Berkeley Time: Program Philosophy and the Training of Nathan Adrian by Dave Durden with Nick Folker, University of California Berkeley (2012)


Published


[introduction]

Hi folks.  My name is Tim Murphy, I am a member of the ASCA Board.  I want to welcome you here to the clinic.  I think you are in for a real treat this afternoon.  It is a real honor and pleasure for me to introduce three great coaches this afternoon, and first up is the head coach at the University of California Berkeley, Dave Durden.  I have watched Dave over the years.  I admire his focus and his intensity, and seeing how that leads to the results, impressive results, that he has had during his coaching career.  He is entering his fifth year at Cal.  Last year he brought the first NCAA championship to Cal in 31 years.  What was probably really impressive about that: there were seven different titles that they won at that meet.  Before that, he worked at Auburn, assisted in six NCAA championships.  So he has been around some real good stuff.  He is going to talk to you today little bit about Nathan Adrian’s performance in a couple of different categories.  I will let you know that he has two young children:  a 3-year-old and 2-year-old at home. So a big shut-out for his wife at home, taking care of family.  Please join me in a warm welcome for Coach Dave Durden.

 

[Durden begins]

It is funny, right before Tim introduced me I did get a text from a wife saying, ‘Don’t screw this up.’  So she must have heard out the shut out.  I am not too worried about stragglers coming in.  When I saw my talk was scheduled at 1:30, after lunch, in Vegas; I knew it wasn’t going to start necessarily on time.  An interesting kind of aside about that:  at Berkeley, you know, our guys like most college students, sign-up for classes, you know, eight o’clock class, nine o’clock class, 1:30 class, 9:30 class, etc.  But everything in Berkeley, in terms of classes or lectures, starts on Berkeley time which is ten minute after the start of class.  So for the folks that are going to be walking in about nine minutes, technically for my talk, you are actually on-time.  And for the first part I am just going to give a little background stuff, and then we will get into the meat-and-potatoes of it.

 

I wanted to cover a couple of different areas.  In talks-past, I have been structured with talking about schedules, water times, training plans, etc.; and I wanted to move away from that just a little bit and get into a little more philosophical work.  And we will come back to a little bit more of some things that I hope that you can take home: take home back to your club, back to your campus or back to the athletes that you are coaching.  Just a quick background on myself and my coaching influences.  Tim mentioned my time at Auburn and working for David Marsh, as well as the other great coaches on that staff during that time.  Ralph Crocker, I shared an office with for a long time.  And I miss Ralph every day; he is one of the just great coaches that I have been so blessed to cross paths with.  But also Clayton Cagle is someone that I learned from very early on, back in Houston when I was a swimmer.  And [I] still stay in touch with Cagle; not so much about swimming, but just his… his jokes and his good stories.  And then Dave Salo was just a tremendous influence in my coaching, very early on, as I decided to make a transition from being an engineer and getting into coaching.

 

This is my twelfth time coming to the ASCA World Clinic, actually eleventh—I have missed one time over the last 12 years.  One of the things that has really always impressed me about my ASCA experiences is the level of knowledge in the room that you may not know about or you may not hear about.  I have oftentimes have gone to age-group tracks, and have taken more away from an age group talk as a senior-level coach, or coaching elite level athletes, than I have listening to coaches in the senior-level tracks.  So there are so many different ways to get great information.  But also I can remember the times that I have come to these talks and I have been inspired.  I remember in 2008 when Mark Schubert talked about the experience of the Olympic team, and it really inspired me looking-forward over the next quad.  And, you know, certainly I hope that our US Olympic team—their performances, their experiences—inspires us as coaches as we look forward to the next four years, eight years, twelve years with the athletes that we are coaching.

 

I have also been very fortunate to work with some great folks at Cal.  Nort [Thornton] is just a wealth of information that… and fortunately his office is five foot-steps away, so I can easily peek-in and chat with Nort.  And if you have… for coaches in here that have e-mailed Nort—and he is on e-mail now, he has an iPad which is a huge step; I think he sent his first e-mail last year, he was pretty fired-up about that.  So now that he is on e-mail, if you ever have any questions about technique, any questions about training; he is just, as I said, a wealth of knowledge.  He is someone that I still rely on and he is so giving of his information.  So he is a wonderful coach, and our guys are very fortunate to still have him on the deck working with our guys.  You know, certainly making them laugh every day with his ‘that’s what she said jokes’.  The other folks that have been great, just people that I have bounced ideas off of is:  Nick Folker, he is going to actually join me up here in a little bit, who is our strength coach;  Greg Meehan, who is now the head women’s coach at Stanford; and then, you know, just the many other coaches that have come to our pool deck and have shared their ideas and have challenged us as coaches.  It has been really, really fun to have them in their lives.

