Sunday, March 28, 2010

Helping Put Things in Perspective

Now and then we run across a well written piece about a meaningful topic. The article below is an example of this. There are several themes running through it and we hope you will enjoy the messages. Parenthetically, as we write this on Saturday morning March 27, 2010 the NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships are being contested with a never before seen twist. The meet was postponed for 24 hours due to a number of athletes from three different schools being stricken with what appeared to be an intestinal virus on their flight to the meet. We wonder if Nimrod was one of them.

Patrick Finley: Israeli finds peace in, out of pool

Arizona Daily Star Monday, March 22, 2010

Arizona's Nimrod Shapira-Bar Or found out he was going to swim in the Beijing Olympics just five days before his first race. He finished 15th in the 200-meter freestyle and set a personal best in the 100. Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or isn't political, but he has a story to tell.

The Israeli stood on the pool deck of Hillenbrand Aquatic Center last week with plenty to worry about. Today, the freestyler will fly to Columbus, Ohio, where, starting Thursday, he will compete in five events at the NCAA men's swimming and diving championships.

For two years at The Bolles School, a prep palace in Jacksonville, Fla., Shapira Bar-Or, who is Jewish, lived with a man who would become his best friend.
Jowan Qupty is a Palestinian from Jerusalem. The two were acquaintances as kids, but didn't grow close until they shared an apartment together.

Qupty, who swims at Missouri, said that, back home, "people were amazed all the time" that a Jew and Palestinian could coexist.

That's a statement in itself.

"It's all a group of leaders," Shapira Bar-Or said. "And it's making both sides stress. "It shows how simple the situation is. If I can live with a Palestinian guy, I'm sure in our country we can live with a couple millions of Palestinians and Israelis together."
Qupty said politics didn't come up much in the house - "so, just in case, it wouldn't ruin our relationship."

You don't come to this spot in the Sports section - or talk to a UA swimmer - for geopolitical analysis. But, even in a small apartment in North Florida, a little peace is a great thing.

"It showed how simple the case was," Shapira Bar-Or said. "That two people can live together. All the war, all the money spent, for nothing."

Qupty will check in with his best friend via phone all week, when Shapira Bar-Or swims the 100, 200 and 500 freestyles, and the 4x100 and 4x200 free relays. He struggled last season after missing most of it with mononucleosis.

He doesn't want to be nervous this week; it'll ruin his swimming.

"It's kind of a secret," said the man whose first name recalls a biblical hunter. "It's a really, really simple thing. Don't stress about it."

If the 20-year-old sophomore sounds like the author of "Zen and the Art of Freestyle Swimming," it's because he learned the lesson in the most amazing way possible.

He knew at 12 he wanted to swim competitively, and that Israel's youth programs were no longer the way to improve. With a passport - his mom is British - Shapira Bar-Or moved to Bath, England, where he took an apartment on campus and attended high school.

He trained twice a day alongside record-holders and even lived by himself, cooking his own meals, just to swim faster. At 16, he moved home to Israel and quit school just to train.

Despite the training, he missed the cut for the 2008 Olympics - but then Israeli freestyler Max Javen tested positive for drugs.
Shapira Bar-Or was on vacation with his family, having not swam for eight days, when he was offered a spot on the team. His first race was five days away.

After a life of training, it would have been easy to stress out. He didn't. He worked in the pool, but not to exhaustion. He flew to China three days before the first race. He smiled a lot.

Then he finished 15th in the 200-meter freestyle and set a personal best in the 100.
"It taught me a lot, how swimming is in your head," he said. "You don't have to think about anything other than jumping in and having fun.

"Your body's like a machine. We train for six hours a day. Your body knows what to do. It's only the brain that can be like, 'Don't do it.'"

The result was astounding.

No stress, no anger.

Just peace.

"I had the best race of my life," he said. "I hope (this week) I'm going to have better races."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Every Now and Then

Someone once said that music is the international language. We here at Swim Coach Direct are big fans of most kinds of music. Don stumbled across this one while listening to the satellite radio in his car. Tuned into the E Street Radio station one day the guest D-Jay was saying how his sales manager concluded a meeting with the following song. While we watched the Women's NCAA Swimming Championships unfold last week we couldn't help but think about this message. With one day remaining there were five teams within something like 7.5 points of each other.

Have a great week at the pool. Each day we go to the pool we find it filled with dreams, passion and interest no matter the age, speed or proficiency of the swimmers. We think all coaches need to "Stand On It!"


Well Jimmy Lee was hookin' 'round the far turn of a funky southern Florida dirt track
He had mud caked on his goggles and a screamin' 350 stacked up on his back
Well as he passed the stands he was feelin' all tuckered out,
When through the roar of his engine he heard somebody shout
"Stand on it, come on boy, stand on it"

Mary Beth started to drift, she hit the shift but she just couldn't get a hand on it
Racin' some Red Hill boys, she had the deed to the ranch and a grand on it
With eight grand blowin' hot on the red line
She blew past a hitchhiker out on Route 39
He hollered "Stand on it, go 'head baby, stand on it"

Well now when in doubt and you can't figure it out
Just stand on it
Well, if your mind's confused, you don't know what you're gonna do
Well buddy, stand on it
Well if you've lost control of the situation at hand
Go grab a girl; go see a rock and roll band
And stand on it
Come on man, stand on it

Well now Columbus he discovered America even though he hadn't planned on it
He got lost and woke up one morning when he's about to land on it
He wouldn't of got out of Italy, man that's for sure,
Without Queen Isabella standing on the shore
Shouting "Stand on it, go ahead man, stand on it"


Bobby was leadin' the pack, he settled back and he got ready for the long haul
Well fifty yards from the finish line somebody roared up and they blew him into the wall
Well he rolled over twice, lucky to survive
Layin' in the back of the ambulance more dead than alive
Somebody shouted "Man, you call that drivin'?
Why didn't you stand on it?"

