Sunday, July 31, 2011

Courage & Brains

Last week we took our Senior Team to Clovis to race at Sectionals. Our theme was to race with courage and brains. In essence we said to get after the swims with some energy, stick your neck out a little – courage, giving yourself a chance for a breakthrough. If this was done with some brains, as opposed to reckless abandon, then you could get home and have a great swim. Almost to a swim, everyone should courage. Every now and then the brains got left at the block and the swim turned south somewhat. Yet for the most part we were hugely successful. We had 23 swimmers turn in a collective 78 best times, including relay splits.

Now comes the task of regrouping for Junior Nationals in two weeks at Stanford. We’d like to share with you our approach as we build back up, readying ourselves for another round of high level racing.

We are looking at the process (this whole game is process driven!) from a slightly different angle: the difference between being able and being willing. We are challenging our swimmers to be able one more time. They certainly have the confidence from Sectionals. We want them to simultaneously be willing.

We went to the dictionary and shared with them the information below.

Definition of Able




Fit; adapted; suitable.


Having sufficient power, strength, force, skill, means, or resources of any kind to accomplish the object; competent; qualified; capable; as, an able workman, soldier, seaman, a woman able to work; a mind able to reason; able to endure pain;


Specially: Having intellectual qualifications, or strong mental powers; showing ability or skill; talented; clever; powerful;

Definition of Willing




Free to do; having the mind inclined; disposed; not averse; desirous; consenting; complying; ready.


Received of choice, or without reluctance; submitted to voluntarily; chosen; desired.


Spontaneous; self-moved.

As coaches, we know – and they know – they are able. The key to racing well again is the willing part of the equation. That will be our focus for the next two weeks.

We expect it to go very well. We’ll let you know!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Main Thing

We are at the Summer Speedo Sectional Championships and ran into Terry Stoddard who is Swim Pasadena…along with his coaching staff, swimmers and parents. We always talk about all things related to swimming and growth, professionally and personally. His pearl of wisdom this week is below.

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Why Winners Win at …by Nick Summers

Andre Agassi was losing: a lot. After a meteoric start to his professional tennis career, with the best return and fastest reflexes in the game, Agassi had become a chronic underachiever by the early 1990s, dropping early matches and choking in finals alike.

Brad Gilbert was the anti-Agassi, a moderately talented junker who in his own career had eked out matches he had no right to win. His book about tactics, just published, was titled Winning Ugly. At dinner in Key Biscayne, Agassi wanted an honest assessment of his game. Why did he keep losing to less skilled players?

Gilbert excoriated him for trying to play with perfection. Instead of risking a killer shot on every point, why not keep the ball in play and give the other guy a chance to lose? "It's all about your head, man," Gilbert said, as Agassi recalls in his memoir, Open. "With your talent, if you're fifty percent game-wise, but ninety-five percent head-wise, you're going to win. But if you're ninety-five percent game-wise and fifty percent head-wise, you're going to lose, lose, lose."

"There are more players that have the talent to be the best in the world than there are winners," says Timothy Gallwey, the author of several books about the mental side of tennis, golf, and other pursuits. "One way of looking at it is that winners get in their own way less. They interfere with the raw expression of talent less. And to do that, first they win the war against fear, against doubt, against insecurity--which are no minor victories."

This information comes to us from the July 18, 2011 Newsweek article. Thanks to Theresa for sharing with us. We find it particularly interesting since we are always looking for information about how the brain works, the super computer for our bodies. We agree with Gallwey that the victories over fear, doubt and insecurities are indeed major ones.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Jerry West

Those who follow basketball and those who are casual sports fans know the name Jerry West. He is a Hall of Fame player who also has coached in the NBA and has been an extremely successful, competent executive in the NBA.

We live here in the San Francisco Bay Area, home of the Golden State Warriors NBA franchise. This franchise has been woeful for so many years we cannot even remember. The team won the NBA title in the mid 1970’s when Rick Barry and others led the team. Since then it has been mostly a team of promise, playing pretty much poor basketball compared to the rest of the league.

There has been an ownership change and one of the moves the new group made has been to hire Jerry West as an advisor. In a recent interview he gave some very compelling answers that reconfirmed what we know generally to be true about high level performers.

Q: Gotta ask you, as a former head coach in the NBA, how much of that job is X’s and O’s…and how much of it is player psychology?

A: First of all, I think you have to motivate players…I said it once and I’ll say it till I die: Hard work is a skill, and a coach can bring a game plan to the room, he can have every X and O down to a science…but the bottom line is…you’ve got to have players that go out and compete every night.

Q: You chose to join the Warriors as an advisor, and you know you could have done any number of things with your life. There must have been something about the owners and their pitch to you that said, “I’m going to do this. I’m going to spend my time with the Warriors.”

A: One of the most important things in life is to be around people that have great energy and great enthusiasm. I don’t want to be around anyone at this point in my life that’s an energy drainer, because they’re not a lot of fun to be around, and pretty soon you are at…their level. But these are two incredibly enthusiastic men. They are unbelievably bright. They want to do something very, very positive up here…The goal is to get this team to a greater height…and the way to do that is to have a very, very tough and strong ownership that has fiber to it, that’s not afraid to make decisions. And sometimes they’re not always popular, but that’s exactly what you are going to see up here.

Pretty clear to us…how about you?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Distance per Stroke

Whether you are swimming for fitness or competition distance per stroke is an excellent skill to work on; we of course recommend regularly but will settle for occasionally for those who are more fitness inclined.

Distance per stroke, along with tempo (how fast you move your stroke cycle) are the two main components of speed. For general fitness you can simply focus on dps (distance per stroke).

What is it? No mystery here. It is exactly what it says: how far through the water can you propel yourself with each arm cycle. When you swim freestyle, backstroke or butterfly you only count the propulsive phase. Do not count the recovery. When you swim breaststroke you count the arms and legs as “1” complete stroke cycle. If you come up with a partial number, such as 16 and ½ then you are counting incorrectly. It is probably 16.

It is extremely important to do this in the regular pool you training in so you have a “base line” number. Obviously 25 yards and 25 meters and 50 meters will all be different. Some folks swim in a 33 1/3 or a 40 meter pool. It makes no difference. If you swim open water you will not be able to get an accurate count.

So let’s say you have a number in a 25 yard pool (we’ll use this since it is the most common one here in the US) that is 18 strokes of freestyle. If you can figure out how to get that number down to 17 or even 16 you have made a significant improvement in your stroke efficiency. If you swim competitively that is very important. If you swim for fitness it is also huge in a different way. By lowering your stroke count from 18 to 17 you have just moved your body (your weight hasn’t changed) over the same distance with one less stroke. Another way to look at it is this. If you bench press 100 lbs. 18 times you have lifted 1800 pounds. Lift that same 1800 lbs. in 17 lifts and you will need to add some extra weight to the bar to make the totals the same. To do that you will put more stress on your muscles which will break them down and have them rebuild at a stronger level. You just got stronger.

If you want to swim competitively in open water you need to master this dps skill. If you simply want to swim for fitness you probably have a goal of some sort; swim a certain number of laps or yardage per week. Why not get stronger in the water (and out of the water at the same time) while you are achieving your goals? If you get into the dps skill you will do just that. You will get stronger and more efficient in the water…

…and that is a great thing since swimming is the only sport activity that can actually save your life…if you are strong – efficient – enough to reach shore.

Have a great week and count your strokes now and then!