 

I am going to give you a little bit of… just more historical background about my time at Cal.  I just finished my fifth season.  And after my first season was the 2008 [Olympic] Trials, for our US athletes.  We were not very good in 2008, and we made some tremendous strides in the four years.  And I want to set that up in reference to talking about Nathan [Adrian].  I think Nathan has benefited from the environment; has benefited from a lot of the things that we have been able to establish and get better and refine, year-in year-out.  And so it has been really fun.  And we have not done it, necessarily, in the last four years with, kind-of, the recruiting element.  I mean, we have had guys over the last… I guess, [in] 2008-2009 that were not that high of finishers at the Olympic Trials. And then just taking those guys and developing through a quad has been really exciting, that now we are starting to see some higher-level athletes walk-in the door and we are really excited about taking them through the next quad.

 

A little bit of the culture.  We are fortunate to work at a very-high academic-standard university.  And with that, we have some fantastic departments that have some fantastic structures in place.  And one of those is the Haas School of Business.  They have four principles, defining principles:

  • Questions the status quo,
  • Beyond yourself,
  • Students always, and
  • Confidence without attitude.

 

We have taken those defining principles and really tried to implement that into what we do day-in and day-out.  We have actually had a couple of our guys that are in that program, that talk about their experience, talk about that culture in their academic experience; and we work off that and bring that to our athletic culture.  Some of the characteristics that we have or that we try to take away from the Haas School of Business and apply to our culture:

  • one, we have no captains on our team—and that’s important to me because I wanted to, you know, I want all of our guys to have a leadership role;
  • we have no formal team rules or responsibilities;
  • we really work on developing great teachers;
  • we really embrace our environment.

 

What I mean by that last part, embracing our environment: for those that have been out to our campus and seen our pools, it is nothing special.  It is just an 8-lane, 50-meter pool; and I know for a club coaches out there that sounds wonderful.  We share that with five other aquatics programs.  Four other aquatics program rather:  both polo programs, the women swimming program, and the diving program.  So we are making chicken salad out of… a situation that is not ideal for us.  But our guys embrace that, embrace that challenge, love it; they adopt that as their identity and really feel that that is what helps them be successful.  So those coaches out there that don’t have the most ideal facility or not a lot of time in their facility, I… trust me, I feel ya.  We were working with our undergrads and our postgrads that were representing Cal last year through the Olympic cycle, we would have about 42 guys in the water in 10 lanes of short-course water.  And if you have seen some of our guys, if you have observed some of our guys, they are not the smallest guys in the room.  I mean they are 6’6”, 220; and you put four of those guys in a lane and they can make some waves.  So we really had to be aware, we really had the plan; and again we made the most out of the situation that we were in.  And I feel we are very successful in doing so.  So for coaches out there that do not have the greatest set-up, the greatest facility: you can do it—you just have to be a little more thoughtful.  We were definitely more efficient in what we were doing in years past, and it was really effective for our program.

 

All right, I am going to spend a little time talking about Nathan and his successes over the last four years.  In 2008 you can see his world ranking put him at 22nd in the world.  And we were able to take that over four years and turn that into a 2nd world ranking, but, more importantly, a gold medal.  And I think Nathan said this appropriately, after his race in the 100 freestyle: that really you can take those rankings, just throw them out of the window; it is about having the right swim, on the right day, in the right heat, in the right setting.  And he certainly did that by one one-hundredth-of-a-second, and it would not have as much credibility if it was 1/100th of a second the other way.  So I am very thankful that he got his hand on the wall and was able to bring home a gold for the US.

 

There is a lot that went into that that I am not going to be able to cover in an hour.  There are a lot of people that went into that that I am not going to be able to thank.  Jay Benner, his age group coach, did a phenomenal job with his development.  Having him swim up to 500 freestyle as a junior and senior in high school.  Mike Bottom did some good things with him technically in the two years that he was working with Mike.  And then in the four years that we were working together with Nathan we were able to take that… take a lot of those coaching philosophies, combine them together and help him win a gold medal at the Olympic Games.

 

In 2011, he wasn’t very good; in 2012, he got a lot better.  A little bit of that was my fault in 2011, in not having the opportunity to really have a good gauge of where he was before going into [the] World Championships.  And Nathan historically has been a very, very good swimmer on his second major meet.  We didn’t have that in 2011, and I think the physical stress of not knowing where he was as an athlete really affected him.  And then it was his year to transition professionally, from being an amateur athlete to a professional athlete, and there were some stresses that we did not anticipate happening during that time.  And it really just overwhelmed him.  And we really looked at in 2012 about removing those stresses and just letting him focus on the things that he was very good at.

 

One of the things that I talked to him about… there are actually three quotes in my office and they are all written on sticky papers.  The first one I have already shared with you: our principles from the Haas School of Business.  The second one is as you see here: Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.  And we talked a lot about that in 2011: the experience of what he took away from that, what he can do differently.  A lot of times when you have success as an athlete, you don’t necessarily know what went right.  When you have failures as an athlete, you know exactly what went wrong and you know how to avoid those.  And then the other one is… I am not a big statistical analysis guy.  In other words, the quote that I have in my office is: there are three types of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics.  And I am a firm believer in that.  Sometimes you can look at a lot of statistics and you can draw some conclusions that are not there.

