During swim season, a word I throw around a lot is FLOW.
Water flows; “Go with the flow” is something people say; while doing work, one might achieve a “flow”; off a weekend, or vacation, or after an event that takes us out of our daily routine we might talk about getting back into the “flow” of things.
So what is this flow we talk about? Presumably, what we are referring to when we say flow is what water does. Bruce Lee talks about the properties of water and advises us to “be water (click for clip).” When water flows, it is doing what it naturally does. It is being itself. It is adaptable and it is effortless.
When we practice, really at anything, but specifically at water polo and swim, not only are we practicing in the water, but what we are working for is to attain a flow. We are trying to make it so that when we are in a performance situation (a game or meet) we can just be smooth and natural and at the same time be amazingly fast. Do-able, but not easy. Easy would be pressing a button and there is no button that will get this job done. Getting ourselves to a point in whatever we do where our actions flow effortlessly like water is something that takes concentrated work for long periods of time. The bright side is that long periods of time break into short periods of time, and these are much more manageable.
The more I think about it though, the more I feel like flow extends beyond just athletic performance. There are many world religions that talk about how we are tempted in life to chaos and misery (by a lot of different things) and how we must work to sort things out and essentially achieve a flow where we can be at peace with ourselves and our surroundings. But let’s not forget about water! If water is suddenly forced to flow a new direction, it doesn’t matter what the terrain is like, water will still do what it does: it flows. Another cool aspect of water is that as it flows, it actively changes the environment to make that flow quicker and easier. Water that doesn’t flow becomes stagnant, but once it is allowed to be itself and do what it does best, it can sculpt entire countrysides and indeed fuels all life on Earth (whoa).
When something comes across our path, a competition, a homework assignment, really any problem, if we are in a state of “flow” we know where we are going and this new obstacle is no big deal; we simply flow right around it and keep on going. A new swimmer gets in the pool and tries to fight the water and become the water’s master, a seasoned swimmer knows not to fight the water, but to try to be one with the water and to flow. With each length, it’s this coach’s hope that our swimmers are trying to develop that flow for themselves, and by doing so in the water they learn to develop that flow in their day-to-day as well.
“Be Water My Friends” and see you at the pool,
Coach Sean Banister