[introduction, by Steve Morsilli]
My name is Steve Morsilli. I’m one of your ASCA Board Members and I’m here to introduce a very close friend of mine. Many years ago, when I was a young coach, I would go to clinics and listen to Bill Thompson talk because he’s much older than I am, but he’s been… he’s been coaching at a very high level for a very, very long time. I’m sure this is gonna be a great clinic for you and Bill told me to keep it brief, but I read within the – in the printout, he’s a great guy, he’s a great coach, he’s been doing it for years. It’s my pleasure to introduce my very close friend, Bill Thompson.
I need a box to stand on here. I’m really pleased to see so many of you here today. Can all of you hear me okay? And for those of you up there in the expensive seats, everybody can hear okay up there?
Good, I’m glad you’re up there because when you fall asleep, I won’t see you and I won’t feel so bad because it’s all about me, right? If you like Lewis Black the comedian, I was thinking – I noticed a room when Chris spoke yesterday, it was really crowded and I thought I’ll go a little Lewis Black and you’ll go – I’m really impressed that there are so many of you here to hear this talk and – but you brought your friends and that puts a lot of pressure on me because you probably been going around telling people “Oh, you got to hear this guy, he’s really funny” and if I bum here, well, you’re gonna be screwed because you lied to your friends. So I’ll do the best I can to keep it light, but I have to tell you I have prepared my remarks. Because of my age, I tend to ramble, so I’ve written probably two hours worth of stuff. I’ve set my alarm on my high-tech… I have a flip phone. This thing takes pictures. If I push the seven four times, I get an S when I text, but I hope the alarm works because when it goes off at 2:20, I know I only have ten minutes left and I want to try to stay on time.
I will qualify myself by telling you this that I joined Santa Clara Swim Club in 1957 in the AAU. I swam for George Haines there for 12 years. I started coaching water polo with George Haines in 1972 and I’ve been coaching ever since. I’ll be 63 years old in December – I know, it’s hard to believe. I’ve had a lot of work done. The lipo is not working though. Yeah, I’ve tried that, I clogged up the vacuum and they sent me out. So I’ve been coaching for about 40 years and my talk today is really pretty much about how – we all get kids that are new to our training groups who are not up to the level of the better kids in our training groups or maybe they’re much younger and how do you get them up to that level in the shortest amount of time possible and that’s something when I was asked to pick a topic at something that I think probably are the things I feel best about the way I coach. I think that I’ve done that really well especially since I’ve been at DACA the last almost eight years and I also have a background as a public school teacher. I have 18 years in the retirement system and 10 years of retirement credit after the divorce, so – yes, I’m a typical swimming coach and – so anyway, I have that formal teaching preparation that has been really something that’s instrumental to me and I do speak periodically. I do community service in our area and one thing I have tried to learn through sharing in smaller groups is that I don’t for a minute wanna tell you about what you should do or what you need to do or how you should coach. I just wanna share with you what I do and I would suggest to you that you do the same things that I tell men that I worked with that are younger than me; look for the similarities, discard the differences, but if you hear something that you don’t do, if you’re a new coach, try it. If it works for you and it gets comfortable, it will help you be more effective on the deck and have more fun and if you’re an older coach with more experience, why are you in here in an age group talk, because you love swimming and you love kids and a lot of times my peers, we hear things that we did so long ago that we had forgotten that we did that and we start doing again and I see a few – there’re either bobble heads out there or some of you are agreeing with me, so hopefully that’s true. The other thing – I’ve already gone over my introduction time, so I know I’m gonna ramble a bit, so the other thing is when I write out a talk, I never get to the conclusion, so I said today since this is probably gonna be one of my last clinic talks. I thought I would go over the conclusion at the beginning. That way for those of you that get bored in the middle that leave, you’ll know how it ended.
Why do kids swim? What is it that age groupers are looking for and if we understand that, we can clarify that and this is based on research. I’m not making this up – well, not most of it. The reason kids join the team is to become part of a group and they do that to develop and demonstrate physical confidence because that pleases their parents and certainly in looking back on my own childhood, that is one of the main drivers of why I swam. The second reason is they develop skills, fitness and a better appearance. They look better when they exercise and that pleases the kid; and thirdly and something that they had no idea what’s going to happen to them when the first time they walked in your pool gate or door is that they’re going to make friends and through that they are gonna develop social acceptance and support and it’s as simple as that and it’s so surprising, isn’t it, how we can take something like getting to the other end of the pool before the other kids and have it cause us sleepless nights and irritating phone calls and upset parent conferences and we turn it into something so complex when it is really something that can be so pure. Who can get to the other end of the pool? Who can get to the wall first and if you aren’t first can you get there faster than you ever have before? And let me help you try to do that, it’s that simple, so you can leave now, but I’ve got more. [laughter]
I find that by having the friendships, they learn peer approval. They get reinforcement by significant people. Their friends and their peers make them part of a group who visibly cheer and support one another and that’s not something that I teach. I don’t have the book of cheers yet, but I know I’m gonna get one if I heard Chris yesterday, but it’s something that – I don’t tell my kids to cheer for each other although sometimes I’ll say – someone swims in the water and they can really use some support, but when I see that that’s happening of their own volition, I know that I’m creating something that makes me feel good about the direction that we’re going as a team.
