Monday, July 11, 2016

How Your Swimmer is Talented

Recently I've had the pleasure of re-connecting with some old classmates from my graduate school days. One of them, a woman who has been tremendously kind to me over these past few weeks named Sherri Fisher, recommended a book for me.

"How Your Child is Smart: A Life-Changing Approach to Learning" was published in 1992, a fact that becomes quiet evident once you begin reading the references to various political leaders of the time. The discussion within, which is primarily about young people and their ability to learn, might as well have been written today.

The book is tangential to some popularized notions of how people learn. Namely that some people are "auditory" learners or "visual" learners or even "kinesthetic". Some constructs invent even more categories and descriptions for the way people learn. This book asserts that everyone learns using auditory,visual and kinesthetic sources, but that each individual tends to process these sources either consciously, subconsciously or unconsciously.

For example, someone could be classified in this system as "AVK". That would mean that they are processing the auditory world around them consciously, while visual information is processed on a subconscious level, with kinesthetic information in the unconscious.

Conversely, someone could be the opposite, KVA. They learn consciously through manipulating and touching the physical world, while processing it visually on a subconscious level, and listening unconsciously.

The construct is interesting, and has it's strengths and weaknesses as all do. That was not the interesting part of this book for me. While I was reading, all I could think about was swimming and the way we ascribe talent to different swimmers, in much the same way we describe people as smart or not.

I have for a long time despised the world "talented". Because it implies that swimmers have something intrinsic within them that propels them to swim fast, something that you cannot grow or improve or change. Even if it was true, it wouldn't be worth it to focus on with individuals. The closest analogy I can think of is height, something of which we have some evidence helps you swim faster- is it worth focusing on a swimmer getting taller?

Likewise, I think that there are far more swimmers out there that could compete at very high levels than we are seeing right now. Many are being thrown of a pile as either "not talented" or "doesn't want to do the work" when neither of those designations are correct. When I was coaching teams, almost to a fault I would take on coaching swimmers that other coaches deemed either untalented or impossible to coach because I was always optimistic that they could improve a lot. Many times they did.

One of the most successful swimmers I ever coached was one who many of his teammates deemed did not want to "work hard". Conversely, I found that he did given the right coaching, and after the fact when he swam very fast, he was slapped with the label of "talented".

This is one aspect of what I would like to offer through Chris DeSantis coaching- so if there is anyone out there who loves swimming but is thinking of stopping because they have maxed out their potential or have not yet had their talent realized by a coach. Let's go to a pool (and beyond) and find a way to get way closer to what your actual potential is.

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