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Friday, 11 March 2016

Think like a Champion, Become a Champion

Today, two girls from another team walked by at our Championship meet.  The relays, placed at the beginning of the meet, were over.

“Did you try?” one said to the other, her mouth covered partially by the towel in her hand and her smile curled up on one side of her mouth.

The teammate nodded ‘no’ with her eyes.    Quiet smirks, and they shuffled off.   They will claim sickness or some other issue to their coach.  To their parent, they will act aloof or sick.

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Yesterday, one guy hanging around our pool commented about his friends in the water, “I’m glad I don’t swim”.

I said, “why?”  I was concerned, because he was brash enough to talk at his friends from the outside looking in, at my practice.  "C'mon Johnny" he called to his friend, our T2 athlete, from the sidelines.  Typical kid who certainly could be great at something but he's not interested in swimming that's for sure.


I said, “I’ve been all over the world, and swimming is the reason.  These guys can do it too.”

I don’t think he saw my viewpoint!

I remember coaching a girl in 2004 who had a shot to make the Olympic Team….but when you train at a facility where people in jean shorts are smoking unfiltered cigs and packing nasty dips, the Olympics are the furthest thing from anyone’s reality.  We had to be in the Olympics every day to make it real, so we went there in our minds.

This athlete was training hard in the middle of the pool as scraggly 15 year old boys threw a tired Nerf football over her.   The smell of cooking meat wafted our way each time the wind brushed past our lanes.

The swimmer raced while I yelled and pushed her.  People looked on in shock.  The set went well, I think we got a 53.3 75 Meter Breaststroke to finish the set.  Not bad for a 14 year old girl.

Afterwards, with the athlete in the gutter gasping for breath, the young football dude spoke up: “what are you guys training for the Olympics or something??”

Yep.  We are.  Within a year, that girl became the best female IMer on the planet.   Two more years, and she became the best female IM swimmer in the history of the planet.

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It’s the proud among us who continue to fight. We fight against mediocrity.   We don’t say things are hard, we say things are a “challenge”.  We enjoy the process and expect that behind every loss is a future win.

We are proud of making what others call sacrifices.  To us, sacrifices are for people who are leaving something better on the table.  To those of us who are proud, sacrifices don't exist.  It's either right or not right.  It's either a step forward or a step backwards.  Sacrificing is too emotional for true champions.  A true champion's heart is so steady it can't be pulled in two different directions.

We are not duped by those who have small minds and small goals -- those going along towards their empty reservoir of mediocrity.  If led by these people or ideas, we would have stopped long before reaching this point of inflection that we are within right now.

And what point is that, exactly?  Where are we going?

We are at the point where we need to make a decision.  Are we ready to act like big people while we are young?  Are we ready to be champions?  Can we see ourselves becoming a 20 year old, and at 17 act like we are almost 20 instead of recently 13?

Many act like that 9 year old, the baby of the family, who is still 9 even on his 12th birthday.  Everyone is susceptible to getting stuck in the mud of time.  Notice this, if it's happening.  You are weak if allowed to be weak -- unless you are a champion!

Champions act like champions before victory.  True champions don’t have to have a scoreboard, or a coach, or a parent, or a teammate tell them that they are the real deal.

Champions are the real deal when they are 10 years old, and they know it.  They are too young young to have been talked into mediocrity by their friends, parents, or coaches.

Young champions spend their teenage years listening only to people who believe in them.  If someone doesn’t believe in them, they cast those people aside.  They follow only those leaders who are strong and unwavering.  They know in their heart they are great and they fight against those forces attempting to squelch their greatness.

Champions are not afraid to be different.  And they will not be denied.  Their quest isn’t over until they say it’s over.

Because a champion, in the end, only cares about getting a fat heavy medal dropped around their neck.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

200 Freestyle Predictors

I was thinking about a way to get people to understand what they have to do to perform certain times in competition.  It ain't magic!

Athletes want the times, but they must be ready to accept the training that it takes to get the times.

Here is the cheat sheet:


Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Congrats Abby!

Congrats to T2 Aquatics athlete Abby Garner! Abby won the 50 Free in the Florida HS Class 3A State Championships this year with a 23.95.

Abby’s 50 Freestlye progression for the Fall of each year in High School is as follows:

2012 (Freshman Year): 29.57
2013 (Sophomore Year): 24.86
2014 (Junior Year): 24.31
2015 (Senior Year): 23.95

….and her 100 Freestyle progression as well:

2012 (Freshman Year): 1:02.41
2013 (Sophomore Year): 54.13
2014 (Junior Year): 51.84
2015 (Senior Year): 51.58

Abby went from a brand-new swimmer as a HS Freshman to State Champion in 4 years.  Her progression wasn't an accident.  Our Staff identified her as someone with the physical potential to do these things, and Abby has worked hard to make her potential a reality.

Of particular note concerning this year's High School season: Abby DQed the 50 Free at the District meet last year….meaning she couldn’t swim the 50 Free at her Junior Year State Championship.  Abby “came back” from last year’s HS State disappointment with a mixture of determination and relaxed preparation to win this year’s State Championship by .01.  It’s always fun to watch people get over disappointment, train hard, and get the desired result.

