First of all, I would like to say that every speaker that I have listened to so far has really talked about motivation. It may not have been their topic, but that has been what they have directly alluded to in each and every speech. “”, the last speech I heard this morning, gave a great talk. I had some great laughs. He has the ability to make people laugh. I think that I have a sense of humor, but I am on the receiving end, laughing at somebody else’s stuff. I am not really able to give out too much and have everybody turn into a laugh machine. His great talk brought up so many things that are directly influenced by motivation. One of the things that he said was the future of swimming, in his opinion, is in perfect technique and swimming with perfect technique as fast as you can, so the probable challenge for us really is how are we going to motivate our athletes to accomplish that feat!
Now my topic is motivation, which might be a kiss of death, but hopefully I can bring something out that will help you as coaches get your swimmers to swim faster, be enthusiastic, and be happy about their swimming experience. A lot of this is just common sense. Some of this stuff I learned from others, but a lot of it, I learned the hard way. Many times we should know better and we should always do better, but always lead by doing our best at all times. I wish I knew, what I think I know now, at the beginning of my coaching career. In truth, what I know now still wouldn’t be hardly enough. In other words, we must continue to learn and grow to always be on the road to being a better coach or you will strictly be passed by again and again. You need to read books and magazines, and listen and talk to swimmers and coaches. I will refer to several books and articles that I have read that refer to this topic and ignited me somewhat on this very topic. One of the sources I just read on the way down on the plane. I get ideas and motivation from what I read and from discussions with swimmers and coaches, as I am sure you do. I still enjoy the challenges of coaching and teaching. I am a volunteer coach now.
Jay Benner is our head coach at Tacoma Swim Club for the past five years and I have just been a volunteer coach – a helping coach. I would hate to go back after 50 years to 12 hour days at swim meets. I will be honest with you there, although I did take the team to Nationals. It was a pretty long with time trials. I took the team this summer to Nationals because Jay was at the Pan-American games, but I still get enthused about going in for a couple of hours at a time and working on technique and talking to the kids. Basically that is my little bit of background and here goes my talk on motivation.
First I want to put up a slide to indicate what my qualifications are to talk on this topic. This pretty much reverts back to when I first started coaching. I hadn’t been coaching but a couple of years at my first high school in Tacoma before we built the school that I coached at for the next 25 years. I had coached seven years, when some high school artist decided to put a caricature of me sitting on a stool with my arms folded with nothing but shoulders and arms and biceps and a big whip – a big bullwhip in my hand. I finally went out and bought a bullwhip. It was really just for kicks and fun, but I carried that to practice for a long time.
First of all, motivation is a wide, wide subject with a narrow focus and accomplishing what really needs to be accomplished is what matters. I looked in the dictionary and I didn’t get much help there. Motivation by definition is the act or process of motivating, the condition of being motivated, to motivate is to provide with a motive. Motive is something like a need or a desire that causes a person to act. I guess that gets us closer to what we are doing by moving or tending to move to action. The causing of action, I think is what we need as coaches. By far, the best definition I ever heard was a different one – contrasting discipline and motivation. Discipline is doing the things you don’t want to do. Motivation: that is where you do the things that are fun and what you want to do.
I think there are some basics and essentials in motivation. The first one I think is love them or leave them. You have got to give them unconditional love. Your parents have got to give their swimmer unconditional love. Sometime you have to be a bit of a disciplinarian, sometimes you have to tell them like it really is, but nevertheless if you don’t love them – you don’t care for them. You are not going to get out of your athletes what you should get out of them. I just read an article about a week ago in a health newsletter called “Love and Healing.” The conclusion was that there is a significant role for love and for healing. They had run a study of 10,000 men with heart disease and those who had a loving support from a spouse had 50% fewer symptoms of angina than those without it. The definition of love in this article was expanded to empathy – the capacity of a person to put him or herself in another’s place and know what the other is feeling.
I think that is one of the special characteristics of great coaches. If I ask you a question for example – a quick quiz – how many Heisman trophy winners over the last five years could you name? How many academy award pictures over the last five years could you name? How many batting champions could you name? I think you would perhaps struggle, like I would. You would have to struggle to name them, but if I asked you to name the teachers or coaches that had a great influence on your life – made your life better in a positive way. Unless you had a very deprived experience growing up, I know darn well that everybody has got an answer. I know I can immediately name at least two teachers and at least a couple coaches. Why can you recall these people? Basically speaking, because they cared. They cared about you as an individual and they cared about what you accomplished. They set high standards for you and they kept an interest in you along the way.
