Tom Avischious: John Leonard and I were talking about trying to do something a little bit different in the age group track this morning and these 6 fine panelists have agreed to be the guinea pigs. John was talking to me about the age group programs in the country that are consistently the best. Was there a way that we could get some of them to come in and speak about their program? And one of the things that we were trying to figure out was, how do we pick out who those teams are? As a starting reference, we used the USA Swimming Virtual Club Championships and we ran a mythical Virtual Club Championships based on points for age group swimming from 9-14 years old. We came up with the top 10 ranked clubs and we have six of the ten represented here today. We did have 4 that were not able to attend, just so you know why these clubs were represented here today. I contacted the head coaches of the teams and they asked one of their age group coaches to sit in on the panel here.
First of all I would like to introduce the panel: to your right is Ken LaMont from Irvine Nova. Coach LaMont is an Associate Head Coach at the club’s Northwood location, where he has been involved with Irvine Nova for a very long time. Next to him is Dave Kraft from Rockville Montgomery. He has been coaching at Rockville Montgomery Swim Club since 1996 and has coached the National Development Group – basically ages ranging from 10-14 – since 2000. In that time his swimmers have racked up 250 National age group reportable swims and 99 have qualified for Potomac Valley Zone Team. Next to him is Leigh Robbins from Nova of Virginia. I do have to mention that Nova Virginia asked if they could have two coaches on the panel. So, Leigh and Dave Schreck are going to switch out. I was informed before hand that Leigh is the big picture person, and in Leigh’s exact words, “Dave is the Micro Manager.” It will be interesting to hear the difference between the two when they talk. Leigh has been Lead Age Group Coach and Senior Developmental Coach with Nova of Virginia since 2000. She works with both the age group and senior levels of the Nova program. Her primary responsibilities include developing State Champion and Nationally ranked 12 and under swimmers, as well as developing 14-18 year olds targeting the sectional, Junior and Senior National levels of the sport. Dave has 21 years of age group coaching experience on the USA swimming level and has been part of the Nova of Virginia for the past 9 years, where he has been voted Virginia Age Group Coach of the Year the last 5 out of 6 years. Next to Leigh, is Ad’m Dusenbury with the Mission Viejo Nadadores, where he has been for the past 3 ½ years. He is the 13-14 Division Director and prior to that he worked with Coach George Block from Alamo Area Aquatic Association as both a women’s age group coach and as a head high school swimming and water polo coach. Next to him we have Ricky Silva from Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics. Ricky is the Head Age Group Coach of the Rinconada site of PASA. Ricky began with PASC which has developed into a team of over 700 swimmers. Ricky works with the junior groups, which include swimmers from novice to Junior National levels. Finally we have Yuri Sugulyama from Curl-Burke. Coach Sugulyama is entering his 3rd year of coaching with Curl-Burke Swim Club. He is the Head Coach of the Holton Arms training site which is located in Bethesda, Maryland and is home to approximately 130 of the club’s over 1,000 athletes.
Here is just a little bit of what we are going to try to do today. This is going to be three 1 hour sessions. I promise we will take breaks. That is more for the panelists than you out there and that we will probably go about an hour or so at each time. We are going to be covering a variety of different questions. I sent them a small list of 45 questions to be thinking about. Once we start going through them, if there are some questions from the audience we will certainly entertain those as well. We are going to try and go in order of the questions that I sent them ahead of time, and hopefully we won’t be repeating questions.
This will not be three 1 hour sessions of the same thing. We are going to try to go through a bunch of different things. What we wanted to try to do is make this something that we have never done before. The goal is to get some in-depth discussions going from clubs that have done a very good job at the age group level. One other thing I want to mention to you is that we had asked Ken to be one of the participants on the panel. He originally came to the clinic because his father was being inducted in the ASCA Hall of Fame for coaching. Originally his flight arrangements didn’t include being on part of this panel, so he will be leaving.
The first thing that I would like to do is just have each one of the panelists give a couple of minute overview of their program. This is so you can get an idea of the type of program that each one is operating under. The other thing I would ask, is for panelists to please use the microphones. We will start with Ken.
Ken Lamont: Again, my name is Ken Lamont. I am with the Irvine Nova Aquatics, which is part of Southern California Swimming. Like most of the teams here I believe, we are a multi-site program. We operate out of four different locations. Out of those four different locations we actually have five 50 meter pools we get to use. Before you start to drool too much, we do not have full access of all those pools all the time, so we are restricted as much as you guys are. Thank you for that, I appreciate your sympathy. One of our locations is in Fountain Valley, where we run the full gauntlet of the program; everything from our senior program to our age group program to our development program. Our second location is out of SOKA University in Aliso Viejo. We run the full gauntlet there as well. One of our head coaches is also the Head Coach of SOKA University. We get a little bit of control over that pool and that is part of our rationale of him taking the position at that pool.
Our other two locations are in Irvine and we very often refer to those two locations as one site. That is because they are both managed by the City of Irvine. One is at Northwood High School and the other one is at the William Woollet Aquatic Center, which is probably the pool you think of most when you think of our team. The Woollet Center is where our age groupers swim. The Northwood location is where our senior level swims. Between those two locations we run the full gauntlet of the program.
At all of the locations we try very hard to run the exact same program. At every single site the coaches have all gotten together to make sure that the time standards for the age group program are all the same to qualify for one of the age group programs. The time standards and requirements for the senior program are all the same as well. If for some reason a kid within our program were to move for whatever reason, he would find the exact same training, water time, dryland time and group requirements at any other site.
At each of the sites, we have an Associate Head Coach which manages the site and then we all report to our Head Coach or CEO, Dave Salo. He is still very active in the program. We still have meetings with him once a week and I see him as much as I ever did. Thank you.
Dave Kraft: My name is Dave Kraft and I am from the Rockville Montgomery Swim Club. We operate out of 5 sites in Montgomery County, Maryland. A lot of the things that Ken just mentioned are pretty much the same in our program. We do run 5 sites and four of the five are run by the county. They have the exact same level progressions and group requirements and things like that. One of our sites is run by the City of Rockville and it is a little bit different and independent.
I know that nobody is going to cry for my problems either, with this club of 1400 swimmers and all these pools and things to our advantage. We do fight a couple of fights against exercise classes and things like that. You wouldn’t believe that a competitive program that has been around for forty years would have to take a back seat, but it does and we fight for some small water time when it comes to that. I think another reason that we are successful is because of the amount of levels that we are able to offer. Again, this is a luxury for a big club like ours. At every site we have 8 different levels of progression that go from a strictly 8 and under group, to 4 different levels of what we consider age group training. Those range from the 2 day a week total novice to the 5 day a week 13 year old that is ready to make the jump. And then we have 3 different levels of senior swimming as well; a high school supplement, a 5 day a week thing, and then our National training group.
This allows us to do a lot of things club wide, even though the coaches at each site sometimes do things a little differently. I think we are becoming more collaborative as the years go by and we will be sharing some of those thoughts later today. Thanks.
Leigh Robbins: Good morning. We are not a multi-club site and we are about half the size of Rockville-Montgomery. We are probably one of the largest teams in the country still operating under one roof. We will probably hit about 700 swimmers this year. We own our own facility which has two training pools – 10 lanes x 25 yard – that are under the same roof. One was built in 1996 and the other was built at the end of 2005. We own the Virginia Swim Shop which operates as a fund raiser for our program. We have a swim lesson program that does hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Our senior swimmers are huge factors in teaching the swim lessons. This is all apart of our budget and we are pretty self-sustaining.
I believe we work with 8 full-time coaches. Every senior coach in our program also works with one of the age group programs, including the head coach who has been coaching for over 30 years. There are four of us that are full-time senior coaches and we each have two coaching responsibilities. For instance, our head coach Jeff Brown, runs our National group and he is the head coach of our Novice Gold program, which consists of 110 eight year olds. He sees for two hours – two different hour long groups every day – 5 days a week. I do the same thing. I work with a senior group. One of our senior – basically a senior development level group – Junior National level – 14-18 year olds and I also work with our 10 year olds that gold level so we have broken some things out. David does the same thing – a silver level and a gold level within the age group program. That is a big part of our philosophy. I think that it has been very successful. I would say – I came into Nova in 2000 – David came in two years ahead of me. We had about 250 swimmers in the program and so I know for a lot of you – I have been at smaller programs and the idea of learning from a team that has 1400 and 700 and you know – we have different problems, but I really feel like the way we grew is very similar to maybe what a medium sized program is and the way we restructured things. I think in 2001 we completely overhauled the structure of the program in order to grow with kind of a plan to grow and so hopefully some of that information for a mid-level team or even a smaller hundred person team I think is relevant to some of the ways that we grew.
Ad’m Dusenbury: My name is Ad’m Dusenbury with Mission Viejo. Much like Nova of Virginia, we have only one site. Mission Viejo is actually celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. With the rich tradition that we have had, not only from Mark Schubert in the past and now Coach Rose having been there for 15 years, it is pretty impressive to see what has changed over the past 40 years. We have a very systematic approach to our age group swimming. It is the foundation of our senior swimming. We are basically trying to produce the future of our program.
We break our divisions up based on age. We have an 8 and under division, a 9-10 division, an 11-12 division, a 13-14 division and a high school/senior division. Each division has a director which is a full-time staff member. We have roughly 10-12 full-time coaches on staff and probably close to about 20-25 coaches altogether from September to August each year. There are between 700-800 athletes that directly swim for the competitive program. We have between 3-5 tiers within each division. Each division director is responsible for mentoring assistant coaches. The assistants either come up through the program or were once swimmers from local programs that would like to be a part of the team. It is a very in-house structure and very family oriented team. We really try to strive on to producing not only just good swimmers, but good people that will hopefully enjoy it and come back and help us out in the future.
Ricky Silva: I am Ricky Silva with Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics out of Pacific Swimming. Our team is a little bit different than these other programs. We are a pretty big team with a little bit over 700 swimmers. We have seven different sites that are all probably within a 7 mile radius of the Stanford campus. We also have one site that is a little bit farther out. It is one coach that coached at one of our other sites and then went off and started a new site. All of the sites are completely independent financially and with group structuring. For instance, if you are at the Rinconada site, which is the site that I coach at, the structure is based by age. We have an 8 and under group, a 9-10 group, an 11-12 group, a 13-14 group and 15 and over group. If you go to one of our other sites it might be completely different. It might be done by grade or even just by ability if it is a smaller site.
We feel that that worked well for us and this is our 6th year in operation. We had merged multiple programs and most of them were country club sites. Currently, six of the seven sites are out of country clubs. My site, Rinconada, is a city program and is one of the larger sites. The country club sites work well because you deal with the members versus non-members of the club. We have two main head coaches who coach the two main senior groups, Tony Batas and Scott Shay. Each site has a site director. The country club site directors are also aquatic directors as well, and they are all fulltime employees of those particular clubs financially. Again, they are totally independent of each other. Tony Batas is basically a fulltime head coach at our site.
We operate out of a total of ten pools. We use the seven sites plus Stanford University, Sacred Heart which is a 50 meter high school pool, and another 16 lane short course pool. We are pretty lucky to have that many pools in the area. Each of the country club sites has a summer league team. Essentially, we have a built-in feeder to the program at each of the country club sites. Their summer league teams are probably between 150 and 250 swimmers that all feed into the program. Our biggest feeders are summer leagues and a big lessons program at the two main city pools.
Yuri Sugulyama: Good morning everybody. My name is Yuri Sugulyama and I am here to represent Curl-Burke Swim Club. My challenge today is to try and give you all an overview of what we do based on a team that is about 1,500 kids. We operate out of 9 different training sites. While I can talk about what I do at my site, I also have the challenge of trying to sum up the overall ideals that we try and do at every site. I will be able to do that by speaking with some of the other head site coaches and coming up with some things that we feel are universal to our club team that have allowed us to be successful.
We have got three sites located in Maryland, one in D.C. and five in Northern Virginia. As you can probably imagine, swimming in the D.C. area is extremely popular. The fact that it can support a team our size, as well as Rockville Montgomery in the same LSC, Potomac Valley is impressive. Potomac Valley LSC is really the District of Columbia and four surrounding counties. We are fed by two really large summer swim leagues and a couple of different country club leagues.
At my site, which is located in Bethesda, Maryland, I have five different training groups. Three training groups that make up our competitive side, which are a 8 and under group, a 9-12 year old group and a 13 and over group. Then we have two groups which we call our non-competitive tract, which is a 12 and under group and a 13 and over group. We split it at the 13 year old age and we have the luxury then of offering a full service site where kids that are ready and willing to commit to the sport have that opportunity. But, we are also able to include kids that maybe do not want to swim as much and this is pretty universal amongst most of our sites.
We have enough pool time and enough space where we can offer a competitive side of swimming throughout our club team, but then also provide a service for those kids that want to stay in shape for their high school or want to stay in shape for their summer league. I would say 8 of our 9 sites have a swim school or a stroke school attached to it and that is a great feeder program for us. It is something that we have started doing a little bit more in the past ten years. It is something that we have really developed and really built into. The head coach and owner of our team, Rick Curl is currently in Sydney, Australia, and he will be coming back next year. He has been working with the Carlisle Swim Club for the past four years now – ever since after the 2004 games and he has been there trying to learn the swim school system. He hopes to bring it back and try and incorporate it in all of our sites as another way to add to our overall population base and continue to grow the team. There are a couple of things that I think that we do really well in terms of an overall structure and I will speak to those a little bit later on during the talk.
Tom Avischious: Great. Thank you. One of the things that I think that Leigh mentioned that is really important. It just so happens that the “smallest club” represented here is 700 people. Most of you believe that is so out of your realm of thinking – a team that large. Please kind try to focus on the concepts and the principles and the things that they are going to represent, because most of them do run multiple sites. They really are dealing with probably a little bit closer to what most of you deal with on a day to day basis. I just want to get you to focus on the principles and the concepts.
The first kind of questions that I threw out to the group from the list, were about move-ups and maturity levels. The first question I will throw out to the panel, and we will see who wants to answer it first is: “How do you determine when to move up a swimmer? Anyone want to go for it?
Yuri: Sure. Our age group structure is very similar to some of the descriptions I heard here earlier. We do have our 9-10 group, our 11-12 group and our 13 and up group. If they are pre-high school age they are still part of our age group program. As they age up, they may move up to the next age group level, but it is still involves some ability. We probably have similar group names to what you guys all have: the Gold, Silver, and Bronze. There could be a Gold 11-12 group or there could be a Gold 9-10 group, so as they age up they will move up to the next age group or next age division I guess, and then still be part of that Gold, Silver or Bronze group. That is determined by time standards and it is set by part of the local swim conference standards, whether it be the red, white and blue or the A, B, C. That is how we age ours up.
Tom: Any other discussion?
WHO: What we try to do and try to get people to understand right when they come in the door, is that is not just about how fast you are. As Yuri mentioned, we come off a big summer league system and it is a very competitive. Of course, every 8 year old kid that goes 20 seconds in a 25 meter freestyle thinks that they are the fastest kid around. When they are the best kid on their summer league team and they never have lost a race , we try to promote is that they understand that the best time is not what it is really all about.
