Coaching Open Water Swimmers Haley Anderson and Ous Mellouli by Catherine Vogt, Trojan Swim Club / University of Southern California (2013)


Published


[introduction, by Jimmy Tierney]

Welcome everybody.  Those that are standing, if you want to kind of move on up and take a seat.  My name is Jimmy Tierney; I am one of the ASCA board members.  I am very, very pleased to be here to present our next speaker.  I think one of the things that I know impresses me, and I am sure it does the same with you, is when you see coaches that have coached at different levels—from club, age group, college maybe even different parts of the country—and everywhere they go there seems to be success, whether it follows them or they bring it with them to the new place.  Such is our guest here today that has always had great success wherever she has been.  Obviously she is most well-known for some of the long-distance-type stuff in Open Water, but as you will figure out/see here, some of these athletes have also been fantastic pool swimmers, NCAA champions and record holders as well.  She has been one of our greatest leaders in Open Water for the last number of years, been the head coach for World Championships teams, coached Olympians.  This past year, of course, as many of you know, she had a gold medalist up there in Haley Anderson.  She has just done a wonderful job.  And again, fortunately for us, USA Swimming, in Open Water, she has been lending her time and energies into making us all better.  So very happy to present to you guys Catherine Vogt.

 

[Vogt begins]

Hi, everyone, welcome.  You know, Jimmy is right, I did not really think about it: about ten years ago I was coaching a club team in Mississippi, right across the state line here in Meridian, Mississippi.  And so anyway it is great to be back in the South; I do not miss the humidity one bit now that I am in California.  But anyway, I am here today to talk about Open Water.  Bryce Elser from USA Swimming asked me to talk Open Water; and so I thought, well that is great: I can talk about Open Water for hours.  But my topic today is Haley Anderson and Ous Mellouli and their path to London.

 

So I am really thankful to be here.  I have a lot of people to thank.  I for sure would not be here if it were not for coaches along the way.  My background actually in Open Water… somebody asked me today, they said, Did you ever do any Open Water?  And I am like, “No, couple of triathlons here and there.”  But no.  In 2005 I was actually coaching a club team in eastern North Carolina, the Carteret Currents; and I got to work with a great athlete in Chip Peterson.

 

That summer of 2005, Montréal for the World Championships; it was about the same time where people were thinking like you cannot do pool and open water.  So a lot of coaches maybe were not sending their kids to go do a World Championships event because they were afraid it was going to affect their performance in the pool.  And so he qualified for Worlds; and it was my first staff and I was so excited and nervous.  I was really fortunate to be part of a great staff; I learned a lot from Rick Walker and Denny Ryther, Sid Cassidy and Paul Asmuth.  And I just asked a lot of questions, and I observed a lot.  And at that World Championships, Chip was actually the silver medalist in the 5K and then he was the world champion in the 10K.  And two weeks later, we went back to Irvine for Nationals and he won the mile in the pool.  So that was kind of fun for us.  And it definitely… I was so passionate about Open Water coming back from that.  And really, that is kind of where I got my start.

 

And from there, I was lucky to be able to work at my alma mater in Chapel Hill [the University of North Carolina].  And Coach Frank Comfort hired me; and Rich DeSelm, I got to work with him.  And right now I am an assistant at the University of Southern California [USC]; and I work with Dave Salo, and most recently our volunteer assistant, Jon Urbachek.  So it is really fun to have Jon on deck with us.  And thanks to Dave and Trojan Swim Club, I have been fortunate to get to know some of Trojan Swim Club and work with some really great athletes.  So I feel lucky about that.

 

Today I will tell you a little bit, I do not have all the answers.  I do not know… I am going to share some stories and show you some pictures about kind of… from 2005 and through 2013.  But really focus on 2012 as far as Ous and Haley and their development, their backgrounds primarily being in the pool; and then kind of transitioning into being able to be pretty-good Open Water swimmers with not a lot of open water training.  And hopefully maybe you have an idea about Open Water, or you just at least generate conversation about it, and I think that is great for the sport and that is what we need.

