Wayne Goldsmith of Australia is married to Helen Morris (Dual Commonwealth Games Medallist – Swimming Auckland Commonwealth Games 1990) and a Level II Swimming Coach. Goldsmith did his post graduate studies in sports science in 1991 and was a lecturer/tutor/casual lecturer at the University of Canberra in coaching and exercise science in 1992 and 1993. He is a level two coach in swimming, track and field and triathlon. Previously, Goldsmith was the sports science coordinator for Australian Swimming Incorporated between early 1994 and November 1997. This role was to work with swimmers, administrators, scientists, academics and coaches around Australia in areas of: sports science; chairman of the ASI Sports Science Advisory Committee; talent identification and development; liaison with key sporting industry bodies – state academies and institutes of sport, AIS, Australian Sports Commission; coach and swimmer education; camps and clinics with Australian National Swim Team, National Youth Team and National Tip Top Team; co-author Australian Sports Science Test Methods Manual (swimming chapter); conducted FINA and Olympic Solidarity clinics for several swimming nations including Papua New Guinea, Guam, Fiji,The Northern Marianas Islands, Zimbabwe and South Africa; guest keynote speaker and presenter at the 1998 Swimming Coaches Association of New Zealand National Conference; presenter, lecturer and organizer of the first-ever National Swimming Coaches Conference of South Africa; lecturer/presenter at the 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1998 Australian Coaching Council Conferences; and lecturer/presenter at Australian Coaching Council’s Graduate Diploma Course 1998-2000. Goldsmith has authored over 100 articles which have been published in Australia and around the world, including articles on swimming, sports science, track and field and coaching. He is the author of numerous articles published in the Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association Journal, SWIM NEWS, Swimming Technique, and the Australian Council’s journals. He has also written over 20 triathlon articles and lectured at many Level 1 Triathlon coaching courses. Goldsmith was the winner of the Outstanding Contribution to swimming in 1996. He is a member of the Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association and the World Swimming Coaches Association as well as the American Swimming Coaches Association.
I should change the title of the lecture to the Inner Secrets of Australian Swimming. But there really aren’t any. I would like to present a session about developing confidence and a little to do with motivation and dealing with some of the issues around confidence, self-esteem, self-belief, that you experience as coaches working with young athletes. I would like to more or less address you as I would address a group of swimmers. I hope that nobody takes offense by that. I think swimmers are some of the best people that you will ever meet, some of the hardest working, most committed dedicated people you’ll ever meet.
The other night I had a great opportunity to talk to two or three of the senior coaches about society, and we are very philosophical and there was absolutely no alcohol involved, which is unusual for an Australian visitor, but we talked about the importance of selling the sport and the mental side of the sport, and if you think about it, a lot of the problems that we are all having motivating young swimmers to maintain contact with the sport and continue to train, is because their sport is going in that direction. Their sport says commitment, dedication, hard work, self sacrifice, deal with adversity, stinky hair, hair that goes orange and green if you’re in the wrong pool — all those sort of things, get up early, give up your weekends, that’s the sort of things we have to do our sport. It is a tough sport, and there is no denying that it is a tough sport, and society is doing that, and you know, those of you who’ve got kids and those of you work with teenagers, society is saying. I want it, I want it now, I want it all, it must be fun, and if I can’t have that I don’t want a part of it.
And we are in a competition, we’re not in a competition so much against other clubs or against other NCAA colleges or other countries, we are in competition against other sports and basically life. The thing about the number of kids that we lose in that 15 – 17 or 15 – 18 year age bracket, a lot of people say to me, they blame college football, they blame college basketball. When I was in South Africa, they blamed Rugby, when I’m in Australia they blamed Rugby and Cricket, but I think that you have to look at it a little differently. Really life catches up with them at that age. Just at the time when they are making that all important jump from being successful age group swimmers to successful college or open level swimmers, look what’s happening to them. They want to learn to drive, they want to go out with boys and girls depending on their persuasion and gender, they want money, they want a job, they want to be recognized as adults, they are studying for exams and the most important exams arguably for their whole life, and at the same time we’re saying give us more commitment than you have ever given before, give us more of your effort, so that we can turn you into an athlete. We’re asking them to do all of that at once. It’s no wonder that we have such an enormous dropout rate in swimming across the world.
All I can tell you is that it is fascinating. When I go to Africa, when I go to parts of Asia, when I go to Europe, and while I’ve been here talking to coaches, the issues that you believe are essential to the problems that you have keeping kids in the sport, finding kids in the sport, dealing with parents, working with administrators, these are all things that every swimming coach in every country has to deal with.
