Some years ago, I attended an hour-long presentation by a prominent physiologist who worked with the Navy SEALs. He started by stating that after working with the SEALs, he had to raise his expectations about the training volume and intensity human beings are capable of sustaining. Then, what I thought was going to be a talk about high-level training, turned out to be a talk about high-level recovery. For Navy Seals—and athletes—to train at the highest level requires the highest level of recovery. As coaches, we (I know I did) often focus on training and overlook recovery.

Does this sound familiar? A diver sleeps an extra 15 minutes and skips breakfast. After morning practice, he heads to school and forgets to pack a lunch. At afternoon practice, he “runs out of gas” and can’t train worth a darn.

How about this scenario? A diver continually stays up late every night engaging in social media and gets less sleep than she needs. At practice, she’s physically and mentally tired, unproductive, and uncoachable. Over the next several weeks, her sleep schedule worsens—as does her training.

Good nutrition and sleep are critical components of recovery. Lack of sleep is a common problem among young athletes.


After practice one day, I was talking with one of my divers who had just finished another horrendous practice for the week. He was a fantastic team leader but that day and week he wasn’t making sense. He was talking like a crazy man. For some reason, I asked him, “Jon, have you been getting good sleep?” He replied, “Coach, I haven’t slept more than 2-3 hours a night for over two weeks.”

Sleep is a necessity for physical and mental recovery. I like this quote, “This, scientists are just now learning, is the brain on sleep. It’s nature’s panacea, more powerful than any drug in its ability to restore and rejuvenate the human brain and body.”

In Jon’s case, he couldn’t train at his best because of sleep deprivation. When he regained his normal sleep schedule, he regained his mental clarity and ability to train hard.

Sleep is important for everyone, including coaches, but especially important for young athletes because it:

    • Restores and repairs the brain

    • Builds and strengthens memories

    • Facilitates creative problem solving

    • Activates growth hormones

    • Aids physical recovery and rehabilitation

    • Maintains and regains emotional balance

We know from research that individuals who DON’T get enough sleep:

    • Lose brainpower

    • Gain weight

    • Get sick

    • Become irritable

    • Feel old

    • Reduce productivity

In other words, they become stupid, fat, sick, grumpy, old, and lazy!