It was quite the scene. An Olympic athlete racing down the pool at top speed…hopping out dripping wet to exhale into giant weather balloons. The purpose, of course, was to establish peak oxygen consumption for various components of a 100 breaststroke. If we broke down the event, we could isolate the specific factors which to train during a season. No doubt the premise was sound, but the execution was an exercise in ridiculousness. Yet, the result was still a better understanding of how a performance emerges.
Look around a pool deck and you will inevitably see coaches twirling stopwatches like a gunslinger from the Old West. Deftly working multiple pairs for each athlete in the water with amazing dexterity. And holstering them after every performance. Like a fictionalized Doc Holiday, I put down my stopwatch a few years into coaching. Knowing I couldn’t control the outcome, I preferred to watch, listen, and absorb what was happening. Years later an athlete asked me why I didn’t use a stopwatch and I replied simply “Because I’m watching you swim.” After years of swimming and coaching, I had found my parlor trick. I could time a performance within tenths simply by hearing and watching it.
The Charlotte Ultraswim was the last meet I ever raced and, despite a brief dalliance coaching my former high school last year, was the last meet I ever coached. Both times I recall sitting in the stands and wondering if athletes, coaches, and fans saw the event the same way? The thought struck me most as I was talking with a friend.
Every week I teach a swim lesson to a six year old. And every week I look forward to it. He saunters to the block, does a cannon ball, and pops up for a huge breath of air with the sweetest, most infectious laugh. A laugh that continues for a bit until he settles down and is ready to go to work. The smile on his face when he connects with the water and splashes around puts a smile on my face every time.
Who doesn’t like a pun loaded with SEO and layered with double entendres that would embarrass Chaucer only if he was made to learn machine learning algorithms in lieu of ‘The Miller’s Tale’. Fortunately for him and unyielding young’ish’ curmudgeons like myself, technology is everywhere at all times. And while many decisions may just be binary, their inevitable collisions make for a world of complex kaleidoscopes where wonderful colors are driven by a power curve. Read more
This past summer I asked my seven year old why he was playing tennis barefoot. Without adjusting his focus to acknowledge more than a passing nuisance, he replied matter of factly ‘Because I don’t have my shoes’. Initially, I was slightly taken aback, but I quickly realized we often ask what before we know why. Sports performance is no different. So can it be deductively reasoned? Has the problem already been solved with simple, understated elegance? Read more