SL: Absolutely. I always say that to my athletes. You can recognize when an athlete is creating an attachment to something that could end up being a limiting attachment. For instance: I’ve only swum well when I’ve trained in a 50-meter pool, so now I can’t train anywhere but a place that has a 50-meter pool. Right away I’m like: OK, we’re going somewhere where there’s not a 50-meter pool and we’re going to be swimming. My pool – the Fishbowl – is wavy and above ground, really just kind of a cheap above ground pool. Because any attachments like that can just be so negative. Say they end up somewhere before a massive race and there’s no 50-meter pool. They start thinking: Oh my god, now I’m not going to swim well because I’ve been swimming in that pool. So it’s recognizing those little things. But like you say, you’re not going to take away something that you know works and that’s not detrimental – I’m not going to take away that teddy bear they’ve slept with for the last 40 years!
MS: Yeah, you’re not trying to play mind games with them. You just want to take away barriers. I think that’s awesome, the pool thing. That’s cool.
SL: Oh yeah, you’ll see it happening. Right away I’m just like: Stop. Or, to take it to another level that is actually worse, an athlete might say, “Last year we did this, this and this in the last three weeks going into the race and I had an amazing race.” Well OK, this year you got sick for a week, and then you traveled here and there, and then you went through this thing, so we can’t do those same three weeks because it would be totally detrimental. But they’re like: I want to do it exactly the way I did it before that led me to that amazing race. That’s a negative attachment that has to be cut off. As coaches it’s so easy to keep perspective. I’ll hear things like: I can’t believe you told me that was a great session, I went five seconds slower than I did last time! And I’ll say, “Well, last time you had a day off the day before, we did an easy swim so you felt nice and loose, we did the session and yeah, you flew. This time, you did a hard TT yesterday, you did a session in the gym, we did a hard run on that evening and then you did the session and you were only five seconds slower, so I think that’s pretty incredible.” We can keep that perspective. And I was totally like that as an athlete so I get it and have compassion for it. But they have to at least allow me to explain why that was a good session today. Because it’s just so easy for them to be thrown off by the five seconds. There are going to be different results and what’s great one day might still be great even though it’s a lot slower another day because of what led up to that session.
MS: Even food. It’s like: This is what I always eat before this. It could be something that makes no sense, but they’re so emotionally attached to it. You take that away from them and it affects them in a way. It’s a lot about preparing the athlete to just be mentally strong and adaptable in those situations. I’m kind of dealing with that now – look at Craig this year. He got himself in great shape early on, and then he got a virus and a rib injury. Then he went and did Coeur D’Alene off of not a whole lot of training. It showed him that he doesn’t need to be wrecking himself all the time. Maybe he can change his preparation for Kona this year and not throw down these 40-hour weeks. It showed him that he can race really well being fresh. But athletes can be so tied to what’s happened in the past. I’ve won X amount of world championships doing this, so that’s what I’m still going to do. Even though their early season has been completely different than all the other years. It’s a tough battle to convince them, because they have won doing what they’ve always done.