The Empowerment of Women Through Sports by Susan Ingraham (2008)


Thank you all for coming. I am Susan Ingraham. I am head coach for Masters of South Texas. I have been coaching my Masters team for about seven years and I wanted to address women as coaches, women as athletes and maybe stimulate some things for you to think about. Maybe be more aware of, whether you are a woman or not, coaching women, or maybe you have an assistant coach who is a woman. You know, we think differently and this is just kind of exploring the needs of women as coaches and as athletes.

My swim team is comprised of a lot of B and C level swimmers. We do welcome anyone, as long as you can put your face in the water and you don’t even have to learn to do bubbles quite yet. I have every ability that is in the water and I would say we are 50/50 as far as men and women. It doesn’t even matter about my 8:30 group, which you would think that would be a bunch of my soccer moms, but I have a lot of men that have flexible schedules. So, in almost every workout, we are kind of a 50/50 group. Anyway, what I am going to do through the day is, I have several quotes that I have come across that I like. I am not going to address those specifically, but I am just going to throw those up there, so hopefully you can take away some with you today. Not only just ideas or things to think about, and things to incorporate either in your coaching or your interactions on the deck or in the water, but maybe there is a quote that you can take home with you that you would like.

It’s More than a Sport…It’s Someone’s Life

What got me thinking about talking about this subject is, one time I was walking down the street with my son and there was a man walking down the street and I probably didn’t say a very nice comment about how he was walking. I said, “Now why would he even want to walk like that”, and my son, as most children are, pretty insightful, says, “Well, because he wants attention. He wants you to notice him.” And I said, “Okay.” Then he says, “It is no different than you are always walking around like you are some athlete or something.” I was like, “What!?” And I got offended by that and I took a step back and I said, “You know what? I do, do that”

Are you really you, or are you what people have told you you are?

I am proud that I am an athlete. I wear short sleeves quite often and I am proud of my arms and proud of my shoulders. Even when I was in college when you think of a lot of female swimmers at that age, we are pretty self-conscious of everything. A lot of people go, “Oh, are you a body builder?” You know, just because you have those big arms. And I learned to be very proud of my arms, very proud of my body and I think that really equated to being more confident when I am out in public and hopefully public speaking today since I am a nervous wreck.

But, it is those things that just make us stronger people. So anyway, he was asking why I do that, and I do try to project that, when I am on the deck. So, I am asking you today: What is your identity? Are you someone that just swims or are you a swimmer? Do you just coach college swimmers or are you a collegiate coach? And I want you to see what drives you to do what you do and how do you identify yourself? Because how you think of yourself, is how you project yourself to others. So, when you have that confidence, then they will see that in you and you can sell yourself to your athletes as a coach and they will believe in you.

And so that is why, when I present some of my crazy sets that I do, some wild challenges, and I say that you can do that, they believe that. I have 22 people this year who have done a straight 500 fly because I told them that they could do that. I gave them the training and I put that in motion and they came on the deck and they told me, I am ready to do my 500 today, because I gave them the faith in themselves. A lot of people have doubts about what they can achieve, but it is something that they can do. They do not want to do the One Hour, but you can stop as often as you want and when they are done they are very proud of themselves.

I talked about when you have different athletes in the water and I will use that One Hour again as an example. If you have a strong swimmer that comes up to you and says, “I do not want to do the One Hour” and I go, “That’s too bad. You know I need it for the team score.” You shouldn’t let them get out of it, and give them a challenge. “Not only are you going to do it, but I would like for you to go 50 yards more than you did last year.” If you have a swimmer that is not as strong and they say, “Well, I don’t want to do that. I am intimidated.” You have to be positive and reassuring. Tell them they can stop as often as they want. They can get a drink of water. They can eat a bagel. They can make a phone call. They can go to the bathroom during this, but you just want them to try and do something out of the box. So, don’t let them get out of it just because they are not a strong swimmer. You still want that challenge out there and at the end, they are proud of what they have achieved. They are surprised that they were able to swim an hour straight. So whether it is a strong swimmer or a weaker swimmer, you can find challenges, and tell them how they are going to do it in a positive way that sounds achievable, that they can do that.

Don’t keep blaming yourself. Blame yourself one time and move on.

