Words of Wisdom (Coach Don Swartz)

Words of Wisdom (Coach Don Swartz)

The American Swimming Coaches Association is the single best and greatest resource for the aspiring coach. If you haven’t joined you are missing out on a continual source of vital information. Just Google ASCA… and go from there.
In the course of reorganizing the home office we saw in a 2013 Newsletter with an article by world renowned and respected Bill Sweetenham entitled “Uncomplicated Coaching”.
A couple of gems from that article:
“If you fly blind, disaster is assured, so knowledge is important; knowledge of the product…a guy getting out of bed and a sign that says – first your pants and then your shoes. The coach’s experience must always be in advance of the athlete’s talent.”
[Got a young phenom on your team?…better stay ahead of his/her talent…or he/she will move to another team]  
“Too many people believe; well, I can train this way but when it comes to competition I will rise above it. The exact reverse applies. You will never compete above that level”
“Squads should have athletes training and preparing at a level of effort and commitment higher than the most talented in the group.”
3 gems that can reshape your career – athlete or coach. Thanks Bill and we just got a good idea for this week’s training. Thanks ASCA for making the wisdom available!
via Swim Coach Direct 12/3/2017


The Path to Clean Swimming

The Path to  Clean Swimming
Path To Clean SwimmingWe see admirable courageous stances by athletes from multiple nations in Rio with regard to the immediate and important need to protect our sport.

This comes about because the IOC and its subsidiary International Federation Puppets such as FINA in our sport, have abdicated their moral responsibility to protect and preserve the sanctity of Olympic Ideals and Values. They have revealed themselves as simply a financial machine generating BILLIONS of dollars while sharing pittances with the Athletes on whose backs those dollars are generated, AND THEN, they are so arrogant as to ask the athletes to protect their private money generating circus by not  protesting the prostitution of clean sport, as FINA and the IOC have done by allowing the dopers to swim.

Which leaves us with “WHAT TO DO”?

Here are the SIMPLE (not easy, but SIMPLE) steps:

  1. The real power in sport is with the athletes. Read that again three times. As athletes, you have become so used to the mindset of “big brother IOC will take care of all” that now that that trust has been betrayed, you have not realized ITS ALL ABOUT YOU. Your heart, soul, passion and BODY are what the IOC is getting rich on, and all the IF’s underneath them as well, (Read FINA, with their 100 Million in the bank while you starve.)
  1. ATHLETES MUST UNITE, form your own organization and TELL THE IOC under WHAT CONDITIONS YOU WILL PARTICIPATE IN THEIR CIRCUS. (Suggestions on conditions to follow.)
  1. And PS. You can run your own Swim Circuit without them, earn REAL money, and be in control of your destiny. See GOLF and TENNIS. I am here to help you do it, when you are ready and I have a team in place to help you do it. And I won’t accept an American nickel to do it. No money for me.

This is about you and generations to follow.  I want my children who coach, to be able to coach CLEAN ATHLETES and aspire to win in the generations ahead. That’s my personal motivation for the cynics to understand.

  1. Once you have a viable option to the IOC and their Circus, you are in control. Yes, keep the Olympics, but have it drug free, have it the way you dreamed of it when you were a child and emerging elite athletes. Not the cynical freak show of today, all marketing, no soul. Value your Dreams. They can be real. They can be real. They can be real.
  1. What conditions do you want? Here are “suggestions”.
  1. WADA must be rebuilt with a REAL anti-doping reformer at the helm. (I suggest Travis Tygert, of USADA, the ONLY administrator in all sport to truly SPEAK UP for you. He’s real. He’s at odds with the USOC because they are just more fakers hiding behind nonsense like “Zero Tolerance.”

The only ZERO TOLERANCE they recognize is for anything that threatens their bank account. Note to the USOC – why hold an Olympics in Los Angeles when it’s just another corrupt operation serving no clean athletes…..? When you cave in to the IOC on everything, to get the Games in LA, YOU STAND FOR NOTHING!  ATHLETES, DEMAND A REBUILD of WADA. And real power for WADA to set rules, test for doping and ENFORCE RULES FOR ALL OF OLYMPIC SPORT.

  1. A thing called “HIGH THROUGHPUT TESTING” which exists TODAY, can find the doping needle in the haystack that current testing can’t. It can immediately create CLEAN SPORT. Why don’t “they” use it now? Because they don’t want clean sport, they want the charade of “Zero Tolerance” rhetoric.  The Science EXISTS NOW. ATHLETES, INSIST WE USE 2016 Science to catch 2016 cheats, NOT 1950’s technology which is what is used now.
  1. MONEY – It’s all about the money right now, isn’t it? Why are the IOC making BILLIONS while you struggle to get the money to eat and keep a roof over your head? ATHLETES, insist on a fair distribution of revenue to keep YOU at the center of the picture. How? See number two above.

