While swim meets and practices are largely on hold worldwide right now due to the effects of COVID-19, BSN Sports still wants to highlight and celebrate swim teams from around the country. This week, we’re taking a look at NOVA of Virginia, a USA Swimming club team that’s served the Richmond, VA, area for over 30 years and has produced numerous top-notch swimmers, including Townley Haas, who earned an Olympic gold medal as part of Team USA’s 4×200 relay team in Rio.
NOVA’s coaching philosophy, summed up in one sentence, is simply, “That we, as a coaching staff will engage in passionate, principled collaboration and foster a team-wide learning environment.”
Brown cited his father as someone whose influence has helped shaped his approach to coaching and life in general.
He was of a different generation, having endured the Great Depression and World War II, and readily embraced and taught the value of hard work and sacrifice. Like many of the men of that era, he never told me he loved me; he just spoke that with his advice and his actions. When I coach, I strive to pass on to NOVA swimmers what he taught me.
Swimmers and coaches alike agree that swimming can be a means to help develop lifelong skills that apply out of the pool, including the idea of leadership. Brown explained how he sees what NOVA does as helping create future leaders.
I have read that each of the military academies teach “followership” as a prerequisite to leadership. The Marines say “lead, follow or get out of the way,” less politely and more colorfully than that. Empowering someone to become a leader strikes me as an impossibility. Leadership is earned; it is, to borrow Shakespeare’s phrase, the “undiscovered country.” Creating opportunities for leadership or pointing out where opportunities exist may be all that is appropriate. Too much empowering would prevent the delicate roots of leadership from establishing themselves and would, in my mind, create what my father would call a “hothouse flower” environment.
Obviously, NOVA has currently suspended operations due to the COVID-19 “shelter in place” guidelines, but Brown and the rest of the NOVA staff have been staying in touch with the swimmers during this time. We asked Brown for a sample of what kind of advice they’ve been given their athletes during this time, and here’s a sample of what kind of communication the team has been putting out, an advisory sheet called “Turning Lemons Into Lemonade.”
In speaking with you guys last week, we realized how much we missed you. We also sensed that many of you were missing some aspect of swimming. Those of you who attend private school (and are Juniors and below) mentioned how your teachers seem to have amped up their scholastic demands. Those of you public school folks seemed, pardon us for this generalization, a bit lost. If that shoe fits you, consider the following suggestions to make your weekdays more productive.
1) Set a definite, reasonable waking time and stick to it. Reasonable? Getting up by 9 AM, preferably 8 AM.
2) Set a reasonable, definite “lights out” time and stick to it.
3) Set goals/tasks for the day. You can download a number of free apps that will allow you to do this on your phone.
4) Set goals in a number of different areas: fitness, educational, cultural, chore-oriented, etc.
5) Learn a new skill. Several of you spoke of learning a new language. Great idea – go for it!
6) Expand your horizons. Pretty easy because there are an awful lot of horizons available and all just waiting to be explored.
7) Help a neighbor, particularly an at-risk neighbor. Do a chore or volunteer – with your parent’s permission – to run an errand for them.
8) Reward yourself if you accomplish these goals. It’s OK to play Call of Duty, for example, if you earn that by your day’s activities.
9) Limit that reward to something reasonable. Rewarding yourself with a later wake-up time or more time spent playing video games may just trigger the same cycle of losing your way.
10) Time limit your reward if it is a video game. Say 2-3 hours.
Finally, we asked Brown about his favorite coaching memory:
I’m not a ranker. I have so many incredible memories that it has never seemed fair to grant a single one primacy. I think I was scarred by a female swimmer – and she knows who she is – who insisted that I rank EVERYTHING! I resisted her every incursion!
With a long history of success and a thriving program, NOVA will be sure to be making more (unranked) memories once they get back to practice and competition.
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