Owning Your Own Program by Bill Schalz (2005)

Thank you very much for that introduction. I also want to thank John Leonard for asking me to be here. When he called me I just assumed my dues were overdue or something. First, a little history about the Bullets and what my background is leading up to starting the Bullets team. As Chuck said, I founded the team, the Academy Bullets in 1994. We started the team from scratch. Previously my wife and I coached at the Aurora YMCA for eight years. My wife was the head age group coach and I was the head coach. I don’t mean to slam the Aurora YMCA at all, but I just didn’t enjoy it. One of the big problems I had was the fact that I had a parent’s board that I had to answer to. I had an executive director. I had an aquatic director and I had to answer to all of those different groups. Serving three masters who didn’t have the same goals and didn’t have the same visions for the team made it awfully difficult. Compound that with the fact that in the eight years that I was at the Y we had seven different aquatic directors with some obviously more experience than others, and that made the challenge even bigger. Then in 1994 Marmion Academy was looking for a head coach and aquatic director.

Marmion Academy is a military catholic college prep academy in the Western suburbs of Chicago. It is my alma mater. My high school coach, Jim Kelly, asked me if I would take the job. At that point I was really ready to get out of the Y and I really wanted to start my own team. I thought a lot about it and took the job. I started in April of 1994 with the aquatic director and head coaching position. I think it paid me about $5,000 that year. I wasn’t going to get my salary until November or December so I was not jumping into a financially sound situation, if you will. I did have a lesson program, a Swim America program that I had started. I will talk a little bit about that towards the end. I started that program in 1992 so it had gotten going, but it really wasn’t generating a lot of income. It was breaking even. It was making a little bit of money, but it wasn’t making enough to pay the rent and those kinds of things. Still, my wife and I decided this was the way we wanted to go. We both thought we would be much happier.

Now I am going to talk about how we started the team. I am going to show you some of the mistakes I made and how we set up the program. This is really going to be swim team business 101. I only have 45 minutes which is not really enough time to go through everything. I’ll get into a lot of detail. I am going to try and get through my talking points a little bit early and if you have any questions I’ll be more than happy to answer them. If we go over, that is fine too and I am happy to do that.

So, I have listed some characteristics of what I think a typical business owner is, especially a swim team owner. My first item is you really need to be passionate about swimming. The first couple of years that I started the team, I was married to my wife, but I was also married to my swim team while my wife was our head age group coach. She had coached at another program and we met on the pool deck. We got engaged and then she came and started working for me. She is an awesome swim coach and certainly made it a lot easier. Having myself as the head coach and her as the head age group coach I knew that our age group program was going to be in great hands. We are both passionate about swimming and that really made a big difference in starting the club because it is a lot, I repeat, a lot of work. Tim Murphy was coaching Wilton Y at the time and now he is the Harvard coach. He asked me about ten months into my first season with the Bullets how did I like owning my club? I said well, it is ten times more work than I thought it was going to be, but I haven’t had a parent board meeting in ten months. He just looks at me and goes, “life’s little pleasures”. I was like, “yup”.

I think you need to be a hard worker. Just to give you an idea, I am the CEO, CFO, Treasurer, and I am in charge of payroll and payroll taxes. I am the first one to get there and I am the last one to leave. I am in charge of customer complaints and employee complaints. I am the secretary, and the receptionist and I have to coach a practice group. So there are a lot of jobs. Our club has finally grown to the point where I have been able to get rid of a lot of those jobs and get those out to other people in our program. We have some great people working for us right now. A lot of the administrative tasks, finally after the past three or four years, I have started to get rid of. This year was a big jump because we hired another fulltime employee. Now I have really been able to get rid of a lot of those jobs and it is going to allow me to focus on growing the program, building a pool and doing some other things which I will also talk about. You need to be ready, willing and able to take responsibility. You are 100% responsible for what is going to go on in your club. I tell my athletes that all the time, “you are 100% responsible for your swimming career” and it is the same thing with the club. I own the club. If I hire a coach and he or she does something really stupid such as gets caught with a DUII or something like that (knock on wood, I have never had that experience with one of my assistants) I am responsible for that. I am the one who brought that person into our program. When things go well, I get a lot of credit for it. I try to divert as much of that credit as I can to my people who are working for me because I do have a great staff. On the other side you have to take responsibility. I think if you do take responsibility your customers or your swim team families are going to really appreciate that and respect that. You need to be willing to stop being an employee. This might be the most important part of the talk. I am going to reference a book a little bit later on and I am going to reference it a bit now. Colleges now are teaching people to be employees. When kids come out of college the first thing they do is go and look for a job. A hundred years ago kids went to college to learn the family business. We are really kind of an employee mindset when people come out of school now. This is my personal philosophy, agree with it or not agree with it. I don’t want to get into a debate with a bunch of college coaches.

A lot of people think, oh my God, I can’t start my own team. There is too much risk involved. Well, look at the want ads every spring and every fall and you will see what the job security is in our business. Look at the ASCA website. Every year there are jobs. For some jobs it is the same team year after year after year. It seems risky to start your own club but the Academy Bullets has had the same head coach for the last 11 years. We have had two head age group coaches. The reason our first age group coach quit was because her kids started getting older and she was too busy being a fulltime mom and or being a mom that gets her daughter to her five athletic events of which swimming is not. Obviously, when we are on deck together and somebody needs to be with their family, I really have to think about the employee. You, however, must stop being an employee. It is really an important part of owning your own business. So many people I talk to, they just don’t do it. I think there is a mind-set there. Later I will give you the name of a book that I think is really interesting and really talks a lot about that.

You want to start a club? What do you need to do? What are the most important things? I believe you have to have a clear vision of what you want your team to represent. Also, don’t try to be all things to all people. When I talk about our club, the vision we talk about and our goal is to help kids get to the highest level of swimming that they possibly can. Like I’ve said, in our program I don’t have to go to a board. If we have a couple of kids that are going to Olympic Trials and we want to do a two week training trip in Florida (which we did a couple of years ago) I do not need to go to the board and get permission to do that. “Oh wow, do we really want to have our head coach going away with two kids. I don’t know if that really makes sense.” There is no red tape on our team. It is me and the vision we have of what we want to do with this team. I am dedicated to helping the kids get to their highest level. I leave that to my age group coaches to do the same thing with the age groupers. We will do everything we can within reason to supply what those kids need so they can reach their highest level. That is just NOT always true in a parent organization. Be honest with your families. Don’t tell them what they want to hear if that is not what you are willing to do with your team. Like in any business, if you promise one thing and you don’t deliver, that family is going to go out the door. That mom or dad is going to go out and tell every one of their friends what a jerk you are and how rotten your program is. Word of mouth is critical in our business. It is very critical in the swim lesson business as well. If you want to be a high level program tell them that. If you are going to be a mom and pop, baby sitting service, and if you only want to be a baby sitting service, don’t tell them you are going to be a high level program. Tell them the truth. Be honest and you will find out that the market will come to you. That has certainly happened with us.

Next, what is of absolute necessity is water? I know this sounds stupid/simple, but if you don’t control your water then you do not have any control over your business. I list three levels of control.

1. You actually own the facility or the pool where your team is going to be practicing. That is obviously the utmost control of the facility.

2. Is the situation that I am in. I am the aquatic director of the facility that we rent. I have to keep my principal happy.
I have to keep my athletic director happy. My principal and I went to high school at Marmion together. We are good friends and I have known him for a long time. I let him know what is going on in his pool all the time. My job is just to keep him happy so he doesn’t get ticked off and fire me. I have pretty good control. I schedule the pool and I also coach the high school team there. So, if I am doing a good job there my swim business is in very good shape.

3. The third level of control is really just rent a pool.

That is something that we have just started doing this year. Our facility just opened. It is new. It opened up actually September 1. From the very first meeting that we had with the park district to the actual contract that we signed, our pool rent went up, our pool space went down and our pool time went down. They gave us time that we could not use. We had to actually fight back and tell them that if we couldn’t get the time we needed (because we couldn’t start before 4:00 PM) that we were going to walk away. We didn’t have a choice. I realized very quickly that if this facility starts to book up and starts to fill, we are going to be in big trouble and we are going to start getting squeezed out. So before we are even in the pool, I am actually putting together a five year plan to build another pool. The plan is to grow into that other pool and have a little buffer in case something happens at the park district facility. We have a great relationship with them now. They like having us in there because we know a lot about aquatics and this being their first indoor aquatic center we have been able to offer them a lot of help. I just don’t know if this facility gets really crowded if the other members are going to start squeezing us out. They will realize pretty quickly that they could make more money teaching lessons than they can renting out to a swim team. So those are the three levels of control that are very important.

I recommend a multi-year contract. Obviously the longer term contract you can get on your water the better off you are. You need lawyers and accountants. Especially at the beginning when you are starting the program you need a lawyer. You are setting up a business and there are different types of businesses. You could be a sole proprietorship. I am not going to give any legal advice except probably don’t be a sole proprietorship. There are different types of corporations. We are a subs corporation. There are limited liability corporations and not for profit corporations. When we started the club, people used to ask me are you a not-for-profit organization and I would go no, it is just working out that way. It has gotten better.

When establishing a business it is important to have a lawyer and an accountant help you with these things. They can tell you what the tax advantages are and what the liability advantages are with different types of businesses. You may start up in several communities. You may have three different types of businesses. You may have an LLC, you may have a Sub-S and you may have a not for profit. Some teams do that. If you start a business and you own the pool that might be a different. The building might be a different type of business than the swim team with the swim team and renting. It is important to get good legal advice on that up front. The accountant helps you set up your accounting process. We use Quick Books.

If you have heard of Quicken and Quick Books it would be good. I didn’t do it. I set up my quick books and did it on my own and then when I went to do my taxes my accountant was like well if you had done this, this and this it would be a lot easier to do your taxes. Little things like that, teach you how to do your payroll taxes. We use the payroll service with Quick Books and it is actually very easy to do. I just use my accountant now to look over to make sure that I have not made any mistakes when every quarter I send him all my payroll stuff. He checks my math and things like that. For a very small fee he takes care of that for me.

When I first started the team I paid my payroll taxes quarterly and that was fine. I was doing it on my own. I didn’t have an accountant. As our lesson program grew we got more employees and as our swim team grew we started getting even more employees. Thus, the amount of money from our payroll was exceeding the quarterly amount. That is because when you pay payroll you actually are collecting money for the IRS and you have to pay that money back out. If it hits a certain threshold, then you have to go from being a quarterly payer to a monthly payer. If you hit a higher threshold you have to go with payroll taxes as you collect them. I didn’t know that. You don’t want to find out how intense payroll tax fines and paperwork fines are. We paid higher fines for not turning the paperwork in on time than we did for not paying the taxes on time. A couple of thousand dollars later I learned a lesson. Now I use my accountant all the time.

I recommend that you not have your accountant or your lawyer be swim team parents. We have very capable lawyers and accountants on our swim team who can do a good job and could have done a great job for us. My concern was that if my accountant’s daughter and I had a falling out and they got mad at me then I would have someone who had a lot of knowledge about the inner workings of our business. He could start telling people truthfully or untruthfully rumors, whatever he wanted. I think that would put me in a little bit of a vulnerable situation. It is my recommendation that you not use a swim team parent for it. That is up to you of course. I don’t think the lawyer part is necessarily as important unless you are using your lawyer for your taxes and things like that. I was more comfortable doing it the other way. My attorney is a family friend. My brother is a developer and I use the accountant that he uses. It has worked out really well for us. It is very important to have people like that around. People do not necessarily think about the lawyer and the accountant stuff, but it is very important.

Office; obviously you have to have an office. My office is the luxurious 4th bedroom in my house. That is all the space we need. Currently I have hired my assistant coach’s fiancée to do a lot of our administrative stuff. It worked with my wife so I figured it would work for him too. We brought Kelly in and now they are doing some of the stuff out of their house. I think eventually we will probably get to the point where we would like to build a facility and get an actual office. At this point, he likes working out of his house and I like working out of my house so we are just doing it that way.

There are some things that I think you need to look at and these are just my observations. Like I said, we use Quick Books with the payroll service. The payroll service is something that you can pay. It’s like $100 a year. It may not even be that much, but then you can do your own payroll and it is actually very simple to do. When you own your team you don’t just have your best times on your computer data base. You need online backup. Most teams use high tech. We use high tech team manager and meet manager and business manager. I think it is really important to have off site storage. We use Iomega. They make the old zip drive and things like that. Iomega has an online storage. Again, I don’t remember how much it is, it is pretty inexpensive. It is under $100 a year. I leave my computer on all the time. Every morning at 1 o’clock, anything that I have backed up, it is backed up online. You are going to have your business records which you are responsible for. I think it is like every up to 7-10 years you can be audited, so you need to have your business records. I have my swim lesson program. I have a swim team and I also have my home and personal checking account, plus our business manager’s stuff. If we have a fire at our house, a tornado, a hurricane, anything that damages that information, I can now go to any computer in the world and pull that information off line and have it ready to go with all my business records. Otherwise, if somebody says well I paid your fees…did they? So, it is critical to have those records backed up and backed up off site. When I talked to my assistant about this he is said just back it up to a flash drive. I said what good is that if the flash drive is sitting next to your computer when your house burns down? There is no value in that so it is very important that you have off site storage.

Web site; a web site is very important. John Lornet out in Colorado is a swimming guy and very involved in Colorado swimming. I think initially he may have had the USA swimming website, but he does a lot LSC’s. I think for about $5 a month he will do your swim club’s website. Our website used to be We actually changed the address to I think it is important to do that because your website is going to be how people are going to find out about you. That is the first place they are going to go to get information on your team. The more your website address resembles your team name the easier it is for people to get information about your team. They are going to look on the web and they are going to do a Google search before they go to the yellow pages or the white pages or anywhere else. You need to have a website.

When I started our team, actually up until this year, I did the website myself. I use a software program called Microsoft Front Page. Knowing that you need to have water is stupid, simple. Setting up a website is just as simple. It is very, very easy. It is one of those things that people are kind of apprehensive to do because they have never done it before. Once you get into it and start doing it, it is pretty simple to do. A swim coach for another team in our area helps us. She actually re-designed our entire web site and it looks a lot nicer now. It is a lot easier to get around. I just kept piling stuff into it and she stripped the whole thing down and made it a lot easier and much more user friendly. Now we have a lot more information on the site. We can put virtually all of our information on that website. It really limits the phone calls. People can learn a lot about our club there. That is the first place they go. Since the opening of the new park facility this year we have already grown our team by 30 kids. We send information out with the web site printed on. That is how they get the bulk of their information. I just cannot stress enough how important it is to have a website and have a good website that people can use and utilize. Like I said, John Lornet, he is very, very reasonable.

It is unbelievably inexpensive to set up your website. We have done a lot of different things and he has been very, very good for us. John Lornet and the name of his company is Lornet. I actually think on the bottom of our main page of our website there is a link to Lornet. I am pretty sure because I think he puts those on the bottom of the pages. We have a swim lesson program too. Most of the people that I know that own swim teams also have a parallel business or a complementary business if you will.

Like I said, we have started a lesson program. I am the aquatic director at Marmion I have full control. We run a summer lesson program that up until this year we have had about a thousand kids in the program. That is just in the summer. For the first time now we are going to go year round. In the last month our swim team and swim lesson expenses have gone up about $100,000. We have hired a full time coach and a fulltime lesson director. If you include the rent we are now paying for the new facility there is a little bit of pressure on these guy to grow the team and to grow the lesson program. We also have plans in another year that involve our local hospital which is building a wellness center. Ironically, they are building it right down the street from our parks district facility. They have asked us to run all the aquatic programming. As a result I went to the facility summit at USA Swimming and learned a lot about vertical exercise. I know that USA Swimming is working with American Exercise Associations so if you do some of that stuff, there is a great opportunity not only in swim lessons, but in adult fitness and things like that. All of it is very lucrative. I know some other coaches are doing that now. Our lesson program has just been awesome for us. There is a team in California that does 2 million dollars a year in lessons. If you own your lesson program and you are doing two million a year and you are making 10% off of that, which you should easily be able to do, you are making 200 grand a year. There are not a lot of swim coaches that can do that. That is my goal. My goal is to get our lesson programs going and build a couple of pools and get it up to 2 million dollars a year. If I can do that my salary is going to come completely out of the swim team. My head age group’s salary is going to come out of the swim team. He is going to be making more money than most of the coaches in Illinois. I will just pull all of those salaries out of my swim team. Now I can use the lesson program money to hire more coaches and hire better coaches. Our lesson program will really help our swim team get quality people in there.

There are other things that people have done. I know that Rick Curl has got a thousand kids on his team. I think one of the things that he does is in pool management. They go into a pool. He then manages the pool, brings a coach in, and starts a team there. That is how he has grown his swim team. He makes the money on the pool management too so there are a lot of opportunities out there. There have been swim coaches that started swim shops, swim suit supplies and things like that so there are a lot of options out there to do.

The swim lesson program has some distinct advantages to the swim team. Not only is it going to help pay my salary, but it gives us an opportunity to hire our senior level swimmers who are doing doubles all summer. We only run lessons for two or three hours a day, four days a week in the summer. Our senior level kids practice in the morning, teach swim lessons, take a small break of 30 minutes and then they do their afternoon practice and they love it. It is tight. I mean they are busy from 6 AM in the morning until 3 PM in the afternoon, but then they don’t have to come back at 5 to 7 PM at night. They like practicing in the middle of the afternoon because then they have the rest of the day to themselves. These guys have spending money and it is not taking away from their training. They have a summer job that does not interfere with their training. When we have different kids going to championship meets, we adjust our swim lessons for that and make sure that these guys can go off to their meets. The week before your championship meet, you do not teach lessons so you can get a little bit more rest in. I have full control over when and how much they work. I listen to them. We do not do six hours of lessons a day because that would just be crazy. Now that we are running year round lessons we are starting to hire outside people. We will expand our lesson program and hire non-swimmers for those other lessons. However, we are still going to have that avenue for those kids to make money and they will really like that. They like the fact that they can make money. It is a great social outlet for the high school swimmers and college swimmers. It has also been great for bringing kids into our program.

Last year I was talking to Jim Wood out in Berkeley Heights. I have to give him a plug here because he had a program called “take your mark” as his pre-team. We started a “take your mark” program and had like 12 kids in it last summer. We have started again on Wednesday and we have 20 kids in it. I am very confident it is going to continue to grow. We already are getting kids out of that “take your mark” program looking to come into our swim team. That also gives another group for our 8 and under coaches to coach so we can provide more money for them. I stole the name and everything from him. The early signs are that it is going to be a great program for us.

I took my daughter to Disney World when she was three years old and I couldn’t get her in the water without a jacket on, because she always wore a float belt when she took lessons. I came back from there and I wanted her to learn to swim without aids. The lesson program just was not that strong at the Y so we started our own lesson program outside of the Y. I took some grief from that, but we were well north of the Y. We were advertising even farther north so we really were not in a big conflict with them. Obviously we were getting some people that would have taken lessons there, but, you know, it was just something we needed to do. I felt we needed the lesson program if we were going to help grow our swim program. It has been great on every level. Everybody will tell you that when you first start a lesson program “man people are going to be knocking down your door”. Yeah right, I think we grossed $1800 the first summer. Now we have a thousand lessons that we are teaching at $75 a piece. You can do the math on that.

Another thing that you have to have is great coaches. I read or heard or saw somewhere that if you get all your advisers for your business together and all the people that work for you and all the people that you count on, that when you look around and you are the smartest person in the room, your business is in big trouble. I firmly believe that.

My wife Robin is a great coach, always talking to kids, always working with them. She was a tough coach and kids got really, really good swimming for her. Then, when they came and swam for me it made my job a lot easier. When Todd Capen, who is my current head age group coach, still had another year to go at Northwestern I was counting the days for him to get out of there. I knew from his swimming days that he was a great leader in the water and he was going to be a great coach for us. He has done an outstanding job at the age group level. He was a big catalyst for me to really help get the program from around 100 kids when he joined our program to where it is 180 now. When he came to the program my own kids were kind of getting to the age where I wanted to spend more time with them. It was really a challenge. I was a little reluctant to grow the program and put myself in a position where I might have to do a lot more work and spend more time away from my family. When Todd came in he had a lot of energy for the team. We did a lot of things and he really got me moving again. He took on a lot of the work and took up a lot of the slack helping our program to grow dramatically. Largely because of Todd doing such a great job at that part of the program I was able to focus on the lessons and other things, as well as the senior group. So, I cannot tell you how much and how important it is to surround yourself with great people that are really going to help your program thrive.

I will try to get through this kind of quickly because I want to leave some time for questions. The last couple of things that I want to leave you with is what I titled “Pull the Trigger”. I have probably talked to over 100 people about owning their own club and nobody ever does it. I have seen people that are in great water conditions so that they could easily start their own program and just for whatever the reasons are, they just don’t do it. My wife used to get so mad at me because I would lay out an entire blueprint of exactly what we did and how we did it. I would talk to people for a couple of hours. She would get so mad at me and she would say, “Why do you tell them everything you did? Why are you telling them everything?” I’d reply, it doesn’t matter, they aren’t going to do it anyway. I really wish people would, but they don’t. I really think that a big part of it is the employee mentality, cutting that umbilical cord.

Your job is getting out there and doing it. As I said at the beginning, starting any business has risks involved. You know, if you are not a very good swim coach you are probably not going to have a very good business. If you are lazy and you do not attend to running the business, if you just want to be a swim coach and you do not want to attend to the other details of your business, your business is going to struggle or fail. Still, as much work as this has been for me, the value of it is that I have been working for me and my family. I have been doing this the way I want to do it. At the end of the day when I look at our program I have nobody to blame, but myself. It is my responsibility and it is what I want to do. I am running my team the way I want to. Our team has grown by leaps and bounds. I brought in great people. I don’t have to ask permission to do anything in our program. We do it the way we want to do it. One of the interesting things that I have found in our program occurs when people come to our team. I was concerned whether people would want to swim for a coach owned team?

I have seen other teams and how much control the boards have and how much control the parents on those boards want to have. The interesting thing I found out is yeah, people do want to swim for a coach owned team. They want to swim for a coach owned team because they are tired of the politics. We have so many kids on our teams that swam for other teams where their parents were presidents of the boards. I have actually heard when a swimmer comes to our team, the other coach say, ah man, that family is a nightmare, good luck with that one. Actually, we didn’t have any problems with them. That is not to say we have never have problems with parents? Yeah, we have. I would say in the first three years of the team we probably kicked five families off the team. In every situation it was because of their parents. They wanted to run the show. That is not the way we do it so we asked them to leave. I don’t think I have done that in years. I have told families if we are not doing what they want, there are a hundred clubs in Illinois, 110 clubs in Illinois and there are 80 in Chicago. I mean, every ten feet there is another club in the Chicago area. I tell them to go find one and swim for them. I am not in the business of turning swimmers away or getting rid of swimmers, but his is the way we are going to run our program. I tell parents all the time if you come up to me and ask me a question, I may not give you the answer you like, but I guarantee you, if the next person comes up and asks me the same question I am going to give them the same answer. That is just the way we run the team.

Let me give you the name of a book. The book is called “Retire Young – Retire Rich”. It is written by a guy named Robert Kiyosaki Have you ever heard of “Rich Dad – Poor Dad” series? This is one of the books in that series. I read this book last year on the flight to the facility summit in Colorado Springs. I ended up camping out in my room between meetings and just reading this book. I read it cover to cover before I ever got back home. I think I have 40 or 50 pages dog eared in this book. The book really talks about the difference between the employer and employee mentality and why owning a business really isn’t as risky as some people might think. If you start a business and it fails – okay – don’t worry about it – start another one. Learn from your lessons. It was one of those books where I was just like “yes”, absolutely every time I turned a page. It was a lot of the stuff that I had thought about even before I started the team. I had an opportunity to go to Marmion in ’92 and I didn’t take it. It was not until ’94 when I really felt that my situation at the Y was untenable. I ended up taking this job. It is a lot of work. I do a lot more work at swim meets than I did when I was an employee. I know that I am doing this to make my team better. It is certainly more fulfilling as a coach. So, if you have any questions, I will definitely take questions now. I would have to say a final thought. Just pull the trigger. If you have got the option to do it, get it done.

Yeah we do fundraising but very little. I think now, depending on how much income we get on these new families and if we have enough families we may do a swim-a-thon next year. We run a swim meet in January with about 7-800 swimmers. We require every family to sell $100 worth of ads for our meet program. They sign a contract when they register for the team that if they don’t fulfill their requirements that they will be charged $100. The families also have to work the meets. We get 95% of our families working the meet, no problem. We have the usual situation where 5% of the families do 50% of the work or 80% or 90% like any team does. Still, we do have a great group of families that do that work. We bid on and will be hosting our Senior State Meet this spring. We have plans to bid on our Age Group State Meet. I don’t go to the parents and ask them if they want to do it. We just sign them up for it. We encourage them to do it.

One thing that I am going to talk about tomorrow in my age group talk is about how we want to make this something that the kids want to do. I think it is the same way with the parents. We encourage them to work the meet. When we hosted our Senior State Meet, before the Sectional Meet, it was a great meet. That was the meet where people went to try to get junior cuts. All the swimmers in Illinois went to it and it was a great meet. We kind of billed it that way to get people in there. We hosted a meet in Wisconsin, our Age Group State Meet in Wisconsin. It was two hours away and we had 90% of the people show up and work. Some people that didn’t come to work, claiming they had family emergencies or something like that. I assumed they were real. I didn’t think about that until now. Truly we had great attendance.

Q. I just started this year with my own team and running Quick Books as well. You mentioned business men you also use also. Is there need for both?

I think for the escrow and stuff I did need both. I couldn’t figure out a way to get it right. When I started the team 12 years ago I couldn’t find an easy way for Quick Books to keep the escrow separate. I didn’t know if I could put it on a separate spread sheet. I didn’t know if there were other things. I probably could have done it differently, but with a business manager right there it seemed like the easiest way to get it going.

Q. Do you have any parent leadership group or parent organizing groups?

We don’t. Now that our team is getting bigger and we are in two different facilities, maybe we will. Jeff Pease, down in San Diego, and I have talked about this a couple of times. He has a parent booster board that he works with. It is an interesting concept. He has the swim team which I believe is for profit and he has a booster board which is not for profit. They are directed to provide X-number of dollars to the club. Initially when he set it up he said you guys need to raise this much money and that is what they did, whatever it was. If Jeff said $50,000 they raised $50,000 a year. Then they changed it and said, you have to raise $50,000 and anything you raise over $50,000 the board gets a vote. Jeff in turn gets a vote. As long as they both agree to spend the money then they spend it. He said now they are raising $100,000 a year or maybe not that much, but he said they have dramatically increased their revenues. He said the only time (this was a couple of years ago) that they have ever vetoed a request of his was when he wanted to fly his senior team to Hawaii for a training trip and they wouldn’t do it. I am contemplating it. I am just waiting for all the dust to settle with all the stuff we are doing right now. I think that is a direction we will probably move in.

Q. What is the name of Jeff’s team?
North Coast Aquatics.

Q. You mentioned your fee structure and how you are structuring your fees. Do your parents ever feel like they are fund raising just to benefit the coach? How do you handle criticism for that area of we are paying all this money and he is just getting to keep it?

I tell them to go somewhere else if you don’t like it. No, I am kidding. When I used to coach for a parent board I would go in there and hear so and so really has a problem. We have some complaints from parents. You know absolutely it is this parent that has the problem. Now, they just don’t have enough say. We did have a mom a couple of years ago (you know there are parents who want to know where the money is going). She wanted to run this raffle for us and it was her baby and I said okay, run a raffle. I don’t care. I did say you know we are running an Age Group State Meet and that I need to have workers for the State Meet. I can’t have you pulling my workers away to run this raffle. So she ran the raffle and a lot of people wanted to know where the money was going. I told her it is going for the team. I said we simply need to spend money to run a program. We even just had someone try out for the team and they wanted to know where the money went. My assistant coach called me up, Todd. He asked me this. I have a mom who wants to know where the money goes. I am like, in the checkbook. I mean, what do you mean where does it go? Well they want to know how we spend the money. I said, well, we have pool rent. We have coach’s salaries and beyond that it is none of her business. We are running a business and this is the cost to run the business and this is what we charge for this service and if you think that what we charge for that service is too much then go and swim for somebody else – okay? We have people that we are turning away every year. This is what we charge. It would be like going into a hardware store and saying, well, if I am going to pay you a hundred dollars for this lawn mower, where does that money go? How much profit are you making? Well, it is none of your business – really – so that is kind of the way we handle it.

We try, if we do a big event like that, we try to do something special. Our high school just tore out their pool and rebuilt a new one. So, we helped with the timing system by upgrading the timing system from what they were going to pay. We try to do things like that. You know, we are always buying equipment or something. We can say hey a 20 thousand dollar fund raiser and look at the new pace clock.

Our fees for lessons are right around 8 something a lesson. When we charge for our eight lessons in the summer it is $75. In the fall we just do one day a week of lessons. The way we structure our lesson programs in the summertime is Monday through Thursday for two weeks, 8 lessons. The kids come every day for a two week block. We have four two week sessions throughout the summer. Our evening lessons are two days a week for four weeks and that is going to be $75. Last summer I think it was $70. This summer I want to say we had about 70 kids in the water at a time with about 30 instructors, 25 to 30 instructors. Our ratios are under 4:1. If you just took the number of swimmers, divided by the number of instructors, it is under 4:1. It is over 3:1. I cannot remember what the exact numbers were. Actually I can tell you because we ran a lot more evening lessons so I think we had like 30 total instructors and we had about 20 that worked in the day and about 10-15 that worked at night. Some kids worked both.

Mostly each year we give them a 25 cent raise. If I have a really good instructor we will pay them more. Our site supervisors make about $15 a lesson. Those are mostly my swim coaches that do our site supervision. We do Swim America, I love the program. I know people ask why do you do Swim America and I am say because it is an awesome program that is why and I really like it. They teach three lessons in two hours so they are making around $10 an hour. Like I said, it is good money for the kids and the time works well for them.

I have never signed a coaching contract for me or any of my coaches in my life and I am not going to start now. No, I have never had a contract with my coaches. I do everything by hand shake. Like I said, most of my coaches are kids that swam for me. They know what our structure is like. Some of these kids I have known their entire lives. I have coaches at different places and I am all over the place. My coaches submit their hours to me and they tell me what I owe them. I hope they are being honest with me. Our coaches are making decent money right now. I think our age group coaches make pretty good money and our full time staff make good money. Especially Todd, his salary is going to be tied into our lessons and as our lessons grow his salary is going to grow. He has the potential to be making 70-80 thousand dollars a year if our lessons get that big. That is my goal for him. Who in this room can hire a head age group coach for 80 thousand?

Q. How do you handle health insurance and some kind of retirement and is that something that everyone is responsible for?

No. My fulltime staff we just do it individually with them. If I had a corporate account I could but we are too small right now. I have a business account. It would cost a lot more money to do it that way as a group insurance policy. It would actually cost us more money. My two fulltime coaches are in their late 20’s so their insurance is so cheap that we just do it individually with them through Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Illinois. I pay 100% of their health benefits and it is a PPO. I figure they are not making a ton of money right now so we try to do some of those other things to help them out as much as possible. I do not want to deal with the percentages of it to be honest with you. It can be less hassle just to pay their insurance as cheap as it is so we do that. We do not have retirement, but that is huge for me. My son is at Virginia Military and he is going to go into the military. I have already sat down and talked with him about saving money now. The military is a unique structure in that you can put $25,000 a year away and still have plenty of money for beer and whatever else he is going to be spending it on. So, I am big on retirement. As we start getting the growth and everything I really, really want to get a retirement plan for these coaches because I think it is so important.

Q. Do you have any of your team’s money invested for long-term gains or even short term things like CD’s? –or- Do you keep all of your cash in the bank and just work with it?

We haven’t grown that much cash yet. We really haven’t. Probably part of the reason is because in the summers I think I had 15 coaches working for me. Every single kid who ever swam for me wants to come back and get a job. I am just a sucker for that stuff. The way I spend money is not on me, it is on my coaches. That is just the way I do it. So again, I am hoping that we are earning 2 million dollars a year so that we are bringing in money faster than I can spend. I hired a full time coach before I had the swimmers to support that coach. I really knew that we were going to get this growth and it was an important step. I also thought if I had this little deficit it would force me to work a little bit harder to get over on top of it. It was the same thing with the lesson program. I don’t have time with what I am doing to run the lesson program. I don’t have time to be at our school during the school day and run lessons two days a week and be there every Saturday and every Sunday when we have swim meets to go to. So, I hired Steve Siler to do that for me. He is a training process right now, but I am confident he is going to do a great job for me. Now I can focus on my senior team and on the overall running of our business and not having to deal with the day-to-day operations of the lesson program. That is why we don’t have any money, because I keep hiring people.

Q. Have you ever heard of anyone taking over or buying a currently non-profit or an old organization or does everyone who owns their own business start from scratch?

No. Actually I have heard of coaches that have taken over. Where is Dave Stevens? Is he in the room? I think Dave Stevens did that. I know that I have talked to coaches who have taken over programs. I talked with a team about how it would work if this coach were to take over his program. We really went through his by-laws and looked at it. Basically there were some interesting things, but the parent’s board couldn’t sell the team. They would have had to have given him the team. It would have just been a transfer and then you would have to deal with the money that was in the account. I think this team had about 50-60 thousand dollars in their account. I don’t remember exactly how much it was, but they had a pretty good chuck of money in the account. We had talked about it and I said well, if you did this, you may have to have reduced fees for your membership. Lets say you had a hundred kids on the team and you had 50,000 (I am going to screw this math up, I know I am and I know people in this room know I am going to screw it up too). Maybe you would have to give a $50 a year discount for five years or whatever it is per season to pay for that. We had looked at different ways for this coach to be able to do it and the coach ended up leaving and didn’t do it. It would have been interesting to see the mechanics and actually see that go through, but it is tough from not for profit to profit too.

You know we set up our business as a for profit company, knowing that if I ever wanted go to not for profit it would be easier than going from not for profit to profit which is almost impossible.

No, he wouldn’t be able to own the team. He could be the executive director of the team or something like that and there would be a board. He could probably even set up the board so that it was him and some non-swim team families. There would probably have to be some changes in the charters of the swim team to do that, but it is certainly possible to be done. You just have to get the parents to let go. It is a negotiation. I believe if there is a will there is a way.

Jim Woods told a great story. He bought one of the Olympic Trials pools. He looked at 20 pieces of property and finally the 21st piece of property is the one that I think that he bought. I think that he is ready to roll with that now. Every time he thought he was close to a land deal it fell through. Here you have a 50 meter pool from the Olympic Trials sitting in a warehouse and you are motivated to get it in the ground and you will to get it done. I think that it is a negotiation process.

Anybody else? It depends on the time of the year. This year it is actually at the beginning of the season when we are doing all the registrations and all that other stuff. I am in the office all the time. Then I come back from morning practice. I sit down at my desk. I look at my watch and it is 3 o’clock. I have to be on deck at 3:30 so I have to get back to the pool. I get done. That is the way it used to be with me. I used to be constantly in my office. Somebody calls you and they have questions about your team, well there is a half an hour. Now with Todd and Kelly handling that stuff we are going to move the swim team phone over to their house so that business line is over there. I may never have to talk to one of our families again. At different times of the year when you have registrations or you are getting ready for tryouts, there are a lot of phone calls and things like that. It is a lot of hours. Things will be settling down and I’ll still have work to do in the office. I have to do payroll and pay bills and things like that. There are days that I really don’t need to go into the office at all, especially since I don’t have to answer the phones and check the messages. I have other people doing that at this point. It used to be it was I who had to answer phones. I mean that was how people were ten years ago. Even though there were websites and everything, everybody was still pretty much phone oriented thus constantly on the phone.

