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?

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