Building an Inner-City, High School Program by Chris Van Slooten (2010)


Published


[introduction]:
Welcome all of you. We’re here to have the 12th and final presentation of this year’s ASCA High School track. I think we’re very privileged to have Chris Van Slooten this afternoon. I’ll tell you something real-quick about him, because it resonates with me a little bit, because of something my mom told me one time. Chris is coaching currently at Oliver Wendell Holmes High School in San Antonio. When he came to Texas three years ago to start coaching, he really had a choice between two schools that were open. One was a very established and previous state championship team in Texas at the high levels—or the large schools—and that was Winston Churchill High School in San Antonio. And there was Oliver Wendell Holmes, which finished 10th in its district; but there were 10 schools in the district, so that was way at the bottom. And he really was a little undecided what to do and George Block, former ASCA President and a well known coach in Texas, counciled, I mean he said, ‘Well, if you take the Churchill jog, you can build a resume. If you take the Holmes job, you can build character.’ And so in my words you can either make a name for yourself or you can make a difference for others.

Chris chose the others and has done a marvelous job there of raising them from the bottom of the barrel towards the top, and they are just getting better. And he has very low club component, he has very low year-round participation. He has very high minority, demographics on his team, but he is doing a good job anyway. So to tell us a little bit more about how to do that, here is Chris Van Slooten.

[CVS begins]
Okay. It’s a great thing we’re in this room because as many people are here, the clapping, the applause out of the hall lot louder, so thank you very much, Coach Abbott thank you very much for the introduction and the kind words.

When I did accept the Oliver Wendell Holmes High School coaching position, if I made that decision I had to gather as much information on one on reconnaissance mission. I had found out as much as I could about the district, about the school, about the team, get as much as I could on what I am getting into. So I need to set the record straight a little bit about Oliver Wendell Holmes in the Northside school district.

I am originally from West Michigan, where almost every high school has their own pool, and I went with that understanding really into San Antonio. San Antonio’s Northside Independent School District had 10 high schools—they just opened up their 11th high school this year. Over 92,000, students. It’s one of the fastest growing districts in Texas and in the nation. The school district, we have two athletics sites, each one has a 50m pool; so we share them. we have a very well-organized program with and support from Derek Howorth, Bill Thomas, Scott Zolinski—those are the Aquatic’s Directors. They’re extremely supportive of all the programs there. So we do juggle a lot of time in our pool space and they look out for us in those regards.

So when I came in and I have to correct Coach Abbott just a little bit. Oliver Wendell Holmes High School had a history of being a 11th in a 10-school district. It was a very interesting thing to walk in, but I walked in with my expectations. And my expectations were of the school opened up in 1965, they have had over 3,000 students in the school; they do have a history of swimming, you look at the record board and it’s pretty strong. So with all that, I went in with: okay, these kids know how to swim or have a basic level of understating of how to swim.

And when I called our first team meeting, I took the first week at school and the kids had to get a hold of [Inaudible] [00:04:43] get to know me and I had to get to know them a little bit and so I got into my classroom early and as the time got closer for our first team meeting, in came all the kids and I had two students walked up and said we’re your captains for this year. I said, that’s interesting, you are my captains, how does that work? Who appointed you? Oh, last year’s coach, the one who left he appointed us as captains. Thank you very much.

So then as time got little closer, I looked around the room and there is a lot of language to the point where I had to go bathe in holy water afterwards with the language of my classroom, if you remember Welcome Back, Kotter it was a lot like that scene without projectiles in the room.

And so as we were sitting there, I finally opened my eyes to see if I am really here and there are 54 students in the room and this is the first time I am ever had standing only in my classroom, this is awesome. I looked at 54 people here right now, they would be great too. And so I decided my approach in this first week was, I am going to wade in the first day up to my knees, kind of like feeling like swimming in a lake and then I am go to dive in. So I have to give a little bit of the nice stuff about, who I am, my family, my experience and then, I said okay, look, my mission here is we are going to build a state championship program. And we are going to that based on character.

And you need to decide throughout the week if this is a good match for you. And at any time it’s not a good match for you, you can go to council and you can switch out because athletics in Texas is part of your school schedule, so first period of athletics, eighth period athletics and I teach four social studies classes. So I said, no hard feelings, but this is the way we are going and you need to know where we are heading. So that was the first day I walked in.

The second day, we are getting ready to start and there are 27 students there, so 50% attrition rate. I was happy with that, because I am starting to get away from the kids who are not fully committed. And, so I said okay, here is 27, and by the next day, we lost a couple more. We were down to 24 then 23. I said, okay, we need to establish our schedule. Who is going to go, first period is going to go, eighth period, and I handed every swimmer or student a piece of scrap paper and I said, okay, all I want you to do is write the strokes of a 200 individual medley in order.

