Preparing Athletes to Be Race Ready by Lanny Landtroop (2004)


Lanny Landtroop: Kingwood High School, Kingwood, Texas; 37 years coaching, all high school, all in Texas.  His teams have won 67 out of a possible 71 DISTRICT CHAMPIONSHIPS and 16 STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS. He has coached over 200 ALL-AMERICANS. He has been the Texas high school coach of the year 17 times, been named the National Federation National Coach of the Year, has been awarded the TISCA Lifetime Achievement Award, the NISCA Hall of Fame Award, and the NISCA Collegiate and Scholastic Award. Lanny has spoken at numerous state and national clinics and this is his third appearance at the ASCA World Clinic.



I want to spend a few minutes talking to you about coaching because I feel like, in spite of what some people may think, coaching does have an influence on the performance of athletes.  Any of you feel that way?  Good, I hope you do.  And I hope if you don’t now, that maybe by the end of the talk you will feel that coaches have a pretty great impact, because we are working with the most precious resource that we have and that is our kids.  I want you to really think about that.  This is the most precious resource that we have and that is our kids.  I would like to congratulate you for being here and for being in this profession because unlike many professions, many of which are more greatly compensated, we put our product in front of the public on a regular basis.  That takes a lot of courage.  What you do on a daily basis is seen by multitudes of people on a regular basis and of course, that gives them the privilege of giving you plenty of advice about what you are or you are not doing.  Again, I would really like to congratulate you for being here in a state of learning.  I would like for you to be congratulated for entering the profession and having the courage to get in the arena.


A philosopher, once said “for better it is to dare mighty things, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat” – Teddy Roosevelt.  Teddy Roosevelt was a go-getter.  I think coaches are go-getters.  I think swimmers are go-getters.  I think all people in our sport are go-getters.  I think getting into the arena is tremendously important.  One of the greatest messages I think that we can help our athletes discover is that getting in the arena is what is important.  Learning to deal with what is there and improving, at constant steady improvements in all the different areas, not just in the times, but in our attitude about what we are doing and understanding the preparation that we go through.  As I told you yesterday, I always like to. We use a lot of fables in our program.  I would like to give you a couple of fables that I think are important. These are not really fables, but stories.


These are a couple of stories about things that deal directly with coaching.  Several years ago at Harvard University an intriguing series of experiments was conducted involving both students and rats.  One group of students was told to work with Rat A and you will have an easy time.  Rat A is a genius rat.  It has been bred for intelligence and is extremely bright.  It will get to the end of the maze in nothing flat.  When you work with it, bring plenty of cheese for it will earn it.  Another group of students were introduced to Rat C.  They were told that Rat C is just an average rat, not too bright, not too dumb, and just right in the middle.  It will eventually get to the end of the maze and eat some cheese, but don’t expect too much from it.  It is of average ability and intelligence, so its performance will be average.  Finally, the third group was introduced to Rat F.  They were told that Rat F is really bad.  If it found its way to the end of the maze it would be by accident and not by design.  It was really an idiot, so naturally it will be a low performer.  They may not even need any cheese for it.  They could just paint a sign at the end of the maze that says “cheese” and it wouldn’t know the difference.  For the next six weeks the students conducted experiments under the exact scientific conditions.  Rat A performed like a genius.  It reached the end of the maze with no side trips.  Rat C, well, what could you expect from an average rat.  It made it to the end, but it didn’t set any speed records in the process.  It made several side trips down dead ends before it finally reached the end.  Rat F lived up to its reputation as well.  It was sad.  It aimlessly wandered all over the maze, bumping into walls and tripping over its own feet.  Twice it walked right by the cheese without even realizing it was there.  Here is the interesting thing. There was no genius rat or average rat or dumb rat.  They were identical triplets; all average rats from the same litter.  There was no intelligence or ability difference at all.  The difference in their performances was the direct results of the different attitudes of the students conducting the experiments – the coaches.  Their attitudes affected the way they treated the rats, which in turn affected the performance of the rats.


