Sunday, August 25, 2013

George Yeoman Pocock

“Every good rowing coach, in his own way, imparts to his men the kind of self-discipline required to achieve the ultimate from mind, heart and body. This is why most ex-oarsmen will tell you they learned more fundamentally important lessons in the racing shell than in the classroom.”

“It is hard to make that boat go as fast as you want to. The enemy, of course, is resistance of the water, as you have to displace the amount of water equal to the weight of the men and equipment, but that very water is what supports you and that very enemy is your friend. So is life: the very problems you must overcome also support you and make you stronger in overcoming them.”

Our friend Jack Ridley scores again in recommending The Boys in the Boat. We have only begun and yet this will be a great read. It follows the story of 9 young men and their quest for an Olympic Gold in 1936 in Germany.

One of those men was Joe Rantz. As the author Daniel James Brown was interviewing him for the book Joe told him that he would like for the story to be told. Then he added, “But not just about me. It has to be about the boat.”

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Keeping Things Simple

Following up on what we wrote about last week, looking to make changes in how we approach our season, it occurs to us that we can make substantive changes but still keep things simple.

This occurred to us as we mused about why a very fast swimmer on our team decided to try his talents on the football field this fall, his freshman year in high school. We certainly don’t ever want to be in charge of another person's life and yet it made us think, "Why isn't swimming, especially on our team, compelling enough to make such a decision a foregone conclusion?"

We said we were not thrilled but we support him. We will welcome him back in mid-November and he knows he will need to earn his spot in our SR 1 training group. We said, "We love coaching you but we can only coach you when you come to the pool. That's where we hang pretty much every day," pretty simple.

Whichever path it is you choose please remember the old adage "work works," pretty simple.
Eddie Reese says do 3 things in freestyle; 1 - put your fingers in the pool in front of your shoulder pointed in the direction you wish to follow then 2 - point your fingertips to the bottom of the pool as quickly as you can and finally 3 - when you recover, point your fingers at the lane line, pretty simple.

In this month's Swimming World Magazine there is a discussion on hypoxic training. University of Arizona Coach Rick DeMont says, "The secret is to just keep moving," pretty simple.

It seems to us that as coaches we oftentimes try to justify our programming and changes we make to it by giving complex detailed explanations. We are not so sure that is necessary or valuable. Someone once said about investing that if you cannot hear the pitch and understand it in 5 minutes, take a pass. Might be worth adapting to how we present our program.

10x100/1:15 is indeed different than 10x100/1:45. Make the explanation simple and you have a better than average chance of having the ears connect to the brain and the set getting done with the correct intention you had in mind.

What do you think?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Time for a Change

There is a natural time for change in any training program. It is usually when there is a natural break in the competition cycle. An exception to this would be when an injury/illness occurs. Another notable exception would be when an athlete falls into the zone of failing adaptation and needs a dramatic shift in the rest to work ratio.

In competitive swimming the new season usually begins in late August or early September. This is when the natural break in racing affords time for change. The athlete is usually susceptible to or at the very least receptive to the idea of change.

The questions are what kind and how much change to make? The answer usually goes something like this. Make enough change to get their attention and make it in an area that you determine will make a substantive difference in the outcome. Making change for the sake of change is a mistake. You determine what changes you want to make by looking at the results of last season, seeing where shortfalls occurred.

On our team for instance, we are getting better at racing 200’s. Yet we still do not have a real grasp on either how to construct the race or how to execute it. We will look at both those questions and address it beginning this September. We will do so by adjusting the training, group wide, to accommodate both scenarios – the construction and the execution.

We determined this by an honest analysis of our high school and summer racing results. Our team is very capable; indeed we dare say proficient, at the 100 yard/meter distance. When we stretch up to the 200’s we are not so proficient. We have determined this is worth addressing. We will explain the merits to our team and we expect to be successful in “recruiting” them to the process. We believe we have only one swimmer in our Senior 1 training group that is not going to be included in this emphasis. All others will be. In all our other training groups all swimmers will be included.

Another area of emphasis will be our strength and conditioning programing. We are making some changes to that as well, getting more specific as to the best way to exercise that will have the greatest carryover value to the pool.

Some coach a lot more famous than we are said change no more than 10-15% of your program at any one time. We believe that to be a good rule of thumb. It allows you to keep what you believe works while adding in that which you determine is needed.

Two other things to bear in mind; change can be made by simply deleting an item. It doesn’t necessarily need to be replaced. And give your change ample time to see if it is making a difference. You will know sooner than later but if you don’t see progress within 4-6 months it may be time to re-evaluate.

Change for the sake of change is never valid. Yet change we must. All humans – and by inference all teams – are either improving or declining. Stay on the upswing. It makes the season much more rewarding.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Jim Fannin has written another good book. Like the book S.C.O.R.E. Fannin keeps it simple and straight to the point. In his new book The Pebble in the Shoe he uses the metaphor of a foot race and how a small seemingly insignificant thing, such as a very small pebble, can make all the difference between success and coming up short.

After the short story he says there are five things that will help all of us when it comes to being ready to do and then actually doing our best.

1 – Think of the palm tree. There are no big strong impressive oak trees on the beach. Only the palm tree is capable of withstanding hurricane force winds because it yields to the force of the wind rather than trying to resist it.

2 – Think about the regular old light switch. When it is in the up position, it is on and light floods the room. When it is down, darkness prevails. Your head is like that switch. Lift yours up and the world looks a lot different than when you look downward.

3 – Reboot; learn how to reboot and life’s curveballs are a lot easier to hit. There is a saying in Major League Baseball: “if you want to play in the “bigs” (the Majors, not the Minors) you must be able to hit a curve ball.” Fannin has a quick “reboot” exercise that takes 90-120 seconds that enables you to clear out the “junk”.

4 – Have a mentor image ready to view in your minds’ eye when things get tough; a teacher, coach, parent, teammate or loved one to whom you look for guidance or inspiration.

5 – And always remember the single most powerful word when it comes to current performance. It is a simple four letter word. It is the key to success in all endeavors, large and small. It forms the cornerstone thought for overcoming disappointment. That word is NEXT. For swimmers, when you have a great race or workout, smile, be grateful and say to yourself, “next.” When your race is ugly or your workout bombs, “next.”

We love the simplicity. Remember, “next”.