So I watched them. Half the class looked at me like I just asked them to alphabetize M&Ms, and the other side, you know struggled a little bit, but got going on it and two athletes on the other side, not only put them in order, but spelled them correctly and identified, you must be my club swimmers. They said yes, we’re here club swimmers. I said okay. You are my two club swimmers, you guys have some experience and you guys have none. Is that the way it works? Yes. I said okay well tell me about your program. Tell me about, we’ve got down I think you are the core, tell me about the program. What’s the perception of Holmes swimming? We’re thugs.

We’re thugs, we’re intercity thugs, okay. And as I went going down the list, the last one that was mentioned was losers, and I am like we’ve got an issue here. They see themselves as losers. Why is that? So coach, no one is expecting anything out of us. Okay, checking my braininess, the first thing we arranged, what else can you tell me about program? Well normally our lives are at the school.

So what about the community, we don’t have a good relationship with the community, so why and Zach Zaborowski was a senior, raised his hand and said, coach you understand here is the previous coach. If we showed up to practice, great, if we left practice earlier that was fine. If we came in late, that was okay, we did whatever we wanted to do, so what does that mean, do whatever you want to do, oh we want to play underwater wrestling, if we want to play musical chairs, I mean they are games and gimmicks, but I think they did that I don’t think you have a record in the books over that ask yourselves and I think you are, that’s interesting and he said, coach I made it to four practices, I didn’t complete four practices last year, I only made it to four and I still swim, there are no penalties for us, there are no expectations of us, I do whatever we wanted to do.

I said okay well tell me about the community piece. Well, Ryan and Ryan was sitting there, he graduated last year, he said Ryan is after water puller practice and we dare Ryan to kick the water puller ball over Culebra which is a very busy road. And Ryan lineally did it, the trajectory of the ball, it didn’t go up, it went straight and it hit a car and the car stopped and these big guys then got out, everybody ran except for Ryan who froze like a deer in headlights and these guys came running out after him.

And they pull him on the ground, handcuffed him, well he hit the car of undercover gang operators. Okay, and so the community connection is not too positive right now. And I have looked at Ryan and said this will never happen again, and he said no sir, never again, its okay, we are on the same page now, that’s good.

So it was kind of where when I talked about we want to be on same page where I came into with this program. This is Hannibal of Carthage and I want to frame my discussion day looking at the character of Hannibal of Carthage. I am not going to give you history lesson, okay, its not this is about, Hannibal of Carthage, Carthage is in Northern Africa and at one time Carthage was a very, very wealthy country and all the trade of Mediterranean went through Carthage and as we know from history as empires rise they start to fall and as they fall there’s usually another country that’s rising in eminence and power. And so that cycle will as Carthage is starting to decline in a world status, it’s the Roman Empire that’s rising and they had their eyes set on Carthage because of the wealth.

Hannibal of Carthage comes from a, excuse me, he came from a very, very, he came from a aristocratic family, a well to do family. His father was a military commander as well, established colonies in what is now Spain, in the name of Carthage and so Hannibal learned some very, very specific skills about leadership and its this guy Hannibal who had to make a decision do I sit in my little, in my comfort zone, or do I get out of my comfort zone and take on this very powerful Roman legion and this Roman Empire.

And I’ll tell you the story as we go, if you look at Hannibal always worked from a deficit, short of supplies, soldiers, money if you are taking bets in Las Vegas, Hannibal of Carthage versus the Roman Legion, it would have been, you’ve been a fool not to bet on the Roman Legion, and the Roman Empire. It was just a no brainier. Everything was against him.

And I think as intercity coaches of clubs and high schools you think you can identify a little bit with that. Your kids may not have the latest X wires or whatever the commodity is and in my case, the first year came walking in with their grocery bags with the swim-suits and towels, okay. At Holmes, we’re 81% Hispanic and I always have to tell my kids, my first year at Holmes I was assumed that my students knew that I was Caucasian, half way through the year, my student said Mr. V, you talk funny.

So when did I talk funny? When you say Spanish words they don’t sound right. I said, I am from the Midwest and I’m Caucasian and I got that blurry look I said I’m white. You are? Yes, I’m white. And that comes to my own, we’re born and we’re raised with certain behavioral patterns and expectations and in cultural norms and 9% African-American, 9% Caucasian, 1% other and that is actually increasing in our school because we have an outstanding English second language class and so we’re getting many students from Northern Africa and from Asia.

