First of all it is an honor to be here. One of the things when you start off coaching and I started coming to these conventions at first for the fun, having a good time and seeing the other coaches. Probably by the second or third year I finally caught on and realized that you could actually learn some things and started going to meetings — except for the one in Las Vegas, I didn’t go to too many meetings there. But one of things that you have, as a goal is that you get to speak at the ASCA convention, not that I have ever been known as a great speaker. Especially early on when I first took the job at Auburn, I was not comfortable speaking in front of groups. I would tremble inside when I spoke in front of my own team, that is how uncomfortable I was. So I had to learn over time with enough Kiwanis clubs over the years and I have been able to develop a little more comfort speaking in front of groups.
First of all I want to thank Speedo and ASCA. Also just to let you know that I was for eight years a club coach before I was a college coach. I have been a college coach for eight years. Judging by the audience here it looks as though we have a wide variety of where everybody’s come from. Before I got the job at Auburn I had applied to probably 12-15 Division 1, Division II, junior college jobs. I was trying to get any job I could to move from club position to college because that is where I wanted to be. I never got an interview, or even a close look, so to have a chance to go back to Auburn of course would always have been a dream. At the time that John A. Smith resigned and stepped down I got the chance to come in, I think I was just kind of lucky. I think if they had the pool built already I doubt that I would have gotten the job. There would have been a lot better applicants for the job than I was at that time. I think that a lot of things that have happened over time have been different blessings that I have had and some of the goodwill.
I have stolen and collected ideas all the way along from a lot of you and from different speakers and even people in different sports. I like to listen to different tapes and try to learn from a lot of different areas. I have sat in on our Women’s basketball practices. By the time I got to Auburn, Joe Champie was the top coach on campus. So those things I have tried to learn from all different aspects. I think that most of you can do that up at your universities and most of you do have some good coaches at the universities.
Developing a program at the National Championship level was certainly a driving motivation behind why I coach and especially why I coach and was motivated at Auburn University. But to be honest with you the actualization of winning the National Championship may have done more for me in my personal philosophy of coaching than anything else.
I did realize, that after winning the light will go down again. For a minute they shine, but then they go down again. And what you are left with are the people the people that you work with, the young people that you work with, the other coaches that you deal with. And that is what we’re all in this about. That has been probably the best thing that I have learned in this process of developing a team to win a National Championship.
I guess my goal really was to come to Auburn, especially being an alumnus and being part of a team that was a proud program. And then seeing the team fall down in a huge demise and then be able to build it back up. And just to have a program that Auburn people could be proud of. And not just swimming alumni, all people and maybe get a little more recognition for swimming in our town. That I guess has been kind of my drive.
I am going to talk about the area I call vision, then some of the areas that I think are important. I think you will be able to get some ideas from me that you may consider for your program. Then I have some precepts or kind of things that we do at Auburn. They are kind of one-liners, but there is a lot more to them. Again that will be like bird shot, I will throw a bunch of pellets out you can catch want you want to catch and let go by what you want to go by. You guys are in a lot better shape than most birds.
Vision is an overused word it may be a bit of cliché at this point. But vision is what has already been built into me for Auburn because I had already been a swimmer there and a proud swimmer there. I had a story book career. I wasn’t a very good swimmer out at Indian River. I was 53 100 backstroker coming out of junior college and I went down to 49. Back then 49 was a fast time when we did the old slow turns. Along the way came a lot of personal growth and so Auburn was very good to me that way. I wanted to at least get back that kind of pride in the program, so maybe that is where it started. In fact the first day that I had practice, our practice consisted of first shaking hands.
I noticed that in meeting a lot of the swimmers, they were giving me the dead fish handshake. In trying to help these young people develop, I was also trying to teach them about being winners and successful in life. That first impression of shaking someone’s hand as all of you in here know can have an impact. And so we worked on shaking hands before we did anything else. Because I had gone to the SEC’s the year before I had taken the job to watch some of my Las Vegas gold swimmers that were swimming in the SEC meet I noticed that the Auburn team had poor posture really loser posture.