Even at our higher levels we move up really as a merging of three different categories. The first thing is their attendance and willingness to commit to a certain number of days a week. The second category is their aerobic progressions. We have very specific test set entry times that we have to do and they are not something that anybody can just jump in and do the first time that they get to the program. It really assures people of not getting into a group that is over their heads right when they get to the club. The last category is the mechanics progression. We will not move a swimmer up to the next level if they have a gaping hole in their mechanics and are going to be a little bit out of place in that regard. It sounds like some of our big clubs are these giant factories that of course produce all these swimmers. But you know, I personally coach at a site with about 275 kids, which is probably closer to a lot of the normal levels if you will. We might travel to a meet with a whole lot of kids. We might have that many kids registered. But as far as getting our age group progressions, we are talking about training groups that consist of somewhere between 20 and 40 swimmers, depending on what level it is.
Like Ken said, the pre-high school age is our jump from age group to senior level. I know a lot of people do it from 12 to 13. I just heard from Mission Viejo that they have separate 11 & 12’s, 13 & 14’s and that is good too. We like to make sure that the really fast 13 year old – the really fast 7th and 8th grader is not jumping into a 70,000 yard a week group that they can’t do it no matter how fast they are. We talk about the attendance, the aerobic, the mechanics and having the whole package. Working up in terms of progressions through our levels.
Leigh: I think what is absolutely critical for us is that you don’t put a kid in over his head anywhere. I think that runs them out. I would say we lose more kids because they are in too high of a level group than maybe the best in the lower level group. I think our group structure is the end result of choices that we have made. I think I could say now, 8 years into restructuring our program, we have gold levels, we have silver levels and we have bronze levels. We have some general standards for those that include practice times, meet results, participation in practice, and practice attendance with minimums and maximums by age group. We are able to break it out by age group, but I think that is the end result.
I think we re-evaluate our standards every year because we have a different group of kids that come in every year. At the beginning of that process, we are saying, “who are going to be our A and B relay boys?” Who are my best 12 boys in March? And I want them together all year and I mean that 12th boy may be pretty awful, but you want to get them excited about swimming. We are not doing so much swimming that you can’t teach them along the way, especially with keeping boys. Get them together early. Get them excited. Make them competitive because there is going to end up being a path. We look a lot at seasonal growth, keeping them together by age group for a season. Who are our fastest 12 girls going to be? The fastest 16 girls? Make sure they are in similar groups, baring the novice developmental stage where we are teaching them – 100% teaching.
In our age group programs, we are really looking at keeping the kids together long-term and keeping boys with boys. It is so easy to take two or three talented boys and throw them in a better group with a bunch of girls. They are going to be bored of those girls in maybe two years. You are talking about 11 or 12 and they are about done with that group of girls. You need a group of boys to go with them, so we are real cognizant of that. We evaluate within every group the social structure and the building of the team.
Ad’m: This has got to be probably one of the most dreaded topics at Mission Viejo every year because we do have the system in which the 9-10’s separate from the 11-12’s separate from the 13-14’s. We have almost created a beast for ourselves to the point where every kid is with their peers. They are the same age group throughout the time they start when they are 8 year olds – all the way up until they are 15, 16, 17 and 18. Yes, they are broken up by ability within their own division, but when we move the kids we have to be extremely politically correct when we do. They are moving over a group, not moving up a group and not moving down a group.
The way that we title our groups and the way that we label the coaches in which group they are coaching is tough. For the most part we are trying to be as consistent as we possibly can to the point where the parents don’t always have to come back at us and say, “why did little Johnny get moved down?” Well, he didn’t. The title of the group has changed, but t is the perception that the parents were having. It is the perception of the kids are having and it is also one of those cases where a lot of the kids just make bigger leaps and bounds when they are 11. They move up to a different group and their friends are left behind. It is one of those things that we are constantly challenged with. We call it “re-deployment”. We re-deploy our kids every August and every springtime after our championship season. The kids are moved up based on power points. In the past it has always been so objective to make it so much easier for us to defend ourselves against the parents and against the kids. Are the kids performing in the pool when it counts? After that, we look at attendance and test up performance. We have a system, which we will probably get to here in a little bit. – a curriculum that is based on specific test sets that are designed to help us evaluate the kids. Each season we will go through a progress report and each coach will sit down with a kid and go through everything. Everything that the kid is doing right, everything that the kid is doing wrong and make sure that the parents are aware of it. That way it protects us and all the hoopla after we re-deploy the kids.
Ricky: This is probably one of the toughest ones for our program, just given the way that we are structured and that all of our sites are independent. It is a little bit different at every site. This is one thing that has been successful for our program, having these different sites within the close proximity. If one way doesn’t necessarily work for a certain swimmer, they might be able to look at one of the other sites and maybe shift over, especially as they get older. Our smaller program, the country club sites, typically group somewhat by age and somewhat by ability. You will get kids that are like 11 to 13 and you will see them in what they might call their senior group. Our two main sites have the big senior programs. but use complete different ways of how they move kids up. One of them is cross-site. They do somewhat by age on the younger end and when they get to middle school they do it by grade. Once they get to high school, then they go into the senior program or they go into a senior development program.
Basically, we have two different types of tracks. Always have a track for the more competitive kids that make X-amount of workouts and have some parameters set up. Then also have a track for the kids that are just doing it more as an activity or maybe two to three times a week. My site is purely done by age. For instance, I coach the 13-14 group. I have two groups. I call them Junior Plus and Junior. In Junior Plus there are some parameters to be in the group. You have to make X number of workouts. You have to be able to make certain sets on certain times. Then I have a novice group. They overlap so I have got kids from Olympic Trials, all the way to a kid that is about 2 minutes in the 100 freestyle – a pretty big variety.
One thing I know in our program that has been successful, and I think being a bigger program helps, is that we tend to hold the kids back in the groups. For instance, I have a kid that has an Olympic trials cut. She still has a lot of things that she has to work on so it is not like she needs to be in that senior group just because she is that fast. There are other things that we feel that she can develop other than just pure speed or just times. It is a little bit hard to explain because we are multi-site and every site is a little bit different.
Yuri: Just to put a different twist on this, we move people up based on times and attendance and social aspects. But one thing I think we think about is when to move them up in terms of on the calendar year. I think the best time to move kids up, from our experience, is after our spring break. You know, the schools are usually pretty light during that time and I think that we have all found throughout our club team that if we are going to move kids up that is usually a good time to do it. I think that is a really good time to phase kids into that upper level group. You know, they are excited, they are getting a little bit more sunlight, you can kind of work them a little bit more and school is coming to an end. I think during the summer it is hard. Summer league swimming in the D.C. area is really big and I think if you are moving kids up in the summer they have got an increased workload. They are probably really busy doing camps. I think it is really easy for kids to get broken down over the course of the summer. You think that just because they are not in school they are not doing a whole lot, but it seems as though they are doing even more stuff. There are all kinds of camps under the sun, right? And so, come August I think you see a lot of kids that are dragging pretty hard and if you are phasing them up into a group that has a higher workload. I think you can really break them down. The same thing I think in the fall. We like to let them get adjusted to the school. Academics is very important for a lot of our families, which is a good thing. I think if you are going to do it throughout the fall, then I think it should be a really slow progression. I think the Christmas break as well is a good time, but again, they have a lot of things going on. They might be out of town or they might have a huge project going on. In terms of the calendar, I think the best time to move kids up is following their spring break.
Tom: Two follow-up questions. Ad’m, you mentioned that coaches meet with each swimmer and their parents. Is there a set thing that you follow or can you describe how that works?
Ad’m: Sure. One of the things that we try to do, especially during August, is wee try to take advantage of this time to get to know the kids that will be coming into the division. Although I didn’t mention this before, we actually move our kids up based on what their age is for the age group champs for that season. So a 10 year old can be in the 11-12 division, but that 10 year old will be 11 by the time the age group championships come around. It really makes it easier for that coach to put together relays, put together the team, put together that division and get them ready for the age group champs.
It is extremely important for us to meet with the parents. It is actually more important I think for the parents to meet with us, rather than us meeting with the parents. Just so we can really put all of the pre-conceptions of what the parents have of the coach of that division. The kids will probably see on average, 7-8 coaches within their age group line of swimming. We have got to really sell ourselves. We have got to sell each coach below us in a division and above us in a division. It is one of those things where we have to meet with the parents before the season starts and prior to the kids moving over to a group or moving up into the division. We have got to make sure that the parents are completely on board with what is going on.
The kids have got to be aware of what is expected of them in the next group. They have got to be obviously aware of what they need to do to perform just as good, if not better, than what they just did in the previous season. So meeting with the parents and meeting with the kids is extremely important in where we are coming from and especially in such an affluent area of the country. Parents love the control. That is most of their positions within their jobs. They want to have control, but I think for the most part it really helps us out. It really helps the longevity of the kid to stay within our group because with Nova right down the street and a lot of other great clubs in the area, we get some kids that are just disgruntled. It is not so much the kids, it is more the parents that are disgruntled with the coach, not with the program, not with the philosophy and not with how their kid swam. Just with the coach. If you can just try to put that under the carpet and let all the parents know that we are all good people, we are all good passionate coaches and we are all doing what is best for their kid. They just want to care about their own kid, not about the team. Even though that is what we preach is team, team, team, and team. It is an ongoing battle, but for the most part we are trying to alleviate it as much as we can.
Tom: Dave, you mentioned test sets or entry times. Can you just describe a little bit about what that is or how that would work?
Dave: Well I can also piggy-back that onto what I just heard there. We also have mandatory parent conferences. We actually do ours over that Christmas break time. The kids are in for holiday training and a lot of what we discuss are the test set performances and things like that. A lot of times when a kid is disgruntled, it does happen at this move-up time that we talk about. Well, how come Johnny got moved up, but I didn’t? I beat him by half a second in the meet and things like that. That always happens and what we try to do at these conferences is really give an honest, I don’t want to say opinion, but opinion based on a lot of facts about what we think the swimmer has done and what they are going to do. We use the test sets to do that quite a bit.
My group, the National Developmental Group, we do test sets in freestyle and the best non-free stroke and a second best non-free stroke, as well as IM. We do test sets probably once or twice a week all the way over the course of the year and we do them at every single distance. Everybody in America does the hundred free test set and so do we. I try to go about, you know – 7% of their weekly yardage X 100 on 1:25 or 1:30. It usually winds up being somewhere being between 12 and 28 100’s between the course of the year. We do that and we get their times and that is really our main thing that says okay, this kid is really ready to move up to that next level of group.
We do the same thing for non-free and then we do the freestyle at 200 yards and at 50 yards and we do a T-30. We do all these things and every single test set that we do is quantified and written down. They record it. They are put on a spreadsheet and we got this little conversion thing that translates all the times at all the different distances into a hundred yard repeat base. We give them this printout at these conferences and say, listen, this is exactly why I think your child is going to be ready for the national training group as opposed to the advanced senior group which is our one step down from that. That takes away a lot of the guess work in it. There can’t be a whole lot of, “you just like that kid more than you like me.” I can say, hey listen, every kid that we are accepting in this National training group has this kind of time in a freestyle set and this kind of time in a non-freestyle set and this kind of time in an IM set and there are other intangibles of course. I mean, some kids can swim fast in sets even though they come three days a week and that obviously is a whole other story, but I think what we use the test sets for are: 1) to back us up in terms of moving up levels and 2) we also use them to help make meet goals.
I mentioned the spreadsheets and formulas, we actually have formulas that translate the test set times to meet goals. I don’t want to get too ahead of myself or talk for a half hour as I want to do at times, but we also use those test sets to kind of make a better purpose at each practice. The kids love the meets. They loved it in summer league and that is why they joined our clubs, but if they are only swimming meets once a month and a lot of times it can be drudgery for them. They can say, “ oh here I am at practice another day.” We really use these test sets to say, hey listen, you have got a good purpose here for this practice. You can get competitive with your own times, with yourself, with the times that you know you might need to make to get to that next group’s standard. It is a reason to get focused on this particular day in practice and I think those kids need that. That is part of what keeps them coming back day after day after day.
Tom: A couple of you kind of touched on this. You mentioned that you basically have your divisions by age. What do you do with the talent? The “talented 10 year old” who can train with the 12 year olds or the talented 12 year old in particular? A lot of times it is a 12 year old girl that is faster and a better trainer than some of the kids in your senior teams or senior groups. How do you deal with those?
Leigh: We leave them where they are. Let them learn to be the best. Let them learn. I think one of the hardest skills to teach a kid is how to win. You know that one in a hundred kids walks into our program that hate losing, know how to win and they race everything. When Bowman talks about Phelps not letting anybody beat him, that is not natural. Your kids don’t come in with that. Most of them spend the majority of their swimming career getting beat and when you have a kid that is the best at 10, leave him in the group and teach him how to win. Let him at 12, do the same thing. David has got a 12 year old group and they are our highest 12 year olds. Some of those girls are Junior National level. One of those boys is about 60 pounds. They are not at the same place at all, but those boys are some of the best boys in the State for their age and those girls are learning how to put their hand on the wall first every time. They are not overwhelmed. They are not socially awkward in an environment with older kids. We leave them where they are. That is our philosophy.
Q. From Floor: I am sorry to interrupt. I hear a lot about advanced swimmers. It is refreshing to hear you talk about your non-competitive track. Could you tell us a little bit more about that and how they advance and then how you encourage or discourage them to move from the non-competitive practice and into the competitive track?
Dave: Yeah. We are a little more loose in the way we determine that. For a lot of those kids, I don’t want to say that we are there to just provide them pool time because we do want to help the out. We do want to help them get better and some of them do go on. They go on to our competitive track and become players at their high school level. But for a lot of them, the reason why they have chosen to do that is because they have not made swimming one of their primary extra-curricular activities. With our competitive tract we are going to look at a lot of factors other than just age. For instance, we are going to look at times and social aspects. That one is going to be more determined by their age. The minute a kid turns 13 or they are in the 8th grade or the 9th grade, then they are going to move up a little bit more. But at the same time, if they have got a good group of friends we will certainly take that into consideration. For instance, we just had about five freshman boys move up into that group, three of them were ready, two were not. This is something that Leigh and I had spoken about a little bit earlier during this clinic. I think you have to keep the boys together and I think you should probably err on the side of maybe letting someone move up that maybe shouldn’t have. If it keeps them together and it keeps them with that group then who knows what could happen in terms of their growth. It is not as structured and it is just basically determined by age and where they are in their grade.
Ken: Yeah, for the most part I agree with all the other coaches. We tend to keep the swimmers in the same age groups that their peers are in. At 10 years old and 12 years old, we are not training them the same way we are training our senior swimmers. They are still doing a lot of 25’s and 50’s, mechanics and drills. They are still learning and they still want to be with their friends. We want to make sure they are in the sport and with the program for the long haul. We don’t want to move those kids up and put them in a socially awkward position, especially if they are going from the age group program to the senior program. We do not want the talented 12 year old training with some of the senior level swimmers. They are away from their peers. We tend to keep them there and I think one of the advantages some of us may have with the large programs is we tend to have swimmers that can compete with them. They are not doing a lot of sets in swimming where they are going to just dominate the workout. They are still doing workouts where they can still be very accepted by the program and by the group. They fit in very well with the training environment we provide for them. So we do not find a lot of need to move them up.
Tom: Did any of you ever make any mistakes with an early maturing athlete that you regret? Maybe they left your program? Or that you at least want to admit to?
