When my face is in the water, the world is silent. I doesn’t often matter which pool I’m swimming in or who is swimming alongside me because the water is the same, my strokes and turns are the same, and that be cherished silence is the same. But it’s also amazing how even the smallest of things can make the biggest of differences. It wasn’t until I visited the Kroc Center in Downtown Greenville that I realized how much of an influence a pool’s environment can have on my attitude about swimming.
Before my adventure to the Center (and yes, it was by all means an adventure), I had only come across two types of pools: those that are outdoor, bright and sunshiney, and those that are indoor, poorly lit and shadowy. I had not yet come across the unique, or in my opinion, unmatched, indoor pool with an outdoor environment. But the Kroc Center is just that—a place where I was able swim laps and enjoy the cherished silence that encompassed me when I put my face and ears below the surface, but also a place where I could be a part of something bigger and brighter when I lifted my head and stopped swimming to watch and listen to my surroundings.
I have always been told that “a picture is worth a thousand words” (I believe that was Napoleon Bonaparte? But I want to give the credit to an old Chinese Proverb that surfaced way before his time). So let me begin by showing you a (not so great) picture of the Center:
Now, assuming there is a very distinct set of 1,000 words attributed to this individual picture, let me attempt to give you what I would highlight as those that would be considered key words from this list… rowdy, vast, music, excessive, boisterous, bright, laughter, involved, energetic, open, family, active, welcoming, animated, intricate, bouncing, playful, and (for Sean’s sake) steamy, tempting, and slightly seductive. But these terms only apply to the above-water environment. The moment I plunged under the blue ripples, streamlining alongside the slippery black stripes on the pool’s floor, the silence was back and I was swimming no differently that I would in any other facility.
In my opinion, swimming in this new environment was not as entertaining to me as people-watching was. On the far right sat a young lifeguard; he was watching over a small group of children who were darting in and out of fountains, crawling up and down water-spewing structures, and squealing whenever a bucket of water fell on their heads. In the back corner there was another lifeguard keeping watch over slightly older children who were taking turns going down the water slide, patiently waiting for their mothers’ water aerobics class to end… and these women were workin’ it! In the lanes farthest left, past the few older individuals swimming meditative laps, there was a group of impressively energetic women, dancing and jumping and running in place to the music overhead. Their instructor danced up and down the length of the pool trying to rile them up and get them to “move it, move it,” if I recall correctly. Finally, to the far left there was a steaming hot tub hosting a young gentleman and three of the aerobics class’ “largest” dropouts; they were sitting in the warm water, playfully cussing at the exercise and rewarding their hard work with the hot water and jets.
All of this aside, however, I don’t think that I would be able to paint a picture of this environment with only 1,000 words. So to accept defeat and move on to a more serious note, here is a picture of me swimming laps:
After a long workout in the lap pool, which, by the way, was most definitely a “fast pool.” I joined some of the women in the hot tub to relax. Before I was even knee-deep, their “hootin’ and hollerin’” was directed toward me and they instantly brought me into the joke-filled, upbeat conversation. One of the women looked at me and said “Whew, that class will not get ME at 58 years. No sir! I will be 68 before I give up!” The women all laughed and I immediately joined into the conversation, asking them about the class and what it means to be a member at the Center. At the Furman pool, everyone has a very serious get-in and get-out mentality. But there’s just something special about being able to sit down and connect with other swimmers; it’s the social aspect of swimming that we have talked so much about in class but had yet to experience beyond the classroom.
The Kroc Center was a thoroughly enjoyable place to be. It made my swimming experience so much, well, happier, than the Furman pool does. There was nothing more exciting than leaving the fast-paced world of swimming sets and drills to enter into an environment made primarily social and radiant. It was bright and welcoming to people of all ages and swimming abilities. The windows lit up the room, the high ceilings made it seem more “outdoorsy,” and the music motivated me to be active. I loved that there was a wide variety of people who were there either to swim, play, take a class, or just sit in the warm water; I loved that there was laughter coming from both the adults in the class as well as the children; I loved that I was there to play with two of my best friends but I was also there alone to swim silently with thoughts. The Kroc Center was—it is—the best of both worlds.
Also, in case you are interested, here is a link to the Kroc Center’s main website: http://krocgreenville.org