Getting it Done in the Middle of Nowhere by Sharon Power (2001)


Published


A couple of years ago, after Ian won Rookie of the Meet by placing second in the 200 M Freestyle at his first Nationals, John Leonard asked me to write an article about my experiences coaching here in Maine. He told me he was tired of hearing people complain about not having facilities, or it was too tough in their area, and coming up with excuses to not have their swimmers perform. At that time, I really didn’t feel comfortable, knowing that there were lots of other swimmers out there who were much better than Ian. Since his performances over the last year, I have felt more comfortable talking about what we did, because now I feel that we have had the performances to back up what I am about to say.

 

I’m here today, to tell you my story, in hopes that it will inspire you to go home, evaluate your program, and try to find a way to bring excellence into what you do. I really feel that if we could do it in Maine, then anyone of you can get it done where you are. There are, I’m sure, some of you who have. You have my admiration, because I know how hard you had to work to achieve. America is still the land of opportunity, folks, and although I was blessed with a tremendously talented athlete, the task still looked impossible at the beginning. I had to fend off other coaches who could provide greater facilities and faster swimmers with whom to train, but Ian and I were fortunate enough to form a bond that exists to this day.

 

During this presentation I will invite you to visualize the enormity of the task we faced once Ian decided he wanted to make the leap and qualify for the 2000 Olympics. Everywhere we faced challenges – from the lack of long course, to the lack of training space and time; no support, other than financial, from the LSC; very few people, none in state, who had done it before. What I want you all to take from this is not so much that we had it tougher than anyone else – everyone has it tough, and tough is relative; not that what we did to overcome specifically could work for anyone else – each situation is unique; but that we faced what seemed to be insurmountable odds, and overcame the obstacles, not only putting an athlete on the USA Olympic Swimming Team, but bringing home the elusive Gold. What we did here in Maine, against all odds, was remarkable. What I want you to get from all of this is that you can do it, too. Anyone who has a gifted athlete need not send them away to become better elsewhere, but there are ways to overcome obstacles, no matter what they are, and succeed. This is a success story. I hope it will inspire you to look for ways you can make it happen in your situation.

 

STRENGTHS

This story is not all about how bad it was. We did have some fantastic strengths…..

 

Excellent People This is a story about the people who did come forward to help us out. First of all, my very able assistant coach, Don Caton, initially volunteered his time to take over the team so that I could travel with Ian. In the end he has become bitten by the coaching bug, and still loves coaching the younger swimmers on a volunteer basis. Thanks to the countless hours this man donated to the club, and other swimmers, and even taking Ian to Nationals one year at his own expense, I was free to take the time needed to get Ian where he needed to go. His wife, Betty Caton, was the driving force behind the fund-raising that enabled the Crockers and I to attend the Sydney Olympic competition. She still runs the timing system at all of our meets. They have a daughter who swims occasionally with the club on a recreational basis – excellent people!

 

There were some outstanding coaches who encouraged me, gave me advice, and opened their doors – for free – when we were desperate for training time…

 

Mike Parrato Thank God for people like Mike. His vision – we are all on the same team – USA Swimming – enabled us to train long course a couple of weekends each year at no cost to us. As Mike had already had a swimmer who was an excellent performer at the International level (Jenny Thompson – for those who don’t know), I relied on him enormously for advice. I also had him talk to Ian to reinforce what we were doing in training.

 

Tim Babcock Who runs a medium-sized club in northern Maine, was also a tremendous support. He listened while I ranted and raved, supported me when I needed support, talked to Ian when he needed extra encouragement, and guided me when I first arrived in the US, on protocols, meet entry procedure and internal politics.

 

Charlie Butt For those who have been around a long time, you may remember that name. What a fabulous guy. Charlie, who coached at Bowdoin College (DIII) for almost forty years, was in swimming for the sport and for the athletes. He often provided pool time for Ian when we needed it. He also encouraged and gave advice.