Ad’m? The challenge with my group is that it is age based and I have got multiple levels. I would say the biggest mistake is going probably to a higher level meet than the kid might have been ready for. I know two years ago we went to Juniors in Irvine. I took one swimmer and it probably was a mistake looking back at it. It was a 13 year old swimmer and she just really wasn’t ready. She had one cut, but probably could have went to the zone team or did something else. Because of the grouping, it was the direction that we wanted to go as a team and go to Juniors. That was probably the biggest one for me. It is just making sure that we go to appropriate meets and keep it in a group setting and not just taking one swimmer to a meet that probably isn’t really ready to go to that meet.
Question: Do you consider it a mistake taking her?
Ad’m: Just given her personality I think going to the zone meet probably would have been a little more enjoyable for her. She didn’t swim very well, which wasn’t really the goal. The goal was just to get the experience, but socially it wasn’t. It is never fun when just me and one swimmer go and our senior group didn’t go that year. It was the year that Juniors was a little bit later. It just wasn’t right socially for her. I don’t think it really helped her development.
Question: How is she doing now?
Answer: She is doing well now. No, it didn’t kill her. I haven’t killed any swimmers yet. Whether my ego will allow me to admit I made a mistake or not, I would actually say I have the luxury (it is on tape – just remember) of my experience when I was a younger coach in the program. I was coaching some of the junior levels before I worked my way up to the National Developmental Group. I saw some of those mistakes being made and it really kind of shaped what I wanted to do when I wound up getting to that higher level of swimming.
We live in a very affluent area and we have some parents that are known in my particular city and my particular site, to be a little competitive. They want their kids that are Nationally ranked at 10 to go up into the National Developmental Group. We had situations in the mid 90’s when we had a couple of 12 year old giants that were destroying these National top 16 times. They got pushed up into the senior level groups early and it really shaped me because I saw what happened to those kids, even the ones that kind of succeeded when they first got there. I had the luxury seeing them grow up and develop over the first few years and I don’t know if anybody has experienced this phenomenon. If you are in the same group for even three or four years, that is about as much as you can get from that one location. I certainly can’t speak for a Bob Bowman/Michael Phelps type of relationship. Obviously he has been with the same coach and there is not too much higher in terms of a training group that he can go. But in terms of the age group progression, when you have this talented 12 year old that is making three Junior National cuts and pushing a Senior National cut, of course they can train with the high level groups.
When that actually happened in our club and I saw this girl never do a best time again after age 16. This particular girl that I am thinking of still swims Division 1, even today. She didn’t totally wash-out, but there was a lot of crying and there were a lot of worries in the recruitment process. She just never got faster as a junior or senior in high school because she did everything that there was to do in that program. I guess our only options would have been to up the yardage to an astronomical high which we were not going to be willing to do. There is just nowhere for them to go if they go up too early and the same thing goes with 10-12 year olds. I do not want this little 10 year old doing the same things as my best 13 year olds that are making Junior Nationals, even if they are fast. They just shouldn’t be with those guys.
Learning how to win is good and learning how to be with their peers. I expected this to happen, but I am very glad to hear again that all of us are kind of on the same page. I am sure that it is the same with most of you guys, so I hope we are not boring you too much with that.
Question: I have a question with regard to that. If you have some really fast 12 year old or 10 year old and you keep him in that same age group, do you modify their interval training? I see that if your base interval training is not necessarily at their level and they are beyond that, they are going to be sitting on the wall. What do you do about that?
Answer: Well right now as we speak, there is a workout going on where I have a 14 year old that is a 2:10 long course meters backstroker and he is swimming with some 11 year olds that have just moved up into the group. So we are doing a set of 300’s right now and he is not only doing a little bit extra distance, but he is also swimming backstroke while they are doing freestyle. So, stuff like that can happen. You know, you can modify their strokes. You can add an extra 50 to the interval. It is usually rare that this happens because of the way our program is setup and everybody is fairly the same in terms of those aerobic intervals that they can make. I have never had a problem with any of the other kids getting mad that somebody is doing something different.
Tom: One of the things that we at USA Swimming have been hearing with the Michael Phelps effect is that clubs of 100 or 125 kids are getting 50 and 70 kids coming out for try-outs. How do you deal with the new 12 or 13 year old boy that skill wise, is on the level of an 8 or 9 year old? Do you have a place for them? How do you deal with girls for the same thing?
Ad’m: We have a pre-competitive group. It is obviously our novice group, but it is such a large group to the point where we can actually have it almost independent from the competitive track. Because of the Olympic bump and Michael Phelps, we are getting just tons of kids without really having to do anything. They are just walking in through the front door. We do have a transition group or a bridge group based on ability, on their foundation, or on their background. We have enough space to put those kids and times to put those kids to make sure that they are cared for. They are taken care of and we can hopefully stroke their egos to really try to find that diamond in the rough. The lower tiers or the lower ability groups that we have, those are the kids that we are trying so hard to keep in the sport. Like what Yuri was saying, one of the reasons why those kids are in that ability is mostly because swimming isn’t really their highest priority. So because of the motivation and the inspiration that is going on during this year, we are really trying to capitalize on that and jump on the bandwagon. Hopefully we can try to get these kids to pursue swimming as more of their dominant extra-curricular activity.
Leigh: I think you find a place for them. I think you work with them one on one. We will do private lessons. You work with the kid to get them caught up to speed. I think that is one of the things I would just suggest is constantly be willing to restructure yourself when you have growth coming you know. Six years ago, our weakest retention rate was in that 13 and over age group because I think it got so competitive that if a kid wasn’t a late bloomer, we just didn’t have a place to keep them excited about swimming. We started a new group for that 13 and over kid that just was really going to not a very high level.
We created a group and gave them a coach. I think you have got to give a low level kid a coach that is passionate about them and what they are doing. I think they know the difference in our program when you have got six or seven passionate fulltime coaches and then you have a part-time guy that comes in and then they see somebody else the next day. You have got to give them somebody that cares about them and that has a little bit of ownership of the group. I think it takes three years. Anything we have ever seen grow, it looks like it is not going to work the first year. Maybe it doesn’t work at all the first year. So, you tweak it. The second year you begin to see some consistency. You see less complaining. The third year is when you see he group structure. We went from a group that first year we had less than six kids and now the group has got almost over 100 BB and below 13 and overs that love that group and are committed. You have to find a space for them, but I think you have got to be willing to try something and let it grow over a period of time. I could say that we got kids that turned out to be distance swimmers that showed up out of that group at 16 and 17 to move on to juniors and even on to seniors. It happened ust all of a sudden after two years with a bullet-like affect by letting them grow at a place that wasn’t above their heads.
Ken: Tell you what Ad’m, If you guys ever fill up your pool, you can give them our number. We are very lucky in the city of Irvine that it is a very planned community. Every community builds a swimming pool and every community’s pool has a summer league swim team. I went to their championship meet about a month ago and it was just a mad-house with little kids running all over the place. They all got very excited about swimming the championship meet and the Olympics were going on. Michael Phelps was swimming and all of a sudden you are getting a flood of phone calls. We set up a booth there and we recruit from this pool of swimmers. The one question we kept hearing or the one comment was, “we hear your team is very demanding.” We hear that you guys are relentless on the kids and we had to kind of change that perception. We have that part of the program, but we also cater to just about everybody. We have a spot for everybody. We are very interested in getting some of these developmental kids into the program. Obviously, we are business and we can use the revenue. We went ahead and created a two day a week program to bring those people in. We created a term for that program so they are not just paying month to month. Hopefully, if they can pay the term and keep them around until November and December, they become committed to the program. This is especially so when we change time and we lose an hour of daylight. They are still prepaid and they still find that reason to be there every day. By beginning two days a week we start getting them into the program. We still just do a lot of mechanics and teaching, trying to get them into the swim team environment and get them used to it. Teach them that we are not the relentless program that they believe we are. Then hopefully after that term, we can develop them or integrate them back into the program again. We really have to change that perception of the community that everything they read in the paper is the swimmers going to Olympic trials and the Nationals and the Sectionals. They do not hear about all the little programs we have that cater to just about everybody. We try to have something available for everybody and it is really kind of a challenge to do that. We advertise in the newspaper and we send out flyers to the school districts, and we have that booth there to advertise at the local swim conference meet. There we talk to people one on one. I think it has gone a long way, but it is still far away to really change the minds of the community to let them know that we do have something for everybody.
Tom: I want to ask a quick question before we take a break. First, I have an observation which I don’t know if some of you have picked up on. It’s interesting that from the Top 10 age group teams we have Irvine Nova and Mission Viejo, who are definitely friendly rivals right next to each other. Most of the time I guess it is friendly. Then we have Rockville Montgomery and Curl-Burke in pretty much the same area. You guys are also close and it is kind of interesting how it has worked out. This may put some of you out of your comfort zone and Ricky, you may be the one best to answer. I can just imagine some out in the audience have a 6 lane, 25 yard pool that they are working out of, or a 4 lane 25 yard pool that they have for 3 hours. They may have 25 new kids showing up to join the team and some of them cannot really swim. What do you do with them?
Ricky: Yeah, that is a tough one for us. With our program we are actually finding that a little bit difficult when we get some of the novice kids in. Luckily with some of those smaller pools that we have, we are able to shift some of the kids or refer them over to other sites within the program. We actually have an issue with that at my pool because we only get like a 2-2 ½ hour block in the pool. We do get a lot of kids that come in that might not be ready for either of the groups. We have looked into it. I think Ken touched on it really well, forming a group that maybe goes two or three days a week. I don’t think you have to have groups that do the traditional 5 days a week or they need to go to practice every day. I think you can look at different ideas. Actually, at one of the country club sites, we would just run pre-competitive groups on Sundays and that was a good way to get some of the kids introduced to the program.
Tom: anyone else want to take a stab at that?
Dave: Speaking about getting the novice senior kid, the 13 and 14 year old novice, know that is how I started, with a group of three day a week swimmers. They were brand new 13 year olds – they had never done winter swimming before. We just grew together and developed together and it was really good for me to see that. I was never really fast growing up and when I finally started swimming year around. That is how I got into it. I had that perspective from there. Even with the limited pool time. I know you guys know that we are a huge club, but like I said, with one site we have to deal with 7 or 8 lanes total on a given day. We don’t have all of our groups meeting every day. We structure the schedule so the Junior 1 group, which is our novice for 9, 10, 11 and 12 year olds, go these two days for an hour. They have the same coach those two hours and they grow and they can either move up or they can stay there for the four years and then go to seniors. We give them those options and just try to educate them, even with limited pool time. It might not be easy to make new groups totally, but at the same time you can kind of restructure things so that each level of kid has a place to go. I am sure we can all answer the question pretty much the same way.
Ricky: Just to add one more thing. A couple of our sites do have 12 and under groups that do meet only in the morning. It kind of takes a sell job at first, but I think when they get into a schedule and the parents and kids get used to waking up, some of them actually prefer it because it frees up their afternoon. If your afternoons are packed and you have got a little bit of time in the morning, even if it is just Monday/Wednesday/Friday or Tuesday/Thursday, then it frees them up and sometimes they actually like it a little bit more. If you can sell it and you can get them in the door and get them moving it can work. It is not easy, but it can work if space and time is an issue.
Ken: I remember I went to a talk I believe a year ago and listened to Rick Dumont talking. One of his topics was what do you do if you only get 15 minutes of water time, but you want to train your swimmers. It was more directed to the age groupers and you have really got to be creative. He used a lot of his dry-land examples and just some of the stuff that they do for dry-land to keep them fit and give them some workouts. Part of that was playing, especially if we are talking with the age groupers. You want to keep them excited. You want them having a fun time so it is not just doing push-ups and sit-up. It might be a game of soccer with them running around, but he really defined what happens when you don’t have that much water time. Some of the coaches here, you gotta find water time out of the traditional hours before 8 o’clock in the afternoon. Saturdays are great. Sundays are great. Morning workouts if you can get them there, but you have got to find when the pool is not being utilized and put the kids in the water at that time. It is easy to sit here and say you gotta get creative, but I think we all do. We are all forced to do that sometimes and we find ways with this influx of swimmers coming in after every Olympic year, especially this year. If you want them in your program, I think you are going to find the ways to do it. You just gotta talk and listen to the other coaches and they will inspire you and give you some ideas and hopefully that will help you out.
Tom: Just a couple of people came in late. This is three one hour sessions and we have gone over just a couple of minutes of our first hour. We are going to take about a 10 minute break to let people get up and stretch and then we will start back up and thanks for coming.
Tom: Just a reminder here, that when Ken takes off in 20 minutes, he is catching an airplane. It is not that he has had enough of the panel. David and Leigh are switching. Someone noted that these programs have been around for a long time and there is a lot of tradition. One question that was asked to me at the break that I thought was kind of interesting was, “how do you tell someone that we would like your child to swim 5 or 6 days a week, when the norm for youth sports in the community is 3 days a week?” How do you sell that if you don’t necessarily have that tradition or culture in the community?”
Dave Kraft: I am not sure that I am qualified to answer that because of our traditions. I got in at the site that I am coaching at in the second year of its operation. So even though Rockville Montgomery had the name, don’t get me wrong, that certainly helped bring a lot of people through the door, we had to establish that we had a credible program and knew what we were working for. Most of the coaches had some experience. We have a very high rate of coaches that actually swam for the club, so we knew what it was about. If you can generate the ability to communicate the goals to the parents and let them know its not about how many Junior National Qualifiers we get. You can sell the fact that, this kid that was on your summer league team started out doing zero days a week of winter swimming and then they finally did two. Finally we convinced him to go and that is what needs to be communicated to those guys. I am sure I will speak on it later because I see it on the list of these questions. That tradition does help a ton, but at our specific site, which is probably a lot like a lot of the small clubs, we didn’t have the tradition. We had to make it ourselves and that is how every single club starts at the beginning.
Dave Schreck: Yeah, I think he is right that we all started from nothing at some point. We had to build a tradition. Over time you develop that and even right now as a tradition program we still find that need to have the program where they come in two days a week and three days a week. We don’t expect them to jump right into a program where there are five days a week or six days a week, doubles and all of that. Like I said, we have a place for everybody. Even though we have built that tradition and we built ourselves up where we can have a high senior program and a high age group program, we still recognize the fact that have to have that developmental program. That is where you are bringing them in and for those teams that are just starting out that might be the only program right now. Over time they are going to age up, they will progress, and they will get faster. As they start going to meets, they start seeing the progression, they see their improvement and they start getting more excited. Then you can start to develop them more into that fulltime routine, but right away I don’t think you have to find the need to do that.
You have to set the goals for the team right away. What are our immediate goals? What are our long-term goals? What do we want to see developed in the year coming? Do we want to start building up the numbers and then start to really develop a swim team out of it? Even at our lower levels we recognize the fact that we still have to have that developmental program where they just come in two days a week. That is part of the toughest sale because our own worst enemy is that we have created this culture in the community that they all need to be part of this monster program. We have to keep trying to educate them that we have that, but we also have something for everybody and that is the tough sale.
Question: The opposite problem is that there are some people coming in or some people within the club that are much better off being offered a 2 or 3 day a week program. They see the goals or how they got there going 5 or 6 days a week. They say, “well we want that,” but they will still come only 2 or 3 days a week. They have that feeling that they need to be offered the same as everybody else. I also lends itself into the price structure of the groups. If somebody in the gold group is getting an hour and 45 minutes, but we feel someone in the bronze group only needs an hour and 15 minutes, then the parent says, “I don’t want to pay anywhere near what the gold group is paying.” It is almost like we are paying per minute in the water and that is a difficult thing to sell to the parents. We want what is best for the swimmer and at the same time the parents want it all, but aren’t willing necessarily to do it all.
