Sergeant Tony's Blog

CHOKE PREVENTION — Sgt. Tony Ludlow’s Newsletter for August 18, 2010

Wednesday, Aug. 18th 2010 2:48 PM

I stood there, knowing that I was about to become famous.

But it wasn’t the kind of famous that comes from having fame or from doing something awesome. This famous was about to be acquired from doing something ignert. The King of Dunceville was about to lay the Sword of Stupidity upon my shoulders and confer upon me a knighthood. I was about to become “Sir Chokes-a-lot.”

This is what happened.

In addition to swimming on my high school swim team, I was also a diver. One of the guys in my neighborhood was a diver in college and had taken me under his wing the summer between 7th and 8th grade. That summer I went from doing “cannonballs” and “can openers” to “inward 1 ½ somersaults” and “reverse double somersaults.” I had to wear a sweatshirt to practice in cuz I landed on my back and my belly a lot.

Fast forward from that summer to the State Swimming and Diving Meet my senior year in high school and picture me in the finals of the state diving competition. In fact, as we join our story, our hero (Tony Ludlow), is actually in SECOND PLACE … with only one more dive to go! The guy in first place was untouchable. None of us were going to catch him. Second place was going to be GREAT though! My previous dives had gone really well and I’d practiced this last dive several times that morning. It was a reverse 2 1/2 somersault, degree of difficulty: 3.4.

And there I was. Standing on the board, preparing my thoughts and getting myself ready. You’ve seen this a thousand times before if you’ve watched diving on TV. Pretty standard procedure. The diver stands on the springboard for a few moments in mental preparation, beings to move forward, leaps into the air (called the hurdle), comes down in the board, the board flexes and the diver rides it into the air and performs the dive.

And there I stood, like I’d done a bazillion 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 about five hundred people in the aquatic center that day. My girlfriend was there. My friends and family. The other teams. The other team’s friends and family. The other team’s coaches. Officials and judges.

And everyone was waiting on me. All of those people.

And all of those people were being quiet.

And all of those people were being quiet for me.

Waiting on me.

And 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 background noise and scenery and of no consequence to me during the whole meet. I never even paid them any attention. But now … all of a sudden … for reasons I can’t explain … there they were! And they were all I could think about.

Eventually you have to do something. You just can’t stand on the diving board forever, looking like a big goober.

I thought that maybe once my feet started moving forward everything would just fall into place.

It didn’t.

But I continued moving toward anyway. I jumped up into the air — as seen on tv — came down on the end of the board, just like they do on tv … and instead of taking off into the air and performing the dive … I froze on the end of the board. I mean I literally FROZE!

“Boinngggggggggggggggggggg,” went the diving board and it bounced up and down with me on the end of it.

And there I was. Standing on the end of the board. Riding it up and down … NOT DIVING.

You could hear the collective sound of everyone in that place gasp. They sucked the air out of the building. They all made that “OHHHH!!!” sound that isn’t an exhale, but an inhale. And then that was followed by the “ohhhhhhh no” sound that was an exhale.

I heard the head judge say into the microphone, “BALK!”

“Balk”??? This ain’t no baseball game! But that’s what it’s called when a diver fails to “take off!”

What happens next? According to the rules, the diver can back up, regroup, and dive over. The thing is, he 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 …

I froze.

I was 17 years old and having the worst day of my life. I could literally FEEL the people leaning in and waiting for me to dive.
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’ll 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. Again, the collective and horrified inhale and exhale of the crowd.

“Scratch dive,” the judge announced.

Then came the walk of shame. I had to walk 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 stands where everyone was looking at me.

The place was quiet like a funeral home, not a library. I was looking down at my feet the whole time, not wanting to make eye contact with anyone. I was walking toward my team’s bench and glanced up just enough to see my coach having a melt down. His face was bright red and his teeth were clinched. He threw me a towel. Actually I think he threw the towel AT me. I caught it, put it over my head, and just kept walking … past the bench … all the way into the locker room. Where I sat for the rest of my life. Or so it seemed.

