Sunday, August 19, 2012

Searching for a Lift in Expectations

We just returned from an inspiring week of racing at the US Summer Junior Nationals in Indianapolis…the fastest 18 & unders in the country racing for their futures in the sport of competitive swimming.

One thing that was/is foremost on our minds was/is, “How do we get those on our team who are capable of swimming at this level to 1) realize it and 2) make their cuts?”

Every coach we spoke with had ideas and opinions. The one consensus was that we all had swimmers at home who could have been in this meet talent wise. The other main takeaway from the meet was that if you could achieve the time standard there was an excellent chance you could get a night time swim (top 24 places in the heats) providing you swam your entered time at the meet.

There are two basic forms of incentive: extrinsic and intrinsic.

The extrinsic ones can range from earning a different colored cap all the way to having your expenses paid up to 100% by the club. We will address those issues on our team this fall and beyond into 2013.

The intrinsic motivators are more challenging to pinpoint and then execute. In speaking with Terry Stoddard, the excellent coach and mentor at Swim Pasadena, we liked his explanation of his club’s approach to senior swimming. He described the goal statement that the club was going to do everything in its power to assist each swimmer in reaching their full potential.

We like this approach since it allows for the varying levels of talent to berecognized while holding everyone to the same high standard, namely giving the training and racing their very best. We tell our swimmers to, “Do your best each and every time. No one expects you to do more than your best, likewise make certain you do deliver your best on any given day.”

We think it is incumbent upon us as coaches to drive home the message of personal excellence. One of our swimmers, Theo St. Francis, said it best the other day; “If you are going to make the time to do the sport you might as well make the effort.” We will hone in on that sentiment a lot. And then there is this quote from one of Dave Salo’s swimmers about Coach Salo’s attitude expressed this way; “If you didn’t want to get better…McDonalds is always hiring!"

As we work in our club to create a culture shift from the Sectional level to the National level we will remember that each swimmer is different and as such needs a special eye from the coaching side. Simultaneously we are working even today towards making the group seek higher levels of performance from themselves. This striving for personal excellence is a life lesson that has implications for personal success well into adulthood.

We don’t think the answer to raising expectations is to do more. We believe it is a matter of doing more of the correct things – technique, training, dry land, nutrition, time management, teaching personal responsibility, excelling in the classroom, being a contributor to one’s community…the list is even longer but you get the point.
Not all swimmers have the talent to compete nationally and yet we saw several, indeed many that had very little natural talent holding their own in Indianapolis last week. Witnessing that was inspiring and motivating. This next season will be our best – you can count on it!

1 comment:

Jodi Murphy said...

No matter what kind of external motivation you give an athlete, they need the internal drive to push themselves to the next level. Help give them the confidence to believe in themselves, inspire their passion and support their commitment!