It’s funny, when I went to South Africa and the South African’s said it must be wonderful to be an Australian swimming coach, you guys have got plenty of pool space and you’ve got lots of money, you’ve got beautiful weather and administrator coaches work together in peace, love and harmony, like a swimming Woodstock. And yet, if I spoke to a group Australian coaches and I asked them to list their biggest problems, the biggest challenges that they have to overcome, it would be pool space, dealing with parents, dealing with administrators, balancing a career, and being a part time coach, finding enough money to do the things that I want to do, and losing kids in that 15 – 18 years of age bracket. We have exactly the same issues that you have, and it is a world wide problem. And the people that are going to be successful as a nation are people who will be successful in the state, a college or locally, will be the ones who are smart enough to see that if society is going that way, and our sport is there, how do we find a way to do that, or how do we find a way to do that without compromising their principals and without compromising all the things that make our sport so wonderful and so great. So the challenge is a universal one.
The drop out rate in Australia between 13 – 18 is around 85%, the drop out rate in South Africa is a little higher, and in some parts of Asia, it’s higher, because of school commitments and other things that I listed before, so we all have this amazing challenge to overcome. We spent a lot of time developing athletes, we build athletes, athletes grow, they change, they develop and right at the time that we want that total commitment, that real edge, all these other variables come in that we have to deal with. That is a universal problem. It is important to think about which way can you turn your program. But of course, society is not going to go with that before we go like that. Just something to think about. We are all in the same boat, or the same pool.
Going to throw a few concepts at you. For working with younger swimmers, I have to change my tongue to talking to swimmers. Guys, who has heard of the will to win? Famous person I think it was an American who even said the will to win is worth nothing, it’s worth absolutely zip, it’s not worth a thing, unless it’s supported by the will to prepare to win. The concept that I would like to sell to swimmers, is that winning a meet or winning the race is not the issue, the issue is winning the workout. Winning the workout, coaches I believe that if you can get a swimmer to grasp this concept then you’re home free.
Alex Popov the great world record holder from Russia, four times Olympic champion is in Australia at the moment coaching himself, he did that in the three weeks leading up to Atlanta as well. He normally is coached by Gennadi Touretski, who has a commitment to the Australian team and the Russian team doesn’t come into Sydney until next week. The Australian team has been in camp for three weeks, so his coach has gone with the Australians and he has left Alex with workouts for the last three weeks before the Olympic games and he did that before Atlanta, at a time when most of us would be in the camp in the swimmers face and wanting to work with him and wanting to live with him 24 hours a day and watch them constantly and give them that little bit of an edge, to give them that gift that we’ve got to give them at a time when we would all trying to be part of the action. Alex Popov’s coach is no where near Alex Popov this morning. Alex would be at the pool with a little sheet with a workout on it, maybe with one training partner and he would be doing a working out, preparing himself to meet Gary Hall, Peter van en Hoogenband, Mark McClean, all those guys and he is doing it by himself. And the way he is able to do that, he said as an age grouper and as a young swimmer, he was taught, how to workout, it’s not an automatic thing.
Sometimes we have a new swimmer that comes into the team and they pick the stuff up because the older swimmers show them or the coach shows them. Alex’s attitude has always been to win the workout, and it is a crucial thing, because if you have the attitude of winning every workout, if you win every workout, that every lap you do is an opportunity to improve and to be a better athlete. If the swimmers have bad attitudes, it doesn’t matter, so much what the workout is like. You can have a poor workout, you can be in an ordinary lousy pool, you can be a stinky smelly old coach, it doesn’t really matter, if the athlete’s attitude and you have developed an attitude in the athlete, to win every workout and do the best they possibly can ever think they do. They are going to turn out to be a pretty fair athlete, and as a senior athlete, hopefully they have some of the Popov attitude.
And the way we do that when we are working with little kids, is we write the very simple workout on the board. Let’s say 8 X 50. These are all long course meters, we might write a workout up like this, just for argument sake. We write a very simple workout on a board and at part of our camp’s program we might write something like that for some junior athletes — doesn’t really mean anything. There is no control over intensity, that’s nothing, that doesn’t really mean anything at all. But, before the swimmers push off, you challenge them and you say, “guys what are we about to do?” What does this mean? And there will always be a really smart guy and normally a 50 meter sprinter will put their hand up and say we are doing 8 laps, and I say we are not doing eight laps, eight laps is what an ordinary swimmer would do, eight laps is what an average swimmer would do, what we are doing guys is eight laps with excellent technique and outstanding skills with a dive start, where we swim slowly but we attack every wall, we don’t breath inside the flags, where we count our strokes automatically, where we finish on a full stroke with a nice long body shape and we automatically take our heart rate and look at our time without being told and that is 400 meters and there is a big difference.
