Volunteer Swim Coach: A Tribute

SwimSwam presents this poem in recognition of U.S. Masters Swimming’s “Coach Appreciation Week,” May 2-8. (The American Swimming Coaches Association holds a separate “Swimming Coach Appreciation Week” in October.)

Volunteer swim coach: A tribute

by Michael O.  Zahn

He walks with two canes,
he’s fragile and fat,

the kids on the team

lug his extra-wide chair,

gently help him sit back.

But his voice still has sinew,

he bellows tough drills.

With sandpaper words

he strives to propel

even the slackers,

to make all excel.

Once, long ago,

 he was slim and swam swift.

An Adonis in butterfly,

flaunting gods’ gift!

The water was whipped

by his lunges and plunges!

Sprays of ribbons

were showered by judges.

Ribbons fray.

Butterflies die.

Bodies betray.

The gods can deny.

What’s left of Adonis

you’ll find at the pool

in his extra-wide chair,

a pain-drenched old grandpa

who’s fighting despair

by bequeathing his dreams

to the ripening teens

on the high-school swim team.

“Volunteer Swim Coach: A tribute,” is based on a real person. The author, Michael O. Zahn, lives in  Central Florida. The poem appears in the current issue of Swimzine, the British literary magazine devoted entirely to swimming. (www.swimzine.co.uk)


Michael Zahn, a former Milwaukee newspaper reporter, lives in Poinciana in Central Florida. Born in 1947, he is an unaffiliated member of US Masters Swimming. His poems have been published in numerous swimming media, both print and electronic.

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