The following was written by Coach Heath in 2005. It was placed on the Palmetto Aquatics website and a hard copy was given to every member of the PALM Aquatics Swim Family. It is as applicable today as it was in 2005. Please read.
I would like to dedicate this link to my parents, Johnny and Dawn Edwards, who for 29 years have continuously taught me right from wrong and have ingrained into my soul the keys to leading a successful life. Thank you, Mom and Dad.
As a swim coach, it is my responsibility to teach swimmers how to swim, instruct kids on the four strokes (including racing starts and turns) and motivate them to a higher level of dedication and work ethic. I love every part of that. For me there is, and always has been, an urge in my heart to teach kids more than just swimming. I’m old fashioned in the sense that I believe teachers (and coaches) are more than that - they are teachers of life. In many cases, as a coach, I spend more time with your kids than anyone else except family members. As a result, the swim team becomes a second family to many swimmers and I become a secondary reinforcement to what is being taught in the home. And I love that.
For awhile now I’ve been thinking about what I can do to better teach kids the keys to success, both in the water and out of the water. I have spent a lot of time pondering what made me successful as a youth swimmer and why I was able to stay out of trouble in my teenage years. I was a fast swimmer. I worked my tail off. But I was also a great kid. I didn’t give into peer pressure. I didn’t lie. I was honest. I never drank alcohol of any kind. I’ve never done drugs or partaken of tobacco. A lot of the reasons why I was successful had to do with my own family life – my parents and my older siblings setting a good example. But I also credit the life of Mike Blouin, who was my first year-round swim coach and taught me more than just swimming. I want to be that kind of coach. I want to make a difference in the lives of my swimmers. For this reason I have come up with 50 Keys to Success that I believe aided me in my swimming career and helped me lead a good life. These are things I have learned myself and want to make sure my own two boys, Emerson and Tanner, learn about life. Some of these you can apply to swimming and some of them you won’t. But, as your swim coach and as a teacher of life, it would be my prayer that you would read over these 50 Keys to Success and apply them to your life as a swimmer and as a human being trying to make a path in life. Parents, I encourage you to read over these Keys to Success and go over them with your children. Everything that I write is from my thoughts and experiences up to this point in my life. These are the things that have made me successful and maybe can help you out as well.
1.Gain a strong faith in God – No matter who you are or what religion you are, I believe we are all children of the same God or Supreme Being. Having a strong belief in God helps you endure hardships and gives you an eternal perspective.
2.Make your family relationships the most important thing in your life – Love your parents. Obey them. Love your siblings. Make your family unit the most special thing in the world. Some kids don’t come from a family of love or a full functioning family. That’s OK. Love the family members you have and figure out what kind of family you want some day.
3.Have respect for authority - I truly believe that one of the biggest problems in the world today with teenagers is kids not having or showing respect for those in authority (teachers, coaches, parents). Kids, rolling your eyes, smacking your lips, talking under your breath, etc…. is not acceptable. As the swim coach I will not put up with that.
4.Have respect for others and their property - Learn that respecting other people and their property is vital. When you don’t, you look like a spoiled brat.
5.Learn to disagree appropriately – It’s OK to disagree. Learn how to do it appropriately.
6.Always address adults as “Sir” or “Ma’am” – I can’t stress how important this is. Nothing else is acceptable. Get in the habit of saying, “yes Sir” or “no Ma’am.” It teaches respect for authority. If someone tells you not to call them “Ma’am” or "Sir,” do it anyway. When speaking to a coach, it’s appropriate to call them “Coach __________.”
7.When people are talking to you- LISTEN – When someone is talking to you, look in their eyes. There is nothing worse than talking to someone who is looking around as if they were looking for someone else. Focus. Listen. Look at whoever is talking to you. When the swim coaches are calling out sets, what should you do???? Listen and look at them.
8.Learn how to deal with failure & rejection – This is a big part of life. Three things are certain in life: 1) birth 2) death and 3) experience of failure or rejection. Learning at a young age how to deal with disappointment or failure is momentous. Think about setting a goal to win a race or making a qualifying time. When you don’t, and you fall flat on your face, how will you react???
