Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday Musings

Things we wonder about, and then when we realize we are still wondering we ask ourselves if the wonder comes from us not being clearer. At the end of the day it reaffirms that the learning process never stops for coaches and we believe that is a good thing. We can continue to improve all the way to the end.

Why do some swimmers constantly need reminding about basics? For example, why is it that a swimmer who knows they have a technical flaw in their stroke/start/turn seems unable to make the change? Is it that they are actually unable or is it that the payoff seems rather vague and so the incentive isn’t clear or powerful enough?

Some swimmers constantly need to be held to a more clearly defined practice attendance regimen. They say swimming is important and they have high goals. They even attain some of them…and yet they disappear from practice for days at a time, even if a big meet – even a travel meet – is within weeks.

Why is it that a swimmer who knows the value of distance per stroke doesn’t practice it in the early season meets and then admits that they should have/could have when it is time for the bigger meets? Maybe we need to put that swimmer on a strict stroke count “diet” and not allow them to shift to a faster interval until they demonstrate their ability to hang onto water. Do we even have the room to do that and if not then do we abandon teaching that critical skill to simply “makes things work better”?

Every year as new swimmers come to the team or move into new groups guess who comes along for the ride? Yep, their parents…and they need teaching…so it seems we keep teaching the same things over and over which means one of two things, 1 – job security or 2 – not the best job of setting forth policies in advance.

Why do parents (and their swimmers) take vacations right before big meets? We can be pretty safe in saying that they don’t plan a trip to Hawaii two or three weeks before final exams. Why on earth would they do so before an important meet? The answer to that one is rather clear. They, the parents and perhaps the kids as well, don’t value swimming nearly as importantly as school. We tell our team that school comes first, swimming second or even third in some cases, especially with the younger ones. Yet parents spend a rather large amount of time and money pursuing swimming excellence only to often whiff on the important at bat.

We hate to think that we care “too” much and that is why these things perplex us from time to time – like today! And yet, we have a difficult time adjusting (lowering) our standards to make these types of things less bothersome. And so, we will keep our standards high and continue to “play favorites” (our favorite quote from John Leonard) and do what we always do…coach the ones who come to the pool.

Also, we are happy to report that we have many favorites since quite a few come to the pool on a very regular basis…and most of these have Sectional and National Team caps!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Words of Wisdom from the Quarterback And Olympic Coach Greg Troy

Colin Kaepernick Goes Back To Work (from San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch)

As a trainer at CES Performance outside Atlanta for the past 12 years, Aaron Roberts is familiar with the offseason rhythms of most NFL players.

Those who return for workouts as early as February, he knows, tend to dip their toe back into training.
So Roberts was surprised last week when 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick arrived nine days removed from the Super Bowl with a question: What position group works the hardest?
The linemen? Guess which newly minted NFL glamour boy immediately began laboring with the big boys in the trenches?

“He’s definitely not a prima donna,” Roberts said. “He’s not asking for special treatment. He wants to work out with the linemen, for crying out loud. He wants to get in the mix right off the bat. When I first heard he would be here so soon, I was like, ‘OK, man, go take a vacation for a minute.’ But I guess he’s going to put that on hold.”

Wrong. Kaepernick already took his vacation.

It lasted a week and included a trip to Southern California to attend the Cartoon Network Hall of Game awards and a pre-Grammy event in Beverly Hills.

After those red-carpet shindigs, it was bye-bye, Hollywood.

Hello, hard work.

Known for his 6 a.m. arrivals at the 49ers’ facility during the season, Kaepernick is logging eight-hour training sessions five days a week at the CES facility in Duluth, Ga. His workouts include running, lifting and high-intensity swimming in which he’s tethered to a resistance-providing harness.

By his standards, he’s coasting. Clock-in time: 8 a.m.

His dive-right-back-in approach might have surprised Roberts, but others saw this type of offseason coming. Two days after the Super Bowl loss to the Ravens, a still-seething Kaepernick was asked how long the defeat would linger. “For the rest of my life,” he said.

Seeking a cheerier subject, a reporter asked what he would remember most about a season in which he threw for 302 yards in the Super Bowl, a game that came 77 days after his first NFL start. “It wasn’t good enough,” Kaepernick said.

Moments later, left tackle Joe Staley was asked about his quarterback’s quiet fury. “He’s probably one of the most competitive people I’ve ever been around,” Staley said. “He has all the fuel he needs for a lifetime.”

Said wide receiver Kyle Williams: “Being that close and not being able to get it? That guy is going to go crazy in the weight room. He’s going to go crazy out there on the field.”