Part of our camp’s program has been to try to achieve with the younger swimmers, is to get them in the attitude that every workout is a workout they can win. It is not to be misinterpreted with every work out meaning go faster than the person in the next lane, or constantly beat people all of the time, or PB every workout, you can win the workout by going slowly. They can win the workout by stretching better than anyone else, or better than they have ever done before, they can win the workout by doing longer stream lines, they can win the workout by taking five strokes before they breath in freestyle off the turn, they can win the workout in many, many ways. They can say to the coach, will you rate me on my technique and skills, ten out of ten being the only classic perfect technique, one out of ten being the way I swim, where do I rate coach, I want to be I want to get out of here as a nine out of ten technician. Their kick sets might be better than they have ever done, but if their attitude is I can win the workout by doing something better than I’ve ever done before, coaches you’re on the way.
And when you say to swimmers, you say what would you like to achieve, and they would say, O.K. I would like to improve by one and a half seconds, and you say guys, well the way that you swim and the speed that you swim a second and a half, is about that distance, that is what you go to improve. And the swimmers will think oh my god I can’t improve that much and you say to them something like this, you figure out the number of workouts they have to improve by that much. Let’s just say it’s from here to here And they might say how many workouts do you do a week, and I say I do six workouts a week. And how many weeks have we got before our competition? We’ve got twelve weeks, so we got 72 workouts and 72 opportunities to improve and get closer to my goal, and that is a long way to improve in one workout, but swimmers, you don’t improve that much in a workout, you divide that line into 72 little chunks and the chunks are so small, they are about that size, and you say to the swimmers, swimmers put your hand up if you think you cannot improve by that much every workout, and every swimmer in the team will look at you and say I can do that, and that is all they have to do.
But, as they walk in the door to workout, as I walk in the door to the pool, they say coach today I’m going to improve that much, or as a coach you might say to them, where is that coming from today, where are you going to get that much, where did you get that much. On the way out, stop the swimmer and say where did you get that from today, where did that get, because the cumulative effect of doing that for one workout, is that for six workouts and is that for two weeks of workouts and all of the sudden, it builds and builds and builds and it is a concept that’s not new. Every business uses this little steps, little steps or they use this day by day, month by month to keep track of their accounts. Those of you who are trying to save for a home, a car you use the same process, I put a dollar away, I saved $300.00 a year and I have a trip to Europe in ten years, the concept is very much the same.
This is very easy to sell. Bring the long term down to a short term. Little piece by little piece, they can see that they are going to get there. Coaches this attitude of win the workout is so important, and every swimmer dreams that if they win the workout that they will get somewhere, that they will be a better athlete that they will be a better swimmer, that they get their goals, that tomorrow they will be somebody different. Have you guys ever noticed that with your little kids just the way they look at someone that is faster than they are. They’ve got a personal best time of 40 seconds and they meet someone who is a 37:00 swimmer and it’s like they are another species, they look up to them.
You guys ever counsel your swimmers by the way about the starting area, about what is going to happen in the change rooms in the starting area, you guys ever sit down with your little kids and tell them what to expect, because what happens in the starting area change room, somebody comes up and say, hey I swim 35 seconds what do you swim, and the kid says oh I’m a 38 swimmer, your not good, your hopeless, or they will say, how many miles a week do you swim, oh we do 42 kilometers, 42 miles at my school, oh, we only do 30 we mustn’t be very good. And this little psych out and the kids don’t really know that their psyching out that they are just doing this ego thing. But that goes on in every change room. Coaches I would encourage you, even with your young swimmers, teach them not to listen, or teach them a coping strategy, teach them a way to handle that.
Popov tells a great story about the room of mirrors. Is everybody familiar of the term room of mirrors or might just be an Australian term. Room of mirrors is something you go into when you are in a defining moment of your life, and you got to look at yourself and you gotta look hard at yourself, and say, right the thing that we are getting through now and the characteristics that will make me successful at this point is just me and who I am.