 

One of the things I love about Open Water is that it is a really tight-knit community, and it is a family.  And when you are on a National Team, you have about 4-8 athletes; and so as a coach you really get to know the kids.  You get to know them as individuals, you get to know their skill set, what they enjoy.  And I think as my role as a National Team coach, when I am there, is to figure out how the athlete is going to process information.  And so, how can I best relate to them?  I know a lot of the talks here have been about relationships with kids, and I do feel like that is really important.  And especially in Open Water: you do spend a lot of time with your athletes.

 

And so, you know, people will get out of an Open Water race… and a 5K is about an hour, a 10K is about two hours and a 25K is like six hours, so there is a lot of time for coaches to do some talking.  But there is a lot of stories that kids leave those races with.  And even the finish, the last 10 meters, lots of different things can happen; and it can involve five different people and they all have a different story.  And so that is one of the things I do love about it.

 

I do not have like a chart for yardage or a guideline/cycles, anything like that.  Dave and I have really worked pretty well together, I feel, as far as making sure that we are on the same page.  I guess the main thing that I have learned is that… I have gotten to work with three world champion: Chip being a 16-year-old male, Haley was 21, and then Ous is 28.  And so I had to learn how to adapt to their needs and the style that they needed, because they are not all the same.  And I do not think that you can just throw these kids in there and tell them all to do one thing, one way.  Because like I said Open Water is really diverse, and it is a challenging sport.

 

Maybe you do not know who Haley Anderson is, so I wanted to highlight some of her accomplishments.  She won, most notably, or she was the 10K silver medalist [at the 2012 Olympics], and this summer she was a 5K world champion in Barcelona.  She has been really successful on the college stage.  And I put some of her times up there just so you can see: she did not come into college as a 4:34 500 freestyler—I think she was about 4:40—and her mile might have been 16:30.  And so she was able to progress over four years, win the NCAA championship in the mile, the 500 freestyle.  And I do not feel like we sacrificed anything in the pool to be able to be successful in open water.  The funny thing about Haley is she is the kind of a person… she is a middle child, so she definitely has middle-child syndrome.  Like she always feels like she has the raw end of the deal; like she is mad if I do not have her times.  She will say I want to mix-up my events at the next dual meets; and so Dave and I will put her in like 200 fly, 400 IM, and then the day of the meet she is like well why am I am not in the mile and in the 400 freestyle relay.  It is like: okay Haley.  It is good because I feel like that her characteristics are… it is good; I think it helps her in Open Water.

 

I do not think she came to USC necessarily for Open Water or anything; I think she just wanted to help us build the program.  And I highlight 2010, because that was her year of 4th.  And kind of her interest in Open Water, she was invited to a National Team Open Water select camp with USA Swimming.  It is a great camp; Rick Walker runs it.  And if you have a chance to go with your club kids or as a coach, you will learn a lot.  And I think it is just a great start to get into Open Water.  So she did the camp, and that was her first… it culminated in a 10K, and that was actually the trials for the [Open Water] World Championships that summer in Canada.  So she places 4th, and that qualified her for the 25K.  She was like Do I really want to go swim 25K?  But we talked a lot about it, and she wanted to have the opportunity to represent the U.S. at a World Championship and so she goes.  She goes 25K, just under six hours, gets 4th place.

 

Comes back; she had qualified for Pan Pacs in the pool.  Swam the 800 Freestyle; she was 4th place there.  I forgot to mention she was 4th at NCAAs in the mile that year in March.  And then she goes to do the 10K for Open Water at Pan Pacs, and that was in Long Beach.  And it was only her second 10K ever.  So she gets out of the water, and it is kind of crazy: you do not really know what place you finished, it is always a really-tight finish.  And so she comes out and she says, “What place did I get?”  I was like, It’s great: your second 10K and you got 4th.  And then she like bust into tears.  I was like oh-kay—like my worst moment in coaching ever, I absolutely said the wrong thing.  But I think that it drove her to want to be successful in 2011.

 

And then a lot of you guys knows Ous Mellouli; he is one of the most-decorated distant swimmers of all time.  Another USC graduate—like ten years ago.  He was the first to ever medal back-to-back… well actually the first-ever medalist in the pool and open water [at the Olympics].  So in London, he won the bronze medal in the mile, gold medal on the 10K.  He is somebody that is really versatile: he can train IM, backstroke, butterfly; anything you throw at him he is going to do it.  He has been based in L.A., but I think one thing that is kept him in this sport for a long time is the ability to go do a training camp with Coach Rose in Mission Viejo for three weeks, or go to Colorado Springs.  In 2012, he joined the Danish team for a little bit.

