SwimSwam welcomes reader submissions about all topics aquatic, and if it’s well-written and well-thought, we might just post it under our “Shouts from the Stands” series. We don’t necessarily endorse the content of the Shouts from the Stands posts, and the opinions remain those of their authors. If you have thoughts to share, please send [email protected]
This “Shouts from the Stands” submission comes from Shea Manning.
Heads down. No time for eye contact. Communicate in micro-aggressions—ride that person’s tail and make sure they know how inconsiderate it was to get in your way. Stew at the curt projection of shade you are certain was directed at you. Deliver a snippy [or more than snippy] rebuke when you are inconvenienced, annoyed, out of sync, or generally aggrieved by how rude some people can be! (THEY CAN BE SO RUDE!!!!) We’ve all experienced these situations—as both the culprit and the victim.
Am I talking about a particularly frustrating day at swim practice; or referring to the culture of communication and interaction with strangers in 2018? It is hard to differentiate sometimes, especially when we are caught up in our own worldview and prioritize our own frustrations. These similarities, however, do not represent anything particularly bad about swim culture—quite the contrary. These common interactions are an opportunity to grow together. By recognizing these instances in the moment, with teammates we know and genuinely care about, we can better equip ourselves to more successfully communicate with everyone no matter what level of annoyance they inspire within us.
It’s a wonder how we overlook awareness of other swimmers as an opportunity for self-improvement. After all, we recognize the power of training with a team. It is the palpable group-energy that make individual workouts feel less productive and less fulfilling than what we are able to accomplish when we swim together. You aren’t crazy, or lazy, for recognizing this difference: studies have shown the energy is measurable, even visible. On a few lucky days we find peak lane synergy. It’s that practice that, for whatever reason, you and the other swimmers in your lane are on the same wavelength. You share an understanding for the set, a respect for how to best execute that set, and quick adaptability in the moments when your goals and execution do not perfectly align. You move as one unit, act and react with anticipation, and in unison.
These perfect practices often feel as rare as taper; they are even rarer if we are not actively thinking of ways to create them. Managing energy is on all of us—coaches and swimmers—but most of the power is within the lanes. Coaches insert themselves to infuse or diffuse energy when they notice a need, but the swimmers create and experience the atmosphere in real time. Even the most connected teams can always improve, still have their moments, and are more equipped to bring the successes in communication and collaboration with them to other areas of their lives.
In order to create more impact out of the pool, we should strive to be more aware of this harmonious atmosphere when we are in the pool. Dwell in it, try to understand it better. Recognize the jarring moments that knock the energy off track. Notice how and when you contribute to it, both positively and negatively—and yes, we all do both. Trust that even the most annoying swimmer does not have ill-intentions when they block the center of the lane as you turn, or stop before the end of a lap, or express his/her frustration aggressively, or push off too early, or push off too late, or touch your toes eleven times in a 50 after insisting you go first. All of these examples can be maddening (especially you toe-tickling monsters out there!). When this happens, it is worth sitting with the frustration, sorting out what is bothersome about it as your face is in the water, and learning the best way to address issues so that your audience RECEIVES the message, not simply to get the message off your chest. If, however, we can begin visualizing how these moments translate into our interactions away from the pool, we’ll begin a never-ending cycle of self and community improvement by continuously raising the bar of our own awareness and communicative impact.
My favorite example of this is in the way we experience rush-hour traffic (or in my team’s case, every-hour traffic in LA). It’s a lot harder to give strangers the benefit of the doubt, especially when they cut us off, or move too slow, or move too fast; but if we look at traffic in the way we look at a crowded pool, as a diverse group people of differing outlooks, we know that getting flustered doesn’t get us to our destination any faster, and we are a lot crankier when we arrive. It is only in the moments when we respect and embrace the group dynamic that we are able to accomplish as much as we are capable of on that day. There will be plenty of days when this feels impossible, when we are at a dead stop on the freeway with no way around it, and we must remember that these days are opportunities to strengthen our minds and make us more capable of success the next time around.
If there is one thing I’m sure we can all agree on, it’s that the world in 2018 could use a little more synergy, communication, and understanding. Let’s do more than our fair share in making that happen!
About Shea Manning
Shea Manning is the owner of The Manning Method and the Head Coach of West Hollywood Aquatics (WH2O) Masters Swim Team in Los Angeles, CA. Following 7 seasons coaching at the NCAA level, with roles at the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges, George Washington University, and Occidental College, Manning started his business to bring positive aquatic programming to all ages and ability levels while advocating for the impact of swimming and neighborhood pools in local communities.