The next thing that we did was put towels around our necks and we had them walking around the pool deck pretending they were Superman. If you have a cape on you have a hard time having bad posture. So they had to walk around with the towels and present themselves with good posture. It was corny, but you could tell that day who was going to get into this change and who wasn’t. Because the cool McCools were going to be the cool McCools and they really weren’t into it — they were doing their sashaying. The people who really wanted to help try to change the program were actively involved.
I think the area that vision involves is the character of the athletes, developing the staff and philosophies, goals of the team, recruiting and overall presence. Character of the athletes involves, especially in the beginning, deciding what you are going to be about in terms of discipline and in terms of what you expect in the athletes — communicating that and then going forward. In the building process one of the things we did in the first year at six o’clock when practice started we locked the front door. So if they didn’t get there by six o’clock they didn’t get to practice that morning. And then it was considered a miss and that helped out quite a bit, at least getting them there on time.
In terms of character, with developing character is going to come some pain. You have to decide what is right and stick with what is right. If it is not right there is sometimes in that growth process it might hurt. I had several swimmers that would have preferred to have good relationships with that I didn’t have good relationships with. I was their coach and they were the swimmer and that was the relationship that we had. Several of those swimmers, by the way, now that I am an old fogie, and they have come back and come to Alumni things I have not developed neat relationships with. But for the most part my first job and our first jobs are to be coaches and to have them to respect our program and to respect us, and our staff. Our second jobs are to maybe be their friends in my opinion. Everybody can run it in different ways, but that is the way that I looked at it.
In terms of goals for the team and I will touch on this in other areas in a little while. But over time we went from goals that I imposed on them to goals that they had input on developing. And now we’re more along the lines of them getting more input. But initially, I really had to kind of set the goals this is the goals for the team and those of you who are interested in contributing to these goals, come on we would love you to have you stay on the team. Those of you who are not interested are welcome to not distract from us achieving these goals or there are other options available.
My wife says that one thing she sees… By the way it is tough being the second best coach in your family. Before Kristin married me she was an excellent coach out in California and probably one of the reasons why Chuck was saying that California is going down because my wife isn’t coaching out there anymore. She talked about the things that I do and I don’t know if I do it because of Auburn or whatever. We try and the staff tries to do a great job of setting the bar at a high level in our program and then moving the bar up. It happens in the most subtle way possible and it happens in real clear ways.
The very first year I got to Auburn I had a meeting with the Women’s team and I do coach the Women’s team too. The Women’s team wasn’t very good at that point either. We had recruited a couple of good athletes and I said I think we can win the SEC Championships this year. I explained to them why I thought we could win the SEC Championship, and one of the things that I say to the teams every year is someone is going to make the Olympic team that is less talented than the least talented person in this room. With that in mind that first year, I said here is the deal you guys have to do everything right. Florida doesn’t have to do everything right and they could win, (we were next to the last in the conference at that point). But I really believed it. I say today that we could have done it if everybody would have done the right thing. Three weeks later it was pretty clear that we weren’t heading in that direction so we had to adjust to realistic goals. But basically setting the bar at a high level and at a realistic level, and if you are going to set it at a higher level than they can understand be ready to explain it. And then even individually set it higher and higher and not letting them get comfortable with a lesser level of swimming than what they are capable of.
And the other thing progression wise, earlier on when I first got there is using the SEC because it is such a competitive conference that it is easy to set goals and levels there initially. Especially at Auburn when Alabama is better than you at something, it is easy to set a goal too, since it is everybody on campus and there is the Auburn/Alabama rivalry is just a huge event. When I initially started and even though we had set a goal at a higher level, our initial goal was to beat Alabama. It was real clear and real simple. With that came some of my actions and behaviors. Meaning that when before we left for the Alabama meet we paid for it all darn week trying to give them a close meet my first year. I was on the starting block and I was really chewing them out for having such slow starts. Our best butterflyer Jeff Sweeny and I were standing next to each other and one of the swimmers said swim in after Jeff. When the swimmer hit the wall I took off and did butterfly for 25 fully clothed with my shoes on and everything. It was a really special thing for the swimmers to see that I got in the trenches with them. The emotions focused on that level at Alabama.
