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


Aerobic Training and Aerobic Base: World Class Swimmers’ Training (In Chronological Order)

Aerobic Training and Aerobic Base: World Class Swimmers’ Training (In Chronological Order)



HARD WORK “OR Else” pays off for Heddy

Editor’s Note: The following article is made possible through correspondence from Frank Elm and Kathy Heddy. The article is written by editorial assistant Sandy Segal.


In September 1971, a friend asked Coach Frank Elm of Central Jersey how his new swimmer, a 13-year-old named Kathy Heddy, was coming along. Elm’s honest reply was, “Not So hot.”

It has been almost three years since Kathy Heddy met Frank Elm, and in that time she has progressed from “not so hot” to an American record holder.

Kathy has had to work hard to move into the national and international scene. She swam for a local Y and for the Williamsville, New York Water Buffalo Swim Club until her father’s transfer in 1971 led her to New Jersey and Coach Elm’s Central Jersey Aquatic Club. When she· started with the club, her personal best times were a 57 for the 100 yard free and 2:03 for the 200 yard free. She was, as Elm called her, “just another freestyler.”

The young swimmer had difficulty adjusting to workouts for the first few months, killing herself by training four days a week, one:–and-a-half hours per session. But as the season progressed, Kathy got faster and tougher and started the seven days per week program, eventually earning a spot on the club’s relay reams for the Dallas Nationals in 1972, as well as a chance to swim the 100 and 200 yard free.

Elm says Kathy “blew” the 1972 Dallas Nationals, but her times of 2:03 in the 200 and 55.0 in the 100 were her personal bests. She gained extra experience in national level competition by swimming in the 1972 Olympic trials in Chicago.

The 1973 Short Course Nationals in Cincinnati started out poorly for the 15-year-old Kathy with an unimpressive 500 free swim. Elm let her know that he was disappointed and that she had better get used to being a tough competitor and look forward  to working  hard in the coming long course  training program, “or else. ” The swimmer rose to the challenge, earning a· second in the 200 IM, a fifth in the 100 free and a 13th spot in the 400 IM. The ‘or else” is still a small joke between the two.

At the 1974 Short Course Nationals in Dallas, Kathy had only 33 minutes between her double events, the 100 free and the 200 IM. That short time must have been more than enough, though, because she moved swiftly from her 50.89 American record performance in the 100 free to another American record of 2:05.06 in the IM. She also placed second in the 200 free, 1:49,12 and fourth in the 500 free, 4: 50.31.

In preparing for the double of the free and IM, Kathy concentrates on one race at a time. She works mainly on the 100 free during the warm-up before the meet, then practices the other strokes for the IM when she has finished the freestyle race. Then she relaxes, waiting for the IM race. “It’s not exactly ‘easy’ to swim this double, but I usually feel pretty good by the time I get up on the blocks for the IM,” says Kathy. “I don’t feel the 100 free hinders me any for the IM. It might even help since I know I’m ‘loose.”‘

With the short course season over, Coach Elm is now concentrating on long course training. Most of the  work is done in free- style, since Elm feels that this stroke helps his swimmers to get into shape more quickly.  Work on the IM strokes starts about ten days before district meets, regionals or the  Nationals.

After each series of meets, concentration returns to freestyle, conditioning and pace. Prior to the Nationals, there is a taper period of broken work, high quality swimming and concentration on the events to be swum by each competitor.

Elm says his long course goals are to do “as well as possible in big meets and to try to make a National team for any international meets.” He trains his swimmers at distances of 16,000 to 20,000 meters daily in two workouts: The morning session is held from 7 to 10 a.m. at  the Metuchen  Community  Pool, an L-shaped facility with six 25-yard lanes and six 50-meter lanes. The after- noon workout is held at the New Jersey Residence Manpower Center’s indoor 6-lane, 50 meter. pool.

The    following is a typical long course training schedule:


Typical Long Course a.m.  workout

15 x 400 swim 10×100 kick

30×100 pull;  Total 10,000

Typical Long Course p.m. workout 25 x 200 swim (may go as many as 30 X 200) 1 ,000 kick

2,000 pull (may pull in various ways) Sprints; Total 8,500


This season, Kathy will compete in the South Carolina meet on June 21- 23 and the Santa Clara International Invitational, June 28-30, She has been invited to the Los Angeles Invitational but has not yet made a commitment. The Region I Championships in late July and the Eastern U.S.A. Championships will lead into the Nationals at Concord, California on August 22-25. Coach Elm says the Nationals will be the target for her peak performance this summer.

The Short course training involves one workout per day, starting before the season with 6,000 to 8,000 yards, five days a week and working up to 10,000 to 11,000 yards seven days a week during the season.

The following is a typical short course training schedule:

Typical Short Course workout (one/day) Pre-Season

3,000 timed swim 20 x 100 swim

1,000 kick 2,000 pull; Total 8,000 yards

During  Season  (January -February -March)                                 .

12 to 15 x 500 5 x 200 kick 15 x 200 pull; Total 10,000-11,000yards

Kathy prepares for the double of the 100 free and 200 IM by testing it at district and regional meet, where the time between events is shorter than at the Nationals. Elm says, “To swim this double effectively, the swimmer must accept it mentally and be prepared physically. Naturally one must be outstanding competitor and have talent also. Katy has these qualities and so far has been successful with them.

Kathy finds that the mental and physical preparation also helps her to swim for faster times.” I swam through all the meet during the year. and so when you get to the Nationals· and start tapering it really helps you more than ever,” Kathy says. “When you enter a meet and have a ‘full’ workout the day before and do very well, it helps you a lot into thinking, ‘I wonder what I’ll do when I peak.”‘ She adds that the greater competition presented by the top swimmers at the Nationals also gives an incentive.

The competition at the 197 Long Course Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky helped spur Kathy to the event she calls the most thrilling of her career: winning her first National Championship in the 200 IM. The win was even more meaningful when it enabled her to swim the event in Belgrade, where she came in third.

Some sacrifices have been made by Kathy, such as forfeiting skiing, another of her favorite sport. But Kathy sees the sacrifices as worthwhile and advises younger swimmers not to give up and to work hard. “It hurt when you’re doing it,” she admits, “but when the meets come up, you’re glad you worked hard and you know you deserve everything you earn.”


“Hard work and a lot of it” is what Kathy says has given her the ability to accomplish what she has done. She also attributes much of her success to respect and confidence in her coach. “I never realized what swimming was all about until I moved to New Jersey and started to swim with Frank,” she says. “The practices were much harder and since I had a lot more respect for Frank, it made me work a hundred times harder but I really didn’t seem to mind.”

Elm seems to have the same respect for his swimmer, who  he says works “100 percent at every practice on every stroke. She never complains and has dedicated herself to the pursuit of excellence in swimming.”, Heddly, ‘as he calls her, is also a leader with a good disposition and a “captivating” personality. Elm adds, “There’s only one ‘Heddly’ and I’m thankful she’s on my team”

Kathy is enthusiastic about the added benefits of swimming for the Central Jersey team, particularly the travel ” I feel if there were no trips to make, or games to attend, swimming would hardly he worthwhile.” But Kathy’s quick to add, “It’s not altogether the trips, though. It’s meeting a lot of nice people and mainly having fun with them:’

The true meaning of swimming for Kathy shows through when she says, “If I didn’t swim, I wouldn’t know what to do. Life would he boring for me, and for as long as it means this much, I’ll keep swimming.”






 If a youngster practices swimming with people six or seven years his senior, some of their speed and endurance is sure to rub off on him. That is precisely the case of Steve Lundquist of Forest Park Swimming Association. Steve, 5 feet I inch, 90 pounds, has been completely dominating the 10 and under competition in each of the numerous meets he has attended in recent months, sweeping nearly all the events.

Steve is attending Woodland Academy in College Park, Ga., near his home and often works out with the high school team. That is part of his training with extensive training sessions administered by his coach, John Bowles, forming the bulk of his work.

According to his coach, Steve’s swimming ability is a gift. The youngster, who just turned 11 and will try his hand at the next level of competition, has lived all of his life on a lake and learned to swim while learning to walk.

Steve began to swim under pressure at age 8 and he quickly improved with instruction. His father has included light weight-lifting in Steve’s program and Steve stays in active circles by water skiing bare-foot and playing football.

Steve sets reasonable, yet progressive goals for himself, then strives to attain them. Winning is important to him, but lowering his own times is of even greater importance. Not specializing in any particular strokes, he spends little time warming up before a meet.

Steve swims all the events at every meet he attends. Unusual for a boy of his age, Steve is self- disciplined and regularly gets 8 to 11 hours sleep a night

Steve’s best marks are:

Short Course: 1650 yard free 21:53, 200 free 2:14; 100 free 1:00.7; 50 free 27.8; 100 back 1:13.0; 50 back 32.3; 100 breast 1:21.6; 50 breast 36.3; 100 fly 1:11.7; 50 fly 29.7; 200 I.M. 2:32.2; 100 I.M. 1: 12. (all meter times at age 9)                                             ,

Steve’s typical workouts include two sessions a day, Monday through Thursday, 6 till 7 a.m. during summer months with meets usually scheduled on Fridays and Saturdays.


His morning workouts are 3,000 yards (1,000 yards of this for warm ups); forty lengths of the pool (indoor 25-yard pool) begin the morning session; IM style changing strokes every 25 yards and sprinting every third length. Steve swims with a group in a circle which consists of older swimmers who average as good or better times than he. The average warm-up time is 15 minutes, plus 5 minutes rest or 20 minutes of lapsed time. He does five 200 yard freestyle of IM, going once every 4 minutes on the clock and then eight or ten 100 yard freestyle, going once every 2 minutes.

Many combinations are made and periodically changed to keep the workouts from becoming too routine. 200 yards deleted from the warm up might become 8 x 25 yards of freestyle sprints or two broken 100 yard sprints. Emphasis is placed on Steve’s preferences.


The evening workouts are two. hours long and run from 6,000 to 4,000 yards, depending on the type of meet coming up. Steve does not receive any special attention other than the privilege of working out with the older group of swimmers.

The evening workout which Steve enjoys is one that has a 500 yard freestyle and then warm up without . stopping the 100 Fly; 200 Back; 100 Fly -200 Breast; 100 Fly -200 Free and 100 Fly.  He follows with 10 x 100 yards going one every 2 minutes which could be all free or a combination of 2 x 100 of each stroke plus 2 x 100 IM or 10 x 100 IM or perhaps inserting a 25 yard fly on the third or fourth length of the 100 Free to help the swimmer’s mental conditioning at this point in his race. Then he does 5 x 200 IM or free, going one every 4 minutes with target time for each repeat swim (on the 200 free, Steve is asked to hold his repeat times at 2:30 or better, and in most cases he goes better).

The next step is 20 x 50 yards going one every 1 minute on the clock. He and the other swimmers leave from 3 to 5 seconds apart, depending on the number in each group. These range from all free to a combination like 4 x 50 of each stroke.

Steve does 20 x 25 yards of breath sprints 4 on each stroke or 5 broken of free, back, breast or fly and to finish, 1,000 yards swim down before leaving the pool.

Steve does not do a lot of kicking, but when he does, it is flutter-kicking on the side, changing sides every length, doing front turns at one end of the pool and back turns at the opposite end. Pulls are done in the same fashion.

During the winter, because of school and available pool time, the team works out for two hours (5 until 7 p.m.) on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. They try to stay around  6,000 yards at  a session. If the  Friday workout  has consisted of 5,000 yards, Steve and his friends  are permitted to play their version of water polo for the last 30  minutes.



Sue Walsh reaches  beyond the barriers

By: Jeff Zwicker


Nowadays it seems that success at the national and international levels of swimming requires training programs that include such ingredients as year-round double workouts, high mileage and at least part-time long course training. Although these components may be desirable, Sue Walsh is living proof that they are not necessarily essential.

Due to a combination of factors, including such things as long distance commuting to workouts, the unusually lengthy New York State school year, and lack of access to a long course facility, Sue’s training program shows little resemblance to the training programs of most world­ class

Sue  burst onto the international scene in a big way in the summer of 1978 with a fine fifth-place finish in the 100 meter backstroke at the World Championships after placing second to Linda Jezek in the Nationals at the Woodlands. She climaxed the following summer by clocking a 1;02.78 relay leadoff time on Aug. 22 during the USA-Great Britain Dual Meet, making her the world’s fastest woman in the 100 meter backstroke in 1979. The time ranks Sue as the second-fastest 100 meter backstroker in the history of American women’s swimming.

When one considers the fact that Sue comes from an area of the country not particularly noted for high-quality swimming, that she spends little more than four weeks per year on double workouts arid that she trains year-round in a 25 yard short course pool, Sue’s rise to national and international levels’ in the sport of swimming seems truly remarkable. Her success is based on a combination of factors, including her innate physiological and emotional makeup, her superb family relationships and the nature of her training program itself.

Sue turned 18 in February after graduating in January as an honor­ student at Mount Mercy Academy in Buffalo. She has been swimming competitively since the age of 8 and came to Zwicker Aquatic Club at the age of 12, shortly after we opened our pool.

Sue is a gifted athlete with explosive speed and an extremely competitive spirit. She rises to a challenge with great determination and is usually at her best under the pressure of tough competition.

Although many factors have contributed to her success, one of the most significant has to be the very close family relationships she enjoys. To say that Bob and Joan Walsh are the perfect swim parents would hardly do them justice. They have not only given Sue the support, encouragement, love and understanding in the right amounts at the right times; but they have contributed immeasurably to the success of our program which was in its infancy when they joined our club six years ago. They are an inspiration to all the people involved in our program, and through their unwavering support in tough times as well as good times, their impact will be felt for many years to come:

Training Program

The Zwicker Aquatic Club competitive program operates on a 10-10 1/2 month schedule from late September through late August with a two- to three- week break’ in the spring after the short course championship meets.                                                 ·

During the short course season Sue rains five 2-hour and one 2V2-hour workouts per week. The 2-hour workouts average in the   neighbourhood of 6,000 to 7,000 yards and the 2 ½ -hour Saturday workouts usually consist of 7,000 and 8,000

At Christmas we try to get as many double workouts as possible with a total yardage of about 9,000 to 10,000 yards per day. Since · graduation in January, Sue has been swimming double workouts five days a week, averaging between 9,500 and 10,500 yards per day, and single workouts on Saturday of about 7,000 yards.

Since we do not work high yardage, we attempt to concentrate on very high quality and intensity. By concentrating on high intensity training we try to maximise the benefits of the time we do have in the water..

Sue works extremely hard at all times. Swimming “‘kicking and pulling, as well as daily work on all four strokes are a part of virtually all workouts. Through a great deal of hard work on her other strokes, she has improved her individual medley times to the point where her current best is 2:06.25, while a year ago her best time was 2: 11.5. Our training is very straightforward and without gimmicks-just plain hard work.

Prior to the fall of 1978, Sue had never been on a supplemental weight training program. However, after she returned to workouts in October of 1978, she began weight training at the Sports and Fitness Clinic in Buffalo three days a week. Tom Haney, the owner-director, and I work very closely in monitoring her weight training. The intensity of her weight training has gradually increased during the past year- and­ a-half, with signs of continual improvement.

Sue’s summer training. in 1979 consisted of double workouts from the last week in June through July. The New York state school year did not end until late June. Therefore, double workouts at an earlier date were virtually impossible since Sue’s commuting time from home to pool is at least 45 minutes each way. Since we do not have access to a long course facility, we continue training in the club’s 25 yard pool, averaging between 9,500 and 10,500 yards per day five or six days a week, depending on the meet schedule. While these factors might seem to be great handicaps, they do not work that way for Sue, as she generally swims better long course even though her training has always been in a short course pool.

Since October 1978 Sue’s program had been built around longer-term preparation for the Olympic Trials in 1980 and to get as much international experience behind her as possible. In 1979, she swam quite well on the U.S. team at the Women’s International Cup at Harvard in January and at the European meets in Holland and France in February.

Although she did not qualify for the Pan-Am team, Sue came back during the summer of 1979 to place second to Linda Jezek in the 100 meter backstroke and subsequently achieve the world’s best time for 1979 in that event in the USA-Great Britain Dual Meet. Her performance in the 200 back also improved over her national championship  time.

During the short course season of 1980, Sue finished third In the 100 meter backstroke at the Women’s International meet at Austin and placed fifth in the 200. At the U.S. Indoor Nationals at Austin, Sue then improved upon previous performances in placing second in the 200 in her best time and winning the 100 meter backstroke for her first national title. Her 26.53 fifth-place finish in the 50 meter freestyle in Texas indicated considerable improvement in this stroke, which had previously been her best.

Additionally,· during a 200 meter freestyle relay exhibition held at the conclusion of the Nationals, Sue swam an impressive 25.99 running split for 50 meters.

We feel that Sue is growing stronger and swimming more confidently all the time. Yet she still appears to have a great deal of room for continued improvement. We are taking it one step at a time with each meet serving as a stepping stone along the path. Where the path will lead only time will tell.



April 1980


Russian Salnikov is talking: The Road to Moscow One stroke at a Time

BY: Bill Bell


 The Ekran Club in Leningrad where Salnikov competes features the top USSR distance freestylers from throughout the country, including Rusin, Chayev, and Edouard Petrov, plus backstrokers Viktor Kuznetsov and Vladimir Shemetov, a promising 14- year-old whose bests are 1:02 for the 100 meter back arid 2:10 for the 200.

Since the backstrokers do nearly the same workouts as the distance swimmers, Kuznetsov and Shemetov were also at Mission, said Koschkin.

The club has only male swimmers but Salnikov explained that when he and his team mates go to the national team’s training center both sexes work out together.

The question naturally arose as to what he thought of the American club system in which both sexes train together?

“Too distracting,” he smiled. Salnikov said that a typical training session in Leningrad consisted of double workouts daily with 11 weekly sessions, ranging between seven and eight hours daily. The morning session lasts from 8 a.m. to 12 noon while the afternoon  session  usually  goes from 4 to  8 pm

Depending on the time of year and whether preparation for a major competition is involved the swimmers will go anywhere from 16,000 to 18,000 meter daily.

“Yardage is certainly a factor in workouts but the intensity is also quit important, II the Russian champion noted. “One needs balance. We don’t swim at competitive speeds but we don’t swim slow either. We have a good schedule with  proportions of both.”

Salnikov began swimming when he was eight but didn’t begin competing seriously until 1974. Originally a backstroker and an individual medleyist, he began concentrating on the distance freestyle when he came under Koschkin’s direction in 1973.

As for Moscow, Salnikov believes some dramatic time drops will be the order of the day for the victor. When appraised of the fact that a Soviet sports magazine has predicted the 1500-winning time at 14:33, Salnikov shot back, “too fast.” He feels 14;45 is a more realistic goal to strive for and believes breaking the 15 minute 1500 free barrier is psychological.

“We must condition our minds into accepting the fact that we can go faster. Then we will see some rapid improvement.”

What has he gained from training at Mission?

“It has been a very valuable experience. The main reason for our coming was to gain experience working against the best Americans and we have done that,” Salnikov said.

The Russians were joined during their second week at Mission ‘by five top American :freestylers Kyle Ditzler of Alabama, Bobby Hackett and Tim Maxim off of Harvard, Kent Martin of Tennessee, and Larry Countryman of New- mark High School in Delaware. Both Salnikov and Koschkin  admitted the presence of the quintet was a factor if motivating the workout intensity levels  of both groups of swimmers.

‘We came to train against the top American club and having these other people show up was quite a surprise, although a very pleasant one,” Koschkin said. “The swimmers tell the story of their coach (Schubert) and the results he has produced speak for themselves. It was good seeing Hackett again, who I remember so very well from Montreal and Berlin.

“What impresses me most about the Americans is their high level of maturation in terms of both their training methods and their attitude,” Koschkin continued. “We have increased our whole volume of training as a result of our observations of the Mission Viejo program.”

As the interview drew to a close, Salnikov was asked what motivated him, what kept him going day after day, meter after meter, workout after  workout.

“I am motivated by hoping for the best,” he smiled. “I have European Championship and World Championship medals but I haven’t an Olympic gold medal-yet.”




Enthusiasm and endurance:  Solid Rocca Foundation


By: Nort Thorton


Peter Rocca, a 22-year-old college graduate from the University of California-Berkeley, began his long swimming career at the age of 7 in a recreation program at Meadow Pools in Orinda, Calif. At age 8 he joined the Aqua Bear Swim Club, also of Orinda.

Peter was coached by Ron Richison for the next 10 years. Coach Richison had developed a number of national level swimmers. The best known was probably Karen Moe (now Karen Moe Thornton, coach of the women’s team at the University of California, an Olympic gold medalist and world record holder in the 200 meter butterfly). Ron Richison was also Peter’s high school coach at Campolindo High School where Peter held the interscholastic record for the 100 yard backstroke at 51.7 in 1974.

Peter’s daily workout yardage in those high school days was between 8,000 and 12,000 yards daily for five days a week. He rarely did any dryland exercise and it was obvious that he had little endurance in spite of his great speed.                                                     .

The great turning point of the University of California swimming program was when Peter Rocca decided to enroll at Cal. Not only is Peter a talented athlete, but he is a fine young man and a real leader. Peter was Cal’s team captain for the 1978 and 1979 seasons. Through his friendliness and thoughtfulness he was an inspiration and the heart of the Cat team during that period. Once Peter was on the Berkeley campus we successfully set out to put him on the 1976 Olympic team. His training emphasis dryland weight training and over-distance endurance swimming with an emphasis on stroke technique. Peter pretty much accomplished his goals by making the Olympic team and winning silver medals in both the 100 and 200 meter backstroke events.

Peter has also won two gold medals in Pan-Am backstroke competition. Peter has competed very well at the NCAA Champion-ships. His first year (1976), he placed second in 49.95 and 1:48.10 in both backstrokes.