Not surprisingly, Kaepernick is training with athletes who might be able to match his motivation: The majority of the players at CES this month have been hungry college prospects preparing for this week’s NFL combine in Indianapolis.

This early in the NFL’s offseason, Kaepernick is among a handful of professional players at CES. That group includes 49ers wide receivers Ricardo Lockette and Chad Hall, who both grew up in Georgia. Wide receiver A.J. Jenkins is expected to arrive soon, joining other pros such as Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds and his teammate, defensive tackle Steve McLendon.

Kaepernick also trained at CES before his senior season at Nevada and prior to the 2011 NFL combine. Before the ’11 draft, CES founder Chip Smith was sufficiently impressed. Smith declared Kaepernick was more athletic, had a stronger arm and was more NFL-ready than Auburn’s Cam Newton, another CES client who was the No. 1 overall pick in that year’s draft.

Two years later, Kaepernick, taken 35 picks after Newton, has proved himself on the NFL’s biggest stage. And he’ll have to do it again next season against defenses that will be better prepared to limit the pistol offense Kaepernick runs brilliantly.

There will be pressure to duplicate his feats from his first season as a starter. In Kaepernick’s mind, however, he’s eliminating the issue of nerves by punching in each weekday morning in Duluth, Ga.

As he repeatedly said during a season in which he went from backup to bona fide star, pressure comes from a lack of preparation.

2012 Men’s Olympic Swim Coach Greg Troy made the same observation when he said, “No swimmer who trains properly ever misses a taper.”

Monday, February 11, 2013

"The Power of One Tenth"

That was the message in the subject line of an email we got yesterday from one of our swimmers who is training at an East Coast school, preparing himself for college next year. We find often that words from actual swimmers make a bigger impact than words from coaches. What follows below is a perfect example of this. Thank you Bradley for sharing and giving us all a glimpse into your world.

Today was the final dual meet at home. We have been resting for a little bit now so everyone saw this as the last chance to get a few pool records, putting our name on that record board. I was entered in the 200 Medley relay (B relay) 200 IM 100 back and 400 free relay (A). I swam the in B medley because Greg wanted to see who could go faster, and earn the spot at Easterns, leading off that relay. The other guy is named Joe; we have been neck and neck all year long. We are all wearing regular speedos. He beats me by .15 leading off the relay, he goes 23.9 I go 24.09. He earns the spot. His relay also got the pool record by 2 tenths meaning his name is now on the board. I am so pissed off. Next is the 200 IM. The pool record is 1:52.1. I go 1:52.5. Again, angrier. We now move into the 100 backstroke. Joe is extremely confident that he can beat me and get the record, 51.5. It was such an epic race, we were neck and neck for the first three laps, and I ripped 6 underwater kicks on the last lap, and he only did 3. We both died into the wall. I looked up, his time was 51.32, a new pool record, and my time was a 51.22, the new (official) pool record. We both got the time we needed, but I got my hand on that wall a tenth faster, and now my name is on that record board, not his. I can't explain how much it made me realize how important every tenth is. If Joe had not been there, and I went 51.3, I would have been just as happy. But that adrenaline, and that extra tenth, it made me feel a way I haven't in a long time. I am so ready to race again during my big meet. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Over/Under

In today's Super Bowl the Over/Under is 47.5 points. You can bet that the final score, regardless of who wins, will be more or less than 47.5.

At swim meets we wonder if an athlete ever says before the swim, "If I go a 55 I’ll be happy". And what is this business about "being happy" anyway? Kind of drives us crazy if you want to know...

Ken and I often say when the feet hit the wall in 13.5, "she is well under a minute on this swim." When the split at the 75 is 45.8 we say, "Well, she'll be under a minute. Too bad she'll be at the flags." We are brutally honest sometimes.

Or what about if you say to the team, "we are going to swim as many 100's as possible on the 1:20 (pick your interval), and when someone misses we stop. You guys tell me how many you can make before we get started." Another version of the Over/Under.

Life is full of over/unders. Pick your category and it is there. How long can you keep "it" together?

We submit that the real winners in the game of swimming and life spend very little time on the concept of over/under. Rather they are fully engaged in the process of chasing excellence whenever and wherever it presents itself.

Awards and rewards are exceptional, to be sure. Do something well enough, often enough and you will get the big reward…personal satisfaction. To our way of thinking, what is more lasting is the knowledge that you did your very best when it counted the most...if you are fortunate, having done so, positively impacted your "community".

At the very least, you sleep really well every night...and enthusiastically greet each new day.