Sunday, September 25, 2016

Rust Never Sleeps

Rust Never Sleeps is an album by Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young and American band Crazy Horse. It was released on July 2, 1979, by Reprise Records.[3] Most of the album was recorded live, and then overdubbed in the studio. Young used the phrase "rust never sleeps" as a concept for his tour with Crazy Horse to avoid artistic complacency and try more progressive, theatrical approaches to performing live.
We took our team to a ½ day conference meet with 3 other teams today. We haven’t been on the blocks since early August. We have some rust and it showed today. However, we need not fret since we are, like Young, avoiding complacency by being more progressive in our approaches to racing.
All of our racing is formed by our training. We have been working on instilling new techniques taught to us by Bob Gillett for the effective use of underwater dolphin kicking. We are far from proficient yet many of our swimmers are discovering the wisdom and value of “getting it right.”
And yes, like Young, we have a few theatrical approaches by our swimmers…life is never dull around kids!
Back to the rehearsal studio – oops, we mean pool – tomorrow.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Goals – Something Old, Something New

Nothing really new here on this topic. It is that time of the year again when we think individually and collectively about what our goals are. Goals, of course, are the map to the destination. No map, you just end up driving around. We saw a card once that said “to be sure of hitting your goals, shoot first and whatever you hit, call it your goal.”
And this isn’t really news to any of you either. When you hear something you have a small amount of retention. When you read the same thing, your retention goes up somewhat. When you write your goal your success rate goes up quite a bit. When you see your goal daily, or even more, your success rate improves dramatically.
Why? Because we humans move toward and become like that which we see, hear, feel and envision being true about us. If you examine your spot in life right this moment you will see that this is indeed true. You get, most of the time, that which you actively seek.
We had a chat with a friend today who asked, “So what’s your team look like for the coming season?” We said, “It sure looks different than it did last year and we lost some firepower due to graduation. However, we have willing and able athletes and we know how to coach so we will be fine.” That is a goal statement.
But this is perhaps newsworthy. What do most young people (at least teenagers and up) look at 30-150 times a day? Yup, their phone. What if they put their goals on the screen saver? Potentially a game changer…

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fort Lauderdale & Rio

We spent the week in Fort Lauderdale at the annual ASCA Coaches Clinic. If you are a coach and not yet a member we urge you to become one…invest in your profession, education and get inspired all for way less than a cup of coffee a day. The clinic was of course anchored by the accomplishments of Team USA at the Rio Olympics.
A few impressions from that theme are as follows:
Look at the swimming IQ of your team – watch, react and appreciate all the swimmers work and their workout swims…Team USA built on those swims in training camp
Learn to touch the wall ahead of the others…this was a key mantra if you will…USA garnered something like 12 of its total 33 medals by a combined 2.7 seconds…they were extremely focused on touching the wall ahead of as many as possible
Ask the question of your team “When did the switch go on for you?”…every swimmer at the top has an identifiable moment in their career when that has happened…know when that was for you
Don’t assume anything – cover all the bases
As a coach you must fight for excellence for your swimmers. It isn’t cheap. You must commit to it and as a club coach you may not get the credit or the limelight.
In its ad on this month’s back inside cover of Swimming World, Arena has a quote from Mahatma Gandhi that pretty much summarizes the difference between podium swims and the 5 other swimmers…a harsh assessment but more often than not true…
“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Getting It Right

We are a little bit like proud parents after watching our offspring do something remarkable. The following came to us last week from Mitch. We know we did right by him and that he got “IT”…so proud of our efforts and his progress…pats on all the backs all the way around. Thanks for sharing Mitch…You got it right!

“Hey Don!
Just got out of my first college practice...still hasn't set in that I'm swimming at D1 school. Seemed like yesterday I was sitting in your car wondering if I should even swim. I just wanted to thank you for everything you've done for me over the past 3 years. I still remember the night I came as a scrawny/moody kid to the Bay Area to check out NorthBay. I knew immediately that NBA was the place I wanted to be because everyone was so happy. Ken was poking kids with a noodle...and he was the head coach. It was such a weird concept for me that people could actually swim fast and have fun. I definitely had my fair share of pity parties and screw ups as a Tuna, but you were always there to talk me off the ledge. I've still got some work to do in that department, but I can't thank you enough for helping me grow up. You made me realize that nobody really remembers how fast you went in our sport or in life. What they really remember is what kind of person you were. You helped me to understand that my role is to be not Mitch the superstar, but Mitch the leader. For this, I will be eternally grateful. I can't wait to see what NBA's gonna do this year - I'll most certainly be keeping tabs. Keep in touch and all the best for this year mate.”

