Science and Coaching

Science and Coaching

By John Leonard

OK, I take this personally. For those who think that’s a fault, I will kindly disagree.

I’ve been at the ASCA for 31 years now. When ignorant people with no history at their disposal, whom have never spoken to me, nor any ASCA Board Member, make statements about “what the ASCA thinks,” I do hear “what JL thinks.” Shoot me. I also believe that if you don’t take your work personally, it’s not important to you. Only my children are more important to me than the ASCA.

So recently a very ignorant person had the audacity to state that the ASCA “thinks Coaches Should Only Learn From Coaches.” (And stated it in writing, even more stupidly.)

Here are the FACTS:

  1. The ASCA formed the first and only peer-reviewed scientific journal in swimming. It was formed by my predecessor in this job, Dr. Keith Sutton, in 1984, a year before I got here. I maintained it, supported it, nurtured it, believe in it, and continued to support the funds that paid for it. We had wonderful editors including Dr. Mary Sutton (Keith’s wife and a brilliant medical person in her own right.) Dr. Rick Sharp, Physiologist, Dr. Joel Stager, Physiologist and now, Dr. Jan Prins, of the University of Hawaii, one of the foremost scientists in swimming.
  2. Lets Define SCIENCE, since I really, really, really support REAL SCIENCE.
    Science is the PEER REVIEWED PUBLICATION of your paper and inclusion in the Journal for which the “peers” do the reviewing. Here is what REAL SCIENCE IS NOT: it’s not having a Ph.D with your name and thus your every pronouncement is “science.” It’s not declaring your “research” as science (or Twinkies would be confirmed as health food by the “research” of General Foods Corp). It’s not having your opinions masquerade as science because you want to build your business via the internet, where any shyster can promote anything and get away with it.
  3. The so called “author” of the idiotic comment above, says I (ASCA) do not respect Science. Nonsense. We respect, support, seek, and eagerly listen to, REAL SCIENCE. Those are FACTS.

    We reject internet marketing using the magic term “science” as a way to sell yourself and your crap. Be Real with your science, or tell the truth and call it your opinion. The Great Thing about the USA, is we all have a right to our opinion. So do you shysters. Have at it. But when you lie about what you do being science, yes, you have an enemy at the ASCA and with me.

    The best source of information on coaching, is COACHES. I don’t want a physiologist “coaching my child.” I don’t want a Psychologist coaching my child. I don’t want a Nutritionist coaching my child. I don’t want a Biomechanist coaching my child.
    I want a COACH Coaching My Child. A Coach knows that “all of the above” have contributions to make to the process. That NONE of them is “the answer.” By the way, the truth is that most scientists are part of the “If I have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail” school of thought. (The biomechanist thinks all the answers are in stroke mechanics. The physiologist thinks all would be grand if the physiology is right; etc.) ONLY THE COACH GETS THE WHOLE PICTURE.

Here is a thought experiment for you: Your CHILD has a brain tumor. He needs an operation. Do you want the guy with the Ph.D, who teaches neurology at the University doing that operation, or the Surgeon who has 1000 successful brain operations on his record, to do the work? Duh.

Throughout the world history of swimming, all the best performing coaches have SOUGHT OUT Science, looking for help. But NONE of them, blindly did what some scientist said. They asked scientists to be our collaborators in the process of learning how to produce athletes. This has been true especially in Australia and the USA, which has produced the historic “Lions Share” of ideas in swimming.

Real science is fantastic and hugely useful. Any real scientist will tell you that rarely does science find clear answers. Instead, it reveals more accurate questions to answer and seek responses to. This makes “real science” remarkably frustrating to the practitioner, the Coach…we largely look for answers, science largely can’t provide them. But we get great ideas on where to experiment in athlete development, by the questions that REAL SCIENCE unveils.

