By Cassidy Lavigne, Swimming World College Intern
At some point in most swimmers’ careers, whether it’s their event or just for training, we are faced with swimming the 500 freestyle. If you haven’t swum it, then you’re in the stands cheering, or maybe, you’ve been trusted with the important should-be-simple-but-actually-isn’t task of counting.
While distance swimmers have their fair share of thoughts during their races, so do those counting for them.
So, if you’ve been one of the many chosen ones to count for your teammate during their distance event, here are 23 thoughts that counters have during a 500:
1. I have been given an important task!
The initial reaction you have when your teammate asks to count for you. Maybe you are a pro and do this for them every meet. Maybe you are a pro but still remember that one time you messed up counting, or saw someone mess up counting, or worse, drop the counter in the pool. But you know what you’re doing, you can count.
2. What lane are they in again?
When you see the officials place the lane counters at the far side of the pool and you search for your swimmer behind the blocks getting ready, and then you spot them.
3. Nope, skip lap 1.
As you flip the counter to lap three. Why do they even have lap 1 if no one ever uses it? Unless you’re just trying to mock your teammate. 1 down, 19 to go.
4. How do I even use the counters with the pole?
You’ve seem them at certain meets, a long wooden stick at the top of the counter. Maybe you’ve never used one, and instead stare in awe at how much easier it is to count when you’re not sitting. Or maybe you’ve tried it and it wasn’t your thing, or saw too many others mess up with them, so you steer clear.
5. I should’ve brought a towel to sit on.
As you’re sitting on your knees blocking your teammates splash from their turn and trying to be somewhat comfortable.
6. I should’ve just worn my suit.
See above. You’re soaked. Maybe you’re in a parka, or wrapped in your towel, either way, your sleeve is soaked from dunking your arm in (if you don’t have a pole, see #4.)
7. Could you have any more of a splashy turn?
8. Did I change it already?
Did you change it after they flipped on your side or the far side? You remain calm but have a slight panic in you..
9. Wait, lane 6 is on lap 13 and they’re pacing with them, so it’s lap 13.
…So you start cross checking.
10. Is coach telling me to shake the counter now?
Because coaches never look right at you, they just wildly wave their arms.
11. No, it’s up and down not side to side.
This is based off of personal preference, some even don’t like any movement from the counters: “Side-to-side is just obnoxious,” my teammate once told me.
12. Okay, they’re at the flags in 3,2,1… and in the water.
Just your typical counter trying to time out when to put the counter in…
13. …last stroke, and pull up.
…and when to move it out of the way for the turn.
14. Did I place it too early/late?
See #11 and #12.
15. What is their pace?
Lap counters cheer and know their teammates records too!
16. They’re slowing down.
I would’ve been tired too.
17. They’re speeding up!
As they close in on the leader and make their move.
18. (At halfway mark) I would’ve been dead by now.
Thoughts from a sprinter-mid-distancer.
19. The timer in lane 4 is cute.
20. They’re in the lead!
Even though we aren’t the ones doing the racing, there is a lot of pride that comes from counting if your teammate is in first.
21. Just took out 17, and we skip 19, flash red.
The conversation you have when you skip a number, similar to not using 1, except now its more exciting.
22. Go go go!
Paired with vigorous arm shaking in the water and using the last of your voice to cheer for your teammate on their last length.
23. Whewf…made it!
And feeling just as happy for your teammate that they finished their race.
All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.