Q. Do you have any promotions?

We do. We do advertise in the papers for our tryouts and things like that. One of the things about negotiations with our park district was that because we are kind of their home team we get to advertise our program. That goes out to 170,000 people. I don’t know how many households it is. When Provena Hospital opens up their wellness center we are going to be running all of their water classes for adults and kids. That message is going to go out to everybody in Provena. A lot of that is going to go to the same houses but now we will pretty much blanket our entire geographic area. We do some direct mailing. Now we are at the point that we are really trying to grow the lesson program. We are probably going to put together a direct mailing within the next month to hit all the people that are not going to be covered by those other areas. We’ll start to put together kind of a more consistent direct mailing program for our lesson program.

Q. How much are you paying the park district for rent per hour?

$10 per lane, per hour. When we first sat down I had them convinced that since these kids paid taxes to get the facility built and that they were required to be members (although we did get their membership reduced by 30% or 33%), that they were, by charging us rent they were really triple taxing us. I got them from 10 to 5. Then he went back to his executive director and it went right back to 10. I was a little ticked about that, but what do you do?

Q.) what are your fees for your levels and do you go with monthly, quarterly, or annually payments?

We bill seasonally. I think our senior team is $900. In Illinois, if you are a high school swimmer, you have to absolutely train 100% with your high school team. You cannot train with the club team during the high school season, so they pay I think $500 or $550 It is basically half the season. Then we have our bronze group which is our 8 and unders and some of our 9 and 10’s. I don’t even know what they pay. They pay like $500. They also have a hundred dollars of their fee go to pay for the park district membership. Then I think our next group is like $750.

Q.) how many seasons? Three or four?

We do two seasons. We do a fall and we do a spring registration. Jeff Cooper at Oakland Livewires gave me one of the greatest billing tips on the planet. When we do your registrations you can write up to three checks and post date those two checks. I get the checks. So, if your team fees are $1200 you give me three checks. I think our first registration date was like September 3. So I get a check for September, October and November 3. We hold onto those checks. I have a small fireproof safe that sits on my desk. I throw all those checks in there. Each month I pull them out and I deposit checks. We do not have to run around and chase people for billing. I just found out that Quick Books now has email billing or invoicing so we are going to take advantage of that too. One of the things that I hate the most is licking envelopes and stuffing. When you have all those envelopes to stuff it is way too time consuming. If we can do it by email we will probably do it every couple of months. Then we will do each season. We will send out our bills and we will keep our registration forms online too.

Q.) Have you considered credit cards?

No. We do use credit cards for our swim lesson program. Actually people can go online. Our swim lesson website is You can go online and register and pay with a credit card, but the credit card fees are about 4-5% when you get done with all the transaction fees. I suppose we could tag on something. I just don’t want to charge our families $50 more so I can pay the bank to do the credit cards. By postdating the check the families have the ability to make payments. If the family comes to me and says, hey listen, I can’t pay my fees right now. Can I pay you back next month and can we extend it out six months? I go yeah, that’s fine, until you rip me off. You get burned occasionally on something like that, but you know, it is very, very rare. I am going to give people the benefit of the doubt if they need help. We had a family of a swimmer who had been with us for a few years and they were in really hard financial times. He was a full year back in dues. Now he has finally gotten those caught up. All I needed from him was I am working on it, you know, just the communication. It was when he didn’t talk to me for six months that I got nervous, but you know, we got those fees back. We will help families as much as we can.

Q.) Do you offer any scholarship programs?

No and part of that is because I don’t have an infrastructure like the schools do. So I just have not done it. We have never turned a swimmer away. We did at one time we have a family that could not afford it. In fact we had a couple of families so we went to some local business owners that I knew and got them to support them with $500. So we have done that.

Q.) Do you have sponsors?

We have one sponsor. McDonalds Corporation sponsors our meet in January. One of the big things they give us is those little food cards for our meet so if a kid wins an event they get a value meal or they get a burger or something like. So we fill them with poison after their races, but they are a local McDonald’s. They are our sponsor. If we had a boosters board I think they would be better equipped to handle that and get out there to the community. To be honest with you, I am a little uncomfortable with getting a lot of sponsors. You talk about raising fees to pay your salary and then you are like, hey, give me some money. I would just feel like a beggar doing it so I am not comfortable with it. Maybe I would feel comfortable if our booster board wanted to do it and they felt that they could generate some money or do scholarships or other things. If there was a reason to get the sponsorship money we would probably do it.

Anything else? Alright, thank you very much. I appreciate your coming. Thanks.


Building Your Pool by Mick Nelson and John McIlhargy, USA Swimming (2005)

My name is Mick Nelson. I am the Club Facilities Development Director for USA Swimming. Behind me and to my left is John McIlhargy. John is the Director Facilities Project Development for USA Swimming. The lovely young lady who is trying not to be noticed is Sue Nelson. Sue is the Aquatic Programs Specialist for USA Swimming. We are a department of three people which is a service department for USA Swim Clubs.

We have been asked many times this week, what does USA Swim Club mean? In this department a USA Swim Club is a USA registered swim club. In terms of the service from our department, it is also includes a municipality or a school that serves as a training facility for a USA Swim Club. That is important because one of our main purposes is to get coaches and teams more water time for training and other club programs and business. We are broadening our scope to include a learn-to-swim school that feeds into a USA Swim Club. They can also get our services to a certain extent. Our job is to get our member clubs more usable water. It is that simple.

In 45 minutes we are going to attempt to give you an overview. We are limited as to how much we can cover in 45 minutes, but this talk will be full of information that can be important to you. Some of the handouts are extremely important. They have a lot of information on them. You can access our email and we can send you a lot of pertinent information that will get you from a starting procedure to a presentation to an athletic director, an owner, a health club or a municipality. Our job is to support you. We want to help you get projects that begin as a drawing on a napkin into a conceptual presentation that are professional and realistic.

We want to first plug our second annual USA Build a Pool Conference. We had one last year. It was attended by about 180 plus people. Out of that we have four real projects that are either in the ground or that are mounds of dirt that we could call the beginning of a swimming pool. Hopefully, we will have a lot more. A standard project time line is around 18 to 22 months. That is from the time you start the conception or schematic designs to the time that you are actually saying “take your mark go” and have someone diving into the water.

It takes time. Last year was a tremendous conference. This year it is going to be a better conference. It will be a little bit different. Even if you came last year, you will get new information. It will be presented in a different format. If you came to last year’s Build a Pool conference but you have not broken ground, I think it would be worthwhile for you to consider attending. The dates are on the flyer up here and if you are a USA Swim Club, you get a $500 rebate for attending the conference which pretty much covers air fare and motel. If two people from the same club come to the conference, there is a $600 rebate. Again, our job is to try to educate you so that you end up with the best product and the best business system possible.

We decided to focus on a couple of things. First of all, there are at least two new methodologies or products that you probably have not been exposed to that can make a huge difference for you to be able to afford to build a pool. In a moment, Mac will spend about 20 minutes talking about this part of the process.

It is important that you understand our prime directive. Our prime directive is simple: programming precedes design. You cannot build a pool and run a successful business and have an impact on your community unless you have a programming concept and a business plan of what you will do with that pool. That is the number one issue when pools are publicly funded with a heavily bureaucratic process. Too often a pool gets built and the high school or the swim club uses it from 3-7 PM but then the question gets asked, “now what”? That “now what” question has to be asked when you first sit down to talk about the pool. A sub-bullet to our prime directive is: never build one pool.

Mac will now run the show for quite a few minutes. What he has to say is extremely important if you are trying to get this tool of our trade. Afterwards, we will try to leave some time for questions. Again, his name is John McIlhargy but we call him Mac. He is the project development director for USA Swimming. OK, here is Mac.

Thanks Mick and thank you all for attending. As Mick alluded, I am the director of project development which makes me a little bit more specific to each person’s individual problems and solutions. My background is architectural engineering and construction management. There are some complicated issues regarding pools. We are going to just touch base on the areas of pool basics.

We are all coaches. We are all aquatic professionals. We have been in pools for most of our life. This picture is sitting up here for a reason. It is concrete K-rails. Does anybody know what a K-rail is? They are room dividers that can actually be considered a part of a pool unit. Pools are four retaining walls that are erected with a bottom that is water proofed. It is not that complicated of an engineering feat to do. Too many times we get wrapped up in the pool itself, the physical plant of the pool such as the pool structure, filtration equipment and we forget about the more important thing which is the real task; making them profitable. I am therefore going to skip right past this since everybody has seen a schematic design of a pool, okay? It really is, essentially, four retaining walls that can be done in a bunch of different ways and we are going to talk about those different ways right now. It has a waterproof bottom to hold water. It has filtration equipment, chemical control systems and all of the racing gear that go with it. From a structural point of view, it is a basic retaining wall design.

We are going to start talking about the different wall structures that we have. Most of you may have had a chance to visit the Natatorium here. Have you heard about Myrtha pools? Myrtha is the type of pool used at our trials and world championships? It is a very simple design. It is stainless steel. It comes in varied heights. It has a bottom. It has some form of liner, whether it is baked on or not? And it has an intricate system of plumbing to deal with recirculation systems for water. There are benefits to these pools. Being an old concrete guy who has done 20 years of concrete pools it took me a little while to come along with them, but some of the benefits of these pools are the time of construction or erection for those pools which saves cost in the long-term. That is the first major benefit.

Structurally, they are very good structures that I do not consider load bearing walls though. A load bearing wall is something that I could actually drop a deck on top of. Concrete structures are load bearing walls; 45,000 pounds per square inch and I can put a deck right on top of it. That wall will be up there for decades to come. However, it does a great job of holding water and that is what our job is. We are starting to see the cost of them gradually get more expensive, but it is still a value to be considered. These are some structural pictures of them. Basically it is just a structural wall, three foot panels with cross beams and a gutter sits on top of it. None of this pool is welded. It is bolted together. That is perhaps a weakness. It is seamed every three feet. It’s all water with a PVC seamer. Some have actual PVC liners in them. They work very well. Depending on the ground environment (the soil conditions) that we are going to be putting them in, they could last very long. We are starting to see these pools now at their 20 year life cycle which is kind of where I waited to jump on the band wagon and they are doing very well. I do not prefer to backfill them with soils and grounds. I would prefer to leave a space in it. That adds cost to the project. For the most part, the ones that we are seeing marketed in the United States are Natari and Myrtha. Astral Pools has one also. This structure is made of stainless steel, but it is a product called 304 low carbon stainless steel. It will rust. Stainless steel can rust. You have to be conscious of that. High grade stainless steel would make it cost prohibitive to put in the ground. Therefore I prefer to keep the ground and water away from it as best as is possible.

Concrete is another way to go. There are three types of concrete pools. There is a cast in place concrete pool. This is basically just like you pour any retaining wall for a house or a basement. They have some problems and some solutions. Almost any contractor in the country can do a cast in place pool. They do not need to be a specialty pool builder, but they have water stops. Water stops are basically where the concrete comes together. I will try to show you on this board that if you look at a traditional water stop, you have a floor and right where these two come together we seal it. If there was to be any movement in the ground, that water stop can break. That is probably the weakest point for a pre-cast pool however you can probably get a lot of value with a good general contractor in your area. We tend to see a bit more of pre-cast pools now.

I alluded to a K-rail which is something that you can just drop right on the ground. Well that is a pre-cast piece of concrete and it is already done. You could buy pre-cast walls in the same way and they could be erected relatively quickly. The same problem exists though with water stops and then gunite or marsite which is a pneumatically applied concrete which doesn’t allow a cold joint to seal the walls. If anybody doesn’t know what a cold joint is, it is when you pour two levels of concrete and they come together. It is usually a weak part of the concrete. They call it a cold joint and that is most likely going to crack. In 20 years of doing concrete pools I could tell you one basic thing to remember. The rules are concrete. It gets hard and it cracks. Those are the only two rules. The problem with concrete is it is porous. Water will go through it so we have to waterproof it. There are a lot of ways to waterproof it. Renosys has a system for waterproofing concrete. You have marsite which is basically applied like plaster to it. You have tile which has a bunch of ways to waterproof it. I could tell you from my experience that concrete pools will probably last the longest of this gambit, but they will probably cost much more up front to put in right now. We are de-commissioning a pool right now. Where is Collard Johnson? Is he here? The upstairs Y pool is a hundred years old? Correct? They are out of it now but that gives you an idea of how long a concrete pool can last. That concrete pool was on the 4th or 5th floor I think. The 4th floor, so a concrete pool can last a long time. It has some maintenance issues though, whether you have grouting tile, whether you have re-marsiting or cleaning the bottom. You have got to expect some down time in operations for that.

The bottom of the pool is probably the single most important part. There are a lot of ways to do the bottom. For the most part, Myrtha, Astral, Natari and Renosys all have poured concrete bottoms. Ours does even a gunite application. The difference between gunite is that it is monolithic. It is one big sprayed on piece. If it were to lift out of the ground it would come out as one structure. Unlike a Myrtha pool or another steel wall pool, the bottom could actually move and walls don’t which actually is a benefit if there is a seismic activity. This way our walls do not crack on us so there are other bottom applications. I have seen compacted gravel with liners on top of it. There is compacted sand. All of these things affect price and application. I have to go through some of this fast so if you have questions regarding the individual differences I have some information and we could talk about it specifically, but most of this has to do with a pricing structure and a construction schedule.

Fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP). Has anybody visited the Yamaha booth? FRP is an interesting product. It has been around for years. It is a recyclable product. It is durable, but does anybody own a boat? The bottom of a boat is a gel-coated fiberglass. It has some maintenance issues also. It also has some cost implications. On the grand scheme of things the FRP is probably the most expensive of the group among concrete, steel and FRP. However, it is a beautiful pool. There are many different ways to apply it and it comes very much in the same wall structure basically. The one thing I liked about the FRP is they are much larger than the 3 foot panels that we see in the steel panel market. It needs fewer seams. If you look at their product right now it still has a liner bottom, but underneath it they have a fiberglass bottom which I really like. It is a light-weight pool. I think the cost is still relatively prohibitive right now. Just the purchase price of those wall systems is about the same as building a concrete pool. The FRP was used in Japan for the World Championships. The pool did great. It held up. I have questions about UV susceptibility for outdoor pools. Anybody who knows anything about plastics knows that when they warm up they can wave on you, which is why gutters haven’t been made out of fiberglass for years. They still use stainless steel or concrete. I am not going to go into the more important things which is how gel coating polyester fibers works so if anybody has a question about that I will get back to that later. From a maintenance point of view they are very good. I still think that in the top two feet of ultraviolet light we are going to discolor. Has anybody used the fiberglass bulkhead system? They have a habit of discoloring over time? So I am a little concerned about that.

We are going to touch base on the hydraulics of a pool. Again, this is not a major issue. The questions that we have to ask ourselves are if our plumbing is going to be buried or is it going to be accessible? I can almost guarantee that anybody with buried plumbing with underground plumbing return lines, that this will be the weak part of your pool. Over time, shifts in the ground and pool settling can cause cracks in the plumbing and that is very costly to repair. What we see with the steel pools, the fiberglass reinforced pools is the plumbing coming around the perimeter of the pool. That makes a lot of sense from a maintenance perspective and it is a relatively simple process. The plumbing here is relatively over-sized. I believe this was the plumbing used in Long Beach. We had to deal with some issues regarding the Long Beach pool and a relatively complicated series of plumbing events, but the concept is really simple. We have to turn over the water as fast as possible. We have to clear our gutters for wave squelching basically. We have to be able to chemically treat and return the water back to the pool. In past years, some of those return lines are in your gutter systems. Some of them are floor inlets and some of them are sidewall inlets. Side wall inlets are becoming more prominent every day. It is low enough not to cause any problems or currents in the pool. It disburses chemicals better within the pool and it still allows me to keep the plumbing from being underground.

About 70% of our service calls at USA Swimming for older pools are plumbing related where the ground has shifted and the underground plumbing has broken. They are losing water or pressure, depending on which side it is and chopping out the underground plumbing is very expensive. Some of those repairs are $700,000 plus. I could have just taken the pool out and put a new one in, so this is why I look to look at those types of things.

You have filtration equipment which I am sure you guys have gotten an earful about. There are pressure sand vessels, vacuum sand vessels and diatomaceous earth. There are many different vessels out there that deal with the filtration, but for the most part it is either sucking water through or blowing water through some type of media. It is a relatively simple process. The problem really is that none of these processes are doing a really good job of dealing with things like chloramines in the air. They are part of the system in dealing with chemical controllers. We are not helping a lot. We recommended that at USA Swimming we start to look at not a side stream alternative, but right in line, ultraviolet light system in conjunction with any filter that you have. The UV light systems have provided a tremendous amount of chloramines busting-ability. I hate to use that word. It sounds like a salesman, but the reality is that it kills 99.9% of the bacteria. It helps break down chloramines that eventually will off gas into your pool through the water. In a new construction project it is not a big deal in the budget. As an add-on, it could be as much as 50-60,000 dollars. However, as we talk about chemical controllers and adding chlorine to pools, chlorine is a deadly gas. You all breathe chloramines in pools. Does everybody here have bad air quality pools? Or do you sit in those? That is just a chemical off-gassing of your pool and the more you use it the more you off-gas. We need to figure out how to deal with it and the ultraviolet was the only thing that we have seen work that does it immediately right after the filtration system at 100% of the flow rate. The possible harm to our athletes and the coaching staff is one thing. The damage to a building is another.

I have had to deal with brick, mortar, concrete, steel and water so I am going to stay away from the sport of swimming for a second. The reality is that I have replaced more air-handling units because of chloramines damage and that costs twice the amount of the unit itself. If it is breaking down those systems already and you guys see it any place where you visibly see steel or metal in your building. Can you imagine what it is doing to the structure of your building? It is completely reducing its lifespan and that is a very costly repair, very costly. Is anybody in the middle of any of these types of repairs? What a pain in the butt those repairs are and quite frankly, we don’t even know what it has done. It has taken down buildings in past years so we are a little concerned about that. USA Swimming is also sponsoring an air quality study that we are doing right now and better ways of handling that, so we will hopefully be able to have that report done by our conference.

We are going right into some building structures. You got the traditional building structure which is brick, mortar, steel, steel trusses which are relatively expensive for the most part. They run somewhere about 160-250 dollars a square foot to build a building like this. The benefits are quite frankly that it is built to last the test of time. We hope it lasts fifty to sixty years without major renovation however it requires a tremendous amount of general contracting ability and time. Some of the clubs that we deal with are looking to get into pools relatively quickly. This project, for instance, took almost two years in construction. That is even before the pools were filled. I will give you some pictures of what is going on here, but the process is as simple as it could be really. You have to put your pool in first. That leaves your pool subject to damage in the future through the rest of the construction project. Then you have to, of course, erect all of your truss systems which have to be pre-engineered and sent to site and then you have all your concrete work, brick laying and mortar decking. By the time it is done, we did have a problem in this pool. We had taken out the scaffolding and found out that they had dropped a piece of a truss system which was a cross member right on the pool and cracked the shell. That added three months to the project. It is just one of those issues you have to deal with sometimes in traditional construction and requires a tremendous amount of general contractor ability and quite frankly, the requirement of some type of construction manager to help run the project. Most people do not have the background to deal with pool structure so pre-engineered steel buildings, although not always the most attractive, but they come ready for assembly and any general contractor in the country can assemble a pre-engineered building. On a slab, sometimes we call it foundation slab or foundation piers; it is a relatively quick process. It is about half of the cost of traditional construction. You could see an old tried and true basic steel building. It works. There is a pool in this building and it works. Here is another one which is actually a steel building. It does not have to look that ugly, but this started to approach more traditional construction costs. This was around $145. per square foot to make this barrel roof structure and in lieu of sidewalls like this we added something they call cowall which is basically a translucent glass panel. It is a steel building, just so you know. You can do a lot with steel buildings as you go through the process. Can anybody tell me what the major drawback of a steel building is? Is it steel? Yes, because steel corrodes. There are a lot of ways to treat it inside. There are different types of powder coatings. However once they start bolting these things together, if they do not go back over the work, rust tends to develop. If you have it powder coated inside on a steel building and it starts to rust from an area where the bolts go through for instance, it will work its way under the coating and you will not even see it until it is a little late and then you will have to do some repair. However it is more repairable than a traditional building because its bearing load is a little different. It all sits on a major truss system and here is one being erected right now. It is a relatively simple structure and its erection time is relatively quick. It is about half that of normal construction. That makes it something to consider in the future of a pool building. Depending on the kind of entrances you have, it could be a beautiful and esthetic building. For those that are architecturally minded it can be made to be quite gorgeous.

Then we have the composite buildings. These are relatively new. These are Aqualand buildings out of England. This polycarbonate structure was designed to be a permanent structure and a telescoping building. It is kind of interesting. Has anybody seen these before? Does anyone have one of the telescopic buildings? I am going to Europe to look at more, but it offers an interesting solution. It does not require a tremendous amount of load on a deck. It doesn’t require the use of some form of foundation blocks for it. It is a relatively light structure. What it basically does is ride on a track. We like the telescopic ones. We talk about these a lot because it allows me to convert an existing outdoor facility and make it indoors year round. Its major limitation is it can only span 100 feet in width. It has some other problems. It is a translucent panel that is not quite as wide open, but obviously there is a heat gain to the pool and anybody that has been in a pool that has lots of glass knows about the heat gain to the pool. Problems arise when we combine heat, humidity, the introduction of chemicals and lots of swimmers. It is not the most energy efficient of the group. It has some energy issues however it does much better than something like a bubble. In the grand spectrum of things the bubble is the fastest, most economical way to cover a pool. They work but they are not the most attractive. They have issue too. Sometimes it rains inside of bubbles. They are energy consumers and these days, energy consuming is a big problem. It really impacts our operational budget. The Aqualand type building which we just showed you is the next level up from that. It is retractable. It can open and close a building. You do not have to worry about taking down the bubble and storing it. It is just on site that way.

And then we have architectural membrane buildings. Architectural membrane is tension fabric. Has anybody been to the Denver airport or seen pictures of it? It is a great product. It is one that we are talking a lot about at USA Swimming. It has all the benefits of a steel building in that it erects very fast; about three weeks, without that huge cost factor. It is approximately $35 per square foot installed. It has snow load capabilities that match that of a traditional building. It has the ability to be translucent so you could have some natural sunlight inside and save some energy. It has the ability to be insulated up to R-30. It has a snow load capacity up to 100 pounds per square inch which is that of a normal building. These are pretty impressive buildings. Some other things that I thought about with these buildings are that I could lease this building, and I could finance this building directly from them. I am using a universal product here that I am showing, but there are four manufacturers of them. It doesn’t have to be considered a permanent building which means your tax rate does not necessarily go up for a permanent building. They are quite beautiful from the inside. I have seen some that have been incredibly attractive, but it does have one major downfall. Does anyone know what that is? Pools have already been put in them and they are guaranteed for 20 years and that is a good enough life span for me at $35 a square foot, and the only thing that is really going to go bad is possibly the truss system which is already powder coated aluminum which should stand the test of time. It can be repaired. Vandalism has the same problems as with the bubble. It is very easy to walk up to something and cut it open. It is a Teflon PVC that works very well so we have to kind of figure out a way to keep the kiddies away from the sides, however, you can look at that as an option to maybe even installing a wall up to 8 or 12 feet and then using this as a roof structure.

I am starting to quote school districts using these buildings that can’t get into pools so I wanted to share with you that there were some other options out there. I don’t want people to get caught up too much in their pool design right away. I want them to be more caught up in their programming and operations and maintenance issues that are related to those things. The architectural and engineering profession usually doesn’t like when I walk around and tell everybody that it’s not a big deal. The pool is not a big deal right now. The ability to program it is the real challenge that we face going into the next century in swimming. Those are the things that are actually hurting us the most. Construction of a pool is still the most expensive per square foot to build, operate and maintain at any physical plant so if you are sitting in a school or a YMCA, the pool is the most expensive square foot for them to build. Those options I talked about are not perfect. There are all kinds of problems with them. But you know, when you start to weigh its value and its cost or the ability to stay in a pool the year round and program it, those are the things that we need to all take into consideration as we move forward.

Question: WHAT IS THE APPROXIMATE COST OF THE COMPOSIT BUILDING PER SQUARE FOOT? We are looking at around fifty-five dollars a square foot. The nice thing about that is the ability to come back in and go over an existing pool with something that is very easy to open and close. There are places in this country where I could have it wide open during the day and need to close at night just because the temperature drops. The problem with opening and closing a pool is that you if you open doors and blow fans in your environment, you are affecting the pressure inside that building. You have, in effect, caused another problem by doing that, but you have managed to save two hours of good breathing time. Air handling dehumidification is one thing that we stayed away from today. There is a tremendous amount of information that we need to talk about regarding that. All these buildings can accept air handling systems very readily. Lights carry loads for all your scoreboards. These are not issues in these buildings. Sometimes there are issues obviously in air supported domes. I do not normally recommend air supported domes unless of course that is the only way you are going to stay in a pool. Whatever lets us be in pools year around is good by me. I just know that over the next five years we are looking at some interesting problems in this country regarding construction. It is kind of opportunistic to talk about this, but we are sitting here and the costs of steel end construction, even with steel coming back down over the last six months, it is going to just skyrocket. Almost all our resources are going to billions of dollars worth of new construction and issues. That is going to start to generate higher prices for construction which is why I decided at this conference to start talking about some pre-engineered structures instead of traditional brick and mortar. We will continue with Mac’s part because we are not going to be able to have much time to do anything, but let me remind you again: programming precedes design.

There are a couple of things that our department is doing. We are identifying what we would call preferred providers. You have heard about module steel pools. You have heard about fiberglass reinforced plastic. You have heard about marcite, gunite, shot concrete. These terms do not do you much good by themselves. That is what we are here for. We are here to be an owner’s advocate so we are doing this research for you. We know the manufacturer’s track records. We know their industry history and who has good products and who are willing to give preferred service and/or pricing to USA Swim Clubs. That is what we bring. That is our job. You do not have to do this to become a construction expert. Let us work with you on that if you have a potential project. Decide what you want to do. Decide what your end product will be: whether you want two pools, three pools, a therapy pool, a recreational pool, a leisure pool or a spray pool. Obviously we all would like a 50 meter pool, but you may have to have an eight or ten lane 25 yard because of your budget. The competitive tank is the most important thing, but if you approach the project or the concept carrying the banner of the competitive pool, you may fail. In fact, I will say you will fail more times than not because when you go into the community to try to sell this concept, whether for business purposes to generate memberships, or to do a business plan or whether it is just to get financial support for a school district to bring land to the project so that you can partner with them, you need to highlight more than just the competition pool If you try to get any kind of bond or referendum vote, you are going to lose the 60 and older, the 45-60 and you are going to lose the 35-25 back end vote if you sit there and harp on how great a competitive pool is and how our sport needs to be subsidized. However if you approach a project more broadly you may succeed and you may even reverse the tide that might have gone against your idea. We have actually reversed votes three times in communities that voted down pools.

Propose the theme that we are going to build a community pool to improve health and wellness, and address the two major issues in this country: drowning and obesity. Drowning of children is the #1 cause of death for children 3 years old and under and drowning in general is the #2 cause of death throughout this entire country. We must present the pools as a way to improve health and obesity. Talk about building a community pool with a ramped entry and suitable temperature, access and depth control so we can do vertical exercise and conduct community learn to swim programs and have a therapeutic small tank where we do some athletic training and physical therapy. Talk about partnering with a hospital or at least offer them that service, and mention that we have a big pool over there to swim laps in. I know I sound so simplistic, but I am telling you that with the right approach you turn your adversaries into advocates. They come to realize that this pool will keep their kids and grandkids from drowning, and they can exercise despite their arthritis which keeps them from using a treadmill. They realize they can go in 88 degree water and walk back and forth and feel great. They are willing to spend money on their health and wellness. Your adversaries disappear with the right approach. You get advocates. The lap pool draws adult swimmers (Masters), and it can be used for EMT training.

I wouldn’t walk into a pool project with less than three pools. In Florida, California or Texas with a warmer climate, I would not walk into a facility that had less than two indoor pools and a universal tension fabric building, architectural membrane that I could use year around and put my 50 meter pool outdoor. If you design it properly you can always cover it later. So, there are a lot of alternatives.

One other thing I want to touch upon involves some practical considerations. I think it is important that you design a pool properly so you can get an 8 or close to a 10 lane 25 yard pool, in the ground, walk away with decks for less than 400,000 dollars. If you live in California, you need to add 15%. Now, that is not a million dollars. I am not quoting bath houses and I am not quoting indoor. This is a tank. I would like to have another outdoor pool. It does not have to be a million dollars. Let’s look at a full size competition pool. We can help you get a 50 meter X 25 yard pool which is a good design because you do not need bulkheads. I think we can help you get one in the ground for less than a million dollars. That is unheard of in the last five years. These are quality products in the ground. I don’t care whether you go in or out. When you go with a modular type pool (that is my term for them), a pre-engineered steel pool you will have some extra costs related to access decking, ADA and this type of stuff so unless there is a reason why I can’t go in, I would rather bolt it, actually build a way to keep the ground backed away from it and put it in the ground. It is the same product. None of the people we are dealing with in “modular pools”. You cannot make a pre-standing pool as you saw in the World Championships at Conseco Field House or at Long Beach. But, those are realistic figures. Those are the type of things to start if you want a pool.

First you program them. You figure out how many you can do and what you are going to have in terms of land, what kind of money you can bring to the table, what kind of equity you can bring to the table and people. You have to have a business plan. Most of the time an individual, unless they are very entrepreneurial and have found a piece of land they invested in a while ago or are willing to spend a couple of years finding a perfect piece of land and get the deal on it, most of the time equity and your stake in the business is a tough call. It really is because by the time you get the land, where do you get the money for the pool? A pool is not an asset. If you put a pool in the ground in a building you just depleted the value of that building by at least 30, if not 50%. That is important to know because if you talk to a banker, what do they do with the pool if you go broke? They have to pay to take it out. However, some of the alternatives that Mac mentioned about architectural membrane structures having a buy back option. Some of the steel pools that are modular pools have lease/buy-back options. Then you could be dealing with a different thing that would enhance what equity you bring to the project.

I am going to ask you for a couple of things because I am probably going to be your first contact. I am going to ask you to basically tell me what you want, and what you have already identified that you can bring to the project, whether it be land or whether it be a great business plan with investors or partners with school districts or whatever. Then the first thing I am going to do is I am going to send you a document called steps for business and I am going to ask you to go through these steps to see where you are and what you need to do because if you do not approach this with a plan, you have already failed and the first part of that plan focuses on how you are going to operate this facility once you get it built. What are your income streams and your operational costs? We have what we call USA Swimming calculator you can ask me for. You tell me you want an outdoor 50 meter and an indoor 25 yard six lane and a 20 x 40 ramped entry therapy pool. You say you want a modular steel building. You tell me what part of the country and I will send you a calculator that tells you what approximately it should cost and what it will cost you to operate per square foot and what your programming needs can be in your area because we know the demographics of almost every place in this country. That will get you started so you can see if this is unrealistic or possible. We have already done that for you.

You can talk with Mac or me or with our aquatic programming specialist about any of your questions or concerns. Feel free to talk to any of us about anything and we will make sure that we guide you in the right direction as far as this goes. If I said one thing that I feel is most important, it is that Programming precedes design and there is more to programming than “take your marks go and doing ten 300’s on 4 minutes” . As coaches, we live for that but that is not what programming is. Programming is multi-tiered. It is a full session to cover.

Anybody have any questions? I see Mac standing behind me so he probably didn’t like one thing I said. I am looking at some of the expenses after the pool is built. You have got your heat and your electricity. You should look at systems that will help reduce those costs.

Have you looked at microturbine for generation? Yes. It is a great product with good recovery. We are definitely addressing that part of it because that is the operational cost coefficient that I would send you on the USA Swimming calculator. You would tell me where you live as it affects operational costs. In Minneapolis (MN), your operational costs are going to be approximately $14 a square foot, not including salaries. We can figure that out. If you are next to a hockey rink like in Rochester, you can use co-generation with a heat release off of the hockey rink to help do this. I am not the expert in that, okay? I am learning about that.

Are you looking at co-generation? It is a great idea and quite frankly your own energy company may have some ideas for it. That is what you really have to look at. You have to give them a call. They may have a subsidy to help do it. Most of the energy reduction plans out there are relatively costly up front. Over life cycles you are usually saving a tremendous amount of money. Co-generation is not one of them. I know that Keyspan Energy in New York for instance will actually pay for half of the cost of a Co-Gen plant so that is something you want to look at. Get them to cover some of those costs. They need to reduce the amount of energy that is coming to you. If we don’t have the answer, this is what our nucleus providers we are putting together as USA Swimming do so we can gear you towards the people who can give you good answers to those types of questions. But, yes, amortizing energy costs whether it be Geo-thermal, co-generation or whether it be passive solar are all things with initial costs that are higher, but you can amortize it over one or two years and look like a genius for the next twenty. And it can bring a reality component. Even little things like McBall Winter Covers help. If you cover your pools every night you can cut your electrical bill and your gas by 30%. That can be $23,000.00 recovery in four months.

I have a ZONING question. IF YOU HAVE AN EXISTING OUTDOOR POOL AND YOU ARE PUTTING IN EITHER A MEMBRANE OR SOME KIND OF REMOVABLE STRUCTURE, WOULD THAT CHANGE THE ZONING? It depends on your area. Some architectural membranes won’t be allowed because of its architectural compatibility and the way it looks. Usually it is more of an esthetic issue than it is a structural issue. Every zoning is different. It is important to know about this and get the zoning permits.

For those who are not sure who to get involved in your community, we have a template for that we can provide you. We will be glad to talk to anybody about anything. Thank you all for listening to us today.


Breaststroke: What we Can Learn by Watching the Champions by Glenn Mills and Dave Denniston (2005)

Introduction and presentation by Glenn Mills, with comments by Dave Denniston in all caps.

One of the reasons I’m involved in swimming is because of guys like Dave Denniston. Whether or not they are swimming or being challenged with things that we don’t know how we would deal with, athletes like Dave have spirit, and they want to share it with others. When I was asked to do this, I wanted to make sure that Dave was with me because he was the one who helped me get started with all of this stuff. So…my great friend and obviously one of the funniest guys in all of swimming – Dave Denniston.

Yeah – go ahead – follow that up.




Yes – okay – now this is the stroke that we really know the best. But it is still a study, especially with some of the new styles. A lot of people are asking me about the new breaststroke rule. We won’t be covering it here because I don’t have any good film of anybody cheating yet. I actually have a session set up next Monday or Tuesday with Kevin Clements, one of Dave’s great friends and you saw him this morning during our freestyle presentation. Kevin is going to cheat for me for a couple of days next week and we will get something really good put together.


That wasn’t even funny. I tell you what – nothing would make me happier than to see you cheat next week, all right?

OK. Breaststroke extension. I have worked with kids a lot and try to tell them to get full extension – get the perfect streamline on every stroke. Unfortunately it is a little bit too much to ask in reality.


It does, Dave. But that’s you doing a pushoff.


Right. But let’s watch what you do on every stroke. Okay. There it is. Not quite streamline but it is with very purposeful hands that Dave swims.

Even though Dave doesn’t have a perfect streamline out front, the important thing that I take from this video clip is that his hands are inside of his body. His hand position is not going to affect him adversely and his hands are ready to pull him and ready to catch. I think the important thing about this is that he is completely extended — as far out as possible -– just like the freestylers we saw this morning.

As Dave picks up the pace – what do you think about here, Dave? Is it A) How deep you go or….



But notice something else about Dave’s stroke here. As he picks up the pace, everything happens close to the surface of the water. So because he knows that his style is going to be one of a quicker turnover, there is really no reason for him to dive way down deep like you will see in a minute with Amanda Beard and Kaitlin Sandeno.


Dave is a big fan of Amanda so you might hear some things, but we will calm him down a little bit.

