Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Training with Imagination

To train well takes imagination. Simply showing up to practice and “working hard” does not accomplish preparation for high level performances in meets. Why? The answer is simple: there are MANY people in the world of athletics who show up to practice and “work hard”; most of them feel as if they ‘deserve’ to go fast in meets or athletic competitions of any sort. This type of thinking will get you fast at first (as an age grouper or young athlete)….but there comes a point in time where the hard work you put in is just the same old hard work you’ve BEEN putting in for years. The body and mind adapt to this work. You get into a rhythm. You perform about the same, maybe a second or so slower or faster per 100 meters…but more or less the same performances happen because the same work happens.

Yet, in today’s world, for a myriad of reasons that all have to do with easy answers and instant gratification – we feel like we should access some superior results just because we’ve “sacrificed” and gone to practice….or “sacrificed” to wake up early before school….or “sacrificed” by getting our heart rate up during some repeat 100s in practice. This attitude is a disease that will attack us our entire lives, unless we stop it.

What is sacrifice? Is sacrifice REALLY giving up some sleep? Are we sacrificing when we choose to come home at 11pm instead of staying out until 2? Are we sacrificing when we expand our practice schedule from one season to another? Are we sacrificing when we sweat more at practice, and go faster than our best times in practice? These things are not what I consider sacrifice. These things are called TRAINING.

I believe 90% of teams out there have trouble with the concept of “How to Train”. I believe this because my standards are high, and I don’t feel like it’s a tremendous accomplishment to go to Nationals with three people just like I don’t feel like it’s a tremendous accomplishment to stay in the same job, without promotion, your entire life.

I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity to apprentice with Coach Bob Bowman in 2001-2002, during the time Michael Phelps was developing into the most accomplished swimmer the world has ever seen. Routinely during that season I would watch Michael swim under National Time Standards (cuts for Nationals) in practice. Once Michael started doing these things, others followed. During that year I watched no less than a half dozen OTHER SWIMMERS (not Michael) swim under the National Cuts in practice. Would those other swimmers have accomplished those practice swims without Michael having done it first? Probably, but not in WAVES like it happened that year. Soon, there were 10+ Olympic Trials qualifiers in the group, up from 1 two years prior to that time.

Since that time, I have been fortunate to coach athletes who have thought big enough to shoot for huge goals in practice. Some of these thoughts were implanted by me as the coach, and some of those thoughts came directly from the athletes each day in practice. At T2, we are beginning to think in this way, but we are not there yet. And if we are simply focused on being the best swimmer in the practice group, or the best High School swimmer in the county, then we are stunting our growth in a serious way. If you want to be the athlete who takes our team to the next level – than you have to take our team to the next level in practice. You can’t just swim a little bit ahead of the next guy and pat yourself on the back because of it.

You have to redefine “what is fast” in practice every day. If you go your best times in practice you will go to the meets with the unbelievable confidence that you’ve basically already made it happen, you just have to do what you’ve done before again in a meet. If you want to get a National cut, or a Junior National cut, or a Sectional cut you can either wait for the meets we have once per month to test yourself out, or you can simply go for it every day. Why not? The only reason why we don’t do this type of thing is because we lack the IMAGINATION to make it happen. Not many people consider actually going their cuts in practice. You have to think it’s possible (because it is and it happens ALL THE TIME) – and then you have to intend to make it happen. You are already taking the time to train, you might as well make your training unbelievable – ridiculously good – while you’re at it.

You really only have one choice if you want to be more successful than you currently are. Raising your level of expectation within yourself and for yourself -- and using your imagination for the ENTIRE practice, EVERY practice -- is going to be the key for you to take your swimming to the next level.

You are in charge of this. It won’t be me, your parents, or your teachers at school. It’s all in YOUR MIND and YOUR IMAGINATION.


  1. this is pretty cool stuff paul. keep posting and i'll keep reading! hope all is well with you