Hello swimmers – this is your first week of practice and you are on your way to your first competitive swim meet and we need to talk just a moment about nutrition. Oh – now don’t look so disappointed. Maybe I will pass some of this out to you later. As you look at all of this delicious food here, swimmers, I want you to help me decide which is best for you.
Now we already know how wonderful bagels are – I hope you can see the bagels up here and then all of you really enjoy the donut situation, but remember regarding the donuts that they are not really the best for you. The way to go is the bagel, okay?
Now, we have the power bar and we know those are good to have at swim meets – drink a lot of water with them and then we have the twinkies. Now twinkies are really not the way to go okay? So I hope I have made a point with that.
Please remember this moment when you reach for a twinkie or a donut that make good choices make smart choices and go for the bagels, go for the fruit, go for the power bars – oh the chips. Aren’t the chips just great? My point here is get down to their level.
You know there is another nutrition talk going on in another room here today, but I am just trying to grab their attention and the love to see us do things like that and get messy and I think some of you are wondering what I was going to do. Really make nutrition fun.
When I first started coaching I told the kids – I don’t want to see you eating any candy. Don’t let me see you eating candy so then what the started to do was hide from me so I knew if they saw me walking down the pool and they had a big handful of candy – so I learned that that was not the way to introduce them to nutrition so it is just very basic – they are just starting their adventure in swimming. Make the learning process – make it really fun and I have found this very successful. I usually get a little bit messier, but I think I made my point.
Oh yes, this is a backstroke talk, yes. Didn’t that look like nutrition to you? My goal – I have a few talks today and my goal for you is to keep you in the sport. I hope that some of the things that you pick up from me today will help you stay in the sport. I have been in it over 35 years and I love it. My passion is greater now than ever and I just hope that I can convince you to stay in the sport. Then I hope that you leave here with tools that will help you keep your swimmers in the sport.
In my 35 years I have seen it all. I have seen everything in swimming that you can imagine. But I am still here. I have been very blessed being given the opportunity to work with some of the best coaches in swimming. My first USS coach that I got to work with was Jim Montrella and then after Jim Montrella I was able to work with John Urbanachek. After John I was able to work with Mark Schubert and at the present with Bill Rose and all have so much for me. However, what I thought they did really well was listen to my suggestions because age group coaches know a lot and that was very rewarding.
I just want to take a moment to talk about the “P” word – parents and I will talk about backstroke I promise, but if you don’t have the parents working for you then you are not going to last. Some of the coaches names that I mentioned just a moment ago, I had the opportunity to work with their children. Even thought they are the top coaches, it is a whole different ballgame when you become a swim parent. One of these fine coaches – their child had their very first swim meet and he arrived with his video camera and he was hollering, screaming, yelling and cheering for his child. I knew that if I didn’t say something to him all the parents would follow his lead and buy video cameras and you know… so I guess my point here is that just because a lot about swimming doesn’t mean that the coach knows how to parent. Without the parents, we can’t do the job so please guide the parents.
When I first started coaching, I would coach and then split out the back door. I would never talk to the parents. Now I like to get right in their faces and help them and guide them. I like calling them and talking to them. Don’t just call them when something has come up. Call just because – hey Susie is doing a great job and I just wanted you to know that. Don’t wait until there is an issue.
One great way of communicating with parents is through a newsletter. Put out a weekly newsletter. Every single week on a Monday and keep them well informed that way with what meets are coming up, etc., etc. have a lot of parent meetings. Our staff cringes, oh another parent meeting, but it is so very important that we give them the opportunity to attend the parent meeting. sometimes you will get ten people, sometimes you will get more but the opportunity is there so don’t be afraid of your parents. Use them to help you with your swimmer.
Okay – backstroke – it is so important that you create a learning atmosphere. Be organized, be prepared – especially if you have assistants. Make sure that you meet before you have your session with your swimmers on backstroke. The group that I am going to be directing this to is more for our incoming new swimmers and then oh 9-10ish swimmers that are close to their A times.
Group size – ideally I feel that when they are incoming by the ratio of 1:8 is really good and then when they are about 9-10ish that 1:10 is very, very good – works very well.