In motivation, you want to develop your philosophy or beliefs. I think you have continuity in your beliefs. There are certain things you believe as an individual. Now, we are not all going to have the same basic beliefs, but it is necessary to gain acceptance from your team most times and certainly your parents. They have got to buy into your beliefs. Every coach must determine his or her own philosophy. These are my core beliefs, which are the unwavering principles that I think; provide consistency and clarity in my decision-making and how I act as a coach. I think your program must be led with a steady and clear vision. I don’t think you can keep jumping around here.
I have watched so many great coaches at Olympic trials when the coaches had finally succeeded were always the ones that looked like they were in the least bit of trouble. They were in control of everything. Take John Wooden when he was coaching basketball – he wasn’t screaming and yelling, but he was certainly – the rock. He was out there on the floor and certainly in control of everything.
Well, my six important tenants of my philosophy are pretty simple. The first one – “there is no substitute for hard work.” I think every speaker has spoken to that.
The second one is “every swimmer counts.” I think a team is only as strong as its weakest link. Teri McKeever spoke – gave a great talk the other day. I was kind of privileged I guess to at least be invited to tune into their web page at the University of Cal. One of the things I noticed – I really enjoyed reading what she had to say about her team during summers and always after a meet she would make a summary – it wouldn’t be about Natalie Coughlin, but about some kid at the bottom of the time standards, who had made a personal best time or scored a point for the team. One time I talked to her about it – at that very essence of my belief as well. I think it was part of her total intention to give attention to athletes who do not normally get recognized, a chance to shine in the spotlight. I think that the weakest swimmer will go a little faster and become a little stronger and challenge the one right above him. This pushes the whole team up the ladder of success. It works in that positive direction rather than trickle down.
Winning is not just being #1, you know. It is not just getting the highest score. I think the difference in great coaches and good coaches – good coaches – read winning as the winning score – the top score. Great coaches treat winning as the perfection of everything that you are trying to do to reach that objective; whether you played the game as best you are able to play it or that day the game got away from you.
The next one is “responsibility is required”. I don’t even know if this little book is still around. I have the little book. I don’t know who gave it to me. It must have been thirty years ago, but it might have been longer than that – maybe forty. The name of that book was “Your greatest Power”. That was the title of the book and you didn’t have to read an awful lot. It didn’t take us too much deduction, but your greatest power is what? It is your power to choose. Your greatest power is the power to choose to study, choose to watch television, choose to do a set at a certain standard or you can choose to slough off, but with the power to choose comes responsibility. I think responsibility is something is something that we see such a lack of in young people and older people.
Our society has a tendency to slough off and make excuses. We used to play a lot of games – I read something here in the newspaper not long ago that ICHIRO SUZUKI, our great right fielder from Seattle started off the season and finished last season in a slump. He started off the season in a slump; he was batting about a .240 or .250 going into May – well into May. The press was constantly hounding him. I always read whatever he has to say – it is amazing. He is talking like it is in a foreign language – it is in English through an interpreter, but it doesn’t sound how an American would talk. They were asking him what was his excuse for the slump? What was the reason for it? He said, “Well, I can’t kick bats or throw gloves, because they are not responsible. I guess I could slap myself in the face, but I am not going to do that.” Then, the next thing I see that he is leading the American league in batting. Now, he is in a mini slump right now and I think he slipped out of the batting lead in the American league, but he got up to .350 over the next two and a half months.
The other thing we used to do – especially in high school, was create names for actions. I never did this with my girls on the girl’s team – I had other things. The turkeys and the plunkers is what we called them. Matt Mann, the great coach at the University of Michigan – great Olympic coach – who goes way back and nobody here probably remembers the name, but one of the all time great coaches used to make these sayings. He had these cards and would post them in the gym like it’s not the size of a dog in a fight it is the size of the fight in the dog. Well, one of them was a punker always has a good excuse. We really sold that to our kids. We put it on the board, and wrote it down everywhere. I would make a statement like every punker has a good excuse. I then said that I heard a good excuse in 1972 and I heard another one again in 1981, but those are the only two I have ever heard. Try to make it an idea with the kids you coach to buy into the fact that it is not going to work. They have excuses for anything and everything. They are going to be held responsible. We had a thing that said, “a punker always has a good excuse and I think we had another one that says no one loves a punker right behind it. We’d stick that with one of mine. I stuck that up there, but the kids – good-naturedly – especially boys could do that. They could laugh about it and nail a guy. If a kid was accused of being a punker once, we kept the score, and if he had two punker ratings it would score as well, but if he got the third one, I forgot what it cost him – he was supposed to come over and wash the car or do something for me. So, you did everything possible to avoid being nailed as a punker that many times. Another one we used to use is turkey. I made that one up. Of course, a turkey is a dumb bird. We would talk turkey; gobble, gobble, gobble when they needed to do it and a turkey would lose count in a 500 race or 1650 or whatever he was doing. In those days we used to be able to use the false starts, when I first started, as good – hearted ribbing. We used to be able to take three false starts – anybody that false started in a race was a turkey. There were a lot of things like that. We had all these examples of turkeys – the boys could do that well. High school boys could supremely do just that. I don’t know if you could do it now because that was a number of years ago, but it worked for us. Just a way of trying to increase responsibility.
