Sunday, January 29, 2012

Teaching Life Lessons

As coaches we often spend a lot of time teaching life lessons…perhaps a more accurate way to say this is that we allow swimming to teach the lessons and then we reinforce them. This weekend we were at a swim meet. In preparation for the meet we declared in our team meeting that we would all give our very best effort, in all events regardless of how we felt in the water. We are smack dab in the midst of heavy training and these meets are an important guide post for us as coaches and for the team as swimmers. They tell us if we are on the correct path – or not. But for us to be able to use the races as an indicator each swimmer needs to
“lay it out there” for us (we and them) to be able to evaluate where we are in the training cycle.

One of our swimmers didn’t do this. In fact the swimmer did the exact opposite in the 100 free. Part way through the race the swimmer pulled the plug and coasted the last 50. We were not pleased since this went in the exact opposite direction of our stated team goal for the meet. We asked the swimmer “Why” and the reply was “I don’t know” to which we replied “That’s not an answer; it’s a cop out”. A short somewhat intense conversation ensued. The result was the swimmer was suspended from the team until this issue could be resolved.

Later that evening we received the following email from the swimmer. We share it with you since we believe it demonstrates in no uncertain terms exactly how swimming teaches life lessons. We are very proud of our teammate for the response and the articulated lesson learned. Now of course we will hold this swimmer accountable for the last sentence in the reply.

Job well done – coaches and swimmer!

So I was thinking about what you both said today, and I realized that you were right. When I look back at a few hours ago, my behavior was unacceptable, and I was being obstinate. When I was swimming freestyle, my overall morale was a bit low, and (at) that point I had to ask myself why I was swimming. Why am I expending my energy on an event that is not my best event? Who cares if I go slow in an event in which I am not expected to go fast? At first, I thought I was swimming to get a time. I thought that, since I could not achieve a fast time, my efforts would be futile. There would be no point in trying. And so I did exactly that. I let my emotions control my actions, and I gave up. However, looking back on that swim, I realize my choice of actions was incorrect, and my past behavior was very infantile. Sure part of swimming is going fast and getting the time, but the other part is representing your team. I did a terrible job of upholding my end of the bargain, and I took too much from the team. I misrepresented both of you, and I denigrated the North Bay name. I failed all of my teammates, and for these things I am truly sorry. I acted as a terrible example to the team, and I fully accept the repercussions for my actions. I disrespected both of you, and I am truly sorry I dishonored the team. From now on, I give you my word that I will never do that again, and I will claim ownership to all of my actions, good or bad.


Lucas said...

I don't think I can express my appreciation for this story with words. First of all, congratulations on taking the time and having the courage to confront the athlete about his action, and to apply an appropriate consequence to it until it was resolved! Unfortunately, not many coaches nowadays have the backbone to do that and go with the easier path (either not confronting the athlete, or not applying the consequence, 'letting it go'). You certainly gave the athlete what he needed, and it looks like he responded to it. Thank you for sharing it, and congratulations for doing more than 'just coach'!

Anonymous said...

I agree that the swimmer should have been punished, but I think in many questions "I don't know" truly is an answer. If we look at the world today, we see that many people have diminished their emotions entirely. Our society has deemed that the expression of emotion is not supported. Not many people force themselves to do some form of introspection, so, therefore, the swimmer may not have truly known the answer to the "why" question. The swimmer did seem to be very disrespectful, and he did deserve some form of punishment.