Coach and Fun / Motivation

motivating fun

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.

 

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4 comments

  1. Great to see you make a shout out to water polo.

    Variety is the spice of life.

    Game play is fun, and to most, not all, game play is MORE FUN because of the variety, the unfolding drama, the socializing, and the lack of a script. Some say that the most intense two words in all of sports is, “Game seven.” That goes to the root of it, because in swimming — we’d never have six do-overs in a race. Sure, one, two, three — then it is a well known script. Not day after day after day. Races and game play are different. In our biggest races, it is often, see you next year. Or, perhaps, see you in a few weeks after the sections / conference meet at states / nationals or trials in a second taper. Then it is next season, or even, 4-years from now. Ponder that “comeback swim.”

    Fun, and games, can be risky to the autocrats and authoritarians because they are not tightly scripted. Game on. Who knows what’s going to unfold?

    In the end, coaches would be wise to include more game play in their training, IMNSHO.

    In the end, the training elements need some spice, some variety, so new twists to the plots.

    1. I’m also a former water polo player. The kids just love it when we finish a practice with water polo. I cannot honestly say that the rules are followed. It’s more of a free for all of continuous play, both hands on the ball, and lots of questionable pulling. Wonderful stuff. Same with water basketball. Not many rules, just lots of fun. Great analysis of games versus our races, as well. These games are a nice change of training that doesn’t quantify your output in the same way

  2. Humm. Sorta. I love some and hate the rest. Without preaching tonight, I need you to communicate your snail mail address to me. I have something for you.

  3. Completely agree with your comments re motivation and finding fun in the sport….a club’s coaching staff (and board) need to do everything possible to create a team environment where self motivation is encouraged – BUT swimmers on the team (and their parents) also have a responsibility to nurture the team training environment – to respect teammates – to build and protect the team culture……so that arriving on deck at practice is something swimmers look forward to…

I love comments, especially when they disagree with my view.

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