Expand, Preserve and Protect Collegiate Swimming


Why Does It Matter To Club Swimmers and Coaches?

At the present moment, one of the most serious threats to the sport of swimming and its long term future, is the continual chipping away at the number of collegiate programs for men and for women, that has been going on now for close to two decades.

College is about the best and the brightest. We all preach to our children, "You need to go to college to have a good future." We all want our children to attend the best college/university that they can qualify for, and that we can afford. Middle class Americans see education and specifically a college education, as the key that opens the door to a financially secure future, an educated mate, and continued experiences in the middle and upper class economics of the USA.

Read More

Bleeding Orange – For The Last Time

Team Kuba assembled behind lane three. When Kuba Kotynia walked from the ready room the chants began, “Kuba! Kuba! Kuba!” This was the last swim for the ninety-two year Syracuse men’s and women’s swimming and diving team. There were “Team Kuba” swimmers from Syracuse, but also from Providence, Georgetown, Seton Hall, UConn, Pittsburgh and other team’s in the Big East Conference. Perhaps fittingly Team Kuba included the Rutgers women’s swimming team. Of course no men anymore, since they suffered the same fate. Termination. Although a rich past, death to their future. The cheering swimmers looked like a rainbow in their variety of Team Kuba uniforms chanting “Kuba!” and in unison, sharply giving the tomahawk sign normally saved for Florida State football games. One minute and fifty-eight seconds later, Syracuse’s last swim was done. But bleeding orange went on.

The awards for the 200 breastroke were fittingly given by Syracuse Coach Lou Walker, in his thirty-third year as coach for the Big East school. But before Walker could give one out he was an award recipient. The coach stood on the elevated balcony extension of the Tress Pool at the University of Pittsburgh, facing a jury of 750 parents, alums and fans packed in to watch the swimming competition. In the crowd was a Supreme Court judge, and other wonderful people from the sport who had supported their kids through age-group swimming clubs and high school programs to help facilitate their participation in Division I swimming. Many families reaped the rewards of their kid’s hard work with millions of dollars of scholarship money funding part or all of their child’s education while they learned lessons for life in the pool, supported by coaches, trainers, academic counselors and administrative staff. For some it meant the only way they could afford to send their kids to an outstanding university. For others it meant early retirement, glorious vacations and perhaps homes by the water. But would they walk away from the sport or sustain its future? The Big East coaches presented Walker with flowers, a bottle of bourbon, hugs, handshakes, gratitude and good wishes. As the coaches exited the cathedral like stage, the soon to be unemployed Coach Walker stood alone, and waved as the crowd gave him a long, thunderous ovation.

But the Orange bleeding goes on. It’s blended so much with the red from St. Johns, the scarlet from Rutgers, the navy from Washington, the black from Duquesne, the green from Miami, the blue from UCLA that it looks like mud. Statistics show that fencing and sailing have had more success growing their sport in the NCAA over the last twenty years than men’s swimming. So who is next?

We have calculated that if in 1975, perhaps the heyday of men’s NCAA swimming, each swimmer had joined their classmates to give back as a class just $1000 per year there would currently be 2.88 billion more dollars of endowed coaches positions, scholarships, or operating budgets. If you are a swimming or diving alum reading this document the question needs to be asked, “How did your collegiate swimming experience enhance the quality of your life and ability to earn a good living?” We like to say the best, most successful people come out of the sport of swimming. People of excellence such as doctors, attorneys, business owners, teachers and the like. That’s certainly true at Syracuse swimming and diving, with iconic swim Coach Frank Comfort a swimming grad, as well as one of the most influential people in the swimming world, ASCA executive director John Leonard. But after the announcement to cut was made even they couldn’t head up a group to change the decision. What if you acted now, before it’s too late to help underwrite the cost of your experience for someone else?

Jessica Barnes, Penn State team captain 2007, recently became ‘class leader’ of her alumni class for her alma mater. Her task is to communicate with her fellow alums and keep track of giving levels for her class. Although never a swimmer with a large scholarship, she’s committed to endow a scholarship one day. What about you? Even if you are struggling to pay bills month to month, you can make a statement to your school by giving something every year and being counted among all of your fellow alums that are showing they care about their program and value the experience they had. Still better, become involved in your school’s alumnI organization and you may very well become head of your class group, which at many schools has as its next step being named to the school’s Board of Trustees. If you are sitting in a room when sports are discussed to be cut you may be the voice that saves your swimming and diving program and it won’t cost you a dime – just your time. Perhaps that’s where the bleeding stops, the mud clears and your kids or grandkids will have a sport to learn in, grow with and pass on to future generations for their benefit. Today isn’t too early to start. Put it off a bit and you may have the chance to join the next “Team Kuba” and bleed orange for the day.


Time (and Impetus) to Move Outside Our Comfort Box

By John Leonard

The latest and greatest Game Plan devised by the USA Swimming Staff under the wonderful leadership of Executive Director Chuck Wielgus sets an ambitious goal……”Build…Increase Membership. Goal: We seek to increase membership by at least 20% by 2012.”

Two key strategies under this umbrella goal are “Create a Centralized online Registration System” and “Develop bridge programs that seek to transition youngsters from learn to swim programs to competitive teams”

Lawdy, Lawdy, I AM A BELIEVER!

If we want to grow the sport, lets stop yakin’ and GROW THE SPORT! Great goal. Great strategies.

Now allow me to stop cheerleading and think of what this will mean in terms of needs:

  1. Some more pool time for most clubs. (start getting creative…you may not need even a 25 yard pool for a bridge program from lessons to team. I teach my novices in a 12 yard area of the pool. Better control. Better focus. Better teaching results.
  2. Capable, exciting, child-loving (as opposed to just “sport-loving”) new coaches. Don’t need to be young. Don’t need to be old. Just need to be dedicated to helping young and new swimmers improve. Start thinking who might fit that mold for your club.
  3. More swim meets. More SHORT swim meets. More Swim Meets that are great opening experiences to our sport. Since 20% bigger registration immediately implies 20% “new” swimmers, the chances are they will be “B” and below level athletes when they start out.
  4. More entry level swim meets raises the next issue…..more entry level OFFICIALS.

And therein lies our next great challenge in raising our numbers. Because volunteerism is down. Number of new LSC officials are down. Getting parents to volunteer to do officiating is down as the economy demands a greater and greater premium on compensated employment. Many LSC’s cannot today, appropriately field officials to run the number of swim meets we already need.

So, whither the future?

In exploring this, I went to a man who doesn’t “ask to be asked,” the redoubtable John Wilson of Athens, Georgia, USA Swimming Vice President and himself a world class elite meet official, who came up through the officiating ranks in Ohio, where, in those days, one just became “an official” and not all the fancy titles we have today. His reply to my question was immediate and fair. “how hard is it to officiate a novice meet?”

Clearly, not too hard. Know the strokes. Know what is legal. Understand it. Watch the water. Be fair. Be reasonable. Be aware of the philosophical concept of “if its giving someone an advantage not allowed in the rules, it deserves a disqualification”

So, John, we make it easier for parents to be officials?

Well, not so fast. We have no evidence now that the “difficulty” of becoming an official is the key problem. It may be, because how long does the average parent officiate?