Abby will be attending Xavier University next year on an Athletic Scholarship.  Check out her interview after winning a State Championship here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57phrstDWYg

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Behavior Changes for the "Challenged Athletes"

Student Athletes must be in a different mode when compared to their Non-Athlete friends. Between competitions, practices, schoolwork getting done between athletic responsibilities, food choices, bedtime choices -- there are a lot of reasons I ask my athletes to "FIT OUT" instead of "FIT IN".

Super Bowl MVP Ray Lewis said,  "Good is fitting in, great is fitting out".  (I didn't make this up!)

But what about the Student Athletes who are a little bit different?  We all have athletes on our team's that are dealing with attention issues throughout the day, or are perhaps somewhere on the autism spectrum (many highly functioning and high-performing people are on this spectrum).  These athletes are challenged first and foremost within their environment; to add school and sports on top of it can make for some rough terrain at times.

What happens if THESE athletes try to "fit out"?  In my view, "fitting out" for these Student Athletes is the incorrect approach.  Instead, these athletes should be encouraged to simply "fit in".

Without a doubt --  I felt really weird a few weeks back when I had to ask one of our T2 Aquatics athletes to simply "fit in".  I don't think I've ever asked anyone to fit in!  I'm kind of naturally repulsed by the concept.  

But fitting in is what this athlete has done.  Instead of going at the end of the line every time, the athlete goes in the middle at times, and literally "fits in".  This fitting in, and simply going through the motions, is a HUGE improvement compared to what the athlete had done before: getting in late, getting out randomly within the practice, missing the send off, and not knowing specifically what is supposed to happen during the practice.  Now, the athlete is getting in on time more often, staying involved throughout the practice for longer continuous periods, and knowing more often what is called for during the practice.

I don't talk with this athlete much about times to do in practice, or the interval, or even specific technical keys.  For the most part, I stick with one theme: fit into what everyone else is doing.  It's been awesome to see some real improvement in pace times, ability to stay on the interval, and generally improved technique…all coming from simply trying to 'fit in'.

I have seen a sense of peace and confidence with this athlete that I have never seen as well.  I can see the athlete talking a little bit to me and my assistant coach (it's been years of me talking and the athlete not talking back).  I can see more "team-related" interaction between the athlete and the athlete's Teammates (it's been years of interaction at the video-game level, not the teammate "get it done" level).  I can see more practices being performed well (we are not throwing away 4 practices per week due to extreme lack of concentration).

Swimming is great for athletes who have a tendency to go into sensory overload.  Simply being in the water dampens the reception on the majority of our physical senses: hearing, tasting, and smelling are simplified toward one type of sound, taste, and smell (mostly the sound, taste, and smell of water).  Even the sense of seeing, although I'd argue it's at the forefront -- is also limited to the certain environment it's in (the water).

It's the sense of touch that is at the forefront of a swimmer's experience, and it's what many people who deal with sensory issues can resonate with and relax into.

This is why, in terms of behavior,  our most challenged people and their parents report a higher degree of receptivity during swimming practice when compared to outside of swimming practice.  Many people can intuitively and/or experientially relate to this reality, and will attest to the fact that although little Johnny may not be a perfect angel at practice, he is much much better than he is during "study hall" at school.

'Fitting in' is the only way this particular type of challenged athlete is going to move forward as our Team's entire group of athletes continues its progression.  It's a wild concept for us coaches because we want athletes who transcend the norm.  But for those athletes who naturally are straying from the pack far enough to get lost in the fields -- this is a key concept to address and encourage our athletes to understand.  Sometimes it's a real breakthrough to simply fit in, and fused with the natural maturity of age can help a Student Athlete change the way they behave for the better.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Get UP and Get it DONE

One of our 15 year old guys did a PR 200 yard Kick this morning at about 6:08am.  He had been 2:21 two full years ago in our Age Group training group, and since then has not been under 2:21 with a board.  He finally got a 2:19 today.

Imagine if he had slept in!  He would not have moved forward in his training.  As it is, the sun has just come up on a Monday AM and he has already done a PR.

This is training.

The set was 5x200 on (3:20), descend 1-5.  This particular guy was 240, 236, 233, 226, 219….something like that.

We still have people who think their schoolwork will be affected by coming in at 5:30am on Monday (we only do AMs with Public School kids 1 time per week because they are in class at 7:05!).  Last year I had only a few people get to the AM workouts and out of the 7 consistent AM people we averaged over a 4.0 GPA!  These days we are rolling 25-35 deep most mornings, so I'm sure that number will be a little bit lower, but we are still going to have a high GPA with the consistent morning kids.  And we are going to continue to be able to look at Ivy League Schools with our top athletes!

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Color Me Healthy Fitness

You gotta fuel for performance right?  Set the goal to get educated, and follow through with that which you learn!

New T2 Coach Deb Orringer has become our T2 Aquatics' Nutrition-consultant.  Check out this video regarding "Anti-Inflammitory" foods.  Get your body back in balance!

