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The Passion

Sure, the title of this article plays off the movie, and although I’ve not seen it yet, I will be seeing it in the next week. I’ve simply been too busy traveling, and now editing new titles for our DVD library. I guess you can say I’ve been following my passion.

DESCRIBE THE IMAGE This Easter weekend, I thought I’d play on this concept just a bit, certainly not to make light of the meaning Easter, or the movie "The Passion" (I hear it’s not a comedy), but to shed some light on my perspective of the meaning of swimming.

For years, I thought the reason I coached was to help people get faster, and although that’s the RESULT of the coaching and the training, I’ve discovered that for me to be fulfilled doing what I do, I’ve got to help my swimmers find the deeper meaning in why they go to the pool every day, and work as hard as they do.

My most rewarding coaching comes when I can help a swimmer understand the direct relationship between work… and reward. Hard work does not guarantee success; it only gives you a CHANCE at success. When a swimmer puts it all on the line, it’s for a CHANCE at success. And success can be measured in various ways. It can mean beating your opponents on a particular day and in a particular race. We all know this is a lot of fun. Success can also mean having a personal best time. Fun again. But success can also mean executing one small aspect of a race in exactly the way you trained and prepared for it. In some cases, success means simply having the courage to step up to the starting line. In these last two definitions of success, it’s the QUEST for personal greatness that is its own reward. It’s the process of TRAINING well and with passion that brings satisfaction.

The best way to be certain of "success" is to have a passion for whatever it is you’re doing. If going to the pool is a task, or something you HAVE to do, then swimming becomes a very lonely, tedious, and boring sport. If, however, you’re connected, involved, intrigued, and always ready to explore new things, success will come from within and it will come more often.

Swimmers who care only about dropping a couple seconds here and there will not be nearly so satisfied as the swimmers who continuously search for a better way, and who work consistently toward that better way.

I’m reminded of a story I heard a long time ago, and only hope I write it correctly…

A young man decided that he wanted to become the greatest martial artist on the planet. He searched far and wide for the best teacher, and came across an old man (in the Far East, of course).

Upon meeting the teacher for the first time, the student asked, "If I train for 2 hours every day, how long will it take me to become the best?" The teacher responded, "Ten years."

Disappointed when hearing this, the student asked again, "If I train for 4 hours every day, how long will it take me to become the best?" The teacher responded, "15 years."

Shocked, the student asked again, "If I train for 8 HOURS EVERY DAY, how long will it take me to become the best?" The teacher responded, "20 years."

Finally, the student, in disbelief asked, "Why, if I train more every day, will it take me LONGER to reach greatness than if I train less?" The teacher responded, "Any man so anxious to achieve greatness will NEVER achieve it."

I’ve encountered so many swimmers (and swim parents) who are just like this young martial artist. GET ME FASTER NOW!!! All it takes is one bad season for a swimmer, and the parents (and swimmer) start to consider finding a new team and a new coach. Sometimes a new program IS the answer (particularly if the new program offers a coach with technical knowledge and the ability to teach it). But more often, patience and self-exploration are the answer. Sometimes, developing an inward drive for steady improvement is a better solution than a program with more yardage. Sometimes, developing a passion for perfection — no matter how long it takes to achieve — is the key to success.

Having a passion means you try new tactics, new plans, and variations on a theme until you find just the right one, and sometimes that means suffering through some hard lessons along the way. Funny, isn’t it, how passion and suffering always seem to end up in the same sentence?

Passion and victory are also used together as well. With a passion for your sport, with a passion for improvement, with a passion for learning, how can you ever fail? The important thing is to enjoy the game itself — to have a passion for the race and not just for the victory. If your passion IS for the race, then even if you get beat, you’ve had the opportunity to enjoy the competition. Your only option would have been to watch.

Sport IS about passion, and it’s not just about how fast, but rather HOW you compete. Did you compete with PASSION, or did you just race? Were you interested in achieving greatness TODAY, or are you patient enough to achieve greatness when it is truly your time?

We’re privileged at this time to be involved with many athletes who have achieved, and who will continue to achieve, real greatness. They are National Champions, World Champions, and even Olympic Champions. Still, I have yet to meet ONE who isn’t searching for more, or who isn’t striving to reach a little farther, or to be a little better.

I must also admit that I’ve been watching Donald Trump’s "The Apprentice" on TV. I’ll also be honest that I’ve never much been a fan of Mr. Trump. Last week, however, he said something that made me like him just a bit more. "Find something you have a passion for, and do THAT for a living. You’ll be happier and more successful than in anything else you’d choose."

Happy Easter, everyone.