Saturday, September 18, 2010

Swim Ontario AGM and Conference

Today, I spent a long time in an airport hotel attending swim meetings in what I found a very productive Annual General Meeting for Swim Ontario.

The day started with a talk from 1980 American Olympian and founder of, Glen Mills. Glen had a lot of great ideas on how to integrate technology into your program with a show-string budget as well as how to deal with and fix common problems in age group swimmers stroke. I left his talks with several new ideas and feeling confident that we shared quite a few of the same ideals (we actually use the exact same camera, display TV, evaluation methods and have read 4 of the same books this year). I really enjoyed him as a speaker.

The next speaker was Barbara Schultz, a Life Coach, who spoke extensively to the stats regarding what it took to get US scholarships and what types of funding were available to Canadian athletes choosing to stay in Canada for post secondary education. She also talked about the psychology of the Student Athlete and highlighted (what I saw as) weaknesses in a lot of coaches.

I spent a lot of the afternoon sharing ideas and catching up with fellow coaches. I also spend a great deal of time listening to what a lot of them had to say on various topics. The most valuable thing I walked away from the conference with was the following reminder: athletes are much better served by being instructed rather than letting them hear about how much you know. (That quote taken almost verbatim from Glen Mills... I can't tell you how many times that came back into my head while listening to others today).

One part of the afternoon that I did not enjoy was the presentation from John Rogers and Byron McDonald of the Toronto National Swim Center... not because of what they had to say, but rather because of the nature of how the information was presented. I feel this way because the two of them spoke as if they were speaking to peers, which they were not. They gave instructions such as "Do not swim aerobically" and "Get your kids to sprint all out from day 1" and how not to spend too much time on drills. This works GREAT when you have a team full of National Team members who already have great technique, but they were talking to a room full of age group coaches and did not qualify their instructions. I am very concerned that there were at least 20 coaches in the room that will train their kids that way beginning Monday... It was honestly an inappropriate presentation for the audience that they had; it should have been presented differently.

I'm also not sure how much of a service they did for themselves by telling age group coaches that they were going to take their swimmers from them and that it was our job to give them swimmers to work with... if you ever want to foster protectionism in a community, tell the community that you'll get paid double what they get paid, take their assets from them and win all the awards for their hard and thankless work. I could sense the audience shift in mood after that message was delivered. They were not saying anything that we didn't already know, nor was it anything that doesn't happen in every club from age group coach to head coach, but it was all in presentation. I prefer my steak served on a plate rather than a garbage can lid, thanks.

There were then several meetings including a VERY productive Central Region meeting where rule modifications were suggested for future Central Region Championship meets. I feel very good about the progress that was made in that meeting. I have to thank the current Central Region Coaches Reps, Eric Kramer and Brian Lindsay along with Director at Large, Louis Bull-Barton for organizing the impromptu meeting and for the 14 coaches (3 of which from Cobra and 2 of which from Oakville) for coming together to discuss the problems we had last season and how to fix them going forward. However, I should highlight that out of 47 teams in Central Region, only 9 clubs were represented at this meeting.

I feel very good about what transpired today, overall. The last thing that I'll share with you, again comes from Glen Mill's presentation. He reminded all coaches there that in order to succeed, we needed to produce the "desire to train". Not the "need to train" or the "fear of training", but the genuine desire to train. If we, as coaches, can drive athletes to want to train, we will produce much more successful athletes, citizens and programs. I, personally, believe that we are doing a great job of that at HHBF. As today comes to an end, I feel that I can sleep well knowing that many of our athletes will come on Monday, not because they need to or that they are afraid not to... but that they genuinely want to.