Sunday, February 22, 2015

Do You Actually Have What It Takes? Or Do You Have What It Actually Takes?

The three major sports are in a special time convergence these days. The NFL is holding its annual combine where young prospects, in the words of a writer “are dressed in their underwear and pushed, pulled, poked, timed, jumped, measured in all sorts of ways and this includes a battery of psychological testing.” This is all done to see if scouts and teams can find that one or more special player who will transform their team into a Super Bowl contender.
MLB – Major League Baseball – has opened all training camps and all sorts of analysis have begun. The Oakland Athletics pioneered an evaluation system a decade or so ago (chronicled in “Money Ball”). It is fascinating that of the major sports baseball has no game clock. Once you have used up your 27 outs the game is over. So the A’s went looking for people who could get on base – any way possible including walks. Now there are a multitude of statistics kept that never used to be considered. Again, this is analysis to the enth degree.
Meanwhile the NBA has just had its All Star Game and the push is on to the playoffs for many teams. Trade deadlines are approaching and teams are positioning themselves. One of the things teams look at is how certain players respond in specific game situations. With video of every minute of every game available team executives can get down to the minutiae of a player’s abilities in a wide variety of situations.
In all three of these sports the data are there for review. The same holds true for our sport of swimming. Go on “Meet Mobile” and you can see extreme detail of the college conference meets being held now. The NCAA’s for all three Divisions are next up. Splits, reaction times, including relay takeoffs will be available to all of us. Then watch YouTube and you can check tempos and stroke counts. It is all there.
In swimming we look at stroke rates – tempos – and numbers of strokes taken in each lap of a race – distance per stroke. We look at times from “broken” swims in workouts and how they are tied to actual race times…and for some swimmers they are remarkably accurate race predictors while for others, not so much.
And college coaches look at potential recruits with an ever widening view while simultaneously narrowing their focus on specific traits. The analysis goes on and on.
The question is, at some point we may be best served to ask ourselves, “Ok, but what does it all mean?” We read a recent article in which NBA Houston Rockets Coach Kevin McHale was asked about all the analytic tools available and how important they were. He had this observation. “It’s just another tool in the toolbox, and very useful. But the toughest thing in this business is how much does a guy love to play? How much does he love to compete? How tough is he? How is he going to play when someone kicks his ass? What’s he going to do the next day?”
So as a coach or swimmer you might want to ask yourself the same questions. You can master all the technical tools but at the end of the day those questions posed by McHale mean an awful lot. And of course, as your career unfolds if you have the technical tools and can answer Coach McHale’s questions in the affirmative you may just find yourself at the top of the mountain…like Tom Brady and Madison Bumgarner recently did…like Stephen Curry hopes to do soon…like you maybe…

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

One Way Things Get Done

There is definitely more than one “right” way to achieve a goal. We find it interesting to ask our swimmers how they achieve success to see what we learn from their various paths.
Last weekend Lucy captured her first NCSA Junior Nationals cut. She swam a 24.20 in her 50 free in the finals of a local senior circuit meet. We asked her about the pathway to that swim. To paraphrase her it went something like this:
Last summer at the Clovis meet (Western Zones) when I swam my 50 free long course and made my Sectional cut I thought that Orlando was a possibility. Then this weekend in prelims I felt that maybe I was getting close. During warmups for finals I knew I was going to swim my qualifying time of 24.39.
So an idea is born. Then work is done. Then the belief system enters, first a “maybe” and then finally a “yes I am” mentality.
Coaches and leaders of any group or community need to keep the targets in view. Then we show our swimmers “how” to get there while continuously encouraging them to provide the “why I want it”. This is a never ending conversation.
It is the crux of what we do. We show them possibilities and get them to step up. When they “own” the process they will get their reward. They must for that is how the universe works…pretty much all the time.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sleep and Wellness

This just in…if you are well rested, you have a much less likelihood of getting sick. We wish we could give you complete scientific data to support this assertion but we don’t have such at our fingertips – though we are certain there is such data available everywhere.
At our swim meet this weekend several coaches, us included, commented on the flurry of illness running through portions of each of our teams. No one seemed untouched. And of course kids are in school which is basically a petri dish so…
We also talked with Theo this weekend. Some of you know Theo or know about him. If you are curious simply Google Theo St. Francis and you can see more of his story.
For today’s purposes you need to know that Theo spends 4 hours a day, 4 days a week at SCI FIT in Pleasanton, CA. This is a very specific gym/rehab center for Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) clients. He works diligently pretty much all the time, every day regaining the use of his entire body.
He asked “How’s the team doing?” and we gave him the latest while mentioning the sickness some are experiencing. He said, “For the last 100 days I have been monitoring my sleep. I have been in bed averaging 8.75 hours a night; occasionally a little less, and then making up for it the next night. I wash my hands and face normally since at SCI FIT I am in contact with countless other folks from all walks of life, in all sorts of condition, using equipment that they are using as well. I have been free from illness for 100 days and I believe it has to do with the amount of rest I am getting.”
He says that even if he is awake he stays in bed resting. We ask our student/athletes to set their alarms for 9 PM and go to bed then. If they need to do more school work, get up early and do it in the morning when you are fresh. We know several, though not all are making this happen with a fair amount of regularity. We have many on our team who do not get sick when others do.
We think rest makes a huge difference. We know that humans adapt to stress (get stronger) during recovery. Sleep is a daily dose of recovery. Make sure you are getting all you need. Organize your day so you can sleep at night. Do it…

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Dick Vermeil

Vermeil owns the distinction of being named “Coach of the Year” on four levels: High School, Junior College, NCAA Division I and Professional Football.

In all three of his stops as an NFL head coach, Vermeil has taken every team—Philadelphia, St. Louis and Kansas City, each of which had a losing record before he arrived—and brought them to the playoffs by his third season at the helm.

Vermeil was interviewed in the lead up to the Super Bowl this week and was asked about his successful run at all 4 levels of the game. He said the thing that made the biggest impact on him was a conversation he had with legendary basketball coach John Wooden while they both were coaching at UCLA in the 1970’s. Vermeil was talking with Wooden and saying how worried he was about his inability to attract top recruits to UCLA in the same manner as cross town and Pac 10 conference foe USC.

Wooden counselled Vermeil to stop worrying about the athletes that were going to USC and to focus on making the ones he had at UCLA into better football players. That resonated with Vermeil who in two years took UCLA to the Rose Bowl…by focusing on coaching those that he had on his team.

Swim coaches are often looking at rivals in their own LSC or across the nation wondering how come, “We cannot get the same caliber of athletes?” If you have swimmers in the pool then you have someone to work with, to coach. Wooden would tell you to coach them really well and see what you can make happen. In the end all we can do is coach the ones who come to the pool. If we do a really good job we will have really good swimmers – who will often swim fast. When we coach exceptionally well we will have excellent swimmers who more often than not will swim exceptionally fast.

Same goes for you swimmers out there as well. Instead of wishing you were “like the girl or guy on the other team” or the one who is faster or taller than you two lanes over…decide that you are going to do something about the one over whom you have control – yourself.

Ask yourself, “Am I the first one in the pool every day”; “Am I the last one out every day”; “Do I take an extra 5 minutes when workout is officially over and stay to swim an extra 300 polishing my stroke, working on my turns?”

You get the idea. Work with what you have and what you have will change into something better, faster, more proficient. Focusing on what the other program, swimmer, or coach is doing will not help you improve. In fact it actually will retard your progress.

See you in Omaha in June 2016…