So, yes, the most useful information for coaches comes from other coaches, who have been there, done that, produced real world swimmers and continue to do so. The Proof is in the Pudding without a doubt. That doesn’t make ASCA (or me) “anti-science.” We respect, use, love, REAL SCIENCE. The JSR has been a huge contributor to our sport over the past three plus decades. (Thank you editors and review boards, made up of real scientists.) Our Schools are developed with the help of real scientists in all the relevant cases. We use science ALL THE TIME.

What we don’t respect, is you shysters doing pretend science and presenting it as Science, in order to make a living. REAL SCIENCE is rigorous, structured and Academic.

Whether you are a coach, parent, swimmer, when you come upon a self-described “scientist” hawking his ideas, the first question you need to ask, is where is your work published? Second, is the publication peer-reviewed?

Follow up on those answers to ascertain their validity.

Science, We Love ‘Ya!

John Leonard
Executive Director
American Swimming Coaches Association


ASCA Coach of Year Finalists 2015

Bob Bowman

Swimmer Event Time Result World Rank FINA Points
Michael Phelps 200 IM 100 Fly 200 Fly 1:54.75 50.45 1:52.94 US Gold US Gold US Gold 1 1 1 981 963 962
Cierra Runge 200 FR 400 MR 1:56.23 3:56.53 PA Gold PA Gold 10 4 918
Read More

2015 Age Group Coach of the Year Top 10 Finalists

The American Swimming Coaches Association and the Fitter and Faster Swim Tour Presented by are pleased to announce the Top 10 finalists for the 2015 Age Group Coach of the Year Award.

The top performing age group swim teams were identified using the USA Swimming Virtual Club Championship team rank for 11 to 14 year old swimmers. The American Swimming Coaches Association contacted the head coaches for each of the top 35 teams and asked them to identify the age group coach (or coaches) who were responsible for the excellent performance of their swimmers. This process has led to 24 nominees for this prestigious award.

We are proud to recognize the top ten finalists and winner this year in Cleveland, Ohio. The awards will be presented by Olympic legend Matt Biondi, three-time Olympian Kara Lynn Joyce and Fitter and Faster Founder David Arluck.

Congratulations Coaches!

Tom Himes North Baltimore Aquatic Club
Chris Natoli Nations Capitol Swim Club
Keith Ure King Aquatic Club
Dave Greene Rockville Montgomery
Luba Pohilenco Santa Clara Swim Club
Ginny Nussbaum Long Island Aquatics
Raz Cuparencu Triangle Aquatics Club Titans
Jack Maddan Cypress Fairbanks Swim Club
Bruce Smith Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics
Kyle Myers Marlins of Raleigh


On February 26th, 2015, we reached 10,000 ASCA members for the first time in our history. For perspective, when I walked into the old ASCA office in the Hall of Fame (which was a glorified closet where Bob Ousley and Keith Sutton (my predecessors in this position) turned out the WORLD CLINIC YEARBOOK, the greatest collection of coaching information in the history of our sport…on a TYPEWRITER.) we had 1,340 members…maybe…the records were a little shabby. Not more, maybe less. After a few years, we'd reached 5,000 and Peter Daland was in town. He and I walked to lunch on the day we reached 5,000 and on the walk Peter congratulated me on reaching 5,000.00 I said a simple thank you. Peter then said (as only Peter could do…) "When do you expect to reach 10,000?" And I thought, "When pigs fly and hell freezes over." But the seed had been planted, as Coach Daland always did. Read More

ASCA to Recognize 10 & Under National Rankings for Certification

ASCA Special Announcement:

ASCA has long valued the role of the Coaches of 10 & Under swimmers and their contribution to the development of our national age group program. We have taken the Top 10 rankings, long course and short course, from the most recent seasons of each, and established those times as ATHLETE ACHIEVEMENT TIMES for Coach Certification for coaches of 10 & Under swimmers. The 2013-2014 season’s List of Times are here: ASCA Age Group Coach Certification 10 & Under Performance Standards ‐ 2013‐2014 Read More

Kind Words from Coach Winkeler

To Whom It May Concern;

I want to thank ASCA for their support and educational tools over the years. I recently stepped down as head swim coach at Rockhurst High School in order to focus on my academic duties as Chair of Science.

