Sunday, January 30, 2011

Swimming 101

Swimming 101
A Mid Term Quiz

1. In freestyle which is more important?
  • a. Head position
  • b. Depth of kicks
  • c. Elbow position on catch
  • d. volume of air on breath
2. In backstroke which is more important:
  • a. Depth of entry on catch
  • b. Hip rotation
  • c. Arm speed during recovery
  • d. Kicking with the soles of your feet
3. In the IM which is more important:
  • a. Push the fly and breast hard
  • b. Push the back and free hard
  • c. Float the fly; it is a 3 stroke race
  • d. Save your legs for the freestyle
4. In the breaststroke which is more important:
  • a. Foot speed
  • b. Recovery speed
  • c. High hips
  • d. Streamlines off walls
  • e. All of the above
  • f. None of the above
5. In butterfly which is more important:
  • a. How big your kicks are
  • b. How many breaths you take
  • c. How fast your turns are
  • d. How far you can go underwater

The answers - according to us! - appear next week. This is an open book, open note quiz. It is permissible to ask others before you answer. All answers are final, unless after further thought you wish to change your mind. If you are a student of multiple choice quizzes you will automatically know the answer to # 3.

See you at the pool!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What is Most Important?

We had an interesting question from a swim parent last week that we thought we would share with you. His son is a 14 year old freshman who came out of our local summer league at the end of his season 16 months ago. He had raced 50’s and the 100 IM and that was it. His older brother swims at USC and is a national level swimmer who also started a little late in our program.

The Dad asked, “What does my son need to do to keep improving? What is the most important thing for him right now?” He appreciates the level of stroke instruction hi son receives in our pre-senior group and the coaching is really impressive there, which he also acknowledges. The parents want to give him the opportunity to excel, to see where he might go in swimming. We should also mention the swimmer really is into the team and training. This is not one of those situations where the parents are pushing an unwilling participant.

Our response was pretty simple. “Keep getting him to the meets our team signs up for.” We elaborated a bit from there. A swimmer who goes to training but not meets has no idea if they are progressing. We mean getting faster but also how are they constructing their swims, what is their technique like in races and how do they respond to the various stimuli of competition?

We are a competitive swim team and so how we handle competition is important. It is not the only factor in what we do but it is a very important one. We find that kids who go to workouts but rarely compete are more disconnected to the entire process – the team building, character development etc. Conversely we find that kids who go to meets regularly come to more workouts and get more out of the program as a whole. They develop a keen appreciation for the correlation between effort extended and results obtained. This “connecting the dots” is a critical life skill that our sport teaches. But without the racing the lesson falls way short of the mark.

So, we encouraged the parents to keep making the sacrifices required to get their son to the meets. We race approximately once or twice a month, maybe three times in an 8 week period. There are many significant planning issues around a young high school age swimmer to make all this happen. Not the least of which is school work. That one always comes before swimming.

You wouldn’t send your youngster to a school that doesn’t do some sort of testing. The same holds true for our sport. To get the full reward you need to race on a regular basis. It is the only way to hone your competitive skills.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Back to Basics - Again

For an athlete or coach to find wisdom all you need to do is pick up the sports page and begin digging. You are pretty much guaranteed to find something worthwhile every day. In Sunday's (1-16-11) San Francisco Chronicle Sporting Green section Al Saracevic writes about a recent conversation he had with legendary Hall of Famer Y.A. Tittle.

When asked if Tittle had any advice for newly hired San Francisco 49er's Head Coach Jim Harbaugh he said, "He needs a touch on the head from the Lord. He's going to be great." And here is the wisdom for today. Tittle continued, "Football, at its core, is pretty simple. You go around the right end. You go around the left end. Run a draw play here and there. Throw in a couple of passes and a lot of heart, and you got it."

As Saracevic put it, "words to live by."

Swimming well and swimming fast is really pretty simple. Swim your strokes right, kick, turn well and know when to breath - and when not to - and have "a lot of heart."

Coaches are quite fond of constructing complicated and elaborate sets and workouts and cycles and...on it goes. Do the basics correctly and add some personal motivation - some "heart" - and you'll do fine.

We will go so far as to say that if coach A swapped a month's worth of workouts with coach B that it would make very little difference in the outcome of the season. That's a very broad generalization but we think you get our drift here.

Figure out your key strengths and weaknesses. Keep it simple. The nuances are important at the Olympic level but for the other 99.9% of athletes and coaches keeping it simple works wonders.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Be a River, Not a Reservoir

The folks at Simple Truths shared this with us a couple of weeks ago. We thought as we head into the New Year it was appropriate to think about how we can affect change among those with whom we are charged developing. Have a great week at the pool!