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Value of Failure

We stumbled upon a blog post from Jeff Kubiak and Eric Ewald today, gotta love the internet. We actually know Jeff personally…a most excellent swimmer and coach who now appears to be a renowned educator. Anyway, the subject was failure and its importance in the role of success…in all walks of life.
It resonated with us in particular since this Tuesday is our first day back in the water. We haven’t had much interaction with the team for the better part of a couple of weeks, which feels like a much longer period of time than it actually is.
We know as coaches we feel energized and ready to move forward and suspect that most if not all of our swimmers feel the same. The ones who may not feel so are perhaps the ones who missed some success last season, at least in their eyes.
The ball player who hit a home run last night cannot wait to get to the ballpark today; the one who struck out 3 times, maybe not so much.
One of our recurring themes this year is grit…defined as” the tendency to sustain interest in an effort toward very long term goals” (thanks Jim Richardson!).
From Kubiak and Ewald we get this: “Failure + Perseverance = Success”
Michael Jordan missed more than 9,000 shots. He said he was entrusted to take the game winning shot and missed 300 times.
Point: we all fail and we need to use it, not shy away from it. As coaches we need to keep reassuring our athletes on this point…you cannot succeed without failing.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

From Humble Beginnings

One of the compelling aspects of the Olympic Games is the human interest stories that emerge for both super stars and back in the pack athletes. We find it interesting to see that none have had any success handed to them. Everyone earns what they get.
Then we started thinking about how those athletes are supported by parents and coaches and teammates. This led us to thinking about the origins of those supportive members of any athlete’s circle.
My Dad, Guthrie Swartz, began his career as a minister in October of 1946 – age 20. He is still alive and well at 90, living independently and driving; he has a silver Honda Insight so you may want to give him a little space if you see him on the freeway!
He shared with me a handwritten letter from September 28, 1946 from H. Edward Hooper who was the Clerk of the Harwinton Congregational Church. In read in part, “It was voted unanimously to extend to you a call to serve as Pastor of our church at an annual salary of $1600 plus 5 tons of coal plus the electric bill at the parsonage.
That in my eyes is indeed a humble beginning. He has influenced thousands of church members at about ten churches over his career.
It made me think about my own beginnings in coaching in 1966, earning $4 per hour. Indeed every coach out there, regardless of your sport, has had a humble beginning. And for whatever reason you kept at it and collectively we have influenced millions of young people. Every now and then one ends up in an Olympic uniform. Those that don’t are just as valuable to the community they serve, be it local or global.
Smile and take a small bow. Sport has been good for all of us.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

This is How We Move

As we reflect on our successes and missteps of the season just ending we are undoubtedly like many of our swimmers. We are wondering about missed opportunities and marveling at transformations. This takes place both team wide and individually.
We are reminded while watching the Futures meet at Stanford that humans (and groups of humans – teams) are constantly in motion travelling toward that upon which they are focusing.
You must choose between that which you want and that which you want to avoid. The former will lead you to the promised land. The latter will lead you to the dark side.
The old adage comes to mind; winners see what they want while losers see what they want to avoid. Want to finish a race with power then focus on it. If you focus on not dying in a swim you are most assuredly going to fade, sometimes spectacularly so.
Teams move in the same direction. Want a team full of positive, supportive and trustworthy athletes? Then you must as a coach talk about that, recognize it and call into question those who don’t “fit” your desired model.
Want to be upbeat? Then go do it and dump negativity whenever and wherever you see it. Hold yourself and those around you to the standard which emulates your goal.
These are all conscious choices we make daily as we move through the often whimsical forces of life. When you evaluate your season be honest.
Choice is powerful. You are responsible for who you are and who you will become.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Season End Keeping It Simple

The end of season meet is upon us all, swimmers from Olympian to National to Age Grouper, parents and coaches of same.
Here is a basic primer of how to get what you have earned. Your “bank account” is as full as it is going to be this season. Now figure out how to spend it all…empty the bank.
Swimmers; all you need is equal parts of trust and courage…trust that you will do your best and courage to put aside any doubts and fears. When the moment comes – and it does in darn near every race – when you find yourself wondering if you can make it to the touchpad simply say “GO!”…as many times with as much emotion as you need. Keep it simple.
Parents; just love your swimmer…stay away from advice…feed them the same no matter the result…keep things light…let them get their own towel, snack bar and water. Keep it simple.
Coaches; you are the steady rock. Stay in character, be calm. Tell the truth. Most important perhaps is to use a teaching moment if it arises…know what to say to them if the swim doesn’t work out.
Keep it simple.
This is the time of year when less is actually more.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Planning vs. A Microwave