Is coaching important?  Really think, as you are on deck every day or are in the SBR or wherever you happen to be or whatever you happen to be doing in your program, about the influence that you may be having on the athletes. Think about the story of the rats.  I know in my experience, I can think of some people who probably, those of you who were here yesterday know the reference, actually have a lot more diamond in them than I thought they did, but I wasn’t smart enough to pull it out and let them discover that.  Coaching is tremendously important.  I think that we need to understand that if we treat a person the way they are, they will probably remain so, but if we treat them the way they could be, they may become so.  Think about that.  If we treat a person the way they are they will remain so, but if we treat them the way they could be, maybe they will become so, and have a much greater chance.  I heard in a clinic one time a long, long time ago somebody say, you can judge a coach by the way they treat their least athlete.  If we treat that least athlete like a champion, they are more likely to become so, so coaching really does make a difference.  I think when the chips are down, when you get to the big event, the big meet, the big whatever it happens to be for that individual swimmer that that is what tells the tale.  That is what tells you whether they are going to be successful, whether they are going to come through, and whether they are going to swim fast when they really need to swim fast for them, relative to their own abilities and their own skills.


One other little coaching story I want to tell, it is not a coaching story, but it is about coaching I think.  The great French naturalist, John Henry Fabray conducted a most unusual experiment with recessionary caterpillars.  These caterpillars blindly follow one another one in front of the other, hence the name, recessionary caterpillars.  Faray carefully arranged them in a circle around the rim of a flower pot so that the lead caterpillar actually touched the last one, making a complete circle.  In the center of the flower pot he put pine needles which are food for recessionary caterpillars.  The caterpillars started around this circular flower pot, around and around they went, hour after hour, day after day, night after night for seven full days and seven full nights they went around the flower pot.  Finally, they dropped dead of starvation with the abundance of food less than six inches away; they literally starved to death because they confused activity with accomplishment. Think about that. They confused activity with accomplishment.


Does that ever happen in swimming programs?  Well, I think that is a wonderful question for coaches to ask themselves, because I know that I have witnessed programs where there was a lot of activity and very little accomplishment.  We need, as coaches, to ask ourselves, what is this doing for us?  Is this helping us toward our goals, toward whatever it is that we are trying to do?  Don Roland has been deceased, gosh, for probably 20 years, but boy, back in the 70’s, he was a counselor. I am not even sure where it was – I never did meet him, but I communicated with him a little bit. He wrote something called “the swimmer’s memorandum.”  It was back in the 70’s, when the mental aspects of performance were really becoming recognized by more people and at a greater depth.  In the swimmer’s memorandum, if you can get a copy of it, it has been out of print; he printed it himself and everything, but if you can get a copy of it, it is a fantastic piece about goal setting and visualization and all the things that help you go where you want to go.  He said that there are not any bad swimmers, only swimmers at different levels.  Again, as coaches, I think we need to recognize this.  There aren’t bad swimmers. They are just swimmers at different levels.  Once we do more than just pay lip service to that and actually put that in our philosophy, I think the progress of our program is going to be greatly enhanced.  When we are talking about great performances, we are just not talking about the people that are here at this meet or at the Olympics or at the state meet or the district meet or whatever it happens to be for you, we are talking about the JV swimmer, too. We are talking about whomever it might be, we want all of those people to recognize and to be able to perform when the chips are down and not just in swimming.


If we can help them to discover what to do in swimming, that is easily transitional to the rest of their lives.  They can transfer it right into what they are doing.  It may be that they are on the battlefield in Iraq, and learned something in your swimming program that helps them deal with an issue or a problem that they have there.  If we look at it with that great broad philosophical base, that what we are doing, the importance that it can have I think it has a lot to do with the success of people when the chips are down.  Many people go farther in life than they think they can because someone else thinks they can. Plant the seeds.


One of the stories that we use is about the Chinese bamboo tree.  In the Chinese bamboo tree story we plant a seed and it has to do with season, too.  It also has to do with performance at the end of the season, but it also has to do with careers and it has to do with your life.  You plant a Chinese bamboo tree seed, water it, fertilize it and nothing happens at the end of the first year.  There is no sign that anything is there.  The next year you water it, fertilize it and you do all these things and again nothing happens.  You do that for the third year and for the fourth year and then about four and a half years later, if you have been really taking care of this seed all of a sudden it sprouts and in six weeks it grows to 80 feet.


