By CHRIS MARKHAM
Recently named as one of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” by Fortune Magazine, head swim coach at Johns Hopkins University George Kennedy recently spoke at the University of Mary Washington, his daughter’s alma mater.
Student-athletes from every sport at UMW gathered in the Anderson Center on Sunday, Sept. 21 to listen to the legendary coach give advice on how to succeed on multiple platforms, not just in sports. Kennedy spun his discussion in a more college-specific direction, focusing on alcohol consumption, necessary rest, nutrition and positive attitudes.
Kennedy ranks 36th on Fortune Magazine’s list, joining company that includes Bill Clinton, Derek Jeter, Mike Krzyzewski, the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis.
Kennedy’s main focus of the speech was to promote the use of a positive attitude every day of one’s life. He encouraged the student-athletes to bring a 9.9 level of attitude every day because “nobody is perfect.” Kennedy drove home the idea that the level of attitude brought to practice every day can have a tremendous impact of the rest of the team.
“The important thing about attitude is that it is directional,” Kennedy said. “We have good days and we have bad days, and how we wake up in the morning determines that.”
Kennedy’s daughter, Catherine Kennedy, is a graduate of UMW and is one of the greatest lacrosse players in school history. She holds the school and conference record for most goals in a career and in a single game.
The legendary coach was joined by one of his assistant coaches and 2014 JHU graduate Joseph Acquaviva, who was called upon to provide UMW student-athletes with an inside perspective of what it was like to be coached by Kennedy, and how his team handled alcohol consumption during the season.
Acquaviva described the Johns Hopkins men’s swim team as a “drinking team with a swimming problem” during his freshman year. Over his tenure, the team became more and more strict on the idea of a “dry season,” where the team would refrain from drinking alcohol until the end of the season.
Kennedy referenced a moment in 1982 when one of his best friends was diagnosed with cancer. His friend told Kennedy that his only option was to “carry out his best attitude every day.” Because of this, he was able to beat cancer and is still alive today. Since then, Kennedy has been inspired by his friend’s efforts and encourages others to do the same.
Also in his speech, Kennedy addressed the need for necessary rest and nutrition. He shared the strategies that he implements on his teams and how they benefit from them.
Rest and proper nutrition are two difficult items for college students to keep a handle on, so Kennedy stressed the importance of time management and muscle recovery.
“I am here today because what we do works and I want to share it with you,” Kennedy said during his speech.
Kennedy is in his 30th year of coaching and was awarded National Coach of the Year seven times by the NCAA. Last year, the Johns Hopkins swim teams both finished in the top-four at the NCAA Championships. Kennedy’s teams have finished in the top-10 at the NCAA Championships an astounding 44 times during his illustrious career; 26 times by the men’s team and 18 times by the women’s team.