Earlier this week a large number of TI coaches around the world received the same email from someone who identified himself as a contractor with an on-line outsourcing agency called oDesk. His message was as follows:
I am conducting research for a USA Swimming coach, who asked me to inquire the following from Total Immersion coaches:
1. Persons that you have coached using Total Immersion technique that are past or current world record holder or NCAA Division I Champions
2. Major accomplishments of each of those athletes listed in question #1 (example: “Former World Recorder Holder in the 200 meter backstroke”).
I was among those receiving this message but chose not to respond. However a few TI coaches did take the time to answer, including Peter Hendricks of Melbourne Australia who eloquently expressed how our value system differs from that reflected in the query:
I’m struck by how your query infers that the only meaningful measure of success in swimming is winning a World Championship, or whether it can be measured by your time for 100, 200 or 400 Metres.
Rather than focus on teaching the .01% of the population that might win a World Championship, TI coaches strive to teach a proven method that works to countless other people for whom simply swimming with ease and enjoyment would be a great gift. TI is also about swimming every stroke with clear purpose . . . whether for health, enjoyment, or competition.
My reward is knowing I’ve taught hundreds of students, most of them adults, to swim the distance of their choosing in a relaxed and efficient manner. I relish the fact that hundreds of people now enjoy swimming more than anything else. And that hundreds of my students, for whom the swim leg was formerly a “show stopper,” have since realised their dream to participate in triathlons.
I learnt how to swim, with TI, at the age of 42. At the time a single 50-metre lap would leave me exhausted. Now I swim 5, 10 and 20 Km Open Water Marathons against World Champions. While I don’t beat them, I know that I love every stroke I take. How many NCAA champions can say that?
It was because I was so thrilled by this transformation that I became a TI Coach and am now helping others join me in these marathons. Accomplishments like these mean more to me than the prospect of coaching a single person to elite status.
And here’s a pic of Peter with six of his swimmers, taken after all seven completed the 11.2km (7 miles) Bloody Big Swim Marathon in Melbourne.
Just as I was about to publish this post, I received this email from Sun Sachs of Beacon, NY, a perfect complement to what Peter Hendricks wrote about why TI coaches feel our work has inestimable value:
Today it’s been 30 days since I came to your Total Immersion Swim Studio in New Paltz to take a workshop with Alice Laughlin. Since then by practicing your drills and whole stroke with your focal points, I’ve improved my stroke count for 25 yards by almost half. At your recommendation I’ve also been using the tempo trainer, beginning with a tempo of 1.7 (sec/stroke) and gradually working my way to 1.4.
What used to be a stressful and unpleasant experience–and one in which I swam for 18 years with no improvement–has turned into an adventure. Not just the improvement, but even more that I enjoy swimming so much now that after each session, I count the hours until I can “play” in the water again.
I also notice how little sense it makes to swim the traditional way. All around me I see others grinding out laps, stroking awkwardly and craning their neck for every breath. I wonder at their willingness to waste energy on something that looks, and–I know from experience–feels unpleasant. But then I understand why. At the pool where I swim this poster is hung prominently on the wall for inspiration, along with others that assert “Oxygen is overrated” and “Swim Now Die Later.”
While these messages are intended to inspire they completely miss the point. Why do so many people still think this way? Meanwhile, I enjoy every stroke and anticipate more of those magical moments when everything comes together and I understand what it means to be in harmony with the water.
TI has literally changed my life and I can’t wait to put it into practice this summer in triathlons and who knows what else. What a gift.