Now, Dana asked me if I was going to talk about paper.  Is that a story about paper?   That is a story about doing the right things so the hope is there that we are going to grow that 80 feet in those 6 weeks and it is important for us to understand and to put into the mind. We plant the seeds in the minds of athletes.  The fact that it could be there and everybody in here has had someone who planted a seed. I was talking to my wife about this just before I came down and she brought to mind a couple of people that you know.  They came in.  They were not able to make the varsity, but made the JV.  They swam a couple of years.  One of them we moved up and he was not a state champion swimmer, but boy, he became one of the best swimmers that, for his ability, I have ever seen.


I was just talking to someone in the hall. How many of you were at the meet Friday night?  Did you see that 800 free relay?  Justin Mortimer was the anchor?  Justin Mortimer?  Did he do it again last night in the 400? Yeah, I think he ended up third, but did he ever come back?  Was that will?  I mean, he came back and he won by what, 5/100 or something like that?  It takes you 21/100 of a second to blink your eye.  He did it twice in two days.  Again did he will that or what?  You know the mental aspects of what we are talking about are just unbelievable.  I am going to try and address those a little bit later.  As we talk with our athletes, I think it is important to help them also understand that all of your life you are here right now because you are in the state of becoming.  You are trying to become a better coach.  We talk about having a choice.


The greatest power we have in our lives is the power to choose and how all the choices that we make can affect us.  For example, I heard Eddie Reese talking about “every time you sit down to eat, you eat something that either makes you faster or make you slower.”  It really makes you think about your diet doesn’t it and about what you are eating?   Do you think it will make you go faster or make you go slower?  Well, it is important, I think, for us to understand that all these choices we make influence what happens, because a lot of times we go through things.  The kids are in the state of becoming and in that state of becoming, we make all these choices and some of them are going to be good and some of them are not going to be so good.  The important thing is that we learn from those that were not so good.  You know, everybody in here knows the definition of insanity. I have it on the window of my office now. I had it then as well on the window of my office in great big letters.  “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”


You know, it is like beating yourself on the head with a hammer, but a lot of people do that.  They do the same thing over and over and over again and expect a different result, but the same thing keeps happening.  Bang, did it again.  So it is important that we understand that the choice, whatever is there now, is a product of the choices that we made back here somewhere along the line.  If we can then communicate that to the athletes that we are working with, they may begin to understand and begin to relate that to what is going on every day in the pool.


I mentioned yesterday we encourage the kids to keep logs, which here is a pretty loose knit thing.  Now I mean I am not a real disciplinarian that way.  I try to help the kids understand that discipline is something that comes from the inside.  It is a do-it-yourself project, so I want them to do it because it is going to help them. I tell them all the time that my goal in coaching is to not have to coach.  To educate them well enough that they know what they need and they do it because they know they need it and it is in their own best long range best interest, is my everlasting goal.  Now, I have never gotten there, but it is a pretty good goal.  It is all the choices that we make on a regular basis have a tremendous impact on that.   One of our sayings is – “We have a choice.”  We are in a state of becoming a champ or a chump, but it is our choice and that is going to happen relative to the choices that we make as we go through training, as we go to the dining table every day, and as we get the proper amount of what we call hidden training.  Hidden training is everything that happens outside the eyes of the coach.  Hidden training has a tremendous effect on your progress.  You can really do all the things right in front of the coach and then not do the things, away from the coach, that are going to help you make correct choices.  These are not going to be in your benefit and all of this is going to be kind of neutralized.


