Sunday, November 25, 2018

Artificial Maturity

This week’s title is inspired by Coach Richard Thornton (SRVLA) and NBA Masters swimmer Brenda Lein.
Richard told us one of the best recent books he is reading is “Chop Wood Carry Water” by Joshua Medcalf. Brenda is a bona fide trainer and racer on our massive NBA Masters team.
The book is brilliant in that the chapters are a mere 2-4 pages. We are actually reading one chapter a week with our team. They love it and look forward to it.
Brenda asked in workout today about a term she read in an online article. The term was “drive from (or maybe it was “with”) your shoulders”. She asked what that meant and we said we had no idea. Since the author of the piece didn’t elaborate she (nor we) had much to go on. All we could do was make an educated guess…not the same thing as actually knowing.
Chapter 4 in the book is entitled “Artificial Maturity”. The book is about a teenager, John, who enlists in a Samurai Warrior training camp after high school graduation. His goal is to become an archer as a samurai warrior.
In the 4th chapter John’s sensei Akira asks John to restring his bow after the bow string snaps. Akira asks him if he has done it before. John says “Not personally. But I’ve seen it done.” Akira says, “So you know how to restring it?”
John, “Of course! I’ve read about it dozens of times and I’ve watched a lot of videos on YouTube.”
Special note to parents: just because it is on the internet and YouTube doesn’t make it so. Be smarter than that – your swimmer and coach will be thankful.
Well, you can imagine John’s inability to re-string the bow based upon his knowledge BUT lack of personal experience. The message from Akira is simple: knowing what is to be done is vastly different from being able to do it yourself.
Said another way, “It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior’s life” (this from the “Art of War”).
So our answer to Brenda was “we don’t know”. We do not know what the author was meaning when the words “drive from the shoulder” were used. We do know what those words mean but we do not know how they are being used to convey a teaching/coaching concept.
Swimmers and coaches – sensei and would be Samurai warriors – all need the same thing: clarity of purpose and clear understanding of the concept being coached/taught.
Much easier said than done. See you poolside!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Accountability & Consequences

In the process oriented swim world these two concepts, when properly entwined, give an athlete so much power s/he can do pretty much whatever they seek.
In fact we would lobby strenuously that when accountability and consequences are linked the results oriented swim world benefits immensely.
Each swimmer needs to decide (and it is extremely helpful when parents and coaches encourage this decision) s/he will be accountable for what happens and then fully accept the consequences.
If there are no consequences then there is no reinforcement of accountability.
Case in point: Let’s say a swimmer needs a 55.19 to qualify for a meet. She goes a 55.36, missing by .17. How does the result sit? What are the expectations of the swimmer?
The consequence is clear; no trip to the meet. How’s the accountability hold up? If the swimmer says she is disappointed but will keep working and eventually get her time and EARN the trip then the process is working…and eventually the result will show. It has to.
If the swimmer tries any number of machinations to reconstruct the consequence – no trip to the bigger meet – with a plea for an exception (“I was sick, I couldn’t train the week before” the list is endless) and that plea is surrendered to by the coach or parent then nothing has been learned.
Well that’s not exactly true. What has been learned is that no matter what, you can always finagle your way to what you want, even though it hasn’t been earned legitimately…and that is not how the world works. Caution here, much of the political and corporate world teaches us otherwise. But we in swimming know that politicians and corporate heads in general couldn’t get a Jr. Olympic cut let alone a National one!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Making Do

We are here in Northern California just above San Francisco which puts us about 200 miles south of the current raging fire – The Camp Fire. As of this morning the statistics are no less than very grim…and even much worse for those impacted.
We had a meet scheduled. We stopped Saturday after 90 minutes of racing due to poor and deteriorating air quality. Kids were coughing and running low on energy etc. Sunday’s events were scratched also.
Parents, swimmers and coaches were doing what they could to move past the immediate disappointment. And as we worked through that stage it became more a matter of what to do next…how to make do with what was available to us.
We said the time honored “blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape”. Jackson, a senior on our NBA team did himself proud and gave us another thought. He said he learned from the meditation master, Jack Kornfield – google him –
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
Everywhere in life it is time to learn…