What I wanted to talk a little bit about is sometimes that we look at ourselves in kind of negative ways and it stays with us. “Well, I can’t do a 500 fly because I have never been able to do that.” I think sometimes people hold onto some negative feelings. Then what we need to do as coaches is find positive ways so they can look at themselves in positive ways. What I do each year is I try and challenge my swimmers with a postal event: the One Hour, the 10K, the 5K, 6,000 and a 3,000 swim. Those are all national events and last year I had 21 people do all five. We had one of the largest turn-outs to do those and my quote here is trying to find something bigger than themselves where they find gratification with what they achieved, again with the 500 fly.

You find something that is larger than your life and you can take from that and put it into your life. It makes your life much richer.

Last year, I was very, very sick in November and had some serious surgery. And when I got back on the deck and I am kind of stumbling around and I am saying, Oh, the One Hour is coming…the One Hour is coming. And they are like, “Oh, we don’t have to do the One Hour this year because you can’t.” And I say, “Oh no, I am going to swim this and I said, “Not only that, I want to enter some medley relays.” So, not only did I get 75% of the people participating, but I had 11 people do the entire hour butterfly, and another 11 did it backstroke, and another 11 did it breaststroke. So we, as a team, entered the one hour postal with 11 medley relays. We had that many people participate in doing an hour of that. I was pretty excited that we kind of set that up that year.

A lot of times, what I find is that the women tend to be very quiet in practice and they kind of get overlooked. I think we need to encourage them and look and see what they have or have not done in swim meets. Maybe challenge them to do a 200 backstroke. I did get a quote one time from someone who was thanking me for including her on a relay. She had been on two other teams and just circumstances made her move around and the coaches never utilized her so she wrote me back and said, “Thank you again for including me on relays. You do not know how special that is to me and how much it has motivated me to continue to train hard.” There are just little things that you can do in noticing people to help them stay in swimming and enjoy what they are doing.

Whatever you are, be a good one.

I think we need to kind of look and see the people that surround us. What is great about swimming is, as a coach, you can kind of control the atmosphere and you can make it a positive environment. That is hopefully a healthy environment. The reason they are there, is they want to do something positive with themselves. They want to be better. They want to be more fit. So, you are surrounding yourself with people that want to look at their health and who want to be better themselves.

I think that sometimes we find that you have become what you surround yourself with. If you are heavy, you tend to hang out with people that are heavy also. If you are a smoker you hang out with smokers, or if you are a soccer mom you hang out with people that have young children. If you are single, you hang out with singles. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a positive or negative thing all the time, but if you wanted to quit smoking you need to stop hanging out with the people that smoke and if you want to be more fit, you need to hang out with people that are more fit. Don’t just try and do things on your own. Surround yourself with people that will support you in your ideas and what you want to either move toward or move away from.

I find society tends to be more negative towards women and people. How many times do we see diet ads? Basically they keep saying we need to lose weight, but what are they really saying? They are saying that you are fat. And I find that we tend to hold people down as far as having a positive experience and a positive attitude about themselves. We have talked about models and why they always use models that are 5’ 10” and weigh 110 pounds. We need to look at a more positive way to encourage people. It seems to me that we are doing a lot of negative things in public in advertising.

What I like about my swim team is we have gone through a lot of changes. We have had people that got married. We have had people that had babies. We have had people that have unfortunately, had some deaths in the family. But in the seven years that I have been coaching, I don’t have one divorce and I think that is phenomenal. And I don’t know what it is, but certainly nothing I am preaching, on the deck and being a marriage counselor. But it’s the people. You think that they are in the pool, they are trying to do something positive for themselves. They are staying healthy and hopefully they are keeping their spouse healthy, even if they are not a swimmer themselves. Hopefully, they are eating better and doing better things for themselves and their body and their family and I think they have a better positive attitude toward themselves which rolls over into their marriages. I mean, everybody wants to be married to a happy person that is not down all the time and I think that has been the atmosphere out there. I think that is a phenomenal statistic that we have had. We have a lot of positive energy on the team.

I did try and start it that way. It wasn’t my goal to have world record holders. I wanted a great, positive and supportive environment and it just rolls over from there. We don’t have one bad apple that is in the group. There isn’t that person that comes on the deck and you are like, oh, my gosh, Steve is here again today. He likes his own lane and he won’t go on the right interval and he is always hitting my feet, and I don’t have to do that anymore.

