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As I wrote last week, this is my last KOW of the year. It’s rather bittersweet because I’ve enjoyed the results and the feedback, but some of the columns have been more challenging than others.
This one I’ve been saving for last.
At this time of year, our focus is on family, friends and relationships. Fortunately for all of us at DAM, our main connection isn’t materialistic but interpersonal. The only thing we really have to share is ourselves. As your coaches, Mary and I want you to know how much each and every one of you mean to us and to the program. We know that our team is only as good as its members.
There are times though, when we’re busy and miss those awesome little moments where we could tell someone how special they are. I know I’ve been convicted of that loss at least once.
In the summer of 2012, I wrote an item in the team newsletter describing my impressions as a first-responder of a deadly car crash on Co Rd 102. The biggest impact came a few days later when it was noted the driver who caused the crash was on drugs and texting. It was also rumored the driver was experiencing social separation. My full account is here, but my desire from the story was to urge all of us to increase our awareness of others and take time to make someone else feel good.
This is another story of the time that I didn’t.
It was February 2006 and I was coaching the Aquadart youth team at a split-session meet in Vacaville. It was a sunny, cool day and since I was coaching the youngers and olders that spring, I was there for both the morning and afternoon sessions. Coaching at USAS meets is a little more hectic than Masters meets. Typically, we speak to each swimmer before their race and then again right afterwards. More kids means more coaching. On that weekend, though, something happened that changed my life. I saw George Haines.
I’d never met George before, only seen his pictures and heard his reputation. He was, is, the greatest Amercian swim coach of all time. At the age of 24, he started the Santa Clara Swim Club with 13 swimmers, and since they had no pool, he began their swimming in lakes and canals. During his career he was a 6-time USA Olympic coach, his Santa Clara club won 43 AAU national swim titles, his swimmers won 44 Olympic gold medals, and at one time his high school boys team owned every HS national record.
He retired to Roseville where he was a very good softball player until a stroke immobilized him in his late 70’s. He recovered after a few years to venture out again and, according to his daughter, one of his first visits was to that Vacaville meet.
George was a swimmer's coach. He didn’t write books or do research, he was just charismatic, inspiring and beloved. And he always wore the same type coaching hat.
He walked just in front of my coaching table and I recognized him immediately. I watched him walk past and around the deck as I calculated how much time I had to go say hi. I just wanted a moment to congratulate him on his lifelong successes and thank him for everything he did for our sport.
I got distracted and missed him…he was gone. That’s Ok, I thought, I’ll talk with him next time.
Just two months later, George passed away. In the accompanying news story to his obituary, his daughter publicly noted that he’d recently fallen into a severe depression that greatly hastened his demise. His health immediately changed following the Vacaville meet where not one person recognized or talked to him.
Here’s what I want to say now -
To Coach Haines, I didn’t know it at the time but you are one of the reasons I became a swim coach. If there was anyone who embodied the enthusiasm, passion, and innovation for which I've striven...it was you.
To all my DAM teammates, you are the reason I continue to do what I do. I never actually thought I’d find the perfect coaching job…but I did. I’m incredibly proud to be a part of this wonderful organization.
To my wonderful wife, Mary, you are the reason I am what I am. I will never stop being grateful for all your loving support and acceptance, and I will always admire you as a mother and grandmother.
Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to All!
We’re nearing the end of the 2015 swim year and it’s been another rewarding experience for me and Mary. The inaugural Grand Prix was a huge success and Matt Biondi’s presentation at the Holiday Party was a one-of-a kind event. So, too, has been the Kahncept of the Week.
The KOW was my main coaching goal this year. I’d never done any type of annual challenge and after seven years as your Head Coach, could think of no better time to try one. I wanted to use the Monday messages as an avenue to connect and communicate my ideas of what was important in swimming lore, training, attitude, competition, technique and personal stories. Some KOW’s were short and sweet compilations from other sources and others, like the stroke videos in March and September, took hours to create. I have one more column to write next week and then I’m taking an as-yet-to-be-determined break.
I’ve been leading up to this point for a while and wanted to end the yearly series with my ‘Three R’s – Recognition, Responsibility and Relationships’; the building blocks of our beloved organization.
Thank you and Congratulations for being a part of our DAM swimming family. You are coached by staff that have your well-being at heart and who are determined to improve both your physical and mental fitness levels. Not everyone can win an Olympic Gold Medal, but, if you have honestly given your best effort, everyone can have Olympian moment.
Every member of DAM shares the responsibility of building the stature and prestige of the team. Every swimmer from age 18 to 88, novice to team record holder, contributes to the program in a unique manner. Take pride in being a part of DAM and share in the following responsibilities:
Safety – DAM swims in all weather, except lightning. During thunder storms, swimmers must exit the pool for 30 minutes between and following lightning strikes. No swimmers are allowed in the water without a visible coach on deck. Coaches are not responsible for water temperature or chemical contents. Please wear appropriate cold/sun gear depending on the time of year.
Changing rooms – Remember to protect your valuables whenever leaving anything in the locker rooms or on the pool deck. DAM is not responsible for lost or stolen items.
Warmups – The first ten minutes of practice are extremely valuable. Use that time, to loosen your joints and muscles, practice drills and work on individualized skill enhancement.
Warm-downs - Please start your cool down with enough time remaining to complete your session without overlapping into the next hour's practice.
Whiteboard – Check the top of the board early each week to find the lane assignment rotations. All lanes spend one week on the wall every four weeks.
Equipment – The coaches put out equipment needed for practice each day. Typically, no equipment is used on IM and Volume days. On the other days, be sure to return your items to the buckets, barrels or baskets from which they came. If you're not able to use assigned equipment, please adjust your position in your lane or move down to a different lane. Be aware of the swimmers in your lane who are using equipment.
