Tag Archives: swimming

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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Perfect Practice Makes Perfect Performance…

The Haymaker Swim Team took 46 athletes in 170 individual events and 23 relays to the Plains Tsunami North Qualifying meet last Saturday.  All 46 of those athletes earned the opportunity to compete next weekend at the Championship Meet.

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The kids would likely report that the fun of competition and the excitement of getting to the next level provided the highlight of their day.  Mine was the fact that although I only get to coach and mentor these kids for 8 weeks each summer, our team completed the meet with no disqualifications and a large number of excellent athletic performances.

Each swim season we create a mantra which appears on the back of our team shirts.  This year our shirts carry the statement Perfect Practice Makes Perfect Performance.  As the coach of a recreation league summer sport, I try to focus on fitness and the development of strength and work ethic.  I know that learning to do it right at practice sets the kids up not just for success in the pool but also in life.

While the glory of competitive victory glows brightly, a true winner shines just as radiantly during the hours of practice.  It is during those hours of preparation that true character is revealed.  Convincing my swimmers of the necessity of passionate effort creates one of my greatest challenges.  Settling clearly provides the enemy of greatness, and is spurred by unfocused practice.  Each year I create Pitchfork Challenges to help the kids find focused goals to strive for during practice sessions.

For the 2016 season, Pitchfork Challenges included long Individual Medley swims requiring correct stroke technique, sprint freestyle swims with no breathing, and a blend of core “on land” strength challenges.  I always enjoy watching the kids accomplish far more than they envisioned possible, and I know that these challenges play an important role in creating a successful season.

This week provides the culmination of the 2016 season.  The kids look forward to competing at Championships with a blend of nerves and excitement, and dreams of coming home with medals.  I spend the week trying to prepare them knowing that perfect practice makes perfect performance.

Go Haymakers!

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10 Qualities of a Good Teammate…

lakekarynswimshirt.jpgIn preparation for a swim team meeting today, my favorite blonde cowgirl and I brainstormed and put together 10 Qualities of a Good Teammate.  None of these qualities are linked directly with natural athletic talent, however, all of them directly determine an athlete’s success.  Building these skills is not easy; however their importance extends far beyond the athletic field and into the game of life. 

  1. Heart: To be a good teammate, you must have enough faith to trust both in your abilities as well as every other team member’s.
  2. Friendship: To be a good teammate, you must extend friendship and acceptance toward all members. This includes recognizing that no one is perfect and being able to forgive in order to better both yourself and the team.
  3. Work Ethic: To be a good teammate, you must be willing to work hard – to push yourself to the point of exhaustion – in order to achieve new levels of strength and ability.
  4. Leadership: To be a good teammate, you must show a positive attitude and look outside of yourself in order to support and mentor others.
  5. Integrity: To be a good teammate, you must be truthful in your thoughts, words, and actions.
  6. Passion: To be a good teammate, you must give everything that you have in every moment of competition and training with a strong positive energy that comes from the heart.
  7. Kindness: To be a good teammate, you must always be both humble and kind. Learning to support others and help them to achieve greatness provides the basis for both personal and team success.
  8. Positive Culture: To be a good teammate, you must believe in and share the power of positivity – this occurs by encouraging others and inspiring greatness in all those around you.
  9. Competitive Nature: To be a good teammate, you must be willing to live in the moment of the race and fight for victory – not just for yourself but for those who proudly share the same uniform.
  10. Leave it all on the deck: To be a good teammate, you must leave all negative emotions and drama outside of the pool so that you can bond with your teammates and work together to build something greater than yourself.

One of my swimmers reminded me this week that “Perseverance = Stubborness with a Purpose” — Imagine how awesome our world would be if everyone persevered on the journey of being a good teammate!

 

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Haymaker Swimming…

I competed in my first backstroke race the summer of 1979 at the age of 4.  My mom taught me to swim almost before I could walk, and USS Swimming played a huge role in the first 21 years of my life.  In addition to allowing me to compete as an athlete at the national level in high school, it also helped me to matriculate at Dartmouth College in the fall of 1993.  I wasn’t as smart as the general Ivy League student population, but I knew how to work and I was never known to back down from a challenge.

