Not much in life beats the sheer, innocent fun of swimming in a pool.
Growing up as a kid in Burlington, I took swim lessons at the community pool at Devor Park, where my sisters and I would visit just about every day of the summer and swim our hearts out.
There was the classic low dive, which was nice and easy for all ages, and the daunting, belly-flop heaven known as the high dive.
Admittedly, I crashed and burned a good number of times, smacking the concrete-like surface and sinking the 10 feet to the bottom before floating back in a daze. I even got all the way up the painfully high ladder, freaked out and climbed back down, around all the waiting, hanging children.
Friendships were formed on the baseball field behind the pool. The backstop has since been removed.
And sand volleyball, basketball and tennis activities also ruled the day. Finding that special someone for a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” also mattered, though we had no idea what that meant.
As a child, my mom said she’d have to miss wedding receptions because I’d force her to hang with me by the hotel pool.
Apparently, I wanted nothing more than to run, jump and furiously paddle my way to water freedom.
To us, staying overnight at a hotel was “vacation,” and I still treat it that way to this day.
My never-ending affection for a good indoor pool is coming full circle.
My daughter, Coraline Rose, is approaching 2-1/2 years, and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Once a week, we have been taking her to swim lessons at the Lake Geneva YMCA (check it out, parents, it’s affordable and extremely flexible based on skill level), and Coraline is a fish just like daddy.
She loves “reaching, pulling and kicking,” jumping into mom and dad’s arms from outside the pool and of course playing with the floating toys.
But most of all, Coraline enjoys the weekly end-of-class ritual, an aquatic rendition of the “Hokey Pokey,” which she will randomly sing the next day or on the car route to lessons.
We tried the next level up, where parents aren’t allowed in the water with the child, and she wasn’t having it. Ten minutes in, we grabbed her, drove back home and set up a different class.
A month in, she absolutely loves the class, where parents are required in the pool, almost as much as she loves the act of swimming freely with her “floatie.”
We attended a family wedding last weekend, and I ended up making an extra trip back home from Lake Geneva to Burlington because I forgot the swimsuits for the sleepover. I’m a total Bozo when it comes to remembering details on wedding mornings, you know, when the significant other takes 45 minutes to decide her hair style for the night.
I mean, it looked great, honey.
The next morning, Cora could’ve stayed in that hotel pool all day, as she would jog to the edge of the concrete and project out into the water, cackling a jolly scream, and making sure she jumped away from mom or dad.
She’s at that age where she can do it all by herself, sometimes to our baffled chagrin.
Countless times swimming back to the steps, getting out and jumping back in again intertwined with a few trips down the slide in the extremely shallow baby pool.
Cora’s cousin, Hugo, who just turned 1, was with us. He was getting a hang of the water, while Cora zipped around like a person discovering the world for the first time.
She floats on her back, kicks with purpose and has no problem dunking her head under water.
Bath time turns into party time as Peanuts toys like Charlie Brown and Lucy accompany Cora, along with letters and numbers. She enjoys her little games and often pretends like she’s swimming.
I’m sure I was a pain at times, mom, but thanks for your love and dedication to my happiness. Swimming became a passion.
And pools have a way of hugging our hearts.
Cora is pulling the same shenanigans, and it brings me a warm, nostalgic smile every time I see her splashing and beaming.
At 34, I still love a dip in the pool here and there. The relaxing feeling on the muscles is unmatched, especially a good soak in the whirlpool.
But nothing compares to watching a 2-year-old dancing and gallivanting around in the water like it’s Christmas day.
Last week: 4-1
(all games Friday 7 p.m.)
Game of the Week
Waterford (6-1, 4-1 SLC) at Delavan-Darien (5-2, 4-1)
A classic contrast of styles permeates in our featured contest of Week 8.
Waterford racked up 400 rushing yards last week, and its offensive line is blowing people off the line, even with eight or nine guys in the box.
Defensively, the Wolverines, ranked No. 9 in D2 in the latest Wissports.net state poll, pitched their third shutout in four weeks, a 38-0 drubbing of Union Grove.
