As a coach I continue to pursue excellence professionally while simultaneously encouraging our swimmers to do the same. My wife posed an interesting question this week as we watched the swimming coverage of the Olympic Games on NBC.
"If all the swimmers are preparing for the race and all believe that he/she will prevail why do some do so and others not?" The question took on an even more intriguing dimension as Michael Phelps pursued one Gold Medal after another. When you look at the finish of the men's 100 meter butterfly - Phelps winning by .01 second - you wonder if he had a greater commitment to the goal than the other swimmer. If you look at the finish of that race under water you will see a frantic but well timed final short stroke by Phelps while the other swimmer reached for the wall and glided in to the touch pad - with his head up of all things!
Such is life. At some point, I believe, we do actually will ourselves to a place or an accomplishment that we really want. And by the same token, if we wish but do not actually believe then we usually get what we believe, not that for which we wish, but do not believe.
All this drama on the TV is good for our imaginations. We have several swimmers on our team who have Olympic talent. As coaches we keep steering them in that direction. If today, for instance, a swimmer is 22 seconds from a possible Gold Medal in London in 2012, we can chart a course for that improvement over the next 4 years. Today it may seem wishful thinking but not real belief that in 4 years it could be realized. However, if broken down into smaller segments - say 4 seconds improvement this next year - then similar next year etc - then maybe we can get there.
I am quite certain, without actual proof, that the great inventors of all time didn't walk into the lab one given day and invent - what, the electric light bulb, the radio, the Polaroid film process. It took development over time until one day the actual final pieces fell into place.
Phelps' great achievements this week, if we are to believe his public press comments, came from much earlier in discussions with his coach Bob Bowman. They talked about dreaming at the highest level; about reaching a place no one had ever been...and then working on it daily in the pool while building the belief system to support the dream.