September 6, 2020
The Parable of the Bowling Ball
One year, while training swimmers from Pacific Swimming at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, we noticed that there was a small group of boys that would struggle through the last 40-60 minutes of each practice. We tried to help them with their strokes, but their “zone” included only drive. So they would push hard until they physically could do no more.
On one day of this trip, we took all 24 athletes (12 girls and 12 boys) to the local bowling alley to allow them to play and enjoy each other. That same group of boys who had been struggling together quickly found themselves bowling the same lane. The other lanes were bowling pretty much as expected. There was much laughter and, although more than one foot slid across the line, the balls were rolling at least mostly down the lane to ultimately knock over the pins. In that one lane however (and this is what first caught my attention!), there was also laughter, but also the echoing sound of BAM, BAM, BAM! Those boys who were so intent on muscling their way through the water, were muscling the bowling ball to the pins by actually throwing it. To my amazement, we weren’t thrown out of the bowling alley. But to my utter astonishment, they did not learn from all those around them, or from their meager results, that their method was poor…and it was just going to exhaust them.
When you go to the pool, effort will always be important. But, choosing to use your energy wisely, will give you the best results. I often tell my lesson swimmers that, if you fight the water…the water will win. If you use the water, it will help you.
Listen to your coaches. They are on deck to help you know how to best use the water.