The very first year I want you to understand that I said our goal was to win the conference. I understand that we were last and next to last at that point. That was the standard that we were going for. I knew realistically that we weren’t going to do that on both sides. The goal that I got them to buy into and I think it worked pretty well was to win the SEC championships by 1994. That was three years away. We knew we had to recruit better swimmers. So what that did was include them in a bigger thing. Even if they would not be on the team at that time, they would be able to be involved in it and say forever that they were part of the development for that program. Maybe that is something that worked pretty well.
At the SEC level when we had set that level and moved up toward that we has already adjusted the goal to winning the NCAA’s someday. Of course winning the SEC isn’t that big of a jump to winning the NCAA, the SEC is probably a much bigger jump. Now all along each of the Olympic years became kind of marked years. The Olympic trials is the most important event in that year ahead of the NCAA, ahead of the SEC. Fortunately my first year that we actually ran the SEC long course to prepare for the Olympic Trials, we didn’t do that last time unfortunately, but the first go we did and so that again sublimely put everything at a higher level. You had swimmers going for the NCAA level going for the SEC level but yet I am promoting the Olympic level and that was setting the bar up higher. So I really kind of used the Olympics that way and I have used it ever since and that is the reason to set that as the ultimate goal.
Goals for the individuals I really think you coaches have a lot to do with where they set their standards. Like that comfortable range that I can be that good but I am not willing to be any slower than this. I think the more that you individually help through their career to help move that thermostat up the better off of course you and your team will be.
In the area of recruiting One of the things that we had to start doing because our school doesn’t do a very good job of is promoting itself. We had to make an attempt to explain to people, explain to recruits, explain to club coaches and explain to everybody in the country that Auburn has a great academic program in several areas. Fortunately our strengths are engineering and pre-medicine. As you know a lot of freshmen come in thinking that they are going to be going into pre-med but end up going into something else. We have some good programs and we had to promote that first because that was the foundation. Obviously most of the swimmers make their decisions based on the academic decision, not on the swimming decision.
We had to educate our team on how to recruit. One of the things that we did that I see mistakes made by a lot of my friends and coaches that are coaching other sports at Auburn and other places. We would go for the best athletes right from the beginning (at least make the attempt) and then we would go for whom we could probably realistically get. We figure that even if we could get a top recruiter on campus and then they go on a national team trip (that is where a lot of the talk about college with the younger kids happen) we could at least get them to campus and they could understand what Auburn is about. Usually when people come to the Auburn campus if they do not understand it they could at least enjoy it quite a bit. So that is the next level that we worked at recruiting.
When I first got the job and thinking about the building process. I had already taken the job, I was at Junior Nationals West with Las Vegas Gold, I only had a couple of swimmers and I was watching the meet. The first recruit that I had signed was Kristy Kruger. The reason I signed her was she was fairly fast although she wasn’t a superstar but she was a good swimmer. So the reason I signed and really went after her more aggressively was because I watched her actions in the pool at Junior Nationals. She was always happy, really working with the team and so I knew I needed some more of those kinds of people in our program. She did turn out to be an excellent swimmer and now she is an excellent mother. That is the kind of thing I was looking for when I was recruiting. On the men’s side the biggest thing to happen to our program was Brook. As strange as that might be, a swimmer from Israel. He was a 47.00 freestyler when he came over the first year, he swam for me at Las Vegas Gold. After he got there his freshman year and we started having recruits on campus, he comes to me in my office and he is looking like he is mad at me.
