Written By: Andrew Beggs
When I was deciding on a topic for this blog, there were many ideas that popped into my head; however, after writing down a handful of those potential topics, my fiancé encouraged me to write about sacrifice; something that as a professional swimmer, she knows all too well.
Sacrifice: the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do.
Now, on the surface this seems pretty reasonable. In order to be good, or to be better at any endeavor you decide to do in life requires giving up certain things. After all, there are only so many hours in a day. But let’s briefly talk about some of the things that are going to be required for you to sacrifice in order for you to become the best version of yourself in whatever it is you decide to do. Many times, the more you want to achieve, the more that is required to give.
First of all, I don’t believe in doing anything mediocre. No one wakes up every day with the plan to be mediocre. Find something you’re passionate about and work towards being the best version of yourself at whatever that may be.
Swimmers, Sacrifice Short-Term Instant Gratification for Long-Term Development & Future Success
Our short-course swimming season is somewhere between 6 and 9 months. Depending on where you live, you will either start in August or September and train anywhere from February to the beginning of April. Though that time there are a number of meets that you will attend; some bigger, some smaller, some prelim/finals some timed finals, some championship some not. Over the course of that season, you have maybe 1 to 2 meets per month. So, in a 7-month season you might have 7 – 14 opportunities to compete. In this day and age, it can be tempting for swimmers to feel pressure to be at their best every time they race.
As coaches, we can make every meet important and make sure the athletes are adequately rested and recovered for each competition; however, that leaves a lot of opportunity for growth on the table, especially if you multiply that over their entire career. Let me explain.
Assuming we decide that every meet is important, that means that at least a few days to a week or more leading up to that meet, coaches are going to have to adjust training, volume and intensity for athletes to be at their quote-unquote best: rested and recovered. At the end of the season if we add up all those days that we adjusted training to allow for swimmers to be at their “best”, it ends up being at least a month or more of missed opportunities for growth. Side note: a training cycle is typically about a month.
Comparatively, if we take that month or so more of opportunity and instead of resting and recovering, we use it to grow-- to continue to work and get stronger, get faster, more fit, build more endurance, try new strategies and techniques, and then, at the end of the season-- when we’re at the swim meet that matters most, we have an extra month or more of quality work that we’ve benefitted from, well, you can imagine those athletes will be better versions of themselves due to their sacrifice throughout the season. And that’s just one season. Over the course of a 12-year career, athletes that have followed a similar seasonal plan will have an extra year of work compared to their counterparts who followed the plan of rest before each meet.
Sacrifice Time for Technique & New Racing Strategies
The swimming world revolves around the clock; whether it’s going a best time or personal best, or achieving a new time standard or cut for a meet, you either achieved it or you did not. At what point is it acceptable to just step up on the block at a meet with zero expectation and just try a new technique or a new strategy? Nowadays it seems like there is never the opportunity because swimmers are focused on always going a best time. Understanding that swim meets are also opportunities for practice is important. Even championship meets are opportunities for practice. If you’ve never been to national meet before, there will be a first time. Just like racing the 200 fly or 400 IM for the first time, your first championship meet, at whatever level it may be, should be the first time in a long line of future opportunities to gain more valuable experience and learn. Your first attempt at anything will never be your best attempt unless you quit. Keep the big picture in mind and understand that every meet championship or not, national or international is an opportunity to practice and more importantly, to learn.
Swimmers, here is a list of things that some of the best swimmers and athletes in the world have had to sacrifice to reach the pinnacle of their sport:
School events, class trips, graduations
Other extracurricular activities
Family gatherings and parties
Motivation for Discipline (You will have enough days that you don’t want to be there to make a difference. You don’t have to be motivated to be disciplined and remember why you started the journey in the first place. Your goals need to be more important than your current feelings.)
Here are some things that these same athletes gained in return for those sacrifices:
Experiencing their first Futures, Junior National, National, etc. level meet
Traveling around the nation and the world
Scholarship to the school of their dreams
Memories, experiences, friends that last a lifetime
Learning how to deal with failure/disappointment (life’s best teacher)
Understanding the meaning of commitment to a goal
Olympic trials experience(s)
A laundry list of valuable life-lessons that carry with them into their future careers beyond swimming
The satisfaction of knowing that you did everything possible to become the best version of yourself
Parents: Sacrifice Your Kids Being Superstars at a Young Age for Superstars When They Are Fully Mature
The statistics are pretty clear. The best athletes at young ages are more often than not, by a significant percentage, not the best athletes at 17-18 and beyond. Long-term development is key to success for young athletes. Don’t worship physical talent. There is no such thing as a world-class 12&U athlete. If you have a “super-star” 9-, 10-, 11- or 12-year-old, focus on long-term development even if they’re the absolute best in the community, region, or even nation. Statistics show that they probably won’t be the best at 18. So, make sure you are focused on things like sportsmanship, commitment, dedication, attitude, character, consistency, etc. If you have a swimmer who is the slowest at those young ages, don’t give up on them! Show them unconditional love and support! Statistically the best swimmers in the history of the sport were probably at a similar place or perhaps not even in the sport yet!
Coaches, here is list of things that some of the best coaches in the world have had to sacrifice to become the best:
Money for experience
Andrew is in his sixth season with the Columbus Aquatic Club. He currently serves as the Head Coach and CEO and works directly with the CAT 2 and Senior training groups. Throughout his tenure in Columbus, the team has seen numerous successes including multiple Georgia State Champions, Futures Champions as well as Junior National, Senior National, Olympic Trials qualifiers and an ISL (International Swim League) swimmer. In 2020 Andrew also served as a coach for the first professional swim league, ISL's D.C. Trident. Prior to Columbus, Andrew served as the Director of Competitive Aquatics and Head Coach for the Lionville Community YMCA in Exton, PA from 2013 – 2016. In 2016 Lionville won the PA YMCA State Championship for the first time in program history. Also, while at Lionville, Andrew served on the Pennsylvania YMCA State Committee as a Coaches Representative. Prior to coaching for the Lionville YMCA, Andrew served as the Associate Head Coach for Swarthmore College, where he coached both the men's and women's teams. While at Swarthmore, Andrew was the 2013 recipient of the CSCAA (College Swimming Coach's Association) Jean Freeman Scholarship Award. As the Associate Head Coach, he was responsible for recruiting, running/writing practices, coordinating and designing dry-land programs, trip planning, and running invitational meets. Andrew has also coached for the Ridley Area YMCA for seven years from 2006 - 2013, Brookhaven Swim Club, Pennypacker Country Club, Riddlewood Swim Club and Sun Valley High School. In all of his positions, he has led swimmers to multiple championships and national rankings. He is known as a great technical teacher with tremendous attention to detail and precision. One of the things he is most proud of is having helped develop two swimmers to the number #1 recruiting rank in Pennsylvania in 2018, 2019 in Heather MacCausland (NC State) and Emma Atkinson (Virginia Tech). Andrew grew up in Brookhaven, PA and attended Rutgers University on a track and field scholarship. He holds a BA in Applied Mathematics from Eastern University.