The Facebook Swim Coaches forum was particularly busy today, and I saw comments in two different conversations that were both powerful, but together they made me realize something new.
The first included a quote from the incredible University of Texas Coach Eddie Reese, in an interview with Coach Jeff Grace.
“Everyone wants me to talk about motivation. I don’t know anything about it. Nobody can be motivated to work hard everyday. You cannot be motivated everyday to do that. You have to raise your level of living, your average, your work level. You raise it and you have to live there.”
The part I like the most about this quote is that it explains so much about which swimmers reach their potential, and which don’t. Yes, coaches are there to support, cajole, nurture and everything else. But we can’t train for our swimmers. A swimmer’s ultimate potential lies in the painfully thin atmosphere of constant personal motivation to get better.
The second is a comment by Coach Mike Murray that one of the reasons Caeleb Dressel is so fast is that he seems to have fun all of the time. Now, I’m sure that’s not literally true, but it does seem that every interview, video and article involving Dressel shows him thoroughly enjoying the moment.
This comment highlights another one of the things that I wonder about: what is fun about swimming? Now, I’m not saying that swimming isn’t fun. It’s just that the definition of fun varies so drastically from swimmer to swimmer. I’ve found that for most swimmers, fun is any significant change in the training program. Examples include playing waterpolo or water basketball. Or swimming feet first. Or getting to push off the bottom during 25s. And yet there are some swimmers who define fun as challenging themselves in a new way. Trying a set on a faster pace time, or swimming a set on progressively faster pace times until failure. As a coach of swimmers with widely different skill sets and swim speeds, it can be a real trick to introduce universal concepts of fun.
It’s when I put the two above comments together that I realized something new. It’s those personally motivated swimmers who enjoy the training process that find fun in challenging themselves. Despite what I might think, I’m not really motivating them. I’m just creating the training and cultural environment, and they’re motivating themselves. These are the ones most likely to reach their ultimate potential.
And for my other swimmers. It’s not my job to provide the motivation. It’s my job to create the right environment and culture so that they can find their own motivation.