What are the Limiting Factors for Superior Performance? by Kirk Grand, Auburn University (2014)


[introduction by Jennifer Gibson]
Good afternoon. My name is Jennifer Gibson and I am a member of the ASCA board. As I said at the last talk, before Sergio spoke, as a Board Member one of our duties is to always come in and introduce the speakers. And like I said, I do not know how I got such a lucky draw this afternoon to introduce the three guys that I am getting to introduce. As former swimmers, as coaches, as professionals in this sport, I think we all realize just how driven swimmers can be, whether that is in the pool, is in life, or especially in the classroom.

The gentleman that is going to speak to you… I told him I was going to introduce him. I met him for the first time last night, and I was trying to really figure out how I want to introduce him. And after I read his bio and I asked him today; I said, “Would you mind if I just read your academic accomplishments?” The reason I’d like to do this is I just think it really goes to show where we are moving with this sport and the professionalism, and that the path is really changing. And it just shows the patience, but with the patience, the excellence that this young man is achieving in his path, his quest, to become a coach. Of course, I love to say he’s from the Midwest so I really love to maybe brag to say that it helped that he was blessed with a great work ethic by coming from the Midwest. But he swam at the Miami University of Ohio for two years. After a sophomore year he transferred to, of course I have to say- as a fan of football- the Ohio State University to focus on his academics. He graduated cum laude with a degree in Evolutionary Biology. Then he got to play a little bit with cars. I’m going to move on.

He enrolled in graduate school at Indiana University, he studied at the Counsilman Center for Science of Swimming under Dr. Joel Stager. While pursuing his Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology he was able to also coach for the Counsilman Center swim team in Bloomington South High School. So he’s getting his masters, he’s coaching and with this he’s coaching, but he’s also coaching a high school on a club team. During this time he was voted the Indiana state Coach of the Year. Now he’s pursuing his PhD at Auburn University and is a volunteer assistant coach for the varsity swim teams. I just I’m amazed at his level of preparation and I think you’re going to be really excited to hear him talk this is Kirk Grand. Thank you.

[Grand begins]
So, thank you Jennifer; and I’m going to do my best not to trip over this platform here. I didn’t know that they were going to put obstacles in my way. My only thought I was going to be really nervous to talk. So I am extremely grateful to be talking at ASCA. This is an excellent wonderful week you all have here. I’ve been living in the south now for four years so I feel like I can say y’all. I really am encouraged by the collaboration of learning; I love to learn. So based on the introduction, yes you get these little certificates, but I just love learning as much as I can about what I’m interested in. So today I hope to talk a little bit about the limits of superior performance. I have a modified clicker. So what inspired me to start thinking about the limits of superior performance, as Jennifer said, I got to play with some cars for a little while.

Well, I got to work for USAC Sprint Car team and for those of who that don’t know what those are it’s about a 900 horse power motor strapped to a Go-Kart frame. And the whole weight of the car is about 1200 pounds. And so these guys get in these — basically rocket ships and they go around a really tiny dirt track, all right? So they are a little crazy so if you went to the Salo talk the other day, they need to make decisions that they are making decisions that have extreme consequences. So the point here is when they qualify they have two laps to go as fast as they possibly can. All right and they are on the track by themselves, so they line all the cars up in the chute and as they are lined up they have the visors up like you can see on top of the screen and you can just see their eyes. And they just have this look of just focus and I always wondered, “What are they thinking?” Here they are, they are sitting here right now and two minutes they are going to be out there with a 900 pound, or excuse me, 900 horse power motor at top and going around this track. So that was my first experience that led to this curiosity as to what was kind of going on in the minds of these people that were performing superiorly. The next was I got to coach at Bloomington South and I had a swimmer, Brendan, and his individual 100 free style, he was a 47.0. When he was on the end of a relay I don’t know what got into him, but he would swim whatever he needed to do to win the relay. I don’t care if it was a 44, 45 and it wasn’t just that he was getting that good relay spilt he’d find something, and I was like what the heck is going on. So it was frustrating in a sense because I could not get him to do that individually. So, what is going on in his brain to allow him to do this in the relay, but not in his individual event? So, while I was there I spent a lot of time studying physiology. I got to be on deck. Dr. Joel Stager was a Volunteer Assistant Coach with me, and it was awesome being able to work with one of the World’s Swimming Physiologist on deck. And it was also a struggle sometimes to work with the world’s leading physiologist because sometimes as I’m going to talk about today the physiology is not what it’s all about.

