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Positive Leaders are Assertive

By:  Toni Armstrong

It is day one of the long-course season.  You swam well last season, but your best friend swam better.  In fact, she beat you in your best and favorite event for the first time ever.  Although you are happy that she swam well, you’re upset that she swam faster than you.  To top it off, she doesn’t seem to be taking practice seriously and keeps goofing off and distracting you.   Your goal this season is to be more focused and dedicated, but your friend is making it difficult. What is your typical response to a situation like this?  Do you:

A. Ignore her.  When she asks if anything is wrong, you say no.  You grumble to yourself and roll your eyes when she is not looking.  You play little tricks on her to make her feel as irritated as you do. 

B. Yell at her.  Tell her that her goofing off is affecting your training, that you’re a better swimmer, and that her win was just a fluke...  Click HERE to Read Full Article


 This article is part two of five in a miniseries titled "Leadership Lanes" sponsored by  Swimming World Magazine .

This article is part two of five in a miniseries titled "Leadership Lanes" sponsored by Swimming World Magazine.

The Greatest Myth
of Leadership -- Followers

By:  Toni Armstrong

The leader-follower dynamic is symbiotic in nature where one cannot exist without the other.  It is as common a pairing as peanut butter and jelly, Romeo and Juliet, Thelma and Louise, Red Wine and Chocolate, and Bert and Ernie.  The core of this concept is true—you cannot lead without a group—but pairing a leader with a follower is highly problematic in positive leadership practices.  This is because a follower is as mythical a creature as a Greek Siren, and equally as dangerous for your program.

Have you ever asked a room full of people to raise their hands if they want to be a follower?  It doesn’t matter if this is a classroom of high schoolers, a room of coaches at a coaching conference, or professionals in a board room meeting.  The answer will be the same: stillness.  After a few awkward moments, people will slowly and uncomfortable begin raising their hands, as if volunteering tribute to the cause.  You see, everyone recognizes the value of followers, but no one wants to take the role.  Why is this?...
Click HERE To Read Full Article


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11 Reasons to STOP Setting Long-Term Goals

By:  Toni Armstrong

Wait, what? Stop setting long-term goals? But that is exactly how every coach starts their swimming season. That’s what all the Olympians and World Record holders do. That is what the coach who coached me did, and the coach who coached them, and the coach who coached them… Without a long-term goal, what motivation would any of us have for showing up each and every day? How will we know where we are going?

This is the typical response I get when I pitch the idea of cutting ties with setting long-term goals to any swim coach. Starting your season by setting a goal is so ingrained in the standard procedure of the swimming world that doing anything else seems insane. But is it really?... Click HERE to Read Full Article


 This article is the first of five in a miniseries titled "Leadership Lanes" sponsored by  Swimming World Magazine .

This article is the first of five in a miniseries titled "Leadership Lanes" sponsored by Swimming World Magazine.

STOP Setting Long-Term Goals

By:  Toni Armstrong

The 2010 Maryland State Short Course Championship Meet had an outbreak of stomach virus affecting so many swimmers that the CDC became involved.  Kids were puking on the deck left and right creating a hopeless and apocalyptic atmosphere.  Everyone felt that participation in the meet would likely end in a less desirable evening in the bathroom, and this left a vast majority of swimmers and coaches concluding their 2010 season feeling like failures.  The 2010 Men’s D1 NCAA’s suffered the same fate.

What if I were to tell you that goals were to blame for this feeling of failure and not the virus?  That setting goals fosters a fixed mindset where goals are your sole motivation and accomplishing them defines your talent and self-worth; that goals are psychologically damaging to your motivation, confidence, and definition of self-worth.  What if I were to tell you to burn your goal sheets?...  Click HERE to Read Full Article


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Ritter Sports Performance Podcast Interview with Toni Armstrong

In this podcast interview, Toni Armstrong discusses her philosophies on leadership--that it should be intentional and growth mindset focused.  She explains how contrary to popular opinion, athletics DO NOT teach leadership, and that the coach needs to have an intentional curriculum to develop the culture and leadership of their athletes.  She also highlights the importance of focusing on the process instead of the product.
Click Here to Hear the Full Podcast


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Leadership IS History - 10 Female Swimmers You Should Know

By:  Toni Armstrong

Recognizing that positive leadership requires knowing your history, and in honor of women's history month, Toni writes about the history of women's swimming.  She highlights the struggles women overcame to learn how to swim, gain admittance to bathing pools, and reform bathing suit laws.  From past to present, this article highlights the women who have paved the way in swimming, and proves correct the age old saying, "Women who behave, rarely make history."

Click Here to Read the Full Article


 Stanford Women’s Swimming just accomplished their most successful season to date. They claimed this year’s D1 National Championship Title along with an undefeated season, coach of the year award, academic all American status, and a handful of American Records. Current photo via Tim Binning/ TheSwimPictures.com

Stanford Women’s Swimming just accomplished their most successful season to date. They claimed this year’s D1 National Championship Title along with an undefeated season, coach of the year award, academic all American status, and a handful of American Records. Current photo via Tim Binning/TheSwimPictures.com

Why Feminists Should be Excited About Stanford Women's Swimming

By:  Toni Armstrong

I was a coach for USA Swimming for over 7 years and spent one year coaching college. I personally have felt the struggle of being a female coach in a male dominated career. I have been passed on for promotions for less qualified candidates based on my gender and marital status. I’ve even heard fellow coaches say things like “female coaches just want to be mommies” and “females cannot succeed without males to push them and keep them accountable.” It was negative experiences like these that inspired me to switch careers to Leadership Development...  Click HERE for Full Article


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Lessons from Legends

By:  George Kennedy

I retired from Johns Hopkins on June 30, 2017, and while I would love to say "and haven't looked back". That just is not true. It would be difficult just to leave after 31 years, go "cold turkey", and not look back (or continue to stay in the sport).  In fact, it would be nearly impossible.  So, it has been a thrill to work as a volunteer coach at Johns Hopkins and speak about some of the life skills learned in my decades as head coach... Click HERE for Full Article