Tag Archives: Cozad Swim Team

Shared Courage…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of Matthew 18: 20

“For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”


The 2019 swim team season kicked off last week. The first morning practice with the high school swimmers began with an air temperature of 38 degrees, and we were very glad for a heated pool! It was 55 degrees by the time the younger swimmers practiced in the middle of the day, but the air still carried a bit of a bite to it…The weather might not think it is summer, but we have more than 40 young athletes that are excited to be in the water!

This year’s theme for the season is courage. In particular our quote to live by is, “Courageous faith calls us to finish strong!”. We spent our weekly off-season winter practices talking about what it takes to be a good teammate. That provides a great lead-up to a summer of courageous fellowship 🙂

Just as being an athlete takes courage, so does life.

  • It takes courage to be grateful regardless of your circumstance.
  • It takes courage to persevere with steadfast grace.
  • It takes courage to continue to put in the work even when you can’t see a victorious outcome.
  • It takes courage to stand firm and cling to your faith.

My hope is that our team will build meaningful habits to help us be courageous while simultaneously building fitness and strength in the water. I opened up the first practice asking the swimmers what it means to have courage. A ten year old boy on the team immediately responded, “courage is keeping going and working hard even when you are scared.” A second swimmer followed that statement with, “when we have courage we don’t settle even when it gets hard.” By the end of the week, we all decided that it was easier to be courageous and to make courageous choices when we came together to support each other as a team.


I believe that God calls us to be all in – To live with heartfelt passion in order to share his love with others. The athletic team is an awesome place to learn this. It provides a fun and engaging way to introduce many of the challenges that we experience throughout life. When done correctly, athletics teach the value of hard work and unselfish fellowship. At the Cozad Swim Team, we start each practice with a character lesson, a bible verse, and a daily devotional. I do this because I believe that the first thing that my swimmers need to learn is that God is always with them. He is the ultimate source of courage and he uses each one of us to help build a fellowship of strength. That is the purpose of TEAM.

For where two or three gather, God is among them.

I think that all of my swimmers know how important my faith is to me. I hope that it provides a light to them as they travel the journey of building a meaningful relationship with our Lord. What they might not know is that sharing faith with them brings me courage. My swimmers inspire me to live with grace – to be brave – to have a grateful attitude – and to work with purpose each and every day.

2019 has been a year of challenge for me. During the various times of trial, I have thought of my athletes and how I would counsel them. This keeps me centered on my faith and reminds me of the importance of practicing what I preach. In about a month, I will undergo a third surgery on my leg. As I fight the fear of another invasive procedure, the reality that today I am unable to walk without pain, and the knowledge that the future is unknown, I draw on the shared courage that we build together in fellowship on the pool deck.

I pray that I will walk this path with grace so that my swimmers can see Jesus carry me with the courageous faith that I need to finish strong 🙂

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A Solid Core…

Ask any member of either the Cozad Swim Team or the Haymaker Cross Country team and they will likely tell you that Coach Anne is a core nut. While there may well be an implied double meaning in that statement, the main reason for my reputation as a core nut is that I believe in the power of having a strong set of core muscles. Regardless of your chosen sport, strong stomach and back muscles improve your body coordination/balance and protect you from injury.

Just like anything meaningful in life, a strong core requires dedicated work to achieve and maintain. The V-up muscles do not appear overnight and planking can be downright uncomfortable the first few weeks; but the exercises give you a solid foundation of fitness that leads to success.

As I close in on a decade of coaching, I think about the core of my athletes not just in a physical sense, but also from an emotional and mental standpoint. While I teach my athletes how to swim and run, likely more importantly I help them to learn how to make good life choices.  The vast majority of my kids will leave organized athletics when they complete their high school careers; but it is my hope that the life lessons that they learn in the swimming pool and on the cross country course will continue to impact them throughout their lives.

The Cozad Swim Team found great success last Saturday at the Plains Tsunami Championship meet. 174 swims by 45 athletes led to 6 records and 143 top 8 medal earning finishes (33 of which were gold); but I do not believe that the success of the season was measured in those statistics. The medals may have resulted from a successful season; but the true value came from the development of a solid core during the hours of practice that led up to the championship meet.

As a coach, I know how to train the athletes’ bodies; but I also recognize that attaining fitness to find success is a personal choice that must be made by each individual team member. I encourage and direct; but it is the responsibility of the athlete to put forth the effort. I watch as the season progresses knowing that the kids who work the hardest will go home with the victory. That victory may not always appear in the form of a medal; but it most certainly creates a tangible culture that propels the athlete to lifelong success.