Well, the average child is probably in USA Swimming for about four years….so the average parent probably officiates about 3 years, at best. Not enough time to climb the big meet pyramid. Or any pyramid.

So, what’s the answer?

Use a different population.

Who, like Martians?

No, worse. Or better. Teenagers.

Huh? Teenagers?

Yes, teenagers. In one of our fastest growing and most significant competitors, soccer, kids officiate for kids. Bigger kids for little kids. Teenagers officiate soccer matches between little kids. All the time. As a matter of course.

They have energy, knowledge of the sport, a keen sense of fairness, and oh, did I mention….energy?

Also, they are more familiar with the internet than most of us are with our own face. So an online course and test to certify teenage officials who have either left the sport on a daily basis, or are summer only swimmers, or “high school only swimmers,” make a GREAT source of new officials for our coming expansion.

They know swimming. They love swimming. They already know most of the rules. (especially how to swim the strokes) and they do the concept of “Fair” a lot better than some adults.

And, they need part time employment. Whether they volunteer at officiating novice and “B” level meets, or whether we pay them a minimum wage, they are the best possible help we can recruit to help fuel our growth.

And it will put a young, fresh, “cool” face on our officiating at the entry level meets….not the very serious, very formal face of adult officials…and in case you haven’t noticed, the coolest “sports” for kids are skateboarding, wakeboarding, snowboarding, etc. where no parents are around, no parents know anything about the sport, and no parents interfere.

It’s a fantastic idea. I hope our USA Swimming Officials group will set about creating an entry level “swim official” test that we can use as we grow to our new “raise you 20%” goal. Its the way to go. Back to the future.

Kudos to John Wilson. Our “out of the box thinking” award of the year.


NCAA Swimming

A Dose of Preventative Medicine

In this current era of NCAA Swimming Programs at risk, its important to have widespread community support for your collegiate program, and just as important to have a plan in place to make sure the movers and shakers at your College or University know that your program has that widespread support.

The relevant question to ask is, what is your University or College doing to build swimming (and support for swimming) in your local community and in your state? Every university that has lost a swim program wished for and sought “community support” when it was threatened. In almost every case, that support was too little too late to help save the swim program.

Instead, ask yourself what you can do to support and help grow swimming in your community and state? Even simple things, like emailing a college meet schedule to every club in your area so the club coaches can encourage club swimmers to come to your college meets is important. Can you host swimmers clinics? Can you host coaches clinics? Can you show up to hand out medals at local swim meets? Can you sponsor “High School Swimmers of the Week” in your state on your collegiate website? Can you meet with club parents to help educate them on the process and needs of college admission for swimmers far before the parents face it firsthand?

The question is, what are you willing to contribute?
If you are willing to contribute a lot, you can reasonably expect a lot of help in letting your administration know how important your collegiate swim program is to the community and state. If you are “too busy” to contribute anything except the built-in opportunity to swim at your university or college, then understand that calling for “broad based community support” when your program is under threat of being dropped, is likely to fall on deaf ears.

Be a contributor, or be lonely when it comes to needing a contribution.

And if you read this and say to yourself “it can’t happen to us,” I’d only ask you to discuss with your out of work colleagues how many of them saw the “end of program” train coming down the tracks?

John Leonard, ASCA.
Jim Wood, Berkeley Aquatic Club, USA Swimming President.


Recreating America’s Club Swimming System

Since 1985, the ASCA and the ASCA Office have been actively involved in trying to help the American Swim Club. Our credentials for the following discussion include:

  1. 1137 days spent with clubs ranging from National Championship teams to teams run by part time coaches with 50 swimmers.
  2. Operation of the ASCA Job Service for 16 years. Approximately 1,120 jobs evaluated, rated and reconfigured through the Job Service. They are typically full time positions and some of the highest profile club jobs in America. In the course of operation of the Job Service, we spend many hours a week on the phone with both coaches and club representatives discussing club employment issues.
  3. Endless series of USA Swimming committee meetings at 16 conventions and at least 20 other meetings where club concerns are foremost.
  4. Read More

Phases of Athlete Development in an Age Group Program

By Pat Hogan, Mecklenburg Aquatic Club, North Carolina

The Mecklenburg Aquatic Club program has been structured on the premise that there are four basic phases of athlete development in age group swimming. At each level of the program, we continually try to evaluate and adapt to the multitude of factors, both scientific and sociological, that impact the growth and development of young athletes. Experience has taught us that the perfect age group program is a moving target that changes as the population we serve changes and as we learn more and more about the development of young people.

The following is an outline description of the four phases of development and the basic premises that currently guide our thinking at each of these levels. The final page of this packet is a chart, which provides an overview of the entire MAC program.

Read More

Pros and Cons of Owning Your Own Swim Program

and Cons of Owning
Your Own Swim Program
By John Leonard, Editor American Swimming Magazine

At the recent short course championships in Buffalo, I
spent some time talking with coach/owners of their own clubs about the
pros and the cons of owning their own. The coaches, upon the condition
of anonymous representation, were very forthcoming. Their comments, printed
here with changes in geography but not sociology (where noted) are an interesting
study for anyone contemplating ownership of their own team.

I am my own boss. This was heard in every single conversation
with our coaches. It was often listed under both a Pro and a Con in
this series of discussions. The good points of being your own boss are
many and obvious. Less obvious are the negatives.

When I get into trouble in some way, with finances, or
otherwise, I have to really go looking for help…there are no built-in
safeguards. No one is looking over my shoulder at all to keep me out of
trouble, and its easy to screw up, especially if you get a little bad business

Another coach from the South in a rural town. Being my
own boss in my town means that I am considered a businessperson, not something
else. That means that when bills are due, I don’t get any slack at all.
I have to really watch myself in that area because in small towns, your
business and you are one entity….there isn’t that separation you find
with corporate America….if you are a deadbeat on bills, it gets around
town fast, and you’ll have trouble getting services and supplies.

I’ve found that I am less self-disciplined than I thought.
I tend to do what I want to do first, rather than what I have to do first.
I put off those tasks I don’t enjoy…like collecting unpaid dues. Put
it off long enough and you’ve got a cash flow problem. Not having a boss
enforcing things, its easy to slide along until it’s very late…sometimes
too late. I’ve learned that being self-disciplined is critical to success
as an owner, and I’m not there yet. I’m trying to get better.

On the plus side: When I need time off, to recharge my
batteries, I don’t have to ask anyone, I can just make sure the workout
is covered, and relax. If I did that with a parent owned club, I’d be looking
for work soon…which is short sighted on their part, but understandable.
Now, I can’t do it too often either, or my clients get very restless…they
come here for me…if I’m not here, maybe they won’t be either….but I
do have the occasional option to do so without worrying about it.

The decision making process is very easy. Think about
it. Do it. No having to sell it to a lot of people who know less about
swimming than you do. You live and die with your good decisions and your
mistakes. That suits me. I’ve got plenty of confidence in my own judgement,
and results bear me out.(And they do, too.)

Being my own boss gives me two chances to feel good about
my accomplishments…as a coach, and as a businessman. Even if one side
is not on top, I can work on the other. Sometimes they are both up, rarely
are they both down.