They do it for themselves. I can hear the chatter in the lanes. I might have been the ringleader seven years ago, but the club runs itself. So that when a new person gets in and they already go: this is the environment…this how we are going to go. This is what we talk about. And my 8:30 group is the chattiest group that I have ever seen in my life. I am not sure how they get all their swimming in, but they know all about each other. And it just feeds off of that, so as soon as that new person walks in the door they are welcomed. They know this is going to be a positive experience for them. And they want to come back and I really, really am so fortunate with the group that I have. This is positive energy all the time.

If you are good, be better.

As a coach, I want you to kind of think, what are your strengths? Are you a cheerleader? Are you a motivator? Do you like to crack the whip? Find out what is your strength which you can bring to your club and then build off of that. You can’t be all things to all people, but what you can be is genuine to yourself and everyone else will see that. What I find is, within my own team, I am good at inspiring people, but I am not a very good at complimenting. You would think that that would be the same thing, but I can’t do it. I can say…I can think…I love your top. It is so cute, but I can’t tell that to somebody. Sometimes it just doesn’t come out of my mouth, but I don’t beat myself up over it. I can inspire people to do things more than they thought they could do. I can set goals for people that do not want goals, and I can help get them there and that makes them feel better. So, where I can’t give a full compliment out on that day, I am hoping to inspire them in other ways that they feel better about themselves.

What I can also do, is that I know people’s strokes. I can be at an open water competition from about a quarter mile away, if I am wearing my glasses, I can see their stroke and I know who is coming in. I know them. I can tell by their stroke, who is having a bad day. I will even go up to them and I say, “What is going on?” And they ask, “Why?” And I say, it’s just not you in the water. And I can see that. I barely know their spouse’s name, some of them I do not even know if they are married. I don’t know how many children they have. That is what their group is for. They are social in and of themselves. I know their strokes and I know how to motivate them. I know their buttons. I know for the most part, all their intervals and what they can handle. So, you don’t have to be the social director for them. Just again, stay with your strengths. People ask, “Hey, what is the name of that dentist at the 6 a.m. workout? And I say, “I don’t know. Is he a freestyler?”

Be kinder than necessary on this day, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

What I was saying in here is, I might not know what Kelly does for a living and I certainly don’t know what Traci does outside of the pool. I don’t know who is dating a professional football player. But I can motivate them to come to practice, to challenge themselves when they are there, to have a positive experience as a swimmer. Because for all we know, Marsha’s son could have diabetes. Kelly just got fired and Traci’s boyfriend abuses her. But if I can make the pool a positive environment then they have safety there. I want to use an example of one of my swimmers whose husband died suddenly on a Sunday. She came home from work and found him. She was at the pool on Tuesday and it just took my breath away to know what had just happened and I said to her, “What are you doing here? She says, “Where else would I go?” And I thought – WOW! That was special to me and special to everyone that was in the water, to know that this was the place of security for her.

What is great with women’s sport is we are moving forward. It wasn’t that long ago that women were only allowed to play 3 on 3 basketball and you could only go half court because one would be a defensive player and didn’t know how to shoot, and others got to play the offense all the time. Even in my lifetime, women were not allowed to run the marathon and women were not even allowed to swim the mile because, heaven forbid, they may not make it. The most they were allowed to swim was the 800. It is so fun to be in my era, to see where it has been in such a short period of time and moving forward. You know, in middle school I wasn’t even allowed to take a mechanical drawing class because I was a girl. And that was in the 70’s. It was a class and I went and petitioned it and my parents petitioned it and I still was not allowed to and I was like, what could I do wrong in a mechanical drawing class?

I’ll tell you why I’ll win:
She’s a woman, and they just don’t have the emotional stability.

So anyway, I am sure that most of you know about Billie Jean King and I just love it that this kind of started the women in sports issue and bringing that forward and say, yes, we can compete. Not at the same level, nor will we ever be at the same level. Men will always be stronger, I am not saying that, but the opportunities are there and I think that is great that we can be recognized for the athletes that women are.

Q: ? A: He probably didn’t recognize that. And I think that women are allowed to be more assertive now, versus being looked bad upon for stepping out and speaking out for themselves that you can be out there and show that you are a strong woman in a variety of sports. And I feel that we are getting to the point where we can be treated equally, but we are not equal.

Men are typically doers, you give them an assignment and they get it done. Where women are thinking, we are more pleasers. That if you give me an assignment, I want to do it because you have asked me to do it. There is a real distinction in there and I think when you are a coach you need to learn kind of how to approach men and how to approach women if you want to get the best out of them, in a set, and in challenging them.

