Check out his online videos here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYfIfs2Fz5G6W_to2PAUS9Q
I really enjoyed talking with Jeff from Excel with Grace. I loved how he gave specific examples and connections to the more ethereal mind and attention to specific swimming techniques and learning. One of my first questions to him is how we can connect the mind, and attention to the physical expression of swimming. Jeff answers this question so well and his mastery of this concept comes out clear in how he frames his responses.
How do we connect mindful to physical. Jeff talks about how people always think that yoga is about clearing the mind of thoughts, but that isn't true. It is about recognizing your deviant thoughts and then finding an anchor for your attention. Allow those thoughts to happen, but notice them, and then move away from your mind using your breath as a focus point, or anchor for your attention.
In swimming, we want to achieve this same goal with our beginner and elite athletes. We want them to focus on a specific skill and improve it while they're swimming. We know as coaches and instructors that people will not be able to do a physical skill perfectly immediately, or every time. So we use tactics like Dominic Latella's Redemption Game to aim that attention for short spurts of time. We want to focus that attention on our intended skill, and meditation is a way to flex that attention muscle.
Jeff talks about easy speed, and how meditation allows you to achieve that 100% speed at 95% effort where you remove the tension of forced swimming at maximum effort.
Shivasssana Game: teach a few poses, have everyone do it for a few seconds, then yell, "Shivassana!" and everyone has to lay down and pay attention to three of their breaths. Jeff then gets everyone up and has them pretend like they're trees. While some people are acting like trees, then others are acting like bees and breathing like bee's while moving around the trees.
Golden nugget of quality swim instructors: diverse range of experience and pairing it to the audience. Interesting, fun, and challenging while maintaining a specific goal.
Advice for Developmental coaches:
Madness time at the flags and act as rowdy as possible within reason, but then Jeff would yell, "Listening position" and time how long they got back to paying attention.
When you're starting your own yoga for swimming a good place to start is in table top pose; hands and knees on ground, raise left hand, and lift right leg straight. Then slowly build on it.
Progressive posture and pose, like all swim lessons is to gradually step by step increase in difficulty.
What is it about Yoga that makes it so good for swimming?
Jeff says he could go on for another hour about this one thing, but he distills it down nicely into "Balance."
You have the ability to give the athlete an opportunity to train the body overall and the mind to physically and mentally improve. Yoga provides power, strength, flexibility, increased range of motion, reduce anxiety for poor meet performance, and better body awareness.
His answer is excellent and I highly encourage you to make sure you listen to this portion near the end of our conversation.
And how it has been fun and full of healthy improvement.
Preface: I run safe and encouraging practices. I get along well with my swimmers and their parents. I can't think of a time I was upset with a parent that knew me or has watched a practice. We fill our time building up our swimmers by giving them regular feedback. They experience more than 10 interactions per practice of one of the coaches saying something they did well, and something they need to improve upon. We take particular effort in praising effort as followup to previous instruction.
We've been doing "Fail" practices inspired by episode #061 with the Swim Box and Dominic Latella.
Here's what we've done, and why you can do it too.
The basic premise: