Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Three Days Out, Focusing In

The last early morning workout is history and the sets are getting shorter.  Quality remains high as the quantity decreases.  This team looks ready.

It’s that time of year where the days fly past and there is a bit more energy in the air.  Championship week!

We have had some great workouts the past few weeks, but this afternoon we really reached a tipping point where a lot of swimmers were looking GOOD!
Between coaches, we can’t stop bringing up individual swimmers we’re looking forward to seeing race this week.  By the time we get to the meet, we will have pretty much covered everyone. 

A swim team in the run-up to a championship has many moving pieces.  Our swimmers are still—as always—engaged and passionate students.  They’ve been laying the groundwork for weeks to be able to rest and focus in on fast swimming this week. 

Labs don’t cease, nor exams.  Several of our swimmers will take exams at our hotel on Friday, proctored by their faithful coach.  I have been impressed with the great communication I have had with faculty in recent days as we prepare for our short time out of town.  They’ve been agreeable and supportive of their students who are traveling to represent the College in intercollegiate competition.

Knowing we are prepared and believing in the power of the team meet give us a lot of confidence.  The energy I’ve seen during training raises us even higher.  We’re looking at fast races for the Pioneers!

Having gone through the run-up to a Conference Championship nearly a dozen times as a college coach and four more as a swimmer, I always love the way swimmers come together and revel in the energy of fast racing.  Nothing is better than a big meet with teammates you have pushed your limits with all season.  They supported you, lifted you up, drove you to be better, and inspired you with their own commitment. 

The journey of a season includes millions of strokes.  More importantly, this journey includes some of the most meaningful experiences of a student-athlete’s life.  The Northwest Conference Championship is not merely a goal, but a showcase for everything our team has done right this season. 

At its core, the Championship is a celebration.   

Roll Pios!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

October with the Pios!

The month of November will be a big one for Lewis & Clark swimmers.  Our dual meet season kicks off next week and competitions abound.

For now, Halloween is almost upon us and I think it’s time to take a look back at the past weeks of awesomeness that is Pioneer Swimming!

We are seven weeks into our collegiate season.  Swimmers are training hard in the pool and weight room.  The soreness going around is the product of vigorous exercise and Coach Ange’s strength and conditioning routines downstairs.  We are also seeing some real speed cropping up in our workouts.  Our coaches are pretty stoked for how our athletes look in the water and even more so for how the team is functioning as a family and community in the early season.

Last Friday we dove into competition with the annual Orange & Black Meet, our intra-squad extravaganza.  Race distances are non-standard and there is even a 100 Kick event.  Orange and Black teams were relatively evenly matched, with event wins bouncing back and forth throughout the meet.  In the end, Black edged ahead for a final score of 99-82.

The Orange & Black meet is a fun way to kick into racing mode and get our team cheering ramped up heading into our competition season. 

That same Friday night, several Pios ventured out to a haunted corn maze on Sauvie Island just outside of Portland.  They were in for some scares, some laughs, a few chainsaws, and a lot of mud.  The corn maze has become something of a tradition and one of the many things our team likes to do together.  This, I think, is something that makes for a great team environment.  There are enough activities and outings that there is something for everyone and they can have a lot of fun together when they choose to hang out, without feeling like it’s all required.

Saturday night it seemed like half the city came to campus to see Bill Nye “The Science Guy” live in our gymnasium.  Most of our team was there, along with Coach Sarit and I, plus several swimming alums.   

To our campus community, Bill Nye is pretty much a rock star.  Two of our swimmers, Libby and Momo, got invites to the VIP meet-n-greet with Bill beforehand.  Pretty great night at L&C!

That’s a glimpse into October.  Now we kick into another gear as the team starts hosting and traveling to swim meets.

Tomorrow is Halloween—huge deal on campus—and Saturday is our annual Alumni Swim Meet for Homecoming weekend.  Stay tuned for more swimming action and more fun!

Roll Pios!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

New Strength and New Thoughts

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “With a new day comes new strength and new thoughts.”

Beginnings are fantastic and motivating.  They burst wide-open with possibility and can even feel a little intimidating. 

It’s the time of year when things can go in the most directions.  We lay a foundation year upon year, but a fresh season means the chance to focus our pursuits and create new opportunities for our team. 

Incidentally, the first morning workout of the season is also the one I worry most about my own alarm going off as planned.  As a coach, it’s hard to preach that being on time means being early if I’m still tucked comfortably in my bed when the swimmers are spilling sleepily out onto our pool deck for workout.

Luckily, I’ve hit the point in my career where, often as not, I wake up just before my alarm.

Monday was the big first day.  Morning workout to which our swimmers arrived early.  We had a quick talk about key points.  Then everyone in the water smoothly with no stragglers.

And the fun begins!

Coach Sarit and I got to watch all our freshmen in the water with their new teammates for the first time.  The build-up is over and the season is going.  It goes quickly.