Now Amanda. What I notice about her is that she finishes her stroke in full extension with her palms together. Now, is this some big thing that she thought of or is this just the most comfortable way for her to extend forward? I don’t know if Greg already left. I told him I was going to call on him. Did he take off? All right. Greg Rhodenbaugh, my old lane mate in Cincinnati, is one Amanda’s coaches. And he snuck out because I was going to ask him to tell you directly. You know, is this something they worked on or is this something that Amanda just does? And I think that since he is not here…ah…she just does it. He didn’t do anything for her. Yeah he is gone, all right. So again, this is…what did you call this last night, Dave?


Isn’t it kind of wild how Kaitlin Sandeno had the same thing going on with her hands in freestyle as Amanda does in breaststroke? She’s got like that West Side thing, you know. Her hands are so relaxed that they are kind of in a funky position. Everything is really reaching out front, but she is not so worried about what her hands are doing at this point.


Yes, sir.


So she does attack a little bit further down, but then planes herself out just under the surface of the water.


Yes, because she has a great….


There you go. She has a great kick, which we are going to see in a little bit, whereas Dave doesn’t take as much advantage of his kick.


Let’s stick with the little feet right now, okay? Now Kaitlin and Erik Vendt. Erik is a tremendous breaststroker – he can do anything. And Kaitlin will tell you, breaststroke is her weakest stroke, but she still is pretty phenomenal, even though she has got the Amanda hands. This was kind of a crazy thing in watching this. Erik and Dave both extend forward with their palms flat down. Amanda and Kaitlin both extend forward with their palms in toward each other. I don’t know if this is a guy thing or a girl thing and I don’t know if you coaches really focus on that with your athletes, but it is one of these interesting things — if you try to force one person to do something else, something natural or unnatural is going to come out and you might actually affect their stroke in an adverse way. So the hand position – all I am taking from this is that let them do whatever they want as far as extending forward. It is full extension regardless – narrow and completely out front.


Again, here is Erik extending forward with palms down, but reaching. You get a sense here of just how much he reaches. You are looking at some of the greatest athletes here. What is the position that you tell your age-group swimmers to never be in when they push off the wall? Superman. Any of you ever said “superman”? Look at this – every stroke. Erik is in superman, but at the same time his hands are inside his shoulders so he is just leveling himself off and gliding forward. We are going to see in a minute that his hands catch in a different way than Dave’s and Amanda’s, so this is actually a pretty good position for Erik to be in.


I forget.


Well, tell me one more time.


I think we are also going to find out in a minute that if you go into a perfect streamline — as we focus on the head position in breaststroke, and the action that it takes — if you are too tight with this extension out front, you are really going to cut off an important part of the stroke.

Again – right there – extension. She was just so far forward. So this was just a little fun thing I did for Dave is that we have got Dave’s hands extending with the palm down. Amanda’s hands are extending with the palms inward. Erik’s hands extend with the palms down and Kaitlin’s hands extend with the palms inward and here we have got all four of them side by side and the most important thing about this is not necessarily the palms, but look at every one of them. They are reaching as far forward as they can.


Let’s see…. If we take a quick vote, who votes for Dave? Okay. And everybody else says no. Okay – Dave wins.

All right, full extension. Make sure the hands go as far out as possible. Send the hands forward and make sure the pull doesn’t start until they reach out and you can almost feel it in your body. You are almost groaning – reaching forward on each stroke of breaststroke. You strain to get your hands out there even farther.


Well, you know what – for a short guy like me it was.

All right, breaststroke pull. Just like on freestyle – create a ledge. Create something to pull on as soon as possible. So, as Dave was telling you – he gets his hands turned out quickly. Dave has an extremely wide pull.


He has long arms. He is using them for everything they’re worth.


But how far back does he go?


So he cuts his pull off right at his shoulders and doesn’t go past his shoulders so he makes sure that at this part – when he is really sweeping out — he engages his back and his lats and he gets everything involved into it and you can see….


Oh I am sorry – just the lats then.


Now really quickly here – the one thing I want you to think about on this is that once you’ve gone out on the outsweep, everything starts in. You will see on all these athletes – how fast the hands start to come in.

We are going to go with the recovery next, but the in-sweep of the pull is probably one of the most important things for your kids to think about and if they do pull back too far, that is when they get stuck if their body position isn’t correct.


Amanda also has an extremely wide pull. You will see that she uses every part of her arm possible. This is such an impressive – I mean – I loved working on this video because I learned so much about what she really does.


It is all about the editing, Dave. Again, notice how wide she is and depending on the angle you catch her at – you can actually get some misinformation. You know, it looks like her arms are absolutely straight just from where I am sitting and where she is swimming over me right there, but you can see that she really uses her hands quite a bit and you start to understand – she has got really long fingers too — so she is using as much as possible. She was just being nice there – dove under me, but again – let’s watch this quick at full speed. Watch the in-sweep. Watch how quick her hands are as they come in.


Enough out of you. She pulls as far back as she possibly can without running into her body. She gets everything that she possibly can out of her pull and it is almost as if she hugs herself right in here.


That’s not good. The reason that Dave doesn’t come up as high is because his shoulders are really wide and he would plow into the water on the recovery if he took his hands too far back. So how far do you want to turn your wrists over? It is probably going to depend on each athlete. You have to be careful about this because there is nothing productive there and a lot of your swimmers will really push like that because it feels good – it feels powerful. They feel like they are doing something and they care about swimming. People love that feeling of power and press too much. You are not really getting anything because you are so weak right there.

When we go to Kaitlin and Erik – they both swim with a similar stroke that they developed at USC where it is almost like a butterfly stroke and every thing straight down. It is a narrow stroke, but it is pulling straight back and you will see the hands actually go down instead of out with both of them. You can see how far back Kaitlin’s elbows are and how close her fingers and her hands get to her torso right there. She just hugs herself – she has done everything that she possibly could with her arms without hitting herself.


That is because of the flexibility of her back.


It looks like she is pulling the same range as you are. The difference is that she is getting so much higher because she has got some hyperextension in her spine.

There is so much that she does. She is drawing her hips so far forward – she has got such tremendous hip movement that she draws them and pulls them forward. The flexibility in her back allows her to get out of the way, and in order to get out of the way of the hips she comes up higher, and to come up higher her elbows are so high in the water and so far back that they almost hit her butt.

Could Amanda do this if she didn’t have a great kick? Probably not. A lot of swimmers, kids especially, are going to get stuck right here. This is where we get too much just up and down. You know, for some swimmers it is kind of for show — they just want to get up really high. Sometimes Amanda is almost faulted for that because what the kids see is that she comes up out of the water and they think that’s the whole point. But when we really look at it – it is her back and her torso and everything getting out of the way of her hips. And it’s all done to set up for the kick. When we look at her kick and how high her feet get and how much she gets out of it – again – it is just like on freestyle this morning. Amanda is maximizing what she does best and she is getting her upper body out of the way to set up for that.


[Takes a question: How do you explain this to age groupers because when you look at this, it is very obvious. She has an arch in her back and we are all about a flat back – staying flat. And they look at this and…I mean…we know it is her kick and her hips. How do you get past that because you are right…all the kids come in and are, like, well Amanda goes up and down and why is she so fast?]

The question was how do you explain this to an age grouper – that it is about the kick. It is about what she does, not just about how high she comes or popping up out of the water or arching her back up like that. And that is one of the reasons that we didn’t focus on that on the video. We try not to show the things that these swimmers do that nobody else can do. We try to communicate with kids what does she do that you can do. And it is very difficult. Sometimes you cannot give all that information to kids. Now it is different here because as coaches you know more than they do so and it is like, if I got a kid that could do this? Goodness gracious – let’s go with it. It is kind of like the straight-arm freestyle. If that is the way that kid is supposed to swim – let’s see if we can figure out how to do it better.

Let’s look at Erik Vendt’s pull. Erik almost lifts himself out of the pool. If you want to teach a kid the perfect stroke or pull, just have him climb out of the pool and try not to get him to think too much about that. When I first saw this I was like – that is wild. You can see Erik plant his hands and he just – just right there – it is like he is climbing out of the water. There is not a lot of wasted motion in his strokes. He just climbs out of the water and shoots forward. He just sets those levers up and shoots forward.

Here’s Kaitlin and I’ll let you watch her real quick here, without me getting in the way. I have been trying this for a while and it is actually really cool and I talked to Mark Schubert about it and he said this is something that they work on. She is just climbing out of the pool. It is so simple – so simple. And that is what we want to teach kids – set up your levers and just climb out of the pool. This transfers the best to freestylers and butterflyers. That is kind of their natural stroke anyway. Obviously, you have got Erik Vendt and Kaitlin Sandeno, IMers, but they are also incredibly strong freestylers and butterflyers so it is natural for their stroke to go into that motion.

Okay. Recovery. Hands above the water or hands below the water – which is it, Dave?


This is so easy to teach kids and it really takes care of that low push with the biceps and the arms through the water. Just have them cut the water in half on their extension. By the time their hands get out they will sink a little bit, but I like to use the surface of the water as a target — just cut the water in half with your hands and it makes it real easy. They understand that part so it is very easy and then you don’t have them pushing all the water through from underneath. They finish their stroke higher, they have a good extension, and they are going to be directing their energy much more forward rather than diving too far down.

In this clip, you start to understand that it is not just about where the target is – it’s also about how FAST THEY RECOVER. Watch how fast the hands recover. Watch the intensity on the last two strokes – there…and watch this…BAM. So you have to really make it fast as they recover. You shoot the hands forward as fast as possible. That starts at the in-sweep of the pull. Amanda gets her hands back in the water as soon as possible – almost right under her chin and then extends forward. This is pretty unique to her. If you teach this to kids, they will have a tendency to dive down. Amanda has such fast hands and body extension that she drops them straight down….


…and then boom – she extends forward as soon as her hands are under the water. What I really like about this is the attention to detail that she gives, and if we can somehow teach our kids to start thinking like she does and I know it is very difficult but, you know, she comes up with her palms back because she has basically hugged herself and in just a couple of frames of the camera – in a couple hundredths of seconds – as she shoots her hands forward – they all of a sudden just happen to slice into the water and not push – slice. I just think stuff like that is so cool. I am so impressed by how these people do this stuff.


It is just that determination of getting back out as fast as possible.


Now, with Erik – Erik has an attack on the front of his stroke that you can really see. The way that he just shoots his arms – he has a wider recovery, but again – now we know – he has got that catch right there so he is pretty much set up for it, just with his extension forward.


Here we go again. Poor Erik.

Kaitlin has a little bit lower recovery, but you can see that her hands reach right at the surface and shoot forward so she is very much like the others. She is a little bit lower, but this is what works for her in what she needs to do so obviously we would all like to have someone as fast as her in breaststroke.

Did we do this one? I thought there was one before that. You were already laughing about it. It was Erik Vendt swimming and Dave you started making jokes about him. I don’t think it was very nice either. What is this? Head position.



I didn’t want to say it because you are going to give me a hard time about it. But…keeping the head in line with the spine. Dave never really comes out of line with it and he – you can really tell now, from the question before – he is falling forward right here. Gravity. Everything is helping him move in the direction that he wants to go in.


As breaststrokers get tired — and you will see this with your kids — their first movement is with their head. And a lot of times when their timing gets way off it is because they lift their head first and then take a stroke.


And when you try to get out of the water, are you trying to lift?


Well, what brings you out of the water – just the down pressure of your hands?


You are also going to feel the rebound of the buoyancy of the body as you are going down. It wants to come back up, so you don’t want to push it back up.


No, no, not your head – your chest.


Your lungs.

[Takes a question: I have a hard time with breaststrokers because they want to look to see where they are going. When you swim are you focused on the bottom?]


This is true. But, Dave, I don’t think I would ever have more footage of you than of Amanda so – just being honest. A buddy of mine had a swim camp – actually took one of the lifeguard collars and put it on a kid and made him swim breaststroke with it.


And the lifeguard went absolutely berserk trying to watch this kid swim, so you have to be careful where you do this type of stuff.

This was probably the first complaint I got on any of the DVDs that we did and there were many to come, but this was from the guy that is speaking in the next room – what is his name again? Oh yeah – Eddie Reese – so I am talking to Eddie about it and he was looking at it and he said he thought we focused too much on keeping the head in line because with his breaststrokers there is a draw or a little bit of an upward motion to draw the spine, which goes down to the hips and draws everything through. The reason that we don’t put this type of stuff in the videos and especially in the first video with Dave is because in working with kids, if you start to tell a kid to move their head up and move their head down, what do you get?


I mean it is just – that drill is in the next DVD, okay?


Who else?

Going back to the head position – we see here that even when Dave is focusing on head down, eyes down — all this stuff — the first thing that happens – he starts to….


I know, but here you were….


I’m saying this was good. So, watch this because I am going to point this out with some of the other swimmers. Watch the head position now with Amanda. Are you happy now?


There’s more. Don’t worry.

This is what we were talking about on Dave’s clip. Amanda initiates the pull in the extension position with the eyes down. She is in a perfect horizontal position – really driving forward. So this is the eyes-down position. This is what you don’t necessarily show your kids just yet, but watch her head. She is drawing up with her head, then the spine and her hips follow. So as your swimmers start to progress, start to think about leading that whole motion from way up here and actually you are almost pressing your chin forward to start that going. If your kids aren’t ready for it then you get that other thing that he was talking about earlier.


Yup. You can really see it right here, that she initiates up. But the thing about Amanda is that watch how fast her head goes back down. It starts up to draw and then immediately her chin is on her chest – falls right back in.

Let’s look at the same thing with Erik Vendt – great head position – eyes down – right in line – he doesn’t draw up as much – and this was really cool right here – you can actually see his goggles going forward. Now what stroke is that? I mean, doesn’t that look like butterfly? Like he is getting ready to take a stroke of fly? Look how far back his arms are, but this is the way he swims. He is pushing or lifting himself up out of the water — but in cooperation with the buoyancy of his chest. And he is just going to grab a quick breath of air and shoot right back down again.

[Takes a question: When you tell kids to lead with their heads – any kind of head movement – I think they have a tendency to exaggerate that. Should we tell a kid to lead with their shoulders rather than the head, and just leave the neck relaxed?]

I think it depends on the situation. Breaststroke is such a unique stroke – it is like a walk or a fingerprint – we all are just so unique in how we swim. I mean, Amanda – very few people swim like her because very few people are built like her.


Well – there are exceptions, but leading with the head and through the head is good terminology to give to a kid – definitely for teaching purposes. What I try to do with kids – especially at this phase – which is the recovery portion of the stroke and you are worried about them putting way too much head motion in – is have them watch their hands. Follow them forward and it is just like this with Erik – right here – his eyes are down – almost like he is looking at his hands and he follows them directly forward and falls right into the water. So if you are going to get them to look at anything – not forward – watch their hands and as they fall forward – just fall into the water – it is just an idea. It might not work because if they really watch their hands they are going to end up like this and they might as well be swimming in 1980 at that point – right, Ben?

[Takes a comment.]

The question or the statement was basically in order to minimize a lot of the extraneous movement – the up and down — is to teach the swimmers to pull like a heart shape and then cut it right down the middle. But sometimes in order to teach both sides of the stroke one of the ideas is to think about which way the heart is facing. Somebody like Erik Vendt is going to pull in here and get more out of that so the heart is actually upside down – do you know what I mean? But I am just saying that is great, try them both and see what works best for the kids.


I am on the way.


Okay – hips. The whole goal of the pull, other than trying to move you forward and get the air and all that stuff, is to draw the hips up to the next point. The goal is to set-up for the kick, so we watch these swimmers set up with their hands and draw their hips forward so they are really setting up the kick and just really yanking the hips forward as much as they can. For kids….



Amanda is really good at drawing the hips forward. One of the things that you notice here is how high Amanda keeps her hips until it is time to come forward. They are very close to the surface and you can see that she is trying to maximize the line – there is a little bit of tension as she holds her hips up and then as she starts to draw them forward – they snap forward. If she had low hips like this she would have to really draw them forward, relying on her arms to do that, and it is really tough like that.

For some of my younger guy swimmers, their homework is to go to the mall and watch all the 12- to 14-year-old girls stand around and just kind of like this so we try to get them to roll back up like that and of course – they love that homework. They love that homework because it is something they can understand.

In this clip – now…right there – as she is gliding forward you see how she is keeping the hips up on the surface. That is to make sure that she has got the most range of motion from up to forward. Again?


I think this was a picture of the week at one point. It is amazing how high her hips stay right there. Even when she drives them forward, she doesn’t drive them down, which is what a lot of kids do when they try to drive them forward. They drive them down toward the bottom of the pool instead of forward toward the wall and that is one of the tough things to teach. One of the things that Amanda can do because of her stroke is pull them at the surface forward, rather than down. I think right here you start to see it. The hips follow her and then right as she is starting to set up you see that tilt – it is this thing that she is doing right there, okay? The hips tilt up, which sets her up to then snap them forward. They follow for a little bit and then she just snaps them forward, but there is so much other stuff. This is the type of stuff that you really have to be careful of letting your swimmers in on – depending on how old they are. You start this stuff too soon – man – this is one of those strokes – you can screw them up so early in the process.


Just get the feeling for this – feel how her hips just snap forward. See how high they are and how she just draws them forward. Now Erik Vendt….


What? Erik does not have quite as much snap forward and his hips are a little bit more stable.

And here you see Kaitlin Sandeno really drawing the hips forward.

A couple of things on breaststroke kick – obviously we are thinking about hiding the kick as much as possible. Dave actually brings his knees out wider, but he hides his calves and his feet behind him very effectively, so it is a wider kick.

Dave finishes the kick all the way, closes the toes and everything is together – snaps them together – very fast feet – a high foot recovery – very close to the buttocks and kicks all the way down – full complete kick.


The great thing about Amanda….


The highlight of Amanda is her kick and how phenomenal and flexible she is. Let’s watch the way she holds the water. Amanda – knees in a little bit more – calves are outside a little bit more. Because of her ankle flexibility she is able to get out there a little bit wider so she really grabs the water high up.

In this next clip I want you to see her toes. She recovers her feet with her toes pointed inward. This is amazing. Having your toes in the whole time and then at the last second she points them out. Obviously we have to be very careful with that. Right here – how high does she get on her kick? Boom – it is almost all the way up to her rear end. That is probably one of the highest kicks there is and look at the feet pointing out – all the way at the top. Ankle flexibility. Great power in her legs – wonderful wonderful stuff.

Erik Vendt is more like Dave. His knees are wider, but the calves are completely hidden so he is hiding the feet coming up behind him so whichever way your kids do it just make sure they either have great ankle flexibility and can afford to have the calves and the feet out a little wider or hide the legs coming forward.

Kaitlin Sandeno is a little bit more like Amanda so her knees are wider. Her feet are out a little bit but she has great flexibility on her ankles and points her feet out way at the top.

Finally, the most important thing with all four of these swimmers – get your feet way up nice and close. If you kick with your hands held behind you – touch them each time with your feet. Get your kids used to dragging their feet all the way up to their butt and grabbing the water. Try to grab the water as high up as possible to shoot yourself forward.


In the video, you can see that before Dave’s feet grab the water his arms are in complete extension. His feet are still recovering — coming up. He is at complete extension before his feet grab the water so he is really shooting his hands out front.

[Takes a question: Is it a strength thing? Most of the kids that I know that are not good breaststrokers do not get their heels up.]

I think that it is probably more flexibility than anything, but strength and timing are also involved. And endurance. Breaststroke kick takes more energy than any other kick because there is just so much movement. And most non-breaststrokers aren’t used to moving their legs as much so they are going to take a smaller kick because it doesn’t take as much energy. Here again, Amanda, before her feet even catch the water, is completely extended back out front, ready to take advantage of that kick. Kaitlin – see when the feet start to catch – right there? Look at her extended arms and her head completely in the water. She is ready to take advantage of the kick. She is really focused. Each of these athletes gets the hands out front before the kick comes in. Let’s look at Erik – feet recovering – grab – there he is – completely extended out front.

Get your kids to completely extend out front with a fast hand recovery before their kick starts to push them forward. Kicking the hands forward is something we have all heard forever, but it is something that really is a picture the kids can pick up quickly. It’s the idea of kicking their hands forward.

We are a few minutes over already, but if there are more questions – if you have to leave – thanks again for everything. We will hang out for a while and answer more questions. Thank you.


Freestyle: What we Can Learn by Watching the Champions by Glenn Mills and Dave Denniston (2005)

Introduction by Jimmy Tierney: Most of you in this room probably think that Glenn was a great swimmer. But just ask him what place he finished in the 1980 Olympics and maybe that will tell you something — ouch — just kidding. I did call Coach Dennis Pursley, whom both of us had the fortune of swimming under, and I asked Denny if he could come up with something really special for me to tell about Glenn. After a long pause he said no, I can’t think of anything. I am kidding — Denny actually left me this very extensive message about the dedication and commitment that Glenn had as an athlete to make the Olympic team. And boy, what a story, not only for Glenn, but for all those athletes back in that year. I had several other friends, like Mary T, who were at the peak of their careers and to go through the ups and downs that they did is pretty astounding. And to come back from that and continue to get better and continue to excel is a tribute to Glenn as a person.

Many of you know that Glenn was an NCAA champion at the University of Alabama. He made numerous national teams and represented the United States in a wonderful way for many years and now he is back and giving back to our sport. He started his company, Go Swim, and it is exciting. They are doing all sorts of great things that are going to benefit us all, and the neat thing, in my opinion, is that a lot of it is just very simple, very basic ways to help us learn and to help our athletes learn and I am looking forward to this presentation as I know you are. Here are two great people who are going to do some fabulous things for us in many years to come. I think they have already started and I want to bring up now and let you welcome, Glenn Mills.

Presentation by Glenn Mills, with comments by Dave Denniston in all caps.

Thanks a lot, Jimmy. It gets me choked up every time I hear Denny’s name, but not because I’m worried about him saying something nice to me. It’s because I have flashbacks to the sets that we did back then and those of you who know Denny understand how hard those days were.

I have decided to do both of my talks here with one of my best friends, Dave Denniston, because we have a really good time together pretty much everywhere we go and we have known each other for quite a few years. Actually, we should probably be arch rivals since we both are 200 breaststrokers – I went to the University of Alabama and Dave swam for some other school there…I can’t remember what it was called….


Okay, just checking, but the first time we met I was very intimidated. I had been asked to work with some of the Auburn swimmers and it was the first time in my life that I had worked with swimmers who were faster than me. I said to the coaches, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to say to these kids because they have experienced things greater than I ever had and I have coached and taught for many years from the feeling that, you know, this feels like this and this feels like this and it is easy for me to explain to kids.

So when I started working with Dave, just for a weekend, I didn’t know what to tell him. I was in awe. I stood there and just watched and everything was so beautiful and in between sessions he came to me and he said, can you work with me on my underwater pulls? So we got in the water together and he listened and he soaked everything in and we just sat there in the water together. You know, it was really a lesson to me that the best swimmers — the greatest athletes that we have these days — do not conduct themselves like elitists, pompous, stuck-up snobs. They are interested in going faster and they will take in anything from anybody that they can, even from a guy who swam for Alabama.


Thanks a lot for bringing that up. I seem to remember that we were about the same on the underwater pulls back then — that is called momentum, baby.

So, it has also been said that you are only given challenges in your life that you can handle. Obviously, we had no idea who Dave Denniston really was until this past February and I know that everybody in here knows the story and I had no idea how strong of a person this guy was and those of you who had a chance to interact with him here this week understand that for Dave, this is just a bump?


Those are hard to get over – okay – just checking. This is just a little glitch and I am so proud and pleased to have Dave here with me. He was an NCAA champion — one of the fastest breaststrokers ever in the history of the planet. Jeremy, are you here? Okay, if Jeremy Lynn is not here, Dave is the fastest 100 breaststroker in this room. So – Dave Denniston, everybody.

So, let’s talk about freestyle.


Yeah, here you go. A couple of breaststrokers, you know.


Whip kick – exactly. Then outsweep.

Actually, I got into this search for technique and trying to figure out how to teach people because I was such a horrible coach when I first started. There are some people here who were on the first team I ever coached and unfortunately they got me as a coach right after I retired from swimming. What that meant was a lot of breaststroke pull. I didn’t care if they were freestylers or not — it benefits everybody, right? And it just was a ton of work. It was the Denny Pursley, Jay Fitzgerald, Don Gambril way. It was a ton of work and what I didn’t understand was that for the swimmers I was coaching, there hadn’t been the same level of technique set-up work that I had had. With my swimmers, just getting them in better shape was not really benefiting them. They were frustrated. I was frustrated. And because of that I started to try to figure out how to teach people better and it has really been a long search and it has not been until right about now that I am really feeling comfortable as not only a technique guy but also a coach. I envy you because my goal in the next year is to be back on deck where you are. I don’t like just doing this stuff. I want to be with the kids and so we are going to be back on deck soon and I am going to be with you guys on deck and I can’t wait. I am excited about it – overwhelmed.

So when Jim said he likes our stuff because it is simple, it is not by design. It’s because that is the way I think. I am kind of a simple guy and if I can put it into terms that make sense for kids that is basically the goal.

We are going to go over some things here — we have 10 points on freestyle that we want to hit. I encourage you to ask questions because the more questions you ask the faster this will go for us.

The first thing that we are going to look at is the catch or the hands.

I have four athletes that I have focused on in these clips — Erik Vendt, Kaitlin Sandeno, Kevin Clements, and Scott Tucker. Now, each of these swimmers is a fantastic freestyler in their own right, but each one of them…


Two of them? How did that happen? They don’t really have any good freestylers now though, so they must have been a fluke.

The most important thing that you can get from this, in my opinion, is that no matter how they are swimming, they reach full extension on every stroke. It is as simple as that and when you are working with younger swimmers, try to keep these images and pictures in their heads — that each one of these swimmers reaches, rides, and extends forward as much as possible. They get everything out of every stroke that they can –- even when swimming fast.

What I like to see is that when their hands are going forward (and on all of these athletes you will see a little separation in the fingers) the hands are relaxed. But as they start to pull, everything becomes a little bit tighter. Working with Kaitlin, I discovered that out of all the people that I work with, she has the most relaxed hands.


That is a California thing obviously.


You can’t do that if you are all up tight, right? You have to be loose and relaxed. So, hands extended -– relaxed out front.

And here is one of those Auburn guys, Scott Tucker.


Again, even with Scott, his hands extend at the front and this is something that I notice when I get in and film these people -– that nothing is forced. When they just swim they are so relaxed and so -– mellow. Their hands when they are in a non-productive phase, when they are just reaching forward, are not tense. They put all their energy and emphasis into productive things, not things that aren’t going to make that much difference for them. Do they think about this stuff? I doubt it. His hands are still relaxed when he is going fast, right?


That is the tough thing about pausing with Scott -– his hands are relaxed during the recovery. He is so fast that I am getting a lot of bleeding, interlacing it’s called, but you can see there, he actually has four hands -– two on each side, but even during the recovery all four of them are relaxed. That is why he goes so fast. But everything is relaxed in the non-productive part of the stroke and it is beautiful to watch.

Now, when they catch the water, when they start to pull, they create these unbelievable ledges and these great leveraging points to send themselves forward.


Do you have bands called Send It Forward?


Working with Erik Vendt was such an honor because this guy -– I like to call him pound for pound the greatest swimmer on the planet. He has to be….


Fortunately, you guys are good friends, right?




He creates such great leverage to send it forward — to really push himself forward. He catches so far out in front with that great extension and he gets great leverage and just moves forward. See? Simple. Now we focus….




For me as an athlete it was hard when my coaches said out-sweep, in-sweep, out-sweep on freestyle. It was like there wasn’t enough time, and when I watch what someone like Kaitlin does, like reach full extension…. What is she doing with her hand, Dave?


Now just watch the line of her hand — constant pressure the whole way through but what has worked for Kaitlin is to focus on just grabbing the water –- not thinking so much about all kinds of extraneous movement –- just going forward. It’s a very simple stroke.

One of the things that is interesting here is that she extends her arms with her elbows down and we will see Kevin Clements in a second do the same thing. So she is extending her arms with her elbows down, but when she catches, the elbow rolls over so that it is on top and we talk all the time about an early catch…


How does anybody in here teach high elbows? Anybody have any suggestions? Go ahead, raise your hand. There might be a prize in it for you. Yeah, John. Give that man a prize.

Fingers down…pop the elbow.

So if we look at this with Kaitlin, the fingers start down initially. So a game that you can play is to loosen up the lane lines a little bit with your swimmers (don’t make them real tight because if you pop them they are really expensive) and as they reach forward have them go over the lane lines and have them pull with their forearms. Or just throw some noodles in the pool to give them something to grab onto –- something that lets them feel the pressure up top here. It is really tough to get over the lane lines if you are dropping the elbow down, so just give them an idea of what they can do to feel this part of the stroke. This high-elbow catch is kind of a Mark-Schubert signature. They have tremendous catches, Erik and Kaitlin. It is beautiful stuff.

Now here is that Auburn guy, Kevin Clements. Elbow down, then he rolls it and catches. Now, to me, it is like there is no way they have enough time to think about this stuff. It just has to happen, and the question when I look at these videos is “How do I teach young kids to do this?”

Scott is a little different though, isn’t he? There are many reasons for that. Can anybody here tell me what is significant or unique about the way that Scott swims that he doesn’t have to roll his elbows in any way? Right. Thank you. He is already like that. What is unique about Scott is that his fingers are turned in just a little bit as he swims and if you try it right now in your chair –- if you start to turn your fingers in –- now try to drop that elbow. It is pretty tough. So he has already got the fingers pointed in, which gets him up on top of the elbows. His hand comes in like that so he doesn’t have to spend any time making any corrections, which is great because he is a sprint freestyler so he doesn’t have time. He has just got to crank those strokes out.

Now, something about Scott, because I have known Scott for a long time. When he made the Olympic team in 1996 he had a traditional freestyle that was beautiful. I mean, it was one of the most perfect technically gorgeous freestyles out there…


This is the type of stuff that I learned from Dave and from these coaches. When I film these swimmers I only see them the way they are now. Could you imagine having a kid on your team who was on the Olympic team and then completely changing his stroke? How brave do you have to be and how brave does the swimmer have to be in order to go ahead and make that leap of faith? And especially since we all know how long it takes to make an effective change – I mean – Scott was patient enough to let this guy beat him in freestyle?


Can you imagine the frustration level that he had to feel? But that shows what kind of a person this guy is.

So in thinking about the catch, the thing I try to remember is to create the ledge as early as possible in the stroke. Give yourself something to grab on to as early as possible in the stroke — however you have to do that. I think I read somewhere about how Coach Bergen gives his swimmers a lot of stretch-cord work, because in a lot of the resistance-type training you have to grab out there or else the cord is going to pull you back. So I love that stuff.

OK. The finish of the stroke – pushing all the way through. Where is the release point? Each of these swimmers is going to be a little bit different as far as where the hand exits – which I love.

This is Erik.


He exits right at the hips – right at the suit. In fact, when we really look at it we see that when he releases his hand he kind of flares it to the side a little bit and goes pinkie first before he finishes his stroke. So he is not pushing all the way through. His hand is releasing before it gets to the suit.


Because he is so short? Did you just say that?


Okay. Right through here you can see how Erik’s hand turns before he finishes. One of the reasons I was such a poor freestyler is I always tried to push all the way out at the back – flip the hand all the way out at the back. I had all the focus and attention on the push-through at the end and what we are seeing from these athletes is that they are more focused on the extension out front. Their focus is out there – not back here, so they are focused on getting that hand through the release point and back out front.

This is the type of stuff that we look for as athletes – you know, that hand flip at the end. He has a good hand flip.


I can do that. What we see is that the hand is already being drawn forward by the time it releases from the water. So even though the hand is still coming out like that it is because he is drawing his arm forward – not necessarily because he is pushing all the way through the back.

Kevin Clements, who has a more traditional-looking stroke, also releases a little bit early. Kevin can swim anything, but he is a 1:58 200 IMer long course, and wasn’t he like around 15 minutes for the mile?


Her hands are all the way mid thigh.


So we have got different body types. But at the same time she takes that hand and cuts it sideways as she exits.

Now these are just basically observations. I mean, I don’t get a chance to work out with these guys. I just get a chance to film them and then talk to their coaches and the way that we do all of our videos is we talk to the athletes. We say what do you feel are the most important things in your stroke? What are the things that you think about when you swim that you could teach a 10-year old? We ask them what are the most important things and they help us develop these videos.

Scott, on the other hand – when he is swimming slow you can see that sometimes he just relaxes and this could be based on – this guy has got an unbelievable kick – like Erik. He can ride for a long time so I thought well maybe if we look at him when he is pulling a big parachute. So right now you are watching him with some heavy resistance training and as he is pushing his hand all the way through, as he gets right here to the end, he releases it to the side. So you think okay – I got it – I figured it out. Every one of them – sprinter, distance swimmer, all of them – slice the hand out at the end. They are not worried about the exit. They just want to get that hand out and back again to the front.

And then you watch Scott swim fast and again this is going to be a little blurry and when we really look at this what we start to realize is that if Scott picks up his pace with his four hands here – the hand is facing back and pushing out completely the whole way. In other words – just when you think you have it figured out – you realize how little you know because the same athlete who releases early when he’s pulling a ton of resistance has a completely different exit point when he’s swimming fast.

So I don’t even know what to tell you to learn from this other than to experiment. What we do in our drills is we do just simple thumb stuff. Exit the hand before the suit – exit the hand at the suit – exit the hand below the suit. Get the swimmers to try it lap to lap to lap to lap. See which one works best for them. Find out where they have the best rate and rhythm for their event and their physiology – how long or short their arms are – right, Dave? Poor Erik.

And then we really see what it is all about with Scott Tucker.


No, it’s freestyle but it looks like butterfly. Scott pushes all the way out to whip that arm up and back with the straight-arm recovery. He has got to push all the way out whereas the other swimmers have a much slower recovery. He is just getting it out and up to get it back out front again and his power is allowing him to do that.

Any questions, comments, concerns? [Takes a question about the recovery.] There are always two things: how do you recover the arm and where do you place the hand in front and so recovering the arm is going to be based on the athlete – their rotation – their flexibility – all that good stuff. Erik places his hand really close in front of his head and then does all of his extension under water.


Okay. Kevin Clements…great flexibility…great rotation. Arm is recovering low and balanced, elbow directly above his body. Full extension, as always, in everything he does and, again, a relaxed recovery. Kevin places his hand a little bit farther out in front of his head so again, we have learned, that there is no particular point for hand entry. We have to experiment with our swimmers. Kevin’s is really far out there. Dave, why would he be farther out in front of his head than, say, someone like Erik?


Okay. There you go.

Kaitlin has a little bit lower recovery and we are going to see this when we get to rotation. She has a lot more rotation in her body than Erik does, yet Erik’s arms recover much higher that Kaitlin’s.

Do we get great recovery out of great rotation? No, not necessarily. They all have found their own way of doing things – what works for them – and we are simply here to study it, to see if we can’t translate it somehow into what kids can use. Kaitlin…low recovery. Erik…low recovery. Kevin…low recovery. Scott…not low recovery. Come on – as coaches wouldn’t you love to see your backstrokers with recoveries like this? I mean – shoulders completely out of the water – it is absolutely beautiful. So there is Scott – an unbelievably high recovery and you saw him swim fast. This doesn’t change from slow to fast. How many of you have tried this for yourself? Feel good or bad? Good? Raise your hand. Bad? Raise your hand. Yeah, see, this is the thing that was so amazing to me when I found out that Scott changed his stroke after he made the Olympic team. How many of you have had all of your swimmers try this? What if Scott never tried this? What if he never tried it?


There you go – sorry. Like how many licks does it take to get to the middle of a tootsie pop? The world may never know. Again, I think it was incredibly brave to do what he did and we have an incredible model for straight-arm freestyle for the kids that it will make a difference for.

Where do his hands enter the water? Well, it ain’t close to his head – that is for sure. It is all the way – almost completely extended because it is straight. We already know his hand comes in ready to catch and when he swims fast, as we will see in a little bit, he catches the second – the instant – that his hand goes in the water.