 

A little bit about his preparation.  We took a calculated risk with his swimming going into the US Olympic Trials.  We felt that he could leave something in the tank, make the team… in two events—and we fell short in one.  And then still have his peak performance at the Olympic Games.  The numbers that you see there are yardage numbers, and that’s meant just to… that doesn’t tell you anything about what he was doing in the water.  It just gives you an idea, for comparison, in terms of what we looked at six weeks, or seven weeks rather, out from the Olympic Games and 3 weeks out from the Trials; and how that changed as he prepared for the Olympic Games.  He was still 9 water sessions and 3 lift sessions three-weeks-out from the Trials, and then we just dropped a water session going into the Olympic Trials, and subsequently also dropped a lift session going into the Trials.  I am a big believer—and we are very fortunate to have one of the best strength coaches in the nation.  I am a big believer in maintaining strength.  It doesn’t necessarily have to come from the weight room, but I am a big believer in our athletes doing some strength moves very close to the meet.  I think that’s very important. It’s very important in their preparation.  And I know that there are different philosophies out there, but this is what I believe in and it is something that was really, really effective for Nathan.  In working with Nathan over the years too a lot of the movements that he did from a strength perspective were fairly high in intensity, maybe not necessarily speed.  But it was really close to what can be termed as a one-rep max, or he liked to feel strong going into a meet.  So that is something that we have been able to tweak and really take advantage of as he was going into a major meet.

 

Now if you see the yardage totals here and how that differed significantly going into the Olympics.  And to step back for a second, going into the Trials, a couple of the workouts and kind of how we structured things for him is, we talk about, kind of, warming himself up on his own and then he may hit a set.  So three weeks out of the Trials, he ended up doing a 4×50, full speed, on a 1:30 base.  And we wanted him to really be as close to the second 50 of his 100 as possible.  And he was good on that.  He didn’t wear a technical suit for that, just wore a jammer;  but he was 24-mid, 24.7, 25.2, and was leaking oil a little bit, was 25 and a ½ on the fourth one—which I thought was really, really good, three weeks out of the US Trials.  A week later he went 2×50 on 2:00, just trying to hold his fastest time at 24-low, which he was able to do.  And about a week out of the Trials, we dropped it down to a single 50, before he got into the Olympic Trials.  Now the difference between what we did at the Olympic Trials and then Olympic Games is he didn’t go through that progression at all.  In fact the fastest thing that he did was a full 100, paddles and fins, just letting one go, really emphasizing the second 50.

 

And a little bit of vocabulary that we use with Nathan, that I thought was really effective—in fact we use it with a lot of our athletes that are swimming a 100-meter event—is we talk about the second 25 of their second 50.  Now I know that seems redundant; it’s like, ‘man, why don’t you just call it the last 25?’  I want an emphasis with our guys, I want their thought, I want their mind, really thinking about the second 50.  Not the last 25; thinking about the second 50.  And in thinking about the second half of that second 50, it allows them to come off the wall halfway through the 100 and really have a good emphasis on what they are doing through that second 50.  The guys would give me a hard time about, ‘Hey, Dave, don’t you mean the last 25?’  It’s like: if I meant the last 25, I would say the last 25.  I want to see it as the second 25 of your second 50.  And that allowed them to keep that whole part of that second 50 as a focus, with just being a little bit better through the second 25 of that.  And towards the end of this we will watch his race and, to me, that was a point of difference for him.  When James Magnussen went by him with 25 meters to go, how Nathan moved past James with 15 meters to go, I thought that was a very key thing.  And that was something that we just hammered home with our guys, pretty much every day: talking about the second 25 of the second 50.

 

Again I put volume tools there.  It is not to show you how much he is doing or how little he is doing.  I know that seems like: okay 8 water sessions, and through the week he is going 8,800; and that gives a good idea that he is probably averaging right-about 1,000 when he gets in the water.  It is not what he does in the water, it is his preparation before he does get in the water:  it is how he stretches, how he mentally prepares.  He doesn’t need much to get warmed-up and go fast.  If about two weeks out… in fact he was in Gregg Troy’s training group at the Olympic Games; I thought he and Anthony [Ervin] would be a good fit for Gregg.  And that may be counterintuitive for a lot of coaches, to say: hey, let’s put the sprint athletes with Gregg Troy.  But I thought, just with Gregg’s preparation, with how those two guys, Nathan and Anthony, were very structured through what they were doing in the last three weeks going into the Olympic Games, I thought it was a perfect marriage.  About 2 weeks out, I talked to Gregg.  And Nathan had for one of his work outs ‘really working through the second 50 of a 100’, kind of had a little kick-swim through it, and he did a really good job.  And at that point in time, in talking with Gregg and Gregg’s feedback, I knew that he was in a good path and a good plan heading into the Olympic Games.

