Tuesday, April 24, 2018

What about Team Culture?


Daniel Coyle’s newest book, “The Culture Code” subtitled “The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups” is worth your time if you are involved in putting together any group of people with the stated intention of being successful.
He discusses the 3 skills needed: building safety, sharing vulnerability and establishing purpose. We won’t review it here today but offer this observation instead.
In our North Bay Aquatics Senior Training group we have about 45 athletes. Due to pool constraints we have 8th graders through seniors in high school. Normally we have maybe one or two 8th graders and the number in the group is more like 35. We have had several issues since the beginning of 2018 where it is apparent that as a group we currently do not have our culture working the way we would like it to be. Each of the 3 incidents were different but they all pointed to the fact that we weren’t taking very good care of each other.
As Coyle points out the word CULTURE comes from the Latin “cultus” which means “care”.
On Saturday at workout we had a group conversation and after some chatting and a really good real world training situation from Ken’s days on the University of Arizona collegiate swim team, we felt like the message had been sent. In this particular situation it was that each swimmer has different capacities for training and it will always be this way in any group. Therefore when someone is not “laying it all out there all the time” some care needs to be administered so that everyone in the group feels like they belong and have value.
Then we were flabbergasted. We asked them – teenagers all – do they have discussions at school, either formally or informally about team culture, working together, overcoming personal obstacles in a group setting…things like that. We have kids in 5 different middle schools, 4 different public high schools and 5 different private high schools. Only 2 hands went up. One from a junior who said as a freshman there were some issues in his school about inappropriate behavior centering around drug/drinking activities; one from a sophomore who said last week her school had a lecture (you can imagine how helpful that was) for 20 minutes on the general subject of group dynamics.
So, it is still reading, writing and ‘rythmatic. If you ever wondered how valuable your swim team is in the development of young people into fully functioning adults…we say wonder no more.
10x100 on the 1:10 is different from 10x100 on 3 minutes…but in both sets the team culture is critical to the outcome of each person…make no mistake about that.

Monday, April 16, 2018

More about Parenting and College


“Over drinks one night with friends, a Palo Alto mother announced that her son just came home with a B and she said to him, “What are you thinking? You think you’re going to get into Stanford with a grade like that? You’re going to get into Arizona State and if you think I’m going to pay for Arizona State, I’m not!” This mother obviously doesn’t think highly of Arizona State. Apparently she didn’t know that it’s in the top ten U.S. producers of Fulbright Scholars, that one alumna is Susan Cartsonis, producer of the second-highest-grossing romantic comedy movie of all time, What women Want, or that the designer of her very own handbag – Kate Spade – went there.
  
The truth is that most of us have no idea how to judge a college’s suitability for our kids. We salivate over the U.S. News college rankings, even though the list mostly reflects how hard a school is to get into and what a group of other educators think about it, which is a function of how hard it is to get into.”
  
The entire Chapter 19 in Julie Lythcott-Haims book Howto Raise an Adult”, talks about having a wider mind-set about colleges. There are several different lists and actual discussions about how certain schools view test scores vs. grades vs. recommendations. There are even a few top notch schools that don’t even look at test scores.
  
If your swimmer is thinking about college this chapter is highly informative and up to date. If you are curious about the process we encourage you to check it out.

Friday, April 6, 2018

How To Raise An Adult


In her ground breaking book subtitled “Break free of the over parenting trap and prepare your kid for successJulie Lythcott-Haims writes clearly from an informed perspective. She is a recent Dean of Freshman at Stanford University and a parent of two growing teenagers.
She traces the change in the way parenting has evolved from the days before the baby boomers to present day. What began as a desire to keep your child safe in the early 80’s to play dates to supervised sports to present day practices in all areas where parents do everything possible for their kids to insure success it is easy to see how we have gotten to this place at this point in time.
She remarks that in the last couple of decades there are many more parents on campus at universities – including Stanford – than ever before. Instead of raising kids to be self-sufficient parents are increasingly making sure the kids are ok by being with them every step of the way.
And the instantaneously available information – thanks to the smart phone – makes it possible.
What to do then?
We haven’t finished reading the book yet but we can tell you one of the parts that resonated with us was this quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “There are two things children should get from their parents: roots and wings.”
We need to give them basic life skills and then let them figure it out. Pretty simple yet challenging to do when most around you are doing everything for theirs. And we are led to believe that the college (yup, even the high school, middle school and kindergarten) our kids get into will make or break their future success. This of course is promoted in all sorts of ways, some subtle and some not so subtle, by those very schools. It is a business model folks.
Oh, there is plenty of over coaching as well from well- meaning coaches in all sports. We see it on pool decks wherever we go racing. Roots and wings; gotta remember that.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Nothing Really New Here