I can pay myself what I want. The ability to take good
care of my family is important to me.

Other Pros of ownership?
Well, long term, this is putting my energy into something I
can later take something out of…I own a business. It has clients. I am
building equity in it…later on, I can take that out when and if I sell
it. That’s very satisfying, and a good thing for my family.

Stability. As long as I’m doing the job, I’m not going
anywhere. No parent can fire me because darling Susie didn’t swim on the

We used to be a parent owned club. The parents were fussing
and feuding all the time. Then I talked them into becoming a Coach-Directed
club. They calmed down some, and enjoyed life more. They didn’t have the
stresses of making decisions about something they knew nothing about, and
then having to defend those same decisions to equally ignorant people.
They could just point to me. After a few years of that, I asked them in
lieu of a new contract, if they’d sell me the club. They did it in a heartbeat.
Now we have Zero unhappy parents. Anyone who is unhappy knows they are
completely free to go where they are happy. Coach owned is the way to go.
Happy coaches, happy swimmers, happy parents.

I’m not getting rich, but I have a degree of control
I’d never imagined before. I can trade money for piece of mind anytime.
I don’t recommend it to anyone who can’t handle some pressure though. On
the 20th of the month, you’re starting to wonder, gee, will we have enough
cash to pay everyone?

I make decisions now based on the best interests of the
athlete and my best interests, not on what will be internally acceptable
within the social context of the club. That makes me happy.

More cons came out as well
I am very careful with money. Far more than if I worked for parents
or a school district. It’s my money. I find I am cheap with it…tight
fisted. Sometimes that’s bad.

There is no safety net. If you fail, you really fail.

Getting parental help is not as easy. Some parents are
not interested in helping you run your business, though they might have
volunteered in a parent-owned and run club. I have heard though, that other
owners don’t have this problem…I’d like to understand their secret.

I get parent help by telling them that they can’t pay
me enough to do some of these tasks, like writing entry cards and forms,
and if they don’t do it, it won’t get done.

The parents pay me for coaching. We still need secretarial
help. If I have to hire people to do those things, they will wind up paying
for it with increased dues…which is less painful? a little time, or some
money? Parents have different answers for that.

The bodies that own pools look at you a little differently.
If you are the XYZ Swim Club, run by parents, and go in to rent a high
school pool, versus Coach Joe Jones who owns his own program, you are going
to get a different reception. In some places and cases, it may be better.
In other places and cases it will be worse. But once I rent a pool, I’m
their best client user, and pay everything up front and easy. They love
me. And my reputation spreads as someone you want to do business with.

Of the coaches spoken to, though all acknowledged challenges
and problems, not one expressed an interest in going back to work for a
parent owned club.

Owning your own club takes a certain personality, and
a certain amount of confidence, some would say ego. Maybe it is ego. Anyway,
for that personality, no other solution to coaching would be as good. Own
your own. If you want to badly enough, you can do it and succeed.


Working Together Successfully: A Guide for Head Coaches and Assistant Coaches (Troy & Shofe)

The following article is a transcribed presentation given by Greg Troy & Larry Shofe at the 1995 ASCA World Clinic in New Orleans.

Coach Larry Shofe is currently the Senior Coach at the Bolles School Sharks in Jacksonville, Florida. He has been with the Bolles School Sharks since 1988 and has 13 State Championships, 4 Junior National Championships. Before coming to the Bolles school, Coach Shofe coached tat the Amberjack Swim Club in Jacksonville, FL (6 years), Head Coach Jacksonville Episcopal High School (6 years), Head Coach Old dominion Aquatic Club (5 years), Head Coach Old Dominion University (5 years), Men’s Assistant coach University of California Berkeley (2 years). Coach Shofe received his MA in PE Exercise Physiology, Athletic Administration from the University of California Berkley in 1977.

Coach Greg Troy is currently the Head Coach of the Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida. Over the past 18 years with the Bolles School and Bolles Sharks, Coach Troy’s programs have produced 20+ Olympians, 22 Florida State Championship Teams, 3 National Prep Championships, 7 Junior National Championship Teams, 1995 USS National Championships combined. Coach Troy was the 1995 Pan Am Coach and in 1993 he was the National Junior Team Assistant.

Gregg Troy:

The reality of working with other people is probably one of the single most important things you do as a head coach. “You’re only as good as the people you work with.” I know that’s an old saying, but it’s really important, and if you surround yourself with good people, they’ll help you out even when you’re not doing a good job. Larry is going to tell you his role in our program as an assistant coach, but I think I need to tell you before he does, that it’s not a situation where we run two different programs from two different pools. Everyone in our program swims together. Right now Larry and I share 40 plus athletes. I say “share” because we come in together, we’re on deck at the same time together and we are both pretty strong personalities and a lot different. I think that you’ll find that we stay away from “I” as much as possible. We use the word “we” when we talk about the program. I think it’s important because everyone is in the program together. We share the direction it goes, we share the responsibility, and we share the results. Larry has been with me 8 years and I think it’s probably been the most productive 8 years for our club.

Larry Shofe:

I want to give you a little background on where I came from and how I came to Bolles. I grew up in California and was very fortunate to become a pretty good swimmer. I was coached by Larry Groover from Pleasant Hill, Pete Cotino and Dick Jochums. Growing up as an athlete, I began to get an interest in coaching. I started off at Cal as an architecture major and ended up changing. The people I swam for through the years were good coaches, but they all had different coaching styles and I tried to formulate in my own head what a good coach should do. I was an assistant with Larry Groover before Pleasant Hill and Concord were merged, and then I worked with Nort at Cal for two years as the Men’s Assistant. I worked with him at Concord. What helped me most during these early years was I never let a moment go by that I didn’t ask Larry and Nort questions. My goal at age 22 was to be a head coach the rest of my life. As I go through my talk, I’ll tell you how those things changed.

Gregg and I had been cross-town rivals for six years, when Gregg approached me about a full-time position that had opened at Bolles. Before deciding, Gregg and I went out to dinner for 3-4 hours and sat and talked about philosophy, direction of the program, where he saw my role as coach at that time with one facility, and through that conversation, the job became more appealing and I submitted my resume. A few weeks later, I met with the Administration. The support, philosophy and commitment was something I wanted to get involved in. Although Gregg and my personalities were different, I felt that the mesh of those personalities would be beneficial for all the swimmers in the program. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of assistant coaches who try to be like the head coach, to coach like the head coach, to have the personality like the head coach. That’s good sometimes, but I also feel that you need to be your own coach and I’ve pretty much lived by that.

Location was a major influence in my decision. I want to make sure that I like the area I live in because if I can be happy with where I live, I’m going to be happy at the job, if it’s the right job. At the point that I decided to pursue going to Bolles, I had gone though a coaching transition of being a head country club coach for 6 years, to an assistant at both Concord and Pleasant Hill, to a head college coach, to a head club coach, to a head high school coach and back to an assistant coach. The commitment level at the school at that time wasn’t at the level I wanted it to be or foresaw it to be and I needed to make a change, but I didn’t want to leave Jacksonville. I had to look at the role of an assistant coach and decided that this is something I wanted to do and started working with Gregg. Based on that background, over the years, I formulated what I thought would be some qualities and characteristics of a good assistant coach.