The next two statistics are extremely important, I think; many of you can identify this. We have 62%–so two-out-of-every-three students—are economically disadvantaged. And if you look on the statistics of the school district, a median cost of housing is about a $150,000 in our district. They don’t tell as you may have two or three families living in that house so they are house poor.

And 32% mobility, we have one out of every three students we don’t have accurate contact information on. They just make up the numbers for telephone and hopefully it works. They bounced around and some don’t have a home, some are kids are living out of a car and homeless shelters and they are about all over the place so stability is definitely not in their lifestyle.

As Coach Abbott mentioned in the introduction, 7% we have club swimmers and I am very fortunate we have a magnet school attached to us, the business careers and because of our program is gaining a good reputation for who we are as people, people are transferring in to go to that school because they want their kids part of our program. 33% are high school experienced all that means is they were on my team for more than one year if that’s all that means. It doesn’t mean that they have got a ton of experience it just means that they are in one year and they have returned.

The biggest percentage is at the bottom 60% are new to swimming, means learn to swim, overcoming the fear of putting face in the water and that is huge because along with the first and last statistic 81% Hispanic and 60% new to swimming there are a lot of cultural norms put into place that really come into conflict. Some of our kids eat a diet that’s rich in cheese and refried beans. And they eat it at 9:00 or 9:30 at night well come in and swim in the next morning you are not going to feel well. How do you deal with that?

Many of our female swimmers don’t use feminine hygiene products, and so you swim for three weeks and they are out of the water for a week and week and a half. How are you going to improve when you – we’re doing this towards educating the parents. It’s talking to parents about diet, about hygiene and that there are not – I had one girl who was in our eighth grade outreach program. She got pregnant at eighth grade, in eighth grade and she said I am allowed to get in the water because my doctor says you know chlorine water could cause birth defects for the fetus. What? No. You are fine. And so there are so many things that I learned in my eyes, get open every day as to the program and what I have to, and what encountered makes me a better person.

Then the first thing to look at when you are building a program especially in a city, what are you looking for, quantity or quality? And I really take that to any program. It’s great to have the numbers. But as I said, it had been great to have 54 athletes. When you go down to 23, you have holes in your line-up. And we all want to win. I mean we have all that kind of – we don’t want to lose. We don’t like going in to swim meet losing. We want to win. And we want these kids to win. We want to see them improve, or quality.

And it sounds, like you make that decision right now, so it’s always quality. When a push comes to shove, then you got to make some very difficult decisions, what are you taking on the program. If you had not read this article by Coach Sutton and Charlie Parker, I encourage you to read it. It’s an outstanding article. Coach Sutton is something I read everything that he publishes. And then I get my hands on. I like his approach to coaching. I like the fact that he enjoys getting involved in learn to swim programs. I mean here is a guy, international recognition and he is involved in all levels of this program.

And basically as we said, if you look at successful teams at the top tier, 20% are your all-ins. So 20% they are completely invested in your program and I am not saying those are your captains, I am not saying those your most talented swimmers, it is 20% they are all-in and this will come make little more sense in a just a moment. The bottom 40% they are all out, they are going for the motions that I want to be there, the parents are making to be there whatever it is, they what I call for lack of their – they are the cancerous ones.

In the middle is where you need to focus your attention that 40% because they can go up and build the 20%, but they can down and make that 40% a lot bigger. And if you go for quantity, that base is going to give really large and I am already losing my hair and I can tell you it’s no fun when you’ve got a base of a bunch of people who don’t want to be in a program.

So we are make a very cautious decision, I tell the kids possibly the first week when we’re meeting in our team meetings, and the all way through you do not have to have any swimming experience, I’ll teach you to swim. I cannot recreate your character, I cannot give you better character, I can help mould your character, I cannot suck out all your bad habits and put new ones in. If you stay with me, you’ll be successful in swimming, I need people of impeccable character, that’s what I need. In some cases say you know what I just can’t do it.

I’ll put that backup if you want it, okay, so looking at quality. How does this look like for us. First, if you want to be a part of our swim program I give an application and I went online and just got a basic swim, basic business application and they fill out their names, the date, contact information, hobbies and then they have to write me a one page letter or essay, I will not accept a typed, it must be written. I want to see can they write.

Second they have to have two letters of recommendation. One testifying their character and one to their academics. That’s the first step. If they don’t turn it in, they don’t go to the next step. Second step is an interview and this is where I get to find out or like top 20% are because the kids who are serious and want to really be on in the team, they are the ones who come in, they are dressed up, they are on-time, and what I mean by that, they are early. Because if you are on time you are late, if you are early you are on-time.

