Coleman and Cal are managers at the Greenwyche community pool. Coleman is the dive coach, Cal is an assistant swim coach: We grew up at the pool and looked up to the lifeguards when we were little. They were also our swim coaches. As soon as we were old enough, at 15, we started working there. We know almost everyone in the neighborhood. It’s important to know all the kids because you’re a big influence on them. Eventually you know everyone’s name and that just makes it a better place. We look out for the kids who can get a little rowdy. You get to know everybody and develop relationships. Sometimes we take complaints from parents. We’ve learned to stay calm and be good listeners. It gives us appreciation and greater respect for our own coaches and teachers. Learning about acids and bases in Chemistry helps us understand the pool chemicals.
Growing up at the pool has been good in many ways. My favorite thing about it is all the friends I have. Most people are only friends with people their age. Coleman and I are two years apart and he is one of my best friends. I have friends in their 20s who are in college and some friends who are younger and are on the swim team.
For the past two summers, Greenwyche has been the host pool for the Dolphins, Rocket City League swim team for teenagers with special needs. The guards and coaches have embraced the opportunity to coach the Dolphins and welcome them into this aspect of Huntsville summer community life, modeling this inclusion for the younger swimmers. Working with the Dolphins is a great experience, Cal says. You don’t have to be a swim coach to help, anybody can do it if they know how to swim. We are able to go to the pool to swim every day, but seeing how excited the Dolphins get when they get to swim once or twice a week is a great thing to see and be a part of.
Working at the pool is a summer job, but it instills a year-round sense of ownership. We stop to pick up trash when we drive by. Passing by the pool one day this winter, Cal saw water in the street. The pipes in the bathroom had burst. Water was shooting out of the wall and it was ankle-deep. I called everyone I could and waited until someone came with the tool to shut off the water.
Last summer, one of the older managers, who is moving on, gave Cal his copy of the Certified Pool Operator Manual because he wanted to make sure someone to know how to run things. Cal has been studying it and hopes to qualify as a certified pool operator this summer.
Flying the drones over the pool and around the neighborhood is a fun thing to do, Cal says. Coleman made a dive team video and I helped my mom [Laurel Shockley] make a video for Randolph parents about the Drake Campus carline.
The difference between leadership at school and at the pool, says Coleman, who was SGA President his senior year and co-chaired Model U.N, is that at the pool you have parents, board members, employees, and kids looking at you. The hardest decision you make is whether to jump in: there’s a fine line between drowning or playing or kids holding their breath. Do I yell at the kids who double-bounce on the diving board? Scattered thunderstorms are hard to call. Making these decisions teaches us more responsibility for when we go off to college and gives us actual work experience for when we go into the real world.
This story is from a series of thumbnail portraits in the forthcoming Spring 2017 Randolph Magazine, in a feature titled “Learning in the Community: Transformative Experiences.” The student portraits that accompany these profiles were created in an editorial photography project in Peter Townsend’s Advanced Photography class. Coleman and Cal were photographed by Blake Thurman ’17. Picture of a rainbow over Greenwyche by Laurel Shockley.