A Coach’s Lessons for Life

After an incredible 31 years as UCLA Swimming & Diving’s Head Coach, Cyndi Gallagher is retiring. Cyndi competed for UCLA as a student-athlete, became an assistant coach, and then took over the program in 1988. Over the course of her career, the Bruins finished in the top-15 in 15 seasons and she coached 11 Olympians and 91 All-Americans. She was also on the coaching staff for Team USA for numerous international competitions.

I’ll forever be grateful for my opportunity to compete for UCLA and swim for Cyndi. I learned many lessons from Cyndi when I was a student-athlete, almost all of which are still relevant in my life today. In honor of her retirement, I am sharing 19 points of wisdom that Cyndi instilled in her student-athletes. – Liz Keating

  1. Find a way. There is always a way to get the job done – you just have to dig deep to find it.
  2. Be in the moment. When you’re in the pool, be focused on swimming. When you’re in the classroom, pay attention to the class. When you’re with your friends, be fully present with your friends.
  3. The sooner you get in, the sooner you get out. This probably works for every day life, but when it came to swim practice, this was actually a lie. The sooner we got in the pool, the longer we swam because no matter what, practice ended when the Powell Library bells rang.
  4. There is no excuse to be off on Monday morning. You have the weekend to do what you need to do – whether it is spending quality time with family and friends, getting caught up on work, rest, or anything else. You should be prepared, on top of your game, and on time first thing Monday morning.
  5. Fuel your mind, body, and soul. Take care of yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally. You can’t perform if one or more is out of balance.
  6. Strength needs flexibility. You may be building strength, but if you lose your range of motion, you won’t get better.
  7. You can have a successful career and still be a great mother.
  8. Everyone deserves a second chance. You aren’t defined by your failures. You are defined by how you grow from those failures.
  9. Celebrate the highs and learn from the lows, but never lose sight of the next step.
  10. Always be ready to perform at your best at an unexpected time (get-out swim). If you put in the hard work, you’ll be ready to perform at the highest level at swim practice at 6 AM on a Tuesday morning or in the championship final of the Olympic Games.
  11. Take advantage of your resources. If you need help, ask. You’re only as good as you allow yourself to be.
  12. It’s all about the journey. Success doesn’t happen overnight. It happens with every alarm clock, every lap, every set back, every time you push your limit a little further. Without the journey, there is no joy in the success.
  13. Own your mistakes. Admit them and learn from them.
  14. Have gratitude. Take a moment every single day to write down something you are grateful for. You will be surprised at the number of blessings in your life. It will change your mindset.
  15. Get out of your comfort zone. You cannot grow and improve if you stay comfortable.
  16. Celebrate as a team. You can excel, but you are nothing without your teammates. They are a part of your success and you are a part of theirs.
  17. Put in the work today so you can have confidence tomorrow. Don’t cheat yourself. You should be able to look back and confidently know you did the best you were capable of doing.
  18. Honesty is the best policy. Be honest with everyone around you, but most importantly, be honest with yourself. Only you know if you’re putting in your best effort.
  19. Love. Love your family, love your friends, love your teammates, love yourself.
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