They come in, they are on-time and they are nervous and I had some kids that they were tears, they were so nervous, I said relax, we are just going to talk. We are just going to, I want this so bad, okay tell me why you want it so bad. Why do you want to be on this team? You are senior. You have never swum before. Why do you want to come on this team? Because I have heard what this program is all about. I want to be a part of that program, of your program. Okay.

So they go through the interview process. Then we have physical tests and we walk in. First thing they are going to do is 30 minutes of constant moving. They can swim, they can kick, they just can’t touch the bottom. Then they have to swim 200 IM, it’s not timed but I just need to see can they swim the four strokes. If they say, coach I don’t know what you are talking about. We are talking about IM. Okay, great. Now we know you are going to be in 8th product swimming, great, no problem.

Then we have to run a mile for time. There’s push up test, sit up test, pull up test, just balance test, when we stand on one leg without killing yourself. We go through that physical portion and then I go through all the statistics and all my data and I determine where you are going to be placed on the team and I have four places you can be put.

Varsity, and that means you either have a time based on the district puts a time standards in place and you have to earn 700 points, alright what’s called 700 club. So you have to one, get a time two, you have to earn 700 points. And you earn 700 points by improving your times by being on-time to practices, by making it to all holiday practices. By getting a teacher to recognize you for your actions in class and recognizing you for your merits in school or in the community and it cannot be – you cannot go and ask for that. A teacher must initiate that or a person in the community must initiate then you may say will you please write a letter to my coach because I get points for that, okay. If they get credit for their grades, I give points for As and Bs, Cs they get a zero and I take point away from anything lower than a C. If they are late for team practice, team meeting, I take points off and they have to earn 700 points.

So can you earn and swim a time and earn their Varsity letter but not have any points and not get their Varsity letter? Yes, they have to have both. So it’s not just time standard which gives me the leeway for those kids who are brand new to swimming, they earn their 700 points, then I’ve got the latitude and I got the power to say I’m going to give you your Varsity letter, because its over two years you’ve consistently or three years you’ve consistently earned 700 points. So it brings more volume.

So that’s how it’s handled within our program it’s the varsity, and then there’s varsity probation which means there may be something that doesn’t sit right with me, you may have academic issues, behavioral issues and then there is Junior varsity probation. If you are placed on probation, you meet with me every three weeks, you’ve got to bring me your report card, the grey report. We will sit down with my self one parent or guardian from your household and administrator and we’re going to discuss your progress. If you do not progress, or if you do not show up then I start putting the paperwork in place to have you removed from the team because you are in that bottom 40% and we just can’t have that.

And finally the husky way and if there is anything that one thing you can take away from this today I take this piece away and it will be on the ASCA website and you can download the presentation, you can email me and I will give you my email address.

At the end again, this is our constitution, this is non-negotiable. This is the contract that all athletes on the team assign and reassign. This outlines what we are all about if you look at we’ve got a little logo with a husky. That is not the school logo, but I really don’t like the school logo so I just took this one from the Washington Huskies and I like this a whole lot better, a little bit more progressive.

This is the Husky way and then underneath that is honor, integrity, discipline and excellence. Those are our core beliefs and that’s what we take everything into. In this document they must sign it before they get in the water, I keep it on file and so if there is any infraction when it comes to hard work or attitudes are they violating part of this, I can pull this out and this is grounds for having that put you on probation. Yes?

[inaudible question from the audience]

[CVS]: Correct.

[inaudible question from the audience]

[CVS]: Yes, since you brought that up I’ll address that, parents, my first time, I am glad that you brought that up. My first year at Holmes I had parent meeting like we always do and I had about 20% of the parents show up. And it was smaller crowd than this right here. And I went to George Block and I said, George, you know, I got to do something about this because these kids are entrusted to my care and these parents have no clue who I am, I have a real problem with that.

He said, Chris, you may not like this, but think about this way. Many of those parents do not have positive interactions with the school. They don’t have a positive history, so move your meeting off side. So change location. Number two, add some teeth into it. I said great. So George, if I have your support if I said no child can participate in swimming unless they meet with me. He said go right ahead. So part of my parent letter home is you must meet with me before your child participates in an event. If you fail to show up at our parent meeting, you can come during my planning period, you can come after practice or I will come and make a home visit.

Now, when I put that in place 100% attendance next year, matter of fact some of the kids brought both sets of parents, you know, if there was a divide house, I don’t like any coach said this and he means it. Okay, you got, alright? You know, I mean business now and they brought their parents and 100% attendance and all the parents were onboard. And I don’t hold any back. I told the parents look, you need to be onboard with this. You need to know where I am coming from; I need your support on this as well. By you being here, you are agreeing to these values is to what we are working out. Thank you very much. I appreciate that. Another question? Okay.