On recovery, I think it is important to experiment. Find the space for your kids and let them try everything and not just like a cursory try doing one lap and saying I hate it, that’s it, I am never doing it again. Because as we learn from Scott, it takes a while for these things to set in. How long? I don’t know. I mean, if they truly hate it then forget it, but maybe it is worth a try with some kids.

Head position. Now we ask ourselves again – how many of our swimmers look like Scott when they breathe? How many of them are that low with the head plowing through the water, the arm extended, the body rotated, one goggle above water, one goggle below water, suit riding right at the surface? He obviously has good balance. Wouldn’t you all love to have a swimmer like this? Looking like that – all the time?


I think he is like a half inch taller than me so enough – all right? Can you see where I am going? Yeah, that’s right – at least I didn’t cheat when I swam breaststroke.


Yeah, I noticed that. Good point. Now if we look at the swimmers from above water only, and they look great, and then we look at them below water – we see that sometimes you can take even great swimmers and say, well that is not quite so good maybe. But what I take from this is if my swimmers do not look as good as Erik Vendt does above water and Erik looks like this a little bit under water – what do my swimmers look like under water? And that is why I usually coach with a suit on, no matter how offended the kids get.

Kevin’s head seems like it is much higher in the water when he is going fast. And I just have a short clip here of him, but what I try to look for here in his head position is how neutral it is. And right in through here…a tell-tale sign is where his hips are and how high they are on the surface of the water, so obviously he is not trying to lift himself up. Part of good head position is having really flexible shoulders, especially with Kevin. I mean, his shoulders.

[Takes a question.] The question is that there is a difference between Erik Vendt’s stroke in that he almost stops when he reaches forward – that his momentum slows down. Whereas with Scott Tucker – his momentum is constantly going, and constantly moving.


Okay, we have to repeat the question. The question was about momentum, in that Erik Vendt pauses and stops his stroke and depends on his kick to keep moving whereas Scott Tucker has continuous propulsion. He is always pushing something through and I think that is what Dave is talking about. It does depend upon the event and the ability of your swimmers.

The one thing that I have learned from working with these athletes is that they maximize what they are great at. They maximize their strengths rather than focus on…I have to do this or I have to do that. I find – and this is just me personally – I find it highly offensive sometimes when people try to Monday-morning quarterback. I try not to judge these swimmers on what I think they should do better. I’d rather sit in awe of what they have discovered. I think that, as an athlete myself, I think we take – well, a former athlete — but I think we take away a lot of credit of what these people have put themselves through to get to the point that we are filming them on a video. Instead of critiquing them, we talk to them and try to understand what they have gone through to get to this point – to the point where we are trying to learn why they do what they do. When I hear people say that they should be doing this or that or the other thing — well – athletes are so professional these days and we as coaches place so many demands on the technical aspect of the stroke, plus the training, that you’ve got to believe they have tried everything that we are trying to talk to them about. The chances are good that they have already experimented with these things – with the equation between rotation rate, kick – all that stuff. So by the time we see them – by the time they are unveiled to the public and to guys like me who make videos of them – we’ve got to believe they have come up with the equation that works best for them. And we have to determine does that equation work for any of our swimmers.

Now, I mean, right here in this room there are fans and there are not-a-fans of the Scott Tucker-type of freestyle. Scott is not the best in the world, but the question is: Can we take every one of our swimmers and base and model them off the person who is the best in the world? I try to make sure that I don’t base the way I teach kids on what is the best in the world. I try to base what I teach kids on what is best in the world for them and I mean the question was that we are putting too much stock in the fact that he changed his recovery and went his best time rather than maybe it was something else – maybe it was his training – his diet – all the other things that come together. The way I look at this is that…you know what I did after college? All of us older guys – the day we graduated from college is the day we quit swimming, okay? I couldn’t make a living as a lifeguard, training six or seven hours a day, so I was done. Now these guys – if we can entice our great swimmers somehow – whether it is a change in technique – whether it is enticing them by learning something new – whatever it is. If we can entice them to stay in the sport – to lead our young kids up there – whatever worked for Scott Tucker to keep him in the sport another seven years – that is what I don’t know and none of us will know. Maybe that change in his stroke was the reason he did it.

Rotation is next. I look at Kaitlin and say if she was standing straight up and down – where would she be looking? This works for her. She is looking straight forward – very easy. It allows her body to rotate really well.

Now we are back to Scott. Faster swimmer. His head position is up a little bit – he is looking a little bit more forward. This is what works for him. When he goes fast his head actually drops a little bit lower than that. The faster he goes the lower his head is. Just the top of his head is above the water there. So again, it is whatever works for that particular swimmer.

[Takes a question.] The question is…as age group coaches, where are we now in relation to teaching proper stroke technique. What are we teaching? Bent elbow? High elbow? Straight arm? Extended reach? What is the generalization? And I say…uh huh. I mean, this is the art of what we do. Those of you who know me, know that I have learned so much in trying to build a system of how to swim. And you know that I worked in an environment where this was how you did it. And when people wouldn’t fit into it, I needed to go back and search.

[Takes a question.] Now we’ve got the great coaches asking questions. Now I am nervous. Coach Shoulberg. The question is if we are going to teach a straight-arm recovery are we going to have to change our dry-land program to enhance the strength in the shoulders?

I would hope that the dry-land programs are already handling as much of that as possible. I am absolutely not an expert on dry-land. Obviously, if anything hurts the swimmer you are not doing it correctly and that is our job to figure those things out. But there are new things coming out all the time from old-school-type coaches so the dry-land programs I think are evolving with the strokes. They are becoming more able to handle some of these things.


I will repeat that one part for you – the “uh huh” was the best thing he heard all week. So…. Listen, this is weird for me to be up here, I gotta tell you. It is weird for me to be writing for Swimming World. It is weird for me to be doing these things because I do not think that there is anything special about what we do, other than search – other than try to figure out ways to teach.

Ok. Now rotation. What does rotation look like? Here again – I was a little surprised when I first saw Erik. Not a lot of rotation there. What does he do to make up for limited rotation? He has got an unbelievable kick – maximizing his strength.

Kevin Clements. Tremendous rotation – not as much in the hips as in the shoulders, but tremendous shoulder rotation so he is clearing the water beautifully.

[Takes a question.] The question was – in watching these athletes having the hips in sync with each other or separating them out – what is the best way?

For quite a long time I said – you have got to have everything acting together. Then I started making these videos and I realized that they all do it a little differently, based on maybe their kick or maybe on how good they are rotating their torso and their flexibility and so many things. So again, we get to the point that there is no answer for it. We have to know many ways to teach the athlete because – watch this – watch how much Kaitlin rotates with her whole body and then we will watch the kick in a minute. Because she rotates with her whole body, her legs tend to hit a little bit together – a little bit of a cross-over kick right there. You watch her chest down to her hips and everything rotates together.

But then you watch swimmers like Erik and Scott who have super phenomenal powerful kicks – they don’t want their legs to hit together so they tend to be a little bit flatter in the hips because they are going to ride their legs a little bit more instead of their core-body movement. It still rotates together, just not as much as, say, Kaitlin or somebody else who is good – I don’t know.

So, right there…this was actually pretty cool. I got Kaitlin and Erik to swim in sync and you can see the difference between the rotations in two great freestyle swimmers. So which one is right? I don’t know. I know that they are right for what they do. The cool thing is that both of them are unbelievably extended – they just get everything out of every stroke that they can and I think it was a lot easier for Erik to swim like that than Kaitlin.

In talking with Erik, I was probably more impressed with him than really anybody I have worked with.


That’s right, but I consider you like family. We don’t really work together – we just play. Yeah – so – did I get out of that at all? No? All right, Erik told me that his kick was not something that he was born with, that he developed it from a very young age and so I think that the swimmers that I work with, we tend to do a lot of kicking – especially a lot of flutter kicking because I think that if they are 10 years old and they are not working on this, one of you guys IS working on it with your kids and some day if we are all in the same meet together – my kids have to go up against your kids and they better be able to kick like Erik Vendt. Erik wasn’t born with this, he developed it over years and years of hard work in training and you have got to respect the effort that went into doing this for the distance swimmers.

Kevin Clements. Very big tall guy – would be not short – right, Dave?


Kaitlin just flows. Everything follows right along behind her and proof that a cross-over kick can work for some people better than others. I mean – it is not necessarily a bad thing. I like this particular clip because she starts with a two-beat kick and as it is needed – she just switches to a four beat. She throws it in as needed – it is just instinctual for them – they know what they need – when they need it.

And then there is Scott Tucker. Another one that has worked tremendously on his kick – on the back half of his stroke – and when he decides to turn it on he has got an incredible six-beat kick, right?


Now, obviously this is one of those cases when I tell someone okay – I am going to film your kick – focus on your kick. So Scott decided, okay, I will focus on my kick. So let’s count them. Start with his left hand exiting – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. So now we have redefined the kick. So when you go home you can tell your swimmers, all right, you know that six-beat thing? Wimps! Come on – we are going to go this next set at 11. It is like the Spinal Tap kick – it is just one more.


Did I say “spine?”


I am not advocating an 11-beat kick but, you know, whatever.

Timing. When does the next stroke come in? And this kind of ties in with the question back there – because of Erik’s kick – because of his focus on extension – he has a big catch-up stroke. It works for him. He is effective with it. As Kevin comes up to speed – big strong guy – he still has a little bit of a catch-up stroke.

Kaitlin. Even less of a catch-up stroke. The one thing about all of these swimmers is that they are not so worried about where their hands are when the other one crosses over – all the thought about am I here – here – here – here? Every one of them reaches full extension and then grabs the water. The timing – the rotation – all the other stuff – it happens when it happens – don’t worry about it. Get them to full extension – get them to grab the water. We put, sometimes, too much emphasis on how many strokes we take, rather than how good the strokes are. Kaitlin immediately catches so she has less of a crossover catch-up stroke.

And then there is Scott. He is definitely in the front and this is everything that we have heard about. What is it, Dave? It is not a windmill it is a…


Thank you very much. Opposing arms – he is just – I mean – Scott is all about propulsion – constantly. His arm’s in and ready to pull. There’s the finish – ready to pull. Everything he does is just pull, pull, pull, pull, pull, pull. Tough to teach – not pretty. Not the best but, you know what? As a guy like Jimmy said – yeah – no Coach Marsh when he worked for them, like I said, being part of the 80 team I would take his gold and silver on relays any day. All I wanted to do was go and get DQ’d. That would have been cool with me you know, just to say I went.


That is not what I am talking about. Your head goes under when you swim breaststroke.


Sorry – oh – here we go. There is only one swimmer that I’m going to show on this breathing thing because isn’t this how we should be teaching our swimmers? All I know is that Scott Tucker shows what the potential is. Thinking how low the breath is and hiding the breath and all that stuff and I have tried this – ever since I worked with Scott. I can look under water with both eyes when I breathe to the left when I am breathing – I feel like Aquaman. If I try it to the right I swallow water. Scott stays low. The faster he goes the less you can see him breathe.

Let’s see if we can see one – right there – as he starts to pick it up – he is smiling – he goes lower – he is a happy guy – as Scott goes the fastest – good luck – I am telling you – this is all I have got. I made him do this thing ten times. I said, Scott – you have to breathe, and he says, I am. I said – you are lying to me. I said – no one is going to believe it. I said I can’t see it and he says, I’m breathing and so I have tried with high res. Monitors and everything. I cannot see where he is getting any air so you are going to have to take his word for it that he is telling me he is doing it. But I think if you really look at it, you notice that his head is down. He comes up a little bit and there could be just a little pocket in there. Let’s see if we can hear it.

So again, I don’t know if he is really breathing right here – he told me he was. This is what I consider potential. You know, what is the potential for our athletes? Obviously, this was smooth water without 8 kids in a lane. Because everything changes when you get in workout, but this is one of the most impressive things I have ever seen. Of course, I wanted him to do a 1500 like that, just to prove to us. So, what is the potential of your kids’ breathing?

And finally, power. This is where we get into tools and toys and playing in the water and teaching our kids to propel all the time and, you know, using things that really get them connected with the water. Scott comes in and just hooks in – he has got a huge parachute around him. How many of you have swum with the parachutes yourself? It is unbelievable. I have the 8-inch and the 12-inch, and the 12-inch – it is a huge difference.

And I just happen to have this video of a swimmer that we are working with right now and on display here at ASCA is this new rack. So the final clip of the presentation is showing what true power is – showing what one of the greatest athletes in the world right now can do when adding just a little bit of resistance. Okay? All right, good. [Swimmer is swimming against power-rack apparatus with two buckets filled to the top with water.] Now, he does have paddles on. There still is extension and this is a much prettier stroke isn’t it? No, it’s not Michael Phelps – this guy can smoke Michael Phelps – in a 50 anyway. It is Roland Schoemann. So power is something that you can’t forget when you are thinking about technique. But technique is not just thinking about how long, smooth, supple, rotated – all of those touchy-feely things. It all comes down to the same thing. Your athletes have to be fit. They have to work and they have to be ready to perform at all times and that is about it for right now.

Are there any questions?
[Takes a question]:
The question was, do the athletes talk about where they feel the power when they are doing these things and we haven’t actually sat down and said where do you feel your power, but I know that there is much more of a connection all the way down the side – especially on these types of drills – that you feel more – when you add resistance. You feel much more a connection of where that stuff comes from – making sure that you are not just trying to throw the arm but to tie everything together and that is one of the great things about using the resistive-type training. You learn where these things are – especially with stretch cords. You go down as far as you can – stay in one spot – see where your dead spots are. The places that yank you back you have got to fix – that is timing.

All right? Thank you very much.


Backstroke by Dick Hannula (2005)

Introduction: Does everyone know what an icon is? He (Dick Hannula) really is an icon. Not only that, he is one of the many true gentlemen. He is close to the top of the list if not at the top of the list as far as being a gentleman in the swimming community. His coaching credentials and his administrative credentials are just unbelievable. He is a former high school coach at Wilson High School and Tacoma High School and I think he is the founder of the Tacoma Swim Club and has given clinics all over the world. He has been a former President of ASCA two or three times, is a great contributor, a prolific writer (you have probably read his writing in all the many swimming publications). I remember when I was a young man, how many of you heard Eddie Reese’s talk Wednesday night? Well he said that one of the greatest legacies that you can have is what you have left, what you have given in the course of your life and Dick has a tremendous legacy already and he continues. His curiosity and his intellect is greatly appreciated by all of us in the swimming community. When I was a young man I can remember my old pappy saying, “son, there are basically two kinds of people in the world. There are givers and there are takers. Decide which one you want to be.” Well, Dick decided early on that he was going to be a giver. He has been giving, he continues to give and will give in the future. You are in for a real treat; Mr. Dick Hannula.

Coach Hannula: Well, thank you Lanny and thank you NISCA for bringing me back. I am not sure what an icon is either. I don’t want to scare anybody away. I told Lanny, “I said, don’t say, don’t build me up too much because I don’t want to let everybody down. My wife had that feeling that you walk into a hurricane. I guess if you begin to expect too much. I also am not so sure anybody cares too much about what you have done as what you are doing and I am surprised to be back here. To be quite honest Bob called me I guess sometime during the spring and I said well, OK, I will do it. I thought I was done two years ago at my last San Diego clinic.

This topic is backstroke. I am not going to try and tell you what qualifies me to talk on backstroke, but I love the stroke. I love the stroke because when I started swimming in high school, I started as a junior in high school and I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t put my face in the water to swim the crawl stroke and that may sound ridiculous to you now. I learned to swim in a river and I couldn’t put my face in the water. I didn’t even know they had a swim team until my sophomore year, and they found out I could swim on my back and swim backstroke and that is what I did. So I have always kind of been in love with the stroke. It got me into swimming and it kept me into swimming and allowed me to continue. I hate to tell you, I wanted to tell you it was winning the State Championship in those days, maybe I should, but I won’t. Somebody can ask me later and I will tell you.

The way I am going to kind of run this thing on backstroke is that I would like to kind of run through what was, what is and then go through the drills. I can’t go through all the drills. I will just go through some of the drills, specifically some of the ones that I think are quite important and then I would like to take some time to discuss a little bit on how I think you should use the drills. There are ways to use the drills to manufacture speed, to help you with your speed in the stroke.

Eventually I will come back and run some videotape that I have, some from this summer on current Tacoma Swim club swimmers. Some of whom I have worked on backstroke with and some of whom I have never worked on backstroke. They were kind of new to some of the drills, but I had them demonstrate it. I will also reach back a little bit and show some video-tape I made a number of years ago. In one case about 18 years ago, that shows the use of the mirror at the side of the pool. I always loved to have the mirrors there. I had one big mirror in front of the backstroke lane; you will get an idea of how that works. I think it is real, real important in teaching a backstroke. This is the first time that I have gone high tech so bear with me. OK.

What was and probably ain’t no longer! What we used to have at one time or another was the bent arm recovery. I never saw that except in movies. Old movies, some of you may have seen that. The backstrokers are coming out like this – in a bent arm recovery. I am sure that is very obvious, but I went over to the Hall of Fame the other day and watched the old Bob Kiphuth film. They have got it over at the Hall of Fame. His training methods and there is a little bit of a throwback there in the bent wrist recovery. You watch – they swim some backstroke with a bent wrist. I do remember that.

Swimming with the lateral arm recovery with a flat body and a 10 to 10:30 entry. My brother was state champion for a couple of years with that stroke. Up in the Northwest there was a guy named George Heeney at the University of Washington who was the best swimmer around. George was the best backstroker around in the entire Northwest, at least, and that is the type of stroke he used. It was like rowing a boat and the recovery was like putting an oar out here and it chopped in short and you drove it through. There was a lot of swimming like that.

In turns there have been so many changes. Now of course we have the turn without having to touch the wall, you do a forward flip. That made the greatest sense in the world, but some of the turns we used to use, the first one I learned in backstroke, they showed us how to do it was you usually just crashed the wall. You had to grab the wall with your hand and turn under the arm and push off and that was the backstroke turn. With this you can begin to get an idea why our times were so slow. The next one was just a back spin where you did a hand-touch and a back twist trying to get under that arm and make a forward roll. We just had all kinds of people disqualified.

Next was the little finger exit. Some people are still doing this. You need to get a ballistic stroke and a ballistic recovery. You have get into the stroke and the little finger exit just inhibits that and that is another one of the things that I think is definitely out.

We also used straight arm pull, that means under water straight arm pull. That is pretty much what they were doing with that lateral arm recovery with a flat body.

We used to use head rotation. John Nabor actually had pretty good head rotation. One of the last ones I saw and very effectively. Oh, that is definitely out.

Now I will probably get into a little controversy here. There’s a little bit of controversy when you get into here. Some people are not willing to buy into this, the sweeps. I know I used to do clinics with Robin Leamy and I don’t know how many years ago that was (early or middle 80’s if I remember right) Robin Leamy was an American record holder in the sprints for UCLA. He swam for Ron Ballatore and he was at the same clinics I was at and teaching sweeps and he is talking about making the catch and driving that arm straight through directly back and I am thinking, well yeah, that might be OK for a sprinter, but it couldn’t possibly work all the way around. Then a few years ago, about 8, 9 or 10, I was in Australia and I watched a workout with both Thorpe and the really great one too now, help me. Well anyway both guys were just putting their hand in the water like this and the water was coming straight back. There were no sweeps and I started looking around the pool and walked to both sides of the pool and there was an age group team on the other side of the pool and I walked over and watched the age group team. They are doing the same thing, they were teaching a stroke that does not have the sweeping action. I came back and it definitely changed my mind on what needed to be done in freestyle. Well actually, the same thing is true with backstroke. I started looking at the videos of the top swimmers in backstroke and and I want to show some of these to kind of help establish what I am really trying to say which is that this business of trying to get down and bringing the hand way up and pushing back down is pretty much passé. It is not what they are doing.

Now I will really get in trouble. We got carried away with the deep entry. That is deeper than deep and if you get way down in that water like that, that deep, there is no place to go, but bring the thing up into the sweep action. So I think that entry has got to be just deep enough to be able to get in, to anchor the arm to get into that position for the line of pull, the line that you want to drive that water back. If you are down here and you are trying to drive that water back in pretty much of a straight line the body rotation is doing everything that the sweep was really doing. The body rotation is driving that hand past the body, actually to drive your body past the hand. You drive your body past the arm. I think it is only the last couple things that probably steps on people’s toes, but remember, I was doing this and I think we all sometime should be able to take a look at it and make adjustments and changes.

What is, at least for the moment. What seems to be, at least for now, in the stroke are the following: Steady head position and I think most people would not argue that. You try to maintain a steady head position with the head back and the eyes pretty much vertical. That is the Krazelburg type of stroke, his head is well back in the water, he is looking almost vertical or a slight tilt. Depending on the swimmer, but that is pretty much the position you are going to be in.

And then the rotation: rotate, rotate, rotate. The body rotation is so important to get the power on the stroke. I will go more into that because we will do some of the drills. I am going to talk about ones that emphasize rotation.

Rifle barrel recovery. I think everybody understands that this is just a vertical recovery with the arms straight and extended up in here. This is another one that they are all swimming with at the present time.

Bent arm pull – the arm has to bend in order to accelerate and to hold that water and get some power on it. The amount of the bend is going to vary with the swimmers and that bend has got to be delivered at the right spot. I had a young lady that eventually made the Olympic Team in backstroke and when she first came to me her problem was she did the arm bend too early so it was way back in here where she wasn’t going to develop the power on the rotation. You have to be patient enough to get that arm bend in, in the mid part of the stroke to take advantage of the power that is being generated by it.

Trying to get a little finger entry is a good place to be, little pinky or whatever you want to call it. In the past we talked about trying to come out of that thing little finger first. Instead, you should try to come out of the underwater pull with your thumb first. Having your thumb first allows you a real ballistic or clean movement. You come out fairly rapidly and you don’t have to really lift it so much as it just follows through from that last scoring action and it is almost flying back. You want to rebound off that stroke and get that arm started into the recovery.

OK, this is the way you want to do the stroke. Use a medium depth catch. If you want to deep catch just make sure it doesn’t get deeper and deeper. Some of the videos I have seen recently, it seems to show a catch that is too deep. I will show a video later that I think will just show you just about where that should be. I don’t like to think you are pulling at any time. You are anchoring an arm and everything you get out of the stroke you are getting out of it from the body rotation. Some of the best things I have ever heard was, I think it was ’84 at the Olympic Training Camp. Skip Kenney came running over to me and said, geez you know, and it was new to him, thinking of it that way. Rick Carey was the World Record holder in the backstroke and was explaining to one of the IM’ers a little tip on backstroke and he just told them to get your hip out of the way of the hand and finish your stroke. So, the highest elevation of that hip at the finish of that backstroke is at the hand, as the hand finishes the stroke and starts to exit, that should be the highest spot. Well this is.

I think rotation is important to teach everybody and I always try to teach the age groupers when I work with them is that you have got to feel like a broom handle, I used to say broom handle is screwed down through the top of the head and it is screwed down through the top of the head to the base of the spine so that your body is skewered and everything you do is in a forward line. You are going to motion this way, you are going to rotate to the other side, but you are sitting on that skewer and I don’t want you to chip any wood off that broom handle. I don’t want anybody to get slivers any place in their body or their head because you are not staying on a straight line so some of those things they kind of, I used to add some stuff about bleeding and all that sort of thing, but they have a tendency to begin to remember it when you draw a couple of pictures for them, but it is so important that they stay on that direct straight line. That is why this business of moving the head is a little bit detrimental to continue to move on a straight line, to get the most distance out of every stroke. OK?

This is what they did to backstroke, they literally changed it on me. I almost towards the end of my swimming career did the dolphin under water kick, both starts and turns. In ’88 when Berkoff and Suzuki, the Japanese kid that won it, and most everybody else did scissors, that’s swimming under water. Remember that was ’88. They are swimming under water almost 50 meters, popping up and then they all disappear again. If you watch them from the deck you didn’t know where anybody was. If you were up on top you had a chance to see what was going on, but my gosh what happened. You know, I could have beaten them. I could have beaten them by 15 years and I didn’t know it. You know, it is so strange because you cannot listen to everybody around you. I had one young man who used to butterfly kick off the starts and beat everybody around, but he would surface pretty quick and get going and we thought about it, you know, geez, that staying under water is way faster. And then I had a young lady where we started timing 25’s and she was diving and butterflying, a butterfly kick. Her backstroke was faster than she was swimming it.

We are changing. We kept talking about that and said, well the coaches would discuss it with each other. Well you can’t stay under water that long you know. You can’t hold your breath when you are swimming. If you had a kid swimming a 100-meter freestyle and you told them to hold their breath for five or six strokes even while they are swimming, they would pay a tremendous price at the end. So I didn’t get to cash in. Some other people got to cash in on that, but it changed the stroke completely because here you had to have a great butterfly kick, especially short course swimming. Here is the situation. If you swim a 100 meter backstroke, under the present rules, if you go 15 meters under water on the start, 15 meters on the turn, which literally everybody does that is at the top you are swimming 30% butterfly kick – 70% backstroke. Now take it to short course for your 100 yards. You go 15 yards off the start, 15 off the turn, 15 off the turn and 15 off the turn. That means that 60 meters of that race or 60% of that race, yards or meters, whatever it is, isn’t in backstroke kick. You use butterfly kick so the records just tumbled. You have to be able to develop that kick. The backstroke is 40%, less than half of it is in backstroke compared to long course backstroke. OK?

I also feel that you just have to work on streamlining and the torpedo position and kicking. Now, most everybody has a lot of kicking drills. I don’t know if you have a lot of streamlining, torpedo drills. I think you have to do some stuff on dry land to teach that and I read something just before I got here and I now realize why it works so well because I didn’t know when I did it why it was going to work so well. I did it to relieve myself of some of the coaching that I was doing, but you have to teach the kids what it feels like to streamline, the torpedo position. They have to understand that and then you have to be a fantastic teacher. You can’t turn your back on it. You have to be so persistent that you are going to force, literally force them to do it right because they don’t want to face you and have to get out of the water and have to be embarrassed about going back through these fundamental drills and the drill I use. I wish I had it up here to show you on tape, but I don’t. I had it but when I asked the guy who transferred it for me, who did all this work I didn’t catch that he forgot to put that in. I didn’t catch that. Maybe at the end of this talk, because you can’t do it here. To do the drill you have to lay on the ground or on the floor. At the end of this talk for anybody that hasn’t seen that drill, I want you to come up here and just stand up and I will do it with a couple of you, but not right now because nobody will see it in the back. What I do basically is have the swimmer lay on their back, hand over hand, in streamline position. They squeeze their arms in tight behind the ears. They try to get the streamline torpedo position and then I stand there facing them and put my heels on the outside of their upper arm. And then I work my heels in tighter and tighter until I have removed all the cavities – all the openings between their arms and head and body so there is just one hole there that they are going to drive through. They are not going to carry any baggage with them and then I tell them to hold that position. I then step aside and go under the small of their back and try to put my foot in there and if I can get my foot in there they have to change the whole thing. They are going to have to suck their gut in a little bit, pull their buttocks in a little bit and they have got to close that gap so that the back of the arms, the back of the head and the back of the spine are one line. It is a platform. One line and so once I have taught them how to do it, so they all feel it they know how hard I squeeze it in. They all know that. Then, I have them teach it to each other. And that was the trick I found out because if you see something I guess you only retain something like 20% and if you see or if you hear it is 30%. Seeing and hearing is 50%, but if you teach you remember 95%. That has been true in a lot of the other stuff that we have done over the years.

We practice fast kicking. There are a lot of drills. You have fast kicking off the bottom, driving to the top. I love getting those shooters, those little fins. Doing shooters and timed long course kicks. We would time kids in 50 meter kicks and because I saw Berkoff do 25 second repeats in a 50 meter pool using underwater butterfly kick with that home-made, homemade great big huge monofin he had. Using a shooter monofin, I had at least two kids that would go 25’s for a 50-meter kick and I think in order to learn that thing you have to work the kick. Also, we did a lot of kicking cross-pool. I had a 35 foot diving well and we would do a lot of timed cross pool kicks and every day my backstrokers would cross the pool for at least 15 to 20 minutes of timed kicking, speed kicking on extremely short rest. We did this every day with the backstrokers. They would all get a time and I would have managers over there timing them. You have to find a way to make that work. You have got to find a way to have that kick do the job for you.

The 3 R’s: Well the rhythm – moving past the anchored arm evenly and with constant motion. You have got to get to the point where you can see that. You don’t always want to look at things the same way. I will show you how I tried to illustrate that in the videos, but I couldn’t do it in videos. It just doesn’t look the same. But Howard Firby, the great Canadian coach and a great technician would go down and look at the swimmers under his arm pit. He would be looking at the swimmer upside down and the first time I did that you know? I thought well boy he is crazy. The first time I did that all of a sudden I saw stuff that I never, never saw before. I could see the water how it was being carried off, how smoothly the recovery was and whether it was carrying water and that kind of thing.

So this business of constant propulsion, you can really look at it that way sometimes and you get an idea of what I am talking about. I think I already mentioned rotating the trunk to the hips to the highest point on the hand exit and I think the six beat kick really contributes to the rhythm. You know I used to teach age groupers especially and then my high school kids, they were like age groupers, they never swam before high school. I used to teach them a six beat kick by having them count it: left foot one, right two, left three, right four, left five, right six. I would then do a number of drills where you would squeeze the right hand on three, squeeze the left hand on six, lift the right hand on three, the left hand on six, stroke the right hand on three, left hand on six. You do this to get the balance of that stroke. Most people will have this once you get into all these other drills. You want the longest line possible and the longest line possible is the left foot up on three and the right hand in on six. That was my count, but the left foot would be up and the right hand entering and the same thing when you get to the six count the left hand would be entering and the right foot would be up and you can do those kind of drills with the age groupers and things. Try to establish that rhythm. I always make a bunch of notes back and forth here. I have little things that I wanted to include and I never know where I put them. I covered it.

The relaxation: the arm recovery and breathing pattern are major components while in the backstroke. That is what made it so good for me starting swimming. Actually, I never got so I put my face in the water until my sophomore year of college until I could swim a freestyle event and an individual medley. It took me a long time, so having the head out of the water allows you to breathe into one arm and exhale on the other. Whatever pattern you want to hit, but usually breathe in on one and exhaling on the other seems to be a good pattern. At times I used to do it a little differently on that, but the other point in this is the ballistics of the recovery.

The relaxation. The relaxation thumb first hip up high, thumb first is relaxing it comes up without an effort and then at the top of the stroke when it moves to the entry and the drop in. You don’t place it. you don’t suddenly just place that arm in. Great backstrokers just let it go in. It falls in. It is a ballistic type of thing and so there is a tremendous amount of relaxation in the stroke by doing it that way.

OK, the hips lead in trunk rotation. I saw something that Lea Maurer wrote one time. I think it was on the web page for USA Swimming. A tip type of thing that I was looking at one time and she said she focuses during the arm stroke on her hips getting up for the finish of the stroke and the exit. I think you have to focus on the hips to get out of the way of the hand exit to start the arm recovery. Another thing about this if you do this is the torque action. The actual torque action of this pop right here allows the hand not only to pop out, but it unloads the body you are carrying on the hips. The torque action kind of frees that stroke up.

I am very careful not to say “the deep catch” so that you have on the last item there it is stroking level of depth. I am sure I will go back to saying make a deep catch to some of these kids again, but I just want to emphasize that we are looking a little beyond it.

Key Points: Align the body as if there was a steel rod at the center of the head down to the spine. This must be a straight line. Repetition is the mother of invention. I am sorry, but you have got to repeat some things so I am just trying to lay out the key points here.

Hip and trunks rotate around the skewer. Rotate from one side to the other side around the steel rod, but always in that straight line. The head is stable in a neutral position in the water. You know, I think it is important that the head be back far enough to get on the bow wave. I always liked the backstroke because it feels like you are riding a wave backwards and most people breathe. I think an awful lot of swimmers cannot look straight up because they will arch the back and get off that bow wave. Some people are not built to look straight up. I think the stroke has to be swum a little bit concave, Like a canoe laying in the bottom of a canoe. You have to have a little bit of this type of feeling like in the bottom of a canoe you are being forced to kind of come up a little bit in that direction. So, if you sit too much you are down beneath the bow wave and you push away more water and you are outside of it. When you look at the swimmers, look and see and if you can’t see it looking this way. Remember bend over and look under your arm pit.
OK, stroking arm bends when approaching mid-point or shoulder line. I talked about that.; One of our girls, I told you, it made a major change in her technique, just that one little thing. The maximum arm bend as the body is pushed past the anchor and the stroking arm. So, it is right in the middle here someplace and just past the middle where you have really got a chance to drive it back. Chest out of the water hips high in the water. The arm stroke is near a straight line and minimize the sweeps. You will get a chance to look at some of that under water on these people.

Drills: OK, here are some drills. The first thing that you have to do is teach the drills using persistence and consistency. But they have got to understand what they are supposed to be doing and they can teach it to each other. Again you help yourself again once they learn them enough to teach other people.

The first one is just a simple one. Kick with the arms at your side, body and head in position. That is just a little bit basic all the way.

The next thing is, just to give you a sample of what is done with a rotation. Get the shoulder up and still keep the head and eye position stabilized on one line in this position here with the hands at their side.

The next one is the same thing, but with a half vertical recovery. We will show some of these, but I seldom use this; these are bad. I could no more give all the drills for backstroke, some things you can work in besides these, but I would try to give you a number of them.

This one here is a full recovery of one arm stroke with the other arm remaining at the side and still until the stroking arm finishes, then alternate the other arm. I call this touchdown, touch down to one side stroke then touch down to the other side. I think it is a critical drill. I think it is a “must do” drill. It teaches the body rotation and the feeling of the arm driving by the the body and driving by the arm in a rotated position. You are only focusing on that stroking arm and you are patient and wait and then you get the feeling of taking the stroke on the other side.

I love this drill. I think it is an important drill. Arms extended and kicking under and on top flutter and dolphin. Most of it now I think probably would be done dolphin, but I think you get great body position kicking short distances under water like that cross pool thing we had 35 feet it works great. If you are going to use fins of some kind or monofins then of course, work a 25-yard course. You know if you do these things you have to get on top of the arms. They must be extended for this and make sure that it is truly a torpedo position. When I got that I would stand on the starting blocks at the end of the pool. Sure, you get wet they make flip turns, but I would stand there and look like this. Every kid knew what I was looking for and if they didn’t have a perfect torpedo position I yanked them and either I would force them into that drill right here on the deck or I would have somebody else on the team an assistant coach somebody force them into that and then get them back in the water.

I tell you that when I pulled kids out for a video and shoot them, I can’t even get them up there anymore so, but you know what I am talking about. When you get them out there and you have them stand up and you videotape them, have them turn to their side, their backs and spine and back of the head and arm are in a straight line. I almost can’t believe it, and I know that it is because of the drills that we were doing. Just looking at them. You have to take my word for it because I am just telling you that’s the truth. Another thing, I would have a check-up. During the workout I would have a checkup on the streamline. If they were standing there waiting for a thing I would say “torpedo”. Everybody would fold up and get in line and then turn to the side and we would look at their body line. This is critical here, one arm extended, one arm at the side. The extended hand with little finger turned down a little bit in this position here. I believe you have to do it like this rather than the back of the hand because you are setting up not having the elbow in. You really should be in a position. I push very hard to get so they are working with the palm of their hand.

Double arm stroking, I hardly ever use it. This is where both arms stroke at the same time. I have used it. It is a great one for getting a vertical arm recovery, but there are better ones.

Touch and go is a better one. That is where you come up touch, stroke up, touch, stroke. I love doing that with Hans paddles and also the gripper which is the green paddle. The gripper is a great one for that, but I love doing that particular one with that and that is a critical drill.

Corkscrew swims, yeah. I think that that is important too because that is where you swim maybe 5 strokes crawl stroke five strokes backstroke and so that they know what they are looking for. Every time they make that fifth stroke and switch they should feel their body shooting by the arm. They get the feel of what it really feels like to keep a hold of the water through the stroke.

