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Halloween Practice Changes & The Low Hanging Fruit

Halloween Practice Change Reminder

I am writing this post on Halloween 2017. A quick reminder that we will not have practice for Novice through Gold tonight at BSAC. We will offer any Silver through Senior 2 swimmer the option of coming to the pool between 3:45 and 5:45pm tonight for those who want to get in a workout. Have a fun, safe Halloween.

The Low Hanging Fruit

When you think of Halloween, you probably think of people in costumes, haunted houses and trick or treating. Of course, I think of swimming. Let me explain what I mean.

I talk to the swimmers a lot about the value of low hanging fruit. Low hanging fruit is a common term for something that can be obtained with little effort. Today, for example, bags filled with candy can be obtained by simply walking up to a house, ringing the doorbell and saying the phrase that pays, “Trick or Treat”.

Every other day of the year, this would not be the case. To obtain that amount of candy, one would have to spend hard earned money to fill those bags. Maybe the child would have to do extra chores around the house, get a part time job or score straight “A”s in school to be rewarded in such fashion. But today, the fruit (or candy) in hanging low.

So what does this have to do with swimming...

It’s the end of the season for our high schoolers. To a person, our swimmers are looking at ways they can shave off time to advance further in their respective district through state championships. At this point and time, most are willing to do whatever they can to do better in their meets. They would climb to the top of any tree if the fruit that resided there would help them swim faster. While their willingness to do whatever it takes at this stage of the game is admirable, a better strategy is to always grab the low hanging fruit from the first day of the season.

Here’s what I mean...

Extra work at the end of a season is no substitute for doing things consistently right from day one. There is no real secret to success. Successful athletes understand the value of doing the little things well, day in and day out. They also realize that they are in control. They take ownership of their educational and training processes. They become students of the sport and look at ways they can incrementally improve. Over time, they master the skills and attitudes needed to be successful in and out of the pool.

Too many swimmers, parents and coaches feel that much of an athlete’s success is determined by genetics or other factors that are not necessarily in the control of the swimmer. Height, muscle density, economic means, etc are all too often attributed to success. While every factor plays a role, the ones mentioned above do not guarantee success or failure in the pool. As a relatively tall man, I can attest to being beat in a fifty free, more than once, by someone shorter than me. As noted above, successful swimmers know that if you take care of the little things, big things happen.

The little things are the low hanging fruit. They can be had with just a little extra effort. On Halloween, the low hanging fruit is in the form of candy. In swimming, anyone, at any time, at any age, who is any height, or any weight and with any means, can fill their bag with goodies, so to speak, by saying the real phrase that pays, “I will do it right, everytime”.

“It” refers to a skill or mindset. We are not talking about adding extra morning practices, lifting extra weights or even staying an extra hour each day in the pool to get better. We are talking about owning the little things at every practice. Doing it right may mean not breathing in or out of the wall, holding your streamlines properly, doing the best body dolphins, getting in on time, doing sets the way they are designed or just being a good teammate.

"Everytime" is also an important part of the phrase. Doing it right only during sprints, when the coach is watching or when it feels good will not make the changes permanent. For a real transformation to take place, the skill or mindset has to be practiced at every opportunity. The good news is that it is easier to always do something right than sometimes doing it right. More on that in another post.

If all of this sounds familiar, it should. We preach this everyday on deck. These are also the major components one needs to master to move from Level One to Level Two in our program. They are purposely put at the base of the program for one main reason. Doing these little things from the start can help any swimmer be their best for many years to come.

Think of it this way...

Does it really take a lot of effort to not breathe off of the wall? No. Is it uncomfortable? At first, yes. But if you do it everyday it eventually gets easy. Is it hard to get in on time? Not at all. You may have to be better at managing your time when you arrive at the pool, but in most cases, everyone of our swimmers can be ready when we start. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

As a swimmer, think about some of the little things you can own day in and day out. If you are not sure, check out our Stoke Score Cards, review the Level One exit requirements or simply ask your coach. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day. While I have seen some athletes make dramatic one day turnarounds in everything they did, most of the successful athletes I have worked with have picked one or two things to perfect each season. Once they got over the initial discomfort, they owned it; and their careers flurished because of those subtle daily changes.

Competitive swim careers can last ten, fifteen or even twenty years. Each year usually consists of three seasons. If you picked two things to perfect each season, you would master sixty elements over tens years. When a swimmer does that, I do not care how tall, strong or what their individual story is...they will be fast. They will become what I call the, “ten year overnight success story”.

If you do not have ten years, no worries. You may just have to be a tad more focused to make those strides. I have seen many swimmers come to the sport late. If they are determined to do well, they can easily pass swimmers who have been doing it longer, but without real purpose.

Swimmers. As you trick or treat tonight, please think about this. Would you get any candy if you did not walk up the steps, ring the doorbell and said trick or treat? Of course not. Even though there are people standing at the door ready, willing and able to give you free candy, if you do not make the small effort to go to the door, you will not get any of it. The same is true regarding the low hanging fruit. It is always there, ready to help transform your swimming career, but you have make the commitment to walk up and grab it.

Here's your challenge. What can you can master with just a little extra effort? Will you commit to being the best at these one or two elements this season and actually make these changes at each and every practice? If you do this, something amazing will happen. You will get to taste something that is sweeter than any candy bar you will get tonight. You will get to experience the sweet taste of success.

Have fun, be safe and always strive to be your best - Rich