Our sport is a sport of preparation and habits. Creating habits is tremendously important.  Risk is a developed skill.  Taking risk is a developed skill. These are things that are really difficult to communicate.  Very often you could have a kid that comes in your program and it takes them two, three or four years to really understand where you are going with these things, but try to put them in situations; whether it is in the pool or not.  It may be in a strength building room.  It may be out playing Frisbee; whatever it is.  I help kids sometime during a fun game. Right after the state meet we will go and play a little Ultimate Frisbee, because I think it is a great game.  Everybody has got to move, but the guy with the Frisbee.  It really teaches that everybody is important and everybody has a role to play.  I will have guys that won’t want to do it because they are not very good at it so they don’t want to do it.  I give them stronger encouragement, because I want them to take some risks.  I want them to learn that it is a learned skill and you learn that skill everywhere you are.  One of the things that we do in our dry land program is some biometrics.  We do these little things that call it through the basket and through the hoop, however, the names aren’t important. The kids put their hands together and jump through them you know, well, try this.  They have never seen me do it I can guarantee you, but try this.  You put your hands together, now we have been doing biometrics.  We do not start doing that until we have done biometrics for about a month and it takes flexibility, it takes quickness, it takes risk and then we hold one toe with the opposite hand and we jump through it and jump back.  After they can jump through with one foot then we go the other and then gradually over a period of time we jump back and forth.  Now, guess what happens if you miss?  You land on your nose, but you are learning to take risk and guess what?


A couple of years ago, I had a boy that won state in both the 50 and the 100 free.  I had him demonstrate this drill. Some of our football coaches saw us doing it and they came in and  said, “what in the world are you all doing?”  “I said come over here Brad, I want you to show them this.”   He then grabbed his foot like this and about 15 times – boom – boom –boom –boom back and fourth. I said, “well, that is pretty good with that leg, how about the other one?”  Again boom, boom, boom, boom!   He had done that over four years he had progressed to that point and he had learned to take risks so when he got on the block at the state meet; he was ready to take a risk.  He was ready to let it all hang out.


Most of the problems that we have and most of the problems that athletes have are self-created.  We get in our own way.  If we can develop some kind of a program that helps them progressively take greater risks then that risk aversion is neutralized and they are ready to go out into the world with more confidence.  You know two of the greatest de-motivators in the world are the fear of failure and the fear of success.  We fear failure because we feel like that he won’t just be saying “well, that guy beat me in that race, but I am a failure.”  We fear success because gosh, if I perform at this level, what are they going to expect from me next time?  They both get in our way.  When we do that to ourselves, it is a do-it-yourself project.  It is all a do-it-yourself project.  As coaches, I think it is our responsibility to try to get in between there and understand. We have a choice in here and can develop skills that are going to help us progressively to understand that we are going to do better.  A number of you have heard, I had a young man back in the mid 70’s who did an audiotape, a visualization,  that is when this stuff – I had a friend that was fired as a football coach because his football team listened to visualization tapes – back in the mid-70’s. I mean, it was kind of “ohhhhhhhh stuff,” but now we understand that is the way to go.  We have all done it all of our lives.


We all visualize things. The thing about it is in our own mind we are either controlling those visualizations or they are controlling us.  If we don’t take charge, they take us in all avenues that we do not want to go very often, true?  Have you ever noticed that at night when you are having trouble going to sleep, what are you thinking about?  Are you thinking about good stuff?  Oh this and oh that and gee whiz how am I going to pay the bills pops in your head.  All this kind of stuff runs through our mind.  The frontiers are right here between our ears. I hope to get to that a little bit later.  How are we doing?  Okay. “Gosh guys I have so much here.” “I am trying to go through this.”  I talked yesterday a little bit about the spirit of limitlessness opening up, the frontiers are just enormous.  Experts tell us that Einstein used about 7-10% of his capabilities.  If Einstein used 7-10% of his capability, what are we capable of?  How much are we using?   That is where the frontier is.  I think it is important for us to understand that this is really all about coaching being leadership to me.