 

And because… I guess part of the reason I was able to go with him to London, we knew Dave was going to be the coach for the U.S. team, and so that kind of opened the door.  Ous had been talking about doing Open Water, so it kind of made sense for me to go with him.  So at that point, we kind of had to get a plan going for what he was going to do.

 

And one thing I think is really important when dealing with athletes, that either you are talking them to the next level or just an introduction to Open Water is to just know you are athlete.  And the more information that you have, I think the more you can help them be successful.  I really would highlight like building-upon the past.  For both Haley and Ous, they were relative newcomers to Open Water; so I had to make sure I did not throw a lot of things at them.  I tried to keep… kind of filter through what information they had.  And again like maybe their interest in Open Water is a little bit different.  Ous wants to win a gold medal.  And then because Haley had some opportunity, she wants to win a gold medal too.

 

Communication is huge, especially in Open Water.  So many things can happen, so many things can change, and I think trusting in the coach and trusting your athlete.  A lot of these races, kids are making a decision in the middle of the race, and they have to make a decision in a split second.  You are not giving them hand signals or telling them what to do; you have really got to coach them to understand to trust themselves to make the right decision.  And that can determine the finish of a race sometimes.

 

It is a balancing act.  In regards to Ous, who is balancing the pool thing.  He is 28, so he has injuries that he is dealing with.  And trying to make sure that we communicate with his trainers and what we can do and what we cannot do.  And for Haley, she had NCAAs in March, our U.S. trials were in April, the Portugal qualifying race was in June; so there is just a lot of different things going on.  She does not want to miss too much school, her social life, all those things.  So I felt like I needed to continue to remind myself that they are balancing a lot of other things and it is not just: they walk into the pool and, yes, I have them for two hours.  There are a lot of other things that can be going on.

 

And then my point about goals here is: it had to be their goals.  Just because I wanted them to do well, that does not mean anything; it has to come from them.  And since they both are pool swimmers, I try to break it down into a three-step process.  Working backwards, you know the ultimate goal is London.  But before that, they both had to qualify in Portugal.  And before that Haley, obviously, had to get through U.S. trials first, and Ous, I just felt like he needed to have a race before Portugal.  And I knew Cancun was a great stop on the World Cup circuit.  He had never done a 10K before and so: it is a tropical location, it is warm weather, he is from North Africa—just not throw him into London, cold water.  So that is kind of why we picked Cancun; and it worked-out because U.S. trials and Cancun were about exactly the same time.

 

So I have got a couple of pictures here.  This was… (it does not look as pretty here on screen as it does on my computer).  So this is a start of the Cancun race.  And, you know, when you go to an open water event, it is a little different than a pool; so it is not like just showing up and you have a timeline and you have an assigned heat and lane.  You are putting on wrist bands, you are getting numbers, all sorts of things; and I just wanted him to experience something… that he needed to know what it was like.  There is a timeline.

 

Basically everything I told him to do, he did not do in that first race.  He lead for 9 kilometers of the race, and everybody just passed him the last K.  And I was kind of waiting to see his reaction, because I am like if he really hates this, then this is not going to be fun.  But he had a huge smile when he got out and all the other guys were like telling him what he did wrong and what he did right and so all sorts of things like that.  So it was good; you know, I felt like he had finally decided that he was going to buy in to Open Water and really feel as passionate about as I was.

 

And then, so right from there, we went to Florida with Haley.  And Haley is a lot better when it is like really low-key; she does not… I cannot stress her with details or numbers or lots of little things.  So we kept it pretty relaxed.  Rented a convertible, so she thought that was kind of fun.  We knew what the race was going to be like: there were about six women that we thought were going to be a pretty-tight pack; and again, we talked about three different scenarios.  Ashley Twichell ended-up winning the race.  But that was a place where second was just as good as first; so it did not really matter.  It was like she was a second American, she got her spot to go to Portugal, and then we look forward from there.

 

I do not know if everybody knows how you actually get the selection criteria for London.  It is a little bit different; it is not like of a pool scenario.  So the 2011 World Championships, so it is a year prior, they picked the top-10 men and the top-10 women.  And the only way you can get two people qualified for the Olympics from your federation is if you do it here at the World Championships; and the only people that did that, I think, or the other federations, were Germany and Russia on the men’s side.  Alex Meyer finished 4th, so he already qualified for the Olympics at Worlds; and we did not have any women in the top-10, so that was why we did send some people to Portugal [Portugal was the secondary Olympic qualifier].

 

And the host country always gets one… so you are working backwards from a field of 25, so it is a relatively small group that comprise the Olympic qualifying swim.  And that is just another thing too, is with Cancun and Portugal there were going to be 60 people in the race, and then you go to London and there is only 25.  So I felt like that played pretty-well into Ous hands.

 

So this is just kind of comparing their strategies and what we did going into Portugal.  So Ous only had to be 9th; he just had to be top-9, that was it.  So I felt pretty confident that he had learned enough from Cancun that he would be able to successful here.

 

With Haley it was a little different, because Team USA is in a real-hard situation when you are there.  You have two Americans, and they are vying for one spot.  They travel together, they do everything together: eat meals, train together, and then the second the gun goes off, there is one spot.  So Haley loves The Hunger Games; so we kind of broke it down into that strategy of like: Look, I do not want you to focused-on beating somebody else, but the only way you are going to qualify for London is if you win the race in Portugal.  So we did not want her focused-on beating anybody, but just win the race and then it will be fine.  And she ended up… she did win.

 

So I was credential with Tunisia, so we had different pool training times than the U.S. team.  And Tim Murphy and Paul [Asmuth] and Bryce Elser did an awesome job preparing the Americans through 2012, so I give them a lot of credit.  But I walk in one day, and you know as a coach like you sometimes time other people just to see where they are at.  So Haley was doing some 50s fast; and I walked in and I was getting her times, she was like 32, 32.  I was like okay.  And then Ashley was on the other side of the pool, and I timed her and she is like 30-point, 30-point, 30-point.  I was like ooh.  I did not tell Haley that.

 

But again I felt like I needed to really build her confidence.  And just kind of reminded her that she had done a race in Argentina and Brazil.  In January they put-on two races back-to-back.  You know, this is where communication came in; is like Dave, Haley really needs to go to this race in Argentina; I think it’s important.  It was right after the Cal/Stanford dual meet, and she just took off went on to Brazil for a week.  And it was great: she got 3rd, there were lot of currents there.  So I think that helped kind of build her confidence.  And it was cold water; so knowing that, we had her to take some ice baths, every once in a while, leading up to London.

 

With Ous it was kind of a little bit different; like he did not want to go get on the course every single day.  Haley, I could tell, yes; you need to make sure you get on there and practice some turns and make sure you practice the finish.  And like… I am dealing with a 28-year-old male, it is like: he has been to three Olympics; I am just going to get what I can get.  So I was like: we are not going to do a lot of course training; but you need to watch the women’s race and warm-up before your race in a brief, so that it will feel really cold.  And then when he put on his whole-body suit and dove-in for the race, I thought he will be fine then.  So that is kind of what I mean by adapting to each swimmer, just like based-on what I knew about them and what I thought was going to be important.  And then I just… like lanolin was really important, just slather Ous up with that, and Haley too, and they will be fine.

 

And this is just a picture of the race… part of the race course.  And there was actually an air show going-on during the race, so I almost missed one of the feeds because these big airplanes were going over—so it was pretty cool.  And then that is just a picture of the feeding dock.  And, you know, we all had these feeding sticks and flags, and you put the flag on the end of the feeding stick.

 

The one thing I always tell the athlete—whoever I am working with—is as you are working out to your race, to the start, make sure you make visual eye-contact; try to look for me.  Because a lot of times these guys do not… you do not see them for probably an hour before the race starts.  They have the coaches taken out to the feeding dock ahead of time; so you are out there.  If you are on a radio, that is great, you are getting information back to your swimmers; but with Tunisia we did not have that—so that was a little bit different.  The other thing: his mom travels everywhere with him and she only speaks Arabic and French; so that was like a little language barrier.  But I did learn a couple of words in Arabic.

