[introduction, by Tim Welsh]
Good morning, good morning, good morning. So here we are following a wonderful awards banquet last night. One of my favorite expressions that comes out of the Eastern religions says, “What does a person do before enlightenment? Chop wood, carry water. What does a person do after enlightenment? Chop wood, carry water.” So Coach Teri McKeever last night [was] inducted into the ASCA Hall of Fame; and here she is, 8:30 Saturday morning—chop wood, carry water—she is back, right. Swimmers swim, coachers coach, and Coach Teri McKeever is back here this morning to coach us.
The title of her talk: Suggestions for Success. Now imagine that: it is a modest title. Not to dwell on having just come back from the Pan Pac Championships, not to worry about her three NCAA Championships, not to worry about her three times on the World Championship staff, not to worry about being head women’s team USA coach for the 2012 Olympics. Make no mistake about it: this is a modest woman who is here this morning and one heck of a coach. I think if Coach Teri McKeever has suggestions for our success, I recommend that we listen very carefully. Coach Teri, we have a gift from ASCA, and thank you for being here this morning—chop wood, carry water.
Good morning. Okay, I had four people ask me: did I have any video options. And I do not: we are going paper-and-pencil and your visual is, unfortunately for you, just going to be me. But I appreciate that introduction. And I really wanted purposefully to the idea of suggestions, I think is the most important thing this morning. I love what Greg said yesterday, and I am a firm believer of this: by no means do I have all the answers. If I did have a cookbook or a recipe for this, I would have marketed it a long time ago and probably be doing something… well, actually, I would not have to do anything, right?
But what I would like to just share this morning are some things that have personally made a difference in my career. I did a similar talk like this… it was 11 years ago at ASCA. And I went back and looked at my notes, and a lot of the things still rung true for me. I just feel that… I know for me, some of the things that I have learned, I think you just have to learn. Just like your athletes, you know? You can tell them, you can tell them, but they have got to actually go through that experience for it to kind of have that aha moment for them. And I think some of the things I am intending to share are similar, but hopefully there will be something there that most importantly can be a takeaway for you.
The first thing I wanted to say is: I think it is really important that you come up with your definition of success. I think too often I have gotten into looking at what other people’s definition of what success was, instead of my own. In my mind, I am very clear about why I get up every morning, what is important to me, what I want to do at a practice, what I want to create in my team environment. You know, ironically, I do not really have that written down anywhere; but I think that if you ask anyone on my team, they would have a pretty good idea and could articulate it in their own words.
I equate it to… I have the opportunity/chore—whichever way you want to look at it—to recruit every year. And it is always interesting to me when you ask a young woman, or her family: what are you looking for in this stage? or what’s going be the determining factor?” Many times, they cannot… they do not know. You know, they have not thought about that. They are getting ready to look at a college for not only their swimming, but for their academics and the next stages of their life. And you ask them what they are looking for, and they do not know.
I think if you do not know, you have a pretty hard time finding it. If you do not know what your definition of success is, or you do not what you are going to look for, to me it is like finding a needle in a haystack—so to speak. I think the more clear you can get on your purpose; whether it be a mission statement or personal coaching philosophy or whatever resonates for you. But really having a clear idea, and the ability to articulate that to anyone that might ask.
I have ten suggestions and just kind of themes, and hopefully there will be time for questions. I think that we will just kind of go from there.
The most important aha for me—and I say this anytime, any opportunity I get—has been for me to be myself and to be the best version of myself. I know when I first started coaching… my whole coaching career has been, except for one year as a JV high school coach, but it has all been in college. I started out as an assistant with Don LaMont at USC [University of Southern California] in 1985, got the head job at 25 years-old at Fresno State University in 1987, and then took the job at Cal in 1992 and I am getting ready to start my 23rd year. So I have a different version of… you know, a different journey.
But I know when I first had the opportunity to be a head coach—at Fresno State University. In Central California, there was 14 women on the team. I got there and I remember we broke the 400 Medley Relay record. It was something like 4:09, and I was like ooh—you know, I have got people, individually that can go faster than 4:09 right now. It was on the TV and everything, I was… it was a different experience. But it was also like I really felt confident to just trust my gut; and to do things that, intuitively, I felt were the right way to go, responding to the environment, gaining a lot of confidence.