He is not usually mad at me. He says, David, I didn’t know you could go on recruiting trips like this. You mean I could have gone out and seen other schools and stuff? I said, Oh, I forgot to tell you that, I was just trying to get you to Auburn, I didn’t tell you to go anywhere else to visit. We joke about that still to this day, but I think he was happy with his choice.
Developing staff. A lot of current and former staff is in this room. As any head coach can tell you, you are only as good as your staff make you. I have been real fortunate to have some real significant contributors. Jim Sheridan was the first assistant coach I had at Auburn, Dave Bottom for a while was a full time coach, Ira Kline for a while was a significant contributor. Probably right now, I feel the best about my staff we have ever had Jimmy, Kim, Morgan, and Adam have all helped us develop. Between that staff we really have strengths and weakness that really help to offset each other. The bottom line is we are all into fast swimming and we enjoy each other’s discussions. We don’t always agree on everything but as you know that is when you start growing.
Also significant has been the use of graduate assistants over the years. Jeff Dillinger and Wes Sinclair are here and they have been graduate assistants. Seth Baron who is now the head coach at Georgia Tech was graduate assistant. Graduate Assistants have been very huge for us because I really rely on a lot of coaches in a lot of places. My style typically is pretty random and I have to have coaches that can adapt and adjust with moving with the different groups and have things change quickly. They learn a lot because they have to know a little bit about everything to understand how to help the program. But over the years the GA’s have been a really important part of our program.
And maybe one of the other things that I want to point out is use of our 5th years. Our 5th year coaches are people who have just finished their eligibility and just stay around have been a huge contributor to our program development. I think the biggest reason is because they know our program and what it is about. They can kind of help teach the younger ones what to do. I think Rod gave the example of the karate master and they have developed kind of the Auburn way and they can teach the younger and older swimmers before they leave. They are willing to put their time in and they do that because we tell them the beginning of their career that that is part of what you do when you come to Auburn. Typically I will place the coaches in areas where they are trying to develop. I know they are going a little more administratively if they are using the offices more, if they are going into more personal development personal skill types of careers then I will get them on the deck and working with the people on the team.
Probably every head coaches head will nod here. The number one key to long term success in our program of the coaching staff has been loyalty and the willingness to be loyal to me personally and to the program and to Auburn University. For all of you assistant coaches out there and coaches who will one day run programs, that is the advice I got from Dennis Pursley, who got that advice when he first got a head coaching job from George Haines and several others that he consulted. That is something that I have always looked for and have been fortunate to have.
Building a presence within the university and the community.
One of things I kind of force myself to do is go out and speak to a lot of Kiwanis clubs and just any kind of group who will listen to me. I try to sell on our sport of swimming, try to get them to come to our meets a little bit, and just to know that we have a swim team on campus.
These are some ideas and thoughts that you might want to jot down. One of the things that I have always done is to ask presidents of universities to speak to our team. We have been fortunate that they all have done that at different times. Our current president is not very active with our team but he knows a lot about our team. We keep him updated as well. Invite trustees or your higher ups above the president to come to swim meets or come to functions you have. Usually they are going to turn you down but they are going to know that you are having the event and they know that they were invited.
Our Athletic Director at Auburn, David Hassell is very involved in our team, highly supportive of our program. Part of that probably is because we help him to look good in some ways. Swimming can only do so much it is not football, it is not basketball, it is not going to bring in revenues, in fact it is going to cost a lot of money. So you have to do something to show that you are worth a little more budget. One of the first things that we did early on was we self-promoted like heck our academic accomplishments. About all we could talk about was how we were CSCAA All American as a team each year and we have been since. But that is about the biggest thing that we do but we would really try to promote that kind of thing.
Other relationships with Hassell, was when he first got the job I knew that his kind of passion and love was Broadway. He loved Broadway shows, and I did a little studying up in that area so when I went in to have meetings with him we wouldn’t just talk about swimming. We would get off and talk about a different Broadway show and things. So that might be a different strategy. Talk on their ground too and get away from just swimming. Try to build on somewhat of a personal relationship with the Athletic Director, it goes a long, long way, not only at budget time, but in terms of overall support.