 

About a week out, we just really keep it at about one session—in fact he had one double.  We still work off of the day off; we are not in the water every day going into a major meet.  I think just the rest, the time away from the pool, is very healthy; and so that’s what we maintained throughout the course of a training cycle, that’s what we maintain throughout the course of the season.  And it just makes sense to me to maintain that through the course of a fine-tuning phase or getting ready for a major meet.

 

What he does really well.  I am going to cover just three things from a technical aspect that he does really, really well:

  • his body position up on the water,
  • how he gets his breath, and
  • his initial catch position.

 

For us it is a little bit different than when how we talk with our freestylers, especially our guys that are proficient in a little more of the speed events about where they are moving their hand.  Nort described this really well with Matt Biondi back in 1988.  When Matt Biondi could feel pressure on his pinky—I know that sounds a little bit strange, but we are from Berkeley.  If Matt Biondi could feel a little bit of pressure on his pinky, that’s when he knew that he was going into the power phase of his stroke.  And that’s much the same with Nathan.

 

We will show just a little bit of a video here.  This is a drill we call head-up quick catch.  And if you notice through the last couple of cycles where his hand is pitched in starting that initial catch position: that is something that we really, really work on.  It is not a just a traditional down, anchor and press through.  It is just a little more of his hand turned inward, grabbing a little more water, and then that propulsive phase through the bottom part of his stroke—which he doesn’t get in that drill.  All we are working on is just the initial catch position.  But the propulsive phase is just going to really accelerate through the end of his hips and into his recovery.  So again I think that for what we do and what we teach, that’s something that’s very, very effective for our guys.  We will do this particular drill not only from a head-up position, but we will also put the head in-line.  We will go from this drill into fast swimming.  We will go from this drill into maybe just some slower swimming, where they are really feeling the pressure that they want to have.  We will do a little bit of this slower, with some paddles.  And we will actually have our guys hold the paddles as they are doing this drill, so they can take away a little bit of, kind of, an outward scull and they have to get into that position a little bit, and they can feel a little more pressure on their forearms.  We do this drill several different ways with a lot of different pieces of equipment.

 

His body position on the water is really, really key to his success.  He is a bigger athlete or a heavier athlete; he typically races right in between 215 and 220 [pounds], and at 6’6”.  So he has to really position himself up on the water.  He is doing a little bit of a straight arm drill—he is doing straight arm drill—through this

.  But just notice where his hips, his bottom, is positioned on top of the water.  His bottom was most-famously captured at the Indianapolis Grand Prix when his suit split.  So, unfortunately I don’t have that picture for everyone in the crowd.  But you can see right there, where his hips are positioned on the water is something that we really, really work towards.  We can do that, body position kicking, through a couple of different drills.  We like to do single-arm drill with our guys in this position, just to really allow themselves to feel on top of the water.  We will use this with a snorkel—Nathan is doing it without.  But you can see, regardless of how he is swimming right now, he is incorporating a straight-arm stroke into this.  But you can just see his hips stay up on the water, and that’s really what we want to see.  As we get to his race a little bit later in the talk; I want you to notice that.  I want you to notice how his position is up on the surface.

 

The last thing that I think he does really, really well—and you will see this in his race—is his breath.  If you notice the first 50 of his 100, he really hides his breath well.  He is breathing on every stroke—just kind of take note of that.  So as the race comes up a little bit later, I want you to just take a look at how he hides his breath.  We talked a lot about his breathing profile after the Olympic Trials, especially coming off the wall; that he was really turning his head and turning his body to get his breath at the Olympic Trials.  We thought that a key to his success at the Olympic Games is how he was positioning his breath on his second 50.  But if you really watch his first 50, when he is moving through clean water: it is really low, he hides it extremely well, he is very quick, and his breath moves independent of his body.  And what I mean by that: he is getting his breath, it is coming back down, before his hips are rolling.  So it is independent… that breath is working independently of his body roll.

 

