42 Swimmer Thoughts at the Announcement of Taper
By Mike Gustafson//Correspondent
The beginning of Taper Season is synonymous with Christmas Morning, The Last Day of School, and Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry’s. The world becomes a happier place: Birds greet you with happy little chirps, bunnies whistle Disney tunes, teammates greet each other with carefree and jolly Salutations, cold pools magically morph into semi-lukewarm pools, and, thankfully, at long last, practices become less intense.
Predicting the beginning of Taper Season can be a difficult endeavor (like predicting who will become a Presidential nominee), and it all depends on your coach: Some coaches prefer the shorter taper; others enjoy a longer, more drawn-out, gradual process. At some point, your coach will gather your smiling, giggling teammates. As everyone holds bated breath, your coach will then say those sweet, magical words, “Today, we begin taper.”
Here are 42 thoughts that happen in the immediate aftermath upon hearing those glorious words:
1. This better not be a joke.
2. I swear, if Coach is joking — if this is like that time he said we were getting a ‘treat’ today and instead he ordered an extra-large Hawaiian pizza for himself while giving us a T-30 as he consumed said pizza in front of us — I will just snap.
3. Oh my gosh. (Wait approximately 2 minutes.) He’s not joking.
4. Taper! Sweet glory! O Thou Art Great You Swim Coach! Finally, O At last!
5. Does Taper start right now?
6. Can I leave practice?
7. Can I just go to sleep right freaking now?!
8. Wait, what does Coach mean — “taper doesn’t mean a cessation of any and all activity”? Taper is my time to do nothing. Taper is my life’s version of Seinfeld; it’s the time when my life is about doing nothing, and let me tell you, doing nothing is glorious.
9. Now Coach explains how taper doesn’t mean doing nothing — how it means we have to pay extra attention to details, blah blah blah. I’m not paying attention. Can we leave?
10. I remember once, not too many seasons ago, one special Taper season, when Coach basically told us to “do what we want.” Which, for me, meant a 300-yard back float followed with a 30-minute hot shower time. Oh, how I loved hot shower time. Let me go, Coach. Let me leave. It’s Taper, baby!
11. Coach talks about how we “still have to work hard” throughout Taper. For some reason, I don’t think this Taper will be the same.
12. Now Coach explains how “Taper will involve sprints” and “Taper will involve race-pace speed.”
13. This Taper sounds like it’ll be like normal practices, but more intense.
14. This Taper doesn’t sound fair.
15. This Taper doesn’t sound like a taper.
16. And, really, should we even call Taper a “taper” if it is not a taper? Should I stand up and explain what Taper is? We all know what Taper is: Laying on the couch and partaking in three weeks of beauteous Netflix binge-watching while barely registering a resting heart-rate. For three. Glorious. Weeks.
17. Coach talks how Taper will be a “gradual lessening.” Ugh. I’m done. I quit.
18. Meh, alright, I’m okay, it’s okay. It’s fine, I guess. I mean, I trust Coach, even if Coach is slightly confused about the ethics of Taper. As long as I get to have more sleep. My teammates are looking around, and I know we’re all thinking the same thought, so I’ll just interrupt Coach and come right out and ask the important question here:
19. “Do we still have morning practice?”
20. Why is he just glaring at me? I’ll repeat myself:
21. “Do we still have morning practice because honestly I only joined this sport so I could un-join morning practices.”
22. Coach said yes, we still have morning practices! The horror! The injustice! Why!
23. Coach’s explanation — that we should get used to waking up early and swimming, since prelims are in the morning — barely makes an iota of sense, but still. This is no Taper of yesteryear. This is no Taper at all. I’m going to glare at him with my most vehement eye-glare protest. If only my eyes could be lasers and I could reroute Coach’s words to say, “Taper is here! Go home! Do nothing! See you at the championship meet!”
24. I joined swimming to Taper.
25. Coach is taking away my Taper.
26. Coach is taking my Taper away and replacing it with actual swimming.
27. Which, I guess, makes sense.
28. I need to accept this. I need to say goodbye to my common understanding of Taper.
29. Gone are the Taper halcyon days of 15-minute warm-ups followed by a relay followed by hot shower time.
30. Gone are the days when Taper meant no morning practices.
31. Gone are the days when Taper meant two sprints from the blocks defined a day’s “main set.”
32. I guess this is what happens when you get older.
33. Taper dies.
34. Everyone else is getting ready to warm-up. Coach’s speech is over. I must confront Coach. I must ask him why this is happening. What is the meaning of life? Why do I exist? And why, oh why, is he changing the definition of Taper. He explains it to me:
35. “Taper is not doing nothing. It’s just doing more with less. Instead of doing 10x400IMs, we’ll do 10x50s.”
36. I glare at him.
37. “Think about it. Over the course of a four day championship meet, you’ll swim thousands and thousands of yards. You need to be ready not just for Day One, but that last Day Four finals, when your legs are tired and your competitors are exhausted. If you do nothing for the three weeks before this meet, you won’t be ready for Day Four.”
38. Deep breaths.
39. I hop into the water. I understand. I understand that Taper doesn’t mean doing nothing, but doing more with less. Better sprints. More focused turns. All that. I accept.
40. We finish practice, and our coach gathers us together once more. Coach explains he is impressed with our practice — so much so, that we have tomorrow morning practice off.
41. Taper’s back, baby!!!!!
42. This better not be a joke.