There is tremendous power to be found in an innate desire to work hard in order to find excellence.

It comes from Packing Your FAITH (fortitude, attitude, integrity, trust, and humility).

It results in Competing with GRACE (gratitude, resilience, awareness, compassion, and eloquence).

It creates a winning culture where believers are born and achievers thrive.

Photo credits to Corbey Dorsey 🙂

I love the kids that I coach as well as the sports that together we work hard to find success in; but what leaves the largest imprint on my heart is the knowledge that my leadership may one day result in my athletes working hard to make the world a better place. That’s what carries me through each season and inspires me to pack my own FAITH to coach with GRACE.

How do you work hard to pursue excellence in your life?

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Dear Swimmer…

As most of you know, I coach my community’s swim team.  Last weekend, we competed in the Qualifier Meet and next Saturday we will travel to Championships.  I used to think that the best thing that I got out of competitive swimming was the ability to study and compete at an elite Ivy League college.  While I truly treasure my time at Dartmouth, today I realize that the best gift that I received from competitive swimming was the skills and ability to coach the young people in my beloved town.

Each one of the swimmers on my team holds a special place in my heart, and I believe that coaching them allows me to do God’s work in a meaningful and unique way.  Below you will find a letter that I wrote to my athletes this week as we prepare for the final meet of the season.  I am sharing it here in the hopes that it will speak to you, and be an inspiration for you to do youth volunteer work.  Our children are our future — our greatest asset as well as our greatest responsibility.

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Dear Swimmer,

We spend many hours together learning from each other as we journey through each season. As we approach the 2015 Championships, there are a few things that I would like to say to you.

  1. I am proud of you and I love to watch you develop strength and fitness. I know that there are times when you think that I am crazy because of what I ask you to do each day in the pool, but I know that those things will take you one step closer to triumph. I believe that “the only place that you find success before work is in the dictionary” (May Smith), and it is my job to teach you how to work. I created the Pitchfork Challenges that we do each week in practice to help you realize that personal victory stems from reaching above and beyond your capabilities in order to accomplish far more than your dreams. It isn’t meant to be easy, easy does not create meaningful improvement.
  2. My goal for you is physical strength and fitness, the development of a tenacious mental focus, and the creation of emotional confidence and personal belief in your own God given ability. I look at each of you at the beginning of the year – I watch you grow during the season – and I hope for improvement in each of these things by our final meet. I do not compare you to other swimmers, rather, I compare you to yourself as you continue down your own unique swimming journey.
  3. Please know that we share every challenge and success that occurs along this journey. When you stumble—I hurt for you – When you find success, my heart is filled with joy – We are in this together. I do my best to provide you with appropriate leadership. I promise that I will harass you when you do not give your best effort. I promise that I will push you to search for excellence, rather than settling for adequate. I realize that you may not always think that my actions are “fair” or “right”. I understand this, but please know that I have your best interest at heart. While I love to be your friend, it is more important that I be your coach.
  4. The most important thing that I can teach you is to believe. The weakest muscle in your body is your brain. To be successful you must learn to trust: acting as your own advocate, as well as an advocate for your teammates. There are no limitations in life, other than the ones that you place on yourself. Learn to open your mind so that your body can fly.
  5. I care. I care about you – not just the athlete, but the person that makes you so very special. I will always be your biggest fan and I will always believe in you. Realize that although sometimes it might be easier for me to do it for you, I care enough about you that I will back away so that you can learn to do it for yourself.

Next Saturday you will compete at the Championship Meet. You will represent yourself, your team, and your community of Cozad. All of the hard work that we have done will come together to help both you and our team to achieve greatness. I ask that you give of yourself – for yourself—and for the other 52 swimmers that proudly wear the Cozad Pitchfork on their caps. Be physically strong, mentally tough, and emotionally confident – It is these three things that will lead us to victory.

Go Haymakers!

Coach Anne

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The View From the Eyes Of a Coach…

This week marked the beginning of the summer competitive season for the Cozad Swim Team. Every day for the next two months I will trade my dirty cowboy boots for flip flops and walk onto the pool deck as a coach. I view mentoring these kids as one of my greatest blessings, and the hours that I spend coaching on deck are the highlight of my summer.

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I love the sport of swimming. I found and defined myself somewhere along the hundreds of thousands of laps swum during my teenage years. While I am proud of my competitive accomplishments, I am more proud of the tenacity that I learned from the journey. Today, I still find peace moving the water and the pool continues to hold a special place in my heart.

Sharing this love with 60 young members of my community puts a special twinkle in my eye. I spend the summer watching my athletes attain mental, emotional, and physical strength. Amidst the shared smiles, high fives, and hard work they learn the joy of fitness — the importance of perseverance – the confidence that comes from learning to believe.

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While I love medals and victories just as much as my kids, as a coach I recognize that these are simply the icing on the cake. As I teach my swimmers to compete, I teach much more than simply how to win the race.

They learn:

  • That training hard builds self-respect just as much as muscle.
  • That being a good teammate builds a culture where everyone thrives.
  • That laughing in the face of challenge — as you conquer the challenge — is good for the soul.
  • That setting goals so that your hard work has a purpose enables you to attain greatness.
  • That excellence is not about comfort – It is about reaching above and beyond your capabilities in order to accomplish far more than your dreams.

Somewhere along the journey, together we both find purpose and fulfillment. Last winter I wrote about how much I love the George Strait song “I Saw God Today”. During the summer months, I see God in these kids every day as they figure out how to believe in themselves and work to build the self-respect that ensures them success.

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Twenty years from now, they likely will not remember their times or places at the Championship meet.

My hope is that they will remember to love themselves, respect their peers, and

ALWAYS — ALWAYS persevere in the face of challenge.

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The Road to Excellence Is Not Always Comfortable…

I am one of the coaches for the Cozad Swim Team. Our primary season is late May through July, and I spend the noon hour during the summer on the pool deck coaching practice as well as Saturdays at swim meets.

I love the sport of swimming and spent the better part of my formative years training in the pool. My high school tenure found me practicing four hours a day and traveling across the country to compete in swimming meets. My journey as a competitive athlete taught me so very many things, but likely the most important is that the road to excellence is not always comfortable.

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While I loved my time as a competitive swimmer, being a volunteer swim coach has grown my love for the sport exponentially. It allows me to touch the lives of the youth in our community and help to shape their tenacity and character. This year our team had almost 50 members that ranged in age from five to fourteen as well as a few brave adults competing in the 30 and over age group.

I believe that one of my most important jobs as a coach is to teach my athletes to build mental strength and confidence. As the mind begins to believe, the athlete learns to push him/herself into the uncharted waters of true physical exertion. There is nothing comfortable in this journey, yet it ultimately results in the true beauty of fitness and excellence.

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Regardless of any individual athlete’s God given talent, learning the life skill of breaking outside of what is comfortable in order to attain improvement is critical. I would argue that this is a life skill that reaches far outside of competitive athletics. Mental toughness and the desire to always improve (regardless of whether that journey is comfortable) is a skill that I have used every day in my adult life.

This year, I created the Pitchfork Challenge for our swim team to add a new element to practices. Each swimmer was tasked with discovering how many laps they could complete without breathing while swimming (in both Freestyle and Butterfly strokes). Each no-breath lap was immediately followed by 15 wall push-ups with no rest in the continuous effort for multiple laps.

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Watching the young athletes figure out that they could indeed achieve success in the Pitchfork Challenge was a fulfilling experience. As they realized that I believed in their ability, my swimmers also began the personal journey of believing. Many of them pushed the limit, with my favorite blonde cowgirl going the farthest with 7 consecutive laps of freestyle no breathing with 15 wall pushups as the only “rest” in between laps. I had 38 athletes complete the challenge in freestyle, and 17 of those 38 completed it in both freestyle and butterfly. Additionally, there were another 6 athletes under the age of 8 that completed the challenge with only one breath.

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A nice “side effect” of the Pitchfork Challenge was a tremendous improvement in both work ethic and fitness amongst my athletes. This led to an undefeated season for the Cozad Swim Team and a dominating performance at both the Plains tsumani Swim Team Qualifier and Championship meets.

Forty eight of our swimmers qualified for the Plains tsunami Swim Team Championships and those athletes brought home 166 medals (31 Gold) and 7 high point winners. Cozad brought home the 1st place team victory with 1792 points (more than 400 points ahead of the 2nd place team—a total of 24 teams competed in the meet).

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Likely, the most important result of the season is the personal growth that each of my swimmers developed during the summer as they discovered that the road to excellence is not always comfortable…

I would like to take a moment to congratulate every athlete that swam on the team this summer. Each one of you played an important role in our team journey, and it brings me great pride to be your coach. I hope that in the future, when life throws a challenge at you, that you will think back to the Pitchfork Challenge and dig deep in order to persevere with excellence.

 

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