I find that girls are different than boys and it’s only taken me 40 years in the profession to figure that out and coaching them – what motivates them is different completely from the boys. Girls are motivated by the social group more than their competitors. They are more interested in working together as a group, succeeding as a group, succeeding as friends than they are beating one another. Boys on the other hand are why they like MMA and they seek to do better than their peers, they seek to win. The other thing I would conclude with is you wanna catch a kid doing something right and I didn’t make that up. I remember hearing John Leonard say that years ago, something quite random where you go “Oh, I really like the way you’re doing that” and something that I’ve been playing with this year and this is something you might wanna jot down and remember is catch a kid doing something right that’s not. When I see Joanna dropping her elbows again and swimming flat again, I say to her, I lie, I say “I like the way you’re keeping your shoulders up and keeping your elbows up and the way you’re rolling, it’s looking sharp” and I watched her send-off on the next send-off and all of a sudden the correct stroke is back. It’s like reverse psychology. It’s like my mom telling me I look really nice.
I also find that if I – and I’ve heard this a lot about goal setting at this conference and knowing what swimmers goals are and their times are, it’s funny that I even know their splits and their times they need to achieve and the time standards and I know their best time even when they don’t and I am continuously referring to hitting their marks or not hitting their marks and asking the question, is what you’re doing right now going to help you go under a minute in a 100-backstroke and that’s really all that I need to say although I usually say more, but I try not too, and one thing that I will – something I rarely do, I will give Jay Fitzgerald some praise and some credit that when I coached with him at Santa Clara when I was their head age group coach. He pointed out to us that a lot of times on the deck, we’ll make a correction. You’re dropping your elbows, your hands going sideways, your thumbs pointing forward instead of down at the bottom, your fingers are not pointing at the bottom, your fingers are pointing inside, you’re rolling to the left more than the right, whatever it is and going down and going through a chop list along the pool, all six lanes are back again and not watching that kid I just corrected to see if they make the adjustment. So the point is correct then watch then feedback “Hey, you’re doing that right.” “No, you need to do a little bit more.” “No, your fingers are still pointing out” then correct and then praise. So if you’ll make sure that you see something, correct it and then watch and then feedback and then when you get what you really want or it’s better, praise it, really acknowledge it – that really does have a lot of reinforcement.
So what is it that makes me different from my peers in the way that I coach? I think probably the one thing is that I have so many years of experience and I’ve coached at all levels. I’ve had my own SwimAmerica program. I taught lessons, I’ve coached eights, niners. I’ve started with eight, niners and 10 unders and then 11, 12 – 11 to 14. I taught middle school because that’s really my age and my maturity level and my intellectual level. My swimmers make fun of my phone. They all have better phones than me, but I’ve also been to Olympic Trials and had Olympic Trial qualifiers and been to Nationals and all of that. I have to tell you that I’m probably enjoying coaching now particularly with the people I work with and the children. I tell my group often, “Do you tell your group this?” Because don’t tell them that if it’s not true, but I tell my group frequently over the last seven-and-a-half years. “I’ve worked with a lot of kids in my career, but none as a group are nicer than you, you’re the nicest children I’ve had the good fortune to enjoy and your progress brings me great joy” and they like to hear that, that gives them a good feeling and then I yell at them, but.
I started out my teaching career as a substitute teacher and for those of you that have substitute taught, you’re probably working in an office now, but that was an early start in my career at trying to have control of the classroom, so I would say that even beyond controlling my practice sessions, I like to command my practice session. Now, that’s got a lot to do with my style and my personality. Tammy and Annie are my peers, they go to the same level groups that I do at the other site and they have a completely different style and they are every bit as effective, but this is what works for me, I’ve got – that’s my game.
I give my practices structure. I assign lanes almost daily. If I let them choose their own lanes, they’re gonna all be with the people they like best and it’s not gonna be as good of a practice perhaps. It’s usually – I usually regret doing that, but sometimes they need to be with their friends especially when it’s going to be really hard where they can console one another. Every single practice, every single practice, I line them up in their lanes and we start from a start. So if you’re irritated by the girl who is always the last one who put on her cap and goggles or is always primping or the boy who can’t find his stuff, the routine of them knowing that’s how we’re gonna start and we’re gonna start on time and they better be there and they better be lined up after I give them their lane assignments and then we go a start which means that I probably get in an extra 300 racing dives a year because every practice starts that way, sometimes a good start, sometimes they’re not, but every single time we start practice, they have an opportunity to improve how they dive or dives are better. We do the same warmup everyday. They know where to warm up with the 400, that way I’m not spending a lot of time explaining if I don’t want it. I just want to get them loose, we go 400, sometimes I’ll say it’s 50 free, 25 back, 25 breast, concentrate on your back to breast turn while you’re warming up, take your mark, go.
I command their attention. I do not talk unless they are listening with their eyes. I like that phrase, I didn’t make that up, I heard it somewhere. Listen with your eyes because most times when I am coaching, I am showing them something I want, I’m showing them. I’m talking with my body and my mouth so they have a reason to look, so when they don’t look it bothers me. One thing I’ve also found in working with a lot of kids it seems like ADHD is more and more prevalent these days and I am one and I’m really easily distracted. When somebody’s talking in the lane in front of me when I’m talking, it distracts me because I wanna know what they are saying. So I’m aware of that and I just do not tolerate inattention, ever.
