Sunday, August 19, 2012

Gearing up for a new season

Last week we resumed activities with all the kids. We have a fairly long SCY season (all the way to the last week of March), and so we take things pretty lightly when we first come back. Up until labor day, our practices are a little shorter than the usual, and we use most of our time to play a game (mostly ultimate frisbee, but I also have plans to teach some gymnastics movements - hand stands, cart wheels, some tumbling, etc.), touch on swimming basics, and play some water polo. It is a great way to get the team back together, start shaking off some cobwebs, and teach them some general athleticism. On top of that we'll still have 28 weeks in our season when we 'officially' start (with a better general conditioning than if we just prolonged our break).

This is also the time for everyone to be getting ahead in their other tasks - that is schoolwork for the kids, and planning for the coaches. Before planning a season, I believe it is important to reflect back on how the previous season played out. So this post is an attempt of doing that in writing.

I remember when, before this season started, I wrote on how excited I was about it, giving that our push at the end of our SCY season was simply great. Early in the season, in our first team meeting, I shared with my swimmers what I consider to be the 'secret' for success: doing little, mundane things, consistently well! The key word there is consistency. Everyone can (and probably will) have a great day here and there, but it's what you make of all the other days, all the days you don't feel at your best, all the days that the skill being worked on and required is not one that you thrive in, that really count.

I believe that conversation resonated with the majority of the kids. I also have to mention Vern Gambetta's 3-step ladder YouTube video. This video was played at the start of every team meeting we had this past season, and I believe the message sank in. My greatest joy of the season was to see the transformation some of the kids went through when they started putting in that consistent, honest work, and see the results. At a point in June, when we had our mid-season rest and swam lights-out at a meet, some of the kids looked mesmerized, as if they were finally realizing "I can actually be good at this"!

After that point, it was pretty much smooth sailing, and when it came time to really rest for our championship meets, it was clear they had put it the work and were ready for it. As a coach, there is little more you can ask for in a season than reaching taper time and thinking "we did everything we could up to this point, now it's up to me to not mess it up". I was lucky enough to be at that point, and that makes it for what I consider a successful season!

Some of the highlights:
- We had our highest finish at the 14&U State meet in years, just one spot shy of getting our first trophy since reconvening the team 8 years ago (we are coming for that trophy next!). It was our highest finish since moving to our current location;
- We had every relay score at the State meet, which had not happened in the past 8 years;
- Two swimmers combined for three State Championships;
- Three swimmers took down as many team records in the Age Group side;
- The Age Groupers also helped push our Senior swimmers, who also combined for our highest finish at the Senior State meet since moving to our current location, with swimmers taking down two team records;
- Team-wise, the most important marker of all: we had our first Jr. National cut in three years! It is certainly another sign of how things are moving in the right direction!

As a coach, I'm very proud of the results we got this past season, but even prouder of the way we got there. I also believe we set a great standard for this upcoming season, where we'll not only try to outdo our results, but do so by putting in even more quality work! The message stays the same: doing little, mundane things, consistently well! And here's to a great season!