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Old 07-07-2011
terry terry is offline
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Kjell
I'm really delighted to see you posting here. Your name suggests to me that you may be from Norway? What sort of team do you coach? What can you tell us about your coaching background and situation?

Also what do you consider your most pressing or highest priority challenges or opportunities in coaching?

The starting point for TI coaching with age group swimmers (whether their age group is 11-12 or 70-74) is to be unshakable in your commitment to movement quality. When planning training sets, your first thought is always how it can teach, refine, or improve movement quality. And while conducting the set, be ready at any time to change, modify or stop the set if you don't see the movement quality you're looking for.

That is an Aesthetic or Subjective way of looking at it. There's also the Objective, Measurable or Mathematical way -- manipulating the metrics of SPL,Tempo, Distance, Rest Interval and Time. You always keep your Aesthetic standards in mind. Sometimes you add Objective measures to them.

Where do your Aesthetic standards come from? This morning I had an email exchange on that subject with several colleagues and friends who I've known for 40 years. Here are some excerpts:

>>I have a personal anecdote about the potent effect of 'rapt' video observation. Scott and Ira probably remember the Aquaforum film series of videos showing top swimmers of the late 70s.

Tracy Caulkins was the only swimmer featured on the videos for all four strokes. I found myself so mesmerized by the preternatural beauty of her strokes -- on the backstroke video for instance Betsy Mitchell (who had the LC world record for 200 at the time) looked like a manual laborer while Tracy (who had the SC American record) looked like an artist -- that I made a Best of Tracy compilation of her doing all four strokes on a single cassette.

In 1981 I used to sit in a darkened room with Tracy at least once a week for 30 to 40 minutes, mainly just letting it 'wash over me.' I recall a sense of feeling hypnotized. From what I've studied about neuroscience more recently, I now understand that the effect of dozens of hours of watching raptly was a 'rewiring' of cognitive and conceptual circuits in my brain, creating a far more developed sense of the aesthetics of great swimming.

I decided that Tracy's swimming should set the standard of movement quality I would strive to implement in every stroke with every swimmer. I have no doubt that the inspiring images burned into my brain by spending so many hours watching Tracy's images were more responsible than anything else for the jaw-dropping performances I saw my swimmers do in 1982.

I'm also convinced that the set of beliefs that emerged 10 years later as TI philosophy were equally influenced by that -- as was the stroke shaping I did with Joe Novak while coaching at Army 15 years later. While coaching Joe, I wasn't thinking about anything as impersonal as efficiency. Rather I always felt more like a sculptor trying to create the swimming equivalent of Michelangelo's David.

Some time ago I read a blog by a woodworker who is famed for carving award-winning ducks. He described his creative process this way: I start with a block of wood and a vivid image of a duck. Then I just take away anything that 'isn't duck.'"

That has been my stroke-shaping process ever since watching Tracy. I try to 'carve away' anything that's not graceful, either in the human form or in the movement.>>

I'll stop here since this bit may result in some very good discussion. We can move on to other questions of set design after everyone is talked out on the idea of applying Aesthetic Standards in coaching a practice.
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Terry Laughlin
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