 

USA Swimming also helped us out when we were desperate…..

Dennis Pursley Thanks to Dennis’ vision, we got grant money that allowed Ian and I to prepare him adequately on the final leg of the journey. Dennis also encouraged us to stay on course, and gave advice when needed throughout his development, once he reached top performances at Nationals and made National Team status.

 

Family, team, and community…..

Gail and Rick Crocker are so supportive of their son, and willing to sacrifice anything to get him where he wanted to go. They are in financial debt up to their ears, but there are no regrets – wonderful supportive parents who were willing to go that extra mile to support their child in his pursuit of excellence.

 

Joanne Arnold an enervetic trainer, was Ian’s strength coach. She came on board, brought in by Gail, to help during a particularly tough time for Ian. From December through to the trials, Joanne worked with him, teaching him how to read his body, and gain strength in the weight room.

 

Portland Porpoise Swim Club continues to be a struggling team financially, but what they lacked in funds, they made up for in enthusiasm. Never was there any jealousy taking over the emotions expressed by most of the team. His teammates celebrated his accomplishments, and allowed me the space to work with him when it was needed.

 

City of Portland provides pool time free of charge to our team, for which we are grateful, as we could not afford to pay for it at the moment.

Maine Swimming Incorporated provided financial support to its swimmers for Nationals, Junior Nationals and the US Open. Ian was able to take full advantage of this financial support to get to some of the meets he needed to attend.

 

CHALLENGES

Now we get to the part where I get to whine a little. Following each challenge, I will tell you what WE did to overcome a perceived obstacle. In the end, it all comes down to perception, doesn’t it!?

 

No long course pool in Maine Everyone has heard that one! And I am sure that some of you are even sick of hearing it. It was difficult for Ian, especially as he operates so strongly on ‘feel for the swim’ and rhythm. Long Course experience for him was essential.

 

Solution: We traveled! Thanks to Mike Parrato, we were able to get some training time in long course on several weekends at the beginning of each summer season. He opened his already crowded lanes to any of my swimmers who were willing to make the trip to New Hampshire – not only Ian. Thank you, Mike! Unfortunately, not all coaches have the vision he has. We also competed almost exclusively in long course meets during the summer season, traveling the Eastern seaboard of the US and Canada, looking for any opportunity to race in long course. I did not want to waste any time in short course during the summer season, nor did I want to confuse the issue by switching courses during the season if I could get away with it. We did do the occasional State Championships which are held in short course yards each summer. He not only was able to gain the long course experience, but was very race-sharp due to the travel. This, incidentally, was what put such a financial load on his parents.

 

Restricted Pool Time / Facilities / Space Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Reiche Pool!

 

You can see from these pictures that we do not have starting blocks! The facility is a four-lane, 25-yard pool with very little deck space, and is three and a half feet deep at each end – therefore we are not allowed to dive into the pool. The lanes are so narrow that Ian could not train full-stroke butterfly with anyone else in the lane as his wing-span covered the entire lane. Most of his fly-training was done single-arm when he was with the rest of the team. During his training with the team we had anywhere from 20 to 30 swimmers in this pool at one time. At one time, I had a swimmer in his training group whose 100 Fs time was 1:14 in short course yards, while Ian’s was :44. There were 20 swimmers within that range, training at the same time! We had no time or space for him to have his own lane.

 

We had to fight to get time in this pool, especially during the High School Swimming Season. This is one of two pools operated by the City of Portland Recreation Department and is located in an inner-city elementary school. Our training hours were challenging….. early mornings, from 5:30 – 7 am so that swimmers could get to school, and due to the load of programs that go through this facility, we also have to train from 7:00 – 8:30 pm. Maximum of 4 available hours each day, with the younger swimmers in during the 6 – 7pm time slot. We were losing swimmers to other teams as it was because of our late training hours, and many parents did not want their young children out that late on a school night.

