more.Qualitative improvements involve doing
Now we can consider how qualitativedifferentiation is manifested:
Different levels ofthe sport are qualitatively distinct.
Olympic champions don’t just domuch more ofthe same things that summer-league country clubswimmers do.They don’t just swim more hours,or move their armsfaster,or attend more workouts.What makesthem faster cannot be quantitativelycomparedwith lower-level swimmers,because whilethere may be quantitative differences
andcertainly there are,for instance in thenumberofhours spent in workouts—these arenot,I think,the decisive factors at all.Instead,they do things differently.Theirstrokes are different,their attitudes are differ-ent,their groups offriends are different,theirparents treat the sport differently,the swim-mers prepare differently for their races,andthey enter different kinds ofmeets and events.There are numerous discontinuities ofthis sortbetween,say,the swimmer who competes in alocal City League meet and one who enters theOlympic Trials.Consider three dimensions of difference:(1)Technique:The styles ofstrokes,divesand turns are dramatically different at differ-ent levels.A “C”(the lowest rank in UnitedStates Swimming’s ranking system) breast-stroke swimmer tends to pull her arms far backbeneath her,kick the legs out very wide with-out bringing them together at the finish,liftherselfhigh out ofthe water on the turn,fail totake a long pull underwater after the turn,andtouch at the finish with one hand,on her side.By comparison,an “AAAA”(the highest rank)swimmer,sculls the arms out to the side andsweeps back in (never actually pulling back-wards),kicks narrowly with the feet finishingtogether,stays low on the turns,takes a longunderwater pull after the turn,and touches atthe finish with both hands.Not only are thestrokes different,they are so different that the“C”swimmer may be amazed to see howthe “AAAA”swimmer looks when swimming.The appearance alone is dramatically different,as is the speed with which they swim....(2) Discipline:The best swimmers aremore likely to be strict with their training,coming to workouts on time,carefully doingthe competitive strokes legally (i.e.,withoutviolating the technical rules ofthe sport),watch what they eat,sleep regular hours,doproper warmups before a meet,and the like.Their energy is carefully channeled.Diver GregLouganis,who won two Olympic gold medalsin 1984,practices only three hours each day—not a long time—divided into two or three ses-sions.But during each session,he tries to doevery dive perfectly.Louganis is never sloppy in practice,and so is never sloppy in meets.(3) Attitude:At the higher levels ofcom-petitive swimming,something like an inversionofattitude takes place.The very features ofthesport that the “C”swimmer finds unpleasant,the toplevel swimmer enjoys.What others seeas boring—swimming back and forth over ablack line for two hours,say—they find peace-ful,even meditative,often challenging,ortherapeutic.They enjoy hard practices,lookforward to difficult competitions,try to set dif-ficult goals.Coming into the 5:30
.practicesat Mission Viejo,many ofthe swimmers werelively,laughing,talking,enjoying themselves,perhaps appreciating the fact that most peoplewould positively hate doing it.It is incorrect tobelieve that top athletes suffer great sacrifices toachieve their goals.Often,they don’t see whatthey do as sacrificial at all.They like it.These qualitative differences are whatdistinguish levels ofthe sport.They are very noticeable,while the quantitative differencesbetween levels,both in training and in competi-tion,may be surprisingly small indeed....Yetvery small quantitative differences in perfor-mance may be coupled with huge qualitativedifferences:In the finals ofthe men’s 100-meterfreestyle swimming event at the 1984 Olympics,Rowdy Gaines,the gold medalist,finishedahead ofsecond-place Mark Stockwell by .44
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