Just Keep Paddling

Written By: David Sokolofsky

Here in Southeastern North Carolina, hurricanes are an inevitable drawback of the enjoyable coastal lifestyle. While these storms disrupt life, and in our case swim practice, they do not have to be season ending catastrophes if approached and reacted to with the proper outlook. The two critical components of successfully navigating time out of the water due to natural disasters are attitude and adaptability.

As the leader of the team, it is your responsibility to set the tone for your athletes by keeping an upbeat, resilient attitude. Your athletes will feed off your energy. If you return to practice frustrated and surly, your athletes will respond in kind with poor practice performance and general despondency. If, however, you return energized with a welcoming smile, your athletes will mirror your behavior and be excited to be back in the water with their friends and teammates. Set the tone and be the leader you would want to follow.

With the resultant time away from practice, you need to be adaptable with your training plan. In terms of season planning and training cycles, fortunately for us major hurricanes typically don’t hit our area until September, coinciding with the beginning of our short course season. In turn, there is no sense of urgency regarding championship meets and the necessary preparation they entail. Perhaps you’ve missed your first base training phase. Maybe you’re limited in terms of number of practices per week and number of minutes per practice. Do you react by getting angry this happened to your team, feeling anxious that the season is lost, and becoming envious of teams not having to go through setbacks? Or do you reassess the current situation, develop a new plan within the current confines of that situation, and make the most of what you have to work with? Only one of these responses leads to overcoming the challenges laid before you successfully.

Case in point. Two years ago Hurricane Florence came through and devastated our region, making landfall in Wilmington on September 14. We were out of the water completely for two weeks and out of our home pool for an additional two, having to run our team of 170 out of a five lane pool with only two hours of practice time per day. Our response to the situation was that of gratitude, firstly for all of our families making it through the storm safely and secondly for having a place for our kids to swim. When we returned to practice it was nothing but smiles, high fives, and fist bumps. We adapted our training plans, foregoing our previous season plans and adjusting practices accordingly to fit the space we were in. We didn’t dwell on lost practice time, lost fitness, or make preemptive excuses as to why the season wasn’t going to be successful. We regrouped, stabilized, and moved forward. The end result was the WOW Senior group having arguably the best short course season in the history of the program.

Control what you can control and let go of what you can’t. Wasting your precious time and energy attempting to control the uncontrollable is a fool’s errand that only rewards you with stress and anxiety. You will never be able to control where and when a hurricane hits, but you will always be able to control how you respond to it and what direction you lead your team in the aftermath.

Be resilient. Be adaptable. Be the leader your team needs. And along the way you might even catch some tasty waves. Just keep paddling, my friends.

Coach David Sokolofsky has grown up in the Wilmington swimming community. As an age group swimmer for the Waves of Wilmington, David was a State Champion and YMCA All-American. After graduating from E.A. Laney High School, David attended UNC-Wilmington where he studied Business Administration and swam for the Seahawks. During his tenure at UNCW, David helped lead the Seahawk Men to their first ever conference championship, was co-captain of the team his senior year, and held pool, school, and conference records. Prior to becoming Head Coach of the Waves of Wilmington in April 2012, David's coaching experience included Master Swim Instructor for the UNCW Swim School, Head Age Group Coach for the Wilmington Y Navigators, and six years as the Head Coach and Director of Competitive Swimming for the Cape Fear Aquatic Club. David completed his graduate studies through the California University of Pennsylvania, earning a Master of Science in Exercise Science and Health Promotion. He is also certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a Performance Enhancement Specialist and Corrective Exercise Specialist.

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