 

So coming out of Portugal, they both won their respective races.  So we are excited, they are going on to London.  But I did have to… we had to sit-down and figure-out what Haley was going to do, because this is before pool trials.  And it is like as a pool swimmer, you know your swimmer wants to go to Olympic Trials, and she is not the type of person that is going to just train right through it.  So she entered all 6 events, or 8 events, that she had Trials cuts in; definitely scratched some of those by the end.  She was happy with her 800; she was 3rd.  And I think again that gave her a little bit of confidence.  Just reminding her that we had this bigger goal and that little bit of rest for the 800 was not going to hurt her.

 

And we went back and forth: does she go to the domestic camp with the U.S. team?  Does she go to Vichy, France with the pool team?  And everybody else is going to be resting and she is still going to be training, so what are we going to do?  And Dave sat down and talked with Frank [Busch] and myself and Jack Roach.  And we did not think three weeks in Olympics Village was going to be a good idea; so she went to Canada and trained with Alex Meyer and Tim and the U.S. team.  And that was a fabulous training camp; they went up to Roberval.  It is cold water there; they had access to a pool.  They each were able to bring a training partner, which I think was key for Haley’s success.  She had Eva Fabian there to help her.  And those of you that know Eva, she is a great Open Water swimmer, and I felt like Haley could continue to learn from her on the drafting portion of it.  But Haley would be faster in the pool, so that would be good for her.  And then they just showed-up at the Village about a week before; so they overlapped about a day with the pool team.

 

So Ous was with the Danish team for a little bit, and then he ended-up coming back to L.A.  And anyone that knows him, knows it… like he can have three different plans and you just do not know which one we are going to go with.  So I just kind of have to roll with it.  And he ended up coming back to L.A., and we spent a couple weeks together before we went off to London.

 

But at that point, we only had like Haley and Ous, and maybe a couple other people, were the only ones that were in the pool training.  So I felt like I needed to make it as interesting as I could; like play kind of cat-and-mouse games.  Like Ous you are going an 800, Haley you are going a 700; you cannot let him beat you.  And then same thing for a 600:  Ous you have got a 600, Haley you have a 500, and do not let him catch you.  And so I just tried to mix it up like that, give them different barriers.  400, 300, 200, 100 all fast, but making sure that they were kind of racing each other a little bit, so that they always had something that they were working towards.

 

And kind of giving like mental cues in the middle of training; I think it was important for these guys.  Like just constantly reminding Haley like you know how you are going to feel with a 200 leftYou know so-and-so is going to be breathing to your right.  So I try to constantly remind them of putting different scenarios in their head, so they have a visual image when they are training in the pool.

 

And then this is just a picture.  One day I was kind of craving Roscoe’s fried chicken and waffles—it is down in Long Beach.  And so I like texted Chip and Emily Brunemann, and I was like, Hey guys, we are going to go down to Long Beach.  We are going to do a workout and then go eat breakfast.  So I thought I was pretty cool; this is like and a perfect example of why I think Open Water is so fun.  These guys all show-up, they want to help train, they enjoy just kind of talking about open water and helping.  You know, Emily knows she is helping Haley prepare.  So I think that was kind of a fun thing to do to get ready to go.

 

And then I guess fast forward to being in London.  I always knew that like Ous’s main plan was to swim the mile.  I think in the back of the his head he knew: yes, I was to win a gold medal in the 10K.  But it was like one step at a time.  We got to London, decided to drop the 400 and just stay focused on kind of the longer events.  And I think it was a really good call.  Any pace work we did in London was all based on the mile.  And anything extra was just like yardage that I just felt like adding-in extra easy yardage, just to make sure that we kept the volume up a little bit.  So it would be like with fins and paddles or pulling, things like that.  And I think he did a great job as far as staying focused on the mile.  In the prelims, I think he was 14:47, and he felt great about that swim.  And came back the next day and won a bronze medal.  And it was like okay onto the next.

 

And this is kind of where I had to be a little more flexible, because Haley just showed-up and everything is new for her.  So she is excited by every little thing; whereas I had been there for two weeks.  And so it was good because it was kind of kept me reenergized.

