Here in northern California we had our high school championships four weeks ago. The day after that weekend concluded we gave our team Monday off. On Tuesday we had a team meeting about the next three weeks. Those weeks are filled with school activities including finals, making up for all the work that was put off to finish projects, graduation parties, lunches and graduation itself. Everyone gets caught up in the scene, even the freshmen. It is a challenging three weeks to be a swimmer with your eye on the summer season.
We spoke to our team about this period saying that every year we see some who remember to train as much as they can, making some sacrifices socially to stay on track. We even had a meet on our schedule - the Summer Sanders Invitational in Roseville, CA - to mark the end of this three week period. While at the meet Ken and I observed pretty much what we expected to see. Some kids rocked really well including Junior Nationals and Olympic Trials cuts, some fought to hang on and others got a nice tan.
Last week, on Wednesday at our team meeting, Ken gave one of his all-time best performances as our head coach. He spoke about the summer racing season. We outlined the schedule of meets and how the first weekend in August we were taking a large group to Clovis, CA for a great senior meet. They have two 50 meter pools, three finals and always very warm weather. Conditions are usually perfect for fast swimming at the end of summer. You can also make your summer Junior National cuts at this meet earning a trip to Indianapolis. It is a really meaningful way to end the summer. And the time standards are not super tough so nearly all in our training group can make the meet.
But then Ken tossed in the caveat. You cannot go to the meet simply by having the time standards. You actually need to be ready to race well and to add to the team effort. So, if you are not ready, either because you haven't trained enough, or properly or haven't raced enough, or properly then you stay home and start your short summer vacation a little sooner.
He said our group can be split into three sections. He made everyone feel comfortable with his delivery. He had a big smile on his face. He told a few stories from his own high school and college summer training and racing days. He became one of them, a peer and yet still their leader...I had visions of the pied piper!
He said, we have some people on the space shuttle...we have some on the helicopter - which as everyone knows just hovers...and then we have some people on the tarmac. They all were laughing and they all got it without being uncomfortable. It was masterful...coaching genius, especially the delivery.
Afterward I had Emmy ask me, "Don, where do you think I am?" I replied, "The shuttle." She laughed and said, "No, I am on the tarmac. I took three days off after high school championships; three days off after finals; three days off to get my lifeguard certification." We smiled at each other...point made, case closed.
After this Saturday's workout, a gem that covered 6800 meters long course, Isabelle declared with a smile and a note of personal triumph, "I am off the tarmac!"
It is now seven weeks to Clovis and this much is certain...some, maybe most, will go. Those who do will be ready and will succeed. Those who stay home will know the choice was theirs all the way. It is a valuable life lesson, that much is certain.