The room of mirrors in Olympic terms is generally the little room that they take them to just before they go out to race. Popov tells a story that the room of mirrors. They have been marshaled to the Olympic 100 meter final. For these guys big strong powerful aggressive guys who might have been swimming for 15 years to get to that point, knowing this great success, this great respect, what it will do for their families, what it will do for themselves, commercially, education wise knowing what’s in front of them. They are all sitting in the room and they are all looking as you can imagine as we say the mirrors are reflecting back on their strengths and weaknesses and the little things that will make the difference and Popov says there was one particular swimmer, who saw that as an opportunity to discuss how they were feeling and how he was feeling with each of the other swimmers. And I’m trying to be polite here because I’m aware of the litigation issues and he said that there was a particularly extremely confident swimmer, a very, very confident swimmer, and he used it as an opportunity perhaps to gain a psychological edge over some of the competition and went around and challenged them about perhaps who they were and about what they were thinking about that point and time. A very good psychological technique if they can handle it. And the last person that he came up to was Alex Popov the reining Olympic champion. He came up to Alex and stood over him and said, hey do you know who I am, and Alex said, to me you look like a big asshole. And at that moment in time all of the other finalist broke up and laughed and just cracked up and completely broke, and I’m not telling you to teach the kids how to swear, I don’t think that’s a good thing, but the point was that in a very, very intimidating, very tough environment that Alex had a way to responding to it, and I really believe coaches, that one of the reasons that you may not get the results that your hoping to get with some of your age groupers is that’s a very intimidating environment standing in a marshaling area or an area where they group together before they swim, where they are facing other kids telling them how good they are or how bad they are, what they look like all those sort of things. And they need the coping strategy to be able to handle that. Very important.
So going back to win the workout, it is a concept that you need to sell coaches and need to sell very, very often. It’s an attitude that develops from a very young age. And it is never more important then doing that with young swimmers and the little guys, you know the little guys that guys who are 11 and their friends are this high and their all playing football and the college coaches have already got them lined up for baseball and basketball and he is just an 11 year old and he’s this big, and then when he is 12 he’s this big, and the other 12 year olds are that big, he’s 13 he is this big, and the other 13 year olds are that big. And he is getting his butt kicked all the time, he is constantly losing or she is constantly losing the late developing kids, the kids that are just getting beaten all the time and they can’t see a reason to stay in the sport and their confidence is just shot all the time.
Isn’t it strange, I was talking to someone last night about our great Olympian, Shane Gould, who won three gold medals and a silver and a bronze in the ‘72 Munich Olympics, and she said I was introduced to important people all my life. I was introduced to the president of the United States the Australian prime minister, the queen of England as Shane Gould swimmer and then I retired and I looked at myself and I thought I’m Shane Gould nothing. Because we tie what we do and who we are in so closely. It’s what we all do. How many times do you meet someone at a party or have you met someone here and your first question is who are you and what do you do. Where do you work? What do you do for a living? And then we categorize them, Where do you work? I’m a NCAA coach, you’re worth talking to. Where do you coach? I’m a club coach in the back of nowhere, well maybe I don’t want to spend to much time talking to you and we do that and we evaluate people. And swimmers do that with personal best times quite often. And that is unfortunate and part of the way we are. But with the little kids, coaches, it’s a sole destroying thing to train and train and train and give it everything and get no where and we’ve all heard the story of the little guy the 10, 11, 12 year old guy who is this big and anyone shorter than me is little, and that 10, 11, 12 year old guy is this big who gives you everything, the guy who picks up kick boards after practice the guy who is there early, the one who everyone votes for as the most popular person on the team the guy who does everything right and your heart bleeds for them because they don’t get the performances.
And then there is some big, lose funky guy, does two workouts a week breaks a state record. And it just breaks your heart and it breaks the heart of the poor little kid in the pool too and they can’t figure out why and they go through all of those emotions about is it really worth it, am I any good am I ever gonna get there. Coaches the good news, the good news is that at senior level, at top level, the difference between athletes has got absolutely nothing to do with size and strength. The biggest athletes don’t always win, not in our sport. Football might be a different story, but in our sport, the strongest athletes don’t always win. And the most powerful athletes and the most tallest athletes don’t always win. The athletes who win are the ones with the best attitude. The ones with the strongest commitment and dedication to what they are doing, the ones who win the workout.
The things that make the difference ultimately to success are the things that are totally within their control, and what you have to try to sell to that little kid, what you have to try to sell to that late developing kid, is that if they stick at it and they are prepared to commit to it, that sooner or later they will come through.
