by Tom Emison, vice president of Strategy and Innovation
Back in my collegiate competitive swimming days many moons ago, I was coached by Dr. Marty Knight, at Hamline University in St. Paul Minnesota. Back then, NCAA Division III colleges and universities had robust competitive swimming and diving programs. Marty became a legend in Minnesota swimming, known for his technical precision, empirical approach, demanding workouts, and an uncanny ability to get the most from ordinary athletes (I was less than ordinary). He won multiple National Championships. High school athletes that did not want to go to a major university, or who did not get a scholarship, would opt to swim Division III. I did not swim in high school. So, collegiate-level competitive swimming was not only new to me, it was a shock. Two-a-day workouts. 7,000+ yards/day in the slow lane where I started out. By my final year, I was in the fast training lane with the guys who were trying to make qualifying cuts for the NCAA Division III National Championships in April. From September-March, in the dead of winter in Minnesota, we pushed each other in our fast lane. Every week or two, we’d face another opponent and we were holding our own.
Mid-season, Marty pulled me aside one day and we had a long talk about life and swimming strategy. It may not seem very strategic (swimming). But, actually it is a great team sport (the way points are counted) and there is a lot of strategy in, say, the 500-yard Freestyle. It’s a roughly five-minute aquatic punish fest. The training required to get there? That’s the topic of another blog. Once you’re off the starting block, the 500 involves total focus on perfect technique, holding the pain threshold just below red line, and keeping an eye on your competition. The day Marty pulled me aside, he shared a lesson in the “500 Free” that has stuck with me to this day, and which relates to our KA 2016-2018 Strategic Plan.
“Tom, in the 500, it is very important to swim your own race. You and I – we both know your redline. But, it is important to push beyond your limits in order to stay in the race, especially if there is a faster swimmer in your heat. You want to stay in the race, stay close to that guy. Do not let know him get out of your range. Keep him within five yards or so. That’s gonna’ hurt. Then, with 200 yards to go (eight lengths of the pool), make your first move. See if he responds. Try to be even with him with 100 yards to go. The fact that you are finishing strong will demoralize him. When you pass him, do it very fast. That’s your second move. Hammer it. With 50 to go, your pain will be way past redline. But, if you want to win, finish strong. Don’t leave anything in the water.” That year, I did make NCAA Division III National Cuts. Marty had faith in me, and I finally had a shred of self-confidence.
Well, here we are in November, 2016, toward the end of another calendar and fiscal year. We’ve been implementing 14 specific initiatives tied to our 2016-2018 Strategic Plan. Each year, we recast these initiatives so our Annual Action Plans are tied to our overall strategic direction. By the end of 2018, we’ll re-craft our new direction. But, until then, what we do here is finish strong every year. If you are a KAer working on one of our strategic initiatives, my advice to you is the same as Marty’s advice to me: Finish Strong. We really need to make progress in each of these 14 areas. Keep up the great work. If we want to win, NOW is the time to make as much progress as possible before we reset the plans for next year.
Thanks for all you are doing to make our strategic progress possible!