The small headline in the sports page the next day said “Local Diver Comes in Ninth in State Meet.” (Do you know that they actually HAVE a ribbon for 9th place!)

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.

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. 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. Relax. Breathe deeply. Focus. Breathe deeply. Smile (hard to be tense with a smile on your face). Breathe deeply.

Choke prevention.

You’re welcome!



The Collierville Battalion of USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP has officially moved to the Cordova/Arlington area!

Sgt. Les Bonnett and the Cordova-Arlington Battalion are training at 0515 (15 min earlier than our East Memphis location) at the Woodland Hills Church of Christ at 10011 Woodland Hills Drive, Cordova, TN 38018

CALL SGT. LES for more information at 901-592-7097



The 0830 Class will return to ACTIVE DUTY status on Wednesday, September 8!

I’m looking forward to seeing you 0830 Boot Campers!! Don’t forget that there is child care available at the church for this class!



It’s getting close.

Training for the St. Jude Half Marathon begins on Saturday, September 4. This is perfect for the first time beginner half marathoner or even the half marathon veteran.

Can you do this?

If by August 31st you can run 3 miles without stopping in under 35 min, you’ll be ready to begin training. This assumes that you’re doing an hour of continuous cardio on the weekends.

Training is open to all. Cost for the three month training is $75 for members of USMC Fitness Boot Camp and $120 for non-boot campers.



If you’re a part of a family (usually husband and wife) that does USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP, a new pricing plan goes into effect in August! Ask me about it! You’ll like it!



To mark the occasion all new enlistments next month will only be $90 and a One Year Tour of Duty will only be $475.

Other celebrations and such are planned and you’ll hear more soon!





Have you been away from USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP for a while? Comfortable in Turdeville? Wanna come back? C’mon then!! I won’t bite you! (see above!)

I know how it is. You miss a day or two … and then it’s been a week or two … and then it’s a month or two …

Get back on track. Come back to the Quarterdeck!



Facebook has now reached a major milestone: 500 million users! One out of every 14 people on the planet are on Facebook.

That’s the population of the US, Japan, and Germany combined! Half a BILLION people are on Facebook.

In the world of cyber-marketing, Facebook usage can’t be ignored.

So here’s our experiment.

Make a Facebook status update and get a discount!

For every status update that you make that references:
“USMC Fitness Boot Camp,”
“Sgt. Tony’s Boot Camp,”
“Tony’s Boot Camp,”
or something similar, you can take $2.50 off your reenlistment fee for each update, up to $20 off for any given month!

Your status update has to be a specific reference to USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP or to me specifically by name.

You can use Foursquare linked to your Facebook account to “check in” and you’ll get the same discount!

You can use YELP and write an awesome review!

Use your own wording and personality, just include the specifics.

So log on and get started today!



Take Shape For Life is the BEST weight loss program I know of. If you’d like to lose weight talk to me. This is the program I used to lose the almost 30 pounds I gained after knee surgery. Let me help you!

You can also go to


BOGA tomorrow at CUMC @ 0530. BOGA is one half hard core boot camp fitness and one half power yoga … BO-GA!



The Tuesday and Thursday evening classes meet at St. Agnes’ track. These are cardio (walking/jogging/running) workouts and they begin at 5:45 PM.

St. Agnes is at the corner of Walnut Grove and Mendenhall.

Should the St. Agnes track be occupied or the field being used, making the track unavailable to us, we’ll go to St. Mary’s track, at Walnut Grove and Perkins.



A calendar has been added to the official USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP website.

For you visual learners, you’ll find this an easy way to glance at the week or month and see where the workouts will be, if there’s a venue change.


What would you do if money were not an issue, fear were not a factor, and failure were not an option?

To your optimum health and fitness!



Sergeant Major Tony Ludlow

USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP, Commanding
Mailing address: 4888 Southern Ave., Memphis, TN 38117
Cell Phone: 901-644-0145–

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