The fifth one – “teach first, train second.” You have got to have great technique. It doesn’t mean you can’t do any training while you are teaching them, but you have got to have great technique.
The sixth one is – “I never saw that” – change is always going to be necessary. You are always going to be challenged – you are always going to come with some ideas that are going to be a little better as you go along.
Okay, now communication. Communication is everything. You have beliefs that are vital to the success of your program. You need to continually communicate your beliefs to your swimmers, sometimes as a team, sometimes individually, but both are necessary. It goes beyond just your swimmers. You have to be able to do it out of the pool and quickly in the pool, but much of this is done out of the pool. In the pool, you make eye contact with kids. I think out of the pool you need to make eye contact too. It is like any time I had a meeting. If I couldn’t look in somebody’s eyeballs, if somebody turned their head and was looking around some place else, the meeting stopped. The meeting stopped until that person was meeting contact with my eyes. I never had a meeting where the kids could look out and be distracted. If it was in the pool, I tried to hold the meeting someplace so the kids could not see something else that might be going on in the pool, whether it be divers or synchronized swimmers or whatever. I would try to get them to face the wall and I would face those distractions, but I would try to center them around me so they pointed to me. Your swimmers should believe that you are watching them, evaluating them whenever they are swimming. Keep the words short and simple. Coaches who sometimes enthusiastically will time and record training splits but ask them to do stroke drills or kicking sets and they’ll sit down or disappear.
Technique improvement is stimulating through enthusiastic observation too. I think you have to have positive communication, but honest is the key. There are so many stories out there and you all have these sorts of things happening to you. You have to be positive, but you have to be honest and you cannot always be the supervisor. I had a young man come up to me after racing the 200 free in a high school meet. He got beat, but he shouldn’t have gotten beat and he asked me how was the race? I said that was really a poor race. That was not like you. I said, first of all you didn’t go out and become the aggressor. You did not go out and control the race. Your opponent controlled the race. You did not aggressively attack the turns and you did not drive and build off those turns. I gave him a number of things like that. He got a look on his face, looked right back at me, and then had a look on his face that was a bit disappointed, but he knew. Two weeks later, he swam the same event in another meet. This time he came back and had the best time of the season. After having this great race, he came and asked me – what do you think of that one? I said – you were terrific. You did everything just the opposite of last time. You went out and you controlled your race. You got out front and you held your pace and you did this, this and this and he said, you know – this is – the story is not so important as what comes next. The thing that impressed me and I will never forget it and this was a few years back, he said to me, “Coach, remember a couple of weeks back when you told me about the race I had – I said yeah, and he said well I want to thank you for it. I didn’t like hearing it at the time, but you were honest and I want to thank you for it. It helped me.” Well, that statement is repeated over and over in my head. Stories like that one kind of stick in my mind.
Communication tips with swimmers – is that up there? Yeah – “communication tips with swimmers.” I will briefly go through this. Stress the positive, but always be honest. Emphasize what was done correctly, and avoid emphasizing what they are doing wrong. You know, that is a big one. I hope I come back to that. I am going to definitely come back to it if I don’t hit it hard right now. Teri McKeever mentioned that. She likes to tell them what they are doing right. You know, many times I have had a parent say, you know so and so is a bad coach because he never tells them what they are doing wrong. Now, anybody can see that they are doing something wrong. If they had …… a turn, I mean every parent is on them you know? They are not going to be at their best if they are worried about something like that. Emphasize what they are doing right. Catch them doing things right. Use praise to reinforce good performance. Correct the swimmer only when he or she could do better. I am going to talk about that a little bit more. I will come back to it.