We know the people who get things easily, very rarely take advantage of them, very rarely make the most, people are just given talent, very rarely make the most of that talent. We’ve all got stories of some kid who was the fastest 50 freestyle in the state in 50 freestyle, maybe 50 breaststroke at 12 wasn’t swimming at 16, for a whole heap of reasons. We’ve all got stories, we’ve all seen football stars and basketball stars the same way, baseball stars. Nowadays everybody has got a story of this 10, 11, 12 13 year old early developing athlete who looked like they were the next thing to be on the Olympic and weren’t swimming three years later, but we know statistically that those little kids, the late developing kids are the ones who come through, because they gotta learn how to compete. They gotta learn how to deal with adversity, they gotta find other ways to win, other then just speed, drive. They’ve gotta learn how to get there through commitment, hard work, dedication, skill, technique all of those things. So if you are working with little kids, coaches talk to them about what is possible, talk about what is long term, but most importantly talk about the real differences between good athletes and great athletes, which brings me to a story.
The end of 1996 I was in camp up in North Australia, and we were doing a butterfly camp and I was doing a little bit of testing. A beautiful place to live, barrier reef, lots of sunshine, beautiful water, had a great time. But also we had to do a little bit of training. I was lucky enough to be working with a guy called Scott Volkers who coaches Suzanne O’Niel and Samantha Riley and he wrote this workout on the board, and again don’t write this down and give it to your age groupers because it doesn’t really mean anything at the moment. But what it illustrated, was the difference between good swimmers, very good swimmers and great swimmers. It has nothing to do with size, strength speed or fitness. Scott wrote that on the board and then he had something else to do and there were 3 swimmers in the group and he said why don’t you just keep an eye on them. And the first swimmer was a young girl called Julia, and I said, Julia what are you going to do in this workout and what are you going to do in this set and she said I’m doing 16 100’s on 2:00 and I said yeah what are you doing, she said I’ll probably hold around 1:12, 1:15 somewhere like that, so it was all-time related, and she was ready to go in and off she goes. The next guy, the next swimmer was a guy called Jeff, I said Jeff what’re we doing today, what’s the workout, what’s the goal, what’s the point and he said well, what I thought I’d do, is I’m going to try and hold the time and try an even pace. He said what I’m trying to do though is I’m trying to get down around 31, 32 stroke count in different parts of my 200 and I’m going to experiment a little bit and what I’d also like to do, he said, could you take a stroke count for me in the last 25 just to see what’s happening to my technique as I get a little bit tired and see how we go. Towards the end I might pick the pace up a little bit. So a little more the guy is thinking about a little bit more of what he has to do, but the instructions hadn’t changed.
The last swimmer was a swimmer called Suzy who hopefully you all will be reading about in two or three weeks time. I said Suzy what are you going to do and she said well, it’s like this, I’m going to try an even split the first 4 and she said I’ll think I’ll go negative split on the next 8 and she said after that I’m really working on my control in and out of turns, she said what I’m gonna do down at the other end I’m going to get aggressive and really attack the wall in and out and I’m going to experiment with breathing patterns in and out. At the moment I’ve been breathing on my second last stroke in and on my third stroke out, I’m going to experiment maybe not breath on the last three and the last first four on my way out, I’m going to play around with those things, on the last one I would like to do a timed effort and I’ve got a goal of going around 1:01.
The difference between the three swimmers has nothing to do with size, speed, talent, strength, power. The attitude is the difference. This swimmer, very, very good swimmer, one minute dead, 1:01 100 flyer, very talented young lady, this guy very good, very fast, also a very talented swimmer, does very well, Olympian champion world record holder. The difference is that Suzy is not this big and she is not that wide and she is not this size, it’s the attitude that has made the difference. And as a coach, which athlete would you prefer regardless of talent. Which athlete would you prefer to work with? You would prefer to work with this one, because if this one is thinking like that, if this one is thinking I’ve gotta win this workout, how do I squeeze every possible competitive advantage out of what I’m doing, how do I think about what I’m doing, she is thinking like that. That gives you the freedom to do what you do best.