Yes, it’s important you can have the best training plan in the world though and your kids don’t perform well. So I started looking at well where can I go to study this. So what I did, I want to coach in the future I went to the NCAA Men’s Division 1 swim site or the results. I went to the top 10 schools and started trying to find academic programs. Probably not the best way to find an academic program, but I wanted to be involved with swimming and I wanted to learn about the brain. And luckily I came across a lab that I work in now at Auburn University and it’s the Performance and Exercise Cycle Physiology Lab. So what we basically do is just look at the interaction between the mind and the body, okay? So I had the “Exercise Phys”. So now what’s going on in the brain? And we get to use really cool tools like a 77-Tesla FMRI and what this does, it’s one of 35 in the world and what this does is, it looks at the neural activation of the brain and you can vary the situation. So you can say, “If you don’t perform this task in this amount of time you don’t get this money,” so you can put them under a little bit of stress and different manipulations like that.

We also use a system, it’s called an EEG and it measures, so your brain talks to itself or talks to different regions through electricity. And what this cap does is, it measures how its talking. Okay. So if you’re relaxed it has a certain wavelength. If you’re stressed it has a certain wavelength, if you have a lot going on its shows that, it’s noisy, okay? So that’s another tool that we use to measure what going in the brain. So, since the title is “Limits to Superior Performance” I wanted to give a little bit of a glimpse of what’s it feel like or what’s happening when someone is exhibiting superior performance. And superior performance happens when you have a coordinated muscle movement with a minimized energy expenditure, in a process of adaptation to constrains imposed by task in the environment.

So if you think Dr. Salo’s Cheetah talk the task is to get food. The environment is the Tundra. So what do you got to do? You got to run really fast and you have to be as economical as possible, so you have to get as much gas mileage as you can at 60, at 60 miles an hour, okay? So animals have become really, really good at being economical and more so relative to the ASCA conference. We’ll look at dolphins so, we’re not running, we’re swimming. Dolphins have – there is no waste in movement, there is zero waste in movement and when the cheetah runs and dolphin swims okay. And another thing that they exhibit is they’re honed in, all right there is no distractions. They see the prey they are running towards the prey. So that’s superior performance from like a text book or a literature definition. And there’s a lot of research that have asked athletes. So you just had the greatest performance ever, you broke a world record. What did that feel like? And what they report is no fear of failure. They don’t think about their performance it’s very automatic.

There’s total immersion in the activity, kind of like the cheetah, they don’t see beyond the prey. A narrow focus of attention, the performance was they reported as being effortless, feeling of complete control, it’s an involuntary experience. And a lot of, a lot of these competitors don’t remember I mean me personally I swam my best 50 Free, I don’t remember it. I was like, “I just saw my hands just scooping water,” so it’s really interesting. So that’s a little bit of a background as to why we’re talking about what we’re talking about today. And so I have a little bit of an outline to go over the rest of the presentation. So that the overall question is, “So what brain processes underline the superior mode of performance and how can they be trained and maintained?”

The first part are the underlying processes, so we have to do a little background work, lay a little foundation about what’s going on in the brain before we can talk about changing that. And first we are going to talk about attention. And the point here as many of you I’m sure know dealing with athletes is attention is limited, okay? So when you first have a swimmer come in and you say, “Here put this snorkel on do this, do this,” most of them are if they’ve never swam before, I know this was my experience I was focused on getting my snorkel on and not having it hurt. Meanwhile my coach is telling me, “do this, do this, do this, do this,” I’m still struck on the snorkel. I’m overloaded already, okay? So it’s limited and you have resources and then what’s going on around you what you attend to is how hard you’re working, so cognitive workload. And like we talked about with that efficiency, great performers and some of these expert or lead athletes they have a motor behavior and they minimize the neural allocation okay.

So it costs less for them to run a 100 meters in their mind than it does for me, okay? Because they do not think about it. If you can think about golf as a great example, okay? If I’m going to putt I’m going to come up, I’m a novice, so I’m thinking, ‘Okay hips straight, don’t move, don’t move, don’t move.’ Tiger Woods is going to come up… well, Tiger Woods is going to come up, I don’t know what he’s thinking about now, but it’s very automatic. So he doesn’t have to think about putting he just comes up, putts, okay? So his attention resources are more, so he can look at how the green is laying, he can look at what is going on with the wind, whereas I’m focused on, ‘I can’t look at the wind, I can’t focus on the green, I got to focus on hitting the ball.’ Okay? So that is a little bit about attention and how it is limited. And another way you can think about this is driving a car. An important thing to remember with attention, though, is every athlete is different, okay? And I don’t know if you went, if anybody went, to Dave Durden’s talk. He talked about freshman coming into the program and they were not in the rhythm of the program. The sophomores, juniors and seniors were a little bit more into the rhythm.

Well if I am a freshman and I am flying half way, or all the way across the country, or half way across the country and I am away from Mom. I have got all these things going on. There is not a whole lot left for me to allocate to swimming. So it is a little bit like when you first learn to drive a car. When you first learn to drive a car you are focused on keeping in the lines. ‘Okay do not mess up. Do not hit any other cars.’ When you get better, you can press the radio button, you can talk on your cell phone- not. Don’t do that, but you can talk on your cell phone; you can listen on the radio. When you get better, you can drive a Formula One car. There’s lot of buttons there and they have a lot of functions. But, a lot of those these drivers with the Mercedes there, they’ve been driving for a long time. So they are more efficient at keeping in the line so that they can do a little bit more with the car, okay?

