Good – Better – Best by Bill Dorenkott (2002)


Published


First I would like to say I am flattered that I was offered the opportunity to speak today here at ASCA.  It certainly is a humbling experience to be in the front of this room and this group of people. Before we get going,  I would like to say a little bit about the talk itself.  John Leonard called after the US Open last year and said: “ Would you interested in talking about the improvements of the Penn State programs over the past eight or ten years?”  I said: “Well, sure I would.” I was a little bit nervous about it, but I said I would have no problem. Then, John said: “What would you like to call the talk?”   I thought about it and I thought: “ What is the essence of our program?  What has been the essence of the change in our program?”   When it came right down to it, I realized the answer was: “The dynamics of organizational change.”  Man, that is not a very good title for a talk.  Now, my wife and I have two little boys, a 1 year old and a 3 year old, and every evening we try to read to them. On that particular night, I was reading a story to our son Jack, the three year old,  and I was thumbing through his Nursery Rhymes book  looking for a good one and I came across a little poem which basically said: “Good, better, best, never rest until good is better and better is best.”   That is it – that is the name of this talk: Good—Better—Best.

 

I think our program right now is elevated to a status that I would consider pretty good and something that we are certainly proud of.  The goal is to make it a little bit better each and every day,  with the idea that sometime in the future we might get kids to reach their best or reach their peak or their potential. The whole idea of the best for us is a little less of a destination than it is a journey.  The thing that I don’t want you to think is that this is some  Zen or philosophical thing because I am not a Zen-er or a philosophical guy.  I am a pretty black and white person.

 

One of the first things that we do each and every year, or at the beginning of a program, is to start with planning. I have been coaching for about twelve years now and have been in five transitions, and in each of those transitions we were able to take programs and elevate them a little bit by implementing some things.  That implementation all started with planning. So,  one of the things that we do at the very beginning of the program is to plan for success (because obviously nobody plans for failures). Here are some of the things that went into those planning processes at Penn State.  I will say that with our Penn State program, we have had a degree of success at the conference level.  We are not where we want to be nationally or internationally yet, but I think that we are on our way there. At the beginning, we felt that it was important to start the conference level, to start in our own backyard and then improve from there.  Now that we have achieved a degree of success,  we want to put that in our back pocket. It would still be nice to continue that success, but we want to find some new challenges, some new opportunities.  Finding new challenges has been a big part of this summer’s transition because we have really changed from the way our program has gone in the past.  We have really been more of a regional type conference type program and we are trying to sell the kids on our team and the kids that want to be a part of the program on the idea that we would like to be more of a National/International type program.  The first thing that we do is to start with the end in mind.  We do this season by season.  We do it throughout the athlete’s career and I will just say that season by season we look at that in three different ways.  We look at that from a coaching perspective.  We look at it from and athlete perspective, and we look at it from the perspective of doing it together.  So, one of the things that we will do at the beginning of each year is we will sit down and we will have a goal meeting and we will talk about where do you want to be at the end of this year?  And we will do that with our coaching staff as well.  What do you think would be a realistic expectation of this program this year?  We will debate about that a little bit on the coaching staff, but when, when we come in, when the athletes come  in, and we talk about where do you want to be at the end of this season,  we don’t talk about just goals. We talk about the process that it is going to take to reach those goals. Usually, those are pretty productive meetings and tend to plant seeds for the future, at least within that year.  When we talk about career, we look at the athlete’s career and say where do you want to be at the end of four years? And we don’t just do that from the perspective of athletics. One of the ideas that we really like to talk about is the idea of the development of the whole person. What do you want out of this experience? What do you want out of these four years?  My goal as a coach is to help put you in a position where you are going to be happy, where you can get the most out of this experience.  We also talk about these goals with our assistant coaches.  Where do you want to be?  What do you want to do?  When a new coach comes in the door, I am hoping that he/she is going to say:” I would like to be a head coach.”  Hopefully they don’t say, “I want your job,” but hopefully they will say, “I want to be a head coach.”  Then, I say:  “Alright, I am going to do everything in my power to make sure that you get a job better than mine.”  That’s my goal,  so I have to give those coaches opportunities to promote their careers.

 

One of the things I appreciated about Mike Bottom’s talk today was his point that kids really can’t see beyond what is happening right here and right now. I guess one of our responsibilities as coaches or as educators is to provide them opportunities to see that everything has a cause and effect.  The decisions our team members make today are going to have an effect somewhere down the road, academically.  Take care of business now, I say, if you want to be in a position in four years where you have opportunities to choose from.  If you have a 3.5 versus a 2.8, that 3.5 is probably going to open more doors for you, even though it is a little harder to achieve. It is hard for a lot of our team members to think that far down the road.

Smiles.  That is the last one.  What the heck do smiles have to do with it?  I think it is really this simple.  When I talk about starting with the end in mind,  the first thing I think about is when do I want to see our team smiling? When do I want to see them the happiest?  For us, in the past few years, it was the Big 10 championship.  We decided that our focus was going to be to excel at the Big 10 Championships.  Now obviously our training – we also wanted to put kids in a position so that they could have a good taper, a good shave four weeks later and hopefully swim faster on that second shave, but we began with the end in mind and so we wanted to see our kids smiling in February and in March.  Now, the thing that we have to talk to our team about is that if you are smiling in February and March, it may mean that you are not going to be smiling in October and in November, so it is good if the team buys into it as well.

 

Define your own success.  I am blessed to be in a position at Penn State University in that my expectations are higher than my boss’s. That sounds kind of silly, but I don’t think that is the case everywhere.  When I interviewed for the women’s position about five years ago, I asked our Senior Women’s Administrator: “What are your expectations for the program?” She said:  “Finish in the top half of the conference and always send a couple of kids to NCAA’s.”  I was a little bit cocky back then and I didn’t say it out loud, but I thought to myself:  “well what do you want us to do the second year?” because I thought those were kind of low expectations. Now, we had a team that had been 11th in the conference.  Fortunately, we did finish top half that year.  When you define your own success, as in our case, winning is not always finishing first.  I remember my first year as head women’s coach and I should say, in terms of the evolution of Penn State, in eight years there, I think I have done everything except been a janitor.  When I got hired, I was the men’s assistant coach and I owe Peter Brown a great deal of gratitude for giving me the opportunity to come to Penn State.  I spent three years as the men’s assistant coach, then, three years as the women’s head coach. Last year, we combined the programs and have a combined setting. We are starting our second year with the combined program.  When we talk about winning, it doesn’t always mean finishing first.  That first year with the program, we had a program that was a bottom feeder in the Big 10.  The furthest thing from most of those kids’ minds was excelling in the conference. We had a dual meet mentality.  We wanted to show up and swim fast in the dual meets.  I was not talking about winning a lot and that was a mistake at the time. I would have kids come up and say: “Coach, you know, I am not concerned about winning.”  The thing that I tried to explain to them is that winning doesn’t always mean being #1 on the board.  Winning means achieving your best, and we got kids to buy into that in just a little bit.  Success in our program means doing your best, and  I know this sounds so wishy-washy  The next point though is that as coaches we have to be able to evaluate when your best is not good enough. I think one of the things or one of the ways to do that is you to distinguish between when is the time to give an athlete a hug and when is the time to tell an athlete that you are disappointed, that you thought that they had more in the tank or they had more to give. There is a fine line there and that is something that is probably pretty intuitive.  I would say if there is a key to that though of when to judge when their best isn’t good enough, it’s don’t ever underestimate them.  No matter how high you raise the bar, odds are people are going to find a way to reach that bar.  That has been the case through our progression in the past couple of years.

