Check out http://www.t2aquatics.com for information on T2 Aquatics!

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…and he did pretty well for himself!

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.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Grind Is Good For Your Health

Yesterday, our Seniors watched this video about Mike Barrowman, Sergio Lopez Miro​, and Roque Santos​.  Link is here: Mike Barrowman NBC Olympic Footage

There is some great training footage here; you can see the sweat and tears that goes into training for Olympic berths/medals.  The great athletes are normal people who "get the joke" -- and understand that in order to be an Olympian you've first got to do what Olympians do.  You have to have precise technique, for sure, and you've got swim at race pace often.

But you have got to grind it out quite a bit.  Many days a week, and many weeks per year, Champion swimmers have got to grind it out.   It doesn’t matter what form the work takes; for a sprinter it may be 4 rounds of sparring in the boxing ring, followed by a run, then at night some back-end race pace 50s.  For a distance swimmer it may be an hour long set hovering around and at mile racing pace.

There are not many athletes in the world who grind, have great technique, and hit consistent racing pace -- and do them consistently well, which is why in American Swimming only 1000 out of 400,000 make it to Olympic Trials.  It's also why only the top 25 Women and 25 Men get on the Team every 4 years!  

The toughest part to do is the "grind it out" part.  Great athletes get into the zone where the arms, legs, and most of all the stomach are suffering quite a bit at practice.  Swimmers get the feeling of training/racing pain that is exclusive to swimmers!  If you haven’t thrown up a little in your mouth, you probably haven’t found your edge yet!  If you haven’t felt that tight stomach 35 minutes into a 50 minute threshold set, you probably haven’t found your edge yet either!  I’m not advocating being unsafe, but the fact is that many athletes want to avoid these feelings and many athletes are missing out on becoming the athletes they truly can be because of this avoidance.  These feelings are tough at first, but soon after experiencing these feelings the great athletes learn how to dampen them -- and that's where the training breakthroughs come in.

A few athletes, here and there around the world will embrace these feelings over the next 389 days.  Will you be one of them?  A lot depends on how willing you are to make your swimming performance more important than everything in your life minus family and school.

At T2 Aquatics, we have zero 18-and-under athletes who are currently qualified to attend and compete at the 2016 Olympic Trials.  Some major adjustments must be made in order to gain admission to this opportunity to compete in one of the World’s fastest and most exciting competitions. Think about the best 20 minutes of training you have had all Spring, and try to replicate those 20 minutes for an entire practice.  If you can do this once, then come back the next day and do it again!  Grind it out until you are faster!  

If major adjustments are made, on a daily basis in practice, we could have multiple T2 Aquatics athletes compete in this meet.  The choice is yours.  Let's get it done!

Friday, 8 May 2015

Teaching Through DQs

I figure the average swimmers gets DQed somewhere between 3-11 times in their life.  That's a small amount of DQs, when you think about it.  Of course to a 9 year old who has gotten their third backstroke turn DQ in a season, it may seem like a lot!

Getting disqualified happens, usually at a younger age, and then most of the DQ causes are pretty much gone forever.  The breaststroke kick, backstroke turn, and the fly strength catch up to the needs of the race.  The swimmers learn how to get to the block on time and avoid missing events.  There are only a few things left to DQ after these items are mastered.

So to me it makes sense to use the DQ as a teaching source.  It's a good time to teach because the athletes are very receptive after a DQ.  They are probably at their most receptive point.  Either they are receptive to fixing their technical issue, and so will have more intention on getting it resolved, or in the case of missing an event an athlete may be embarrassed and ready to listen up and pay attention with a heightened sense of awareness.

Last month we had a girl get DQed for the 5th time doing incorrect breaststroke kick.  She just hasn't gotten it and we haven't taught it well enough.  After the breaststroke, this girl had one of her all-time best swims in the next event, the 50 Back (an event which to a new/young swimmer has a challenging turn in it).  She never would have nailed the 50 Back if her parents/family freaked out and fed her disappointment.  Additionally, she wouldn't have nailed it if the coaches on deck would have brooded with her about the DQ.  No one fed her disappointment, so this swimmer was free to set her mind on the task at hand: to get ready for the next race.  Our staff pointed out to this swimmer that the most important thing was not the DQ, but the reaction and action that followed.

We made some progress with the Breaststroke kick the following week too.  We can use DQs to teach.

Also, last month we had a boy miss an event at a meet.  I told him he was a blockhead, but that was about it.  There was nothing to say except, "You are a blockhead. See ya tomorrow at practice".  What else can we do?  This boy came to practice and was swimming with a heightened sense of awareness the next day. Fast, technical, the whole thing.  He probably had one of his best practices of the year.  You know that feeling you get when you did something wrong as a kid and then you were super-ready to show that you could do things well? -- that was this boy.

I pointed out to the boy and the group that I like the attitude he had of coming back the next day and kicking butt after accidentally no-showing the race.  Isn't that what we want to teach? Having a momentary "failure" that is shrouded by the excellence of the next present moment?  We can use DQs to teach!  We want our kids to move on after disappointment.  No one needs a sulking kid around the house, and no one wants to share a workplace with an adult that can't get over themselves.  As parents and coaches, we've got to nip it in the bud and use athletics to teach life skills.

The previous month we had a boy miss an event in the Finals of a meet, and he was DQed for the entire meet.  It was a tough situation.  This boy had worked hard and was primed to make some cuts for the Championship meet the next month.  He was pretty upset about it, as you can imagine.  This is a fairly new swimmer and he was ready to pick up some valuable experience in this competition.  So, what could we do?  He came to the meet the next day and cheered on his teammates -- and also the day after that.  He did a few sets on his own.  Fast forward three days, and he's back to normal, training fast and more consistent than ever.  The next month he moved into a new training group and is now swimming 7000 per session, twice the amount he was swimming two months ago, and he is swimming best times at the end of the training sets (6500 yards into the practice).  We can use DQs to teach.  No one in this athlete's life fed his disappointment.  His Dad handled the situation with calm let the coaches coach the kid.  Our coaching Staff was thinking big picture the whole time and coached him on how to handle the DQ.  He is currently thriving as one of the most improved swimmers on the team.

We are using DQs to teach.  We use any disappointment to teach.  Coaches are involved in this, and the athletes must be receptive….but most importantly, the parents have to be on board.  In each case I've mentioned, the parents have been on board.  They essentially have left it up to the Coaches to deal with the swimming part, while using the opportunity to parent their kids.

What's the difference?  It's an important distinction.  Parenting is asking the athlete to take a deep breath, and then concoct a plan of action to move on in a positive way; coaching is helping the athlete take he next step and get the most out of the next present moment.

It always come down to the present moment.

In both instances, the positive action of helping kids and athletes centers around teaching them how to be present.  Being present isn't really an action because it means to unhook attachment to the past and the future.  When we do this, we are living and learning -- and life is free and fun.  When life is free and fun, it's like being in fertile soil -- we grow into the freedom and the fun of the present moment.

Feeling our way through disappointment is tough, but when we view things from the correct perspective we can use our disappointments to learn how to behave like a Champion.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Teaching is Taken, not Taught

Most will agree, if learning is to occur there must be a 'student' and a 'teacher'.  However, most may not agree on the means by which learning takes place.

Here is the way I see it:

Learning does not take place when the teacher gives the instruction to the student.  

Learning does take place when the student takes the instruction from the teacher.  

A student must be among the most active of participants within any educational environment.  Once a student's active participation in learning begins to occur, the lessons can become more difficult and thus more effective.