Ken: I think it is part of the discussion that we have already had. You have really have to educate the families, the parents and hopefully the swimmers. At 10 years old you are not always going to educate the swimmers. In our program, we have it designed that the time standards/age requirements help that progression if they are in a 2 day a week program. They are looking to move into the 5 day a week program, but they are still developmental, and we still have a place for them. They can still come in 5 days a week and that might change the price structure. If they are battling the cost of it, that takes place somewhere else in the program. I don’t hear a lot about that. They do not come to me telling me that we are paying this and we should be getting this. We try to make a defined outline for how the group should be and part of it is their commitment level too. If they only want to come in 2 days a week, we have the 2 day a week program for them. If they want to come in 5 days a week they have the 5 day a week program for them. I don’t know if I answered your question correctly or if that was what you were looking for. Sometimes I don’t always have the answer either.
Dave: I came from a smaller program too. I was the head coach of a small program in the same area and there are just so many parents out there with miss-conceptions. “We’ve got this fast 8 year old, but we don’t want to swim at 4:30 in the morning.” You don’t have to. Where are you getting that information from? I want to swim 2 hours a day and there is a set progression for our 8 and unders. They come twice a week and some of them will come three times a week. We will allow that, but we limit it and we let them know right up front. Our 10 and under groups may swim four times a week. We also set that limitation there. There is time to swim as they get older. We want them to be in it long-term and we let these parents know that. They get it. Our 11-12 year olds do not practice more than 5 times a week and I think we have got to be careful there in making sure that we are not overdoing it. I have an example, my sister was a junior national level swimmer and I learned from that. You have got to learn from all of those experiences. Watch other coaches and how they are doing. I was able to learn from my sister because she, at age 12, was one of the best. She was winning Eastern Zone championships at age 10, 11, 12 and was also practicing 6 or 7 times a week for 2 ½ hours. She ended up swimming in a senior group at that point and I do not think that is the right way to go about it. I like to bring that up with a lot of the parents that are gung-ho about, “wanting little Johnny to go 5 times a week for 2 hours” and he is 10. We are not going to do that. I don’t think any program here would do that either.
Yuri: I was just going to say that I am like Dave in that Curl Burke does have a really good tradition, but I started off as the head coach of a site. There had been a lot of transition in our head coaching ring so some of the norms and the traditions weren’t as established as some of our other sites where we have had head coaches there for 25+ years. One thing I don’t underestimate is communicating to the swimmer. Obviously, I think it is very important to talk to the parents and make sure they know the progression, but I also think it really behooves you to sit down with the kids and make sure that they know why. Certain groups go this way and talk to them as a group. I think you can avoid a lot of problems with parents if the kids know what is going on. That way, if a parent makes a comment in the car; for instance, “well I saw you over here in this lane or that lane, or how come Johnny and Bobby are up there?” If a kid can say, “you know, Johnny broke 6 minutes in a 500 free today in practice.” So I think you can avoid a lot of problems by doing this. I think sometimes we forget that. As much as we want to educate the parents, I think you can avoid a lot of problems by talking to the kids a whole lot and making sure that they know the progression. Making sure that they know where they are supposed to go.
Question: Going back to your 10 year old or your 8 year old going 2 or 3 times a week. Is your restructure kind of based on your age group structure or is it based on….
Dave: Its based on how many times do they come per week. Actually only at the 8 and under level, our novice groups, we have a 2 day a week fee and a 3 day a week fee. Then when they get to our age group developmental groups, our 9-10 groups basically, they come 3 times a week and they have the option to come 4. That is one rate. It gets to be a nightmare for our business manager when you have so many different levels. We did do that years ago when I first came into the program and it was a nightmare. You have your senior kids coming 6 times a week and they were paying for the 6. If they wanted to go 7 they had to pay more and it got pretty hairy. We only do it at the younger levels and when they move up a group. We set it as 3-4 times a week and no more. They can come any of the 5 days. I think you have got to be flexible. That is another change in our system. Before I came in, they were set and you had to come certain days. If you were in the Tuesday/Thursday group, then this is what you paid for and these were the days you had to come. I think this has helped a lot in our area of recruiting because we are so competitive with the other sports. Soccer is huge in the Richmond, Virginia area. I don’t know about the rest of the country, but it is unbelievable and they are set in their days. We can be flexible. “Well Johnny is practicing soccer Tuesday/Thursday, can he come Monday/Friday to swimming?” Absolutely and we also have three different tiers of times that they can choose from. For instance: 2:30-3:30 or 3:30-4:30 or 4:30-5:30. On Monday they come 2:30-3:30 – on Thursday they can come 4:30-5:30. They are going to get the same coach too, anytime they show up.
Question: Can’t hear it.
Dave: That is a tough one because we are such a large program. We probably have 150 8 and unders and so they are spread out across the week. There will be days that you will see that a lot of kids are coming. We might have 40-45 8 and unders in one practice. Then on another day there is 10-12. So we will communicate to the parents on that day that there are so many to come that other day. Can you do that so we can kind of even it out? Also, if there are some more advanced level 8 year olds that are coming on specific days we do try to streamline and get those faster kids together so that they can work together. I think that is important too. We talk a lot about the faster kids. Don’t put too much emphasis on those faster kids. We want that to trickle down to these entry level, the very novice level kids.
Tom: I want to move on to the next topic area. Do you have a progression plan for each of your groups? Are there general progressions? Do you do any type of season planning for the whole age group program?
Yuri: I coach two groups at my site. I coach a senior prep group that it is basically 13-15 years old and I coach our intermediate group, which are 9-12 years old. We break that up into 9-10, 11 and 12, but they all train at the same time. Keeping it simple, what we do is look at our big meets of the season and then back it out that from there. Early on in the season we try and communicate to our athletes what are the biggest meets. What I like to do with my coaches, when our whole staff from all sites gets together (we kind of call it “the meeting other 9 families”), is we identify the big meets and we work back from there. Where do we want to be in December? Where do we want to be in March? And why do we want to be there? If we want to rest a little bit and swim fast in December, then what do we need to do in November? And what do we need to do in October? This ties up with my September. That is really a simple way that we like to look at it.
Ad’m: At Mission, this is probably one of our biggest not only challenges, but one of our things that we really take pride in. We take a lot of time working together to make sure that there is continuity and the consistency from the 8 and unders all the way up to the national group. We all connect and we all are on the same page. The curriculum that we have devised from the 8 and unders to 9-10’s to the 11-12’s to 13-14’s – it is all smooth. The amount of time that they are in the water as an 8 year old, forthe 9-10’s it is an extra 15 minutes. Dry-land is a little more intense. The intensity of the workout is a little more intense and as they progress all the way through. It all starts from the top down. Whatever Coach Rose is doing, that is what the I as the 13-14 coach must do to get them prepared. Whatever I am doing, the 11-12’s have got to get themselves ready for my division. That consistency is probably one of our biggest challenges, but like I said it is one of our great accomplishments. I think it is one of the reasons why we are so, not just diverse, but why we are so deep. Yes we have numbers. Yes we have talented coaches. Yes we have talented athletes, but I think it is the competition within our team that helps drive that competition to a higher level. Of course having competition across the street and down the road is great, and that is what drives and fuels us to make sure that we are competitive at JO’s. We are competitive throughout the whole entire age group program, but like I said before, we are driven to help our kids succeed when they are older – when they are in the senior division. We want to be competitive at Sectionals, Nationals, Olympic Trials and hopefully put one or more person on the Olympic Team. That tradition carries and filters all the way down throughout the whole system, all the way through the novice program. It is one of our biggest marketing aspects as well. They see when they walk on the pool deck, and I was blown away when I first got hired, just how everything was like clock-work. At 3:30 this happens. At 4:00 this happens. You got dry-land over here with 8 and unders. You got 9 & 10’s starting their workouts. It is amazing. We witness and we gain experience from seeing other great programs and other programs do it just as good, if not better.
Ricky: We are similar to Curl-Burke. When we do our season planning we base it on the major meets that we are going to. It ends up working out to December, April and then the end of summer meets. For our site that works particularly well because we do it by age. You will actually get kids that move up during the year. They might be in my group for three or four months and then move up to the senior group, similar with the younger kids. I know one thing that has been pretty successful and we have been kind of doing it more and more is taking the seasons and truly making them a season like a soccer season – like a baseball season. I know when we finish our April meet then we give the kids a week off, especially the competitive kids and tell them to get away from the pool. Go do something else. I think the younger kids get overwhelmed by feeling like they are in the pool for 11 months out of the year. I think having those seasons where they can take a little break or feel like they can start something and end something. If they had a bad season, they get to start over again. That has worked pretty well for us.
Ad’m: The season plan question is two different things for us. We are talking at one point about, days a week, number of workouts and amount of yards at each workout. That is one thing, but the other thing that we try to do in our season plan is know where we want to be at the big meets. We want to try to get them every kind of experience during the season. The more that you get into it the program the more experiences that you have available to you. What I mean by that is you want to always you plan for your LSC championship and all the way back. We try to get a travel meet in there somewhere and we try to get a meet on November 1 & 2. We are having this National age group meet that Curl-Burke is going to be at. Nova of Virginia is going to be there. We try to get them to experience all these other teams swimming at a high level. It is almost like a summer league mentality, but with these big clubs. We do a little retreat over the course of the year and have them get there for a weekend with some guest speakers and some classroom sessions. All kinds of social outings as well as the pool. We want to make the season a full thing for them. To have a lot of things to look forward to, not just this meet and that meet, but all these other experiences because that is what everybody remembers. The National team kids and there are people are saying, “I am going to go to Nationals and my goal is to win Nationals.” But a lot of people just like to go on the trip, you know? And you can get some of the younger age groups to go, even your novice group. You can take them to a meet one LSC over and they are swimming against new people at a new pool. You make it a big deal for them. We are going to a travel meet and if you can get experiences like that in your season plan it gives them another thing to look forward to. They really enjoy that.
Tom: Some of the things that we, as USA swimming staff, have observed is that sometime coaches do a great job evaluating individual swimmers and how they are progressing. But, how do you evaluate success or failure of the season itself? Do you have any formal evaluation process of the season or the year?
Yuri: One thing we do, and Dave talked about earlier, is that I like to sit down with all my athletes and their parents at the beginning of the fall and in the springtime. It is really time consuming and you know it is not an easy thing to do trying to carve time out of my schedule and their schedule. I think those meetings are invaluable and if you don’t sit down with an athlete and their parent in a one on one setting, then you are kind of missing out on a lot of things. You are able to talk to them on a more personal level and answer any questions. I think those meetings are really good because it allows us to set time standards and basic goals. I have the kids write those down on index cards and they have to bring them to the meetings. We talk about them and we talk about what they need to do to achieve those goals. What I like to do is, I keep those index cards throughout the season. I try and look at them every 2-3 weeks and just make sure that we are doing things in workout that are leading towards having that swimmer achieve the goals? Just after the end of the season, I like to pull out those index cards and give them back to the kids. I say you know did well, you achieved this. You don’t want to forget about the goals and you don’t want your swimmers to make goals and forget about them. Put them in their face and make sure they know them. Provide them with that constant feedback. That is one thing that I use. I got that from one of our other age group coaches and it is just a really simple way to look at your season on a numbers basis and provide the kid with immediate feedback after your big meet.
Question: Do you find that, particularly 9 and 10 year olds are making realistic goals?
Yuri: I should have said that I do that with the upper level 12 and overs. With our 9-10’s, what we do is set a number for a kid to qualify for a meet. They might have individual goals, but I don’t have them write those down.
Ad’m: I am kind of piggy-backing onto what Yuri was talking about. I think across the board within our divisions we really try to take a lot of time meeting with the parents before and after the seasons to evaluate the kids before they are coming to the next season. We are establishing what their goals are, but I think for the most part, since we are a pretty big contender within our LSC and that Nova is definitely a big rival to us and that is something that we can always use as fuel and motivation. There are probably a solid 7 teams that are in our LSC that are always consistently in the top 10 at the end of the age group champs. Looking at how we did overall, that is obviously a good motivator for the kids. Not just within each division, but throughout the whole team to use as fuel throughout the season. We also then break it apart. How did the 10 and under boys do? How did the 10 and under girls do? And then two years from then, let’s evaluate them again. How well did they do? Did they get 4th when they were 10 and now 3rd as 12 year olds? That is a set of progression that we try to use as we go up through the ranks. As they get older. that competition gets tougher and a lot of those kids that were B swimmers are now A swimmers. A lot of those A swimmers are now double A or triple A. We are using that as more of an evaluation period. That is also more of an objective way of selling it to the parents, and especially the kids, that you are making progress. You are helping the team. We try to instill from the very beginning.
Dave: We have those same meetings and push this stuff on the parents too. Sometimes we actually have votes on things like whether we are going to travel meets. In terms of judging the season successfully, it is a lot of times an individual thing. Yuri was talking about numbers. One of the things that I always tried to do is after the championship meets I am known for sending these page long emails at the end of the year. Then I bring it to the next meeting. I always mention things like, “this year we actually had six girls go under 5 minutes in 400 meter freestyle in the developmental group.” “We have never actually had that before and this is something that you guys can all be very proud of, whether you did that or that you were one of those six or whether you were the ones who were training next to them and helping them” I try to give them a sense of the group. Yuri mentioned, “I want to have this many kids qualify for the Championship meet.” This was actually the first year that every single one of my kids that actually finaled at an age group Championship meet this summer. I tried to sell them for months and months beforehand that I thought that this could happen. Whether it is, I want to have 5 kids break 2 minutes in the 100 freestyle or whether I want to have 5 kids break 1 minute in the 100 freestyle, depending on your level. You can always say “I think we can have,” even if 20 of the kids can’t do it. I can have 5 kids do this and we have never had that before. You all are going to be a part of it and that is how we can evaluate the season progress as a group. We can say this many kids make this cut or do this time. This many kids repeat under 1:10 in our 100 free test set. It doesn’t even have to be from meets. This many kids made an average of 5 practices a week. You can use those things and it really helps to get the group to go together. You know when the day that one of those five girls doesn’t feel good in practice the other one will give them a nudge and say, hey listen, “we can make this goal together so lets go ahead and do that. “
Ricky: We are a fairly new program. This is only our 6th year. So for us, it has worked well that we are still building toward certain things that we want to do with the program. One of the things I think with the athletes and with the parents is that we have really tried to promote the overall team goals. When we first started it was to win zone championships. Then we went from our little zone championships on to the LSC Championships and Far Westerns. This past summer we won Junior Nationals. When I think of the individual goals, we want to be careful with those. You might do it individually as a coach, but I think you want to be careful about promoting too much too soon with the younger swimmers. It is a long-term sport. Ware trying to promote that top end and you know it is great to win Junior Nationals, but at the same time, I think we had 14 swimmers there, most of the team doesn’t see that. They don’t know really what Junior Nationals are. So we are trying to sell that higher end of the program. Let the younger kids know the success that they will have as they go through the program and sell the goals as the overall team goals.