Early on we really watched our budget. It was interesting that a lot of things in our budget would be charged different places. And when different things that were not ours were charged to our budget we went in and flagged them right away. Tom Healy helped me a lot with that and Jimmy Flowers helps me with that now. What I am saying is don’t just assume that as you are dealing with your budget in this business that they run that they are going to have anything right. But you have to make sure that you are right and do challenge them when they are wrong because then they understand that you are watching and you do care. We have been able to stay under budget every year that I have been there except one but not by much. We preferably try to spend right up to our budget.
Relationships with other facilities and coaches is a bit of an Auburn natural thing. But we do work at it we work at developing relationships with other coaches in the athletic program. When new coaches come aboard, we try to bring them into what we are doing and pull them into the Auburn family. So developing relationships goes a long way in a lot of different areas.
Town’s People we invite the Mayor to a lot of different things and she comes to a lot of different things. I know most of you don’t live in a town like Auburn, but I don’t think it hurts to do that kind of thing. Invite city officials and it doesn’t hurt for them to get the invitation, although they may have to decline a lot of invitations. But occasionally you may get them there and but they know you exist.
Another thing we try to do to develop support professors are also a huge part of the campus. Not only do we mail out our academic accomplishments to recruits and things like that; we also do it internally. We mail out to the Deans of the schools, so they understand that swimmers are not just dumb jocks and they are people you can look forward to have sit in your class. Fortunately over the years that has been the experience of most of the professors. I say most; there have been a few exceptions.
One of the things that we have done in the past we don’t do regularly enough probably is invite professors to come eat a meal with us at the Athletic Training Table. That is like a big fancy thing and they get to go in there and eat with all of the athletes and coaches. A lunch takes an hour of time and you make him feel special and it doesn’t cost you much money either.
We give, probably every year since I have been there; we give some sort of clinic or clinics to the current team. An hour after the meet the swimmers will do a clinic for all the kids and that is a big winner too for support.
Community projects — Most times in life you give to get. Habitat for Humanity we have done. This year we have adopted some families at Thanksgiving and at Christmas we went out and did some interaction with the young kids and gave them some gifts. I think that all that kind of stuff is important.
Thanks to Seth Baron and Tom Healy over the years, we have 489 active people involved in our Alumni Swimming Group. These are people from who return a piece of paper saying that they cannot afford to give a donation right now to those that give significant amounts of money. That is a lot of the relationship stuff. Tom has really used e-mail well because you can kind of hit everybody all at one time and you can keep everybody updated more than ever. In some cases too much I think.
We have a group called Tiger Splashes on campus who time our meets and help us recruit. They are young ladies and guys and we actually have trials for them to be Tiger Splashers. They pay $5.00 to try out. We will pick about 50 of them. That has been a really successful program for our team. Also it is a way to keep people who swam in high school that still want to stay somewhat involved.
Some thoughts on motivation it starts with my and the assistant coaches energy when they are on deck. Generally we would like to see a lot of energy, especially on the anaerobic lactic acid days and in some cases an orchestrated less energy on the longer aerobic recovery type days. The motivation starts with the coaching staff including how you look on deck.
We talk about it every year and it is hard to follow up on every year. We talk about when giving critique to use a sandwich (give a compliment, give the critique, give the compliment), or at least follow up on the critique you gave. That is something that we try to be aware of all the time. Motivation we try to invite a fairly good number of speakers over the year to talk to the team. We have had different professors, graduates that come back, Dennis Pursely, Rowdy Haynes, Mike Cohen.
Videos and tapes are some of the things that we kind of regularly use. You know like one of the USS videos, we just pop those in before practice. One of the things that you notice early on there is never an Auburn swimmer in a highlight for U.S. swimming. So one of the goals is to occasionally have an Auburn captain show up on a highlight video for one for those kinds of things.