 

Another challenge we still have to deal with is fecal contaminations. Due to the high bather load, and the diversity of programs that use the facility, there is often at least one contamination each week. We often lose at least two workouts per week due to the contamination and the protocol that is used to decontaminate the pool. That became an even bigger issue once Ian was named to the drug-test list for random, out-of-competition testing, as we had to let them know each time he would not be at workout. I often would get a call in the afternoon, and then spend several hours contacting each swimmer on the team to let them know there was no practice. We had no place available for dryland training, either, unless there was a vacant field available and the weather permitted us to be outdoors. Sometimes we would meet and run on a running path, weather permitting, but it became very difficult to organize in such a short time frame, and many of our swimmers are high school athletes who really are swimming with us to keep in shape for high school performances.

 

We were able to get into our other pool for a couple of times per week outside of the school swimming season. While the high school and middle school seasons ran, the Riverton facility (6 lanes x 25 meters with diving blocks!), was almost unavailable to us. This meant that our swimmers were virtually unable to practice starts from Mid-November until the end of April.

 

Dry-Land Training is also an issue. Although we workout in a school, the gym is almost always unavailable. We sometimes have access to the cafeteria, although it was not available for us on a daily basis. It is strangely laid out with a carpeted well and a stage. There is not a lot of ‘flat’ training area. I purchased four of the big inflatable balls which we use for abdominal work. This year it is my goal to purchase medicine balls. This comes out of my pocket as the club has no money for ‘extras’. Swimmers purchase and use surgical tubing to strengthen rotator cuff muscles. Ian and some of the older, more committed swimmers joined the local ‘World Gym’. I laid out and supervised their program, including Ian’s throughout most of my time with the team. Once the grant money came through, Ian employed his own personal trainer to help him gain extra strength through work in the gym.

Solutions:

Get outta town! As often as we could, we would travel to train with another team. We took advantage of meets to provide extra training time whenever possible (example: I took Ian to junior nationals after he had qualified for Nationals so that he could get the extra training and racing time, especially in long course). When we were home, we would utilize the space and every minute of available time we had. It was necessary for our swimmers to come to morning workouts as we had so little available time other wise. For the starts, we would practice plyometric jumping on stairs to keep their legs strong. And for the form, we front-loaded starts at the beginning of the season as much as possible, knowing that we would not get the time later in the season. In the summer, we were able to get a substantial amount of pool time in the Riverton facility, so we factor as much time as possible into working on starts and relay take-overs. In short, we planned our season around what we had. This year we put together a circuit which we ran on Friday nights, The equipment was rudimentary and portable as we were not allowed to leave anything lying around the pool, and we have no storage space at either of our facilities. The back of my car is the storage for all of the PPSC equipment we use.

 

Once we had grant money, we rented time at the local YMCA. Unfortunately ,there was no time available at the other City facility, so we had to go ‘ out of house ‘ to get what we needed. I’m still hearing about that one!

 

Maine High School Swimming

I will apologize to all of the high school coaches in the room right now, and say that when I say ‘high school swimming’, I don’t mean swimming outside of the State of Maine – I refer instead to Maine High School Swimming.

 

High School swimming in Maine is very weak. This year, Boys’ Class A High School State Championships, the 500 Y Freestyle was won in a 5:00 – no one broke 5:00 in the 500! That is not the only place where they are weak! The 100 Y breast was won in a 1:02, the 100 Fly in a :55 +. I’m sorry that I don’t have the actual times for you. The Girls, were not quite as slow, relatively, as the Boys, but still there were one or two who would stand out, then the field would drop off fairly rapidly. A 6:00 made it into finals in the Girls’ Class A State Championships. Yet, High School swimming is bigger than the Olympics. The stands are packed with parents, teachers and classmates, all going crazy during any close race, irregardless of the time.

 

These swimmers get a tremendous amount of press in the paper and on television. The media did not know anything about swimming other than high school. I tried several times to meet with them to explain what we were trying to do, but I was bluntly told that they were not interested until I had someone performing at the National level – High School swimming was where it was at.