You won’t find Peter’s name in the results of the 1977 NCAA meet, for Peter came down with mononucleosis and hepatitis the day before the team was to leave for the meet. Needless to say, this was a terrible blow to Peter and the Cal team. This illness was far more serious than anyone really imagined. I feel that Peter never totally recovered for a couple of years. In fact he is just now approaching the times he was doing in 1976.

In 1978 Peter won the NCAA 200 yard backstroke with a 1:47.48, placed second in the 100 back with a 50.56 and finished fifth in the 200 yard individual medley with a 1:50.57.

Peter’s senior year (1979) he won the 200 backstroke in 1:46.21, misjudged the heat of the 100 backstroke only to end up in the consolation final. From the consolation he swam 49.84 which would have placed third in the championship final. The fastest preliminary swim, in fact; Peter was also fourth in the 200 IM at 1:49.37.

To show you the type of team man that Peter is, he swam 12 hard races during the three-day NCAA Championships. Not only did he swim trials and finals of the 200 individual medley and both backstrokes, but he swam trials and finals of all three relays. Peter swam backstroke in the medley relay and a 100 and 200 freestyle leg on both of our freestyle relays to help Cal win its first national championship.

Had Peter not been trying to help his  team win a title, I’m certain he wouldn’t have had any trouble in the 100 yard backstroke qualifying heats. The thought of two more 200 yard freestyles and another 100 yard backstroke prompted him to let up a little while winning his heat, there- by qualifying seventh.

Peter had developed a philosophy about swimming that has allowed him to continue to participate in the sport of competitive swimming long after many others have retired. Peter has fun swimming. He doesn’t look at training as a negative experience and he doesn’t feel that winning is the only thing, but rather that the journey is more important than the destination.

We try to enjoy every part of the season and to profit from the friendships and lessons that are learned from swimming. Anyone who knows Peter knows he has learned his lessons well and I feel he is well set up for later life.

In fact, this attitude has helped Peter handle the Olympic  boycott issue.

Since Peter had finished his collegiate swimming eligibility at Cal after the 1979 season, he had continued to train with the Concord Swim Club with hopes of attending another Olympic Games. When the boycott became definite, it would not have been hard for Peter to become discouraged and drop out of the program. Even though he was naturally a little discouraged for a while, I feel that because of his super philosophy, he was able to bounce right back to his usual enthusiastic self. At this point Peter was able to experience the fun and challenge that swimming normally provides him.

Currently he is leading the world long course rankings in both the 100 and 200 meter backstroke (56.66 and 2:00.73). These times were accomplished while winning both events at the 1980 Indoor National Championships in Austin, Texas. (His 200 time is even faster than his 1979 world- leading 2:00.98 gold medal performance at the Pan-Am Games.) Peter has decided to continue to swim through the Irvine Nationals and do the best he can, which will more than likely be considerable.

Peter Rocca’s Training Schedule: Pete’s season is broken into four main parts: a quantity or base phase, a quantity- quality phase, a quality phase and the taper. During our season we run a three-day cyclical training schedule. This cycle includes over-distance; stroke technique and IM-type work; and quality-type sets.




  1. Over-distance phase of cycle
  1. Swim 10 x 100 easy/100 fast continuous, descend 1-5 and – 10.
  2. Kick 3 sets of 200 easy; 4 x 50 fast (on 50 )
  3. Pull 3 x 800 {30 sec. rest), descend 3
  4. Swim 1 x 800 easy (30 rest); 4 X 200 fast (on 2:30);

1 x 400 easy {30 sec.);

4 X 100 fast (on 1:15);

1 x 200 easy (30 sec.);

4 x 50 fast {on 20 sec.)

  1. Swim a few sprint 25’s of different strokes; loosen 300


  1. Stroke and/or individual medley phase of cycle
  1. Kick down/swim back on 1:00,800 IM, reverse IM order
  2. Kick 2 sets of 200, 150, 100, 50
    • (45 sec./50 yards) (Kick a fast last 50 of each one)
  3. Swim 1 x 200 and 3 x 100 of stroke work of each of fly, back, breast and free {10 sec.  rest)
  4. Pull x 400, breathe every 7; 16 x 50 (on 1:00), four of each stroke in IM order
  5. Swim 1 x 800 IM (on 11:00); 2 x

400 IM (on 5:30); 3 x 200 IM (on

2:45); 4 x 100 IM (on 1:30)

  1. Turns and starts; loosen 300



  1. Quality phase of cycle
  1. Swim 10 x 100 easy/50 fast {try for very fast times on numbers 3-5.7 and 10)
  2. Kick 1 x 400 easy 50, sprint 50; kick 4 x 50 easy/50 fast
  3. Pull x 400 easy, breathe every 7; 6 x 100 easy/50 fast
  4. Swim 4 x 100 stroke drills;

6 x 100 fast/50 easy on 2:00

(record 50 times)

  1. Turns and starts; loosen 300





The Development of a World Champion  Backstroker


Story by: Laszlo Kiss Translated by: Andras Gall


Kristina Egerszegi was born Aug.16, 1974. She started swimming at age of 4 under the guidance of Miklos Kiss, a colleague of mine for 24 years. The chief engineer of a large factory, he teaches swimming to children as a hobby, but he does it on a world-class level.

The name of my club is Spartacus of · Budapest, and I served as the head coach here since 1963. I have also been the coach of the Hungarian national women’s team for 34 years.

This longevity is unprecedented in sport in Hungary.

Spartacus of Budapest has always been an important center of Hungarian swimming, raising a host of world-class swimmers during the decades of its existence. The fidelity of its coaches to the club has also always been traditional.

The Early days

Miklos Kiss-who always let me know he comes across a” rough diamond”­ first told about Kristina and her potential when she was 5 years old. I quickly noticed the thin, smiling little girl whose backstroke was beautiful. (By the way, Kiss, who used to be backstroker himself, usually begins teaching with the backstroke.)

Later on, Miklos kept asking me to observe Kristina’s development in her other strokes, too, and soon it became obvious that we’d have to take care of a little girl’s swimming career as well as her academic development. So, when she started elementary school in 1980, I directed her to Gyorgy Thury, an excellent colleague of mine.

Her development had progressed steadily when I began coaching her in 1986 when she was 12. I quickly realized I had found a real pearl, whose sports career had to be nurtured with a lot of responsibility. What followed were ten years during which I was fortunate enough to work together with Eger (mouse in Hungarian), and she blossomed into the greatest female swimmer in history as well as one of the finest medleyists. It was an unforgettable for her as well.

When I first diagnosed Kristina’s technique in the four strokes, I immediately realized that she was an ideal backstroker-with small buttocks, thin thighs, broad shoulders, large palms, loose, flexible shoulders and excellent buoyancy. These characteristics enabled her to become a world-class backstroker.


Keys to Kristina’s Development

Of course, I did not want her to specialize at the age of 12 because it would have hindered her development later. Even in the preceding six years, I asked Thury to train Kristina in all four strokes-a sort of medley preparation.

I was aware of the interaction of the four strokes. I also knew that “Eger” needed to retain her outstanding flexibility, thin body and will to work during the strength enhancing and weight training segments of her training.

Therefore, at the age of 12, she mostly swam freestyle, while her backstroke-which is the easiest style as far as the blood circulation system is concerned, for the backstroker is able to take a breath at each stroke­ was used only to refine her technique. I was extremely interested in how we . could develop an ideal bac stroke arm stroke, so I invented special drills for Kristina. On my team, lane 8 usually belongs to the most youngest and most talented swimmer-Eger’s lane nowadays is occupied by Agnes Kovacs, the new European record­ holder in the 200 meter breaststroke. The lane beside the wall was made extremely narrow-only some 60 centimeters wide (about two feet!).

Eger had to swim in this lane, holding an empty tin box on her forehead! Since she had very little space in which to swim, she was forced to pull her arm not beside, but practically under her body, with a deep grasp very similar to that of the freestyle.. Then followed a rotating movement with the hand under the buttocks,

That’s the way we revolutionized the arm work of the backstroke-by developing a perfect symmetry of arm strokes on both sides. The stability necessary for this difficulty series of moves was guaranteed by the empty tin on Kristina’s forehead. We also developed her continuous six-beat kick. She was so good at it that I quickly began to say that she was born with this kick.

Breathing in backstroke is not discussed too much; Kristina always took a breath when she swung her right arm back.

In general I feel that backstroke uses the strangest series of motions in swimming because the swimmer is getting to the wall of the pool backward.

At the same time, he/she sees almost everything peripherally-nearly as much as in the breaststroke.

In other sports-for instance, in track and field- this is inconceivable. I don’t think there will ever be a race in backward running.

Kristina was an ideal pupil. I wish every colleague of mine had swimmers like Kristina. Right from the beginning, we made sure that. she retained her previously acquired perfect technique, and we always made sure she was in perfect technical condition before every major competition.

I have always said one of the most important attributes of a world class athlete is the ability to observe oneself. Of course, this cannot and must not replace the assistance of the coach. For many years, I was unable to get female training partners for Kristina-she was so good-but swimming with boys did not seem to be the ideal solution either. As a result, she usually had to swim against the clock.

I explained to Kristina that the times I set for her in practice are equivalent to scoring a goal in soccer or making a basket in basketball. They are her targets. Her motivation was so high that whenever she did not reach her target time, it was she who would ask me to let her repeat the work.

She thought she would have reached the targeted time, and usually did make it on the second try! Before Atlanta Olympic Games-when I felt she was over motivated- I did not set targets for her in the last half year. I think I was right in doing so, for she was an experienced, creative swimmer at the time, preparing for the third Olympic Trials.

I believe that for Kristina, the mixed(medley) preparation eliminated the monotony of training. We were also able to preserve her perfect technique

The Tree Training Macrocycles We have very few world-class swimmers in Hungary. Therefore, we always plan the three training macrocycles within the yearly program very carefully. This system of three macrocycles was invented by Tamas Szechy, my colleague and coach of the Hungarian men’s team.

Macrocycle No.1 (September to December).

The primary purpose’ of this training phase is to enhance the general physical the general physical capabilities of the swimmer.

Therefore, we do a lot of cross­ training: running for ten minutes; four times a week; lots of gymnastics; plenty of sets with rubber tubing.

I always made sure during this strength-enhancing phase that Kristina’s ideal shape, figure, flexibility and weight did not change drastically.

In 1988, she was 166cm tall(5-5 ½)

and weighed 46kg(101pounds); eight

years later, she measured 174 cm(5- 8 ½) and weighed 56 kg(123 pounds).

In the water, our primary target during this phase is to develop the athlete’s  circulation system.

Therefore, at the end of the macrocycle in December, we clock each swimmer’s times for relatively long distances-BOO or 1500 meters free. At the same time, we continue to focus on improving stroke technique.

 At the beginning of the macrocycle in September, the coaching staff always meets to discuss the technical deficiencies of each· swimmer. As for training, the swimmers spend most of their time swimming freestyle; the other styles are reserved for technical drills.

Macrocycle No. 2 (January to April).

Our primary focus during the second macrocycle is to enhance both quickness and endurance. Look carefully at the patterns of our morning training session illustrated in the accompanying training sidebar (page 12) with their stress on separate arm and legwork as well as on hypoxic training.

In  the afternoon, we combine leg and arm work, focusing mainly on the swimmer’s primary stroke.

At the end of the second cycle, each athlete must demonstrate top spring condition; in the case of younger swimmer, they are expected to clock better than in previous summer.

Macrocycle No.3 (May to August)

In the third macrocycle, we prepare the athlete for the year’s major event. The goal is to swim faster than his/her best time the previous year.

During this phase, everything centers around preparing to swim fast.

Even during morning training sessions, we try to create competition-like circumstances by practicing tactical elements; at the same time, we never lose sight of the importance of maintaining perfect stoke technique.


Training Kristina

Here are some samples workouts Kristina did at different ages during her preparation for major competition:


Age 12-13

A.M.  (long course)

800 meters freestyle warm-.up breathe every fifth stroke 8×200 meter free on  3:00

8×200 meter back (arms only) on 3:30

2x(4x 100) meter back (arms only) on 1:30

2x(4x 100) meter back (legs only) 800 meter backstroke  technique

4x 33 meter sprints, 1 of each stroke

6,533 meters total


P.M. (Long course)

400 meter IM warm-up 8×200 meter IM

30 min. backstroke drill 2×1500 meter free on 21:00 4×33 meter sprints with starts 7,433 meters and drills total


Age 14-15

A.M..(Long course)

400 meter free warm-up breath every fifth stroke

4x(2×100) arms only; 4 butterfly, 4

back on 1:30

1×2000 meter backstroke, near maximum effort

4x(2×100); 4 butterfly, 4 back on


8×200 meters on 4:00

1 technique, 2 butterfly, 2 back, 2 breast

1 time target, 2 free

10×200 meter free, breath every fifth stoke. descend #1-5,  descend #6-10

on 2:50

4×33 meter sprints

5,933 meters total


P.M.·(Long course) 400 IM warm-up 8x(2×100) meters

2 fly on 1:30, 2 back on 1:30, 2

breast on 1:45, 2 free on 1:20 200 meter easy swim

12×66 meter backstroke sprints 8×400 meter free, descend each pair, on 6:00

4×33 meter sprints

6,333 meters total


Age 16-17

A.M..(Long course)

400 meter warm-up breath every fifth stroke

8x(8×100) meters(arms only) on 1:30 2 of each stroke, 4 time


4×400 meters (legs only} on 7:00. 1 of each stroke

2×400 meters medley on 7:00 one concentrating on technique; the second is time target

12×100 meters free on 1:15, six

  • breathing every seven stroke, six breathing every fifth stroke

4×33 meters sprints

7,333 meters total


P.M. (Long course)

400 IM warm-up



16×200 meters on 4:00;p 4 fly, 4 back, 4 breast, 4 free

4x(3×66) meters sprints; one set of each stroke

2×200 back on 3:30; 100% effort 2×400 meters breast on 7:00 12×100 meters free on 1;14, six breathing every fifth stroke, six breathing every seven stroke 6,800 meters total


Volume 1997/ Issue 4

Pablo Morales- Lord of the Flow

 By: Cecil M. Colwin


The Entry and Body Position

We discussed Mary T. Meagher’s beautiful stroke, and how, as her arms enter, her hands actually seem to be higher than her elbows, and she looks almost like a giant condor about to launch itself from a cliff to soar out over the ocean. Pablo agreed, and said: “I’ll tell you who had the most natural hip position, without having a lot of leg drive, was. Summer Sanders. Her balance forward was amazing; the fulcrum at her ups brought her naturally so high out of the water.”

Asked if he allowed his chest to submerge lower than his elbows at the entry, Pablo said: ‘I can only answer your question, by making the motion now, as I talk to you, visualizing, what I do in the water. I can only guess without having looked at it on video, nor having specifically concentrated on it, and I feel like it does; I feel my chest does go lower than my hands, maybe slightly, but, mind you, not so much that tile elbows drop. I had a tendency to over-reach, as a 16- or 17-year-old, because I always Thought that length equaled efficiency.” ‘I did it at to such an extreme that I was over-extending my arms and slipping at the front end of my stroke, and, at that point, I was getting, some elbow drop.”

I asked Pablo if he was entering his arms then waiting out front too long. “Yes, and I would be slipping water and over-reaching so much that my elbows would drop slightly. I wasn’t getting anything out of the catch that I could grab.”

Pablo said that he swam everything in training; “a lot of freestyle, a lot of IM work, even though, as a 13’- to 15-year-old, I didn’t compete in the 800 and the mile, but I trained different sets using these as multiples, and I tried to enter in a lot of events in some meets, using them as ‘training meets. ‘ I would enter the mile, and I would enter the 800, but, as I got older, this became less and less frequent”

Asked what he thought was the difference in arm posture between the crawl and entry and the butterfly arm entry, Pablo replied that he thought the arm is straighter in the butterfly entry.

“When I recover my arms, and when they enter the water, I tell myself not to extend my arms too much, but to enter as my thumbs slide into the water. Having watched myself swimming on video, its looks as if my arms are as extended as far as they can go without really over-reaching. I feel as if my elbows are still up, but not quite as high as when my hands enter the water. In the butterfly entry, my arms probably extend more than than in the freestyle entry Commenting on the feel of the water during the butterfly entry, Pablo said that he felt the water first on his hand, and then on his forearm, as he started to reach forward into the catch. “So, as my arms enter, I feel the water first on my thumbs, then on my forefingers, then wrists, and forearms.”

“Pablo A Gentleman-Athlete” says George Haines. When I asked George Haines if he remembered Pablo when he was a young swimmer at Santa Clara, George responded in typical fashion: “Did I know Pablo? I’ve known him since he was knee-high to a grasshopper!” “When Pablo was going, to pre-school, my son, Kyle, who is the same age as Pablo, was there with him. It was right off the campus at Santa Clara High School I could look through the fence of tile athletic field at these kids at the nursery school. They couldn’t see me. I could watch Pablo and my son playing on the swings together. ”

“Well, when he was older, he swam for John Spencer at Santa Clara, and then he swam in Bill Thompson’s group. I was still there, and then, in 1974, I went down to UCLA, and I think, a year later or so, he went up to Mitch’s (Mitch Ivey) group, and Bill Thompson had him for a couple of years before I left. He was some talent. They used to call me over said say: ‘Look at this guy. , And I’d say: ‘Hey son, what’s your name?’ and he’d say: ‘Pablo.’ And I’d say. ‘Pablo, you keep at it!'”

“And then I left to go to UCLA. This boy became a gentleman athlete, and I put him in the same class with Steve Clark and Don Schollander. Pablo Morales never forgot his early coaches. He remembers guys like John Spencer, and he remembers Bill Thompson. He knows who the coaches are who gave him his background. When I went to Stanford, my first year at Stanford, Pablo was a freshman on the men’s team. I was coaching the women’s team, but Pablo came over to me and started talking all about the Santa Clara Swim Club, and what he did there, and who coached him. He never forgot. He said: “I owe a lot to all those people, and to the Santa Clara Swim Club. That guy’s unbelievable! ”

Goal-Setting on the Path to Success

Today, Pablo modestly insists that everything he achieved in competitive swimming involved “only a little bit of ability”, but that the main ingredient to success lies in perseverance and realistic goal­ setting.

Pablo emphasizes that improvement didn’t always come right away. For example, improving his butterfly action only came very gradually.

Pablo set his goals at the beginning of each season. He stresses that he didn’t just set goals and forget about them. Each workout demanded a specific mindset.

Over time, Pablo learned how daily workout performance related to the accomplishment of his goals.                                     “I had to always focus on my goals, on a daily basis, and not only from day to day, and from week to week, but also from each training set to the next, and from repeat to repeat. ” Pablo says that he thought · constantly about his goals, and what he needed to do to achieve them. In time he developed a workout focus that helped him improve, and produce the kind of effort that yielded positive results. More than anything, it was this approach that eventually contributed to Pablo Morales’ success as an athlete.



MARCH 1998


Australian Coach Profile:

How Doug Frost Prepared His Prize Pupil World Champion IAN THORPE

BY: Paul Quinlan


After the outstanding results of the Australian swimming team at the 8th World Championship in Perth,

Australia, SWIMNEWS plans a series of profiles of the Australian coaches who led their swimmers to success.

The home of Doug Frost’s club is the Sutherland Aquatic Center in the southern suburbs of Sydney. The facilities  include 50-m and 25-m pools, both indoor and outdoor.

Training is done year-round in the outdoor pools, while the indoor facilities are dedicated to community teaching, fitness and recreational programs.

For many years Frost has been known for his Padstow Indoor Club, based in his own 25-m indoor pool, where he still operates his development and teaching programs. The opportunity to move to 50-m facility came when Coach Hodge resigned from the Aquadot Club to take up the position of· director at the New South Wales Institute of Sports in October 1997, immediately after the Australian world championship trials.

At those trials a 15-year-old was selected to swim the 400 freestyle and 4×200 freestyle relay events. Ian Thorpe, whose sister Christina is a former Australian team member, had made his national team debut at  the

1997 Pan Pacific championship Fukuoka, Japan. Thorpe swam to second place behind teammate  Grant Hackett in the 400 freestyle. At 14, he was the youngest male to swim for Australia since the legendary Jon Konrads, who has taken a personal interest in encouraging the newcomer.

Frost is a level three(highest level) coach in the national coach accreditation scheme of the Australian Coaching Council and the Australian swimming federation. He has been recognized by his peers with a number of coaching awards including Australian Age Group Coach of the Year in 1997 and the National Coaches Association outstanding coaching achievement prize.

He was member of the national team staff at the 1997 Pan Pacific championships and 1998 world championships, as well as a member of New South Wales touring teams. He has for many years been an active board member of the Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association.

Computer technology is core element in planning for his star athletes. He says,” I wouldn’t be without my laptop. If you want to be fully organized in your coaching you need to work with a computer.”

Frost’s long list of national team swimmers include; Lisa Burnes, ’78 Commonwealth; Wendy Bowie ’82 Commonwealth; Phillip Bryant ’92 Olympics,’94 World and Commonwealth and ’95 Pan Pacs; Christina Thorpe ’95 Pan Pacs; Broke Townsend ’97 Pan Pacs, Ian Thorpe ’97 Pan Pacs and ’98 World; Simon Cowley ’98 World.

After all those years of coaching at the top level, Frost discovered Ian Thorpe in his own club. Also very skillful! in cricket and football, Thorpe was selected for the New South Wales school team from there joined the Padstow developmental squad under Frost’s guidance. At 12, he made waves at the junior nationals. In 1996, he was one of the :,tars of the championships winning nine gold medals and posting some impressive times. It was a natural step from there to the Pan Pac team.

Frost’s computer-planned annual program was gradual and included the following training sessions and mileage.


Ian Thorpe    Birthday OCT. 13, 1982

14 years         7-9 sessions per week

40-50 km

  • 15 years 10 session per week

40-70 km

Two best long course sets done by Ian are:


30×50 on 1:00- All under 26.5 secs 4x4x100 – Last four under 57.0 secs

– Best one 55.2 secs


In 1998 Frost will be preparing his protege for the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In the long term he believes that Thorpe’s best events will be in the freestyle, from 400 down to 100.