I think the first attribute of an assistant coach is unselfishness. We’ve got some very good assistant coaches in the program who do outstanding jobs and it’s too bad that all coaches can’t get all the recognition for things that have happened. You need to define what your role is as Assistant Coach. If you’re starting out in a program, define what needs to be done and what your role in that needs to be.

In order to do that, you need to understand what your goals are. Eight years ago, I switched from knowing where I wanted to go as Head Coach to switching to a program that I was going to be a part of. My goals changed and I needed to establish what my short range goals and my long range goals are in coaching. In establishing my short range goals, my number one concern was my family and finances was my first consideration.

Number two in choosing a job, Assistant or Head Coach, college or club, is where do you see yourself immediately: in a club situation or in a college situation? Do you see yourself being a head coach or an assistant coach? One of my concerns was type of organization — parent run, non-parent run, advisory board. However, there aren’t too many opportunities like ours where you’re pretty much running the show and calling all the shots.

Another consideration is job security. I know any time we take a job anywhere we’d like to be there a while. I never envisioned myself staying at one place for a long time, but always felt I needed to give any job 5 years, to give it a chance. You need to give yourself a chance and be patient and see how the job develops.

Long range goals mean where you would like to see yourself in the future. For me, being in an organization where we have good athletes all throughout the program. My role and swimming background shaped my vision. I looked at the 12 and 13 year old athletes at Bolles and was concerned that if I were in the program, because of the limited pool space at Bolles, I probably never would have swum at Bolles because we were limited in team size because of the one pool. I might not have had the opportunity to swim, so I felt that I could bring that to the program.

Once again, your family must be considered in your long range personal goals. I was very fortunate to be married to a young lady who could work pretty much anywhere in the United States in the job that she had. She has been very supportive and that eased the job evaluation process.

The other consideration is your long range professional goals. You have to identify your desired responsibilities. How do you want to contribute to the program? First of all, you need to know your strengths and weaknesses. Taking that into account the first thing an assistant coach should do when coming into a program is identify, in discussion with the head coach, what areas of the program could be stronger. When I started at Bolles, we had, I believe, 30 athletes in the water and we had some very good athletes at the National level. At the same time we had some athletes who didn’t have A times in the program. I felt, at that time, that that’s where I could make a difference. I can get with the athletes who Gregg didn’t have time to get with. He was able to get with all athletes, but we were able to give a lot more attention to the athletes in the pool.

I’ve always felt that no matter what group we’re in, my role as Assistant Coach is to get to the athletes who don’t require a lot of attention, but who need the attention. We readjusted our Varsity schedule and I became a Junior High coach and coached the 7th, 8th and 9th graders. I looked at the history of how many athletes were in the water and it wasn’t a real large amount. I said all I needed was 45 minutes, so Gregg took the Varsity program and did dry-land;I took the 45 minutes and set up a Junior High program. We did a lot of stroke drills, did things that were fun and didn’t do anything more than 25 yards. We had 60 athletes that first year. It was probably one of my happiest moments at Bolles when I first started that I was able to contribute because a lot of those athletes continued on swimming in the program and I felt that I had made an improvement immediately in the program.

Once you’ve helped in an area, you need to look at other areas. The head coach in a program is very involved in the day-to-day running and it’s important that you initiate things and ideas, and that you pick out things you think can help the program. It’s appropriate that you keep the head coach apprised of everything that happens whether he’s on the deck, off the deck, or out-of-town.

Another contribution you can make as an assistant coach is to relieve the head coach of the least desirable tasks –things that may frustrate your co-worker, things that he would rather not spend time on. Through the years, I think I’ve taken things that have been a headache for Gregg and enabled him to put more time into workout planning and working out with the top-level athletes. Most of the time, this is paper-work;these are things that need to be done and the head coach has to have the trust in the assistant to know that he’s going to do this paper-work right.

In summary, your job as Assistant Coach is to develop new programs and expand on existing ones. I think we’ve done a very good job over the years of doing that in the program.

When looking at an assistant coaching position that may be available, you need to evaluate whether it’ll satisfy your needs and your goals. Gregg mentioned his other talk that when he started out, he really didn’t coach much for pay. He did it for the love of the sport. Head Coach Nort Thornton left Foothill Community College and took a twelve thousand dollar a year pay cut to take Cal-Berkeley for a different challenge. I coached at Cal for free for 2 years. Coach Thornton was able to give me a job at Concord Swim Club, so my first start in coaching wasn’t for money, either and the head coaching positions that I had didn’t pay a lot of money, either. So you need to look at what it’s going to take to satisfy your needs. The trade-off for working with somebody like Nort when I first started out was that I gained a lot of knowledge and I gained a great recommendation early. I also was exposed to some top-level international and national athletes.

You’ve got to look at the position. How much responsibility will you have? You could come in as an assistant coach and the head coach might do everything and you might get dissatisfied. You need to look at what you will be doing. Among the questions you can ask yourself are: Will I assist with the head coach or will I be able to start my own group? These are things that Gregg and I spent 3 to 4 hours talking about before I decided to pursue the job at Bolles.

Back to financial, again, when you’re evaluating a position. Will you make a base salary? Is there room for growth? Are there additional ways to make money by adding additional programs? Length of contract? Do you have a stable job? And my most important one, again, is location. Can you live there, can your family live in that location? Can your kids go to school in that location?

Among the qualities that I’ve always felt essential for a successful assistant coach, the most important is your relationship with the head coach. Bar none, that’s your most important. If you are going to go into a program and you think you are just going to run your own program you’re wrong! One of the deciding things for me, when I talked to Gregg and made the decision to go from Head Coach to Assistant Coach, was our philosophies were a lot alike. I understood what he expected and he understood where I was coming from.

The other is gaining trust and respect from the person you work with. I knew that Gregg had some good assistant coaches over the years, but a lot them had moved on to other jobs and I could really tell by talking to him that night that it would take a few years to gain his trust and respect as a person on his staff because I was the competition in town and from that stand point, I felt that I didn’t want to come into the program and seem like I wanted the head coaching job. It took me two years to initiate the programs, to work with the lower level athletes and to show Gregg that I was genuinely concerned. To do that, you need to take on responsibility that’s been given to you by the head coach. Any time he’s given me anything to do, I try to do it and I’ve tried to do it correctly and on time. Probably one of the most important things as an assistant coach is when you’ve got things that you have to do, you need to do them correctly and do them the way the head coach wants.

Another distinctive trait of a successful assistant coach is a willingness to put in the same hours as the head coach. Be willing to work. We’re in a fortunate situation in that we work in the day time in the office together, and we spend time talking about ideas, about direction. We go to lunch almost every day. We talk about ideas we’re going to implement in practice and bounce things off each other. And we talk about the direction of the program. But ultimately, Gregg Troy is going to make the decisions. There are a lot of times I’ll tell him things that he won’t agree with and there are a lot of times we talk about things that I won’t agree with, but I think the two of us come up with something pretty good, with him having the final say. As an assistant coach, you need to understand that.

It takes time to understand each other’s personality. My personality is different from Gregg’s, but we’ve found out over the years that we are similar in a lot of ways. You need to understand the people you work with and understand their ups and downs and be able to work with that.