 

High School swimming is so big in Maine, most swimmers and parents prepare throughout the younger age groups to be able to become a high school stud. Even the top swimmers want to do high school swimming. Why not? It’s fun. There is very little work involved (I had a miler who at age 13 swam it in 18:27 – not bad; next year she trained for high school swimming in the 100 Breast, swam 2000 meters a day, and went 19:50 in the mile that year). One gets tons of recognition for doing very little. Why would anyone want to labor in anonymity for nothing?

 

The high school program gets premier pool time throughout their season. We lose almost all of our training time in the pool that is large enough to run a decent workout for a good number of swimmers – and has the starting blocks. It is so frustrating that they get two to three hours a day during prime workout time – from 3:00 until 5 or 6:00 in the afternoon. They get first dibs, and a substantial amount of pool time during the Christmas break, forcing us to take what little is left. I ‘ve watched some of those practices and see what they are not doing. Water football during their practice time! I’ve been in, sharing lane space with them. In an hour and a half, my swimmers would complete 6,000 meters. Theirs would be lucky to complete 2000 meters. To see how much they fooled around with prime pool time, and our swimmers who worked so hard, to get so much less, was frustrating to me – and remains so to this day. They had all six lanes for nine swimmers, we had four lanes for twenty swimmers. The fact of the matter is, both of the pools we are able to use are located in Elementary schools, so any school program takes priority over us.

 

The high school program is disruptive to our training and competition program. It begins for both sexes in mid-November and runs until mid-February. Our main competitive season runs concurrent with the latter part of the high school season. Many of the high school coaches in our area demand that the swimmers attend all of the practices during the week, or they are not permitted to compete. For these programs, I lose my swimmers in mid-November, they swim well in December, slower in their State meet, and come back to me out of shape in late February, ‘ready’ to swim in our Championship meet. Some of the coaches allow their swimmers to ‘train’ with us. So if there is a meet on Tuesday and Friday during the week, here is how the training goes…

 

Monday morning they are at workout, having a typical Monday morning training session. Monday night they are ‘resting’ because their high school coach has told them that they need to swim fast as it is important to win that meet. They miss Tuesday morning so they will be fresh for Tuesday night. At the meet, they will swim a 300 warm-up. Swim their couple of races and get back on the bus without a swim-down (not allowed to do that!). They return home at midnight, so will miss Wednesday morning workout. When I get them back in the water on Wednesday night, they are so tired from being up late the previous night and so tight from racing without getting a proper flush, that their work suffers. Thursday morning they are back on track, but they have a meet on Friday night in which they must swim fast, so I get one decent workout from them all week. This goes on for about 8 of the 12 weeks in the season.

 

The Principals’ Association in Maine does not allow coaches to work with their swimmers outside of the 12 week season. So these coaches work swimming only 12 weeks of the year. I, or any other USA Swimming coach cannot coach high school swimming and still work with our swimmers. The main focus here is to level the playing field, which consequently promotes mediocrity.

 

Many of the coaches believe, and will tell you that they are the best coaches in Maine – and they may be correct. A lot gets done in such a short time. But many of them are not into swimming outside of Maine High School swimming. They have no idea that swimmers in other states are swimming fast in their high school dual meets. Fran Crippen swam a 500 in under 4:30 in-season, and when I told them this, they all but called me a liar! They thought that no-one can swim that fast. They have no concept of what really fast swimming is. Swimming a fast time is not the real goal, afterall. Winning the event / meet is the major focus. The swimmers get caught up in that and will often give only the effort it takes to win the race. Our swimmers will swim against schools that have other year-round swimmers on their teams, but will seldom swim against each other, as the high school coaches will not want to ‘waste’ their swim in an event that winning may be in question.