Starting practice - If you arrive late and are entering a lane that's already stated the pre-set, you need to notify them you're joining the lane. Either wait on the deck until the swimmers stop, or slide into the swimmers right-hand corner. Wait there until everyone sees you before starting to swim.
Drills – An essential part of skill acquisition is the breakdown of complex motions into manageable and teachable pieces. Since our sport is strength and muscle based, doing drills not only isolates specific movements but also recruits additional fibers to augment basic and existing muscle memory.
Stay Informed – Take advantage of the DAM website (damfast.org) and these weekly emails to keep up-to-date on club events and team information.
After seven years as Head Coach, and being a part of countless swim meets, special events and club parties, I can honestly say that last Saturday's Holiday party exceeded all my expectations and was the best DAM event I've ever attended. For me, it was the tangible acknowledgement that our core team values of camaraderie and competition are alive and well.
There were so many moments, large and small, that stood out throughout the evening. First and foremost was the overwhelming amounts of delicious food and drink that everyone contributed within the exact 15 minute window that we asked for. The attendance percentage was also nearly perfect as there was only one no-show. We had exactly 199 total guests.
Karen Philleo did another great job of decorating the tables with beautiful cloths, hand-made candle-holders and greenery. She also provided an excellent array of craft beers and, at the end of the evening, dessert treats. Her husband, Byron, announced the results of the club elections (see below for details) and, as Treasurer, briefly highlighted the strong financial status our club is currently enjoying. Greg Stoner, DAM City Liaison, provided an update on the 50 meter pool status and introduced Melanie Gentles as our newest Berryessa Race Director.
I was next and began by recognizing current DAM Board members and all previous Board members who were present. But, then I went off script, and never came back to recognizing three other top volunteers. I apologize to:
Scott Allison, Webmaster. Scott has been managing our website for nearly two years and after looking around the country at sites of other clubs, I'm pretty sure we have the most up-to-date, most accessible, most layered masters site in the nation. Any and every upgrade, change or addition we ask of Scott is fulfilled, quickly and correctly. Thank you, Scott.
Trish Price, Berryessa Race Director. After the race cancellation of 2011, Trish took control of the lake swim and guided the event for the next four years. Working diligently to reduce event costs, and often with skeleton crews, Trish was able to oversee an average event profit of roughly $10,000/year. Thank you, Trish.
Erica Fleischman, Registrar and 3K/6K event director. If you've joined DAM within the past two years and/or taken leave, then rejoined, chances are you've been in contact with Erica. She manages our USMS swimmer database, our Club Assistant member roster and all replies and connections with prospective members. Erica, also the DAM liaison to USMS for this year's 3K/6K ePostal, handled its website creation with Club Assistant, event merchandising and race results. Thank you, Erica.
Over the years, our club has benefited from the voluntary contributions of numerous others like Scott, Trish and Erica, all of whom increased the value of the club with their time, energy and enthusiasm. Our visible achievements, such as being honored as the 2011 USMS Local Club of the Year, are the result of all those invisible contributions.
But our members also produce obvious and real achievements, as well. This year, we produced two new competitive milestones. As you'll find in the 'Year-in-Review', sixty-six DAM swimmers qualified for the USMS TOP TEN relay recognition, more than in any year and, in its inaugural year, eighty-three DAM swimmers were recognized for achieving at least one of four levels in the DAM Grand Prix. That event was a huge success, especially towards the end of the season as the energy and excitement of winning prizes soared. The Grand Prix now becomes an annual event and we already have three participants in next year's competition. Greg Recanzone, Julie Langston and Gian-Claudia Sciarra all swam the Brute Squad after this year's Nov 15 entry deadline, so their two points count towards the 2016 event. We have a three-way tie for the lead.
The only major changes to the Grand Prix event involve the scoring system. Beginning with the 2016 season (which runs from Nov. 16 to Nov 15), the totals needed for each level increase by two points. They are now:
Bronze - 7 points, Silver - 13 points, Gold - 20 points and Champion - 28 points. That's the bad news. The good news is that attendance at each official DAM social event is worth 1 point. Everyone who attended the Holiday Party on Saturday earned a point. Congrats! (Julie was there, so she has three points.)
Just for fun, I used the Year-in-Review as a guide, and looked for the names that appeared the most. I want to recognize one of the two who was listed five times. And that's Mary Kahn. There is no possible way I can describe the joy I have in job-sharing with my wife. Just as I was positive in suggesting to the DAM Board last June that Matt would be an unforgettable presence at our holiday party, I was equally positive six years ago in recommending the board hire Mary as the Assistant Head Coach. Not only is she an incredible swimmer, i.e., team records, TOP TEN listings and Grand Prix Champion, she's an amazing coach. When I get tired of reminding people to kick, or to breathe bilaterally or finish to the wall, she's out there saying those exact things, and more. She's always doing the little things like timing sprints and calling out splits, or finding and replacing broken equipment, or telling people to get in the pool or to get out of the pool. But beyond those, she does the greater, more important things, as well. Things that only a mother and grandmother would know. She puts a soft hand on the tummy of our pregnant women or on the shoulder of the moms dealing with difficult children. She steps aside to sit and weep with members who've lost or are losing loved ones. She rejoices with new parents and new grandparents over their growing families, and she genuinely shares the loss when DAM members leave and move out of Davis. She's quick to laugh and share a funny story, and there's no one I'd rather be working with. Nor is there anyone I'd rather share my life with.
Knowing that we're a part of this incredible club, with remarkable members such as you, continues to convince us that this is our place and where we should stay. Thank you for having us as your coaches.