Simple is Effective

DESCRIBE THE IMAGE This past week I spent four days driving to and from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, for the ASCA World Clinic. To fight off the possible boredom of 36 hours alone in the car, I brought along some books on tape. Knowing that I was traveling through a sparsely populated area of every state south of Maryland, radio wasn’t really an option. These four books were the only thing that stood between me and complete insanity.

The first book was one that I have read before, The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, by Stephen Covey. I threw this in somewhere around Northern Virginia. I remembered the book being very meaningful at the time I had initially read it. I am not much into the self-help genre of literature, so I was a little skeptical this time about listening to it while I drove. This was also the only book on cd that I could grab without losing control of the steering wheel. So, by natural selection, this was the one I would roll with through Virginia.

The book proved to be as inspiring, if not more inspiring, the second time around. It could also be that I was completely alone listening to the book being read aloud. I was transfixed on each one of the 7 points as I drove. Without distraction, I was able to internalize all of the points of the book. There were times that I got so into the message and into thinking about its application to what I am doing, that I had to rewind the tape and listen again.

I am not going to go into all of the points, but I would highly recommend this book to any coach. It is great for goal setting, organization, and leadership. All of the points are common sense and explained in a simple common-sense manner. It is not brain surgery, but is just as important if not more so. These are principles that all of us can use on a daily basis. To get more information you can check out the Covey Institute for Leadership website.

As a bonus there was a special 8th habit. The 8th habit is really a rehashing of the first seven with some interesting stories thrown in. Get the 7 habits and you don’t really need the 8th.
At this point I was somewhere in or near North Carolina. It is kind of hard to tell where you are when you are on I-95 for 985 miles without any major landmarks. ‘

The next audio tape on the docket was My Losing Season, by Pat Conroy. This is another great book for any coach. This was the complete opposite of the 7 habits. The 7 habits was a general book about what to do. My Losing Season was specifically about a coach and what not to do. The story is about the coming of age of a Citadel basketball player. He has to face not only the demands of being at a military school, but also the abuse of his coach.

The coach in the book is portrayed as the kind of man who is easy to hate. You see this man who subjects his players to Christmas-break workouts with the intent of making them throw up. I am sure there are swim coaches who have made some workouts with the same intent. Throughout the book this coach berates his players and tries his best to break them down. Again, this is a great book for all swim coaches to check out. It will remind you of what a throw-up workout could possibly do to your swimmers psyche, and if there is never a build-up you will break them down.

With only an hour or so left in the trip, and having successfully made it into Florida, I figured it was time to listen to what the AM radio hosts were saying about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Without much of a shock it was who could blame whom. Thankfully I didn’t listen for too long or my brain would have melted.

Upon arrival in Ft. Lauderdale, I was prepped with how to be an effective person, and stories of how not to. As a vendor at the ASCA convention I was excited for a number of reasons. The first is that I was going to see people whom I hadn’t seen in years. The second is that working in an office with one other person it is nice to be surrounded by others for a long weekend. Lastly, the ASCA convention is a chance to get feedback on what we are doing. It is nice to know that people do actually watch the DVDs, read the website, and contribute on the discussion board.

While at the convention I got a chance to catch up with some friends. Unfortunately there were so many friends who came that it was hard to spend the time with each and everyone that I wanted. Also while we were there we were able to meet new friends that we will see in years to come, and next year’s clinic is in our neck of the woods.

The highlight of the show was the only two talks that I was able to make it to. Both of the talks that I attended were given by the play-by-play man, Glenn Mills, with color commentary by Dave "Chickens on Crack" Denniston. The night before, I got a chance to attend the dress rehearsal. Thankfully, the crowd was subjected to the same comedic insights that made the dress rehearsal so unique.

If you didn’t get a chance to catch the Glenn-and-Dave-comedic-technical analysis, you missed out on what was for sure a one-of-a-kind performance. While being lighthearted in nature both presenters knew what they were talking about — even when they came up with complex answers such "uh huh" to complex multi-level questions. The point of their talk was pretty simple: There is no one right way to do something. As soon as you think that you have the one way you will no doubt be wrong. The goal of a coach should be to find as many ways as possible to do the same thing. When it comes to explaining it to your kids, use terms they know and can relate to, UH HUH.

The last tape I saved for the ride home. It was a John Grisham novel, The Broker, which was as you might guess about a lawyer defeating the evil system. It was a yadda yadda yadda nothing special or original book on tape. It did successfully chew up four-and-a-half hours of the drive.
The thing that I took away from my week of driving and clinics was to speak simply and clearly. When I get back to regular practices I am sure that I will have at least one complex question per practice. Just because the subject is complex doesn’t mean that my answer has to be.

Fun Exercise: Take the Coach Black picture and save it to your desktop. Blow it up to two or three times the size. Then see who rules? You will have to look carefully.