 

Most of my top swimmers do not swim high school for the above reasons, and mostly because they have bought into the goal of becoming the best they can be. I do encourage all of my swimmers to try the school swimming as freshmen, believing that the choice needs to be theirs and that they cannot say ‘no’ to something until they have tried it. Ian swam in his freshman year, and broke records almost every time he got into the water. He declined to swim in subsequent years as his high school team had the policy that all swimmers must attend all workouts. They would not make an exception, nor were they willing to re-look at the policy. That was OK, but the garbage he took from classmates and teachers about his choice was horrible. Not only did they not support his decision, but one teacher even called him the’ Olympic wannabee’ in front of his classmates. Getting support from his school for him to have time away was incredibly hard, and not all of his teachers were willing to work with him to help with work he missed while attending Nationals and other top level meets. Incidentally, his school was the first to buy an Olympic flag and run it up the pole as soon as he made the team. They were also there with their hands out, asking him to come and speak to the students about his Olympic experience. To Ian’s credit, he did.

 

Solutions:

I try to work with the high school coaches in our area, as some of my swimmers still choose to swim on their high school team. I will support my swimmers’ decisions, as I try to educate them to make the best choices for themselves. Some swimmers get frustrated when they don’t improve, however, they must learn to live with the consequences of their choices. That is a life-skill, and in the final big picture, it is what we learn from our experiences that carries us through life, not the medals. I save my more intense effort for those who have bought into the PPSC program, and provide, in as much as I can, support for those who choose other paths. I do attend the HS State Champs in support of my swimmers when they, and I, are in town.

 

No Experience of High Level Swimming In-State

Ian was, by far, the highest level of swimmer that any program in Maine had produced. There have been several swimmers from Maine, who have gone off to other programs in other states and have made it all the way to Olympic Trials. But they did not get to where they were from a Maine – based program. Ian was the first to make it beyond Junior Nationals. When I first came to the team in 1995, my swimmers would genuflect to any swimmer in the state who had made it to Juniors, speaking of their idols in hushed whispers, believing that was the pinnacle of what anyone from Maine could achieve. Swimmers who wanted more from their swimming expected to leave Maine to pursue their swimming career. My swimmers were shocked when I told them that Junior Nationals was nothing more than a stepping stone to the next level. What could I possibly be thinking? Was I insane? Afterall very few made it that far!

 

Maine Swimming exists to send a team to the Eastern Zone meet each year – that is the main(e) focus for Maine Swimming. The team is picked at State Championships in March. There are very strict rules about who is eligible to swim in the State Championships, one can only surmise that is the reason. The coaches for Zones are paid to attend the meet, in addition to having all of their expenses paid. The maximum a swimmer pays to attend the Zone Meet is $300, which includes their Maine Swimming uniform. So much time, effort and energy is placed on this competition, and it is the only one that has the results reported at the Maine House of Delegates meetings. Ian’s Gold Medal Performance was not mentioned in any report at the House of Delegates meeting in October, however, the great performance of another young swimmer who won the 50 Fs at Zones received attention. Sure, we received some financial support for Ian (and our other swimmers) to attend higher level meets. Relatively speaking, however, his support was not in proportion to others swimming at a much lower level. While their expenses totaled $300 for their top meet, his would reach over $2500. Because he had to travel further, stay for longer and was often alone, his expenses were much greater. The Zone coaches not only had their expenses paid for by MSI, but they received an honorarium on top of it. I received no support from Maine Swimming. There is definitely an inequity here, and one that taxed the Crockers to a very great extent.

 

At one of the Summer Championships, MSI introduced Senior Recognition on the final evening at the meet. After the Seniors were recognized, they brought out the Summer Zone Team and presented them with their uniform in front of the crowd. It just so happened that the Championships had taken place after Juniors. One of the swimmers who got a second swim at Juniors was attending the Zone meet. She was recognized for making Zones, but received no recognition for her performance a the higher level meet! It just so happened that she was a swimmer from another team. I raised the issue, and gained recognition for her as well as my swimmers who attended Juniors. Somehow, Maine Swimming just doesn’t seem to ‘get it’ when it comes to higher level swimming. Ian, for a number of years, received no recognition. In the winter of 2000, he was finally recognized on the final night of State Champs with a presentation to him of some of the State Record certificates he had earned over the previous year.