Our other athlete on the US [Olympic] team had an interesting journey, in Anthony Ervin.  But he was… he was just an awesome athlete to watch.  And Nick [Folker] is going to come up here in a second and talk about the differences between those two athletes.  But just to give a little bit of background, he [Anthony] started back with our women’s team in January 2011 and started to split a little time with the men’s and women’s program until the summer of 2011—or into the summer.  And then he started full time with us, really in the fall and getting on our schedule.  One of the things that I found very interesting about Anthony—and you have to understand all I know is Anthony as an athlete now, and not Anthony as an athlete when he was 19, or 18-19-20-21 years of age.  But Anthony really loves structure, he loved organization and he just loved direction.  This is coming from a guy that has full sleeves [tattoos] on both arms, and that’s what he liked.  He liked to know what he was doing, why he was doing it, and just making sure that it had a direction and going forward.  He is a great seeker of ideas and opinions; which in a lot of ways is very good and in some ways it can be a little bit of detrimental.  When you are always kind of always looking for the right answer; when you are always kind of searching around for the little nugget, the little speck of gold dust.  And that’s something that we really try to keep him linear on, and try to keep him with just a couple of thoughts going through his head.  In other words, we kept it really simple for Anthony.  We went back to full time age group philosophy of: Anthony, all we want to do is have you swim best time.  That’s all we want to do is have you swim best time.  And I will never forget when he got out of his semifinals swim at the Olympic Trials, and he swam best time; and he came right up to me and said, ‘I did it coach, best time’.  And that’s… that’s the age group mentality that he has that I absolutely love.  That was the thing; it is not ‘I am first or second going into the finals.’  “Coach, I swam it best time.” Attaboy, let’s get one more in there.

 

He is very diligent in his training preparation.  He did not miss a practice unless he was ill or had some sickness; and he was pretty healthy over the last year.  He is just a phenomenal athlete to work with, and at 31 years of age, has tremendous perspective.  I would encourage you, if you are ever interested in having Anthony come out and talk to your club swimmers, do not the let the tattoo scare you.  He has a tremendous perspective on the sport.  He has been great with our younger guys; especially guys that are 19-20-21, he has been absolutely phenomenal.  And it is good to see him still training, and staying in the sport as we move through our fall season.

 

I am going to invite Nick up right now to kind of talk about the strength aspects of things with these two guys.  As I sad earlier, Nick is one of the best in the business at what he does.  How he individualizes our program, whether it is for an 155-pound 18-year-old or it’s a 220-pound 24-year-old, what he does and really stepping our guys through a strength plan, a strength program, is really effective.  So if you have gotten nothing from me in the first ten slides; now it is time to pay attention, because hopefully you are going to go home with some good nuggets on the strength side of things.

 

[Nick Folker begins]

Thanks Dave; I won’t be too long.  Just to give a couple of things we looked at with Nathan and Tony.  As Dave said, they are two very different athletes.  It is a little bit… think of it like training a muscle car versus a Ferrari.  So Nathan was your sort-of V8 Mustang, and Tony was your Ferrari, a one-and-done and that was him for the day.  Coming in some of the things we looked at, and I think we got a little bit of this from Bill Sweetenham’s talk last night, was: coach the person and train the event.  And in the weight room, especially, I really had to separate Nathan and Tony.  They came and trained the same time, but Tony was always looking at what Nathan was doing.  One of the big things is that Tony is really competitive; he is very cerebral.  He always wanted to know not just what we are doing, but where it was going to take him.

 

And so a couple of things we looked at.  Obviously age was a factor.  I wouldn’t say experience—I do not want to use that word.  I would say that Tony was a little more experienced than Nathan; but I would refer to it more as development.  I think in terms of development, you know, I had Nathan for four years and it had been quite a long process working with Dave on preparing him for London.  But with Tony, he had been away from the sport for eight or nine years.  And so he came back from his sort of “rockstar” phase with a bad shoulder—he had an accident and hurt his shoulder pretty badly.  So for him we define strength as stability.  And for those who were at the dryland session we had on Tuesday, you would have remembered this picture.  You know, Tony was very unstable.  There was, I think, an above-view shot of the start in the 50 free, and you can see they are being held so long he started shaking.  He was very unstable coming in, and he didn’t have the pop that he had in any movement that he would have when he was 22-23 years old.  So age came in too, quite a lot.

 

When Tony first came in, he was, I would say, about I think 158 pounds—his jeans hardly fit him, he has no hips.  By the time he finished, he was about 168-169, racing.  Time was against us: we only had about 10 months to get him ready.  And, again, he was very unstable, bit of a bad shoulder, in an event that is power driven.  Tony, we did not have a lot of time to work with; whereas Nathan, you look at him, as Dave said, he raced between 215 to 220, averaging about 218 pounds.  And I remember one day up at the Olympic Training Center—Jon Urbanchek took a picture of this.  Bench presses by no-means are one of the favorite exercises, but it is something that Nathan really enjoyed.  And he put-up 160 pounds in each hand on dumb-bell bench; so he literally had a Tony in each hand and he was bench pressing that.  And Tony walked-out of that weight session going:  I am done, there is no way I can make this, how can I race a guy….  And he had worked it out in his head, that was holding one of him in each hand.  But going back to that quote from Bill Sweetenham was “coach the person”.  We spent a lot of time with Tony going: this is what you need.  And it took a bit of time and a little bit of trust, but he wasn’t going to get huge strength gains.  For him, I still maintain, he is the fastest person in the water from A to B; it was just getting him in that we needed to work on.