The next thing that I challenged and I had to do this when I went in, one of the reasons I took the position at Holmes is why would I do what I do? I have worked with programs East Grand Rapids, Grand Haven High School, some really good quality programs and yet there is a something missing. I did not feel there was something missing in my coaches’ bag and so when I one of the reasons I took, the Oliver Wendell Holmes positions was it forced me to analyze why do I do what I do.

And these five items up here are really why I used to do things; I did them because of tradition. There is no buying on my point, on my part. I am a father of three, my wife run home right now she is a saint, to say the very least my wife moved from Chelsea, Virginia to San Antonia, Texas, three years ago, two years ago, she was 36 weeks pregnant with and we also had a two year old and two dogs. She was in the van and I was in the moving van. I have full support of my wife, but as a parent lot of things you do you’ll say I’ll never do this, well I am parent, I will never talk to my child that way, I will never to do this and you know you always do. You blindly take on the traditions, you blindly take on those actions and taking the position at Holmes really maybe step back and analyze, one, why do I do it, why do I do what I do as a husband, a father and as a swim coach, why do I do these things. Some traditions are good, but a lot of things, if you don’t know why are you doing it because you are just blinding doing them and there is no history behind them, they are meaningless, you are wasting your time.

The expectations, sometimes I found my career I did it because I was just expecting. And again no buying on my part and the last one is the most and that was the hardest one for me to put down. I actually put that down today and pride, do things out of pride. And pride definitely comes before the fall. Hannibal was a very creative thinker. And if you are building a university program you’ve got to think creatively. If you are building a program, think creatively.

On our program there are no handouts, absolutely zero handouts. There are 62%, two out of every two-thirds of my athletes are academic or economically disadvantaged, means by school standards if they have free introduced lunch they can turn into form and get their suit for free and a lot of schools do that. On our program it does not fly. I will not do that. You are enabling those kids, so they say why I can’t afford it. Its okay, then you work it off. You help set up before me, tear down after me, you can do community service, just make sure it’s signed but you need to work it off. I will not give you a handout, absolutely none.

And I also do it because those kids that do have and they are paying here is the check for the suite, here is the check for this, here is the check for that, they are turning all those money and they are looking at their teammates thinking, they just turned uniform and got a free suit and they’ve got an iPhone, an iPod and they’ve got a different pair of shoes on every single day.

Now that child does not know what their circumstances are. But automatically, I have got team division, that doesn’t happen in my team, I will not play that game and when you do that and give free handouts you are enabling those kids and its just ingraining into them, I am economically disadvantaged, I deserve a handout.

So amazing what happens after they start working this off, a lot of times the kids magically come up to me and say here’s the ballots, here’s the money. Oh, yes, how does that feel, how do you feel? Like when I said, when you owe me something how did that feel? You’re in debt to me, how did you hated it? I hated that, I felt like once my athlete said I felt that there were chains on me. I hated it and how do you feel right now? I feel like great, I’m free. I don’t owe you anything, like let’s celebrate for a moment. You’re debt free. Remember that feeling and I’ll live a life that’s debt free, life lesson.

These kids get all these pressure to go to college and get student loans and then they leave and they’ve got this massive amount of debt and I am like you know what you don’t do that, work through the process, get a job. Get scholarships, do something but don’t just take a free handout. And so no free handouts in our program.

Second thing of our program, we’re big on community service as I mentioned in the beginning, we had a real poor community service at our relationship, especially when you hit an undercover gang unit with a water puller ball that does not set things on a positive tone. And so we do projects to give money back to the community and it was really great when I went to into the Exhibit Hall and there’s the exhibit they’re selling, fundraisers and one of them say, hey what do you do for fundraisers’ coach? I said, we don’t, we don’t do fundraisers, we give back to the community, oh, one, I don’t want those kids spending time doing and settling stuff because most times the parents are got to go for the bill, if they can afford it. Two, they just gets lost and which makes them a bigger book keeping headache for me. Three, they are selling things that are not nutritionally value to them anyway, so why I am I going to say here sell this when your families are probably going to be buying this and it’s not of great nutrition anyway.

Four I mean the biggest part is you need to give back to community. I have a real tough problem, real big problem when it comes to schools constantly go to the voters over and over again for bondage issues and more taxes, more taxes, more taxes and then the programs go out and say we need more money, we want money, we want money, we want money, we want money, something is not right there, it does not click with me.