We returned a week ago from Orlando and the always stimulating, exciting and very fast NCSA Championships. The following are our observations in no particular order of those who swam up front:
Underwater dolphin kicks at quick tempo – being under isn’t fast in and of itself
Body position off walls
Body position in the turn itself
Fly and breaststroke release hands off the gutter
Back starts – we’re going to get a wedge even though most never race using them since the wedge gives a real sense of the explosiveness available off of the start
Streamlines underwater into breakouts
Kick power and kick size – if your kick is too far out of the water all you do is splash a lot
Entry of hands on free, fly and back – very precise
The shape of your breaststroke
Speed is needed for ALL events, ALL distances (Claire Tuggle 26.5 last 50 in her 500)
Leg power off walls
We’d be interested in observations from any of you who were just at any of the recent NCAA Championships.
The question remains what do you do in the following situation? You give a set of say 10x100/1:30 progressive (descending) 1-5, 6-10…if a swimmer will not kick an underwater dolphin or three do you let her continue since she is descending but not using the walls the way the fastest do in the big meets? Do you praise the result or do you start over since the big meet skill is being ignored?

Monday, March 19, 2018

Proactive vs. Reactive


All people, athletes, teams and organizations go through all sorts of things as life goes along. Indeed life is a never ending chain of events. These are linked together by time.
The interesting thing is that these events don’t shape us but rather our response to them that determines the outcome, thus defining our shape.
And it seems to us, through observation, that those people, athletes, teams and organizations that are proactive have a much higher, better and more effective level of outcome than those that are reactive.
Proactive seems ahead of the game; reactive seems to always play catchup.
Ohio State football program looks at it this way: E + R = O
Events + Response = Outcomes
The full story is below…has Dave Krotiak says, “Have an awesome day!”

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Real Culture of American Swimming


by Don Heidary, February 26, 2018


As there has been a great deal in the media of late on the "culture of American Swimming", I am compelled to offer a vastly different perspective, and I believe with all my heart, a more accurate one. Over the past forty years, I have coached in the summer-leagues, at the high school level, and as a proud member of USA Swimming. What I have seen, and have been blessed to be a part of, is a culture that is anything but predatory, abusive, and certainly not profit-driven.

What lies beneath the surface of the sport of swimming are the greatest lessons of life, of relationships, of personal growth, and of athletic development. I have seen countless children learn invaluable social skills, overcome debilitating fear, develop profound self-esteem and self-awareness, build life-long friendships, and discover mentors and programs that changed the trajectory of their lives. I have seen swimmers find a home away from home and a second family, and often a respite from life's stresses and challenges. I have seen kids learn things they cannot learn in a classroom or at a dinner table, such as work ethic, resilience, sacrifice, humility and teamwork. I have seen young adults learn to celebrate the success of others, transcend pain thresholds, discover acts of courage within themselves, and begin to see life through the lens of team, service, and leadership. I have seen kids that never found "success" in athletic endeavors, find it their role as an inspiration and a role model.

I have seen teenagers contemplate the tipping point of their physical and mental capacity and discover a strength within that they never thought possible. I have seen kids' academic priority shift from indifference to mastery as a result of the transforming self-discipline learned through swimming. I have seen young student-athletes redefine their academic focus, social priorities, and their predisposition to work and challenge with the possibility and opportunity of being a collegiate athlete. I have witnessed countless swimming careers evolve from nervous children on the stairs of their learn-to-swim programs to high school seniors giving emotional farewell speeches to teams that changed their lives.

Against the backdrop of a culture of (un)social media, technological dependence, and false relevance, the sport of swimming and athletics in general, offers human interaction and relationship dynamics based on depth of character and contribution. Approval or acceptance comes only from earned respect and relationships developed. In swimming, a child's social life is real life, and it is developed and experienced in the challenge of training, in the unification of competition, and in daily team interaction.