So that’s kind of how we, as coaches, we need to keep in mind: number one it is limited, short and sweet, number two everybody is at different points, okay? So you may have to work with others a little bit longer, a little bit shorter than some of your other athletes. So the next question is, “What does practice do to the brain, does it make it more economical?” This study is: 10 monkeys, which are kind of like high schoolers in a way. So it is relevant they use 10 monkeys, it was just published they used 10 monkeys and they trained them to do reaching tasks, so just a visual-motor task. Okay, so they train for anywhere from one to six years and what they found was that as they trained, the brain became more economical. So there is less gas required for the reaching movement, if that make sense. So, what this is is blood flow, okay, on this side. This is when they’re first learning the movements so it is really resource intensive, okay?

As they learned it, so one to six years later, it takes less blood to do the same movement. So the point here is it’s a shorter program to get the same job done. All right, so it is like at first you’re a diesel truck and then you’re leaving as a Prius, okay, if that makes sense. So now I don’t know if you’re familiar with the motor cortex, but there’s a small strip in your brain that controls all motor function, okay. They, this is where they measure that economy. So less blood flow for the same amount of neural, the neural activation, so it goes back to the efficiency. So yes, when you practice your brain becomes more efficient as well as your physiology, so tying those together, all right? So we’ve got attention, we’ve got practice and again, this is just the ground work and then we’ll talk about what experts and novices look like. We kind of mentioned it a little bit with the golf study, so experts require less neuronal resources, as compared to novices, to accomplish the same tasks within their domain of expertise.

So this little guy is focused on a lot more about keeping his body afloat whereas this swimmer can focus on his body position, all these other little minute things, whereas this guy is trying to just not drown, okay. The top the top panel, panel A is a novice’s, so you can see that’s brain activation; it’s a very huge spot. It is where the brain is activated and it measures blood flow and the bottom is the expert, so there’s not a whole lot, all right? It is very automatic. So they are not thinking about my feet, my hips, whatever. They’re just performing the task. So where does this comes into play? Where this efficiency comes into play is when you have this quieter mind, they are less noisy, and you’re not thinking about all the mechanics you have an increased efficacy and increased confidence. So you practice, you’re ready to go, don’t go, when you go to a performance it’s not good to think about the performance. So you’re trained all year let you body do what you’re trained to do.

What we see is with this excess communication, so if I’ve trained all year and I am going to my taper meet and I start thinking, ‘Okay I’ve got to use my arm to do this and use my arm to do this,’ that causes a whole lot of noise and increases the anxiety of the athlete, okay, because it is all communicating with that motor strip. Here is where this comes into play; this is our first interaction of the mind and the body. So that noisy mind has its effect on the motor cortex, which results in more muscles recruited than need to be recruited. All right, so what that means is that team A has a 100 freestyler and he is swimming with efficient, economical muscle recruitment. My team: I have a guy that is swimming with very poor, that diesel motor. So he is capable of a 45, but now he goes a 47 because he’s working a little bit harder than the guy next to him, because he is thinking too much.

Okay? So this is where we start to see how important it is to be able to control your mind and when you can control your mind, you can control some of the physiology in your body. And this is just a great example of how it can control that motor control. So if you see on the right side, that is a novice, so there’s a lot more brain activation going on. And this is a pistol-shooting task. So on that right panel, the aiming is like a laser, like a tracer, laser tracer. That is the novice aiming. So he is thinking a whole lot and he is using a whole lot of muscle; whereas the expert comes in, usually there’s some sort of routine that experts go through to kind of calm themselves. They focus in and they aim, okay there’s no thought they aim fire. So that’s just an example of how it really can, your mind can affect the body there and just a summary of the differences between the novice and expert. This kind of comes into play later when we talk about how we change the different states of the athlete’s brain.

So a novice is very verbal-analytical, so they are talking to themselves they are trying to figure out what’s going on. And come to find out, I didn’t know much about this. But when I started learning about it, Brendan- he’s an engineer at Purdue, so that should, engineer, analytical, he was thinking a whole lot before his individual event. When he was in his relay he was focused on his team, let himself win, and go for the team. So that is extremely important and we’ll talk a little bit team environment a little bit later. Experts are just automatic. They are efficient with that resource allocation. They are just in a visual spatial mode; they are not really analyzing the situation. So in summary, there your attentional capacity improves with practice, expert performances are characterized by economy.