So our first year we sold T-shirts, set home swimming and diving have the yellow ribbon on it on the back side it said land of the free, because of the brave and all proceeds they raised the kids raised over a $1,000 for war and family support center which is located in Fort Sam Houston this is where our men and women who have been injured in the line of duty, the families and those soldiers will go and get rehabilitated. And our program raised a $1,000 for that and now we’ve got a bunch of people walking around at Holmes swimming and diving logo on them and it’s always a conversation starter. So we just put our name positively.

Past two years we have volunteer our time with elementary school teaching kids how to swim. Just one hour a day for three weekends, they are getting ready for a Youth Triathlon. And the teacher, the leader of that group is very complementary of our kids and always puts them in a press for that and again we give back to the community, it’s not about us asking for handouts.

And what has happened as a result is that we start getting little donations $5 or $10 we had one that came in for a $100. We don’t know them, but they said I like where your program is going coach, we want to be part of it, AGB was a large grocery stores kind of like Mayer’s 50 acres and that way around here. They donate the food to our program for me. They said we like the philosophy of the program. We want to be a part of it. Here is yours a small token of thanks. That’s what I want those kids to see. It’s about investing in the community, building character. And finally, as I already mentioned, the Husky way. This again, points right back, why do we do community service because the Husky way. This is who we are.

Talking about Hannibal as a leader, as he is leading his men to take on the Roman Legions, well I admire about him and his leadership styles that he was always willing to give. He was not long as men who rode in nice and finely covered chariot. He was walking or he was riding a horse just like his men. He never expected more out of them, that he was willing to give. He was an immense manager of details, understanding the enemy, understanding his strengths, the enemy’s weaknesses, and how do you exploit them. And he was very, very disciplined in what he did. And I am not talking discipline as in the verb where you are going to get grounded or something like that. Excuse the verb is the noun, that’s who you are. He is very, very disciplined in what he did and how he managed his men.

And in our program, we do not have captains. As I mentioned earlier, I had two people came up and introduce themselves as captains and I kindly pulled them aside and said we don’t have captains. My experience is showing that and that was one of those traditions I took. I mean every high school programs has captains. Great, I learned a very powerful lesson. I was at Grand Haven High School, the state meet after prelims, going around making bed checks and high smell cigar smoke. And I looked at my assistant coach and I said please tell me that is not our room, he said coach that’s our room.

So please tell me that’s not our captains room, he said that’s our captain rooms. I said okay, knock the door, haze of smoke, cigar smoke in the room in their sits a 5800 breaststroker. We’re not talking just a small some change the 58, 100 yard breaststroker in that advent I met the relay after prelims was third. Afterwards I would have bought third, and so what gave about 18th if I could have been that lucky and I asked them, I said are you guys smoking cigars, no sir. Is stupid written on my forehead, I’ll give you one more chance because you just lied to me, are you guys smoking cigars, yes it’s us, okay.

And I turned around there is one of my freshman Brandon Dieters, who comes from a long line of basketball, football players he decided he wanted to swim and I don’t know the look on my face, but his eyes got really big and I think he peed himself at that point in time. And I said Brandon you got 30 seconds get the whole team in my room, anybody is not in my room in 30 seconds you are going home, end of story.

So I told these two captains, I said get on the phone, call your parents, you are going home, you are out of that and you are done, right. They are my captains. They are not bottom 40% yeah they are fast, but they didn’t buy into the program and they buy to where we are going, so I don’t have captains. This year it’s my third year in the program, it’s really the hinge year. We might have captains next year. And this is the philosophy is to develop mentor leaders and I have a three step process to that. I give Wednesday’s off by Texas law or rules, I can only have eight hours of contact times, so I have two hours Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Wednesday they meet in my class room and we have team meeting or studying.

If you are new to the team you are a pup and everything is hooked into the Husky theme okay. You are a pup, which means you will learn the nuts and bolts of the program. We dress up for every meet. If you don’t have a tie, go buy a tie. If you can’t buy a tie, go steal one from your dad, do something, find one from your father, but you are not going to look like a bum when you are on my program, okay. Do something, get a tie. It can be a clip on, you can draw it on your shirt, I don’t care what you do, make sure you have a tie, make sure you have a belt on, make sure you are wearing shoes. I have learned over many years, you’ve got to be very, very, very specific as to what you want because the boys if you say, just wear shirt and tie, they will wear shorts. Or they may not wear underwear, which is there’s a whole other conversation, you know, you are going to have something else that happens.

Girls I don’t have to be as specific because they get it. But they have to dress up and so we go over that in the pup session, so you could be a senior, you are going to the pup session because you don’t know what its like to be on our team and what I expect.

