Where the hell have I been? I've been waiting with my best suit on... Today was a hectic day, the final day of the semester for my volunteer coaching gig. Even before the day began, it was hectic- yesterday I received a text message from my supervisor, informing me that a plumbing contractor would be stopping by my principle workplace at 9AM, so one of the guys in my department was needed to open up the building for the plumber. Yeah, not a lot of notice, but one of my part-timers was happy to pick up an extra eight hours. Even if I didn't have classes to teach, followed by a semi-formal luncheon, I wouldn't have been able to work this added shift... on a regular Saturday, I work until 4AM and then return at 5PM. I like to think of myself as a non-wimpy individual, but that would be too much.
At any rate, I got the coverage issue sorted out, so I was able to get my customary two and a half hours of sleep before heading down to Manhattan. On the first day of the program, in October, and the last day of the program, in March, attendance is always high. We had two classes this morning, a class of about thirty nine to twelve year-old girls and a class of about forty five to eight year old boys. The real kicker is that some of the kids have been attending regularly, while other kids just show up occasionally, so there is a wide skill gap at play. Because of the vast amount of kids, we actually ran out of judogis for the boys' class, so some kids had to share. We divided each class into four roughly equal sub-groups and ran a big randori- we had the kids play against each other, then had the winners of the individual matches face each other until one kid remained as the winner, then we had the four winners compete to find the big boss. It was a fun two classes, though hectic. After our classes, the amazing gymnastics coach ran two gymnastics classes- she played a bit of judo back in the day, so she's one of us. While the kids took up a half of the mat, we did a little bit of sparring ourselves, making sure we didn't squash any small children... can't have a couple of cartwheeling seven year olds getting squashed by a four hundred plus pound mass of flesh and bone now. I have to note that my right shoulder has been sore for about a week and a half, to the extent that I've been using a heating pad on it every night... after crashing to the mat for the first time this morning, the shoulder pain was no big deal- I'm reminded of an old joke about HMO's.
After the classes ended, we assembled for a luncheon and awards ceremony. Everybody's freshly scrubbed and awards are given to the best kids in each individual sport, and the kids who show the most improvement. This is where we can see which kids are natural athletes- they tend to rack up the plaques. Awards are also given to the kids who demonstrate good sportsmanship and the counselors who demonstrate the most dedication. Our best sportsmanship winner is a young lady who "mustered out" of classes today and will be joining the ranks of the counselors next October. Our best counselor winner is a prince of a kid who has doubled as a basketball coach on an as-needed basis- he'll be going off to college this fall, and everybody is going to miss him terribly.
The last day of the semester is a bittersweet one- we know that many kids will transition out of the program, but that we'll have an influx of new students next October. We actually have a lot of former students return for a visit (today, two of our former students, a brother act, returned to visit while on spring break from college) and some of our former students return as coaches themselves... three of our fencing coaches were former students. One of the great privileges I've had in my life was to see a kid I knew as a five or six year-old go off to college. One of our running jokes in the dojo is that we hope that the kids we're coaching take it easy on us twenty years from now, when we're a bunch of old folks.
It was a busy, busy day... I left the luncheon and headed straight to work, where I shocked my co-worker by showing up in a suit and tie. I joked that I had been in court... he doesn't have to know that it was a basketball court.