Tom: This is going to be the first question that is not on the list. How do you personally get evaluated at the end of the year?
Answer Dave Schreck: Our head coach Geoff Brown has this 4 page self evaluation that he will give to us. We evaluate ourselves. This doesn’t happen every year. Drew, I don’t think you have seen one of these just yet so just wait. He is one of our young guys coming up. I am married and have 3 kids and there has got to be a balance there too. There is some of that in there as well. How am I handling my personal life with my family and am I giving enough time to them and balancing it with the swimming? It covers strengths and weaknesses. It is very important that we are able to point out what we are not very good at. There is definitely some things that I can do better and we are always still learning. I think that is important to point out your weaknesses. It is easy to say, “I am a hell of a breaststroke coach.” But there are some other areas of concern and we will go over with the head coach and with the entire staff together. How we can help each other? That is how we evaluate ourselves.
Dave Kraft: I actually have the kids write stuff. I ask them questions about how they think the year went and their feedback is really amazing because that is what it is all about. Whether they like it? Whether they want to come back or not? Do you think Coach Dave was too mean this year? Anything that would help us know what we did best. I ask them what kind of workouts they like. What kind of sets they like? What kind of trips they like? The parents are paying the bills, but the kids are what we do this for. I think they should have the biggest say. The county program that I coach at, we don’t have a head coach at all so we have these site supervisors that may not know exactly what a good coach actually is or does. They may only have quantifiable aspects and you can always sell anybody numbers. But, if you get good feedback from the kids or if you get bad feedback, and then are willing to correct it, that is what I use to evaluate myself.
Ad’m: I have Coach Rose sitting here so I have got to watch my words. It is probably more informal since each Division Director has a main responsibility. We have got to do our part in getting our kids ready for the next level. That is the ultimate goal for each division, getting them ready for the next level. Now of course, our egos come into it. We want to win so much. And we want to win our own division too. I want to have the best 13-14 kids in Southern California. That is the goal for me internally and so that is how I evaluate myself. That is probably I believe how Coach Rose allows all of us, as Division Directors, to evaluate ourselves as coaches. We don’t have an actual written evaluation. We don’t have anything so formal to the point where we know where our weaknesses are. Nova lets us know every year where our weaknesses are. But I think for the most part, we all get together. We work together. We talk it out together. We have so many staff meetings and it is not so much they are scheduled. It is because we want to talk about it. We want to talk about what we can do to improve our weaknesses and build on our strengths. We are so passionate about our jobs. We are hard on ourselves and we know that we are dropping the ball or we are not doing what we are supposed to. One of us or more of us will get together and talk about it and help each other out and hopefully try to help that coach fill the gaps.
Ricky: We are similar. We don’t do a formal evaluation process, just because of the way our program is structured and the multi-sites. They all have their own autonomy. It would be a nightmare to try to have one of the two head coaches of the overall program try to do evaluations with everybody. I think coaches, for the most part, are probably harder on themselves than most people, except for maybe the parents that are up in the stands. We do not do a formal evaluation. We sit down and we talk things out. There isa lot of communication back and forth, but there is not formal evaluation or anything like that.
Yuri: My boss is in Sydney, Australia right now so he doesn’t really know what is going on. We do a lot of self-evaluation and a staff meeting at the end of the year. We sit down and take a real hard look at the numbers. One thing I like to do at my site is add up all the points that we scored at each age group. I think Dave talked about this. How did the 9-10 girls do? How did the 9-10 boys do? How did the 11-12 girls do? I think that really paints a pretty big picture as to where you are at. That gives me feedback into what we can work on next season. Our 11-12 girls only scored 34 points at the championship meet. What can we do to make that different? That is something that is probably going to change when Rick comes back from his journey down under, but for right now it is just a lot of self evaluation.
Dave: We are a parent owned club, but a lot of people would think that Geoff Brown owns our program. He has a lot of power and I hate to say, what he says, the parents listen and do. We still have our issues with the parents and there have been moments where we have tried to conjure up a way between staff to maybe buy our program and own it together. But I think we have been quite successful with a parent owned program.
Dave: I thank my lucky stars every day that I have no one to answer to. We are a not for profit county owned program. As long as the numbers do not dip down too much, the higher ups have no idea what a Junior National time is or what an age group championship meet is. What he was saying about Geoff, if you are a coach that has been there a while, I have been there 13 years now, you put in the work then you get the respect of people like that. I know that it used to be that 5-6 years into the job I would get a thousand complaints. Then the next year it became 500. When you started getting some progress there and now I get almost none just because you got the routine going. You know people understand that you might not do everything perfectly, but you run a good program and you got the kid’s interest at heart. You have the results to show for it now.
Dave: I do want to interject. One thing about Geoff is that he does not make a decision without checking with the entire staff. We get together and make the decision together. He is the head coach, but he shares everything with us, which is a huge part of our success.
Ad’m: We are a board run club. But from my perception, seeing how coach Rose runs the program, being the CEO of the whole program, he has probably more control, more influence ad more of the ability to make the decisions that we need for the club than just the board. The board is there to help in areas that sometimes, as coaches, we do not really need to take care of. We are going through a lot of changes right now in terms of trying to upgrade our pool and trying to buy the pool from the city. Of course Coach Rose, being such a huge influence and obviously with his accolades from the past and that kind of tradition, the board really doesn’t have to do that much in terms of marketing. Coach Rose is the man and what he says is golden. What he believes is golden. And we all believe it. The Board believes it. The Board completely supports it. In fact this is probably one of the teams I have been a part of where the Board is almost too much of a yes sir type board. It is almost scary sometimes, but I think for the most part, Coach Rose has complete control. Those are my lucky stars, working for Coach Rose.
Ricky: Ours situation is kind of a tricky one. We actually swim under what we call the umbrella of Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics. It is basically coach directed, however, each individual site is still separate financially. For instance, our site is Board run and operated. The SCRA site is more of a coach run team. They are actually part of Stanford University. The country club sites are all basically owned and overseen by swim committees of those individual country club sites. Most of the time we just make decisions based on our coaches. When we are at coach’s meetings and the coaches are able to make those decisions as a staff. If it is anything major, especially if it is something financial, then we have to take the information and go back to our Board or to the swim committees, their club managers or Stanford. That is a tricky situation for us.
Question: A lot of us probably are in cost run programs. We have to provide enough numbers to justify the workouts we offer. You were talking about offering multiple practices to give them the choice. I would never be able to sell a program that had 4 kids show up for the Monday workout, 2 for Tuesday, 112 on Wednesday, 6 on Thursday and nobody on Friday, and still pay the coach because the coach has to be there regardless of the numbers that walk in the door. Then on the second phase of that, I find a parent comes to me and goes, “how come you never work on breaststroke?” Well, we do every week. Your child is never there because you pick and choose which workouts you are going to come to so you are going to miss that. Can’t you go back and make it up? I can do that but what about all the kids who came that day? So we are working in some complexities here. I understand what you are offering, but I think a lot of us probably have to offer a program that your workout is Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Then the parent says well, I can’t make Wednesday, can they come Thursday? No you can’t switch to another group. How do you deal with some of this stuff?
Dave: When I came into the program we had one pool. It was 10 lanes and about 250-300 kids. We had to structure where you are practicing Monday, Wednesday, Friday and at what times. You had to stay with that schedule. You had a set schedule and as we grew with that one pool to 500 swimmers, we had to really get a grasp and people would have to pick and stay on that day. We couldn’t have the flexibility we have now and it worked. Now with that flexibility it is not as bad. We don’t have two swimmers show up. If we did have two show up, we would go for a couple of weeks and if it continued we would say we are done with that practice. That is where we have to communicate with the parents and say look, there are 45 or 50 over here. Not everybody is going to move from their day that they are going to practice, but there will be enough to make that other practice with just a few kids viable. We have one coach coaching every practice so they are going to get constant repetition in our age group program. Eevery day they are going to get almost the same thing in some areas that we worked on just the day before. Geoff, our head coach, coaches our novice groups and he does the exact same practice every day in the novice group every week. That practice he does Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. They are only coming twice a week and some might come three times. They are doing the same practice. You have got to get that repetition. That is how they are going to learn. Then the next week he will build off of what they did that week before. They are going to show up and they are going to get that breaststroke that they may have missed out per your example. That is the way we are doing it. I think you do have to be structured and I know it is harder for the smaller programs. I think some of you guys have different sites. You have 100 kids or 150 kids at a site, how do you do that, you know?
Dave: I got this question asked to me the hard way. I was actually at the pool already. I was maybe 45 minutes into practice and somebody tells me I got a phone call. So I go into the pool office. I have somebody else look at the group for a second, figuring it is an emergency with my family or something. I pick up the phone and what I hear is, “I am not paying you to run a stroke clinic”. I didn’t even know who it was, he just starts coming into me with: you don’t do this, you don’t do that. When I finally figured out who it was then I had to address it. Well, we did do that on this day and this would be your kid never comes. I found myself thrust into that exact problem. I said to myself, we have got to figure out a way to do this. There are two ways that I came up with and, by the way, this was when I was still coaching a younger, more novice group. So this applies I guess to everybody. There are two ways that you can do it. If you have a practice like a Tuesday/Thursday and you are trying to get some aerobic stuff done and mechanic stuff done by alternating. You alternate which day you do what, so if the kid only comes on Tuesdays then maybe they get something the one Tuesday and then something else on the next Tuesday. The other way to deal with it, this is actually what I still do now with the National Developmental Group, is one week we do breaststroke drills. Breaststroke comes into our aerobic stuff. We just do a lot of things with the one stroke and then we move on to it the next week. That way, if they only come two or three practices, they are going to get their breaststroke that week and then the next week they are going to get their fly. Then the next week they are going to get their back. Over the course of a season you can say, no mater what day of the week you came, you are getting everything. You are getting a little bit of something. We are going to try to get you everything and that is the best way for everybody.
Ad’m: Each division has a curriculum and although this curriculum isn’t published for the parents, it is certainly explained and described to all the parents before the season starts to inform the kids whether they are choosing to come once a week, twice a week, three times a week or even all six days. If we are running a program that goes six day or even seven practices for some of our 12 & 13 year olds, the parents are informed first to let them know that if they do choose to miss a day for some specific reason, that they are fully informed of the fact that they are going to be missing a good fraction of whatever the coach is trying to achieve. Based on the curriculum we go through everything: pulling, drilling, kicking, breaststroke, fly, back – everything. If a kid misses a specific day routinely each week, they are going to miss that specific kind of thing. It is up to us coaches to cycle through and make sure all the kids, especially those that always miss those Wednesdays or those Fridays, are getting what they are supposed to. It is all about communication to the parents to inform them before they come. You can only do so much with parents who choose not to even come to the information meetings. That is half the battle right there.
Tom: This question may be one that may take a little bit longer to answer. If you could go through for your typical age groups and talk about practice length or number of sessions that they are supposed to attend? Is there is kind of a main focus? Also, if you wouldn’t mind sharing, what does it cost to be in that group? And finally, do you know the cost for all your groups?
Question from the floor: Since you asked such a big question can we make it even bigger and ask how many swimmers per group, per coach?
Dave Schreck: We have a very structured progression. We have 12 practice groups. By the way, some of you may not have been in the first session, we practice out of one facility. We own it and we have two 10 lane pools, so we have a pretty ideal situation. We have our problems because we do have a lot of numbers in the lanes and per coach. That can be a challenge. We have a novice bronze, a 7 and under group. It is mostly 6 and 7’s.. It is part of our lesson program actually, but they can compete and they only practice twice a week for an hour. All of our novice groups only practice an hour. They are basically 8 and unders. We have a novice bronze, a novice silver which is 7 & 8 year olds and twice a week for an hour, and then novice gold is actually probably more of an 8-10 year old group. A lot of the 9-10’s might be first year kids. We have probably 150 new kids in our program this year thanks to the Olympic bump. A lot of 9-10 year olds fall into our novice, twice a week for an hour. They do have an option to practice 3 times a week in our novice silver and novice gold. Then they progress from novice to an age group development group. There is a head coach for each group and remember we have a lot of practices offered throughout the week. The groups that run for an hour have anywhere from 20 to 35 swimmers and we will have two coaches. So roughly 1:15. Some of you might go, what? We have a cap and we will allow up to 10 per lane. It is a lot of 25’s, so they are getting out of the pool each time. It probably averages about 6-7 per lane, okay? Our head coach, our senior coach, coaches the novice gold program and he is on salary. Is that what you said? Yup and we actually have other fulltime coaches that will help assist him as well. We have got a lot of experience behind him as well helping out. They are salaried. We do have hourly coaches as well that will help out in other areas of our program. Our novice is anywhere from 5-$600 for the year (for 9 months) or $90 a month.
Then we go to age group development program. We have an age group development silver and an age group development gold track. Our age group development silver are 9-10 year olds and I have about 110 in that group. They do not practice every day. They practice two times a week for an hour and 15 minutes. I have probably about 50% of that group. They practice 3 times a week. I encourage 3 to get that extra day of repetition. You are not going to train a 9-10 year old necessarily, but just get that extra skill work in there so they and learn a lot quicker. I do have some 8 year olds in that group as well that are getting ready to turn 9. They are a little more advanced, but it is still mostly skills and drills and a lot of racing. They love it and you have to do that with the age groupers. Leigh coaches the age group development gold program. That group is our advanced 9-10 year olds. They practice three times a week for an hour and a half. From there the next group is age group. We have three tiers of our 11-12 year old program. These are rough figures. Our age group development part of our program is about $1100 to $1200 for the year. That is an 11 month program. Our novice program is only a 9 month. They go from September through basically when school lets out in June. It’s about $110 a month and they can pay monthly; they can pay every three months or a lump sum, which we prefer. Both age group development silver and age group development gold are about the same in cost.
In the age group program we have three tiers in 11-12. We have the luxury of keeping ability levels and the age groups together. We have an age group bronze which consists of 11-12 year olds that are novice. They are entry level kids and they practice for an hour and a half 2-4 times a week. That is also probably about $120 a month. The age group silver consists of a more experienced 11-12s. If you use the time standards, they are BB kids. There might be some A kids in there as well, but they have still have a lot of stroke development and physical maturity that they need to go through. They practice for an hour and 45 minutes and probably about $1,500 for the 11 months. Age group gold is our elite level 11-12 year olds. They practice 4-5 times a week for an hour and 45 minutes. The cost is probably about $1,700 a year or $140-$150 a month.
From there it is my job to prepare them, because those 12 year olds are moving on to our senior development program. We have three tiers there and this has also been a new part of our program in some areas to help cater to those kind of novice level 13 year olds we talked a little bit about. We have senior development silver and they practice 3-6 times a week. They can choose as we are very flexible there. A lot of those kids are dual sports kids. They are 13 and over novice type level kids up to pretty respectable almost state senior champ type of kids. That cost is probably more along the lines of age group gold – $150 a month. Then senior development gold, there are two levels of that. 13-14 senior development gois 5-7 times a week and that is when they are really starting to get into some training. You are going to get a lot of our national level 13-14’s in that group and they are probably close to $200 a month in cost. It is all 11 months.
Then our senior program, we have two tiers there: senior silver and senior gold. Basically, it is based on commitment level. Those are mostly 14 and older and national level kids pretty much across the board. They practice anywhere from 7-10 time a week for 2 hours. Their main practice is actually in the morning from 4:30 to 6:30. They do get their doubles done in the afternoon also. Cost on that one, I would imagine it is probably about $250 a month for those kids. You can see that progression we go through and we add a little bit of time of course for each group. It is simple, but yet a little complex.
