Every once in a while, I go back over my notes from past swimming clinics and conferences to remind myself of who and what informed my philosophy of coaching and life choices. Recently, I decided to open the box from 1987, my first year in coaching (and yes, we had pen and paper then). I found two fascinating items: One, a quote from a coaching legend and the other a chart from a surprising source.
First, the quote. It’s from Bill Sweetenham, a legendary coach from Australia and more recently as British National Performance Director. As a club coach in the 1970’s, he simultaneously coached the World Record Holders in the Men’s 800 and 1500 and the Women’s 400, 800 and 1500 (with two 15 year old girls trading off breaking the records in small meets as well as the Olympics). His quote was, “Demand attention and do not proceed without it.” Any of you out there that wonder why I may be (am) pretty rigid in asking for quiet at practice now know why. In my first coaching job, I was put in charge of a National Top 10 swimming club as a 20 something right out of Grad School. The previous coach (quite well respected) was run out of town because he couldn’t control the team. I heard Coach Sweetenham say this at a clinic just before I started and thought that I would do this or get fired for trying. It’s been a main tenet of my coaching philosophy ever since. It comes down to discipline and respect and will be expected by all swimmers at TSC for all coaches.
The second item was from someone not even involved in swimming. Just as all of you here have your favorite football team, Americans do the same with baseball. My team is the Chicago White Sox and has been since I was old enough to attend games as my Dad grew up across the street from their stadium. So it’s been our team since the 1930’s. The White Sox Strength and Conditioning Coach spoke at Arizona State University while I was there as the team conducted Spring Training in Arizona. He gave a great talk about Elite Performance and what kind of athletes achieve it. I remembered his talk and after I got my first coaching job, I made an appointment to see him at the ballpark in Chicago. He talked to me (a person who had never even coached before) for over two hours and gave me the chart below.
For all the swimmers that think I can sometimes be hard on them, this is why. The Comfort Zone is the bane of all athletes that want to be good or great. Swimming has to be uncomfortable much of the time if the swimmers are to improve. Many of our swimmers will be in the higher Zones in competition but shy away in practice (which is natural - it hurts!). Look at the chart and ask yourself which Zone you are in and do you want to stay there?
16 October 2019