A Perfect 10 — Tony Ludlow, blog post for 4/11/2018
After reading a recent essay I wrote, a friend of many years said, “Tony, I think I’ve heard most of your stories, (he hasn’t … I haven’t even told half my stories!) but I don’t think I’d ever heard that one.”
By most accounts, some of you have heard this particular story. In fact, several of you tell me it’s your favorite story.
Bless your hearts. Thank you for that!
I shared this tale with a new friend the other day. She was also a swimmer and diver in high school. And since she thought it … amusing, I share it again. A humiliating story from the annals of yours truly.
Allow me to set the scene.
Imagine, if you will, you’re sitting in the aquatic center at the University of Arkansas. You’re watching the State Swimming and Diving Meet. It is the senior year of this story teller’s high school adventure.
As we join our story, yours truly is standing on the diving board, preparing to perform his tenth and final dive of the state meet. (I never know if I should capitalize that or not: State Meet?)
I stood there, suspecting that fame was in my grasp.
But it wasn’t the kind of fame that comes from doing something awesome. This kind of fame was about to be acquired by doing something dreadful.
This is what happened.
In addition to being an unremarkable swimmer on my high school swim team, I was also a slightly average diver. I came by this perishable skill through the help of one of my brother’s friends, Paul. Paul had been a diver in college and took me under his wing during the summer between my 7th and 8th grade. That summer I went from doing “cannonballs” and “can openers” to doing “inward 1 ½ somersaults” and “reverse double somersaults.” Learning those kinds of dives required me to wear a sweatshirt to practice in. I landed on my back and my belly a lot.
Fast forward from that summer to the State Swimming and Diving Meet. And now picture me in the finals of the state diving competition. In fact, as we turn our attention back to that meet, our hero (Tony Ludlow), is actually in SECOND PLACE (pure luck, I assure you!) … with only one more dive to go!
The guy in first place was mathematically untouchable. None of us were going to catch him. Second place was going to be GREAT though! My previous dives had gone pretty well and I’d practiced this last dive several times that morning. The dive was a reverse 2 ½ somersault, degree of difficulty: 2.8.
And there I was, standing on the board, preparing my thoughts and getting myself ready. If you’ve watched diving on television, you’ve no doubt seen divers do this many times.
Diving is a pretty standard solitary sport. It’s not easy, mind you. But no one is playing defense against you, trying to keep you from doing the dive. There’s no adversary trying to trip you up. No one is trash-talking you from the stands. In point of fact, everyone is quiet when you dive.
The diver stands on the springboard ten feet or so from the end of the board in mental preparation. Then when he or she is ready, the diver strides forward, leaps straight up into the air (called the hurdle), and comes down on the end of the board. Then the board flexes, and the diver rides it into the air and performs the dive.
So, there I stood, like I’d done a hundred times before. Nothing unusual at all … until something happened.
For reasons I can’t explain, I became painfully aware of everyone waiting on me to dive.
There were hundreds of people in the aquatic center that day. All of my teammates were there. My girlfriend was there. Friends from school were there. All of the other teams from around the state were there. The other team’s friends and families were there. The other team’s coaches, officials, and judges were there. The place was packed.
And everyone was waiting on me. All of those people … waiting.
And all of those people were being quiet.
And all of those people silent so I could concentrate.
Everyone was looking at me.
And waiting on me.
To do something.
But there I stood.
No one was whispering. No one was standing up. No one was moving at all. I could feel everyone leaning forward, holding their collective breath waiting for me.
This crowd of people had been simple background noise, scenery with no consequence to me during the whole swim meet. I never paid them any attention. But now … all of a sudden … for reasons I can’t explain … there they were! They’d materialized in my consciousness like they’d been beamed there by the USS Enterprise, NCC 1701.
One minute they weren’t there, and then in the blink of an eye, there they were.
And that crowd of people was all I could think about.
Eventually you have to do something. You can’t just stand on the diving board forever. I don’t actually know if there’s a time limit, like a shot-clock, where you MUST go. But I didn’t want some referee or umpire to jump up and blow a whistle or throw a flag for delay of game. I didn’t want to be ordered to dive.
And I could feel everyone becoming anxious. Whatever the usual time for gathering my wits was allowed, I felt I’d probably exceeded it. The crowd’s anxiety was rising. My not doing something was making them uncomfortable. I had to move. I had to do something.
I thought maybe once my feet started moving forward everything would fall into place. It would become rote. It would just happen!
But I continued moving forward anyway, praying for inspiration! I jumped up into the air — as seen on TV — came down on the end of the board, as seen on TV … and instead of taking off into the air and performing the dive, as seen on TV … I froze on the end of the board. I mean I FROZE there!
“Boinngggggggggggggggggggg,” went the diving board and it bounced up and down with me on the end of it riding it up and down with bent knees, looking more ridiculous than I have the ability to explain. Imagine the most absurd scene you can conjure and then double it.