Already a world champion in 400 free and a member of the Australian 4×200 gold medal free relay team, Thorpe has achieved some of the goals set by his coach. With an impressive 51.35 in the New South Wales a week after the world championships in Perth, he will be a strong candidate for the freestyle sprint and middle distance medals in international competition.

When asked to rate Ian alongside the current top Australian distance swimmers, namely Kieren Perkins, Daniel Kowalski, and Grant Hackett, Frost said,” I have the greatest respect for all of Ian’s competitors, including his Australian teammates. This is why the standard is so high in this country.”

“Ian has a great stroke technique and with his fantastic work ethic should be a force in this arena for many years.”

Commenting on the future of swimming in Australia, Frost remarked that, “With the assistance now available for coaching in Australia it is becoming more financially rewarding, but is still the age-old problem of lack of pool space for training.”

And on the future of the sport world­ wide, this top coach said,” I am hoping that FINA can keep our sport DRUG FREE!”




Madame Butterfly in the Wings

On the 17th of February, Australia ‘s Susie O’Neill broke the oldest world record in the books­ Mary T. Meagher’s short course meters mark in the 200 fly, set over 18 years ago. Now her sights are set on what has until now been the untouchable-Madame Butterfly’s long course record set in Brown Deer, Wis., In August 1981.

By: Craig Lord

 It was just a rhetorical question for a reigning Olympic champion: “So, you want to win the 200 meter butterfly in Sydney 2000?” Susie O’Neill gave her answer succinctly, her caution somewhat surprising:”Probably”

But don’t be fooled by her answer nor her reaction to her coach, Scott Volkers, when he prompted the newly crowned world short course world record holder to be a little more assertive:” I think you mean I do want to win.”

There’s the mildest hint of a sigh as she argues:” Yeah, but I’m not going to slit my wrist if I don’t win- it’s only a sport.” Yeah, right!

O’Neill likes to downplay her priorities. Take her marriage to Dr. Cliff Fairley last fall-or spring if you happen to live Down Under.

“Was it a good day?”

Yeah, it was a good day… more than a good day… basically, I said ‘I do and that was it.” Yeah, right!

Her mocking smile tells of a happiness way beyond her words; the term ‘seeing is believing,’ fits this bronzed, blue-eyed blonde more snugly than her racing cap. It is not that she speaks to deceive. She is sincere. Diversion, not deception, is the greater game.

Nature helps to explain her character: a bird flapping about on the ground, one wing apparently broken, seemingly near death. When you get close, the bird rights its wing and takes off, the fittest flyer you ever laid eyes on, its theatrics revealed as a ploy to divert your attention from the nest egg. The act is more instinct than intention.

So it is with O’Neill, trough in her, there is greater complexity.

Competitors might be fooled, but this art of understatement has as much to do with self-defense against the inner dangers of over-confidence and arrogance as O’Neill prepares to do battle before a knowledgeable and partisan crowd in Sydney that has spent years counting her every stroke and leaning on her every word in newspapers and magazines; on airwave and satellite.

Nothing that O’Neill, Australian Sportswoman of the Year in 1998, is recognized by more than 90 percent of Australians and was among the top 10 in a survey of” all-time Aussie Sports Stars,” Volkers sums it up best;” She’s hugely well-known in Australia, but she’s coped really well. It’s her nature; she’s not at all big­ headed.”

When she smiles, it’s a captivating smile that floods the room like an Australian dawn. And it draws myriad more from everyone around her, their reaction as predictable as the grin on a baby’s face when Mom peers over the crib.

It’s just that it’s hard to imagine anyone not liking Susie O’Neill.

History in Malmo

Sitting in the seats overlooking the Aq-Va-Kul pool in Malmo, Sweden, Don Talbot, Australia’s head coach, asserts: “Our girls have a lot to do. Sam(  Samantha  Riley)  and  Susie are going well, but even there, Susie needs to get away from all the promotions  stuff. She’s been doing too much, and it’s bound to affect the way she swims. She’s still got some work to do.”

Within a few hours, as taunt Talbot, the Queensland flyer had broken the oldest surviving world record, lowering the legendary Mary Meagher’s world short course record from 2:05.65 to 2: 05.37 in the 200 meters butterfly. Here was sun in a winter sky, a flower blooming on a parched plain, the end of an 18- year drought.

Doubtless, Talbot was reminded of a year ago when he roasted Volkers on the deck in front of O’Neill, accusing both of complacency after she was beaten by Mette Jacobsen of Denmark. The Olympic champion, who remains unbeaten in long course competition over 200 meters since 1994, refused to speak to Talbot for five months in a very public falling-out. She told reporter Nicole Jeffrey of The Australian: “… He yelled at Scott about me-on and on and on-about how every race I’ve had in the last four years has been too easy, and now that’s caught up with me, and I won’t win again unless I improve things.”

The pair have long since made up, and both are now better for it.

O’Neill’s been working harder, recently training 160,000 meters during the two-week period before the European rounds of the World Cup compared to 101,000 meters during the same period last year. Talbot, as well, has changed. He offered-for him- a rare apology:” There’s no bigger fan of Susie O’Neill than me;” His long experience and vast success make that assertion all the greater a compliment.

One of Susie’s biggest attributes is also her greatest weakness; she can easily be talked into something…. and talked out of it just as easily.

When she’s talked into something, she’s then able to carry it out as you want it. That’s really valuable when it comes to stroke  correction.

“She’s a great athlete as well as being the kind of girl you’d love to have as a daughter,” said Volkers of his charge. “As far as female athletes go, Susie’s one of the top ones to train. She’s a hard racer, tough inside. She likes her personal space, and she used to be really bad with that- no one was allowed in that space. But she mellowed out. The stability of an athlete is important. She needs to be helped along when she gets down, as they all do. My job is to help her focus.”


How They train Susie O’Neill


Workout# 1

(Monday A.M., Short course Meters) 3×500 freestyle and another stroke on 7:30, descend ·

4×50 on 1:15 first 12-1/2 and last 12-

½ fast 299 easy Main set

7 x 300 fly with fins on 5:00, holding heart rate at threshold (approx. 180 heart rate; 205 max HR)

Bes.t average is about 3:28 per 300 200 dive effort with fins under 2:08 (PB is 2:05,3)

400 choice easy

500 freestyle hypoxic; breathing every 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th stroke by 50 meters

30x 50 on 50 sec. with fins. Alternate freestyle/choice/frestyle/fly

200 easy


6,600 .meters

Workout #2

(July 23,1998, P.M., short course meters)

200 swim

100 kick no board 200 freestyle/fly

2x 100 kick with board on 1:40 200 drill

100 fly, short rest, hard

. 200 drill

2x 100 fly, short rest 200 easy

Main set threshold to maximum heart rate  ·

8 x 100 freestyle on 1:30

100 easy

7 X 100 freestyle above threshold

(3 on 1:30, 4 on 1:40)

100 easy

8 x 100 freestyle at max. heart rate on 1:40

1000; 500 choice + 5 x 100 IM

10 x 100 fins on 1:20 to 1:30

5 x (200 + 4 x 25 on 30 secs.,

alternating 25 easy, 25 hard)

700 swim down

TOTAL: 8200 meters

Workout #3

Quality (Aug. 3, 1998)

500 freestyle and choice-explode to 25 meters

400 freestyle-explode to 25 meters

400 IM explode to 25 meters

300 IM explode to 25 meters

200 main stroke-explode to 25 meters

100 easy

2 x 100 easy at HR 50 beats below max.200 at HR 30 beats below max. 4 x 100 dive effort

500 swim·

Broken 200 by 50s- Dive, push, push, push on 1:40

Swim-down 4 x 200, alternating freestyle/choice, then 50 kick 200 easy

TOTAL: 5200 meters




Distance  Greats of the early ‘70s

The Australians and Americans dominated distance swimming back in the early 1970s, thanks in large part to swimmers Bobby Hackett, Tim Shaw, Stephen Holland, Brad Cooper and Rick DeMont.

By: Chuck Warner


“Four Champions, One Gold Medal,” the acclaimed book by Coach Chuck Warner, chronicles the preparation for the 1500 meter freestyle at the 1976 Montreal Olympics by four of the greatest distance champions in the history of swimming: Americans Brian Goodell, Tim Shaw and Bobby Hackett; and Australian Stephen Holland.

All four were dedicated, focused, hard-working swimmers, and in the course of their careers, all four performed spectacular feats. But only one man could win the 1500 in Montreal.

Warner’s book records the development of each of these four champions from childhood through the ’76 Games. He reports their ups and downs, their successes and failures, and he delves deeply into the training and technique work each of them did under the tutelage of master coaches.

The book is both an outline on how to produce a distance champion and an inspiration to young swimmers everywhere who hope, someday, to stand atop the victory podium at the Olympic Games.

Here are two excerpts from Warner’s book:

Training Fast

One autumn day in 1974, Bobby Hackett sat in Coach Joe Bernal’s living room with his mother and father. Just as Bernal had done each fall, ha invited each swimmer to come to his house with his parents to discuss their general season plan, particularly in regard to meets and travel- one of the advantages of having his small Gator team.

The coach began to explain his plan for the year as young Bobby Hackett continued to brood over his embarrassment in Concord, Calif. (site of the ’74 U.S. summer nationals).

The 15-year-old interrupted, “I’ll do anything you want, Coach. I’m ready to work.”.

Bobby’s self-esteem had always come from athletics. He had not given up baseball to become an average swimmer. He was determined to whatever work his coach deemed necessary a great one.

Through the evening’s conversation, Coach Bernal outlined the expected travel plans and expenses for Bob and Joyce Hackett. But he was distracted. The coach had noted the serious tone in Bobby’s voice and sincere vow of commitment.

Bernal outlined a plan to train exclusively for the summer national championship in Kansas City. This would mean training through the World Championship Trials In June. He didn’t feel Bobby had much of a chance to make that team, and he didn’t want to lose valuable training time tapering for the Trials. They talked about Bobby winning the 1500. at summer nationals in Kansas City, just as they had talked about him winning in Concord.

Bernal knew about the “animal lane” in Mission Viejo. He had heard the stories about training that approached 17000 meters per day up to six days per week.

Coach Bernal believed that Hackett could compete with Brian Goodell and the swimmers from Mission Viejo with significantly less training volume if they did their swimming at higher quality. However, he also recognized the need for Bobby to increase his volume from previous year and do more work than his teammates.

The coach and swimmer agreed that Bobby would eliminate his traditional two days rest for local meets. Bobby also agreed to increase the volume of his training by completing additional warm-up at each session  of his meets for a total of 3500 yards. This added 7000 yards each day of a prelim and final meet.  They discussed the time goal of 15:30 in  the 1500 at the Kansas City Meet.

Hackett began the fall with usual dryland exercises, stroke work and games. As he entered the month of December, his training emphasized over distance work. Sets such as 3x1500s of backstroke, descending and swimming particularly fast on the third were Hackett training always progressed and built up to the team’s training trip during the Christmas holidays. When the team went to Puerto Rico during the school vacation, Coach Bernal increased Bobby’s volume to as much as 11-12000 yards per  practice.

One of Hackett strongest qualities had long been the ·acceptance of personal responsibility for his success or failure in swimming.

During the previous summer, he had lost that sense of personal accountability, and with it, a measure of his own self-discipline.

It is easy to understand his difficulty since self-discipline comes from having high self-esteem. When Bobby had struggled to fit into other people’s standards at Fordham Prep, he’d lost sight of his own standards. Five months had passed since the Concord Nationals, and Coach Bernal designed his training system to increase progressively in intensity over a three-week period. He began the first week with more volume and progressed to more and more quality each week.

Coach Bernal was challenging Bobby more than ever.

Bobby, his focus renewed, was meeting all the challenges. With each successful day, his pride and self-esteem were growing.

Coach Bernal designed his training system to increase progressively in intensity over a three-week period. He began the first week with more volume and progressed to more and more quality each  week.

In previous season, Chuck Felice or another of Bobby’s teammates might challenge him on the sprints or other high-quality work during the third week. But not this season. Day after day and week after week, Bobby harnessed and focused his energy toward tremendous training. Quality work increased during the season as the coach included more 200 and 100 repeats. Broken 1650s were common.

Bernal’s favorite set began with 500, then 400,’300, 200, 100, 75, 50, 25.

On the first round, Bobby swam as fast as possible on very short rest. Hackett might repeat the set two or three times, going up and down the ladder. Each round of the set, the . rest interval would became greater, and with the increase in rest, Bobby pushed himself to swim faster.

As the Gator team became more and more successful, swimmers flocked to the program. The number of athletes per lane swelled in the little Fordham pool. There was now an average of 10 swimmers per lane. The team members would swim a circle pattern in each lane with each individual leaving three to four seconds after previous swimmer.

When Bobby and his teammates were swimming fast, a whirlpool effect took place in the pool, which helped them swim even faster. As the fastest swimmer on the team, Hackett would repeatedly catch up and pass his teammates in the circle. Occasionally, he would flip just. before a wall to avoid hitting someone.

At practice in January 1975, the team was doing a series of swims on  a short rest, followed by a  short break, and then as fast 1650 as each could go. The coach planned to repeat the set at least twice through. Bobby was breaking through the “pain barrier” by working on technique and sending his body into auto pilot when the pain became severe.

He was swimming particularly fast that day. When he finished his second 1650, Coach Bernal looked at Hackett and looked at the clock. He said, “Bobby, you must have miscounted. You have another 50.” Bobby rarely miscounted. He had developed the habit of turning at the shallow end of the Fordham pool, rolling a little more than normal onto his side, and glancing behind him to see the pace clock hung high on the wall. He always checked his splits. In doing so, he knew the pace he was holding in his training set. He had been working toward breaking 15 · minutes in 1650 and knew it was necessary to split his 500’s at about 4:35 to have a chance to succeed.

That is about what he thought had been his pace on the previous 1650. Coach Bernal had timed his last 1650 at 15:02, which he thought was too fast to be correct because the American record at the time was 15:15. He thought that Bobby must have miscounted. When Bobby’s teammates finished, they said, “Bobby, what was your time on that one? You were swimming fast!”

He told them, “About 15:29,” adding the time for the extra 50.

“You went an extra 50?” one of his teammates questioned. As happens with many teams in swimming, a disagreement ensued over who had miscounted and who had not. Coach Bernal wasn’t sure either.

The coach rarely divulged when practice would end. He continually challenged his swimmers with hard sets until he became satisfied with session’s work productivity.

Hackett did each set like it was the last one of the session.

Then Coach Bernal might announce an additional set to the tired swimmers. When that happened, Bobby reveled in the challenge to still train fast on to next set. So , Bernal commanded, “Let’s do it again.”

This particular day, the next swim was a 1650 for time.

Hackett again raced around teammates, under them, and, occasionally, over them. If anyone hung on the wall, it meant someone could be turning on top of them.

Naturally, the most likely candidate to turn in top of another swimmer was Hackett..

Sometimes he would turn a few yards ahead of the wall to avoid a collision.

When Bobby completed the swim, the coach’s watch read “14.58” Although aided by the “whirlpool’ and occasional short-cuts, Hackett had swum 17 seconds faster than American  record-in practice!


Aerobic Training and Aerobic Base: Coaches’ Philosophies- The Secret Behind Their Success

Aerobic Training and Aerobic Base: Coaches’ Philosophies- The Secret Behind Their Success


November 1987-January 1988


All that yardage- Contrary to some recently popularized theories, there is no substitute for a good solid aerobic base.”

By James E Counsilman, Ph.D.

 There is not total agreement among the coaches, but over the past 40 years has been a trend among world-class swimmers to increase their training distance to the point that some researchers and coaches believe our swimmers may be training too far.

Today the average nationally ranked swimmer trains between 10,000 and 20,000 yards or meters a day at the peak of the season. This requires them to train four to six hours a day during this period. In the past couple of years a large number of articles have appeared in swimming publications that challenge this concept of mega­ meters or yards of training. In an article by David Salo, entitled “a Quick look at the Distance Myth,” the author states:

As a coach I was bent on achieving a minimum of 9,000 yards per training session because that was how it was supposed to be done. No real swimmer could expect to be the best if they didn’t put in at least 100,000 yards/week. But is this the only way for a swimmer to train and furthermore is it the best way to achieve a swimmer’s peak potential? The author goes on to say,

This article will challenge some long held beliefs on training based on scientific evidence reported over the past few years.

Salo reinforces the credibility of this argument by referring to a study by Garry Dudley entitled, “Influence of exercise Intensity and Duration on Biomechanical Adaptations in Muscles” published in the Journal of applied Physiology. He claims that Dudley’s research questions the value of the distance based concepts of training: “The first finding was the observation that there appeared to be a duration threshold of training whereby additional time beyond one hour does not increase the capacity of the muscle.”

Before proceeding further I want to discuss a few facts concerning Dudley’s research that the· secondary author fails to mention. Fact #1: The subjects in Dudley’s experiments were rats, not humans. This approach was obligatory because the subjects had to be sacrificed at the end of the experiment. This, however, does not give anyone the license to extrapolate that human muscle tissue would duplicate the precise time pattern that occurred in rat muscle tissue in the study. Fact #2: In the original research, only one parameter, that of the mitochondria content (Cytocrome C) of the muscle fibers, was measured. What happened to the other 99 variables that Dr. Tuttle mentioned 40 years ago?


It is a common failing among many researchers to assume that there are no changes at all if there are no changes in the variables they have selected to measure. This mistake was not made in Dudley’s report, but was made by Salo.


So far I have been critical of the researcher, but I have ‘reserved some criticism for the coaches. Not all researchers are as I have just describe them Many are doing excellent work and not naively advocating radical changes in current training methods. Good working relationships exist with the coaches and researchers at many Universities. I believe we have an excellent arrangement here, at Indiana University.

As I mentioned earlier, some coaches are receptive to the concept of reduced workloads for swimmers for the wrong reasons. They are attracted to the possibility of less work for themselves. These coaches deserve criticism.

I also don’t want to give the impression that I believe that some coaches may not be training their athletes too hard and pushing them though too much over-distance training. I am sure this is happening, but I am also confident it is not a – widespread practice. On the contrary, judging from the conversations I have had with coaches on many levels, I would say that the majority of these countries swimming programs are under­ training not over-training. This is as it should be. Many young Americans take piano lessons and practice an hour or two a daily. When a child with great potential is identified, his teacher is faced with a dilemma. He or she knows the child’s practice regiment must be upgraded in terms of time and teaching expertise. The teacher must undertake a far greater commitment or send the promising child to a person who will do so. The teacher must also make the child aware that he or she will have to practice from four to six hours a day if that child’s is to reach his potential. It’s the same with a talented swimmer. Not all competitive swimmers should have to train_ between 10,000 and 20,000 maters  or yards a day. But, once the swimmer has demonstrated extraordinary physical potential and the motivation to excel, the coach is obligated to see that the swimmer  has a well-planned ·program that will allow the athlete to develop this· potential to fullest and that doubtless means 10,000 to 20,000 yards or meters daily at the season ‘s peak. It is essential that any program designed to help a swimmer realize his or her full potential be guided by certain concepts of training. The expert coach bases his entire coaching  philosophy  on concepts.

The researchers can help the coach more sharply define these concepts to the end that they may more fully understand them, but, at this· point in· the evolution of training it is primarily the coaches who have developed the concepts through the process of trial and error.

Of great importance is a concept I mentioned earlier: that of specificity of training. It stated that the body makes specific adaptations to specific stress placed upon it. This could lead the coach to believe that he should train his sprinters with only sprint or high-quality training, his middle distance swimmers with only middle distance sets of repeats, and his distance swimmers with only distance swimming. This is an oversimplification of the specificity concept. In fact, all three groups of swimmers should include all the following types of training in their programs, but in different ratios for each group.

  1. Sprint training or anaerobic lactate training-short distances at fats speed with a sufficient time in between repeats to ensure that no build-up of lactic acid occurs. An example would be 20×50 on departure time of 1:00.
  2. Middle or aerobic lactate training­ repeats at a pace that is sufficiently intense to create oxygen dept and high level of muscle and blood lactate. For example, 10×100, from dive on 5:00.
  3. Over-distance swimming or aerobic training -repeats that are longer than race distance and in which little or no build-up of lactate acid occurs. This type would also include some types of short rest, interval

It is obvious that sprinters should do more sprints than distance swimmers and vice versa. Any well­ planned swim program will contain three different groups of swimmers and all three groups will integrate all three methods of training into its program. This type of program is termed a multi-method or integrated program. It is helping the coach understand the need for an integrated program where the exercise physiologist can provide the help I mentioned.

Instead we sometimes get the following kind of advice. A recent article published in a swimming magazine advocated that swimmers should use 60×25 yard all-out-effort swims, departing on 60 seconds, as suitable preparation for the 500 yard event. The traditional training in swimming and other cyclic sports, such as track, skiing, and bicycling is to lay a base of endurance training early in the season in order to build a long-lasting residual effect on the body’s aerobic capacity and then to superimpose high quality or more intense practice methods (anaerobic) as the season progresses.

Is it possible to build endurance by doing nothing but a series of sprints? I doubt it because I tried it about 25 years ago with disastrous results for m distance swimmers. Even the sprinters suffered when we reduced their distance and eliminated aerobic training from their program.

Another very important concept that plays a primary role in designing a training program is that there is an infinite amount of adaptation possible to aerobic training. At this time we cannot quantify it and we assume that it varies from one individual to the next, particularly between a sprinter and a distance swimmer.

One of the main purpose of aerobic training is to raise the aerobic threshold so that the intensity of the work that originally was anaerobic becomes aerobic. This concept alone justifies the use of high percentage aerobic training in any program.

The body can absorb large amounts of endurance or aerobic work, but can tolerate only relatively small amounts of high intensity work. Excessive amount of high quality anaerobic lactate work can push the athlete failing adaptation or.;. a term some coaches prefer-stagnation, and can result in impaired performance in the pool. For this reason we must periodize the swimmer’s workouts. The coach must follow the principle of progressive demand, but must use macrocycle or training that does not put one day of high intensity after another. Experimentally we had put our swimmers at Indiana University under high intensity regiment for three days in a row by doing goal sets of repeats (anaerobic lactate training) for three consecutive days and noticed a depressive T wave in their EKGs and a diminished performance in the pool for a period of over a week.

How far and how intensely are today’s champion swimmers going daily in their practice session? I interviewed a number of coaches and swimmers at a recent US Swimming Championship about their training. Here are some of the responses:

Matt Biondi, world record holder in the 50 and 100 free, trains between 12,000 and 15,000 meters per day ate the peak of his training session. He does 11 workouts per week.

Dan Jorgensen, winner of the 1500 meter free, averaged about 15,000 meters per day.

Dave Warton, American records holder in the 200 and 400 m races, trains between 16,000 and 20,000 meters per day.

Sean Killion, winner of 800 free in American record time, goes about 12,000 and 13,000 meters per day in 11 workouts a week, averaging 70,000 meters a week.

Janet Evans, who set the world record in the 800 and 1,500 meter events, swims 13,000 meters a day in 11 workouts per week. She averages 75,000 meters per week.  It was impossible in an interview to determine how much of this training was accomplished at the anaerobic lactate level, but my guess is that it was between 10 and 15 percent, with the rest of the training being at or below the anaerobic threshold level, that is, aerobic  training.

The use of an integrated or multi­ method form of training permits the development of all the. desirable physical adaptations needed to achieve maximal performance. We must not over simplify training for several reasons: if only one training method is used, only one form of energy release will be developed. In order for adaptation to occur there must be some form of  recovery either active or passive between similar successive training sessions: For example, if only intensive efforts are used in a training program, there must be longer periods of recuperation between these sessions. Such periods can disrupt the whole training regimen. It is important to remember that excessive use of high-intensity· anaerobic lactate work can result in failing adaptation (stagnation).

If a particular session stresses the aerobic capacity of the body it should be followed by a session that stresses the aerobic system. This endurance session can be considered an active recovery period for the body’s anaerobic system.

Total passive recovery would consist of complete rest.

In a single session it may be desirable to stress all _three forms of energy release. In this type of multi­ method training session it is not recommend that all three systems be stresses to the maximally. No single session should be composed entirely of anaerobic lactate or high intensity efforts. Use of only one type of training can result in either failing adaptation and/or a stereotyped response to the training stimulus and ultimately to performance stagnation. In the early and multi-yearly preparation of athletes the coach must consider both short-term and long-term effects. A short-term plan should consider a balanced, integrated program in which any specialized preparation is preceded by larger amounts of work in the aerobic regiment.

The long-term effects are to enhance the overall condition of the athlete by following the law of increased load demand. There are two methods by which an athlete can improve his performance: by increasing his load demands progressively and/or by improving stroke mechanics, strength, flexibility, race strategy, mental preparation, and so on.


This article has been reproduced only in part.







One of the keys to the current success of the American swimming is the use of distance base. Such training, I believe, is essential for every event.

How can you establish distance base? By any one of several obvious means:

First, gradually increase the total distance swum in workouts. If, for example, your age group youngsters are doing 5,000 yard a day, you can’t push them up to 15,000 in a week or even a month. You have to stretch it out over a year or maybe two years.

You have to remember that people don’t accept sudden changes in their lives very well, and that when you are dealing with children you are also dealing with their parents. So . you must make changes gradually, particularly in increasing total workout distance. At U.S.C we try to increase our work a little every year, but never to the point that will upset anyone:

Second, you must gradually increase the length of the main series. If it’s running about 1,000 yards and you want to take it up to 4,000 you must do it over a period of months or years. The rate of the increase is something you alone must decide.

The main series is the real work part of the workout. If you are going to increase the mileage, you certainly have to increase this part.

Third, You must increase the amount of pulling done in the workout. Pulling relates to stamina, as kicking relates to speed.

Actually, to establish a distance base, you must increase both the amount and the percentage of pulling. Almost all successful distance swimmers do a very high percentage of pulling in their workouts, up to as much as 30 percent.

Fourth, this adjustment to distance, this establishment of a distance base, can be greatly helped by making distance part an honor and not an obligation. At Mission Viejo, for example, it’s a great honor to swim in the “Animal Lane”. Many other programs do similar things.

Once you make the distance training an honor rather than an obligation, the kids will accept it and be happy to do it.

The establishment of a distance base can be further aided by porting mileage charts on your bulletin board or on the wall of the pool, so the athletes can see how far both they and their teammates are swimming. If a hero or heroine of a particular group is swimming 15,000 and 16,000 yards per day and the younger children are swimming 6,000, the later will learn to honor and respect distance. When their turn comes, they will be happy to be part of it. I try to do this in all my programs.

The next question is: “When do you inject full mileage into the program?” We certainly do not want to do it immediately after teaching a child how to swim, or in the senior year in college, as that’s little late in the game.

We generally do it when training becomes serious, when the swimmer isn’t going to get much above 6,000 and 7,000 yards; but when he moves up to two a day he’ll quickly go to 12,000-14,000 or more. Note: Many programs have their athletes swimming  over 20,000  yards  per day, five and six days per  week.

Many coaches ask: ” At what age should that do this?” If I had to throw out numbers, I’d say that for girls with fairly extensive background, it would be perhaps 11 or 12, and for boys, perhaps 13 or 14. Note the perhaps. There’ll be many exceptions.

One of the factors would certainly be pool time and space. Many clubs don’t have the pool time to putt all their swimmers on a distance base. This could be true of high schools as well as age groups. (Most colleges do have the time and space.) Another question is physical development. I’ve had some college boys who were too weak to swim twice a day, and some kids who were ready to go at 11 or 12. The practice distance will depend upon the swimmer’s physical development.

Psychological readiness is also essential in the establishment of a distance base. If your athletes are not mentally ready to accept the training some of them will begin dropping out when you pile on the mileage. You could hold on to some of them by waiting a little longer – until they are more psychologically geared to accept this increased mileage.

Perhaps the biggest question on this mileage situation is: “Why should we introduce so much mileage?” Why should we battle with kids and parents and pool time and pool space and living a miserable life just to introduce all of this distance?

First, because the distance base will extend the range of swimmer’s events enabling them to add events like 200 fly, 400im, 1650 free, etc.

Kids who are just 4,00 or 5,00 yards a day will find these events very tough. Put them on 16,000 or 18,000 and the meet will become a picnic.

They’ll be able to score more often and have more fun, and their versatility will make them easier and more enjoyable to coach. Obviously, then, swimmers who put in the miles will achieve the maximum success possible for them. When the  swimmer with a good distance base goes on to the next age group meet, he’ll be able to swim five events at every session. Without the distance base, he’ll run out of gas somewhere along the line.

This is a particularly important in the national championship, where athletes have to swim trails and finals plus relays. In high school and college competitions, a youngster might have to swim 12 times in three days against tough competition.

Without the distance base he’d probably collapse.

Shirley Babashoff swam all four freestyle events plus the freestyle relay in the last Olympic Games. Kornelia Ender swam a quantity of events in the 1976 games, winning two of them in one day. Mark Spitz won seven gold medals in Munich. Every day for a week was race day for Mark. The only reason he was able to do it was because he had  had a very tough distance training as a youngster.

Shane Gould won medals in five different individual events in 1972 Games. It would have been impossible without the distance base.

The distance base also insures good strong work habits. Normally, the distance swimmers are your most disciplined athletes. The biggest problem people are the sprinters.

They have more energy because they are not worked very hard. So if you’ll work everyone until they are good and tired, you can be assured that their discipline and work habits will be improved.

Finally, the distance base allows for future success in the sprints. Many critics of the distance base say, ” That’s fine, but I  don’t

want to turn my whole team into distance swimmers.” I don’t either. I have to have sprinters because we’re trying to win relays. But I think that you can have the best of  two worlds by establishing the distance base early in the swimmer’s career while still being able to win a lot of meets.

John Hendricks, for example, was an Australian Olympic Champion (1956) before he came to USC and swam  for four years. John was Australia’s No.1 1500-meter man in 1953. Three years later he won the Olympic 100- meter freestyle.

Mark Spitz was once the world’s  No.4 man in the 1500 and the world record holder at the 400 meters. Yet, in his maturity, he was able to set world records in the 100 freestyle  and the 100-meter fly.

John Naber was the American record-holder  in both 1650 freestyle, our longest indoor race, and the 100- yard backstroke. He was also a 45 – flat 100 freestyler. So the distance base was obviously didn’t hurt his sprinting.

Shane Gould was a world record holder in both the distance events and the 100-meter freestyle.

Rick DeMont actually won the 400 free in Munich and was the world record holder in the 1500, yet he became one of the top sprinters in the world in both 100 and 200.

The distance base makes sprinters iron-tough in the last 10 meters.

Where the normal sprinter begins running out of gas at the bitter end, the distance base swimmer comes on and becomes very tough. All his past ·mileage enables him to swim the last 10 meters very, very fast.

Speed is maintained in the distance program with daily fast sprints. You must obligate you sprinters and non-sprinters to do something fast every day.

I prefer to organize this at the end of the workout. Very often we have 8x25s maybe at 45 seconds. I have the boys race against teammates of comparable ability.

We try to build up these races: here goes the grand challenge… here goes the Grand prix… here goes the champion of such and such age group… here goes the fastest girl we ever had.

Build it up make it a really fun rivalry out of going 25’s or 50’s. Anything over 25 or 50 is not going to give you that kind of speed.

The second way speed is maintained is the distance program is by weight training. Stretching is power is  speed.  That’s  crude formula,  not very scientific, but there’s a lot of  truth in it. The sprint swimmers who stay on weight training will maintain their strength- and this will have a lot to do with their speed in short races. That’s why early in the fall, after the swimmers have been on the maximum weight program for about two months, any of them will come  up with outstanding sprint performances. They’ll sometimes swim times they won’t equal at the end of the year. The reason for this is that  at this point the weight area is a primary part of the program, So if you’ll keep up strenuous weight training through the season you’ll not only maintain speed but also increase it, even while you’re doing distance training.

Lastly, sprinting speed can be insured by some really hard kicking, as kicking relates more than the arms to sprinting.          ‘

We have competitive kicking at least once a week. The whole squad kicks the same series on the same interval and we race. That pinpoints the  weak kickers.

If you work with an age group or high school team of more diverse talents, you can break them into groups of the same age and size. The weak kickers will show up very quickly and you can then bear down on them  and get them going.

Just routine kicking every day (10x100s on 30 seconds rest) isn’t very beneficial. It doesn’t put the pressure on the swimmers. Racing eight people against one another does put the pressure on them.

Each swimmer wants to have respect of the group. I try to do this at least once a week. I think it really helps.


What are the overall effects of the distance base-pro and con?

  1. It will certainly help cut down the size of the squad. Anytime you put in a very tough program the sightseers are going to drop out. As soon as you get up to 16,000 or 17,000 the squad will begin cutting itself. And once you get the squad down to a manageable size: you’ll be able to do some real work.
  1. The distance program will improve the morale and character of the team. Whenever a group gets together on a project and works hard at it – and distance training is hard work- it will develop both individual and group character.
  2. The longer a swimmer stays on distance, the more apt he is surviving his four school seasons. People on light programs have big problem sticking it out. All of us-college, club, high school and junior college coaches- want to see athletes achieve greatness in their mature years.

The distance base will keep them at it longer. You can always go down in mileage, but it’s very tough to go up once the swimmer reaches physical maturity.

The distance program will, of course, create pool time and space problems. If you are getting by on three hours a day of pool time, six days a week, and you double mileage, something has to

One thing that will help will be your dropout rate. The reduction in numbers will save space and time. If numbers remain a problem, you may have to rent more pool time or talk the physical education or recreation department into giving you more time.

The distance base will also place more demands on you time and effort. If you have family obligations, it’s going to be tough. If you are an age group coach working with an AAU club, you are probably going to have to give up over half your weekends of the year, all day Saturday and all day Sunday.

Philosophical note: I really believe that age group swimming is now demanding too much of its coaches. The program is right training-wise, but wrong competition-wise.

All-day meets on every other weekend of the year no way to manage either a sport or a private life. It places a terrible burden on the coaches’ family, and it eventually wipes out swimmers and parents.

We should be thinking of what we can do to save swimming and the people in it.

Each coach must establish the maximum mileage that’s feasible for each segment of his team. Take my club several summers ago. I established three training levels for my mixed group: 16,000 for the very tough experienced semi-distance type, 13,000 for the not so tough and 4,000 for the income semi­ recreational types. So everything came out nicely, we didn’t lose anyone.

That’s the kind of compromise you will have to make.  I was not cheating the “income” people on 4,000 a day. I was doing them service. If I had put them on 13,000 the first day, they would have been gone. They were not equipped psychologically or physically to handle 13,000. Age group and high school coaches should be doing the same thing.

Once you’ve established a base, be flexible. Halfway through the season you may feel that “these people can do a lot more,” or that “They can’t handle this.”

Play torture master and you will end up wiping out your team. And what would that prove? Simply that you are inexperienced. I know, because I have been guilty of this myself. So it’s really important to think about the base, establish it, and then change it if necessary. You can start slowly, gradually working up to 16,000.

There is no formula for this. You have to find your own way.

This article was been reproduced only in part.


Summer 1996


The Urbanchek-mate system  of training


 Jon Urbanchek, head coach for the University of Michigan and a 1996 Assistant Olympic Swim Coach, created a systematic method for training his swimmers in the mid-1980s. Today, it has become the standard for many elite level coaches.                ·

Urbanchek’s system of training is based upon establishing an athlete’s basic threshold pace. The basic threshold pace is simply an average pace per 100 yards or meters that marks the dividing line between aerobic and anaerobic work.

The basic threshold pace can be determined from various blood lactate tests or from honest effort in a 30 minutes swim (T-30) using pulse counts.

The T-30 test is very practical and can be administered to a large number of swimmers without any blood testing. The test should be done in the swimmer’s specific stroke, except for the butterfly stroke. It requires the swimmer to swim as far as he or she can in 30 minutes.

The total distance swum is divided by 1800 (30 minutes x 60 seconds) to equal yards/meters per second. Divide 100 by this total to equal the total number of seconds per 100 yds/mtrs. (Ex: a swimmer swims 2600 yards in 30 minutes. The basic threshold pace can be found by dividing 2600 by 1800 to equal 1.44 yards per second. Divide 1.44 into 100 to equal 69 seconds per 100, which is a 1:09 pace.)

Immediately after the T-30, the distance is recorded and the swimmers are instructed to take three, 10-second pulse counts. The pulse counts must be spaced 30 seconds apart. The results Usually average between 75 and 150 beats per minute.

Based on the results of the T 30; the swimmer will now have a basic threshold pace. Urbanchek invented this system and presently uses the basic threshold pace to determine an athlete aerobic training pace (EN1), threshold training pace (EN2), maximum V02 training pace (EN3), lactate tolerance pace (SP1), lactate production pace (SP2) and alactic anaerobic/speed training pace (SP3).

Each season Urbanchek writes a training plan for the entire team. The team trains together under the plan, however, the athletes are placed in training groups according to strokes and distances.

Before each practice, swimmers are told what the workout will be and are instructed to find their training paces on charts posted by the poolside. Each athlete has a different pace and rest interval based on his basic threshold pace. Every practice is orchestrated into a symphony of strokes, speeds, and distances where each swimmer swims to their own beat.



Weekly Training Chart for Eric Wunderlich prior to the 1996 Olympic trials (early season)


AM Aerobic

Pulling/Power Kick hypoxic EN1-2

Total 6,000 yds

Recovery Drills Off Stroke Kick/Power EN 1-2          Total

6,000 yds

OFF . Recovery Pull/Power

Speedplay Alactic EN 1-2

Total 6,000 YDS

Aerobic Kick/Power Drills Hypoxic EN 1-2


Anaerobic Lactate

Speed or Meet SP 1-2                 Total

6,500 Yds

PM Anaerobic Thresold

3-4,000 yds EN2-3

Total 7,500yds

Active rest         EN        Anaerobic Threshold 3-4,000 yds

EN 2-3

Total 7,500 yds

Subjective (go by feel) Active rest PowerH20 Speed Assist Buckets, Cords

EN 1-2

Total 7,000 yds

1-2           Total

7,000 yds

V02 Max Lactate EN3/SP1

Total 7,000 yds

YDS 13,500 13,000. 7,000 13,500 13,000 6,500  

Early Season (Sept., Oct., Nov.) 10 workouts/66,500 Total yards. Weights: T, Th, Sat,

Dryland M, W, F, (Medicine ball, swim bench, Jumps, Plyometrics, Breast Bench


Weekly Training Chart for Tom Dolan prior to the 1996 Olympic Trails (early season)               –


AM Aerobic Technique Pull/Free

3-4000 yds Kick Drills EN1-2

Total 7,000 yds

Aerobic Drills/Fins       Kick (2.0) Pull/Stroke

Power Buckets,cords REC/ EN 1-2

Total 7,000 yds


or make ups if missed workouts

Aerobic Technique Drills Pull/Free Hypoxic

Kick/ Breast Fins swim REC/EN 1-2

Total 7,000 YDS

Aerobic Pull back Kick Breast Power

Buckets, Cords Technique Rec/EN 1-2 Total 7,000yds

Lactate V02 Max Alactic

Test sets          EN

2-3 /SP           Total

8,000 Yds

PM Thresold 60 min.



Total 10,000yds

Actice Rest    Slow

/Fast (subjective) Breat/lM              EN 1-2            Total


V02  Max (IM)

Lactate Rainbow set EN3/SP

Total 8,000 yds

Threshold 50 min + or-10 min. Free

EN 2-3

Total 9,000 yds

Actice rest Slow/fast (subjective) Back/ IM EN 1-2

Total 8,000 yds

YDS 17,000 16,000 8,000 16,000 15,000 6,500  

Dryland: M, W, F (Med. Ball, Swim bench, Jumps, Breast bench




Whatever  happened to the Distance  Base?

BY: Cecil Colwin


 Can the slump of North American swimming standards be partly due to less importance being placed on a good distance background?

There was a time when distance training for all swimmers was almost a religion. That era also saw some of the most dramatic improvements in the history of the sport.

Leading coaches believed in the benefits of a distance swimming background and they pointed to the fact that most distance-trained swimmers were able to swim multiple events at maturity’.

They preached the gospel that a good swimmer should be good at all distances. They proved that the broader the base of the endurance “pyramid’ built over all the developing years, the higher would be the pinnacle of achievement.

Young swimmers were encouraged to swim distances as soon as they acquired a good basic swimming stroke.

Only after many years of the long slow progressive buildup were the swimmers gradually introduced to training for specific events.

Building the Endurance Base

Constant repetition of correct movements at slower speeds helps to build ideal stroke patterns, while short sprints tend to cause stroke deterioration.

At high speed, it is hard to detect the faults in a swimmer’s stroke. At slower speeds, a stroke fault becomes magnified, those easier to detect and correct.

Furthermore most young swimmers simply haven’t the musculature to handle a lot of sprinting. Distance swimming, rather than incessant sprinting, is more compatible with the young swimmer’s normal growth and development. Years of carefully controlled training are required to condition the heart muscle.

Research has shown moderate prolonged work to be the proven way to achieve this. Sprint swimming on the other hand is too intensive to permit enough sustained work to develop endurance.

This is not to say that endurance swimming does not build muscular strength and power. It does. But the process is slower and marked by gradual increase in work intensity. It wisely takes into account the inexorable demands of growth on the young swimmer.

The goals is to gradually learn to swim a little further each day, while perfecting stroke and developing rhythm. Most of the time the swimmer is asked to swim at the fastest most comfortable pace.


A young swimmer who can handle a steady diet of distance training soon develops the confidence and determination to swim respectable 1500 free, not just in training but in competition as well. And furthermore, a swimmer’s times over the 100 will also start to improve, without a formal sprint preparation.

Start young swimmers on distance training, and you will be soon surprised at how well they adapt, and how quickly their times will drop; usually with minimum sprint work.

Coaches will find that a thorough background distance swimming help youngsters to more fully realize their endurance potential at maturity.

When a swimmer is older and ready to concentrate on specific events, the necessary speed-endurance will be there to enable any racing distance to be covered at the fastest constant speed.

As the Young twig is Bent… Forbes Carlile, the great Australian coach said: “As the young twig is bent, so will it grow.” By that he meant that the young swimmer started distance training, the greater would be that swimmer’s eventual ability to adapt to hard specialized work. In fact years ago, when I first learned the value of distance training for young swimmers, I was amazed at how quickly young swimmers took to this new program. Older swimmers, to their embarrassment, were slower to adapt and, in fact, were having great difficult in doing so.

As a result, I saw a new generation of potentially more successful swimmers developing right in front of my eyes and soon they were able to push the older swimmers every inch of the way over the long distances.

The truth of Carlile’s philosophy on the importance of early distance training needed no further validation. Carlile called his program “speed through endurance” after the philosophy of German track coach Ernst van Aaken. And Carlile’s approach proved it’s merit with great swimmers such as Shane Gould, Karen Moras, Jenny Turrell, Jane Lockyear, and many others.

Particular proof of his method was Shane Gould’s success in the early 1970s when he broke every world · freestyle record from the 1500 to the 100.

Carlile’s endurance training program was based on two simple components. The first was improving the ability to swim distance (prolong the activity), and the second was to increase the speed of the established distance (increase the speed of the prolonged activity).

Carlile kept the duration of each training period constant. He conducted 11 two-hour sessions a week and the aim was not to increase the duration of each practice, but to have the swimmers try to cover more distance within the given period.

Yards per Minute

Dick Shoulberg (1983) said that here has been an unnecessary tendency to increase the amount of training time instead on improving the speed of the long distance training swims.