Since being at Olympic Trials we have been thinking about the direction of our program, defining it and then implementing a plan. We decided that it is in our team’s best interest to develop a 4 year cycle. The goal will be to put as many swimmers at Trials in 2020 and give any a shot at a second swim or making the team the best opportunity to achieve that goal.
We had four swimmers at this year’s event, 2 who are still at our club level and 2 who had dual representation with their universities and our club. None of them had cuts 4 years ago. 2 were not even on the team 4 years ago.
Point – a lot can happen in 4 years. Your promising 13 year old without cuts today can make them in 4 years. Any of the 4 who were there this summer can improve in 4 years.
We have to make the statement of intention publicly so all will know what the center of our target looks like. No one is excluded, though naturally many will exclude themselves due to training neglect or development of other interests.
We attempt to “coach” all swimmers on our team while acknowledging the reality that some only get “trained” while others actually ask for and are susceptible to being coached. Also, being willing to be coached doesn’t mean you will get to Trials. We are of the belief that if you only train you probably won’t make it to Trials. We talk about this openly; we play no favorites; we are an equal opportunity team…everyone has the opportunity and they must own it. We facilitate; they swim.
A couple of weeks ago we were listening to a radio interview being conducted at San Diego in conjunction with MLB’s All-Star game. Respected baseball authority Tom Verducci was asked why the San Diego Padres (host of the game this year) faired so poorly over such a long stretch of time. They have made the playoffs very infrequently yet reside in a baseball rich area of the country with excellent weather and great living conditions. His comment burned in our minds. “You cannot microwave a championship”. You must plan, build, invest and coach like crazy…over the long haul.
That’s exactly what we are doing…beginning yesterday.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

This One’s for the Coaches Out There

Paul Lundgren swims on our Masters team. He contributes mightily to our program. He is a deep thinker and highly respected distance athlete (he has attempted to swim across the Sea of Cortez twice). His book, “Where Mountains Come to Swim”, subtitled “A journey into the mind of a man training to swim across the Sea of Cortez” is available through He sent us the following which made us laugh instantly; reminding us that laughter is indeed the best medicine. You will appreciate Joe Namath’s quote.

"Gentlemen, it is better to have died a small boy than to fumble the football" - John Heisman  
"I make my practices real hard because if a player is a quitter, I want him to quit in practice, not in a game." – Bear Bryant / Alabama
"It isn't necessary to see a good tackle, you can hear it!” - Knute Rockne / Notre Dame  
"At Georgia Southern, we don't cheat. That costs money, and we don't have any." – Erik Russell / Georgia Southern
"The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely to be the one who dropped it."  -  Lou Holtz / Arkansas - Notre Dame
"When you win, nothing hurts."  -  Joe Namath / Alabama
"A school without football is in danger of deteriorating into a medieval study hall."  -  Frank Leahy / Notre Dame
"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."  -  Woody Hayes / Ohio State
"I don't expect to win enough games to be put on NCAA probation.  I just want to win enough to warrant an investigation."  -  Bob Devaney / Nebraska  

"In Alabama , an atheist is someone who doesn't believe in Bear Bryant."  -  Wally Butts / Georgia
"I never graduated from Iowa.  But I was only there for two terms - Truman's and Eisenhower's."  –  Alex Karras / Iowa
"My advice to defensive players is to take the shortest route to the ball, and arrive in a bad humor.”  -  Bowden Wyatt / Tennessee
"I could have been a Rhodes Scholar except for my grades."  - Duffy Daugherty / Michigan State
"Always remember Goliath was a 40 point favorite over David."  -  Shug Jordan / Auburn   
"I asked Darrell Royal, the coach of the Texas Longhorns, why he didn't recruit me ."   He said,"Well, Walt, we took a look at you, and you weren't any good."  -  Walt Garrison / Oklahoma State 

"Son, you've got a good engine, but your hands aren't on the steering wheel."  -  Bobby Bowden / Florida State

"Football is NOT a contact sport, it is a collision sport.  Dancing IS a contact sport."  -  Duffy Daugherty / Michigan State
After USC lost 51-0 to Notre Dame, his post-game message to his team was, "All those who need showers, take them."  -  John McKay / USC
"If lessons are learned in defeat, our team is getting a great education.”  -  Murray Warmath / Minnesota
"The only qualifications for a lineman are to be big and dumb.  To be a back, you only have to be dumb."   -  Knute Rockne / Notre Dame
"We live one day at a time and scratch where it itches."   -  Darrell Royal / Texas   
"We didn't tackle well today, but we made up for it by not  blocking."   -  John McKay / USC
"I've found that prayers work best when you have big players."   -  Knute Rockne / Notre Dame
Ohio State’s Urban Meyer on one of his players: “He doesn't know the meaning of the word fear. In fact, I just saw his grades and he doesn't know the meaning of a lot of words.”
Why do Tennessee fans wear orange? So they can dress that way for the game on Saturday, go hunting on Sunday, and pick up trash on Monday.
What does the average Alabama player get on his SATs? Drool.
How many Michigan State freshmen football players does it take to change a light bulb? None. That's a sophomore course.
How did the Auburn football player die from drinking milk? The cow fell on him.
Two Texas A&M football players were walking in the woods. One of them said, "Look, a dead bird."The other looked up in the sky and said,"Where?"

