What if everything you had, everything you earned, everything you stood for as a coach… was based on the performance of ONE swimmer? How would you nurture, foster, and develop that swimmer?
What if you had only one swimmer?
Would your first instinct be to work that swimmer SO HARD that he or she would be the fittest athlete in the pool? Would you pay attention to every minute detail of their stroke, reminding them lap after lap about all the little things, the fine points, the details of the sport? Would you demand that they attend every practice — arriving on time, rested, hydrated, and attentive? Would you take them to a lot of meets, honing their racing skills, and sharpening their awareness of how others race, and prepare for, those races? Would you be MORE or LESS intense? Would you preach, teach, inspire, or befriend?
What if you had only one swimmer — and you don’t get another one if this one gets injured?
Would you start an excercise program designed to prevent injury? Would you change how he/she swims — changing technique to avoid injuring shoulders, knees, neck, etc.? And what if your swimmer DID get injured? Would you send him or her to rehab? Would you hire a physical therapist to help the swimmer recover more quickly? Would you ignore the injury and demand that the swimmer get back into training as soon as possible? Would you sacrifice an entire season to make sure the swimmer was healthy enough to continue in the future?
What if your one swimmer got depressed and sad?
Would you yell and scream at him/her to snap out of it? Would you talk to him/her about their personal problems, and do what you could to help, without crossing that ever-so-faint line between coach and parent? Would you look for alternative methods of training, to the point of sending your swimmer away, to rejuvenate their training and love for the sport?
What if you had only ONE swimmer — and you don’t get another one if this one leaves the sport?
Would you do EVERYTHING necessary to keep that swimmer in the sport — balancing the drudgery and intensity of training with interesting, alternative exercises? Would you do EVERYTHING you could to guarantee injury-free training, while still challenging your swimmer with intense, and demanding sets? Would you do EVERYTHING necessary to get your swimmer looking FORWARD to practice, rather than dreading it? Would you teach your swimmer your language, your voice, your way of explaining things, and learn their language, their voice, and their way of explaining things. Would you come to some sort of middle ground of understanding? Would you talk, listen, explain, and discuss training options and ideas? Would you ask the swimmer for input on what he/she likes and doesn’t like? Would you write practices knowing and understanding how tough it is being alone, and looking at the bottom of the pool day in and day out? Would you strive to engage your swimmer’s body AND mind?
If you had only one swimmer, with no chance at getting another one if this one left the sport, would you use a different yardstick to measure that swimmer’s success? While times are certainly the primary measure of success, what if your swimmer hits a slump? What if your swimmer gets faster and faster and then the improvements stop — or come in hundredths of a second? Would you find another measure for success, to keep that swimmer feeling successful? Would you start rewarding effort in practice… or great technique… or the willingness to experiment?
Now, since none of us has only one swimmer, this may seem like a silly question. But what if we treated ALL our swimmers as if they were our only swimmer? What if we treated all our swimmers as if they were our BEST swimmer — the one who was going to MAKE our reputation?
What if you had only ONE swimmer?
Wouldn’t you do EVERYTHING in your power to keep them happy and in the sport?
While we’ll never be able to write individual practices for each swimmer, I feel that if we treat each swimmer as our only swimmer… it has to make us better coaches.
If we all do that, the sport has to continue to grow? Doesn’t it?
If we all do that… who knows… maybe someday, we’ll have TWO swimmers. 🙂