Coaching is leadership.  You are dealing with people and trying to lead them and helping them discover that you are going in a direction that they want to travel in as well.  You are not making them go.  Had a great translation from something that he said, “a leader is best when people barely know he exists.”  Not so good when people obey and claim him.  It is worse when they despise him.   Of a good leader, he talks little when his work is done and his aim fulfilled.  They will say we did it ourselves.  We did it ourselves because a good leader has encouraged them to bring it from inside themselves and then really have done it themselves.  He may have sparked something here or there, given them the initiative to do it or helped them find the initiative.  You don’t give anybody anything.  Help them find the initiative to get it, but they do it themselves when it is finally done.  I would like to quote yet another philosopher, I am going to paraphrase it a little bit – his name is Yogi Berra and you have probably all heard this but he says, “baseball is 50% physical and the other 90% is mental.”


Well, I think that is what performance is.  I think that is what life is.  It is 50% physical and the other 90% is mental.  When I first started coaching, I remember well all through my coaching career, a lot of my friends were football coaches. I am from Texas and you know how football in Texas is, but I want to tell you – ¾ of those Oklahoma boys are from Texas.   That is the truth.  Well, there is a good question there somewhere.  I will tell you what I will admire.  I will just take a second there and admire Mack Brown.  I saw an interview right before the game and the person asked him, “do you feel a lot of stress?”  He said, “this is a game, this isn’t stress.  Stress is when your family is hungry. Stress is when somebody is really ill.  This is about pride and I think that is what it is.”   Such is a great coach, no doubt about it and he gets great coaches around him.  Texas has improved their coaching staff a lot this year.  Their defense did pretty dog gone well.  Last year they got creamed.  At any rate, they are both good coaches I think.  I mean since Brown has been there they have won not fewer than 9 games. That isn’t bad.  I will tell you all our kids went to Texas and two of my step-sons think he is a lousy coach, because they don’t think that they should ever lose.  They were never in that arena either.  They were in some arenas, but they were never in that arena and being in that arena is a little bit different.

Now, does that mean that there is a magic pill that the mental aspect is a magical pill?  There is no magic pill.  There is no magic pill.  I am going to tell you a story about an unsuccessful thing.  I had a young man that I thought would be the first high school swimmer to go under 20 seconds.  He had the physical ability.  He had the mental ability.  He had the work ethic.  He had the brains, he had the brawn. I remember after he graduated, he went to Stanford.  When he came back from college one year he came in the pool.  He was walking there. The next day the baseball coach came up to me and said, “who was that Adonis walking in your pool yesterday?” I mean, he came in with his suit, he was going to work out because he had all those things and I had so much confidence in him.   I really thought he was going to break 20 seconds. He was to be the first one to break 20 seconds in the 50 and when we got to the state meet, I was not sensitive enough.  I was over-confident and not tuned in enough to him to realize in both the prelims and the finals that when he got to the backstroke flag coming in on the 50 yard freestyle, he went vertical.  He still went 20.3 I think or 20.25 or something like that, but he just came in to the wall trying so hard.  He wanted it so much that he just went vertical and one of those two guys passed him and I didn’t see it.  It just tore me up because he had earned it.  He deserved it, but I as a coach had not been sensitive enough to see that.


Now, I have had a lot of other kids who were the ones that passed him up, but what I am trying to say is there is no magic pill.  There is no one way to deal with all champions or all JV swimmers or all of anyone.  We have to really have our antenna up and be receiving stations that are way, way deep.  You know, we now have digital radios. I don’t guess you use the analog anymore, but you know the old analog radios you wanted to fine tune it.  You would lose it. You drive and would lose the station, and then have to change it a little bit.  That is the kind of thing that we have to do as coaches. We have to be fine tuning all the time and being very sensitive to each of those people that we are working with, each one of them.  Now, he had the will, he had the desire and he knew that I thought he could do it.  I mean, I made that very, very clear.  He wanted it so badly.