Although I drifted away from the sport during my twenties as I built a life on the farm and gave birth to my three greatest blessings, I became reunited with it the year my youngest turned 3.  At that point, swimming provided a healing influence, and played a vital role as I regained my health after a difficult struggle with Graves Disease.  The combination of physical fitness challenge as a swimmer and the mental fitness that I acquired as a coach enabled me to find the “old Anne” and shake off the deflated self esteem that often develops when battling a chronic illness.

Looking for a "high 5" at the beginning of the meet...

Looking for a “high 5” at the beginning of the meet…

Years later, our local swim team thrives with 46 young competitors aged 7-16.  Coaching is the highlight of my summer and I love to watch the sport play a positive role in the growth of our community’s young people.  It is not just speed and strength that gets developed in the water — it is character, work ethic, and respect.  The almost twenty hours a week that I put in as a volunteer coach during the summer months nurtures my altruistic side despite the fact that during hard workouts my athletes have been known to classify me as evil

What they likely don’t realize is that I push them because I care about them: both the young people that they are today and the awesome adults that they will grow up to be tomorrow.  I hope that sometime ten years down the road each of my swimmers will rattle off one of the many motivational phrases that I am known for and take a moment to appreciate what we built together.

Our league also allows for adults to swim, so each week I get to hit the water to prove to myself that I still can.  I love that I demonstrate with each day that passes that swimming is a life sport and fitness is fun.

  • Every practice is a challenge to be met.
  • Every race is an opportunity to embrace.
  • Every awesome effort proves that while the road to excellence is rarely comfortable, success thrives in an uncomfortable environment.

annecoach2.jpgGo Haymakers!

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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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Good Coaches Don’t Just Build Athletes, They Build the Future…

I wear many different hats in my life, but perhaps the hat that brings me the most pride is my coach’s hat. When I think back to my own teenage years, outside of my parents, my swimming coach played the single largest mentoring role in my life. He taught me to work hard, believe in myself, and most importantly to be tough.

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My swimming coach and I after an “ocean mile race” off the beaches of South Florida…

My successes in the swimming pool and on the Cross Country course were plentiful. I graduated from high school a two time finalist at the 18 and under National Championships in both backstroke events as well as being an All-American High School 100 Backstroke qualifier.  I also brought home two Florida Cross Country Championship team victories playing the role of the #2 runner on the team placing individually in the top 10 my Freshman year and 2nd my Junior year of high school.

1991 Florida State Cross Country Champions...

1991 Florida State Cross Country Champions…

Although the medals and recognition brought me pride and self-confidence, it was the hours spent training and working with my coach that most shaped my character. Though he was a man of relatively few words, he inspired me to dig deep and always persevere with excellence. Although I never fully appreciated this gift until my adult years, I am now inspired to try and do the same for the young athletes in my community.coachannethumbsup.jpg

Saturday the Haymaker High School Cross Country team participated in a day long “training retreat” that combined a local road race 5K with additional fitness running, a swimming and running duathlon, and a blend of motivational speakers throughout the day. I was honored to be one of those speakers. My favorite teenager is a member of the team, and her coaches are two of the finest people that I know.

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While I shared a variety of things with the runners, my talk had three main points. Today, I share them with each of you…

  • The road to excellence is never comfortable. The brain is our weakest muscle and must be toughened in order to achieve excellence.
  • The most important part of a race is the moment you decide to believe and push through the pain in order to achieve victory.
  • Every race, every practice, every moment in life is an opportunity. Respect yourself enough to take full advantage of each of those opportunities as you will never get them back.

I learned these lessons as an athlete from an amazing man who cared enough to not only coach the swimmer but also to mentor the person. I internalized them and have used them every day of my adult life.

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Good coaches don’t just build athletes, they build the future by shaping the character of those that they mentor.

 

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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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