Attention span – I feel 20 minutes is very good for the incoming 8 and unders and then maybe 40 minutes for the 9-10s. If you have the ability to separate boys/girls I think that is great, especially because boys can hear underwater because they are constantly under water when you are teaching them. Let me tell you, I don’t know how many times that boy can repeat every word and I swear he was underwater. I give them so much more freedom and the language I use with them – everything is different. So if you have that option, I would strongly recommend that you separate in teaching the boys and girls.
As far as terminology goes, it is so important that your terminology is consistent throughout the program. Your job is so important when you are getting them coming into the sport. As they move up the different levels or different groups, it is important that all the coaches are using the same terminology. Don’t get too fancy with these young kids. You will get a lot more out of them. A great teaching tool is to show a video and the way I do it is I have them watch, let them absorb and then I let them ask questions. I let them ask me questions. I find that very interesting because I learn also when they are asking questions.
Demonstration. If you are fortunate enough to have a National swimmer on your team or a couple of them – that is the best – get them in the water and demonstrate slow first – the different drills, the backstroke – slow swimming – fast swimming and then demonstrate all the drills that they are going to do. I am sure that my swimmers have dreams about the word streamline – I think that parents have even said to me – we are sick of streamline – sick of stroke technique. I know that they hear it in their sleep because we say it so much so again, have the person that is demonstrating have them demonstrate a lot of streamlines.
Also, when you have that national swimmer in the water that is a great time for that big brother/big sister situation that you want to develop anyway and with a team our size we really work on developing that because there is nothing better than when – during my practice the national team walks by us and it is so neat when the kids are waving at each other – it is a great moment so this is a great way to develop that moment.
The other thing that I really like to do is to put a coach in the water. Of course, I do the supervising out of the water, but I like having hands on in the water and the other coaches help me with that and that is another way to have a great coach/swimmer bonding so the hands on, especially at the entry level and into the 9-10 level we try to do that as much as possible.
If you have a shallow pool I do like starting out in the shallow pool. It is usually warmer than your competition pool and we go and use our shallow pool a lot and it is easier for hands on in there so if you have that ability it works really, really well. Make sure that if you got a group of 1-8 or 1-10, but you are talking to every single child and not just say Johnny listen or Suzi listen, but make sure that you are making eye contact and rather than be nagging at them because they are talking to each other. Just get creative and split them up in some other way because it becomes such a negative if you are constantly nagging at them to listen it ends up being a negative.
I have backstroke flags and you are thinking why do you need backstroke flags for the incoming – absolutely. Many times for months the kids will think that those backstroke flags are a beautiful decorations and they make the pool look really pretty, so right from the get go we talk about the flags and how important the flags are because one of the hardest things to break is for them to look – they just want to keep looking at the wall so even though that stroke count, it …… on between 5 and 10 you know, that’s how it starts and then I got some really strong, 10 year olds that will go well coach I am somewhere between 7 and 8. I realize that it takes time and confidence to learn that but please start it right from the beginning. It is only going to make the next coach’s job easier.
I wanted to mention that my swimmers call me Coach Siga and they still think to this day that my first name is Coach and my last name is Siga. I have never told them differently, but I just told them that my Mom named me that when I was born – I wanted to be sure to mention that to you.
Relaxation. Yes, they need to know about relaxation at this incoming level. Absolutely, and you want to start using that word a lot. We use it a lot. Now, I have had some races where I had said okay, what were you thinking about – oh coach I was thinking about relaxation and I said, well what does relaxation mean to you. Oh you know, just chill down the pool – in other words they just floated down the pool so you have got to be careful how you word – you explain relaxation, but it is something they have to start thinking about.
Very, very basic – keeping their head still – keeping their face dry. I learn so much from my younger coaches. You know, I have said face dry for so long, but they will come up with all kinds of different things and that clicks for the kids and then use it. Don’t get set in just the same the same way of getting them to do it right. One word might work for 20 kids and then 5 or 6 have no idea what I am talking about. So you need to find a way to communicate with them and I personally feel that my strong point is that part – is really getting to know the swimmer and communicating with them.