Spin-out is one that I use occasionally. Especially if a kid is entering behind the head, on the side here. Lift the head out of the water and pretend you are in a miniature bathtub and fire up and go. You are just sitting up like so.

Hands, paddles and fins, all are critical. Use them all the time for backstroke.

Near swims, yeah I love having a full length mirror in front of the backstroke lane because they can really correct a lot of things right there.

Maximizing stroke and optimizing strokes. I am a little bit afraid that I am going to run out of time so I am going to be careful how much time I spend on this. Maximizing strokes is just trying to find out how efficient you get with the number of strokes per length. If you were just talking to Marty, one thing he used to use is a rope that was stretched just under the surface of the water. They would count the strokes using the rope because they would be able to drive themselves past the rope and then I would have them flip turn and swim back and count the strokes. They would try to do just as well and then not increase the number of strokes. The next time go down the other side of the rope. That sort of thing, but maximizing the number of strokes, but optimizing is the most important thing. In other words what is the most efficient number and here you have to do a little bit more work. At first you get a minimum number and the minimum number drill is, most of you have probably done this sort of thing. You do 50’s where you time them and count strokes. Then you do three tests and the best of the three is your objective or the middle one. In other words, if it takes you 30 seconds and it takes you 30 strokes your score is 60 and you keep repeating those like if you are 60. If you do 60 every time or excuse me. If you do a test and you get 60 and the next time you get 62 and the next one 58, shoot for 58. It doesn’t mean you have to have the same time every time. You have to have the same number. Is that clear? Kind of clear? Well OK?

All right, you do that first of all to find out what seems to be the most efficient swimming number and then you start to optimize it. In other words you have got to bring it down to the time that you want to swim or you are swimming. You start doing every time repeat 50’s or 25’s or whatever the distance might be, say 50’s would be the normal thing with me. I time and I count the strokes and I want that time to get down, to be down at race pace. Eventually and not the first few weeks though, but eventually down to race pace so you are going to be working to accomplish that.

Probably in backstroke, maybe even more than in other stroke, you have to have a stroke rate watch. Stroke rate watch, with my first, the Olympic Champion, the gal that was an Olympic Champion, we didn’t have stroke rate watches. I used to time her for six strokes. I would time her so that it only meant something to us and we tried to get her optimum number of strokes of optimum time for six strokes. But all of the really great backstrokers were swimming at a tremendous turnover rate and you have to build up and try to accomplish that and some of the ways to do that I will get to.

I am going to kind of move along because I want to discuss how to develop stroke rate, fast race pace and beyond stroking interspersed within drills and that is one of the things that I think is so important. For example, when you are kicking in backstroke I want my swimmers to swim the walls. I want them to speed swim into the walls and speed swim when they breakout off the walls. I will mention one other thing right now too, because I don’t know if I will ever get a chance to say it again and I think it still holds true. I don’t like my swimmers to break out on the first arm stroke. I see that most people will end up doing that. The breakout is the only place in backstroke that when they start the first strokes that I don’t want them to finish the first stroke before they start their second. I want the second stroke coming in a little sooner than that so they actually pop out and break out on the second arm stroke. I think that is where they really get a lot of speed and I know when we worked it out I watched and watched and watched and it seems like we won every breakout. It seemed like we won every breakout.

That is one thing and if you were going in a 50-meter pool I think you should do about five fast strokes. If you are kicking about, break it up and go five really fast strokes right in the middle of the pool and then go back to straight kicking again. I think that is real important in trying to build this fast stroke rate. It is also important that once you do that you build up your speed again in the kick and it is a better, more efficient kick anyway.

Here is another example of things that you could do for speed work: Two fast pulls, six fast kicks then drill the touchdown. Remember? At six strokes a touchdown so that gives you a little bit of a break and gives you something to think about in technique. Three fast kicks, eight fast, excuse me, three fast pulls, eight fast kicks, six touch and go’s. Touch and go. Then do four fast pulls, ten fast kicks, six spin off. So, in other words you can combine these things anyway you want. You can do those on interval. You can do that if you just keep repeating the same thing. I think that you have to take the time to work on specificity.

When you are preparing for a championship meet I think that you have to get the kids to definitely get, if you are doing 100 yard backstroke you had better get them so they are used to going out exactly at the speed that you want them to go out in and most often. If you are training hard yet, you are not going to be able to go on a straight 50 very often unless you really rest them. If you go 25/25 and you start out with a 10 second rest and you see you can’t do it on a 10 second rest, give them 15 and if you can’t do it on 15, give them 20. If they can’t do it on 20 give them 30, but get to the point where they go out fast enough and then shrink the interval time. In the back half I think you can do that the same way, 25/25, but most of the time you can do those in 50’s and maintaining that speed. The same thing on 200’s – break it all kinds of different ways, but you should be able to tell exactly what that kid can do before you go to the state meet. You can pretty well predict exactly what is going to happen.

OK? Here are some of these drills. We will just let them run because there are some things that I want to cover in addition to that. This is just streamline kick under water. This cross pool stuff. This just the arms at the side and the shoulder roll. This kid has his head back too far, I believe. Oh, this is that touchdown drill. He probably is sitting a little too much for his head position. I think this is just showing stroke to wall, fast strong strokes. That is a tremendous streamline on her. Oh, this is the one arm extended.

While this is going on I can cover a little more ground. I think you have to look at the swimmers from a lot of different angles. Actually, I will cover a lot of this in my talk this afternoon. But for backstroke I look at them at deck level, but I used to have a 12 foot ladder in the pool. This is from all the years of my high school coaching. Of course I was young enough then to get up there and climb on and sit on it, but I used to sit on that and then I would move it to different sections. Kids always thought look at that but you can really see backstroke. You can see so much more looking down and of course their eyes are open they are looking right at you so they know that they are being watched.

There is something coming up here that I would like you to see though. Actually he has the gripper on for the touch and go. That is a touch and go drill. She has a black hand paddle on. That is what she has. I don’t think that you should just keep doing drills without combining them with some kind of speed work. I mean I think it is real important that once you have really learned the drills you should combine it with other stuff. So it is just not buoyant so if they settle into, oh well, here comes a drill and I can just do it. I don’t have to work very hard and it is pretty easy and light. Look at her shoulders. Nice they clear the water nice. Good stuff. Oh yeah, this is combining fast swimming with a drill. That is all it is. So many touch and go strokes and then fast swimming.

Well, this was, if this had been my pool in the old days when I was coaching you would see the mirror. That is why I reached back and took one of the videos that is coming up to show the use of the mirror. Well, this is it. You can see what that is now, corkscrew. Well those entries aren’t real pretty right there. This girl swam in the Olympic Trials in the butterfly. She was becoming a very good backstroker though. Alright. Here it is. Three strokes then switch, three strokes then switch. I like doing this with hand paddles. I like to do this with the paddles because I think they really get a good feel of moving by the body and moving by the arm with the body.

This is supposed to be spinout. Hopefully we are just about out of this. This was a lot longer than I thought. It is pretty hard to crossover behind you with a spinout type of drill. I wish I could pop this along. This guy here, not here, here we go. I wanted to move ahead on a couple of things because we are running out of time. Take a look at the line of pull on Krazelburg and the depth of pull. It is a lot more of a direct line than it is a sweep and it is not a deep, deep catch. This is Peirsol. These are from the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. You see where that arm bend is being delivered. There is a major arm bend in mid-pull. Again, the line of pull is pretty direct.

This is what I wanted you to see before we wrapped it up. This is Egerszegi. I saw her first in Seoul in 1988. She was 14 years old and of course 1, she was 50 pounds less, lighter than anybody else in the finals. This is in one of the preliminary heats in ’96 at Atlanta, but she sits on that bow wave really, really well. She has her chin sloped a little bit toward the neck and she really gets free on the arm recovery, but her rhythm and her stroke I think is fabulous. I think we will see some underwater footage here in a second – watch – even back then. You really see the hip at the high point of the stroke, as the hand exits.

Well, I hope you got some points out of this thing that you can take home with you. I apologize a little bit I wasn’t quite able to sneak in everything I wanted to sneak in, but if I knew how to work the equipment I would have jumped ahead on a couple of things, but thanks.

Selected PowerPoint Slides from Coach Hannula’s Presentation:

What was and probably ain’t no longer!

Bent arm recovery
Lateral arm recovery; flat body; 10 to 10:30 entry
Turns – all with wall hand touch: back twist of head under holding arm; back spin; back “flip” to back push; back touch and forward roll;
Little finger hand exit
Straight arm pull
Head rotation
Sit and full head tilt to neck
Deep entry

What is, at least for the moment!!

Steady head position
Head back, eyes vertical (90 degrees) or slight chin tilt
Rifle barrel recovery
Bent arm pull
Little finger entry
Thumb 1st hand exit
Medium depth catch and “anchor”
Body/trunk rotates past the anchored arm
Alignment and skewered
The dolphin underwater kick – starts/turns.

The 3 R’s
Rhythm – The body moving past the anchored arm evenly and with constant propulsion. Rotating the trunk to the highest point with the hips to clear the hand exit and recovery is vital to all 3 R’s. The six beat kick contributes to rhythm.
Relaxation – The arm recovery and breathing pattern are major components.
Rotation – The hips lead in trunk rotation. The focus is on the hips as the hips rotate to get out of the way of the hand exit to start the arm recovery.
Correct timing allows the torque action in rotation to unload the hips and reduces drag. This results in good shoulder rotation and a stroking level depth for the catch on hand entry.

Key Points
1.  Aligned body. Steel rod through the center of the head down through the spine. Must be a straight line.
2.  Hips/trunk rotate around that skewer (steel rod) from one side to the other.
3.  Head stable and neutral position in the water.
4.  Stroking arm bends as it approaches mid point or shoulder line.
5.  Maximum arm bend as the body is pushed past the anchored and stroking arm.
6.  Chest out of water and hips high in water.
7.  Arm stroke is near a straight line (hand minimizes sweeps).

1. Kick arms at side. Body/head position.
2. Same as #1 but rotation every 12 kicks (or less of a number).
3. Same as #2 but a vertical ½ recovery on each side.
4. Same as #3 but a full recovery and a one arm stroke with the other arm remaining at the side until stroking arm finishes. Then alternate the other arm. (A touch down to the side of the leg drill)
5. Arms extended kicking, under and on top. Flutter and dolphin.
6. One arm extended, one at side. Extended hand with little finger turned under so the palm is mainly facing downward. 12/12, etc. Aligned!
7. Double arm stroking.
8. Touch and go.
9. Corkscrew swims.
10. Spin Out
11. Han’s Paddles and fins
12. Mirror swims
13. Maximizing strokes. Optimizing strokes.
14. Developing stroke rate. Fast race pace and beyond stroking interspersed within drills.

Focus first on reducing resistance forces, this requires less energy expenditure than increasing propulsion. When stroke efficiency is in place then increasing propulsive force will be effective. Stroke rate is a major factor in determining maximum speed in backstroke.


World Class Beginnings: Getting Young Swimmers Started on A Path to Excellence by John Leonard (2005)

1. How do young athletes come to your squad?
2. Transitions from Learn to Swim To squad.
3. Parental education. Early and Often.
4. The Stroke School – Our transition point.
5. What are we preparing young athletes for in the “next level”?
6. The Program in “Year One”
7. The Program in “Year Two”
8. Construction of the daily program. (the same every day)
9. Teaching Key philosophies to our athletes (and parents).
10. “Training”.???????????

Some Quick Background
1970-1978 Syracuse NY. 36 pools, 10 x 50 meter, 20 x 25 yard, odd others.
800 swimmers. Consistent national top 5-10 team finishes, One 1976
Olympian, four athletes who represented USA Internationally.
Coaching Seniors and Learn to Swim Coaches.
1978-1984 – Lake Forest, Illinois – 1 x 50 M, 1 x 25 M, 140 swimmers. 7 who represented the USA Internationally. 140 in the program from age 7-8 to our Olympic Trials. (ages 13-22). Coached everyone.
1985-Present – Executive Director, American Swimming Coaches Association.
1990-2004 – “Hobby Coached” senior swimmers. 3 to represent the USA, including two Olympians, and 6 Olympians from outside the USA. Also coached Novice swimmers just getting started.
Today – JUST coaching novice swimmers and the occasional odd help with the seniors.
My senior swimming interests are covered with my role of Chairman of our USA-Steering Committee for our Olympic and National Team. Its my honor to serve.

The Coach.
Everything comes from the one on one relationship of a coach with an athlete.
The coach builds a “system” or “model” that suits their personality and skills.
You cannot achieve anything great by doing what everyone else does.
Hence, “Systems” are not transferable.

1. How do young swimmers come to your squad?
• Quality at the base of the pyramid is absolutely vital.
• The Base of the Pyramid is Learn to Swim.
• Do your instructors “push children upward”? (preferable)
• Or must you or a member of your staff “Pull children upward? (less preferable)
• Do children come to your squad from outside of your own learn to swim program?
• If so, why? Entrance interviews.
• Do you advertise for swimmers? If so, is the advertising consistent with the product?
• Do you use your current swimmers to bring more swimmers to the program? If so, how? (invitation cards.)
• WHEN can new young swimmers join your squad? (whenever? Or on a schedule?)
• Payment. Registration Fees. Monthly fees. Expectations.
• “the Right Way versus the Expedient Way.”
• How do you measure the productivity of the LTS program and your program at this level of the sport?

Transitions from LTS to Squad.
• What is an Obstacle?
• Different Time, Different Place, Different Person or People.
• How does each apply?
• How can the obstacles be removed?
• Ideal Transition: Same Pool, same time, familiar people.
• What does the ideal situation look like (visually)?
• Importance of Role Modeling throughout the process.
• Who is the Role Model? Senior Swimmer or Peer?
• Importance in transition of “starting more than one” at a time.
• PLAN the transition in some detail.
• Discussion with young swimmer or not?

Parental Education….early and often!
Discussion with parents before the child begins with the squad.
– expectations of attendance, being on time, attending meets, set.
– What the child and parent can expect the child to gain from the squad.
A – Improved fitness and resulting self-image.
B – Improved physical skills in the water.
C – strong sense of oneself as a skilled swimmer.
D – The ability to work equally well with other young women and men.
E – Learning the ability to compete, to “Strive with”.
F – Learning to “make an effort” physically.
G – Respect for achievement, one’s own and others.
H – Willingness to learn about the concepts of TEAM.
I – “ownership” of the sport …independence from the parent.
– Continual planned sessions of education (short/long) to keep the parent “prepared” for each stage the child will go through. Enlist the parent as an “ally” !
– Important to plan and organize education for parents.
– Delivery mechanisms are crucial to success. Email can be the best !!
-What do you educate parents about? What do you care about? For me:
1 – Disciplined, structured workouts. (what do the athletes gain from these?)
2 – Attention from the young swimmers.
3- Willing attitude. “I will try, coach!”
4. Honest, constructive criticism.
5. Dedicated teaching of new skills and dedicated learning of new skills.
6. Purposes of practice.
7. Purpose of training
8. The place and meaning of competition.
9. Evaluating your child’s development in swimming.
10. Proper parental participation in the process.

The Stroke School – Our transition point.
• Existing right next to Learn to Swim Lane.
• Move is easy.
• Come 3 x a week instead of one in first year.
• People are familiar to the child and parent.
• Can “easily” move back for remedial work if necessary, temporarily.
• Only 45 minutes a day.
• As the child goes forward through the year, add a day, add two days for five total.
• Work is typically done in a 12 yard pool or lane, then gradually to 25 yard work.
• Totally stroke oriented except for two things: kicking “work” and dryland strength work.
• Goal after 6 months…swim 100 yards nonstop free and back, 50 of breast and fly.
• Kick 200 yards without fins. Decent mechanics. Attending “Mini-Meets”

• introduction to competition.
• 1 hour in length.
• each swimmer two –three events (25 free, 25 back, 50 free, example.)
• Timed and recorded for progress.
• Parents time.
• Take the time to teach at the same time as compete.
• (Here is how the referee will call you up to the blocks.)
• Relaxed, everyone cheers everyone loudly. Very positive.
• Coaches do “DQ’s” so the child learns there is a correct and incorrect way to do the strokes and events. Not politically correct.
• Positive self-image comes from REAL achievements!
• Pizza and cake and soda for all including parents at the end of the event.

What is the “Career Path” that we are preparing the athlete for?
• Ages 5-10 – Develop strokes, develop “whole athlete”. Learn philosophies of training and independence.
• Ages 11-14 – Develop endurance background, develop strokes, develop whole athlete. Learn Philosophies of competition.
• Ages 15-18 – Develop more specific endurance, do some event specialization and experimentation. When developmentally ready, do some initial speed development. Learn to race with sophistication. Practice resiliancy skills.
• Ages 18-22 – Full range of training experiences. Increased specialization. Strong dryland development. Peak competition ages for many.
• Ages over 22 – Professional swimming if practical, or get on with life and Masters Swimming for fitness!

Career Path Two.
• So, in the “world class beginnings” our goal is simply to prepare our athletes for the next stage…which is aerobic development.
• To accomplish this, we must:
A) Teach great stroke mechanics.
B) Develop better athletes. (limb speed capacity)
C) Develop training philosophies and understandings.
D) Establish the athlete as an “independent and responsible person, capable of resolving their own goals, challenges and issues.

The Program in Year One. (The Stroke School.)
• Start at 3 times a week.
• Start at 45 minutes a day.
• Ask for dependable attendance from parents and athlete.
• Dryland work to make better athletes.
• Run program 50 weeks a year. (at the same time each week.) Consistency.
• Dryland Skills Aid Development
• Pushups and Crawling are big…
• Establish and maintain same practice pattern each day. Why? To whose benefit?
• Concepts of “Mastery”.
• What does practice look like?
A) Breathing drills – 1 M.
B) Kick drills – add more each day 2 M to 8 M over time.
C) Teaching drills – review past week. (5M)
D) Teaching new drills. (10 M)
E) Practice, with feedback on whole stroke. (5 M)
F) Speed kick, or speed swim (at race tempos) (5 M)
G) Review new and old drills – PERFECT SWIMMING (5 M)
H) Dryland Training (5 M)
I) 1 M review and Team Cheer (2M)
The “Why’s”..
1. Breathing because it can never be good enough.
2. Kicking builds better athletes.
3. Review so you move from known to the unknown.
4. Teach new skills each day to keep it fresh and moving forward.
5. Do Whole stroke efforts so they know how the drills fit into the whole stroke picture.
6. Speed kick or swim at race tempo so neural connections are made to help athlete RACE!
7. After race speed deteriorates skills, rebuild before end of day with PERFECT STROKES.
8. Dryland training. Because strength and balance skills translate into better athletes today and tomorrow.
9. Review – verbal BRIEF discussion of “how they did”…”you all got an A on the backstroke turns, but a D on the breaststroke skill set” etc. Give grades….hard evaluations, EXPECT A LOT and let them know you expect a lot! High Expectations and challenging evaluations are a COMPLIMENT. The BEST COMPLIMENT from a coach.
10. Team Cheer – it’s a team sport. Learn it now. Act like it now. EVERYONE PARTICIPATES, EVERYONE LIKES THIS, IT IS A POSITIVE FOR ALL!

Year One – Competition.
• 1 competition per month.
• Competitions only in “good weather”.
• Competitions focused on learning opportunities. (how?)
• Competitions focused on comparing with oneself. (best times).
• Competitions focused on developing the relationship between quality practice and good results.
• Competitions in short distances, quality strokes.
• Perhaps competitions based on strokes, rather than competitive racing. (for some opportunities.)

Year One – Technique teaching.
Key Points of emphasis in teaching.
• Balance. Adjusting head position, hand positioning. Body shaping.
• Teaching free first as “training stroke”.
• Backstroke second.
• Fly and breast simultaneously.
• Consider 4 months of “just free and back”
• Then 4 months of 20% Free/back, 80% breast/fly.
• Then 4 months equal distribution of stroke.
• Turn teaching from the first day. (social importance.)
• Start teaching ONLY when coordination levels are sufficient.
• In every stroke, emphasis on best techniques for air exchange.

Year One – Teaching Starts.
• Our Progression…and our worries….
• Standing jump, hands at side. (quality control of balance)
• Standing jump, hands overhead. (both from side of pool.)
• Vertical entry. Controlled Jump, with eye/head control.
• Repeat from top of block.
• Kneeling dive from side with streamline.
• ½ squat dive (one leg) from side with streamline and breakout.
• Stand and bend dive from side, streamline and breakout.
• Starting position on the block.
• Dive from starting position on the block. (safety precautions.)
• Children progress ONLY at their own rate.

End of Year One Goals.
1. Competence in free and back.
2. Beginnings of breast and fly.
3. Ability to swim a 100 IM Legally.
4. Ability to swim 100 free, 100 back.
5. Beginnings of good turns, all four.
6. Ability to start from the block.
7. “Improved” athletic skills.
8. Understanding of basic team competencies.
(social and philosophical).
9. Parents in tune, on board and confident of success.

Year Two. Competency.
Key Things to Accomplish in Year Two.
1. Introduce and Constant improvement on the Secrets of Speed, Rhythm, Range, Relaxation.
2. Improve Endurance capacity, both aerobic and muscular.
3. Focus on effective Racing Rhythms.
4. Continued refinement of technique in strokes, starts and turns.

Year Two – Practices
• Key Concept- Why do we practice? “we practice to succeed in races.”
• First time that practices are not “the same” every day. Introduce cyclical work.
• How does each thing contribute to race success?
• DONE DIFFERENTLY than 10-20-30 years ago because athletes start from a much worse athletic position than they did then.

Year Two – Practices
• 75-90 minutes a day.
• Begin the year with stroke work and “tempo” or rhythm training.
• Perhaps 25-35% of the year in this mode until “successful” with majority of group.
• Second, cardiovascular endurance – build sets around ability to keep swimming with good technique and good air exchange. (Relaxation training)
• Again, perhaps 25-35% of the year in this mode.
• Decide on specific age related “aerobic endurance goals” i.e. 10 year olds under 7 minutes in the 500 free.) Make this a “big deal” with tee-shirts, etc.
• Third, muscular endurance phase. – Build sets around ability to maintain RANGE (distance per stroke) and rhythm in each stroke.
• Again, perhaps 25-35% of the year in this mode.
• Decide on specific “per individual” stroke counts for specific races. IE 10 under
• 100 fly – 12 strokes per 25 yard length.

Year Two – Expectations.
• Five practices a week.
• 75-90 minutes a practice.
• “a couple” of mornings over the whole year.
• First exposure to longer and more formal swim meet experiences.
• Opportunity to increase number of training sessions in the summer.
• Learn measurable ways to self-study own improvement. DPS, understand tempo training, understand own performance times, etc.
• Learn about the swim meet procedures for best performances.
• Parents contribute to support of the team.
• Swimmers develop leadership for Year One new athletes. Opportunities for leadership formally offered and provided.

Time out…why is this a different paradigm?
• Because Rhythm, or stroke rate is developed first.
• Why?
• We have lousy athletes compared to 10-20-30 years ago.
• Why?
• Many children today cannot “move their limbs” fast enough to get to successful stroke rates, even for their young ages.
• Have to teach increased limb speed FIRST, in a variety of ways in and out of the water.
• Many children are simply unfamiliar with making a “physical effort” today.
• Really not a terribly different concept. (East European model from the 60’s-70’s-80’s.)

Year Two – Verbal-Physical.
• Technique teaching becomes different in Year Two.
• Expect athletes to learn the language of each stroke.
• How? What?
• Once language is learned, corrections and comments are expedited and can be delivered in the middle of “Training”.
• Thus, technique work and training work “become one”.
• Use question and answer technique to teach stroke language.
• Have athletes teach each other, critique each other and “coach” each other to better performances.
• “The best way to learn, is to teach.”

A Year Two Practice – Rhythm Phase
• 10-12 minute warmup – easy swimming and stroke drills. Vary daily.
• Short, fast kick set. (10 x 25 on 35 seconds.)
• Rhythm set – easy speed – (10 x 50 free on 1:00) hold within 5 sec of best time.
• Technique set – 20 x 25 fly various drills on 10 SR. Constant comments. Constant reminders.
• Rhythm set – easy speed – 4 (25-50-75-100) on 30 sec base. Coaches choice of strokes. Check stroke rates for range “close” to race rhythm.
• Endurance kick set – 10 x 100 free with fins on 1:40
• Speed – 12 x 25 free on 3 heats at race tempos.
• Cool-down 400 IM Stroke Drill.
• Some fast free/back turn drills.

Year Two – Visual
• Paul Bergen
• “There are 100 million ten year old Brittany Spears out there…why?”

Year Two Practice Aerobic Phase
• Warmup 400 IM Drill
• 5 x 200 free on 3:00 (reduce intervals 3-5 sec per week for 10 weeks)
• 20 x 25 stroke choice one fast, one easy 10 SR. Technique comments.
• 4 x 150 free on 2:20 (reduce intervals accordingly)
• Kick 4 x 100 free on 1:35 with fins.
• 4 x 100 free on 1:30 fast.
• 20 x 50 back on 1:00 race tempo.
• 400 free drill loosen.
• Free and back turn drills.

Year Two Practice – Muscular endurance phase. (DPS or Range)
• 400 IM Loosen drills.
• 10 x 50 free on 50 steady stroke count
• 4 x 300 backstroke – on 5:30 – steady stroke count.
• 4 x 200 breast on 4:00 – decreasing stroke count.
• 4 x 100 fly on 1:55 – Hold stroke count.
• 20 x 25 free alt fast/easy on 30 seconds.
• 10 x 50 back – Technique only on 15 SR.
• Fast turn work – breast, fly.
• 400 Back drills – loosen down.


Construction of the Daily Program.
• What do children want?
• What do children Need?
• Is there a difference? What is it?
• Young ladies want/need Mastery.
• Young gentlemen want/need freedom within boundaries.
• Can we provide both groups with what they want/need?
• Different by structure, or different by attitude of the coach?
• Changing the structure too often makes chaos.
• Changing the attitude is somewhat easier.

Construction of the daily program.
• In year one – structure provides for mastery. (and sets boundaries).
• In year two – structure and design must allow for more independent choice or the boys will disappear.
• By year three – enough differentiation should be available to cater to each.

Daily Program – Year One.
• Time Before Practice – “what’s your story?”
• How to Start Practice. Methodology matters!
• Initial Stroke Set – reviews
• Very limited time between activities. Fast paced tempo of the session. Demanding, close to impossible. Adaptation is largely psychological.
• New Teaching Set. Take tempo down a notch. Get it right. Critical nature of honest feedback here.
• Doing some “training work”.
• Some dryland work. Simple, but challenging.
• Finish with short critique and team cheer. Who leads?
• The critical post-practice moments…what happens?

Daily Program – Year Two.
• Pre-practice time – same routine. “what’s your story?”
• Into the water….more of a warmup set. Choices: Intervals or some longer swims with some choices? Why? Boys.
• Short Training set.
• Teaching set.
• Short Training set.
• Teaching review set.
• Some speed….on heats…why? Boys.
• Some skill work – starts and turns.
• Dryland – more challenging in amount and difficulty.
• Critique – draw it in close, huddle. Little people in front, big people in the back. Team Cheer. (What does the cheer say?) IMPORTANT!

Key Teaching Philosophies.
• Must Educate BOTH parents and athletes.
• Must repeat the messages consistently and constantly.
• Must make sure your actions are consistent with stated philosophies.
• Now, what is the message?
1. Your child is capable of more independent action than you think. (or than you think you can.)
2. Our goal is independent children, at least within the sport context.
3. The sport belongs to the child. Not the parent, not the coach.
The Message, Con’t.
4. Discipline is good for people. All people.
5. First you prove competence, then you get artistic. (more freedom)
6. Children benefit most from honest feedback. (as long as they know you care.)
7. Children need to be corrected and fixed.
8. Children may know what they want, but they don’t know what they need. Up to a certain age, coach and parent determine that. And they DO what they NEED, not what they want.
9. Politeness and respect are EXPECTED.
10. First you learn, then you train.
The Message, Con’t.
11. Swim meets are experiments in learning. Nothing more.
12. Variety in meets experiences are crucial.
13. Mistakes are great teachers.
14. Repeated mistakes require strong correction.
15. Praise is at least as dangerous as criticism. Maybe more so.
16. The role of analysis versus the role of emotion.
17. Resilience
18. Learn to take on what you can, and accept what you can’t. (cold water, etc. etc. etc.)
19. You compete with yourself primarily. (comparions.)
20. Parents parent, coaches coach.

Sometimes parents ask about “training”. The answer is:
1. We work on technique first. Explain why.
2. We work on limb speed second. Explain why.
3. We work on aerobic endurance third. Explain why.
4. We work on muscular endurance fourth. Explain why.
5. In the first two years, we don’t work on Speed. Explain why.

Thanks for Listening! I hope you gained something you can use!

Comments? Contact John Leonard at


Age Group Training by Bill Schalz (2005)

Introduction: I have to tell you, I have had the great privilege to work with our next speaker in the club development setting as a member of the club development committee over the last three or four years. He has brought an incredible insight and more than that – creativity to his ideas at that committee level. We have shared some of those ideas over the years and I have got to tell you I stole more from him than he borrowed from me. It is a very unique situation when you can track and follow the development and progress of a great swimmer like Mary DeScenza from the age of 10, all the way up to the current day where he is still very involved in her development. Mary just came off of a very successful NCAA’s World Championships and Duel in the Pool. Bill is going to share with us some of the development stages, and a look at this from the very beginning. It was interesting – I asked him what is the subject of the talk and he goes – you know, I don’t really know. I asked him, what do you want me to call the talk and he said, “well, I haven’t figured it out yet” – that was five minutes ago. So, I am not sure where we are going, but I can tell you it will be entertaining and you will learn a lot – Bill Schalz.

Coach Bill Schalz: I didn’t have a chance to see Tammy Hopkin’s speech. I wish I would have because when I started the Academy Bullets Swim Club in 1994 my plan was to develop a club team. We wanted to start our own team and combine that with a lesson program. I felt that that was going to be a great model for us. Not only to build and develop great swimmers, but also to do it in a way that was going to be financially acceptable to me. When I hired my current head age group coach, one of the things that we talked about was developing a lesson program and creating that side of the program which I think is very lucrative so that we would be able to really pay our coaches what I think they need to be paid. We would do it using the swim lesson money more than the swim team money or a combination of both. Then I wrote an article about the De Anza.Cupertino Aquatics where Tammy is and I thought this is exactly what I was talking about. So, we have kind of modeled our club. Without even knowing I was modeling their club we actually did, so I wish I would have had a chance to see her speech, but I was nervously preparing for this one. I want to thank Rick for that kind introduction and I also want to thank John Leonard for inviting me to speak. He asked me to speak yesterday on owning your own club and I am going to touch on some of those things today because I think that that is important to what we have done in the development of Mary DeScenza.

Mary DeScenza, as Rick said, came to our club when she was ten years old. She was a JO level butterflyer. I don’t even know if she had won an age group state title at that point. What I want to talk about is – you know, Mary is a great butterflyer. She is currently – I think she is ranked #1 in the country and 4th, 5th or 6th in the world – somewhere in there. We have had Mary all the way from when she was ten years old through high school and now she is training at the University of Georgia with Jack, and she comes back and swims with us on vacations and usually in the spring after school gets out. We have stayed very involved – I have stayed in close contact with Mary and she with me. One of the struggles I had with this talk was, I didn’t want to just get up here and start going on about a bunch of fly sets and saying oh, we did this and we did that – we are doing a lot of the same things today that we did four years ago with Mary and we are just not getting a lot of World Championship qualifiers. So obviously a lot of the reason for Mary’s success were the traits that she brought to the table. I thought Eddie Reese made a great point yesterday when he said that you know, athletes are 90% of what we do and we are probably 10-15% and I certainly believe that. Mary is a pretty special person and I consider her like a daughter to me. We have had a great working relationship and I want to talk about the traits that I think made her a champion and then come back and talk about some of the things that we did in the club, and I think how we, as coaches, can help other athletes and perhaps accentuate some of those traits.

Some of the traits that I think made Mary DeScenza successful: 1. She is very passionate about swimming. Since she was three years old I am told she loved to be in the water. You know, everybody here in this room – we spend a lot of time in coaching and a lot of time in swimming and obviously, we are pretty passionate about what we do. Obviously if a swimmer is going to be staring at that black line day after day after day –to reach high levels you are going to have to really love what you do, and Mary just loves to swim. She loves to practice. She loves to compete and she loves the sport of swimming. Now that she has reached the world level she has had opportunities to travel around the world and meet swimmers from other countries. I think that just adds to that. Mary is also a great racer. I think we have all seen kids who you know, really work hard, maybe they are better practice swimmers than meet swimmers. Mary is a great racer. There was a moment when we were swimming – I coached Mary in the high school season and I also coached her in our club. We were at the high school state meet, and I do not remember if it was Mary’s junior or senior year and in prelims our 400 free relay had just gotten pretty well blown out by New Trier. They had some fast swimmers at the front end and we had Mary at the end of the relay and we got way behind, and we were swimming in the waves. So, at finals I decided to put Mary up front. Get us out in the fresh water and clean water and hopefully we would have a chance to beat New Trier in that relay. New Trier is up on the north side of Chicago, we are on the west side. There was a girl who led off New Trier’s relay – her name was Ashley. Ashley had swum for our club when she was younger and then over time she moved to the north side and she ended up swimming for New Trier. So, Mary and Ashley knew each other really well. Before the race Mary is sitting there just leaning against the block with her head down and just kind of thinking and getting ready for her race. Ashley is standing next to her and it did not dawn on her that she was going to have to race Mary today. You know, right before a race starts there is that hush and there was that quiet and Ashley looks over and realizes that it is Mary and she is like – what are you doing here? And you know, Mary started laughing – she looks at Ashley and she is laughing and giggling and they are kind of joking around a little bit and then Mary turned her face back down to the block and just stared at the block. There was a physical transformation on her face – you could just see she was ready to race. I looked at my assistant, I got goose bumps when I saw it and I looked at him and I said, did you see that? And he was like oh my God – this is going to be really good and she just missed the state record in the hundred free leading off our relay, and broke our school record. She got our relay out great even though we got caught in the last 50 yards. My anchor girl, I said you know, they will probably have caught us by then, but she had the lead and she was crying on the blocks and all nervous. The point is that you know, it really showed that Mary, when she gets up and when it is time to race she really gets ready to do it and did a great job with that.

Mary is a dedicated swimmer and very hard worker. Like I said, she loves to train. I talked to my wife this morning on the phone. My wife was Mary’s coach for the first three years. We had a boy come to our team, and they did not get along. I think part of it was competition, and Robin said you gotta talk about this guy because man, Mary just – every time she got in the water she just wanted to beat this guy every single day and this guy really drove Mary. You know that goes with the racing, but it also goes to the workout and dedication. Mary is just – she was dedicated. She showed up every day. You didn’t have to call her and say “ Hey Mary – why weren’t you at practice the other day”, you know, she just came every day and I think that goes back to the passion too.She understood the concept that you have to work hard and you have to work hard every day if you are going to want to reach your goals and achieve your objectives. She was very goal oriented and I am going to talk more about setting goals and some of those things.

I had a swimmer, one of our high school guys, this summer. We do our goal sheets and he fills it out and I have the goal sheets and we go over them with the kids, especially if we are doing some race pace stuff. We want to make sure that they know what their goal pace is and what their splits are. I had a swimmer that wasn’t swimming well so I sat down with him and I said, “Tell me your goals.” 50 free etc., we go down the list and I write all his goals down on his goal sheet that he was reciting to me. I would say that out of every event he gave me, maybe one or two was close. Some of this guys goal’s were a second, two seconds off in a hundred. His 400 time was 8 or 9 seconds off. This guy had no idea what he wanted to do. I always say that your goals are your water and that is what steers your swimming. You know, if I ask Mary what her goals are she tells me her goals and she knows her times every single day and she is very focused on what she wants to accomplish. She has got that goal orientation which is very good. Mary’s parents and family are exceedingly supportive of Mary. Her parents – Mary has two sisters, both of who swam for us. She has a sister right now who is a senior and swimming on our high school and club team right now, and I keep trying to talk the DsScenza’s into having more kids, but they are having none of that. When you have a daughter who is at that level, you know your family vacations tend to be geared around, Indianapolis for world trials but you know, there are some good vacations, Long Beach, things like that. Seattle and other places, but you know when you go to a city for a vacation and you are spending 8 hours a day of that vacation in a swimming pool it would kind of be a little bit of a drag on your sisters. But even through all that stuff her sisters really understood that Mary was pretty special and her parents have been great for the club – supportive of the club.