A good rule to follow is never disagree in front of your athletes on deck, in the resting room, or in the weight room. If you are going to disagree, and I think it is healthy to disagree, it needs to be done in the confines of the office. We have disagreements and we try to air those out in the coaches’ meetings.

It’s very helpful to have the same working knowledge of all the strokes. Gregg and I sat down and talked about stroke technique, so before we worked on deck, we talked about how the strokes are swum, how we’re going to present the strokes. The first year or so, I pretty much stood back. I knew how he’d run the program, but I wanted to make sure that I understood the direction the program was going.

However, be your own coach. Take your own coaching style into the program. You were hired because of your coaching style. You weren’t hired to be like somebody else. Either the Board of Directors, the President, the Head Coach who has hired you, has seen you or gotten recommendations on the type of coach you are. Don’t change your coaching style. You’ve been hired to coach the style that you have.

Over the years at Bolles, we’ve gone from Gregg and I both working with the older kids to a multitude of assistant coaches. I am not one who gets into titles. I’m the same as everybody else from my position down. We’ve got four below us who could be head coaches anywhere. My role is to be a liaison between Gregg and the other coaches. I know that the other coaches probably can speak about something a little more freely with me and I decide what Gregg should and shouldn’t know. I try to head off any problems at my level before Gregg has to deal with them and with the coaches.

Communication, consequently, is a big thing. Gregg and I talk about a lot of things during the day time and I try to fill other coaches in, as well as he does. We make sure that the staff is fully aware of and understands the direction we’d like the program to go in. We have good coaches and they’re pretty strong-headed about the way they’d like to do things, but in an organization like ours, we all need to be going in the same direction from the bottom all the way to the top. I feel that part of my job is making sure those other coaches do that. Gregg does that a lot, also.

Motivating the other coaches is another responsibility I’ve assumed. We’ve got coaches who have looked at other jobs and would like to leave and take head coaching jobs or assistant coaching jobs other places. I’ve tried to motivate them as to why they should stay in our program, how we can benefit them and how they can benefit us. The bottom line is keeping the lines of communication open. When you have a swim club that’s between 250 and 300 athletes, it’s very important that the lines of communication between all the coaches are pretty good.

As far as administrative responsibilities are concerned, I like this part of my work. I take pride in what I do and get frustrated if I make a mistake. It is important that these tasks be done on time and done correctly. The things that I feel are important administratively from an assistant coach’s standpoint are:

(1) Meet entries. We have an escrow account for all of our athletes. Each coach is responsible for figuring out how much they owe for each meet. It was one thing that both Greg and I did initially but as our club has gotten bigger staying up with how much people owed for meets was a monumental task.

(2) Transportation. As our club has gotten bigger, transporting athletes to meets has become monumental also. We have the luxury of going by charter bus to most places, but we have vans and coordinating all that is a considerable task. I don’t believe that’s something that should be on the head coach’s desk.

(3) Hotel reservations.

(4) Others. Assistants do motivational time lists and go through results and figure out proofs from the Region meet; etc.. These are all time consuming tasks that are crucial to the success of the program and as your team gets bigger and as you take on coaching roles, these are significant and it is paramount that they be done right.

In all the foregoing areas, if you are going to take on those responsibilities, before you finalize anything, you always run it by the head coach. Nothing would be more frustrating than to book into a hotel or get a van that isn’t suitable for the event that you are going to.

Let’s discuss deck responsibilities and working with a big group vs a small group. The assistant coach should work from the bottom of the big group up, from your least talented athletes in the program up. You can make a big difference there. Motivate people in practice at all levels no matter which athlete it is and constantly give reminders of stroke corrections. One thing that is essential in coaching is to try to speak with each athlete at every practice. In our situation, when there are two of us on deck, the athletes are talking with both of us in some manner during the practice. As an assistant coach, talking, giving corrections and motivating athletes, don’t be afraid to say things to the top-level athletes, to give corrections to those athletes, to the very top athlete. Don’t be intimidated by the type of athlete they are. It helps the athlete gain respect and trust in the coach.

All the things I mentioned above apply to your own group or the smaller group. The most significant concept at any level in the program is team. It’s not my group versus their group or us against them. Every swimmer in the program is important and you should all be headed in the same direction.

It shouldn’t always be the head coach’s job to deal with the parent problems. He shouldn’t always be the one who has to call the shots, to make the decisions. It’s more positive to become active with your parents and to allow people to watch practice as long as they don’t get in the way. You’re better off being in a pro-active situation where you’re initiating a conversation with a parent as opposed to them calling to make an appointment with you about a problem.

I’m very fortunate in our school situation. When I started at Bolles, I was the Assistant Athletic Director and head of the Physical Education Department. That was an asset because I got to know a lot of the administrators and teachers. Although it was neither required nor expected, I volunteered to teach several classes to keep in touch with the students at the upper level, to get involved, and to lead by example. That helped me in the long run to “pay my dues” early on in earning respect at Bolles.

In conclusion, working together successfully takes time. We are successful because:

(1) Through talking, we found we both had the same training philosophy;we both believe in going in the same direction;

(2) having mutual respect for each other;

(3) having the same work ethic;

(4) understanding each other’s personality;

(5) having common goals;

(6) supporting each other in always.

One of the things we do is “good cop, bad cop,” or “good guy, bad guy.” If Gregg is helping an athlete see the direction that he or she needs to go in and it’s not what the athlete really wants to hear, I will back that up in the “good guy” way. You need to know the athlete you can do it with. It’s not everybody you need to do that with. I always point out to the athlete that the only reason Gregg’s like that is that he really cares about you, he cares about your future, and if he didn’t care about it, he wouldn’t be talking to you. And I care about it because I want to be sure the athlete understands the direction we need to go in.

A successful program is as good as the people who work for you as long as there ‘s good direction from the top. I and the other coaches are very fortunate to work with Gregg because we have great direction from the top.

Gregg Troy:

I think that you should understand that your assistant coaches have goals and you have to give them opportunities to achieve those goals. Those goals can be as varied as what those coaches’ personalities are. You need to know what those are when you’re working with them and you need to give them opportunities to succeed and move forward. I tell each of our coaches when I hire them that if they’re looking for another job, all they need to do is let me know right away and I’ll do everything I can to help them get the job.

You need to allow them to work. The biggest mistake I see head coaches make is they hire assistant coaches and don’t let them work. The three guys running practice this weekend — we have two National A Team members and two National B Team members in the water AND we’ve got some great, outstanding age-groupers in the water right down to some B kids at the high school level — and there are three guys running what is normally four practices and they’re short-handed and running around in two pools like crazy people and I didn’t write them practices. I just told them what their parameters were and what direction we were going. I hired them to do a job. I’m confident they can do the job. If I wasn’t, I should never have hired them.

