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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.