11 Invaluable Life Lessons from a Coach

At the twilight of another Olympiad, the world prepares to return to business as usual.  Athletes reflect on their golden moments while others mourn the loss of “what could have been.” Fans return to their regularly scheduled programming and embrace the fact that they can no longer use “I was watching the Olympics” as an excuse for everything.
Although I was never an Olympic athlete, I did spend 14 years in competitive swimming.  Watching the Olympics always brings up memories of being a competitive athlete; the sacrifices, the triumphs, the disappointments, being supported by a coach.   I spent 10 years training with the same coach and when you spend that much time with a person, it’s impossible to forget all of his or her motivational sayings no matter how hard you try.
Everybody can benefit from the guidance of a good coach at some point in their life.  We all need a good kick in the pants every now and then.  In the spirit of the Olympics and training with a coach,  I’ve complied a list of 11  Invaluable Life Lessons as told by my former swim coach.  Consider this your good kick in the pants for the time being!
1) I’d rather be oh and twenty than oh and oh. Better to try and fail than to never try at all.  Samuel Beckett had a card on his desk that embodied this idea: “Fail.  Fail again.  Fail better.”
2)  Have a little pride. Remember that your work, your actions are a reflection of YOU! Don’t want to tarnish that good name of yours.
3) Be able to look at your competitor and say, “I’ve worked harder than you and I want this more than you.” Make this a true statement.  Work harder than your competition.  If you believe you are the greatest, you will rise to your expectations.
4)  Hope to meet your competitor on their best day, rather than their worst. You don’t want to win the Gold Medal in say Women’s aerial skiing just because the favorite slipped and fell.  You want to win because you are the best in the field! 
5) It’s time to light the fire under your rear.  Any time my coach  yelled this sentence in my general direction before a race, I always dropped at least 2 seconds off my best time.  Passion ignites success!
6) Find the path of least resistance. Originally said in the context of stroke technique, this principle can be applied to life.  Whatever you decide to do in life should not be a constant struggle or cause conflict. In other words, “get in where you fit in.”
7) When the race is over, get out of the pool like an athlete. It’s important to carry yourself in the way you wish to be perceived.  To this day, I still feel a little guilty if I exit a pool using my knees. 
8 )  Get your priorities straight. We were told our priorities were family, school, swimming, end of story.  When you have your priorities firmly laid out, there’s no getting distracted from the task at hand.
9) I don’t need any more friends, I have my own. This was often said in response to my bratty comments.  As a 10-year-old, I talked back and thought, ‘that’ll really show this guy!’  However, my coach reminded me that he had a delightful group of friends at home, thus my approval of him was not necessary or needed.  You don’t need everyone you meet to be your friend, you simply need to be able to maintain a working relationship.
10) There are billions of people in China who don’t care how
you swim today. Or as Dr. Phil once declared, “People don’t think about you as much as you think they do!” Put your life into perspective.  Not that many people care about what you do, so no need to worry what other people may think.
11)  Excuses aren’t printed on the results. “Wait…but…I…if only…see what had happened was…but…” No excuses!  Do or do not, there is no try (thanks for that one, Yoda).

6 thoughts on “11 Invaluable Life Lessons from a Coach

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  1. Excuses aren’t printed on the results…that’s my favorite! Can you imagine: Suzie Q: 50 Freestyle: 35.84 (Her goggles fogged up and she was really tired from a long week at school.)

    Those would be some long results sheets!

  2. Haha, you make an excellent point, Swim Gal. Imagine if excuses WERE printed on results. We’d be wasting a lot of trees.

    My favorite is still, “There are billions of people in China who don’t care how you swam today.” It really helps put your life into perspective. No need to sweat the small stuff because most people don’t notice, let alone care.

  3. Thanks for the much needed kick in the pants. Now I’m actually feeling motivated to start training for this half marathon in San Diego I’ve always wanted to run.

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