Practice results in similar dynamics so that experts brain state, superior performers also exhibit, they’re able to control their emotions better, okay? So they learn how, okay don’t get perturbed, I know I’m not going to go, I know I’m not going to have my sandwich before my meet. Every meet I’ve had I’ve just want to have my sandwich. And so some athletes get really funky with that kind of stuff. But with practice you can kind of train that emotional regulation. Okay, how are we doing? We’re doing okay? All right, so the next part is a really cool part. How do you train and maintain these brain states to enable your athlete to have this cool mind and throw down an awesome 100 free or whatever event it maybe? So there’s three things we’re going to talk about: we’re going talk about performance under pressure, how to instruct the athlete economically, and tips for a cool mind.

So performance under pressure is really no new thing and we’ve known for a long time it affects the physiology. This is a study done in 1975 looking at paratroopers and the bottom line, the closed circles, are good performers. And for those who can’t see the Y axis is heart rate, all right? So the bad performers have a huge jump in heart rate as compared to the good performers. So the good performers are really calm there’s not a whole lot going on, again, it’s automatic. So it’s exhibited in their physiology. So this kind of spurred the notion of, okay what’s — so we know the physiology is doing this, what’s going on in the brain? Why is it, why does this person have such a low heart rate as compared to this person? So the really cool thing we talked about the novice brain and the expert brain. In competition experts can yield or show the activation of a novice. So even though they are an expert in the task, they go to competition and then they start thinking, all right? “I wonder if I have my lucky goggles. I hope my mom is not going to love me anymore, my mom, hope my mom still loves me after this race. I hope I don’t let my dad down,” whatever it maybe.

So they start to invest like, just think, not nonsense it’s real for them. But more than they need to for the swim, okay? So under pressure the main thing is people try too hard. All right, the mental stress promotes that reversion from expert like to novice like neuro-cognitive states. So what they really try to do is they really try to control their movements way too much and when they try to control their movement instead of allowing what they have trained to do. They are recruiting more muscle. Okay, when you recruit more muscle, you do not finish as strong in a 100 free style or whatever the race maybe. So there is a lot more nonessential neural activity. So what do we do about that? Well there has been a bunch of studies that have come out. This is one is by Sian Beilock and she looked at writing down these worries. So sometimes you are worried about stuff. When you write it down, it is out of your mind. It’s not ruminating any more, you have it written down.

And they looked at, I believe it was a math test and that solid line on the top are those that did this expressive writing. They just wrote down what they were worried about and then just crumpled it up and threw it in the trash. Because it was written down, you kind of get it out of your mind, all those thoughts. And what you see is that they were more accurate because of it whereas, those that didn’t do it, the control, their performance went down. And if anybody would like to talk about this study it’s a little bit more complex, but we can talk about it after the talk. The next huge, huge important thing and it’s been awesome being here, this year is my first ASCA, all the talk on team environment. Mike Bolen, Dave Durden and something I’m extremely interested in and this study looked, used that swim cap with all the electrodes that measures the brain waves. So one person was playing Tetris — they had a teammate that didn’t say anything and then they had a good teammate or a bad teammate, okay?

I should say a good teammate, a bad teammate, and they didn’t do anything, so there was a neutral. So with the bad teammate what they did was they were giving bad tips so as, who’s played Tetris? Is Tetris still a — okay. So it’s stressful, the more levels you get the faster they fall so the bad teammate was giving bad tips and was discouraging. So he is just kind of negative all right. So this on the Y axis, that is cognitive motor performance, all right? So how well, how economical you are. So as you can see in that bad team environment they don’t perform so well. What is really cool here is when both teammates don’t say anything the neutral team environment it’s still not good for the good, the neutral teammate and the good teammate. The good teammate gives better tips and he’s encouraging. So what happens is in the bad team environment the player, the Tetris player is trying to figure out, why the guy next to him is being so mean? Like, “Why is he giving me bad advice that’s not right? Why he’s being, so why is he being,” so he’s working, his mind is working, so he’s not able to put that down and to be economical in the task.

And so our lab does a lot of work with the military, we’re really close to – Auburn is really close to Fort Benning. The military is the ultimate team in my opinion. And so they look at different attentional capacities, if you remember we were talking about how attention is very fixed. If you have a good corporative, this is just a two people, but if you have good corporative team your attentional reserve increases. All right? So if I’m not worried about why you went out this weekend and did what you did, I can focus – we all know this- but I can focus on swimming a whole lot better. I mean, obviously it’s important for the military because if you have more attention, you’re more attuned to threats. Okay, so one way, another way to kind of calm your mind down from all those wandering thoughts or running thoughts is called mindfulness. This isn’t transcendental meditation, okay? What it is is just thinking about what’s going on in the present, all right?

This is getting harder and harder for our society to do I think, okay? You have emails, Twitter, whatever it is. You are always thinking about something; money is huge. So what this is, it is the clear, single-minded awareness of what actually happens to us and within us in successive moments of perception, all right? So have a little bit of an example. So this study looked at mindful breathing. So you just kind of look at your breathing. There is a lot going on in the room and it can be overwhelming for your mind, so you just focus on what is going on with you. There is a lot of stuff, as humans, that’s going we don’t think about, okay? So what they did was, they had students take a test and they tried passive relaxation reading, just like a distraction modality, and then they used mindful breathing. And what we see is they had less errors with that mindful breathing.