 

But for what he needed, he is a finesse swimmer; he didn’t need all the strength in the world.  And I think that is one thing with strength coaches, you don’t need all the numbers, you know.  Another quote from Bill Sweetenham was: too often you can get caught up in the… the data is there to make the coach a better artist.  Too often you go into a college system, and it’s: you got to get a one-rep max on squat bench, as many pull-ups as you can.  Well, those weren’t really going to help these guys.  It has been a progression.  And it was more about what they needed in the water, and that it was very individualized in everything we did.

 

In looking at it again, one thing you try to do is to make it fun.  Nathan can tend to be a little too serious at times—I mean I think that says it all.  But one thing we do with the post-grads is I let them, I give them, one workout a week where they could name an exercise.  And there is one that we are still waiting for Nathan to name, but it is on one of the Yahoo! Sports video sessions—they did the elite athlete of the week.  And it really worked on trying to get the hip connection to the fingertips.  So we use a band, with a TRX, with a resistive band behind us coming through.  I think that really helped him on his straight arm free.  So we try to keep it fun for them.  But I think something that… as David said that’s very individualized.  I think that was the big difference with these two, was looking… I mean even just looking at them, just the different body types.  And I think too often in college it is a cookie-cutter workout; and the older they get, the more specific you have to get.

 

I think that in terms of individualization, it sort of runs through our whole team.  Tom Shields is a great example.  When he first came in his hamstrings were probably the worst I have seen—I have used this example a lot.  He is a guy that for the first year we never, in strength terms, we never did an RDL with [Romanian Deadlift].  His work was more… again getting ready for his events.  He was so quad-dominant from all the underwater work that he had done, that he had no posterior-chain activation.  So we just had to work on teaching those muscles how to fire, how to get them a little more flexible, so that he could move on for what he was doing in the water.  I think, at the end of the day, for any strength coaches or even if you are a swimming coach doing your strength work, it is not about the numbers that you get on land.  We keep no record boards.  We do keep data and look at progression—I think that is a huge part of it—and that is sort of where Nathan went, was the progression over the four years.  But we are not interested in the numbers on land; it is what they do and how they perform in the water at the end of the day.  And I think that is, with the partnership; especially with Dave… I mean we meet once a week.  We go through the full roster.  I am on pool deck most days of the week, if I am over another team. I think that partnership, in that especially, helped the success of these two guys, especially in the individualization.  Thanks.

 

[Durden returns]

You know, it is great to have a resource like Nick, that I know that that piece is getting taken care of.  There is collaboration back-and-forth of what we do; you can’t burn the candles at both ends from this.  In other words, when we look at establishing a good foundation from a strength perspective with our guys, we are not trying to tax them from a swimming perspective.  But at that point in time in the season, like we are right now—and I will talk about this in a second—but for us when we are trying to establish strength in the water, what we are really honing in on is how they are moving technically.  I think the take-home that I always have when I hear Nick talk, and especially whether you are a coach of age groupers or a coach of college-aged swimmers, the three things that we look at are: flexibility, mobility, and stability.  Not necessarily getting guys’ biceps stronger.  So again: flexibility, stability and mobility; that is the foundation of what we structure our strength program around.  And with that it keeps our guys healthy, it keeps our guys with very, very functional movement and not just, you know, the big beach muscles.

 

So what we are doing right now.  Just going to shift-gears and cover a couple of different topics, that… just kind of give you a little insight into maybe some of the ins-and-outs in our program that we don’t talk about too, too much.  Our early season training guidelines—all this stuff I have stolen, so it is not coming from me.  But we really implement it at the very beginning of the season through the first six weeks of our training cycle.  Most of the coaches in here are going through the same phase that we are going through: getting back in the water, getting our athletes moving.  What we look at when we talk about freestyle with our guys are stroke count limits, whether it is short course yards or long course meters.  And it depends on what we are trying to get out of that.  Typically we are not more than 9 strokes freestyles, short course yards; 28 strokes, long course meters.  But we do switch that up depending on what we want their legs to be doing.  We have turn rules that we are very strict upon, for freestyle, which is: two hand-hits in and one hand-hit out, without a breath.  It is going to slow them down a little bit, but we want them to do it correctly.  For our guys that are more underwater, we are looking at one hand-hit in, six dolphin kicks off the wall.  And how they leave the wall: is backside-stomach, just really exaggerating the distance off the wall.  This is not going to translate to great training sets; but it is going to translate to great training habits and that’s what we really are focusing on through the first six weeks of what we are doing.

 

Backstroke, we are looking at six dolphin kicks off of every wall, doesn’t matter whether you are backstroker or not.  And really looking at two good freestyle pulls into this turn.  So really slowing down what they are doing, starting… initiating that turn a little further out.  I see a lot of our swimmers that walk-in-the-door will take that first backstroke, or as they start their turn, they are going to take that backstroke stroke and then it comes across their body just to help them turn over onto their stomach, not necessarily helping them pull themselves into the wall.  So we really emphasize the feeling of two freestyle pulls into the turn for backstroke.