 

Measures of success:  our program gets scored on all three of these areas of success. One of the things I did want to do in this presentation is not to aim it just towards college coaches.  My guess is whether you are a club coach, YMCA coach, high school coach – your program is also getting measured in all three of those areas.  We all get measured a lot of different ways.  Who is watching those three things?  Academic, athletic, and social success. Well, our staff is going to get evaluated on them.  My administrators look at them.  My boss looks at them, their teammates, other teams and prospective student athletes – people that you might want to be a part of your program– are going to look and say have you guys been successful academically? Have you been successful athletically? Have you been successful socially?  Ideally, we want to develop the whole person; academics is first; swimming is going to be a very close second; and socializing is going to be a distant third.  It looks like I skipped a space between athletics and social life.  One of the things that we inherited eight years ago is that we had a program that had a very, very, very rich academic tradition.  We were pretty strong athletic tradition, and we had an unbelievable social tradition.  Our social tradition was way above anything that we did in the classroom or in the pool. That was something that was a challenge – trying to fight on a daily basis to eliminate that.  We borrow a lot in our program.   We are always taking the best from other programs.  I know our women’s basketball coach has been successful at the National and the conference level. One of the things that she says to her team every single day is: “Remember who you are and what you represent.”  I think that  keeps people in check.  I would say – we had a big team meeting last week and we talked about us getting measured on all three of those things – academics, athletics and social components and so people are going to be watching you.  Now in our case at Penn State, and again we are very blessed, we’ve  got a rich athletic tradition. We have a football team that produces a lot of revenue. We have 29 sports. We have a 40 million dollar budget and everybody is clawing for a piece of that budget.  Everybody wants more.  That is the nature of the beast.  You want a little bit more to help your program out. How do my bosses evaluate me?  Well they are going to look – is your team taking care of business in the classroom?  That is very important to them.  They are going to evaluate us athletically.  Are you getting it done in the field?  Are you getting it done in the pool and then socially – are you staying out of the police blotter…. Before I came to Penn State, I had the opportunity to be a coach at Ashland University for four years.  We fought those same battles at Ashland University and obviously we didn’t have a 40 million dollar budget there.  We didn’t have 29 sports, but we were constantly trying to get a little bit bigger piece of the pie.  Trying to put ourselves in a position where we could improve.  Trying to fight those battles for our athletes so that they could take another step up the ladder.  In Ashland’s case, it was us vs. football, and we had a football coach who had been there for about 30 years.  He thought our travel budget was a little bit bigger.  I didn’t make the mistake of saying to him well we had more all Americans than you did last year, but I certainly did think that. There we were constantly – that was a challenge we fought.

 

Leadership:  we place a high value on leadership and we give a lot of opportunities to our team.  I should also say, I didn’t do a good job of saying thanks to a couple of people here.  One of the people I would like to say a big thank you to is Coach Paul Blair in the back of the room.  I had the opportunity when I was in college to go down and train and then later on coach with Coach Blair. I certainly consider him a mentor, so much so that we named one of our sons after him. A lot of what is up here is stuff that we learned from Coach Blair.  Again, we borrowed it.  I remember daily push-off in workout – what would he say ?  He’d say: “Alright, who are the leaders?”  You can never have too many leaders.  I found that to be the case.  Our best teams have been the ones that have been defined by great leadership, so we give a lot of responsibility to the Captains.  I know Tim Murphy was talking before and Murph was saying something about bullets – we have a lot of programs that we do with our Captains to give them opportunities. We meet with the captains every single week for a breakfast.  That is something they feel very good about.  It is good communication.  It is not me saying: “alright here, here and here.”  It’s me asking: what is going on? Which way are we going?  Are we on base?  Are we on track?  Does everybody want the same things that we have been talking about in our team meetings?   SUMMER READING:  and you are going to say, gee – is this man bonkers?  We have had a summer reading program.  We have been fortunate to have a lot of our Captains stay up and train in the summers, and a lot of the books that you mention, in fact the one that Tim mentioned the other day about the ship Captain,[Its Your Ship],I think that we will probably get that for our Captains this year.  I have a voracious appetite for reading and unfortunately do not have enough time to do it. When you have successful organizations, you are going to see that the communication is virtually the same. In our case, the things, the phrases, the ideas where I wanted our Captains to be on the same page as our coaches in terms of a certain ways of thinking, they were proactive and they were thinking ahead, and they were having opportunities and creating opportunities for the people on the team and it was more of a together atmosphere rather than an us and them type of thing that sometimes exists on teams. Having captains around in the summer helps us also because we can include them in our scheduling meetings. For example, we might say:  “Alright, Thanksgiving break – here is one that is coming, what do you guys think?  Can we finish up on Tuesday evening?  Are we going to be able to churn up the team that is going to take their business when the go home?  Okay.  Sunday night we come back.” The captains make those decisions.  It also helps from a coaching perspective because then if the team complains about it, I say well the captains made the decision could be one of th Ideally,  we are promoting people through the system and identifying kids early in their career and giving them some opportunities as underclassmen to lead within their class or lead within their lane or lead within the pool that they are training in on that given day.  We also like to elect captains in the spring so that they can be proactive during the summer and they can plant seeds and they can develop.  This year we didn’t do that because I was really concerned that we had a leadership void.  I will say that the success we had over the past four years was in a large part due to the unbelievable captains we had on our women’s team who just graduated last year.

We recruit leadership.  You know that one of the beauties of college coaching is the fact that we get to pick who is a part of our program.  Ideally, the #1 thing we look for in people is are they good people?  Are they the kind of people you want to be around for 20 hours per week? The kind of people you want to be associated with.  Well, as we started to improve a little,  another  coaching colleague came up and asked what I had done to tick this other coach off.  I think, well I really didn’t know what I had done.  “Well” my friend said, “He told me that you guys at Penn State will never be anything more than a bunch of 5’8 regional players.” I thought about it a little bit.  I was upset at first and I said well we do have a lot of people who are 5’8 on the team.  I said we are getting a little bit better. I said he is probably pretty accurate, but the truth is that we didn’t recruit people because they were 6’1;  we didn’t recruit people because they had a great vertical jump.  We recruited people because they had potential and one of the things we look for is leadership potential.  Can you even be a great leader?  Just a little comment on the side there  – our assistants, I should say John Retrum put together this slide show and he has done a tremendous job since we brought him onboard last spring and I think he is going to be something very special for our program.  We also brought in another assistant who is a former Head Coach at Villanova, Ed Bartsch. Ed likes to relate a story about the leadership portion of things through a conversation about five years ago with John Collins from Badger Swim Club. a John had said:  “You college coaches, I don’t know what you think…  You think that 18 years of bad habits can be erased by you guys are performing some miracle when they come up to your place.”  John had once advised Ed not to recruit a person.  Ed went ahead and did it anyway and had some nightmares because of it.  Success breeds success.  A lot of these things may seem like common sense.

 

One of the things I talk about is the “how” in our program versus the “what” and “how” we implement things versus “what” we implement.  I think that is the beauty of some of the things that we are going to talk about today.  Now the handout that we put together is completely different than a lot of the slides.  The handout is more brass-tax.  Some of the things that we actually do, whether it is planning, or whether it is some of the interactions communication-wise, or whether it is planting seeds for future success…  human nature dictates that as the bar rises, individuals will raise their performance to be part of the group.  If you look at a bell shaped curve – what a beautiful powerful thing —   I have done a poor job working with both ends of the bell shaped curve.  Our exceptional athletes and our athletes that have kind of been turkeys.  I think our staff has done a pretty good job with working with the middle of curve and really raising the bar for that middle group.  I think we have done it subconsciously and thought about the fact that well, the exceptional end of the curve – they take care of themselves.  Every program.  Your best kids probably take care of themselves. That is a big mistake and it has been something we have tried to identify by making sure that we are giving more attention to those kids, the kids who are going the extra mile.  I will say with the human nature thing – I am not a big Grateful Dead fan, but I had some buddies who went to a Grateful Dead concert and they  said that as they were walking through the stadium, everybody was booing.  I said, what are you talking about, and they said well you know, a herd mentality.  Everybody was just walking through together you know, kind of mooing like a herd of cattle. I think the human nature thing is that group mentality or that herd mentality.  If you can raise the mass or the herd, I think you are going to have a lot of people following along.

 

The easiest way to improve a program. We sat down as a staff and we talked about this presentation today and Ed Bartsch has a kind of no-nonsense East Coast dry humor.  I said: “Well, what do you think Ed?”  Ed said: “The reason the program has gotten better is because you got faster swimmers.”  That is just great, Ed.  I said.  “There is 30 seconds.  Any other questions?  We are done.”  So that is probably the easiest way to improve a program: get better seen athletes with higher expectations. That is kind of common sense.  I will give you a little example that we have been very fortunate to attract some pretty good swimmers to the program lately.  We pride ourselves on practice.  We pride ourselves on process and we don’t really create opportunities for success in practice by resting or by putting on a suit or anything like that.  Usually, we will try to go fast at the end of a set or the end of the week and build a little confidence that way by saying: “You are beat up a little bit, lets see what you can do.” We had a young lady come into the program, Kristen Woodren, who was a very solid breaststroker coming in and we had a pretty decent breaststroke group, with four or five girls in the group at Senior National level. When Kristen came in, she really wasn’t very good in practice.  I mean she was horrible.  She was sixth in the lane.  I would call her parents and I would say you know, I don’t think she is happy.  I think she is homesick and they would say oh no, she loves it.  It is the greatest thing ever.  I would watch her in practice and it was the worst thing you had ever seen and so I said man, we better give her an opportunity to show what she can do.  Actually it was more for my benefit because I was pretty nervous.  She was going in the wrong direction, so in about November, late in the week, we were doing a pretty good set. At the end of the set I said: “Alright, lets get up and do a hundred for time here.”  Everybody is doing it and Kristen is probably in the third or fourth heat. She hops up and she breaks our school record in practice! That was pretty cool.  That raised the bar.

REDEFINE GOOD:  I think sometimes expectation levels can be too low with your athletes.  I will give you two examples.  We were heading into taper this past year.  We were really close to our championship meet.  We did three dive efforts with our sprinters.  I think it was three 50s, a lot of rest, a lot of easy swimming in between.  The first one was with the drag suit on, solid effort.  The second one was a strong effort dual meet suit and the last one was ripping with your shave suit on just to get used to wearing your shave suit. Again, it was in practice on a Saturday, and one of our guys got up got up – his fastest effort – career best was a 20.3. The fastest he had been in season was about 20.5 … he gets up on the third effort and he gets 20.1  You know, we had some freshmen that hadn’t been under 21 seconds and of course you know, I tried to act pretty cool: “20.1.  good job, Eugene.  Alright, keep it up…” and these guys, you know, their jaws were open, you know, talking under their breath, but basically what we were doing is “redefining good,” right there, not making too big of a deal out of it. Obviously I think as a coach, he was ready to go on …. And if we had shaved him he probably would have went faster than he went at NCAAs.

 

Arien Adams is a gal we had five years ago who was just a special person.  One of those people that comes along every so often in coach’s life.  Arien had very high goals and she was an incredibly hard worker and she came up to me after one practice and she really let me have it.  She said I am busting my tail here, faster than I have never been …She went 1:52 at the end of a set of repeating 200s and it was really a good effort, but I didn’t want to make too big of a deal out of it because this is a young lady who said she wanted to be top 16 at NCAA’s 200 free.  She came up at the end of practice 101.  She said: “Bill, you have to give me better feedback than that.  That is unbelievable.  That is the best thing I have ever done in practice in my entire life.” I said: “Well, Arien, if you are going to be top 16, that is exactly where you should be right now.” Definitely a weakness on my part, I should have given it up a little bit more.

