Learning to coach is just like learning to fly an airplane.

student pilot

A couple of excerpts and personal thoughts about coaching after reading the article “Why Learning to Fly (or Code) Is Easier Than You Think” by James Somers in The Atlantic, Jan 11, 2011.

[1] (Instructor): “Flying an airplane is the ultimate test of multitasking.” He’s right–most of the challenge…seems to be in efficiently collecting, triaging, and acting on a mass of messy information. But I can only seem to focus on one thing at a time… [There] are dangerous tradeoffs, and an experienced pilot doesn’t make them. [In] a small recreational plane…he spends–surprisingly, I think–90% of his time looking out of the window and just 10% looking at his instruments. He is a master at sizing things up. “What you have to do is kind of pop in every once in a while and take a quick look at all of your indicators. If something’s yellow or red, you take care of that. Otherwise you make sure everything’s on target and go back to looking out the canopy. It’s situational awareness.”


[Comment] – Coaching is like that, too. The analogies to what we do while coaching should be obvious.


[2] [My] radically fast introduction to flying reminds me so much of another marvel that seems, at first, to be totally unrelated: the ease with which I learned to write nontrivial computer programs.

Maybe “ease” isn’t the right word–I went through years of false starts before I finally started snowballing toward being a decently capable programmer. But once I got over that initial hump, it took only four or five months of intense studying in my sophomore year of college before I was suddenly able to create [many different programs].

It’s just like my [flying] jaunt over the Florida coast. In both cases, I’ve unwittingly taken advantage of an incredible kind of leverage, in the sense that the stick I maneuver and the functions I write are tied to a deep brobdingnagian complex of other people’s work. The miracle is that these accumulated layers of mechanism and edifice and expertise cohere so tightly, have been black-boxed and wrapped up into such friendly interfaces, that even a nitwit like me can put them to productive use.

Thus the twin facts that I was able to take control of a plane after a few moments’ introduction and write useful programs after just a few months of work have basically nothing to do with my aptitude, and all to do with the equipment and know-how made available to me.

In the programming case, I have an overwhelming number of tutorials, walkthroughs, introductions, books, and other guides. I have massive repositories of thoroughly documented open source code to reuse and imitate. The net effect of which is to make “programming” an exercise in (a) wanting to do something, (b) realizing that someone’s probably done it before, (c) looking up what they did, and (d) tweaking it a little bit. As I tweak I begin to understand, and to become less a user of all this wonderful mess than a contributor to it.

There is no doubt danger in all this abstraction–how easy it is nowadays to use a thing without knowing how it works…


[Comment] There are myriad sources available to all coaches to share coaching techniques, drills, practice sets, how to write a daily practice, how to plan a season, etc. You should avail yourself of what you believe will help you progress, and your teams and athletes succeed, but you shouldn’t just *copy*. You should try to understand how and why something functions the way it does and go ahead and try tweaking it along your own path to discovery. Ask other coaches a lot of questions (in person, email, or pick up the phone), post your queries here and on swimming blogs, go to clinics and conferences, READ.

Your passion for our sport is more than likely why you got started. As suggested above, others have successfully coached before you, research how they did it. Just like the best senior swimmers, it didn’t happen overnight. It takes time. It takes laying a good foundation. Be patient. Stay hungry. Believe. And keep asking questions. When we’re young, we tend to think we know everything. When we mature, we realize how much we *don’t* know. Keep your fire burning and keep filling your bucket!


Some thoughts on “Work Ethic”

The contractor I hired to properly finish the restoration of my Hurricane Harvey-flooded house, begun with a less-than-satisfactory workman over a year ago, is a good man. We sat on my outdoor deck in the advancing hours of the afternoon last Friday and talked about the progress of the work (we are starting the fifth week of “Restoration 2.0” tomorrow), and meandered into related topics.

One such topic was the widespread unreliability in the workplace of many of today’s youth. They have been handed so much without earning it, they want everything RIGHT DAMN NOW, their impatience is tainted with the ubiquitous liberal claim of entitlement and unfairness (if something isn’t exactly the way the want it, it’s because someone is being “unfair” to them). My brother-in-law would say it is because of the liberal, socialist, “dimmocraps” and unions taking control of the nation’s public education since the mid-1960s (read into that what you will), and he’s probably right. He usually is. (That’s what is so annoying about good engineers, they study everything to the nth-degree.)