Speak to every swimmer during the training session. Ignored swimmers are unhappy swimmers. Coach at the swimmers eye level or close to it whenever possible. Get down on your knees. Sit at the side of the pool. Sometime it is really important to get up so they know you are watching, I used to get on a high 12 – foot ladder and perch on it to watch the kids swim. Sometimes I would get in the water – less in my later years than in my earlier years and create pictures with your words. Be as specific as possible. Use words that are easy to understand. Use your body to emphasize a point. Call your swimmers by name. I always had trouble remembering everybody’s name, but I tried to get as many nicknames as I could. Ask for feedback. Kids can tell you what they are doing or what they think they are doing. Concentrate on one point at a time and be patient if a swimmer has not learned, because the teacher has not taught. Now I’ll show you something that really works for me. The Success Pyramid.
The Success Pyramid, as somebody just mentioned to me, was associated with my club quite a few years ago. – this young man out here says he still has our PSC. Tacoma Swim Club Mountain is what we called it. That is kind of a skinny pyramid, but that is my own artwork. Success is what you are shooting for at the top. That is your peak. I had that work on the mountain that he is referring to many, many years ago. I doubt if I had enthusiasm and industriousness at the bottom of the pyramid. This comes from John Wooden’s fantastic book. I will be hitting his topics off and on. The book is called “Wooden, A lifetime of observations and reflections on and off the court,” Coach John Wooden with Steve Jameson – I think they got other books out like “They Call Me Coach”, but this book is the one that really applies to what you do in coaching. How many have read this little book? All right, that is great. At least about ten people. Do you agree with me? Well, you have got to have the cornerstones. Whatever you put up and build up through the middle is up to you, but you have to have that base and the base here is enthusiasm and industriousness. I know that when I started at my first high school, it was built I think in 1914 or 1915, it had a little sign on the wall that says, “nothing can be accomplished without enthusiasm” and that kind of stuck with me. I don’t know really how close it stuck with me, but I keep coming back to it. I had a kid who swam for Doc at Indiana and every summer he came back and swam with me on Tacoma Swim Club. His last year when he finished up, he said “Coach, never lose your enthusiasm”. That stuck with me. That to me was gold! He was looking at some of the things I must have been doing right. I don’t know.
We were talking about catching people doing things right at the specific time. I am going to cover some of that. Okay, now the big one. You have got to communicate with swimmers, probably assistants, sometimes administrators, but how about parents? There is your biggest job. What did “” say this morning? He said, “get rid of them before they get rid of you” – the parents board. Last night I was talking to Bill Sweetenham and Eddie Reese at the table. Eddie Reese said that he developed an idea to put a clinic together at a major meet in their pool and during the warm-up, where all these parents are just sitting up there in the stands watching, he set up to do it. I don’t think he actually did the whole clinic for the parents yet, like having a nutritionist come in and talk to a lot of parents at one time. This is where they can do a lot of good. Having the parents start to hear about the things that they need to hear from a real authority will only make you look like a better more conscience coach. Now I thought that was an amazing idea. The concept just grew on me right away. That is a great way to think about educating parents. He wasn’t talking about the ones on his team, he was talking about all the parents that are coming in and bringing in outside experts. Well, the parents are the most anxious group of people to help their young athletes succeed. They actually receive too little information about their role in supporting the athlete. I think it is your responsibility and our responsibility to guide the parents toward cooperating with your program. When you consistently communicate your philosophy and beliefs through your words and actions, they can become the philosophy and beliefs of the swimmer’s parents. This results in the best environmental situation for your team members.
When I was in Hong Kong at the Hong Kong Institute of Sport, which I went there twice – once when Bill Sweetham was there and once when a previous coach was there. We ran a one – week camp helping younger swimmers – just off their Senior National level. When I was instructing the swimmers he did a strange thing. A lot of the Chinese are there in Hong Kong, of course, – before I could start, he brought everybody out of the stands where they were sitting and asked them to come down and sit right behind the swimmers which was right down where I was talking. First it kind of threw me off. I was really surprised. It wouldn’t happen over here. At least, I never had it work that way, but it made sense. I found out how much sense it made later. He said when they all go home, because to these parents, education is everything. It is reinforced at the parent level – really reinforced at the parent level, so they have got to know how to reinforce these things. They have got to have some information. It made sense when he explained it, but at the time I was kind of shocked. Well, no matter where you are at, high school, college, or club – parents are part of the team. Usually, however, the younger the team member, the more important the parents are. I always tried to have a parent/swimmer meeting at the start of every season. I would go over the competition schedule, invite them to attend every possible swim meet, explain our program, the time and the work involved, and then I asked for their help in the hidden training – the sleep, the rest and nutrition. That is really what the people need to have their finger on that. You can encourage things as the coach, but you are not right there. We don’t know what is in the icebox or the refrigerator at any given time. You don’t know what is in the refrigerator on the shelves, so I give them a prepared information sheet that contains the most up-to-date scientific nutritional recommendations for athletes. I try to give them references to read. Follow-up socials are usually held sometime during the season, like at the awards banquet at the end of the season.