Recognition College students always want recognition. Anything that you can create to get recognized like getting introduced at a volley ball game like we did early on or a basketball game, football game, working your media relations people and working your promotion people to include you in that. You have to ask for it a lot of times. You can’t just assume that they will come around to you and get you on. It has that full effect of coming back and motivating the athletes on the backside. If they get that recognition it comes around and they enjoy that recognition especially in front of their peers.
T-shirts and things like that — again it is probably more in the area of support. T-shirts to people who support your program are big winners. I give those things out. When we have those rings and watches, I give them out to the entire team not just those that went to the NCAAs; it is everybody on the team. It is just kind of the way that we do our program.
One of the mistakes I made this past year — You have to guard your team’s time a little bit — especially after the first couple of weeks and they are into their classes, and their time is crunched, try not to have meetings that aren’t going to be effective. So you need to investigate what the meeting is going to be about. We had a nutritionist talk to our team this year that was just a mistake. She went an hour and I did not want to interrupt her. The only thing that she said that was memorable or new was to eat bright colors because there are more nutrients in them. I felt really bad. You want to make sure the meetings you run are pretty productive.
Communications. In this handout you will see a self-evaluation. This is something that we show them at the beginning of the year. They don’t fill it out, they just look at it so they know what they are going to answer at the end of the year. At the end of the year they fill it out and it is interesting seeing the responses. I tell that question 14 is really the most important question: ‘What have I done to make the Auburn Swim Team better for now and the future?’ I want them to list out 6 or 8 things whether it be recruiting, or I didn’t get in trouble this year like I did last year, or I won the NCAA title or I set the SEC record, but I want them to list those things out. In some case it is the pat on the back.
Another thing that I want them to understand is that even the little things are important now and in the future. Any way you can look over that and use it or throw it away if you want to.
Goal Sheets. One of the things that always stood out in my mind with goal sheets was when I was in Las Vegas and coaching Melvin Stewart. I was coaching him and he had never filled out a goal sheet in his whole career at that point. I kind of made him do one. Three months later and he didn’t remember this because he didn’t want to keep the goal sheet but I kept it. When he did a 1:57 in the 200 meter fly at the Goodwill Games, I pulled the goal sheet and he was only off by 2/10 on the last 50 to what he wrote down at the beginning of the summer when I kind of forced him to do the goal. So if people don’t like goals it is a good thing to get them to write them down and get updates and that is what you want to hold them accountable to. That is what I tell the team don’t write goals that you do not want me and the staff to hold you accountable to so be honest about those goals. Don’t write goals that you think we want to hear, write goals that you want to accomplish.
Calendars. Keep a good calendar for the team. Adam Smith keeps the calendar for our team, but I think keeping them updated on what is coming up and staying ahead a little bit helps when there time is so pressed.
Communicating with parents is something that is very important. Communicate with them before, after, and during the season. One of the most effective things that you can do is compliment the child to the parent through a phone call. Then the child hears about from the parent. It is super effective. I would advise that, it helps their motivation and shows that you care.
Communicating with club coaches. We try that every year. We did that this year and we sent out the information of how generally they train. It gives them an idea of what kind of shape they are in when they come, some examples of test sets, and hopefully some personal comments. Even if they are not going home for the summer, we want the club coaches to stay in a loop. We really encourage our club coaches to be actively in the loop. It is just like having another coach on the staff when you have the club coaches plugged in. I think that club coaches understand that you are not going to implement their exact program, but the more that you keep them plugged in the better they feel about it, the better the athlete feel about it.
Rules. We are kind of working on that right now and thinking in terms of responsibility. The only rules that I have ever had in the eight years that I have been there are the absolute rules no drugs, and go to class. We have skipped some classes. We know that we haven’t tested positive in any drug tests. But they do know that one positive in any drug test and they are gone, so it is not a light deal. I try not to set too may hard and fast rules because we will follow through with what we have set up. This year we are doing things a little bit different. We are going to do a team handbook that explains more of their responsibility and expectation from us right up front.
