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Skipping the Problem

In a Ted talk, the speaker made a very interesting statement that continues to resonate with me. He said that whenever he struggled to solve a problem, he stopped trying to solve the problem and simply found a way to skip the problem.

Whenever faced with a problem we’re struggling to solve, we may be better off trying to figure out how to make the problem irrelevant.

Some specific examples in a training context.

Johnny the sprinter, struggles with any training distance over 100m. It’s a disaster, he reacts negatively to the experience, and nobody leaves happy. As opposed to developing a plan to develop this ability, trying to motivate Johnny, etc…, why not just design a training the makes swimming distances over 100m unnecessary. Focus on speed and power, use a variety of shorter interval/short rest stimuli to create a similar aerobic effect, or get aerobic work done out of the pool.

Imagine that you don’t have the pool space/time to have effective practices for the number of swimmers you have on your team, or you can’t implement the type of training you want. You could spend endless hours and sums of money searching for more water space or trying to create your own. Or you could design a training program that only requires the pool time you have. Change the type of water training, place a greater emphasis on land-based training, etc…

Take side-breathing in butterfly. Suzy keeps coming up way too high when she’s breathing to the front. Nothing seems to help her stay lower through the breath. Stop trying to fix it and just have her breath to the side. Problem skipped.

Faced with the challenge of improving his backstroke swimming to reach a world class level, David Berkoff just went underwater instead. It worked out okay.

Next time you’re faced with a problem that seems to be without any palatable solutions, stop trying to solve the problem and consider how the problem can be made irrelevant. This is type of thinking is results in the paradigm shifts that change our lives.

As coaches, we have a lot of problems if we can skip some, we'll be better off. Instead of solving problems, start skipping problems.

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