This is a quote from that great philosopher, Eddie Reese again, he says, (I have a lot of love and admiration for Eddie) “swimming is a funny sport, the harder you try the slower you go.”  The harder you try the slower you go, which is what this kid ended up doing.  He was trying so hard that he just went vertical, made it to the wall, didn’t drown, but he didn’t reach that goal.  My point is that there is no magic pill, but if you have helped them you are doing your job, but continue to fine tune it.  Where I missed it I think was I had failed to see that he was not swimming relaxed.  That he was not letting it happen.  He was trying to make it happen.  You know when you get at the beginning of the season and get in to work on drills with your kids about body position.   I am sure most of you do this.  We get down in the diving well and we play with position and the balance in the water and all of those kinds of things.  There are always some kids in there who are blub, blub, blub and those are the kids that are tense and say “well, I am just a sinker.” “No, you are tense and that is the difference.”   If you can ever get them to relax and finally trust the water to hold them up, then they will float.  The tenser you are, the harder you are trying, and the slower you will go.  If you develop that confidence over a period of time, it will return tenfold.


Another story: I had a kid named Hunter Richmond way back – way back. Hunter was a good swimmer.  I think he came in third in the 50 and 4th in the backstroke as a junior or something like that at state meet.  We were going in to the state meet.   It was the first year the Texas Swim Center was open.   Every time we went to Austin, we went by there and the coach there, Pat Patterson was a friend of mine and he would take us over there and show us.  This is going to be a fast pool. It has foot wide gutters and they are three feet deep.  These kids were like it was going to be at the magical kingdom. We went in that year and I swear every event we swam we set a state record in it.  I mean just kabom just like that.   Back to Hunter: we were going into our last dual meet of the year and had a pretty good string of records going for several years, and we were going to swim Memorial who was our big opponent at that time.   He came up to me about on a Tuesday I think before that meet on a Friday and said “Coach, if you will let me swim the 100 fly I think we are going to win the 100 fly.  If you will let me swim it, I think I can beat Leonard.  They had a kid named Lesley Leonard.   I said “well Hunter, you’ve not swum the 100 fly in your high school career,” which was true.  He didn’t swim fly.  I said, “you have not swum the 100 fly, but we do work on all strokes.  I think his high school coaches were developers.  I think kids that come in as a breaststroker leave swimming four strokes.  They may not be great at all of them, but I think they are going to be a heck of a lot better because we swim all strokes.  We make people swimmers and not breaststrokers or distance people only.  I said you have not swum this.  He said, “coach, I think I can beat him.”  I said, well there is no way I am going to get in his way, I mean, he is not going to get in his own way so I am not going to get in his way.  I said okay so we went in, swam against them, he beat him and we won the district meet.  “We will put you in the 100 fly.”  I moved him from the backstroke and he set a new District record.  We go through district, regional, and state in Texas.  Regional meet swimming 100 fly equaled a new record.  We went to the state meet was that first year at the Texas Swim Center. I remember it as vividly as anything.  I got the meet information sheet.  I looked at it and in the 100 fly, at that time, the state record was 51 something and I looked at it and there was a 49 something in the 100 fly.  Well, I looked at that and I went and asked somebody and they said well wait a minute, that guy is supposed to be in the 100 free.  You know, they messed up.  The clerical people messed it up, but I didn’t say anything when I saw Hunter in the water.   I went down and sat on the bulkhead and put it down there and I said “Hunter, I thought I had everybody and don’t know how I missed this guy?  I don’t know where he came from.  This kid looked up to me, his eyes were the size of a saucer and he said, “don’t worry coach – I’ll get him”   I’ll get him. Now was he ready to race?  Was he going to do whatever it took?   That is being prepared for the big race.  Whatever it takes.  These numbers don’t mean anything.  Don’t worry coach – I’ll get him.


I had a diver the year before that, I believe it was.  We had had a group of divers that were all from the same neighborhood I lived in.  We had won like I think three state championships or four: three out of 4 or something like that with these two brothers.  This kid lived in the same neighborhood.  He was a little bit younger, but they had all grown up together and had been diving together.  This kid was named Danny Kelly.  We used to have a meet before Christmas.  We went up to this pool in Dallas where Danny came in about 8th.  After the meet was over he came up to me and he said “coach, don’t worry, when we need the points they are going to be there.”  We then had a big meet at Texas, in January. Our state meet at the time was towards the end of March.  He came in about 4th or 5th there.  He came up to me after that and he said, “don’t worry coach, when we really need the points they are going to be there.”  We got to the state meet and what did he do?  He won it.  He won it.  He was the one. He knew that he was not ready to do it at that point, but don’t worry coach, when you need the points they are going to be there.  Of course, my response to him was “Danny, I don’t need the points, your teammates need the points.”  That is what he really meant.  He was going to do it for the team.


