What gives an athlete their edge? Is it the size of the basketball court, the aerodynamical properties of a uniform, the start time of the competition? Maybe, it’s the innate, competitive drive that consistently sets goals, only to achieve them through perseverance.
The new reality that many are facing today includes finding new ways to adapt to setting and achieving those goals from home. Basketball legend Michael Jordan was once quoted saying, “Never say never because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.” As athletes, how will you defy your limitations today?
This week, the Raleigh Racers, the Special Olympics Wake County aquatics team, swam in uncharted waters. Led by Coach Chris Underwood, recipient of the 2018 Frank Starling SONC Coach of the Year Award, athletes logged in for their first-ever virtual workout. Using the virtual conferencing platform, Zoom, Underwood guided his team through a series of exercises adapted for a home environment.
“The whole purpose behind doing this is because they are not swimming two days a week,” said Underwood. “Core work is important for swimming. In our warmup, arm circles are almost like a backstroke.”
In providing daily workouts, athletes can simulate the experience of training for an upcoming swim meet, wherever they are. Underwood has leveraged online resources to promote healthy eating and physical wellbeing on a regular basis. Using interactive polls, recipes and inspirational quotes, he is keeping the spirit of competition alive.
Last year, Underwood implemented a program similar to the Fit 5 Challenge, which is currently active through Special Olympics North Carolina in providing athletes a guide to achieving fitness goals through physical activity, nutrition and hydration.
“I tracked athletes’ hydration, nutrition and exercise throughout the season using forms that they turned in weekly,” said Underwood. “I was very impressed with the number of forms that were filled out per week, they were excited to turn the forms in and their statistics increased positively by the end of the season.”
Underwood, as a coach, recognizes his evident ability to influence the athletes he works with. In these unprecedented circumstances at hand, his leadership position has become a catalyst for change.
“We can be a big influence on their lifestyle, as coaches,” said Underwood. “I can say something to them and they will listen. Sometimes, parents say something and it will go in one ear and out the other. One of the parents on our team told me they passed by Krispy Kreme the other day and my athlete said, ‘Coach said I can’t have that.’”
As powerful as Underwood’s voice of reason can be, he ensures that his team’s input will be heard, to the tune of their choosing.
Before Tuesday’s workout kicked off, Underwood asked for specific song requests to include athletes in the creation of the workout. From “Oops!…I Did It Again,” to the Backstreet Boys and “The Greatest Showman,” their personalities were personified through the playlist itself.
“If we can bring them together and do something like this to ease the new norm, that’s good,” said Underwood. “That’s the key.”
In the weeks to come, the uneasiness of uncertainty will linger. The Raleigh Racers will lean on much sturdier ground, a foundation that Underwood intends to keep rock solid.