I think sharing is a real key. You’ve got to share philosophies, you’ve got to share ideas and what direction you want to go, and you’ve got to make your assistants a real part of the program. I made a mistake a few years ago. When Paul Silva, an outstanding assistant coach, came to work for me, he guaranteed me 2 years. I was pretty good about giving people responsibility;I was sure I hired the right person because I’d done my research. Paul Silva walked in the morning of my wedding day. I gave him the pool keys and said, “They’re yours for a week. I’ll see you when I get back.” Paul worked with Dave Bell, a coaching friend who offered to cover practice while I was on my honeymoon as a wedding present, while I was away. We had a great summer season that year. Later, in the middle of a Jacksonville summer, I asked Paul to run down to the local McDonald’s for iced teas. He used my car, I paid for the iced teas and never thought too much about it. After practice that day, Paul said to me that he came here to coach, not to be a “go-for.” It gave me a good perspective because I didn’t mean it that way. I’d just as soon gone myself, so we talked that out. His view was that I wasn’t making him an important part of the program.

I don’t ask the assistant coach to do anything I don’t want to do. I think it’s a major mistake if you ask your assistants to always reel in the lane ropes. If we’re reeling in the lane ropes, we all work the lane ropes. By the same token, if I ask them to pull in the lane ropes because some kid is working on something, I expect to get it done. I’m real clear with them up front about what the responsibilities are. I tell them in no uncertain terms what they’re supposed to do in a real nice way. I think we help the young coaches to be better coaches and they’ve helped our program be better.

Some of the things we look for in assistants and what I look for when I’m hiring people: The number one thing I look for is loyalty. I tell every person when I hire them that at any point I find out that they’re not loyal to me and to the program, they’re looking for another job. I think that you have to make that clear. If you don’t, you’ve started on the wrong foot with them.

Then look for dependability. I want people who are dependable, who are going to be there when you ask them to be there, and who are going to get things done on time.

I want people who have a caring attitude. If they’re not caring, not interested in the athlete, and not interested in the program, they’re not going to work well in the program. They’re not going to project the image in the community that I want our club to project. They’re not going to project the image to the parents I want our club to project and they’re going to be a problem for me and they’re going to be a problem for the club.

Look for people who have a willingness to learn. I want to see coaches who come in with a “what can I learn?” attitude. I don’t want them to be afraid to offer advice. I hired them to do a job. They’re going to run practice and we’re not going to tell them what to do. I want people who are looking for ways to be better coaches. I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’m not very good at it. I’m looking for ways to get better all the time. I expect them to be looking as much as I am. I’m not worried about knowledge — well, maybe I am, but if they’re willing to learn and they have those other characteristics, they’re going to be great swim coaches.

Where do you look for these people? I’m not a real big believer in sending out national ads. You get a whole lot of resumes, but you can’t tell much from a piece of paper. When I’ve hired for the program, the first place I look is locally, someone within the state who I’ve seen the job that they do, how they respond to people and I see the product they’re putting out. Those people have more to add to your program and we’ve hired people from the community who knew nothing about swimming. I hired a guy who was a softball coach and he was one of the best age-group coaches I ever had. If you have to conduct a search, you need to spend some time and really get to know the people who you’re going to work with. You may even want to make a trip and talk to friends in the area.

If you’re really looking for great assistant coaches, you need to look no further then your former athletes because if you can convince an ex-athlete to come in and work for you, they already know the program, they know what you want, and if it’s one who swam for you any amount of time, they’re real loyal people.

I’ve been asked how we got so many good assistant coaches. I don’t know. I have some great people to work with, but I’ll be real honest with them and I’ll do anything I can to help them. We try to tie them into the program as much as possible. I don’t want them living on a shoestring unless they absolutely have to. By the same token, I want them to understand that they’re going to work for what they get.

Before Larry came to work for me, I convinced the school that I needed another full-time person because it was more then I could handle at the time. I didn’t like coaching 150 kids by myself very much. You can go insane running two practices at once for five hours and making all the decisions by yourself. Having someone whom you respect and someone who does the job and you let them work, who can make value judgments on rest, on what individuals are doing that are really positive and having someone to bounce things off make coaching easier.

Having people I can depend on allows us to divide and multiply. Let me give you an example of how we divide and multiply. This summer, in our morning practice, we had 65 swimmers with Jr. National standards and above, spread out in a 50M and a 25Y pool with three of us working with them. We’re working on a 1 to 20 coach to swimmer ratio. We don’t divide it up like he takes 20, I take 20 and someone else takes 20, not the same 20. They’re not in little groups.

I personally think our sport has gone in the wrong direction. We’re so focused on this little small group, we think we’re doing such a great job for them. We’re inbreeding them and we’re hurting ourselves. Larry might take 20 distance freestylers, I might take 20 butterflyers and someone else might have 20 breaststrokers, so the kids are constantly moved from group to group. Instead of having one set of coach’s eyes watching what they’re doing and looking for mistakes, we have three sets of coaches’ eyes looking for mistakes. Instead of racing the same faces every day, they’re racing different people every day. Instead of getting input from one person, they’re getting input from three different people. If that input ever conflicts, we emphasize to the kids that a lot of it is terminology and they should come back and ask us about it.

Part of being the head coach is someone has to call the shots once in a while. We may disagree on it and we’ll sit down and talk about it and that’s my job. When we share people and there are three of us working the deck of the pool, for example, my responsibility was to start with the best athletes in the group and work down. I try to make contact time with them and really work with them. Larry’s job was to start in the middle and work in which ever way we felt was more important. The responsibility of the other coach was to start with the kid that was a little bit weaker athlete and make sure to make contact with him. What we ended up with over the course of the practice — there were no set numbers, no set formula, for doing this — is that I talk to 20, he talks to 20, and someone else talks to 20, and we usually overlap.

What we find is the kids in the middle are really getting a lot of attention and the kid in the end doesn’t feel left out. The biggest mistake I see people do, and this is why they have problems working together, is the assistant wants to take the best athletes in the program, give them direction and help them even more. That athlete has been helped for years. The person who needs help is the person who’s been missed. As the head coach, I try to go down and pick up that other end of the program.

Because of the location of the microphone during the presentation questions from the audience were not easily transcribed. The following are the responses to questions addressed to Gregg Troy after the presentation:

Our whole stress is to put the swimmers in the best situation they can be on the team, so everyone’s goal is to move to the next level. That’s the key goal — getting the athlete ready to move to the next level of performance, caring what the individual does, teaching them the basics of swimming, and always trying to help him improve.

I don’t give them a whole lot of set parameters. I help each coach with his schedule. I do a master schedule for the whole team. Each group doesn’t have its own schedule. I’ll sit down with each level or Head Age-Group Coach. I’ll give him some direction as to what meets I think would be best because due to crowded conditions and facilities, it’s a lot better if everyone’s schedule meshes. It makes training parameters a little bit easier.

We don’t have any set form of evaluation. Just individual talk — one-on-one. Larry and I are pretty much on a one-to-one, day-to-day basis type thing. With the others, I sit down and real honestly tell them what their strengths and weakness are. It’s a real hard thing to do. I don’t think you help them if you candy coat it. You have to sit down and say what is wrong and where we’re going in the wrong direction. I really encourage all the coaches to give me suggestions. If they don’t give me suggestions, it becomes impossible for me to evaluate the performance of my people because I’m so close to them.