One of the great things to help people perform well, and I can spend the whole hour and a half talking about that, is the synergy of the group.  The synergy of the group is so tremendously important.  We use meets as training feedback.  When you schedule your season have in the back of your mind training feedback.  Have in the back of your mind progressive success.  You want to put kids in situations that they are progressively going to be more successful in.  What does that do?  It automatically builds confidence.  As the confidence level goes up, what happens to the will?  Boy, it becomes solidified.  They begin to believe that they can conquer the world.  Let’s go do it!  Let’s go do it, whatever it takes, whatever it takes!


Goal setting is tremendously important!  I know some of you guys here have heard me talk about it endlessly, but I think it is the most powerful force that we know.  I mean, true goal setting would take a long time to talk about.  There are thousands of books and articles and all kinds of things, but if you can get people to set goals and to emotionally commit to those goals as individuals and as a group, there is no stopping you.  There is no stopping you!  That is where the spirit of limitlessness really takes hold.  Just like risk taking, stress gets in our way.


That is really what happened to G., a little bit I think.  That was the young man that went vertical.  There was some stress associated there.  After it was over I was talking to his mother and she said I had no idea.  She said every time his father gets under real strong stress, he gets a lower back problem.  That is what happened to him.  He had a little bit of a lower back problem and I didn’t recognize that.  I thought he had a lower back problem.   You know experts tell us that 75-80% of our illnesses are caused by stress.  Let me encourage you to get Newsweek – September 27, 2004 – about two weeks ago.  It has 40 pages, most of it is dealing with illnesses and that kind of stuff, but folks it deals with everyday life and it deals with athletes.


There is a group at Harvard led by a lady in the neurosciences who says that they can now say as near unequivocally as you can say anything is that the soul is the activity of the mind.  The soul is the activity of the mind.  That is one of the articles in here.  You know we kind of know something like that, but these are people that are coming in and proving it scientifically with all their imaging and heat in the brain.  Different parts of the brain and all of that kind of thing.   I was reading that last night as a matter of fact and I started thinking that we could do a whole clinic on this – a whole weekend clinic on this.  Take that one concept and apply it to a team, which is an organic group.  The soul is the activity of the mind and once we begin to play with that a little bit and to explore that a little bit, the frontiers are mind blowing.


Reading this, let’s see here, it says success is daring to have the experience.  That is kind of where I started off.  Success is daring to have the experience.  I congratulated you as coaches for getting into a profession where you put your product on the line all the time.  That is daring to have the experience.  If we can communicate to athletes that daring to get out there and let it all hang out, let it happen and do everything that you can to create what you want to do.  One of the ways that I like is when I talk about season planning or something.  I talk about the way they do.   A lot of times movies have a story board and they put the end here and then go back and they fill it in.  They kind of have a beginning and they have an end and they fill it in with all the stuff.    A lot of novelists do that kind of thing, as well.  If we do that at our season planning and in our training don’t do the same thing you did last year or do something better?  Do you want your athlete to swim tomorrow the way they swam yesterday?  No.  Do we as coaches want to do everything we did last year again and again and again?  It is like some professors I had in college.  I swear their lectures were the same they were giving 20 years earlier you know, the same thing over and over again.  Golly!  That would just be mind numbing if everyone took the time to always look for a better way.  We want to look for a better way.  We want them to look for a better way.   We want them to go faster and if they are going to go faster something has got to change.  Something has got to change for things to change.  You have got to do something differently so always be looking for a better way.