Her parents work all the meets. Her dad was our meet director when we hosted the big LSC Championship meets and even beyond that is the support that I receive from their parents. I don’t hang out with a lot of swim team parents, mostly because if I do we end up talking about swimming and so I don’t do a lot of social things with swim team parents. Bob DeScenza and Margaret DeScenza were really an exception to that rule for me. In all the times that I went out socially with the DeScenza’s – not once did they ever bring up swimming or ever question something about that. I mean, there were times when they had questions and we did that outside of social interaction. They were supportive of me and the program and you know, if the girls would come home and complain, you know, they would say if you don’t want to do it – quit. I am thinking oh God no! not that. They have just been unbelievably supportive all the way through. Mary has had great relationships with all the coaches that I know she has been coached by. My wife Robin is a pretty tough coach and the very first day of swim practice, little scrawny Mary DeScenza, 10 years old doing handstands while my wife is giving a set. In the water doing hand stands, so obviously her head was in no position to hear the set or the drill or whatever they were doing so Mary pops her head up, Robin gets her out of the water and Mary is doing ten pushups. I walk over to Robin and I am like – honey, it is her first day – give her a break. No way she is going to learn to do this stuff right and we are going to get this stuff done today. I go, “her mom is in the stands, don’t you think, you maybe should just give her a little break?” Robin said, “I don’t care” and so after the practice, Mrs. DeScenza comes down to end of the balcony ,she leans over the balcony and I am like, “okay – here it comes” and her mom just looks at Robin and says, “That is exactly why we came to this club.” My daughter needs discipline. And I am like, “I am going to love this” so, I couldn’t wait to get Mary after that. Probably the reason I am standing here is just because Mary is very, very talented.

You know, I used to tell people that Mary fell out of a talent tree – she hit every branch on the way down and I mean, she has got a lot of talent. When you get talent and hard work as a combination you are in pretty good shape. Those are the main traits for Mary, and I think that all those things coming together really made a big impact on her success. I want to talk a little bit about the Academy Bullet Swim Club and some of the reasons why I think our club was well suited for her. I own my own swim team. I used to coach at a YMCA, and if you saw my talk yesterday I am going to delve into that a little bit right now. I worked for a parent’s board, an aquatic instructor and an executive director. All good people, but all had different goals. When we had a parent’s board that was made up of mostly 10 and unders they couldn’t understand the concept of spending any money on nationals. Also, they couldn’t understand why the head coach did not coach the little kids. When we had a parent’s board of older kids they couldn’t understand the concept of supporting age group teams. I am exaggerating, but you know, there was always that kind of ebb and flow of the team and that is why I decided to get out of working and being an employee. That is why I decided to work for myself. I wanted to have the control of the program and set the direction of it. That is what I have done with the Academy Bullet Swim Club.

I think there are advantages of being a coach on a team. I know a lot of people in this room work for a parent organization and I have no intention of painting with a broad brush about parent organizations. There are some really good ones out there, but I know when I go to Nationals and I look out at all the coaches and all the teams there, especially at the club level, most of the top club level teams are coach-owned or the coach is the CEO. I think even more are coach-owned than coach CEO. The other top teams are obviously the college teams where the college coaches are running their show. That is my personal opinion. You know, it is just the way I work and I think that has worked really well for us, so as I talk about being a coach on a team, if you are not one – please do not take offense. Our goal and our mission, our philosophy of the Academy Bullets is we want to get kids to the highest level that they can achieve and that they are willing to work for. We will do everything possible that we can, within reason obviously, to make that happen. As an advantage of owning my club, I do not have to cut through a lot of red tape. I don’t have to go to a board meeting and say okay, I am out to spend $5,000, going to the US Open, two national meets, our sectional meets and all these other things. I obviously have to set my budget and I have to run our team in a fiscally responsible manner, but I know that going in, how we want to do this. I think some clubs kind of say ”Well, here is our income so we have to make sure that our expenses are less than our income.” I kind of do it the other way around. This is how much money we need to run the program this year and we have to make sure that we generate that much money to do it. When you have an athlete like a Mary DeScenza and I think even if you are a small club team and you have one JO qualifier you know, it is like coaching another team. Especially when you get to the World level and things like that. The main example I have of that is when Mary was preparing for the World Championship trials four years ago. The meet was in – it was down here in late July or early August. We made the decision since Mary was swimming high school swimming and I was her coach that we would train her through that high school season, we would then rest and taper for the US Open. Then we would let her take Christmas break off. She took off about a week and a half over Christmas training. She trained up until Christmas after the Open so that we could kind of maintain some aerobic base on there and then we spent the next eight months just going straight to the World Trials. What happens in a situation like that is during Christmas time I am coaching and Mary is on vacation.

In the spring time I am coaching with Mary while the rest of the team is on vacation so in the spring time when the rest of my senior team is tapering for their sectional meet or whatever their team meet may be, Mary is working hard and she is in full training mode so it is coaching a different team. We have some pretty good other swimmers on our team that are qualified for Grand Prix meets so when we would go to Grand Prix meets we are not necessarily taking Mary by herself, but she was definitely on a different track than everybody else. I really equate that to coaching a separate swim team, so I was able to set that up and make that work and again. I just didn’t have to go to a board and I didn’t have to say well you know, we need extra pool time here or we need to do this or that and we are going to travel to these meets – it just got done and so we made it work. It is pretty expensive to coach an athlete at the national level and a lot more travel involved. I coached two swimmers that made the Lithuanian Olympic team last year. A couple of years ago they were going to the European Swimming Championships and I thought it was important for me to go to the European Championships to see what it was like. So I flew out to Madrid to the European Championships and again, I am 99% no I am 100% sure that my old club would not have let me do that. I felt that was important and I guarantee you I spent far more money on that trip than I got in fees from those guys that were swimming for me, but I just thought it was important to do it. I felt it was important to understand the European Championships and it was a great learning experience for me. But again, there was no bureaucracy and no red tape – we just got it done. My wife Robin, whom I have talked about a little bit is a phenomenal age group coach and she doesn’t coach anymore because our children have gotten to the point that, I have one son in college and I have another daughter who is a sophomore in high school and she is a three sport athlete in high school – swimming is not one of those three sports unfortunately, so she is in the middle of her very aerobic intense volleyball season right now. My wife with my daughter being so active is driving her all around. It just didn’t work to have both of us working after school and neither of us home for our kids so my wife dropped out of coaching when our kids got older. She coached Mary from when Mary was ten until she turned 13 and when Mary was 12 years old she qualified for her first event at Nationals in the hundred fly. It was at the North East Juniors at Miami of Ohio and Mary had been training with my wife that summer. They were training about an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and a half a day I think it was. Maybe two to three days a week of 30 minutes of dry land. That says a lot about Mary’s talent level and work level along with everything else, but my wife is the kind of coach that was, as I kind of call it, in your face. I don’t mean that negatively, but every single time a kid hits the wall, they are getting told something and my wife is very active on the deck. Far more active than I ever have been and I consider myself to be pretty active on the deck! My wife is constantly talking to these kids. Telling them what they need to do.

When Mary first came to our team whenever she swam freestyle, it looked like butterfly. When she swam backstroke it looked like butterfly. She would swim breaststroke it would look like butterfly. She had a dolphin action for everything and she was one of those swimmers that just put her head down and swam hard. My wife I think did two things. First, she taught her how to swim the other strokes correctly and that took a lot of work, and she also brought a lot of discipline into Mary’s swimming. You know, I guarantee you Mary does not do handstands anymore! During sets Mary was kind of a typical squirrelly little kid and Robin put a lot of discipline into that. I can promise you that a great deal of Mary’s success, even today in college, goes all the way back to when she was swimming for Robin. I have been truly blessed to have great age group coaches. I met my wife on a pool deck. She was coaching for another team, and we started dating because that team was always beating me! We ended up getting married so it works out pretty well for me. After Robin left, my new head age group coach is Todd Kapin. Todd swam for me. He swam for Northwestern and I think he was a school record holder there and I believe he was also a big 10 champion. Todd, when he swam for me was awesome. I have a women’s team and a boy’s team at the high school level and Todd was a great person to bring these guys and keep them focused. We really had a some great seasons with those guys and a lot of that has to do with Todd convincing our sprinters that you know – going a 3,000 yard set will actually help them get better. So, Todd is kind of a pied piper guy with the age group swimmers now and he has been tremendously successful. We won our first age group championship this summer and when I get kids from Todd, I get fast swimmers. The point of that is I absolutely believe 100% that age group swimmers, and a great age group coach is worth his or her weight in gold. My age group coaches have made me look like a genius and I am all for people making me look like a genius.

I talked yesterday that if you get all your coaches together and get all your advisors together in your business, or even in the business setting for me, even in my swim team and I can do that and I look around the room and I am the smartest person in the room, our team is in big trouble, and I have great people working for me. Todd has been very instrumental in the growth of our program too. So, those are some of the big things with the Bullets. I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about our club, I really want to spend some time talking about Mary’s traits and how those are going to excel. I think there are big reasons that really helped support Mary and in her path. I want to talk about applying those traits and what we can do as coaches. I heard Mark Schubert’s talk two days ago and I kept thinking, oh, that is in my talk , that’s in my talk so I may reference Mark a few times, if nothing else, just to lend credence to my thoughts. I talked about Mary’s passion and dedication. We do not have attendance policies on our team. We tell kids how often we want them to come to practice a week, especially at the age group level. When parents say, “How many times do they have to come a week?” and I say, “We want them there and we want them to come but we offer practice every day. We understand kids are going to do other sports and I think that’s good for kids to do other sports when they are young.” One of the things I tell my coaches is that my philosophy is that we need to make our swim practices more appealing than any other thing that they would want to do. That doesn’t mean that we have to play water basketball or water polo every day and things like that. Have fun and games. We can work hard and challenge the swimmers, but I think we need to do it in a way that is fun and make it so that this is what they want to do. If we can do that, that is going to go a long way to motivating these kids to get better.

I am a firm believer that we need to challenge our kids in workouts. With Mary, one of the things, and I am sorry guys, but I talk a lot about her swimming. With Mary being a really strong butterflyer, her 100 fly time was faster than most of my 100 freestyler’s times on the girl’s side. So, she swam a lot of you know, if we were doing a lot of freestyle sets, she maybe would do a 2-3,000 yard freestyle set and she would have to do butterfly. She didn’t always like it, but she did it and that was a big reason why she was able to get better. We were able to get her racing against other kids. Todd Kapin was a really good 200 backstroker and we had another good 200 backstroker back when he was swimming for me. These guys were swimming against eventual NCAA finalists in freestyle and these guys were swimming backstroke sets with those guys and Steve ended up going 2:01 long course in the 200 backstroke and became very successful with that because we really challenged him by having him race against freestylers.

Change things up. I am always looking to do our sets differently and Rick said that he has taken more from me than I from him. I have taken from everybody so I don’t know if I have ever had a true original thought on a swim set that I have ever given, but I am always looking for different ways to do that and my head age group coach Todd is really good at that. He is great with coming up with different variances of sets. My very first head age group coach when I was coaching at the Y, a guy named Mike Lorik, was phenomenal at it. This guy had more creativity than any other coach I have ever met and you know, Mike coaches for another team in the Chicago area and we still communicate. I see him all the time on deck. I will talk to him about sets that we are doing and he will just say, off the top of his head, “Did you ever try doing this?” And I am like no, but I am going to do that tomorrow. He is just great at coming up with different ways to do sets and I encourage you to talk to other people. We are always looking for different ways to do sets and different ways to get the same result from kids. One thing we always try to do too in the springtime (the high school seasons in Illinois are in the fall and the winter) so the springtime we have everybody there. We always try to do something just a little bit different. We have gone to motivational courses where you go out and you do different activities and things and team building exercises. I have brought psychologists in. I brought a metaphysicist in one time. That was an interesting weekend, but it was actually very good. We have tried to do some different team things every spring. This is with our senior team and it is something that is mandatory. We are trying to bring in a big speaker again this spring. We are always trying to do something in the spring that is just unique and different where it is kind of a weekend retreat for the kids. We don’t get in the water that weekend. I think it is great to kind of get them stimulated at the beginning of the season.

Mark talked about this and I think it is very, very important. I think you need to be interested in your swimmer’s personal lives. Whenever I have a swimmer that is really struggling I try to make an additional effort to talk to that swimmer during the workout, and a lot of times, not all the time, but a lot of times we don’t talk about swimming. You know, we talk about what is going on at school. What is going on at home. I don’t think it works if once every three months I go and talk to that swimmer. I think we need to build relationships with our swimmers and I am definitely going to talk about that a little bit more, but it is important to build a rapport with your swimmers, build a relationship with your swimmers so that when things are tough they have confidence to come and talk to you. I think that is very, very important and I try to talk to all my swimmers every day. I think Mark Schubert said something the other day where he says you know, he tries to get his swimmers to smile every day and I think I do that subconsciously, but now when I go back I am actually going to be more active about doing that. I have a great relationship with Mary. We talk all the time and I have had other swimmers that have called me from Big 10’s or NCAA’s that I have had great relationships with and you know they are still calling me and for advice and things like that and so I cannot stress that enough. We always tell swimmers what they are doing wrong and I think it is important to tell swimmers what they are doing right and look for positive ways to motivate them.

Our girl’s school is Rosary High School and the school’s nickname is the Royals and before I got to the school the swim team’s nickname was the Beads. Rosary beads. One year the girls got these little black beads and they would put them on their goggle straps and we would kind of set this up where they would talk to each other, and if they caught somebody doing something right they would give them a bead. The only problem was those beads ended up all over the deck so we didn’t do it the next year, but we try to do something every year. I got the idea from Skip Kenney who was giving a talk at a clinic one time. This was a long time ago when his kids were young and he was talking about he went to his son’s second or third grade parent-teacher conference and you know, I really related to this because I got the impression that Skip and I, our experiences at parent-teachers conferences are pretty much the same. We both sit there and nod our heads and our wives did all the talking and took care of all of that side of it. People call our house for stuff, about stuff on the house I just tell them I am not qualified to make that decision and I hand the phone to my wife. But Skip was looking at the desk and there were these little yellow pieces of paper with suns on them. With a picture of a sun, a little smiley face on it and at the end of the conference Skip asked the teacher ”What is that?” And she goes well, “It is a sunshine gram” and he says, “Well what is a sunshine gram?” and she goes well, “If kids catch the other kids doing something well, they write their name on it and hand them a sunshine gram” and Skip goes, “ Can I take one of those? I would like to use this with my college team and she goes “It is really geared toward second and third graders” and he goes, “That is why it is going to work so well with the college team.” So, you know, fun stuff like that. Little stupid silly things, and just showing kids that you care and stuff like that I think are really important.

Like I said, Mary was goal-oriented. Let’s say we were doing a set and I would say, “On this hundred you need to be at half your 200 time.” I didn’t have to tell Mary what her 200 time was. Or, I would say half your goal time – I didn’t have to tell her what her goal time was. If I told her I wanted her to swim at the second hundred pace of her 200 time she knew what that was too. A lot of kids don’t and so we do a lot of work on goal setting with our club team and we have a goal meeting every year at the beginning of each season. I tell the kids the same thing every year and I have three rules that I think make a goal a goal: #1: the goal has got to be concrete. I cannot tell you how many times I ask a swimmer what their goal is and they go well, I want to get my best time and I go okay, what is your best time – “oh, I don’t know”. Not a lot of information there. They have to actually know, I want to go under a minute. I want to go a :58. It needs to be something that you can just really wrap your fingers around. It needs to be something you can put up there. I have had kids – I want to qualify for state – I want to qualify for sectionals – I want to qualify for nationals. Okay, what is the national cut? I don’t know. I want to make top 8 in sectionals – well, what is that cut? They need to get that information or they need to know those times. Some of that information is so readily available on the web sites now that you know, it is pretty easy for them to get that and I don’t go and get that information for them. I think it is important to teach them to be responsible. It is their goals. They need to go out there. If they are not willing to do the work to look up the information they need to set the goal, they probably are not going to be working hard enough to reach their goals anyway. It needs to be important for them to do that and we really stress that. I think goals need to be time limited and what I mean by time limited is that you have to have a deadline to achieve your goal and we always set the deadline to achieve the goal if you want to qualify for let’s say sectionals – then the meet right before sectionals is probably going to be the deadline to hit that goal. If you want to perform a certain time at your championship meet then that championship meet is obviously the deadline. Mark really touched on this a little bit too a couple of days ago when he talked about having a championship meet and having kids swim well at the end of the season. I think that is really important. We try to stress that in our goal setting. Finally, goals must be something that you are willing to work for – something that you are willing to sacrifice for and something that you are willing to do whatever is required to get the goal done. Winston Churchill said, “Sometimes it is not good enough to do your best, you have to do what is required” and I tell the kids that too and if you are going to set a goal – you are going to have to do what is required to achieve that goal and you have to be willing to do that and so we talk about – I think that is an important part of goal setting. Dreams I think are an important part of goal setting too. If you have a dream to make the Olympics and you make the world championship team, and you make the Pan-Pac team, you are finishing pretty high. I think if you set those dreams way out there it gives your goals a direction in which to move your goals toward and I really think that dreams are a great thing.

I had a swimmer who came to our team one time. She was a very talented swimmer and when she came to the team I asked her (she was national level), I said, “What are your dreams – what do you dream about when you think about swimming? What are your swimming dreams?” and she would go, well, “I don’t know” I had known her, but, she was new to our team so she was kind of apprehensive to talk about that. I said “Well, over the weekend I want you to think about it and come back to me. We are going to talk about this some more because I think it is important.” So, she came back and she was still a little apprehensive about it. I said “You know you are going to be going off to college, do you want to be an NCAA champion?” “Well, yeah.” “Do you want to make the Olympic team? Do you want to be an American record holder?” “Yeah” so we got her to at least talk about it. As our relationship grew she kind of trusted me more. I think a lot of kids think about their dreams and they think they are kind of silly, and they think, people will mock them. “Oh yeah right. You are never going to be an Olympian! forget about that!” So they are kind of protective of their dreams. As she got to trust me more she was more open about her dreams and she is a senior in high school right now so we will see how those dreams go, but I think it really helped her when you throw that out to her – to be a little bit more bold about her goals and she had a very successful season this year.

I said Mary had a supportive family and parents. I think the way we can make or help the parents be more supportive is to communicate with them. You don’t have to go out there and call every parent every night and things like that, but I think newsletters are important. Your web sites, emails, a paper newsletter, email newsletter or however you do it. With my senior level program a lot of the kids drive so I don’t see the parents as much, but when I am at swim meets or I am at a practice and when I see a parent pulling off or a parent comes to the balcony – I always try to make a point just to say hi. We don’t necessarily talk about swimming, but I always try to make a point to say hello to the parent and talk to the parent. I think one main reason I know that helps is that if the parent doesn’t know me and every day the swimmer goes home and tells the parent – tells his parent how much of a tyrannical bastard I am and how much of a jerk I am and how I hate her child and everything else like that and they don’t know me at all, they don’t have a reference point to judge that, and while those things may be true from time to time, I think it is important for the parents to know where I am coming from. I think it is important that they get to know me, what my philosophy is, and what I am all about. I am in this for the kids. I am in this for the kids to get better. I think if parents understand it then they realize when the kids are having a bad day that maybe they probably were not having a good day in practice and they needed some tyranny in their lives at that point. So, I think it just helps for me to talk to parents and just get to know them. Someone pointed this out to me years ago and you know, at the senior level certainly, when I have kids two to four hours a day I am probably spending more time with them than their fathers are and probably their mothers too. So that adds a level of, I think, responsibility in our lives, but you know, the parents want to know what is going on in their kids lives. I know I do with my children and so I think it is important that we keep those lines of communication open.

Great relationship with her coaches I have talked about. And Mary has certainly had that all the way through. Even now at Georgia and I think for Mary, trust was a big part of that. I mean she trusted us to do what we were doing. She trusted our program and she ran with it. We told her what to do and she has done that and I think that was a big part of her success. Just having that faith you know, to take risks and to get better. Those relationships I talked about a little bit earlier, but they need to be cultivated daily. You always hear about Dr. Phil and you know, you have got to work on your marital relationships every day. I think you have to work on your swimming relationships too. Like I said earlier, if a swimmer has a problem and I have never talked to that swimmer, they are not going to be real open and real likely to talk to me about it so you know, I try to talk to my kids every day and all of them every day. Some of the kids it is hard to talk to every day because they do not come to practice every day. We try to talk to them and encourage them to do better with that. Or even asking them where they were so that you know, kind of talk to them and tell them how important it is for them to be there. I think if you care about your athletes and you show it you are going to get a lot better results from them. They will trust you more and again. Going back to building those relationships every single day, a lot of people do not like to talk about love and stuff like that, but I think it is important and you know, I think you see it. I see a lot in coaches. I don’t think for a second that I am the smartest swim coach in this room. I think one of my biggest strengths in coaching is that I am able to form those relationships with my athlete and that I am able to talk to them and kind of find out what is going on in their lives. That really helps me to help make them better. I think my kids know that I care about them and that they are important in my life and that I wouldn’t spend as much time with them as I did if it wasn’t. I think that has gone a long way. I know a little bit about swimming, but I think really, it is how you handle your athletes that is every bit as important, if not more important, than what you know about the sport. So, and those need to be cultivated daily.

Mary is talented. I don’t know what to do about that. I would say hard workers. I will take hard work over talent every day of the week, but if I get both, I am in great shape. I want to talk a little bit too about setbacks. Mary had a great swimming career all the way through age groups. She was multi-time age group state champion, she made nationals, she made the national junior team. She made the world championship teams when she was still in high school and things like that and then came the Olympic trials and to say that Mary had a horrible Olympic trials would be a major understatement. If she had gone within two seconds of her best time in the 200 fly she would have made the Olympic team and she was that far off. She just had a bad meet. Nervousness, you know. I think many things factored into it and so it was a big setback and it was a really, really tough situation for her and you can imagine – I have never seen her cry so hard in her entire life after that 200 fly at the trials when she did not make the team and finished 4th and it was a crushing blow. She was a favorite to make the team and a lot of people thought she would and she didn’t and so and she had to deal with that. Her parents had tickets to Greece. I think that added a little bit of the pressure to it and so they changed their tickets and went to Europe. I think they went to England and France during the Olympics. I know Mary watched some of the Olympics while she was on her vacation. I can guarantee you she didn’t watch the butterfly races, but – no offense to our butterflyers, but she just didn’t want to watch those races. When she came back we had lunch and we had a long talk about, “Where are you going to go from here?” And obviously she was going to keep on swimming. She still loved the sport and was passionate about it and we talked a lot about the set-back and things like that. I really believe that swimming is a journey and what I mean by that is that I think when, I always tell kids that the hard work, it is the accomplishments that you do great, those are the things that you are going to want to look back and remember. I said you are not necessarily going to count medals, but it is also going to be the relationships that you build during this time. I tell our swimmers all the time that when you really work hard for something, you know working hard for something doesn’t guarantee success, but man when you accomplish things that you have never accomplished in practice and you work harder than you have ever worked for something, there is such a level of you know, there is such a great feeling about that in that you have accomplished something. Now I tell the kids all the time when you look back on your life’s achievements you know, I don’t think – I mean if you win a lottery it might be cool to win the lottery and win a lot of money, but I don’t think you are going to look back at that as one of your life’s great achievements. You know you are going to look back at when you worked really hard in life and that you have had success or failures and how you reacted to those things. I also tell my athletes that you know, there are going to be failures and stuff and that is life and that you know, life is 10% what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it.

If you react to every set back as you know, poor, poor pitiful me and, everybody is giving me the shaft and everything, well you know that is how you can live your life that way. But on the other hand, if you get a set back and you go – what can I do to make this different? I am responsible for my life. I am not going to empower other people to be that responsible. Mary and I talked a lot about that, and as we had when she was younger, Mary took some time and I mean she took not a huge break, but she didn’t swim at all in August and didn’t swim for the Olympics or anything and when she went back to Georgia I know she and Jack talked a lot about that. She got back in there and Mary went right back to what she always did before. She loved swimming. She worked hard. She was dedicated. She reset her goals. She had faith in her coaches and won six of seven events at the NCAA championship this year. She qualified for – I think her and Katie Hoff had the most events on the women’s side of the qualifying events at the world championship trials. Then she went to worlds and didn’t have a great meet again. We talked a lot about that at the “Duel in the Pool.” She came back at the Duel and swam very, very well and she honestly was kind of doubting her confidence a little bit. I think the Duel and I think the NCAA’s helped that and everything. Now after this whole season she has had a chance to reflect on, she is more motivated now to work harder and to achieve her goals and she is definitely going to swim through the next OlympicTrials and beyond that. I don’t know what she is going to do. She has a serious boyfriend and I think she wants to get married after college and that kind of thing and perhaps pursue a career outside of swimming. But she is definitely going to stick through the next Trials and she is taking that last Olympic Trial and instead of saying, “Oh woe is me” which was probably her initial reaction, but she has turned that into okay. “Okay, what did I do right, and what did I do wrong, and how am I going to make this work the next time.”

I think it is important to have a philosophy and I think it is important to be able to explain it in one sentence. You can have different philosophies on different areas. Like I said, our club philosophy is that. Two basic philosophies. One is that within our coaches that we are going to do everything we can to help the swimmers achieve the highest possible level that they can. You know, what we put on our web site and what we put on our literature is that we want kids to work hard and have fun. We want to do it in a positive environment and we are going to have the kids work hard and we want to do it in a positive environment and we believe, if kids are working hard and having fun then winning is going to take care of itself. So we are not having to pound winning and stress winning and all those other things. So, those are a couple of our philosophies. I think it is important to capsulate those. I think it is important to be able to say what your philosophy is and I think it is important to have plans. I think it is important to have plans with your swimmers. One of the things that I tell my swimmers in our workouts is that – if I give you a set or I give you a workout and I can’t tell you what the point of the workout is, then we are probably all wasting our time. Fortunately, I have been able to always tell them a reason – it may not always have been a great one, but give them a reason, but we do and I think it is important to have a plan. I think it is important to prepare your workouts. I know that on days that I am super busy, and I don’t fully prepare my workouts, and I am driving to the workout thinking about what we are going to do, and I am running late that we tend to waste a lot of time on those days, and we don’t have a lot of great production. Another thing we do on days like that I always fall back on a time-tested set that we have done and I always go back to some old set that we have done and I always find that if I am not fully prepared I am less creative. Those workouts tend to be a little bit more boring because I tend to give longer sets to fill the gap so I can think of the next set during that set. I know those workouts are not as effective and so I think it is important to really plan. I think you really need to sell your plans and philosophies to your swimmers and I think that goes back to kind of what we were talking about with the coach relationships, and the athletes having trust in their coaches.

I think you have to communicate your plan with your parents and especially you need to do that with your higher level athletes. If I have a plan that involves three trips to California for Grand Prix meets and nationals and then we are going to fly down to Florida for another meet and I am going to hand that plan to the swimmers and the swimmer goes home to their parents and they look at a $10,000 travel bill – that may not work. So I think it is important like we work with our athletes, we you know, we discuss that with the parents. I want to know what they are willing to do and I would kind of give them a preliminary thought of what I thought our travel was going to be. We have a great Grand Prix meet in Indianapolis now that really helps us in the Midwest – it helps our travel budgets and things like that, but there is a big time commitment and financial commitment for parents at these higher levels. I think it is real important that you communicate with them before the kids think they are taking three trips to California. Finally, we tell parents our philosophy. If you ask me a question I am going to give you an answer. You may not like it, but you can rest assured that when the next parent asks me that question is going to get the same answer. I don’t try to please everybody and I don’t suggest that you do either. I think if you have a club philosophy I think it is important to stick to your philosophy and tell people this is what we are all about. I have had families that tried to challenge our philosophy and my recommendation to them is that there are 80 clubs in the Chicagoland area and find one that works for you because obviously this one isn’t. I am not in the business of turning swimmers away left and right, it very rarely happens, but you know, I own the team. You know, I am steering the ship. I have a head age group coach. He runs the age group program. I run the senior program. We are all obviously moving in the same direction. I think it is critical that your head age group coach – that your age group coaches are on the same page with your senior coach. I mean, if the guys aren’t, I think you guys need to get together and figure out what the problem is because obviously if your age group program is going this way and your senior program is going that way – it is going to be a little bit difficult for the kids and for success. It is going to create a lot of tension I think within the staff. I hire a lot of my coaches that used to swim for me and I think it just makes it easier – they know my philosophy – they know what I am all about so it kind of makes it easier for me.

I have had great coaches that didn’t swim for me. My wife never swam for me and she was one my best coaches, but we were definitely on the same page on how to train kids. I don’t try to please everyone and we have families that come onto our team and they think they are going to run the team – it is just not going to happen. If they are persistent enough about it we are going to really help them find another team. I will give them phone numbers. We have grown our program dramatically by having a philosophy, having a set of policies and our team has grown from 60 kids our first year to 140. This year we are opening up a new facility and we are probably going to be 170 – 180 this year. We have constantly turned kids away because of lack of pool space and so as we get more pools we can take more kids. It was kind of nice to have a try out where every kid who was good enough to make a swim team got on the team. It was kind of nice to have that situation, but you know, people know coming into our program what to expect. We had our family – a couple of families that came from another team and they said, wow man! we heard that you guys are just pounding yardage. pounding yardage. pounding yardage. and my head age group coach says you know, “You will probably find that this is harder work than where you were before and he said, but you know, your kids can handle it” and he goes “We are not going 100,000 yards a day” and he goes, “We are not pounding yardage. That is a rumor that is out there.” There are other people that spread those rumors because they want to discourage their kids from leaving their program into our program. “Yeah – we work hard, but I think once you get into it you will find most of those families that have those concerns they realize yeah – it is hard work and yeah we have discipline in our workouts and what we want to accomplish, but you know, we are not going to bend our philosophy. We are not going to tell these kids oh no – it is real easy – don’t worry about it – no – you are not going to have a problem at all and then have them sit there and feel like they got hit over the head with a 2×4 after their first practice, or that they got wrung through a wringer. Then they think we have lied to them so I think it is important to be honest with them and let them know what your philosophies are up front and let them decide. I think more times than not you are going to find that you have a niche in the market and that is how people are going to want to do that. That is our club. Thank you very much.


Planning for Growth: Be Ready for What you Wish For by Tammy Hopkins (2005)

Introduction: We are all interested in developing the kind of program that our speaker this morning has been fortunate to have a large roll in. From my distant view, it is a program that develops youngsters to enjoy the sport and make it a lifetime sport. It has been a program that has started kids off in the right way with the fundamentals and a joy for what they do. I think our speaker this morning, who has been the head age group coach with De Anza Cupertino Aquatics for the last five years, has had a lot to do with the development of that team’s incredible age group program. On the west coast, it is probably the premier model of a developmental age group program. We are very fortunate to have Tammy Hopkins speaking to us today on the subject: “Growth – Be Ready for What You Wish For”. I will still wish for it, but she is going to give us the way to handle that growth.

Coach Tammy Hopkins: Today, the talk is going to focus on planning for program growth – specifically, in competitive and pre-competitive programs. I am going to give you an overview of what DACA’s program is, and then I will be talking about the policies that developed along the way through some pretty dramatic growing pains.

DACA runs and operates seven separate businesses. Each is operated independent of the other, and each program, based on what is best for that particular program, is designed for excellence. We make the decisions regarding our swim lesson program based on what is best for the program – not necessarily as a feeder for the next level of the program. Of course there is carry-over and follow-through to our competitive and pre-competitive programs, but we do not base our decisions on those programs.

We have seven programs:

1. We have an indoor, year-round swim school that runs approximately 2500 swimmers through it per week, and we do that out of a 12 yard by 6 yard facility.
2. We have two, summer-only swim lesson programs that we run out of our De Anza College site and Saratoga high school site.

3. We have a year-round club water polo program.

4. We have a coached adult lap swim.

5. We run the De Anza College men’s and women’s swimming and water polo teams and also help to fund those programs.

6. We have a pre-competitive swimming program with more than 450 swimmers.

7. We have a competitive swimming program that, at this point, has grown to about 800.

In a nut shell, that is kind of what we do. This talk developed as I was talking to my husband, Sage, and our executive director, Pete Rakovich. We have had just an explosion in numbers, particularly within the last three years. We have run into a lot of growing pains regarding how to plan for staff. Focusing on and thinking about how our team’s infrastructure can handle the growth with respect to taking care of the membership in appropriate ways so that all the numbers fit into the pool has been a huge challenge. DACA is a staff run program. We do not utilize parent volunteers in any way, with the exception of them being timers at swim meets or helping us to run a swim meet that we are hosting.

About five years ago our competitive program had between 250-300 swimmers, and our pre-competitive program had about 150. Three years ago, there was a point in time when our main facility, which was a 50 meter facility with a 25 yard diving well, was completely shut down. We had to go into downtown San Jose which is at least a 20 minute drive
(more than that with traffic), and we lost a significant portion of our membership due to our facility shut-down. This explosion in numbers has happened just within the last three years. Five years ago when I started, we had six competitive coaches and five pre-competitive coaches on our staff in that one 50 meter facility. Now we have grown to 800 competitive swimmers, 400 pre-competitive swimmers, and this last week we had 200 new swimmers come for try-outs. At this point in time, we don’t have the space to fit all of them in. We now have 17 competitive coaches and 20 pre-competitive coaches on staff. Fourteen of those seventeen competitive coaches are considered fulltime coaching staff members. We run our competitive and pre-competitive programs out of two facilities in that one 50 meter pool with a 25 yard diving well. We have an additional 50 meter facility out at Saratoga high school, and we do not consider our second facility to be a satellite program with a separate head coach running under separate rules. The staff is all part of the same program under the same guidelines that we run at De Anza College.
The bigger your club gets, the more you are going to need your own attorney. We went out and sought one of the best non-profit attorneys in the business to review our by-laws, and he suggested some very important changes. We had our membership vote actually to change our bylaws, and it got separated into two types of membership. We have non-voting general members, and we have a voting Board of Directors which consists of 5-7 people. They are self-perpetuating, and they have no term limits. Of course with no term limits you need to make sure that the people that you do have on your Board are people whom you entrust emphatically. We have one Board Meeting a year, and our board – at least to this date – has always been completely supportive of our Executive Director and the direction in which he wants our program to move. We also have a second attorney that deals with us on a day to day basis who helps with general legalities in regard to hiring, terminations, and contracts – things that come up on a daily basis. When you get to be a certain size you have certain members threatening lawsuits and all kinds of things happen, so we have this second attorney that we work with on a regular basis as well.

Other issues that come along when planning to grow into a larger club are financial audits. They actually just passed a law that yearly audits are required, so make sure that you keep your finances in impeccable order. Audits are extremely expensive, so save all of your receipts. They go through everything with a fine tooth comb, like every expense of every swim meet you go to.