A monthly newsletter is sent to all club members on the team detailing coming meets and I would try to write a column every month sharing my philosophy and my beliefs with the club swimmers – club and club parents. I always said to “love them or leave them.”
I remember a German coach while I was over in Germany with our team having a competition with the host team and training with them. He came early and greeted every swimmer and their parents before practice. I am not recommending that is necessary for you, but he greeted every one of them, had something to say to every one of them. He smiled and swapped some jokes and that sort of thing. He had a great thing going. A Belgium coach had a similar technique – a kiss on the cheek for every little girl coming in to practice. With every little kid on the team, he would shake their hand and talk to them. Bill Sweetenham is great as well. He greets every swimmer coming in early and sits and chats with them about everything but swimming. I watched him on the deck. He is a miracle worker. He talks to talk to them about what they are doing at home, what their hobbies are, and how they did in class. It would totally get their mind off the coming practice for the moment.
I think another important thing is to “be a coach not a critic.” Personally, I am a sucker for praise. I think everybody is. I perform better when my efforts are praised. I had a great principal for many years of my high school teaching. A lot of teacher didn’t like the guy. They said “he never comes around, he never was big on discipline and he is not doing this for me and not doing that for me.” He was great for me. I handle my own discipline. I wasn’t looking for that, but he never criticized my work. He stopped you every now and then, and just stood there for a while before he would tell me what a great job I was doing. Now, I don’t know about you, but that made things better for me. I like praise!
I also started something that actually Nort Thornton made the first reference to it for me. He didn’t call it this, but he was doing it with his college team when I started with my club. It was the TST write on cards. On this card you write the name of the person and when you see them do something, right down on the card exactly what they did right. You date it and sign it. I gave the cards to them at the end of the workout. If they would see me writing or if it was someone else, or after writing down the workout or if possible you do it right then and there. If they were in a competitive meet or something, you would give it to them as they finish the race because they need to be reinforced right away. These cards worked pretty darn well. At first, they thought it was kind of silly, you know, college guys were doing it. When I took that team to Nationals I started this stuff again over the summer because when you go away for a week people get on each other’s nerves. They spot everything everybody is doing wrong. Every team mate has something they are doing that irritates others, so I give them points or give them a push to check and catch them doing right. If someone opens the door for you, they are doing right. If somebody sits next to the coach instead of trying to get next to the prettiest girl or the best looking guy. This was great! Anything to keep people a little bit up. They start to recognize some of the things that are being done for them instead of all the things that they can think up that aren’t being done or being done to injure them in some way, which really hurts their feelings.
Now here is another book or way of doing the program. By the way, if you want to see those things or take one – there is a handful here. I will leave them up here at the end of the talk. I know the first time we did that, nobody could get a score unless they gave a card which meant, they not only had to receive them, they had to give them. If they never did anything right, nobody ever recognized them. They didn’t get any points. They could give 100 cards out, but if they didn’t get at least one or two back, they didn’t get any points. Now, what are points? Well, they were milkshakes, ice cream sundaes, and things like that. They could get lots of points. Once you started that kind of game, the game got wild. People really bought into the game. Well, anyway that was from this book.
“Putting the One Minute Manager to Work” – how many have read that one? Well, less people then before. Think it’s a good one? I thought that was coaching. One time, I was going to do a clinic in Minnesota, and I read that book on the way out. I picked it up in the airport, read it on one trip. It changed my whole thought process. I couldn’t talk about anything but book for a while. I had other things to do, because it was a long clinic and I was the only guy there. It is by Ken Blanchard and Robert Lorber – it doesn’t take but 20 minutes to read it. It is all about catching people doing things right, how to reward them, and how to reprimand.
Sometimes reprimands are necessary, but you do not want to reprimand a person so that they feel that they themselves are at fault. You want to reprimand the act. You want to reprimand something that they have done, not them. They have to be clear to them and that book tells you how to do it.
