The Value of a Good Coach

This is a different sport, I know, but the lessons are the same. I was at a national wrestling championship over the weekend, and saw a stunning example of the value of a good coach.

One of the wrestlers on my son’s team was having a good day, wrestling the freestyle event with great focus and fought his way into the bronze medal match. Incredibly tired and banged up, he wrestled that match well but ending up losing the match on a highly controversial call with just 2 seconds left. He was devastated, exhausted and beaten up both emotionally and physically. And to make matters more interesting, he was scheduled to wrestle Greco-Roman style the next day.

Apparently, when he got up the next morning he had trouble getting out of bed, and really didn’t want to wrestle. Didn’t think he COULD wrestle at the level required. But one of the coaches quietly listened, talked to him, and eventually convinced him that he had to give it a shot. That he owed himself that much.

The whole coaching staff got behind him that morning, and the wrestler won his first match. You could see him gain confidence throughout the day, even as his body got worn down. And he won. His first National Greco-Roman style championship. Sure, his training and drive and commitment played a big role. But so did that coach who quietly motivated him when he was at his lowest. And who taught him a lesson that will benefit him his whole life. Determination and perseverance pays off.

“It ain’t how hard you hit…It’s how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. It’s about how much you can take and keep moving forward!” – Rocky Balboa

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The Roles and Responsibilities of a Head Coach

swimmer coach

There’s not much that gets a head coach more animated or frustrated than asking them about their responsibilities as head coach. And this is probably because the job involves so much more than just coaching. After researching a lot of different sports, and asking swim coaches on an excellent Facebook swim coaches discussion group, I found a surprising array of opinions, lists of responsibilities and philosophical answers. Summarizing the general feeling, a head coach is responsible for just about everything, and far too often has to actually do just about everything.

The one response that summed it up the best, in my opinion, was provided on Facebook.

“The buck stops here.” Seriously – final decision on all wet side matters and at least a seat at the table on all dry side items.”

The only problem with this response is that it clarifies the obvious (head coach is responsible for the design and coaching of practices and competitions), but doesn’t clarify the less obvious. Such as:

  • Who should be responsible for hiring and firing of assistant coaches, and how much to pay them? This decision has a massive impact on the wet side, but certainly seems like a dry side issue.
  • Dealing with parents. I don’t think any coach has a problem with the normal parent/coach discourse, but we all know that sooner or later a parent comes by who crosses the line. That sounds like a dry side issue, but one that can seriously affect the morale of the coaches, swimmers, and ultimately the whole team.
  • Dealing with the swim team board is by definition a dry side issue. But what about when there is a disconnect between the coach and the board. I’ve seen a board try to tell the coach how many competitions to attend, and the coach responding by threatening to quit. …read more
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6 Things I Don’t Miss About Swimming in the 1970s

The-1970s

There is no doubt that swimming in the 1970s was exciting. Goggles had just been introduced in the late 1960s, and this allowed swimmers to train as hard as their bodies would allow, instead of training as hard as their eyes would let them. As a result, swimming records of every kind were broken on a regular basis. But along with the records came a flurry of previously unknown or rare overuse injuries, including swimmer’s shoulder, breaststroker’s knees, burnout, overtraining, etc. It was a very dynamic time.

Here are 10 things I really don’t miss about those good ole days.

  1. Pocket Drag Shirts

These shirts became popular in the 1970s for a short time. They’re similar to the occasionally seen drag suits that have pockets held wide open to increase the drag (ex. Finis Ultimate Drag Suit here). However, while drag suits are partially hidden by the body, the pockets on the drag shirts were positioned to maximize the amount of increased drag. And it did it to a scary degree. Swim speeds slowed down to a crawl, while putting huge stress on the shoulders. As such, it didn’t last long in the marketplace. Using it for one year probably hastened the end of my swimming career by a year or two.

  1. Introduction of Doping

Doping on a large scale started in the 1970s. The East Germans and their state-sponsored doping program lead the way, but there were plenty of signs that many individuals in many countries and many sports were doping as well. The results were just too tempting, and the testing was too primitive to be effective. The devastating health repercussions we later saw in the East Germans athletes is heart breaking (see my post here).

  1. Going Underwater for Distance

shallow water blackout

With the new awareness of …read more

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More Than You Want to Know About Shaving and Swim Performance

shaving

If you’ve been involved in swimming for any period of time, you know about the shaving tradition. This is where swimmer at big meets often shave virtually all available skin not covered by a bathing suit, with the exception of the eyebrows. Normally this includes arms, legs, torso, and sometimes even the head. The loss of the hair should result in some amount of improved hydrodynamics.

But one of the realities of shaving is the incredible feeling in the water. And this comes from the fact that shaving doesn’t just get rid of just the hair. It also gets rid of a layer or 2 of dead skin cells from the epidermis. The exposes newer and far more sensitive skin cells, and this is responsible for that incredible sensation and feeling of speed when racing. The added sensitivity literally has the swimmer feeling like they are moving much faster through the water.

Of course, non-swimmers don’t understand any of this, and male swimmers usually take some ribbing from their non-swimming friends. But with performance improvements of However, shaving has been reported to improve swimming performance by up to 3-4%. That’s a huge amount.

A Little History

Although historical records about swimmers shaving are sketchy, the first mention I could find was of Jon Henricks of Australia at a meet in 1955.

At the Melbourne Olympics the next year, at least one other Aussie, Murray Rose, also shaved. At those games they not only gained a lot of attention with their shaved bodies, but the Australians also won 5 of the 7 events.

Murray Rose

Interestingly, the Americans didn’t think the shaving had anything to do with the Australian success, believing they were just being strange.

The two Australian Olympic stars, Rose and Henricks, then brought the practice of shaving with them when …read more

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