I do encourage everyone to take an opportunity to coach at different levels, just on occasion if you can. I know Masters is kind of the newest thing as far as people branching out to that. If you have been a USA Coach and you had the top high school program and you have been there for 15 years, go down and see what your assistant coaches are doing with the 5 year olds. I think you need to understand what they are going through and what their needs are. Then figure out: is an hour enough? Then watch trying to coach those 8th graders. Those are a wild group of kids. You got 50 kids in 8 lanes and they are all over the place. There are hormones going all over the place. Boys and girls on top of each other and you have got to understand the dynamics of what that coach has to do. How they are getting prepared for your program and then going into the Masters? What are their needs? They need a little bit more active rest you know, but they want the respect because you have got some phenomenal athletes. I mean how great for everyone that just watched the Olympics and what Dara (Torres) has brought. I am so excited because I hope that she tours and really exposes all of us to what her training was and how she brought that, because I think all of us would be so fascinated on how we can extend our swimming careers and pushing the envelopes.

It’s taken a lot of work, but I finally feel that what makes me a woman
is what gives me my power.

What inspires me as a swimmer, and I am just a good swimmer, is I look at those women, 10 years older than me They might beat me in like 8 seconds in a hundred freestyle and I am going WOW! I take that as a positive. I might not be able to do a :54 100 freestyle, but you know what? I can be better than I am, because somebody out there, older than me, is doing so. You look at that and expose that to those people who are, “Oh, I will never be that fast because I started just two years ago.” Why can’t you be there? Why can’t you just be better? Honestly, I am not going to train 5,000 a day to get there, but I can be better. I am going to be 50 years old next year. Did I stutter through that? And I am excited. I am so excited because I have not stopped. I have only been swimming as a Masters swimmer the last seven years. I took 21 years off, but I continue to drop my times and so here I am, at this age, and I am still getting better. So I am excited and I would want you to pass that along that your own swimmers can do that, as well.

I wouldn’t consider myself cocky and arrogant.
I’m confident and I tell the truth.

Okay, so when we are talking about words and how people think, you try and think in more positive ways. If you see someone running on the deck, don’t say, “Don’t run.” Because again, you are saying what you don’t want them to do. Tell them to “Walk.” And when we are coaching, if you use words like, well, we need to work on your turnover or, this is kind of slow. Then what do they hear? Oh, I am dropping my elbow and I am slow. But if you work that and turn to them and say, let’s get a higher elbow. They are like oh, okay, I want a higher elbow. Don’t think about the negative way. Think about the more positive way to say it to them. If you are talking about slow turnover, tell them if we can get your turnover faster, you are going to have more power. Find some positive way so they can latch onto that, not the negative way of coaching. Think of some positive terms so they will be excited about that this will make me better.

I am surprised sometimes when I talk with women, and they will talk about their coaches when they were in high school, 35 years ago, and they will talk about this man was always yelling at me. It didn’t seem like I could ever please him…35 years ago. That is the difference between men and women. Men do not remember that four days later. Women are remembering that conversation from 35 years ago. We hold onto things. I was talking to someone earlier about water polo. You watch men’s water polo. They are in there killing each other. They get out. They are having a beer together, ah yeah, no problem. And women, what are they doing? Two days later, “Oh, that number 11!” They hold onto things a little longer.

I want you to kind of think of those women that you are influencing now…those high schoolers…those college swimmers…those 21 year olds…those 41 year olds…those 61 year olds…how are they going to remember you in the future? Those women will hold onto those memories. I had a pretty hard coach in high school for which I did not care for. As soon as I could drive, I went to another team. My college coach did not want women in the water…very negative. He was kind of put out, that he had to incorporate the women under his program, so I didn’t have a lot of positive things there. So I always wonder, how in the world did I end up with this profession when I really didn’t have any of those positive role models? It wasn’t the reversal. I just kind of fell into this which I have really enjoyed, but I want you to remember you are influencing people’s lives and they will remember that. I have had a couple of summer leaguers. What do I have them for? 8 weeks? Five years later, I see them in the grocery store. “Hi, Coach Ingraham.” They remember me. And I find that very empowering that I had that influence on someone’s life and hopefully, it was a positive experience in the time that they interacted with me.

Running provides a challenge that allows me to feel good about myself. How can I expect to do well in other activities if I don’t feel good about myself?