Question: Is this all on your website?
Answer: Yes, except for the cost. We do not publish that. Descriptions of the groups I can answer that quic. I have actually been asked this question before.
Dave from Nova, VA: We have 8 levels and the range in cost is from $600 for the mini level and that goes all the way up to $1200 or $1300 for the National Training Group. For all of these< we are talking about from September to April. For the summer group we offer a little spring session, which is basically the same type of fee for about 6 weeks based on a pro-rated version of those fees that I just mentioned. Only our advanced juniors and national developmental and national training groups and advanced seniors get to have the summer session. We do not offer all of the groups during the summer session because those kids are mainly summer league kids. Every group that we have has a maximum number of workouts that are offered and a recommended number of workouts that you can come to. We start with the 8 and unders with 2 days recommended and 3 days offered. Practices are 1 hour. The junior ones, which is the novice 9-12’s, is the same thing: 3 days offered and 2 days recommended. Practices are 1 hour. Junior 2’s, which is 4 stroke 9-12 year olds. We offer 4 practices and 3 are recommended. Those are also one hour practices. The advanced juniors are offered 5 times a week and we recommend 4. Those are either 1 hour or 1 hour and a half practices. My group, the national developmental group, is kind of a bridge between junior and senior. It is mostly 11-14 year olds. We have 3 two hour practices and two 1 hour and a half practices. There are 5 offered and 4 required. That is actually where we have the requirements. Then in the senior level we have the regular senior group, which is a high school supplement or novice senior level for 13 and ups. There we have 4 offered and we recommended 3. But, you can go less. Advanced seniors are 7 offered including 2 mornings and 5 recommended. The National training group we offer 9 practices including a couple of mornings and 6 are required as a freshman and 7 are required as you go up. Dave from Rockville Montgomery: Coach to swimmer ratio for the mini group we have about 40 kids with 3 coaches. There will not be 40 kids there on a given day. There are 40 kids in that group, so I would imagine somewhere in the range of that actually show up on a given day. Junior 1 is the same with 3 coaches and about 40 kids. Junior 2 is usually a little bigger with 40-50 kids and 2-3 coaches depending on the day and the time. Each group has a managing coach, but the assistants within the group are kind of placed by need depending on how many kids actually enroll in that type of group. Believe me, the county does not want us to have any wasted hours. We are all paid by the hour which is why I have to have a teaching job also. The advanced junior group there are 2 coaches in that and about 40 kids in that. My group, national developmental, is 24 kids and I am the only coach there. Once in a while I will get some help, but not often. Senior group, there are 2 coaches and about 40 kids. Advanced senior group there are about 40 kids also. We have one coach that is there every time and sometimes assistance depending on what is going on. The National training group has one head coach and two assistants that come a couple of times a week, of which I am one and they usually have somewhere in the 20 range in that group. Tom: Dave, your fees are basically also set by the County, correct? Dave: Correct. The coaches determine what goes on in the water, but everything else we have pretty much no say on. We can recommend some things Tom: Who pays the pool rental? Dave: The county pools do not pay pool rental which is the huge advantage. That is why our costs are relatively low where all the private clubs have to pay the pools. Ad’m: Okay, I will start from the bottom and work my way up to the top. Starting with the novice, we have 4 tiers along with a transition group. The 4 tiers of novice are: novice 1, novice 2, novice 3, and novice 4. The first two are 9 and unders and the other two tiers are 10 and ups. Now of course there is a bubble based on ability and we try to make sure that the kids are with their peers. It is one of those cases where we just try to keep the kids within their peer group as much as we can, especially as they make that jump from novice to hopefully the competitive side. Those 4 tiers, they practice in the water for 30 minutes and have 15 minutes of dry-land, whether it is constructive dry-land in terms of running or push ups, or just a team meeting doing videos or talking about meets coming up. They train 3 times a week. The first two groups train Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The other two groups train Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. I think now with the transition group and having an influx of athletes coming in because of the Olympic bump; we are still tweaking that aspect, trying to figure water time and available coaches. The 8 and unders, the 9-10’s, the 11-12’s and the 13-14’s that are not in high school, those 4 main divisions are broken up by either 3 or 4 different tiers. The top tier, the gold group, of all those divisions are roughly 20 athletes for that coach. The blue group which is actually the second tier is roughly around 30 athletes. The silver group which is the third tier is roughly around 40 athletes. Now the average daily attendance is roughly around 20 athletes per day. The coach to swimmer ratio is about 20:1. Of course based on the size of the kid, based on the ADA and based on their ability, that kind of helps us allocate what time their practices are. As far as the costs are concerned, novice is roughly around 55 to $65.00 a month. 8 and unders, I believe are between 65 and $85.00. 9-10’s the cost is I believe between 95. and $115. 11-12’s between 115 and $135. The 13-14’s that are not in high school, their cost is roughly around $145 to $155. The age group program is structured all based on curriculum. The 8 and under gold group, when they move up to the division they move to the 10 and under blue. Of course there are talented athletes that are ready for more training and they go directly up to the 10 and under gold. Pool time: the 8 and unders train in the water for an hour 6 days a week and I am talking strictly for the gold levels here. An hour in the water and 30 minutes of dryland. Its very much like what the novice program does. It is not a hard core dry-land. It is just motor skill learning dry-land, team meeting dry-land and getting them ready for the 9-10’s. The 9-10’s: that is where things start to pick up just a little bit more. Coach Brian who is probably a master at putting together not only the fun in dry-land, but really encouraging the kids to get together to be a part of more of the team aspect. And Coach Sega who is our 8 and under division director, those two are probably our biggest assets of the whole entire team because that is literally laying the foundation for what the 11-12’s have to do. As far as dry-land is concerned, it is a major part of our curriculum. We do 40 minutes for every group after the 8 and under gold. The 8 and under blue, the second tier, they are roughly between 15 and 30 minutes. It could toggle between each days or even between the beginning and end of season. It is all based on the ability and based on how many kids we have in that bubble. The 9-10 gold group goes for an hour and a half in the water and 30 minutes of dry-land, 6 days a week. The 11-12’s train for an hour and 45 minutes in the water, 30 minutes of dry-land 7 times a week. They go every afternoon and then a Wednesday morning. That Wednesday morning is strictly for getting them prepared for the 13-14’s. The 13-14 group will go 8 days a week and go 2 hours in the water in the afternoon and 30 minutes of dry-land in the afternoon, along with 1 ½ hours in the morning. Now traditionally in the summertime I usually use that hour and a half in the morning for water time. During the winter time I use it for dry-land. There is an extensive amount of dry-land time that I really try to allocate for these athletes before I give them to Coach Rose’s groups or the senior level. That is what most of those kids are moving up into. It is that small window of opportunity to really beat the heck out of them and really, really give them a taste of what swimming is going to be like once they jump into that senior division. The senior division and this is almost a completely different beast from what we do with the age group division. We have three tiers: National group, Senior 1 and Senior 2. The national group I believe the cost is $185 month. The Senior 1 is around $175 and the Senior 2 around $165. That is all based on the number of kids that traditionally come to the practice and obviously water time too. The senior 2 program, which is the transition from a novice, trains every day in the afternoon for 2 hours in the water and 30 minutes of dry-land. For senior 1 they train 9 times a week. They go 3 mornings and every afternoon, including Saturday mornings. That is also 2 hours in the water and 30 minutes of dry-land. For the National program I believe Coach Rose has his kids swim 10 times a week. They go every afternoon and every morning except Wednesday. In the summertime, they actually take Wednesday afternoon off and go in the morning so it is still 10 times a week. Yardage is all based on the set progression that we have, building from a good 3-4,000 meters a day. I don’t want you to quote me on these numbers as they are strictly the guidelines that we try to use to make sure the kids aren’t going from 2,000 meters to 8,000 meters when they move up to a different division. Traditionally 8 and unders are between 2-3,000 per practice. The 9-10’s, I am talking about the gold level, traditionally do between 3500-4500 meters per day. The 11-12’s do between 4500-5500, with a little bit more of an endurance test in the mornings, trying to bump under that 6,000 range. The 13-14’s, I beat the snot out of them. I get them probably close to 7-8,000 meters. That is not every day, but probably about 2-3 times a week they will do some quality work where we just get up and go swims and do between 5,000 and 6,000 so we are hitting close to 40,000 meters per week with 8 practices. Once you get in the senior division it gets more specialized. Again, based on whether you are a sprinter, distance or stroke specialist. It is more or less what group you fit best in and that range can be between 5,000 to 10,000 meters per practice. Ricky: I will try to keep this short. I know we are probably going way overtime and I will just speak to our site specifically at Palo Alto. I think it ends up being 10 different groups at our site. We have got three 8 and under groups. One goes two days a week and one goes 3 days a week, both for a half an hour. The third group swims 5 workouts a week for an hour. I don’t think there are any kids or very few kids that would even make all five. We have two 9-10 groups. One goes an hour and one goes an hour and 15 minutes. We have got two 11-12 groups. One goes an hour and a half, one goes an hour and 15 minutes. Two 13-14 groups, one that goes an hour and a half and it kind of fluctuates as we build it through the season from an hour and a half and it goes up to about an hour and 45 as we get closer to high school season. The second group goes 2 ½ hours. One group has 6 workouts a week, the other we offer 7 workouts. I try to get the kids to go to 6. We do one morning a week during the school year. We bump it up in the summer time. With the kids that do the morning in the school year, they take the afternoon off so they go to one or the other. Then the senior group we offer 10 workouts a week, 4 mornings if you count Saturday, and 5 afternoons. They are 2 ½ to 3 hours per practice. We do our team registration fee at the beginning of the season and it is $175. That includes T-shirt, USA registration, and then fees that go to help with relays, team travel, and things like that. The dues range from $65 up to about $150 for our senior group. I would encourage you guys to go into the websites and get some of the information. Somebody mentioned that. You could also email the coaches. I am sure that anybody would be happy to get you information. Yuri: At my site I am just going to go over the competitive track. Our 8 & unders, we offer 3 workouts a week. They are each an hour, keep in mind that I pay about $125 an hour for 6 lanes so that is about $1500 for the year. All of our programs are competitive programs. They are a flat rate. USA Swimming registration included. Entry fees are included. It is a flat rate. They pay I think 40% by November 1. They pay 60 or 75% by January 1 and then the final dues are due in March. SO our 8 and unders pay $1,600 a year. Our 9-10’s, we offer 7 workouts to them and I expect them to be at 3-4. Some come 4-5 and those are all for about an hour and 30 minutes. Those guys are paying a little bit over $2,000. for an 11 month program. Our 11-12’s, the same amount of practices a week, 7. Some of my upper level guys I expect them to be there 4-5 times a week. They are all swimming for an hour and a half to an hour and 45 minutes. They are the same price as our 9-10’s, so they are just a little bit over $2,000 for the year. Our 13-14’s, we offer 7 workouts and I expect them at 5, bare minimum. Those guys swim an hour and a half in the mornings and 2 hours in the evenings and they are close to about $3,000 for 11 month. Then our senior program trains 7+ workouts a week. They are all at a minimum of 2 hours at a time and those guys are I would say around $3400-$3500 for the 11 month program. Tom: Okay, just to do a kind of a quick reintroduction, this is the third part of our age group panel and just so everyone knows who the panelists are I will just have them go through real quickly and mention their club that they are with and what group they are coaching. I am Dave Kraft. I coach the National Developmental Group which is 11-14 year olds at Rockville Montgomery Swim Club in Montgomery County, Maryland. Leigh Robbins: I coach Nova Virginia Aquatics in Richmond Virginia and I coach the Senior Development level of 14-18 year olds and the State and National level 9-10 year olds. Ad’m Dusenbury: I work for Mission Viejo Nadadores. I am the 13-14 Division Director. Ricky Silva: I coach at Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics. I coach two 13-14 groups. Yuri Sugulyama: I am with the Curl-Burke Swim Club which is located in the D.C. Metro area. I am the head coach of the Holton Arms site which is in Bethesda, Maryland and I coach two groups: I coach a 12-15 year old group and a 9-12 year old group. Tom: USA Swimming research shows that kids quit because swimming isn’t fun and we could probably spend the entire you know – couple days talking about what makes swimming fun, but if you can maybe give one thing that you think that you or your kids think is fun. ? Yuri: I think social events. The more you do them the more you schedule them – they are so much fun. I have a lot of fun as a coach. I know my kids have fun. My parents have fun. We do a really big Halloween celebration every year where everyone gets dressed up. A couple years we have done pool activity. That can get a little messy with the hair dye in the water - ………. really doesn’t like that and we have also used the gym and that is a lot of fun. Holiday parties – I encourage all of my coaches to host holiday parties or have or find a parent that hosts a holiday party. Movie Days: Celebrate birthdays. Find out when your kid’s birthdays are and celebrate them and man – the kids get pumped for that. You know, have someone bring brownies in on a regular basis. You know, I think a sweet every once in a while is not a bad thing, but you know – celebrating birthdays is a really fun thing and it gets the group together. You know, we have gone tubing before. We have played paintball. Miniature golf is a lot of fun because the kids get really competitive. If you have mini golf near your pool take them there – divide them into teams – make them keep score and man – it gets intense – to the point where you know there are some moral lines being crossed in terms of the way they are playing the game at the end, but anything you can do to get the kids together outside of the pool I don’t think as coaches we do it enough and I think one thing at Curl-Burke that we have done a good job of is doing that – emphasizing it and I really try and I really try and encourage all of my coaches that coach my groups to organize that stuff and one thing that I like to do at the beginning of the year is – whenever – you know – I send out my instructor email or a newsletter I always just ask for two parent volunteers per each group and the parents are more than happy to volunteer. Some parents will take it upon themselves to organize it so that every Saturday morning someone brings a different – like someone brings 2 dozen bagels. You know – the kids love that – it is a lot of fun so get the parents involved and social activities – a lot of fun. Panelist: Yeah, I would agree. The social activities seem to be one of the big things that draws the kids to the pool – whether it is in the water or outside the water. We have done all kinds of things like movie days. We have done breakfasts after practice. Some of the sites have done sleep-overs at the country club sites, but those seem to really draw the kids. As they get a little bit older I know the kids really enjoy dry-land and doing something out of the norm rather than just swimming for just 2-3 hours a day is doing some type of dry-land – mixing it up like doing med balls or core work as well as just doing basketball or ultimate Frisbee. Leigh Robbins: I agree with all of those things and I think that probably you know – at any size – any level – you can do those and you know organize them by group and create that social environment, but you know I think we really try to sell that racing is fun and competing is fun and the work in the practice and fun new ways. I mean, I love the idea board because I think a lot of people have found ways to make practice exciting and competitive. If it feels like racing – that is what they like. They like going to meets. It is more of that summer league environment so you know – more diving in sets. More sets where they are going head to head girls versus boys. You know, we do things called Mystery Meets where you know – you have to get up on the block and then figure out what event you are swimming and you know – we all do all kinds of things. I think another thing too – we do inner squad meets or a red versus blue meet where we try to mix it up. One of the single best things we did last year was those relays that we did – those relays that we did – the …………… and …………….. and us had a Tri-meet – the National age group meet in November – what was that relay called? The crescendo relays you know – where one kid from each age group – all boys – could swim against our best 7 boys age 9-14 swam their best 7 boys and swam their best 7 boys and you would have thought we were at the Olympics. It was – I mean – I have never seen – I mean – we had kids that didn’t go that fast the rest of the year – they were so scared – but I mean it was – the place was going crazy. We try to get our older kids and our younger kids together a lot. We try to get our older kids in the water – have them come in 15 minutes early and work on turns with the younger kids at the end. Little kids love seeing the big kids. I mean – that is real special for them so we try to connect our older levels to our younger levels and we try to get our younger level kids out cheering for our older level kids at senior type meets so I think we try to focus the fun around the competitive exciting part of that too. Panelist: Exactly what she just said. That is probably one of the pinnacle parts of making ………. Programs successful is trying to combine a formula where we can have our little guys swimming with our big guys. We have relays – we have clinics – we have team clinics once a month and we will have a division director – a fulltime staff member – basically directed, but we will have some of the national team swimmers run it and demonstrate it and those little guys get so charged up – so pumped up to be able to be in the same lane with the relays at the end of the clinic – we will have bagels, we will have orange juice – Saturday mornings – again – it is just a blast. We