We were fortunate to have a very successful team over my time as head coach and I owe a great deal of my growth as a coach to ASCA. I was not a swim coach when I was first asked to run the program, but quickly became one after I joined ASCA and learned…a lot. To turn someone who has no swimming background to a very successful swim coach speaks volumes for your association and I could not be more grateful. Should I return to coaching, I will certainly rejoin.

With Deep Gratitude,

Paul Winkeler
Rockhurst Jesuit HS Swimming, Kansas City MO
ASCA Level 5


Peter Daland Celebration Of Life Set For Nov. 21

The event at Uytengsu Aquatics Center is open to the public.

A public celebration of the life of legendary USC men’s swimming coach Peter Daland, who passed away earlier this week at the age of 93, will be held on Nov. 21 at 10:30 am at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center on the USC campus.
To reserve a seat at the event, go to (passcode: daland).

Daland, who died on Oct. 20 in Thousand Oaks, Califoria, led the Trojans to nine NCAA team championships during his 35-year (1958-92) tenure. His USC teams also placed second at the NCAA meet 11 times, won 17 league crowns and posted a 318-31-1 (.917) dual meet record. A six-time National Coach of the Year, his swimmers captured 93 NCAA and 155 Pac-10 individual and relay titles.

The pool at the new Uytengsu Aquatics Center is named for Daland.

In lieu of flowers, Daland’s family requests that donations be made to the Peter Daland Endowed Head Swimming Coach’s Chair to endow the men’s swimming head coach’s position (c/o Ron Orr, USC Athletic Department, Heritage Hall, Los Angeles, Calif. 90089-0602).


A Note on Peter’s Passing…

Three AmigosPeter Daland has passed away. The rest of us, without being wiser (Peter was wise) are older now. In the real world, we are sometimes told that a part of us is still a child as long as at least one of our parents is alive. It makes sense. Mom is always Mom, and Dad is always Dad. In the world of swimming coaches, Peter Daland was at-least a father-figure, and in many cases, including mine, much more than a father-figure to and for many of us. Peter's passing means that we all have to grow up now. Just like that and just that quickly and all together on this one day, we have to grow up. Our father-figure is gone. It is now our time, and now our turn, to take on the responsibility and the accountability that comes from losing yet another of our great older and wiser leaders. As of today, we can no longer be Peter's disciples. As of today, we have to be Peter's successors. Read More

Group Health Insurance

A letter from Kevin M. Regan, Field Director and Financial Advisor for Northwestern Mutual to ASCA Executive Director, John Leonard:


“Based on our meeting, none of the health insurance carriers will create a group policy for the associations as the members are not employees. We’ve tried for many large associations including the NFL and MLB Alumni Associations and the health insurance carriers would not do it because of the complexity of trying to create a uniform price for all regions without being able to gauge the risk of the risk pool (i.e. potential members).”


2014 Age Group Coach of the Year: Beth Winkowski

Congratulations to Beth Winkowski of Dynamo Swim Club, the ASCA 2014 Age Group Coach of the Year!
Coach Beth began coaching at Dynamo in the fall of 2004. She is responsible for the Senior 2 swimmers as well as the development and direction of the Chamblee Staff. Prior to Dynamo she was the Head Coach for 12 years at Portland Aquatic Club in Portland, Oregon where she began her professional coaching career. Beth has coached state, sectional, and zone champions at an individual and team level. She also assisted several swimmers in earning National Top 16 rankings, Junior and Senior National qualifying times. Coach Beth’s coaching strengths include: detailed and analytic stroke instruction with an eye towards body awareness, a creative and demanding training regime, and good communication with parents and athletes. She accomplishes all this while recognizing the athlete as a whole person who benefits from the permanent life lessons learned by children who participate in organized athletics. Read More