Quotable: WSJ Article “How Not to Ruin a Swimming Prodigy”

Tucked away in the Sports section of the May 30, 2012 WSJ (yes, I read the Sports section of the WSJ), is an article by Matthew Futterman about one coach’s successful style which incorporates adaptation in order to maintain an element of fun in practice. In the end, the element of fun extends the training and achieves more than if the drills were fixed. To a degree, the coach allows some elective participation but this seems to have resulted in a greater focus on the outcome. In swimming as much as in any other sport I can think of, the swimmer must come up for air and periodically think about how much more they need to put in to reach the goal. To the YCISL, this style of training with an element of fun is one I would care to embrace.

Here is some extracted text that impresses me…

As a coach, however, Schmitz stands out for a devotion to rest and play. No less important than his swimmers’ splits is whether they are having fun inside and outside the natatorium. At practice, if the kids seem spent, he’ll end the workout midway through and start a game of water polo. “He’s a fun loving kid, he laughs with them, he plays loud music,” said D.A. Franklin, Missy’s mother.

Schmitz’s swimmers also go through a structured dry land practice twice a week that focuses on building core strength and athleticism. “Looking at a black line all day, every day gets awfully dull,” he said.

Even when it comes to improving form—something other coaches regard as a strict science—Schmitz believes in the art of play. Sometimes, in fact, he orders his charges into the deep end for a session of vertical kicking, with the aim of lifting their torsos out of the water.

“A lot of this is about simply playing around in the water,” he said. “That’s what kids do naturally, and the play engages the mind and gives the swimmer the tools to figure out the right way to move their body.”


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