And so what is mindful breathing? It is really easy to do and you can start doing it. I do not know if Age Groupers would dig it or not, but especially high school freshman, and then you can get better and better at it. So, I’m just going to go ahead and read this.
“So begin by slowly moving your attention to the process of breathing, simply observe each breath as it happens whether you focus on the rise and fall of your chest or abdomen or the sensation of breath at the nostrils, really feel like what it is to breathe. Without the feeling of the need to alter your breath, just observing as it happens. As you start to hear things in the room, your mind wanders and you start to wonder what is going on. When you notice that this happens, know that it’s okay and just bring your focus back to breathing.”
So this is something I wish I had for Brendan, because Brendan was behind the block. How many ways he could try not to let the team down or whatever it may be, all right?

This is my team before the state championship. But here is the battle, this guy, he is the king socialite of, “What you think of me? What do I think of you? What do you think you’re going to go?” And lo and behold he goes to the State meet I was like, “I’m doing these calculations,” okay? He dropped 3% rested in this time he should be this time,” Well he goes, his goggles break, his suit rips, and it is just… it was just, it was tough. So looking back, you know retrospect is 20-20, I would have tried to taper him of Twitter. You hear LeBron James talk about reading Harry Potter during the Finals and just, you got to put everything out because what happens is, is you don’t think its conscience. It does not happen consciously, it is kind of subconsciously. You will be reading something on Facebook and later in the day you are like, “Damn it, that pisses me off.” And you are just like, “What?” That stuff should not be in your mind, so if you have an athlete reading these things of, “I’m going to win, you’re going to lose,” it does creep in and it just consumes those neural resources. And if we’re talking about efficiency, that’s extremely important.

So here is the really cool part, so how do you as coaches instruct economy? So they did a study where they looked at holding a particular force on a push press. So you have a plate and they are told to hold, like, 30% of their max. And they are given two different styles of instruction; the first style of instruction is focus on the muscles in your leg to try to accurately hold 30%. The second is, “focus on the platform.” So what we see is that you can see in the internal phase, internal phase is focus on the muscles in your legs. So this EMG, so this measure is the muscle electrical activity. So the top portion is the gas, that’s agonist for the movement. The bottom portion is the break. That’s the antagonist and it’s just a dorsal flexion, pushing on the plate. So the gas is firing and the break is firing; that’s not very economical. So they are thinking too hard about the movement in the muscle, whereas just the difference in instruction exhibits the external phase, the external focus of attention. As slowly as it’s firing, which is the gas, but its firing less in the internal phase and the break, the tibialis anterior, is not firing, look how quiet it is.

So you’re firing less the gas, you’re using less gas do the same thing, and you’re not using the break. Just by simply verbally prompting the subjects to internally focus on their leg, leg muscles rather than the platform, they were using the push against. Increased the air and the isometric force production task and led to significantly greater core contraction of these two muscles. So that is really cool and they do other studies. They do balance studies with older, with older folks and they come in and they say, “Okay this group focus on their feet.” So they focused on their feet and the next group comes in and they tape a dot that is right in front of their foot. So it is right in front of your foot, but its external to the body, and they say, “focus on the dot.” What they see is those that focused on the dot are able to maintain their balance better and what is really cool about this is they retain. So then they come in again, come back to the lab, and then they do not give any instruction, all right?

What they see is those that learned by focusing on the dot have retained that balance, that better balance, than those that have focused on their feet, the internal focus- because of that economy, all right? So this is something I wish I would have known because a lot of swimming, a lot of the instruction that is out there is very internally focused. So ways to what I should have told Brendan to make him little more economical, “On your last lap push as much water behind you as possible, all right?” Don’t even tell him, “Focus on your hand, focus on your body position,” just give him external cues. At Auburn, we were working with a girl with her fly kick and I’m trying to instruct her with fins on “to just get the tip of the fin towards the surface to try to get that fly kick just up and then come down.” Equipment is great for this and that is one thing Brett is really good at, he uses all kinds of different equipment and just says, “Focus on pushing that paddle.” He just goes to the toy closet, as I will say, and just uses equipment to really get what he wants out of the athletes. But when they learn that way, like I said, they are going retain it better and theoretically it is going to be a little bit more economical.

In terms of body position, snorkels are key. But you just have to get creative with it and it is what works for you. But that external focus of attention is really key when you’re instructing the athlete in terms of tasks. So to finish up here I have some tips for a cool mind and the top one and the work out sets, “Practice perfection under stress.” Now this is, we can talk about the physiology adaptations to the set that I’m about to give, but at the end of practice you are tired, your athletes are tired; you’re tried and your athletes are tired. If you do five 25s all out, perfect, perfect technique, okay? And I mean you can be really invested in that those five 25s, that’s five minutes. Just go five minutes of intense investment, all right? So they are going all out and you challenge them for perfect, perfect form. So not only do you say, “Go all out. I’m going to film you, I’m going to film you going fast perfectly.” Okay, so they are already tired and with that then you are adding speed and some video feedback. One thing that I list that I heard in Mike Bottom’s talk is that he goes to a dual meet and he changes somebody in the lineup.