Another thing that we are going to do is have everybody on the team keep a log book. This year we are going to buy Amy Schmidt’s log book and have the swimmers keep even if it is just a loose journal, they are going to keep some version of a log and we’re going to use it for communication. Some of them don’t like to write down everything but it is going to be pretty good I think.
Let’s look at the progression sheet. One thing is I took the attitude that the Auburn team was my team. One of the first things that happened, we were running in the coliseum doing stairs and things and the cheerleaders were having tryouts on the floor. The cheerleaders, they are big time. One of the cheerleaders come up to me and said you will have to get out of the coliseum, we can’t have this going on because we are trying out for cheerleaders. The good thing was this was their initial time and the kids were getting to know me and what I am about. I kind of teed off on this guy not with foul language. I said well you send the police to remove us because we are going to work out right now. In my opinion we are as important or maybe more important than the cheerleaders, and we are going to work out right now. That kind of set the tone. I don’t say this in a bragging way. I probably made more mistakes than I did right things in my first few years. I went from being Harsh Marsh to harsh and stern to marshmallow now. I personally had transformations in my life that have affected me in ways that I would do things a lot different if I could do them over again. But this is what I did, so I am not saying that you should do this.
The kids would like to drink and when I got there it seemed like they all did back there. One day I just got fed up with it. Jim Sheridan and I went over to one of the guy’s apartments and they had a huge garbage can full of beer cans sitting outside on their porch. We took the garbage can, put it our truck, and took it down to the locker room and sat it in their locker, came back out on the deck and finished coaching. We just let them walk out of practice and head to the showers. When these swimmers came back in with white faces they knew what had happened. It was pretty effective without having to say anything. I don’t think that anything was ever said except I am sorry coach, we’ll change.
The other thing is in a town like Auburn, they didn’t realize initially but they do now was that I was there before they were. The guys that are the bouncers and the owners of the bars are a lot of the people that I know and are friends. I would hear some things a couple of things maybe after they have done it. We had to change our reputation, we were known a lot more for our parties than we were for the swimming. I went out at 2 in the morning to one place. I wasn’t out to find somebody, I wanted word to get back that I was there. Sure enough there was one student and apparently they dove behind some table when I walked in.
One thing I want to point out is that there were several swimmers on this list that aren’t fast swimmers never scored a point at NCAA’s or conferences that were very significant to our improvement of the program. The latest of which was Adam Dawkins who was cut from the golf team, started swimming masters and we let him come out for the varsity team in the spring time not because he swam fast he dropped from 5:05 to 4:30 something in the year that he swam for us. But he was that kind of kid that was pushing everybody and just appreciated being there. It helps to motivate us as coaches and it just helps the team chemistry I think too. The appreciation is something that I don’t think is near enough of.
The other thing I look at when I look at swimmers of note is the swimmers have been the significant thing of about our program, ultimately that is what is going on. We have had really good leadership at different times in our program. Yohol Brooks I put down three different times that is how significant he was because he came in and shared kind of my dream, goal and vision real clearly. He also was a bit of an informant (a tattletale). But it helps to have people on the team who will tell you the straight scoop because he trusted that I cared about these people. I wasn’t just trying to be a jerk to everybody, I just needed to know certain things about certain people in order to understand the inner workings of the team. Dean Hutchinson, the same way. The’93-’94 team is still the team even more so than the national championship team that I point to as probably the team that committed the most to stepping up another level and going above and beyond. Nick Shackle’s passion was huge for our program because he was such an intense guy. We had one guy that was cut from another top-notch team that ended being an All American in ’94 and ’95. Those kind of things are the way we develop our program.
