How Your Swimmer is Talented

Growing up, I hardly ever qualified as "talented" to anyone that coached me. "Frustrating" was probably used more often, although some hid it better than others. Conversely, in school I was always told about how "smart" I was. If only, I would "apply myself". 

Now in my work as a coach, I realize that focusing on "talent" or who is "smart" is probably one of the most useless things we do in sports and schools. 

Recently I've had the pleasure of re-connecting with some old classmates from my graduate school days. One of them, a woman who has been tremendously kind to me over these past few weeks named Sherri Fisher, recommended a book for me.

"How Your Child is Smart: A Life-Changing Approach to Learning" is old (1992). The discussion within, primarily about young people and their ability to learn, might as well have been written today.

The book has some popularized notions of how people learn. Namely that some people are "auditory" learners or "visual" learners or even "kinesthetic". 

While those constructs are easy enough to understand, the real lesson within was about learning, swimming and the way we ascribe talent to different swimmers. 

I have for a long time despised the world "talented". Because it implies that swimmers have something intrinsic within them that propels them to swim fast, something that you cannot grow or improve or change. Even if it was true, it wouldn't be worth it to focus on with individuals. The closest analogy I can think of is height, something of which we have some evidence helps you swim faster- is it worth focusing on a swimmer getting taller?

Likewise, I think that there are far more swimmers out there that could compete at very high levels than we are seeing right now. Many are being thrown out of a pile as either "not talented" or "doesn't want to do the work" when neither of those designations are correct. When I was coaching teams, almost to a fault I would take on coaching swimmers that other coaches deemed either untalented or impossible to coach because I was always optimistic that they could improve a lot. Many times they did.

One of the most successful swimmers I ever coached was one who many of his teammates deemed did not want to "work hard". Conversely, I found that he did, given the right coaching, and after the fact when he swam very fast, he was slapped with the label of "talented".

This is one aspect of what you can get through Chris DeSantis coaching- so if there is anyone out there who loves swimming but is thinking of stopping because they have maxed out their potential or have not yet had their talent realized by a coach. Let's go to a pool (and beyond) and find a way to get way closer to what your actual potential is.