“We have formed a special bond.”

An Interview with Pat Cook, Water Volleyball Player

How did you hear about UVAC’s water volleyball program?

Pat enjoys a taste test at a winery in France.?  Why did you decide to join, and when? 

Actually, my introduction to UVAC came when I retired at the age of 66 after a career as an elementary school librarian. My four children gave me a one-year membership to UVAC as a retirement gift. I was shocked.

They wanted me to fill up some of my fr­ee time with exercise.  I first started swimming laps, but noticed a class going on with white-haired older women bouncing a beach ball back and forth. So I decided to give it a try. It was more social than swimming laps.

What do you like about the sport?

I like volleyball because it’s a sport I’ve never done, plus it combines swimming, which was a sport I always enjoyed.  UVAC has always provided excellent coaches (I think I’ve been through four) who know how to keep the pace up and add their own spin on the game with rules. The workout always feels invigorating.

Did you have any prior experience with swimming or volleyball?

I first took swimming lessons when I was 6 years old at Lake Memphremagog in Newport, VT.  Lessons continued at 4-H Camp each summer.

When we moved to White River Junction, I continued with lessons in the old swim hole and got my Lifeguard certification.  Our family always took camping vacations in the summertime at White Lake State Park in New Hampshire and it was a daily ritual to be at the lake twice a day with my six brothers and sisters. I have fond memories of our parents swimming with us. Raising my four kids, I tried to replicate what my folks had done.

My high school sport was basketball. But in the ’60s, girls basketball was divided as forwards and guards. As a guard, I couldn’t go beyond the center line, so never got practice throwing into a basket.  

The camaraderie of your group extends beyond the pool. Can you give some examples? 

We have formed a special bond. Bobbie Hitchcock became our unofficial secretary and started an email thread to keep us up to date on changes and information on members. It has evolved over the years.  During the pandemic, it became a way to keep in touch with members sharing videos, humorous stories, etc.  Our group has a lot of laughter and fun when playing, so this helped to keep it alive. We also send cards when members are recovering from surgery or suffer a loss. We’ve had potluck lunches after volleyball and always invite UVAC staff to join us for our scrumptious delights.

What is your favorite deep-water volleyball memory?

Sometimes our flying beach balls get misdirected and hit people.  Now, it’s not funny but we all take it in stride and the “hitter” always apologizes.

Our newest coach, Alan Hernandez, implemented a new rule that if a team throws a beach ball over before he blows the whistle, the team gets penalized a point.  One time both sides did it on purpose to give Alan a laugh as he couldn’t penalize anyone.

Alan implemented a rule that when a ball gets caught in the median, we can scramble to get it.  Pretty funny, as the game is drawing to a close and we get very competitive, but have lots of laughs as members fight over the ball.

How has the pandemic changed the way your group works out?

Some of our group didn’t feel comfortable when UVAC reopened and are waiting for the vaccines to take effect.  Recently we have sent encouraging cards to lure them back.  Our numbers pre-pandemic got up to 10 on a side. We have struggled with only four or five on a side (although you do get a good workout).

What brought you to the Upper Valley?

I have been a Vermonter most of my life, having moved from Newport Center to White River Jct. when I was 12.

I attended UVM, got married, had kids and eventually bought a house in Hartford Village where I have lived for 41 years.

Include a little more info. about yourself, if you like. Do you have hobbies? Pets?

Pat in St. Croix

My favorite hobbies are doing jigsaw puzzles, playing cribbage, sending postcards across the world through an online group, and crafting greeting cards by recycling ones I’ve received and adding embellishments.

After I retired, I decided I wanted a little part time job. I found it working as a Circulation Assistant at the Howe Library in Hanover. We are only offering Take Away services since we reopened so I don’t get to interact with patrons, which I had enjoyed.

Pat with a porpoise in Clearwater, Florida.

My last pets were a cat named Mama Kitty and a black lab named Bojangles (Bo). Since they passed I have not replaced them as I love to travel. Since retirement I have gone on two River Cruises—down the Danube and Rhone. I got to see Notre Dame before it burned. I did a land tour of Australia–visiting Sydney, the Great Barrier Reef (where I did get in a wet suit and snorkeled amongst the fish) and Melbourne. Pre-pandemic I took a two-week vacation in St. Croix in February to escape winter. This year it’s rescheduled for April when my vaccines will kick in.

I hope you’ll consider joining us. Go here to schedule your time with us!

Interview by Masters Swimmer, Liz Kelsey.

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