 

Ous had the flu right after the mile, and I do not know if it was the 10K-flu or what but he got a little extra rest.  It was not what I wanted; obviously I wanted him to get on the course a couple of more times than he did.  But I just felt like we did the best that we could.  The times that he did go get on the course, which was maybe two times, we just made sure that he practiced like swimming-out and into the finish, and sighting a couple of things and just getting a feel for the race course.

 

And one of the things… like every time you go to a race you kind of think about the three “C”s and that is: the course, the conditions and the competition.  We knew the competition; we knew who the 25 people were going to be for both of them.  You know the course.  This is one aspect where like I could not tell Haley, Okay, well this turn in a 90° angle and then this one is 360, because that just stresses her out.  Alex Meyer, he can 100% visualize his race and he knows every angle of everything.  But like with Haley, it is just not what she needs; so just, again, keeping her relaxed.  We knew the water was going to be flat and cold; which I do not think it did end up being that cold, but everybody kind of made a big deal that it was going to be.  So I just told them the faster that you swim, the sooner that it is over; it does not really matter: everybody is in the same situation.

 

So here is Haley.  As you see, she just hangs on all the finish pads.  That is getting numbered.  And she is very methodical with her feeds, and so… as you see on the right, she has all of her gels—I do not know if you can tell—laid out.  And she numbers the bottles and writes I want this one on this lap.  Her strategy was actually pretty similar to Ous’s.  We decided that… the course was six laps, and so they were both going to be prepared to feed on the second, third and fourth lap.  I was also going to be ready on the fifth lap with one extra feed, just in case; but we had talked about if you do not feed, then that is when you go ahead and make your move and just go.  And that is what they both did in Portugal and in London.

 

One of the things… this is The Serpentine [lake the Olympic race was in]; it was a great venue.  There were people on all sides, the video coverage was fantastic, and it was really loud, like I think the swimmers could hear the fans.  So it was definitely a great venue.  And I know Rio is going to be awesome as well.  I was there for Pan Ams in 2007, and they love Open Water in South America.  So I know it is going to be outstanding.

 

So, with Ous, since this was only his third 10K, again I did not give him a bunch of details.  The one thing he said is like I just want to know who you think is going to be upfront with me, and like that would give him a sense of calm.  So I guessed that it would be a German, a Greek and a Canadian; that is exactly what I thought would happen.  Richard Weinberger from Canada had been having a really great year; Thomas Lurz [Germany] is the all-time greatest Open Water swimmer ever; and then there was a Greek, Spyros [Spyridon Gianniotis], has been known for… he has been at the top of the world for a long time.

 

Like Ous said that when he was on the last lap, or maybe on the fifth lap, he was breathing and he saw Richard on his side.  And he said he did not freak-out; he just stayed completely relaxed because he knew like that is what we talked about.  And so he thought oh, this isn’t some new person coming up.  I guess that is a big thing: I do not think just because you are the fastest 10K swimmer in the pool, or you swim straight for two hours, or maybe you swim 10×1,000s faster than anybody; I do not think that that necessarily relates to being the best 10K swimmer in open water.  In open water you are balancing so many different things: you are managing stress, you have to have like a great periphery vision about what is going on around you and not freak out when something happens.

 

And this summer in Barcelona, Haley was leading the 5K, and all of a sudden she is following the lead boat.  Well the lead boat was not going on course.  So all of a sudden Haley is like in 10th and a Brazilian girl was in 1st all of a sudden.  So Haley had to dart back over, get back into the race.  And she ended-up thinking like okay well this is a great opportunity for me to sit back and I can draft.  I guess that is what I mean by teaching the athlete to kind of take ownership over the race, because that is not something I can communicate with her during it.  I just have to prepare her with different scenarios: and if this happens and if this happens, what are you going to do, how are you going to do respond.

 

And I guess that kind of goes-along with that I think you can train in a pool and I think you can be the fastest… your goal is to be the fastest you can be in the pool, but I definitely think you need to race open water races to get your experience doing that.  And drafting and changing positions and being comfortable going through turns.

 

And training camps are so important.  Like Becca Mann was 15 years old, and it was her first World Championships this summer.  She was like I learned so much just from having our whole team practice.  We set-up a little mini-course, and she just practiced going through turns and doing all these things.  And having eight people around you is very different than doing that at home by yourself, maybe.