AM swim and PM introduction to the strength program with Coach Ange in Pioneer Strength and Conditioning.   Some soreness was surely brewing for the next few days because the team got a good dynamic warm-up out on the patio and then jumped into real work in the weight room.

Now, four days into our season, we still see smiling faces and good energy as we build into our training.

We have great weeks ahead!  Possibility is high, attitudes are good, and opportunity abounds. 

As Tom Petty said, “The future was wide open.”

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Stunning Campus Seeks Students...

The Lewis & Clark College campus is in peak form as we await the arrival of our students en masse next week. 

Let's be honest, our campus has a hard time looking bad, but  the tail end of summer has made for some stunning scenery.  It takes but a stroll outside to stumble into paradise.

This time next week our freshmen will be moving into their dorms, unpacking, and forging friendships that will last them through college and across decades beyond. 

Our incoming swimmers have great attitudes and high hopes for their new team and their whole L&C experience.  Those of us who have spent many years here are prepared to do everything we can to make that a reality. 

College and collegiate sports are about providing opportunity.  I know our students will make the most of the opportunities they pursue. 

The adventure is everything that happens along the way!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

If a tree falls in the forest……

If a coach isn’t there to see it, does the athlete still train hard?

For the Pioneers, the answer to this new take on an age-old question is a resounding YES!

I started writing this in mid-November during a particularly impressive training week.  Now that final exams are wrapping up and I have time to think, I’m giving it a final read-through…

Our kids work hard in training.  That cool November night in workout they were getting after it, every last one.  The team synergy of group training sessions was one of my favorite parts of my own collegiate swimming experience.  Racing your teammates and working with them.  Pushing them to be better and letting their fortitude pull you along to your own best performances.  Now I get to see that from a different (dryer) perspective every day as a college coach.

The afternoon before, our academic liaison for athletics had dropped by practice just to see what was going on.  He mentioned that when he came in, all the splashing and movement made him think of salmon spawning up a fish ladder.

The team had a laugh at this imagery.

I told him he was only seeing the end of warm-up and that he should wait until the next set.  We had an array of sprint 25s and some 50s at 200 goal pace that ramped up the pool action to a higher pitch.  John stuck around.  The salmon were really moving.  He was impressed.

As coaches, we are used to our teams feeding off one another and working at a high intensity.

What about when no one is there to see it and no one is there to race?

Hard workouts alone in the pool sometimes drags on a person’s psyche.  I’m speaking from personal experience, here.  But, if you have a high degree of motivation and long-term perspective, you get the work done and you give it your all.

Our kids are operating at this level now. 

I love it!

College schedules are nothing if not complex.  Every coach at the College knows the rigors their student-athletes face academically, as well as the intricate scheduling to get your team there all at the same time.  When your squad numbers over thirty, someone’s going to have a lab, a late class, a thesis seminar.  Something to work around.  This is the nature of the beast.

Coaches would prefer to have everyone in the pool together.  Some workouts this is what we get.  But, the intricate and imperfect nature of the college setting provides other growth opportunities, as well.  Our swimmers know the value of their hard work and we develop conscientious and determined athletes. 

We foster self-reliance and individual responsibility.

The view from our pool deck is of young men and women taking ownership of their training and their collegiate career.

Here is one example among many: 

Taylor has an Entrepreneurship class on Wednesday nights during workout.  She’s a senior, team captain, and economics major.  Taylor also owns her training and her goals.   Long before our season kicked off, she proposed a possible training plan for her Wednesday afternoons (and believe me, it kills her not to be there with her team).  Once a week she hits the lunchtime lap swim to get in her pool training.  I have her workout printed and stuck to my door with a magnet in case I’m not in the office when she comes by.  Usually I’m here to watch her approach from the direction of the library and the academic buildings.

Like clockwork. 

I see her walking across the patio out front and coming through the lobby doors to my office for her workout.  I provide the sets and she provides the fire.  We expect drive from our athletes, but I also know that swimmers feed off their surrounding teammates to excel in tough sets.  Swimming is hard.  She does it alone, streaking past lumbering faculty and staff lap swimmers in neighboring lanes, making them look like they’re standing still. 

Then Taylor goes to the weight room and busts out the afternoon’s strength, core, and functional routine.  Our swimmers buy in to the training and this buy-in most definitely includes what we do in the weight room.  Each teammate knows his or her own most diabolical lifts—the ones that you know are good for you, but you also know how hard they will be every single time.

She doesn’t blow it off.  She doesn’t bail because not as many people are watching. 

Business as usual.  The business of doing the work.  The business of commitment. 

Each season in our program, the returning athletes come in with a higher drive to put in the work.  More sense of what they are trying to accomplish.  Firmer ideas of how each training session will require their all and point them toward their goals.  That is one of my favorite things about college coaching; the chance to see young adults make tremendous strides across their four years in both personal responsibility and steely determination.

These are the joys of coaching.

Not making people do things, but fostering in them the tools to build, grow, and commit for themselves.

If a coach isn’t there to see it, a Pioneer still does the work.