When I got to Cal I was like, Okay, now I’m the Cal coach. I’m supposed to do things like when you go to a clinic, you know—and the people that stood up here and gave presentations. Most of those models were male models. So, I feel like I spent the first 5-6 years really trying to imitate Nort Thornton on the other side of the deck—or a Mark Schubert or a Richard Quick—and I really, really struggled. So much to the point where I really very, very seriously thought about getting out of coaching: I just was not enjoying it; I was second-guessing myself, losing a lot of confidence.
And just… I do not even know exactly how it happened, but you know the little voice in me, and voices I heard, were saying I was going to get fired. And kind of the orneriness of me said, Okay, well I’m going to get fired; I might as well go out and get fired and appreciate the woman I see in the mirror. Because I really did not know who she was anymore: she did not have a value, she did not know what was important to her; I was just trying to do what I thought other people wanted me to do, including athletes or administrators. You know, I would come to a clinic and I would hear about energy systems or this, and I was like Man, I don’t do that, like what’s wrong with me?
And so, it really was this kind of like: I need to look at me, I need to look at what my strengths are; I need to look at what my weaknesses are. I need to figure out how to be better at my strengths. I need to look at what I do not do as well, and figure out how to do them better—that is down the road here. But I really needed to look at me.
I like what Gregg [Troy] said yesterday about when he asked his athletes who are the three most important people in your Swimming career, and they struggle for a while until they say themselves. You know, I had to do that with my coaching career: who was the most important person for me to advance as a coach? It was me. It was taking a better look at me, and really getting comfortable and confident in that. And what my values were, and addressing those.
I think this is a huge issue—well, at least for me—this is a huge issue with my athletes. I think that a lot of times they come-in and are really not sure of what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are, and how to just be okay with being the best version of themselves. And trying not… can you imagine being on a team with a Missy Franklin and thinking you are supposed to be Missy Franklin? That is a recipe for disaster. It is a recipe for disaster for me to recruit and try to make Missy Franklin, Natalie Coughlin—or whatever the scenario should be or could be.
I really feel like one of the things that I can teach most effectively is this right here. I did not learn that it was important to be myself until I was probably 35-37 years-old. The way I look at it: if I can help them do that at 30, they are in a lot better stage down the road than maybe I was. And I think it can really help them—get up on the block, go to an interview, take an exam—if they really are in-touch with it’s okay to have some shortcomings and really aware of what they do well. So that is my number one suggestion.
My number two suggestion is: being willing to ask for help. Some of you heard me say this last night—or some of you that know me—I am the oldest of 10. When you grow up the oldest of 10, you are the help. You do not ask for a help, you are the help, right. And because of some other family situations, I was even more the help, with my biological father passing away when I was 6 years-old. So my family circumstances taught me that I was the help; and so, I really, really had to learn this lesson.
I know when I first got to Cal, here I had Nort Thornton on the other side of the deck; I bet I did not ask Nort a question—a real question—for probably 2-4 years. Because I was more concerned that if I asked Nort a dumb question, what would he think of me instead of… I thought he would think less of me. One of my other overriding, teaching themes with my athletes is that: asking for help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness. I really felt I personally got that message /learned that message/believed that message that if I asked for help, I was signifying that I did not know something, which was a sign of weakness instead of really the ability to ask for help and support as a sign of strength.
Another way to ask for help, or another kind of theme in that area, is just finding good mentors and people that you trust. You know, I have been very fortunate to be a part of a group of women that are coaches or were coaches. We meet once a year and have the opportunity to get together and just talk about our lives. Talk about us, talk about what is going on for us. Not what set we are doing, or what are you doing in dryland, how are you electing captains; but really looking at, you know, what are we as coaches, what are we as women, struggling with and how can we support each other in that regard.
I am really fortunate that I get to work at a university with 30 intercollegiate sports; I have some amazing other coaches that I have access to. I really think that tapping in to coaches of different sports is an invaluable experience. You know, I get the great fortune of taking a very individual sport and creating a team. I believe a lot of athletes that grow-up swimming really do not have the idea of what it truly means to be a part of a team. It is very interesting to talk to a soccer coach or a basketball coach or a rugby coach; their challenges are very different than our challenges are and it is often very enlightening.
