Dorm 2B was already stretching on deck when I arrived at the pool enclosure north of the John Amos Field House on Friday morning, July 17. Water polo instructor Kaleb Robson and assistant Julia Hayes took just an hour to teach 2B the basics of ball handling, dribbling, shooting, goaltending and defense.
“Mr. Turgeon, what are your favorite Summer and Winter Olympics sports?” Mr. Robson asked me as I joined in on the stretching exercises at the start of class. 2B had already responded to the same question with responses like skiing, swimming and skating. Of course, I responded with basketball and hockey, two sports that are popular year-round and not predominantly spotlighted at the Olympics. We then did some painful calf stretches on the hot concrete.
2B then hopped into the pool, each camper holding a water polo ball. Mr. Robson taught them how to scoop the ball out of the water with one hand, since only the goaltender can legally touch the ball with two hands at once. He demonstrated a couple methods: pushing down on the ball and catching it underhanded when it pops off the water, or submerging the hand and lifting the ball straight up.
Meanwhile, campers from 3B, the “Green Machine,” pulled weeds from the rock beds on the south and west sides of the pool enclosure. I chatted with my brother Micah, Daniel and Elam while helping them complete their task. Elam, a Canadian first-time camper, named the Toronto Blue Jays’ five-man starting pitching rotation, and I griped about my Seattle Mariners’ lack of good situational hitting.
2B assistant counselor Adiel Granados and I found two comfortable folding chairs in the shade, where we would observe the remainder of the class. 2B dribbled balls the width of the pool and back and took shots on the shallow-end goal, with a camper remaining as goaltender until he made a save. The rejected shooter would then take his place in net until he could deny a shot, and so on. Several campers tried and failed to skim shots off the water and into the net because, Mr. Robson said, only the game ball was inflated enough to make that possible.
Mr. Robson challenged the boys to shoot a ball from the pool deck behind the shallow-end goal into the deep-end goal, a throw of about 70 feet. With tickets redeemable for camp store goodies on the line, not a single camper could hit the mark. Balls soared high overhead and well wide of the target. Every attempted, even if on line, came up short of the goal. Mr. Robson consoled 2B by saying that no camper from any dorm had yet accomplished the feat.
Mr. Robson then exhorted 2B to avoid the pitfalls of a worldly water polo contest, which too often features eye gouging, submerging the opponent, pulling shorts, scratching, and holding when the referee isn’t looking. And, even when infractions take place, never argue with an official, he said. The lessons learned in sports, he said, are lessons that last forever and will be taught to all mankind.
To conclude a morning of splashing around in the crystal clear water, Mr. Robson lined 2B up on the edge of the pool deck overlooking the deep end. The spooky theme music from the shark thriller movie “Jaws” blasted over the pool’s speaker system. Tension built. Chills spread over my entire body. My heart rate increased. Sharks weren’t swarming around a pool of blood, but my senses reacted as if they were. Mr. Robson snuck up behind camper Tim and pushed him in the pool, thus awarding him a ticket for exemplary effort during the class.
As 2B departed for the showers, Miss Hayes played the theme music for “The Little Mermaid,” providing the most jolting contrast I’ve ever experienced in 12 pyc sessions.