Sunday, April 27, 2014

Scott Ostler & Doc Rivers

In his weekly column for the San Francisco Chronicle entitled “Sunday Punch”, ScottOstler wrote about Clippers coach Doc Rivers. Rivers is currently working to keep his team on point after some alleged racist remarks by the team owner Donald Sterling.
“I already considered Rivers in elite coaching company, maybe the best in pro sports today. What about, say, Gregg Popovich? Like every coach, Popovich has an act. He plays the role of the annoyed farmer swatting at the green flies of the media.
Rivers never got the memo about acting. Either that or he's the best actor of 'em all. You go to his news conferences, you feel like Tim Taylor in "Home Improvement," talking with Wilson over the back fence. You get wisdom, information and discussion, served up with humor and humanness.
Here's Rivers recently, when asked about timeouts:
"The way I handle timeouts with our team is like this: I meet with my coaches out on the court and they tell me what they think we should do. I ignore them, go back to the bench and tell the players what I think they should do. They ignore me and go out and do whatever they want to do."
The players never ignore Rivers. They will listen to him and be ready for Game 4.”

We think about our swim coaching all the time. We learn about effective strategies by studying other coaches both in swimming and other sports. At the end of the day we all are working with our athletes regardless of the sport, working to help them improve.

“Wisdom, information and discussion, served up with humor and humanness…”

We will work diligently this week to remember those words. Thanks Scott & Doc!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ken on a Roll

I have been in Mexico for two weeks…fathom how that happened…Ha!

Ken has been doing his usual fine job of driving the bus. This is what transpired at the 1:45 minute mark of last Saturday’s workout. As you read this keep in mind that ultimately our job as coaches is to get the kids to be totally present and do something they have not yet done.

Ken said our next set is 4x50/.40 hold time average – fast as you dare, then swim an easy 100; there was no interval for that 100; then swim 2x50/.40 (.50 for breaststrokers) time average faster than the 4x50. Got it…I’m sure you do.

After several rounds of this, some of the kids asked, “How many rounds are we doing?” Ken gave the now (on our team) standard answer, “Yes.” They know that one for sure. After another round Ken said to them, “I’m actually going to end this set when I see the two people I am watching do this absolutely correctly.” He had his sun glasses on and so they wanted to know which two of them he was watching. He replied, “Yes.”

On the next round, to a swimmer! – They all swam lights out faster than at any time during this set or at any other time in workout.

Amazing what an impact a coach can have when s/he sets the table just right.

Monday, April 14, 2014

An Honest Approach to a Recurring Issue

All swim coaches deal with kids who “drop in and out” of full intention. It never ends. What makes the sport so interesting is that the personalities continue to change. As new kids come on board the way to “get to them” must change. This is what makes coaches standout. Are they able to communicate in a way that is honest while still being able to keep the listener tuned in?

Ken is particularly good at this. The names of the swimmer and school have been changed “to protect the innocent”!

Hi Spencer
First off I do appreciate your wanting to own your swimming and behavior.... This is why you are no doubt my favorite swimmer! With that in mind I will keep these thoughts between you, me and Don. I am going to be frank with you as that is the best way for you to get where I am coming from.

Please do not try to curb your humor...I love it! It is part of who you are and it can add so much to what we are doing. You can be funny and a fine swimmer at the same time.

Now onto swimming; as Don stated at one meeting we had, he and I take our swimming very seriously, but we don't take ourselves that seriously. We expect our swimmers to do the same.

We coach our club team that is full of swimmers who have this mentality. There are lots of smiles and laughter along with a ton of focus and intense training. This is what inspires me to continue to coach as if I ever felt we were less than that as a group I would look elsewhere to do something that inspired me. Those in the NBA senior group who are looking to cut corners and not add to the team with their efforts are talked to and sometimes moved to a different group that more fits their idea of how much they want to put into it. It is not a crime to want to dabble at this sport; it is just not how I am wired nor is Don wired that way

Coaching Monson is interesting in that my sense is that many in the group, given a choice would like to not too diligently...have a bit of fun...not worry too much about it. Don and I have no interest in that type of set up. The culture that was Monson swimming before we started coaching the team was very much that way. As an example sun tanning was part of the practice on a nice day. It has taken us nearly 3 seasons to change the culture and truthfully we are not quite there yet. We still have some who have been in the group who are doing as little as possible. We are making sure those moving into the program or will be there for the next couple of years do not have that mindset, which is where you come in.

You are ending your first season with us. I am looking at all our freshman and sophomores and assessing what they do at practice and what they bring to the team. Are they hard workers interested in getting better? Or are they content to not be the best they can be given the limited time they put into the activity? Again I don't really care that much about how fast someone is I only care about the process in which they approach what we do.

Many of the freshman and sophomores have proven to me their commitment to the team and I will coach them like I do my national level swimmers as they have earned that benefit (and yes it is a benefit). Truthfully Spencer, the jury is still out on you. It is hard for me to tell whether you are all in or have been injured a bit...the aerobics of the group you have had a difficult time embracing, so your improvement is not what it could/ should be. This is my opinion and believe it or not I am pretty good in assessing what I see in practice.

Interestingly enough after your crash landing dive that came the very day I gave the "talk" and got me to tell you don't do that again, your next dive was done with much more focus. I could see it on your face.  It is also interesting to note that the others on the team saw that I wasn't pleased with what I considered less than your best on what we were doing. They saw that there was a line that shouldn’t be crossed and they are smart enough not to. We did more dives yesterday and all who were there were on point....we improved as a team while still having fun, and isn't that what this is all about?

Again none of this is a reflection on you Spencer as a person. He is a totally cool guy I am happy to know. This is about Spencer the guy on the swim team and what he is adding to what we do. There are certainly others I am targeting as well to add are not being singled out.

So now that I have written a novel, can I get you to really do your best over these last few see how much you can learn and improve? I don't know much in this world but one thing I am really good at is knowing when people in swimming pools are doing less than they are capable one of the ones who does their best....excellence is always a good thing

See you at the pool!


Saturday, April 5, 2014

For Parents, And Coaches and Swimmers as Well

For parents –

Would you be able to support your child in competitive swimming if there were no times given?

What about if there were times but no places announced?

One or the other makes it competitive; are both needed?

You know the values swimming teaches. The list is endless and you usually nod your head affirmatively when asked if you feel they – the values – are worth it. And yet…if your young one doesn’t hit a best time on a somewhat regular basis do you begin to wonder if “it is worth it”…the sacrifices, the time, the money, the “fill in the blank”?

We are at the annual Far Western Age Group Championships this weekend and you can see the evidence of these questions on the faces of the parents.

It is akin to the educational process. Taking tests are an important indicator of how well a student is learning (learning what is a whole ‘nother subject!). Colleges use those test scores to determine admissions, in large part since that is the accepted norm. Yet what is the real value of higher education?

We have our own opinion about these questions and possible answers but after watching some parents in action – supporting their children – we thought it would be valuable to ask the questions out loud.

Coaches and swimmers can go through the same exercise. It is an exercise in self-discovery. Our assertion is that is a valuable exercise indeed.