So you are preparing your team for adverse environments because what that does is it allows you to maintain that cool mind, all right. Get out swims, I think Doc was famous, the famous stories with Doc and Mark Spitz. He’d always have Mark come in, didn’t want to practice and he’d say, “Well if you break the American record we’ll all go home.” And what did Mark Spitz do? He broke the American record. But it puts that gets the adrenaline going, gives him some social comparison, and not only what I did with my get out swims is I just gave a time. Looking back I wish I would have gave a time and three things for them to focus on. So yeah you got the time, but did you do this, this and this? And that really focuses the athlete to hone in and learn how to do under a little bit of stress. Obviously strategically, the season plans, it’s really bad, we’re talking about attention. We all know you cannot hammer your kids during Finals week; they are overloaded. And sometimes when you do that what happens is they get in a little bit of overreaching.

I swam at Miami– it was basically a year or two years, and Pete Lindsey coached there and one of the quotes I remember him saying, “Is you don’t develop your teeth chewing on mush.” Okay so it’s not very good to take your team and swim them against a bunch of other lesser teams. Okay, what do they learn from that? Swim against somebody that’s faster than you. You are going to championship meet, there are faster people, swim fast. That helps you with calming their mind, as they are going to swim next to these people. One thing I really like about the Grand Prix series is you can take your guy and swim against Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps. That is a little bit of sensory overload for a teenager, okay, that’s good though. Athlete-trust: person, first; athlete, second. I think a lot of science is devoted to season plan, physiology, technique, biomechanics.

What I like is the science behind the team building. Some is not a science; some is art, which I understand. Yes you need to focus on the team environment because a lot of, I’m guilty myself of: “I come in, I want to train today. I want to train,” and sometimes you have got to back up, have some fun, and talk to your athletes. Once we had a talent show one year. And what they did, it was stupid, but it was effective because it allowed the athletes to see each other in a different light. I had one guy that can ride a nine foot unicycle, one guy played a guitar, but it just kind of- they are not that 47.0 or they are not that time anymore; they are people. And when you can encourage that that is awesome. And that’s why Durden and Mike Bottom are talking about team development; it is so huge. Some more cool tips: RECON: get, go to the championship site take as many pictures as you can, go to the hotel, take whatever hotel you’re staying in and take as many pictures as you can. If you can’t go and swim there, do everything you do at that championship meet so everything is okay.

Swimmers, athletes are weird, okay? They have these things that they love to do. So, for example, if you go to a championship meet site- and I’m sure you’ve heard some awesome stories- and your athlete says, “Coach I don’t like the toilets here; I’m stressed out about the toilets,” like “What the toilets?” Just tell them the toilets are going to be weird before you get to the meet so that they are not worried about it. Taper: try to establish a routine, not a boring routine, but do not change a whole lot. I am sure most of you know that. But with taper comes time and time that comes reflection like, “What if I want to get a little bit more out of this?” So then you try to say, “Let’s work on your start today,” and really you should have done all that. Either the hay’s in the barn or not; you should be ready to rock and roll. Okay just fine tweak some stuff because when they perceive that then they start thinking, “Okay, I’m going to go to the championship; I’m going to think about my flip turn.” You should not be thinking about your flip turn, all right, you should be racing for the win.

One thing I like about John Wooden’s philosophy is he has the pyramid for success and he doesn’t ask them to be a statistic, he doesn’t ask them to be a time. And I think that elevates a lot of pressure on the athlete be the best you can be. And if you gave a 100% today, and it takes a little trust on your part. I know, like Dr. Salo’s talk: we know that they are not giving a 100% all the time. All right, but they are doing the best they can in many cases and one thing that Doc Counsilman, I think, was great at and it sounds like Urbanchek was in his talk- create the environment, man. Trick them. You can get it out of them. Doc convinced a bunch of world class athletes to throw down for a jellybean, a jellybean! That’s awesome. Okay, so they’d come in and have a jellybean set and they would have to go a certain time or they just had to swim fast. If you swim fast, you get a jellybean. So you have a bunch of 18 to 22 year old males counting their jellybeans, looking, “Okay, I still got more than him, all right.” So they are swimming fast. It’s a pressure; it’s really cool.