What do you say to a Florida State University football player dressed in a three-piece suit? "Will the defendant please rise."
If three Rutgers football players are in the same car, who is driving? The police officer.
How can you tell if a Clemson football player has a girlfriend? There's tobacco juice on both sides of the pickup truck.
What do you get when you put 32 Arkansas cheerleaders in one room? A full set of teeth.
University of Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh is only going to dress half of his players for the game this week; the other half will have to dress themselves.
How is the Kansas football team like an opossum? They play dead at home and get killed on the road.
Why did the Tennessee linebacker steal a police car? He saw "911" on the side and thought it was a Porsche.

How do you get a former Illinois football player off your porch? Pay him for the pizza.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Observations from Omaha

We are competing at the 2016 Olympic Team Trials in Omaha this week. This is the best clinic a coach could attend since in addition to conversations and information sharing among the coaches we are able to watch the fastest swimmers in the US ply their trade.
The following represents some of the highlights according to our point of view; yours of course will be different and feel free to share them as you wish:
Never underestimate the power of “NOW”…if this is your chance then you must go for it. You can never tell what will happen over the next 4 years and how that will affect your career. As Elvis said, “It’s now or never…”
Sometimes it takes a while to get where you want to go. Tom Shields was a high school phenom going into college at CAL. It took him 6 years but he is an Olympian today.
Tempos and stroke counts vary by individual. Your task is to find your sweet spot. The stop watch will help you find both.
Michael Phelps is the only one here who can put his hands in the water in fly without a splash. He does it with a slightly bent arm (almost looks like freestyle) supported by a powerful thrust from his kick moments before his hands enter. He is able to hold his body from shoulder to knee rather flat in the water.
If you want to go farther under water with your dolphin kicks you need to push off deeper…such a simple concept but it takes a while to master it…and be ok with less oxygen.
In long course if you over amp your first lap you will pay dearly for that indulgence. It’s the old “you cannot win a race on the first lap but you can lose it on the first lap.” We have seen it here in 100, 200, 400 races…all strokes…men and women. You must learn how to ride the enthusiasm curve without investing your energy stores. We have seen numerous swimmers who appear to be shot with a tranquillizer dart as close as 10 meters from the wall. Margins for error in this meet are measured in hundredths and tenths of a second. 
Elapsed time is not the only measure of progress.
Finally for today, develop your team with a 4 year cycle. Go back and look at your swimmers and determine who can be at this level in 4 years… but refrain from naming them aloud. Tell the team that you are implementing (if this is your first time at it) this program and then highlight some of the markers along the way. This is goal setting over a longer period than many use. When your swimmers know what you as a coach are aiming at it will give them clarity. The ones who want to be all in will make themselves visible. And there is no way for you as a coach to know today who can do the work and be available in 4 years. So open your doors wide and accept as many as are willing to do the work, make the sacrifices and get the big payoff.

Friday, June 24, 2016

And The Winner Is…

2016 Olympic Trials begin this Sunday. Over the next 8 days swimmers will be selected to the 2016 US Olympic Team based upon their performance at the Trials. Times swum previously do not count in the selection process. In the individual events only the fastest two times – swum in the Finals – are considered. Prelim times and entry times are just that – history. Here is a look at the favorites based upon the psych sheet in the order these events will be contested at Trials.
At the end of the meet some of these names will be on the 2016 Team. Others will not, having been replaced by those not yet considered to be a favorite. And that is precisely why the meet is held…entry times are only a statement of previous behavior. While that can be viewed as an indicator, possibly even a predictor of future performance we know that it is not 100% a guarantee of anything. There are always a few who make the team that no one is seriously considering today. Conversely there are a few who are favored who will fall short…by a little or a lot.
Think for a moment about the lead the Warriors had after 4 games. They were up 3 games to 1. Cleveland was down 3 to 1 and had to swim 3 in a row, 2 of them on the road. No team had ever done that before…but now one team has done it.
Omaha will have several similar stories on Monday, July 4th.
(see the entire entry list on the USA Swimming website…great reading!)