 

There were no other coaches in Maine who had gotten a swimmer to the level that Ian attained. Nor were there many who were interested in achieving that level. Of the twenty or so teams that make up Maine Swimming, only five are not attached to a ‘Y’, and actively taking part in a ‘Y’ program. Their main focus during the winter season is the ‘Y’ circuit and championships, with the Zone Team another important goal. Getting swimmers to achieve a higher level than YMCA Nationals is not a major focus. Therefore I did not have many who were able to support what I was trying to do – only one, in fact. We teamed together to attend out-of-state meets and train together to prepare our swimmers to swim faster.

 

In-Season USA meets in Maine are not as important as the ‘Y’ meets, and with the High School program taking most of the high school aged athletes out of the picture, there are not enough older swimmers to provide competition at the in-state meets.

I seems that most of the coaches, parents and swimmers are content with the status-quo. Indeed, when I refused to buy into the ‘party line’ and instead looked out-of-state for support and competition, I was ostracized. Our club is the most ‘hated’ club in Maine.

 

Solutions:

Again, I took the swimmers out of state. We maintained the focus with the swimmers on improving to their highest level, rather than the local level. We wanted them to keep the focus on what is important. We took whatever money the LSC was willing to give, and used it to the maximum. We kept trying to get them to open their pockets to swimmers who were attending other competitions and camps throughout the USA, with some limited success. Maine Swimming did finally give the ‘Swim to Sydney’ fund-raising effort $500, which went into the pot to send Ian’s parents and coaches to Sydney 2000. All of the teams in Maine were invited to celebrate Ian’s success last fall. And we shared him with any swimmers who wanted to come to a stroke clinic he gave this summer. Although we had to battle for change, the attitudes in Maine are finally changing somewhat. I still have yet to win the elusive ‘Coach of the Year’ honors in Maine. One just has to have a tough skin. I don’t want to antagonize anyone, I only want to be able to do what I believe is best for my swimmers. Thankfully, we have a couple of new coaches in Maine who are trying to do the same thing that I am. One has even gotten a swimmer to qualify for Nationals.

 

New England Swimming, the next LSC to us, treated Ian and our team wonderfully. We were welcomed into their meets, recognized for our performances, and treated with respect and open arms. Portland Porpoises and Hurricane Swim Club (my buddy in Northern Maine) tried to leave Maine Swimming and join New England swimming for the better competition and vision. New England Swimming welcomed us. Maine Swimming would not let us go, and made us pay for that indiscretion for years. New England Swimming understands what we are trying to do. Ian’s name constantly comes up in their newsletters with congratulations. He is regarded with the same affection as Erik Vendt and Samantha Arsenault (Olympians in 2000), who are from the New England LSC. I was invited, along with Don Lemieux, Josh Stern and Mike Parrato, to present at their Spring Coaches Clinic.

 

To be in the company of friends and great coaches was a thrill to me. Maine swimming still has not recognized Ian’s performance or acknowledged it to me. I have never been asked by Maine swimming to speak at any clinic, or indeed become involved with one. New England Swimming regards us as one of their own, and quite frankly, even with the financial aid that Maine Swimming has provided for my swimmers, I am sorry to say we regard ourselves more as New England than Maine.

Financial Hurdles

Our Club is very poor. We had lots of money when I first arrived. However, we had a treasurer who had no idea where the money was going, and each month would tell us that we were doing OK. There were no printed reports given. Before the end of June, we were broke with the summer season just beginning. I made the mistake of trusting in someone and not demanding to see how our finances were on a monthly basis. I’ll never do that again. We made a loan of $9,000 to make it through the summer, and that fall, made some really tough choices. First to go was the club subsidy of coach travel to the higher level meets – that was thrust onto the parents. This had the effect of not showing support for our top swimmers, and has had an effect on the team’s overall progress. Next, we had to increase the fees substantially to pay off the debt, which had the effect of rats fleeing a sinking ship. We lost about forty percent of our membership, many at the higher level, some of whom were on the Board that proposed the increase and budget cuts.