I am going to run through very quickly some of these precepts if you want to write them down. These are just things that we do at Auburn for whatever they are worth. In the swimming area all swimmers swim all four strokes. Just about every year, we take three days to a week on each of the strokes for everybody. They have to work on all four strokes. We consider stroke drills as kick sets and stroke improvement sets. We don’t do stroke drills for slow swimming. We do all strokes during recovery like in lactaid sets if they are doing backstrokes, we want them to do free style during the recovery time. Early season emphasizes distance per stroke, later in the season emphasizes tempo bringing in more tempo and try to keep as much distance per stroke as you can.
Over all in the season 50% of the kicking should be with a board and 50% without a board. In pulling always breathe bilateral. Test sets do re-tests, they can see their improvement in their times. One of the things that Bill Pilczuk was excited about for this entire summer season was when they got back from Nationals the exercise science crew was doing a study on our team this summer. He had done a 50 kick in 35 which was substantially better than he had ever done before. So just testing and knowing where they are I think is a good thing.
Get some sets that require going above and beyond. Getting them up on the blocks and when they think they are finished getting them to do something really hard. It increases toughness. Early season and late season have them working on starts and turns, that is probably normal to you guys. Prepare for a six session meet, not just a one swim. Swim straight whenever possible. That helps with the new techniques that we are all learning right now, keeping the spine in line. Keep in mind that when you have a crowded pool they are thinking of safety over doing it correct.
In the dry land you have a handout on the dry land. This is basically what we did last year. This is by our strength coach Brian Courcasta. In the weight room generally, individualize the weight room, especially the freshmen. Strength, flexibility, and size mass has to be in balance.
Campus resources. I talked about this and we are doing physiological tests on our guys right now. We are fortunate to have Dr. Dave Paschal on campus who has done a lot of research at Ball State on specifically swimming, so he is a great source of information. Dr. Gil Reeves is also on campus, and he was a past president of the National Sports Psychology Association so he is also a great resource.
I guess our biggest theme is to develop the athlete and then move them into the water. We are trying to develop the athlete to be good athletes in the water, not just good athletes for athlete’s sake. A good example is Matt Busby’s vertical jump. From two years ago until now he has gone from 24 to 31 and that is a huge change, and that is why he has gotten a lot better. Also we use a soft tissue therapist Connie Sellers who is the best in the business not only for the meets but during the year for certain kinds of situations like recovery or injuries. Preventative rehabilitation has been something that has been good for us over time.
Do whatever you can to make sure the swimmer knows that you care about the person, not just about their times. Priorities I heard Peter Malone talk when I was coaching age groups about the pyramid of his team. The faster you go the more little things you need to do right. It is okay to let the attention, focus and maybe some of the travel things and some of the perks be given a little bit more to the top end of the pyramid. I think that is something I tell recruits in the beginning, but most of them are hopefully thinking that is what they want to climb up in the pyramid. If they want to jump at the top of the pyramid they probably don’t work all that well with unless they are Eric Bench or somebody.
Also in terms of priorities Olympics, NCAA, SEC. Technique, quality, and quantity I have given you here the
Auburn creed and we use that a lot. This was written by the first football coach. Whenever I speak to folks and I explain that we use the Auburn Creed a lot. He was the first coach, but he was at a time when football coaches were first professors, football coaches second, third and fourth. So when you think first football coach, they will be thinking being a successful businessman, millionaire, all that kind of stuff. That is not the way it was back then. This was written by a man that loved the university. Part of the thing there is to get the athletes to love and appreciate the university and believe in the university at a higher level. Then there are some in a for a greater cause.
When we go to the big swim meets we tell the swimmers that we are only buying good food we are not buying hamburgers and fries. I am not paying for it out the university budget. So please eat well before hand so that you don’t have to change your diet at the big meets.
Discipline in general I say start tight and then loosen later. In a swimmer’s career we tend to start them at the higher distance events and then bring them down to the lower distance events.
Scholarships generally very conservative. We much prefer to give a conservative amount and increase during their career, which I would say that we have done for 60%-70% of our swimmers.
Training trips I believe in training trips. We take one to somewhere in Florida. In the Olympic Trial year we took a special one for the Olympic trial qualifiers for like four days.