Monday, February 4, 2019

The Power of Discouragement

Chapter 11 of Chop Wood Carry Water is all about the power of discouragement as it relates to human growth and developing potential.
The actual word “discouragement” means a lack of courage. We tell our team that to our knowledge no one on our team lacks courage…if nothing else than the simple act of getting up on a block and racing down the lane with no one to be held accountable except you. That, in our opinion, is exactly what courage looks like.
Disappointment is very understandable; discouragement is not.
Akira, the sensei at the samurai warrior training camp, is having this discussion with John – the young man who wants most of all to be an archer samurai warrior – about discouragement. John is learning about the process and dealing with ups and downs is paramount to his success.
Akira says there are six things you can do to fuel your heart with encouragement:
1 – What you watch
2 – What you read
3 – What you listen to
4 – Who you surround yourself with
5 – How you talk to yourself
6 – What you visualize
The very best part about this process is that these 6 items are all choices each person can make every day. Keep reminding your swimmers that their greatest power in life is the power to choose.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Results Are In…

And the winners are, to no one’s surprise, the ones who did the work. From a coaching perspective this is so refreshing. Shortcuts do not work. From an athlete’s perspective it is equally reassuring…do the work and get the prize. Don’t do the work, no payoff.
We think our last post had to do with the preparation for the December shave meets and what would the impact be of not being able to train regularly for 10 days in mid-November due to the bad air quality in Northern California.
Ken had texted workouts to each of the swimmers encouraging them to find indoor water and do their best at keeping training going. We could not find a pool with enough available space to bring all 35 kids at one time. It would be piecemeal and up to them.
Each of them admitted at the debriefing session after the meet that they had done some of the work but not all and even some was not done with the same level of intensity as if the group had been together. All of this information was to be expected.
As we watched the racing unfold both in Federal Way at the Husky Invite and in Austin at Winter Juniors one clear cut impression was made. To a person, all those who had trained diligently from September, before the bad air, had an excellent meet. One young man even made his Winter cut at Husky in the 200 breast. Even 1650 distances were not affected. Our sample size was small (2) but both guys had solid swims, one 15 year old dropped to 16:38…he was 10:03 at the 1000 so he had a bit of a fade but still very solid.
Work works. In this era of quick fixes and short attention spans little is as satisfying as a reward hard sought and won.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Artificial Maturity

This week’s title is inspired by Coach Richard Thornton (SRVLA) and NBA Masters swimmer Brenda Lein.
Richard told us one of the best recent books he is reading is “Chop Wood Carry Water” by Joshua Medcalf. Brenda is a bona fide trainer and racer on our massive NBA Masters team.
The book is brilliant in that the chapters are a mere 2-4 pages. We are actually reading one chapter a week with our team. They love it and look forward to it.
Brenda asked in workout today about a term she read in an online article. The term was “drive from (or maybe it was “with”) your shoulders”. She asked what that meant and we said we had no idea. Since the author of the piece didn’t elaborate she (nor we) had much to go on. All we could do was make an educated guess…not the same thing as actually knowing.
Chapter 4 in the book is entitled “Artificial Maturity”. The book is about a teenager, John, who enlists in a Samurai Warrior training camp after high school graduation. His goal is to become an archer as a samurai warrior.
In the 4th chapter John’s sensei Akira asks John to restring his bow after the bow string snaps. Akira asks him if he has done it before. John says “Not personally. But I’ve seen it done.” Akira says, “So you know how to restring it?”
John, “Of course! I’ve read about it dozens of times and I’ve watched a lot of videos on YouTube.”
Special note to parents: just because it is on the internet and YouTube doesn’t make it so. Be smarter than that – your swimmer and coach will be thankful.
Well, you can imagine John’s inability to re-string the bow based upon his knowledge BUT lack of personal experience. The message from Akira is simple: knowing what is to be done is vastly different from being able to do it yourself.
Said another way, “It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior’s life” (this from the “Art of War”).
So our answer to Brenda was “we don’t know”. We do not know what the author was meaning when the words “drive from the shoulder” were used. We do know what those words mean but we do not know how they are being used to convey a teaching/coaching concept.
Swimmers and coaches – sensei and would be Samurai warriors – all need the same thing: clarity of purpose and clear understanding of the concept being coached/taught.
Much easier said than done. See you poolside!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Accountability & Consequences

