Sunday, July 19, 2009

Growing Pains

As businesses and teams work through these competitive and challenging times we think it is wise to use the proverbial "growing pains" as an opportunity to learn, to improve our product or service and to re-examine how we deliver the same. If you have the best product but are weak at delivering it you will soon be out of business. If your business is a swim team your "product" is perhaps more accurately described as a "service" that you provide. Again, we think the delivery of this service is what sets the strong apart from the weak. And we will be so presumptive here to suggest that it is relatively easy to draw the distinction between the strong and the weak.

Healthy teams are ones that continuously grow; the numbers of athletes are up; the financial foundation is solid; the coaching staff is growing; the swimmers are having more fun and swimming faster when it counts, meaning at the more important meets. In any given geographical area there are always at least two swim teams, usually many more. This gives the swimming public a choice. We find that folks most often vote their approval with their checkbook and their presence.

Our team here in northern California is healthy and at the same time we are experiencing growing pains. Our staff has been spending time this summer asking our swimmers to evaluate and where necessary to re-think their concept of what a team is, how it functions more effectively. In so doing we looked for examples of other successful athletic programs. This led us to an enlightening article about Pete Carroll who is the Head Coach of the football team at the University of Southern California. His teams' record over the last decade is more than impressive. He has had winning seasons, won National Championships, and been in more Bowl games etc than any other program. What caught our eye was that he has not been through a normal "win and then re-build" cycle. He just keeps on winning. Talk about consistency.

We found it instructive for our purposes working with our team to learn that Pete has only 3 rules: 1 - Protect the team; 2 - No complaining, no whining, no excuses; 3 - Be early. Pretty simple and yet these three rules encompass what you need to have a strong foundation as well as a major structure on top of that foundation.

We especially like the 2nd rule. Winners in life are accountable to themselves and their team. They don't complain because if they were to do so they would be victims. Winners are never victims...and victims are never winners.

If a person says "I couldn't do "X" because..." they are off-loading the responsibility for their performance onto someone or something else. They are abdicating their responsibility and being a victim. A winner simply says, "I didn't do it today, tomorrow I will". End of story.

As we help shape our young people's tool kit we believe understanding this distinction is critical to their success - both in the pool and in life. We are interested in your opinion!

1 comment:

Chris Latimer said...

There's no question that being accountable for your actions is a great life lesson. You gain self-respect as well as respect from your teammates. No one likes a complainer - but sometimes an athelete won't know the difference between good pain (no pain no gain) and bad pain (pain associated with a developing injury). How does an athelete talk about pain to a coach or teammates without it being percieved as complaining?