So discipline, I took a class quite a few years ago when I was raising my daughters. I’m a single dad. Unfortunately, I took this class too late, it was really meant for adolescent children and my daughters are both in their teens and I realized I had lost the war, but – that we could resume the battle when they hit their 20s, when they would like be somewhat malleable again and that is that my discipline is based on mutual respect and cooperation. One of the other things I’ve learned from John Leonard both privately and in lectures like this is to praise in public. Kids like praise. Kids do not like to be criticized, corrected, humiliated in front of their peers. The message I’m trying to broadcast to them is completely lost in their embarrassment. I don’t always remember that, but I have to tell you that in the course of the last 40 years when I have had a bad show of a lack of restraint of my tongue, about 90% of my woes in my life have been a result of my mouth and if you correct people privately, there’re no witnesses. It’s very effective when I wanna talk to somebody, when I don’t like what I’m seeing whether it has to do with what they’re doing or how they’re behaving, well, I guess they’re both the same, aren’t they? To just say come up here please and step away from the pool where all eyes are on them, so hopefully it’s when they’re – the rest of the team has already heard the send-off and I correct the behavior and I let them know that I’m not happy with what I’m seeing and hearing or what they are doing and that’s that and it’s usually they’re nice kids, that’s very effective to do. Otherwise, when I’m not in control of myself and I holler at somebody – I’m fine and I don’t know about you, but these kids who are the nicest kids I’ve ever worked with do not come from homes that get – where they get yelled at and I used to be a really good yeller, old yeller they called me, it’s a Disney film.
But I’m finding that that doesn’t work anymore. The discipline – Chris mentioned it yesterday in his talk, the ready position on the send-off. That ready position on the send-off, that’s the back half of the change of direction of a two-handed turn. If their hand is on the wall and their feet are up and their knees are up on the surface and their knees are bent properly and they bring the hand off the wall on the send-off behind the ear, that’s the back half of the change direction of a two-handed turn. How many send-offs that we do in a work out? At least one. So there are hundreds of opportunities to do half of a two-handed turn. So if your kids only swim in freestyle, don’t worry about it. Each swimmer I’m expecting and commanding that they be present, I expect them to know what their time is. I expect them to know where they came up off the wall. I expect them to know how many dolphin kicks they did, where they break out or they break out on their pull-down or pull-up as you may call it or you may call it a pull-out, but I think you know what I mean; breaststroke, the stroke where now everybody tries to cheat. I expect them to be responsible, I expect them to bring their gear each day with all of it labeled with their name, so when they forget at the end of the day, I know that when it goes in the discarded bin that we have, a discarded 40-dollar snorkel that their name is on it so they can find theirs and not get cooties from somebody else. I expect them to be there each day. I expect them to bring their gear. I expect them to enter all the meets both days. I expect them to tell me if they’re gonna be missing practice ahead of time. I expect them to tell me before the – as soon as the meet sheet is posted that they’re going to be having a conflict with the meet because a lot of times we can counsel our swimmers, “Well, I can’t be at the meet on Sunday because I have a violin recital on Sunday afternoon.” I don’t know whether to start a relay or a string orchestra because I – every single kid if they don’t play an instrument in my group, they probably can’t swim. I have trumpets, trombones, violins, cellos, the viola, all of those things.
So we do have conflicts and – they don’t do it. They don’t tell me I’m going to be missing the meet until it’s too late, but there is an opportunity for learning. You can jot this one down if you don’t get anything else. Mistakes are a wonderful opportunity for learning. If they don’t make mistakes, they don’t need us. We need them to make mistakes. It’s okay to make mistakes, just like you console a kid, it’s okay to get the cue. It’s a wonderful opportunity for learning, if you’re not doing something right, we’re gonna fix that and it’s gonna be awesome.
Kicking is something that has really always been big with me in my career and I liked them to have a personal incentive to get better. They should have the best times in kicking. They should be able to do shorter intervals and I also am very careful about how often and when I use fins because our kids kick really fast with fins on, don’t they, and so we can become dependent on that because I can get in a lot of mileage at a short amount of time with fins on, but then when they take the fins off, it’s like they feel like they have no legs, so I’m really careful about when I use fins and in case you’re interested when we go into a speed phase or a taper phase or when we’re getting ready for a big meet, I don’t use the fins other than for maybe a drill or something like that for the last two weeks.
I like to make sure as part of my daily routine that on Tuesday, there is something in our practice that reviews a skill that was emphasized the day before. So I may have spent some time working on turns. I wanna make sure that that next day they have a chance to do that over again and then I also tell the kids that weren’t there on Monday – at Tuesday’s practice that when they weren’t there, they missed something of value to them. By doing that, you’re teaching your swimmers, in my opinion I am teaching my swimmers anyway that there is a cost to their absence, there is a loss when they are absent.
