Sunday, March 20, 2016

Observations from Orlando

We are on our way home following a weeklong of racing at the 2016 NCSA Junior National Championships in Orlando. This meet annually brings together many of the fastest 18 and unders in the country. This year was no exception. We saw several new stars, some from last year still in the mix and witnessed several top notch exciting races with 2016 Olympic Trial qualifying cuts.
This meet is like a full blown coaching clinic in many ways; watch and listen and you can learn. Sometimes things you already knew are validated while now and then you catch a new skill or mindset at work. In no particular order this is what we saw in action…
Underwater dolphin kicking isn’t all that important…underwater really fast dolphin kicking is a top of the line, must have skill…
Racers rule at the end of the day. When the swim is on the line you want a racer on your team, not merely a well-conditioned athlete with great skills
Relays are just about the best form of team bonding imaginable
There are some teams, large and small alike, that have figured out how to have a mindset that fosters total commitment to excellence and process with zero tolerance for lack of same
There are teams with a culture of high intensity and integrity blended which yields a consistent “brand” of excellence…no matter if that team’s swimmer is in the first heat or the A final
We watched hundreds of swimmers each night go absolutely all in for other fellow swimmers who attempted to make Olympic Trials  cuts…the bonding across teams demonstrated a passionate portrait of common bonds…too cool  for words
A five day meet means several of things:
1 -Your team needs no nonsense yet compassionate parental support
2 -Your coaching staff needs to be in shape
3-Your swimmers need to be in shape
4 -You must have your food delivery systems in order
5- Your transportation system must be well thought-out and executed
The team rises or falls on the shoulders of the entire team, not just the super-star(s)
Your team’s strength is built months before the first race begins…physical, mental and emotional…if you saw any weaknesses this week then begin now, as in today, so that the end of summer meet finds you and your team better prepared
Culture is defined when you have a down race or a down day…it is easy to be giddy when the races go great…it is better to be rock steady in your purpose when things don’t go as planned…there are a lot more of those moments than the “perfect” ones
We have a group of guys and gals who have found a common ground in terms of their racing speed…our goal is to get them together and challenge them to challenge each other to push out of the current “status quo”…for instance we have 7 girls who swim a 52+ 100 free…one or more of those girls need to breakout and push into the 50+ to lift themselves and the team to a higher level of performance
If you want to improve say 4 seconds in your race in the next year, all you need to do is improve .01 second per day…but you must make  the commitment for that to happen
We had several swimmers express frustration about their swims – silently we applauded this because a couple of years ago instead of being frustrated they would have cried – we’ve come a long way baby! …our message to them is to take the frustration and use it for motivation…the next time a challenging set comes their way,  lean into it…the next time they feel like giving up on a skill because it’s too difficult – NO  -hang in there working on your game…get that precious .01 each day…
There are going to be 52 swimmers on the USA Olympic Team this summer. They will come from 35 or more programs, each with its nuances. Several things will be common to each of those programs: no cutting corners in the pool; no negativity; excellent nutrition and sleep; lots of stretching so no training sessions get missed due to negligence.
All of those are daily, conscious choices. Make them and dreams become reality.
Quite a week in Orlando;  many thanks to all the coaches who organize this meet and the numerous officials who make this the best meet for the swimmers in the entire country.
One final  thought…we had several swimmers in our group of 20 who never got sick from December through this meet…each of those had a great week…figure out how to stay healthy for large chunks of time…it will do wonders for your swimming…in many cases health – or lack thereof – is a state of mind
See you poolside…very soon!

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