tests.

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This is the examination room. The green “chart” on the wall keeps track of patients and their visits. This room also doubles as the doctor’s office.

We also saw the pharmacy on site, which sells over-the-counter and prescription drugs to people in the community. Most of the drugs are donated by hospitals or are purchased at a discounted price. The pharmacy was barred, and looked somewhat similar to a jail cell, with one person working the counter. In addition to prescriptions, they also sold sandals and hand-woven baskets that were made by some of the women in the community in order to support their families. I purchased a basket about the size of a shoe box for 30 Quetzals — $4.20.

We also explored the informational room, which is used to inform parents of the after-school programs, as well as the counselor’s office/activity office. This room the children the different activities that they are allowed to participate in, as well as pictures from their past experiences. This room is used to give children the hope that they can escape from the economic worries that they shouldn’t have at that age.

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After our tour, we visited La Union, which was our central “office” for the week. It was a school for tourists who wanted to learn Spanish and the history of Guatemala, complete with a classroom, a cafe, and an outdoor area with desks , where we attended our one-on-one Spanish lessons with a Guatemalan native.

We started by learning abut the civil war of Guatemala, which lasted 36 years. Our teacher, and the principal of La Union, Juan Carlos, told us the story of his youth. Twice, he was taken by the army during the war. With the help from his father he was able to be released. He told us how at one point in his life  he worked on a coffee plantation cutting 100 lbs of coffee a day for only three quetzals (not even enough to buy bread).  Juan described how working for the coffee plantation was one of the most rewarding jobs he ever had. Although the pay was very little, he explained to us that he appreciated his job because he got to spend the entire day with his family while working.

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Our informational history session with Juan Carlos.

The people of Guatemala have a sincere passion for family and quality time, and I honestly think that it is due to a combination of low job opportunities, economic hardship, and absence of technology that seems to rule the lives of many generations today.

We were then given a tour by Julio around the city of Antigua to understand the history and also see the parade that was taking place. Throughout the streets there were “rugs” fashioned in the streets made out of flowers, grass, straw, hay, etc. They led around town and ended at one of the churches in the city where the large mass was being held. We tried some of the local food and then finally called it a day.

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“Rugs” were fashioned to allow the dead to join their families and walk down the street.

 

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The church where one of the large masses was taking place.

Waking up the next morning, we were excited to officially begin serving the people of Guatemala. We drove to the Santa Maria de Jesus school and met our contacts from Corazones de Los Ninos. They brought paint and brushes for us to use while painting the entire outside of the school. Most of the classrooms were cement walls with dirt floors, covered with metal roofing. We picked a bright yellow to cheer everyone up and started painting right away. After a few hours, we had lost track of time and had completed the entire lower level of the school before we left for the day.

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Ryan works hard to make sure that we don’t miss any spots on the wall.

We were able to take a quick break, however, and play with the students during their recess. We brought soccer balls, footballs, frisbees and mini basketballs to play with, and the students loved it. They all wanted to take pictures with us, and although most of the college students couldn’t communicate in Spanish with the students, they were still able to communicate through body language.

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Students run around during their recess.

After a hard day at work, we went back to La Union for our one-on-one Spanish lessons. Since they were personalized lessons, they worked with each person according to their ability level. It was really helpful and put a lot of people at ease.

To end our day, we decided on a cultural activity: salsa and merengue dancing lessons. To our surprise, the guys were more excited than the girls were! It went on for two hours and it was so much fun. We had professional dancers step in to help us and be our partners and we were better than we thought. Overall, it was a great day!

Konichiwa!

It has been one hectic summer. The Springfield College men’s basketball team traveled to Japan at the end of July, and I am just getting the chance to write about it now. I sincerely apologize for the time lapse between our trip and this post. I was in class for the physical therapy program for the majority of the summer. Balancing school work and preparing for Japan was no easy task, but it was well worth it, and, hey, isn’t that why we are called student-athletes?! This time lapse has also allowed me to fully appreciate what an amazing trip we experienced. It truly was an adventure of a lifetime. In every way, the trip exceeded my expectations. Even a month later, I’m still in awe about the whole experience.

For those that do not know why the men’s basketball team made the trek to Japan, it was to join the Japanese in celebrating their 100 year anniversary of basketball in their country. Since we, at Springfield College, represent the Birthplace of Basketball, it was only fitting to have our team travel to the three cities in which basketball began in Japan. Those cities are Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto. We played against Japan’s national team, composed of college-aged players, in large arenas in each of these cities. Our first game was in Kyoto. The atmosphere was electric. The stands were filled to capacity and the fans were ecstatic to watch us play. We won a close first game, but this was just the beginning of the excitement. After the game, many fans waited for us outside the arena to take pictures with us and get our autographs. It was like nothing I had experienced before. We all felt like superstars! The second and third games did not go as well. We lost in the last minute in the game two, and Team Japan played almost flawlessly in game three resulting in our second loss of the trip. Despite losing, the fans again in both Osaka and Kobe loved us! The fans applauding and waving to us definitely helped take a little bit of the sting out of losing.

Even though we went on this trip to play basketball and to celebrate basketball, it was much more than an athletic experience. There was a memorable moment before each game that made a distinct impression on me and my fellow teammates. This moment occurred during the playing of our national anthem. Standing on the basketball courts in Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe, in front of large passionate crowds, we looked up to the rafters to see our American flag hanging adjacent to the Springfield College flag. As The Star-Spangled Banner played harmoniously in the background and our hands were placed over our hearts, this event, often taken for granted at home, became a memory that will be imprinted in my mind and in the minds of teammates forever. We had an awesome recognition that we were representing, not only our school, but our country.