The second level is Togo, very famous I did a lot Husky and in that you are learning what it means to be a leader, a servant hearted leader. We study leaders. We study Hannibal. We will study the good about Alexander, the Great. We will study all these people and what it means to be a leader. And finally, it’s Bolto our most famous, I did a lot racing dogs. And that is reserved for seniors and that’s putting the walk to the talk. You are practicing being a leader and it doesn’t mean you are the captain but all those seniors need to behave that way. And the way I run it is for captains if all goes according to plan and right now the season is very, very young. If you want to be a captain next year you are senior, you will have to stand in front of the team and give a presentation as to what you can add to the program and which you believe the program can go.

Then every person on my team who has been with me for these, for every season they’ve been with me, so if they swim, club with me or some really going to have them that counts as a season which means new upcoming ninth graders have one vote. They get a vote for every single season they are with me, so you could have a junior with six votes. It’s just kind of electoral college, you learn civics and swimming too. And they’ve got to be very careful and if you don’t want to speak in the public, if you don’t want to be the person who’s going to be introducing the team at the prep assembly, if you don’t want to be the person talking in and doing the dirty work, the servant work, then don’t be a captain. Because that’s what I’m asking you to do, I’m asking you to do behind the scenes, the ungrateful stuff, the dirty stuff, even if you could some glamorous stuff in that too. You get to be upfront, talking to the press and all that good stuff. That’s how we’ve – if at all goes to plan that is how we will definitely elect our team captains, next year.

Second, the team identify, height, honor, integrity, discipline and excellence and I make this very clear in our parent meeting, I said parents which I have to learn, I’ve got a parent, parent parents I’ve got to teach parents how to be parent sometimes because they’re 15 when they had their child, they’re 30 now and they don’t know how to parent. And so I got to talk to them about that the kids on this team, they must respect you. There’s absolutely no swearing on my team and the rule is if you were not saying in front of my wife or children, don’t say it at all. If it slips, it’s 50 push ups. It’s very simple, and that means I’m walking around campus and I’ve done this.

I heard an exclusive come out of the class and I saw it, it was one of my athletes, call me ask the athletes to come out and say can you do 50 pushups right now, I said now its 75, but 100, I said you are representative of this team, you are holding the integrity of the team. You signed the contract, can I do it when we get down to the pool, sure you can, but it is a 150, he said coach, I will be late for classes, I said the teacher I can guarantee you she is smiling right now, look at her and wave, it’s okay if you do pushups and you push out those pushups and back in the classes and said its never going to happen again, no sir.

Another student decided he was going to clean up after our class and I was standing out there kind out of watching, I had duty and I am watching and everybody else was cleaning up and he just sat there and he was asking other people to clean up his stuff, so I kindly asked him to come outside, asked him if he was upholding what our team stood for, he said no, I said okay, how are we going to deal with the situation? He said I don’t know coach, do you have any ideas?

Yeah, I have an idea, you can go apologize to your teacher and then you will clean up the room for the next week, since you didn’t have an idea, I have an idea and sure enough and the teacher came and said I don’t know what happened in that conversation, but Zack I have seen you, my first year, he is an angel in class, that is just great and I said what you know high standards, keep them high don’t lower the standards because you want to be successful and want to justify numbers and there is an intercity program in our district tracks, tracking as in we want to brag that we’ve got 80% of our kids in athletics.

That’s great, but they are sitting on the bench and they are being behavioral problems, they are really, you’re just justifying, they are just taking up oxygen. No, that does not stand in our program, you want to be in our program, you must abide by the standards that we put forth and take care of that because it’s our identity. It’s who we are. That’s going to take with you for the rest of your life. And you will be proud to be Holmes Husky swimmer.

What has happened as a result? My first year, we did average 3,000 yards of practice, 3,000 yards. All we did was 25s. That wasn’t proper streamlined, streamline again, streamline again, and that’s all we did. They ended up seventh in the district. Two swimmers qualified for regional’s. And they showed up, they got the T-shirt and that’s about all that happen with the regional meet.

The second year, we went for 3,000 yards in the practice to 5,000 yards of practice. We finished fifth in the district. With four athletes qualifying in numerous events for the regional meet, two relays qualifying for the regional meet and they placed 12th at regions. Not so much for the spirit of coaching. It’s because of the character. I want people with superior character to be brought into the program.

