The ULTIMATE Swami
When SWAMIs enter the Junior Swami Group there's a "homemade" booklet each SWAMI will receive as part of their regimen into the program. It's called, The Ultimate Swami (A Personal Guide to becoming your Very Best). It's a chapter-by-chapter book covering such topics as character-building, team-bonding, goal-setting, self-evaluation, team philosophy, life changing scenarios, and a wealth of other personal growth enhancing material.
Coach Matt Finnigan decided it was an important tool to have because of the importance of the team's mission. "I felt like I didn't just want to talk about what it means to be a SWAMI, but to better illustrate what it means to be part of this program," he said. "We can talk and talk and talk about what we expect from our kids who join this program, but sometimes that's all it is--it's just talk. We wanted to help facilitate what it all means, how we want our kids to act, what are expectations are of them. Why it's uncool and divisive to complain... just stuff like that. We set high expectations, but now they have a guide to help them reach that standard."
Another great aspect of the booklet is that it's interactive. SWAMIs must answer a series of exercises which are relevant to each chapter. There are also areas for which athletes can record times, offer their input to such things as team activities, as well as record favorite sets and certain goals they want to strive for in practice and at meets.
At the end of each month, Coach Matt collects the booklets from his swimmers and offers his 2 cents (or more) as to how they're doing and what they might try focusing on to better themselves--swimming or otherwise. In other words, The Ultimate Swami serves as a sort of hybrid personal journal on steroids. "Some people say I might have taken this idea from some of the stuff USA Swimming offers to age groupers, but not even close," Matt says. "There might be some cool stories I can borrow from them and credit them for, but otherwise, most of what I stole, I stole from Kevin Perry, my coach and mentor growing up. Journals were a big deal for him and for our team... He was way ahead of his time in terms of the psychological approach to swimming. He wanted to know precisely what made each of his swimmers' tick so that allowed him to grow as a coach too. And I absolutely loved keeping those journals year after year. To this day I kept virtually all of them, and thankfully, there's a lot of great stuff written in there from both Kevin --- and from me. It allows me, the coach, to see firsthand what was going through the head of a 14, 15, 16 year old. It's invaluable stuff and allows me to write this guide specifically for age groupers... I want them to think, and to know firsthand that this is more than just about swimming. It's character-enhancing material when you get right down to it."
The booklet will continue to grow as the group does. Right now, there's about 24 pages, but the ultimate plan for the Ultimate Swami is to have a 100 page booklet for which the kids can keep as keepsakes. "I know how much I treasure my own journals I kept," Matt said. "Hopefully, they will too."