Olympic Lessons – Teaming


I hate to say it, but I never really had a deep appreciation for Michael Phelps and his persona despite his achievements in the Olympics. He always seemed a bit too arrogant and stuck on himself for my taste. My perception change quite a bit the other day after watching his interview with Bob Kostas for NBC. In that interview it became clearer to me (and perhaps what many of you already knew) that here was a young man who dedicated himself to achieving his dreams and goals and a large part of that was done by working with and teaming with others around him. This includes his Mother, two sisters, coach and team mates. His interest in swimming at age 7 comes from his sisters influence and as a way for him to release his massive energy that was later diagnosed as ADHD.

Was he arrogant when he said he had no regrets to Mr Kostas? Perhaps, but perhaps it is this lack of regrets that has allowed him to overcome adversity and challenges such as losing and not even medaling in his first individual race at London 2012.  Then the next day the USA team was narrowly beat in a relay by the French at London 2012. Mr. Phelps seemed to have taken these defeats as a wake-up call and helped him truly focus on the rest of the races he would compete in at the Olympics. One might even argue, that if it was not for the USA team he might never have been able to achieve the focus he needed. It was the ‘team’ that got him his first medal at these Olympic and then it was the team that achieved his first gold. The USA team has been important to his success since of his 22 medals, nine were in team events. Mr. Phelps did acknowledge the support of his team and how they have made the Olympics fun and successful. For an appreciation of the fun aspect watch the teams YouTube video ‘Call me Maybe‘. But Michael is also serious and concerned for the welfare of his teammates as shown in Athens in 2004 when he gave up his prefered spot on a relay team so a teammate could swim in the final.

He admitted in the interview that he really only started to fully train for these Olympic in the last two years and that he needed people around him to keep him on track to do what he needed to do. He gave the example of his not going to the gym and weight lifting after spending 4.5 hours in the pool training. What helped him get there was a trainer personally walking him to the gym since he was finding ways to get out of the training complex and avoiding this important aspect of his training!

Asked about if he achieved the goals he set for himself (and what they were) at these Olympics he answered as well as any politicians and spun the answer to Phelps saying he has no regrets and “I can hang my suit up and say I’ve done everything I wanted to do. … I’ve done everything I’ve put my mind to.” I’d add, and I think he’d agree, that he’s done everything because of the support team(s) of individuals around him have provided.

He ended the interview talking about his next stage of life by saying he was going to travel, and start focusing on his charity foundation designed to promote “healthy, active lives, especially for children, primarily by expanding the opportunities for participation in the sport of swimming.” In 2008 the legendary swimmer spoke with TODAY about his foundation, “This is a way for me to really help to grow the sport.” What a way to help the team and sport that helped him so much!

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