By: Paul Quinlan


Denis Cottrell, a graduate in Physical Education and a top level coach in the Australian coach accreditation program, is one of a new breed of coaches who has studied both professionally and by association members, to whom is totally devoted.

Multi Year Development Program

Grant Hackett Born 9 May 1980


Age                                         7-13


Weekly sessions Volume per session Weekly Volume



2-3 km

10-35 km


Many of his athletes swim for both the Miami Swim Club and a Surf Club with top coaches throughout the world. Most of all Denis says he has gained a great deal of knowledge while he was a member of national teams.  Denis makes special mention of the role Gennadi Tuoretski has played since his arrival in Australia  in furthering Cottrell’s knowledge of the  sport.


Age                                         14

Focus              Freestyle distance, technique


Age group Championships Weekly sessions           7-8

Volume per session                 5-6 km

Weekly volume                       40-45 km


Age                                         15

Ten swimmers have been selected from his Miami Club to Australian teams for major international championships. The most notable of the: the current world champion Grant Hackett, Andrew Baildon,


Weekly sessions Volume per session Weekly volume

Technique and endurance


5.5-6.5 km

50-55 km


Daniel Kowalski and Olympic backstroker Joanne Meehan. Like our previously profiled Australian coach Dough Frost,

Age                                         16

Focus              Endurance, technique, speed National Age Group and Open Championships


Weekly sessions Volume per session Weekly volume


6.5-7.5 km

60-65 km


Age                                         17


Endurance, strength, technique  and speed


National Championships Weekly sessions Volume per session Weekly volume


7-8 km

65-75 km

Cottrell has coached his star pupil Grant Hackett since before age 10. Grant Hackett started his swimming career while only seven years of age.

Shown above is an outline of the gradual multiyear development program Denis has for his club





What The Australians  Are Really Doing

Aussies Kieren Perkins, Glen Housman, Dan Kowalski and Grant Hackett are all faster than the fastest American distance swimmer. And 14-year-old Ian Thorpe may be the best yeti

What do they know about distance swimming that we don’t?


By Ron Johnson


There are not many people who would argue that the United States is the world’s dominant player in international swimming. In the most events of 200 meters or less, we have a disproportionate number of athletes ranked in the world’s top 25 year after year.          •

However, in events of 400 meters and more, the United States has become progressively less competitive, especially on the male side. In fact, distanced swimming­ particularly male distance swimming­ seems to have regressed over the last 20 years. Two decades without progress in events where there is arguably likelihood for improvement seems to indicate we have lost our way in training for these distances.

It’s quite a paradox, considering that we haven’t improved in these distance events during a period when pool design has improved, suit design is better, wave-quelling technology has been refined and , theoretically, knowledge in stroke technique has become_ more sophisticated. These and other factors would make it appear almost impossible not to move forward during the last 20 years!

What’s wrong?

Being retired from coaching world-class swimmers for the last four years has afforded me the opportunity to attend and observe major competitions and to talk with the most knowledgeable people in our sport without the distractions of being wrapped up in my own team’s performances.

Throughout the history of our sport, the Australians have been among the more creative innovators. They are presently crushing the world in the longer freestyle races. At the same time, they have also been very secretive about their ideas, and I believe they have given us just enough information-:-or phony information- to lead us into confusion.

Last year, I had the opportunity to talk at length with one of my former Arizona State University swimmers, Marcos Vecolini of Puerto Rico, who trained in Australia under Coach John Carew with the greatest distance freestyler ever, Kieren Perkins.

He shared with me training philosophy of Carew and Perkins along with his log book of workouts for a period of almost one-and­ a-half years.

The following is a summary of what I’ve learned from Marcos. I believe it would be valuable for American coaches and swimmers to compare and evaluate these points with the typical American distance program.


A typical week’s training consisted of long warm-up of about 1,500-2,000 meters in a variety of low-pressure sets.

The main sets varied according to the day of the week. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the main set in the morning was about 3,000 meters. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, morning sets consisted of 1,500-2,000 meters. The swimmers had the weekends Off, which some used to go surfing or play games.

All evening or afternoon workouts would be what we would consider low pressure or aerobic level workouts with a fair amount of variety. The maximum distance in any workout was approximately 7,000 meters.

The daily pattern of training followed a plan similar to the on shown to the next page.

Monday A.M.

Main set:(400-300-200-100)x3 on 1:30 base/100    ·

3,000 meters total

Perkins averaged around 4:05-3:02- 2:00 or below and: 57-: 58

Monday P.M.

Main set: 2x(5×400) on 5:00 sendoff, desc.1-5 from 4:25-4:15

This would be easy for Perkins Total for the day; approx. 13-14,000 meters

Tuesday A.M.

Main set: 30×50 on 1:30-2:00 sendoff (pressure constant) Perkins averaged: 26+ to: 27+ Tuesday P.M.

Recovery-type workout-low pressure (e.g., 10×100 IM on 1:40,80 percent)

Total for the day; approx. 12-13,000 meters

Wednesday A.M.

Main set: 30×100: First 10 on 2:00, last 20 on 1:40;Average: 56-: 57 (pulse in 140-150 range)

Wednesday P.M.

Moderate main set: 20x 100 and 5x 300, relatively short rest interval

Thursday A.M.

Main set; 6x (4×50 on 1: 30/2×25 on: 50), Very fast

Thursday P.M.

Recovery set of 150s or 300s or 250s

Friday A.M.

Main set; 6x (200-150-100-50) on 1:30


Perkins averaged 2:00-1:58-: 58-: 57-: 27

3,000 meters total

Friday P.M..

Main set; 10×200 on 2:30, recovery speed Perkins averaged about 2:18-2:20

Total for the week: approx. 65-70,000 meters

Saturday and Sunday; No workouts- play around or go surfing



Coach Carew believes that the most detrimental thing that can happen to a distance swimmer is to get to muscular. He even feels that he can predict how a swimmer will perform based on how muscular he is- an inverse relationship.

Consequently, when Marcos swam with Carew, they didn’t do any weight training, although they did some stretch cord-type work and almost 100-200 abdominal repeats per day.

Carew’s swimmers also did very little kicking in the normal week.: about 800- 1,000/day without a board and with hands crossed out front.

Pulling was done with pull buoy (streamlined) only; no paddles. Much of


the pulling was done with what they call advance timing, which is close to a catch-up stoke, emphasizing stoke length and quick rotation.

During the recovery phase, there was constant emphasis on complete relaxation of the muscles of the back, especially those along the spine (the rhomboidei) and the shoulder muscle. Also, once a week or every two weeks, they would time a 1500-but only at 80 percent, not all out. Marcos said the longest continuous swim they ever did was a straight 2,000 but he added that they were “just playing through ”


I asked Marcos what the Australians thought was wrong with American distance swimming. Here are some of the answers:

+ We’re so concerned with base­ type swimming  that we seldom train at or faster than racing speed. The Australians train at or faster than racing speed in a main set five day a week.

+ We’re so concerned with total yardage that we do almost everything on short rest interval sets, which precludes swimming really fast.

+ The Australians think that T-30 swims (hard 30-minutes time trials) to establish your anaerobic threshold is pseudo-scientific voodoo because a swimmer’s· anaerobic threshold changes on daily basis. To stick to a rigid program designed around a parameter is ridiculous.

+  They think we’re too  concerned with science (formula training) and not enough with training fast and efficiently with proper stroke technique. They also believe we have exaggerated concerned with strength training for distance swimmers.

+  The Australians believe our principal technique books on swimming are a joke. They say that the Americans have people writing books on swimming who’ve never produced any champions.

They ask, “Where are the books by Jon Urbanchek, Frank Busch, Bud McAllister, Dick Jochums, Skip Kennedy, Randy         Reese, Richard Quick, David Marsh, et al?”

They say that some of the most prestigious technical books on swimming in U.S. have, given its coaches some very bad advice,. especially in terms of training distance athletes.(Maybe these guys are too busy coaching to find time to write books!).

Lastly, Marcos said that one of Coach Carew’s favorite sayings was, “In order to swim fast, you have to know how to swim slow!”


The Pull: A swimmer should never pull all the way through; instead, he should finish the stoke with an upward and backward sculling sweep (never reach full lock-out position of the elbow). Perkins, Popov, Biondi, Jenny Thompson, van Almsick all look like they’re not finishing the stroke, but they hold propulsive water all the way to the surface.

Also, the pull is not initiated with a downward, outward and backward sweep of the hand. On the contrary, it’s started with downward, backward and slightly inward sweep of the hand.

Body Position: The fact that swimmer’s elbow is up on the hand entry is not as important as keeping the elbow elevated on the catch (first part of the pull). The palm down entry out front is important with the fingertips pointing toward the bottom of the pool throughout the pull. This means a. constant change of the pitch of the wrist throughout the pull so that the fingertips stay pointed toward the bottom of the pool. Also, a closed recovery is the best to keep the body in good alignment, however, the hand should be externally rotated, and the back and shoulder muscles should be very relaxed. Lastly the Australians believe in a lot of rotation in the shoulders and hips. ‘

Distance per Stroke: There should be less emphasis on distance per stroke (DPS) and more emphasis on body position in the water while carrying as much tempo as possible with reasonable DPS.


When the Australians had their less successful period in the distance swimming, they were doing weights and very long distances weekly and daily- but that was 30 years ago.

They think that is where the US is now.

All of their training is done under pulse-control parameters. Perkins, for example, is almost always in the 140-150 range or below per minute­ even on a difficult set like the 30×100 meters (long course) on 1:40 or 1:50, holding : 56-: 57. The maximum pulse for training is 150.

The Australians also do blood tests about once every two weeks or so to determine the oxygen-carrying propensity of the circulatory system, but not lactate levels. They stretch at least 20-30 minutes every workout day, and most of Coach Carew’s workouts end with sculling drills- especially backward sculling, face down, feet first with a buoy. The Australians also place an importance on buoyancy for distance swimmers. In fact, if a swimmer isn’t buoyant, the coaches tell him that he’s better of training for other events.

As far as the taper is concerned, they still perform some quality sets, but the yardage is cut. The taper usually lasts about two to three weeks, and there is also a major emphasis on stretching during this period. Before the World Championships in Rome in 1994, I observed Perkins doing 9- 12×100 on 1:50 at: 56-: 57. A few days later, he set the current world record of 3:43,80 for the 400 meter free.


Aerobic Training and Aerobic Base: Age Groupers

Aerobic Training and Aerobic Base: Age Groupers


May-July 1985

 Training the Club Swimmer- Some Guidelines on how to handle the age-grouper

BY: Don Gambril and Alfred Bay


I believe that all swimmers should establish a sound foundation of correct stroke mechanics and middle-distance training when they are young. It is much easier to learn from the start how to swim correctly that it is to purge bad habits years later. It is important that the swimmer begin building stamina, increase heart and lung capacity, and developing strength while he or she still growing rapidly.

A case can be made that more is better. It is true that the young body has amazing recuperative powers. This has been demonstrated many times. Forbes Carlile of Australia, for example, has swimmers under 10 years of age training 50 miles a week. I believe that it is possible that a 12-year-old be conditioned to swim 20,000 meters a day, six days a week (112 miles a week) without physical harm, but I would not endorse such training. I believe that physiological and social considerations should determine the limits of training mileage, not sheer physical capacity.

The typical young athlete is just not equipped to handle the tedium of long -distance training. If training becomes too demanding-or just too boring- the swimmer will leave the sport. Anymore, few Olympic medals are won by swimmers younger than 17. In fact, the average age of world-class swimmers is increasing; some now are as old as 25. If a swimmer is to succeed in international, or even in national, competition, he or she will have to stay in the sport eight, 12, maybe even 18 years. It is the age group coach’s responsibility to consider the long-range effects on the training course and to allow each swimmer to develop in his or her own time.

I endorse middle-distance; all stroke training for age-group swimmers. Just what that means – how much mileage, in what manner, at what age- I shall discuss next.

However keep in mind that that the actual content of training is not as important as the development of self motivation and a good mental attitude.

Ages 7 and 8

Seven-and 8 year-old need more structured practice. A tremendous amount of teaching needs to be done: stroke technique, body position, starts, timing, rhythm, and turns (turn should be taught on both sides). All strokes should be taught and . practiced, but until sufficient strength is developed through kicking and pulling drills, not much time should/ be spent swimming butterfly. And the drills should be repeated often. A coach should never allow the young swimmer to get away with sloppy technique.

Competition should be part of daily practice, but it should be fun, relaxed, and should have social  thrust; such things are relays: “Alligators versus Crocodiles”. There· should be little criticism; Kindness goes much further with this age than hard discipline.

This is also a good age to introduce dryland work – not weight training yet, but flexibility work and · conditioning exercises. People this young rarely benefit directly from strength or flexibility work, but exercises become part of the routine discipline  that  will  be  necessary when that get older. These exercises improve  coordination  and prove a variety which helps keep workouts interesting.

It is a good idea for swimmers of this age (or little older) to start keeping a logbook with workouts and weekly mileage totals. This gives them a feel for the content and rhythm of the training course and allows them to see documented improvement. It also develops interest in statistics.

The coach, of course, should also keep track of mileage. Seven­ and 8-year-olds should be swimming no more than five miles a week, and spending no more than one and half­ hours, three days a week, in the water.

Ages 9 and 10

We hold five practice sessions a week for this group; totaling no more than 12 hours weekly – meets, team meetings and social events inclusive. Absences should be permitted for involvement in other activities, such as Scouting. Especially at this age, the swimmer should be encouraged to maintain outside interests.

The 9-year-olds work out from 60 to 90 minutes  day and cover maximum weekly distance of 25,000 to 30,000 yards. The 10-year-olds work about two hours a day, with a commensurate increase in yardage.

Intervals generally be kept short so that the swimmer can concentrate on good form and hard effort (though, once in a while a long swim of a mile or more offers a challenging change of pace). At this age, work emphasizing forced oxygen debt is introduced. This work continues through the age of 11 or 12 for girls, and 13 or 14 for boys.

At about this age, great disparities in the maturation levels of age peers develop. Some girls are fully mature at 11 or 12 and are ready for an adult training load.

Some boys aren’t ready physically or emotionally for that kind of work until they are 13 or 14. This should be taken into account, and training groups should be composed by performance, as well as by age, with time standards being instituted for each training lane. Remember that “late bloomers” frequently turn out to be the best swimmers when they get older: these more slowly developing swimmers must be given attention and encouragement. They should work more over-distance and do less sprint or quality effort.

For example, Tim Shaw, one young swimmer who was in my program from the age of 9 until he was almost 15, trained only one session a day. Yet less than two years later, when he was 16 and doing double workouts with Dick Jochums, he broke the world record in the 400-meter freestyle. He was the best in the world for several years.

The 9-or 10-year -old swimmer should have-a sound grasp of style and the mechanics of all four strokes, starts and turns. It is time to start teaching him or her the basics  of training theory and practice: what the different  types of training are,  and the benefits of each; how to time splits, figure pace and monitor one’s pulse.

Ages 11 through 13

By age of 11, most girls are ready for serious competition. They are ready to add stress work to their training regimen, and to train twice a day (10 or 11 sessions a week). The most mature girls can handle 60,000 and 80,000 yards a week at this age. On the other hand, boys tend to mature more slowly: most of them will not be ready for this level of work until they are 13.

We start our 11-years-old (boys and girls) on an effective dryland program. At first most of the work is light-body-weight-against­ gravity work such as pull-ups, sit­ ups, and push-ups; or resistance work with devices such as pull buoys, drag suits, pull tubes, etc. AS the individuals mature, and if facilities are available we start him or her weight lifting.


And Older

By the age of 14 (15 for low maturers) the serious swimmer should be spending 20 to 30 hours training every week, covering (at peak season) 60,000 and 90,000 yards, and handling a full complement of dryland work. The dryland work includes running,

flexibility exercises and the following lifts with free weights on the pool deck: bench press, triceps press,  half squads, and upright  rowing.

The work at this age group is componently the same as the work done by senior swimmers. The differences are: the overall mileage is less (though 14-15-year-olds train like seniors and compete successfully against seniors); the strength work is not as heavy and the long distance group is separated as often.


This article was reproduced only in part.


February-April 1988

Flying Out of the Distance: Many of Gary Butt’s Pine Crest swimmers begin as distance freestylers and still do much of their training in that area.

Interview by: Mark Muckenfuss


 Butts: Another thing is that most of our flyers train in our distance freestyle workout. We don’t ask them many times to swim a whole lot of butterfly in workout.

ST: Why distance as opposed to middle or short distance?

Butts: We have just found that our 200 flyers tend to be more similar to our distance freestyles than anyone else on the team. Out butterflyers, our 400 Imers and our distance people train together. And the amount of fly that they swim

_would vary by kid. Two of the best flyers we’ve had come out of here in the last seven years would be Vickie Vogt, and Martin Zubero. They swam a lot of Fly in workout.

ST: From what you have said it sounds like you prefer training your flyers for the 200 rather than the 100. Butts: The 200 seems to be more interesting race. There is a considerable bit more strategy you have to go into in swimming a 200 fly than the 100. Lately though some of our 200 flyers have been drifting off into the 800 meter free or the 1500

ST: Do you do any lactate testing your swimmers?

 Butts: We have over the last few years. We started in the fall of ’84 and worked at it until last spring. Right off the bat we had real good results and got a pretty good understanding of what we were doing. We continued to push forward with it for three years. Last spring we looked at the amount of time and money we were putting into it and the size of our program, and we weren’t sure we were getting enough out of the amount of time and money being spent, so we stopped. We won’t start back until this fall. At that time we’ll look at what data’s available and what time, money and effort it will take.

ST: Do you feel you’re missing anything by not testing?

Butts: No. we might have swum better, but we were pleased with our results last summer. I’m not sure we’re missing any- thing at this point other than the data we’d be collecting. I guess I’m kind of lazy and I’m going to wait until someone comes out with a program and says this is what you do, and I’ll follow that. We just don’t have the staff or the money to test 55 kids all the time. It took an enormous amount of time away from training. But we will probably go back into it once we get a little better We learned a lot from it in terms of whether we were training too hard, not hard enough, when we had kids that we were over-training. We certainly got some direction that way.

Another thing that we found helpful, last year Paul Bergen put out a newsletter every week called Think­ Fast Swimming. We subscribed to that and followed that and did a lot of things he was doing and used a lot of the ideas he gave us. I think it’s one of the most incredible things a coach did and took the time to put out. He was so meticulous with his planning and program. We took a lot . of ideas from that and base lot of our stuff on it. We try to run a cycle­ type program. We hand out a calendar to the kids for each three­ month period, with all the yardage we’ll be going.

Our program is set up so that Monday is quality, Tuesday is recovery. Our yardage on recovery days is about 8,000, and on quality days it’s about .5,000. On quality mornings we go about 4,000 and on a recovery morning about 5,500.

Wednesday we don’t train, we call it · Wonderful Wednesday, followed by Terrible Thursday. We always do a timed 800 or 1000 on Thursdays, which is a quality day. We’ve been doing a timed 800 or 1000 every Thursday for seven years.


ST: You must consider it pretty important. What do you feel it does for the swimmers?

Butts: It gives them some racing experience. They certainly learn how to pace. We talk a lot about pacing and they have to learn that when they’re swimming a 1000. Friday is a recovery day for us and on Saturday we train for four hours straight, from 8-12, all water, and we go from 12,000-18,000 on those days.



Article reproduced only in part.




Aerobic Training and Aerobic Base: The Science Behind It

Aerobic Training and Aerobic Base: The Science Behind It


By Genadijus Sokolovas, Phd., Larry Herr, MS International Center for Aquatic Research, USA Swimming ·


  • Among the many different factors involved in putting together a career training plan for athletes, three stand out as the most important

+  Rate of biological maturation

+  Age-appropriate stress(or workload)

+  Changes in competitive performance

The aim of this article will be to describe basic methods for addressing the factors so that athlete can achieve his or her maximum potential performance  at the age of maximum physical potential.

Stages in Career Training

Most American swimmers begin swimming somewhere between the ages   6-

  1. The typical age of peak performance trends in the past have depended upon event duration, stroke, age, and gender.

In order to achieve the goal of maximum results, five career stages need to be addressed. They are:

  1. Preliminary preparation
  2. Basic training
  3. Specialization
  4. Peak performance
  5. Maintenance

The ages at these stages will vary depending on gender and individual characteristics. Each stage needs a strategy in order to maximize the recommended  age-appropriate workload.

The five career stages arrive earlier and are shorter for girls then for boys. This because girls have an earlier rate onset of maturation than boys. “Time reserve” is the difference, in years, from start of the athlete’s career training path until the age of peak performance  potential.

This results in an average “time reserve” for career training for girl/women of about 10-12 years and 12-15 for  boys/men.

When a well-designed career plan is executed, the athlete will achieve their peak of their physical potential. An accurate estimate of a peak physical window is important in setting up the career plan. We can look at past  trends to help create a mathematical model. This model can serve to help  us create approximate guidelines in making a career  plan.

Past peak performance  trends in swimming events

By using the average age of the best swimming times in history in each swimming event we can come up with historic trend for age of peak performance of elite athletes. It appears that the current generation of elite swimmers (especially women) is achieving career peak performance at later ages. If this is so, the average top ten age would change as data is collected and analyzed.

To illustrate a table of the average top ten times (with standard deviations) is proved for all Olympic events and distances (Table 1).


