Monday, June 29, 2015

At the Moment of Truth

In his book The Matheny Manifesto – A YoungManager’s Old School Views on Success in Sport and Life former big leaguer and now manager Mike Matheny talks about parents and their relationship to their kids in youth sports. We are interested this week particularly in the section about how to help your youngster at a competition.
It seems that many parents feel that if they aren’t vocal their kids think they don’t care. Think about this for a second. In Little League (what Matheny is writing about) the kid gets up to the plate and is trying to do something that is incredibly difficult; namely hit a round object with a round object and make the ball stay within the field of play. This is enormously difficult. Think not? Go to a batting cage one day and try it yourself. And just as the player steps to the plate his parent (s) yells out loudly enough for everyone to hear, “Come on son, you can do it, get the team a hit.” Talk about pressure. In the big leagues the average player fails 7.5 times out of 10. If you fail only 7 times you get a contract worth millions of dollars and a decent shot at the Hall Of Fame.
Your swimmer stands on the block, readying herself for the race. She is about 3 feet taller than when she walks around the deck, or your house. She is all alone with that ribbon of blue in front of her. She is getting ready to do something she has not ever done before – swim a lifetime best – and just in that moment after the whistle and before the horn hardly a heat begins without some parent – or coach – yelling encouragement, for everyone to hear, using her name. Talk about stressful…we work diligently to keep words of encouragement quiet, private and usually not just before the start. Rarely will you see us behind the blocks, encouraging our swimmers. We only end up distracting them. At development, early season meets, yes, sometimes for specific instructions on the process…never about the result.
There is no coach behind the blocks at the Olympic Games.
Ask yourself, if you were getting ready to close that big deal and your spouse or young one stood in the doorway at your office as you were dialing the call energetically pumping you up with a “Come on, you can do this!” how you’d feel…totally distracted perhaps, definitely wondering what the heck was going on and perhaps a feeling of “Please, just go away. I know you mean well but you are not actually helping me here.”
Kids need and deserve our blessing and encouragement. We need to find out how to show them both on a regular basis. Perhaps a good starting point would be to ask them the question, “At a meet what can I do – or not do – that helps you the most?” We are willing to bet a house payment that it won’t be, “call my name when I climb on the block” or “stand at the end of my lane and tell me to race or kick harder.” We will double that bet when it comes to running up and down the pool beside my lane and quadruple that when I’m in an end lane.
We recently asked our swimmers and parents to fill out an anonymous survey looking for all kinds of feedback on our team, coaching, culture and growth. We are very pleased to note that NBA has several enlightened parents…see their comments below.
“Foster more independence; Foster more independence; Foster more independence (i.e. back off)
More communication between parent and coach to make sure we are all on the same page.
Make him or let him own his own process and whatever outcome that produces
Never ever ever try to coach her in any aspect of swimming. Keep my trap shut. Keep my trap shut. Keep my trap shut.”

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Flow & Yoda & Alfred E. Neuman

Writing in his book “The Mindful Athlete” George Mumford speaks about Bliss State. Others refer to it as the Zone, that place where we find flow. Flow is absolutely at the center of all great achievements, in and out of sports. Maybe we should make a T-shirt that says, “No Flow, No Go” or better yet, “Flow = Go”.
Mumford writes, “Many of us equate bliss with not concentrating at all. But pure concentration actually cultivates the bliss state, as paradoxical as that might sound. When we focus on “that narrow stimulus field” – or whatever it is that we are doing in the total fullness of the present moment – we actually summon flow. This underscores the importance of how and what we focus on.”
On our team – North Bay Aquatics – we have several words that are “banned” from our vocabulary – coaches and swimmers alike. One of those words is “try”.
The great Star Wars character Yoda says, “Do or do not, there is no try”.
The problem with “trying” is that it is so temporary and so non-committal.
Coach – “See you at work out tomorrow” – Swimmer – “OK, I’ll try and be there.”
Coach – “See you tomorrow at workout” – Swimmer – “OK, you can count on me.”
Coach – “Put your head down 2 inches, your body position will improve so you can swim faster” – Swimmer – “Ok, I’ll try and do that”
Coach - “Put your head down 2 inches, your body position will improve so you can swim faster” – Swimmer – “Ok, I’ll do that”.
Coach – “Try and see if you can kick more on the 3rd 50 in your 200.”
Coach – “Kick more on the 3rd 50 of your 200. Your tempo will stay faster if you kick.”
Remember Yoda – “Do or do not, there is no try”.
Said another way – “Succeed or fail, no worries; try gives you nothing but worries”.
Trying implies a non-commitment to the goal of success. We all fail more than we succeed so what are we all worrying about anyway?
Alfred E. Neuman said it best, “What? Me worry?”

