What sort of child have you? A trier, a winner, a worker?
I coach almost every day, and each session I coach reminds me of life.
There is the early part when things are easy, the swimmers are chatting, and the session is manageable. Everyone is in good form and there is a buzz around the pool. Then a difficult set begins. It may last ten minutes or twenty five minutes. The atmosphere changes, and it is at this point we see the personalities before us emerge.
There are the swimmers who take off with no mind as to how hard the set will be or how long it will last. They have one speed and it is full blast. However they quickly become exhausted. Tired, they are overtaken by the others in the lane and can become fed up and discouraged. As coaches we can see this unfold. If we intervene early we can encourage them to keep going, to hang in there and usually they begin to recover. Self belief returns and their competitive spirit kicks back in. By the time the set is finished they are happy enough with what they achieved.
Then there are the less confident swimmers. They are the ones who take their place near the back of the lane, even though you know very well they are good enough to lead. They work quietly, with very little need for us coaches to address them. However if we looked closely we would see, that these swimmers are holding back. Unwilling to challenge the swimmer in front of them, even though they are catching them. This swimmer is one who, when put in a different lane and encouraged to lead, takes off. This swimmer was the quiet worker, with little confidence, who needs someone to show them, ‘Yes you can do this, you are better than you think’.
Our next swimmer is the one who has no lack of self belief. Regardless of ability they take the top of the lane. They lead out and even if caught and passed out by others behind them will, given half a chance take the lead again and again. These swimmers must be looked after. Their self belief must be fostered, but equally their understanding of their limits needs managing. For them competition can often mean disappointment, as their expectations are out of kilter with their ability. However they generally bounce back, and in time learn to aim for more achievable but still relatively high goals.
Next on our list is the swimmer who has huge ability. They are clearly the most talented. As the session becomes more difficult they are often the one who backs off. Just when the set becomes unbearable they stop to fix goggles or to go to the loo. Sometimes they just ease off and let others pass them. Then when it comes to the final part of the set, when the end is in sight, they take off. They overtake all the tired swimmers in their path and finish first. They are happy they are still the best, not as tired as the rest but still the best.
In the middle of the lane we find the quiet swimmer. They listen and do all they are asked. Regardless of the task you set them they will do it. They are often overlooked, but come competition day they regularly surprise you, and especially their fellow swimmers. When you congratulate them they give a small smile, but inside you know they are dancing. They are understated but quietly confident.
Finally there is the trier. They may not be the most talented, or the most beautiful of swimmers, but they try and they try. For them every set is difficult and they generally get less rest than the others. They keep going and never ask for, nor take an extra break. They are in the pool because they love swimming. They will never be medal winners or get a place on a relay, but that doesn’t stop them. They are part of lifes workers, the doers who just get on. They develope a steely determination, and a huge work ethic. They may not be winners in the pool, but watching them train you just know, they will be winners in life.
Each morning when we finish I look at all these swimmers in the pool and I smile to myself. During the session some had to be pushed, some needed coaxing, and all needed praise. However I know as they go home to school they have already achieved so much, before their fellow schoolmates are even up. They have learned lessons about themselves which cannot be learned in school. Hopefully lessons that will stand to them all their lives.
When we coach these young swimmers I believe we teach them so much more than how to swim faster, and in return they teach us that they are so much more than just swimmers in a pool.
Tonight I salute all our young swimmers. Each one so different. Each one just perfect.