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This ‘Shouts from the Stands’ comes from Taylor Smith, coach of the United World College’s high school program in Singapore.
As we approach a tough phase in our yearly training cycle it is time for athletes to ask themselves the question. Am I a student of swimming or a student who swims?
Now. I believe that this question applies to far more than simply swimming, or even sport as a whole. It is a term that can be interchanged in many aspects of our lives. The arts, music, business or philosophy.
So what on earth am I on about, and what has this to do with swimming? To be honest I am not entirely sure. I was reflecting on an successful weekend for our swim team and it got me thinking, why does this team give me so much pleasure?
I have worked with swimmers and teams in the past who have had incredible success, nothing to do with me I must add, but success on an international stage none the less. Our current Dragons team is a school based “club” programme in Singapore, sporting many talented swimmers with huge potential. Although they are certainly not there yet, they have an intrinsic motivation which can not be denied. Without this, most students would have chosen to attend a music festival at the weekend rather than waiting for many hours at a meet for one or two swims.
We have excellent coaches who work extremely hard, have different expertise and really compliment each other. We have the best parent support around and we are privileged to train in a facility that in the UK (my home country) would be the envy of every coach. We are supported by United World College and have been allowed to build a programme (from scratch) in a very short space of time. However, as much as these benefits have paved the way, I feel it’s the attitude of the swimmers that makes our team a little bit special.
When speaking with other teachers in the school (predominantly Middle and High School) it becomes apparent that there is a correlation between students who are achieving in the pool and those who are succeeding in the wider school community. Despite the early mornings and 9-10 session weeks, these students excel everywhere both academically and in their effort grades. Why? Because many of them are “students of whatever they put their minds to”. This makes me somewhat emotional and reminds me of Mr Miyagi in the Karate Kid. For those of us old enough to remember the original movie, Mr Miyagi (the coach) forced young Daniel to paint fences and wax his car for weeks before he could begin his self defence training. Thankfully our athletes learn resilience and focus from far more conventional methods, but the intended outcome is the same. It is not about winning, it is about inner strength and doing your best. Winning is a lovely bonus which gives us enormous immediat e gratification however is certainly not the only focus. What pleases me more than any medal is that these traits are becoming inherent in many of our Dragons Swimmers. This makes me a very proud coach indeed.
So as I come to the end of my reflection I would like to ask young aspiring swimmers everywhere one simple question again:
Are you a Student or a student?
Coach Taylor Smith hails from Scotland, UK and is the Head Coach of United World College in Singapore, a 3 year old high school swim programme with big dreams and ambitions. He believes that intrinsic motivation in swimmers is the key to international success and NCAA scholarships. Smith’s Brother Lewis has been swimming for Great Britain for over a decade and is a former Commonwealth and World Student Games medalist.