Archives For Michael Phelps

On August 13, 2008 in Beijing, China Michael Phelps won the 200 butterfly for another medal. Big deal right? If you know anything about the Olympics, swimming, and Phelps it was expected.

He did it blind because his goggles were completely filled with water. Yes, he swam lengths of the pool without being able to see and won.

How?  Visualization, deliberate practice, and the genius of his coach Bob Bowman.

Michael Phelps had started swimming when he was seven years old to burn off some of the energy that was driving his mom and teachers crazy. He was very emotional, had problems coping with stress due to parents divorce, and had trouble calming down before races.

Enter Coach Bob Bowman. He purchased a book of relaxation exercises and asked Phelps’s mom to read them aloud every night. The book contained a script—“Tighten your right hand into a fist and release it. Imagine the tension melting away”—that tensed and relaxed each part of Phelps’s body before he fell asleep. Bowman believed that for swimmers, the key to victory was creating the right routines.

Bowman could also see that Phelps, even at a young age, had a capacity for obsessiveness that made him an ideal athlete. Then again, all elite performers are obsessives.

All he needed to do was target a few specific habits that had nothing to do with swimming and everything to do with creating the right mind-set. He designed a series of behaviors that Phelps could use to become calm and focused before each race, to find those tiny advantages that, in a sport where victory can come in milliseconds, would make all the difference.

When Phelps was a teenager, for instance, at the end of each practice, Bowman would tell him to go home and “watch the videotape. Watch it before you go to sleep and when you wake up. The videotape wasn’t real. Rather, it was a mental visualization of the perfect race.

During practices, when Bowman ordered Phelps to swim at race speed, he would shout, “Put in the videotape!

Eventually, all Bowman had to do before a race was whisper, “Get the videotape ready”.

On that day in Beijing the leaking goggles were a minor deviation, but one for which Phelps was prepared. Bowman had once made Phelps swim in a Michigan pool in the dark, believing that he needed to be ready for any surprise.

The genius, wisdom, deliberate practice, and direction of a coach caused a confused, stressed, highly emotional little boy to grow up into the most heroic Olympic athlete this world has ever seen.

What if you as a pastor could reach the greatest potential possible but you’re lacking one thing….. a coach?

According to Raymond Gleason, there’s


 1.  Define your current reality by helping you consider – What is my present situation? Where am I headed?

2.  Clarify your vision and goals.

  • Many people continually react to their current reality rather than living and working with purpose. A coach first leads you to define what success looks like so you can set goals toward achieving it.

3.  Identify roadblocks to your vision.

  • This requires that you acknowledge and address areas of comfort and familiarity that are commonly overlooked as barriers to your success.

4.  Test your thinking, opinions, conclusions, and behavior.

  • It’s easy to get stuck in a rut – doing the same things and thinking the same way while expecting different results.

5.  Establish accountability by helping you evaluate – Am I making progress? Am I growing? Am I accomplishing my vision?

  • Many get off track because they confuse intent or busyness with progress. A coach helps you accomplish what you set out to accomplish.

These are reasons why I became a health coach and why we’ve trained nearly 20 others to coach pastors in their health.

So how about you? Are you reaching your full potential as a pastor? Do you have the adequate energy level to fulfill your calling day in and day out? Are you dealing with emotional baggage or stress that is holding you back?

Watch this interview with my friend Mark Entzminger, Senior Director of Children’s Ministries for the Assemblies of God, who reached out and hired a health coach. In the last 10 minutes he shares openly what Fit Pastors did for him and how it could benefit you.

If you’re interested in grabbing a spot in our winter season of coaching huddles click here. The price of admission gets you your own personal coach.

* The excerpts about the Michael Phelps story is from the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg