Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Value of Failure

We stumbled upon a blog post from Jeff Kubiak and Eric Ewald today, gotta love the internet. We actually know Jeff personally…a most excellent swimmer and coach who now appears to be a renowned educator. Anyway, the subject was failure and its importance in the role of success…in all walks of life.
It resonated with us in particular since this Tuesday is our first day back in the water. We haven’t had much interaction with the team for the better part of a couple of weeks, which feels like a much longer period of time than it actually is.
We know as coaches we feel energized and ready to move forward and suspect that most if not all of our swimmers feel the same. The ones who may not feel so are perhaps the ones who missed some success last season, at least in their eyes.
The ball player who hit a home run last night cannot wait to get to the ballpark today; the one who struck out 3 times, maybe not so much.
One of our recurring themes this year is grit…defined as” the tendency to sustain interest in an effort toward very long term goals” (thanks Jim Richardson!).
From Kubiak and Ewald we get this: “Failure + Perseverance = Success”
Michael Jordan missed more than 9,000 shots. He said he was entrusted to take the game winning shot and missed 300 times.
Point: we all fail and we need to use it, not shy away from it. As coaches we need to keep reassuring our athletes on this point…you cannot succeed without failing.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

From Humble Beginnings

One of the compelling aspects of the Olympic Games is the human interest stories that emerge for both super stars and back in the pack athletes. We find it interesting to see that none have had any success handed to them. Everyone earns what they get.
Then we started thinking about how those athletes are supported by parents and coaches and teammates. This led us to thinking about the origins of those supportive members of any athlete’s circle.
My Dad, Guthrie Swartz, began his career as a minister in October of 1946 – age 20. He is still alive and well at 90, living independently and driving; he has a silver Honda Insight so you may want to give him a little space if you see him on the freeway!
He shared with me a handwritten letter from September 28, 1946 from H. Edward Hooper who was the Clerk of the Harwinton Congregational Church. In read in part, “It was voted unanimously to extend to you a call to serve as Pastor of our church at an annual salary of $1600 plus 5 tons of coal plus the electric bill at the parsonage.
That in my eyes is indeed a humble beginning. He has influenced thousands of church members at about ten churches over his career.
It made me think about my own beginnings in coaching in 1966, earning $4 per hour. Indeed every coach out there, regardless of your sport, has had a humble beginning. And for whatever reason you kept at it and collectively we have influenced millions of young people. Every now and then one ends up in an Olympic uniform. Those that don’t are just as valuable to the community they serve, be it local or global.
Smile and take a small bow. Sport has been good for all of us.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

This is How We Move

As we reflect on our successes and missteps of the season just ending we are undoubtedly like many of our swimmers. We are wondering about missed opportunities and marveling at transformations. This takes place both team wide and individually.
We are reminded while watching the Futures meet at Stanford that humans (and groups of humans – teams) are constantly in motion travelling toward that upon which they are focusing.
You must choose between that which you want and that which you want to avoid. The former will lead you to the promised land. The latter will lead you to the dark side.
The old adage comes to mind; winners see what they want while losers see what they want to avoid. Want to finish a race with power then focus on it. If you focus on not dying in a swim you are most assuredly going to fade, sometimes spectacularly so.
Teams move in the same direction. Want a team full of positive, supportive and trustworthy athletes? Then you must as a coach talk about that, recognize it and call into question those who don’t “fit” your desired model.
Want to be upbeat? Then go do it and dump negativity whenever and wherever you see it. Hold yourself and those around you to the standard which emulates your goal.
These are all conscious choices we make daily as we move through the often whimsical forces of life. When you evaluate your season be honest.
Choice is powerful. You are responsible for who you are and who you will become.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Season End Keeping It Simple

The end of season meet is upon us all, swimmers from Olympian to National to Age Grouper, parents and coaches of same.
Here is a basic primer of how to get what you have earned. Your “bank account” is as full as it is going to be this season. Now figure out how to spend it all…empty the bank.
Swimmers; all you need is equal parts of trust and courage…trust that you will do your best and courage to put aside any doubts and fears. When the moment comes – and it does in darn near every race – when you find yourself wondering if you can make it to the touchpad simply say “GO!”…as many times with as much emotion as you need. Keep it simple.
Parents; just love your swimmer…stay away from advice…feed them the same no matter the result…keep things light…let them get their own towel, snack bar and water. Keep it simple.
Coaches; you are the steady rock. Stay in character, be calm. Tell the truth. Most important perhaps is to use a teaching moment if it arises…know what to say to them if the swim doesn’t work out.
Keep it simple.
This is the time of year when less is actually more.