Coach Dan commanded The Bird to try the drill again. “Keep your eye on the ball, and watch for the movement of the sock with your peripheral vision.” And this time the slender teen snatched the tennis ball from the hand of her middle-aged coach, without being hit by the twirling sock.
“Excellent!” He held his palm up and flexed his fingers, The Bird reading his queue and tossing the ball up for him to catch. “Now, let’s add another element — Annie, if you would.”
The pony-tailed former ballerina took The Bird’s place in front of her coach, who began twirling the sock in front of the ball again. “Now, let’s add movement.” He took a quick step back, Annie shuffling forward to keep within distance. “Don’t go for the ball unless — ”
And suddenly Annie was holding the ball in her hand, holding it at eye level and peering at it as if she had just picked a delicious golden apple.
“It appears you were in distance.” Coach Dan was speaking to his fencers in his casual, self-deprecating manner which managed to capture their attention while simultaneously keeping them at ease. He then walked over to his equipment bag and retrieved several more socks, handing them to half the students with instructions to retrieve the other tennis balls that had rolled onto the cafeteria floor.
A few minutes later, he had the team in pairs, one side twirling a sock while holding a ball as they moved back and forth, the other side looking for the opportunity to snatch the ball away. Rune had lined up opposite Butch at the start of the drill, but Coach Dan switched the pairs, had Butch work with Big Paul, leaving Rune with The Bird.