I am always learning about stroke technique for 35 years. I know very little and it is always so much fun to come to these and continue to learn more, but really – I don’t care how much you read and how much and how knowledgeable you become – if you don’t know how to get into your swimmer and explain it to your swimmer you are going to have a real uphill challenge. I learned that and I am proud to say that I think that is definitely my strong point.
I use silly things for stretching tall in the water. I say reach for the apples in the apple tree. If they I hate apples then say –reach for the orange in the orange tree. If they don’t reach high enough then I tell them they got a bunch of worms in those apples because they were not reaching very high. So you have fun like that and that makes it more interesting for them to learn. So be tall in the water and reach for the juiciest apples in the apple tree.
I talk a lot about clean entry and that seems to make a lot of sense to them if they don’t make any splash and then we have a little contest as to had the cleanest entry. To get them to go slow in drill is really tough. They are like race horses and even when you have got six across – they are wanting to race in drill so be creative with how you set that up too. Base it more on okay now this time Johnny was really perfect and you don’t talk about who was first to the other end. It is all about making it look good – making it look pretty – of course you don’t say that to the boys but you use that term with the girls.
One thing that has worked really, really well is the term acceleration. Yes, even to the incoming kids and the kids that are approaching their As and AA times – I talk about making sure that they are really accelerating here and then we talk about the relaxation there. The harder they accelerate, the more they are able to relax on the recovery. That has really seemed to click with the majority of them.
As far as streamlining – don’t just say streamline and do your dolphin. Be more specific with that. The incoming I will tell them six dolphin kicks – six dolphin kicks and then the higher level I will tell them 8. Okay 6 and 8 – that is not realistic, but if you tell them 6 or 8 maybe you will get two out …….. at this level. So you tell them more and then hopefully they will do half of what you tell them at a swim meet. I have seen that proved over and over. So be specific as to how many dolphin kicks you want them to do.
One criticism from our head coach to me at our very first meet of the season was, why do you have your kids streamline so long? I kind of took it as a compliment because I know that as they get more and more competitive they won’t streamline as long. They were streamlining almost half the pool, but that is okay. That is a start so at least I got it across to them how important underwater is and how important streamlining is. So I did take that criticism pretty well, considering who it was coming from.
Okay, now the dry land. You can do a little bit on dry land if you have a manageable size and again, use your assistants. Don’t try and do it all. I had everybody stand up in a streamline and I think I am the only one on the staff that has my kids streamline initially with their hands behind their head and I try to explain to the rest of the staff that it is a process. Okay? It is definitely a process. I start here and then, as they move into the 9-10, I start to slide their hands forward a little bit more and then a little bit more. I keep reassuring the rest of the staff that is questioning me that it is a process and be patient. By the time those swimmers get to them they are going to be perfect.
We stretch every day with our kids and one of our stretches is streamline. Then we walk around and make sure they are all doing it right, over and over and over. And then we do the straight arm and we even have them face partners and they look at each other.
I don’t talk about rotation at the beginner part. I I talk about keeping their head still, their head back, their eyes open – you will find some kids that swim with their eyes closed – believe it or not. I talk about being tall, being as tall as their coach or their dads or moms – that works real well and tight kick. That is all at first and then we start adding in the rotation, but really slowly. It is just very basic.
We do a lot of streamline kicking. A lot of streamline kicking but it is pointless to me to do 50s and 100s. Even if you just do 12 1/2 s, just do half a lap of kicking. They can stop. You can talk to them and then get them going again, but put them in remote control or automatic pilot – that is not drilling.
Even with our AAA kids it is pointless to do a 500 freestyle drill or a 500 backstroke drill. That is not what drilling is. I think it is 12 1/2s – I think it is 25s and maybe some 50s depending on how strong the swimmer is. You are doing drilling. It is quality. It is smart swimming. It is perfect, perfect swimming.