 

Butterfly is six dolphin kicks with stroke count limits; breaststroke much the same.  We are keeping very leg-dominated work.  We are kicking a lot.  We are kicking… that is where our intensity comes in at the very beginning of the season, we are doing a lot of kick work.  We really explore underwater kicking; we really make that a part of what we do.  Even from a leg-dominant perspective, we keep our athletes moving by having them vertical kick between sets.  So as they come in, they go right into the vertical kick position.  And it is amazing, the intelligence that happens when we have them start vertical kicking between sets; they can hear what we are doing a lot clearer.  So many times when they are hanging on the wall, I will explain a set.  I will explain it again; I will explain a third time.  A very simple set takes a five-minute explanation.  It is amazing when we start vertical kicking how that explanation goes down to a minute, and they are ready to move on.  So it has been very, very effective for me as a coach to get-in the requisite work that we are looking for, because they listen a lot better—it is amazing.

 

Fueling and recovery: this is ingrained into our program.  And if you guys have the opportunity on Friday evening to listen GENr8 talk about their product, Vitargo, please go do it.  If you don’t go, go next door and hang out with the guys over in their booth.  Anthony is a smart dude; he is a Berkeley grad, you knows he is a smart dude.  But this is something we really incorporate to our program from a fueling and recovery perspective.  Take a look at their product; these guys will explain it much clearer than I will.  But what I do like about it is easy on the stomach: our guys can get it into their system while they are training, they can get it into their system before they start working out, and in a post-workout perspective they can get it into their system without having any sort of bloating that comes with other recovery type of products.  Plus there is no sugars in it: that is awesome.  We are all about organics in Berkeley and having no sugar is awesome.  It fuels our athletes faster, especially when we are looking at multiple events at an NCAA format, multiple events that are conference format.  Our guys can get this in their system it helps them recover twice as fast, it helps replenish the glycogen faster than any other product in the market, and again it helps us with repeat performances.  It is very, very instrumental to what we do; it is very, very instrumental to why we swim fast at a conference level, at an NCAA level; and it is why a lot of our last swims at the end of a meet, at an NCAA session, are as good as our first swims.  Just kind of looking back, kind of getting away from the Olympics for a second, and looking back at the 2012 NCAA meet, our best session was our very last session.  And it was because of how our guys were fueling and recovering.  If you don’t think it is a big deal, it is a really big deal to us and it is something that we really, really live by.

 

Finally, I come to [the] ASCA [World Clinic], and you get charged-up about coaching, and you hear coaches talk about our hard work, and you need to do this and do that, and I am working hard, I am the first one on the deck, I am the last one to leave….  I am going to talk to you about balance.  I think it is extremely important in our sport that you have balance.  Tim mentioned my family: my 3-year-old and my 2-year-old and my wife who is in that picture.  She is the one with the gold Cal script in the blue, with her arms up in the sky.  She helps me do what I do.  And I think it is important as coaches that we have so much structure, we have so much planning, so much organization, that we don’t plan for the bigger aspect of our lives.  Or the things that should take a bigger priority than what we are doing on the pool deck with our athletes, and that is our family.  As I said so many times, I come to ASCA, I get a little bit frustrated in just kind of sitting there, more hard on myself.  ‘Gosh, I could be doing more, I could be reading this book that book, studying this, etc.’  And at the end of the day, you have to really prioritize what is really important.  And I want you to hear from a coach that is standing up here and that has had some moderate success—and by no means do I classify myself as a successful coach.  But that has had some moderate success, to say that you can do that:  you can balance that correctly, and have proper priorities in your life.  I think it is really, really important.

 

And the other thing, before I show the video of Nathan and talk-through that race.  For coaches in here, do not get frustrated with this process.  I stand up here as a coach that from a professional standpoint, I felt like I did everything I could in my job, in terms of: winning an NCAA title, when we really were not projected, or maybe not have the talent on the page, to win it; having an athlete win a gold medal.  I mean those are some of the peaks of our profession.  And yet, you know, I sit here as a coach, and as I was evaluated in my profession by my bosses, I got: ‘you did average.’  So, you know, that happens in our sport more frequently than you think.  Where you think that you are knocking-it-out-of-the-park and all that takes is for a boss or for another coach to say: ‘oh yeah, but you didn’t do this, and you are not doing this.’  And you can really get down on yourself in this profession.  My encouragement to you is to stay true to what you are doing.  You know, Bill talked a lot about the relationship with athletes, and that is the important thing.  You are going to hear a lot of different feedback, whether it is from your boss, from your parents, of your swimmers or even from other coaches.  But stay, just stay focused on what you are doing and that will take care of itself.  I know it gets frustrating, trust me.  I was frustrated and kind of scratching my head thinking: oh boy, I can’t do much more in my job.  But that’s just the reality of it; just stay on your path.

 

And lastly, we are going to end on a good note here and watch some swimming.

Nathan is here in lane 5.  Just the little nuances of things.  Still kind of like an age grouper, just has to look to make sure he is to get up on the blocks.  Looking around; wait, wait, okay, yeah, I can get up on the blocks.  The things to notice that I talked about earlier: look at his breathing profile.  He is breathing every stroke on that first 50, and on the second 50 as well.  And just look how low it is, look how he hides that in his stroke.

 

(I am now running on battery power [device playing the video].  Let’s get it in, crap.  I’m plugged in.  We are a liberal arts college, not a technical college, thank you.  Too bad Nort isn’t here: I’d give him a ‘that’s what she said’ setup, but okay.  All right, back to it.  Blah, blah, blah as I was talking about age group move here, looking around, wait a second until I get up on the block, so yeah, okay, time to go.)

 

All right, in the water again.  Just look at the low breath, low breathing profile. He starts his breath right there; doesn’t even look like he is taking it.  That is a very, very good thing that he does as a swimmer.  It gets a little bit bigger, a little more obvious, as he gets a little more fatigued through the 50.  But, again, it is very low, working independent of his body.

 

Coming off the wall, again: second 25, the second 50.  Right here James [Magnussen] goes by him; and right here, he just had me in his head, thinking second 25, of that second 50—come on bubba, get in.  Transitions to straight arm, no breath for the last 10 meters.  Yeah.  [race ends]

 

Just a couple of things to talk about that.  Yeah, he is excited; he should be.  One thing he did not want to do was cry.  That was the one thing he did not want to do, and he almost lost it right here, as he got on the lane line.  As he puts his hand over his face, right there.  He almost lost it, almost lost it; he held it together nicely though, so it was good.

 

So, a couple of things just about that progression and how he got there.  I always hate using the pronoun ‘we’ because he is the one doing the work.  Trust me, I worked hard to get him in the spot, but he is the one that took advantage of that situation and got there.  Way-back in March when Magnussen went 47-low in that 100 freestyle, I remember that he came in and was a little bit depressed.  The time, the idea that we were working towards was 47.5; and in fact that is what he was at the Games, 47.5.  That was the range; that is where we thought he could be as an athlete.  And he was very just kind of: oh, crap, 47.1, that’s a… I am not going to be able to go to that level.  The one thing that I took away from that, especially in working with him from 2011 to 2012; in 2011 he was the only one that was pressing that first 50 out in 22-mid to 22.6.  And when James swam that 47.1, that’s what he was out in: 27… or excuse me, 22.6.  And that was important for him, for Nathan mentally, to know that: okay, I am going to have other guys out there with me.  Now had James split that race 23-flat/24.1, I think that would have been a bigger hurdle for Nathan mentally to wrap his mind around.

 

But the key to really that next six months, him looking toward competing, racing against the elite, was knowing that someone was going to be there with him.  That he did not feel like: okay, I am the first one out to the 50, and these guys are going to chase me.  There is a lot of comfort in that. He took a lot of comfort away from that as an athlete.  You know, the initial ‘oh my gosh, I think I will go 47.1,’ we immediately flipped that to: okay, you are going to have someone to race, that’s going to be there with you on that second 50.  And that was really what we focused on from that point forward, from March to June.

 

You know, sometimes I think athletes look at the end time, and it is like: ‘oh my gosh, how am I going to get there?’  We really looked at, kind of, the process of that time, the resultant of that time.  It was like, ‘Okay, he did this… he went this on the first 50; this on the second 50.  Okay, we don’t care about the second 50 right now, but it’s going to be nice that you are going to have someone there to race.  As long as you keep that simple, you are going to be okay.  And you know, in that second 25 and second 50, you are going to be there racing.’  And that was what we are really excited about heading into the Olympics.

 

And I think the other big key was leading-off that relay, the 4×100 free relay, and out-touching him there.  That set-up the rest of his meet.  And had… really that not happened, or if he was in a different order—or whatever, what not—I don’t know if we would have saw that result, that we saw right there.

 

He is back in the water this week, and looking forward to defending his title at the World Championships.  And it has been a good journey with him; when you see four years of each step of the way working toward that, and to see that result, is just really, really special.  And I hope that, you know, as coaches, you know that four years ago I was sitting out there and listening to Mark Schubert talk about the US Olympic Team.  And that is really what inspired me.  We did not do anything different in the Olympic year with our program; I just really felt it was important for me to be a better coach for my athletes during that time.  And that is what we focused on, not making it different, just holding myself accountable to a whole another level as a coach.  And so I hope that as you watched that and you see his expression, that you too are looking forward to these next four years as we head to Rio in 2016.  Thank you very much for your time.

 

##### end #####

 

Sponsorship & Partnerships

Official Sponsors and Partners of the American Swimming Coaches Association

Join Our Mailing List

Subscribe and get the latest Swimming Coach news