So, when we are talking about using words and encouraging people, I find that women actually are some of the easier ones to coach. Because if you talk about encouragement, if you are trying to get them inspired to do a set, for women, you can say, “Let’s hit your best time on the last one.” You are basically challenging them and they will step up and they will do it because you have asked them to do that.

For men, you have to say, “I want your best swim on the next top.” So, you have to threaten them. You have to inspire them. For a lot of my men, I just know all their buttons. We talked earlier today about doing a set on 1:30 which was basically giving all of us three seconds rest. I could have the guys go, “Oh, I don’t want to do that. I am going on 1:35.” And I go, “That’s fine. You know, the three of those girls that are here, are going to do it on 1:30. You don’t have to.” Believe me, they will scoot over in their lane and they will do it because they are not about to have (women) do something better than them.

If you have teenagers, “I need for you to do your best swim when we leave on the top.” I pull them in. I am doing it with them. They don’t want to do anything by themselves, so I usually use “we” are leaving, “we” are going to do our best, so you are basically pleading with teenagers. For girls, “The last one should be the fastest swim of the set.” Kind of a request…trying to inspire them. For boys, “Make the last one your fastest one ever!” Boys work on being dared. They love to be dared and challenged like that, so you have to think the same thing. All I did was ask to have their last swim their best swim.

Try and think of who is in your group and how are you going to inspire them. Even if you go lane to lane to lane. I got my swimmers on 1:30, they are over here and I got my C swimmers in the middle and I will say something to them. Then I will go to the outside, my lane 1 swimmers and I am using a different term because they are all sending off on something different. You have your triathletes, you have people that just swim for fitness, and you have your competitive swimmers and find what words that they want to have so you can get the best that you can out of them.

If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to it.

I am sure all of you know someone in your group that might be 30, 50, 70 pounds overweight or maybe you know them outside the pool. Maybe they are swimming in that outside lane that doesn’t want to be part of your group, but you can tell that they keep looking and they are listening to what you are saying and they are trying it over there by themselves. You need to encourage them to be part of the team because, especially for women that are overweight, they are very self-conscious. Like as I was saying earlier, society is not real positive with women. But if they can be brave enough to put a suit on, and get them in the water, there are so many of them that are great swimmers. And now they are a part of something. They do not have to be that overweight person that you know. We know that she is a great 200 flyer so you are putting something positive in their life and now they have value and they add value to your team. They might not be someone that can do the hardest sets, but they are the ones that are willing to do the mile, maybe they are the one that is going to do the 10K and there is a lot of pride that they can get out of that, by doing a straight 10K swim. I mean that is a big thing! So find those small ways to encourage people that you are dealing with on issues like that.

Everyone is equal in the water. One story is we have this group, and we just got this white water going here in the middle of the pool, and a lot of the women are in one lane and the guys were next to it and it was one of the gal’s 50th birthday and so we were celebrating. And he goes, she is how old? And we are like 50. And he goes 50! This guy is 36, and we were 10-15 years older than him. And he goes, I didn’t know you were that old. We were all laughing because we are all the same age and he goes and we said well, don’t you know that so and so is 53 and he goes, “WHAT? How old is she? How old is she? And you guys beat me every day?!” I loved it because he never looked at us as being old, or older than he is. So, when you are in the water, it is this great equalizer. We have men, women, 21 year olds. I have got a former Olympian. I got national record holders. I got World Record holders. I got 76 year olds and when we are all in the water we are all equal. And it is such a great atmosphere.

Like I said, something positive for everyone. Not everyone has to do their hundreds on the same interval. They can be proud of the fact that they are doing them on 2 minutes and you know what? This person made 8 of them today. There is a lot of diversity that is going in the water and it is crazy, as a coach, to track it all, but again if you get each lane fired they can inspire themselves.

Q: What you just talked about, as far as girls that may be over-weight and trying to integrate them, working with age groupers, whether it is from 10 on and you are seeing that, or teenagers for that matter. How do you, and I know that you could probably talk another hour on this, how do you, do you approach them on their own or separately? I mean, obviously you do not want to say, well Suzy you are 20 pounds over-weight, but you can’t do this in front of the group, how can one be tactful about it because sometimes I find myself…I basically avoid it at times or try to go around with the parents which is not necessarily the best approach when I want to make them comfortable with that and show them how they can tackle it, how they can improve it, how it doesn’t have to be a limiting factor to them? A: Well, I don’t think I single them out, because I talk to the group as a whole and I might give them a little bit more eye contact. Or later, I don’t say, ‘Hey, because you are 30 pounds over-weight, I think you should do this. But I can just grab them and say, you know what? I have been watching you and I think and if you just keep working on this in about three more weeks we can do this. So it isn’t like, oh I think I found something that you can do. That you can say, I saw this (improvement), it is coming. Let’s work together and we will be here, and won’t that be a great goal? And they won’t know that they are just being picked out. They will think that she must go around the pool and find these different challenges for each person.