One of our coaches I hear her say this word all the time – perfect – perfect. Now and then when they are kicking in a streamline we talk about keeping their face dry. One thing I learned from Jim Montrella back in the 70s was I heard him say to his National Team – to get your hips up, breathe out of your belly button and – oh my gosh – it works. It works so well. For some reason those words work really well because they are all sitting in the chair. you tell them I’ll throw that chair away because they love to sit and get your hips up, but we all say hips up. That is not enough.
I do like to put fins on the swimmers because it helps them stay up. Everyone has fins. They have fins and kick boards when they come into the program and so when they are doing streamline kicking we kick with fins. When they are doing a single arm, we drill with fins to help them stay up on top of the water.
Always pushing off streamline. You are going to go out and go all she talked about was streamline. Maybe you will go okay streamline must be important. So have the fins on and always push off streamline, be tall, keep your head still and then of course for the more advanced swimmers then you tell them backstroke is done on your side. You go into the more advanced situation but don’t overload them again, even though they are starting to get their As, AA, AAAs. Keep it as simple as you can but at the same time keep it creative so they don’t get bored with you.
If you are the head age group coach don’t do all the talking. It is really good to have your assistants come in there and it’s a new face, a new voice and sparks more enthusiasm too.
I really emphasize the pinky going in – it is very basic and they seem to be very successful with it. It is interesting for me too is as basic as I keep the backstroke, it seems to be the one that the kids – the 8 and unders seem to get their first A time. I have kept this stroke so simple and they seem to just get it and they have quick success in that particular stroke – in the backstroke.
As they advance a little bit more with the more advanced group have them kick with their hands at their sides and swim side to side and then really watch that they are not moving their head from side to side – that their head is till. We continue to talk about relaxation, that they relax their face. Many times when they are trying something new everything is so tight. It is very important. I tell them to just kind of keep their mouth open a little bit and just totally relax their face, relax on the recovery.
My favorite drills – the kids call it the marching one. We have them lift their hand up – just a little – just a little and then drop it back down but they are going to want to go just go like this so you know, really watch for that. It is very hard to slow them down and if they are really new put the fins on them if that helps, but then as they get stronger then we call it at their eye level and then they drop it back down – eye level. Again, you are trying to keep it simple but that is one of their favorite drills from what I have experienced because they are always asking to do that drill.
I personally really like the double arm. Now it is not very nice to look at with the beginners so I really don’t do it with the beginners. They have a hard enough time keeping themselves up and they end up doing breaststroke kick and end up doing anything they can to keep up but it is a great way to introduce the slight bent elbow so I really – both arms here – all the way back and then what I call that is an arm wrestle – the boys like that because they will ask if they can arm wrestle me or things like that and then they press down and its very, very simple and they enjoy doing it. The problem that I do have is they do like to do dolphin and I fight them with that. That is about as much as I like to give them. I don’t like to overload them.
Many times you will get a kid that will naturally have a slight bent elbow – go with it – leave it alone. Don’t even talk about it for a while. Don’t even talk about it and then as they get more comfortable in the water and you start to pick up speed then you can start to refine it a bit more.
The slight arm lift and eye level arm lift are really my favorites. I have done it for years and it has been very successful. I do like to use paddles – as small as you can get. I think a lot of swimmers have a tendency to purchase large paddles and even at the 5-6 age we put paddles on our kids for drills only. They love it because it is just another teaching tool. Oh boy, we get to use paddles and they get all excited and it takes 20 minutes to put them on. But it is worth it because they are excited. They lose them half the time and it is just a hassle. But it really has helped us a lot and so I do use the paddles but for a 12 ½ – at the very, very most we will go a 25 and maybe we will just do it for four 25s and that is it. After 20 minutes of putting them on, we use them for a few minutes. We use our legs when we use the paddles. We don’t say leave our legs at the wall.
Okay, I have them do a lot of stroke count. I want them to be able to swim a lap of the pool with their eyes closed and know their stroke count, have it exactly the same. Now that is a lot to ask incoming but as they get better and better that is going to happen. I do ask them to count their strokes with their eyes open at the beginning and if they go from 20 strokes to 50 strokes something went wrong.
