The Importance of a Functioning Support Team

So far, I have begun to discuss the critical elements behind what makes someone fast, or good, in a given discipline. For sprint swimming, it appears to turn on finding the equilibrium between absolute power and the application of such. There are many theories surrounding this, but surely there exists a vast number of additional factors that play a part in success.

My biggest focus, outside of the physical element of training itself, is the team that surrounds me. While it is a reverberating truism that you can only physically achieve what you already believe you can do, I am convinced that this extends to what the people around you believe you can do as well. It is of vital importance that you are highly selective in building a support team that believes in your goals and is actively motivated in trying to help you reach them.

Here’s why.

Ill go back to the 10 x 400m metaphor that I have used previously. Picture yourself arriving at early morning training and seeing that session written on the board. Irrespective of whether that session is actually beneficial for what it is you are trying to achieve, the result of it will rely on the relationship between you and your coach. If you believe in them, and they believe in you, you are far more likely to have a positive approach to attacking it, resulting in a far greater chance of successful completion. Conversely, if you do not believe in your coach, and you believe they do not believe in you, the doubt and questions arising from such a session will diminish any chance of a positive outcome.

Although he probably wont like me talking about this, my relationship with my coach is a partnership that has been built on 7 years of trial and error, headbutting, ups and downs, but nevertheless stands strong due to the mutual respect of one another and belief in the process in reaching a common goal. Although it might lead you to be an irritating swimmer for a period of time, I think building this belief and common respect is crucial for a coach-swimmer partnership to work.

Firstly determine who it is that makes up the core group of individuals that support you in reaching your goals. Secondly, question whether that belief and respect exists both ways. If not, find out a way to change it.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a two-way street. The goal is one thing, but if both parties aren’t committed to the process, the respect cannot flourish. Commitment and continual effort are the building blocks that often take substantial time but are nevertheless essential for the coach to see.

Your support team does not just end at your coach however. For me particularly, I have a longstanding team that includes a strength coach, massage therapist, Pilates instructor – and of course the number of roles that my family take in my swimming career.

For each of these individuals, I have been highly selective in ensuring that we are at a common understanding, and that the dedication to results extends beyond the transfer of monetary costs for the time spent together. The metaphor also works for these people – the gym sessions must make sense, the Pilates must make sense, the work of physios and masseuses and all other individuals charged with maintaining your body must make sense. Sense being the mutual understanding of the process in reaching the athletes goals.

My challenge for whoever is reading this, is to firstly determine who it is that makes up the core group of individuals that support you in reaching your goals. Secondly, question whether that belief and respect exists both ways. If not, find out a way to change it.

Just as you spend hours perfecting technique and processes to go faster, spend time also looking at the processes that exist beyond the immediate physical bounds of the pool. It’s tricky, but worth it.

On the theme of teamwork, here is a session that was born out of ideas that both my coach and I had about a particular speed session – and involved compromise on both parts in order to arise a conclusion most likely better then the individual sessions by themselves.

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