To most of us, “Barracuda” brings to mind a fish – or the song by Heart. (By the way, I looked up the lyrics to that song in the hope that I could find a good quote to use as my lead. I realize now that I have never understood that song and never will. It just sounds cool.)
Anyway, to a synchronized swimming participant, “Barracuda” is the name of a “figure” – a particular position for which you can be judged during competition.
When I first heard that my daughter would be learning “Figures” in synchro, I was impressed that mathematics would be included in her twice weekly practices. And a little hopeful that this meant I would not have to be the one who would have to teach her how to balance a checkbook.
Alas, “Figures” in synchronized swimming have a vastly different meaning. They are also much more difficult than checkbook balancing – although I imagine some sort of balancing comes in handy for this event.
In Figures events, there are 4 judging groups situated around the pool. The participants all wear black swimsuits and white caps. Split into 4 groups by a random draw order, the girls are all assigned numbers. When told, they enter the pool individually, swim in front of the judging station, and perform the figure that is called out. Then the judges hold up scores, which are called out and written down. The swimmer then moves on to the next judging station, continuing until she has performed 4 different figures.
This all sounds very straightforward. But I have never attended a meet in which mass chaos did not erupt during Figures. And last weekend lived up to my expectations.
Say, for example, that your daughter is number 31, and she is the first person at Judging Station #3. When she is finished at #3, the next logical step would be to move to Judging Station #4, then #1, and lastly #2.
This was what Dimples started to do, as directed by one of the Adults in Charge. The rest of the Judging Station #3 group lined up behind her at #4 while they waited for the group that had begun at #4 to finish.
But when Dimples got in the water, finally, at #4, and they called a number, it was not her number. And when she told them her number, they told her that she was in the wrong place.
After discussion amongst 3 different Adults in Charge, Dimples’ entire group, like a line of ducklings, was walked over to the other side of the pool to a different judging station. With different Adults in Charge who did not agree with this change in rotation. After more discussion, the line waddled back to station #4. Where they were told in no uncertain terms to go back.
Keep in mind that all of the scorers have papers for every participant, by number, so wherever they landed they were eventually going to be scored anyway.
Also, keep in mind that the girls are wet and cold out of the water, and probably a bit rattled after being given conflicting directions from a variety of adults within the span of 10 minutes.
Finally, Dimples’ group was shuffled to a completely different judging station, where they continued their Figures competition.
Later, when Dimples saw the Figures results, she was devastated that she was not in the top 3. And much later, when the hosting team realized they forgot to include their own team members in the results, my poor daughter’s rank fell even more.
I sat in the stands wondering: A.) why does this happen at every meet?, 2.) how hard is it to put numbers on the judging stands and tell the swimmers to go to a certain number?, III.) you would think in a sport with this many rules, they would have a
rule International Law about going clockwise or counter-clockwise EVERY time to avoid this confusion,
and 4.) If I was a barracuda, I would totally rip those judges to pieces.
Witnessing this inescapable disarray at every meet is even more stressful than balancing my checkbook, and that’s saying a lot…