He spent the next half hour reviewing team policies and the season’s schedule. I’d heard such talks before from other coaches and tuned him out while I studied the other girls, trying to figure out what their positions might be.
Most of them focused on Coach’s every word, but last year’s champs ignored him and whispered among themselves. One of them, a lanky girl with sun-bleached hair and a killer tan, looked over the group of wannabes and held up her fingers one to five, scoring them, I guess, on whether or not they had a chance. Her friends snickered, trying to act as if they were paying attention to Coach instead of fooling around.
At last, the lanky girl’s frosty blue eyes rested on me, and I met her gaze straight on. We stared at each other for a few seconds before she looked away first, then held up three fingers. It seemed she was ambivalent. I could go either way.
I was ambivalent too. I joined this crowd as a walk-on, someone with no history with the team and questionable ability. In their eyes, I was no better than a wannabe who needed to prove herself to gain a spot on the team and the other girls’ respect.
I showed up because it’s what I did at the start of every school year. Swimming was my only sport, and I was good at it. Really good. Still, I almost skipped tryouts today. The truth was, I didn’t have the energy to join a new team, in a new school, for the third time. If anyone found out I’d won championship titles in club and varsity last year they’d expect great things from me, and I didn’t want the pressure. Swimming was no longer the focus of my life. It was my therapy, and I wouldn’t let anyone mess that up.
The glimmer of challenge in the way the lanky girl looked at me caused a stirring in my gut, and I shot it down. I didn’t come here to get involved in any personal challenges. I came here to swim, and not make any waves. My plan was to get through the senior year and go away to college, away from my troubles, and on to a new life that I could control.
I turned away from the girls judging the rest of us and focused on what Coach had to say. At last, he stopped talking and let us get in the pool.
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