Now, how do you make a new kid in your group that’s usually slower, who has less base feel part of the team, feel part of the group? I have to tell you that one of the things I get most excited about is not the kids that make finals at Far Westerns. I had a 12 year-old-boy this year that was 119 in April or May in a 100-meter breaststroke, he didn’t swim very well. In June, he went 121 in a 100-meter breaststroke and in July at JO’s, he went 139 100-meter breaststroke, he’s 12. That’s not the kid I’m most excited about. The one I’m most excited about is the one that I got in April and the group moved up who’s a 13-year-old eighth grade boy who’s super tall and skinny and uncoordinated. He went from 255 in the 200 breaststroke to 233 in July. That is why I coach, that is what I love to have happen. I had a swimmer that started in our group in September. He was 13 years old, he turned 14. His best time in September was 59 seconds in the 100 freestyle. In April, he went 57 to in the 100 backstroke, thanks.
I got excited by that because that’s a guy that came out of my intermediate novice group that I recognized some talent and just so you know that same kid that when we go quality fifties kicking, dolphin kick on his back goes 27 from a push with no stroke on his back for fifty kick, so he’s gonna be swimming with Chris this fall. He’s a 14 year-old 9th grader starting this fall. That stuff gets me really excited. So how do I do that? Well, I went to practice Tuesday because I’ve been on vacation and I met two new boys that came out of another group that I already had met one of them before and I told them why I didn’t think because you get moved up last summer and so, and he was cool about it because I told him I didn’t think it was a good time, I said “But in September you’re gonna do great because I know you’re a hard worker” and so I touched bases with him again and welcomed him into the group on Tuesday, but there’s another boy that moved that I hadn’t met, but I knew that he came to practice everyday and I let him know that I knew that. I said, “I’ve never really met you, but I’ve watched you practice and I know who you are.” So right away, they feel special. Those kids feel special and already – I’m developing a relationship with them and then I proceeded to put him in the lane with a bunch of other boys and I said, “This is John and this is Trevor and you guys here make sure that they both know all of your names” and there were seven other guys in that lane, it was during warmup time. So you make sure that these two guys know all of your names the next time I check and so right away they are starting to pal up.
Some of the other things I do to make kids feel welcome, I’ve had some kids come into my most elite group that only had an A time or two, and basically, to keep it simple, the times I looked at are A times, JO times and Far Western times. Far Westerns is the toughest time standard to make in RLSC, it’s a really fast meet and so that’s really pretty much what I’m expecting all of our kids to make that time eventually. Not all of them do, but that’s what we’re about. And so after we go to a meet, I get all the ribbons, all the medals, all the A medals, tons of medals, glad we’re not going through the airport and I sit them down and we have a little team meeting which is no meeting at all, but I hand out – we have an award ceremony and so when kids get new A medals, everybody in the group knows he got a new A time and then I have kids stand up when I say who got their first ever Junior Olympic time and those kids stand up and we all give them a big hand. Anybody get their first Far Western time, same thing and so on. Well, I went through the meet results today and I might – I actually have a computer and a flip phone and I went through the meet results today and these people went 100% best times at the meet last week and I have them all stand up to be recognized and it’s – the kids would go 100%, all best times are usually the new ones. So right away, they’re starting to get a lot of recognition.
We do social gatherings and you probably do too, but we don’t do it very often so when we do them, I think the kids think that they’re pretty special – it’s an event they get excited about. We do have one team meeting in the fall at the start of the season in September and that team meeting is where I hand out the meet schedule, I talk about the rules, the gear they supposed to have and so on, and the parents are required to attend as guests. It is not a parent meeting, it’s a team meeting and they get to hear what the coach is telling their kids because what I’m trying to do is that this is the first time in our program that kids are supposed to become the facilitator between the coach and the swimmer, not their mommy. So what I’m teaching them is that this is their sport. They need to be the person that knows what’s going on so they can tell their parents what they need. The parents are there to help them, enter on the computer their meets and I tell the kids either have your mom use her credit card or have your mom give me her credit card number and pin number and I’ll take care of your entries and my Christmas shopping needs.
I want them to feel like they’re coming into a different culture and we really have established a culture. My group is different from all the others. Most are scared. We have some kids that don’t wanna come into my group. There’s a boy that came in to my group last April and I had a chat with him before he came in to my group, he’s about 5 feet 11, his mom is Taiwanese, his dad is a Caucasian about 6′ 2″. This kid is 12 years old and he’s 5′ 11″. He goes to a private school where the tuition is 33,000 dollars a year and he didn’t come to practice very often, but he showed some real talent and he had been swimming with me in an intermediate group, but last year I stopped coaching that group, so he was swimming with one of my colleagues, with Golda, and I watched him at meets and he was doing really well, but he wasn’t coming to practice and so before he came to my group, I said, “Michael, I don’t see you practice everyday, when you swam with me, you don’t come everyday, so what is your schedule like because I expect you to be here everyday” and he said, “I’m in a jazz ensemble, I play the drums on Monday after school.” “What time are you done Michael? We start at 4:30.” He said, “I’m done at 5” I said, “Well then I’ll see you at 5:15.” “Oh, I can’t do that.” “I suggest you can – you can do that because an hour is better than zero and then hope you get into this group because if you come everyday it won’t be so difficult. If you don’t come everyday, you’re prolonging how difficult the adjustment is going to be.” He started coming every day and this is a kid that only had A times and maybe one JO cut I think, okay. He made Far Westerns three months later in every event that he swam and then he went on vacation for six weeks all of June and July. So Michael’s back and we’re starting over, but he is still in the jazz ensemble, but he is on time at practice on Monday and he told me – he promised me under a threat of death that he would come everyday.
