Sunday, June 24, 2012

Words of Wisdom from Those Who Know

At North Bay Aquatics we are very fortunate to have some swimmers who move on to colleges with big time swimming programs. JD – as he is known to all of us – is one such student/athlete. He is swimming and studying at the University of Arizona…which makes Ken feel enormously proud since Ken is an All-American from the 70’s at Arizona…and he actually graduated as well! Eric is the Head Coach and he held a team meeting recently. JD shared the content from that meeting…in a word, awesome. Thank you JD for sharing with NBA. We really appreciate your presence on our team.

Eric had all of the swimmers who have been Olympians give everyone a piece of advice before they leave for Trials.  Everything was geared toward Trials and the Olympics, but it can easily be applied to swimmers at any level going to their big meet.  For that matter, the advice can be relevant to anyone who needs to perform when it counts.  

Below are my paraphrased highlights.  You can see how important smiling and relaxing are at big meets.  Mistakes and omissions are mine; credit for any good stuff goes to the respective Olympian.  



Jon Denton-Schneider
Eller College of Management - Entrepreneurship, Business Economics
College of Humanities - Spanish (Portuguese Concentration)
The University of Arizona, Honors College

Crissy Perham - 1992 silver medalist, 100 fly; relay gold medalist

  Crispy qualified for the 1991 World Championships team.  She remembers being very nervous on deck because it was her first major international meet.  Matt Biondi came up to her and asked, "Are you having fun?"  She said, "Yes, of course.  This is what I do; after all, I'm a swimmer, so of course I'm having fun being at Worlds."  His response: "Well, then can you please make your face look like you’re having fun?"  

Albert Subirats - 2008, 2012 Olympian for Venezuela
Albert didn't perform as well as he wanted to in 2008 because he treated the Olympics as something bigger than they really were.  "It's just another meet," he said, "but I forgot that in Beijing.  If you're going to Olympic Trials or the Olympics themselves, you have to take the 'Olympic' part out of it.  Don't freak out - it's the same 50, 100, 200, or 400 meters you always swim."  

Christine Magnuson - 2008 silver medalist, 100 fly; relay silver medalist

  Christine talked about how seeing herself as an underdog was critical to her making the team in 2008.  "No one expected anything from me at Trials last time, there was no target on my back.  That's how I'm going to think about it this time around, too," she said, even though she is one of the "favorites" to make the team.  She also gave advice on how to keep yourself from over-thinking the whole thing: "Pick someone in your heat and focus on beating them.  And it can be for any reason.  For me at Trials in 2008, I chose someone because I thought she was a real jerk."  

Matt Grevers- 2008 silver medalist, 100 back; relay gold medalist

  Grevers focused on something similar to Crissy.  "Even if you're super nervous, just smile.  I don't care if you've made finals and you're going crazy inside, just smile.  Smiling relieves so much stress and helps with your nerves.  Every time they call my name, I just do this," he said, and made his goofy trademark grin.  

Ed Moses - 2000 silver medalist, 100 breaststroke; relay gold medalist

  Ed's message was similar to Christine's.  "In 2000, I made the team when no one expected it.  But in 2004, I was the favorite in both breaststrokes and I didn't make the team in either event.  I cared too much about what other people thought of me, and I let that get to my head."  

Amanda Beard- 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 Olympian; multiple-time gold medalist, world record holder
Amanda said she likes to think about how there are bigger things in life than swimming.  "Before every race, I always spend time with my family because they remind me that swimming isn't everything.  When I'm behind the blocks, I always wave to them - they go crazy, and it makes me smile.  If you guys need to, you can wave to them, too, because they're always drunk and they'll love it."    

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Space Shuttle, Helicopter, Tarmac

Here in northern California we had our high school championships four weeks ago. The day after that weekend concluded we gave our team Monday off. On Tuesday we had a team meeting about the next three weeks. Those weeks are filled with school activities including finals, making up for all the work that was put off to finish projects, graduation parties, lunches and graduation itself. Everyone gets caught up in the scene, even the freshmen. It is a challenging three weeks to be a swimmer with your eye on the summer season.

We spoke to our team about this period saying that every year we see some who remember to train as much as they can, making some sacrifices socially to stay on track. We even had a meet on our schedule - the Summer Sanders Invitational in Roseville, CA - to mark the end of this three week period. While at the meet Ken and I observed pretty much what we expected to see. Some kids rocked really well including Junior Nationals and Olympic Trials cuts, some fought to hang on and others got a nice tan.

Last week, on Wednesday at our team meeting, Ken gave one of his all-time best performances as our head coach. He spoke about the summer racing season. We outlined the schedule of meets and how the first weekend in August we were taking a large group to Clovis, CA for a great senior meet. They have two 50 meter pools, three finals and always very warm weather. Conditions are usually perfect for fast swimming at the end of summer. You can also make your summer Junior National cuts at this meet earning a trip to Indianapolis. It is a really meaningful way to end the summer. And the time standards are not super tough so nearly all in our training group can make the meet.
But then Ken tossed in the caveat. You cannot go to the meet simply by having the time standards. You actually need to be ready to race well and to add to the team effort. So, if you are not ready, either because you haven't trained enough, or properly or haven't raced enough, or properly then you stay home and start your short summer vacation a little sooner.

