Saturday, July 31, 2010

Please Send Entries to the Reaper

Just so you know, registration for the PEAK "Death Race" is now open. They are only taking 100 entries, so you better hurry and get your stuff turned in. Just be aware. Last year only 9 people finished. Don't miss out!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Swim Geek Showdown: What's in a name, anyway?

"Lo, there do I see my father. Lo, there do I see my mother, and my sisters, and my brothers. Lo there do I see the line of my people back to the beginning. They do call to me. They bid me take my place among them, in the halls of Valhalla, where the brave may live forever."

In case you haven't been paying attention, Chris DeSantis has thrown down the gauntlet. He has decided to enter the fray with David Rieder, “The Swim Geek,” in his prediction contest to see who can most accurately pick the Pan-Pac Team to be chosen at the upcoming US Nationals. At stake: David Rieder’s online moniker.

If I had the resources, I would make an awesome WWF-style commercial for them with my movie editing software. I want to hype up this showdown. It could be a really great blog fight, and the prize is worth fighting for.

I am all about the gimmick. I have been calling myself “The Screaming Viking!” since way back when the only swim blog site out there was Timed Finals. The name has some meaning for me. If you follow my blog you know that my home town, Petersburg, Alaska is obsessed with their Norske heritage and I do miss my home terribly. My high school and swim club mascots were Vikings when I was growing up, and I get pretty sentimental about all that. Heck, I even wanted to write the demand for a Viking funeral into my will long before I ever became a blogger.

Beyond that though is the humor factor. Hopefully you are old enough to remember the famous episode of Cheers where Sam, Norm, Carla and Woody conspired to run off the snobby new bartender by coming up with a drink that he had never heard of: the made up concoction they called The Screaming Viking. I am certain that it is a well known episode, because several commenters at floswimming have asked if I “prefer my cucumber bruised.”

That part has never been about naming my blog after a drink or a sitcom episode. It’s weirder than that. You see, I have always had this crazy fantasy that some day I will walk into a local tavern and… well, you’ll just have to see it. (Watch the video from about 18:30 to 21:45 and pay attention to the old guy when he walks in the door at around 21:05.)

I want this to happen to me someday, somewhere… hopefully when I am about 85 years old and walking into the bar at the hotel where I am receiving my ISHOF induction. (Yeah, right... I know. I said it was a fantasy.) I have remembered this gag since junior high when the show originally aired. I’m sure that somewhere in my subconscious, this scene was lying there waiting for it’s chance to influence me with my first creative endeavor. I just want to have a reason to spontaneously say that line. So if you just happen to sit next to me at a bar, please set me up for a good one liner by ordering a Screaming Viking.

There are a lot of cool blog names out there, but “The Swim Geek” is not just any name. It carries more weight than that. It implies that there can be only one. He who earns the honor, essentially becomes the King of the Swim Geeks, and that is a pretty large kingdom over which to hold dominion. Can the boy king continue to rule, or will the nerdiest of all the swim-nerds usurp the throne?

In a way, I hope that Chris wins, but only so he will add a little flash to his online persona and maybe come up with a new logo. I like the "Blue Ribbon" idea in his blog post, and maybe I could get my buddy Sly to make a cool banner like the participation ribbon picture he made for me a few months ago. It might make it easier to dress up in a Chris DeSantis costume if we ever really have a Swim-Nerd convention. But then again, I also hope that David gets to keep the nickname that was affectionately given to him at Swimming World, the same way we distributed nicknames to new members on every team I have ever been on.

Whoever wins, I hope they take the name and run with it. Good lick guys. I have a feeling it’s gonna be a fierce brawl.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Some Podcasts You Might Enjoy

My wife has become a podcast junkie. The swim-related podcasts are easy for me to get into, but right now there is really only one on itunes, and obviously I am a loyal listener; I have been on the podcast. :)

I have started a collection on my ipod of some really cool stuff from itunes. One of the best podcasts ever is APM's "The Story." Imagine how awesome it was when I stumbled across this one,
Making a Splash, about Swimming Paralympian Tucker Dupree and his journey to Beijing. Tucker didn't lose his sight until high school, and it makes for a very interesting story... which is why people like me would tune in to a podcast called "The Story."

While you are there, also take the time to look up the story of the blogger who calls himself "Fat Cyclist." This guy's blog and the meaningful things he has done with it blow away all of the swim blogs put together. I am way jealous. All I ever managed to do as The Screaming Viking was start a couple of fun arguments that won't ever really change anything. Fat Cyclist raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in the fight against cancer and got to ride with Lance Armstrong and Team RadioShack on a custom bike. Heck, maybe we should start a movement on my blog, where I can someday have an eating contest with Michael Phelps in a custom-made brief. Not quite as cool, but it is probably the best I could shoot for with the support of my nine loyal readers.

Check out the podcasts, but I will warn you: to hear the full-length podcasts, you may need to download them from itunes.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Free Swim Lessons!

The school I work at is one of the rare few in Missouri that has a pool attached to the high school. In Alaska, it was very common, but in the midwest it is exceptionally rare. Our pool is busy from 5am to 9pm every day, all year, with swim teams, water aerobics, lessons, PE classes, community open swim hours... you name it, we probably offer it. If other school districts could see just how much use we get in our small town, there is no doubt they would see that if they invested in a pool, they would get their money worth. It is not just an asset to the school district; it is extremely valuable to the entire community.

When students enroll for Kindergarten in our school district, they are given the option to sign up for two weeks of free swim lessons. Since the lessons are in July, this is one of their first school experiences, and often I have high schoolers in class who tell me they still remember coming in to learn how to swim way back before they even started school. It always feels good to know that the experience left a lasting impression. We run about two hundred swimmers through our five stations, and many of them are able to swim in the deep end and jump off the diving board in ten lessons or less. The rest will leave the program at least a little more "water safe" because we emphasize the daily safety lessons just as much as we do the swimming skills. The parents take home coloring sheets every day to help teach and re-teach common sense water safety to their children.