Q: So you are not necessarily referring to the weight problem? Thank you very much. A: No. And what is great, what you want is, them staying in the water and loving it. They will lose the weight because they are there. Yeah, you do not want them frustrated. I have been around and it is amazing to me, the coaches that I hear on the deck. They will point it out. They are like, if you lost 20 pounds we could drop three seconds. Whoa! That is brutal…That is brutal. Yeah, they can’t handle that. Girls hold onto things forever and that is just absolutely crushing. I heard a coach say that. And actually what he said was, “lf I was built like you I wouldn’t wear that suit.” She is 14 years old, in the locker room, in tears, calling mom. She quit. I didn’t see her again. She was done. He just made a comment about her suit that day, but they take it hard so yeah, you don’t have to be trying to avoid it, just see them as the person that they are. They are just a person in the water that is a great 200 flyer. And they will lose the weight that way, but it is amazing how much I have heard negative comments.

Q: Do you ever address it as it is not so much the weight issue, but do you ever address if from a nutrition standpoint? And not like you need to cut back calories, but can you say like, well here is the thing that you can maybe include into your diet or you might be taking a couple of things away from their diet and this will help you to become stronger in the water, not necessarily… A: Yeah, for women, they come to me, so it might be because I am a woman. Adults are a little bit more comfortable that they can say, “Susan, you know I feel great in the water. I can’t lose this 20 pounds. I can’t. It is just stuck on me. What are some of the things that I can do?” That is easier for the adults. When you are talking about teenagers, they won’t come to you. They won’t come to you about anything, and usually I can to a parent. I say, what would really help her as a swimmer is before she comes to practice…those things. Right after practice…these things. So, I don’t approach it like we need to get these 30 pounds off her. I am thinking, how can I get the best training out of her? And really what I am doing is changing her diet so it is healthier. I will talk about the carb level or whatever, and with teenagers you have to be careful because they need fat. You know they need all those things because they are growing up, but I do it more from a training standpoint and if they are there, they will lose the weight, is the theme, but I leave that more to the parents.

Q: Do you do it for all of them, no matter what weight? A: Yeah, so it isn’t like…the parents would be more open with me. I do not have those discussions with the kids. They won’t come to me, and then it sounds like I am singling them out.

Q: I coach college and our head coach, this male, told me something, every year after Christmas. At 6-8 weeks out from our conference meet, all these to-do’s. The sweet challenge and the girls or anybody on the team get into it and it is, he will just make bets, not with anybody in particular, but whoever needs talking to about it. He will make bets…who can do the longest and he will actually do it and not eat sweets. A: See, there are subtle ways to put it in

Q: Like a food challenge or something like that and some of the girls will eat – they think it is hysterical and they think it is funny because they live to be thin. A: See, there you go – all in fun.

Q: After a few suggestions maybe I have this woman on my team who is very heavy and she is in her late 50’s and just in general she has a very sort of a negative attitude. She tends to be very self-deprecating, putting herself down. For example, she will be “Oh, I can’t do that you know. If I lost 20 pounds, or if I lost x.” And I am always trying to put a positive spin and say, “You know what? A year ago you were not able to do a 100, and now look at you. A: Right. I try to say positive things, but I do not know if she is indirectly asking me for advice. I mean, I don’t know, nutritional advice or anything like that or if that is something…

Q: There are certain things that she can’t do, like streamline. She is a little bit heavier, harder to do flexibility, like in backstroke, but I taught her to modify things. Whatever is the most efficient and works for her. A: I really just feel that if you are positive she will stay with you. So I think you should look at it like that, and for that one hour a day, she is having a great time. She is doing something for herself and she probably can’t wait to come back so I think you should look at that. When she does go on vacation, she can’t wait to get back to practice.

We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.