People, who feel good about themselves, produce good results. This is true in swimming. That is why praising is important. Praising must be specific. In other words, they have to know what they did right. Praising, which helps people feel good about themselves, is not effective unless the people have done something positive in the first place. They have to feel that it was recognized. It was seen. Little tiny kids, the grandkids, my grandkids are getting too old for stuff like “Papa see this, papa look at this – look at what I have drawn.” That is the kind of stuff I am talking about. They just want you to see it and love it, while recognizing some of the things that they have done. Never reprimand when praising. When a reprimand is necessary be honest, be specific, but always end the reprimand with a praising. That kid I told you about, I said it is not like you, you can do better.” I think that made more of an impression with him than what we have talked about earlier about reprimands. Reprimands never keep still. If you have to reprimand somebody because they are crossing over or dropping their elbow, (Rich tried to change my stroke 100 times), it isn’t going to work, but reprimand can change attitudes. That is what this talk is really all about – it is about attitude.
There must be responses to performances. A coach must show that he or she cares. No response to a good performance is a negative response. It will decrease the efforts your athletes are making. If you leave them alone or zap them, that technique does not work. You can’t leave people alone when they are doing things right. If you are only going to touch those that are doing something wrong, you are in trouble. 15-25% of what influences performance comes from activators like goal setting, while 75-85% comes consequences like praising and reprimands. The other thing about this book that is so great – is that you are limited to one minute for both praise and a reprimand. You can do it all in a matter of seconds. Sometimes, it is a hug. You go up to a kid and you give him a hug. – It is something good in a matter of seconds. They know. They also know if they look over and mom or dad have a scowl on their face or they have a look away – they know. That is where the unconditional love comes in. That is one of the things that I try to teach when I worked with parents in parents groups.
Pride is a bigger motivator than fear. That business of my expert on motivation – you know, you may get a few good strokes out of people while you stand there with them. Overall, if you tell them let’s go out and hustle and win this race or something – it is going to work a lot better. Failure should only be temporary non-success. Failure is not fatal. Failure to change may be fatal. Adversity makes you stronger. That is when we test ourselves. Nothing wrong with being beaten as long as you did everything you possibly could to prepare yourself for the competition. I have one of the most successful swimmers to have been beaten 32 times. I never kept count, but her mom told me. She was beaten 32 times by the same swimmer. The swimmer was Canadian, but on our side of the state. We were in the northwest corner of the United States in Worsten. So, back and forth swimming they flew. This gal got beat and the other gal was very good. She set a world record in 100 – meter backstroke. She had beaten her 32 times – 32 temporary non-successes and the 33rd time and that was at the Pan-American games. The 33rd time was at the Mexico City Olympics. For the first time the swimmer I had came home – won the event and set a world record. Never give up!!!
I remember in 1988, I was with the staff over there at Seoul. Melvin Stuart and Mike Barrowman were on the team. I don’t think Melvin had ever lost a 200-butterfly race. I talked to him at lunch one time. He said he had never been beaten. I am not sure what he meant in certain type of competition or never. That is pretty terrific. I heard Johnny Weismuller was never beaten in the 100 free. I don’t know if that is true or not, but that is what I heard. I heard it over and over. So they did not expect to get beaten, let alone not medal. Mike Barrowman was basically near the top of his game then, but as soon as that meet was over both of them took 4th. They went back and the whole plan was four years down the line. They went back to work. Within two years, both had the World Record and the 4th year both had gold medals in their major events.
Taking it outside of swimming, I had a young man who at regional championship, in those days that was their last qualifying meet for the junior nationals or senior, swam a 200 back in prelims and finals. He missed making the cut by less than a tenth of a second. I don’t know if it was .006, .003, and .007 – it doesn’t matter. So he tried two time trials and the meet is over. We take two timed trials and he misses it twice more by that amount – less than a tenth of a second. One of the girls that came to the meet said, “Oh, I feel so sorry for the young man.” I said, don’t ever feel sorry for him. He is going to be better and tougher because of what happened today. I am always reminded of that because he went on and swam juniors. He went on and swam seniors.
The thing I remember the most was when he got out of college and failed to be admitted to any med school. He applied to a number of medical schools, but was turned down at all of them. He came to me was talking to me, kind of troubled, on whether he should go back and try to get more science in his background. He had science, but he did not have science as a major. He had English as a major. Anyway, he decided to do it. I don’t know if I said anything to help him make that decision or not, but I doubt it. I don’t know, but I might of, but anyway he decided to go back for a couple of years and the next time he was accepted for every medical school he applied. The short story of the long story is that he is now the Pediatric Neurosurgeon at Columbia University Med School teaching young residents, Neurosurgeons, how to operate on brains, etc. I mean it is just amazing how some time these things get turned around.