I added the little part on the end, just in case you want to use this video to help convince your community to get started on a bond issue to build a swim facility. If they have any questions about all the ways a school system can maximize their water time, feel free to have them contact me. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Having Fun On Deck

Every coach needs to have a video camera on them all the time. There is just too much good stuff you can get every day to put on your team website. Summer league swim fans, enjoy!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Instinctive Drowning Response

Super swim fan Ahelee Sue Osborn posted this link on her facebook to an article about drowning that everyone should read. I teach a similar lesson to every swim unit that comes through our facility. I plan to laminate this article and post it on the wall. He does an excellent job of describing the Instinctive Drowning Response and why it does not look like what most people think they will see in a drowning situation.

From the article: "The Instinctive Drowning Response – so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. And it does not look like most people expect. There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the number two cause of accidental death in children, age 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents) – of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. In ten percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening (source: CDC)."

"So if a crew member falls overboard and everyone looks O.K. – don’t be too sure. Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they’re drowning. They may just look like they are treading water and looking up at the deck. One way to be sure? Ask them: “Are you alright?” If they can answer at all – they probably are. If they return a blank stare – you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them. And parents: children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why."

When we teach our Pre-K swim lessons, I take the time to give the parents a lecture on never letting their children swim alone even after they become good swimmers and even at their pool at home. We send home coloring sheets for the children with daily safety lessons on them and we ask the parents to please help to make sure they understand. I feel that the safety lessons are just as important for the parents to read as they are for the children.

I was lucky. I grew up on an island where the entire economy was based on commercial fishing. Swimming safety was a part of our curriculum from Kindergarten to 6th grade. Swimming was a priority that everyone agreed was a good investment. Our population was only 3000 people, and somehow they managed to pass a
multi-million dollar bond issue for a new facility when the pool I grew up in needed replaced. How is it that major cities can't pull that off?

In Southeast Alaska, families did not have swimming pools at their homes, which statistics show presents a lot more risk than living near a harbor or in a town on the coast. In my opinion, communities throughout the lower 48 need to start the swimming safety curriculum in pre-school, and swimming safety brochures need to be handed to parents along with the other information they hand out the day they check out of the hospital with their first born child. It is that important. We have a responsibility to educate children and parents alike, and that education needs to start as early as possible.

Give the article a read. Even a swim coach could learn something from it. You might want to print one for your facility as well.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Goggles as a Life Lesson?

Not too long ago, Chris DeSantis posted something on his facebook about the super expensive goggles that his swimmers insisted on ordering, and someone chimed in that he needs to force them to suck it up and just learn to live with a three dollar pair of Swedes. Then, someone else brought up the very valid point that if you are the coach who gets everyone Swedes, then you are committing yourself to spending a whole lot of time putting them together for all of the otherwise capable people who can't figure them out.

Been there. Done that. I totally get it. My high school just buys us a box of Swedes every season. Each swimmer gets one pair for free. If you want something fancier, you buy it yourself.

You would think that high schoolers could just take them out of the package and make it work... right? During the first season of free Swedes, I spent more time putting together and adjusting goggles than I did coaching kids. It got a little frustrating.

How did I solve it? I took a lesson from John Wooden. The legendary UCLA basketball coach actually took time every season to teach his athletes how to properly pull up their socks and tie their shoes. Mind you, these were some of the best ball players in NCAA history, on what might still be considered the most disciplined team of all time. These were not random kids coming in from the playground. I can imagine that there was a lot of eye rolling, and I am sure that some of his freshmen thought he was just a silly old midwestern hick for re-teaching them something they learned in Kindergarten, but his logic was solid. It was about proper preparation. Shoes coming untied can cause damage of Three Stooges-esque proportions, and something as simple as a wrinkle in a sock can cause a painful blister. No one wants to be the athlete who sits out, or performs less than their best, because of something as preventable as that. Think about it. That's a great life lesson, right?

So now, I have made it my routine to take time during the first week of practice to teach my swimmers to put together and adjust their swedish goggles. They are expected to be prepared with a back-up pair. They are expected to know how tight they should be for practice and meets. They should know how to dive without causing them to fall off. Most importantly, after the one time I cover it, they are expected to be able to teach each other, so that if someone needs help, they don't come to me. It is a responsibility shared among teammates.

Of course, my intentions aren't quite as noble as those of Coach Wooden. He taught them about shoes and socks because he believed in Boy Scout level preparation and the prevention of injuries. I idolize John Wooden. Every coach on earth should study his career and philosophy. Could the goggle thing be considered a life lesson? I like to think so... but I have to admit that I only started teaching my swimmers about proper preparation and goggles because I just got sick of dealing with them myself all the dang time. I mean, no one would ever expect basketball coaches to follow their athletes around to pull up their socks and tie their shoes for them all the time, right?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"What His Swimsuit Says About Him"

I haven't had much time to blog, but I had to post this link. When I logged out of my hotmail, I saw that MSN was running a feature called "What His Swimsuit Says About Him." It is a little humor written for the ladies and it has pics of Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte in a brief and a LZR respectively. This is what they had to say about the full-body "pro gear":

First, let’s take in the perfection that is Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte. However, his look is one best reserved for the pros. “Unless you are training for the Summer Olympics or Iron Man, the swim jammers are a no-go for Summer 2010," says Vogel. "You may feel like a champion, but I promise you will not win the gold with this look."

Dang... I guess Craig Lord must have gotten to the fashion blog crowd too.