And there I was. NOT DIVING.
You could hear the collective sound of everyone in that place gasp. They sucked the air out of the building, making that “OOOHHHH!!!” sound as they inhaled all of the oxygen, followed by the “ohhhhhhh no” whisper that was an exhale.
“Nononononono!” I said to myself.
In that situation, there is nowhere to hide. You’re completely exposed! Standing on the end of a 3 meter board in a swimsuit skimpier than your underwear, there’s nothing to hide behind. AND, you’ve just done something no other diver had done during the two-day meet … or EVER! And ALL EYES are upon you.
Time suspended and every second passed like an hour.
I heard the head judge say into the microphone, “BALK!” But he said that in slow motion, like you’re playing a song at half speed.
Yes, that’s right. They called “balk,” just like in baseball. That’s what it’s called when a diver fails to “take off!” No one in the aqua-center at the University of Arkansas had ever heard the judge say that because no one had ever seen what I had just done. I had never seen what I had just done! Or not done, as the case was.
What happens next?
I wasn’t even sure. I was ready to just jump in and do a cannonball or a can opener and splash the judges. But I didn’t.
According to the rules, the diver can back up, regroup, and do the dive. Unfortunately, the diver will only be awarded HALF the points he’d have gotten. So, a dive that would’ve scored 50, would only be awarded 25 points.
Just like that, second place was gone.
I backed up, regrouped, and took my spot on the board again. Waited for the judge to indicate that they were ready for me to dive. Got the signal. And …
With EVERYONE in the place leaning forward and watching my every move …
I was 17 years old and having the worst day of my entire life in front of a crowd of people … and I was doing it practically naked. I could literally FEEL the people sitting on the edge of their seats, waiting for me to dive, willing me down the board and into the air.
I thought maybe THIS time it would work. I’ll just start my approach … go into the hurdle … come down on the board and it would happen. It’ll be magic!
It was a disaster.
The exact same thing happened. With me planted on the end of the board like a 5-year-old afraid to jump. And again, the collective and horrified inhale and exhale of the crowd. And it all happened in slow motion in my mind.
“SCRATCH DIVE,” announced the judge soberly.
What happens next?
I’ll tell you what happens next.
The ultimate walk of shame is what happens next. I had to walk back to the other end of the board and climb down the ladder. Once I got down the ladder I had to walk the entire length of the pool and in front of the stands where everyone was looking at me.
Funeral homes have more fun and excitement than that place as I walked. I was looking down at my feet the whole time, not wanting to make eye contact with anyone. I could hear the sounds of people murmuring and the sounds of teenage girls giggling.
I walked toward my team’s bench and glanced up just enough to see my coach having a meltdown. His face was bright red and his teeth were clinched. I could see the veins in his temple and neck. He threw a towel to me. Actually, I think he threw the towel AT me. I caught it, put the towel over my head, and just kept walking. I walked past the bench where all of my teammates sat … all the way into the locker room. And there I sat for the next 5 years. Or so it seemed.
The next day there was a tiny headline buried on the 5th page of the sports section of my hometown newspaper that said, “Local Diver Comes in Ninth in State Meet.” (Do you know that they actually HAVE a ribbon for 9th place!) I went from 2nd out of 14 to 9th in the most epic fail known to man … That’s how I felt.
The next week at school I was met in the hallway by my worthless friends mocking my shame with “BalkBalkBalkBalkBalk” … sort of like how someone imitates a chicken clucking. Like how that camel in the GEICO commercial who said, “MikeMikeMikeMike, guess what day it is?”
I had no focus on the board that day. I became distracted. I thought of everything else but what was important. If I had blocked out everything else and concentrated on the main thing, I’d have taken home a trophy and a title instead of that little pathetic 9th place ribbon. If I had put my energies into the dive instead of the distraction, the headline would have read differently and might have been on the front page of the sports section.
I’ve learned since then how not to choke.
How do you stand up in front of the world and perform? How do you walk into a situation with the potential for embarrassment and humiliation and not choke and stumble? How do you nail that interview, that speech, that presentation, that meeting with the boss, that blind date?
In a word, breathe and relax. Get control over your breathing because you’ve probably started breathing shallow. When you’re tense you breathe shallow and your whole body gets tense. And the more tense you get, the more tense you get.
Concentrate on your breathing.
Slow your breathing down and breathe deeply.
Smile (hard to be tense with a smile on your face).
Tell yourself something funny or obscene!
And then tell yourself that you can do it! You can do it! You can do it!
Choke prevention from Tony Ludlow
— 30 —
Through the years—almost 19 now—folks have been super supportive of USMC Fitness Boot Camp and all that I do through it.
Weekly, I hear from former boot campers who’ve moved away. They write saying how significant the program was to them, how much they miss it, and how much they enjoy getting the newsletters and Facebook updates.