And result, Hannibal of Carthage I love this quote and I think it’s too big for me to put on a shirt but I really like this quote. If you remember from history, Hannibal did not play. He was a creative thinker and decided to cross Alps in the dead of winter and used elephants and his men obviously were a little bit not accustomed to this behavior and he said, what do you think the Alps are. They are nothing more than high mountains. They are heights are not insurmountable to men of determination. We came to conquer Rome, now steel up your hearts and climb. And Hannibal of Carthage held off the Roman Legion for 15 years. They are just mountains. If you maintain high standards, I will put this backup if you’re trying to get the quote up. Big ideas, you’ve got to look for ways for your program to be different. Don’t do it what everybody else and make sure you know why you are doing it. Be different. Think creatively. Maintain or establish high standards, keep the high standards its going to be painful, you don’t want to possibly lower the standards, you may get pressure from administration, it happened to me, happened to me at Grand Haven, are you sure want to remove those kids from the team and sure you don’t want to give them their varsity letters, yes I am sure. You need to rethink coach your decision, I said I have I resign. If you don’t have my back, I am done.

You’ve got to maintain high standards and you need to create identity, what are your core values and when I spoke core on our team handouts its not, CORE its CORPS, little bit of the military and the Marines. I was never in the military, but my students, they might think I was. Those are ideas, if you can take those three things home to your club, your high school program, you will be successful, it’s going to take time, but you will be successful.

Thank you so very much. I greatly appreciate your time and coming here. At the end, if you have questions I will more than happy to answer. Yes?

[audience member]: Do you have budget in your schools and how to [Inaudible] [00:49:30]

[CVS]: Now the fundraising, we give time that’s doesn’t cost us anything and we have a very, very supportive aquatic’s directors and so at down the pool so we can get if we want to do a swimathon to raise money for breast cancer awareness, if that’s what the team decides they want to do, they will give us the pool time, I just have to operate within school rules. Our budget has grown; our budget has grown because people have donated to our program. I have zero on my budget and now its up to $3,300 in three years, because people have just, they write instead of $40 per suit, they write $45 and they write $5 donation and that’s how they do it and a lot of times they just hand me checks say this is a donation for your program, please don’t ask where it came from, okay I won’t. They just like the way the program is going, what these kids are doing.

And to illustrate that a little bit, last year my athletic director came up to me and said Scott Zolinski, our aquatic’s director, said I need to talk to you about something. And of course my heart starts racing, so we had an incident, there were a group of boys walking out to the bus and they were using some very, very foul language. A staff member approached them and asked not to use the language they told them to FU and other expletives, and he said coach, I am just telling you this because I know it’s not the Holmes swimmers. I know your swimmers don’t behave this way, but I have to tell every coach. And it’s that reputation that gets out into the community and that’s why we have people wanting to be a part of our program whether directly sending their kids or indirectly may be donating money or time for our program. Any other questions?

[inaudible question from the audience]

[CVS]: I don’t. Well, the reason I don’t go and say hey you got to do that and I have done that. Usually I walked the halls, and if there’s somebody has outstanding character at the covenant scores that previously there was a boy, his name is JP Comas and I just saw and I saw him how he behaved in the student body I mean these kids are well respected and he was wearing Navy on his shirt and I said JP I understand you are going to the Naval Academy. He said, yes sir, I am planning to play across with them. I said, don’t you know how to swim if you go to Naval Academy. I said you know what, tryouts our Monday, love to have you there, thank you. I don’t how to swim, I said, I’ll teach you.

JP Comas started out going 54 in the 53 and he is a senior and he ended going 24 in the 50 by the end of the year. Cool thing about JP Comas, every time he came into the wall, he’d turn around and find somebody who was out in the middle of the pool and this is a personal tray, this is quality. He’d swim out to that person and chew them on all the way in that set the total whole program.

We have some of those leaders on the team and they are not captains, our program, but they, it’s who we are its how we behave and that attracts people and a lot of kids I said why are your senior coming up the team, you don’t know how to swim? I want to be parts of thing bigger than what the school has to offer, I want something bigger and better than everything else and I’ve heard so many good things about your program.

Coach, I don’t know how to swim. Okay, okay. If it’s just to lead the kids and to be an example, I’m okay and it takes a lot of time and yes, I lose my hair over that too, but it is quality over quantity and what do you want in your program. If you want a quality program, take the time, think creatively, build an identity, they’ll come to you. They will. Advertising helps, so get out there as when you do the community service, get your name out there, announcements you know if you can come up with a really cool with your IT people and some cool things for announcements and we’re going to do that as well this year this time, trying to get it out some more.

Great. Thank you so very much, I appreciate it.

Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Sponsorship & Partnerships

Official Sponsors and Partners of the American Swimming Coaches Association

Join Our Mailing List

Subscribe and get the latest Swimming Coach news