will go down to the beach. We are fortunate to have the beach a good 15 minutes away. We will go down – have an open water swim – do a bunch of dry-land afterwards and then we will just have a picnic with the whole team down there and again – it is those social interactivities that we have within the team that makes everything so much more enjoyable and I think it also kind of reinforces the fact that the team is – we need each other and although we are individually segregated from each other so much throughout the week – those Saturday mornings when we can all just come together and have fun is a blast. Panelist: Again, same, same, same, same, same – we have done all that stuff – laser tag – the getting racing involved. We have two things; on Halloween we have a great pumpkin thing where they pick sets out of the great pumpkin, but then the day after Halloween we have what we call the sprint championship and the kids in the higher level groups – we have them race in 25’s of each stroke and so you can't believe that you know – at the October meet – your kid going 9:30 in the thousand and this other kid is going 10:30 and then the 10:30 kid beats him in a 25 free and he is fired up. So, that is what we like to do with the racing and stuff and I will say that the #1 attraction there that doesn’t have to do with regular practice is our age group retreat where we have kids from my group and from the group below us – we basically lock ourselves into the pool for 27 hours and we do team meals there. We got guest speakers come in. We do do a bunch of water workouts. We do video taping. We do all kinds of classroom sessions and things like that. We do games, dry-land – everything and they are scared to death to go to it, but once they go to it and then after they finish it – that is almost always what I look back on – when I get those evaluations at the end – they think that is the highlight of it and you know – again, it is not just about the workouts – it is all the other stuff and just being with each other and things like that. Tom: Our National statistics are approximately 60% girls – 40% boys and it is like inching up by a tenth of a percent every year to boys, you know – coming back a little bit more and obviously again – the Michael Phelps affect – is there anything that your clubs do specifically to keep boys? Panelist: we have dry-land with balls and literally – in terms of you know – we will play dodge ball – we will play any type of game that we can actually have the kids – whether it be guys and girls – just have some sort of team activity that plays with a ball or a Frisbee or something to give them that kind of interactivity and I think it is one of the biggest elements that swimming is missing that loses a lot of the kids to soccer and baseball and basketball at the 9-10 and 11-12 range and especially in Southern California where water polo is such a big influence as well – when you have a pool every 5 square miles in South Orange County – we are constantly losing our top swimmers to water polo just because of that kind of case so we try to develop that kind of structure to the point where the boys do have that kind of team atmosphere where it is not just chasing that black line, but I think a lot of the kids – especially the kids that I coach – the 13-14 year olds – a lot of their motivation is swimming with girls in swim suits, so again – we can always use that as a motivator some how or another. Leigh: I think that we have worked really hard to try to stay about 50/50 and chart that progression and are constantly talking about how we are doing with that and I do think a half hour of wall ball you know, before every practice, is pretty critical for the boys. You know, I think one of the things this sport battles the most is that at 13-14 they like the girls, but at 12 and under you cannot allow those boys to have to be compared to those girls. I mean – it is an unbalanced situation and if they are constantly not measuring up to the girls in your program and they are being compared to them – both in how well they listen – both in how well they behave – how you know – coachable they are 12 and under – much less how fast they are. I mean I think if you are making a comparison between the boys to the boys about between them and the girls – they are going to get a message of inferiority. I mean – they are going to be looking for a place where they can shine. And girls are much more verbal in general so girls are running the show anyway you know and so I think you have got to let them train together – even if they are different speeds. You know, occasionally we spread them out, but I think other than that – I think the other thing we do is we try to find very competitive meet environments. We do not go to the same old meets so they can swim the same old people. You know, we kill ourselves – I say we probably do more than anything to constantly evaluate whether that was a good meet to go to or whether we need to find a better meet or make a better meet that they want to go to – that they get charged up by going to. You know, we will travel with them. You know, we will put them on a bus just to go to Raleigh for 24 hours because they are going to get excited about racing RSA much more than they are going to get excited about racing each other and the guys down the street. So, I think guys love racing so you have to find good races for them. If they are only racing in a really exciting environment when they are tapered or once or twice a year – I think that is too long of a span is what we found – at the younger ages especially. Panelist: you know, I think with the boys it is sometimes kind of easy to figure out, but I know you were talking about balls – you see them out there after practice every day – I mean – the 9-10 year old kids – as soon as they are done with practice the first thing they do is they go in the team room and grab a ball and they are playing kick ball or they are playing probably tackle football or I don’t know what else – it is mostly Tricia’s kids out there running around buck wild. You know, the boys are a little bit wilder than the girls and kind of, I think, like that freedom to be able to do a little bit more. I think – in my experience – the boys do not like to be over-coached and have somebody kind of doing this to them. They kind of like that freedom to bounce around. I made the mistake of somewhat explaining what being was to some of my kids – a tag game that some people have played – I am sure you guys have seen it on flo swimming so the boys do that almost every day in warm-up and they just bounce off each other and kind of almost wrestle in the water and you know – it is not the best warm-up, but at the same time you give them that flexibility. And we are lucky enough – we do have a lot of good coaches – younger coaches that understand the difference of the boys and the girls and work well with the boys so he have had a pretty good balance of boys and girls in the program. Panelist: one thing – if your kids are just hanging around on the deck talking – that is not necessarily a bad thing I think. I schedule 20 minutes into my practice so I will have them get there for 20 minutes and we call it stretching. Sometimes I use it to talk about like the drill that we are going to do that day, but sometimes you know – if they are just hanging out laughing and having a good time and talking – you know – sometimes I just kind of let them go and that is kind of hard because you know – I don’t like to waste time because we don’t have a lot of time, but I think there is real value in letting your kids grow and hang out and be together. You know, they get that element in school right? You know I think their relationships with their school friends are very different than their swimming friends so I think if they can bring a little bit more of that social ness into the practice group you know – they are going to want to come more. You know, they are going to want to improve with their friends and you know – I think the more that you can get your kids to view themselves as part of the team and to bui9ld that community aspect – not only amongst your swimmers, but your parents as well and amongst your coaching staff – you know – then you are going to keep kids in the program. You know, whether or not they are having fun or not – I think kids quit the sport – I think we lose boys if they don’t recognize or they do not identify themselves with their respective team so you know – anything that you can do outside of the pool which is to create situations where you know – they are thinking to themselves – I swim for Nova – I swim for Curl-Burke you know? Then that is a good thing, you know. But, you know, also having the water and the training is also good too, but I think you have to be flexible and you have to be willing to let them – you know – let them waste time - you know and let them hang out a little bit. Panelist: It is a totally different question with the 12 and under boy and the 13-14 year old boy also. With the 12 and unders you have the racing stuff, the playing games – if you can tag or beaver or whatever at the end of a practice – we actually let them play water polo and you guys are different – nobody plays water polo in the Washington, D.C. area – nobody – so when we play it – it is like a special thing. They are really into it. With the older boys – to me and again – this is indicative more of the D.C. area – these kids and I hate to stare at ………… swimmers – the long-legged, you know maybe a little clumsy on land – they are not going to make their basketball teams – they are not going to make their football teams and they are not going to be stars on them even if they can, but I think there is more opportunity for these guys – whether we are talking about college scholarships, recognition within the community – getting your name in the newspaper or being a stud at your high school. There is a lot more of that available in swimming than there is in basketball or football and when they get old enough to understand – when they get to be 7th or 8th graders – they are playing their other sports. A lot of my kids still play another sport, but it is at the point where okay – look what you are doing. You just made the top 16 in Washington, D.C. area in the hundred fly. Are you one of the top 16 basketball players in the Washington, D.C. area? No chance. I mean – not even one of the top 16 in your school probably so that is the kind of thing that I like to sell to older boys and they kind of again – get a sense of identity as a swimmer – whether it is for a club or a high school or whatever, but just – I am a swimmer and that is good you know and I am going to be a swimmer for the rest of my career. We push college stuff on them really young. Like – you can be a college athlete is you stay in this pool. I think one of the things that I am most proud of is that my National Developmental group which ends at 14, but so far of all the kids that I have had, that have come through my group that have graduated high school – 70% of them are swimming in college right now and that is something that I don’t think would have happened if I had not pushed it from back when they were 11 & 12 – well, you can do this for a long time – I did – I loved it – you know, if you really start loving the sport then you will do that too. TOM: This next question I somewhat hesitate to ask in terms of how long it could take to answer so if you could put in maybe two or three sentences – what is kind of your general overall philosophy of your program. I do not want the – show my age here – the encyclopedia Britannica answer – you know – could you please in a couple of sentences talk about the philosophy of your program? Panelist: I will be quick. Family developing fast swimmers, but more importantly good people – good citizens and pride. Leigh: I think our biggest success comes and I think you can do this at any size – an extremely competitive environment. I mean – everything about walking in the door at Nova is competitive – everything. It is an environment where we encourage it in everything they do all the time. I think it is a collaborative coaching environment. I think one of the greatest advantages I have got is I got 6 wildly successful – wildly experienced coaches to go to when I run out of ideas and if you are in a small program – you know – I mean this is the place to be, but like get the phone numbers – get the emails – I mean – you have got to find people to ask questions of. As a young coach 10 or 12 years ago – that is exactly what I did out of a smaller program is find people – ask a million questions. Tradition of success – build a tradition within your own program – we have and every time somebody gets successful – sell that success. It is going to make the next door easy to walk through and I think that we have learned – not give in to the journey of the urgent which is what parents want you to do. I think we are willing to stand together as a staff and let our ideas take root and be patient. Again – three years is the minimum. I mean – you want to see something really happen – really change – plan on it taking 3 years. That is what we do. Panelist: One of the things we really push is trying to have a team environment which is kind of tricky given the multiple sites and different pools that we are at, but it stems from the senior level and when you get to the senior level you really see the team environment and pushing the team over the individual and trying to let that trickle down to the younger kids. You know – whether it be joint workouts – coming together at meets – things like that. Yuri: One of favorite quotes that we talk a lot – Forbes Carlisle – who is a great coach in Australia said, “you know, our goal wasn’t necessarily to train champions, but to create an environment where champions are inevitable” and I think that is a great summation of what all of us want to do. You know, we want to create an environment like we talked about where people are walking in the door and you know – great things are going to happen. You know, if you sit around and I have heard so many coaches say you know – if you sit around waiting for the next Ian Thorpe to walk into your door or for Michael Phelps to walk in your door – you know – you are going to be really disappointed. You know you have to create an environment where that is inevitable and I think that is something team-wide that we have been able to do, but family as well. You know the Curl-Burke family is something that we talk a whole lot about. I made a joke earlier that we feel like the mafia or The Firm – people call us The Firm sometimes, but I like that idea that you know – we are all part of the big family and you know – this emblem right here which you know – some of those guys are probably tired of seeing – you know – we like to try and put that everywhere. If you have got a team emblem put it on everything and get it out there – get it on T-shirts – get it on bumper stickers – get it on towels you know, create that sense. Get it out in the community – create a community out of your team and try to get that “family feel”. Dave Kraft: When I first met my wife and we moved in together – she said, “how many RMSC T-shirts do you have? Oh I don’t know – a hundred? But that is a big one and I think overall the philosophy that we have and maybe coming from a county program where the politically correct can rule, but having a place for everyone. We have talked a lot about not just worrying about the higher level swimmers, but having a place for everyone from the two day a week to the 11 day a week or whatever – not daily – 11 workouts a week. Progressionary development – all those kids from 2-11 – you know – they have got to be able to work their way up through the program and education in terms of finding out – teaching them what they actually need to do to get to that next level. We really go out of our way to try to teach everybody about what being a swimmer is all about and I had a modest swimming career growing up and everything – I didn’t know anything about what a swimming career should have been all about until I really started coaching and getting in with this club and getting in with the program – getting them to love it. I told the kids – I mean – I told you guys about college, but I tell the kids all the time about college experience and just trying to say, you can be in this forever and even when you are done with college – I mean – look at me – I am a lifer you know and that is what I would love for everyone of my kids to be able to experience just trying to sell them on the sport that we all love that is so great and educate them about why it is so great and why you can be a swimmer for life. TOM: What is your most satisfying moment as an age group coach? Panelist: I think one thing that I really find satisfying is watching your kids do something that they didn’t think they could do – if it is a hard set or a great swim. I think all of us as coaches – you know – they show that doubt at first, but if you can just get them over that hump – that initial hump of disbelief and get them believing and get them to do something that they didn’t think that they could do whether it was a really hard set or you know – a big break-through in time – personally for me – that is what I love to see. Panelist: For me it is seeing one of the athletes that has come through the program do well at the senior level and have that success at the senior level – whether it is someone that won Junior Nationals or you know – one sectional – things like that. With our site – most of the kids if they have come through the program they have had all of the 5 coaches at our program so it is nice to see everybody had a hand in that success of the athlete and seeing them at that top level at the senior level. Panelist: I totally concur, but I think one of the most satisfying moments that I have had as an age group coach is beating Nova. I mean – like I said – that is the huge rivalry that we have and we use that as much as we can to rile the kids up, but beating Nova in the Spring 2006 JO’s by 4 points – it came down to the last relay – 13-14 800 free relay – it was just phenomenal, but I think also it really helped us to find who we are and what we have been trying to do and like what Dave has been saying and all of us up here have been saying – seeing the kids go through the ranks. Seeing them go through so much and so much blood, sweat and tears and seeing what they should be getting and if it is not now – they are going to get it – whether it be in high school – college or post-college so again – that is probably the most satisfying thing that I think a lot of us can try to attribute to is just seeing these kids develop themselves as not only good swimmers, but just good people in society. Panelist: Yes, yes, yes, yes I mean – that is it. The doing things that they didn’t think that they could do. If you are looking at a singular moment – that is definitely a great one like I very frequently at the very beginning of a kid’s time, we have a little incoming parents and kids meeting – the kid’s time when my group starts and we have this meeting and I say well – you know – I don’t know if you knew this, but you are going to make JO’s in six events this year and they are like what?? But I have never made it before – but you are going to – trust me. Now, you are going to be able to find this year you have never made a final before and then when it actually happens at the end of the year they just feel 100 feet tall and it is great and then also – what Ad’m was saying about the stuff and the virtual club championship might not be a big deal to a lot of people, but I think – especially around our community and around our area – now that RMSC has won it a couple of times – it really feels like a lot of justification for a lot of things we do just because we don’t have the means to really market ourselves like some of the other clubs do and you know – we are a private club and that is what it is. It is not even about that, but the people that have been in there and there are a lot of lifers – Curl is the same way – there are a lot of people in like Yuri who came up through Curl and now is coaching and giving back – it is the same thing with us and the team pride that we talked about. You just – you know – we feel very proud and a sense of accomplishment that we are doing all this stuff at the National level. We are sending this many kids to Juniors or win the age group champs – the team pride is a really big thing and if your