 

While this has provided a great deal of frustration for me, it is even worse for the parents and swimmers. Ian’s parents are struggling now with paying off the bills they incurred, supporting him within this program . It is frustrating still for parents, swimmers and me that I have swimmers now who cannot afford to go to meets because of the cost.

 

The lack of funds also had a direct effect on assistant coaches. Once we were in real financial straits, I could not afford to hire assistant coaches. This meant that I had to run all of the workouts for a team of over seventy swimmers by myself. It also placed restrictions on which meets we could attend for a couple of months until Don Caton came to our rescue. Even then, I was unable to relate to the parents of the younger swimmers at the end of workouts, while most of them were hanging around in the halls waiting for their swimmers to get out of the showers, as I had to be on deck for the older swimmers. My time with them became restricted as they could not talk to me prior to workouts because I was busy with the younger swimmers. ‘Issues’ had to be dealt with during training time, as everyone was too tired to deal effectively after workouts. This became a distraction from swimmers who were in the water getting the job done.

 

We tried running bingo, but in this state, our hands were tied with red tape. We cannot run Learn-to Swim classes as many clubs do, as the City will not allow another program to be in competition with them. We have trouble with recruitment for several reasons: 1. We are priced higher than most other teams in the area. 2. We have lousy training times 3. There are four other USA teams within a 10 mile radius, and two Y teams. The population is too small to support so many teams. At the moment, amalgamation is not possible.

 

We were also limited in our expansion due to limited space and training time. This year, our club maxed out at one hundred ten swimmers. There were days that I prayed that we would not have good attendance because I did not know where I was going to put them all. We cannot afford to grow to the point that swimmers become injured due to overcrowding in the lanes.

 

Solutions:

Thank God for Don Caton. Without his assistance, I would not have been able to do the job I did with my swimmers. Don had some background in swimming, so was helpful, and most importantly was eager to learn more. He thoroughly enjoys coaching to this day, and this summer, coached at State Champs, allowing me to take a couple of the top swimmers, including Ian, to New England Open.

 

We hounded USA swimming for a couple of years, applying for grants, until some grant money became available in January of 2000. I wrote and re-wrote grant applications until we were finally successful. There is money available. Of course we were able to raise almost $50,000 last year AFTER Ian made the team. We purchased a new timing system which we desperately needed to be able to host meets, used a large percentage of the remaining money to send parents and coaches to Sydney, and have kept the remainder of the funds to be used for scholarship purposes. Other than that, we bite the bullet, and spend very little that we don’t have to in the effort to keep the program afloat. I have also used my own money on occasion to buy supplies and pay my own expenses when the money was not there so that we could keep going. There just didn’t seem to be much corporate money available prior to the high level performance. This year, we will be hosting more meets.

 

SUMMARY

On a good note, we made it through the tough times, and are now a more stable club. Maine swimming has a role model they can follow, and swimmers are setting their goals higher. It took guts, setting goals and the determination to achieve those goals, good old fashioned hard work and a belief that we could achieve. We had support, and could not have overcome the obstacles without that support. This achievement was a TEAM effort. There were several ‘teams’ at work here. The team of Coach and swimmer; coach and parents; coach supporters; the club team itself; USA Swimming; and finally, the LSC. Everyone contributed to the success story.

 

Now what should you do when you go back home to start the season? Set some tough goals – don’t settle. Lay out a plan to achieve the goals. Utilize your strengths. Find a way around your weaknesses. View your weaknesses as challenges to be overcome. Believe in your goals and yourself. Stay on task, and get off your butt – you can do it too!

Thank you for your time!

 

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