The Power of One

The Power of One

Fighting to keep your job or preserve your program can be soul-crushing.  Our losses are painful and public – there for everyone to see. At the same time our victories – out of fear that they are simply luck or merely temporary - remain hidden and are rarely acknowledged.  That means we only learn from our failures. This month, however, I met several coaches whose efforts are having a transformative effect in their department and on their campus. Of these, I’d like to share three examples who illustrate the influence that each of us can create.

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Lessons Learned from a Near-Disaster

Lessons Learned from a Near-Disaster

Drop everything you’re doing right now and focus on this.  That’s what every day has been like for the past three weeks after two coaches contacted us with concerns their programs were on the chopping block.  Now I’m telling you to do the same, because after going through this experience, I’ve learned a few things that every coach needs to know about their program:

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Set the Tone

How many programs in our sport will fire a coach purely based on athletic performance?  I say there are ten or eleven, though in asking around coaches have a tough time coming up with more than nine or ten.  While most of us have higher goals than our institutions, the simple fact is – like it or not – if you provide a good experience for your student-athletes, graduate them on time and keep out of trouble you’re going to be fine.   Make your AD and institution look good in the process, you’re set.

Of course, coaches still get fired and programs still get cut.  Competitiveness, something that makes our sport and our coaches great can separate us from our school's mission.  Add in the fear of making tough choices (or perceived lack of support in making them) and the next thing you know, you’re in the AD’s office explaining the actions and behaviors, not the performance, of your swimmers and divers.

It is easy to blame the athletes, but who sets the tone?  Right or wrong, we are responsible for:

Now It's Bob's Turn to Get it Done

It's weird getting fired.   On the one hand its a black mark against you.  Friends automatically think you were a victim while strangers want to know what you did wrong to get fired.  Sometimes the truth hurts though and in truth at Arizona State we didn't get it done.  There's lots of reasons why.  Some were within our control, some weren't, but at the end of the day it's done and it's time to move on.

Moving on is definitely what ASU is doing and if getting fired is weird, so too is meeting the guy coming in after you, but that's what I had a chance to do last week when I had lunch with Bob Bowman.  I walked away both optimistic and a fan and we all should as well.

The reason is because there is a lot of a change in Bob's hire.  When was the last time you heard of an Athletic Director going after a big name in our sport?  When was the last time you heard of a department listening and mostly saying "yes"  to a coach about the laundry list of items the coach needs for success.

There's a lot riding on Bowman's hiring - for Bob of course, but also for an ambitious athletic director and for our sport.  In hiring a CEO, in citing the creation of "the most expansive developmental swim program in all of collegiate sports" and in making ASU swimming "an invaluable community asset" Arizona State is giving us a model that can make us unassailable.  

Think about it - if you're team is helping pay your own way, if you're developing roots in the community, if you're producing great grades and great people, you'll be doing what we couldn't when I was at ASU, namely getting it done.