Guest commentary by Jim Lutz
“It’s amazing what you hear if you listen.” Attributed to Yogi Berra
As I was walking the pool deck during warm up, I heard a coach tell a swimmer, “No the angle of your hands needs to be about 38 degrees not 43.” Really? A swimmer who can truly determine the angle or pitch of their hand with all the other variables going on when he or she is trying to compete, I want them to build my shelter if we are needing protection from any type of attack.
The hands are very unique and only two species possess these instruments at the end of appendages, humans and apes. Apes have four so in some ways we got cheated. In medical terms the hands are comprised of four phalanges and an opposing thumb.
We use our hands to express happiness with excessive clapping for approval or to show support. We exchange “high fives” after a successful endeavor. In some of the greatest comedy bits ever performed on the Carol Burnett show, Carol, Tim, Harvey, or Vickie would burst into tears of laughter as their pseudo face slap would not match the sound machine causing a two to three second delay between the slap and sound.
In our everyday life, you see policemen holding up traffic with a simple extension of his arm with palm facing away.
In the Old West, the first handshakes were not used as a greeting or a welcome to a long-lost friend. A cowboy would extend a hand and give it a vigorous shake to make sure the person they were meeting had no weapons are up their sleeve.
Participating in a sport separating victory and failure by the slightest of margin, outcome is often determined by the angle or pitch of a perfect hand placement or a misplaced hand causing lack of efficiency due to slipping.
I will often reference “pulling big buckets of water” when emphasizing the importance of getting the most out of each stroke versus taking the most strokes per length. place the hand in the water and pull your body past the hand not moving the hand faster through the water. Just like the time on the clock, fewer seconds and fewer strokes are a good thing.
In an era of higher technologies, quicker and higher levels of expectations and satisfaction, mechanics are not what moves the human machine forward. The need and desire for human compassion has never been greater.
A pat on the back, that says, “Well done” or that often desired and seldom heard, “I’m proud of you.” These are the moments that we remember. Not the superficial hand gestures of the very visible, elbow, elbow, wrist, wrist of the queen as she drives past the citizens.
One of the details I stress to the Viper swimmers is the importance of the hand placement and use of the fingertips on the finish. A common mistake of swimmers is to “pat” the top of the wall instead of driving the fingertips to hit the cross on the wall. I tell them it is just like tickling the Pillsbury Dough Boy. I then follow that comment with a silly “hehehehehe.” Sounds simple. It is, and they will remember.
The Great Duke men’s basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski, describes the hand as each finger representing a quality to create a fist that is stronger than the sum of its parts. “There are five fundamental qualities that make every team great: communication, trust, collective responsibility, caring and pride.” Leading with the Heart: Coach K’s Successful Strategies for Basketball, Business, and Life
I ultimately believe the single greatest use of the hand is displayed in the moment when someone is experiencing their darkest moment and the point of great despair. By simply reaching down, extending a hand to help someone in need, that will create a feeling like nothing else. You have put the needs and concerns of yourself, behind the needs of others.
If you have done this as often as possible, I applaud you…with both hands.
See you on the podium,
Jim Lutz is the Head Age Group Coach for Viper Aquatics in Westfield, Ind. Lutz has coached at the club and college levels for more than 30 years, with stints as head coach at Illinois and Michigan State as well as serving as an assistant at Arizona. He’s also served as a head coach for several club teams. Lutz also is a published author with several books available on Amazon.