Great things happen to those who go for it… and sometimes they don’t
Swimming is an interesting sport. It is extremely demanding, certainly strenuous, and continuously evolving. It requires hours of practice, stamina and dedication. If a swimmer takes time off, recovering and getting back to where he or she was could take twice as long as the time that was taken off. But swimming is also greatly rewarding. The peaks are as high as the valleys are low, the victories as intense as are the set-backs. The 80s made the computer-related phrase Garbage In,Garbage Out (GIGO) famous. It reminds us that flawed or nonsense input produces nonsense output. This is also true and applicable in sports and training. You can’t really reach your goals unless you are willing to pay the price; in the pool; at all hours of the day; doing doubles; working to exhaustion; spending time in the gym after you get out of the pool. You can’t expect to drop time, beat the competition, be the best, be your best, unless you work hard. One could argue then, that if GIGO is a rule of sorts, a universal law if you will, there must be something opposite. A statement that can adequately sum up what happens when quality input yields quality results. That phrase, QIQO (Quality In, Quality Out) is one I would like to look at a bit more this week.
This week was a funny week for me -- I wasn’t necessarily in the best frame-of-mind when the team discussed a blog topic. Truth be told, I am not particularly cheery at this juncture either. So, the “how ‘bout great things happen to those who go for it” topic suggestion was met by my sarcastic “yeah, let’s spin that sunny butterflies and fluffy marshmallows idea!”. See sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you will end up hitting a wall. But I am not sure this is really where our coaches were going with this. The more I think about it, the more I realize that, notwithstanding my rotten mood, what this sentence is really about is consistency and perseverance. So I had a pretty crummy week -- or maybe months if I am honest --I am not that special. People try and fail all the time -- I mean, look at Edison! I think the first point here is that the “going for it” part cannot stop. Swimmers know that sometimes they do their best. Sometimes they try hard. Sometimes they have terrible swims, horrible meets, pathetic championships, after doing their best. But this blog isn’t about the “sometimes”. It’s about the “going for it”. That is the key to what we need to help our children, young and old, focus on here.
As a college professor, I used to have to look at students all the time, and address the “but I worked so hard, I don’t understand my grade!”. Part of me would (silently) chuckle and think “yeah, you should see my salary and then let’s discuss over an overpriced cup of coffee”. The thing with my classes though, was that students weren’t there by choice, but rather but necessity. I know, I am shocked too -- I mean who wouldn’t want to take organic chemistry 2 for grins and giggles right? Our swimmers are working hard because they love the sports, they want to be there. They choose to be there. Our coaches are pouring themselves into them because they love their work. They also love the sport and they want to see those kids succeed. So the next principle at play in this “great things happen to those who go for it” is that you have to want it. The flawed and erroneous notion that you deserve something because you worked hard for it is not what makes swimmers great. They know that sometimes, great things don’t happen even when they work hard. But again, this is not about working hard (although working hard is part of the quality concept of QIQO). It is about going for it. Every day. Every practice. Every meet. Every workout. Make each one a masterpiece. Don’t quit, keep pushing, GO FOR IT!
As I sit at my kitchen table writing these words, I am realizing that maybe I needed the sunny butterflies and fluffy marshmallows as well. If nothing else, I know our kids and coaches might need to hear these words too. Our children are probably in desperate needs of being reminded that they need to keep pushing, especially now. When will they race again? Who the heck knows! Will there be a championship this summer? Ha! Fat chance! Could there be other opportunities to compete in a different arena, another outdoor pool, maybe a lake? Well, maybe we could find ways of making something happen…..but even if we can’t, even if we don’t, they still need to go for it. They need to train, as if champs, sectionals, futures or junior nats were in a few weeks. Because someday, it will be tomorrow. If they want great things to happen then, they need to go for it now. When they find themselves standing at the edge of that pool, ready to swim their hearts out, they must know that the quality they put in will be the quality that will come out. The pressure that produces diamonds, the lemons that make the lemonade, the hard work that pays off -- all of these things happen because of going for it; they happen with time; they happen when people don’t stop. Will they hit a wall? For sure! Some may have already learned that painful and disappointing life lesson. Will there be setbacks? Without a doubt! Will they always have great swims, amazing meets, gangbuster championships? Heck no, not always….there will always be that “sometimes”.
Great things do happen to those who go for it...and sometimes they may not -- sometimes they don’t. But what do you do then? You have to keep going for it! We have to remind our children that this swim thing is a continuum. It isn’t about the one swim, the one meet, the one cut. It is about going for it today, tomorrow, and the next day. Because while there are the “sometimes”, there is also the next time.