Shootin' the Breeze

and random targets

Archive for the tag “training”

Accidental Coach

Olympian 020

When I first started training to swim in the Senior Olympics, and was going to the pool a lot, a man in the lane next to me one day was waiting for me to complete a lap.  When I stopped to rest, he gave me a tip about how to improve my butterfly stroke, which was his specialty.

His advice to me, though unsolicited, was not unwanted.  I truly wanted to get better.  I wanted to qualify for the national championship.  So I thanked the man, who introduced himself as Slava.  He is from Russia.  He used to be a swimming coach there.

As we saw each other at the pool on other days, Slava continued to critique my swimming.  He complimented my breaststroke, which had been strongest event as a competitive swimmer in my younger years.  He helped me tweek my freestyle.  He gave me training tips on conditioning.  Mostly he taught me how to swim butterfly better.  I appreciated it all and told him so.

One of the things that he told me was that I better lose weight.  He said, “You are a powerful man, but you are too big here.”  He pointed to my stomach.   He is very direct, more direct than is considered polite in our culture, but he was right.  He told me to do other exercises besides swimming.  He asked me to guess how many pushups he can do.  The answer is 115.  He is 73 years old.  He does not have an ounce of fat on him.  He swims every day.

When I slack off, he sends me emails.  “I do not see you at the pool.”

With Slava’s help, I have qualified for the national championships three times, in several events, including butterfly and individual medley, which starts with butterfly.  My butterfly is still not as good as Slava’s, but was good enough for a silver medal at the Huntsman World Games. It is a good thing that Slava was not competing, at least not in my age group.  There I met some Russian cosmonauts who were competing.  Slava told me that a friend of his was coming from Russia to swim in those games, but had gotten sick.  I wish that Slava had come with me, but he did not.

Slava and his wife, Ludmylla, have become friends with me and my wife, Sugar.  We have been to each others’ homes, including spending Russian Orthodox Easter together this year.

I thank the Lord that He had me swim in that lane that day when Slava criticized my butterfly technique.

P.S.  In the photo above, I was close to 250 lbs.  I got down to 215 lbs.  Slava was right, it helped me improve my swimming times, but I became concerned that the N.F.L. scouts thought I was then too light to play linebacker.  That is probably why I am still an undrafted, unsigned free agent.  What a dilemma!  So, as a compromise, I have elevated my weight to 225 lbs.  Now I am more “well-rounded” as an elite multi-sport athlete.  However, if someone tells me that I would be more competitive as a marathon runner if I got down to 160 lbs, I will not listen.  That is where I draw the line. You can’t please all the people all of the time.

Rover Update


In earlier posts, I described how we came to be adopted by Rover.  Well, it has been working out well.  Today, Miss Sugar said to me, “Rover is very smart.  I think he is the smartest dog I have ever had.”  She has, by the way, owned many dogs.  Many smart dogs. 

Why does Sugar think Rover is so smart?  By the way, I agree.  She said it because he learns quickly and is eager to please, of course, and responds to commands like “Come,” “Sit,” and “Fetch.”  That is good, but not unusual.  What is unusual, is his vocabulary. 

I know it is unrealistic to attribute human characteristics to animals.  There is a name for it.  I think it is called anthropomorphism.  However, I can’t explain this.  A few days ago, I called Rover and he came.  Then I said, “Why don’t you go for a swim?  It is hot.”  So he did.  Immediately.  (Those of you who have read other posts of mine or been to our ranch know that a river runs through it.)  I was about twenty feet from the river bank.  It could well be a coincidence that when Rover came to me he came up with the idea of swimming on his on.  But get a load of this.

He jumped in and swam for only a few seconds, climbed out and returned to the task that I had interrupted, which was to nose about the wood pile, seeking rabbits.  I called him again.  He came again, reluctantly leaving the more interesting wood pile.  I petted him again, praising him for coming.  Then I said, “Rover, go swim.”  And he did.  Immediately.  Without hesitation.  As if he had been ordered to do so.  As soon as he obeyed, he got out of the water and ran back to the wood pile.  Two for two.  I quit while I was ahead, but I think it would have been ten for ten, just like he sits every time. 

Even if someone else had taught him the word “swim,” which is possible but not probable, he sure is obedient. 

I am pretty sure he had not spent much time indoors.  We do not know about his previous life, as he showed up on our porch as a stray.  However, when we let him inside at first, he was tooo rambunctious.  He ran around.  He ripped up some packages in the study when we were not looking.  He found a hammer and brought it into another room.  He jumped up on furniture.  All that was not acceptable behavior.  So Miss Sugar trained him to stay on a rug that she put down in the room where we watch TV.  That is not amazing.  Lots of dogs learn to stay on a rug.  But this one learned it virtually immediately.  All Sugar did was put him on a leash and show him the spot.  She told him that is his rug.  After very few times on the leash, like six times, she could tell him, “Go to your rug,” and he does.  He stays on it, unleashed.  He is better than our Yellow Labs, who tempted him by demonstrating their freedom to leave the room.  Sugar told him to stay on his rug, and Rover did.  He learned about staying on his rug in maybe three minutes.  Phi Beta Kappa material!

I think Sugar is correct.  Rover is pretty smart.

Post Navigation