The first week of practice was quite exciting. The amount of spectators alone was incredible. About 150 onlookers came and watched practices daily. They all have many questions on how they can join the program. My answer, as always, is for them to speak with Colonel Safi.
The most interesting thing about the past week is how quickly the team has adapted to practices. More athletes arrive on time every day, are more focused, more hydrated, and less hungry. The team has the stretching and dryland exercises, I no longer have to tell or show them the order of the exercises and I get to work with each individual athlete on their technique.
Dryland exercises consist of several exercises to include flutter kicks, leg lifts, crunches, leg throws, and pushups. These exercises have proven difficult for the team as the exercises are either new to the athlete or their strength is not there yet. From past experience of coaching aquatic sports in a combat zone to Afghans, this week I started the team with ten repetitions per exercise. Ten repetitions may seem like a joke to some but it is needed as working on proper technique of these exercises is the key. For pushups, some of the athletes would just move their heads or their butts into the air; crunches, some of the athletes would be using their hands to move their heads, which could result in horrible injuries; and athletes would try to flip their legs, almost like a flip, instead of lifting their legs only six inches off of the ground during the leg lifts. Correcting their form and technique was very important and the athletes were taking it well.
Yesterday, there was some water in the pool but the pipe broke again. Colonel Safi said that this is a major priority. He has told me that the morale of the soldiers on the Shorabak Garrison is high because of this program. However, our entire week has been on the pool deck and not in the pool.
We have also completed a lot of classroom instruction about water polo and practiced a lot of ball handling skills on the deck. The athletes and the team as a whole have a good grasp of what is to come once the pool is completely fixed. We will see how well the athletes swim and tread water once they are in the pool.
Besides not having a filled pool, I am satisfied on the team’s progress and successes. I am confident that next week’s practice will be as good, if not better than this week’s practice.