9.Win or lose – have excellent sportsmanship – I don’t care how good a swimmer is - I never, ever want to see bad sportsmanship come from one of my swimmers. It’s childish and unacceptable. Every now and then I see a teenager (usually a male) not do so well in his race and get out and throw their goggles down and pout. Don’t ever do that. That embarrasses everyone. It’s childish and immature. It goes back to learning how to deal with failure or rejection. And when you win, do not brag. No one likes a conceited winner. Be a humble winner. Wish people good luck before you race, and congratulate them after your race.
10.Be completely honest – Don’t lie to your parents. Don’t lie to me. Be honest with yourselves. In swim practice be honest towards the efforts you give. Be honest in the quantity and quality of your workouts. Don’t cheat yourself, your teammates or the team.
11.Forgive others – When you have been wronged, learn to forgive others. Don’t hold grudges. It can eat you up inside.
12.Always say “Thank You” when you receive something from someone – It shows gratitude. Be grateful.
13.When you meet people for the first time look into their eyes, smile, say hello, say their name and give a nice firm handshake – This way you give a confident first impression and by repeating their name, you are more likely to remember their name.
14.Surprise people by performing random acts of kindness – This is the very core of what being kind is. It’s a good habit to get into.
15. Look at others in a positive light – One of the leaders of my church often says, “It’s amazing how good others look when you look for the good in others!” And how true that is. No matter who you are - when you truly get to know somebody, they really are a good person. There is good in every person, so look for the positive.
16.When in a class, work, or team atmosphere, listen and focus when being instructed – Pay attention. Focus. Listen. Concentrate.
17.Be Prepared – You wouldn’t go to school without your school books, so don’t come to practice without your suit, goggles and proper equipment that is needed.
18.Learn that there is a time to play and a time to work – No playing around when you’re not supposed to.
19. Learn as much as you can from every program you are involved with – In life there are many programs in school, church, and sports that are intended to motivate you and help you expand on your talents. But in the end, it’s not how many state titles you won or how many team records you broke, that make you who you are. It’s you being yourself, learning everything you can from each program or subject, so you can have as much experience as possible that will allow you to be as successful as you want to be.
20.Don’t be a complainer – Please don’t moan and groan and complain when practice sets are called out. Don’t be negative when you are asked to do something you don’t want to do.
21.Don’t ever leave the pool without permission – Whether you are in class or swim practice, do not leave the pool/class without permission from the coach/teacher. That’s rude. I’m running a practice and you need to seek permission.
22.Form a hard work ethic – Establish in your soul, as young as possible, to be a hard worker. Don’t be afraid to work hard. Learn to enjoy working hard. Open your heart to it. To be a successful mom, dad, husband, wife, coach, businessman or whatever, it will require hard work.
23. Surround yourself with good people – My mom used to tell me, “You are who you associate with.” And I believe that. Find people that have the same standards and beliefs. Hang around people who share common interests and who will not force you into a situation you don’t want to be involved with.
24.Understand that making the right choices and doing the right thing is not always an easy thing – Parents: help teach your kids that part of growing up is learning to make right decisions. Also, a part of that is understanding that making the right choice and doing the right thing is not always easy. In fact, right choices can be some of the hardest decisions you will make. But those are the times and the decisions that mold your character and define what kind of person you are.
25.Be sensitive to other people’s feelings – I can’t stress this enough. It’s so important to me to teach this to you kids. Care about your teammates. Care about those who you don’t know. What’s the Golden Rule? - “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!”
26. Don’t do anything to belittle anyone else – This goes along with being sensitive to other people’s feelings, but I want to be more specific. Don’t talk down to others. Don’t call other people demeaning names. Do not ever “pop” someone on the head or face. Don’t make any kind of body contact that makes one feel inferior. Again, be sensitive to other people’s feelings.
27.Understand that life is not always perfect – Things will happen in your life to test your faith and your perspective on life. That is a fact. People die. Family members get ill. You might not make the Olympics. Financial problems occur. It can be a sad and sickening world. Gain your true perspective on the purpose of life. Find out who you are. Stay positive and upbeat.
28.Continuous Education – Once you graduate from high school and college, strive to continue your education. Always put yourself in a position to be learning something. Set goals to learn about things that perhaps didn’t interest you before. You want to have as wide a variety of knowledge as you possibly can.
29.Don’t be arrogant – No matter how good you are, no matter what you have accomplished, there is always somebody somewhere who can take you down. That’s life. There is always someone else. Be confident, but please don’t walk around like you own the world. Despite what you think, the world does not revolve around you.
