Saturday, August 1, 2009

Are you feeling me?...

Ya know that feeling?…

That feeling you get when you just did something amazing at a swim meet? A lot of you know what I am talking about, I‘m sure.

It is that indescribable feeling you get as you tuck into your hotel bed at night and your shaved legs feel so strange as they touch the sheets. When it is time to sleep but your heart is still racing because you can’t contain the thrill of how awesome you are for just performing better than your best…

It’s the confidence that burns inside you because your weekend is off to a great start and you just can’t wait for your next race to see how far into "uncharted territory" you can take it…

It's the beaming smile that makes it hard to eat your dinner even though you are crazy hungry, and the giddiness that comes from joking around with your team during down time; when you just feel so “on“… so connected.

I wouldn’t know how to describe it to a non-swimmer. I can’t help but wonder how many people have never had the chance to feel so charged.

I felt a little bit of that today. I am at a summer league championship meet and my athletes have done well on their first day. I am going to bed tonight feeling some of their charge with them. I have heard world class coaches describe the look on an athlete’s face after they have done something beyond what they thought they were capable of. It is that very look that keeps so many of us coaches at it even when there are so little other payoffs to a lifelong coaching career.

I told my assistant coaches tonight that I can attest that it is the same at age 21 as it is at age 8. You do better when you are having fun, and it is easy to have fun when you are swimming well. I want my swimmers to have fun first and foremost. Having fun and working hard are not exclusive of one another. If swimming fast is fun, I guess I am just trying to make sure they are having more fun than everyone else, right?

I can only imagine what it has been like to try to get a normal night’s sleep after breaking a world record in Rome this weekend. I have to wonder: Does Michael Phelps really get that same feeling that my summer leaguers get? Does he have a hard time sleeping after a great swim? Does the excitement make you hyper after you go a 49 in the 100m fly the same way it does for my 10 year old who dropped two seconds to swim a 36 in the 50y back and earn a medal in the finals?

I can tell you every detail of my 50y fly that was such a blur at age 10... That was the swim that made me really fall in love with swimming at the Alaska JO’s… the same way I can tell you every vivid detail of my 200 breast when I won my university conference championship. For me it has been the same. Will masters nationals carry the same thrill if I ever get to compete there some day?

I love to imagine that Michael Phelps, Aaron Peirsol, Ariana Kukors, and all of the other athletes who have put on such an amazing show this week are going to bed with that feeling tonight. I like to think that even at the highest levels, it is not about suits and sponsorships… not about newspaper articles and paychecks. I consider myself a purist because I like to dream that our best and brightest still get that thrill. I like to think that is why they have stayed in it long enough to reach their true potential and keep improving upon it. It brings me comfort to think that even they still feel the joy of a 10 year old every time they swim a big personal best.

I hope I get to see that look on my daughter’s faces someday. I hope that every athlete I ever coach gets a moment that makes them feel this at some point before they hang up their suits. I hope that I can still catch a little bit of it every time I set my coaching bag down in my hotel room and crash hard in my hotel bed, just waiting to see what my athletes are capable of tomorrow.

But most of all… I hope I can feel this way until the end of my career and tell stories about it until I no longer draw breath on this earth.

I love this sport.


  1. i'm feeling you.

  2. Great post! I'm a 27 yr old master swimmer (returning to competitive swimming after taking college plus a few years off). Swimming lifetime bests in IL USMS State Meet in ALL 10 events I entered and then beating those times in USMS Nationals a few weeks was one of the best feelings I have ever had. That feeling is why I swim and strive to get better and faster