I think asking for help also means seeking out other experts. As a head coach, assistant coach, whatever, I think you are doing a disservice to your athletes to think that you could have all the answers. You know, whether they be nutritional, weightlifting, emotional—whatever it is. There are a lot of things that are at least presented to my table, day-in and day-out, that I just do not have the skill-set to take care of. I think part of my biggest responsibility is to understand which of those crises, or situations, I can handle; and which is really, really doing my due-diligence to go out and get an expert to help me with that. You know that can be as much as a yoga instructor or a pilates instructor.
I think when you do that, you need to be really careful. You need to vet that expert, too. Just because they have the credentials, it does not mean that their philosophies are in-line with yours as a coach. I have had that situation, where I have not done my due-diligence on bringing someone into our program. It has been a number of years ago, now; but just when pilates, the first initial stage of pilates, we had someone around campus that had a studio close. I was like oh this is great, I’ll send my six top women to go work with this gentleman, twice a week and they’ll get bonus work and everything. Ended up that within about six weeks, four of them had hurt their back so much that they could not swim. Because they were not really getting good instruction in pilates; he did not really understand, sort of, the mindset of the competitive athlete that they will do anything to achieve the task right. If he said do x, they would do x; but he was not really coaching….
So what was happening is they were going every week, and he was so excited about how they were progressing that the quality of the movement was not really being coached, the task was being coached. So they were achieving the task, but at some point they ended-up hurting themselves. I think that was really an aha moment for me, to really make sure that the people that I do bring into the program really have a good understanding of the type of athlete that we are working with and as a coach what my goal was to have that brought into the program.
I also think books are huge. I wish I could read faster and I wish I had more time. Where I am getting a lot of good reading done, actually, is on National Team trips—on airplanes and on buses. I think reading, in particularly the business section; I am fascinated by business books on leadership, and team dynamics and building. I have read a lot of Phil Jackson’s books; last summer, I read his Eleven Rings—just, you know, bringing a lot of different superstars together and working as a team.
I feel like there are some things that I… struggle is not the right word; some of the things that I am working on right now. I have a team of amazing women with diverse and various abilities; really getting them to look at what their roles are and how they can celebrate them and appreciate them. And not watch one or two people, and expect one or two people to kind of carry the load. So that has been really exceptional as well.
I think when you go to hire help and you look at your staff, you want to make sure that you hire somebody that complements you. The worse thing in the world is to have a Teri and a mini-Teri next to her doing exactly the same thing. I have been very mindful in hiring my assistants in the last… probably at least the last three assistants and getting help in doing that. Some of you know Kathie Wickstrand, who is a former Swimming coach and now life coach. She does an amazing job and helps me in a variety of ways—personally and with the team.
One of the things that we have used with the team and I have used in hiring staff is a DISC behavior analysis. The DISC is on what you value. (You can look it up: D.I.S.C.) What it does is it tells you what is important to you as an individual, and what your strengths are, and how you will show-up under stress and what your value to the team is. I use it with the team—every year the team does it; during our retreat, we work through that and carry that through the season, So that when we are looking at each other, or we are getting on each other’s nerves, we talk about it being behavior and not personality, and how to adapt. And for them to understand: sometimes as a coach, my job is to adapt to them; but their job is also to adapt to the coaching staff.
But it has been very important to me when I have hired someone to really make sure that person brings different strengths to the table. And the other thing I would say with looking for help is: I think all of us need what I call a truth-teller. I think we need someone in our life that is willing to tell us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear, you know. I think that there are things that I need to be told at times, or ways that I can be better, that I do not maybe always want to hear but that I need to hear so that I continue to improve. If you can find someone, or maybe a couple of those, that is an invaluable resource for not only you as a coach, but I think as a human being. So I encourage everyone to find a truth-teller in their life.
My third suggestion is to look at your communication styles, and are they effective? I think ,you know, communication; buzz word, right? What does that mean? I have got eight things I would like you to think about as far as communication. One is to really look the reality that your athletes… there are visual learners, there are auditory learners, and there are kinesthetic learners. Maybe five years ago, I got this amazing assessment from Chris Martin gave me. It was like 24 questions, that I give to the team, that they answer. And it really identifies, if they do not already know—and sometimes they know, but sometimes they might not realize it as much—but, you know: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.
I said to someone earlier: this lecture is like when the coach is giving the set and they do not write it up on the board and it is really hard to pay attention, sometimes. Right? My experience has been that more and more athletes are very, very powerful kinesthetic learners. And I think it is a little challenging sometimes—for a variety of reasons: they are in the water and we are up on deck—and to be able to teach and show things, and really have that ability to touch or have them do it with a partner and cue certain things, has been really, really valuable. That has been something that I have used.