A few coaching tips. What is next here – coaching tips? We will just buzz right through these:
You change what you can if you have the time and it is worth the effort. You know they say, what is that saying about having the wisdom to change what you can, to accept what you can’t – that sort of thing, but you need to focus where your major efforts should be.
See a donut, not a hole. See the opportunities in everything you encounter. Boy, it is tough sometimes, but there are opportunities in everything.
Have a balanced lifestyle,
Think through things and then make your decisions and don’t put them off. Always look on the bright side.
I think we have pretty much covered this stuff. Throw the next page on there. What is next?
Then it gets down to what they usually talk about in motivation and that is goal setting. You know, goal setting has three basic parts. I think I read someplace where there is a fourth one, but I can’t remember it is right now, so I am not going to talk about that.
What is your goal? Whatever your goal is, that is your outcome. What you are trying to reach. Some people have given me goals like win the state meet, and qualify for nationals. I haven’t had anyone tell me to win the Olympic games as a goal for a short season, but what you are going to try to do is the goal itself.
The next thing is your process. It is the how. What needs to be done? You have to take the whole thing into account. What needs to be done? What kind of repeats do you need to make? Etc. I have had kids for the goal setting process and bring them in about three to four weeks before the championship meet. I say here are the times you have made and here is the goal you set. Want to change anything? I have had people look me in the eye and almost get mad or even get mad at me. They say changing nothing! Look what I have done in practice. These are the goal times that I have hit. This is what I have done in the how. The process and invariably those people go in and make everything count when they get to the championship meet, but the third one I didn’t do that right away.
The third one is the most important. If you don’t have really strong reasons to reach this goal, why are you working for it? That is the most important. It is a reason that you have to keep you on #2, “the process”, so if you do this goal setting, certainly to work that in. As far as motivation is concerned I have always told my kids – swim fast! That is motivating. They say something about what are we going to do to get pumped. I said swimming fast would get me excited. If you swim fast I get excited and then you will get excited, because I am excited – it will work!
As for goals, I don’t know from whom it comes from first. I don’t know if it comes from the coach or the swimmer. I think you have to develop purpose. Some of the best examples for me of purpose happened when I used to give out questionnaires pretty regularly. I gave a questionnaire to this group that I am even volunteering with last year. I remember the questionnaire back 30 years ago and I remember the questionnaire I gave out this past season. In the first year, I asked some different questions, one of the questions I asked was, what is boring in workout? Everybody had something – long kicking sets, your warm-up, and pool set up – except one. One kid in his first time doing this, said nothing is boring in our workout because everything we do has a purpose. That is what this other young 14 year old did on this last sheet. He didn’t know the previous story. It wasn’t the same answer, but it was the same concept – he gave it back to me. You have to develop purpose. You could have the best plan in the world, but if you don’t sell the purpose they are not going to be motivated.
You have got to remember on your team that when you recognize accomplishments or recognize people for doing something well, you have got to recognize what their times are. You know a fast swim for one swimmer is a slow swim for another and a slow swim for a fast swimmer is a fast swim for another. That is what Teri McKeever was doing on that web page – I thought it was great. They got some built in time standard now. You have got the time standards, which are great. They are built in the goal setting process. The other thing on the questionnaire I found out, (I am kind of skipping over things and I am watching the time), swimmers always motivate themselves with their individual successes. They always do! So you have to acknowledge those successes. Let them know that you recognize them. The swimmers, I ask them, what do they want from the coach. What do they want to hear and the latest one I asked was a national training group that included at least two national champions. What do you want from your coach at competition vs. during training time? At competition, the swimmers wanted the coach to be enthusiastic and to provide honest, positive encouragement and to believe in them. I think so much depends on them feeling that you do believe in them. During the training, the swimmers said they wanted challenging workouts with positive reinforcement and encouragement from the coach.
This again points out the need for good communication skills. In this book, they point out that people who feel good about themselves produce good results. I am going to just skip over a few things here because they are not that important. I probably hammered them a little bit. Setting swimmer goals are their job. I don’t think I can set them for them. You can always get the wheels turning. You want kids to dream about something, think and what would they hope for out of swimming. It starts out that way. You have got to give them something. If they are at a fairly low level give them the high school qualifying standards for state or for district. Maybe, what place in the meet in consults, what place in the finals, what the Junior national cuts, what are senior national cuts – what won? What is the American record? What is the world record? Why not give it all? Let them take a look and someplace on that chart they ought to find a spot.