Table 1. Average age of Ten Best Swimmers in History (M   + SD)


 Swimming event

50 m Free

Men (years)

23.0 + 2.4

Women (years)

21.9 + 2.7

Men  (years)                  Women (years)

100 m Free 22.2 + 2.0 19.9 + 4.1
200 m Free 20.3 + 2.2 19.0+ 4.1
400 m Free 20.0 + 2.1 18.1 + 3.2
800 m Free   17.8 + 0.8
1500 m Free 20.2 + 1.9  
100 m Back 22.4 + 2.4 19.6 + 3.1
200 m Back 23.4 + 1.1 19.3 + 2.1
100 m Breast 22.9 + 2.3 18.6 + 4.1
200 m Breast 22.2 + 2.1 17.9 + 3.7
100 m Fly 21.5 + 1.4 20.0 + 3.9
200 m Fly 23.1 + 2.4 19.0 + 3.3
200 m IM 22.4 + 2.3 18.1 + 2.2
400 m IM 22.8 + 2.7 18.7 + 2.7





An example of a trend can be factored into career planing is shown in the freestyle events. The trend is that the shorter the event, the older the swimmer. The top swimmers have gotten older as the events have gotten shorter, with women’s overall ages in each event younger than the corresponding  men’s events.


Sensitive periods

In the development of the human organism, there are “sensitive” periods of development. Sensitive periods occur during the fastest rate of development of a given quality of the organism. It is supposed that an increase of stress on a specific physical system during that system sensitive period will maximize the development potential of that system. Extraordinary stress prior to the sensitive period occurs. This may limit rather than enhance potential.

In the case of energy systems, window of sensitive periods estimated to be:


  1. Aerobic capacity (heart stroke volume, cardiac output, )

–     girls 11-12, boys 12-13

use of training sets of longer duration and lower intensity

–     corresponds to zones REC and EN1

  1. Aerobic, Anaerobic mix (maximum oxygen consumption and anaerobic threshold)

–  ( girls 12-13, boys  13-14)

use of training sets in zones EN2 and EN3

Working anaerobic capacity  (oxygen debt, peak lactate, lactate tolerance)

  • – girls 13-14,  boys 14-15

use of training sets. in zones SP1 and SP2

General and swimming specific power and strength speed

–     girls 14-15, boys 15-16

use of training sets of maximum velocity and short duration bouts of swimming

corresponds to zone SP3


Trends in Performance Progression

Based on elite level swimmers’ biographies, we have calculated their career progression of best times. It has been difficult to collect data regarding training prior to age

For illustration purposes, two examples of windows of career best time progression are provided. In each case, two elite level athletes are used. For comparison, a swimmer who was the top performing11-13 year old was also used. (Usually, these swimmers dramatically slow in improvement or stop improving altogether)

Note that window of performance progression have a wide gap at age 11. This could be due to the variations in the age of elite athletes at the start of their careers.

It appears that the rate of progression is an important factor for the light career training plan. Similar window examples have been created for all Olympic events and distances.


Practical Use of Career Performance  Windows

These windows of career performance are models based on statistical analysis of the world’s best swimmer. They can best be used to design career  management strategies.

For sub-elite swimmers, the rate performance progression in windows can be slower.

For example, if an individual’s performance one season is close to the lower level of the window, then the workloads could be adjusted to simulate the a higher rate of improvement the next season. If an individual is closer to the upper level of the window, then adjustments could be made to keep progress going forward at lower workloads. Using lower workloads to keep ideal progress guards against premature over-stimulation, and leaves room to increase workloads when necessary. High anaerobic workloads, especially, are tremendous stress on the organism, and should not be exhausted at the beginning of biological maturation. It should be noted that at age 11, around 50% of the swimmers in the USA do not fall within the windows and an even higher percentage is outside the window as age increases. This model also does not account for the early or late maturing athlete.



By: Genadijus  Sokolovas,  Ph.D., Larry Herr, MS ·


There are many factors, which influence a long-term (career) training plan in the sport of swimming. Among the factors that should be evaluated include: changes in performance times throughout the career, workload distribution at a given age, and biological maturation of the athlete.

Coaches should understand the· main principles of a career training plan and have quantifiable parameters in order to assess and then maximize performance potential. When preparing a career training plan, coaches should ask some basic questions including, Wheh is the age at peak performances? What are the optimal workload volumes at a given age?

How does the maturity status of your swimmer effect the workload progression in career training?

It is the purpose of this paper to examine the relationships among workload distribution and biological maturation of young swimmers.

Recommendations for a career training plan will be presented, which will aid coaches in designing training programs appropriate for young swimmers entire career.

Age at Peak Performances 

Career training includes preparation of athletes from the age at the beginning of competitive swimming until retirement. From the age at the beginning of career training till the age at peak performances (APP) coaches have “time reserve” to prepare each swimmer to achieve their individual maximum potential. APP depends on gender, distance orientation and individual biological maturation of athletes. There are many advantages for swimming coaches to know the age when peak performance should occur for a given event. With this knowledge, coaches can design appropriate workloads in a career training plan.

In swimming, there are many different methods to evaluate when the age of peak performance should occur. One of the most applicable methods is to find the mean age of ten best times in history for each event. The average age of the ten best swimmers in history are presented in Table 1

Event (LC) and Average Age of Ten Best Swimmers in History (M ± SD)


Swimming Event Men (years) Women (years)
50 m Free 23.0 ± 2.4 21.9 ± 2.7  
100 m Free 22.2 ± 2.0 19.9 ± 4.1  
200 m Free 20.3 ± 2.2 19.0 ± 4.1  
400 m Free 20.0 ± 2.1 18.1 ± 3.2 .
800 m Free   17.8 ± 0.8  
1500 m Free 20.2± 1.9    
100 m Back 22.4 ± 2.4 19.6 ± 3.1  
200 m Back 23.4± 1.1 19.3 ± 2.1  
100 m Breast 22.9 ± 2.3 18.6 ± 4.1  
200 m Breast 22.2 ± 2.1 17.9 ± 3.7  
100 m Fly 21.5 ± 1.4 20.0 ± 3.9  
200 m Fly

200 m IM

400 M.IM

23.1 ± 2.4

22.4 ± 2.3

22.8 + 2.7

19.0 ± 3.3

18.1 ± 2.2

18.7 + 2.7




The oldest swimmers are in the men’s 50m freestyle (23 ± 2.4 years). In the freestyle events, the longer the distance the younger the swimmers. The difference between the average age of the ten best swimmers in the history of the 50 and 400 freestyle is three years.

  • However, the age of peak performance for the 400m and 1500m freestyles is very This pattern is similar in the women’s events. The longer the distance the younger the athlete. The oldest women’s swimmers are in the 50m
  • freestyle (21.9 ± 7 years) while the youngest swimmers are in the 800m (17.8 years). In the freestyle events, ages for peak performances are on average, two years earlier than men. It should be noted that there is greater variability in the age of peak performance in women compared to men.

In the men’s backstroke events, the top ten best swimmers in the 1OOm are about 1 year younger than the 200 m event. However, this difference is not statistically significant. Typically, the same athletes swim both the 100 and 200 m backstroke and the age of peak performance is approximately 23 years. Women backstrokers are about 3 years younger than men are and their age of peak performance is approximately 19-20 years.

The average age of the top ten men’s flyers in the 100 is 21.5 and in the 200 is 23.1 years old. The age differences between the two events are not statistically significant.

  • Women flyers are about 3 years younger than men. In the individual medley events, the top ten men had an average age of 22-23 years while women were about 4 years younger then men.


This kind of analysis indicates differences in age of peak performance between men and women, as well as among distances and strokes. In general, age at peak performance for women is approximately 2-4 years younger than men. Second, the longer the distance, typically, the.younger the swimmer. These differences are not the result of limitations to endurance development. They are the,result of the requirements on swimming economy and flexibility that are important factors in longer distances. Usually, swimming economy and flexibility are better. in younger swimmers.


Sensitive Periods in Swimming

A factor that must be considered in an individual’s career training plan is biological maturation. Biological maturation refers to the timing and tempo of the progress toward the mature state. Athletes begin different phases of biological maturation at different chronological ages and progress at different rates. As a result, the age of peak performance may occur differently for each event. As biological maturation of girls is approximately 2 years earlier than that of men, age at peak performances may be slightly advanced in girls compared to boys.

Physical characteristics and physiological systems develop at different rates. In general most children follow a general linear increase in size and strength with age.  However, during the adolescent growth spurt (typically between 10-14 years. in girls and 12- 16 years in boys) many parameters show accelerated growth size and strength. These accelerated phases of development are frequently called “sensitive” periods and represent the fastest rate of development. During the adolescent growth spurt, rapid · development in body size, motor skill and selected physiological qualities extends 4-5 years. Children typically gain height first followed by gains in weight. On average, gains in weight lag behind gains in height by 0.5-1.0 years.

Between the ages of 11-14 years for girls and 12-15 years for boys most physical qualities increase significantly. Between the ages of 11-12 for girls and 12-13 for boys is when the earliest increases for stroke volume, cardiac output, and vital capacity are seen (figure 1).

These increases aid in increasing aerobic capacity.

As this process is occurring, swimmers can tolerate higher total workload volumes with low intensity swimming. Working aerobic capacity involves swimming done in sets with low intensity. This kind of low intensity swimming corresponds to the energy zones of REC and EN1.

In a career training plan, between the ages of 12-13 years for girls and 13-14 years for boys begins the period of aerobic-anaerobic (mixed) training. This type of training improves maximum oxygen consumption (V02 max) and anaerobic threshold This kind of work corresponds to swimming in an energy zone of EN2-EN3.


Figure 1. Gain of parameters of aerobic and mix work capacity by male swimmers in career training:                                                                                    .

Between the ages of 13-14 years for girls and 14-15 years for boys,

begins the period for working anaerobic capacity and lactate tolerance. This type  of training corresponds to swimming in energy zones SP1-SP2. The last period in the career training plan occurs between the ages of 14-15 years for girls and 15-

, 16 years for boys and is for both general and specific strength/ power (figure 2). Sets for this phase of training are done at maximum velocity and short duration (20-30 sec). This type of training elicits adaptations in adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – creatinphosphate (CP) system which corresponds to the energy zone of SP3;

Stages of Long-Term Training

In the US, most swimmers begin career training at approximately  6-8  years.  In some cases, especially  boys, career training  begins between 8-10 years. The ultimate goal of the sport of swimming is to achieve maximum  results  at the end of an athlete’s career. Therefore, a carefully constructed  career   training plan may assist in achieving that   goal.

A career training plan should incorporate five stages of progression: 1) preliminary preparation, 2) basic training, 3) specialization, 4) peak performance, and 5) maintenance of high performance. Because girls tend to have shorter career training time-line, the duration of each stage is shorter and earlier in girls than boys. It appears that a career training plan is, on average, about 9-11 years for girls and 11-13 years for boys. When a career training plan is followed athletes achieve their maximum performance times during the stage of peak performance. Duration of each stage is presented in table 1.

Table 1

Duration of stages in career training


Swimmers Preliminary preparation Basic training Specialization Peak performance Maintenance of high performance
Female Sprinters 8-10 10-12 12-17 17-20 20 & more
Female Distance Swimmers 8-10 10-12 12-16 16-18 18 & more
Male Sprinters 8-10 10-13 13-18 18-22 22 & more
Male Distance Swimmers 8-10 10-13 13-17 17-20 20 & more


Stage of preliminary preparation has following purposes: teaching of swimming technique in different swimming strokes; teaching of diving and turns; improvement of interest to compete; development of flexibility, general (aerobic) endurance, balance iri water. Playing, games, and long distance are the main training methods during this stage.

Stage of basic training has following purposes: teaching of

  • ‘ advanced swimming technique in· different swimming strokes; evaluation of individual swimming stroke and distance orientation; development of aerobic and anaerobic-aerobic (mix) endurance; development of quickness and agility; beginning of development of general strength. Long distance and repetition training methods are recommended during this stage.

Stage of specialization has following purposes: development of individual swimming.technique; · individualization of technical and racing tactics; development of aerobic-anaerobic mix, anaerobic specific endurance, and general

strength; beginning of development

of specific strength and speed; maintenance of flexibility. Repetition, interval, and sprint training methods are introduced. during this stage.

Stage of peak performance has following purposes: perfection and stabilization of individual swimming technique, diving, turns, and tactical skills; development of distance specific endurance, specific power, transition of specific power to water; development of specific strength speed; maximization of workload volume; modeling (race simulation) of all conditions of competition;

maintenance of individual flexibility. Repetition, interval, and sprint training methods are used during this stage.

Stage of maintenance of high performance has following purposes: maintenance of individual swimming technique, diving, turns, and tactical skills; maintenance of individual power, endurance, speed, and flexibility; reduction of total workload volume with increasing of intensity; stabilization of psychological condition; maintenance of health. Repetition, interval, and sprint training methods are the main training methods during this stage.


Workload Design in Long-Term Training

During “sensitive” periods, athletes can significantly improve their potential within the corresponding energy zone. The same workload volume done at different ages improves factors relating to certain physical qualities differently. When high volumes are done for the development of specific power prematurely, then smaller increases of specific power are noted in younger athlete : Extraordinary stress prior to the sensitive period will suppress response when the sensitive period•

occurs. This may will limit rather than, enhance potential. The same workload volume done after biological maturation will note

greater increases in specific power.

This statement can be confirmed with analyses of relation between strength parameters and swimming velocity. Investigation shows that correlation between


strength parameters and swimming performance is always positive.

Thus, if increase strength will increase swimming performance too. Correlation between strength and swimming performance increases with age. The older swimmers the higher correlation between strength and swimming performance. This shows that before adolescence increase in strength parameters will have lower influence on swimming· performance, than after adolescence. Therefore development of strength and power is especially crucial after adolescence. This conclusion corresponds with analysis of

sensitive periods. The· period of highest rate of improvement for strength for boys is 14-16 years. High volumes of specific strength/ power done prematurely will suppress the response to the same workload after biological maturation.

Different physical qualities have different time and rate of improvement. Therefore each physical quality has own sensitive periods for development. During sensitive period is the fastest rate of development in physical quality.

Sensitive periods for girls come usually 1-2 years earlier than for boys. Duration and time of sensitive periods are presented in table 2.


Table 2

Duration and time of sensitive periods


Physical Quality Age for Boys Age for Girls.
Flexibility 7-13 6-12
Balance 9-11 8-10
Agility 10-12 9-11
Endurance 12-14 11-13
Strength 14-16 13-15




Most of different physical qualities, anthropometric and other parameters have S-shape of changes: with initial spurt on the beginning of biological maturation, peak velocity and deceleration on the end of biological maturation (figure 3). Parameters influencing aerobic working capacity (V0 2 max, vital capacity and others) develop earlier. Parameters of those influencing anaerobic-aerobic (mixed) working capacities (02 debt, anaerobic threshold and others) develop later. This pattern continues through anaerobic work capacity, power, and strength.



Figure 3. Progression of physical qualities in career training.


Workload should support natural development of different physical qualities. This will allow athletes to achieve maximum performances. During sensitive periods different physical qualities improve naturally. If this improvement is supported with corresponding workload, then athletes achieve the best results. The same workload before or after sensitive period leads to lower progression, than during sensitive periods. The highest correlation between different physical qualities and swimming performance

corresponds to the sensitive period time. This shows that different workload progression during career training should·occur at different times. During sensitive periods the rate of increasing of workload should be the highest. After sensitive period corresponded workload should increase, but rate of increasing should be slower.

Analyses of changes in different physical qualities (aerobic, mix, and anaerobic endurance, speed, strength) shows that workload volume should correspond to them. This enables to create models of workload progression in different energy systems. The models of workload progression are based on sensitive periods for physical qualities and age at peak performance for different group of swimmers. The pattern of workload progression in long-term training should correspond to S-shape curve, which is characteristic for physical qualities;


The age at the beginning of career training is similar for all strokes and gender of swimmers. Since the age at peak performance depends on gender and swimming event, the duration of career training is different. For girls distance swimmers duration of career training is about 9-10 years, for sprinters – 12-13 years. For boys distance swimmers duration of career training is about 11-12 years, for sprinters – 14-15 years. Also, total workload volume at age at peak performance is different for gender and swimming event. Since career training for sprinters is longer and peak

workload volume is lower, their workload’s progression is not so forced as it is for distance swimmers. Usually elite level men swimmers have about 15-20% higher workload volume than women. Sprinters have lower total workload volume but higher intensity. The models of workload progression were created based on analyses of workload volume by swimmers at different age (table 3, 4, 5, and 6).



Table 3


Workload progression in career training for male sprinters (in yards)


Age Total· REC-EN1 EN2-3 SP1-2 SP3
10 380,000 351,880 19,000 5,700 3,420
11 446,809 413,854 22,798 6,492 3,665
12 565,798 525,037 28,137 8,370 4,254
13 763,930 694,175 51,358 12,742 5,655
14 1,059,587 950,325 77,873 22,523 8,867
15 1,435,731 1,199,791 177,693 42,582 15,666











44,673 _·

18 2,396,952 1,562,863 609,203 164,174 60,685
19 2,544,339 1,556,091 724,980 191,757 71,510
20 2,628,990 1,572,722 772,739 206,298 77,231
21 2,675,317 1,583,032 799,370 213,050 79,864
22 2,700,000 1,593,000 810,000 216,000 81,000


Table 4 ·

Workload progression in career training for male distance swimmers (in yards)


Age .Total REC-EN1 EN2-3 · SP1-2 SP3
10 380,000 351,880 19,000 5,700 3,420
11 506,924 468,810 26,644 7,512 3,958
12 580,000 533,282 32,658 9,514 4,546
13 1,180,361 1,055,951 92,937 22,983 8,490
14 1,315,760 1,139,067 130,273 34,576 11,844
15 2,432,730 1,967,094 356,755 83,022 · 25,859
16 2,699,322 2,076,786 474,902 113,116 34,518
17 3,288,872 2,411,622 676,517 154,275 46,458
18 3,431,298 2,473,623 738,471 168,575 50,629
19 3,557,834 2,548,120 779,388 177,166 53,159
20 3,600,000 2,574,000 792,000 180,000 . 54,000


Table 5 Workload progression in career training for female sprinters (in yards)


Age Total . REC-EN1 EN2-3 SP1-2 SP3
10 380,000 351,880 19,000 5,700   3,420














13 903,304 807,189 71,608 17,349   7,158
14 1,296,188 1,095,182 151,278 36,230   13,498
15 1,721,503 1,323;083 298,317 73,487   26,616
16 2,067,488 1,416,456 482,319 123,504   45,208
17 2,289,268 1,436,674 626,754 164,682   61,158
18 2,410,519 1,449,521 704,068 186,997   69,933
19 2,471,097 1,463,853 737,185 196,433   73,625
20 2,500,000 1,475,000 750,000 200,000   75,000


Table 6

Workload progression in career training for female distance swimmers (in yards)


Age Total REC-EN1 EN2-3 SP1-2 SP3
10 380,000 351,880 19,000 5,700 3,420
11 546,390 504,368 29,640 8,217 4,164
12 899,694 815,009 62,403 15,877 6,404
13 1,487,741 1,288,814 150,494 36,161 12,272
14 2,158,618 1,739,757 320,859 74,678 23,324
15 2,660,974 2,000,546 508,619 116,493 35,316
16 2,931,199 2,125,540 621,581 141,527 42,551
17 3,051,241. 2,187,263 666,874 151,607 45,497
18 3,100,000 2,216,500 682,000 155,000 46,500


Presented models of workload progression are based on normal  matured athletes. The workload progression in each energy system corresponds to the sensitive periods: aerobic, aerobic anaerobic mix, anaerobic, and strength/power. If athletes are early biological matured, workload progression in each energy system should occur earlier. Also they achieve the age at peak performance earlier. Workload progression for late matured athletes should occur later.



  1. Age at peak performance depends on gender, swimming event, and rate of individual maturation. Age at peak performance for women is approximately 2-4 years younger than men. The longer the distance, typically, the younger the


  1. During the adolescent growth spurt many parameters show accelerated growth size and strength (sensitive periods of development): aerobic capacity – 11-12 for girls and 12-13 for boys, aerobic anaerobic mix capacity – 12-13 years for girls and 13-14 years for boys, anaerobic capacity – 13-14 years for girls and 14-15 years for boys,

– general and specific strength/ power- 14-15 years for girls and 15-16  years for boys.

  1. There are five stages of career training:
    • preliminary preparation,
    • basic training,
    • specialization,
    • peak performance, and maintenance of high performance.

The duration of each stage is shorter and earlier in girls than boys.

  1. The same workload volume done at different ages of career training improves factors relating to certain physical qualities differently. During sensitive periods the rate of increasing of corresponding workload should be the highest. The pattern of workload progression in long­ term training should correspond to S-shape curve, which is characteristic for physical qualities.
  2. The rate of workload progression for distance swimmers is faster than for sprinters, because of higher total workload volume and earlier age at peak performance. Accelerated workload progression for girls occurs 1-2 years earlier than for boys. The models of workload progression are based on sensitive periods . for physical qualities and age at peak performance for different group of




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


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.


Training for Capacity vs Utilization

I'm Matt Kredich; I'm one of the ASCA board members. It's a pleasure to serve on that board. It's a great pleasure and honor to introduce Bob Bowman to you today our next speaker. We all know Bob as the coach of Michael Phelps which means a lot and I'll talk a little bit about what that means to me. Bob's a visionary and I think all of us coaches can imagine that if we have an athlete and we see that that athlete at age 11 can do something that's never been done, probably never been imagined in the history of our sport, then we're a visionary. And that's exactly what Bob did. He's the architect of - in two Olympic Games, one man won 16 medals. Fourteen of those 16 medals were gold medals. To me that's unbelievable. It's hard to imagine especially in the age where we have prelim, semifinals and finals. In the age where information is distributed as quickly as it is now. In the age where all countries are having greater access to information and facilities, it's hard to imagine that that will ever be done again and if it is it will take a visionary like Bob Bowman and certainly a great athlete to create those performances.

