Tapping into Creativity
Updated: Nov 7, 2018
"Create the muse in your self consciousness."
Lately I've been keenly more engaged in attempting to understand an all-consuming idea that's scratching its way slowly toward conscious application in my interactions with our athletes. This process has embedded itself deeply, tangled in the web of so many other things I'd like to use in our program; but somehow has latched on without slipping through the daily onslaught of "light-bulb" notions, new or borrowed.
In our community we discuss many aspects of coaching; psychological, physiological, emotional, or combinations thereof, with the hope that an increased focus on one or more of them will somehow unlock the pathways to higher levels of achievement for our team. These are, without a doubt, noble pursuits. Throughout this quest to elevate our understanding of the mechanics of our sport we learn so much about how each individual develops and in contrast, use that information to gauge whether or not our programmatic plan for progression is, in fact, creating a dynamic that's consistently improving the ability of the swimmer(s).
So, in an educated effort to discover more about how to evaluate our mission as Coaches, we ask: "What am I missing? What more can I do to be more effective?"
Remember that all-consuming thought I wrote about in the introduction of this blog? I have been struggling to figure out how to encourage my swimmers to be more creative in their approach to training and during competitions. In all honesty, I had never in my life even considered how creativity would be significant in the development of my own swimming as an athlete, or in the way that I directly work with my team.
Living on Long Island you find out very quickly that you better have something productive to listen to while driving; a 10-mile drive could turn into an hour-long trip depending on the day. Over the past year and half, I've stalled the mindless-monotony of metropolitan traffic by "plugging" into a few very interesting podcasts.
Recently I found a podcast on the "Joe Rogan Experience" with Lex Fridman, an artificial intelligence (AI) researcher at MIT. The episode is heavy, dense, but eventually uses language that non-academics can easily digest. One of the aspects of AI that Fridman discusses at length is the notion that as the creativity of AI develops, so does its power, speed and ability for anticipation. Immediately my "coach brain" began creating the connections between this discussion and its application to swimming.
How can we encourage our athletes to be more creative in their approach to training and racing? Is that even possible to teach? I hear many of my peers and colleagues talk about being "present" in the moment, or "mindful" practice. That leads me to believe that we can discuss with our swimmers our own ideas about how to approach a certain set, or particular race with creative thinking skills that we work on and talk about during our sessions.
As coaches we think creatively ALL THE TIME. This is especially true in the way that we construct our seasonal plans, our daily workouts, our combination of workloads, rest, taper, etc... there are some aspects of our creativity that's so unique to our approach.
For me, I imagine teaching creativity to an athlete who seeks to discover ways of approaching an event with their own, unique sense of how they will perform. The delivery system for this approach would certainly come through some sort of mental training, mindfulness, sentient, thought-based approach to our work together. It would probably initially begin collaboratively, but during its development with the swimmer become uniquely theirs along the learning curve.
If you really examine the raw art form of the body travelling through the water-that's uniquely creative to each swimmer. Therefore, each athlete is unconsciously creative in their physical signature in the water; what if we inspire the next generation of athletes to explore their inherent creativity in all aspects of their lives as swimmers?
These experiments in my coaching begin today...