 

BEG, BORROW OR STEAL:  This is I guess a fancy way of saying that imitation is the greatest form of flattery.  Most of what we do is borrowed and not necessarily from swimming.  I am a little bit embarrassed to be up here.  Quite frankly, I don’t have much of a swimming background.  I swam one year of high school.  I swam two years in college.  I got into coaching very young, about 19 years old.  I have a family that is much more involved in the ball sports.  I played baseball for about 13 years so the only way I can get it done is to call a lot of people, ask a lot of questions, and have a great staff. We are very fortunate in that regard. We imitate a lot.  We borrow a lot of “what’s” in this room. When we talk about not just borrowing from in this room, we might not even borrow from what’s in athletics.  I had an opportunity when I went over to the State of Ohio to watch their high school state meet to watch the band.  I was sitting in the stands and the band came out to play the National Anthem. I had never seen a person in my entire life who had the passion that this band director had for the National Anthem.  This guy was throwing stuff.  He was all over the place.  I mean, he was fired up so I wrote him a note. When I got back to school and I wrote him a note and said that was the most incredible thing I have ever seen.  “You obviously have a great deal of passion for what you do and it shows.”  He wrote a note back to us which I shared with the team, just to try and teach them a little about the importance of loving what you do, having a real passion for what you do.  We talk about a business, a team, or an organization that is successful. What are they doing the same?  I guess the best thing I can say about that is that if you look at any of those three things, the business, a team or an organization, if they are successful, you are going to see common themes there.  You read a book.  That is why I love those books in the summer.  You get ahead a little bit and you ask:  “Coach, what do I have in common with the wrestler?  What do I have in common with somebody who works for IBM?  What do I have in common with a Navy ship captain?”

 

Well you actually probably have a lot in common  if you are doing things well.  I have never been involved in anything like swimming where people will give it up.  I mean that was the beauty of it when I first got into this sport at a pretty young age.  In other sports, I had played baseball, football and other sports growing up, nobody gives up their secrets.  Nobody tells each other what they are doing.  Here I was, 21 years old taking a group to the US Open, never had shaved anybody mid-year before, thought we could score some people at the meet when I was at Ashland so I called Peter Daland up at home out on the West Coast.   That meant a lot and it also had a real lasting impression on me … the fact that people would give it up.

 

The third part of ….. is implementation is the key.  The fact that everybody will give it up.  I would say that almost everybody in this room knows what everybody else is doing so what is the key?  How is one group more successful than another and implementation is, I think, the key to it.  You know, I look at our program.  What are limiting factors for our program.  I don’t see a lot of them.  A lot of people will say the facility.  Well, I have obviously got to turn that into a positive.  We have a facility that I say is a functional facility.  We train out of a six lane 25 yard pool for most of the year.  If it hasn’t been a big limiting factor – the key is if we can be successful in a six lane 25 yard pool when we do get a new pool, my guess is we will be even better. I hope so, but I think the reverse is also true. If we cant get it done in a 6 lane 25 yard pool, what makes us think that we are going to get it done when we get this new beautiful facility and we can spread out a little bit?  I am not sure.

 

PLAN FOR BAD WEATHER: We talk about this at the absolute beginning of every season and say that you can expect 90% of the people in this room can to encounter some adversity this year.  It is going to happen.  The question is how you deal with it.  I will use Coach Blair again as another example.  I always call Coach Blair up and he will say how’s it going, what’s going on and I will say hey Coach and he will say, no Bill – it is how I am treating life and I think it sounds kind of silly and it sounds like Zen or something like that, but really the essence of it is that you are going to have challenges and how are you going to deal with that?  I will give you a personal example.  This past year we combined the programs.  It happened at the beginning of August. Peter [Brown] accepted the job at Brown University one week before we were heading out to US Nationals in the summer. The school asked me  what I thought about the possibility of combining the two programs?  So, I called around, all the top combined programs in the country and asked what are the positives, what are the negative. They were very honest and I thought this would be a good opportunity for the program, for our staff, and for our family so we decided to do that.  We left the next week for US Nationals and the week – we left directly from California to go out to China where I was very blessed to be a part of World University Games staff.  Going to China for three weeks.  Got back after having been gone for four weeks to a combined program that probably wasn’t  real excited to have me as a coach and found out the day that I got back that my mom had been diagnosed when I was in China with terminal cancer.  So when you talk about a transition, or you talk about a challenge, I can’t imagine that there was a more challenging year.  I had some serious doubts about coaching as a career last year because it was such a tough year.  I was not ready for that adversity.  I am not sure if there was anything I could have done, but thank goodness I have a great wife and a good support network and staff.  Be flexible with your plan.  Basically, Bob Krimmel who was our former women’s coach says I have a plan.  It is written in cement, but the cement is wet, so be flexible with your plan.

 

Be proactive whenever possible.  I think the key there is to have a support network, act quickly, and follow your gut.  I think that as coaches when we make decisions, we always want to make a decision that would never err on the side of an athlete, but I think 90% of the time after the fact, we look back and say I should have followed my gut in the first place. I would say in the case of adversity, follow your gut and try to act quickly if you can.  Provide challenges.  It promotes growth.  Challenges can come in many forms; physical, mental and emotional.  I will tell you a little challenge that we provide and I am not sure if it is a good one or not.  We have a very solid budget.  I won’t complain about it, but when it came to Christmas training, we had a problem. I don’t like to fly, so we weren’t going to go to Hawaii or Puerto Rico, or anything crazy like that…Florida suits our needs well, and the team wanted to go, but some of the people on the team could not afford the $600-$800 it would cost to go to Florida…Well,  I talked to the people, my administrators, and I said what can we do and they said, we can afford to pay for a bus down so I said alright, we take the bus down.  So we go down, 18 hours down and 18 hours back.  I gave the kids the option of flying down and meeting the team down there, but they have to take the bus on the way back because we swim a meet on the way back.  We crank it up pretty good training-wise while we are down in Florida and then we are going to hit a pretty good meet on the way back, a very good competitor and we expect to swim very strongly.  I think that is a good challenge.  Now a lot of kids will say why are we doing this coach?  It is not because I want to spend 18 hours on the bus with 18-22 year olds.  It does serve a purpose in terms of it builds some pretty good bonding on the bus, it is because it is a challenge.  It is an opportunity to see what you are made out of; later on we may encounter some adversity where that challenge will help us.  I will give you an example.  We went out to Big 10s one year and went to the Philadelphia airport.  The plane broke down; half of the team took off; half of them stayed back.  I stayed with the half that stayed back.  We didn’t get to the meet until about 2 in the morning. Now, a lot of teams, if they got in about 2 in the morning, would say their meet was over – done.  These kids they laughed.  They said: “No, we have been on a bus 18 hours. This is nothing.”  I think you have to have a careful balance between challenge and foolishness. When I was at Ashland University, which is a little Division II school in Ohio, I was about 21 or 22 years old and I was a fool.  I think back and we did breath control and the other dumb things that weren’t building much, but surely put kids in a position where they could have gotten hurt.

 

Challenges; challenges work best when there are many constants in the program.  I think that is one of the keys.  Our athletes, especially in today’s world,  are going to have so many uncertainties.  So many things in their daily lives that are going to be ups and downs.  You know, we talk about social life.  You hope they are living a lifestyle, but you kind of count on the fact that they may not be.  Academically – they are going to be challenged in the classroom.  They have relationships.  They are going through ups and downs in those.  The one thing that I want them to be able to count on is our staff.  That is always going to be the same.  I can remember when I was 19 years old and we had some pretty good swimmers on our team.   Don Harges  was a part of our program down at Little Rock, and I was running down the deck like a wild man with my head cut off, getting everybody fired up and Coach Blair said: “What are you doing?”  And I said:  “Well getting….” “No” he said: “They have to do it because they want to do it.  They have to – what are they going to do if you are not there?  You are not helping them out.”  I thought that was really important, so one of the things as a coach or as a staff we talk about is that if you had a bad day, don’t bring it to the pool. The team needs to count on you and very seldom can they come in and say: “Boy Coach Dorenkott had a rotten day today or Coach ..     , Boy what got into him?”  They need to know that every day they are going to get the best from us when they come there, and we expect the best from them.

 

MEASURE SUCCESS:  There are a lot of ways to measure success. When you talk about actual measures of success you can talk about training, racing, fitness… I mean there are a million ways that you can measure success and measure improvement.  You can measure day to day.  You can measure it year to year.  You can measure team to team or the team that we coached in 1991 stacks up real well to this group.  It has some of the same attributes.  You guys are something special.  I think we can get it done.  The thing that we don’t do with actual measures is we don’t compare athlete to athlete.  We won’t say: “Well why can’t you do it, this person in the group could do it.”  We have been fortunate.  We have had a lot of brother brother/sister sister/brother/sister combinations that have come to Penn State through the years and I think that is one of the biggest mistakes that we could have made.  I will give you an example – if Sue Anderson is in the room – Kate Anderson graduated from our program two years ago – one of the most special people I have ever coached.  Absolutely carried the program on her back for the four years she was there.  Sally is going to be a junior with us this year.  I can guarantee you that if I went in and said: “Sally, Katie never did it this way.”  I would be in a world of hurt and I think Sue would probably agree with me there.  I am not sure if I spelled some things up here correctly – —- measures.  These are the things that sell your program.  These are the reasons that people want to be a part of your program.  They want to be a part of your team because it was a special experience, because it made a difference, because they were happy, because they grew as a person, because they grew as an athlete, because they had an academic experience that was something special.  This is the thing that we all love.  We love it when kids are happy, when they are smiling.  The question is can you have both?  I am not sure.  There have been a lot of years when we haven’t had both.  I know that last year on the outside it looked like we had a pretty good year.  We won our first conference meet with the women, had our highest men’s NCAA finish ever.  We set some records in All Americans and all those neat things that go along with it. But from the inside, it was one of the hardest years I have ever been around athletics, not including just coaching.  Ours was a team that really didn’t enjoy the process.  I have to imagine I wasn’t a very good coach last year.  I had a lot of challenges in my life too. I don’t think I was a good husband; I don’t think I was a good father; I don’t think I was a good coach. I think when you ask can you have both – that is what we are always working for — I think those years when we do have both is the reason we keep coming back.

 

CELEBRATE SUCCESS.  I do a very, very, very poor job of this because I was raised in a family that didn’t celebrate.  I mean we weren’t big on birthdays, we weren’t big on vacations, we weren’t big on all of those things that go along with it.  We were just a blue collar very German oriented family – boring. I talked to the Director of our Human Resource and Development Center this past summer on the whole idea of who coaches the coach.  We all coach people.  We have a staff.  We try to work together, but who coaches us?  Who can you talk to?  One of the things that I am not good at is that I don’t like to go home and talk about shop at home with Adrian.  She will say how was your day and I will say oh it was good. She gets upset sometimes because the kids will be going crazy, and she will say, here you take them. So,  I don’t want to go home and say: “Boy, I had a rough day, or this person really isn’t on track, or academically we are having all kinds of problems.” So, I went over to Human Resources to say where are we?  What do we need to do?  What are some things that can make our program better?  A fellow by the name of Lenny Pollack is in charge of our Center at Penn State and this was his suggestion: “Celebrate success.”  The reason, and this is probably a silly reason, I worry about celebrating success is the fact that I worry about our kids getting complacent. You know, you reach the level and you say: “Man, that was outstanding, good work. Now, what’s next?”  I think that is the nature of the beast.  We are always saying: “What’s next?  How can we get better?” We don’t usually take the time to step back and say: “Man that was awesome.”  The next one – so sometimes I am a bit of a person of excesses and it’s all right, we will have a party.  We will celebrate winning our first conference title.  We will celebrate our highest NCAA finish ever.  What better way to have a party than to invite 107,000 of your best friend? So, I called up my administrator and I said: “Can we get our women’s team recognized at half time of a football game?” We’ve got a pretty big stadium and normally we don’t recognize teams for winning conference titles. I said: “This is kind of a special thing.  These kids really worked hard for four years straight.  They didn’t take many breaks and they were committed to the cause.” So, my administrator went in and he said to the head athletic director: “Well, how many big 10 titles are we winning every year?”  Good point.  We will celebrate it then.

 

REWARD SUCCESS:  I think there are a lot of ways to reward success, and I think that money is a poor motivator.  We are in a position, being a Division I school, where we can reward success with scholarships, but what I found is that doesn’t last very long, and it is not a great motivator.  Ultimately, you’ve got to find out what buttons to push for each athlete.  What is it that drives them?  What makes them come back day-to-day and want to get better?  These are silly thing, but I will share them with you.  Locker picks – I don’t know why that is the biggest deal with our team.  Every year we clean out the lockers and then we set up a system to give out the lockers again.  I think we have a real small locker room, they don’t like touching each other so they try to get the ones out on the end, but the locker picks is a big deal and we usually go through and we say alright points scored at NCAA’s, points scored at the conference level or success international team or whatever the case may be.  Silly thing.  A scholarship like I said – I don’t think is a great one.  Depending on the athlete, a lot of times they love to see their name in the paper or they like to read about the accomplishments.  You say spoken or written words and the other thing with success here; success doesn’t always mean winning.  It kind of goes back to that idea of winning isn’t the only measure.  What are some things that you can reward people for?  Well success means the things that you value as a coach or a staff or a program for a university and those are the things that you got to reward kids for.  Commitment, hard work, pride, unselfishness – those are things that you got to take time to recognize.  Sometimes it is not in print.  Sometimes it is in a media guide sometimes it is just at practice saying I really want to say what a special job that Katie has been doing today and she really went out of her way to help a teammate.