In the process oriented swim world these two concepts, when properly entwined, give an athlete so much power s/he can do pretty much whatever they seek.
In fact we would lobby strenuously that when accountability and consequences are linked the results oriented swim world benefits immensely.
Each swimmer needs to decide (and it is extremely helpful when parents and coaches encourage this decision) s/he will be accountable for what happens and then fully accept the consequences.
If there are no consequences then there is no reinforcement of accountability.
Case in point: Let’s say a swimmer needs a 55.19 to qualify for a meet. She goes a 55.36, missing by .17. How does the result sit? What are the expectations of the swimmer?
The consequence is clear; no trip to the meet. How’s the accountability hold up? If the swimmer says she is disappointed but will keep working and eventually get her time and EARN the trip then the process is working…and eventually the result will show. It has to.
If the swimmer tries any number of machinations to reconstruct the consequence – no trip to the bigger meet – with a plea for an exception (“I was sick, I couldn’t train the week before” the list is endless) and that plea is surrendered to by the coach or parent then nothing has been learned.
Well that’s not exactly true. What has been learned is that no matter what, you can always finagle your way to what you want, even though it hasn’t been earned legitimately…and that is not how the world works. Caution here, much of the political and corporate world teaches us otherwise. But we in swimming know that politicians and corporate heads in general couldn’t get a Jr. Olympic cut let alone a National one!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Making Do

We are here in Northern California just above San Francisco which puts us about 200 miles south of the current raging fire – The Camp Fire. As of this morning the statistics are no less than very grim…and even much worse for those impacted.
We had a meet scheduled. We stopped Saturday after 90 minutes of racing due to poor and deteriorating air quality. Kids were coughing and running low on energy etc. Sunday’s events were scratched also.
Parents, swimmers and coaches were doing what they could to move past the immediate disappointment. And as we worked through that stage it became more a matter of what to do next…how to make do with what was available to us.
We said the time honored “blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape”. Jackson, a senior on our NBA team did himself proud and gave us another thought. He said he learned from the meditation master, Jack Kornfield – google him –
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
Everywhere in life it is time to learn…

Sunday, May 20, 2018

And What Today’s Youth Need is…

Definition of resilience
1: the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress
2: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change
(Also resiliency)


·       1The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
·       2The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.

We were talking with a college coach 2 weeks ago advocating for one of our swimmers. After the usual conversation we asked what he thought the differences – if any – were in this generation of high schoolers compared to those that had come before. He replied that the main thing he sees is that kids today lack the resiliency of those even a decade ago, let alone several decades ago.

He observed that pretty much every person who comes in as a freshman will, over the course of 4 years, face any number of challenges as they adjust to life on their own…academically, socially, athletically…you name it and they will be challenged, multiple times. He said he thinks today’s young people lack resiliency, especially when compared to those who have come before.

We talked a bit about how this happens discussing all the usual things…parents who do too much, coaches who do too much, thus robbing the youngster of the opportunity to grow by becoming resilient while still relatively safe in their local environs.

Failure fixed by others leaves you weakened; mistakes you overcome on your own empower you.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Begin with a Sign

More thoughts on culture; how to create yours and sustain it over time. In a recent Thought of the Day from ASCA this idea from Coach Kinel resonated, very simple and yet profound.
Thought of the Day

"You begin with just a sign, "Chesterton Swimming and Diving," and talk about pride in that. Then you win a little... Districts, then states. Put the banner up, talk about pride in that. Then you have a former swimmer go to the Olympics. Talk about pride in that.

It's just step by step. No matter what level you are at, start with the sign. Take pride."

-Coach Kevin Kinel, Chesterton High School, Indiana
Developing a Culture of Hard Work and High Expectations For Your High School Team


Then we saw this sign at the pool at Drake High School in San Anselmo, CA. More than one person put some real thought into this. It ties into itself very nicely on several levels.
So what’s your sign look like? Does it accurately portray your message? Do you have it on bag tags or kick boards? Do you talk about it regularly with your team? All athletes, coaches and parents are affected by this type of cultural reminder. Make sure everyone can see it and knows the origins and recent examples.


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!”