Okay, I just put this up here because I am just kind of following up that conversation when we were talking about how you are spoken to and how we take things. So, sometimes how we hear things and how we see things are just from our personality. How many times do you say something, and someone just takes it in the totally wrong direction? So kind of pay attention, look at that reaction. Sometimes you say something you may not even have meant to say, something that you felt hurt someone’s feelings or they took it the wrong way, but see if you can’t pick up those vibes because those are the people that are going to disappear on you and you are like, what did I do wrong? But they felt maybe you singled them out or you are making fun of their stroke in front of other people. Like I said, just kind of paying attention to other people and their feelings here.

“Thank you for believing in me…I’ll never forget that you did.”

There is a person who wrote this because she did the 500 fly. And I love it, so I put it in there because she didn’t want to do it and I kept encouraging her because I thought it was something that she could do and she needed something positive in her life. She doesn’t go to swim meets and she is just so proud of herself. If you talk to those 11 people that did their one hour fly, they still talk about it. They will never do it again. They have no desire to do it again, but you know what? They can look back on it and say, at one point in my life I did an hour of butterfly and that is great. I mean, just like all of you had that reaction, how great for them to have that with them for the rest of their life that they can say that in a conversation. That is why it is great to be out there and challenging people.

“I am a Triathlete”

I coach a women’s Danskin group and there are about 40 or 50 people out there, ladies, and I am taking them into a half mile open water swim. Many of them can’t swim at all and they say oh, half mile, how far is that? They think on the freeway, I am right there in 30 seconds and they do not know how far that is. It is a long way. I get lots of tears and a lot of shakes. A lot of people that say, “I don’t need to do this because I am a mother and they need me around. I cannot die.” But, we get through it and that is…I am using the word – Empowering. They got through that. They know what it took from the very beginning to go to all our practices and in ten weeks they were able to, not only complete a half mile swim in the open water, but do their triathlon.

What would you become if you could not fail?

Again, I am talking about challenges, something that they could go out and do and I was thinking of this quote right here of what would you like to try if you knew you couldn’t fail? That kind of sends a strong message to me.

I am a Triathlete!

I got this message back from one of my women who was in tears, was doggie-paddling and we got her to swim it and this is the only thing on the email that she sent me – this was the email and I love it. It is one of my favorite because when we talked before, how to view yourself, she wasn’t just a mom – she wasn’t just trying to learn how to swim – she wasn’t getting on that borrowed bike of hers and walking up the hills – she became a triathlete and again – that message of what you bring to yourself I think is just so great.

Make goals for yourself, both short term (immediate) and long term (impossible).
I want to swim Alcatraz!

Next, I want to talk about that I am going to take 17 swimmers to Alcatraz here in about three weeks. This is very scary, but I want to talk about the concept of doing this and the whole concept of preparing for Alcatraz and making short-term and long-term goals. Sometimes your long-term goals are something that you will never achieve. They are impossible to do, but we have made the goal…to swim Alcatraz. A mile and a half.

Where and who can you turn to for strength? Faith in your Coach. Faith in your friends and family.
What ship will I use to get me there?

So, in that, What ship will take you to reaching your goal? Who can you turn to for strength? Be it your own faith…your faith in your coaches…your faith in your teammates…your faith in your family and your friends?

Confidence in Yourself. Leap of Faith.
Jump off the boat!

Have confidence in yourself. The leap of faith…jump off the boat. I don’t know if you guys know what Alcatraz is, but they take you out there with 600 of your best friends and you jump off the boat.

Find your bearings. What direction are you going?
Where are the towers to guide you?

End to reaching your goals: Find your bearings. What direction are you going? Where are those towers, and where the heck was that buoy out there in the ocean?

Life is always trying to push you in directions other than where
you want to go.
Waves of life can come from every side.

Life is always trying to push you in different directions of where you want to go. You will be swimming and then a wave takes you over here and like no, I really want to go back over here. The wave takes you over here, and no, I really want to get going. What are the waves in your life? What are the things that are pushing you around…getting in your way of the goal and where you want to go?

Your strengths will help you in times of adversity.
Beware of sharks.

Beware of sharks. Believe in your strengths that help you in times of diversity. Are the people that are around you taking you in directions you do not want to go? Wanting you to go out and party at the bars. Or, do you want to be at practice at 6 o’clock in the morning? What are those influences in your life that you are trying to avoid that will keep you out and sinking?