 

(So I am just going to run through.  These are just pictures after the 10K; Ous and Haley.)

 

I think my lessons learned over the years have been to remain flexible.  A lot of times you do not know what course… you do not know what is going to be available as far as pool time.  You may have a short-course pool, you may have a long-course pool, you may not have any pool; and you have to go to open water.  And so I have really tried to like let a plan… not be so focused on my one plan; but be okay with mixing things up.  You know, the body is getting used to changes and throwing different things at the kids.

 

Actually this summer in Spain, we thought we had great open water training time, and we were going to be in kayaks with the athletes out training.  And then the coast guard come, and yelled at us.  And we are like woah.  We just realized we had to kind of adjust our training time; do hour in the pool and then the last hour we went in open water and did not set up a course.  And that was okay.

 

And it was like that was where maybe my goal was to make sure everybody did 7,000, but I am not going to break it down and think ‘Well, since we did 4,000 in the pool, I need to get 3,000 done open water.’  I just think it is a little bit different.  You know, there is no walls, there just a lot of things going on.  So I think you just try to get the best that you can out of those opportunities to train in open water.

 

Flexibility: it is like I have got to trust that the athletes are going to be flexible and go-with-it in the middle of a race.  So I certainly feel like, as a head coach, working with these kids, I have got to teach them the same thing.  And if something does not go as planned, well I am not going to freak out; you just kind of row with it and say expect the unexpected.  I have had buoys blow away in the middle of a race.  The feeding boat was, in the 2009 World Championships, actually got like moved off-course, like way off-course; so all the coaches are yelling in twenty different languages to the boat driver, who only speaks Italian.  And it is just like that stuff happens.  And the kids have just got to be ready and not get mad about it; but again manage that stress and just okay how am I going to take that and make it an advantage for me.

 

Traveling: anything can happen.  You are kind of at the mercy of the federation.  I have had a bus breakdown and never make it to pool and been stranded for three hours.  And if I am so focused on a training plan and yardage, then that is just going to get me… spiral and be upset.  I think that is why also sending kids to do races, especially at this level, is important; because they would get a chance to see that not everything is going to go as planned, things are going to change.  So when it does come down to a World Championship and something does not go right, or maybe everything does go right and then it is just… it is perfect.  So that occasionally does happen.

 

I think having an open mind and listening to feedback from your athlete.  I found that that has been really successful for me.  Chip was 16 and I could easily take him out in open water and do a two-hour practice.  And I would just kayak along, and he is happy as a clam.  Haley, not so much; she needs like structure, like shorter intervals.  Tell her you are going to go hard for two minutes, then you are going to go easy for three minutes; and then you are going to hard for three minutes and easy for two minutes.  So I kind of, with her, have to keep it a little shorter, otherwise I lose her.

 

And when kids do come out of a race, and you know I am like Haley, what did you learn from this or Ous, what did you learn from Cancun.  Talking about it; watching any portion of the race online.  I think that is why I love it so much is like the interaction and the conversation that goes on, because I am not telling them necessarily what you did was right or what you did was wrong.  You cannot control what anybody else does, and if something happens, it goes along in a race, it is like you have just got to make it work for you.  And I guess customizing that part is like… that is just what is fun for me; is kind of tailoring everything to the athlete.  And having the inside jokes.  Like talking about maybe what Haley needs is different than what a 16-year-old boy that is just getting into Open Water is going to need.

 

So I do not think that I necessarily have all the answers, I just think that it is important to adapt, to go with the flow, to really talk to your kids.  I think everybody is going to kind of process that information a little differently.  And the more that you know your athlete, the better the result that I think you are going to get from that.  (And so I do not know how long… what time is it?)

 

In closing, I think the key for the United States is: we have got to keep athletes in the sport.  The average age of the medalist in the last couple of World Championships has been like 28-32.  In Pan Ams in 2007, Brazil had two of their top females there; and the United States had Fran Crippen, Chip Peterson, Kalyn Keller and Chloe Sutton.  Not one of those athletes is still in the sport; and so I feel like we have really got to find a way to make sure that we are giving athletes opportunities and keep them in this sport longer.

 

Going into 2016, I think we learned, we are learning, and we are dealing with the college system here in the U.S.; and that is different than some other countries that can have a club program that only has Open Water and that is all they focus on.  So I think we are still kind of figuring that part out.

