Sigma Featured Staff Member Of The Week
Coach Jill is a coach at our Sigma Fort Worth North (TCCNW) location. Today we interviewed her focusing on motivation, technique and past swimming experience.
Q: How and when did you become involved in the sport of swimming?
A: I learned to swim before I was aware of it. My family lived in South Florida and drowning was a huge issue with so many pools in everyone’s backyard. My parents had me in lessons before I could walk. Competition started very early, and I loved the sport and everything about competing. My very first race was a 50 freestyle and I’ll never forget winning a heat ribbon and placing in my first Club meet! I was sold on the sport after that.
Q: What does coaching the sport of swimming mean to you?
A: When I started competing at the club level-- USA swimming was just forming. My first coach swam for the University of Alabama. Everything about her was tough but in the most reassuring way. I’ll never forget swimming my first 1,000 for time in practice and hearing her say “you’ve got this-- just do it!” I believe this is the type of positive support a coach can provide. In or out of the pool we all face challenges that require an “I can do this” attitude.” I believe helping swimmers shape and attain goals is one of the largest aspects of coaching. Not all swimmers are the same and neither should their goals be. As a coach I look at each swimmer as an individual and treat their goals in practice and competition that way.
Q: What was your favorite stroke as a competitive swimmer and why?
A: Ok, my coaches always pushed individual medleys with me 100, 200 and 400. I could fly, free and breast but back alone was another story. Somehow, I could get backstroke to always work in an IM. Once, when I was 9, I was at a Missouri Valley Division I meet competing in the 200 IM. Ny nylon cap (think 1980!) slipped over my chin-- covering my entire face-- when I turned on the wall from fly to back. That was a think fast moment where I grabbed the cap, threw it off without stopping the swim, and finished the race. I made it into finals with that swim and I always tell swimmers that story because not all races are perfect, but we can learn from them. I got rid of the nylon cap for finals!
Q: How important to you think dryland is in injury prevention and why?
A: I believe a big part of why I never had swimming injuries was due to the focus on dryland. From a very early age I was taught to stretch and partake in conditioning exercises such push-ups, sit-ups, jumping etc. As I swam up band work was added. Stretching, running and weight work was eventually added as well. Two keys to dryland are gaining flexibility and strength in areas that are going to benefit and support the strokes you are swimming. I firmly believe you have got to condition outside of the water to support what you are doing in the water.
Q: What do you hope your swimmers can learn from you?
A: Perseverance: Do not back down to sensible hard work and do not give up if you are having bad swims or are not leading the lane. As a short person guess who had to work harder than most of my long-legged swimmer friends. Sometimes I was physically disadvantaged in races, but my coaches would never let that define me as a swimmer or who I was in the race. That is want I want to pass on-- you may not be the fastest swimmer in the lane or at the meet but that does not define who we are and if we put in the effort and the grit then guess what “Failure Is Not an Option!” Those are the most valuable lessons I learned from swimming and I hope to pass it on to swimmers. “FINAO”! (Failure Is Not An Option).
Q: What role did your family play in the sport growing up, and what role should family play in swimmers both age group and elite levels?
A: To be honest with you I had a village involved in supporting me as a swimmer. I swam with about 4 other kids from my neighborhood. All the parents jumped in to help at meets, took turns driving us to ugly early morning practices, timed us in those long events and picked up the slack when another parent couldn’t. I think that gave us all the independence we needed to learn and figure some processes out for ourselves as we grew in the sport. It ended up being the most organic way for us to evolve into leaders and good decision makers as we grew older. My parents were not at every meet I swam in, but I can tell you when they were they never noticed what my coaches did. To them it was always the best swim they had ever seen!
Q: How do you find the medium between speed and technique training?
A: My motto is effort/technique before speed. In other words, you need to learn to swim well and slow before you can be truly fast. There is ugly fast that plateaus. Then there is effort that produces good technique that leads to true speed.
Q: How did you stay motivated in the sport growing up, and how do you keep your swimmers motivated?
A: I suppose I kept it in perspective and did it as long as it felt right to me. The sport has evolved so much, and I believe young swimmers need to have a balance between work and fun. As swimmer’s progress that changes, and their peers drive their desire to practice and go to meets. That was true for me during the teen years and I am seeing it with my son now. At the point you start to understand what you're doing and why you’re doing it is the biggest developmental milestone that clicked with me. When it becomes something you truly want to manage that is when I see the drive stay with it increase. But if it is not your swimmer’s passion then that drive diminishes. My motto is have a passion! If it is not swimming find something else. Just be involved and put your effort into it.
Q: What is your favorite thing about coaching the sport and your favorite thing about your swimmers?
A: I absolutely love being at the pool. As much as I have tried to stay away from it I find myself constantly back to it. The best part of coaching is seeing that light bulb goes off and the joy when a swimmer knows what a good swim feels like. When you can say we are doing a monster set and you have a swimmer say “Yes!” “Let’s Do it.” I have seen that reaction in some of the swimmers I coach, and it is truly a light bulb thing.
Q: What other sports or hobbies do you enjoy outside of swimming?
Something about being a parent of 4 boys drives you to the gym to work out and for me long runs were the answer. I’m not as competitive as I use to be about it, but I do love a good hour long run just to clear my mind and recharge. Right now, I have to keep up with them I guess!