There are some things that you guys can do that I couldn’t even get close to doing. There are things that coaches can do with empathy, with eye contact, with just the feel, the understanding in the way that there athletes move, there are things like that, that are very hard to teach, and very hard to learn and they are the skills that make you guys great coaches, that feel, that contact, that empathy, that understanding, and the better your athlete is with that attitude, the better that they’ve got that understanding of what is actually required when they get in the water, that frees you up to be the best coaches that you can be. If your hair stands at the end of workout everyday, and stands there and goes streamline, streamline, streamline, or stand there and does the same routine, guys turn, tight turns, aggressive turns, and does that all the time and the message just doesn’t get through and you try and you sell it and you sell it a whole heap of ways, you yell, you scream, you throw things, you be nice, you give them chips, you buy them twinkies, you do whatever you have to do, you try and get them to do, you really know, you try to give them that knowledge and that skill and that experience and that understanding that you got what it takes, and coaches you can sell that, if you can get an athlete to that point as an attitude then nothing is impossible, nothing is impossible once you get to that attitude, and I would encourage you guys to do, learn a lot from them, they go through goal sitting, motivation, self talk, visualization.
I would encourage you guys to talk to your athletes at the pool deck and write something on the board and ask them what it means to them, I would often say to swimmers when we do this talk and we do this work at camps we say to you swimmers, if you went home tonight and you went home and you were really hungry and your mother gave you a small piece of salami, one potato, and one bean, what would you think about it, I wouldn’t thing very much, why not? The reason I wouldn’t think too much about it is cause it’s not complete it’s not what I want and as a coach you come back and you say that’s what I see in your workout. Because to me a 400 freestyle as you said before good turns, good streamlining, bottom hand comes away first, attack the walls, don’t breathe inside the flags, count your strokes, long smooth strokes, don’t disturb the flow of the water, all of those things, that to me is a complete tasty dish of a 400 freestyle. You’re getting me a piece of bologna, a potato and a bean, I want the whole thing, I want to leave you satisfied that what you’ve given me is the complete deal.
Coaches I encourage you in the way we periodize and we plan energy systems and we look at pre-season, post season, transition phase all of those things that come up in physiology, that you look at periodizing as systematic program of psychological skills, I’m sure that Dr. Keith Bell talked about that and some of the other guys that talked about that as well. Because if you talk to Tiger Woods and you say Tiger Woods what an amazing athlete, if you see Tiger Woods interviewed and you say what’s golf made out of and he says oh it’s 99% mental. If you see the great football interview about Superbowl,, they’ll say it’s 99% mental, it doesn’t make sense, but that is what the great athletes are telling us, it doesn’t make sense to get the guys together the morning of the competition and says guys, we are going to win now, come on let’s go for it get out there, you can do it, I believe in you guys, and high five and let them go, it would be as silly doing that as leaving starts practice to the morning of the meet. Or saying hey we gotta get fast today let’s go and do two hours of sprint practice on the morning of the meet at the end of a 12 week cycle. It doesn’t make sense.
If it’s so important, if all the great ones tell us the mental side is so important, it’s got to be a integral key part and a key focus of what you are doing in workouts, so win this attitude.
Confidence comes about a whole lot of different ways, by preparing to do well, and nothing beats that feeling and that attitude of confidence in knowing that you have done all the other things right. To me this is where confidence comes from. From knowing that you have done all the little things right in the preparation so the art of developing confidence for coaches on the way of increasing confidence is to give swimmers a little control, teach them these things, teach the win the workout ethic, talk to them about what is happening and develop that attitude, because from that anything is possible.
We know to set little goals day by day, I like to tell the story about an old friend of mine called Mountain Man. Mountain Man was big fat ugly smelly disgusting guy. He was a good friend too, so I’m glad he is 10,000 kilometers away. The big, fat, smelly, disgusting guy loved to drink, loved to smoke and he came home one day and his wife said Graham, which was his real name he wasn’t born Mountain Man, Graham was his real name and she said, Graham I’ve been having an affair with your friend for the last two years and I’m taking the two children the car, the dog and we’re out of here.
Graham was devastated because he said I didn’t know anything was happening I was unaware of it. And he went through a very depressed stage, where he drank and drank and drank as much of us guys do to handle pressure sometimes. And one night he was out at a family reunion or a school reunion and one of his old school buddies said to him, Graham you look awful, you used to be the track runner at school, I can’t believe what you have allowed to happen to yourself and he said Oh well, looks what happened to my family and I feeling pretty lonely, I’m pretty down and he said that is no excuse Graham, you gotta turn your life around, cause it’s the only life you’ve got, he said Graham, there is a run coming up and in our town it’s called the City to Surf, it’s a 8 mile run, from the middle of Sydney and you’ll see a lot of shots in our town in the next few weeks during the Olympics, it’s a beautiful place, and I grew up there. And he said Graham there is an 8 mile run from the middle Sydney out to our very famous Bondalite beach, we have beautiful beaches you will see a lot of them on television. The Australian tourist commission should be paying me at the moment. He said Graham I challenge you to do that run and he said if you win I’ll give you a case of beer. Graham said O.K. I’ll take that challenge.