He said our group can be split into three sections. He made everyone feel comfortable with his delivery. He had a big smile on his face. He told a few stories from his own high school and college summer training and racing days. He became one of them, a peer and yet still their leader...I had visions of the pied piper!

He said, we have some people on the space shuttle...we have some on the helicopter - which as everyone knows just hovers...and then we have some people on the tarmac. They all were laughing and they all got it without being uncomfortable. It was masterful...coaching genius, especially the delivery.

Afterward I had Emmy ask me, "Don, where do you think I am?" I replied, "The shuttle." She laughed and said, "No, I am on the tarmac. I took three days off after high school championships; three days off after finals; three days off to get my lifeguard certification." We smiled at each other...point made, case closed.

After this Saturday's workout, a gem that covered 6800 meters long course, Isabelle declared with a smile and a note of personal triumph, "I am off the tarmac!"

It is now seven weeks to Clovis and this much is certain...some, maybe most, will go. Those who do will be ready and will succeed. Those who stay home will know the choice was theirs all the way. It is a valuable life lesson, that much is certain.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

"I Never Thought It Would Be Me"

Those were the words out of Brigitte (Jo Jo) Winkler's mouth after she qualified for the 2012 US Olympic Swimming Trials last night while winning the 100 meter breaststroke race in Roseville, CA. Her time was 1:11.99. Several of her North Bay Aquatics teammates had a more reasonable shot at the prestigious meet's cuts. In the end, she was the one left standing in a somewhat nerve racking weekend of racing.

The lesson learned by Brigitte and her teammates was that nothing is assured and to some extent nothing is impossible.

Hard work, determination, trust and courage are all needed. There are some 300,000 registered swimmers in US Swimming. 1700 have been invited to try out for the Olympic Team. That means that .02% of the swimming population will be in Omaha.

The next lesson is that there are three stages following something remarkable (either a positive or negative situation)...Shock, Disbelief, Acceptance.

Jo Jo has had several conversations with her coaches about this process. If you cannot get to acceptance then you most usually stall out, never to repeat that awesome "unbelievable" event again.

Regardless of the outcome you need to move into the acceptance phase in order to move forward, either to new greater heights or to put aside a major disappointment and regain your footing.

There will be several swimmers who make the Olympic Team who no one is even considering right now. Likewise, there will be several favorites who miss. It happens every time. That is why they swim the events in the first place.

The first step in the process is to get invited. Congratulations to Brigitte and all those who will be in Omaha. It is a rare and distinct opportunity to say the least.

A final thought we shared with her is this; be grateful - and ask for more. She has accepted her results and is now ready to move forward. She is not done.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

+ VS. -

USA Swimming sends us a weekly newsletter. Two weeks ago this was part of the message. We think it is a concise way for us as coaches to help our swimmers when they say, "How can I stay positive?" Most of them know the value of it; they simply don't have a set of tools to do so. This has got to help...

Thank you USA Swimming and Jon Gordon!

By Jon Gordon

With the release of The Positive Dog a lot of people have asked me where the inspiration for the book came from. It was inspired by the story about a man who travels to a village to speak to a wise man. He says to the wise man, "I feel like there are two dogs inside me. One dog is positive, loving, kind and optimistic and then I have this fearful, pessimistic, angry and negative dog and they fight all the time. I don't know who is going to win." The wise man thinks for a moment and responds, "I know who is going to win. The one you feed the most. So feed the positive dog."

We all have a positive and negative dog inside of us. It's part of our human nature. The key is to feed the positive dog and starve the negative dog. The more we feed the positive dog the bigger it gets and the stronger it becomes. The actions are simple. We just need to make them a habit and do them every day. Here are a few ways to feed the positive dog:

1. Practice Gratitude - You can't be stressed and thankful at the same time. Gratitude is like muscle, the more you exercise it the stronger it gets. Take 10 minutes each day and make a list of what you are thankful for. You will fill your body and brain with costless and priceless anti-depressants.

2. Take a Walk of Gratitude - I do this each morning and it feeds me all day long.

3. Turn off the News - Starve the negative dog.

4. Smile More - It enhances your serotonin levels and uplifts you.

5. Focus on Get to vs. Have to - Read the article here.

6. Read uplifting books or devotionals.

7. Get together with a positive, uplifting person.

8. Reach Out - Call or visit someone who has made a difference in your life and thank them. (Research shows this is a huge happiness booster)

9. Write a few Thank You Notes Today - When you thank others you feed them and yourself.

10. Watch a funny movie that makes you belly laugh.

11. Take out your Telescope - I often talk about a telescope when encouraging people to create a big-picture vision for their future and dream about the life they want to create. The telescope represents our dream for the future and, according to Barbara Fredrickson; research shows this is a simple way to boost positivity. Today dream about your future and it will feed you with positivity now.

12. Be a Coach - Coaches bring out the best in others. The best coaches mentor, encourage, praise, inspire, and lead with optimism and positivity. Today, feed others and yourself with positivity by being a coach.

13. Start a Success Journal - Write down the one great thing about your day. The more you look for success, the more you will find it.

14. Decide to Make a Difference - When you help other people with their problems you forget about your own.

What strategy will you start today to feed your positive dog?