An article about basketball in this morning’s NY Times sports section A Last-Second Layup Drops, and Pitt Is the Latest to Fall
had invaluable advice for improvement-minded swimmers. Or anyone.
After a decade’s absence from national rankings, the basketball team at St John’s Univ. in NY under new coach Steve Lavin has beaten four top-10-ranked teams at Madison Square Garden in the last two months, culminating in last night’s 60-59 win over fourth-ranked Pittsburgh on an acrobatic layup in traffic by senior Dwight Hardy with just 1.2 seconds remaining.
In a tense timeout with the clock ticking down and St. John’s trailing, Coach Lavin told his players to forget about winning or losing and enjoy the moment. “Life will never get better than this moment,” he said. “It’s still a game. This is Madison Square Garden . . . and you’re playing with your best friends. This is fun. ”
Countless times over nearly 60 years of watching sports, I’ve watched a player in a suddenly-intense spotlight – a basketball player dribbling far outside with time for one shot, or standing on the free throw line with no time on the clock, or a baseball player in the batter’s box with two outs and two strikes –the game on the line, and wondered “What must the pressure feel like?”
Though I’ve never done so with thousands watching in the stands or millions on TV, swimming key individual or relay races 40 years ago (also at St Johns) with dozens in the stands, left me with vivid recall of almost suffocating pressure.
We so often hear advice to stay in the moment. If you can not only that but remember to fully enjoy the moment, in front of 20,000 rabid fans at Madison Square Garden, how difficult can it be to do so in any swimming situation?
Staying present isn’t a fallback mode to attempt only when we experience pressure. Rather it’s something to develop as a habit, every moment of every swim practice – and before and after as well.