Read More

Open Water Safety and FINA Related Issues

Informative email string from Coach Richard Shoulberg. Forwarded by John Leonard (with enthusiastic approval from Coach Shoulberg, whose mission it is to make Open Water Swimming safe in the immediate future.) Please feel free to forward this to anyone you deem important to see this. It says a great deal about Open Water Safety and how FINA really operates. – JL

Email #1

—Original Message—
From: Thomas Lurz
Sent: Thursday, November 04, 2010 2:23 PM
To: Richard Shoulberg
Subject: Re: Fran

Hello Mr.Shoulberg,

Thanks for your email, and for writing to me. Of course I would like to help you and everyone else who I can help. I also wrote with M. Crippen. I knew Fran really well and he was so good guy, athlete and a very good swimmer! One of the best in world of course in open water. I had a lot of respect for him and we had also some fun together at the swimming competitions.

But also we spoke a lot about the conditions and organisations in open water and especially about the FINA World Cup series. We had the same opinion about that. It should be much more professionel in many ways.

I was so shocked and I am still very shocked about what happened and I still cant believe it, really.

The race was not well organised. the FINA deligate (he is from Latvia and does not speak good English, don’t know his name) was not able to chance something and I also think didn’t wanted to chance something.

The weather was too hot and the water temperature also. The water was around 32 degrees and the outside air temperature was around 45 degrees. We also started at 10 o’clock and at 12 we finished the race. I think that is the worst time you can start such arace. Its the hottest temperature during the day. Not professional!

The race should not have been there!

We traveled to the hotel from Dubai to this town called Fujairah one day before the race. It was nearly 3 hours by bus through the desert.

There was not enough safety boats and life guards during the race. We swimmers came to the organisation and said Fran is missing and when he is missing there should be something wrong because he is one of the best and he should be in the finish. We swimmers were diving after him. the organisation drove with jet skis and they had no idea where they need to search and they had no idea what to do when such accident happen. and also it was dangerous again because many swimmers were inside the sea diving and they were driving with jet skis!!! not a safety boat with gps or echolot! for normally it must go very fast. they didnt collect the accreditaion and given them after the race again to the swimmers to check how is in the finish and who not.

I am getting very angry when I read the statement from organisation chef ayman saad. I know him a little and when I read his statements I am just angry and aggressive. like “what can we do…he just pushed so hard…” perhaps more safety boats and take care about swimmers and don’t swim in the desert under too hot conditions!!!??!!!

in many FINA races we have not good conditions in general. many swimmers write me and ask me if I can do something to chance it and I will try my best.

If you want I can send you a letter I wrote with reasons to chance. but all the same sometimes I don’t feel the power because even if they chance it will bring us Fran not back.

I hope so much that USA Swimming is finding out the real reasons of the Fran [Crippen] death because I think in Emirates they tried to say is was heart attack. I am sure the hot conditions were the biggest reason. Fran was top fit!!!

And also 3 other swimmers went in hospital and I saw another russian girl who felt down after the race because of the hot weather.

I have a lot of experience in open water but this was too much. I would not swim the other 15km a few days later even nothing serious would finges were swollen and we don’t need to swim under such conditions! We are professional swimmers and we do Olympic Sport and we aren’t extreme swimmers or surviers under the hardest conditions.

If you have any questions you can ask me. I want to help in any ways!!! And how are the things going right now? Did the doctors find out something?


—- Original-Nachricht —-
Datum: Thu, 4 Nov 2010 07:19:53 -0400
Von: Richard Shoulberg
An: Thomas Lurz
Betreff: Fran


Fran Crippen has been part of our program for over 20 years. I am the head coach for Germantown Acadaemy for the past 42 years, I can only tell you that Fran Crippen had the greatest respect for you first as a person and as an athlete. I would appreciate any information you can provide me about the events of Fran’s death and the meet in general. It is my mission to ensure that this never happens again and that open water swimming with be safe for all. Please continue to train hard and work toward you dreams. All the best.

Richard W Shoulberg

Email #2

—Original Message—
From: Thomas Lurz
Sent: Friday, November 19, 2010 4:32 AM
To: Richard Shoulberg
Subject: letter


thanks for your email and I think you wrote very important points down. enclose I send you the letter for the athletes. its a proposal for some rules chancing. many swimmers already signed it and I will wait a few more days and then send to FINA. We have a big support from all swimmers. its nearly every swimmer in open water!!!

I also think that the FINA technical open water commitee need to chance soemthing. they can do it and they need to take care at the world cup races.


HI Everyone,

after the terrible race in Fujairah in October I think we as an athletes need to chance some things in Open Water. We don’t want that such things will ever happen again and also we need to get our sport more professional. Many swimmers came to me after this last World Cup race and asked me if I can write some reasons down. I did it and just read it and if you have the same opinion and you stand behind this letter just let me know and “Singature” this letter.

Thomas Lurz

Email #3

From: Christine Jennings Sent: Sunday, November 07, 2010 4:32 PM
To: Richard Shoulberg
Subject: Re:

HI Coach Shoulberg,

Forgive my late response, I have not been regularly checking email. I’ve been at the OTC without a computer since I got back, so I have no way to save this report into a file, sorry. I did print it for my reference, just in case.

I also have some saftety issues I wanted to share with you and the rest of the Open Water group, but have it hand written. I am planning on typing that up today or tomorrow and sending it out to Kalyn Keller, who has sent us an email to work together on this. I know as an individual it is hard to be heard, but as a group we can make some progress, especially with you and Kalyn helping us.

Below is my statement of what I recall happened that week:

Thursday-Friday, October 22, 2010

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

On Thursday, October 21st, we were notified the race location had been changed. On Friday afternoon we drove 2 hours to the new location, Fujairah, across the peninsula. After the long drive many swimmers went down to the race course to swim in the water, I however did not because I always do one practice the day before my races.

The night of the 22nd a technical meeting was held, as is required before any open water 10K race. The meeting lasted about 20 minutes, about 60-90 minutes less the amount of time any other technical meeting I have ever been to has lasted. The first 10 min of the meeting was introducing who was in the race and the total points so far accumulated by the swimmers in contention for the grand prize. After that they went over the course map and feeding stations. Some questions were asked on how two feeding stations that held 20 each could potentially hold up to 80 feeders, one for each swimmer. After that, we shortly went into medical safety, which was all about who the medical doctor was, what type of insurance FINA had for the race, and that an ambulance would be available. The topic of safety on the water was never discussed. They then went to dismiss everyone from the meeting, not realizing there were plenty of coaches who still had questions to address, mainly being about the finish shoot, rules regarding swimming on either side of feeding station, who is on what feeding station, starting with or without swim caps and several others. The topic of safety, as I look back seemed irrelevant, as many were too focused on the task at hand, me being one. While these last questions were being addressed, there were about 20 people left, coaches and swimmer’s together, the rest had already left and boarded the bus. I stayed the whole time.

When I got back to the hotel for dinner, I started asking the American swimmers how the water felt, because, again, I did not get in that night. Their responses included a bit of surprise about the difference in water temperature between Dubai and our current location in Fujairah. After that, all I could think of was how to best prepare to swim in hot water, drinking lots and lots of water was one thing I did, because I knew once I got into the water there is nothing else you can do but give your best.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fujairah, United Arab Emirates

On the day of the race I got up early to swim in the hotel pool, which was about 12-15m long because I was trying as much as possible to limit my exposure to the hot water on the race course. I then proceeded to eat breakfast, drink more water, and load the bus to the race course. When I got to the race course, it was about 845am, and one could just tell the air temperature, even at that time, was already steadily increasing. The “air condition” tent was definitely cooler than outside, but it was still warm enough for me to sweat. I got my swim suit on and proceeded to go check in to get numbered. I brought my credential over to identify myself to receive my number, and that was it, I never needed that credential ever again. There were no timing chips either, which are used to track swimmers as they do each lap and finish. I believe just about everyone was continuously hydrating while doing their pre-race routine of applying vasoline for chaffing, duck tape, and gel packs in their swim suits. Thirty minutes prior to the race, I started wondering what the water was like, so I decided to go in. I swam out about 50 meters and back, a total of probably less than a 100 meters and then proceeded back into the tent.

Next, they called all the men’s names and told them to enter the water, next the women, there was no collection of credentials. I watched the men enter the water and their start and then entered the water myself.

***Here is how the race played out for me during those 2 hours:
While lined up at the start I already knew this was going to be a tough race to finish, a swimmer’s gut feeling I guess you could call it.

About 500 meters in we rounded the first feeding dock, I had to check to see if my feeder, Jack Fabian, was on the first one, as the coaches never knew which station they were allowed on because one feeding dock could only hold 20 feeders out of a potential 80, he was. Nobody I saw fed 500 meters into the race, it just was not yet needed. About 1700 meters, almost one loop, into the race, I took a gel from my suit, 200 meters later I felt sick to my stomach and could taste the gel as it started to come back up. At my first feed, 2500 meters into the race, I drank all my feed, which included Gatorade and gel packs mixed in them, the cold drink helped for a bit, but as soon as I took another gel pack at about 3700 meters, I finally threw up. At that point I just kept telling myself that no matter how much I throw up or feel sick, I need to keep on intaking Gatorade and gels whenever possible. I fed again at the feeding station (4500m), this stayed down for a couple minutes, as was the case for the my third feed at 6500 meters. I took a gel at 7500m which did not stay down. My fourth feed, at 8500 meters, I could not swallow any of it.

Physical Situation:
The first inclination that something did not feel right was at the 6000 meter mark, I had a pretty bad headache and was hoping my next feed coming up would help subside my headache and nauseousness, it didn’t. At about the 7300 meter mark my vision started to get a bit hazy, I then began to swim with my eyes shut as much as I could, I started praying. Around that time, the pace of the swimmers began picking up, I followed hoping I could stick with them. When the last feed came by, I knew I was struggling. I took my bottle, tried to drink, it never happened. I threw it away and continued trying to stay behind the girl ahead of me to get her draft, next thing I knew I was several meters away from her and had to work harder to get back on her feet again, this happened several times. At this point, I remember trying to talk to myself, encouraging myself to stay awake and focus and push my body harder, something inside me then told me not to, I stopped and started to go easy.

After loosing the front pack I realized I had drifted about 15 meters off course when I saw some girl’s swim by, I don’t really remember swimming the next 700 meters until I turned on my back because I was scared of passing out or not finishing the race. I lifted my arms as far out of the water as I could at the time, which was definitely above my elbows, gave a few waves and then floated on my back for several minutes hoping someone would come and check on me, nobody ever did. I did see a boat 300 meters away, but apparently they were not “looking” for danger. I had no energy to go in search of help. After I calmed down and was no longer panicking and hyperventilating because it was hard to breath, I decided the only way I’m getting out of this race is to swim the last 500 meters. I started swimming, next thing I knew I had a German girl holding and hugging me at the finish and trying to then help me out of the water.

After the Race:
I could barely stand after getting out of the water and was helped to the ambulance where it was cooler. Some guy thought it was a good idea to throw ice cold water on me to cool me down, I almost went into shock, I’m glad I did not. After a while, I was kicked out of the ambulance so someone else could use it, I was still not ok. I ended up being taken to the tent and someone who was smarter put ice in a towel over my head and behind my neck to try and cool me down. I was told later at the hospital that I had started to act a bit delusional and I was really pale and was still overheating. I remember asking lots of questions about Fran’s whereabouts and why no one was looking for him. Thirty minutes after the race they decided to take me back to the ambulance and to the hospital. I rode with Eva Fabian, we never got any intravenous saline solution until after we arrived at the hospital.

The hospital story:
I’ve never been hospitalized in my life, so having an IV in my hand was a first. After the last saline solution ran out, blood started to flow into the tube out of my hand, which I later found out that if it forms an air bubble and goes back into my hand it can cause problems in the heart and lungs from the air bubble if large enough, I think it was called Air Embolism, I will need to look that one up. Anyway, once the blood started to come out of my hand, Eva and I were a bit freaked out and started asking for a nurse or doctor, nobody came, we started yelling for Help, nobody came, then a few minutes later, a doctor pops his head in and tells us basically to “shut up, this is a hospital” in a rude manner. Yet, at the same time some guy next to use had been chanting really loud in Arabic for the past 10 minutes? Really! A nurse later came in and resolved the situation of my blood coming out the wrong way into the IV tube, thankfully no problems occurred.

We were told about Fran’s death 30 minutes after he had arrived at the hospital. We were released from the hospital around 4-5pm. We returned to the hotel for 30 minutes, I packed and took a shower and then had to go to the police station to give my report.

The police station:
I had several issues I did not agree on when at the police station. I do know and understand that there is a difference in culture, but some things still need to be done better. One of the first questions I was asked was what religion I am, me having a translator who was not very fluent and was actually one of the race organizers, I responded, “I’m a Christian, what does that have to do with this?” They told me that they file my report under what religion I am. I’m thinking, well, what would happen if I was Jewish? What would happen to my report, would it hold any substance?

After they printed my responses they had typed up, I asked someone to read it back to to me because it was in Arabic. Small detail, they got the date wrong, second, they very briefly summarized what I actually said. I was angry, I made them rewrite it, it was much longer afterwards. (LET ME KNOW IF YOU WANT AN EXAMPLE). It was like they did not take a death seriously, they did not care for the why or how. It just did, or as Eva told me, as the police told her, that Fran died because it was fate. Which I do now know is part of their belief system.

I was then shuttled straight to Dubai, boarded my plane and left for the United States. I arrived back home Sunday morning in Colorado.

Thank you, Let me know if I can clarify any of this as this is what I scribbled down as soon as I got back to the USA and just quickly typed up in word. When I get a chance to clean this up, as some words might be jumbled and not make sense, I can email you a new version.

My Regards,
Christine Jennings

On Fri, Nov 5, 2010 at 7:18 AM, Richard Shoulberg wrote:


I had the pleasure of meeting you and I know exactly who you are. Fran spoke very highly of you and my new mission in life is to make this wonderful sport safe and I have communicated with everyone and anyone who I thought could help the sport of open water. I wrote to the president and secretary of FINA, but did not get a reply-no surprise to me. When you have a chance, I would appreciate you giving me your thoughts on that horrible day. I saw your interview on TV and saw quotes in our local newspaper about the tragic event. I want you to keep your dreams high for Fran and yourself. I will be on the sidelines next June at our national championships and I guarantee I will give you a big good luck hug.

Richard W Shoulberg
Head Coach – Swimming/Aquatic Director
Germantown Academy
340 Morris Road
Fort Washington, PA 19034

Email #4

From: Alex Meyer Sent: Tuesday, November 02, 2010 6:16 PM
To: Richard Shoulberg
Subject: Re:

Hey Shoulberg,

Thanks for your email. I was hoping I would get to talk to you a little more this past weekend, but it just went by so fast and there were so many people to see. Will you be at Golden Goggles?

I, too, want to make something good out of this tragedy. I’m here for anyone who needs to know what happened that day, and I am committed to making necessary changes happen. I’ve attached a letter that I wrote that details all of the problems with the UAE race.

My number is XXX-XXX-XXXX. Call me if you ever need anything.


On Tue, Nov 2, 2010 at 9:15 AM, Richard Shoulberg wrote:


So sorry for the loss of Fran and so sorry for what you went through to help your friend. I am trying to get together as much information as I can about the tragic death of Fran. Any information you can give will be great. I sent an email on Tuesday, October 26, to Chuck Wiegus, Dale Neuburger that I told Fran at 2:16 a.m. that I had a new purpose in life and a new mission. I will do everything possible that this will never happen again to any family, club or country and FINA once they put the gold medal out, they do kids would work extremely hard and in my opinion FINA and the host organizers failed all the athletes. Keep in touch. Chase your dream and never, never give up.

Richard W Shoulberg
Head Coach – Swimming/Aquatic Director
Germantown Academy
340 Morris Road
Fort Washington, PA 19034

October 25, 2010

To whom it may concern,

This report is prepared by myself, Alex Meyer, based on my perspective of the events surrounding the tragic death of my friend and teammate Fran Crippen, and the experiences of others that were related to me in person.

Almost every FINA World Cup I have attended has had glaring organizational errors in terms of athlete accommodation, transportation, and venue location and safety. Listed are the major problems with the organization with the last race in Fujairah that I believe contributed to Fran’s death.

There was no check-in or check-out for the swimmers before and after the race, therefore no way to be accountable for their whereabouts. At most World Cup races, the athletes’ credentials are taken as they enter the water, and returned to them after they finish, allowing officials on land to know exactly who is still in the water.

The officials did not appear to have radios, or at least several of them that I spoke to. It’s possible that the officials on the two boats had them, but I cannot know for sure. I began to get worried and started asking questions to the race officials about ten minutes after the first men finished. They could not answer the simple questions of whether or not Francis Crippen #39 was disqualified or if he had gotten out of the water voluntarily. I asked if they could radio the referee since they could not answer these important questions, but then said they had no radios. They also didn’t know where the referee was. After this I had no choice but to begin a search on my own and I got on a jet ski to look for Fran on the course. I went around twice on a jet ski and then came in and got Jack Fabian to help me, who had been caring for Christine Jennings and his daughter Eva who were very sick after the race.

There were 55 males and 27 females entered to swim the races, and there appeared to be no lifeguards. It was unclear what was said about lifeguards at the technical meeting since the FINA medical delegate spoke little English and went through the whole presentation in about five minutes, saying little, even attempting to end the meeting before several people had the opportunity to have their questions answered. The questions they did answer had very vague answers, almost all of them saying that they will “try” to do something.

If Fran had attempted to get help, it was a futile effort because as Christine Jennings said to me in an email, “I lifted both arms out of the water for about 10 sec or so then laid on my back for several minutes hyper-ventilating bc I was too tired to keep waving for someone. I just was hoping someone would see me and come and ask if I was ok because I was afraid I couldn’t finish and wanted to either be pulled or have at least someone next to me as I tried to finish…I was extremely scared!”

At the technical meeting, the FINA medical delegate said that a water quality check had not been done since they changed the location of the race, but that he was sure it was OK. Though the water was relatively clear, it was 33°C, which is not OK. There needs to be a rule for maximum temperature just like we already have one for minimum temperature. Four athletes ended up in the hospital, one of them dead.

  • The race was swum from 10am to noon, the hottest part of the day when the sun is directly overhead.
  • There were no medical boats, only two official boats (one for each race), and the medical delegate on a jet ski.
  • After the race, Eva and Christine were being treated for heat exhaustion in the ambulance and had to share an oxygen mask.
  • There were only two ambulances. They did not have air conditioning, drinking water, or IVs.
  • There were no certified EMTs.
  • Jack and I and several athletes who had finished the race were the only ones looking for Fran before any officials came to help.
  • There was no surf rescue until about two hours after the men’s race finished. Police and rescue divers showed up. There should be scuba divers under water during the race.

While the organizers with the local committee were compassionate and accommodating, the FINA delegates and the local press were anything but that. They tried to wipe their hands clean and absolve themselves of all responsibility, with no sympathy for Fran, his teammates, or the other athletes. The technical delegate was the most rude and disrespectful. Multiple conflicting reports were released prematurely, with lots of misinformation. In an effort to make it appear as though Fran was rescued in a timely fashion, one report said that he was found floating, another that he was on the rocks, and that he died later in the hospital. He was obviously dead when they brought him to shore because the rescue boat approached the harbor very slowly, and they were not performing CPR. They covered him head to toe with a white sheet on a stretcher and put him in the ambulance. I was hysterical and pulled the sheet down off of Fran’s face and his lips and nose were very white. He still had his goggles on too. Also, he was bleeding from his ear, and later the doctors confirmed that his eardrum had ruptured from the pressure while sinking. Obviously the reports of him being found floating or on land and found alive were fabricated because he was clearly deep underwater, and it was obvious that he was dead upon arrival to the harbor. Hopefully an autopsy in the United States or by a trusted doctor in the UAE can provide a reliable conclusion.

Jack Fabian returned to the venue to claim his feeding sticks which were being held there for him. He had to go there because the organizers refused to bring them to the hotel. When he arrived, there was a press conference waiting for him, and reporters were asking if it was true that he killed his swimmer because he pushed him too hard. One report claimed this, and that Fran looked tired at the last feeding station where Jack last saw him, and that he made him continue swimming. Jack did the right thing and spoke to nobody and left immediately.

The FINA technical delegate asked Jack why he thought this happened, and Jack replied that there was a lack of safety precaution etc. The delegate immediately put his hand in Jack’s face and said that he had heard enough. This man is notorious among the veteran athletes for being incompetent and not caring about the well-being of the athletes at the competition.

There were other problems with the organization of this race, though I don’t think they had anything to do Fran’s death.

There were No Timing Chips

The local committee hosted all the athletes in Dubai, a three-hour drive away, until the afternoon before the race. It’s unacceptable to make athletes do this the day before a race, especially the last and most competitive one of the World Cup circuit.

Before the Grand Prix race, the only option for pool training was to drive three hours back to Dubai to train, and back to Fujairah again.

This careless lack of consideration for the safety and well-being of the athletes is absolutely inexcusable. Negligence on behalf of FINA and the UAE organizing committee killed my friend and teammate. The race was put together last-minute with the least amount of money possible. It showed, and four athletes suffered from it, one of them fatally. Fran Crippen was a remarkable athlete and an even more remarkable person. He always had opinions about the way events were run and always had new and bright ideas to make them better. I think we should honor his memory by fighting for change in the way athletes are treated and races are organized, especially in terms of safety. We are humans, and deserve to be treated as such. We swim because we love to do it, not for the money. The night after Fran died, many of the athletes sat at dinner and despite how competitive we are with each other, we all love each other and feel like we are part of one big family. Everyone loved Fran, and he had close friends from all around the world who I believe will fight for this cause too. It will take a group effort, with multiple swimming federations working together to get these changes to happen, but I know it can be done, and I am committed to making it happen.

Ideas for the Future:

There needs to be a rule about the maximum temperature in which a race can be held. This should be a combination of water temperature, air temperature, and water conditions. It should also be dependent on the distance of the race.

Mandatory lifeguard-to-swimmer ratio, competent lifeguards, and efficient coverage of the course. One idea a coach from New Zealand proposed was to offer free accommodation to competitive surf and rescue lifeguards from Australia and New Zealand to come guard at the competition. Many of them would leap at the opportunity.