 

The next one is getting the message. I have put together some examples of messages we send to our team and our parents. We need to do a good job as a program of educating our entire team on where we want to go. One of the things with the messages I found is that a lot of times kids will say:”You know, Bill – I am intimidated by you or I didn’t come up to talk to you.” The first thing I always ask is: “Did you know what I was going to say? Did you have a sense?” And they say: “Well yea,” and I say: “ Well, we can’t avoid it just because you don’t want to hear it.  My obligation to you as an athlete is to help you get to your best.  One of the ways we are going to do that is by being honest.  Not mean, but honest.” So, when we talk about the message to the team, I think the first thing that we need to do is identify WHO  we want to get the message.  Who is our team?  This is our team.  Our team isn’t just men, women, divers, sprint, breaststroke, flyers, IMers.  Our team is everyone on this list right here, and I need to reach each of those groups or each of those individuals a little bit differently.  I don’t just say the message to everyone expecting them to say okay, that is the way it is.  I have to ask them to be a part of something that we think is pretty special, and ultimately I hope that they are going in the same direction that we want to go.  Within that framework I will say this – that our swimmers and divers are the #1 part of the team.  Those are the people who I want to get the message most clearly, and I am not sure we always do a good job of that.  When you talk about  the team down at the bottom – support staff.  Our support staff and again, we are very, very, very fortunate.  We have a support staff, you know, academic support people, strengthening and conditioning, sports medicine and those are people who we, as coaches, talk to on a daily basis and hopefully we are all heading in the same direction.  One of the things that we will do is a little silly thing, but I use Microsoft Outlook. You know, I am kind of regimented. My wife always gets mad, sometimes she will say:  “Bill, where are my keys?Have you seen my keys?” And I will say: “I don’t know where your keys are, but mine are hanging right over there.”  I am a little bit regimented in putting things in place. Well, in Microsoft Outlook – every month – at the beginning of the month, the first day of the month, we have “support staff” on the calendar, and what we try to do is to send flowers to somebody on our team right who has helped us get where we want to go. Usually, we don’t do it if they just did a whole bunch of work for us on Friday. We try to surprise them a little bit and then usually, they will call and ask why did you send this, and we say just for being special.

 

Methods of communication.  We use a lot of different methods of communication.  Unfortunately, a lot of the things that I put in the handout there are e-mails and I am not a big fan of e-mail.  I don’t really like it because I think it is a little bit impersonal.  I would much rather meet a person face-to-face and talk with them in an informal setting.  The beauty of the e-mail though is it is pretty darn effective.  Say in the summertime when we have staff who are going in a lot of directions, someone at a  meet, someone recruiting, someone running camp, so e-mail gets the message out pretty quickly, and lets us all be on the same page.  Staff Meetings. We are going to formalize them a little bit more this year in terms of same day, same time every week and have a set agenda and then anything at the end that we need to touch on.  You talk about meeting formally with an individual. We meet three times a year with every person on the team and talk about where they want to be.  Are they on track? Doing the things that are necessary? Are our lines of communication pretty good?  I hate those meetings. I always procrastinate with setting those meetings because I would much rather just talk one on one down on the deck or in a group, but we do them.  Informal individual meetings:  I would say that is something we are pretty good at, and have a good sense of. “Hey Todd, how is your sister doing?   Is everything going pretty well?  Does she still have that teaching job down in Annapolis?” And it doesn’t always have to be swimming oriented.  Ideally, we are having that conversation before practice or after practice.  The other thing is I don’t know if any of you have ever seen the cartoon with the sheepdog and Wiley Coyote and they punch and they beat the tar out of each other for a while and then the horn goes off, and no matter where they are, they stop right there… Sometimes practices can get a little bit intense like that, especially with kids coming out of high school…you know, not necessarily coaching staff to athlete, but athlete to athlete, or whatever … and if you say: “How’s it going? Are you going out for dinner? Can I come with you?” then, they are kind of like: “Are you kidding? You just yelled at me.”

 

Recruiting.  I will just say –actually I enjoy recruiting, but I hate phone calls.  I don’t want to call up and ask how is your dog doing or repeat same conversation 18 times.  I would much rather meet recruits in their living room, say: “Hello, we would like to be a part of your future.”  Or,  “You know, we think it might be a good potential match”  For me, I can learn a lot more spending 10 minutes with somebody than speaking for an hour on the phone.  Ok then or I’ll talk to you next week.

 

TEAM:  I took Latin in high school, and I think sometimes when I speak to the women’s team I might as well speak in Latin because we are not speaking the same language.  I seek a lot of feedback from our staff, and I will say:  “Was that pretty good? Hunh? Do you think everybody understood where we are coming from?”  I can give you an example.  A bunch of years back, during my first year coaching a single sex program with the women, I didn’t think our fitness level was very good. I am pretty conscientious. I never look at a scale. I don’t get caught up in what you weigh. I look much more at your body composition or your fitness or just being honest in terms of where you want to be and athleticism that it is going to take to get there.  I thought our fitness level of the team was pretty poor heading into Christmas. We do a lot of work with weight belts, you know, maybe some short axis swimming with weight belts or some vertical kicking or things like that. I was pretty proud of myself and I said: “You know, Ladies,” I said, “You think you are going to put up an elite performance and it is going to be no different than putting on that 5 pound weight belt and trying to get it done.” I am walking back and I asked our assistant: “What do year old think? That’s pretty good, hunh?”  She said: “That’s great, Bill, They are probably asking one of two questions.” I said: “What’s that?” And she said: “Finger? or flush?”  So, I got the picture and not I usually consult with the coaches before speaking, sometimes.

 

TEACHABLE MOMENTS:  I think if you are going to be a good coach, you have to be a good teacher – that’s the job – that’s the role. With teachable moments, I think we lose our voice, if we are experts on everything. That was hard for me because I was a bit of a control freak when I first started out, and I have really learned to rely on our assistants.  I have learne to rely on that team that we talk about – parents, support staff, other coaches —  and that has been really important in letting them do their job. One of the things with teachable moments is that they often come at painful moments. I wrote “moto” on our handouts. Does anybody know what that is?  Moto – it is what you don’t want to be in a painful teachable moment.  That is: “Master Of The Obvious.”  You don’t want to say: “I told you so,” or “Boy, that looked like it really hurt.”  That is obvious when somebody is in pain, or somebody is down in the dumps. You do not want to be the person to put them down a little bit more.  You hopefully want to lift them up a little bit and I think teachable moments are important.  The last thing I will say is sometimes teachable moments happen when you don’t even know it.  I mean how many times in our coaching careers do we hear an athlete say 10 years later: “Hey coach, remember when this happened?” and you say to yourself: “Boy, I don’t remember that at all.”  I think we have a more profound effect than we give ourselves credit for sometimes.  I have never really had a temper, but sometimes I will get upset and Dave Colangy, who swam with us at Ashland, reminded me of a time by saying: “Hey, Coach, remember that time when you threw the desk?”  And I said: “Yes,  I was trying to demonstrate hip rotation.” Dave said: “Yes, it is something like that.” So, that’s a teachable moment.