So my expectations, it’s best to tell him before they come, that they should come every day and no one does. Although the kid I told you about with the 57 backstroke who also went 1:04 flat this summer long course 100 back, missed three practices other than one week that he took during our Christmas break to go to China to visit his grandmother. I have another girl who went from like 3:09 in a 200-yard breaststroke to 2:51, 200-meter breaststroke this year and she missed three practices the whole year and she totally is my most dedicated swimmer and most improved and I remember watching her the first week that she got placed in my group because I didn’t know her and I said, “What is this kid doing in my group and she was awful” and she has become a really good swimmer, 200-breaststroker that has Far Westerns in the mile. You don’t get that everyday.
I also tell them what they can expect. I tell them as a group. I tell them individually. They can expect to be challenged. Don’t you want me to challenge you? You can expect to be held accountable, to be responsible. You can expect to be respected. You can expect to be held to a higher standard than ever before. Now, the nice thing about the group that I have, I have a little kid that was so fast in our white group that he got moved in my group as a 9-year-old and the only reason it was really agreeable to me is I was also coaching his older sister at that time and he is still with me. I have this boy – he’s a 2:30, 200-meter butterfly. He’s 12 years old. He’s a pudgy little guy, I really like him and he plays flag football in his Catholic school and he’s on the basketball team and when he’s done with those activities, he comes to practice if he can and where was I going with that?
I was really worried about him being in the group because I know that he was scared, but the nice thing is, is I get to coach him. Oh, the train of thought that was derailed just got back on the tracks. Where I was going with that was that I get to coach him for four years, so when he’s done with me, when he moves in the 9th grade, chances are really good the he’s gonna skip our development group and be able to go right to the national group. He’s a great little athlete and he’s played lots of sports. He’s everything that Chris is looking for. They can expect to be challenged from viewing themselves differently than they ever had before because chances are good if you get kids from another team or from another lower group that their parents have been bringing them to practice to improve their skill in swimming. So they look at themselves as going to swimming and being on swim team, okay. I’m on swim team. I’m in boy scouts. I’m in soccer, but they do not look at themselves in the mirror and go, “I am an athlete and I do what athletes do. I eat right. I live right. I excel at everything I do. I excel in school. I excel in swimming. I excel in training. I excel in everything I try to do. I always try to do what I think is my best.”
So I try to change their self-image and there are some great ways to do that that by doing that really allow them to go much faster like, I have a minimum performance in kicking I expect everybody to do. We go 25 kick no slower than on the 30. Now, that may sound mainstream to you, but it’s not on our team, but we don’t ever go any slower than on a 30 unless it’s something really super special. I’ve even gone to sets where we’ve gone one on the 30, one on the 25, one on the 20 and we’ll go multiple rounds because I expect the minimum standard to be under 20 seconds in any stroke. Do all of them do it? No, we all have sucky kickers on our groups that have Tea-strainers for feet, but that’s the minimum standard and that’s something for them to aspire to achieve. They know they’re getting better when they’ve never broke a 20 and now they’re breaking 20 and then they can hold under 20. They know they’re getting better. They know they’re gonna swim faster, builds great confidence. Same thing on 50s, I expect them to break 40, they don’t all do it. In hundreds – in competition, I expect them to be under a minute. They aren’t all there and when they break a minute in 100-freestyle, I tell them the next thing to do is to break a minute in a 100 fly or back, so we’re always resetting our minimum standards.
They’re required to know their best time. They’re required to know their goal time. We do goal cards. I didn’t know you did goal cards. We do goal cards and I expect them to know their time standard for the next level they’re trying to achieve and the splits that will take to do that and I help them with that. I help them with the math and then they help me learn how to use my computer and do PowerPoint. I’m a killer at arithmetic and I was talking to a kid the other day and I said to him I was coaching another group because Christian was already here and I said, “Michael, why are you late?” and he goes, “I have a calculus class over at Lindbergh High School every Monday.” I go, “Oh, I’ve heard of calculus.’
Some of the social activities that we do, we do potlucks, those are really fun. You have to be careful about nut allergies. Seriously, you really do. Usually, when I do a little flyer on that, I’ll say the boys were doing a potluck breakfast. The boys are gonna bring the meat and potatoes and eggs and the girls can bring the baked goods, the milk and the juice. Please, no products with nutmeat in them due to allergies. We go out to eat. A lot of times after Saturday practice, we go out to eat. We go out to breakfast, hometown buffet, unlimited decadence. I remember when I first came to DACA and I had this intermediate group, we had a root beer float party and I was amazed that of those 17 boys in that group, none of these 11- to 14-year-old boys had ever had a root beer float. That’s just wrong, so I have made at least that part of their world right now.