Screenshot_2019-08-04 motivationaldontbesupset jpg (JPEG Image, 500 × 300 pixels)

So I just happened to come across an article in The Atlantic by James Somers today. (I swear, serendipity blesses my  life!) I share the applicable excerpts below.

If bitter torpor seems like the default human operating mode out there in the workaday world, may it not just be that a lot of people have jobs they don’t like, jobs they can’t like? Who can blame them for that?

[There] is such a thing as a work ethic and…the people who have it seem to have it all the time.

It’s hard to say “work ethic” without sounding like an asshole. But I think it’s worth getting a grip on what it means.

“Work ethic”…elicits a halo of simple images: a man hunched over a desk, staying late, furrowing his brow. The “work” part dominates. One forgets the word “ethic” is in there.

[Doing] a good job, or not doing it, is very much a moral question.

No job is too low to not warrant care, because no job exists in isolation. Carelessness ripples. It adds friction to the working of the world. To phone it in or run out the clock, regardless of how alone and impotent you might feel in your work, is to commit an especially tragic — for being so preventable — brand of public sin.

When [you] do a half-assed job — which is the same thing…as not going out of [your] way to do an excellent job — [you are] making [others’] actual lives more difficult.



SNOPES Admits Obama -DID- build the “cages” for immigrant children.

The left-wing bias of popular “fact-checking” sites like Snopes or Politfact has been well documented for years. So when Snopes took on the task of fact-checking the claim “The Obama administration, not the Trump administration, built the cages that hold many immigrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border,” I expected them to, at the very least, rate it as “Half-True” or “False” and come up with some longwinded explanation with some absurd standard for why the Obama administration was in the clear. Last year, FactCheck.org couldn’t bring itself to admit that family separations happened under Obama, even though their research proved it did.  But alas, Snopes couldn’t find a way to clear the Obama administration on this one, and had no choice but to rate the claim as true.



P.S. to Post That Precedes This One

“We don’t have a lot of time on this earth. We weren’t meant to spend it [doing pointless, meaningless things]. Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to and listening to…bosses drone on about mission statements. ”

Couldn’t have put it better myself.


Troglodyte, Luddite, or Garden-Variety Dinosaur?

I have watched the 1999 movie “Office Space” with Rob Livingston about 100 times (just like I’ve addicted to Godfather, Shooter, Tombstone, Goodfellas, Replacements, Tremors (series), and John Wayne westerns, war movies, and Donovan’s Reef), but I still don’t know who the hell “pop singer Michael Bolton” is, and I am not going to go belly-up and Google the dude.

You do not need to comment unless your comment is “I don’t know who Michael Bolton is, either, and I don’t care.”

On Gratitude…

Jarrett Krosoczka, better known as a children’s book author, recently released his first book for young adults, an autobiography titled, “Hey, Kiddo.”

A couple of key thoughts from him, gleaned from Rebecca Asoulin’s article in the Christian Science Monitor Weekly (one of my regular favorite reads), “Illustrating gratitude on the page and in life” (link follows)”

Krosoczka: “I wouldn’t change a single thing about my childhood because it made me who I am… I’m grateful for everything that’s led me up to this point.”

Asoulin notes, “[The] author regularly makes the case for gratitude: A thank-you reminds both giver and receiver of their importance and connection to others.”

In a TED Talk, Krosoczka expanded on the gratitude theme: “A thank-you can change a life. It changes the life of the person who receives it, and it changes the life of the person who expresses it.”

“Hey, Kiddo” was a finalist for the National Book Award, and showed up an several 2018 “best of” lists.

“Gratitude just permeates my work because that is who I am,” he says.


Thank YOU for reading this. Care to share it?


It’s The Simple Things We Need

Screenshot_2018-11-13 Two Homeless Friends - Bing images

Just outside the library (a free place) in Moab, Utah this summer, I was witness to this conversation between two older bearded gentlemen having a friendly conversation:

Man 1: “I’m gonna call this lady (showing a slip of paper with contact information) and see if I can get a couple months of free housing.”

Man 2: “Man, I hope you get it.”

Man 1: “Yeah, can you imagine? You could come over and take a shower, and eat some of my spaghetti.”

Man 2: (nods)

It’s the simple things we need, not all the “stuff”.  And friends.