 

PRONOUNS:  pronouns and again, I am just offering these as suggestions – things that might have worked in our program.  I am not sure that they always work or that they will work in any program, but they are something that has helped us a little bit. . I think it is a delicate balancing act between words like “I,” “me,” “mine,” and “we,” “us” and “ours.” I think each of those groups of words have a place and a time in a program.  The question is – which words at what time? When we are talking team based language and we are talking about things to build up our team, do it together, we use the words “we,” “ us,” “our group,” “our program,” “we as a men’s team,” “we as a women’s team”.  When we look for “I,” “me” and “my” – that is more when individuals are taking responsibilities for their thoughts, words, or actions. A pet peeve that I have is when someone comes up and says: “Coach, we are really tired.”  So “we?” Who are “we?”  Breaststrokers – so what do you mean?  Are you leg tired? Are you weight tired? Are you sleep tired?  Are you emotionally tired?  “What are you talking about ?” they say, and I say: “Well, come back when you figure out how you all together are tired.” So they will get a little bit upset with that.  I’ll say this also about pronouns – walking the walk.  I got caught this year when I got an email actually  in the spring talking about a scholarship. It was from a young man who was on a pretty solid scholarship and he said: “I think that I deserve a scholarship increase.”  I said: “Well, your scholarship is commensurate with your achievements and also with your performance. If you want a scholarship increase, it will take one of these three things:  score individually at NCAAs, win an individual event at the conference meet or make your Olympic trial cuts.”  I know he can’t stand swimming long course, so I knew that one was out.  When I wrote back to him, I said: “One of my concerns is that I read your e-mail and I read 30 times where you use the word “I”.  ‘I want this.’  ‘I want that.’  ‘I deserve this.’ ‘I need more.”  I said: “we need to think more about what is best for the team.  What is best for the program. What is best for the relay.  “We,” “us,” “our.” He wrote back to me and he attached an email I had sent to the team about a month earlier. He said: “When I counted up your e-mail, I counted a lot of  “I’s” there too.” I said: “Touché.”

 

RULES:  We have a lot of trust in our program. I liked what Mark Schubert spoke about trust the other night: the more you give, the more you receive.  We always go under the assumption that people want to be the best that they can be —  in the classroom, in the pool in their socializing.  We go under the assumption they are going to make good decisions, and it has worked pretty well in the past.  There are mistakes. We expect them. The question is whether you are going to learn from your mistakes and those of others, and make sure you don’t make the same mistake twice.  I think as program or as a staff we probably get the most upset when we repeat mistakes. We don’t have a lot of rules.  About the only rule we have, and I wouldn’t even consider it a rule, is just make sure you give a phone call.  You know, if you are going to be late for a team function or practice or the bus whatever, give a call.  That is just the same respect or courtesy you give to your parents. If your curfew is midnight and you are coming home at 12:30 because the movie let out late or whatever the case may be, just give us a call – a movie let out late, I don’t hear that one too much.

 

CREATING THE CULTURE:  leadership comes from the top down.  I mean, when you figure out where it is that you want to go, and you set that vision, or you set that dream, you then need to create the culture.  You’ve got to create the environment. I think one of the beauties of borrowning from other teams or organizations or businesses is that you are going to see similarities between cultures that have been successful.  Successful organizations have their own traditions, norms and expectations.  I will give you a little tradition that I know the University of Michigan men have.  Whoever the seniors on the team are, they call out when the next set starts.  They call it – they say: “Top.”  They call out the next set and they are very good about it and they take pride in it.  Norms?  I know of many schools where the seniors give back their scholarships.  In a lot of cases, a coach may come up and say: “you know, I would like you to give your money back.” And, they say: “Hey we want our team to be great, and we know that if we give this back, maybe we can help the program out a little bit”

 

EXPECTATIONS:  it is best when the team conveys expectations versus when I do it or the staff does it, so the team is holding themselves up to a higher standard.  I can give you an example of creating the culture.  We had this social thing.  I had never heard of this before I came to Penn State.  I guess it is a big thing on the Eastcoast – beerpaw – anyone in here ever hear of beerpaw – you guys are all laughing. I never heard of this you know, and our team had taken it to a new level.  Our men’s team, when I was an assistant with Peter, I mean they had brackets and they had team sign up, they had locations, they had…you went to the championships… etc.  I said: “Guys, This is a recipe for disaster.” They said: “No, you don’t understand.  It is good team bonding.”  “But,” I said, “If something bad happens, then all the good things that we have done in the past couple of years will be wiped out in one night.”  That was not the culture we wanted and we worked hard to try to eliminate that.  I would say also that as the culture changed, it was really awkward when we saw alums because we didn’t have a lot of things in common.  I would say: “Hey, hows’ it going, good to see you,” and then there would kind of be a pause. We couldn’t talk about a relay that did well at Nationals or a person who made an international team or who was an All-American.  We didn’t have that common language and that was kind of awkward.  The alums obviously take a great deal of pride in what we do, but it has kind of changed a little bit.  When you talk about planting seeds, this is the smoking mirrors of a program.  You know, this isn’t the essence of the program, this is the fun stuff that you do. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.  I don’t have a lot of hobbies, but one of the things I love is yard work. It sounds kind of silly,you know,  the whole idea of growing a lawn. You’ve got to water it, fertilize it, give it some sun…the whole kit and caboodle – not enough of one it is not going to be very good, too much of another is not going to be very good either.  When I started, we went through a “pick where the banner hangs” exercise.  We were a bit of a bottom feeder for a while in the conference. We had to change the expectations.  We had to change the mindset.  We had to change what people thought they could achieve. I thought we had the talent to be pretty good, but we didn’t expect enough out of ourselves in that first year, although the team really worked hard.  We talked to that team and we said: “Here is where we are going. You guys are the foundation for the future. When we end up winning the Big 10, and at that time the conference was a very important goal of ours, you guys can come back and you will pick the spot where we will hang the banner.”  At first, people are looking at me like, you know there is a man on the moon out there, but then, they bought into it a little bit.  In any case, when we won it, some of the women did come  back and pick the spot.