All Delavan did was rack up 360 total yards and scored two special teams touchdowns, off a blocked kick and punt return, and dominated Westosha Central.
Quarterback Jake Benzing tossed three touchdowns and ran for 94 yards.
Also, Ryan Gengler added a long touchdown run and 83 yards.
Waterford’s Ben Michalowski ran for 175 yards last week, and the Wolverines contained quarterback Matt Nelson and the pass-first Broncos.
The Grove was the perfect tune-up for Waterford, as it faces a Comets team with explosive pass-catching weapons like Ethan Cesarz, Mike Alder, Seth Kirsch and Ben Ingersoll.
Coach Adam Bakken has made a career out of making life difficult for opposing quarterbacks.
Waterford will pull this out and set up a conference championship showdown with Lake Geneva Badger.
PREDICTION: Waterford 20, Delavan-Darien 14
Union Grove (4-3, 2-3) at Lake Geneva Badger (7-0, 5-0)
The Badgers are flying high with a well-executed triple option run attack and a stifling, play-making defense.
Lake Geneva is all the way up to No. 5 in the D1 state rankings, a height never reached by the program.
In fact, no team has gone undefeated in the Southern Lakes since Waterford in 2012.
Before that, Milton did it in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006.
Badger didn’t re-join the Lakes until 2008. It was previously in the now-defunct Lakeshore in the early 2000s.
Badger has seen quite the transformation, from a school of just over 1,000 kids to the big fish in the SLC pond. The school now has nearly 1,500 students and continues to grow.
The increased size has meant Division 1 playoffs and a higher profile, but coach Matt Hensler’s basic principle of running the ball with multiple fakes and intelligent quarterback gap analysis has thrived the past decade.
With a stud athlete like Mason Dumez, dangerous weapons like Ryan Sproul and Patrick Watrous and large, quick linemen, Badger is simply too good right now.
The Broncos must win their last two games to ensure a playoff spot.
PREDICTION: Lake Geneva Badger 35, Union Grove 24
Elkhorn (1-6, 0-5) at Burlington (2-5, 1-4)
Junior quarterback Nick Klug has taken his game to another level for the Burlington Demons.
He nearly led his team to an improbable victory at Wilmot last week, but Klug’s untimely fumble on a punt return set up the game-winning field goal.
Had that unfortunate bounce not happened, Klug had a good shot at taking his team down the field for the upset win.
He dominated against Delavan-Darien with his legs and feet, and duplicated the performance against Wilmot.
Elkhorn is still searching for answers, but a quarterback change to Braeden Mohr sparked some success last week.
These teams always play each other tough, but Klug’s persistence and resilience will pay off for the Demons, who have lost five of six.
PREDICTION: Burlington 40, Elkhorn 17
Wilmot (6-1, 4-1) at Westosha Central (1-6, 0-5)
The cross-county rivals meet with nothing but bragging rights on the line, as the Panthers clinched a playoff spot with last week’s 24-21 victory.
Central has been playing two quarterbacks, Josiah McDermit and Adam Simmons, but notwithstanding a few touchdowns here and there from Austin Kurylo and Tre Williams, the Falcons have struggled with Lakes competition all season.
The Panthers are ripe for a breakout, as they barely squeaked by Burlington last week.
These teams know each other well, and Wilmot’s shot at a share of the Lakes title will keep them motivated.
PREDICTION: Wilmot 33, Westosha Central 10
Thomas More (0-7, 0-5) at Catholic Central (1-6, 1-4)
While the Hilltoppers haven’t been able to grace the win column much this season, the team took plenty of positives from last week’s Homecoming loss.
An all-world running back went off for 275 yards, and they gave up 63 points, but Central scored a season-high 39 points.
The host Toppers were only down nine after three quarters.
Chad Zirbel went off for more than 400 total yards, and Cole Pankau finally broke out with 146 receiving yards.
The momentum should carry over Friday.
PREDICTION: Catholic Central 45, Thomas More 7