I think the other thing in your communication styles that is with you and your team or staff, or your staff or athletes back with you, is that the idea of nonverbal. I am finding more and more students coming-in that really are not in-touch with what their nonverbal communication is saying.
Last year, beginning of the year, we were in a team meeting, and I had a freshman. Like the first meeting, she is kind of sitting there, and you know I am thinking okay that’s not really the type of… that’s not visually what I would expect from a freshman at the first or second meeting of the year. Finally, I could not take it anymore, and I was like, “Can you sit up and stop rolling your eyes every time I say something?” And she goes, “What, I’m not rolling my eyes.” I go “Yes, you are.” And then I asked the rest of the girls, “Did anyone noticed her body language sitting in the meeting?” And you know half of them raised their hand. And I go, “Is that the body language of somebody that looks like they’re engaged or wants to be here?” And she had no idea; that was a furthest from what she thought she was sending. But the reality is that is the message she was sending me and her teammates. So I think that is something to really check-in with.
I heard Pete Morgan say last night about eye contact. You know, I do not think, because a lot of them are like this: how many of you have asked somebody… Oh, I talked to her yesterday and Well, I texted her. My thing is like: in the real world, texting is not talking to somebody. They believe that if you text someone, that you actually talk to them; in their world, texting and talking are the same thing. Maybe I am wrong—and I have never had a real job—but I am pretty sure in the real world that you have to learn how to talk to people and you have to be able to look them in eye.
Those subtle things are very, very—well they are not so subtle—are very, very important, and skills that I feel is part of my responsibility to teach. We do a lot of partner-sharing; where you have to sit face-to-face with your partner and look them in the eye and talk to them. Some of them cannot do that. But again, I think that is something that you can all learn; they can learn and they can get more effective at.
I have been accused more than a few times that my nonverbal communication also sends things out. You know whether it be the way you walk into the pool. I have had my supervisor at my school say that sometimes I need to check-in with that when we are at a staff meeting; that I might shrug my shoulders or something, and, you know, I am not sending-out the best thing. So I think that is something that we all can check-in with.
I use a book called QBQ! The Question Behind the Question; it is by John Miller. Nort turned me onto it about 10 years ago. I used the book last year again with the team; I had everybody read the book. It is this really quick-read, and it is really the ability to ask for what you want. That has been a great way to have the student-athletes, have myself, check-in with are we really asking questions that are addressing what we want or are we, kind of, trying to circumvent that. So that might be something some of you might want to check out with your staff or you personally.
The other thing I have done more with, in the last five years in particular, is journaling and writing. A couple of times last year, in particular when there might have been things on the team that I wanted to work through, and I just, you know… before we got in the water, brought my little pencil case out, gave everybody two or three pages of blank paper. And said, “Okay, I’m going to ask you some questions. I just want you to write whatever comes to mind. You’re not going to give it to me; you can throw it away, you can keep it, whatever it is.” And we just went. You know, one of the questions was like Am I being a good team member? And, if not, why not, and if I am, what am I doing? you know. Just getting them to kind of think about things.
This summer on Pan Pacs, I put together this journal for the women’s team and some of the staff. One of the reasons I did it for—it is one of the first times that I have used the National Team to try something before I actually done it with my own team—but I have been able to go on so many great teams and been in so many amazing places in the world, and they all kind of blended together. And I thought: how cool would it be to kind of have this book that every day I could journal in and just kind of save that memory. And I gave them little cues. One of the cues was like: What team member am I most anxious to meet and why? Another one we talked about: How do I show up on social media versus my real self? And looking at: what’s it like to have a USA flag on your cap? You know, what does that mean to you.
So I think journaling has been a really valuable way, personally, for me to get clear on my thoughts. I also use it to write… I will get the girls a blank piece of paper that will ask them questions, and then they give that back to me. It might be like, you know: what are the three things I’m working on and how am I going to work on that. We had that last year, and I used it through the summer, where I had one blank sheet, they turned it in every week and it said this week my challenges are ______; my racing skills I’m working on are _____ and how am I going do them. You know, it can have whatever it is.
