In This Moment

When you’re facing a three hour long practice, or a long race, or the beginning of a grueling season, looking forward can be daunting. Trying to consider all of the possibilities, work to be done, and “what if”s can quickly short circuit your emotional reserve.

I have a series of photos, taken by a team mom, that show me waiting alongside a nervous 7-year-old in the lineup behind the starting blocks for her race. She had worked herself into a frenzy at idea of standing there waiting by herself, worrying over the race, how she would do, what it would feel like. I stayed with her and did my best to keep her just in the moment, talking, joking around, showing her she could talk to the other girls to pass the time.

When the things to worry about get too big or too challenging, the trick I learned (during my divorce) is to shrink things down into manageable bites. That old saying “take it a day at a time” is very true, but sometimes even a day is too big of a bite. Sometimes the mantra is “take it an hour at a time” or even just “this moment”.

It is a meditative practice to be in the moment; to realize the past is locked and the future is fantasy, that the only reality is in this moment. It is the only thing you have control over, this moment and what you do with it.

So breathe, and check in with yourself. In this moment, am I OK?  In this moment, do I have a home, a job, food in the fridge? In this moment, are the people I love OK? If you have challenges in this moment, what can you do in this moment to deal with those? Try to let go of the need to look out weeks and months, and churn over what might be, what the worst could look like, and how life might be different. Do your best to make THIS moment good and peaceful, and when the moment comes that there is a challenge to deal with, your soul will be ready.

Right now, most of us are waiting in that line behind the blocks, scared at all that we have stirred up in our heads. It is not our turn to face the challenge. We can be in this moment of waiting without being scared, we can lean on each other, we can find ways to laugh.

In THIS moment, we can be OK.

Fondly,

Coach Jill

My Team

When I was still coaching, it was vitally important with every season, every group, to create a sense of common purpose, common discipline and common goals. That is the essence of “team”–working together to overcome challenges and achieve results. Sometimes sharing a common pain (like 5am practices) is enough to bond a team together. This, folks, is our time. Our team.

We are a team. You, me, my children, your children, the person that cuts your hair, the person that packed the Amazon box sitting on your porch, the lady in China that stitched the socks you’re wearing. A team. My team. Your team. Our human team. In times like these, times that pull the rug out from under “normal”, we all feel the fear in our throats, that clenching uncertainty with every closure and new announcement. What will come next?

As adults, that fear is an awful and unwelcome companion. We have forgotten our child selves, who lived regularly with uncertainty and fear. It is the fear of the young swimmer, standing on the blocks, exposed and cold, wondering what the next moments will bring. It is the fear of “Can I do this?”, “Will I measure up?”, and “What am I made of?” We adults avoid making ourselves vulnerable like that, so when it is thrust upon us, we panic, and build ourselves a fort of TP and hand sanitizer and hot dog buns, as though the things we own will allay the fear.

I cannot make your fear go away, but I can tell you this:  you have it in you to deal with this situation, weird and unexpected as it is. You are made of all the things you always were, all the unique and beautiful things that make you YOU, and you have strengths in there that will bring you and your family through this. You do not need to worry about measuring up; coping is not a competition, and how YOU process stress and challenges will not be what your neighbor does, and that’s OK.

I will encourage you throughout to be a person you will be proud of when this is all behind us; let it bring forth the best of who you are deep down. Do your best to uplift the people in your life. Enjoy the small things, hug your family, feel the love.

And if you need some cheering on, reach out to me. After all, you’re on my team!

Fondly,

Coach Jill

Get Out of Your Own Wake

886492-the-water-texture-patterns-of-a-competitive-swimming-pool-after-a-race

If you’ve ever seen a heat of high level male swimmers racing a sprint freestyle event, you’ve seen the wave they pull behind them. It’s impressive to see the wake caused by a strong, powerful body propelling itself efficiently through the water. Then they come to the wall.

As the swimmers slow slightly to initiate the turn, their wake catches up with them. As they push off, what was behind them is now in front of them, a wave of churning turbulence with the potential to ruin their race. Young swimmers often push off right at the surface, and take that wave in the face. They must learn through practice to push off deep enough to avoid their own wave, and slide through the still water.

We create turbulence as we move through our lives as well, stirring up the water with our selves, our habits, our insecurities. As long as we are moving forward, this turbulence is largely unnoticed by us; it is only when we slow down, when there is a challenge facing us, that our own mess catches up with us. We flounder in the churned up water we have created, making the challenge that much more difficult.

Perhaps instead we could get out of our own wake. We could approach our challenge (wall) with determination, acknowledging that our issues and inner demons (turbulent wave) is right with us, and push away from the problem (wall), aiming for the calm place (still water), where we can once again move forward efficiently.

It is important that we not deny that the wake exists, otherwise we will run into it over and over. Rather, we should accept that it’s there, see it for what it is, and take steps to move past it.

Broken Goggles

goggles

Coach:  “Why did you stop in the middle of the race?”
Child: (sobbing) “Because my goggles were leaking!”
Coach: “OK, so… it’s just water. Why didn’t you keep going?”
Child: (sobbing harder) “Because they were LEAKING!!!!!”

Every sport has its equipment, and swimming is no exception. Probably the most heavily relied upon item are the goggles, which keep the chlorinated water out of swimmers’ eyes. I hate goggles. HATE them. They break, they leak, they require frequent adjustment, and worst of all, most everyone thinks they can’t swim without them.

My real issue with goggles is that they are not necessary. They are a convenience, they are nice for helping you see clearly and for not ending up with stinging eyes at the end of the day…but in reality, you can still swim without them. One of my all-time favorite moments in swimming was Michael Phelps’ 200m butterfly win at the 2008 Olympics…you know, the one where his goggles filled with water off the start and he raced 200 meters unable to see clearly, the last 50 not really being able to see at all. I like to tell that story and end with, “See?  You don’t NEED goggles!”  (I get a lot of groans and rolling eyes from the kids.)

Broken goggles represent an inconvenience, an unexpected minor setback, yet too many turn it into tragedy. Broken or leaky goggles become an excuse and an insurmountable obstacle, with swimmers allowing themselves to mentally fall apart because of a minor failure of a piece of unnecessary equipment.  I read an interview with Bob Bowman, talking about training Michael Phelps. Part of what he said was that he used to train Michael for adversity, and do things like step on his goggles right before a race. Awesome! What better way to teach resiliency in the face of setbacks?

I have wondered on occasion if daily life in this country is just too easy. We flip a switch, light comes on. We turn a faucet, clean water comes out. We click a mouse, instant access to the world is there. Is it any wonder that people raised in that environment come undone when something unexpected and (GASP!) uncomfortable happens?

Kids who swam for me learned pretty quickly that goggle issues were not an excuse that was going to gain them any traction with me. In fact, I have run practice sets where kids were not allowed to wear goggles, or had to pull them down around their necks, or had to deliberately fill them with water, in order to teach them how to deal with the minor adversity. We spent a lot of time at practice talking about the difference between inconveniences and problems, and about being focused enough to swim through the inconveniences. I encouraged them to see these little issues as opportunities to build mental toughness, and I even had a few who listened.

What are the “broken goggles” in your life? How do you respond when it happens? Are you able to stay focused and move forward, seeing it for the minor adversity it is? Or do you let it derail you? How resilient are you?

Step on your goggles once in a while. You’ll be glad you did.