Sunday, March 25, 2012

1000 Words

We all know the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. As coaches we have seen this to be true more often than not. While not everyone fits the mold of a visual learner, many do. Some are verbal learners while yet others figure things out kinesthetically.

One of the basic ingredients to faster swimming is the line you hold in the water. This is critical to efficiency and ultimately speed as well. We did two things this past week to address the issue of body line in the pool.

First of all, we tied short tethers with a bungee cord to our swimmers and had them swim out to the resistance point, had them swim several strokes at that point and then immediately go into a streamlined position and feel their "place" in the water as the cord pulled them back. It gave them a heightened sense of how their body molds into the water around them. Then we had them on a long bungee that went the entire 25 yards. We had them get into a completely streamlined position and then we pulled them the entire 25 yards. Our power plus the contraction gave them a "speed ride" that put big smiles on their faces. At the same time we asked them to lift and then lower their head to feel the very real effects of streamlined vs. non-streamlined body position. They all "got it" when towed at a fast speed. The line is critical to speed.

The other thing we did was to share with them the 30 second video clip that Jim Sugar showed us. Jim is on our North Bay Aquatics Masters team and is a professional videographer (among other things see his award winning documentary "Swimming in a Dream" on YouTube). When you click on the link below you will see at the beginning and the end a perfect picture of Ryan Lochte breaking the surface while disturbing the water minimally. We have worked on this a lot this week, every day. We are seeing improvements. It may take a while to see it in meets but we are seeing it in practice which is the first step.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Empty the Tank

This is a big week for Bruce Springsteen fans. The latest album Wreaking Ball has been released and on Friday the 9th at the fabled Apollo Theater in Harlem, Bruce and the E Street Band performed a concert in honor of the 10th anniversary of Sirius Satellite Radio. The new album is loaded with specific and metaphorical images about the current social condition. This concert was the opening night of the band's new tour.

If you are a fan and have been to a concert you know the drill...all night, nonstop, no holds barred energy from one of the great performers of all time, let alone our time.

We found a link on Google we want to share. If you search for "Jon Stewart Bruce Springsteen Kennedy Center" you will find Jon's introduction of Bruce for the evening's festivities. The usual humor is there. We found the following to be particularly compelling...since we have seen Bruce live many times and since we coach - live.

To paraphrase Jon...the power of Bruce Springsteen is that whenever I see Bruce do anything he empties the tank, every time and the beautiful thing about this man is that he empties that tank for his family, he empties that tank for his art, he empties that tank for his audience and he empties that tank for his country...and we are on the receiving end of that beautiful gift and are ourselves rejuvenated if not redeemed.

We have coached many athletes. We have been privileged to have several over the last 4+ decades that know how to empty their tank.

We have coached, not often enough, emptying our tank. We resolve to do better.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Robert M. Sapolsky

A really good friend, Lois, told me about an extraordinary lecture she attended last week in which the speaker, Robert Sapolsky, spoke of humans and a variety of our attributes including confidence. As coaches we are truly in the confidence business. So I did what anyone would do (!) I Googled him and the word confidence and what appears below jumped up. Isn't life grand?!

Posted by on Nov 7, 2011 in Momentos

I could not be more thrilled about the amount of circulation thegirlwiththewhiteboard has recorded since the site was publicized late last Tuesday night. The support and encouragement of my followers has been enormous, and seeing more and more unfamiliar names and faces following has been a greater joy. For me, December needs to arrive sooner because I can hardly contain how eager I am to start the project on December 2nd. Together, we can keep spreading this to become something truly powerful to many.

"What if...?" This interrogative phrase is used so frequently, but why? Humans are the only creatures that develop anxiety over what could be, unlike the other species on this planet. For class, I once read a book by Stanford University professor and primatologist Robert M. Sapolsky called Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers: An Updated Guide To Stress, Stress Related Diseases, and Coping. The chapters go on to discuss chemical reactions in the body and the dreaded increase of glucocorticoid levels- we need not go further into the physiology behind all of this- as a result of stress. Translation: stress kills, well, eventually. And what is one way that we accumulate stress? We worry not only about the here and now, but also what is to come. That is what separates us from, say, a zebra. If pursued by a predator, the zebra's stress levels are heightened until the chase is over and, hopefully, the zebra makes it through with his life. Afterwards, the zebra does whatever it is that zebras do. On the flipside, what would we do? We would then stress about when, where and how the next predator would attack us until it either happened or it didn't happen. See the difference? We stress about potential situations, along with what we are presently going through. Sapolsky knew what he was talking about.

Why do we stress about what isn't even certain? I will admit, that as someone who possesses qualities of a Type-A personality, I know exactly what it is like to stress about upcoming deadlines or situations. While it is good to have a healthy amount of planning and execution to arrive at your goals, you can't let it consume you. It is then when you lose sight of what is right in front of you and start overlooking the small wonders that you normally would appreciate. Trust in your abilities; appreciate what you do have, and stop worrying. Even if you are brought to a challenging situation, you will face it and get through it while learning about yourself and becoming more self-assured.

On occasion our "What if...?" could also be referencing a potentially good situation. For example, the day I thought of the idea for this project, my mind flew through many what ifs. But, I obviously chose to make it more than a "what if". It became a certainty. In this case, stop thinking about what could be. Instead, go out there and get it. Did I know if people would consider my idea to be foolish? No. Will I know how people will react to me on the street? No. Did I know how to make a website? No. Had I ever made a business card? No. But, did I care about any of it? No. I wanted something, so I went out and attained it. With passion, everything else will fall into place. With this attitude, I have been carried through achieving anything I was passionate to support. Was I ever disappointed? No, because every situation would have been more disappointing had I not taken a stand and pursued my intended outcome.
Be your own biggest fan. You may not always have someone there to encourage you every step of the way, but by having confidence you will be able to accomplish much without external motivation. What's that? You aren't confident? Solution: fake it 'til you make it. Believe you are confident, challenge yourself in situations, and talk to people. Eventually, you won't be faking anymore; you will have developed your confidence. Voila!

What are you waiting for? Go out and turn your "what if" into something real!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Toward the End

At some point all seasons end. And as we look back on this point what do we feel; how do we assess where we are; what comes next? Some of our swimmers are competing in college conference championships this weekend. Some will move forward to NCAA championship meets. Some will not. Our club swimmers are at their "last chance to qualify" meet for the March Junior Nationals in Orlando later this month.

In each case the severe nature of our sport is in plain view; either you make your "cut" or you don't. Either you move on to the next level of competition or you go home and back to work for the next training/racing block.

At our team meeting during dinner tonight with one day to go in our pursuit of Orlando cuts we reminded everyone of three things. While some made cuts this weekend and some didn't and some have another shot or two tomorrow we said the following:

If you missed it, is ok to be disappointed but not discouraged. Discouraged means literally a lack of courage and no one on our team striving for higher standards lacks courage. Disappointed perhaps; discouraged - never.

As each swimmer gets closer to their own personal zero - the fastest possible speed for them - it gets more difficult to whittle time off the watch. No one will ever swim the 100 free in zero seconds. Yet someone will swim it faster than has been done so far in history. Each of us has our physical limits. The trick is to get all the way to that point and savor the pursuit.

Finally, this pursuit is what makes us as coaches and you as swimmers feel so very much alive. It is important to remember to be grateful and at the same time realize it is important to ask for more.

We asked each team member tonight to be grateful and ask for more. We are doing the same tonight as coaches. We hope you will join us as you pursue excellence in your chosen field, on your chosen path.