Developing staff policies is a really important part of making things work. We have developed an employee handbook that talks about all of the rules and regulations: time off days, sick days… things along those lines. All of those things need to be documented as well. I have worked for smaller programs, and when you have smaller staffs, it is a lot easier to let things go and let people take more time off than maybe what is really in their contract. Vacations need to be done in writing. There are requests that we keep on file. Sick days run the same way. With sick days there is paper work that needs to be handed out which should be kept on file as well. We also keep employee files which have become increasingly more important as hirings and firings become more frequent. In those employee files you are going to want to keep the documentation of all of those days that your employees are taking off – for whatever reason. You want to document any personnel issues with regard to being late to practice, not showing up to practice, not showing up for a swim meet, and any disciplinary meetings that you may need. All of this is done for your own protection. Something as simple as stating swim meet arrival and departure times is pretty standard but extremely important. It is a little bit more challenging when you show up to a swim meet and have 250 – 300 swimmers there. Kids don’t always know who the other coaches are. There are a lot of children on the team who have been swimming there for a year who do not know who I am, and it is unacceptable for a child or a parent who is new to the program to show up on deck and wonder where their coach is and for our response to be, “I don’t know where the coach is”. Therefore, we have a standard set policy that the coaches are to arrive 10 minutes prior to warm-up time.

We also have required staff meetings which are held every two weeks. With large staffs you cannot get information flowing by word of mouth, so we have written agendas at each of the staff meetings with things that we are going to go over for each of the weeks – things that are significant to the program. It is also a time that we can iron out the kinks if there are issues at either facility which is something that we can solve then and there. Taking daily attendance is also really critical to our program and our billing system. Coaches take attendance and turn it in every month. We keep those attendance records on file, and it helps when there are discrepancies if people say that they have or have not been in the water for a particular period of time. Keeping track of coaching certifications is also a must! You have your coach’s safety training, your CPR, and your first aid. When you have a large staff and you have different people taking the courses at different times and expiring on different dates, it becomes increasingly more challenging to keep track of who actually is certified to be out on deck. We take care of all of our certifications in September. Every coach completes all three courses every year whether their first date has expired or not. Make sure all policies that you have for your staff are given both verbally and in writing.

We have a season-starting staff meeting at the beginning of each year where the agenda is probably 30 pages long. We review all of our policies, and they might be new to some people who are new to our program. In order to make sure no one slips through the cracks, we require everyone to be in attendance. We want to prevent coaches from saying: “Oh I didn’t know – no one ever told me that”. I have this thick agenda and everybody is required to be at this particular staff meeting. Attendance is something we value greatly.

Another portion of the program that we have had to change and tweak a little bit is our membership policies. First and foremost, everything that comes into the program with regard to membership applications is done through our office. Our office is not one that is able to accommodate personal appointments. We are able to answer phone calls, and we attend to everything that needs to get done. We are there from 9:00AM-3:00PM; however, we do not let membership come into the office. Everything is done by mail such as membership applications, welcome back forms, monthly payments, things along those lines. We do not accept anything on deck. Although most of the information comes directly to me, I do not take it on deck. It must to be mailed.

Make sure that your staff is knowledgeable about all of your policies. Everybody should be available to answer questions. Things get extremely overwhelming when everything is directed to one person, so make sure that they are up-to-date on everything that is going on in the program. All of your team membership policies need to be included in your application. We do not allow new swimmers to get in the water – even for that week try-out period that USA Swimming allows, until we actually have their applications in hand. Also, within the application there is a signed document that says, “I have read and understand all of the DACA policies with regard to volunteer hours or late fees”. If at any point in time someone comes back and says, “I didn’t know…that I was going to get fined for not paying my bill on time.” You can then go back into the file and find the policy signed.

Our billings are done on a regular basis. We put them out on the 25th of each month. We have come up with the following policy: if we do not receive dues by the 20th of the month, there is a $25.00 late fee. We are really pretty flexible. We will go a couple of months before we send anyone to collections, but you have to realize that when you are dealing with mass volumes of people, just a little deterrent like a $25.00 late fee sometimes is enough to get them to remember to pay that bill on time. We also have policies for in-activating from the program. It is mandatory that the inactivation be done in writing for backup for their protection and ours. We will not accept a phone call saying, “My child is not going to be swimming any more.” There is also a $25.00 late fee if they fail to notify us by the 20th of the month. That may see a little harsh, but it is better than us requiring them to pay the entire month’s fees. We have waiting lists for our groups, and I have 25 kids who would be willing to pay that month’s fees. It is unacceptable for a parent to forget to inform me for two months that their child was not going to be swimming; therefore, we do attach a late fee if they forget to tell us that they are not going to be swimming with our program. Coming back to the program after they have been gone for a period of time also requires a form that is very easy. They download it off our website, mail it in, and the process is the same as the registration.

We offer most of the levels in our program several times. For example, we offer our red group, which is the entry level group for 11-14 year, three different times at our De Anza College site and three different times at our Saratoga site. Jumping around from time to time and facility to facility is manageable with the smaller program but with larger numbers, it gets to be impossible. The time that it takes to allow people to jump is unbelievable, so we have attached a $25.00 transfer fee. The transfer fee causes people to think about their schedules a little bit more. The jumping still happens, but it happens a lot less frequently.

We do not have any organized fund rising and as I stated before, DACA is a coach run program. We do not expect a lot out of our members. One hour per month of membership is all that we require. We are attempting to enforce in our written policies that there be a $50.00 per hour buy-out fee or a $25.00 no-show fee for hours that they may have signed up for but did not come to. We are still working out the kinks with regard to our volunteer policies. Our record keeping has not been up to par, so billing people has not been something that we have been able to do just yet.

In our LSC we have assigned lanes during meet warm-up. You go to a meet and DACA may have four or five lanes assigned. Our parents, in turn, are responsible for timing in these lanes. If you think about how much manpower that is actually going to take…putting new people in those chairs every hour…working with 100 volunteers a day…figuring out exactly who is in those chairs and when…that is a definite challenge and something to consider. Record keeping on deck is something that needs to be organized and carried out very carefully.

Our policies with regard to discussions between parents and coaches or membership and coaches generally need to be scheduled. Appointments need to be formally scheduled. Our coaches work at De Anza College –from 3:30 to 8:15 at night, and there are groups getting in the water back to back, so our coaches do not have time to have conversations with the parents. We ask if it is a quick question and let them come out on deck. If it isn’t, they will be sent back to the stands and told to make an appointment. They can call the office, and I will contact the coach directly and have them return the parent’s call.

Waiting lists are also something that you need to organize – be it by group, by level, by age, etc. In various groups we have had up to maybe 120 kids waiting to get in. The most popular groups in our program currently are our novice levels, and those, over the last year and a half to two years, have been extremely difficult to get into. One of the ways that we have handled the added work load that extra numbers bring in is to simply spread the work around. Since we do have a large full-time coaching staff, we have come up with a system of committees. I have delegated a huge portion of that work which at one point in time all came under my umbrella. We have a volunteer committee, and it is their task to coordinate all volunteers and to keep accurate records of everything, which continues to be a work in progress. We have an official’s committee charged with recruiting officials, setting up clinics – things along those lines. In our zone in Pacific Swimming – there is a rule that you need to have one official for every 25 members, or you get fined. We have yet to make that mark, so that is something that we are continuing to work on as well. We have a swim meet committee that works on all swim meet preparation and organization whenever we host meets, and we usually do one meet that is open to the LSC each year. We have a series of duel meets, excuse me, inter-squad meets that we have throughout the year as well. There is a swim meet set-up committee – this one sounds really funny, and it actually developed this year because I am no longer able to carry the tarps and heavy items out on deck, so the committee arrives early to the meet. They pick the best spot. They set up the area for the coaches, and they set up the area for the swimmers. These are their responsibilities.

We have an administrative support committee. Their main role is to help work on billing. Each month we mail out 800 bills. They need to be folded, stuffed and stamped, and that takes a lot of time. We have members of our coaching staff that come in to do that as well. There are certain times of the year where the phones are a little bit more challenging than others. They come in and assist with phones. Any other busy type office work is what they assist with. We also have a team social committee – the larger your team gets – the more challenging it is to get everybody together to do one big fun thing. We usually like to do two or three all-team events each year. We have rented out ice skating rinks – gone to raging waters – things along those lines, so they set up large team events. They also set up group events, so the red groups from both of our facilities will get together and go play miniature golf, or whatever they plan. We also have a new family welcome committee that is charged with getting our brand new families familiar with the sport of swimming. Each new family to the program actually receives a phone call from me, and all of the registrations come to me directly. I have the initial contact and conversation with them. A few weeks after they have been involved in the program, they get a follow-up phone call. “How is everything going? Do you have any questions about the program?” This committee also sets up new families coming into swim meets – welcoming them to the swim meet – making sure that they are comfortable – getting them in with some families that kind of know the ropes, and being available to answer any questions.

We also have an information support committee. We have various types of brochures and information that is available describing all of our programs. We like to keep that information stocked at both of our facilities, so that committee is charged with making the copies of all of the information and making sure it is always in stock. Keeping emergency binders with all of that critical information up to date is extremely important as well, and it is a very big job. I have people who are responsible for this job at both facilities. Both facilities actually keep track of every single member in our program which is important because we do a lot of jumping. Sometimes we have combined group practices, so making sure that all the information is accurate – correct and current at both facilities and at our office as well, is critical.

Communication with the membership becomes again – another challenge. A few years back it was easy for me to just go ahead and accept phone calls and answer all kinds of questions. You need to find a way to streamline that process. We use our main site which is our website, as our direct source of information. Our website is kept current on a daily basis. We have access to that in the office so as things occur, like practice time changes, etc., they can be changed immediately. Another form of communication we have is group files. Each group in the program has a file cabinet with each swimmers name in it. We put out general handouts of the Swim Meets, which are available on the website – sign up today – things along those lines. The coaches are also required to give out calendars of upcoming swim meets, group socials, etc. which is another form of communication with our members. We also send out announcements in our monthly billing which we know will go directly to the parents without getting lost in the swimmers swim bag! We also give out a season guide each year which is filled with every ounce of information with regard to our membership policies: how to navigate the website, what to eat at swim meets, how to enter swim meets, etc.

One of the other challenges that we have had to contend with is scheduling. We have our membership numbers. We have two facilities to put them in. How do we make the most of our facilities? We use every ounce of lane space that we have at every facility, and we use every amount of time. The earliest that we can get a group in the water is 3:30, and our lanes are really structured. We have lane maps at each of the facilities which describe where each coach and group should be. Certain groups may have four lanes, and I allow those groups to get larger than groups that have three lanes. You are going to have to plan for that. Be creative with how you plan.

You will notice on the handout that there are two entry levels in our competitive program which are our red and green levels, and in general, most of those groups practice four days a week for 45 minutes. We have been able to move things around which allows the groups to get in and out of the water for the same amount of time only going three days a week for one hour and charging the same membership fee for that. We have also made the diving well at De Anza College, which is a seven lane, 25 yard diving well into a pool for swim practice with ten lanes that are 20 yards in length. We actually had them paint lines on the bottom of the pool the 20 yard way which is something that works out great for the pre-competitive swimmers. We are able to put more bodies in the water that way. Making things work for all of the groups in your program is very important. Is it okay to swim six kids per lane? Once you get to a certain level that becomes increasingly more challenging, but most of your novice groups are not going to be lapping each other with six or seven kids per lane, so it is something that is doable.

Our biggest challenge now since we have just had a very recent membership explosion, is coming up with a way to talent ID kids. We have almost 300 swimmers in our entry level competitive groups who know how to do all four of the competitive strokes, but gosh, how do we get these numbers up to the next level? That is our goal right now. That is our plan this year. We have got to figure out a way to make these numbers really start to perform, because at this point in time we don’t feel that we are quite up to par with where we should be.

These last five years we have gone through an awful lot of growing pains. We’ve found that the more recruiting you do, the more that you go out and try to get those bodies in the water, the more you have to plan. Try to avoid the pitfalls that we have run into and the problems we have encountered. Plan for these numbers. Plan and start to think about what you are going to do. How are you going to get the kids in the water? Think about all of that and just be ready – be ready for what you wish for.

Questions: What do you do when you have kids move up levels? A. We do that four times a year. We have a group move up in December, one in April right after far Westerns, one in June at the beginning of the summer, and one again in September. The move-ups are done with forms as well. For the athletes who are encouraged to move up by their coaches, they are handed what we call “priority move-up forms”. With this form, they are given a choice of the times that are available. The parents check off their top choices and mail it in.

Q. How late at night do you run your program? You start at 3:30, but how late do you go? Also, if you don’t have fund-raising, how much are your dues? A. We go until 8:15 at night – that is when our last groups get out of the water. As far as our dues structure, we start at $74.00 a month for the 45 minute groups that go four days a week, and it kind of just goes up from there. We are fortunate enough at this point that our competitive swim program is not our big money maker. Everything is kind of designed to be that way. Our swim school makes the money to pay salaries and cover things along those lines, so I would say we are equivalent with the other programs in our area regarding our dues structure.

Q. You said at the beginning you had around 200 people that had just gone through tryouts – you don’t have 200 spots to put them in? A. Right. Q. Can you talk a little bit about how you organize the tryouts and how you determine which of these 200 people get your ten spots? A. They are organized. There is a piece of paper that they fill out. We start promptly at 7:30 pm. The people who arrive get a number on each of the forms that we hand out. The swimmers are called down by numbers in groups of four. We have several coaches that work on the evaluations. Some of the groups have lots of space. Some of the groups don’t. With regard to the spots being filled, it is the luck of the draw.

Q. How do your kids enter swim meets, have control over what they enter, and determine if they are entered correctly? A. We have certain coaches in our program that actually print out the meet forms, circle the events, and hand them back to the parents to ensure that the athlete will be entered correctly. Some coaches do that, and some don’t. It is also a challenge to actually try and get all of our kids to the meets. Right now we are only able to get probably 300 of those competitive swimmers into a meet. Trying to actually get them to fit into a meet that is already full is nearly impossible.

Q. You mentioned that 6 x 12 yard pool and 2500 people going through that program. My questions are what is the temperature of the water; how deep is the water; what is the coach-to-swimmer ratio; how many groups do you run through the water; how long and do these people go? A. The Coach to swimmer ratio is 4:1. We have 4 instructors in the water at one point in time. The depth of the water is 7 feet at the deepest end. It is a very small pool. The temperature of the water is approximately 90 degrees, and it is enclosed by a bubble – not a structured facility. Classes are a half an hour one day a week.

Q. Do they sign up for a month plan or two month plan? A. It is sectionally. We have four sessions per year.

Q. What is the fee? I believe it is $11.00 per lesson, and we do prorate fees if they start the session mid way through.

Q. These kids that get turned down – do they come back? A. No. If they inactivate from the program, they go to the back of the line. We do actually have a lot of people. They will go away for the summer for three months, and they will pay just to keep their spot in the program. It is unfortunate, but that is the way it has to work.

Q. What was the main element in getting our program to explode? A. There were many things. For our competitive programs, we don’t advertise at all, but we do advertise for our swim school and our summer swim lesson programs, and we have a very large carryover from those programs. Within the last couple of years we have realized a little bit of success in competitive swimming, and word has gotten around as well.

Q. Is there regular coach’s education that you do for your staff? A. Sage Hopkins, my husband, actually does his area once every two months or so. We will sit down, and there will be a topic that Sage will go over with our staff. We have general open discussions as well.

Q. How many other clubs in your area? A. Quite a few. We are 8 minutes from the Santa Clara Swim Club; Paolo Alto is about 10 minutes up the road. It is a very densely populated area. We are very lucky in that way.

Q. How do you advertise….what avenues do you use? A. We distribute just a basic ad in parenting magazines. There is a local Parent’s Guide magazine that comes out. We have advertised in school districts. We put out announcements for our summer swim programs. There are flyers that go out. Sage actually handles the announcements regarding our swim programs.

Q. You say you have four new groups a year. I am hearing there are close decisions. What specific kinds of things determine your decisions, and how do you deal with the parents that are not necessarily in agreement with those decisions? A. The coach is the only decision-maker here, and the decision is mainly determined by ability. If a child is not ready to jump to the next level, we don’t allow it. Often we have parents who disagree with our decision. If that is the case, I will actually go down and observe the swimmer for a week or so in their practice element. It becomes my decision at that point in time if there is a discrepancy between what the parent wants and what the coach wants.

Q. How high does that move-up process go in your program? Are you talking age group program now, or does it move right on through to the top? A. That goes all the way up to the top level. Once we get to kids moving to either Sage’s pre-national or Pete’s national group, there are some pretty lengthy discussions amongst the staff with regards to things they can handle in practice and things that they have accomplished at swim meets.

Q. Can you give us an example of a scenario when you had to override a decision….when a coach felt that a swimmer was not ready to move up and you overrode that decision and moved him/her up anyway? A. It doesn’t happen too often. There are very rare cases. We do have some coaches in our group that work with lower levels that (one in particular) is very intense about having them come to practice every single day. That doesn’t happen to be part of our program’s philosophy with regard to younger kids, and that happens to be one of the biggest problems that we run into. If I view that a child is ready, I say to the coach: “Look…this is our program’s philosophy. You know that. You haven’t moved them up because they are only coming to practice three days a week instead of four a week.” Those are usually the circumstances that I override.

Q. How many athletes and practices does each coach handle? A. That depends on the coach and the level of groups that they are coaching. Obviously, they are going to get fewer groups and if they are coaching at higher levels for groups that are working on swimming an hour and a half or an hour and 45 minutes. The average is probably three. There are a few coaches in our program that work primarily with 10 and under athletes that are coaching maybe 140 kids.

Q. What is the coach-to-swimmer ratio as they go up through age groups? A. A lot of that depends on lane space, but in general, the groups are 25:1.

Q. Do you see a problem in the future with being too top heavy? A. Absolutely. It is a very real problem to us right now.

Thank you.


De Anza Cupertino Aquatics – Novice Swimming Programs by Tammy Hopkins (2005)

In today’s talk we are going to focus on DACA’s novice swim program. I am going to give you a brief overview of the programs that DACA does run. DACA operates 7 programs or businesses. All 7 programs are operated independently of each other. Decisions that are made with regard to those programs are based upon what is best for that particular program, not necessarily as a feeder to the next program levels. We have a swim lesson program that feeds into our pre-competitive programs, but again, we don’t base decisions upon that. The programs that we have: 1) an indoor year around swim school, 2) two summer only swim lesson programs, 3) year around water polo club,4) a coached adult lap swim program,5) the college program at De Anza College of Swimming and Water Polo teams and we also help to fund those programs. 6) We have a pre-competitive swimming program and a 7) competitive swimming program.

Our year around swim school – they practice for a half an hour one day a week and we run roughly about 2500 swimmers through that program per week. There are four sessions per year and we have run water babies all the way what we consider to be advanced swimming while we are working on the four competitive strokes. The levels in this program change as the swimmer progresses and it is a 1:4 coach to swimmer ratio.

Then we have our De Anza College in Saratoga High School summer swim program – those are structured differently. Again, they are offered in the summertime only. We have four two week sessions. In those programs that run Monday through Thursday and there are five levels in those programs – what we consider to be a beginner all the way through an advanced swimmer – again – we are working on the competitive strokes.

Our club water polo – we have a 14 and under team and a 12 and under team. We are hoping to branch out into high school age. We have only been running this program for about a year now and it has been going nicely.

Our adult lap swim – we run morning and noontime sessions and it is not a club membership. These people pay as they go so they are not members of United States Masters swimming – it is a coach/lifeguard out on deck and they pay $5.00 to come in and swim for an hour and a half each time or there is a punch card that they can purchase.

We do run the men’s and women’s swim and water polo teams at De Anza College – those are run by DACA coaches that coach competitively with our program as well and as I stated before, we do help to fund those programs.

Our pre-competitive program classes run a half an hour to 40 minutes, two days a week. They have their choice of Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday classes. We run four sessions per year that are roughly 9-12 weeks per session. Five levels in this program and this program primarily focuses on the competitive swimming skills.

Within our competitive swim team we have three tiers to our 10 and under program. We have four tiers to our 11-14 year old program and we have 4 tiers to our high school age program as well and we consider the entry levels – the green group and the red group for the 10 and under’s and the 11-14’s to be part of our novice swimming program as well. To get into our pre-competitive program, our novice program, swimmers must be able to do 25 yards of freestyle with side breathing and 25 yards of backstroke. If they are not able to do that at the point that they are trying out for the program, we send them to one of the alternatives. There are four 8-12 week sessions per year, two days a week for 30-40 minutes, depending on the level and there is a 1:7 coach to swimmer ratio. In these groups all seven swimmers swim in the same lane where is it very focused and as you will see later on in the discussion it is very easy to get a lot done with seven swimmers in one lane. Weekly workouts are written for each of the levels in the program.

With our competitive program we allow the coaches a lot of autonomy with regard to their season plans and the practices that they write. We don’t do that with our pre-competitive program and it is extremely structured. Weekly practices are written so we may have six barracuda levels practicing at out De Anza college site, six barracuda levels practicing at our Saratoga high school site and every group is doing the same workout – the same amount of yards on the same days. One of the biggest, most popular parts of our pre-competitive program is our evaluations and there are copies of those evaluation forms in those packets as well. These are done at the mid-term point in the session and at the very end. They are given essentially report cards that talk about the strokes – their kicking – some of the more advanced groups are dealing with the times that they are swimming. The feedback has been absolutely incredible – both with regard to the differences that you see in the children the day after they come back from receiving the evaluation. It is extremely popular with parents. We have parents that schedule vacations around mid-term time. It is something that is distributed at the beginning of the session so everybody knows when it is coming and they are expecting it and we coach the coaches in how to write effective evaluations for the kids. It is not just – needs work – pass or fail – there are comments that they need to be writing down if there is a child that needs work in one particular stroke.

The coaching staff – this is probably the least experienced portion of our staff, primarily high school and college age athletes and we do an extensive amount of training with regard to how we want them to teach particular drills for particular strokes. There are things that are correct we feel for swimmers that are more advanced that are not appropriate for this level of athlete so we need to make sure that all of the coaches are using the same terminology. They are using the same drills and they are teaching those drills and strokes how we want them to be taught. Program emphasis: we do an exceptional amount of kicking in our program – particularly at these levels and we do it in a completely flat body position. They are not on their side. They are taught to do it with streamline arms out in front. We do not utilize any equipment – no fins, no kick boards, pull buoys – everything is done without equipment. We feel that it is important to teach them to kick with their bodies in that flat position so that they can actually learn how to do it in a spot that they are comfortable in. Once they start getting to their sides, they turn into the big wide scissor kick and this is something that we keep continuous through the program.

Once they get into the competitive program then we start to work on rotation with freestyle and backstroke. One of the things that we do, which is a little bit unusual with freestyle – we teach a straight arm recovery at all these levels in this program. We are not bending the elbow at all and sometimes this is something that you have to make sure that you are emphasizing with the coaches that you bring into the program. You will see them demonstrate a relaxed bent elbow recovery and that is not something that we are doing. The same thing with backstroke – we are working on straight arm pull under water. We do not teach any bent elbow whatsoever when they are underwater. A lot of times we feel that when you are teaching children to do backstroke initially and you are trying to teach the bent elbow underwater you get the bent elbow out of the water. We want the body position to be comfortable. We want the kicking to be correct and those are the primary things that we are working on here. Later, once they get into the competitive program, we refine everything that we are doing. The same thing – if you are teaching bent elbows – a lot of times you are going to get a really, really short stroke – we just teach everything straight and long. With breaststroke kick – it is actually not to be considered to be a passing kick if they are doing frog kick and bringing their elbows up to their arm pits. We work primarily on breaststroke with trying to keep their knees a little bit closer together and with butterfly we are working on body undulation. I believe you also have in your packets the five different levels and what we are working on at each of those levels.

In our barracuda level we are working on streamlining and push offs from the wall are to be done in streamline position and they have to kick to the flags. We work to teach them to do underwater, but even if they are not at the point where they can streamline underwater to the flags – they kick to the flags before they start their first stroke. We emphasize kicking freestyle and backstroke with the flat body position in the water, straight arm recovery for freestyle and straight arm underwater for backstroke.

At shark I level they are the same skills – they are just for older swimmers. We get a lot of kids that are 5 and 6 years old that are swimming in the barracuda level and we try to separate them from maybe 12 year olds – 13 year olds that might be at the shark I level. Shark II – they are continuing all of the skills that they had learned in the pre-competitive program – we will focus on those for the first few weeks of the session and then we will introduce freestyle and backstroke turns and breaststroke kick.

Dolphin level we are still working on those same skills introducing open turns for breaststroke and butterfly, working on dolphin kick, introducing how to read a clock and working on breaststroke arms and breaststroke pullouts.

Our emerald level – which is the most advanced in our program. It is set up to get them ready for the competitive program. They need to have mastered all of the above skills and we continue to work on those. They work on the finishes of each of the four competitive strokes, the dives and they begin to learn intervals and what that actually means.

Once they have gotten through our pre-competitive program they are a candidate for a competitive program. The competitive programs start at four days a week for 45 minutes and they are essentially ready to start their first swim meets. We are completely confident that once the swimmer has made it successfully through our pre-competitive program they have the knowledge to go to a swim meet and be successful. They know that they are supposed to do a two hand touch and all of the things that go along with the stroke. It doesn’t always happen, but at least they know how to do it. They have been shown how and you can tell them afterwards – do you remember we taught you how to do this – so they know how to correct it for the next time.

In our green and red levels in the program, children are expected to be roughly at the C level, probably nothing over a B. It is not uncommon for kids, once they have come in to compete in the first meet in our program to get A times the first time they have ever been in the water. This is where actual racing is introduced, but not really doing any racing at all. We don’t do relays in the pre-competitive program. In the pre-comp you get to work – you get in – you work on the skills – you do the workout – you get out – it is a half an hour amount of time and we really try to get a lot of teaching done within that half hour and parents really, really have enjoyed that program in particular. Just to kind of sum up, our pre-competitive program is extremely structured. Our competitive program is as well, but again, there is not that autonomy with the pre-competitive staff that the competitive staff has. There is no coach variation allowed. It is the same in one barracuda class at any site that we run and the completion of the programs prepares the swimmers for competitive swimming.

Q. In your pre-competitive programs you go up to age 13 – how many of your 12-13 year olds in the pre-competitive program when they go a competitive program do they have a pretty smooth transition or do they feel like they are behind some of the other kids that have been in the competitive program for a while? A. It is a pretty smooth transition. We have got 11 – that is why we have the bulk of our program broken up by age groups – if they are 13 years old, they go into a novice group for 11-14 year olds so they are going to find kids of their like age there or if they are 14 or older they have the option of going into our varsity group which is one of our entry level high school groups in the program. Yes?

Q. For your pre-competitive group do you require the kids to have to register at the USS or do you have a policy insurance for all of them in the pool? A. No we don’t – they are not competing at meets. We do have a separate insurance policy for those swimmers.

Q. Do you keep attendance for your green, yellow and white groups? A. Those are our 10 and under groups in our program. We do take nightly attendance – that is something that is required because of our billing policies, however, we do not have attendance requirements for any 10 and under groups in our competitive program.

Q: Do we have attendance policies for our older groups? A. The bulk of the groups in our program do not have attendance policies so for our red and our orange levels we don’t. Once they get to blue and gold levels the training becomes a little bit challenging for them if they are not coming at least three days a week. However, we have had athletes that are extremely talented individuals that we do not want to discourage from swimming that we have allowed to participate in those levels. In regard to the high school levels in our program, the varsity groups, were actually developed and designed to be a completely non-commitment group. We have some great swimmers in that group that play other sports, but that group was designed specifically for that. Once you get to our senior group, our National Development group and our National Group the attendance policies get to be a little bit stricter.

The question was if we have someone that comes into the pre-competitive program that is already working with the bent arm recovery on their freestyle or one of the skills that we do not emphasize in the pre-competitive program, how do we deal with that? A. We don’t – if it is something that is being done and done well we don’t correct it. What we instruct our teachers to do is to demonstrate the skills in a certain way and to tell them that is how we want it done. If there is a problem or an issue with the swimmer we have a director out on deck for the kid that maybe knows a little bit more Example: this kid is bending their elbows already under water – are they doing a good job with it or should I bring him back a little bit and go back to basics? So, it just depends, if they are doing it well. We will not take it away from them.

The question was: Do we require swimmers to go through the pre-competitive program before they come to the competitive program? The answer is no. We have a lot of kids that come through summer league programs that come onto our year around program right away. We want them to have the four competitive strokes down and the turns that go along with it and we do not require them to go through every level. If the child knows how to do freestyle, backstroke, and breaststroke, and just needs a little help with the butterfly he goes to the top level in the pre-competitive program to learn those skills. One of the other things that we do is, part of my job is to, walk around, watch and look at swimmers. There might be a kid that is really talented and really has a grab on the water and a hold on it. I will pluck that kid up and just put him in the competitive program and that is something that has become a huge issue with our program, talent ID. We are trying to find better ways of doing it so if you have got a kid that is talented and we think will be a really good swimmer we will put him where we think they should be.

The question was: Are your swim school kids going to your pre-competitive program and then to your competitive team? A. Yes, some go. I think it is the third level within our swim school where they should be ready, competent in freestyle and backstroke and able to move to the pre-competitive program. There are people that make the decision to stay with the swim lessons, through the very end. There are people that want to come mid-way through and start at the barracuda level. There are people that come from our swim school and our summer league swim lesson programs and start right into the competitive program.

The question was: Are the pre-competitive groups and the competitive groups in the pool at the same time? A. Yes they are at both facilities. At the Saratoga high school facility it is a 50 meter pool. They are all located at one end and think that we have got six lanes allocated for our pre-competitive program and they are generally getting in the water every half hour. At RDN, the college site, our National team is in the diving well facility until 6 pm and it is a 7 lane 25 yard pool. At 6 pm we do a switch around and we put 10 lanes in the pool and we run 10 lanes, 20 yards across for our pre-competitive swimmers. That is just a way we were able to get more swimmers in the water and it works for that level of athlete.

Q. The question was: What is the minimum age to start at the swim school. A. We do water babies. So, we start with Moms and babies in the water starting at 3 months.

The question was: Is the swim school extremely structured? A. Yes, it is the same thing they are taught our ways of teaching and there are specific things that we want them to do – specific terminology that they should be using. It is all very, very specific and they are not allowed any variation there.

Q. Do you guys have trouble finding high school /college aged help for the program? A. No. Actually most of the people that work with the program are our swimmers. They get out of workout at 5:30 with our senior group, take a shower, grab something to eat and walk over to our competitive program. We have a lot of people that are former swimmers of ours as well and that has worked as a recruiting tool.
Q. Do they coach all ages? A. No, they can choose Monday, Wednesday or Tuesday, Thursday schedules or all four days.

The question was: Who developed the progressions for the pre-competitive program and the swim school? A. There is a program that is called La Petite Beline in our area and before we started our swim school we sent people there to observe. They brought a lot of that back into our program. The pre-competitive program progressions are something that myself and our pre-competitive director designed.

Q. What is your education? A. I have a B.A. in physical education.

Q. What is your retention rate in the pre competitive program? Retention with the pre-competitive program? A. It is exceptional. Most of the swimmers in our pre-competitive program have the goal of moving on to our competitive program. It is now an issue of working to fit them in.

Q. Are there any other pre-competitive type groups or surrounding teams in your area? The only one that I know of that I think is in Santa Clara – I am not able to comment. Maybe Paulo Alto does – I am not real sure.

The question was: do they come to our pre-competitive program to get to a certain level and then go elsewhere? A. Not generally. Generally, they stick with us pretty well.

The question is: if a child is advanced enough at the mid point in the session do we move them up to the next level? A. Absolutely – we will.

The question is: As the pre-competitive program has grown – have we and will we maintain the swim coach to swimmer ratio? Yes we will. That is something – at our swim school we advertise a 1:4 ratio and in our pre-competitive program we advertise a 1:7 ratio. That is something that has worked very well for us and we are sticking with.

The question was: What kind of coach to swimmer ratio do we have in the younger groups in our program? A. A lot of that depends on the lane space that they have been scheduled. In general, most of the groups in the program are a 1:25 coach to swimmer ratio.

The question was: If a child has not mastered skills do they move up to the next level or do we have them move back down to the previous level if they do not have that skill accomplished. A. No, the child does not move up. If we have a situation where there is a kid whose heart is being broken and has been there every day…we have the records of attendance and he has been stuck there for three sessions and has tried everything, we will go ahead and jump him up and let him try because they are still continuing to work on those skills in the next level. That is not necessarily so in our competitive program. When we do swimmer evaluations, we just did one on Tuesday night where we had 200 new swimmers come out to join the team. We start them at 7:30 at night and then we have several coaches working to evaluate what level each of those particular swimmers is going to be placed in. It is fairly common that a swimmer might be evaluated at an incorrect level. So, over the course of the first two weeks of those classes – we assess those student’s skills and we won’t move a child down after a two week point that they have been swimming with a particular group.

The question is: Is the cost to the pre-competitive program the same as the swim school. A. No. The swim school’s ratio is 1:4 and the pre-competitive at 1:7. Pre-competitive is essentially $7.00 per lesson so we prorate a fee. If they enroll within the pre-competitive session midway through that is prorated from when they start. The swim school – I misspoke earlier, I said it was $11.00 per lesson and I believe that it got jumped up to $15.00 per lesson.

Thank you.


Kate Ziegler – Age Group Sprinter to World Class Distance (2005)

Introduction: Good morning everyone. This morning is kind of the fun part because we get to listen to the development of a young and exciting swimmer – one that we are all so excited to have as a part of USA Swimming’s future. I had the good fortune in 2003 to accompany Kate Ziegler to Australia and there were three things that stood out as I watched her and I think they are all a testament to this morning’s speaker. One was her aggressiveness, which we have all seen and that confidence – that nature that has to be taught to a certain extent. The second thing was her poise. She was very comfortable in every situation and the third thing – probably the best part – she is a fun kid and she was a lot of fun throughout that trip. I think all three things, again, are a testament to our speaker this morning. I am pleased to introduce to you, Ray Benecki. Ray has come onto the scene with Kate, but also Chloe Sutton, who made the National Junior team last year and so it is going to be more and better for us with the help of Ray Benecki.

Ray Benecki: You might want to save the applause until I am done, but it is nice getting it up front. The title of my talk this morning is really Age Group Sprinter to World Class Distance. It is a little bit different than what was published. I guess I should have told ASCA about it a little bit earlier than the beginning of August so it could have made all the publications. Guy invited me to do a clinic – to do a speech at the Eastern States Clinic last year in Orlando. This is probably 5-6, 7 times the number of coaches here so it is a little overwhelming, but we will go on through this. If you haven’t been following Kate Ziegler – the next slide is going to show you her times and in the far left hand column is her overall rank all time.

Also, we are going to overwhelm you a little bit with the audiovisual here – we have a race from World Cup on Long Island – kind of going in the background so we are going to be testing your concentration and focus this morning. We wanted to do two or three other things at once too – to kind of put you in the mind frame of a teenage athlete when they are trying to do five or six things at once in practice. We will go on from here so don’t be too distracted. The next slide is going to show some of the progressions that occurred over these last four years.

I have had the opportunity of coaching Kate for three years in our top group and she has been in our program for four years. She came to us very well prepared as an age group sprinter with a lot of speed, from a program called the Commanders and I was pleased to see her old coach in the back of the hall this morning.

The ages are a little bit off because her birthday is the end of June so spring of 2000 she was a very old 11 – about ready to turn 12 – so you could take one year off all those ages. Now, in the first column, it is interesting to note that she was probably AA as an 11 year old in the Spring of 2000 – A time in the 100, BB in the 200 and maybe – maybe a single B in the 500 freestyle. We were blessed to have a swimmer with speed come into our program.

This is a progression of her times. Now, these are just numbers. We will go into the next slide and we charted her performances between her 50 and 1650 in all the intermediate distances.

Other than the second year – when her distance really exploded – and the Spring of 2003 when she didn’t improve that much in the 50 free. Basically, her improvement has been pretty much mirrored in all of her events at about the same percents. We have had the approach that she is taking a lot of sprint – a lot of speed into her distance and so we have trained her that way. We have trained her for speed and her endurance so we feel that if she shows a half a second improvement in her 50 free – that is going to ripple all the way up through her distance so that it would be one second on her hundred, two seconds on her 200 and so on. This chart here kind of reinforces that, all that.