I was reading an article in the paper about a cowboy in Idaho and how they were.  I forget how many acres in Idaho they had and they were using little motorcycles or dirt bikes or whatever they are called, but not horses to herd the cattle.   He was talking about the life of the cowboy today.   It was a very isolated, huge ranch.   He was doing fences and all that kind of,  but there was a great quotation in it.   He said “good cowboys and good hands do not make things happen, they just set it up and let it happen”.  Is that now what we try to do as coaches?  Set it up, and do everything we can – set it up and then let it happen.  If we have done the right things and Mack Brown probably had not done the right things, set it up and let it happen.  You planted the seed, you fertilized it, you watered it – now watch it grow – tremendously.


I told you I had a lot of admiration for Eddie Reese.  Right after the Olympics and of course Eddie was our men’s Head Coach.  This article in the Houston Chronicle, which I am just going to read a couple of sections of it, states in   Athens, Greece:  The university of Texas basketball coach, Rick Barnes, says “Eddie Reese is the best in the business.”  The business?  Coaching?  All sports, all levels.  “I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t mean it, Barnes said.  He is a master of his craft.  He works his sport better than anybody I have ever seen.  He understands it.  He gets it.  He understands how it all comes together, mind and body.  He understands competition like what second is and what it takes to be first.”  High praise indeed coming from, in my opinion, one of the best coaches in the business – Rick Barnes.  Then I read down and there is a quote from Michael Phelps.  “I’ve gone against his guys over the years and there is one thing they all have in common: they are ready to swim when it is time to swim” Phelps said.  “He is always joking and saying something funny, but when its time, he gets very serious.  He is all about team and teamwork.  He understands this synergy” that is my comment.  “He built the atmosphere of togetherness that made this team a team,” talking about the Olympic team, and that is in a very short period of time.   He does this as well as than anyone I know.  And then we go up to quoting Aaron Peirsol here, who did pretty well at the Olympics and this weekend as well.  “You know, if you go to Texas, you are going to improve!”  How good was Peirsol when he came into Texas?   World Record holder?   He came there to improve.  “That is why people keep coming there. The atmosphere is all about getting better and getting the most out of you.  Eddie is the reason.” Brendan Hanson says we  are like brothers.  We push each other to excel”.  “You know you can’t get sloppy or lazy because you are surrounded by the very best and they demand that you give your best.”    Barnes goes on to say “he loves life.  He loves to laugh. He is very intense, but doesn’t think everybody needs to know it.  Intense, even in tense moments Reese seems loose.”  I am sure most of you know Eddie.  He is pretty loose most of the time.


I was sitting on the bulkhead talking to Eddie at the pool at Texas while his kids were working out.  We were up there for some meet and they were finishing their workout.   Some young coach came up and wanted that magic pill.  He kind of came up and was a little bit bashful and  said, “Coach Reese,  I am just starting out, this is my second year.  Please tell me something that will help me to get my kids as good as your kids.”  Don’t we all want that?  The magic pill?  Eddie looked at him and he laughed and then he looked over at me and he said, “well ask this guy.  He can tell you.”  I didn’t know what to say.  He said you just love them, you just love them.


I was up there another time and I was talking to one of them at one end of the pool Mark or Paul, I believe it was “”.   He had these gals on the cords.  They were just swimming for 15 minutes at a time you know, not going anywhere.  They were  working their rear ends off.  I was talking to him and he said, “we are down here working our butts off.” and as he was talking, I looked down there at the end of the pool and saw Eddie there talking to his kids.   He is talking them into going fast.  We are working and he is talking to them.  Now, they work, but see that is the little extra that leads to the extraordinary.   That is communication and that is relationship.


I would like to close with this.  One of my favorite quotes and I think it so relates to us, “to love someone is to learn the song in their heart and sing it to them when they have forgotten,” listen again, “to love someone is to learn the song in their heart and sing it to them when they have forgotten.”  If we can love our kids and love our athletes and love our families, that is putting that love into our lives.  When people lose their motivation or lose their direction or lose their vision, sing that song to them that we have discovered.   Help them get back on track, then when we get to that big meet, when we get to that big performance, whatever it happens to be, JV Championships whatever it happens to be.  Help them understand.  Go out there and let it happen.  You have planted that seed and now it is time for that 80 foot Chinese bamboo to grow.


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