Sunday, April 26, 2015

This One is for All the Coaches

A swimmer from the 1970’s wrote asking for a picture I might have. I looked in a scrap book that had been put together as a gift when I left Marin Aquatic Club for adventures on a Kawasaki 900. I found a couple of photos and also found the enclosed page. I am sharing it with all the coaches for a simple reason. If you are like me, sometimes we wonder if we make any impression on our swimmers, our kids. Intuitively we probably guess we do but still…sometimes we wonder. Thanks to Paul Donohue who was a wonderful young man, then a husband and father and finally an inspiration to me later in my life.

“A really big part of my life has been spent here in the last three years. I’ve had experiences that I’ll probably remember as long as I live. I’ve had some others that will always be there, and come to mind as I need them.
A lot of people have passed through the pit (our affectionate name for San Rafael High School’s pool) in that time, a couple of which, try as I can, I won’t even remember, and a couple of others who I’ll always be in debt to.
I’ve learned a lot in this time span. When I compete or race now, I feel as if I have an incomprehensible storage of tiny and minute details to fall back on. Yet I know this isn’t quite true, and there is still a lot left to learn. However, I often think to when I was told that ninety percent of everything I’ve come to know I’ve learned through swimming – everything from standing up under pressure and withstanding the pain, to learning to lose with dignity, to being courteous with those I come in contact with, such as the little kids and parents.
I’ve changed a lot in three years. And I’ll always feel that if this change didn’t take place here it wouldn’t have been the change that it was.”

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Power of 3

Ken has a very powerful saying: A lot of wonderful, even magical things can happen in 3 weeks.
3 weeks gives all swimmers a chance to raise their game. 3 weeks is long enough to make some changes while being short enough to stay focused entirely on your goal.
Here in Northern California, our high school League Championship meet is 3 weeks away…our Section meet is 4 weeks away…our first ever California State meet is 5 weeks away.
Stay focused for 3 weeks and you get through the League meet…one more week and you are in the Section meet…fast enough?...then one more week for the State meet.
3-1-1…do the first one first. Stay focused on the League meet for 3 weeks and then whatever happens – BE READY!
There will be more than one swimmer who advances to the Section level who right this minute no one thinks can do it. And…this is a guarantee! There is more than one swimmer who will advance to the State meet who today no one is even considering.
Do not bet against us on this concept. It happens every 4 years at the Olympic Trials when someone (often more than one) takes one of those highly coveted 52 spots.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Warriors’ Thompson Excels by Living in Present

“The only thing that matters is tonight. Klay has it figured out,” Kerr (Coach Steve Kerr) said earlier in the week. “None of the rest of us understands what’s truly important. We all spend our whole lives trying to get into the present. Klay is constantly in the present.
“It’s beautiful.”
Thompson lives in the present, unless his present is a missed shot. Then, he lives in some alternate moment just beyond the now, when he gets to shoot again and the ball goes through the hoop.”
 The comments above appeared in Saturday’s edition of the SFChronicle and once again deliver the message that FLOW happens when an athlete is entirely in the present. If an athlete worries about the outcome before the performance (shot, race, whatever) or after it then the chances of excellence go way down.
We led off today’s workout at the pool with this article. Then we said to the group that our workout today was designed to give them a chance to develop physical, mental and emotional toughness. We asked them to stay in the present and simply do their level best to do what is asked.
After a 2600 yard warmup we began. All the swims were 100 yards long and they all were on the 1:20. The swimmer chose stroke, kick, pull, use of paddles, snorkels, fins so long as each repeat in the group was the same. They were to use the clock for feedback about how well they were doing staying in the present, making each one the same. We regrouped after each set so they had a minute or so to rest up and choose what they wanted to do next. It was pretty interesting to watch them and listen to them. We did a lot of watching and listening and some individual stroke comments. Here’s the work:
2x100 (remember all repeats are on the 1:20)…then 3x100…then 4x100…then 6x100 (you should of heard “No, this is supposed to be 5x100” or “what about 5?”) just to keep them off balance…then 7x100…then 5x100…then 8x100…then 1x100 (“how can I keep this the same?”)…then 9x100…then 11x100…then 4x100 (“I know he’s going to slip in a round of 10 somewhere”)…then 3x100…then we finished with 2x100…
We then had everyone hop out, told them they did a fine job of “rolling with the punches” as it were…then said we just heard from the Admin Ref that each of them was in a swim-off and they had 1 more 100 to do…leaving on the top. The confused looks were worth the price of admission!
As they left the pool it seemed many had gone places they had not been before. One swimmer part way through the round of 11 had asked “please tell me where this is going”…we said “we know but we cannot tell you”. He was flummoxed to say the least. After workout he apologized for swearing…we smiled and said it hadn’t been the first time.
Swimmers – and all of us – like to know ahead of time what’s “going to happen next”. We think that possibly stifles FLOW.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Ever Wonder Just How We Assign Value?

“Life does not consist mainly of facts and happenings. It consists mainly of the storm of thoughts that is forever blowing through one’s head.” Mark Twain

Twain was right: Most of what we see is not “out there.” Most of what we see is produced in our own minds. Don’t believe it? Read the following paragraph.

Aoccdrnig to rseearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deons’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, olny taht the frist and lsat ltteres are in the rghit pcleas. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by ilstef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

This scrambled paragraph is a perfect demonstration of how the brain works to create meaning from even the most messed-up circumstances by focusing on some information and ignoring the rest. Do you ignore as much information in the rest of your life? The answer is yes. We’re constantly ignoring parts of the world because our brains have categorized the information as nonessential. But sometimes not seeing this “nonessential” information can trip us up.

To make sense of our world, we need to learn what to pay attention to and what to ignore.

In our swimming world this happens every day we train or race. Some information we discard as nonessential. The question we need to ask ourselves is, “Do I really want to discard or ignore this information?”

This process of selecting or ignoring is an ongoing one. As you become more aware of what is necessary to swim faster and be more competitive you will keep certain things and let others go. Think of some examples, perhaps using things from last season that you now realize were not helpful and ask yourself, “Have I let go of it?”  You can also think of things you wished you had not ignored since they would have helped you in your pursuit of faster swimming. What are some of those things?