And the culture of coaching has been nothing short of inspirational. I am talking about the ninety-nine percent that define it, that create the cultures described above, the real culture of American swimming. Coaches are individuals who do not refer to their vocation as "work", view it as a job, or track their hours. Coaches are by and large predisposed to enhancing the quality of the lives they serve: children and athletes. The coaches that I know define success not in pay or recognition but in a life made better, a goal achieved, a note of gratitude, or in a parent's acknowledgement that they have seen profound change in their child. The coaches that I know view their role as servants, as leaders, as mentors, and most significantly as privileged. They understand that few athletes will become Olympians but all can become leaders on the team, role models in their community, and "Olympian" in character. The coaches that I know went against the norms of professional pursuit to follow a passion and to make a difference. Most have sacrificed financial security for societal contribution.

An illustration of the role and relevance of many coaches came in a parent's comment many years ago, that has always resonated with me. It was made against the backdrop of the extreme social pressures that kids face, when a mother said, "Don't you understand, you (coaches) are the last line of defense."

Beyond coaching, as a volunteer, I have been a member of the Board of Directors of Pacific Swimming (Northern California), USA Swimming, and of the American Swimming Coaches Association. I have seen the inside of the volunteer culture of the sport, and it is driven first and foremost by service; countless individuals working behind the scenes to support children and the athletic process. These people are true servants and in my opinion, the silent hero's and profound examples of selfless support. They are volunteers who spend up to forty hours a week in support of the sport and its members, officials who give up weekends to officiate so that the opportunity to compete is never in question, and committees who work tirelessly to create opportunities outside of the pool to enhance the experience of the sport. They themselves become role model for our athletes.

While the sport has been profoundly successful, its achievement has not been manufactured in board rooms or through corporate sponsors. It has been fostered in learn-to-swim programs, summer-league teams, YMCA's, club teams, and collegiate programs throughout the country. It has been nurtured by caring, professional, and driven coaches, supported by selfless volunteers, and it has been given structure by organizations grounded in methodical plans of athlete development, teambuilding, and coach-swimmer partnerships.

The real culture of swimming and the sport itself is a gift to our children and to our society. The benefits are immeasurable and invaluable. Over 500,000 children and young adults enter a swimming pool each year, some from the shallow end to learn a life skill, some from the deep end to achieve at a high level, with the vast majority falling somewhere in the middle. They choose the sport and the commitment because of the dedication of coaches and because of the culture of their team, not in spite of them. And every day, tens of thousands of coaches step onto a pool deck to help develop an athlete to his or her potential, to build a team and a team culture, and to help shape lives.

This is what lies beneath the surface of our sport.

The following is an excerpt from a letter written many years ago by a graduating athlete. It poignantly reveals the impact the sport can make far beyond the competitive process. While this is one letter, it may very well represent hundreds of thousands of teenagers who have benefitted from the sport of swimming. This is the culture of swimming that too few see or read about.

"I can only imagine where I would be today, right now, if I had never joined this team back in seventh grade. In middle school, I found myself, like so many others do, at a crossroads of sorts. My best friends were making choices that made me uncomfortable on many levels, and I could feel myself slipping down with them. Looking back, I can see just how far I was about to fall. In joining this team, my life went from slipping downwards, and slipping fast, to something entirely different and profoundly positive. This team, its coaches and teammates, has changed my life in countless ways. It has not only shaped me into the person I am today, but it has made me realize who that person is. Because of this team, I know my values, and I'm standing by them.

I have so much gratitude for everything the team has done for me over the past seven years. To the coaches, I owe not only my career in the pool, but also relationships that I consider some of the most important in my life. I know that there are very few people in the world that would do for me what you would in a heartbeat, and I cannot express how thankful I am to have you in my life. And to my teammates and amazing friends, well, I love you and I could not be more grateful. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart."

So, I acknowledge and thank the thousands of coaches, administrators, and volunteers who work every day tirelessly, unselfishly, and with the highest character. They create, not only a wonderfully positive sport, but a sport that changes lives, a sport that I believe is the finest and most important sport in the world.

Don Heidary

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Pushing Limits

Craig Carson, Brentwood Seawolves, sent us a WSJ article from the Sat/Sun Feb 3-4 edition in the Review Section titled Head Games (if you want the full storycheck it out). The article chronicled the history of our understanding of human limits, how we test for them and how we might overcome previously interpreted limitations.

