When you look at successful teams, one of the most common themes you will find among them is hard work.
Sure, every single coach will tell you to work hard… It is their job of course! However, it takes a little more than lecturing to get more out of a kid who is in middle school or even younger. That’s where role models come in. I have seen teams become great, and on the flip side teams falter because of leaders and role models or lack thereof.
Success comes in different shapes, and that’s what can be confusing at times. People can be very naturally talented and they can get away with less work and more goofing around. If that’s you, that’s great, although it likely will hurt you long term; this is why good, hard-working role models are so important.
While many people view swimming as an individual sport, its greatest and most satisfying moments come in the perspective of TEAM. The NCAA swimming world is all about how much you can do for the group of people around you. Our Olympic athletes will always tell you that what they do is for Team USA first and foremost. Even those pro athletes who swim for their own livelihood join teams and thrive in communities of support.
So, what happens if younger swimmers see the older swimmers goofing around and not working hard? Even if they are having success, they are setting a horrible precedent for those younger kids to follow. If you are a top athlete or an older member of your team or community, you must always think of those outside of yourself when you act. That’s how teams work. If kids see success from those who don’t work hard, it may be fun and fine for the short term, but it will be detrimental to you in the long run.
I’ll leave you with a personal example. I had a role model who swam for the University of Texas who came back to swim with my club team for a summer. Our seniors were unbelievably talented but slacked off in practice. I had been on a bit of a slump, and I couldn’t figure it out. Slowly, as the summer went on, I saw the difference. This older college swimmer worked hard every moment he was at the pool. Why waste your time when people you race could be getting better? I never forgot that, and I focused less on being like those older guys and more on working hard.
Whether you are old or young, working hard and staying focused will always help your team. You don’t need age or title to make a difference; by doing the right thing, you become a role model!