Story 02: Education of a Dropout

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Sidebar: Evar Silvernagle

Written by Mike Spock

Evar Silvernagle was a masterful teacher, a coach in the deepest sense. He would pull me aside and quietly demonstrate an almost indistinguishable subtlety of motion. I would take the nuance into the water and practice it, polish it, over and over and over. I would incorporate it into my repertoire—make it mine. I still have a vivid, kinetic memory of doing endlessly refined repetitions of backstroke turns. Approach the end of the pool. Look over the left shoulder. Gauge the distance to the wall and adjust your trajectory. Follow the right hand down deeper into the wall. Touch the wall. Flip over your head and twist to the right reversing direction. Plant the feet in a tuck against the wall. Pause to gather momentum. Push and uncoil. Stiffen muscles, minimize resistance and coast. Begin the kick. Surface and start to breath. Lift the right arm and complete the first stroke. Less than a second in all. The same with starts and finishes and breathing and kicking and stroking. And in the practice sprint and distance laps I would always go for broke. Nothing was held back. Nothing was left unexamined. The water was my medium. Silvernagle was my mentor (although I never actually saw him swim). Like binding books, I again had the intense satisfaction of mastery.

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