At the end of the year and we don’t do it every year, but at the end of the year if I have a super fun group and it works in my schedule, we do a pool party where they bring – I bring mats that can’t be sunk and they bring pool toys and they just play and then I barbecue for them because actually my nickname is Barbecue Billy, a legend in my own mind. One of the things I did when I was at San Jose is I organized an all-star camp because we – not all the kids can make the all-stars, so we had an all-star camp. We had T-shirts and I had my national group, my college and my elite high school swimmers do all the lecturing, all the teaching. They had to prepare talks. We did a clinic. We did a workout. We did some slideshows. We talked about nutrition then we ate, then we trained again. It was an all-day thing. So all those things I think really do a lot to bring the team together, the group together and bonding. We do contest which – our contest really are a lot of fun and can be motivational. We do them during meets where we choose teams and score it, I know Chris does the same thing, only better and I also do individual contests and one of the reasons is to get kids to enter all the meets, all of the events that they’re allowed to enter. If they’re allowed to swim a maximum of four events, I want them in four events. And so, if they do that, they get points for that. If they go best time, they get points for that. If they don’t breathe inside the flags, they get points for that and if you reach a certain amount of points because I work out a potential of what they need to do to hit about 80% of the points possible. If they win their heat, they get points. If they win the event, they get bonus points. If they get a new Far Western cut, they get bonus points and if they do it individually, they get to skip practice and we go to get pizza, but if the group as a whole averages 80% of the points possible as a group, even if some kids are not in the meet, we all go, and surprisingly, they always win. So they feel like they’ve won and the group come together and we take a night off and we go to pizza instead, go to Jake’s, it’s awesome. Sometimes, I’ll do the same thing, but it’ll be a pig party and it’ll be totally an individual contest where I’ll get a vanilla ice cream, three different kinds of syrup and they can eat all the ice cream sundaes they want to and for extra fun, sometimes we do it before practice. I don’t feel so good.
In assigning lanes, there’s a great way to do bonding when the De Anza College group started coming over to Saratoga that will train with us on Saturday so we get all these kids knowing each other. All of Tammy’s girls would all get in their lanes and Annie’s guys would all get in their lanes and my girls and guys would all get in their lanes. So assigning lanes, you can force mixing and I do it just to keep thing mixed up. I will have them choose or if something has been working really well with getting these new kids that are older into the group that are much slower than my oldest, fastest kids, is I just assign two lanes. One lane – two lanes for the 8th graders, two lanes for the 7th graders and all of you lesser beings can get in lane 5, so the 5th and 6th graders get in lane 5. I do it by gender. Sometimes, if I’m gonna do a quality set, I got this from the great Jason Carter, I line them up and according to their best 100 freestyle time and I can either have – go lane one, two, one, two, one, two. If I want all the fast kids in the first two lanes or if I wanna go in heats with a lot of rest in between, I’ll take the first six and they’re in the first six lanes and so on and so forth.
So basically, I’m seeding workout based on the 100-freestyle time. At certain cycles, I will put kids in lanes based on their best strokes or their specialties and I was listening to Dave Morris this morning and it’s interesting that the mesocycles that he used at the elite training center is kind of similar to the way that my brain thinks as far as picturing the calendar as it relates to our peak performance meets. There are times when kids that are going to Far Westerns in the breaststroke that don’t even have A time and I shouldn’t be doing general training, so there is some point in time when we have to specialize.
One of the biggest differences that I’ve seen in my coaching career, I noticed it when I was at Santa Clara back in the 70s that kids were very physical and they seemed to be fairly strong. I guess the main point is since I’ve been at DeAnza Cupertino Aquatics and back to coaching middle school-aged kids, I have never seen such physically weak children. Children are not strong. Mom would send me out and say, “Be back before the streetlights come on.” I rode my bike to school everyday or I walked. I would roller skate around the block all day long. We would go over to school and play softball or baseball all day long and kids don’t do that, they are driven everywhere. So I really had to change my approach to dryland and there is nobody that I have ever met that knows more about getting kids strong fast than that guy right there and Chris owns a cross-fit gym and he trains firemen and policemen and military and some of the state women and some amazingly fit people, and my real chore in 11- to 14-year-old swimming is getting kids to be physically fit. Dick Shoulberg is one of my heroes and his whole deal is that his goal is to develop and coach athletes not swimmers. I don’t wanna coach swim nerds, I wanna coach fit athletes who can do anything.
And so, Chris has a website and you might want to jot this down because it’s terrific when he keeps it updated, its dacanationalteam.com. I hope you don’t mind my doing that, if you do, well, I won’t snore tonight because we’re rooming together. He posts his dryland workout that is cross-fit basically and I love it, and typically in the past, I’ve done dryland until I found that they were losing interest with it which usually took about six to eight weeks and they got tired of doing push-ups and sit-ups and leg lifts and squats and squat jumps and running and it was boring because it was either on an interval or it was by sets, but it was boring and it was all demanded by me and none of it was self-motivated and it was part of practice.
So I’ve added a dryland program to my training schedule now that I don’t have a second coaching group and it’s voluntary. You don’t have to come, but on Tuesday and Thursday I’m gonna be there at 4 o’clock and we’re gonna go to 428 and we’re gonna get strong and if that’s not something that you wanna do, don’t come, but I haven’t had to send a kid out of dryland and we did dryland all year last year and they never got tired of it because every session was different and they could compete against themselves in self-improvement. They could compete against – all the girls competed against all the girls, all the boys compete against all the boys or forming teams, small teams of three, teams of four, teams of 10 each. There’s one game that we play where each suit on a card is a different exercise. The repetitions are the number on the card. Team with the most cards at the end wins. You have to run to me in rotation to get the next card. You cannot leave until the last person has finished the exercise. It’s really intense. They’re soaking wet when they’re done and this is in the winter, not just summer and it’s not raining and they love it, so check that out. If you can look at a different approach to dryland, I’m telling you within six months, I could literally see the change in their bodies at how they become leaner and more defined and they had become much stronger and their times really were improving.
