Guest Commentary by Jim Lutz, Head Coach for Viper Aquatics (Link:
As I sit on deck at the Iconic IUPUI Aquatic Center, watching some great swimming it gives pause to what has gone into the journey for these dedicated athletes to get to this point. Swimmers ranging in ability of those having just made the cut one to two weeks ago, to those seasoned athletes who at the young of 13 or 14, qualifying for Olympic Trials in 2016 for those few coveted spots available to represent the United States on the biggest athletic stage in the world.
The beauty about sport is that some young athletes, who are more physically developed will experience success on talent alone but do not possess the work ethic for the long haul. This will eventually be their demise. Others will build a foundation of sound technique and multiply that with a work ethic unparalleled. This is when the competitor becomes lethal to the competition the face.
The physical differences cover a range from what the common observer would assume a 4-5 years span. When in fact, only a few months may separate their chronological age.
The sport of swimming is unique in the fact that a governing body for the international representation, allows 1000’s of clubs to, “Do their own thing” and reach levels that is the envy of the entire aquatic world. Club philosophies range from learn the fundamentals, enjoy the sport and have a good time to “If you want to be great, the rest of your life is secondary.” I believe there is a healthy compromise between the two without either end of the spectrum feeling they have sold out. These club models vary as much as the noise-making, motivating sounds, grunts, screams, and my personal favorite the ear drum-shattering, whistle of the coaches pacing the deck.
Coaches will scream some noise that sounds something like, “hut, goooaaah, yup, gee-aah, whoooop, #%+^*, ????”. Sounds that are uniquely theirs and something their athletes expect to hear as an auditory security blanket.
The whistles will vary from loud, schrill, stuttered and perfect cadence for their swimmers to set their timing. This is something my swimmers and parents have grown accustomed to hear and expect to hear. I am proud to say that parents have said they have heard my whistle in the parking lot of an indoor pool. Parents will comment they see a noticeable difference in the swimmers effort when I whistle, a positive reminder to always whistle while you work.
Over the years some coaches have distinguished themselves as whistling aficionados. This is not complete but it is a start, Dave Salo (USC), Steve Nye (Greater Columbus), John Kruck (Crown Point), and Zach DeWitt (Franklin, IN). Whenever I hear them whistle, I know who is whistling. These trademark sounds are not unlike artists using a variety of canvas. Stevie Wonders harmonica, B.B. King Blues, Stevie Ray Vaughn guitar, Pablo Picaso working in oils or even the Rev. Billy Graham exciting a crowd with a passion seldom can reach. We are all artist and this journey through life is an opportunity to smooth the rough edges and complete this life as the perfect “us” whatever, “us” was intended to be.
When my sons were younger, the bare spots under the swing set were viewed as a disturbance in an otherwise pristine green yard. I now long for those days of yesteryear and a much simpler time. As a child, swim meets meant, staying out of the sun in Thursday’s, making posters, learning cheers, eating jello until our fingers resembled those who just cast a vote in Iran. Now a meet is comprised of months and years of training, mesocycles, micro cycles, macrocycles, dry land training, welcoming the fifth discipline is swimming, underwater kicking, and ultimately timing that taper which begins the first day of the season not those final few days or weeks. I long for those simpler days of old and a jello-red finger.
Sitting at a swim meet can bring truth to the saying, “If I have but one day to live, take me to a swim meet, as they last forever.” As the heats roll into multiple-hour sessions and the sessions roll into days, we have a simple choice, do we approach these days as an obligation or an opportunity? When the meet concludes, we smile of the accomplishments, lick our wounds, commit to making things better, or look to the next level calling our names.
The opportunities are endless and the outcomes are unknown and often, uncertain and that is why we race. We race at a higher level but do we race for a higher prize? Each person is the only person who can truly decide what motivates them. The ribbon, the medal, the podium, that accolades of family and friends or just that whistle from the coach who truly understands. Time to race.
See you on the podium,
The above commentary is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.