Business lessons from my Diving Coaches - Visualize, Focus, Practice, Execute, Reflect, and Repeat

June 16, 2018

 

Anyone who has met me over the last few years may have difficulty imagining that I was once a collegiate diver for the USC Trojans. While I am now more Rodney Dangerfield than Greg Louganis, the lessons I learned from both the sport and my coaches shaped the way I try to help my clients and also how I run my business.

 

I started my diving career after 10 years of gymnastics, having grown tired of the awful amount of broken bones and ripped hands. I was looking for a kindler, gentler sport where the landings would be softer. I ALMOST succeeded. My first coach was Dr. Dennis Rowe (2017 Masters multiple-Gold Medalist at the FINA World Championships), who quickly discovered that I was a somewhat unique diver. 

 

I have a confession, I abhor pain. In my quest to find a less physically harmful sport, I didn’t really take into account that coming out of a spin/twist and then slapping the water, hurts. Hitting your head on the springboard or the platform, really hurts. I did everything I could to try and minimize pain. While for most divers, the typical work uniform is a Speedo, I added a new twist. I bought a heavy wetsuit and used to practice my new dives in that. While subject to ridicule and the usual reminder that I was a springboard diver and not a scuba diver, I found comfort in knowing that I was taking the steps necessary to reduce the possibility of pain and injury. I was setting myself up to be successful. The lesson is here is be creative and use all the tools at your disposal! 

 

Dr. Rowe has a Zen-like quality. He is soft spoken and somewhat of a mystic. He would often talk to us about visualizing our dives. In diving, you have to be able to find points of reference (spotting points). You have to know which way to spin, twist, and exit your dive. You have to visualize your body position in each stage of the dive. Without that, you’re lost. Before you even touch the board or the platform, you’re visualizing and taking your body through the motions of the dive while standing on the side of the pool.

 

My next coach, Keala Watson (1968 Olympic Medalist) was all about focus. Coach Watson is a serious lady who carried the world on her shoulders at a very young age. She was not the kind of person who would understand my predilection for wetsuits. She understood singular focus of mind to achieve the task at hand. Admittedly, there were divers with years more experience than me and I had to play catch up if I wanted to compete at the highest levels. She taught me to focus on my dives. Don’t worry about the others. Do what YOU do well. Everything else falls into place. Find a quiet spot, don’t get distracted, visualize your dives, and execute. 

 

My last diving coach, Jeff Shaffer (Olympic, Goodwill, World Games, and now Auburn University Coach) discovered that he had a truly unique bird on his team. I’ve mentioned I don’t like pain, but did I also mention that I’m afraid of heights? That’s a bit of a problem when your  sport takes place 20-30 feet above the world. I used to close my eyes and dive by timing. That means that even a small miss could have some rather disastrous results. Coach Shaffer believes in practice, practice, practice. Whether on a dry board, trampoline, springboard or platform, you will be doing your dives over and over again. I needed to get my timing right. He was a constant source of coaching tips as to how to better your dives. Each little improvement gets you closer to perfection. 

 

To bolster my energy level and confidence, I used to practice to the sounds of Eye of the Tiger, Pour some Sugar on Me, or Here I go Again. These were my pump-up songs to give me the courage to do what was asked of me. I was allowed to use these during practice but not during meets. However, we practiced so hard and for so long, that those crazy songs were blasting in my head and half the time I forgot that I MAY possibly plummet from the platform, all whilst performing the worlds finest belly or back-flop. 

 

Ultimately, there is nowhere to hide. You are out there alone. You have just get out there in that Speedo and do your dive. All the visualization, focus, and practice needs to culminate in flawless execution. While you are a solo act, the points you score go towards the team’s score. They are just as valuable as the 50m freestyle, swimming's premiere event. If the dives go astray, reflect back on what you need to improve, after all you have 10 more dives to go. Repeat your refection after every dive, every meet.

 

So what has this got to do with my business? Why is this on LinkedIn? Well, these aren’t just lessons for me, I believe these are lessons as to how you want to run your business and/or your various business departments.

 

Visualize - What are you trying to accomplish? What is your current state and where do you want to go? What’s your ideal? You can’t reach your goal unless you know where you want to end up relative to where you started.

 

Focus - What distractions/noise can you remove and dampen in order to accomplish that goal? Who are the key players that need to be engaged? Who is just noise and is an obstacle to success?

 

Practice - Have you ever been in a disaster recovery scenario for the first time? Without all the drills and mock runs, you don’t even know what you don’t know. Muscle memory is a good thing. Constant practice let’s you know how to behave without even thinking. There is no substitute for experiential learning.

 

Execute - At some point, you have to just go out there and jump off the board or the platform. Your business has to run. There is no more practice. You have to do what is asked of you and execute flawlessly. One little error is expensive. Ignorance of what you’re supposed to is not a defense. Find coaches and leaders who can help guide you. Your team depends on you.

 

Reflect - What could we have done differently? What do we need to change? What needs to improve, and what should be reemphasized? 

 

Repeat - Develop a process. Understand that you are always going to have challenges, tests, and times of duress. Open your eyes! No time to be scared. You’ve done this before hundreds of times. You’ve developed a framework for success. 

 

In times of need, just give a yell. “Melon, we need ya, get your suit on!” I’m out there, ready to come assist. If you or your organization needs guidance navigating the rough waters, Data Curation is here to help. 

 

Check us out at www.datacuration.io

 

To Coaches Rowe, Watson, and Shaffer - Thank you for all your guidance, instruction, and mentoring. I will try and honor you the best way I know how. I’ll pass your teachings on.

 

Oh, and if you have no idea where the Melon quote comes from, not only do I question your taste in movies, I suggest you go rent Back to School, immediately.

 

Respectfully, 

 

Elton Juter

President 

Data Curation, LLC.

www.datacuration.io

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