Music and Lyrics by Bruce Springsteen

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Mixed Bag of Tricks

This week's offering is a compilation from three different sources, each with their own piece of wisdom to share. We think one of the most enduring characteristics of coaching is the willingness on the part of most coaches and programs to share their ideas. Some do not take part in this but by and large the coaching family is one of openness. This is a very positive attribute since the thread of improvement gets stronger with each "generation" of an idea. If you have an idea we encourage you to share it with a colleague or with us and we will toss it out there (with your permission of course) for all to see, riff off of and benefit from.

Ken DeMont of North Bay Aquatics delivered a great workout on Saturday.

Warm-up was about 30 minutes of swimming and drills.

6x150 kick spiking the last 50. The interval was 2:45 (I forget, it may have been 2:30 - no matter, it was somewhat challenging but not crippling)

6x100/1:40 progressive (descending) 1-6
5x100/1:30 pro 1-5
4x100/1:20 pro 1-4
On the 6 and the 5 we had stroke specialists mixing in non-free. On the 4 everyone swam free.

A 10 minute sculling set followed, going 25's working on perfect body position. We use snorkels on nearly all sculling sets.

5x100/1:40 pro as above - mix in strokes
4x100/1:30 pro as above - mix in strokes
3x100/1:20 pro - free

10 more minutes of sculling

4x100/1:40 pro as above
3x100/1:30 pro as above
2x100/1:20 pro as above

Cool down with 25's on 5 seconds rest swimming as well as possible working on a few simple drills...

This set was excellent for several reasons. What I liked particularly was how it pushed them stroke wise and then finished up all freestyle on a shorter interval. You can use the template and adjust your intervals accordingly. At the end of each set on the 1:20 you could see who was fully engaged by the immediate exhaustion. We had several breakthrough swimmers. This will make for excellent "coaching ammo" at our Monday team meeting.

I had a nice visit with my 87 year old Mom, Helen Swartz last week. She is absolutely dying from kidney failure. These are her words towards the end of lunch.

"I believe each person should do their best all the way to the end. So that is what I am doing - my best to the end. And only that person really knows if they are doing the best they can."

We will share her wisdom with our team this week, making certain they understand the credibility of the last sentence above.

Coach Mark Stanley at Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa, CA asked us to check out and search for "Messner". We did and were blown away by the free video. Messner is considered by those in the know to be the most prominent mountain climber of the modern era - perhaps any era. His insights into his abilities are fabulous. He really understands and gives huge credit to his mental toughness. We are figuring out a way to show this film to our team. It will make a big impact on more than one of our swimmers.

So, thanks Ken, Helen and Mark for sharing. Let us know how it goes for you and if you can spare an idea or two please feel free to do so. We are, after all, in this game together!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

What We Learned & Two More Great Quotes

We were in Austin, Texas this past weekend at the Grand Prix meet and saw this quote on the back of a T-shirt, "The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary". We liked that one a lot.

There are many places in the world where athletes are training diligently and that is a very important component in the equation for success. Whenever we compete at big meets where we rest, shave and taper we are attempting to achieve one of the most important things we teach, namely how to perform our best when it counts the most. There are not too many places in the world where athletes learn this vital skill, the one of dealing with the pressures and being able to perform as planned. We want our program to be recognized by our athletes as one of those places. And so it is that when we reflect on these meets we learn the most valuable lessons, indeed far more valuable than the ones we learn during training sessions. In no particular order here are some of the items on our list after the Texas Grand Prix.

  • 1 - 10 weeks of training is good but not as beneficial as 30.

  • 2 - No matter how much speed you have you MUST be able to swim the last 25 yards or meters with conviction.

  • 3 - You must be able to compare suits to suits...meaning tech suits to textile suits as regards to times achieved.

  • 4 - If you benefited greatly from a tech suit then you need to build your own body into one of those suits. Reduce not so much your weight - though that will help - as much as your percentage of body fat. Core strength is critical.

  • 5 - Value your swim based upon the construction and competitiveness of it and not merely the time...see #4 above.

  • 6 - When you swim a great race you absolutely must take that passion and pour it into your next round of training. You are now free to train at a higher level of intensity.

  • 7 - When things don't work out the way you planned, allow yourself a moment or three of disappointment...and then get over it (and yourself if need be!).

The second great quote at the meet came from one of our swimmers who was offering some assistance to a teammate who was disappointed in a swim. We really liked this one a lot...if we owned a T-shirt shop we'd put it on one now.

"The art of this sport is being able to pick yourself up after a disappointment like this." A. Sayadi