All right so if you can invent that environment its awesome like – what I really like about Mike Bottom at Michigan- he’s got the First Chance meet. I mean, I was like, “Wow, that’s a really good idea. “First chance meet,” everybody goes the Last Chance meet. Even the titles, we are talking about how important verbal instruction is. “Last Chance” meet, I mean, does that set you up for success? No, not really. This is really important and this is something that I wish I would have done better because I got focused on training. Say the name of your athlete. Say something good to them and something they can work on every day; go down the pool deck. A lot of you have a lot of athletes. I think the perfect ratio is one coach to four athletes, no one has that, okay? It’s tough. But you have got to go down the lanes and say, I mean, to every swimmer because in the world of texting or getting the social interaction are getting kind of weak. So just hearing your name really, really has a bigger effect than you think.

And that works to increase the self-efficacy of the athlete and we saw earlier the more self-efficacy that they have and confidence, the quieter their minds are going to be. And then the Art of Coaching, like Sergio just said, you got to go by feel, all right? There may be a book, or twenty books, that say taper this way or instruct this way. You’ve got to do what you feel is right in that moment, all right? And creating that, using that art to create the environment is huge and going by – this leads to my next point, going by feel is — even though I’m delved into science there are things on this planet we cannot explain. An example: the way we perceive light. So we think we know a whole lot about a whole lot, but we only perceive that is the whole light cycle. We perceive a fraction of light, okay? A fraction. And what we do to that light is we categorize it red, green, blue and we put a very definite line between colors, when really color is a spectrum okay?

So there’s an infinite amount of possibilities between, I’m color blind, so red and blue. So there’s infinite amount of possibilities- you have to look at your swimmers like that. You have to have an open mind. One thing I really like Dave Durden said, he’s like, “I’ve got this kid coming to me he needs more rest, he needs more rest.” As a coach, you never think they need more rest. I mean I just don’t, I didn’t, I mean maybe you do. But if they are coming to you telling you they need more rest, listen to them because they are not a category. They are just in the spectrum and when you master that art you can start really painting some really awesome pictures outside of these boundaries of like a little distance sprinter, all right, because everybody is different. It’s very variable. So with that I’d like to thank a few people Eddie Reese, Brett Hawk, Kris Kirchner, Chris Kubick, Ryan PK Karkoska, John Leonard, Pete Lindsey, Dr. Joel Stager, my parents, and my wonderful fiancé who puts up with swimming and me, and my family. Any questions? That’s my dog, he’s here with us today. Yes ma’am.

Audience: What would you suggest for a swimmer that you have that in practice is consistent, does the work, is very focused happy, but comes to meets and I mean- utter failure, like stops in races, falls apart swims totally a different technique than you’ve seen before, just kind of has that almost… (Deer in the headlights) So nervous…. Physically sick, like just kind of the meet is the ultimate break down for an athlete–

Kirk: Do you have an opportunity to do mock meets in pool, like set up a timing system? Do everything put everything in set it up and say, “We’re going to go 8 x 100 meters on eight minutes” with the timing system on. Put the speed suit on put it all dress rehearsal. They do it in place, I mean I think you should do it in swimming. Which is why I like that First Chance meet that Mike Bottom does.

Audience: So when you turn out to older people that were looking [indiscernible] feet you set the [Indiscernible] equipment to say “press on the paddle”. So when you are in meet situation you don’t have the equipment, what are the external things, what are the, like what’s the dot on the floor that a coach can use when they have no equipment reference?

Kirk: You have to get creative like just the water, the water itself can be external. Breaststroke: If you’re finishing breast stroke, the last lap of the breast stroke you need to reach for the wall in every stroke. Like that is huge. Just reach, and a lot of people instruct, “Okay get your hands, you want your hands quick. Don’t think, forget about your hands.” So taking it away from the hands and just giving it focus to get the same movement, so focus on the reach, reach for the wall and hopefully that stretches him out and glides him towards the finish, if that makes sense. And you say things like pushing against the block its one of the things you have to get creative lane lines one thing that Eddie, Eddie teaches freestyle. He hangs perpendicular to the lane line and then drop in, which is brilliant because it’s kind of comes up get your elbow high and then you drop in. So think a lot of coaches have been doing this and had a lot of success without the science behind it, which is awesome because Doc’s famous quote is, “Science ain’t done crap for me.”

Audience: You mentioned your swimmer and that you wished that you had some knowledge for have you had some more sense where you seen this actual work?

Kirk: I haven’t had a much control. I’m a volunteer assistant, but there are some athletes that do struggle with the meet anxiety that I’ve been working with and it seems to help. Like I said, I don’t have… I was a head high school coach so a little different, being a volunteer assistant than the head coach. So I do what I can and it seems to be working so, and I present some of the stuff to the team so they are a little bit aware of it. Yes sir.

Audience: This goes to your philosophy on cooling the mind [indiscernible] so forth I agree with you the current generation just putting it out [indiscernible]. But yet you see the more accomplished swimmers and other athletes utilize external stimulus such as [indiscernible] uncontrolled external stimuli [indiscernible] address that?