Athletes, every problem that frustrates you and your coaches and the entire world that wants CLEAN SPORT, can be solved by YOU. Unite. OWN YOUR SPORT.  Many of us are here to help you. Fix swimming for your generation and hundreds of generations to come. You have the power to do it. Use it. Please.

John Leonard

American And World Swimming Coaches Association.


American Hero Shirley Babashoff To Be Honored at the American Swimming Coaches Association Awards Banquet.

American Hero Shirley Babashoff To Be Honored at the American Swimming Coaches Association Awards Banquet.
The athlete who SHOULD HAVE BEEN the most decorated American female swimmer from the 1976 Games will be honored with the Ousley Award at the ASCA Annual Awards Banquet on Thursday, Sept. 8. In Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Instead, Shirley Babashoff was vilified as “Surly Shirley” for speaking out about the completely doped East German women’s swimming team in Montreal. The only American athlete in any sport to “tell it as it really is” in Montreal, also anchored the iconic 1976 400 Freestyle relay that vanquished the doped East German team to end the Games. The relay was widely considered to be the most inspired and inspirational event in modern swimming history.
USA Swimming recently produced a movie titled “Last Gold” that will also be shown at the ASCA World Clinic on Friday evening, Sept. 9. “Last Gold” tells the story of that relay and the horrific doping in East Germany that leads up to the Games. Echoes of course, of today’s government sponsored doping in Russia.
Ms. Babashoff recently produced her own book, which will be available at the World Clinic, of her view of the events and history of those times.
In a day and age when “whistleblowers” like Shirley are the best hope clean athletes have of embarrassing the IOC, FINA and related bodies into cleaning up sport of the scourge of doping, it is the privilege of the ASCA to honor Ms. Babashoff for her courage and outspoken condemnation of doping and cheating.
Shirley Babashoff will be introduced at the Banquet by Coach Mark Schubert, her coach from 1976 and the most successful team swimming coach in the history of the sport. Shirley was a key piece of Coach Schubert’s historic teams at Mission Viejo, California.

Questions: John Leonard, ASCA,


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


The Nature of Information in the Age of the Internet

The Nature of Information in the Age of the Internet
internetThere has never been a more difficult time to be a swimming coach. Or a doctor, a lawyer, a journalist, a general, or an Indian Chief. Or any other profession that relies on Credibility.

The finest thing in our lives for finding “information” is also the WORST thing in our lives for finding accurate, contextual information.

Information without context, “is the Devil.”

As any of the above individuals can tell you. Patients (clients, swim parents, readers or ordinary Indians) go ON LINE to get primary information about what they want to know.

What they find there can range from spectacularly good, to pure gibberish enhanced with fancy marketing and emotional response forming words. (Like “Science” as an example… more on that later.)

So as swimming coaches, we have parents and athletes going online and finding all sorts of trash that contradicts what any experienced, well-educated, trained and sensible coach would advise for that athlete. Of course, this happens every day on every swim team of every level in the world.

Sorting the gems from the rocks depends on experience, background and contextual education. None of which parents or swimmers have (and lots of young coaches lack as well).

Below is a provision of the hierarchy of the types of information we all can find and use.

  1. REAL SCIENCE – Real science is published studies in a peer-reviewed specific journal on your subject. Real scientists evaluate and assault their peers “scientific studies” until they are done in a manner that the scientific community accepts. This the only thing worthy of being called science. Look for the term “peer-reviewed.” NOTHING ELSE IS SCIENCE. This is the most dependable type of information. It is also scarce. In swimming, it’s called the “Journal of Swimming Research” Dr. Jan Prins, editor. It is a time proven, academically accepted process of impeccable reliability.
  2. Fake Science (of various levels of accuracy and duplicity). Calling something science does not make it science. LOTS of “Journals” are not peer reviewed. In fact, you pay a fee and they publish your “research.” This is also known as PR for a product. It’s usually, but not always, fake stuff that can’t pass muster by a peer-reviewed Journal. A fake academic who wants publishing credits takes this route. There is TONS of this nonsense readily findable on the internet. It’s worse than an “opinion”, its fraud because its masquerading by appealing to you with a term that doesn’t actually apply, called “science.” (A “grail” we have been taught since childhood to worship at.) Remember, doing “research” is not science. I am sure “research” exists that proves Oreo cookies are good for you. (I love Oreos.)
  3. Opinion or anecdotal reports. This is what happens at every coaches clinic in the world. A coaching peer gets up behind a microphone and tells you what they think. They base what they think on their experiences and their knowledge. This can range from fantastic, state of the art stuff from highly knowledgeable people, to more utter trash. Use the “credibility test” to determine which you think is which…ask yourself and the speaker “why should I listen to you?” and the answer you want is “I’ve been there and done that…I’ve achieved coaching success over decades (years, months?) and repeated it. Coaching 20 Olympians gives you more credibility than coaching one. Coaching one gives you more credibility than someone pretending to tell you how to coach an Olympian who has never coached one. Having coached successfully for 20 years in a parent owned program has way more credibility than a shrink who wants to tell you how to deal successfully with swimming parents. Of course, our sport has LOTS of Guru’s, who don’t actually coach anyone, but want to tell you how to do it. In my opinion, STEER CLEAR. There is an old expression here that says “If you only have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” If you are listening to a physiologist tell you how to coach, guess what he will tell you the “secret” to coaching is?

