Listen for Understanding

(or, it’s never too late to learn something you thought you already knew!)

I have a passion – more than one, actually, but the one I’m thinking about right now is swimming. 4 times a week I workout with really wonderful people that share my passion. We all do it for different reasons, but we all get the same benefits: fitness and connection with people.

In the work that we do we find ourselves traveling quite a bit at times and, as you can imagine, this takes me away from my swimming friends and my daily routine. Fortunately there is a nationwide group of similarly passionate people called US Masters Swimming. 55,000+ strong and located in every city of reasonable size, I  can always find a team to drop in on and workout. Yesterday I was in Las Vegas and took time out to swim with the Las Vegas Masters team.

Las Vegas Masters is coached by the legendary Coach Jim Reitz. His previous career as the Head Coach of the UNLV Swim & Dive program spanned 35 years! During his career he was named Coach of the Year in college swimming 16 times, and he has coached Olympians, Olympic Trials qualifiers, All-Americans, and led the UNLV Swim Team to 14 Conference Championships – he is a really good coach. A year and a half ago I went to Vegas and spent a week swimming with Jim’s team, and he changed the way I swim – resulting in less physical pain and improved performance in just 1 week!

So when Coach Reitz speaks, I listen. Yesterday he was speaking about kicking at the end of practice. Just a quick note of understanding, I hate kicking! However, I did find myself listening to him talking about kick theory and what he sees happening in the pool. I listened intently to what he was saying and I found that I discovered a desire to do what he was teaching, not just because he knows what he is talking about, but because I was listening in a focused way to understand the why behind what he was teaching. I swam competitively in high school and a bit in college. I returned to swimming a couple of years ago and I watch the good swimmers around me. So I intrinsically knew the concepts that Jim was speaking about. But something hit me in a new way yesterday, and I believe it was because I was listening to understand, rather than listening with my bias filter of ‘I hate kicking’.

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