So he did a little bit of training, a little bit of walking, got himself really fired up, ready to go and even though it almost killed him, he did an 8 mile run, he didn’t do very well, he felt very ordinary but he had achieved something. A little later on his friend said well Graham I can give you the beer, I can give this case, by you doing so well. Why don’t we start running a little bit more regularly, and there is a half marathon coming up which is around 13 miles as you know. By then Graham started to think well maybe yeah maybe I do need something else, maybe I need to turn myself around and Graham went down this road and he started to train a little bit again he finished in very poor condition, very sick. He thought it was time to get out the cigarettes by then, and he said well, you’ve gone halfway, in around three months there is a marathon coming up Graham. Graham said are you crazy, I’m not going to run that far, I wouldn’t drive that far, I get tired driving that far. All of the sudden Graham gets the bug and he starts to try and he gets out the cigarettes and he still enjoys a beer now and then he makes his own brew at home and he does the marathon. Graham is really hooked on running and he loves to run and he is getting himself in shape, he is losing weight, he is starting to take a bit of control. Then someone said to him Graham there is a trial run coming up and we run trials, I know that they do over in the West a lot in America, but we run trials where we run up and down Mountains across creeks over rocks and there is a 50 mile run coming up and Graham thought that is exactly what I want, he wants the mountains he wants the hard competitions, he came in last but as he ran down the finishing straight he was jumping and screaming I’m the Mountain Man, I’m the Mountain Man really happy with himself.
By this time Graham was 51 years of age. But there was an ultimate challenge that it wasn’t Australian, it was called the Westfield which is a big company, Sydney to Melborne Ultra Marathon a distance of 700 miles. And that is running from Northbound to South. And it was a tough run because you had a seven day time limit and you had to be at check points all along the way. But that wasn’t the worst part, the worst part was to qualify you have to run around the running tack non-stop for 24 hours to prove that you could actually make the distance and you have to cover 160 miles in 24 hours around a running track.
Graham trained for around a year to do that one run. Every 4 hours they changed directions just so you don’t get bored, they think that our sports are a little dull sometimes, so they changed directions every 4 hours and Graham finished 162 miles and he just barely made it. It was about there that I started to become friends with Graham. He lived near where I did and we would run from time to time, and he said Wayne would you support me in the Sydney to Melborne and I said Graham you are insane, it’s only the really silly people that do that run. He said, but it’s a goal that I set myself and I’m going to do it.
And on this run, the Sydney to Melborne run, the way it would work would be, there would be two vans. The runner would be up in the front, that’s a runner and he would be running away, and behind him would be a small van and behind that would be another van a little larger, the guy in front would run virtually non stop. The three people in there would be the driver a navigator and a care giver who would prepare meals, run up to do massage, those sort of things. And that van was full of another 6 or 7 people sleeping to relieve that group. And we worked in 8 hour shifts for 7 days supporting this runner, and
Graham had really been suffering he was really doing it very hard and by the time we got to around 300 miles he was shuffling very badly and we changed his shoes. At the last change he had some blood on his feet and we tried to fix those up a little and we tried to get him through and we thought it was going to be very tough. I was here in that van and I ran up along side Graham just to give him some encouragement just to talk to him a little bit and then something happened then that just changed the way that I looked at sport and the way I dealt with athletes. I said Graham what are you thinking about at the moment and he said I’m thinking about that tree. I went O.K. I can see that, I can see why you’d be thinking about that tree and I said Graham why are you thinking about that tree? Why aren’t you thinking about the beer we’re going to have when we get to Melbourne or are you just thinking about just hanging out for a few days and having some time off in Melborne. He said no, because I’m in so much pain and I’m hurting so badly and if I think any further past that tree I will have to stop. That tree, I need to get to that tree, I’ve got to find another target and I’ve got to find the next tree, Graham went the last 400 miles thinking about the next tree the next pole the next car he went 400 miles like that and eventually got to the other end. It was a fantastic moment. We celebrated. We did have that beer and we really enjoyed it.