Any time you can get them to think, be creative and ways of getting them to think – not to just go up and down the pool and counting their arm strokes is huge and then they get real competitive oh I took 20, well I took 10, well I took 4. Well nobody took four but it has to be game and it is fun and then they really pay attention so that has been very, very successful.
Then we start a little bit of distance per stroke. We start talking about stroke count and distance per stroke. They get familiar with the terms. That is all that I am doing with this level is that they know a little bit about relaxation and they get familiar with distance per stroke.
Every day before practice we have a 15 minute meeting – every day – with all our groups and we talk about what is coming up. We spend a lot of time talking about what we are going to do for practice. I tell them what the practice is. I don’t tell them how much kicking we do because we kick every day, we pull every day, we drill every day and we race every day. However, they will know exactly what stroke we are kicking, what stroke we are pulling and then they tell me. They tell me in backstroke what we are going to work on. This helps get some interaction going from them. Let them become coaches and so let them do the talking – don’t you do all the talking.
Let’s not underestimate these kids because they are extremely bright – extremely bright. I put the F word down because the F word is the fun word. It is fun – make sure that you are having fun while you are teaching. If you are not having fun coaching and teaching then that your swimmers are not having a good time. Every day make sure that there is some kind of a fun activity. If you throw a bunch of apples in the pool – hey that is really fun. They really like that or whatever it might be – if it takes 5 minutes out of their practice time. I work with the very top age groupers and I am always telling our national top level coaches – come on – just take some liquorish out there, anything silly. They need that every day – every single day because the work so very hard.
Our big job is to teach good work habits and to continue that throughout their swimming career. I believe in what I do and I have seen the results years down the road and I would love to answer some questions for you.
Yes – good – I am with the Mission Viejo Matadors and we have a very large team, according to everybody. In the summer we get up to about a thousand swimmers – we have a fast track. We have 300 swimmers that are fast track and starting to understand swimming. That may be still a lot to you but we have 7 fulltime coaches and we have a total of about 25 coaches in the summer.
Ok so I know that is not what you asked me but I thought I would give you a little bit of that. In our fast track we try and keep it 1:20 in our fast track, ok? I have a group of 8 and unders. Ok, now there are 70 on the roster ok – that is kind of scary – I mean, that is fantastic but you look at a parent signing up and go oh my gosh – look at all these kids. But I maybe get 45 at practice because you sure don’t want them all there more than maybe 3 ½ times a week.
I have 5 assistants and we better know what we are doing, We have four groups within the group and we are all in the same pool together. When I start kicking everyone is kicking, but I am not coaching the whole group – I am coaching this part so we try real hard to keep it at a 1:10 ratio. With the fast track we try very hard to keep it 1:20 – we think that works really well. With our kids that are still figuring it out the ratio is probably 1:30 with an assistant so.
She asked if we had a minimum age or a minimum skill requirement. Well, I don’t let the head coach know, but if I see a real talented 4 year old and they have siblings on the team then what I will do is put them under the umbrella of Swim America – sign them up for Swim America and then I let them come in. But unless they have a sibling on the team, I will say you need to wait six more months and we will welcome you. Keep in touch with that person – call them so they don’t lose touch and hopefully they will come back. As long as you are having fun with the kids I don’t see any problem with the four year old. They come twice a week and it is fun – great but I would caution you to make sure that they are having fun. Because they won’t be around at 16 and 17 and your job is to keep them. That is our job.
If we are doing our job right, they are going to be around and the boys too – they will be around. If you are being creative with having fun – having the sleep overs – having a snack every week, having parties – going to the movies – am I the social director now rather than a coach, well at the age group level I feel that way, okay? Our free weekends – we are going to movies with our swimmers that is how we keep them. We keep our little munchkins around because it is not just swimming. It is so much more.
Is there a specific paddle for the real little ones? The paddles we use are green and they are Jim Montrella’s paddles – if you want to talk to me at the end and I can give you more information.
She asked if I said use your legs when you put the paddles on these youngsters – leg, legs, legs – tight legs kick. That has worked real well.
She was asking if our faster 9-10s do isolated pulling with paddles. Very very little. If they are really strong and are focused and not spacing out swimming, then yes we will let them do some.
I mentioned that our kids are offered – six days but I also want to say that our novice kids come 3, are off for 3. Our incoming 5-6s are offered 4 and then from there it is six. Now he asked – if Johnny comes on Monday and Thursday then how are they going to get all the strokes – well that can be a problem. What I encourage the parents to do is bring them on Monday, Wednesday and Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. We go into a cycle that way so the swimmer will end up kicking backstroke at least once that week and pulling backstroke at least one that week and then drilling backstroke and then racing backstroke.
Now what happened to Saturday? We don’t call Saturday practice any more. We don’t call it a practice. We call it Saturday clinic – that is one of the best things we have done and that we ask one of our national coaches to do a clinic and all the kids walk in and know that they are expecting a clinic and then they have some of our national swimmers demonstrate.
A great way to build that relationship and it is a huge selling point for the parents – lets face it – we got to do that all the time and we will have demonstrations and then we will break up into groups and the swimmers that were demonstrating will go with the different groups and do hands on in the water. It is just a great time and it is more stroke work. We never can do enough stroke work – never. I think that you hear that from parents the most – well we don’t do enough stroke work. Well we do stroke every day is my response, and explain to them that every day we spend 30 minutes on stroke and drills. So, every Saturday we set it up as a clinic and that has been extremely successful.
I have always enjoyed coaching boys more than girls and I tell my swimmers that too – it doesn’t make the girls all that happy but I really enjoy coaching boys and yes, they have changed a bit – for 35 years. They are a little bit more spacey today. I think there were about 25 girls that we separated out and we are going to continue it. We are still watching, but initially it has been absolutely fantastic and I am sure some of you are sitting there going well I have 30 kids on my team. I know that everybody has all different situations but we have held onto those boys.
So this year, with my group of 70, I am going to divide. These are just 6, 7, 8 year olds and I am going to take the boys and separate them. It will be interesting to see because I am telling you truly, I know we kind of chuckled a bit, but the boys are underwater – they are never listening. The girls are okay – give me more, give me more. The boys are going, when can we go off the boards or can we use the Jacuzzi.
The way to talk to the boys – the best way is to get them out and sit them down and go okay now. Turn them away from anybody so you have got eye to eye. The girls, they are not distracted so some day if you ever want to talk to me in the years to come I will let how it worked with the young ones and I am extremely excited about it.
The boys and girls train at the same time in the same pool. Three lanes will be the boys and three lanes will be the girls. We coach at opposite ends. The boys put their equipment at one end and the girls put their equipment at the other so it is totally separate that way. We just share the water. That was your question – yes?
Her question was – remember the group of seventy – only about 45 come – it looks really good on paper, wow – that’s a lot of kids. However, I hope they don’t all come because that is too many. I always plan on 5 coaches every day and we all do the same thing. I have had the four groups within a group and the kids who are real advanced – everybody kicks, everybody pulls, everybody drills, everybody does some racing at the end because racing is fun. We all follow that format, but the kids that I work with are all the fastest so we do it a little quicker. We do a little more yardage. The little people that are in the group and aren’t as fast or as strong of a swimmer and have an attention span of five seconds, they are not going to do it as many laps and we won’t move them as fast.
One thing that we are really have to our advantage with holding onto these little kids is – I thought it was my charm, but it is definitely the Jacuzzi. You can hold that over them – anyway that has really helped us. The diving boards – oh that’s big. When they start getting in the water we line them up and to get them quiet because they are all touching each other and jumping around. I say that we are going to cannonball and oh my gosh – it is one cannonball – instead of sitting down and sliding in – I say okay you guys – you can get in – do a cannonball and go. It was fun for how long – well how long did the cannonball take? It was one cannonball or you can do more but those kinds of things are great too.
She asked how long our practices are – our novice are 45 minutes with 5 minutes of a meeting and then 40 minutes of swimming. Our 5-6 ish are an hour with 15 minutes of meetings and they will do jumping jacks and stretching and then that interaction time – that interaction time – it is huge. Don’t worry that you must get in the water and do yardage. That time you spend with them out of the water is huge. The 7-8s – we do stretching, we have a meeting for a half hour and we do serious sit-ups and then we swim for an hour. Our 9-10s are about an hour and a half, but a half hour meeting and so we swim an hour. Our stronger 9-10s – our very top 9-10s – they will be there for two hours and then they will meet for a half hour and then swim for an hour and a half. Our 11 and 12s are the same.
I tell the kids that they are not a diving team, they just jump and cannonball.
Yes, the pull sets with the little kids? Okay – incoming we use – remember they are going to use their legs a lot – we emphasize the legs big time – emphasize the streamline every time – streamline every time okay. Then, I don’t do more than a lap with those incoming – not more than one lap. We talk and we make corrections and then another lap. Sometimes just half a lap and talk – half a lap and talk, especially in the teaching pool. Very, very little – again, by the time you get the paddles on, you think why is she doing this, but it is fun for them and then it is fun to learn so you put it all together.
As they advance more, with my 7-8s we do mainly 25s and some 50s of free, but 25s of back. I do like doing more than even free and if we are going to do some free it is never more than a 50 – we never go a 75 or 100. It is stupid to because they are not strong enough and you are not really accomplishing anything. It is just laps just laps and that is not what age group swimming and teaching them how to do it right is about.
Yes – our Swim America program is our Natador program – it is a tremendous feeder for us – I know that wasn’t your question – her question was, “Is Swim America going on the same time as our swim team?” Yes and that is wonderful because you don’t know how many little kids go mommy, I want to do that – I want to be like that – – we hear it all the time and they are pointing at the big kids too so that’s a really great recruiter. Some of our coaches are teaching Swim America – that is a great recruiter. I will make sure that I go up there and if I see somebody that is a flyer for our novice program and of course our instructors are good at doing that too. I also enjoy going up there and saying, “Johnny – have you ever thought of joining a swim team its lots of fun.” Some of the kids might say, “well, I do soccer.” I go, “oh soccer is great too, but you know something, you can do both.” Swimming is good for soccer because all the conditioning that they do in swimming helps their fitness. So I don’t tell them that they have to quit soccer – absolutely not.
He wants to know if I work on finishes – backstroke. For the 5, 6 and 7s you might see some of my swimmers just kicking it at their first couple of meets. Why are they kicking in – they are three strokes away? I just hate it when they are in the gutter finishing. Let’s face it – the 5, 6, 7 and 8 – their stroke counts are all over from ten to who knows what. I emphasize head back so when they throw on their last stroke I have them look for the wall. If the wall isn’t there I just tell them to kick in as a 5-6 year old and then of course that gets better and better, the faster they get.
He said I have been coaching so long, 35 years, and I call it survive at times. I was going to use that word today but I was afraid that some of you would worry. This is a tough profession. It is so up and down. So I decided not to use the word that I am a survivor, I and still here and I love it. It has me thinking young. When I first started – my first coaching job I had ages 5 to 18 and I was 19. The boys were 18 and I enjoyed working with the older level too, I really did. Over time, you find your strong point and I have really settled for age group coaching because I am good at it. I know the kids – there is something – I don’t know what it is – I feel like I am selling myself, but I have been told that I am pretty good at it and the kids believe in me. They believe in me. Somehow – because I believe in myself, like you have to believe in yourself. They are so comfortable with me and I have gotten to a point where all I have to do is give them a look and they know. I don’t have to yell any more like I did when I was young, now all I do is give a look. I know what I am doing is right is because the older kids that are getting married now come back and say – you were the best and that’s because they had fun. It’s fun in age group – they had so much fun and we were silly and we played games. So I know that I am doing the right thing and I am trying to share that with you.
I’m not so technical. You can go to the other talks with such deep technical thing, but it is just the passion and knowing your swimmers – seeing into your swimmer. Getting back to Coach Rose’s question, find what your right spot is. Don’t just stay with age group, go up, find the opportunity. Volunteer the time like a lot of people have told you in the talks – don’t be afraid to go and try 13 & 14 and the higher ages. Try it all and then go with what you are comfortable with. What you really enjoy doing.