Some other things that I do that I think that are really motivational, we had a real problem with kids getting excited about being on a relay team. I know when I swam, I would’ve killed somebody to get on a relay team. My age group coach used to say, because I was built like this when I swim, Billy Thompson, you carry the weight of the team and I always wanted to be on relays. The first medal I got at Santa Clara Swim Club was an 8 and under, 100-yard freestyle relay with Dickie Perry and Stevie Stern and Jimmy Lombardi, that was in 1958, I never forgot that. It’s actually the only thing I can still remember. So we had a real problem with kids not wanting to stay for relays. It was a bother, I hate it and so we got together last year and we talked about this and what we started doing was we started taking all the events that would be a relay leg and after every meet, we had a ladder and an update. So the top 8 – because we want them to think A and B relay, so the top eight 50 freestyle times were posted and the top eight 100 freestyle times were posted in 13 – 14 age group to 200 freestyle and so on. You get the idea, but we posted it on our website and it became a badge of honor to get on the relay.
And we had kids this year; it was a completely 180-degree turnabout, wasn’t it? Where we had kids that were battling for relay spots and I had one girl that was – all of a sudden she started getting serious. My best cross-fit girl also had the worst attendance and she was missing practice and I finally said to her – I said, “You know, Eunice” – her last name is Eunice Can, but Eunice can’t. But Eunice Can I said – this was the beginning of the long course summer schedule and she missed the second morning because we go again in the afternoon I said, “If you miss one more morning, I don’t care how many people you beat and pass by, you’re not swimming on relays.” She never missed another practice. She wound up being our fastest 50 freestyler, 50 flyer, our second fastest 50 backstroker and our second fastest 50 breaststroker out of the whole age group. Motivation, threats, if nothing else works, threaten the hell out of them.
Double dips, if you have trouble getting kids excited about swimming fast in the morning than at trials and finals meet, try the world famous Jerry Double Dip Reward System. Here is how it works. If you go to JO’s or Far Westerns and you go a best time, a lifetime best time in prelims and you make finals and you go faster than that in the finals, that is a double dip. It has nothing to do with two of us coaches sitting together. We’re double dips also, but of a different kind, and if you get a double-dip certificate, when the meet is over, you cash that in on two scoops of ice cream. Now, Jerry, he would get coupons for Baskin-Robbins because he’s not cheap like I am. I buy ice cream and I scoop it up for the kids and then whatever is left over, I get smaller, little cones and I do little scoops so that everybody gets some ice cream to celebrate the accomplishment. I gave out a lot of double dips this summer.
Another meet, if you – I had the kids instead of me giving them coaching feedback, I had them come to me and I said, “Tell me what you did best in that swim.” So I had them feedback to me. I didn’t breathe inside the flags, here’s a poker chip. I won my heat, oh, here’s another poker chip. I did a best time, here’s another poker chip, anything else? My turns were good, nah I don’t think so and then they put these chips in the container and if they filled it by the end of the weekend, they got Bill’s brownies. Now, these are not the same brownies when I was in college at Long Beach State. These had chocolate chips in them instead of seeds.
And then we also – I tried to not only motivate in that way, I tried to give them incentives – like if we do a quality set where we go – I did some tests to that too and I know that these are things that – and I’m gonna skip down here because my alarm went off so I’m running out of time. We do a lot of contesta during practice. We do a lot of fundraising things where it’s not even for time. I’ll put them side-by-side and we’ll drag race in a lane and they keep score or they can go best three out of five and the winner doesn’t have to do lane lines or whatever or they just don’t care, they just win. They don’t care or we’ll keep score. If we go six lanes, it’s three, two, one. Three for first place, two for second place, one for third place, first person to ten wins. They don’t – there are no other incentives. It’s not get out or anything else, but we – and you could do those contests kicking as well. You know how when you do get out swims or eliminations, do you ever do them kicking. I make a big deal out of kicking. We kick these days 1200 to 1500 everyday and one of the things I like to do to motivate them is we do shortest rest possible, and I’m not kidding, I’m not making this stuff up. Lane one, if your best time in a 100 kick is under 115, you get lane one, you’re going eight 100s on the 125 kicking.
I had one guy that could do them on the 120 and if they can’t – if they missed one send-off, then they have to move over. There’s one lane on the 125, one on the 130, two lanes on the 135 and one lane on the 140 and we’re not going any slower than that and if you missed a send-off you have to move over. If you missed a send-off, you have to move over. Well, I’ll tell you what, by the time we’re done with 8, it’s getting real crowded in lane 5, but as the season goes on, it gets less crowded and I’m actually able to drop that 125 down to 120. I’ve had kids come into the group that were the worst kickers in the group that left the group the best kickers in the group and I totally agree with everything I heard about kicking. I think kicking is an early identifier of ability and it’s a great way – if you coach 10 and unders, 8 and unders, if you want to get some aerobic work and do it kicking because they may not be strong enough upper body, but their little legs are strong enough to hold that big head up.