Coaches, the thing I’ve never forgotten about that, he was a guy who had what seemed to be an impossible goal. And the goal was a long way away and the goal would involve a lot of pain, and discomfort. It would be very hard to achieve, and he couldn’t think about the goal, it was so distance and it was so tough, all he could think about was something that he could see and touch and feel strait there. Your athletes can’t touch the personal best time, and they can’t touch an Olympic gold medal until they get it. They can’t touch tomorrow, everybody thinks about what they are going to be, what they’re going to do, what they are going to see tomorrow. Your game as coaches is to bring tomorrow into today.
Swimmers, they can’t touch what might happen but they can control and they can touch what is right in front of them. There is no reason why a swimmer can’t control their breathing or they can’t control their streamlining, or they can’t control their stroke technique, their speed. They can have a control over their attitude over their nutrition over their flexibility all of those things, just as Graham’s Olympic gold medal. Grahams eventual end of the run was something that he couldn’t see and he went step by step, tree by tree, by pole by pole.
Kids will be successful the same way, if you can sell them a goal, and if you could sell them a goal everyday and if you can teach them how to win the workout everyday. Coaches I would like to finish on a story, a Popov story while I’m in the mood. We were away in a camp, prior to the ‘96 Olympics up in Kens in the north of Australia. We get spoiled a little bit. We went as an Australian team and they are all celebrities, Australian teams get open door policy on a lot of different tourist attractions. I’ll ring up one of the tourist attractions which was a crocodile park or an alligator park for you guys, our crocodiles get very, very big and we decided that we wanted to take the Australian team to the crocodile park and all the Australians wanted to go, but they wanted to go just as a group of guys, they didn’t want to go as the Australian team. They wanted to go in and just have a look around
I said to the owner look we’ll get some photo’s taken with the Australian team first. He said O.K. fine we got the photo taken they changed shirts and they are all in plain gear and there is a certain sort of person that works at a tourist park or works in an tourist environment where they have said the same thing every day over and over and over. They get pretty confident about what they are going to say and they predict that they have heard every question that you can imagine about crocodiles. And in this park there were other things as well and everybody got to cuddle a little koala, an then we went over to another cage where there was some snakes, we had to play with snakes for a little bit, eventually we get to these crocodiles, three times bigger than this room — Australians never exaggerate — three times bigger. Massive crocodiles. In the middle of the crocodile pen was this guy, he knew it all and he was cool, he was happening, he’d been there and he’d heard every questions that was ever asked and he was waiting for the questions so that he could just show how good he was.
He is standing there and the typical question, a guy pust his hand up and says how old do crocodiles live, and he said good question, I’m cool, I’m happening, 150 years, really and the crowd gasps, everybody can’t believe it, and somebody else says how much do they eat and the guy says oh they eat 30 or 40 chickens a day plus some meet plus some tourists and he gets the same laugh that he gets everyday from every tour group that goes though and this is going on for a little while and finally someone says how fast do crocodiles swim, one of the other tourists, and he said well put it this way, if the Olympian champion was here today this crocodile could give them a length start and still beat him.
And Alex couldn’t help himself.
Alex took his sunglasses off and said I am here I want to race. The crowd suddenly realized who was there, he had a big smile on his face and the guy went wild. He just couldn’t believe it of all the years that he had used that line and finally there was an Olympic champion. The next morning at 4:00 a.m. my phone rang and somebody Goldsmith what the hell are you doing out there and I said what do you mean? It was the guy who runs the Australian Olympic committee and he said have you seen the paper yet this morning? And I said no I haven’t John I’m sorry. He said well, I’ll read it to you, Olympic champion to race crocodile. He said it’s the front page of the newspapers and it is the back page of the Sydney and Melbourne papers as well.
What had happened obviously is the people who run the crocodile pen, have gone what a marketing opportunity this is and we’ll set up a race, we’ll set up a false race a trick race. And we will market it and we’ll promote it across the country. Needless to say the race didn’t happen and Alex went on with both legs in tact and went on to do a pretty good job in Atlanta.
So coaches this is to wrap up, I really believe that confidence and the psychological side the mental side of performance as you would know is crucial. It’s an integral part and the same with strength, power, speed, flexibility, attitude, technique all those things are just a crucial part. Don’t leave it until the last moment, in the same way that a swimmer with a poor technique you wouldn’t leave until the day of the meet to correct. Bring the tomorrow event, the goal, the target, the middle, bring that back to today, by teaching the swimmers the principal of winning the workout and teaching the principal that the only way that they are going to get there tomorrow, is by taking those little steps day by day.