The organization I have worked for (the American Swimming Coaches Association), for the past 30 years, largely believes in and promotes this sort of information. Education from experienced professionals. Coaches regularly know that things “work” that scientists can’t figure out yet Why they work, so the “Real science” doesn’t/can’t report on it. (see “Hypoxic training” for an example. Everyone does it, everyone knows it works, NO ONE can tell us WHY, YET.)

Science is the best. But science RE-SEARCHES what we already know. Some coach out there has solved the problem you face, already, but they are not scientists, haven’t done the research, and so it’s NOT YET SCIENCE. If you want to be “cutting edge”, listen to experienced, accomplished, successful coaches.

  • Of course, the last category is an advertising, which can also pass on information. Some ads look like articles. Read carefully. Be discerning, be cynical. Especially on blogs, which are usually thinly disguised ads.
  • WE CAN LEARN SOMETHING FROM ALL OF THE CATEGORIES ABOVE. Nothing wrong with seeking them out. (I look at ADS all the time! As do you.)

    But understand the hierarchy of information out there for any of us on any topic under the sun.

    All the Best, John Leonard


    The Cultural Headwind

    The Cultural Headwind
    Presented by Don Heidary, Orinda Aquatics


    My name is Kathleen Prindle; I am a club coach from Florida and I am on the ASCA board. I am here this morning to introduce Don Heidary. For those who don't know, Don is the co-head coach and co-founder of Orinda Aquatics in California, along with his twin brother Ron. Orinda is a smaller club with about 125 swimmers. For those of you familiar with USA Swimming's Club Excellence program, they are a Silver Medal Team. They have consistently placed high in major competitions despite their smaller size. They have won Junior Nationals, Sectionals, Far Westerns. They were 3rd in 2012 at the long course Junior Nationals in the men.

    The overriding philosophy of Orinda Aquatics is character first; putting character first in swimming and in life. For those who do not know, he co-authored this wonderful guideline which I spend some time reading last night (it is available from the ASCA website). But he did a talk once that was so well received that he was asked to write a manual for it, and it is called Developing High-Character Athletes and High-Character Teams. So Don really focuses on the part of our sport that is so fundamental to the success of every athlete. I will leave you with a quote, which is in the front of this guide. I thought it was funny, because it is by a musician—there is a lot of rocker quotes in there, I don't know if you know that. Vince Gill says, "Success is always temporary. When all is said and done, the only thing you have left is your character." I think that is a fitting introduction to Don Heidary.

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    Preparing for Competition with George Haines

    How George Haines prepared his teams for the championships – it takes you through the last three weeks before the big meet. Basic by today’s standards, but revolutionary for the time. Courtesy of Championship Swimming and the International Swimming Hall of Fame.


    The Amazing Life of Coach Jack Nelson

    “Access to Success is Thru the Mind” – The Amazing Life of Coach Jack Nelson is a video tribute to 1976 had Olympic coach Jack Nelson. He represented the United States at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, and competed in the men’s 200-meter butterfly, finishing fourth in the event final. He later served as the head coach for the US Olympic women’s swim team at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Quebec.

    Nelson was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an “Honor Coach” in 1994, and the American Swimming Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2009.


    Trending Today: Some Very Common Mistakes by Swimming Parents

    There are few guarantees in the sport of swimming. One of them is that 98% of child prodigies in our sport will come to nothing as senior swimmers. (There is always an exception or two.)

    This is because our age group sport is quite mature – a 60 plus year history now. And over time, all the athletes who set national age group records are (and said in the very kindest way) "genetic freaks."  They are what are known to coaches and developmental experts as early maturers or early developers. As such, they grow bigger, stronger, more coordinated, and in all athletic ways "better…earlier" than their more common young counterparts.

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    What is a Coach?

    Coach Paul Bergan
    "Without the coaches that have so positively impacted Claire it is hard to imagine her becoming the person she is today." - Connie Donahue, mother of 2012 Olympic gold medalist Claire Donahue
    "Over the course of our children's (Sean, Kevin and Kara Lynn) swimming careers we were fortunate to have had coaches who taught them to be the 'complete package'. The complete package is when you are a good swimmer and a better person." - Bob Joyce, father of three-time Olympian Kara Lynn Joyce
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