I am continually amazed at how experience is both undervalued and overvalued. It is overvalued because we get caught in the trap of thinking of experience in terms of years rather than what went into the years. My mentor and friend Joe Vigil put it quite well when he said to me one time: “You can have thirty tears experience by having the same experience thirty times or you can have a new experience each year for thirty years and truly have thirty years experience.” In my estimation truer words have never been spoken. I see this all the time. The coaches and professionals that I admire and emulate are the people who have had different experiences. They have tried new things and failed; they have pushed the boundaries and gotten out of their comfort zone. They have used their experience as a launching pad, not an anchor. I spent a fair bit of time at the ASCA Convention with Nort Thornton, the Men’s swim coach at Cal Berkeley who has just retired but will continue to coach there. He is a prime example of a coach whose experiences are valued. He was attending presentations and taking notes. He is 75 years old and still learning and trying to improve what he does with swimmers. He has been an inspiration to me over the years because of his approach. Has he made mistakes, sure he has, but he has learned from his mistakes and not repeated them over and over. He made an interesting comment to me after a young coach had come up and commented to me that he wished I had shown more videos of exercises during my talk, Nort said: “ They want the x’s and o’s but they don’t know the why’s, they all want the recipe but they have not learned how to cook yet.” I will close with a quote from Aldus Huxley: “Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens.”


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