Life will never get better than this moment.
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on February 20th, 2011

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.

Dwight Hardy shooting with 1.2 seconds on the clock.

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.

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3 Responses to “Life will never get better than this moment.”

  1. surfsalterpath says:

    Good article. Even in adversity it is a good idea to ‘fully enjoy the moment.’ Well, maybe not have to ‘enjoy’ but take in and fully learn from the situation.

    yesterday, riding ~20mph I was clipped by a pickup truck mirror. Dude said he did not see me as he was looking at the paceline ~500yds ahead. I went down very hard, weirdly on my left side. 2″ more and he would have plowed into my body and who knows where i would be today. Very lucky I am.

    After reading Terry’s post and the ‘in the moment’ importance, i realize how important it is to keep a mental focus on everything that you are doing. Even though I was on the white line to the far right of the road, I had just finished a headwind pull and was now at the rear of the pace line falling back as we climbed 3 hills, so i was very tired. Normally, I am acutely aware of the traffic and know what is ahead and at the rear. This time after the accident I tried to visualize what happened and i could not tell the HP if there was a car approaching from the front as the rear truck clipped me.

    I understand the importance of ‘in the moment’ focus and its advantages. I just cannot wait for my shoulder to get better so I can get back in the pool.

    Thanks for your article Terry!

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  2. Suzanne says:

    Terry, I havn’t yet read the NYT piece, but congratulations to your St. John’s team. I watched the game and while I was rooting for PItt, was very happy for St. John’s. I’ve always felt that college basketball represented a true pinnacle of how important the mind is in sports. I attended a sweet 16 set of games many years ago and was amazed at how as soon as one team scored, the other team immediately rallied a fantastic set of passes, footwork and shooting skills to keep pressing the game onwards. Really a marvel of human performance and what it takes to not crumble under pressure. If only we could learn how to teach that skill to our solo athletes like swimmers and triathletes. Enjoy the moment. As Jack Nicholson said in one of his movies, “What if this is as good as it gets?”

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  3. Grant says:

    Very wise article. Years ago I said to my cousen the phrase that was very popular – “Does life get any better than this?”. His answer has stuck with me all these years. “Not right now it dosn’t”.
    Thanks for all your scourcing.

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