Last year, during the academic year, the first thing was: list ten accomplishments. You have no idea how hard it was for these women to list ten accomplishments. They can give you ten things that they have not done, but, really…. ten accomplishments. And then really defining what an accomplishment was. You know, like Okay, I did my laundry. Well, that is not really an accomplishment; it is like well if it had to get done and it’s important to you, then it’s an accomplishment, you know. Just kind of looking at those things. So that really gave us a lot of good information to talk through.
I mentioned earlier, with the eye contact, the partner sharing. I like to do a lot of things, even during… you know, after a set say Okay, you have two minutes to talk to the people in your lane and tell them what was the most effective thing you got out of that set and how’s it going to relate to your race at the end of the season and give them two minutes to do that.
Another great book and person—he writes a blog—is a gentleman named Tim Elmore. He writes a blog on what he calls Generation IY: people that are born after 1992, with the invention of the internet. Just some staggering statistics: you know that the average college freshman contacts their parent via text at minimum 11 times a day. So they are in college and at least 11 times a day, they are texting their parent. He talks a lot about how the idea of adolescence really getting larger.
If you ask this age group, the age group that I am working with, when do they consider themselves being adult? Now most of them will answer: when they have their first child. Not when they graduate from college, not when they get a job, not when they get married; but when they have their first child—which I think is 28, average on 28. But if they want to know anything, what do they do? Get the phone and they have got the answer. So they have knowledge, but they do not have the experience that goes along with that knowledge, which is really creating some challenges, I think.
The other thing about this generation is that they are more tolerant than ever, and they very much like to interact and support each other. It used to drive me crazy when they would talk to each other or whatever. Now, I encourage that. Like if I am going to teach something, I might give the skill and then I might put them in little groups and then…. At school, we have what we call family pods; so every freshman has a group of upperclassmen that are her big sister—or that is her family pod. So we do a lot of things “in your family pod”.
This year at the beginning of the year, instead of going over sort of some basic team rules or expectations and doing it in front of a group of 25, I met for 35-40 minutes with every family pod and we basically went over the same thing. But what I did instead, I had every upperclassman in that family pod say, Okay, can you give what your one tip for academic success is. So every returner gave her tip for what she would need to do to be academically successful. Okay, now give her one tip to be athletically successful on this team, and so then they went through. And it was fascinating for me too to hear what they felt was the most important piece of knowledge to go through.
I guarantee you, I could have done that in a team setting of 25. But the fact that we did it in a smaller group and that group will meet through the year—and we did some other things out at the pool in that group—that group then becomes the responsibility of like lifting each other up and supporting each other as we move through the year. So that has been something that has been really valuable.
The other thing is this whole idea of the internet. We have had, and just went on, a retreat. And as luck would have it, when we go on the retreat, where we go, there is no cell phone service. Kind of by design, but kind of really cool too. Because then for 48 hours, they do not have the distraction of their phone and they just get the opportunity to just interact with each other. It has really, really been a great thing.
We have gone on training trips—during the Summer, I have done this more—and I have asked the girls to give me two hours a day that they will use their electronic devices and then for the other 22 hours we are not. They get to decide what two hours those are; and that goes for the coaching staff too. So we do not tap-into any electronic stuff except for those two hours, when you can check your email, text, Twitter/tweet, whatever you want, to your heart’s content; but then for the other 22 hours, we are just amongst themselves. That has been really interesting.
I also have used… last year I had a team meeting and I told them that they had to bring their laptop. And I wanted to talk about the idea of time management. There is a story that I used to use about big rocks in the jar. Most of you have probably heard this. You know, the jar, you have got to put the big rocks in first, and then the little ones, then the gravel, then the sand. If you put the sand in, the big ones do not fit. Well, instead of me kind of doing that or having them read it, if you Google big rocks, all these little things come up. And so I just sent them a link to watch that video on their individual laptop.
Most of the time, what are we doing? We are telling them: put that thing away. And I actually said Hey, bring it out and used it. And it was really… they are much more visual in their learning—than I am, anyway. And that whole idea of watching. I think if you can use some of that to your advantage, it engages them as well.