 

Salute the Champions.  I borrowed this from Jim Steen and I think he did it a long long time ago and in my mind it was brilliant:  when we went into the Big 10 my first year with the women, one of the things we talked about before the meet was that we  probably don’t have a good shot to win this year. I think we finished 8th the year before.  I said: “We probably don’t have a good shot at winning this year.  I think we can do pretty well. We can do some special things, possibly some things that have never been done before, but winning is probably out of it right now.” “However,” I said, “We can set the foundation for later growth. One of the things that I want us to do on the last night, for whoever wins this championship, we are going to be there and we are going to cheer the loudest.  We are going to be the most supportive of the champions.  Do you want to know why?  Because when we win it, we hope the people feel the same way about us” So it is just a little different way of thinking and it ended up working.  This next one did not work and I guess I will share it with you.  I was going – I read a book on Sir Edmond Hillary and I was into this whole mountain climbing thing with the preparation and all of that.  We don’t have any mountains in Pennsylvania.  We have Mt. Nittany, which is about 3200 feet, and is a pretty good hike of two or three miles straight up. So I decided  we were going out there.  Usually when I have an idea, the assistants go: “Oh, No.”   I said; “Let’s get some t-shirts made up and they will say: ‘go climb a conference.” We equated climbing the Big 10 with climbing Mt.Nittany.  I said: “Let’s put the shirts up on top of the mountain.” So we had to lug the 50 pounds of t-shirts up the mountain, and the kids didn’t know about it, so we went out there and we hiked up the mountain. We went up.  We took some picture and had a little team meeting up there.  We gave out the t-shirts right there.  On the way down – it’s not funny – one of our kids slipped and she broke her leg, not funny at all.  The worst part about it though was that I ended up carrying her down the mountain for two miles.  We will not climb any mountains in the future.

 

Put It on the Wall.  I had the good fortune early in my coaching career to do a lot of camps all around the United States. I would call up and ask if I could sleep on the floor, and say you don’t need to pay me, I just want to listen. One of the coaches who I spent a couple of summers with was Ray Bussard.  With Ray, you definitely listened and stayed out of his way. Ray used to say “Put it on the Wall” a lot.  Most of the things that Ray said usually had a couple of meanings and I never really put them all together, but we used to talk about this one with finishes.  At camp, there would be some six year old, and Ray would be swing a broom at him, saying: “Put it on the wall.” So we learned finishes. The point of it, however, was that when our kids do something extra special, we “put it on the wall forever,” just like they do at Olympic Trials when someone makes the Olympic Team.  What we have tried to do at school is make a wall of honor in our hallway, and it is an idea that has really sold itself.  We have had our parents come in there to see it, and they will talk about it after a dual meet, when they are down at the restaurant.  They talk about whether their swimmers will get their names on the wall. It is something that has been pretty neat. People really like to see their name on that wall.

 

Video – we have a bunch of videos.  I think it is really true what Mike Bottom was saying about the idea of video.  I probably have a video library of about 40 different videos, but in all of them, the messages are the same.  I think that is something that is important.  How often today, the things that we talk about every day in workout, are they hearing that anywhere else in their life?  Commitment. Dedication. Sacrifice – probably not.  They aren’t talking about it at dinner, probably, so I think the more  people that you can get them to hear/see who are saying the same things, the better.  Bear Bryant was kind of hard to understand on that video.

 

Trials t-shirts – this is kind of a silly thing again.  You know, athletes appreciate or like the t-shirts.  We didn’t have much of a tradition at the National level, and I thought heading into 2000 that we had some athletes who were in a position to make the Olympic Trials cut in yards. I thought we had some kids who had an opportunity to make the trial cuts and definitely elevate themselves and elevate the program, so I asked one of our assistants to make up a neat t-shirt. I said: “Why don’t you get a dozen of them; then, we can give one to the athlete and we can give one to the parents and then you know, the staff can keep the extras.”  Well, on the first morning  of our conference meet, when we were shaved, I think that morning three women made their trial cuts. The team didn’t know we had the shirts, so when we got on the bus after the morning session, we said: “Alright, nice solid session, lets keep the ball rolling.” Then we said we had a little something for people who set themselves apart that morning, and we held out the trial shirts. Normally, we are not good with gimmicks and stuff like that, but they were kind of neat shirts.  I don’t remember who put it together.  It was a great design and you began to see people saying: “Can I see your shirt?” And they would show it over again.  We had 15 women make Olympic trials that weekend.  I am going to tell you that obviously they had worked pretty hard to do that, but a lot of people wanted the shirts and we had to order some extra shirts that year.  The letter ——— two things and again, this is smoke and mirrors.  These are some gimmicks – that have worked, but, alas, you can’t do it every year.  The letter.  One of the first things that we do every year to have the team sit down and write a letter to somebody who helped them get where they are.  It could be a teacher, parent, coach, somebody who is probably never going to be able to pay them back and somebody who made a difference in their life.  The feedback that we have gotten from those letters is the people whoreceived them kept them close to their heart and read them often. It was really was something special.  It kind of touched somebody who helped you get where you wanted to be.  The ring was something silly.  Certainly, the ring was something that meant a lot to the kids, and they were working towards it. We felt like we were on track to possibly win a championship, so during the summer, we called the Josten’s and ordered 40 ring sizing kits, and we sent them out with a little handwritten note that said what are you doing this summer to get better?

 

LOOK IN THE MIRROR:  As coaches, we ask our athletes to look in the mirror a lot, and to ask themselves what they are doing and why they are doing it.  I think as coaches we have to do a lot of the same things.  We will go through them a little bit quicker here.  Loyalty. Dependability. Honesty. The three most sought after traits in a friend, teammate, athlete or an employee.  Odds are that if they don’t have these traits by the time you have recruited them, they are probably not going to get them in college, although there are rare cases where the do.  The next one is from Lou Holtz and it is something that we all do consciously or subconsciously anytime we enter into a relationship. Sometimes we don’t know we do it, but still, we ask each other anytime we get into a relationship: “Can I trust you? Are you committed?  And do you care about me as a person?”  It sounds a little bit silly, but we will talk about that to the team.  Can you answer those three questions “Yes?”  If so, odds are it is going to be a pretty good relationship.  I have a lot of stuff here and I am probably going to start to tail off here. How about – does anybody have any questions for me because I don’t want to take too much more of your time this afternoon.  I am sorry to ramble on a little bit.  Hopefully maybe I have given you a little bit of something that might work for your program.  Any questions?  Oh absolutely.  I think it is that idea of teachable moments.  You know I am here on an 18 hour bus trip.  You are talking about things.  You – kids are constantly inundated with that information there is a good chance some of it is going to be #1—True, and # 2 –Sink in.  So, it is always in a formal setting of a team meeting and you are saying: “OK, this is the way it is,” or “Try this,” or “Try that.”  Sometimes the most teachable moments you know are before practice and after practice. As a staff, we talk about that.  Lets keep the ball rolling.  Here is what is going to take. Lets try it, try to get ahead.

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