The junior level coach may be your best evaluator of your senior level group performance because he’s looking at them, maybe he’s even seen them train before. He gets them when you’re not there, so he really sees what they are like when they have a chance to “run wild” a little bit. You hope they don’t do that. That’s one of our program goals. There’s nothing that upsets me more than to leave a group with an assistant coach and have them not do what they were asked to do. I think it’s a very disrespectful thing and shows how poorly motivated they are because they aren’t training because they want to train, they train because someone makes them train and that’s the wrong reason.

We may rotate those groups the whole time. As I gave in my example, we had, basically, 20 at the Sr. National level. I took those 20 as the number one priority. I did the individual talks with the whole group and then I took those 20 for the rest of the year and made it a point to individually talk with them. I’ll ask the other coaches for opinions and I want their feedback, but I probably give them a little less chance to make decisions. If we go to a meet and swim poorly, I am responsible, not them.

I did miss one thing, though. If you’re the head coach, the worst thing you can do is not stand behind your assistant. I would much rather have people make bad decisions than make no decision because they’re afraid to make one. And if they make a bad decision once or twice and I’ve got to stand up to parents, I’m not going to tell the parents that it was a bad decision. I’m going to let those parents know that I think it was a good decision;I’m glad they made it. For a coaching decision, never second guess what they do, at least not publicly. We’ve had some pretty good yelling matches privately.

I make it a point to walk to the other pool and just walk through and watch practice. I go to all our age-group meets even though, quite frankly, I don’t want to, but I do so. I walk around, talk to parents and try to head off problems. I make a point to tell the coaches the things I see in practice. I constantly disseminate information to them in an informal manner, such as when we go to lunch together. Maybe I’m just obsessive, but swimming is not a part-time job. If you are really interested in doing it, you’ve got to spend a lot of time thinking about it. So we spend a lot of time thinking about it. We might go shoot a game of pool and the pool is just a distraction long enough so you can still talk about what you’re going to do training wise and make suggestions. I ask for the same suggestions from them.

I like to give the assistants new experiences and opportunities. I really try to put them in situations where they have to make decisions. I think it makes them better coaches. I’ve been fortunate;I was never anyone’s assistant coach. I came out of college, ended up in Fort Meyers and made a whole lot of mistakes on my own. I think I learned from those mistakes more than anything else, so I put our coaches in situations where they’d make mistakes and they make mistakes and they try not to make the same ones again.

I try to get my coaches to clinics. I don’t come to the world clinic lots of times — I do try to come periodically — but I would prefer to send an assistant coach.

We don’t have formal coaches meetings. I figure everyone’s too busy. We just can’t find time to all sit down together. I ask them to give me input and I give them input. I make it a point to talk. I talk to every one of our coaches every day, even if it’s only walking out for 5 minutes. The last thing I do every evening, and we’ve got groups in both pools, is walk around, check with each one of them and ask if they have any problems or any suggestions or anything they see. We have a staff meeting at the beginning of every season and we try to have a staff meeting at the end of every season, where everyone takes their spouse or significant other, have dinner, and kind of recap where we’re at. Nothing formal. It might be something we need to do more of now and that’s something we have to evaluate because we’ve gotten so big.


Owning Your Own Business Club

Owning Your Own Business

Written By Joseph Bernal

I am excited that there are people who are interested in owning their own business.
The attendance here tells a story of it’s own. There are not many coaches in the room. Anyway, I
am excited there are some people who are ready to explore the pros and cons of owning your
own business. Coaches have a difficult transition from coach to business person. When you imagine a
self employed coach, you think of a coach who starts when he feels like it, stops when he wants to, and
at the same time makes money.

In my twenty seven years of owning my business, it is safe to say
that the fantasy is far more attractive then the reality. I would like to talk about some of the pros of owning your own business. This talk is not
on how to run your business but whether you would want to attempt owning your own business. So
lets begin the pro side.

The first pro is the opportunity to try your own ideas, your visions and goals. You are
the president of the company and you inherit the responsibility of organizing, managing, hiring, firing
and even coaching when you get a chance. You have the responsibility for your team’s philosophy.
You make the major decisions without consulting a parents organization which is an asset when time is
of the essence. Sometimes with parent groups they can not act quickly enough on a decision and
the moment is gone. You determine the budget for your business and you determine your own
financial rewards. You are responsible to direct the budget in the way you think best suits the needs of
the team. This control is extremely valuable and can help you keep the team or business going in
the proper direction.

The second pro is control in owning your own business, the third is freedom. There is
a difference between control and freedom. Freedom is the ability to choose what you feel is
important regarding every aspect of the business. You have freedom in budget, membership, dues, staffing,
staff salary (including your own) and team travel. So, you have a great deal of freedom when you
own your own business. I call my team a business because as coaches we think of team as training, meetings
with swimmers about goals and practice. The freedom of picking your staff is important. Many times
when you come to teams that are parent owned, you inherit staff. When you own your business, you
pick your staff. You also have the freedom to pick the parents you want in volunteer positions. When
you pick parents, you also delegate responsibility, but not authority. I think this is very important.
Parents in a volunteer position have responsibility to the club and to you. Parents should not have the
authority to change the program. The other freedom you have is the people you want to service. In other words, you can
coach who you want, you do not have to keep swimmers you feel will be detrimental to the program.
You do not have to sit down with a board or a committee to review your actions. You make the
judgment because it affects your business.

When things affect your business you need to take action, you
cannot wait to sit down with a parent committee. You also have the freedom to deal with dealers and sponsors. Those in the exhibit hall such
as Speedo, Nike and TYR are in business too. When you work with them, you do so as a
business person and not as a beggar looking for a suit on the deck for a swimmer who made nationals
late. With the dealers you can sit down and offer them a business contract. So keep in mind that you are
in a position to sit down with dealers and sponsors and offer them a contract in return for your business. An example of this is, my team warm up. We get a Boat House warm up which normally
goes !

for $180 for $75, and it is a top rate warm-up. We also work with a local dealer and we
guarantee that all of our team business will go through him. In return, the dealer gives us a percentage (15%
or 20%) of everything we purchase, which goes back to me or the team. When you run a meet,
the dealers may work out a deal with you. Many of these things are not easy to do in a parent
owned organization.

Another freedom is the location of your team. With your own business you can be at
any location that you want. An example is when I started the Gator Swim Club in 1969 in New
York, after working there for eight years I moved to Boston. I moved the Gators Swim Club to Boston.
In fact for two years I kept the New York Gators and the Boston Gators going at the same time.
The beauty of owning your own business is that you can open in another area if you decide to. It is just
a matter of renting another pool.

The fourth pro is flexibility. As the owner, you have the ability to change the direction of
your business at any time. You can change budget items, change allocation of money and move money to
a particular need. This flexibility is important to the success of the program. When you work
with committees or for someone, you have to go through a variety of meetings and processes to
evaluate things. You often lose the moment. You can change staff positions according to team needs. Many teams allocate staff
permanently to a particular group or groups. When you make the decisions, you can cover another pool
or a particular meet with a staff member without asking to make a change. You organize training
sessions according to team needs. Programs can be set up where seniors train at a set time and juniors
at another time and age groupers still another time. You can also make schedule changes without asking. You have the power of decision making to accomplish your team goals. Teams that go to
the same meet year after year because that is what parents want, are not always doing what is best for
the team. I can decide where the team is going. We can go to Canada or Orlando. I do not answer to
my parents as to why we are making the decision to travel. I do try to educate my parents as to why I
am making this decision. Another area of freedom is your ability to adjust your compensation, your salary according
to the success of your business.