Identify weakness and make it our strength and I’m gonna finish up with that. There is a team in our area that I can tell you – there is a team that I would most love to dominate and beat and it’s the team that we have the hardest time doing it, but if you’re in here from Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics, I am always coming after you because I love what you do and I watch how great they are on backstroke starts and underwater and I wanna be like that because my kids are not like that. Even with their 10 and under, Santa Clara or some club, same thing, they do a great job with their little kids and I’ve had my eyes opened by that. I’m working on things like starts. Backstroke starts; I’ll be talking about later on today. I’ll do things like do backstroke starts on all send-offs all day or I’ll do them on all sets even if it’s not backstroke. We’ll do backstroke starts on an IM set. Do you ever do that, because I never did and I wondered why none of my kids had the courage to grab the bar and put their feet up? Dolphin kicks, a minimum off the wall on any stroke any day. I mean if they’re going on breaststroke, why not, it’s a trend. Right?
So yeah, we’re doing a lot more dolphin in it and for me, the minimum is three. I know for you its eight and for me that’s too much, but I want them to do at least three. I have not permitted my age group freestylers to do dolphin kick and freestyle. I tell them that until you can do it in backstroke and in butterfly proficiently and do it on the third push-off at the 75 of the 100 fly, you’re not good at it yet and I also see a lot of kids, little kids doing dolphin kicks in freestyle that actually slows them down. But my group has gotten good enough now at dolphin kicking underwater and their breath control has improved where this year I’m going to begin doing that in freestyle. I have enough talented kids that I think that they can do that, but as a basic skill, I’m not a fan. I do two-handed send-offs where they hold the wall with both hands and point their legs at the other end and they have to pull in and do a ready position from the approach and we’ll do that all workout or we’ll at least do it on an entire set or two so that they are always reminded about that and thinking about that and this is something that as a goal for myself this season that’s something that I wanna do. I’ll warmup with one-handed freestyle turns like in the old days. When I was a little kid in freestyle, you had to touch the wall before you could tumble your turn and I was too fat, so I had to touch the wall and back up a little bit.
So we do Bill’s turns, we do one-handed turn freestyles, so you go in the wall and get on their side and come off the wall nice and smooth and they start feeling that. If they streamline their feet and bring their knees up towards their hand on the wall that they’re gonna get turned around with ease. So I’ll be talking later on today about coaching turns and starts and we have like two or three minutes and if there is something you would like to ask me right now over what I covered, I’d be happy to tell you right now, anybody? Yes, sir.
Test sets, 16 100s on the 1:40. That tells me that the fastest five of those is something that I would hope that they could hold on a 500 freestyle. I asked Pablo Morales one time when he was coaching with me at San Jose Aquatics, “Pablo, what’s the hardest set that you ever did? He said, “16 50s on the minute butterfly from a dive all out.” That is a major test set. First week, a long course training, we go 16 50s on the minute freestyle and I tell them, “You should be no slower than 4 seconds over your fastest short course time and they can’t do it.” So here’s a kid that goes 27, she’d be pushing off 31-32 that’s going 36 or 37. I’m getting upset about it, but it’s to make that adjustment to long course and they know because we do that every week or two. They know that when they’re getting down there to 34 and 33 that we’re getting adjusted to long course training, they’re getting faster and then we do it stroke and it really screws them up.
I really think a broken swim is two for test sets. It is something I really enjoyed as an athlete with George and something that we do really regularly and another set that I like to do is three 550s on the 7-minute 7-30 or 8 minutes depending on the ability, so kids stop being scared of the mile. I went on Pacific swimming website today to look at our age group rankings and I had a lot more kids ranked in 200 and above than I do in the sprints, but I also have kids – it’s lonely at Far Westerns because they swim the mile during the break and it’s me and Annie and then the same coaches that we always see, the Pleasanton coaches were there and the Terrapin coaches were there and the Pacific coaches were there and Santa Clara’s got their entire staff there because our kids will swim a distance freestyle.
Anybody else who has a question?
Mike you’re the last swimmer I swatted with a kick board and that was 1979 and I don’t do that anymore. The biggest change that I’ve made in the last five years – wow, that’s a great question. I don’t know. I’ll get back to you on that one. I’m not sure there’s a lot. Every now and then I remember something I did a long time ago and I’ll infuse that, but I’m not done learning and I go to these clinics just like you and I sit there and I take notes and I jot stuff down and if you’re serious about coaching, go to the meeting after the meeting, talk to each other about what you do, what contests do you do? What games do you play? What’s your incentive program because that’s where you go back with new ideas that make you a better coach? If you’re a better coach, your kids will be better swimmers.
One thing, don’t get too excited about times up or down or rank, is there anything else because you cannot create talent. A kid has X amount of talent component. Our job is to try to bring the best out in everyone starting with me, anybody else? Keep it fun. If you’re having fun, they’re having fun. Bob Steele always said, “If it’s not fun for me to watch, it’s not fun for you to do.”
Thanks very much.
##### end #####