Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday Musings


Things we wonder about, and then when we realize we are still wondering we ask ourselves if the wonder comes from us not being clearer. At the end of the day it reaffirms that the learning process never stops for coaches and we believe that is a good thing. We can continue to improve all the way to the end.

Why do some swimmers constantly need reminding about basics? For example, why is it that a swimmer who knows they have a technical flaw in their stroke/start/turn seems unable to make the change? Is it that they are actually unable or is it that the payoff seems rather vague and so the incentive isn’t clear or powerful enough?

Some swimmers constantly need to be held to a more clearly defined practice attendance regimen. They say swimming is important and they have high goals. They even attain some of them…and yet they disappear from practice for days at a time, even if a big meet – even a travel meet – is within weeks.

Why is it that a swimmer who knows the value of distance per stroke doesn’t practice it in the early season meets and then admits that they should have/could have when it is time for the bigger meets? Maybe we need to put that swimmer on a strict stroke count “diet” and not allow them to shift to a faster interval until they demonstrate their ability to hang onto water. Do we even have the room to do that and if not then do we abandon teaching that critical skill to simply “makes things work better”?

Every year as new swimmers come to the team or move into new groups guess who comes along for the ride? Yep, their parents…and they need teaching…so it seems we keep teaching the same things over and over which means one of two things, 1 – job security or 2 – not the best job of setting forth policies in advance.

Why do parents (and their swimmers) take vacations right before big meets? We can be pretty safe in saying that they don’t plan a trip to Hawaii two or three weeks before final exams. Why on earth would they do so before an important meet? The answer to that one is rather clear. They, the parents and perhaps the kids as well, don’t value swimming nearly as importantly as school. We tell our team that school comes first, swimming second or even third in some cases, especially with the younger ones. Yet parents spend a rather large amount of time and money pursuing swimming excellence only to often whiff on the important at bat.

We hate to think that we care “too” much and that is why these things perplex us from time to time – like today! And yet, we have a difficult time adjusting (lowering) our standards to make these types of things less bothersome. And so, we will keep our standards high and continue to “play favorites” (our favorite quote from John Leonard) and do what we always do…coach the ones who come to the pool.

Also, we are happy to report that we have many favorites since quite a few come to the pool on a very regular basis…and most of these have Sectional and National Team caps!

1 comment:

Andrew Reddie said...

Hi Coach,

First, I have really enjoyed following your blog over the past year and a half.

Second, this is a problem that I have faced as a coach across a couple of sports without really having an answer. To some degree my (high school) teams have had some success with decentralizing the incentive and asking the team's leaders to come to the fore in proselytizing the value of a meet, practice, etc. to fellow swimmers and parents. Obviously with year-round swimming, the dynamics are incredibly different, but buy-in seems incredibly important. Achieving it appears to be the intractable challenge and, in reality, I think, as you both well know, that the answer is different for each individual swimmer and very much depends on their demeanor and 'place in their life' at a particular moment.

I think the most important thing is to recognize that it is repeating phenomenon, which you have done and to try all the methods put forward by your fellow coaches and your own ingenuity (of which I have seen plenty over the past 18 months) to see what makes a swimmer tick.

I look forward to hearing more in your endeavor and thanks again for taking the time to write.

-A