I learned that I need to eat more walnuts:)


There are a lot more videos on the "Color Me Healthy Fitness" youtube webpage.

Email  info@321getfitt.com  & sign up for Deb's blog…..According to this video, you'll get a free "list of super foods for optimal health" if you do.

Monday, 28 September 2015

The Road to Greatness Has Dips and Turns

Here is some research that will help Age Group Swimming Parents better understand Age Group (14&U) Swimming.  Keep in mind, as you read this, that my goal is to help you BUST SOME MYTHS, but after I do so I will BUST THOSE MYTHS as well:

In 2009, I researched the TOP 20 100 FREESTYLERS in the USA, at age 10, for both girls and boys.  I made a list of 20 girls and 20 boys based off this information.  I wanted to see how many of the TOP 20 kids at age 10 were still ranked in their age group's TOP 20 at age 16. 

The results were enlightening.  The top 10 year old girls of 2009 are not the top 16 year old girls of 2015.   The top 10 year old boys of 2009 are not the top 16 year old boys of 2015.   It's not even close!

Check out the results for the girls.  Only ONE of the TOP 20 10 year old girls transitioned into a spot into the TOP 20 as a 16 year old.  The face of Women's Swimming, at the level of the highest-ranked High School-aged athletes, is completely different at 16 when compared to 10.

The Boys are almost identical:
(sorry for the red…)

You may be asking, "so, it's a bad thing to be a top-ranked 10 and under?"

No, it's not that it's bad to be a TOP 20 ranked 10 and Under.  I actually encourage it!  My goal with this post is to let people know what is normal and what is average….because it's clear to me that either parents do not know these facts, or (worse) they are ignoring these facts as they consider where their child is in the world of athletics.  I cringe at the thought of anxious parents who throw their hands in the air when their 10 year old isn't winning the local races…there is still hope for our future Champions!  We will never get anywhere if we start to get weary and put our kids into another sport that may be nicer to our kids (swimming can be stressful because the "in-your-face" nature of race times encourage us to consider some kids 'good' and some kids 'not as good' -- when really, swimming is great because the black and white nature of times gives us a true measure of improvement -- and it's the knowledge of getting some improvement that is a great part about being a swimmer!).

In the short 5 year history of T2 Aquatics, the stories of our "pretty good" 12 year olds turning into College swimmers are becoming commonplace.  But what about our athletes who were those "great young swimmers" -- what has become of them?  Here are a few of our examples:

Recent T2 Swimmer (now College swimmer) Elise Haan popped onto the scene with a 110th-ranked 11 year old 100 Backstroke (for 11 year olds in the USA), and then transitioned into a 4th-ranked 12 year old, a 7th-ranked 13 and 14 year old, and a 3rd-ranked 16 year old.  She got good, and stayed good.

T2's Matt Limbacher and Kayla Tennant are other examples.  Matt was a #1-ranked 10 year old, a #1-ranked 12 year old, and a #3-ranked 14 year old.  Kayla was a #2-ranked 12 year old and a #5-ranked 15 year old.  

T2 Aquatics athlete (and current California Golden Bear) Elizabeth Pelton was a #1-ranked 10, 12, 14, 16 and 18 year old (rankings were accomplished representing the Wilton Wahoos, NBAC, and T2)!

NBAC and Pitchfork Aquatics' Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympic athlete of all-time, was a #1-ranked 10 year old.

To be clear, for those T2 Parents who are reading this blog, our T2 Staff is confident that our athletes can be great at any age, and our goal is continued forward progress -- even for those who are highly-ranked young athletes.  We will strive to be the best we can be, at any age, and we are not afraid to go really FAST at a young age. 

The key point is to understand that most top 16 and unders were not Top 10 and unders.  The goal for athletes age 8-10 is to improve technically and to learn how to prepare for competition (basically learning how to get the most from themselves at a meet, relative to their level of performance, by knowing where to go for their events and knowing how to effectively communicate with coaches, teammates, and parents during competition); for athletes age 11-12 we want to get some good improvements in USA rankings and make our way toward the top 300-500 in the USA if we are not already there…while still attending to all of the awesome things gained as a 8-10 year old.

We cannot ignore the facts and the numbers, and the numbers in the graph above are the facts. We can examine any number of reasons why athletes' rankings tend to change with age (up, or down), and there are plenty of reasons that perhaps I'll save for another time.  But one thing is for sure, it really makes no sense for us (coaches or parents) to fuss over how "good" or "not as good" the athletes are when they are 9, 10, and 11.  Not to mention 8 or 7.

Parents can help their kids do well in athletics by simply parenting and turning things over to the coach when the subject of "athletics" is at hand.  Most of the top athletes I tend to work with have parents who parent and otherwise direct the child to the coach for athletic-related concerns…particularly at the age of 13 and older.   Parents of kids age 12 and under have to anticipate the backseat they must eventually take and try to avoid "running the show" from age 8-12…so there is a smooth transition.  

Thanks for reading, here's to a great week of maximizing strengths and minimizing weaknesses.