Cross-Cultural Coaching Pt 1- HOPE

By invitation I’ve started to work with a local age-group swim club here in Antalya. It’s all in Turkish of course, which places me in a great language learning (stretching) situation.

I am excited at this opportunity for many reasons, but most of all I am confident that the simple TI foundation of Balance, Streamline, and Efficient Propulsion could radically improve each of the swimmers on this team. I’ve been examining them from all angles for a couple weeks now and I am dying to tweak them.

But I have a few problems.

  • My Turkish is not fast or complex enough to do the deck-magic that I can do in English.
  • The pool is 2 meters deep. Nowhere to rest or do hands-on tweaking or demonstrations.
  • The coach wants to keep the kids moving fast the whole 1 or 2 hours in the pool. He shows a new idea or gives some advice but does not slow them down so their neuro-muscular system can adapt.
  • And the coaches are doing a great job with the knowledge and training they have had access to in their country- but they don’t have much. Everything they need to add value to their coaching is in English. Most of them don’t know English.
  • The coaches love their stop-watches too much. Good, permanent stroke transformations will not appear 25 meters (or 250) after the technique tip was given. So testing technique tweaks by stop-watch is a faulty early measurment system.

I am excited and frustrated at the same time- like a mute man with an incredible secret to share.

I see the classic, almost exclusive focus on propulsion in full force here. Almost every lap they are clicking their stop-watches rather than counting strokes and tempo and searching for inefficiencies or struggle. Balance seems to be a virtually non-recognized concept- no one will turn off those churning legs long enough to find out if any one of the swimmers actually has it or not. (My two-beat kick is excused as a marathon swimmers kick.)

Swimming, as it was taught to me and just about everyone I know (before we discovered TI) was taught as a powerful effort. Pulling and kicking and taking splits. I do see the earnest desire in the coaches to smooth out those swimmers, lengthen them, and improve their timing like they see me swim and ask me to demonstrate for their swimmers. But they don’t know HOW to teach it and the system they learned and operate in does not readily support it.

The good news is that I know how and I am here. The bad news is that I am going to have to put out a lot of effort to communicate and prove it to them, and they are going to have to consider up-ending their whole approach to swim training (and stick those stop-watches in their pockets!). This is a daring task for me in a not-so- daring culture.

I’ve only seen the Old Way, or the Common Swim Instruction Program, which doesn’t work well for most, and the TI Way which does. So I am desperately searching out new ways to help overhaul my coach-friend’s swimmers with these TI secrets without having to overhaul his program. Either I convince him to let us take a few whole practices for a full TI-style workshop, or I pull swimmers one-by-one and work them over and start proving the magic. But without the coach on board to support the WHY, the method we use to transform a swimmer’s stroke and PROTECT it,  it will often be a futile effort.

A last side note, but perhaps the most inspirational part…

I realized on the drive home from the pool tonight, feeling the excitement and frustration at my new situation, that I have a lot of bigger-than-me challenges in life right now. So many things are above my current skill level, just out of  reach for my time/energy/resources. But those challenges are there because of the dreams I’ve chosen to follow: adoption of orphans from Africa, living in a foreign land, building a new business, bringing transformation to a part of my community, etc. If anything, I get a lot of practice for keeping my head up and my perspective hopeful in the face of a lot of intimidating circumstances. I sure get smacked around a lot.

Hope is built in the shadow of uncertainty. I spend a lot of time in that shadow. Whether I succeed in the task at hand or not is one thing, but it’s encouraging to notice that I have more muscles-of-hope in my heart that I might not have otherwise.

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