Any product is simply a specifically designed story waiting to be told. My old blue strokemakers certainly carried a story. And a service is merely a message waiting to be shared to increase efficiency. Ask any coach stubbornly repeating warmup for the 10th time to 9 unique athletes (yes I did the math right). But a community is created when both earnestly compliment one another without compromising intention.
So to be and remain incredibly blunt, Eric and I still laugh about the swim paddles from that Christmas in October day on the pool deck. A day that was supposed to be filled with sponsored gifts of swimming gold quickly felt like Santa had instead brought something worse than coal. For this hand paddle designed out of a dense foam that resembled petrified wood, had an inlay for bear size paws with a surface area roughly the size of a kickboard.
The story buried deep inside those swimming hand paddles said that certainly no swimmer had been consulted for Rube Goldberg might have even shrugged his shoulders at the concept. And if somehow a swim coach had gotten into his head that this was, in fact, a great idea, someone should have been there to edit and guide the perhaps well-intended hack to create strength and power.
Our message has to resonate in order to be recognized as viable swim training. And while not every story carries a message. Think Armageddon. I love Armageddon. But the stories we most want to interact and engage with must exude endearing empathetic design.
Champion Natural Innovation
Champions pull us together by their own amazing personal accomplishments or rallying a community through boundless support. When building strength, nature found out long ago it's better to work with our surroundings than to fight them. Biomimicry champions any product with an ability to repurpose the message to accommodate the story. For swim paddles this means incorporating finger straps to encourage race pace with distance per stroke to create a great feel for the water.
A former coaching peer once recommended that I write the next Ernie Maglischo 'Swimming Fast/er/est' book. Problem was that book had been written (three times and very well already) while the iPhone was just launching. Print is not dead, but it’s certainly not the best medium to create a swimming story with my message. So care must be paid not only to what and how but when and where.
Care Enough to Find Answers
Then is hardly ever the time and where is relative to both place and person. So it would take nearly a decade from then before I'd been off a pool deck long enough for me to want to coach my old high school. A high school that didn’t even have a swim team when I graduated.
When I did, a young swimmer came up and asked me what kind of swim paddle she should use. Instinctively I said ‘yellow strokemakers’. And it immediately dawned on me that despite nine generations of iPhones, the best swim paddle was the same one I would repeatedly break a generation ago during our Auburn ‘sprint’ sets of 1000/2000/3000/2000/1000 pyramid sets. It’s time for swimming to add another chapter and share the message with more.