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Dividends, Guts and Grease

(or Investments Your Banker Never Told You About)

Revised from an article which first appeared in Schwimmvergnügen in 1997 and which later appeared in Swim Magazine.

Ever notice how some swimmers get more technique attention and input than do other swimmers during workouts? Why is that, do you suppose?

Consider the Coach/Swimmer relationship as an Investor/Stock relationship. Think of the coach as the investor who has time and knowledge to invest in the swimmer (who, of course, represents the stock). Having made an investment, the investor looks for ROI—Return On Investment—i.e. the stock goes up in value and/or pays dividends.

“Going up in value” means, quite simply, that the swimmer actually makes improvements—becomes faster and/or more efficient—as a result of putting the coach's investment to work. Attaining this long-term goal benefits the stock (swimmer), the investor (the coach) and the investor's portfolio (the team). Unfortunately, this often takes considerable time and continued effort, and cannot be counted on to show immediate profits.

Dividends

“Dividends,” on the other hand, are the regular, short-term payoffs that an investor counts on, first as an indicator of a stable stock foundation worthy of further investment, and second, as income to fuel further investment in the stock. In our analogy, the dividend may take many forms. In its simplest form the swimmer might merely express appreciation for the attention given. Another, more powerful, dividend would be realized when the coach sees the swimmer practicing or working on a particular skill that she and the coach have talked about. Flagging down the coach to ask him to watch, and comment on, some specific aspect of the stroke is great a payoff as well. Asking well-thought-out questions that demonstrate that one has been contemplating previous input also accrues to the bottom line. Knowing one's stroke counts when the coach asks, even in the absence of a specific counting instruction, gains dividend points. The e-mailed comment or query that has its roots in the swimmer's uncommon awareness returns investment value quite handily. Helping a fellow teammate who is struggling with a new concept reaps double dividends... These are but a handful of the multifarious ways in which value can be returned, in the short term, on the coach's investment. It is with such dividends, paid regularly on the part of the swimmer, that the continued investments on the part of the coach can be insured.

Another way to say all this is that the coach wants the swimmer to make and demonstrate his cerebral and emotional, as well as physical, investment in the learning process. The swimmer who really gets involved as part of the investment team reaps technique and knowledge benefits immediately and motivates the coach to continue the relationship. The other kind of swimmer just lets things go in one ear and out the other, or does only a length or two of something new before blowing it off, or is unwilling to trust the coach and try something new, or only follows directions when it is convenient. That swimmer isn't making much of his/her own investment in the learning process and isn't going to get much benefit.or get much of the coach's attention.

Guts

And, despite the common misconception, doing lots of yardage is not such an investment. Neither is just “working hard.” While a certain amount of yardage and high levels of intensity are both commendable under the right circumstances, neither is closely related to becoming a better swimmer. In training, yardage and intensity are the easy way—the coward's way—out. Yes, they can and do improve your ability to do That Thing You Do, whatever it may be, longer and faster. But that just means you are better conditioned—not a better swimmer. Changing your stroke technique is the only path to becoming a fundamentally better swimmer. And, let's face it, the single most courageous thing your coach asks of you is change. To humans, change is perceived as far riskier than courting pain or enduring boredom, the payoff seemingly not as certain. Only swimmers with guts really embrace change and make it their own, riding out the uneven path of stroke improvement, seeking the unexplored territory of faster, more efficient swimming.

Grease

Your coach cannot force you to change, and will not try to do so. Only you can make changes in your own stroke technique. Your coach's job is to provide an environment in which those who desire change may seek it successfully. And seek it you must. It won't come searching for you. So, for the swimmer desirous of change, it pays to view the coach as a potential investor and then to actively solicit the desired investments. The old saw about the squeaky wheel and a gob of grease comes to mind here. The swimmer who just waits quietly for the coach to come and lavish scads of unsolicited attention waits in vain. There is too much competition for that attention to just wait for it to fall into one's lap. The swimmer who seeks the coach's attention by first asking for attention, then, more importantly, acting upon the input given (i.e. giving good ROI), is the swimmer most likely to reap the greatest rewards.

Executive Summary: Squeak, show some guts, pay dividends, get more grease. ¨

© H2Ouston Swims, Inc. 2000

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Emmett Hines is Director and Head Coach of H2Ouston Swims. He has coached competitive Masters swimming in Houston since 1981, was a Senior Coach for Total Immersion Swim Camps for many years, holds an American Swim Coaches Association Level 5 Certification, was selected as United States Masters Swimming’s Coach of the Year in 1993 and received the Masters Aquatic Coaches Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. He recently overhauled his popular book, Fitness Swimming (Human Kinetics, publishers) and the second edition was released mid-2008. Fitness Swimming has been published in French (entitled Natation, pub. by Vigot), Spanish (entitled Natacion, pub. by Hispano Europea), Chinese (entitled Jianshenyouyong), Portuguese (Natacao Para Condicionamento Fisico, pub. by Manole)  and, soon, in Turkish and Italian. Currently Coach Hines coaches the H2Ouston Swims Masters group in Houston, TX and works privately with many clients. He can be reached for questions or comments at 713-748-SWIM or via email.

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