The fifth pro is pride. When my business is out there, it reflects my ideas. When you work
for an organization you have to compromise with others. When it is your team, you take pride in
doing what you feel is the correct thing to be doing. You take pride in the service rendered. Many
people work for organizations and after a while they lose pride. When you own your business, you put
an enormous amount of pride in it. Pride in the philosophy and the professionalism of yourself and staff. I take a great deal of pride in my staff. My staff does not work for me, they work with me.
My staff is treated like professionals. In fact we are having the coaches in the satellite programs share
in the development of the business. The coach is making the business successful.

The sixth pro is no compromises. By that I mean, you have pride that you do not have to
kiss up to anyone. Pride is a great ingredient of owning your own business The seventh and last pro is the recognition and status that you gain as a business man in
your community. In fact parents look at you differently, they see you as a professional or as a business
man in the community. The community sees you as a valuable person who can create and generate
business for the community. Your status in the community is not just as a coach, it is also as a
business person in the community. These are the seven major areas that are the great positives of owing your own club. I
was asked not to be prejudiced one way or the other, but I cannot help it if after 27 years, there are
some very positive aspects to owning your own team.

Q. How do you convince parents to join a coach owned team?
A. You will need to convince parents that athletes will benefit from your ownership. Parents
are ready to accept this if it will help their children and help to make their swimming more successful.

Q. How can you sell an organized club the benefits of a coach owned team?
A. You have to be able to demonstrate to them that you can take the headaches of running
an organization, and as a professional, be able to direct things toward success for the children.

Q. How did you go about setting up your own team?
A. When I decided to coach I did not want to deal with parents. I inherited that from where
I grew up and swam. I swam for the Badger Swim Team with John Collins’ father. He never wanted
to deal with parents. He ran a very small exclusive club and parents had nothing to say about it. At first
I thought parents should be involved. After my first job working for a team in Larchmont, NY,
I quickly learned why Jack Collins did not want to have parents involved. Then I decided to run the program as I thought best fit my needs. I started coaching
at Fordham University through a good friend Wellington Mara who owns the New York Giants. When
I was at Badger Swim Club I used to coach his kids, and when he heard that I was moving out
to California to coach, he invited me to coach at Fordham University.
At that time it was an
interesting thought, so I took that on and asked if I could do a club at the same time. I structured the club
the way I wanted it. I told the parents it was my business. I ran it, and if they wanted to be part of it,
they were welcome to it, but they had to abdicate certain things. That is how it started. It became
very successful.
One of the things that I did was work very hard on informing and educating the parent
on what we were doing. This is a very important part of running a successful business with swim team parents.
You must keep them as informed as you possibly can. So at that point not only did Fordham University
do quite well, the Gator swim club did well also. We had a lot of nationally ranked swimmers. We had
an Olympic swimmer, Bobby Hackett. This brought a lot of attention to our program. At that point
I became the coach at Harvard. At that time, it was also agreed, that I would be able to run a club
as part of my contract. The rest was history. The Gators moved to Cambridge and became successful. In fact in many instances, it was too successful. Sometimes when the club becomes
successful, and as a business man you become very successful, there are concerns that perhaps you are
making too much money and administrators decided to scrutinize that. It was best to move my business
at that time. We decided to part ways with Harvard University and we moved the business all around
the perimeter of Harvard.
We now enjoy a very successful enterprise. In fact we are now in New
Hampshire, we have one satellite there and we are moving to the western part of the state. We probably
will have five by the end of next year.

Q. What programs do you run?
A. Our program runs the full gamut. We are implementing a Masters Program, we have a
Learn-To-Swim Program we also now have a Developmental Program, a program that is designed for
the swimmers who do not want to be committed to the discipline and structure of an elite program
like the Gators. In areas where we take over programs, we keep the name of the program as a
Developmental Program and we use that to keep some of the kids in swimming without a heavy
commitment. If they want to go skiing for a week they go skiing and come back, but they still have to pay
their dues. This helps the total business and keeps kids in swimming.
Often these swimmers keep an eye on the elite program, and eventually some of the kids
say, “How do I get over there?” Under the full umbrella of the business we are able to incorporate
a program that supports an elite program and may also bring talent to the elite program. We also
run clinics and camps and the Learn-To-Swim program has now become basically the Golden cow of
our business. I just do not have enough people to service all the Learn-To-Swim business out there.
I know that there are people who have their own business and eventually they go into
Learn-To-Swim because it is so lucrative.

Q. Why do you think some coaches should not run their own business?
A. Some coaches may not want to take on the responsibilities. Another negative is
financial security. I think that is why many coaches stay with parent run clubs or institutions. Dependence
on the weekly pay check. When you have your own team, you have to be willing to invest your
own money and resources into the business. There are a great number of coaches who are
concerned about using their own money for a team. I think if you consider your team a business you will have
an easier time investing your own money. Owners have to be comfortable with not getting a regular pay check. If you are not
comfortable with this, your own team may not be a good idea for you.
Remember, we are talking about
the negatives. The plus is, if you are successful, you can adjust your own compensation. You can
reward yourself when things are going well. Another negative is self reliance. You cannot run to a parent board and say HELP! You
are the owner, no one is there to help and no one is going to be there to tell you how to deal with
the challenges. Q. How many hours do you work? A. I work 12-16 hours a day. When you are your own boss you can drive yourself very hard.
You have the tendency to do this, because you see the benefits of this kind of work. If you are dreaming
of enormous financial rewards, you are not going to get them by owning a team. You should own a
team out of personal pride, satisfaction and a need to control your own destiny.

Q. How do you work with your parents?
A. I always call my parents by their formal or full name, it is more business like. It is
important that you have a respectful business relationship with your parents. Then if you feel comfortable,
you can change things and relax a bit.

Q. How do you pay your coaching staff? A. We are working on incentives. If you grow the team, you share in the profit. Your
salary increases. Because you brought up the income for that group. We want to keep good coaches, so
we motivate them to develop satellites and own part of the team.

Q. How do you keep the team together with so many different sites?
A. Everyone is required to train at the same facility on the weekend, and we encourage that
so the coaches all know the swimmers and the swimmers get to know the coaches and their other
teammates. Once a month we have a parents meeting in the same place. All the swimmers come
and everyone trains together from the elite to the age group swimmers. This helps foster the team
spirit. We put out a Gator Weekly, which is information for the week, and it goes out to every family.
If parents do not show up at required meetings, they get a friendly reminder. We have important
handouts at these parent’s meetings about meets. If a parent does not come to the meeting they do
not have the information. This is one way to get the parents to the meetings. You have to make
the meeting important and informative.

Q. How do you run a meeting for so many different groups all at the same time?
A. We have a main meeting, then we break into smaller groups. This is usually done
during Saturday morning training. Usually on the weekends the fathers show up.

Q. What about profit verses non-profit?
A. I would encourage coaches to start out as a non-profit and when the time is right switch to
a for-profit. A good accountant and a good attorney can help you with that. I was always trying
to keep everything as non-profit, but there came a time when I was advised to change.