The Power of the F-Bomb

As a swimmer, I never cared for pre-meet speeches.  The idea that someone else needed to scream and yell in my face to get me pumped up was absurd.  If there was a big meet, I was in charge of my emotions, my passion, my fire.  If I couldn’t find the inner spark to get excited for a big race or a big meet, well, no one else could do so either.  My fate rested in my hands.

For the most part I have taken that philosophy with me into coaching.  I can prepare the team as best I can and give them sage advice an words of inspiration leading up to a conference championship, but at when a swimmer is behind the block, that swimmer must ignite the inner fire.  I even went so far as to burn the psych sheet in practice to let the team see how bright they can burn if they so desire.

Well NCACs came last Thursday and we were off to a sluggish start.  Some good swims, some bad swims, and a few in between.  Everything the team had learned went out the door and instead of controlling emotions, emotions controlled the team.  So Friday morning came and swims started to come around, but still too many people scared and letting nerves get the best of them.  That did not sit well with me.  The team was capable of better.  As most people will tell you, I’m often more mild mannered than Clark Kent.  Often times I’m too rational, too sarcastic, and too void of emotion at times.  But some of Friday’s swims started to lead volcanic eruption of emotion.  The rest of the session saw some improvement, but still with each swim I could feel myself getting closer to spit “hot fire.”  So after session 3 and a nice calm Panera Bread lunch the team came to my room for a meeting.

Once the final person came through the door, the volcano erupted.  Just like Pompeii, the team never saw it coming.  “F-Bombs” dropped to the right, they ran to the left, the smacked the front and back.  The speech that followed made Tupac’s “Hit ‘em Up” sound like a lullaby you would want to sing to your child every night.  As one person told after the fact, “That was more colorful than a 48 crayon box of Crayola.”  For the years and years of practice at controlling my emotions, I let the crater rupture.  I have a brother on the team here, and my guess is that he heard more colorful language in 5 minutes from me than he had heard in the previous 18 years.  As another swimmer called it, the speech was “glorious.”

So the team turned to Friday night with no other option than to improve or “die.”  And improve they did.  What followed in the next 3 sessions is what the team was looking for all season.  Numerous best times, the first 2 conference champions for the program, team members stepping up in every event and a team came together more in 36 hours than it had all season.  Everyone left the pool on Saturday night with their heads held high and proud of their accomplishments and all because an emotional outburst led to a controlling on emotions and thus a control over their body and a control over an outcome.

So for everyone else that isn’t sure how to get ready for the big meet, or is looking for the extra push towards greatness, just put a few impassioned, well timed “F-bombs” in the swimmers’ face and you might be surprised at the results!  Swim fast everyone!

Steve Barnes is currently the second year head coach of a Wabash College in Wabash, IN. Steve maintains a regular blog, which can be found here.

1 thought on “The Power of the F-Bomb”

  1. Perhaps f-bombs are what is missing in the current US educational system. They are looking to revise and this article may be exactly what they need.


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