Hope brings meaning to the work. Focus on the future.
Be excited as you pass the little buoys along the way.

Be excited as you pass the little buoys along the way..What are those little intermediate goals? The things that are going to take you to where you want to go?

Did the finish place or your time matter the most?
The experience was the greatest gift that you gave yourself.

And then, at the end, was it really that you got 1st place or that you did it in 22 minutes? Or, was it the experience that you had along the way? Why are we really in swimming as Masters swimmers? Is it really important to have all those records, that you got 1st place at Nationals?

What gives meaning in your life to you today?
What waits for you on the shore?

Or, was it your family and your friends and those associations that you developed along the way, to challenge yourself at a swim meet that got you up at 6 o’clock in the morning and get in the pool?

When I stopped competing…I started venturing into other areas.
I looked at my husband, and I’d be like,
“I can make a pancake bigger and faster than you”

I love this quote because we are all competitive. We say we are not competitive. How many times do fitness swimmers get in the pool and say, oh well I don’t want to compete because I am not competitive. Yeah right! Well you gotta hold yours on 2 minutes…okay. I love that this kind of carried over into our life.

The Reversal of Goals: Looking Inside Yourself

Olympic Champion
Ultimate Achievement in Sport
Validates me as an athlete
Respect as a swimmer
Family and friends understand why I do this
Proud of what I do
Proud of what I am
I am proud of myself

The reversal of goals is, I want you to look at yourselves and what really stood out with the Olympics to me is, What is your goal? Do you have to be Olympic champion? And if you ask yourself, why you are there? Why do I want to be Olympic champion? Because I believe it is the ultimate achievement in sport. Why? Because it validates me as an athlete. Why? Because I get respect as a swimmer. Why? Because my family and friends will understand why I do this. Why? So I am proud of what I do. Why? So I am proud of what I am. Why? So I am proud of myself. And that is where it started, but what I was so disappointed in the Olympics is, many didn’t get here. “They had to settle for a bronze.” I just got crushed when the announcers would say that. I am sure she is disappointed – she only made finals. She is the 8th best swimmer in the world – in fact – the 3rd best swimmer is probably sitting home in the US. How many NCAA champions did we leave at home? And yet, Oh you didn’t make the Olympic team. We need to lower that down so that we do not have to get all the way to the Olympic champion so they can be proud of themselves. You need to make them feel good about somewhere in the middle. I am a swimmer and I am proud of what I do. They kept talking about Eli Manning, Oh, made it to the Super Bowl or you pick out someone, Oh, never made it to the World Series? How disappointing in his 16 years of a professional athlete. Well, does that really have to be so important to validate his value as an athlete? That he didn’t get that last little ring?

Don’t be afraid of the mammogram.
Be afraid of the cancer.

I am going to take advantage of my position real quick here. Some of you know, and some of you do not know, that I was diagnosed with cervical cancer less than two years ago and I had major surgery, so this is my one soapbox moment. That, as women, and as husbands and sons and fathers, I am going to ask you to have your women and yourselves be confident in yourself and stand up to doctors and question things because I believe it saved my life. There is a woman in Texas. She and I were diagnosed at the same time with uterine polyps. And she accepted that her diagnosis was correct and I did not. And unfortunately, she passed away three months ago. I am fine. I am doing personal best swims right now.

Never deny a diagnosis.
Be do deny the negative verdict that might go with it.

You know, I am so lucky and I am so inspired and I want you to do that – to be positive for yourself and if you don’t like your first diagnosis and you don’t trust it, then find another doctor or do another test and stay with it. I find a lot of people won’t do the testing because they do not want to know the answer, but that is not what you should be afraid of. I encourage people that are worried about some of their future health things, that they don’t avoid blood tests and x-rays and some other things because it is uncomfortable, it’s cold or it hurts. It is going to be a lot better than perhaps what you might be diagnosed with.

I am just kind of putting this up here too. So, I was talking about here:

Woman, without her man, is lost.

And what I am hoping today that with our talk that I will be able to change that and instead, it is:

Woman, without her, man is lost.

So, I will leave you with this last quote – it is one of my favorites and I believe by it.

People will forget what you said, they will not know what you did,
but they will always remember how you made them feel.

And I hope I inspired you. Thank you so much for my talk today.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Sponsorship & Partnerships

Official Sponsors and Partners of the American Swimming Coaches Association

Join Our Mailing List

Subscribe and get the latest Swimming Coach news