A loose summary is that the brain physiologically is wired to keep us from killing ourselves, literally. When it perceives we are doing damage to ourselves through feedback it receives during exertion, it “makes” us ease off. But the science today tells us that “the feeling that you can go no further is just that – a feeling.”
In a 2014 experiment researchers “showed cyclists images of smiling faces in imperceptible 16-millisecond flashes. The exposure boosted cycling performance by 12% over the level recorded with frowning faces projected in the same way. The sight of the smile didn’t lower the subjects’ heartrates or lactate levels. Instead it subtly altered how their brains interpreted those signals, evoking feelings of ease that bled into their perception of how hard they were pedaling.”
That is very powerful science and armed with this knowledge we believe that our athletes can do more work at higher levels of discomfort thus achieving better physiological adaptation…and correspondingly find higher levels of confidence that ultimately fuel performance.
The simplest and perhaps most effective tool is the ability to train yourself using motivational self-talk. There are many who will poo-hoo this calling it hokey. However, there is an ever growing body of scientific research that shows it is very real. It is pretty simple; you replace negative self-talk “man I am cooked” with “keep pushing, you’re doing well.”
Thanks Craig for the eye opener!

Monday, February 12, 2018

A Closer Look at the Sprint 500

We came back from Iowa (Winter Juniors) frustrated with our 500 swims. We either got out and were unable to bring it home, or we went out too slow and looked good at the end but were out of the race. Ken took the time (huge help!) to provide the stats below. The 250 is the split for the first 10 laps, the 500 the time for the total and the delta is the difference. The fastest swim was Zane Grothe’s 4:07.2…out in a 2:03.1 back in a 2:04.1 – a 1.0 delta. In that swim 2nd place was out in 2:03.5 and finished with a 2:07.2 for a 3.7 delta.

 
The one common denominator in all 1st place swims was the get out speed. This coupled with an ability to get home made the difference. So that much is obvious after looking at the data. The stopwatch never lies.

The question is what goes into the make-up of a swim like that? Our thinking today is fairly simple. You must have enough speed to be at the front or very close to the front. Then you must be able to finish faster than your competition. Duh...



How do you train for that?  The 500 is a long sprint. You must have the physiology to do both the front and back halves. You must train for speed and plain old fashioned toughness. You must be able to withstand the agony (real and imagined) caused by early speed and the accompanying buildup of fatigue; physiologically, mentally, and emotionally.

Everyone has their own interpretation of how to do that. There are no shortcuts around the preparation for this extended effort. Anyone who is unable or unwilling (two different things) to put forth the effort is just kidding him/herself about a top level 500.






 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Here's a Couple of Sets


This first one comes from Gordy Westerberg out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. He shares sets regularly. We liked this one because we are referring to our 200 gang as middle sprinters and our 500 gang as long sprinters. This set seemed to give both groups something they could sink their teeth into…as Ken likes to say, “They buy into it…more likely to own it”.

10x400s done as 4-3-2-1

at 5:30 (keep it relaxed), 1 at 4:30 strong
at 5:30 (keep it relaxed), 1 at 4:30 stronger

at 5:30 (keep it relaxed), 1 at 4:30 fast

at 5:30 (keep it relaxed)

We saw some really fast 400s on #9! THANKS GORDY, keep them coming.

Then we plagiarized his set into one that gave us some pulling then swimming using Gordy’s rest reduction. We then added in some fast 50’s with increasing rest. We have stress days 3 times per week and like to have them go for speed each of those days after some more aerobic based capacity work.

70 mins of work = 5000 yards total: all pulling with ankle straps and pull buoys; all stronger, getting faster 400’s were swim as were the 50’s.

[3x400 pull - straps and PB – keep it smooth and even paced - intervals are 5:30 or 6
Then 1x400 swim/4:30 or 5 make it strong
Then 8x50 on .35 or .40 time average] rest interval +/- .60 get pull gear back on

[2x400 pull As Above then 1x400 stronger then 6x50 time ave on .40 or .45] RI +/- .60

[1x400 pull AA then 1x400 super strong – fast oh yeah! Then 4x50 time ave .45 or .50] RI @.60

{{1x400 swim; get up and rock the pool then 2x50 time ave on .50 or .60; be thinking I am finishing my 400IM or 500 free}}

Monday, January 1, 2018

Team Culture


Looking ahead to the New Year with great anticipation we have been spending a fair amount of time discussing our team’s culture. We are talking about what it is we want to emphasize and how to choose the words to describe the path. Culture defines that path; the clearer the culture, the brighter the light on the path.

