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An Issue of Essence

Coaches operate in a complex environment where multiple factors interact to produce great performances. Coaches are constantly bombarded with a tremendous amount of ambiguous information and numerous tasks that need to be completed.

It can be overwhelming.

To effectively navigate this complexity, we need to appreciate what’s important and what’s not important so we can keep our approach as simple as possible.

How can we distill each aspect of performance to it’s true essence?

I’d like to offer perspective about how I keep things simple so I can make effective decisions on a daily basis. Through simplicity, I have a framework to go to when things faced with coaching challenges.


Swimmers have to swim fast in practice if they want to swim fast in meets. Swimmers who consistently and repeatedly swim fast in practice will swim fast in meets, eventually.

The consistently and repeatedly part is the important part. It takes a high level of fitness to do. It’s about the capacity to swim fast over and over again.

One-off swims aren’t going to cut it. You have to develop a high fitness level for swimming at relevant velocities. If you can do this, swimmers will perform. HOW is up to you, but never lose sight of this reality.

How are you facilitating fast swimming in practice while developing the ability to swim fast consistently?

Keep it simple.


Distance per stroke is the outcome of effective and efficient swimming. It is the key parameter which separates different performance levels (although stroke frequency can become important WITHIN different performance levels).

Distance per stroke is the result of creating propulsion and minimizing drag, and doing so with great rhythm.

Everything else is details.

How are your technical interventions working to serve this purpose?

Keep it simple.


Great culture comes from engagement in the process. Swimmers need to be actively engaged in the process of getting better each and every day. They need to be willing to do what needs to be done whether they feel like it in the moment or not.

Where complete engagement is given consistently and enthusiastically, all other attributes that describe a great culture will emerge.

How are you ensuring that you are creating a culture where swimmers are enthusiastically engaged in the process of becoming better, each and every day?

Keep it simple.


Swimmers need to continue gain confidence in their abilities and what they can accomplish. They need to retain task specific focus regardless of the situation.

While different aspects of psychology like emotional regulation can be important, it is the loss of task-specific focus that can come with emotional dysregulation which makes emotions important in the first place.

Confidence and focus get the job done.

How are you building confidence and increasing the ability to focus on the task at hand, daily?

Keep it simple.

On Details

The details can help you accomplish the big picture items. It is absolutely critical to understand how details can help you solve specific problems. However, the details remain a means to end. Getting the detail right won’t matter if it doesn’t lead to big picture improvements.

The details are also where points of differentiation. There are many means that can accomplish a given end.

How is up to you.

Consider a successful ‘USRPT’ program and a successful ‘high volume’ team. They will both swim fast consistently, they will have great technique, they will have great culture, and they will develop great psychology.

The detailsare different, yet it leads to the same important outcomes.


All aspects of performance are interrelated and problems in one area can show up in other areas. The interactions can become complex really fast.

  • Without great technique, swimmers won’t be able to swim fast and they won’t be able to sustain those speeds.

  • If swimmers can’t perform with great task-specific focus, they won’t have effective training sessions.

  • Without success in training and technical development, confidence won’t develop.

  • Without confidence, swimmers will be less engaged in the process.

  • Without engagement in the process, nothing happens.

And so on.

This is the true value of identifying the essence of performance. When problems arise, you can go back to the simple fundamentals to help get performances back on track.

Stay focused on the essence of what performance requires. It is simple, but it’s not easy

Who wouldn’t want an engaged, enthusiastic culture of confident and focused swimmers with great distance per stroke that swim fast all the time?

Keep it simple.

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