Kirk: I think music is fantastic I listen Bob Marley before I take a test; it just helps me. I mean, I think there is a lot of research on that. Music is fine, but what he was looking on at Twitter is like other swimmers would be putting stuff on Twitter and he’d be thinking about what the other swimmers were thinking about. And it’s like, “Whoa,” but I think music is fantastic. Especially like the tranquil, whatever and that’s another thing, it’s a spectrum. Some athletes love Eminem and hardcore rap, some athletes are listening to Beethoven, who knows? But it’s kind of what works for them. I had a guy not, not so much music, but he had to have a double cheese burger before meet. I was like, “What? A double cheese burger?” And he just stressed out like, “I got my double cheese burger now I can perform” and the physiology in me is like…

Audience: You got your [indiscernible].

Kirk: Exactly, exactly. So sometimes you got to be open minded to some of these things. Yes sir.

Audience: Has anybody done the research to know what the race car driver is thinking [indiscernible] ?

Kirk: The — that’s what I hoped to do, when I… oops sorry, sorry, the question was has anybody done the research to figure out what the race car drivers are thinking? It’s a little bit with what Dave Salo was talking about yesterday with those well, I call it, “adrenaline junkies.” There hasn’t, I haven’t read much I’d love to do something on it because I love being around that environment where it’s just flip the switch and here we go so.

Audience: With all the video games and everything in fact CDs on and video games do you think they are [indiscernible] overloaded before they are racing?

Kirk: So the question was, “Competing in video games: Do you think they are being overloaded before they are racing?” That I don’t know, I know like the military uses virtual reality to train these things under pressure. To be honest, I don’t think so, maybe mentally a little bit, but I don’t they are pairing it with a motor task. They pressing buttons, I assume. But it could be, I mean it very well could be; I have to look at the data on that. Yes sir.

Audience: I know that you said that novice [indiscernible] you said that an expert can still revert novice pathway and some point trying to still get into [indiscernible] symptoms of that and the characteristics of [indiscernible]. Have you seen any like sure fire [indiscernible] for this, switch of that from expert to novice [indiscernible] related to stress [indiscernible] sure fire, well most of the time always reverts that extra track back to the novice.

Kirk: So the question is, “Is there a mechanism to go back and forth with, from expert to novice?” So one thing I said about Dr. Stager, having him on deck, it’s awesome- but science is limiting sometimes. So there’s so many interactions going on the body at one time that it’s hard to say, “Its yes, this exact thing.” I think it’s a — it’s a suite of different things going on that may enable some to retain expert and some to go to novice. And back to your question they do studies with fighter pilots, in the military some of its classified so I don’t know, but I will look into it for sure. Yes sir.

Audience: To her video game questions I think, I have a group of 10 members at [indiscernible] [00:54:01] and the boys were all, who were normally in the off the wall running around and the boys, they were all playing their video games before their races. And they did fantastic on their races. I think some of that goes to their mind as to, they are doing that and they are not thinking about their race and what’s going to happen, you know, they are just very cool and all that. Whereas the girls were not doing that and they were talking to each other, they were talking about all of, what was going on and they didn’t do as well. And I think some of that had to do with video games where had their mind somewhere else and then they’ll go swim.

Kirk: Exactly, it’s kind of like music and it will be interesting to see these eight, nine, 10 year olds that have had video games in their lives their whole life how that functions, with performance. Yes sir.

Audience: Has there been any study into people who are really good at visualization before their competition with their MRIs and those things with how that –?

Kirk: Yes. So that question is: “Has there been has there been any research on people that are really at good visualization and performance?” Yes. So, they and again science is limiting so you give them the FMRI and you tell them to visualize what it does is it activates those same pathways. So like I said about Recon at the Championship Meet? When you’re visualizing its laying those, its making that pathway more economical, but the visualization needs to be really, really, really vivid and detailed. But what it does do is like that practice; they are getting better and better without actually performing the task. And some of the studies suggest that instead of pairing the visualization with a certain time you want to go pair with the happy thoughts. So like you just swam a perfect 50 in your mind, now you got to think of my Mom’s chocolate chip cookies or something like that that brings a positive reinforcement because when you focus on time, I don’t think time is always the best thing, because it brings induces a little bit of pressure. Yes sir.

Audience: [indiscernible] …visualization does it help [indiscernible] I know you have to [indiscernible].

Kirk: The question is: “Does visualization help — what’s the timing of the visualization?” I think it needs to be trained, I’ve tried it, especially with that a guy was a socialite on Twitter. And it worked, it didn’t work, but we did some progressive muscle relaxation stuff where you just kind of got him through. I think it gets, I think Chris Plumb was talking about the Dryland Program. I don’t think an 8 year old is going to learn how to visualize just yet. But I think you need to start implementing it in the club programs a little, whatever age group 10 or 12, 13, 14, to really try to start honing in because when they get to the high school ranks or the college ranks then they know how to do that. Any other questions? Thank you very much; I appreciate it.

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