Pete Carroll is the Head Coach for the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL. He has a record of success that is admirable. The NFL according to the players stands for Not For Long; it is very challenging to maintain a playing or coaching career. Coach Carroll has always been careful about how he defines his team’s culture.

“Always protect your team. Have peoples back; it is not about you, it's about figuring out who another person is and celebrating them. Always take care of each other no matter where you are. Show love.

No whining, complaining or excuses. Own it; is your responsibility to bring the very best.

Be early, not on time but early; show that you care about the other people and their time by organizing your life. When people are waiting on you, you are slowing down the entire system.  

How do you deal with failure? First you need to feel the pain. Change does not happen without pain. Get after it and put yourself in an emotional state of mind every day so that you get used to it. Forget the noise. Focus on great attitude, great action, great effort; those are things that you can control.”

Thanks to Coach Craig Carson, Brentwood Seawolves, for sharing this one.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Anxious


Experiencing worry, unease, or nervousness, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome…wanting something very much, typically with a feeling of unease
While in Iowa City at the Winter Junior Nationals we had an “ah-ha” moment. The air in the natatorium was decent but not perfect. Several swimmers had some difficulties breathing, especially as the days went by. Many had little or no irritation. It was difficult to say exactly who was affected and who wasn’t. For sure some were not, or figured out how to deal with the air. Several meet records were broken and even 2 or 3 pool records were set. It was a very fast meet, for many events.
And yet there was this “static” in the background about the air. One of our swimmers came up before an event on the last day with a rather panicked look saying, “I don’t think I can swim.” The statement was made because the swimmer had been around several other competitors who were coughing and complaining about how hard it is to breathe. Long story short, our swimmer swam 2 events that day and managed to deal with it. But it wasn’t easy by any means. Fears and doubts needed to be overcome and “group think” had to be put aside.
In talking about this with two other coaches later that session one of them said he worked and taught in the field of mental health. He said today’s youngsters have much higher levels of anxiety and even depression than was evident in a generation or two gone by. He said it was because today kids are not taught how to figure out rather common causes of “fears”. This can even lead to more general levels of depression. His take was that since parents today don’t let their kids learn how to deal with normal stresses they – the kids – learn how to become anxious thus creating a situation where the parent will intervene to make everything ok.
We thought about this a while and concluded that our parents never, ever, said all they wanted was for us to be happy. In fact we couldn’t ever remember hearing that phrase. Yet today we can easily recall parents saying, “All I want is for her to be happy”. Or “I just want him to be ok”.
When stressors make life difficult, kids need to figure out how to deal with the bumps in the road and make adjustments, without simply saying “I’m having a panic attack” so as to call in the reinforcements.
In the case in Iowa, there were several options everyday…an athlete’s lounge with excellent air; a leisure pool adjacent to the main pool with air noticeably better, an open gym above the main pool with sight lines to the pool and scoreboard so you could see exactly which heat was in the water. There were options. Many figured that out and chose those options and while yes, being bothered by the air, they weren’t thrown into a state of “paralysis” by it.
We – parents and coaches – need to let the kids know we are standing by as a safety net. And yet, we cannot, nor should we, solve all of life’s challenges for them.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Words of Wisdom


The American Swimming Coaches Association is the single best and greatest resource for the aspiring coach. If you haven’t joined you are missing out on a continual source of vital information. Just Google ASCA…https://swimmingcoach.org and go from there.
In the course of reorganizing the home office we saw in a 2013 Newsletter with an article by world renowned and respected Bill Sweetenham entitled “Uncomplicated Coaching”.
A couple of gems from that article:
“If you fly blind, disaster is assured, so knowledge is important; knowledge of the product…a guy getting out of bed and a sign that says – first your pants and then your shoes. The coach’s experience must always be in advance of the athlete’s talent.”
[Got a young phenom on your team?…better stay ahead of his/her talent…or he/she will move to another team]
“Too many people believe; well, I can train this way but when it comes to competition I will rise above it. The exact reverse applies. You will never compete above that level”
“Squads should have athletes training and preparing at a level of effort and commitment higher than the most talented in the group.”
3 gems that can reshape your career – athlete or coach. Thanks Bill and we just got a good idea for this week’s training. Thanks ASCA for making the wisdom available!