Sunday, April 25, 2010

Welcome Back-Starting Up Once Again

Spring Newsletter 2010

Dime Store Cowboy v Real Cowboy

This is a funny title to a swimming newsletter, but I hope that you each take the time to read this letter and think about the message contained.

During the summers while I was growing up in Galt, California in the late 1960s my friends and I use to get on our bikes nearly every day and ride downtown to the local dime store. Today this type of store is called a “Dollar Store”. In the 1960s the dime store was a magical place for any eight year old. It had penny candy and large candy bars for a quarter. As we rode our bikes down to the store we would look in the ditches and the garbage cans around Galt High School to see if we could find sources of cash revenue-the trade in pop bottles. For every pop bottle we typically would find we could get a nickel. I once remember finding a whole six pack of empty Coca Cola bottles. This netted me a whole .30 cents. When we arrived at the dime store we would go in, look over the penny candy, and if our search for bottles or the raiding of our piggy banks netted a huge amount of change we would purchase anything from Bazooka bubble gum, Sixlets, a Big Hunk, Butterfinger or Baby Ruth candy bar or perhaps Topps baseball cards. We purchased these cards for more than the cards themselves they also had a stick of bubble gum in them. After our shopping for candy was complete we always saved a little change in order to ride the mechanical horse that was right outside the store. In the 1960s nearly every eight year old boy in America wanted to be a cowboy because of the many westerns that we would watch on television or at the movies. We would plug in our nickel, get on the horse and ride until we either ran out of nickels or the one nickel we shared was done. It was a great time.

Now what does this little story have to do with swimming? I want to point out that there is a difference between a “dime store” cowboy and a real cowboy. A dime store cowboy by definition is one who just looks the part. He might wear a cowboy hat, traditional Levi or Wrangler jeans, Tony Lama boots and wear a Stetson. When my family moved to Ft Worth, Texas I saw a lot of guys who were just like this-they looked the part in every way. Many of them even drove the large pick up trucks with the classic wheels and top of the line interiors. To the untrained Californian these guys looked, acted and gave the impression that they were the real deal. After getting married I realized that these guys from Ft Worth were not really cowboys but the “dime store” variety. I learned from getting to know my father-in-law that a real cowboy actually works at being a cowboy and gets his hands, and pick up truck dirty working around his ranch or dairy. My father-in-law wore the boots, the hat, and jeans, drove the pick up, all with one huge difference. He not only looked the part but he lived and worked the part of being a cowboy.

In swimming there are those swimmers who are “dime store” swimmers and those who ARE swimmers. Some swimmers like to come to practice to look good and give the appearance that they are real swimmers. However, all too often these “dime store” swimmers only do just enough to make themselves look good in the eyes of their peers. They may participate in dryland only to the extent that they look good while doing it, or they will do just the minimum to get some definition. Rarely will a “dime store” swimmer jump in and get into training, both in the water and in dryland, in order to take their swimming to the next level. The “dime store” swimmer often lacks the commitment to attend practice 100% of the time and give 100% of the effort needed to get to the next level. The “dime store” swimmer sets and makes goals which are easy to reach and involve little or no effort to achieve. The “dime store” swimmer may compete and frequently do well while competing but will most often lack the consistency to excel because of their focus-looking good. The “dime store” swimmer will often not make the progress needed to get to the next level, become frustrated at their lack of progress and find ways to blame others. The “dime store” swimmer is more into appearance then into the actual work required to do great things.

The real swimmer is one who does not take the easy way out, but works smart and hard doing everything that they are asked to do in and out of the water. A real swimmer is not afraid of hard sets and tough dryland, but will embrace these challenges as a chance to prepare and grow so that they will be able to achieve their goals. The real swimmer comes to practice every day, ready to learn and work so that they can be prepared to achieve their goals. The real swimmer is one who is constantly setting goals, and evaluating their progress so that they have to stretch and work to reach their goals. The real swimmers take care of themselves, by eating right, getting the appropriate amount of rest they need to sustain growth and their athletic activities. The real swimmer is not easily discouraged by set backs or losing races but looks at each competitive opportunity as a growing and learning experience then takes the lessons learned, applying them to his/her training, and then makes the changes necessary to continue to grow and strive for the next level. In short someone who is a real swimmer will not only look good but be good because of the effort they put forth to get to the next level.

Who are real swimmers? Real swimmers are found in every group. Being a real swimmer does not mean that they are necessarily at the highest levels of swimming. A real swimmer may be at the highest level of any age group or competitive group. A real swimmer may be a beginning swimmer who is learning to do any of the strokes, or starts and flip turns. The ability level of the swimmer has little to do with the being a real swimmer. Being a real swimmer has more to do with developing an attitude that will lead you to do those things that will help you get all that you want to get out of your swimming career. Being a real swimmer means that you DO and not just that you look or act the part of a swimmer. No matter your level or ability you can be a real swimmer. It just depends on you and your commitment level.

There is a saying from the Sanskrit that goes like this:

Men (women) are four which are you?

1. He (she) who knows not and knows he (she) knows not, he (she) is simple teach him.

2. He (she) who knows and knows not he knows, he (she) is asleep wake him.

3. He (she) who knows not and knows not he (she) knows not, he (she) is a fool shun him (her).

4. He (she) who knows and knows he (she) knows, he (she) is wise follow him (her).

Before we get any deeper into the 2010 summer long course season, I would encourage each of you to look at your goals and commitment level and determine who you are. Are you a “dime store” swimmer, or a real swimmer? There is a place for everyone on this team, but it is the real swimmers who will get the most out their membership and participation. It is the real swimmer that will learn, gain and achieve the most that there is to achieve. It is the real swimmer who will rise to the highest possible using his/her talents and abilities to the fullest extent and complete their career without ANY regrets. It is not the goal of the HAST coaching staff that when you have completed your swimming career you walk away with regrets. Instead it is the goal that you: “…develop the character traits, technical skills and intense desire necessary for maximum realization of each individual’s potential.”