And then the last thing I have for communication is just to really check-in with how you are communicating to them. You know the reality is most of the time, we are standing on the deck and they are down in the water. Right? That is a whole dynamic right there; just insinuates a lot of things. Whenever we have a team meeting… even this dynamic here: okay, I’m standing here, you are this way, you are looking at me. It is probably not realistic, but if we were in a circle that would be a completely different physical situation; that would set-up a whole different environment. Whenever we have a team meeting, we always sit in a circle. And I really check-in with… like instead of me standing or if I am going to talk or an athlete is going to talk, then everyone stands who talks, not just the coaches. Or we all sit down, and do things. So I think that is something to kind of really check-in with.
And then one other thing for communication that I found has been very helpful. Has anyone besides me ever met with an athlete or even met with your team—but primarily it is like an individual that you meet with—and you think you have this great meeting and you have communicated what you want, and then you hear them say to somebody else what you talked about and they have missed completely what you wanted to say. You are like were we in the same room? One of the things that I try to do is I will ask them to repeat what I said. Because if you ask them to repeat what you said, they really have to get the essence and hear what you are saying. That has really, really helped me make sure that I am communicating and that they are hearing the right thing. They might hear sometimes what you have to say, but they are not really getting the message. If they have to communicate that back, I think that really forces them to articulate it.
This year I am going to do something different, too. When I have a disciplinary issue, I am going to…. We have a leadership council and then we have two individuals that are kind of the… I do not know what we are going to call them. But anytime I have a disciplinary issue, one of those two people are going to need to be in the room when I talk to that young lady. I think it is going to help that young lady, hopefully, feel that she is not being ganged-up on and that she has support. But it is also going to be a neutral person that when she maybe is saying that I said x and I really said y, this person can kind of be the voice of reason. Luckily I have not had to use it yet, but I think that is something I am anxious to check out.
My fourth tip—and kind of goes in-line with this and I heard Gregg say this yesterday—but the idea of having hard conversations or taking advantage of teaching moments. As a young coach, I was so worried about saying the right thing, that I do not think I did justice to myself and, more importantly, I did not do justice to the student-athlete. That I waited to have the right moment; I waited to have the right words. And, yes, I think we all need to wait until we are in a time when we can be calm and be the teacher and the coach that we want to be. But now, what I try to do if there is something that I see that is not in line with collective behavior that I am looking for, individual behavior, I will just say okay, we have a teaching moment.
One of the ones that comes to mind is two or three years ago we were vying for a national title. In the 200 fly, the last day, I had one of my athletes goggles fill-up; and she decided that instead of just swimming with water in her goggles, she needed to take her goggles off. Which, just nicely, put her out of the top-16 to score any points. Personally, for someone who swam competitively for 12 years and never raced in goggles—I guess I wore glasses—but I am pretty sure that we all, or there are other people in this room, that have lived by getting water in your eyes, right? And I just did not… I was like, Oh, my gosh; like, if I say something… is this the right time? You know, what’s going to happen? But if I wait until we get back home, like that is not…. It was not so much about the goggles, to me, as it was about her sending a message to the rest of the team that she was not willing to be uncomfortable for a greater cause than her comfort. It was really, you know the last session before the meet, that was something that I brought-up in the team meeting.
And like Gregg said yesterday, one of the things I think I have gotten better at, is having those hard conversations at the meet. I think sometimes when we are at the meet, we do not want to do it because they might have more events or whatever it maybe. But I do believe, like he said, that is the time when they are most… it is the most important to them, and you can have the most impact. It can be explosive, and I think, sometimes, that is okay. You know, it is okay to have them be upset or whatever.
And again, as a young coach, I think I spent a lot of time wanting my athletes to like me. I would much rather have them respect me than like me. I still do not like it when they go home and they might be upset with me. But I think if I have had that hard conversation and I have said it in a place that lets them know that I have their best interest at heart, I hope that they can hear it and move forward.
My fifth tip or suggestion is: coach the total person. I love this saying that I do not think your athlete cares what you know until they know that you care. So I really believe that your athletes, probably particularly women, because young and older women are more relationship-driven; men—these are stereotypical—men tend to be more task-oriented and motivated by task, women tend to be more motivated by the relationship and working together.
Another awesome books: there is a book called The Female Brain and [one called] The Male Brain. And it talks about why. Again, anyone besides me, it just makes you… it is nails-on-a-chalkboard. Sometimes when the girls are getting ready to get in the pool, and they are braiding each other’s hair and hugging each other; I am like, Oh, my god we’re like…. But this book talks about why they do that; they cannot help themselves, their brains and their hormones are telling them that they have got to work together. I think kind of understanding that and again checking-in with that.