Sometimes, those who’ve moved away send money because they want to be helpful and to support the program. This happened just a few days ago. Sometimes these folks know that at any point in time, there are about half a dozen boot campers coming for free because they lost their job, or there’s been some other detrimental change in their finances and they’d have to drop out boot camp.
We’re the only fitness company in Memphis that allows members to continue to participate for free if they lose their jobs or their finances take a horrible hit. And when they’re back on their feet, they just start paying from that point forward. The months they came for free never have to be paid back.
I consider what I do to be more ministry than business, and don’t kick anyone out because of money problems.
Like you, I support different causes and organizations in Memphis just because I believe in what they do and want to help them keep doing it. Monthly, I support 8 different local entities, including WKNO and Literacy Mid-South.
Additionally, last year I started supporting two different people on a site called Patreon. It’s a way to support artists, musicians, writers, instructors, and others who produce content or provide services of a broad nature but might not be able to continue doing so without financial support from patrons … like how educators, artists, musicians, and others were supported by patrons back in the day.
I’ve been encouraged to join Patreon myself, giving folks an opportunity to support the program in small automatic monthly amounts.
Check out the page and if you feel led to support the work I do, even if it’s $1 a month, the number of patrons will be an encouragement to me and others!
Thank you so much!
80% OF YOUR WEIGHT LOSS SUCCESS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH EXERCISE!
DO YOU USE VENMO?
If you’d like to pay using VENMO, you may! I’m Tony Ludlow on VENMO!
If you’re unfamiliar with VENMO, it’s a payment app for your phone (or computer) owned by PayPal and functions like a check. You can LITERALLY make a payment on your phone in less time than it takes to fill out a check! Click, click, click, done! All done!
TODAY’S NUTRITION TALK
by Sergeant Major Ashley Holloway, Registered Dietitian, LDN
(A Registered Dietitian has a BS in Food Science, followed by a one-year internship through an accredited university, and then with the recommendation of the internship program’s supervisor, a national examination is required. After that, an RD must have continuing education units annually in order to remain active and registered. An RD is an expert, not a hobbyist or a “food enthusiast.”)
The meat section at the grocery store can sometimes be a little overwhelming. There are so many cuts to choose from and then they are all labeled with different terms like “choice” or “prime.” How do you know what to choose? Hopefully the information below will help sort out some of the confusion.
For most types of meat, the more fat that is on and in the meat, means more flavor. The less fat and marbling (the white streaks of fat throughout the meat) of the meat means it is less tender and less flavor.
The meat we see in the stores all meets safety standards set by the The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is all then graded and labeled as either USDA Prime, USDA Choice, or USDA Select. These grades are not based on nutrition, but instead are based on juiciness, flavor, and texture. “Prime” is considered the best quality, is the fattiest, has lots of marbling throughout, is tender, and is full of flavor. The next best is considered “Choice” which are still
high quality cuts of meat, but are leaner with less marbling. “Select” cuts are the leanest of the bunch with little to no marbling.
If you are cooking a steak and are looking for tenderness, juiciness, and flavor, I would choose a “Prime” cut. If I am making a stew that has a lot of seasoning and is cooked over low heat for a long period of time, I would go with the “select” cut. It is less expensive and will become more tender with the slow cooking process and more flavorful with the seasoning of the stew.
When choosing ground meat, the numbers represent the amount of lean versus the amount of fat in the meat. For instance, and meat that is 80/20 is 80% lean and 20% fat by weight and 90/10 is 90% lean and 10% fat. The more fat usually means more flavor and juiciness. The higher the fat content the higher the calorie level too. The advice for consuming is the same for whole pieces of meat. If you are mixing it into a flavorful dish, leaner may be a great choice
because of less calories and total fat, but if you are wanting a super juicy burger, higher fat ground meat would be your go to.
It is important to note that often ground turkey isn’t always the better choice then extra lean ground beef. In regular ground turkey it can contain dark and white meat and even skin and fat. This can increase the calories and fat content. On the other hand, ground turkey breast, which is the white meat only, is fairly lean. But in a side by side comparison, the leanest ground beef
still comes out on top in regard to grams of total protein and the mineral content.
MAKE A FACE!!!!
INCREASE YOUR WEIGHTS!
YOU GET OUT WHAT YOU PUT IN!
What you get out of the workouts is determined by you.
How much do you work? How much effort you put into trying to do all of the repetitions with proper form and how much weight you’re using will determine what you get out of each workout.
YOU DETERMINE WHETHER YOUR WORKOUT IS HALF-ASS OR KICKASS!
It’s time for you to go up in weights … that’s what I’m thinking!
MAKING A FACE (THE GRIMACE) IS THE POOR MAN’S (OR WOMAN’S) FACELIFT!
EVERY WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY ARE T-SHIRT DAY!
WEAR YOUR RANK INSIGNIA SHIRT, SUB 7 SHIRT, OR OTHER USMC FITNESS BOOT CAMP SHIRT EVERY WEDNESDAY!
Have a GREAT day!
Yours in good health and fitness!