Some kind of GPS-like tracking system for athletes, with information on velocity and depth underwater. It’s 2010 – this technology is available.

Alex Meyer

Email #5

From: Richard Shoulberg Sent: Sunday, November 07, 2010 2:32 PM
To: Dale Neuburger
Subject: Questions

Dear Dale,

Here are some of the questions I’d like for you to consider before we speak on the telephone:

  1. How is a Grand Prix or Open-Water World Championship awarded to a host country?
  2. What are the credentials or qualifications of the people who vote for the open-water sites?
  3. Who provides the voters with the information needed to select a site?
  4. What are the published rules for site selection?
  5. What are the written rules of the competition and who is charge of enforcing the rules?
  6. FINA has a low temperature rule. Why is there no high temperature rule?
  7. Who pays the organization or company that represent the different countries vying for site selection?
  8. What knowledge do those organizations have in regards to the rules that effect the safety of competitors?

Going forward, a safer open-water calendar must be adhered to by FINA. Also, a standard for proper housing, food/hydration, and preparation time must be established for all competitions. Will ShanghaI 2011 be reconsidered because the conditions will be dissimilar to London? It would make sense to select athletes for London 2012 who have been proven fit for the conditions they will be expected to endure.

I’m looking forward to our phone conversation or you may feel free to email a response to my questions.

Richard W. Shoulberg, Head Coach
Germantown Academy and Germantown Academy Aquatic Club

Email #6

From: Richard Shoulberg Sent: Thursday, November 18, 2010 11:01 AM
To: Julio Maglione; HKASA; Steven Munatones
Subject: Concerns


I would think that the Technical Open Water Swimming Committee is working feverishly to make sure the death of Fran Crippen never happens again and I know that the season starts January, 2011.

In my opinion FINA must add a high water temperature. They currently have a minimum low water temperature and in my opinion they must add a maximum high water temperature and it has to be different for fresh water versus salt water.

I would like to see a list of all the safety requirements needed to run a FINA or Olympic or USA swimming open water venue and who will enforce the safety requirements?

I think the FINA Open Water Technical Committee must select safe sites for all competitions and list any site that is not safe before people vote on the site selection.

My impression is the people who voted on having the open water competition in Dubai (and I was told there were 20 votes and Dubai received 14 votes) and I would like to see the expertise that these 20 people had in picking a FINA open water site and what company represented Dubai for the bid.

There must be an open water calendar set by FINA and approved by the Open Water Technical Committee experts in dates and location of competitions and the period of time between the dates of competition and that the host country provide ample time for all competitors to acclimatize to where the venue will be held.

Working backwards for 2016, Brazil Olympics, the FINA technical open water experts should pick venues that mirror more like Brazil, starting with the year 2013.

I would gladly discuss with any of you any time, on how to make this beautiful sport safe and secure for all athletes from all nations. Fran was a member of our club since he was a little boy. His sister was a 2000 Olympian. His other sister made the World Championship team that will compete in China this summer and his third sister is a ten-time All American at the University of Virginia and is a present captain. The loss of Fran leaves a huge hole in the hearts of everyone at Germantown Academy, US Swimming and world swimming. I challenge you to make it safe.

Richard W Shoulberg
Head Coach – Swimming/Aquatic Director
Germantown Academy
340 Morris Road
Fort Washington, PA 19034

Email #7

From: Covino Francesca On Behalf Of Presidenza FIN Paolo Barelli
Sent: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 10:15 AM
To: Richard Shoulberg
Cc: Julio Maglione; Pipat Paniangvait; Margot Mountjoy; Flavio Bomio; Dale Neuburger
Subject: Answer Richard W Shoulberg letter of November 7, 2010

Dear Sir,

This is to reply to your e-mail dated 7th November 2010. For your information I have received no previous correspondence from you.

On behalf of myself and of the whole Italian Aquatic Family, let me first reiterate my deepest sadness for the death of Fran Crippen and confirm my most heartfelt condolences to his Family, to USA Aquatic Sports and USA Swimming. The tragic loss of Fran Crippen – such a great athlete and such a bright and incredible person – has been mourned also in Italy, where he gained the love and the sympathy of all the persons who witnessed his achievements when he won the bronze medal at the 13th World Championships in Rome 2009.

In my role of President of the Italian Swimming Federation I strongly wish that FINA and the responsible authorities will support every action aimed to clarify each aspect of this tragedy. It has to be done for Fran, and for all swimmers performing this wonderful sport. I say this as an Olympic athlete, as FINA Honorary Secretary (since July 2009) and as President of the Italian Swimming Federation. I obviously profoundly care for safety at all competitions, and for all FINA athletes, including, among them, thousands of Italian swimmers who practise open water swimming.

Coming to your letter, both its contents – a sequel of statements concerning my person and my reputation, which are both false and offensive – and its tone oblige me to give you a very clear and open answer.

Firstly, I do not need to make any comment to counter your affirmations about the FINA World Open Water Championships held in Roberval, Canada, on July 2010: in fact, the report that the FINA Executive received from the FINA TOWS Committee Honorary Secretary, herewith attached, already clarified various inexactnesses and inaccuracies which you manifested in your letter (and that were previously manifested – by coincidence! – also both at a Swimming Coaches Clinic, in the USA, and on a swim blog).

The FINA TOWS Committee Honorary Secretary’s report points out very clearly how competitions in Roberval were held according to the FINA Rules, included those related to swimming suits. I need to underline that your association of my name as FINA Honorary Secretary to the speculation that the Italian swimmers – my compatriots – had competed wearing swimming suits not approved by FINA is totally unfounded, and extremely serious. The following statement of yours (.”…Mr. Barelli, Honorary Secretary of FINA, is a major stock holder in that same company, the company that produced the suits”) is not only abusive and offensive but also reckless and false, just rubbish.

Your foolhardiness in asserting such falsehoods is aggravated by the fact that I do not know you personally and I have never talked to you. Indeed, you were temerarious in associating my person to both conjectural incorrectness in Roberval and my involvement in a swimming suit company. Actually I am not involved in any of such companies, or business, and therefore you must take responsibility, and you will be held accountable, for your calumnies. It would be interesting to know which your sources were.

You wrote also: “…privately and publicly in our meetings I have told Dale Neuburger and our IRC committee that FINA stands for two words: greed and corruption.” Of course you will take responsibility, and you will be held accountable, also for labeling FINA with these two words – greed and corruption. Could it be assumed that you are applying these two words, and all what they imply – also to Dale Neuburger, FINA Vice-President and FINA Bureau Member since 2000?

Before I conclude, I wish to say that I am glad to have many friends in United States, and that I love this wonderful country. I studied and swam in the USA, under the great coach “Doc” Counsilman, at the Indiana University, and I have relatives who are USA citizens.

Unfortunately, stupid and unreliable persons live everywhere in the world, including the USA. However, honest persons have to try and curb the damages that few stupid persons do: such appear to be the case of all those who are using a tragedy to instrumentally pursue other purposes. Eventually that will be uncovered.

I have written this letter for transparency and clearness and I will be looking forward to reading your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Paolo Barelli
FINA Honorary Secretary
President of the Italian Swimming Federation (FIN)

Email #8

—Original Message—
From: Chuck Wielgus
Sent: Thursday, October 14, 2010 6:36 PM
To: Fran Crippen
Cc: Richard Shoulberg;Jim Wood;Lindsay Mintenko;Jack Roach;Mike Unger
Subject: FW: Open Water Swimming


Thanks for your note and attached letter. I’m going to share this with Jim Wood, Mike Unger, Lindsay Mintenko and Jack Roach to get their feedback so that I can give you a more thoughtful response. This may take a few days so please be patient.



—Original Message—
From: Fran Crippen
Sent: Thursday, October 14, 2010 4:26 PM
To: Chuck Wielgus
Cc: Richard Shoulberg;Jim Wood
Subject: Open Water Swimming


Ive attached a letter concerning some of the issues surrounding the current state of Open Water swimming. I hope we can work together to solve some of these problems.

thank you and I hope youre having a great day,


Chuck Wielgus
CEO, USA Swimming
One Olympic Plaza
Colorado Springs, CO

Dear Chuck,

I’m writing you today with the hope that we can work together and constructively discuss some of the changes that are taking place within USA swimming. Since its Olympic insurgence in 2008 Open Water swimming has been gaining popularity and affording athletes a new event to compete and excel. This event, however, presents the athletes and USA swimming with a completely different set of challenges than in your average swim meet.

As the average age of the national team has increased so has the age of the athletes involved in Open Water swimming. The difference though is that a post grad pool swimmer who wants to stay involved in the sport can undoubtedly find a swim meet within driving distance of their home. Open Water swimmers, however, have no choice but to travel a great distance to gain exposure and experience in competitive events.

Once at the events, our swimmers are typically on their own to find assistance. An open water swimmer needs a coach to represent them at the pre race meetings, coach them during practice, and most importantly, feed them during the event. I think the last point is the most critical. When an athlete doesn’t have a coach they often have to garner the assistance of local volunteers. In this day and age, it is extremely risky to trust a volunteer in a foreign country with the Gatorade and Gel packs that we are going to consume during the race.

To give you a clearer picture of the effects of some of these issues, I would like to use myself as an example. Open Water swimming has brought my dream of winning an Olympic Gold Medal closer to a reality. Since graduating from college I have been committed to traveling to the World Cup events and competing against the best marathon swimmers in the world. These events, however, are all over the world and have created monetary hurdles. This year I have competed in seven of the eight world cup races and my airfare has totaled 4,452.81. FINA agrees to pay 5 nights in a hotel so at some of the races I have had to pay my way for a few nights. Over the year my hotel costs have totaled 595.15. USA swimming agrees to pay 400 dollars per world cup race so I have spent about 2500 dollars of my own money in order to compete.

At the seven world cup races we have only had a USA swimming delegate at three. Eva Fabian’s father, Jack, paid his own way to two of the races and was kind enough to help four other American swimmers with coaching and feeding. Coach Bill Rose also traveled, at his own expense, to Mexico and helped take care of seven athletes. We have had at least five athletes at six of the seven races and I believe that not having proper representation is a very poor reflection upon USA swimming.

Throughout the season I have had numerous conversations with National Youth coordinator Jack Roach and Open Water National Team director Paul Asmuth about the direction of Open Water swimming. We discussed on multiple occasions the National Team director’s intention of reimbursing my travel expenses and sending someone to help and protect the athletes at the races. I was very enthused about Mark Shubert’s plans and believed that this was a great step for Open Water Swimming. As the year has progressed these conversations have not translated into action.

I know in the past month there have been many issues surrounding USA swimming but I feel it is critical to try and find a solution to some of these problems. There are many swimmers who are feeling the same way and Id like to act as their voice on these matters.

Feel free to call or email me at anytime. My number is (XXX) XXX-XXXX and my email address is

I know your time is valuable and I really appreciate it,

Fran Crippen

Update 20

Sunday – October 31 – 11:00 a.m. EST

There are no words that can adequately describe the roller coaster of emotions that the swimming family has traveled this past week. Nor are there enough words to adequately translate for those not in Conshohocken these past few days what took place here. People from around the country, and indeed even a few from other countries, made their way to this special place to gather, to place arms around one another’s shoulders and to embrace the Crippen family in a circle of love and affection. There was much crying, some laughing, much reminiscing and overwhelming moments of solemn private reflections as we listened to those who spoke and shared such deep and heartfelt memories, thoughts and sentiments with us.

Virginia Swim Coach Mark Bernardino opened the ceremonies with rich and warm stories of what Fran meant to his family and to the swim team at the University of Virginia, where Fran was the team captain and leader. He took us on a short journey with words that conveyed images of Fran’s many qualities and characteristics, and he painted pictures that made us smile and made us cry. Fran’s Germantown Academy brothers were represented in Geoff Meyer’s first reading of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and others who spoke after were equally composed, but perhaps none more so that Fran’s girlfriend, Caitlin Regan who spoke in a manner that conveyed the deepest of love and respect not just for Fran but for the entire Crippen family. Whatever Caitlin’s future might become, it will be impossible for anyone who heard her speak in such a strong and composed way not to think that perhaps there will in some way always be four Crippen sisters.

At the end of the service, Fran was carried from the church by his GA and UVA brothers and the long procession to the Calvary Cemetery ensued for the burial. As the church emptied, so too did the adjoining hall where those who could not get into the church were able to watch via video. People had come to the church 2-3 hours early and still had to wait in a line that stretched around the block.

Following the burial, a reception was held at Germantown Academy. There, many of us lingered in the hallowed space that is the swimming pool at GA and the place where Dick Shoulberg has shaped both swimmers and souls for decades. When you step in, you don’t want to leave and you know you are in a cocoon of passion, of heart, of commitment, of success and accomplishment. It is a sanctuary where the greatest of teaching takes place, and where young men and young women grow and emerge and blossom into adults ready to make a difference in the world.

Back in the GA field house, where the reception was going on, the UVA brothers circled up, locked arms and began their college cheers. Not to be outdone, the GA brothers responded in kind and amidst the exuberance of their youth the attending adults could be seen with both wide smiles and teary eyes. And then another special moment, Eva Fabian, the young 17-year old swimmer who also competed at the race in the UAE with Fran stepped before a microphone and played a rendition of the national anthem on her violin that stirred every heart and punctuated the day.

As things drew to a close and people began to drift away, it was hard not to begin turning one’s thoughts to what happens next. How will family and friends respond to this tragedy? How will life go on for those most deeply affected by the loss? What will be done to help the young athletes and others who will struggle with their ongoing grief? What will organizations and others do to ensure that a tragedy like this never happens again? Many, many questions.

Many things have been quietly in the works below the surface this past week. Counselors and others with experience have been made available to the family, to friends and to athletes who were Fran’s teammates. FINA has already announced plans to conduct an investigation, and so too has USA Swimming. Investigators of the highest caliber with international experience and specific experience in the UAE are already engaged and at work in the fact-finding that must be done. USA Swimming’s is forming its review commission that will receive the investigator’s report and consider many other things in an effort to provide the Crippen family with information on what happened before, during and after the competition;and to come forward with recommendations necessary to improve safety at future open water events so that nothing like this ever happens again.

Many people are reaching out and want to share information, offer suggestions and offer their own time and expertise to the work that needs to be done. USA Swimming will establish a means by which everyone who has information and recommendations to share will be able to do so. However, it is important for people to understand that these efforts will take time. Investigators have an enormous task in front of them, with many people from different parts of the world to talk to. The process of fact-finding will take several months and people should not expect progress reports along the way while this work is ongoing. I would urge those people with information and recommendations they have to share to take the time now to write things down while things are still fresh and to have this ready to share with the commission once it is established and a conduit has been set up to receive information.

USA Swimming President Bruce Stratton and I will continue to share information as we can. Bruce and I remain in constant contact and we have a “kitchen cabinet” of wise and experienced people helping us. We will do the best we can to respond to any questions and queries that come our way, but we also trust that people will understand that there will be some things that – at least for a time anyway – may have to be quietly withheld. However, please know that the efforts going forward are very in-depth and that we’ll seek to be as transparent as we can be along the way.

With the deepest of sorrow, and the strongest of intent to ensure that no other family has to carry the weight of a similar tragedy.

Chuck Wielgus
USA Swimming

Dedicated to the Memory of Fran Crippen with Peace and Serenity for the Crippen Family.


For Swim Parents – “The Big Deal About SwimSuits.”

By John Leonard, Executive Director, American Swimming Coaches Association.

Over the past 18 months, the swimming world has been a frenzy of controversy over the emergence of technology in swimsuits. At the recent World Championships in Rome, the constant and overwhelming refrain about suits, echoed the volume and intensity of the last time we were in Rome for a World Championships,when the topic was doping….drugs distorting our sport…in 1994. Fifteen years later, the emotional topic was the new high tech suits that have swept through the sport from the World Championship level down to the local park district championships in the summer league. The parallels were impossible to miss.

FINA, in an unprecedented move at its Congress in Rome, banned the use of all “non-textile” materials from suits beginning in 2010, and limited the coverage of the body to “knees to navel for men” and “knees to shoulder straps” for women. 168 nations voted in favor of the restrictions, against a mere 6 in opposition. (who apparently did not understand the word “textile”) This in the face of strong opposition to the move by the sitting President and Executive Director of the FINA organization. Amazing and never seen before. The USA delegation initiated the restrictions and led the opposition. Why such a strong reaction in opposition to the existing plastic and rubber suits?

A parent new to the sport, from a middle class background, might well say “hey, why not? Technology marches on! Equipment gets better. Why not let my son/daughter wear one of the fancy new suits and swim faster?”

Its a valid question that requires a thoughtful answer. Here it is.

The answer revolves around two words, with of course, a considerable amount of “side data” that adds to the intensity of the discussion and the strength of the resolution to end the problem worldwide.

Those two words are “Maximizing” and “Enhancing.”

Quality lane lines “maximize” the opportunity of the athlete to swim fast, with minimum turbulence in the lane. (you should have seen the waves in the pool back in the 60’s and 70’s.)

Good Goggles allow the athlete to see the turns, see their competitors, and comfortably compete.(to say nothing of allow them to train hard for hours….impossible in the chlorine pool without goggles…in the old days, yardage and performance was a fraction of what it is today.) Goggles Maximize the opportunity of the athlete to work hard.

Evolution in coaching techniques in training and biomechanics allow the athletes to Maximize their ability to benefit from their time in the sport.

Swimsuits, up until approximately the year 2000, and certainly until early 2008, were designed to maximize the opportunity of the athletes to go fast….the manufacturers designed suits to “get out of the way of the water.” Less suit, less friction with the water, less drag, tighter fit, and better materials MAXIMIZED the ability of the athlete to perform to their highest earned level.

Beginning in 2008, manufacturers took advantage (and must be applauded for doing so, within the existing rules, which were close to non-existent) of the idea of designing suits to ENHANCE the ability of the athlete to swim faster. A line had been crossed. Designed suits incorporated plastics, rubberized material and new design criteria, to enhance the ability of the athlete to be buoyant in the suits (riding higher makes you faster), wrapped more tightly (compressing the “jiggly parts” makes you MUCH faster) and shed water from the plastics and rubber materials much more effectively, thereby reducing the drag of the suits remarkably.

Since February 2008, 158 world records have been set by elite athletes. Their ability to perform has moved from being “maximized” by their swimsuits, to being “enhanced” by their swimsuits. This rate of improvement is absolutely farsical in the historical context of over 100 years of our sport. At the world championships, new world records were receiving polite applause akin to the “golf clap” for a good shot, rather than the historical roars of appreciation that a swimming crowd used to provide when a human barrier went down, as it infrequently did, by great athletes at the peak of their power.

How does this translate down to the local pool?

Pretty simple. The manufacturers don’t make any money by selling suits to the elite athlete. They give the suits away to them. They count on age group swimmers watching the “big guys” and wanting the same suits and equipment.

And lo and behold, the same miraculous benefits accrue to 12 year old Sam and Samantha when they put on the “magic suits” in their local championships. The time drops are miraculous, the smiles are, literally, “priceless” and child, mom and dad are all happy.

Wait a second. That suit just ripped. wow. How did that happen? How much did it cost? Wow! You paid $500 for a suit that Sam just put his foot through, rendering it a $500 broken garbage bag? Uh-oh., well, honey, get him another one….we can’t have Joe Jones’s son Pete beat him in the 200 free tomorrow. Teeth Grit. This is a kids sport? We now have $1000 in suits so far.

And of course, all those magic benefits only last 7-15 swims, so good for maybe 2-3 meets, unless its a championship and your child swims 6 events and makes finals in all events…in which case its $500 a meet.

Lets see, $500 a meet, we go to 2 meets a month, 10 months of the year….Honey, its gonna cost us $10,000 Just for Samantha’s suits this year!

Well, the solution is simple….just wear the suits for the championship meet and wear your regular suit the rest of the time. OK. Good.

But, Samantha’s 58.5 100 free with the magic suit on, just became a 1:02 100 free with the old suit on. Smiles gone. Gone. From Samantha, from Mom. From Dad. Oh well.

And of course, there are some other objections as well.

First, the magic suit deal is like paying for your child to have instant improvement. Is that what you want your child to learn from the sport? Or do you want them to learn to persevere, EARN improvement with hard work, attention to detail, paying attention to the coach and, shall we say it again…”Working Hard.” Or do you want them to learn that you can always “pay your way” with cash to what you want?

“Earn it, or buy it.” Which do you want to teach? Answer carefully, parents.

Second, the suit does not affect everyone the same. The thin, fit swimmer will benefit marginally by it. The overweight swimmer will swim like a young seal in it. Spending the same $500 on two children will yield radically different results. Not a fair competition at all. Is that what anyone wants?

Third, and its seems unnecessary to say this…but if you just buy 3 suits a year, that’s $1500 or MORE. (Today, purchasing one of the great European suits online from the USA will cost you $900…with no guarantee of fit, durability or return-ability, and about 30% of them RIP on the first attempt to put them on…no refund, folks.) Do we really want age group and high school swimmers to have to spend that kind of money to BUY success rather than work for it? It doesn’t make our sport a middle class sport, it makes it a sport for wealthy families.

Are you pooh-poohing that? Wait till your son or daughter gets beat the first time by someone whose mommie or daddie could afford a more expensive piece of plastic and rubber than you can. The bitter taste in your mouth is not fun. Not much in the way of “sport” there.

So, in answer to the local official who asked “Why are “they” (FINA officials) wasting time with worrying about THAT? Don’t they have better things to do?”

The answer is no, the suit debacle is the most important thing that any of us can attend to. It preserves the heart and soul of our sport….which is reverence and appreciation for the hard work, attention to detail, courage and teamwork required to be a fine competitive swimmer and to learn to succeed with those life-skills. Instead of with your Daddy’s wallet.

The Congress (not the Ruling Bureau) of FINA took the rules into their own hands after the Bureau had time and again failed to establish the rules necessary to keep our sport vital, credible and important. Bravo for them.

All the Best, John Leonard