"Introduction" from The Right to Lead by John Maxwell

How do you define leadership? What gives a man or woman the right to lead?

These, and other questions, are answered by John Maxwell in The Right to Lead. John is an amazing leader in his own right. His books on leadership have sold over 13 million copies, and two of them have reached number one on the New York Times Best Seller list. In addition, his organizations have trained over two million leaders world-wide.

Today, I'd like to share John's Introduction to The Right to Lead.

What gives a man or woman the right to lead? It certainly isn't gained by election or appointment. Having position, title, rank or degrees doesn't qualify anyone to lead other people. And the ability doesn't come automatically from age or experience, either.

No, it would be accurate to say that no one can be given the right to lead. The right to lead can only be earned. And that takes time.

The Kind of Leader Others Want to Follow

The key to becoming an effective leader is not to focus on making other people follow, but on making yourself the kind of person they want to follow. You must become someone others can trust to take them where they want to go. As you prepare yourself to become a better leader, use the following guidelines to help you grow:

* Let go of your ego.
The truly great leaders are not in leadership for personal gain. They lead in order to serve other people. Perhaps that is why Lawrence D. Bell remarked, "Show me a man who cannot bother to do little things, and I'll show you a man who cannot be trusted to do big things."

* Become a good follower first.
Rare is the effective leader who didn't learn to become a good follower first. That is why a leadership institution such as the United States Military Academy teaches its officers to become effective followers first - and why West Point has produced more leaders than the Harvard Business School.

* Build positive relationships.
Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less. That means it is by nature relational. Today's generation of leaders seem particularly aware of this because title and position mean so little to them. They know intuitively that people go along with people they get along with.

* Work with excellence.
No one respects and follows mediocrity. Leaders who earn the right to lead give their all to what they do. They bring into play not only their skills and talents, but also great passion and hard work. They perform on the highest level of which they are capable.

* Rely on discipline, not emotion.
Leadership is often easy during the good times. It's when everything seems to be against you - when you're out of energy, and you don't want to lead - that you earn your place as a leader. During every season of life, leaders face crucial moments when they must choose between gearing up or giving up. To make it through those times, rely on the rock of discipline, not the shifting sand of emotion.

* Make adding value your goal.
When you look at the leaders whose names are revered long after they have finished leading, you find that they were men and women who helped people to live better lives and reach their potential. That is the highest calling of leadership - and its highest value.

* Give your power away.
One of the ironies of leadership is that you become a better leader by sharing whatever power you have, not by saving it all for yourself. You're meant to be a river, not a reservoir. If you use your power to empower others, your leadership will extend far beyond your grasp.

In The Right to Lead, you will hear from and read about people who have done these same things and earned the right to lead others. Because of the courage they found and the character they displayed, other people recognized their admirable qualities and felt compelled to follow them.

The followers who looked to these leaders learned from them, and so can we. As you explore their worlds and words, remember that it takes time to become worthy of followers. Leadership isn't learned or earned in a moment.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

OK, We Surrender

We had our thoughts all ready for this weekend's blog and then we went to the pool and then things changed...that happens very frequently so why should we be surprised? Our pool, like yours we hope, is very dynamic. The lanes are changing, the speeds are changing and the folks who come see us continually change. Swimming and coaching are never boring, that much we know for certain.

We were asked by Kelly to lay down some thoughts about goals since the calendar flips over what with folks making resolutions and here goes.

We think Napoleon Hill was the one who said that goals are dreams with a deadline. We like that one a lot. For your dream to come true it needs to be acted on; for that to happen the goal needs to be "real" enough to cause you to change what you are currently doing so that you can effect change and achieve your goal.

The following guidelines may be helpful for you.

* Goals need to be written - in the first person, present tense stated positively

* Goals need to be specific - vagueness leads to missed targets

* Goals need to be exciting - this makes the effort worthwhile

* Goals need to be imaginable - believable works as well; we don't like the word "realistic" since it has negative connotations

* Goals need to be reset as you reach them - otherwise you get stuck

For example...I want to get in better shape is a nice sentiment...but this works better...I love going to 4 workouts each week. It is a great way to start (finish) the day! I lift Monday/Wednesday/Friday at home (the gym) and feel myself getting stronger. I am so proud of myself!

Give this a try. We believe you will be very pleased with the results...Happy New Year to all...see you at the pool!