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Value of .01 Cumulatively

A short discussion today on the value of .01 seconds daily; we randomly picked 3.5 seconds improvement needed to reach your Olympic Trials cut.
We figured the close of entries is Sunday June 19, 2016 at 11:59 PM. Today is June 19, 2015. There are 365 days to find 3.5 seconds. This equals .01 (rounded up from .0009).
If you had a very specific goal of improving your game by .01 each day you would have the added benefit of super focus. Your swim training, your weight room, your stretching, your nutrition, your sleep, your mental rehearsal, your time management…literally everything would benefit.
We have known swimmers who have used this plan. We know of at least one Olympian who had a poster on the back of his door with his current time and goal time with the incremental improvements daily. And each day he would draw a line through his goal time focusing on the next day’s goal.
Focus on a goal. It is a very powerful process that yields impressive results. Work the process; reap the results.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Two Worlds

Most folks live in two different “worlds”; first there is the one we want to be in and then there is the other, the one we actually live in. The peculiar thing is that we want what we don’t have. Yet to get it we must stop living in the world we are in.
There is the future, where we want to be and the present which is where we are now. How do we successfully bridge the gap between the two? In the world of sports there are usually two main items necessary. First there is the ability to believe that we can achieve that which we want, often called our goal. Secondly, there is the need, the very real existence of real work necessary to make the first one happen.
Without a goal, nothing happens. We live in a random world where everything is happenstance. Imagine going to your car, hoping in, firing the engine up and saying, “Ok, let’s go.” But the car doesn’t move because you said “Let’s go”. It only moves when you start the motor; take it out of “park” and using “reverse” and or “drive” hit the accelerator. Yet that still doesn’t ensure you will go where you want to go. That depends upon you knowing ahead of time what your destination is going to be. Then, what about “roadblocks?” what if you run out of gas, or there is a detour, a storm, a wreck on the road a whatever that derails your intended plan? Do you give up and head home, finding safety in the driveway? Or do you reevaluate and make a new route based upon your contingency plan?
An athlete needs a goal to give purpose to the work required. This provides the motivation…and this is the “bridge” between the world we are in today and the one we wish to inhabit tomorrow.
One of the best things about swimming is that an athlete can make a substantial real world difference in a relatively short period of time. Apply yourself for three weeks and you will notice a very real tangible difference in your level of conditioning. This will give you the lift, impetus or motivation to do another week and then one more. Before you know it, you will be empowered to do things you previously only wished you could do. Once that happens, the sky is the limit.
An athlete with purpose knows no boundaries. An athlete who works hard but has no goal has all kinds of boundaries.
Don’t believe this? Ask yourself if you have ever been frustrated or discouraged. If the answer is yes, our guess is that you have not had a goal you wanted to attain…and then committed yourself to doing the work…WITHOUT REGARD to the immediate results.
Work works; a simple yet very accurate guideline. Have a clear picture of your goal. This will help crystalize the belief. Then go to work. This is a simple yet proven and effective plan.
Rather than drive yourself crazy by living in two worlds, chose to live in one; the one where you believe in where you are going that coincides with the one that you are doing the work to justify living in.