Our trip to Japan allowed us to immerse ourselves in another culture. We learned much about another part of the world and another lifestyle. We were treated like celebrities – a truly humbling celebrities experience for most of us. Nigel especially enjoyed the adoration and, by game three, had a fan club following him! We all have amazing stories to share, so don’t hesitate to ask us about our trip to Japan. For me, it was the most incredible and memorable experience of my life, and I am extremely grateful for being able to share this opportunity with my teammates, coaching staff, and other role models of the Springfield College community.

A couple good looking guys in front of the Golden Palace (Kinkaku-ji), Kyoto, Japan

A couple good looking guys in front of the Golden Temple (Kinkaku-ji), Kyoto, Japan

Not our typical NEWMAC opponent!

Not our typical NEWMAC opponent!

SC representing the USA!!!

Springfield College representing the USA!

The fans absolutely loved Nigel!

The fans absolutely loved Nigel!

Osaka Castle - It had not 1, but 2 moats around it!

Osaka Castle – It had not one, but two moats around it.

The view from the top floor of Osaka Castle!

The view from the top floor of Osaka Castle

Arena in Osaka. The place was packed by game time!

Arena in Osaka. The place was packed by game time.

Shopping area in Osaka

Shopping area in Osaka

View of Osaka from one of the tallest buildings in the city (I think?)

View of Osaka from one of the tallest buildings in the city (I think?)

A closer look at the Golden Temple!

A closer look at the Golden Temple.

Week 7-8

The last two weeks were filled with lots of laughter and smiles. I worked with the youngest girl campers and they were amazing, absolutely blew me away with their courage, strength, and joy of life.

Week seven was liver week! One of the highlights of this week was the ropes course. We had a camper in my cabin who was nervous to go up on the course but she made it up! And she was so happy when she was up there it was amazing to see, then she headed over to the zip line. This is when she started to get nervous. I got her all hooked up to the zip line and showed her how the lobster claws worked. Then when it was time for her to zip, she was really struggling to step off the platform. The whole cabin ended up cheering her on and chanting her name, they all were so encouraging and wanted her to do the zip line. From the encouragement, she was able to zip by herself! It was awesome and she was so proud. I later asked her about how it was and she said it was amazing and how much she loved the encouragement from the cabin. Over the past few weeks at camp, I have realized that although it is important to create counselor to camper bonds, it is even more important to create camper to camper bonds. What happened at the ropes course was a perfect example of the camper bonds that were created, they all supported each other through anything at camp.

Week eight was really cool. At The Painted Turtle the last week of the summer is sibling week so the siblings of campers can come to camp and experience the magic! It is great to see the campers from the previous sessions dropping their siblings off, I saw about five of my campers from weeks before. It was great to see them again and ask about how the rest of their summer was. Sibling week was great because it allowed them to experience what their siblings did and share those experiences. Many campers who talk about how their siblings described the program areas and how much fun they had. This week, we had many issues with campers missing home so it was a great tactic to use. Asking them about what they had heard about at camp and what they were looking forward to really helped to calm some campers down.

Ending the summer with the youngest girls was perfect. They are so goofy and come to camp to have lots of fun! One of my favorite activities with the youngest girls is Silly Olympics! Silly-O is an activity for campers toward the end of the week that is basically one organized giant food, water, and paint fight! The campers rotate through stations and try to get as messy as possible! The youngest girl campers tend to be a little tentative about getting messy at the beginning but then once they see how much fun it is, they go wild and love it! Attached is a picture from one of the silly olympic days! 10441228_10202506437961213_2666840235594533832_n

The William Wallace Monument; Stirling, Scotland

The Wallace Monument is a tribute to Scotland’s hero, William Wallace, and is conveniently right down the road from the university. I visited this place a few times with friends and then once on my own. It was one of my favorite places to go because the view of the city was beautiful. We would walk over and bring some carrots and sugar cubes for the horses that were pastured right outside the monument. They were very sweet :)

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After a little bit of a hike, the trees opened up and you could see the monument in full view. Before entering, there was a lookout point that also had a nice view of the city and surrounding countryside. Take a look!

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Inside was a cool gift shop and then, immediately to the left, began the 246 stair climb to the top. Along the way, different rooms could be accessed including the Hall of Heroes. The Hall of Heroes is filled with the busts of men who influenced and/or greatly contributed to Scotland. Among them were Robert the Bruce, Sir Walter Scot, and Robert Burns. It also houses the sword of William Wallace.

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Along the walls were beautiful stained-glass windows. Every time I stepped into this room I felt like I had been transported back in time; it was easily my favourite.

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There was also a Royal Chamber and Hall of Arms. Both were kind of based for children so I didn’t take any photos.

Finally reaching the top was exciting every time. As you climb the last step, you walk out into the sunlight and get hit by a wave of fresh air. There are benches at the top and sitting down feels so nice after a long trek. When I went with my friend Brittany, a tourist was nice enough to get up and take our picture :D

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I saw so many great views while I traveled in Scotland, but the view from the Wallace Monument will always hold sentimental value for me. I remember the last time I climbed up and looked around I couldn’t help but tear up. I could see all the places in the city that I had gone with my friends, I could see the horses that I stopped to feed on my way over, and I could even see the countryside that belonged to the family of one of my Scottish friends, David. Everywhere I looked felt a little bit like home.