30.Never Quit – Be a finisher. Point blank - be a finisher. When you start something, you finish it. In swim practice, you finish your sets hard. Don’t get out to use the restroom. In meets, you finish your races hard. Don’t give up. Be a finisher.
31.Get your sleep – I believe this is underrated, especially as a teenager. Get your rest. Your body needs a regular routine of sleep. Make sure you get it.
32.Don’t let someone hurt you over and over again – Learn to move on. Learn from the past. Don’t keep putting yourself in situations that will cause you hurt or pain. Be smarter than that.
33.Avoid a bad reputation like the plague – Your reputation is everything. Not only is your reputation at stake but so is the reputation of your parents, your entire family name, your school, your church, your swim team and Coach Heath! Keep clean and stay clean. Be proud of who you are and what you stand for.
34.Face peer pressure with confidence – Don’t be afraid to tell others that you don’t drink or smoke. Don’t be afraid to tell someone to keep their hands off of you. You are not alone. Your parents and coaches have gone through a lot of the same pressures and have succeeded. You can too!
35. Never make fun of someone less fortunate than yourself - Under no circumstances is this allowed. Whether it is physical disabilities or because someone doesn’t wear nice clothes or whatever – don’t you ever make fun of someone less fortunate than yourself.
36.When you make mistakes, own up to them - When you make bad choices, own up to them and seek forgiveness. Do whatever you need to make up for your mistake. Make things right and never do it again.
37.Avoid Pornography - Pornography is filthy. It can distort one’s perception of reality and can have a real negative impact on the relationships of those who view pornography. It belittles women. Those who produce pornography do not care about the physical or spiritual being of the viewers and only are concerned about making money. It’s no good.
38.Avoid trash media – With regard to movies, TV, music and literature, only view those things that are uplifting and not trashy.
39.Be frugal – Do not live on debt. Credit cards are so easy to obtain. Stay away from them. Learn that money doesn’t grow on trees. Some day you will have to grow up and become financially responsible. If you are growing up in a home that is less fortunate or that doesn’t have a great background about money – make it a priority to learn about these things.
40.Don’t compare yourselves to others – This is one of the worst things you can do, and it’s so natural. Adults do the same thing. It’s a constant battle throughout one’s life to strive not to compare yourself to other people. We are all different people trying to make our own path in life. Stay away from comparisons. If you do, you will be a lot happier.
41.Form good relationships with those you learn from - If you are a swimmer trying to be a better swimmer, make it a goal to have a better relationship with your coach. In school, form good relationships with your teachers. At home, form good relationships with your parents. Be respectful. Show them that you are trying to do everything they tell you to do. Be honest with them. It just makes everything happier and easier.
42.Clean up after yourselves – After practice, clean up your stuff. If you pulled something out to use that does not belong to you – put it up. At home, clean up after yourselves – at the dinner table, in your room, etc…. CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
43.Realize that you are an example – No matter who you are or how good you are at swimming, you are an example. People watch you. Always remember people are watching you and act accordingly.
44.Don’t use foul language – There is nothing less attractive than a male or a female shouting profanity out of their mouths. Please avoid this. Don’t hang around with people who have this bad habit. If you have this bad habit – you can stop it. Take it one day at a time. Talk to your parents or to me, and we will help you. It’s childish and unattractive.
45.Keep your body clean – Your body is your “temple.” Keep it clean.
46.Always say “please,” “thank you,” excuse me” – Always use those phrases of kindness when appropriate. It shows good manners.
47.Be Organized – Keep your room clean and organized. Keep your car clean and organized. Dress neatly. Don’t wear dirty clothes. Keep your school bag clean and organized.
48.Set goals – Throughout life you will always be setting goals. Get into the habit now. Start with swimming. Why are you swimming? What do you want out of swimming? How can you get there? Set realistic goals.
49.Don’t be afraid to put your heart on the line – When you make a decision to do something like swim year-round or try for a college scholarship – don’t be afraid to lay your heart and soul on the line. Give it your all. Give it your very best. It’s ok to dedicate a part of your life to swimming. It’s ok to be loyal to your sport. Don’t be afraid to give 100 percent.
50.Love Coach Heath – Always, always love Coach Heath and you will be happy!