US National Men's Team Coach
US Team Won the Silver Medal in the 2008 Olympics
This past week we all celebrated our great country’s 236th birthday. The team took a day off and spent time with family and friends. Training has been good but long. I’ll give you a quick idea of what our days look like - Monday we arrived for training at 7:45 am. After 2 hours in the gym for weights, the guys had a light snack and then went for two more hours in the water. After refueling, resting and in many cases getting needed therapy they came back at 6 pm for a sport psyche meeting and then spent another 3 hours in the water before we had a team meal on the pool deck. Our 8 + hour day on Monday was followed by another 3 hour and 45 minute practice on Tuesday. Needless to say, we are grinding away and trying the best we can to get everything done before we leave for London on July 16th.
The 4th of July is always a very nostalgic day for me. It was a good family day filled with patriotic memories. Here are a few of my favorite “American” moments. First of all it is hard to beat Opening Ceremonies at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. It was an incredible feeling to march into the L.A. Coliseum with over 100,000 spectators all cheering and chanting USA USA USA. I felt like I was floating off the ground as we walked around the track that day. I was so proud to be representing our great country. Another moment of great national pride for me has been the numerous occasions that the national anthem has been played for me as an athlete or a coach. I have experienced this at the World Cup, Pan Am Games and a few other international tournaments. However, my dream and this team’s dream is to stand atop the podium in London, with hand over hearts and hear our glorious anthem played for us. Finally, one of my favorite patriotic memories occurred during the Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain in 1992. As our team was being introduced for one of our first games, I looked up into the stands and found my mom and dad. Dad was not hard to spot. He was wearing a USA flag shirt (with cut off sleeves) and a star spangled head band. He was so proud of his look that he wore this outfit to every game in Barcelona and eventually added a big American flag that he would wave proudly whenever our team did something well. It was awesome and this picture of my dad is still one of my greatest memories of a man that was an amazing inspiration to me.
Today, in honor of my father, I would like to share a couple of the most important lessons that I learned from my dad. These are lessons that have shaped my life.
Lesson # 1 – Do your best. As a talented young age group swimmer, I had my share of wins and loses. Even when I had suffered a miserable loss, Dad would be there to give me a hug and remind me “you did your best”. This was a powerful message that resonated deep within me. I learned that it was OK to lose as long as I had done my best. No one is going to win every time, we lose once in a while and often times we learn more from losing than we do from winning. The bottom line is that we are to use the gifts that God gave us and in all areas of our lives we should do the best that we possibly can. John Wooden shared this wisdom. He has been quoted as saying “A man can be no happier than when he knows he has done his best.” Even though “doing my best” was often translated in my mind to wanting to “be the best”, Dad would often remind me not to compare myself with others but to simply go out and become the best that I possibly can be.
Lesson # 2 – Dare to succeed. This concept goes hand in hand with lesson # 1. Dad would always inspire me to dream big dreams and reach for the stars. In fact, my Olympic dream began when I was 9 years old. I was watching the 1968 Olympic Games on television with my dad. I remember asking my Dad, “Do you think I could be in the Olympics one day?” He just looked me in the eyes and said “you can do anything you put your mind too.” Dad reminded me to stay focused on my dream and never get sidetracked by set backs (loses and failures) along the way. One of my favorite quotes is from Teddy Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena speech that he gave in 1910. In this speech, he says “the credit belongs to the person who is actually in the arena…who spends oneself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and at worst, if he or she fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Basically, get in the arena or pool and go for it!
Lesson # 3 – Be grateful. This was big for my Dad. He taught us to be thankful for all we had. Dad would have us make a list of all the “things” we were thankful for. This has become a habit for me. It is amazing how much better your day goes when you wake up and your first thoughts are positive thoughts about all that you are thankful for. Too often we think about what we lack instead of what we have. Try making a list of what you are thankful for and look at that list on a daily basis. Say thank you more often. It will change your life. As I reflect, I am incredibly thankful for my family and the relationship I have with my wife and children. I am thankful for the friends I have. I am thankful for the freedoms that I have in this country and the men and women that fought for those freedoms. I am thankful for the opportunity I have with this team over the next month or so. And of course, I am thankful for my dad and the valuable lessons he left me with. That’s the short list…
We are down to our final week at home. Twenty days to go until Opening Ceremonies…
See you at the pool.
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