There are a lot of things that you can do, but you have to start out with dreams before it transfers to goals. Some of the things I had, Jim Wood, coach at Berkley Aquatic club, states that pretty simple – goals need to have three particular components: they must be specific, they must be exciting and they must be believable. That is pretty concrete. Ironing out a goal – all of those things probably fall in: specific, exciting and believable. Training people to be good leaders is what I enjoy doing. Good leaders commit people to helping them win. You know kids are motivated by a lot of things. Now this questionnaire is to find out a lot of things. Swimmers are motivated a lot by how they can get feedback from their teammates, especially in practice, especially in training sets, challenging training sets of having people challenge each other and at competition they really believe the prime motivator is themselves. They have to get themselves ready, but they really enjoy and feel the effort when swimmers are out there making a great effort. When the team is up on the blocks and screaming and yelling, ends of the pool, sides of the pool – those things are all important. They all help.
I mentioned a lot of books, but the one I read on the way down here was “Soar with your Strength.” Anybody read that one? Ahhhh, no one has read that one. This is one I am out in front of you. “Soar with your Strength” is written by Donald Clifton and Paula Nelson. It is a great book. If I can reach back a little bit, because it is basically reinforcing some of the things we have already talked about, and say, “focus on your strengths and manage your weakness.” You know everything we do in education is always talking about the weaknesses. Raise the scores – the test scores – and this and that and they focus on the weaknesses. Where we are weak doesn’t help you learn a lot. But this book basically tells you, you don’t learn, you don’t accomplish anything by studying weaknesses. When you accomplish something is when you study people’s strengths. Why are people good at math? Why are they at the top? They ran some things where the let people run with the ball.
You know what we are faced with in high school swimming, not the clubs. High school swimming and collegiate swimming is limiting the hours that they can train, limiting the time – in many cases – whether they can train year around in a high school program and be on a high school team or at least have their same coach year round. What they are doing there is always saying that you are not well rounded if don’t get a little bit good at a lot of things. Well, there is a lot more to getting really good at one or two things, a lot more going for you. In our sport of swimming a lot, lot more going for you. This book has a lot to offer. I was trying to think of some of the things that they point out like “excellence can only be achieved by focusing on strength and managing weaknesses.” Also, it is a lot about catching people doing things right. This is worth your time. It is not an expensive book.
The last book and I have a lot more things to talk about but the last book I will mention is my book, “Coaching Swimming, second edition”. Now this came out in late March of this year. I wrote the original book about eight and a half to nine years ago. It is not the same book. It might look like it – second edition, but it is not the same book. Except for the last couple or three chapters, I rewrote the book, especially on technique, but on a great number of other areas, which also included new chapters. I point that out for you because a lot of the things that I refer to here are referred to in the book, but of course a lot that is not.
Okay, why are some coaches more successful than others? Well, are they geniuses? Probably not. Do they have an edge in training methods or an edge in technical knowledge? I don’t think so. Like I said, I wish I knew back then what I know now. There is a lot of technical knowledge, and it is changing and changing and it keeps coming at us more and more and more. You all have access to great information. You have great information coming to you every day at this clinic. I think some of us have an edge in teaching skills, which is possible, but what really makes the difference? Working well with the talent you have is the key. I think Teri McKeever said that in her relationship with Natalie Coughlin. Being above average in caring for your swimmers.
“Big time” is where you are located at the time. We got a coach up there that coaches football, specifically at the University. He is a legend – you probably never heard of him. He coaches in NAIA. They have won national championships NAIA. His name is Frosty Westerling. One of his big things is “big time” is where you are! In fact, he may even have a book out that is titled that, I am not sure. Big time is where you are. Thank your swimmers. Basically wherever I coach, I have tried to live like that. Wherever you coach it is important, very important, to people around you, very important to the parents of your athletes and extremely important to the young people that you work with.
Other things that make a difference is analyzing their individual strengths and weaknesses is planning effectively to make the best use of the time available, getting the most out of each training session, working well with others, assistants, parents, etc. and of course enjoy hard work. Communication skills are the X-factor. Doc Councilman, on a line a while back said, “Communication skills and the value in feeding values are the most important. Everyone on the team is an important one; everyone has a role to fulfill. I always stress we are only as good as the effort and the improvement of our slowest swimmers. Okay, time is just about up and you may want to ask a question. You know here is something I will give you, I think this was in Wooden’s book: “Talent is God given – be humble. Fame is man given – be thankful. Conceit is self-given – be careful. Slow and steady gets you ready and it will hang with you.” Well, that wraps it up for me. That is what I have to offer you on motivation. Thank you for attending!