Tuesday is my night with the Senior training group, so while this is just one night out of many, this was my take away from last night.
These swimmers already have many of the skills necessary to take them to the next level. It’s not as much about teaching, as reminding (CONSTANTLY) that how they perform their skills actually means something. The support of their teammates means something. The opportunity to forget about technique and act also means something.
The theme I’m already getting for this week is "desperation." With the younger swimmers, it was showing desperation to arrive on time to practice, and to keep going. With the senior swimmers, who are getting nearer to college and to national-level meets, the desperation changes to something a bit more performance based.
Hang on to speed as if you’re desperate for it – The set was all about intensity. Short sprints but a LOT of them… back to back to back. Not a ton of rest, but enough to allow for the swimmers to stay intense. It was at the very least a 1-to-1 work-rest ratio (unless you swam faster), but it was a test of focus as much as it was a test of physical action. When you’re demanded to go fast over and over again, all the little things mean so much more. This is also when rational thought must enter the brain. IF you already know that the fastest you’ll be going on any length is when you push off the wall, then rationally, you’ll do everything you can to hang on to that speed. IF you already know that underwater dolphins are faster than swimming, you’ll rationally do all you can to perform some really great underwater dolphins. IF you already know that lifting your head on the breakout will drain your speed quicker than keeping the head down, then rationally, you won’t breathe on the first couple of strokes. This is about gritting your teeth (literally), and getting mean in technique. The most basic techniques, and performing them as if your life depended on it. In reality, your competitive life may.
Become football players – There are times in swim practice when YOU do better if you make everyone around you do better. It’s when everyone is hurting the most, feeling the most sorry for themselves, that we can all learn from other sports. Football does a great job of building this kind of team intensity. At the toughest part of the game, they’re in each other’s face, or smacking each other on the shoulder pads (maybe somewhere else too, but that doesn’t work in swimming), and just getting raw about how they’re about to attack. You sometimes have to do the same in swimming. We like to call that time, CRAZY TIME. While the basics of technique, the streamlines, the breakouts, the finishes all need to be maintained, it’s during physical breakdown that one option is to simply stop thinking about the technique and just act. Just compete. How mean can you get? How aggressive can you be? When the turnover starts to slow, when the thought of self pity starts to enter your head, you have to get a little crazy and just get through it. You’ll also see that by supporting your teammates and encouraging them to dig deeper, you not only support them, but you also RECEIVE their support.
Smile through the pain – You can chose how you deal with rough times. It’s hard to be down when you’re smiling. It may sound silly, but again, this is time to get rational in the face of adversity and work. The rational mind understands that to be better, you’re going to have to go through pain. There isn’t another way. This is athletics, and to maximize your performance, you’re going to have to suffer. Once you accept that fact, then when you’re in the middle of extremely hard training, you should smile KNOWING that you’re on your way. Accept that you became better today by taking your mind and body to a place it didn’t want to go.
Be honest with yourself – This applied to the younger kids, but becomes more important with the senior group. You’re older, smarter, and absolutely know if you’ve done everything in your power to complete the practice the way it was supposed to be done. Be honest, and remebmer that even if you’ve had a bad day, you can’t get it back. This particular practice is over. Don’t dwell on it, because it all starts again tomorrow, and tomorrow can be the start of an entirely new path in your life.
Go get it!