Coaching the total person to me, too, is just asking them a question as simple as How did you do on your exam today? you know. Or How’s your roommate? How’s your mom? How’s your dog? I just had one girl that her cat died that she has had since she was 3. I mean, it may be silly to some people, but not acknowledging that would have been just really, really bad in my relationship of working with this young lady. The fact that I acknowledged it, talked about it, asked her about it, and she was able to articulate why that was so upsetting; I really think, not only does… like to me, I look at it as I want to coach human beings. If I just wanted to run a workout, I could coach horses or dogs or something like that. I like the messy part of working with another human being and that relationship. So, again, female, right?
I think coaching the total person means challenging your athletes to be their best. Personal accountability, personal excellence is a huge value/cornerstone in my idea of success and of my value system. That is something that is really important to me.
I have another favorite saying, that I am sure the girls do not always like. I think some of you might have some athletes that are always telling you what they are going to do. Does anyone have athletes where they say: I’m going to do this and I’m going to do that. And after a while, my response back to them is, “I can’t hear you anymore because your actions are speaking so loudly.” You know, they are saying one thing and their actions are doing something different. In my book, whatever your actions are saying is really what you are doing. It does not matter what is coming out of your mouth; it is what your actions, day-in and day-out, what they are saying, that I am going to believe and listen and respond to. So that is kind of in my coaching the total person.
Number six: be mindful of the impact of your role as a coach. To me, this is the scariest thing in the world. When you coach somebody, you know it might have been 15-20 years ago, and they come up and they tell you the story remember x y z and you said x y z and you have no idea. And they are still hanging-on to something that you said twenty years ago, you know. It is a humbling experience to me, and I think God or whoever does that to me every now and then just to keep me in check. To keep me in check with that as a coach, I have an unbelievably powerful influence and that my responsibility is to use that in a very meaningful, impactful, positive way. And that if I do or say something that inadvertently does not have that impact, then it is my job and my responsibility to clean that up.
I also think as coaches that, whether we like it or not, they are watching us all the time, and our job is to just model that behavior. You know, model self-care, model that there are things more important than to swimming meet, there are things more important than a best time, there are things more important than a workout. I used to think I had to be at every workout, and I could not take time to go see my family or my mom or whatever it would be. I think it is important that I model that behavior; and I talked to them about why I need time-off, what I do to refill my well, what I do to take care of myself, what my challenges are in balance. Because they are having those exact same challenges. If we can help coach and mentor and talk about that at an earlier age, I think we would get less people that when they get real jobs and in….
You know, these kids are stressed-out—I said this last night. My experience has been that they will apologize if they are not as stressed as their teammate right now. You know, people my age when you say Hey, how are you doing?, whether or not it is true, people say fine. If their age, How are you doing?, Oh, I’m stressed. You know, they are stressed. I have a hangnail, I am stressed; my mom has cancer, I am stressed: it is the same level of stress.
They do not have the ability—not all of them—but they do not have, I think, the ability to sort of manage that and keep perspective. Everything is a crisis—everything is a crisis. And if everything is a crisis at 16, 17, 18, what is it going to be like when you are 28, 38, 48 and you have real crisis. You know, getting a B instead of an A on your exam is not a crisis, guys. Not making an Olympic team, that is not a crisis. One of my pet peeves is Oh my gosh, so and so didn’t make the Olympic team, like how devastating. If that is the worse thing that happens to them in their life, that is a pretty-damn-good life; you know, that is not the end of the world. I feel like it is my responsibility to help with that perspective. So that was number six.
Number seven: just teaching the fundamentals. For me, when… I think sometimes, like the word coach implies fixing the things that are wrong. I think coaching also is about exploiting the things that they do right. Sometimes, I feel like I spend too much time trying to coach-up their weaknesses, instead of just really looking at what do they do well and just exploiting that. You know, if you are good at underwater, then how do we just make that so great that it becomes this weapon. Do not just assume that it is going be good, and now we are going to work on something else; but I think really doing that.
I loved… Gregg said this yesterday—and this is one of my other pet peeves—is like you know the idea that you do technique work and fundamental work at the beginning of the season and then you start training. No: technique, fundamentals are all the time.
I also believe: they are all the time that you are not training. As a college coach, I have impact and control over 4 hours a day; they, as an athlete, they have control over the other 20. I am pretty sure those 20 can impact the performance probably more than those 4 can. And I think really looking at the fundamentals of that. And fundamentals also is about good nutrition, sleeping.