kids start to believe in that then they really will work a lot harder you know with each other and they will want to achieve those goals together. Leigh: I think if you are waiting for the big win you don’t do this for your life you know? It is not the money. I think every time you tell a kid – I think it takes a lot of guts as a coach to tell the slow BB – you know – BC level kid what they could be and sell it and then watch them be willing to spend 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years to fearlessly go after the ideas that you planted in their head and you know – I know a bunch of the senior level coaches here have talked about it for their Olympic level athletes, but it starts at the age group level – is you are selling vision. You are casting vision for these kids and so you have got to see their potential and then you have got to help them follow through on it and so every time that least likely kid – it makes it worth it – it keeps you going to coach and then you like – also too – I like winning the big stuff because I think what you see is it is not about having one great team – it is about watching young kids grow into leadership roles. I would say that the times that we have done best at nationals or won spring junior or been top 3 – there has been a point over a 5 day meet where a kid – where they have taken control of the leadership and there is nothing that I like more than when the coaches do not have to say a word and when we are able to stand up there and we have raced kids to be there for three or four years that have been raised under good kids who understand the value of leadership which is critical and they turn around to their teammates and go – we have got to win this – you have got to step up. You have got to do this. Here is what I am willing to do, you know? We have been able to develop leadership. I think that is hard to do in this culture. Tom: Dave, you kind of mentioned that you are a teacher also and my guess is like a lot of coaches, you teach to support your coaching habit. (Dave: I have used that exact line) To the group – How do you balance your lifestyle with the job that can be all consuming? Dave: Now it is harder. I have a daughter now – I have a baby daughter so it is even worse you know – just budgeting the time and things like that, but I don’t know. I do teach to support my coaching habit. I am in a good position in that – I am a calculus teacher so that doesn’t change. I do the same year after year. I got my notebook and I don’t have to do a whole lot of prep so what am I doing in my planning periods? Well, I am looking up swim times and writing workouts and things like that so that is a luxury for me to be able to do that, but I think the main thing is I love to coach swimming and I really enjoy being with all the families and things like that and I have heard the word “family” come out a lot of times. I don’t even see that. Like my wife is like – Oh my God – you just worked 85 hours this week and it wasn’t even a meet weekend and I am like – well – it is not even work. It is not even work to me and then I come home and I am on the computer – I am writing more times. She goes – why are you still doing work? It is not work – it is just what I enjoy doing and I know you can't just say okay – you are going to love it that much, but I am sure that a lot of people in this room are in the same boat and if you just kind of keep that perspective that yeah, you are spending a lot of time. I mean – my wife – when she first got into it and she is not a swimmer – never has been – she starts coming to the meets and she gets into it. Now, my daughter – just started to walk – she is running around the deck you know – she is there – she is at all of the meets and the kids love her and everything and your family becomes part of that. It becomes a bigger family so that is what I have done personally to cope with an excessive amount of hours and drink a lot of Mountain Dew so you don’t have to sleep. Yuri: I think one thing that – you know – being one of the younger coaches on the staff of Curl Burke – a lot of the older coaches at some point you know – they will see me on the deck because I coach a lot of different age groups so I will be in an open meet from 6 in the morning until you know 7 in the evening – I think at some point all of them have said to me you know – pace yourself and you know – I think we are all pretty driven people and we all want to do well and we all want to be on deck and we all want to be you know – outworking the next person, buy you know – one thing I learned from Rick pretty early on – you know Rick Curl was never – you know - one night a week he didn’t coach our workout – even when Tom Dolan was getting ready for 2000 games – Rick was at home with his 5 kids and his wife, sitting down to eat dinner and so I think it is okay to be selfish every once in a while and take an afternoon for yourself because you know – I guess the idea is that even though in the short term you might be missing that set and I know …………………., but I would think that the long term benefit of having that time to you know – to take care of life stuff you know? Like after a 4 day meet you know laundry – you pay your bills – all that stuff that just kind of gets in the way of coaching so I think it is okay to be selfish every once in a while and take an evening you know? I mean - for how many of us you know do the hours of between 5 and 7 exist? You know? I don’t know so I think that it is good that for every once in a while for them to do. Panelist: yeah that is a tricky one. I know personally – me – like everyone – work a lot of hours and I basically leave the house about 5 or 5:30 every day and get home about 7:30 or 8 at night so it is a pretty long day. Luckily I don’t have kids – I do not have a family that I have to – you know – that would be really tricky – I am not sure how that would be balanced. One of the things that I try to do – no offense to the coaches because I do hang out with the coaches a lot, but also I try to hang out with people that know nothing – do nothing with swimming – a lot of friends outside of the swimming world (? Do those people really exist?) yeah and you know it is nice to step away and just get away from swimming – you know – go up to San Francisco – get out of town and have nothing to do with anybody that is involved with swimming – again – no offense to any of our coaches. Leigh: I am not going to lie – I think that you know – I remember the first year 2002 when I took over the Senior Development part of the program I knew that I had one season to come in and make an impression and get it right and if you don’t get it right that first season that you are working with National level kids – they are not going to trust what you are going to do with them in the second season and I will probably spend a year killing myself. And that is not the first time I have paid that price and I think many of you have done it and I guarantee everybody up here – that is what we do is you know – you find a way and you put it first and you get results so you know, but I can't – to stay in it you can't keep doing that and I don’t think that I could work for somebody that expected that of me and the fortunate thing is Geoff has 30 years of experience and forces us to take weekends off and we assign them well ahead of time and we have got enough staff to cover it and even if we didn’t – we have to talk each other into canceling practices in order to do it – it is like group therapy. You have got to do it and I wouldn’t even stay at the Riviera. I have got to separate. I have got to have a whole other set of things going on in my life in order stay and give it 100% when I am in the middle – it is not easy. Ad’m: This is probably one of my weaknesses. I really do not know how to take time for myself. Coach Rose has to force me out of the office sometimes. He has to tell me that I have to go surfing with Brian. He has to tell me just to go home and ironically enough – the past six months – which is kind of funny – the kids kind of got charged up about it, but it was actually more of a goal for myself. I don’t know if you guys ever go to this show, “American Gladiators”, but pretty cheesy, pretty funny show, but I thought you know – I grew up watching that – I am going to go for it – why not – why not? So, I live about 6 miles away from home – bike road – ride my bike every day to and from practice. It gave me an excuse to eat at the office and not go out and just get junk foot – dropped like 15-20 pounds – got pretty strong. Forgot that I got denied, but hey – I tried. I tried and it was cool because it almost kind of game me the outlet of not always stressed about how my kids are going to do this weekend – not stressed about what workout we are going to do that day and because I don’t have a social life – because I don’t have a wife or kids or anything – that is – I really try to connect with and now that I have a little bit more of an understanding of what I can do to set goals for myself that is what I have to do. Just get out and do something different for myself. Like what all these other coaches have been saying – be selfish you know? Spend some time with non-swimmer friends and do something for yourself. (If you get married then somebody will take care of that for you.) Tom: Kind of as we start to wind down – is there any additional I don’t know if it is “piece of advice” or something that you would like to share you know – that we didn’t ask you – I definitely have like 35 more questions to go – you know – we could spend all week, but is there anything else that you know – maybe you would like to share that you know – you didn’t get the chance to? Leigh: the only thing I say and I want to answer ya’all’s questions too because I think I want to do that, but the thing I like best about sitting up here with these guys is it is being able to think outside the box. I mean – you cannot run the same program season in and season out on the same formula with the same meet schedule. You are not going to get a result. I don’t care what what size you are. You have got to constantly challenge your own ideas – find somebody else to do that. I think we do that constantly and I mean I think no where greater than in the meet schedule. I mean – I know – you know – just Yuri and Dave and I have spent a huge amount of time talking about our meet schedule for the next season. We will be intimately involved in creating meets you know – I mean – creating meets that we want to have that are completely outside the box – age group wise – you know – trials and finals – long course – short course – you know – what times of the year and we will do that at the age group level and not just the senior level – at the age group level to create and innovate. I think you have got to – for what you need you can make it more exciting. You can make it better so I find that to be huge for us. David Kraft: You can make it better is such a great thing to say because again – when I was coming up swimming – I mean – I wasn’t good – these people that are doing things in my group – I mean – I have never been faster than them you know – my whole life and the kids that are making Junior Nationals now that I am coaching and stuff like that when I never sniffed that personally and even when I first came to RMSC and I was coaching the novice groups I never thought that I would be sitting here talking to other people that I have never met before about my coaching experiences and everything and it is just little by little if you work hard you can do it – I know that sounds so cheesy – I am running for President, right? But you know – do not set limitations for yourself or for what your group can do. I had already somebody come and ask me a question during the break about what could they do with this group – they only have 20 kids in their whole program and you know – I started telling her about some things that I used to do when I had 20 kids in my little senior group and things like that and that is what happens. You start building it up and if you are willing to put the work in and take time to do it, little by little you will start having these huge goals because you know – when one person in your program does it – then two people want to do it and the next thing you know you got your whole group going for something or your whole club going for something. Panelist: Treat every athlete the same. I cannot stress enough how much I have learned in the years that I have tried to become and develop as a better coach. You treat every kid – the slowest – the fastest – the tallest - the shortest – treat every kid the same with the compassion – the love – the respect and more importantly – the honor. I mean – feel honored that you are their coach because I can definitely guarantee you guys – it will be reciprocated. Those kids feel and think that you literally walk on water - all the knowledge that you spill on them every day – everything that you share – whether it be swimming related or not. I have more kids coming back to me now that I have actually been in this game long enough as a coach – they are coming back and they are just making me feel like – I really knew something when I was 22 or 23 years old – when I really, really didn’t, but more importantly – it had more of an affect on what and how I expressed myself to the kids I am currently coaching and what kind of affect it is going to have in the next 10 or 20 years – especially if I am going to continue to do this as what I am doing now which I hope I am, but again – that is probably one of the things that I can always share with younger coaches. My assistant coach who is this awesome – he is 19 or 20 years old – so energetic – reminds me of who I was when I was that age, but I always try to just remind them – just treat every kid the same because everything comes back around so again – use that if you could. Panelist: I think one of the things – just – you know it is okay to really think outside the box - I guess – to use kind of a cliché term – you know our whole program is kind of built that way. It is not a traditional merger where it is just everyone came together and it is under one pool or everyone ……. As into one program – it is a lot of individually sites that do a lot of individual things – overall for the betterment of the program. Panelist: Establish pretty early on with the parent and the swimmer who the coach is. I got myself in trouble …… not really, but with a 12 year old girl this year. I gave her too much rope at the beginning of the season and she tried to pull a fast one on me at our championship meet this past year and when I look back on how things were – you know – I made the mistake of not laying the ground rules early enough to this athlete and that is something that I think – you know – don’t be afraid of them, but let people know that you are the coach and you know what you are talking about and that you have a plan. Leigh: Just to build onto that. I mean – you have got to be willing to – if you want to build a program – first of all I think you need to know where you want to be in 5 years. I think that is the minimum number. I think if you dot have any idea where you think you can be in 5 years you are going to have trouble building – going anywhere in one year. You have got to have a minimum of a 5 year plan. That I think is the minimum and I think if you get – I think the staff needs to be on board with that plan and I think that you have got to be willing to lose kids. You have got to be willing to let them walk out the door. You know, and that is where David – David is the guy – you know – we could sit there for an hour and if one kid is threatening to quit if they don’t get what they want and he is going to make every argument for that kid and I am going to make every argument for the program and the value of holding the standards and the minute we compromise that standard we are compromising this group and you know – so and one of us doesn’t always win because I think you have got to have standards that you are willing to lose kids for the protection of what you are building. That doesn’t mean you want to lose kids. It doesn’t mean you treat you know – every problem the same way – you know – in or out, but I think you don’t compromise your plan and your structure at the whim of the parent – it is going to be hard though. Question from the floor – inaudible – Panelist: But that never happens – no. Just kidding. Yeah and you know – we also have other things to deal with like you know – size of club or in my case – you know – being the public run club you know – we can't make a career as coaches so it happens with coaches too – they go from place to place and what Leigh was just saying about keeping the integrity of your program – the people that are going to leave are the ones to me – that are going to be disgruntled almost anywhere they go. I mean – I hate to say that is never the program’s fault because I am sure that sometimes it is, but for the most part if you are consistent and set up that program the way it needs to be – the people will you know – be structured there people that need more attention than other people. There are people that you know – don’t get along with a certain group of kids that are in the group and they are always – there is always the risk of leaving, but you know – we are competitive – I mean – Curl-Burke - ?????? – we are just two out of an LSC of what? 25 teams that are really close together in terms of proximity. So there is always that chance and I hate to say it but yeah – you do have to be okay with somebody leaving if it is not the right fit for them – you do not want to have to make them uncomfortable and necessarily make them conform to you either and again – I very much sympathize because my club has enough people that if somebody leaves it is not going to break us financially or anything like that and so I cannot relate to some of your problems, but if you find the integrity of the club to be consistent then the people will stay that you want to stay. Leigh: Yeah, you want to be one of the best in the country or the best in the area or the best in your region, but you can't spend too much time looking at what other people are doing. Coach the kids that walk in your door you know? Folks will know you are making them better. I mean – you will make yourself crazy and you will hurt your own program by constantly worrying about that you know? I think it is just constantly trying to surround yourself with people that are on board with the same goals and the same vision – you know – that coach that coach that wants to you know – get as many kids as he can together and go – I mean – I guess it happens, but I think more often it just happens that kids are program shopping so it is not necessarily a coach that does that – it is more the parents and the kids that are kind of looking around. You know, somebody goes fast one year – the age of their child so maybe that is where they need to be so you go more and more – I mean – I think everybody deals here with program shopping as opposed to coaches doing that. Panelist: The nature of the business is such that you know – a coach would have to be able to take like a lot of kids to justify a pool rental someplace else and pools are not growing on trees either so you know – it is a fine line ………… to go so it is more individual I would say. TOM: I want - a heartfelt thanks to the panel and to Dave for being part of the panel also because – I know that I have learned a lot and I have been to a few ASCA Clinics over the years and it is just you know – thank you so much for your time and your knowledge and your willingness to share your expertise with the group and I guess the other thing I would also mention to the group and to people is that I know that John Leonard is trying to find you know – different things and we tried this for the first time so that if you think it was good and valuable please let John know that you would like to see something like this continue and you know – maybe next year we do something where you know – we don’t have – you know – for some of you what would seem like Mega club coaches appear, but I think a lot of the principles and the concepts were the same so again – please let John know what you liked – what you didn’t like or let myself know and I can pass it along and again – also – if you have additional questions I know the panelists would be more than happy to answer them afterwards, wouldn’t you? So again – thank you very much to the panel – you guys were awesome.