We will go on to the next one. This one we actually – this is actually her cumulative progression percent improvement from the very beginning.

Now, the slope of these six lines is pretty much very similar. After you get through the first year her improvement has been about the same in all her races from the 50 up to the 1650.

The next slide is pretty much her long course improvements and once again we started when she had just turned 13 through the summer when she had just turned 17.

And in the next slide we did very similar to what we did with short course. Other than that anomaly in the second year – the third and the fourth year – especially this past summer has been pretty much according to the approach that whatever she shows as improvement in her shorter races – her 50 and 100 – is probably going to ripple up to her 1500.

Next slide Mike. Once again we did a cumulative progression there which shows a similar slope from the very beginning four years ago until now.

Right now I am going to tell you a little bit about our program. Every year we try to do something a little extra. We try to add a little time here and a little time there or we add something new into our program. We were going to prepare a slide that showed the training – typical week in our training. We are a little limited in our pool by the fact that we have to be out of there by 6:30 in the evening. We are limited in the morning because I found that I can’t really have my top athletes come more than two or three times a week in the mornings because they are going to really struggle in school or get sick. We are fighting a losing battle with that so we have kind of found the ideal program where Kate is actually swimming twice a week in the mornings long course for an hour and a half – 4:45 until 6:15. Then she is swimming an hour and a half on Monday. We use our Monday practice as a recovery type of practice. I throw in a sprint set or let the swimmers develop their own sets if they need to work on their starts and their turns – they will do that. If they want to work on their kicking or their pulling or some more drills they will do that. That is after the weekend so they definitely do need a recovery practice. Tuesday is the hour and half long course practice in the morning and two and a half hour practice in the evenings.
Over the last four years we have gone up to 6,000 meters in the morning and when we have a two and a half hour practice in the evening we will go 9 or 10,000 yards. In high school season – the middle of November until the middle of February – we lose half an hour. So we are going 7-8,000 yards when it shrinks down to two hours. Wednesday is a recovery again and that is an hour and a half practice.

It says two up there, but it is an hour and a half. We have half an hour of dryland before that and we have half an hour of dry land in front of the Monday evening practice. Thursday is the same as Tuesday. Friday is their day off. Saturday we swim two and one half hours in the morning. We usually hit about 10,000. Sunday is three hours and we go anywhere from 13 to 15,000 on Sunday. So you can see why they need recovery on Monday. And Wednesday – we need recovery too.

The quality of the practices has increased as the years have gone by. We are at the point now where we are not really able to increase the quantity of the practices or we would have to add more time. We are a little limited in what we can do. In the Spring we actually picked up an extra long course practice and we switched the mornings to Monday, Wednesday and Friday. But, what happened was – now they are waking up three mornings – when you have meets you lose the Monday – you lose the Friday sometimes and the kids were starting to get sick. So we are just going to keep it as Tuesday and Thursday and let them have their day off on Friday. So, that is what she does.

We are at the point now where we are not able to increase much on that practice schedule so we are just going a little bit more in terms of the quality. If we add another 2 or 3 or 400 yards to a practice – that is insignificant at this point so we added a dry land program – three years ago. We always try to add a little bit more each year. Kate added riding an exercise bike a year ago. I might be jumping ahead of myself a little bit, but what the athletes accomplish is as much what they overcome as what they accomplish when they are feeling healthy. I am referring to the fact that Kate – about two years ago – two springs ago – she jumped in the water for warm-ups in about 7 feet of water and broke a bone in her right foot and broke a toe on her left foot. Because she hit the bottom of the pool streamlined and her feet went underneath her, she was in a cast for a month and a half to two months. She still has tendonitis so we cant do a lot of kicking. We cant use fins. Just when she thinks the tendonitis is cleared up – it comes back again. She has been seeing a therapist on and off for two years now. ‘

Likewise, in 2003 – right after she had made her Olympic trials cuts in our Potomac Valley Senior Champs in the middle of July she started having a really hard time breathing. That was exercise induced asthma. We didn’t know it at the time. It took about a month or a month and a half for her to go through her general pediatrician to a specialist to getting a handle on it. So we are also dealing with that. So a lot of what we do is geared around what she is able to do. That is what their workout schedule is like.

Kate came to us as a sprinter. She had made zones as an 11 year old. She had just turned 12 when she came into our program. She had made zones in the 50 free and – that is a AAA time. The first slide I showed you was when she had AA, A, BB, and B as the distances went up. Kate had a natural six beat kick. Over the last four years we have developed her two beat kick for the distance. Because she has that speed it lends itself very readily to her aggressive style where she is going to go out hard on her races. I actually encourage that in her because she is an athlete with the speed that she can take to the distance. She is going to be just as tired as everybody else at the 700 mark or the 800 so she is not going to have that speed to use at the end of her race so we might as well use it up front. She does swim with a very aggressive style, but she was a natural six beat kick and she is very, very good now at the two beat.

Some of the drills that we are going to show will show you what we do to develop the two beat. Because she started out with the six beat, she also has that ability to do it. She doesn’t always do it in the 100 free. She tries to swim the 100 free where she is trying to do a two beat because she doesn’t think she can make it all the way through a hundred free now doing a six beat kick. So, as a result, she negative splits the hundred freestyle, but she has a fantastic six beat at the end of her races. We discovered these floaties by necessity when she had a cast on her right foot. For six weeks – seven weeks – 8 weeks – she was swimming from flags to flags in the pool. She couldn’t push off the wall because of her broken foot and a broken toe so the cast was just bogging her down big time. It was changing her position in the water. She was dragging.

I didn’t like what was happening with it. We really wanted to find a flume that she could swim in, but that still would not have given her the support that she needed so we discovered the floaties and we blew them up on her cast and brought her right up to the surface. So she swam for about a month and a half with those floaties on her feet and we still use it today in some of our drills. It helps get the feet up. It helps the balance. So she is just swimming normal with the two beat kick with the floaties. The next clip will show that we will also switch it so that we will put two on one leg and none on the other leg to really try to develop the balance and the feel and the asymmetry. She is going to have to work a lot harder to get her left leg up to keep it up – to make it feel like the right leg.

Over the three years that I have worked with Kate we have done a lot of balance – a lot of timing drills – a lot of coordination drills and this is one of the end result. This is a two beat kick, stressing the right side going down and two beat stressing the left side coming back – where she is going to kick down a little bit. This is going to be a two beat going down and six beat coming back – to show you that she can do both and she also has a very strong six beat when she picks it up at the very end of her races. I might also add – we do not have a clip for this, but Kate also has the ability, and I encourage it in all our athletes, to go about as fast if she were concentrating on a low stroke count. Which might be 14 or 15 strokes per length for her and a higher stroke count for her with a faster turnover of 17 strokes per length – she is blessed that she is able to do that. So we wanted to show you the separation there with the two beat balance and how she is also using her hips and roll and body position to get down the pool.

USA Swimming pointed out to me that all Kate has to do is get maybe an inch extra per stroke and she will be down to Janet Evans’ times. An inch per stroke is not much. Now, I am convinced it is not going to come because I am going to teach her to take one less stroke per length or to get a little bit longer on each stroke. I think that inch per stroke is going to come from a little bit more hips – a little bit more shoulders – a little bit more core. She is going to get that inch without having to really concentrate on it,

These drills were developed over three or four years. They were pretty much designed around Kate. One of the things that I have realized over the years is that the athlete’s teach you a lot more than you are going to learn the hard way. Kate has taught me a heck of a lot. I was reading an article the other day in one of the latest magazines about that too. Now we are going to go to a two beat where she emphasizes the right side going down which means she pushes back a little bit harder on the right side and kicks down a little bit harder on the right side and then two beat coming back where she is stressing the left side. Three years ago we started doing this drill. Two years ago we pointed out to Kate that you accelerate your hand also when it gets down by her leg and as a result your hips are going to accelerate and your shoulders are going to accelerate so we are tying in the core – we are tying in the connection.

This is a variation of the Tarzan drill – and then she lowers her face in the water and doesn’t change anything. It teaches a faster rhythm and a faster turnover and teaches high elbows. One of the things that I have done with Kate is to encourage that everything go in a forward direction – the hand comes forward in a forward direction – nothing is going lateral – nothing is going sideways – including the pull under water. She is also doing that with the two beat kick which is very hard, but it gets the rhythm going faster which you almost necessarily need with the two beat. Now, we have started to do a little more straight arm recovery with her on her speed – on her sprints – on her 50 and 100 – to see how that is going to work with her and it is too early to tell. She actually does that drill to help her warm-up for her sprints also.

She is doing a right arm going down – okay – toe tapping flutter kick – we haven’t done that. We are trying to get – speaking of things that we add to our program – the start swim we added two years ago – so we try to do something new and fresh and also extra every year. We will do the dart swim review – we try to do it every month, but by the time we actually review it and meet with the athletes and show them what they did – it becomes every other month.

This one is to keep her feet up on the surface and also develop a faster kick so she is just barely tapping the surface of the water. Kate can’t do more than four or five lengths like that. Then her ankles are going to just be killing her from her tendonitis. So we are limited in the amount of kicking that we can do, but I call that the toe tap flutter kick because it is supposed to be a really high kick. It is a fast kick and it really gets the body – the legs up – it really gets the body position up.

This is right arm going down and she is breathing towards her arm – towards the arm that she is using. We do a lot of this drill. This is a good balance drill for Kate and the rest of our swimmers. It teaches the shoulder rotation – the hip rotation, and the connection in between. Three years ago it was just a skill that you use your right arm and you are breathing towards that arm – you use your right arm and you breathe towards that arm and you try to roll both ways. Two years ago she discovered the connection between the hips and the shoulders and I would say last year she discovered that they accelerate – the connection is there, but they also accelerate – the hips accelerate – the shoulders accelerate as the hand is pushing through so now she is doing the left arm breathing towards. She is going to do a right arm breathing away so the balance is just as important for her. She has discovered that over three years so this is kind of an idea of how her stroke drills have progressed over that length of time.

If you are wondering what was going on, on the other wall, the first race was Kate from World Cup 2004 and this last one was 2005. So, now she is using left arm breathing towards. We use drills throughout all our practices for warm-up, recovery, cool down. The last 50 is going to be a variation where she is using her right arm – breathing every third stroke or every third touch I call it because up front is one – by her leg is two and then the third touch is up front again. Then she will breathe – with the two beat kick and the rotation and the hips accelerating. This also gets us able to isolate one arm and check the elbow position and where her hand is entering the water.

Ooga – booga is the Tarzan variation because with Tarzan you just leave your head up and you swim. Ooga-booga is a little faster Tarzan and you can almost picture her yelling booga-booga. This is with a pull buoy. We have variations on our pull and so we will pull with a two beat – the pull buoy keeps the legs locked in so you have a chance to try and concentrate on having your legs up a little bit higher. When you are pulling with the pull buoy and you are trying to stress the two beat and the balance it also has to be done with a little faster turnover. So, we will do some pulling that way.

We will also do pulling with a pull buoy or with a kickboard between the knees to make sure the hips are rolling both ways and once again, with the kickboard between the knees and the hips rolling both ways. The board has to accelerate as they go from side to side which then shows them that they are accelerating their hips too. I tried to give you an idea of how her drills and her stroke have progressed over the last three years also.

The next one is Progression of Strength and Power: I do not have too much to show on this one because in our dry land we do core. We do Pilates – we have jumped rope. This year when we went out to Senior Nationals in Irvine we went to Hollywood one of the days that they were not swimming. We saw the performers on the sidewalk doing break dancing. We are going to do a little break dancing this year too. They are kind of looking forward to that. That will be a little coordination and a little bit of variety, but we don’t do traditional strength and power through weights or the weight room or anything like that. First of all she has only been in the situation now for the last year or year and a half because she is still growing. So maybe she is not even there yet – where her joints have stopped growing and forming so – I haven’t done weights with her.

I told Kate – you are going to get stronger if you use the large paddles when you swim on 100’s and 200’s because we don’t do paddles either for long sets. We do not do pull buoys for long sets. We don’t do drag suits and pile on all the equipment for long sets because her shoulders tend to get a little tired – a little sore and I have never. I believe in the recovery. We have been able to train Kate where she has been able to recover within a day or a day and a half because we are trying for the quality in the practices so she has a choice of whether she uses the paddles and the pull buoy or not. If her shoulders are too sore she is not going to do that so we haven’t done strength training – except for core strength.

What you see on this next slide is basically her improvement in three years. When she went out to Colorado Springs for the national select camp three years ago – four years ago they tested her. They put her on like almost like hooked a fish scale up to her and had her pull and that measured her strength. Then, they had her kick – hooked up to that scale again and then they had her swim. They did this again at the University of Maryland for World Champs – the training camp or the pre-camp where they assembled and they were there for three and a half days before they went up to Montreal this summer. They did the same tests. First strength in water – full swimming went up from a measure of 10 to 28, so it almost tripled in three years. Her kicking strength went up from 6.5 to 14 ½ so it went up about 250% and her pulling strength went up from 8.6 to 22.8 which is about 2 ½ or 250%.
It was not because of the dry land, besides – I showed you – we only have half an hour on Monday and Wednesday of dry land. It wasn’t because of a lot of pulling in practice because we don’t. it wasn’t because of a lot of kicking because of her tendonitis and she can’t kick a lot with fins either. It might have been because of the therapy that she has done because she has seen – off and on she has seen a therapist now for two years. She graduates after about six weeks and then six weeks later she is back again and then the therapist says, “you graduated – you are done – you are fine.” And six weeks later she is back again so, off and on she has been with the therapist now for two years. It might be because of the cycling which she has done for a year now, but it is really mainly swimming specific. And because she is growing and getting stronger as she is getting older. So, once again, I didn’t have much to say about that – it is just a natural progression of her strength and power.

I think that the experiences and the background and the preparation that the swimmers go through is very, very important. I am a firm believer that they do everything that they possibly can. Kate has gone to every regional distance camp that she has been able to go to. She went to four as an athlete and then this last year she went to the one in Annapolis as the national athlete and that was really nice – to be able to go full circle and be at one of those and be the athlete that everybody else listens to. She has gained a lot from each one that she has been to. She went to one with Brooke Bennett. She went to one with Diana Munz so she has gained from each one that she has gone to. The progression of meets and experience will reflect that.

She started out – eastern zones her first summer in 2001. She had the thought in her mind that first of all – She had just turned 13 and she had been to zones before – only in the 50 free. I think when she was 10 she went there for the 50 free and the 50 fly so this was quite a big jump for her because she had all the freestyle events as a young 13 and this was kind of like the icing on the cake for her. Because when she joined our top group in the springtime I said, “Kate – you know you are going to be making zones this summer in the distance events.” She didn’t believe it at first. But it is one of those things where you see yourself improving. If you are 5 seconds away from the time in the 500 free. Then all of a sudden you think you can do it and nothing has really changed from you were 15 seconds away – just because you are closer – all of a sudden you start believing you can do it. So she went to eastern zones and went a 4:38 in her 400 free – 10:05 in her 800 and 17:58 in her 1,500. That was her first – probably her first experience in a big meet – in terms of the distance.

In spring of 2002 – she went to her first senior nationals – had the flu. If Northwest had let us change our flight to be three days later – we would have, but we couldn’t so we had to go out to Minnesota. She was lying down on the floor in the airport with chills and a fever. She couldn’t swim her first event which was the 800 on Tuesday night I think it was. She had an off day on Wednesday. Thursday she swam her 200 – barely made it through. Friday she swam her 400 – barely made it through that and Saturday she swam the 1,500 so she did not have a very good experience at her first senior nationals; however, they were best times for long course. Because she had improved that much over the course of the winter she came back a little bit fired up from that.

Summer Nationals in Ft. Lauderdale was the one that she was going to be healthy for, for the first time. Because she was sick in the springtime this was the one where the expectations were there, and she did not handle it very well the first time. Kate is kind of like the swimmer who has to do something once or twice before she feels comfortable doing it.
Well, at least she used to be like that because at World Champs this year was a complete reversal for her. She was able to discover that in the middle of a meet. Her first event in the 1500 prelims was not a very good swim at all. She just managed to turn around completely and swim at the next level – the next night. So anyway, Ft. Lauderdale was an okay meet for her. She was pretty close to her best times, but it was not what she really wanted to do.

National select camp – she went to that one. That was a great experience for her – to be out at the camp – to be told that you are the future of USA Swimming. One or two swimmers from each of these camps go on to make the national junior team – goes on to make the Olympics – she really enjoyed hearing that.

World Cup on Long Island – we have been fortunate to have it there for three years in a row and this year I think will be the fourth year. She had done the World Cup 2002 in December, so that would have been 2002 – 2003 winter season. She did a February of 2004. She did February of 2005 and she is going to do it again this year. I cannot say enough about the World Cup. I hope USA Swimming never gets rid of having it on American soil. It is a tremendous experience. It was her first time – swimming against international competition. She also realized at that meet – a lot of the athletes do not realize it until they get up to the higher levels – but she also realized at that meet that once you are at that level you really have it made. Warm-ups start at 9. The meet starts at 10 and it is over by 11. There might be two or three heats of everything – all you have to do is do your time and you make it back to finals. If you do better than your time you are probably going to improve 10 or 12 places. It is really geared for top level swimmers. The same as some of the world champ selection meets or Olympic trials or something like that. Most of the swimmers do not realize that until they get there.

So she had a taste of that and she really wanted it bad ever since then. She wanted to be back for it, she wanted to be getting a medal. She wanted to be doing really well so at her first world cup she was 14th in her 400 free short course meters and 8:37.99.

Next – the US Open – she did that the first year. That was in Minnesota again and she did best times. She managed to place 8th in the 800 free. Once again, she was beset with some problems. We took her down to the emergency room in Minnesota in Minneapolis because she had smacked arms with somebody warming up so she couldn’t swim her 200 free at that meet. But the good thing about that was when they took an x-ray they said, “well coach, her growth plates are still wide open. She is going to grow like crazy.” She didn’t want to hear that because she was 5’ 9” at the time. She is probably 6’ and her boyfriend is about 5’ 8” or 5’ 9” so she didn’t want to hear that, but I was very happy. That was one of the good things that came out of that.

You will notice that at that meet she had made her Olympic trials cuts about two weeks previous to that. She had just had asthma and she was having a real hard time breathing. It was the first time that she had ever had it and she wasn’t on any medication at that time because it was too new. It just reared its head. She did well enough though to make the national junior team from that meet and she actually scored points for the first time at a senior national level.

The junior team trip to Australia: now, she went to that meet and she did best times in pretty interesting circumstances. Circles – swim reverse in Australia so instead of swimming counter clockwise – they swim clockwise – very crowded conditions. They had age groupers there – 10 and unders, 11-12’s and 13-14’s and she still managed to do best times. That was January of that year. After she came back we sat down and we said, Kate – you know – we think it is going to take 8:30 – this is the way Kate and I set goals too. It has evolved over the years. Goal setting her first year was mainly time oriented. I asked, “well – what kind of times would you like to do?” And she looked – researched AAA times, AAAA times and she said. “well, I would like to have AAAA times in my 50 and my 100 and maybe A or AA times in my 500 free.” I then said “well, then if you improve your 50 and your 100 free that much – you should be a lot faster in your 500 free. Lets try to make it AAA all the way across”

Her first year was mainly time oriented and as the years have gone by the goal setting has gotten a lot more sophisticated. The last time we sat down, at the beginning of last year, was a four year plan and we must have talked for 45 or 50 minutes. I mean, there were all kinds of intermediate goals – mid-term goals – long-term goals – she had a whole bunch of goals. Now, I am getting ahead of myself here a little bit, but we might not have to get to the last couple of slides anyway. Her goal setting process has gone from just focusing on one goal to actually looking beyond that goal and already knowing what it is going to be.

When she went to zones that first summer she wanted to do well at zones. She had a shot at some of the zone records so she thought it would be really nice to get some zone records, but she also went to that zone thinking US Open Cup. Then she also knew how close the US Open was to Senior National cuts so she was actually looking ahead or she knew two steps ahead or two steps beyond her immediate goal. She wasn’t looking ahead because she would have fallen into the trap that a lot of swimmers do when they are looking too far down the road. They are not focused on what they need to do right away to take care of it, but she knew immediately what the next two steps would be so she didn’t get her US Open cuts. She didn’t set any zone records, but after that meet she still kept the US Open cut goal in mind and she got her US Open cuts in a general meet that Potomac Valley has in October. As soon as she got those cuts she said, “I am going to make my Senior National cuts next”. She didn’t sit on that level too long. She didn’t sit She knew immediately what her next set was going to be and when she reset her goals for Senior Nationals she also knew the next two steps. So she was prepared to reset her goals as soon as she got them and I think that she learned a lot.

Well, last year when we did our four year planning, there must have been 35 or 40 goals that we talked about. High school goals – practice goals – meet goals – world champ goals – things like that. So, after she came back from Australia, we said “where are you in terms of the overall scheme?” She said, “what do you mean coach?” I said, “You know, Olympic trials are going to be in July – that is six or seven months from now. I think it is going to take an 8:30 if you are physically capable of going 8:30 in the 800 free. Then if you have one of these ‘out-of-body’ experiences and you have just a fantastic swim you are going to be faster than that. If you are physically capable of going 4:10 then you are going to be faster than that if conditions are right and you have a once in a lifetime swim inside of you.” So we looked and saw 8:51 or 8:46 – 8:42 – yeah – 8:42 in Australia and 8:30. So I said “Okay – let’s try the 8:36 in a couple of months at our sectional meet which was long course that year. You are 4:16 – let’s try to be 4:13 at sectionals at the University of Maryland in three months. So we try to take half of it off and if you are not there, well let’s see how close you can be so that you have three months to get the rest of the time off so the World Cup in 2004” She was hungry now. She was used to that level. She wanted to get a medal and she ended up getting a 2nd or 3rd I think in that meet – 8:24 and 4:07 short course times.

Olympic trials: she did get down to 8:30 and she went 4:11.85. Kate was one of these swimmers up to this point that still had to do things – or I felt, still had to do things a couple of times to get feeling comfortable at that level. So I had tried something different the previous two years. She was swimming really, really well at the beginning of July, at our Potomac Valley Senior Champs – meets that were in Potomac Valley at that time. She got her Olympic trials cut in 2003 at that meet and 2002 she had a breakout swim in the 1500 and the 800 at that meet. So as soon as she did that I really increased her work level and really didn’t care how she swam two weeks later because she had already accomplished what I thought she could accomplish. I didn’t tell her that I was doing this. I just wanted to see how she would handle it.

At sectionals, which was the week after our Senior Champs, after she had made her Olympic trials she was there for 2 and ½ hours doing a practice before her warm-up. Needless to say, her 1500 was not very good that night. But in 2004, that is when I told Kate, “Look – you have always swum well in the beginning and middle of July – we have done this for a reason.” We didn’t wait until the end of July and beginning of August to swim your best. Guess when Olympic trials are – the beginning of July. So that gave her the confidence that she was going to swim really well at the beginning of July.

Also, at Olympic trials, I decided I was going to try to be more nervous than she was because – she was pretty calm. We had done preparation for this. We had everybody I could think of come in and talk to her about Olympic trials. Coaches who had been there and swimmers from Potomac Valley who had been there talked to her. I read articles to her about Olympic Trials – we just discussed this– what can happen. So I figured she is usually nervous at these meets. I am going to be a little bit more nervous than she is and it worked. She said, “You know coach – you don’t have to be nervous – I will take care of things. Don’t be nervous.” She was actually settling me down and that took her mind off of her being nervous so that was a gamble that paid off really well at Olympic Trials.

Stanford summer nationals 2004: that was a month after Olympic Trials – we could have just kind of said okay, you had a great Olympic Trials – let’s just train the rest of the summer and not do senior nationals. But once again I was trying to get her as much experience at meets in different circumstances as possible. So I said, “No, Kate you know you have got to learn how to swim well again three or four weeks after you swam really well. You can go to senior nationals this summer and get your first couple of national titles.” That experience was worth something so she kept going and she did get her first two national titles at 2004 at Stanford.

Short course World Champs in Indiana – that was a great experience for her too. Fortunately, a couple of slots opened up in the 800 free so she was bumped up to be able to swim it and she was 8:20 – got a silver medal at that meet and came away from that meet determined – absolutely determined that she was going to make world champs for Montreal because she really liked being there.

World Cup in 2005: Now, building on the previous two World Cups, Kate was expecting big things for this and this was one of her goals for the year was to get the American record in the 800 free which she did. The 8:16 that she did and she also got a 4:05 in her 400. So Kate was starting to really believe and feel that she belonged on an international level and once again. I hope that USA Swimming never decides to not support the World Cup in the United States.

World Champs at trials in Indiana: Kate had come off a really long spring season with a lot of short course swimming in high school. She didn’t swim as well as she had wanted to swim in Indianapolis – once again – it was nerves – trying to make the team. She doesn’t respond too well when she thinks that she is the favorite. So she was having a hard time coping with that and she did make the team in the 800. Fortunately she was also able to swim the 1500 in Montreal too – based on her 800.

World Champs at Montreal: Now, this was her – once again – her crowning moment – two golds. That experience came from World Champ trials. She was feeling almost exactly the same as she was in Indianapolis and I was convinced now that it wasn’t really the taper – it wasn’t really physical – it was nerves. She learned how to deal with that. The support that she got from the national team coaches that were there and the support that she got from the athletes that were there helped her turn around completely from prelims when she went I think 16:26 and was seeded 7th in the 1500 to finals when she went 16:00. She learned from that so she was able to turn that around in a day.

I tried all kinds of things with her too, but it was mainly a couple of coaches on the staff that also got through to her. I knew the pressure was weighing her down so I said, “Picture a giant – what is your favorite dog?” And at first she said, “Oh a little schnauzer. I said, “no, no, no – that doesn’t quite fit the picture I had in mind. Pick another one.” So fortunately she said St. Bernard. I said, “Okay, now picture a huge, huge, huge St. Bernard with the wine cask underneath his chin in the Swiss Alps. He is going to rescue people and he is on top of you. Now look up, he is where my hand is – now find my hand.” She is looking all over and she looks up. And I say, “Yeah – he is right on top of you – that is all the pressure that you are taking in. The St. Bernard is weighing you down. When you dive in you have got to leave that St. Bernard behind.” Well, that might have helped her a little bit, but I think it was more what the staff said too.

So, the progression of meets and the experience is very, very important. She would not have been able to go 16:00 if she had not had all that experience before it. I think it all started on the right road with the regional distance camps that they had because that gave her a little confidence. She was swimming with Dianna Munz. She was swimming with Brooke Bennett. She was doing all these things.

The last one is Irvine this summer and once again, it would have been easy to say, okay – you are toast – you are pretty tired – lets skip it. But she gained a lot of experience once again from doing Irvine. Basically, I said. “You know how are you going to handle this after Olympic Trials to come back and swim Olympics if you make the team.” Because Olympic Trials is a pressure cooker. It is probably the biggest meet that there is. The competition is really fast. So how are you going to come back and swim the Olympics after you do Olympic Trials? You have got to get used to this. You have got to get used to feeling a little down and swimming through it so she did, and she responded.

She showed me, even though she did not do her best times. I think that her 400 free was one of the best races that she has ever done because of how tough she was and what she showed in that race.

So – that is that – we will whip through the next couple of slides real quick. I think technical progressions are next. We added Dart Swim two years ago – that has been a very invaluable tool. USA Swimming tests on the national level, the lactate testing that they do for the athletes made us more sophisticated and refined in our cool downs. We had Kate lactate tested as much as possible at the camp at the University of Maryland. For three and one half days before World Champs to try and figure out what was going on. It is just invaluable – the strength testing that they did was invaluable because it convinced me we are on the right path with her. Race analysis that USA Swimming provided – at the meets – is invaluable. Stroke count – turn times – things like that and this is kind of like the teaser at the 11 o’clock news where they save the best news item for last. The training progressions is going into a lot of depth this afternoon so that is about all I had to say.

I guess I could maybe answer – because I do not think the next talk starts until 10? So I guess I could go over a little bit. Okay, so – questions?

Q. How was her growth throughout those years?

A. Steady. No steady. She developed late. She went through puberty late – a couple of years late – instead of 12 it was probably 14 or 15 and it was not because of swimming, she was just a late developer because she is still growing so she didn’t stop at 14 or 15. She is still growing. She doesn’t want to admit it. If you say, how tall are you – she would rather say 5’ 12 ½” rather than 6’ ½”, but she is growing.

Q. You mentioned that some of her goals – you felt there was a drop out after …………. Did she swim high school and train with you at the high school?

A. Oh yes – Virginia swimming – she goes to private school – their high school program – she just does the meets. They have an hour in the morning and the coach would rather not have the US athletes there because he has a chance to work with the others. So she just goes to meets – six or seven meets a year. It is from November to February so it is a winter season and there isn’t much conflict with the high schools. When she has a meet it is on a Thursday night usually so she will actually come to our practice for about 45 minutes or an hour and then go to her meet.

Q. ???
A. Every year we have done – training? That has grown. It has grown. We do everything – sprint – middle distance – distance – negative split – descend – all kinds of things from Day 1 to the end. Would she change the goal? Oh, as soon as she got the one line in front of her. I changed my expectations like we have what we call cruise which is 3.5 seconds over her 1650 pace and in the middle of the year that is what we will expect her to be doing on long sets – at the beginning of descend sets she will want to start out at cruise. So if she takes 8 seconds off her 1650 then her cruise gets adjusted down accordingly.

Q. Is there any reason for Friday off?
A. I had to give her a day off. We have more time – well, Friday is a nice social day. We have more time then because we have 2 ½ hours on Saturday and we have 3 hours on Sunday. So it is – we kind of put it on the weekend, so Friday off.

Q. So then your recovery days? The normal distance doesn’t change too much – it is just the emphasis?
A. Well, in an hour and a half we are going to be doing less because – yeah – only an hour and a half on Monday and Wednesday so we will probably do 6,000, but on Tuesday and Thursday you know we are doing 6,000 in the morning and 10,000 at night so we are doing about 16-17,000. So you know she is going to go maybe 5 or 6,000 and that the emphasis on what we do also changes a little bit. We might do a little more sprint. We might do some specialty – some buildups – it changes a little bit, okay? Any others?

Q. Could you tell us why you changed the kick?……………………
A. why did I change from a six to a two beat with her? We just had a lot of two beat drills that a lot of the other swimmers were doing and I didn’t feel that she could go six beat all the way through on a 500 or 1000 or a 1650 and be as aggressive as she is because the legs would go almost immediately. Then she would go a slower turn over and then she would die at the end of her races. So the two beat seemed very natural. She didn’t pick it up right away. It took her about half a year or nine months and then she got really good at the two beat and all of a sudden it just clicked. I have a guy in the program that does six beat all the way through on a 1650 – Alex Anderson – he will kick six beat all the way through. I am not going to change that and have him do two beat, although he does do some of the two beat drills. It just helps. It just helps him discover his hips and his shoulder rotations and maybe a little faster rhythm, but he is going to race six beat until he is 85 years old.

Q. What is her stroke rate? A. She is doing about 17 – 16 or 17 – well that was long course or that was short course meters so she was probably doing 17 or 18 strokes per length. We are really not into the 16 or 17 for yards you know? I don’t concentrate on that. It comes natural to her. She can do – I can tell her – we will do a set where we will do ten 50’s long course – every time you go down you do one less stroke – same time – every time you come back you take – you are one second faster with the same stroke count. So going down you take a second off your time and coming back you take one stroke less and she is swimming just as fast at the end with fewer strokes as she is in the beginning with more strokes. I mean – she can – she does in practice – she will be doing hundreds and she will be going 59+’s or minutes. She will do it with 16 – 17 strokes. I will say “Okay, lets stretch this one out and she will be going 14 so I really don’t concentrate too much on the stroke count as I am just on the rhythm. You know, it is a feel. Sometimes when I can tell that she is moving her arms just a little too slow and she is just not moving I will say “pick it up a little bit” – she will pick up her tempo and then she will be a little bit quicker.

Q. Stroke rate? Like 74 strokes ………….?
A. I don’t dwell on that. USA Swimming provided us all kinds of information on that – from the race analysis and I will share that with you when we are done. You can borrow it and return it to me this afternoon, but it is nothing that we really focus on to change.

Q. Did you notice that between 15 to 16 years old – where things changed?
A. long course especially. We felt between 15 and 16 she had a pretty big improvement in the winter time too. She just missed Janet Evans’s American record in the 1000 free on a foot touch going out on a 1650 by 2/100 of a second and she said, “Well why didn’t you tell me that?” How am I going to tell you that in the middle of your race? You were going for the national age group record in the 1000 and the 1650 – I mean, if you had touched what would that have done to the rest of your race? So she had a pretty big drop that winter and her summer. If you converted her times from the winter to the summer – they were about the same, but she did have a pretty big improvement. That might have been because she started riding an exercise bike because I was afraid of her upper legs getting a little heavier – especially because I felt she was starting to slow down in her growth.

That was also because everything clicked for her this year – even though she had her bouts of asthma and there were days when she couldn’t breathe and had bad practices. Basically, compared to the previous year, she was on medication and things were under control pretty good. She had learned how to deal with that. Her foot was feeling a little bit better – even though she still had tendonitis. She had a pretty solid base there. A lot of it was because she knew she was at a higher level now so she knew that she belonged at that higher level. We did put a little more emphasis in the speed. Jon Urbanchek visited us and we did a couple of more rainbow sets in our program which we hadn’t been doing before. But we had been doing a lot of very similar stuff and the summer we came up with some speed sets for her to try and get some speed into her races and that just rippled all the way up. But, you know – I wouldn’t say any one thing and I don’t think it was a real focus in a big way.

Q. Is she still doing the same number of sessions?
A. Yeah, I was misquoted in an article in the paper and they turned it around and said school gets in the way, but basically I was saying to them that we cant do more than twice a week in the mornings before school – 4:45 to 6:15 and then expect the kids to go to school and stay awake and do well in school. If we go three or four days in the morning before school – the kids are going to get sick and then their training is going to suffer too so we are kind of limited to what we are doing. Besides, if we do more than 10,000 on a Tuesday or Thursday afternoon – because we could crank it up to 10.5 or 11,000 if we wanted to, but that is not that significant of a change. But if we start dwelling on that then her shoulders are going to start getting sore and she is going to start breaking down so we just picked up the quality has every year. We build year to year and that is what we will be talking about in the afternoon.

Q. I have a question about the drills – we do that …………..right?
A. Well you know we are not – we have never approached that drill in terms of the kick. She just does what comes naturally. That drill is going to be a hard drill to do because we are telling her to take her time and think about your hand placement, you know – right in front of your shoulder – not in front of you – high elbow – reach over the surface of the water – use your shoulders to reach – anchor that hand and then use your whole body to pull beyond. So, we are not really trying to get a fast turnover going so that is a whole different approach to it so it is hard to do a two beat when you have a slow turnover so that is why sometimes you saw her switch into a six beat, but we are more into the rotation and the core and just anchoring that hand and pulling through and placing that hand properly.

Q. Pull that arm?
A. Yeah, you saw it come high out of the water. I think that is just a reaction of the hip really moving and the balance.

Q. At what ratio did you do a six or a two beat drill for her? A. We do a lot of two beat. I am putting more six beat into the end of sets at practice where we are trying to finish the last 50 off with a six beat, but and then the tap is really a six beat drill.

Alright – thank you very much.

Spring ’00
Spring ’01
Spring ’02
Spring ’03
Spring ’04
Spring ’05
50 free
100 free
200 free
500 free
1000 free
1650 free

Meet Date
500 free
2005 VA Speedo Champs
1000 free
2005 VA Speedo Champs
1650 free
2005 VA Speedo Champs
800 free
Olympic Trials
2005 US World Championships
1500 free
2005 US World Championships

Summer ’01
Summer ’02
Summer ’03
Summer ’04
Summer ’05
50 free
100 free
200 free
400 free
800 free
1500 free