You know, I think sleep is a huge thing, right now. For some reason, the outside world thinks Swimming coaches like to get up at 4:30 in the morning. Does anyone like getting… is there anyone here that likes getting up at 4:30 in the morning? There is probably a couple; okay, that is great. But for the most part, I do not think people would choose to get-up at 4:30 in the morning and go to workout. Or like get-up before school, or whatever it is.
One thing I am looking at with my college team is really looking at their sleep. When I talked about those journals, I have them write and keep track of their sleep. You know, now you can get one of those… I am kind of scared to get one of those fitbit things—or whatever they are called—because I am pretty sure I am in sleep-deprivation for two or three years. You know, I do not think you can make it up on a weekend. But I think that that’s just something that I….
One of the sayings that Kathie has, and I love, is: Don’t do or make any decisions when you’re tired, lonely and hungry. And I do not know, but as a swim coach, I am tired way-more than I am not tired; and I think that if I feel that way. Also I am 52, and they are 20; so I realize that is factoring into it. But I think that really looking at their sleep, is a really important component. And then obviously fundamentals, and just the basics of how to be a great swimmer.
Number eight: spend time addressing your environment and your culture. I mean I know there have been talks on this all weekend, and I could. This to me is the part that is the most challenging and the most rewarding. I do not think because I require everyone to train in a Cal cap, that all of a sudden oh, now we’re a team. You know, what you are wearing, that does not make them a team. Or if you are looking for a positive… I think a lot of people say Well, we expect you to have a positive attitude. If you do not define what a positive attitude is, and you have 25 people on your team, you have 25 different definitions of what a positive attitude is.
So it takes time, but I think that that is time well-spent addressing what is expected in that training environment. What is expected when you go on a meet? I mean, we talk about if you are upset on a swim, what is your responsibility to your other teammates.
You know, how many time have you been in your team area, and one athlete has a great swim and another one has a poor swim; and the one that has a great swim is afraid to acknowledge that and feel good about it because Joe Schmo over here is crying and woah is me. You know we talk about the idea… God, the girls have this word for warming down and crying at the same time—I forget what it is. But they have got a word, and I love that. You know that is an appropriate time, put your goggles on, keep swimming back and forth, yell, cry, scream, whatever you need to do; and then when you get-out, let us make sure we are checking-in with that behavior and how it is affecting you teammates, your team environment, and how it is affecting your next swim.
So I think that whole idea of environment and culture, and spending time on that, is time well spent.
Number nine is just: stay a learner, yourself. Obviously, everyone in this room believes that is important or you would not come to something like [the] ASCA [World Clinic]. I am a firm believer that once you think you have all the answers, you are not getting any better. I think we are all… I believe, I am in process: I am a coach today, hopefully I am a better coach tomorrow, and I will be even a better coach in a year. That is about staying engaged in that learning process. Being open to new ideas and sifting through them; and putting myself in uncomfortable situations and challenging myself. I just think that that goes back to that modeling: if we are expecting our athletes to do that, I think it is important that we do that ourselves,
And then my last suggestion is that: this better be fun. And I do not mean fun like every morning—you know, the morning thing—every morning you get up and yeah! But like: where is the joy in this. I really think this age group is like Well, I’m just not having fun anymore. Well, fun can be like the journey of a hard work; the journey of a season. I think fun is just getting… like I tell the girls, I’m not the cruise director, okay. That is not my job: I am not the cruise director—yeah here we go, we’re having fun. But my job is to create an environment where there is joy and there is… that is where you want to be. At 1:15 in the afternoon, that is where you want to be. When you could be anywhere, like is that where they want to be.
And more importantly: is that where you want to be as a coach. You know, I feel amazingly blessed that I get to do something that I absolutely love every day. And I think, I hope, a lot of you in the room feel that way about what you get to do and being a coach. We all know people that are living their life and hating what they do every day, or just not feeling joy from it. I just challenge you to just show your athletes that joy and communicate that joy. And what is important to you and what gets you up every morning. We are asking them that, and I think it is important that we communicate to them what brings us joy and what makes us have a good time as well.
(So, how did I do? Uh-oh: one minute over. All right.) I hope there is something there that you guys can take, and good luck. Thank you.
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