Sunday, November 28, 2010

Jim Tracy – A Coach for All Seasons

60 year old Jim Tracy coaches cross country at San Francisco’s University High School. We are going to make it a priority of ours to meet him personally before too long since we live so close.

SF Chronicle High School Sports writer Mitch Stephens introduced Tracy to those of us who never knew about him in his November 23rd column “Coach enjoying wins while he can”.

Jim Tracy has ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. There is no known cure at this time. That is not deterring him from his passion; “I’ll coach as long as they’ll have me – as long as I can keep making a difference.”

If you are/were lucky to have a coach (or teacher for that matter) in your life that cared enough to “keep making a difference” we think you are/were lucky enough. Period!

Tracy’s coaching philosophy is “brutally honest and direct”…we like it a whole lot: “1- Show up; 2- Keep improving; 3- Enjoy what you do”. Like many things that have a great impact in our lives it is quite simple…all the verbiage boiled down to the basics. We have reminded our swimmers often this week that since they are at the pool, they have shown up; next we challenge them to improve.

We especially liked his comment about winning; “One thing I’ll never apologize for is winning. The way I see it, if someone is going to win, it might as well be us.”

In case you were wondering, his University High teams – boys and girls – have won 32 North Coast Section titles since 1993, the most of any school in any sport. They are also tied for the most state crowns in any division in California.

For you coaches out there, listen to what one of his athletes has to say about Tracy; “He’s the best coach I’ve ever had in any sport because he knows so much, he gives great individual instruction and he’s incredibly fair.”

Enough said for this week.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It’s All About Team

Our North Bay Aquatics team had a visit from Ed Spencer who is on the National Team Staff at US Swimming. He shared with us the value of “Team” as it relates to working with the Nation Team at US Swimming. When a National Team, such as the Olympic Team, is chosen, the first and foremost task of the coaches and managers is to “bond” the swimmers together into a “team” so that each individual swimmer will know they matter, that their performance and actions in support of their teammates counts. Relays are obvious extensions of the team but so too are the individual actions of each member so that all members know they have value and “matter” to each of the others. The following came across our desk this week and we think it speaks directly to this matter…that teams come first and when they do, individuals have success beyond what they could have done on their own.

What sets a successful organization apart from its competitors? You can bet having a successful team is at the foundation of the answer.

• Are you putting your team first?
• Do your team members really understand your overall vision?
• Do team members know what is expected of them?
• How can each team member contribute most effectively?
• What constants hold the team together?

John Murphy's book, Pulling Together...The Ten Rules for High Performance Teams will help you answer these questions...and an easy-to-read format that will give you the tools you need for success, John is a highly recognized author (seven books), speaker and management consultant who has helped some of the world's leading organizations create environments that value and reward teamwork.

Today, I'd like to share an excerpt from John's book entitled "Rule #1 - Put the Team First."

An Excerpt From
 Pulling Together
 by John Murphy

At the center of every high performance team is a common purpose-a mission that rises above and beyond each of the individual team members. To be successful, the team's interests and needs come first. This requires "we-opic" vision (What's in it for we?), a challenging step up from the common "me-opic" mindset.

Effective team players understand that personal issues and personality differences are secondary to team demands. This does not mean abandoning who you are or giving up your individuality. On the contrary, it means sharing your unique strengths and differences to move the team forward. It is this "we-opic" focus and vision-this cooperation of collective capability-that empowers a team and generates synergy, the power of teamwork.

Cooperation means working together for mutual gain-sharing responsibility for success and failure and covering for one another on a moment's notice. It does not mean competing with one another at the team's expense, withholding important data or information to "one-up" your peers, or submitting to groupthink by going along, so as not to make waves. These are rule breakers that are direct contradictions to the team-first mindset.

High performance teams recognize that it takes a joint effort to synergize, generating power above and beyond the collected individuals. It is with this spirit of cooperation that effective teams learn to capitalize on individual strengths and offset individual weaknesses, using diversity as an advantage.

Effective teams also understand the importance of establishing cooperative systems, structures, metrics, incentives and rewards. We get what we inspect, not what we expect. Think about it. Do you have team job descriptions, team performance reviews and team reward systems? Do you recognize people by pitting them against standards of excellence, or one another? What are you doing to cultivate a team-first, cooperative environment in this competitive, "me-opic" world?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It is Never Too Late to Start

We thank fellow Masters swimmer James Collins for sharing this excellent article. If this won’t inspire you – or someone you know! – into action well, then we guess we will have to try another approach. We find it interesting that all over the world folks are getting motivated to “do something with their life”. We also find it instructive that the impetus so often comes from a friend or colleague who pulls, pushes or otherwise moves a person in need off of dead center. Thanks James and we will see you at the pool very soon!

Training for Ironman Triathlons at Age 70

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Short and Sweet

"Good Judgment Comes From Experience

Experience Comes From Bad Judgment"

Mark Twain...wiser than most and certainly more adept at expressing his ideas...

Perhaps a good goal for us as athletes, coaches, parents and supporters of same would be to garner as much good judgment while making as little an impact as possible while gathering it.