Short Term vs Long Term

There is something that is endlessly fascinating about people and how they find motivation to do things.

Dealing with students on a daily basis, I get to see young people in a constant life-experiment, where they are forever testing new ideas to see what works and what doesn’t, what makes them happy and what doesn’t, what gets them what they want and what doesn’t, etc. What is also fascinating to me is watching these young people define and re-define for themselves, over and over again what it is they want. Freshmen are pumped when they get to the lunch-line first, and seniors are pumped when they get accepted to a choice college.

What I’ve learned from the experiment that is day-to-day high school seems common sense enough: as we get older, we are more able to connect long term goals to short term practices. Grades and the classes that aren’t our favorites are the easy example. We do our daily work to get the better grade at the quarter and semester, so we can get the higher GPA, so we can get to a better school, so we can have a more comfortable adult life.

How does this play into high school sports? How does this play into Aquatics?

With both Water Polo and Swim, @ both the high school teams I’ve coached and the club polo teams, it is clear that every kid has some kind of goal in mind in regards to why they do it. “I wanna get chicks,” “I wanna try something new,” “I wanna be Varsity,” “I wanna be league champion,” “I wanna take CIF,” “I wanna play/swim in college.” I have even heard, “I wanna be in the Olympics!”

I have seen MANY of these kids reach their goals, and I have seen just as many not even come close. The main difference I have observed between the (label time) successful athlete, and the failed athlete is their ability to break the long term goals into short term practices. Any kind of successful person can tell us that their victory was not a one-time shot, but millions of little choices along the way.

Dan Ariely gives a very insightful talk about Self Control and why people make decisions that lead them AWAY from their long-term desires. In Water Polo, there are a million passes that happen in practice before that game winning assist takes you and your team to the top; in swimming, there are millions of swim strokes in your career that lead you to that record breaking race in which you surprise even yourself at what you are capable of.

With each pass at practice, do we think about that moment where we’re going to need to flawlessly move the ball without thought or effort, in what seems almost a reflex or even a product of our sheer willpower to the hand of our team-mate, just at the perfect moment where they are poised to SLAM the ball in that one unprotected square foot of the cage?

With each arm recovery in our swim sets, do we think about the BIG RACE, in that last 25yds where we are less than an an arms-length out from the head of the race and we just dig into that reserve of guts and fire deep inside to tear up that last 10yds and take sweet victory from our worthy opponent?

Process over Product

Where did that reserve come from? How did that pass happen? These moments of glory are products of COUNTLESS daily decisions these athletes made in their practice. The decision to enjoy practicing well, not to reach glory, but just to practice the best they could, and with all they could at that moment. This everyday decision is what builds ALL greatness.

When this is realized, the great high-school experiment is successful. What keeps me coming back season after season to coaching is those young people who come to this realization and get to reap the amazing benefits of their work in their time at Ramona, along with theĀ  belief that any given day, at any time, any one of our athletes can decide to adopt this mindset and become something amazing.

See you at the pool,

Coach Sean Banister