 

And lastly, safety has got to come first; that is absolutely the most important thing.  Water temperature has been a really big issue with FINA.  And I think that we have got to continue to push for good water temperatures, minimum and maximum.  But water quality is a really big issue too.  And so I think we just continue to just stay focused-on that, then we send our athletes to good clean races and they will get the experience that they need.

 

This last slide is just like… I do not know if anyone even wonders… like I do not think that we do anything special.  But some things that I do try to do within practice in the pool, like a lot of shifting gears and speed-play type of stuff; I think that is really important.  You never know when somebody is going to take-off in the middle of a race.  Again, you have to be aware of that, and teach your athletes to know what is going on all around them.

 

I am just that kind of coach that I just want to make it purposeful; and I try not to just send kids off on a long, boring 10×400, just ready-go.  And this is something I have learned a lot from Dave, is just everything having relevance and being really meaningful.  And so maybe like the last 100 is a really strong steady kick, and the first 100 is maybe only breathing to your right-side on the way down and only breathing to your left-side on the way back.  Little things like that, that keep the swimmer engaged for the full two-hour practice while they are still getting/doing things that are making them better.  I said like giving mental cues in practice, and kind of putting different scenarios in their head so they can think about that in the specific set.

 

I like doing a lot of kicking at the end of practice.  I know with Chip, one thing we always did, was like a two-hour practice and then like 10×100, all-out, fast kick.  Because if you watch the finish of a lot of open water races, these guys are just going full-on speed with their legs and you have got to be able to get those legs going.  The same thing with like getting into the finishes: it is important to have I think a really-high stroke rate, where you are still holding water.  But the first hand that touches that finish pad; there is no time involved in Open Water, so you have got to be able to keep your head down.  Hopefully you are sighting in the right line, you have set everything up.  Like we will do head-down, fast finish, last 10 yards, no breath.  And almost like a straight-arm, windmill-type stroke into the wall.

 

I definitely would have kids take gels in the middle of practice, so that they know how their body is going to react and if that is going to affect them.  And that is probably more for somebody just getting into Open Water, initially.  Like at this point now, I think the athletes at this level kind of know what they are going to do, and their body knows how it is going to respond.

 

I would say another observation I had from this past World Championships: in the Men’s 10K, I was right with the Greek coach.  And his swimmer was maybe in 10th and gradually moved-up to 3rd.  And on the last lap—each lap was about 1,200 meters—he actually fed twice: so he stopped at the feeding dock once—he was the only athlete that stopped—and then he took a gel with about a 1,000 to go.  And afterwards I am talking to Ous a little bit and I was like, “Well, how much did you feed on the 10K?”  And he was like, Oh, I did not feed at all.  And if you watch the finish, the guy from Greece just completely accelerated; his whole last lap was so fast and like I definitely think that that that has something to do with it.

 

And it is kind of like a… it can be a boxing match for two hours, an hour and 45 minutes.  So I think it is really good to be fit out of the water; whether that is spinning, running, kickboxing classes, just kind of having that… just making sure that you are confident and not being afraid to throw an elbow here and there.  But I think it is good to be really fit out of the water.  Haley was running like every third day up to the 10K, in addition to the pool training.

 

And then middle-of-the-pool sprints.  I mean you guys all know; you just start from the middle of the pool, no wall, sprint in.  Do that a couple of times; and start out one place and make sure they finish somewhere else.

 

And then in open water stuff, for some of the newer kids that we work with on the National Team, we will just having take off their cap, take off their goggles and just swim straight.  Close your eyes, swim straight for about 20 strokes, see where you end up.  And we did that this summer with Becca, and Becca was probably our… I think she was the only girl on the team that had never been on a World Championship team before—and Jordan from team Santa Monica.  The other six guys were all veterans, and they all… like right on line, swimming straight.  Becca ended up way over here, Jordan was way over here.  So it just kind of gave them a sense of like when they have their head down and they are swimming fast, this is the side that you are going to tend to go to or maybe you are more comfortable swimming one direction than another.

 

And anything like 40 strokes fast, 40 strokes easy, 30 strokes fast, 30 strokes easy.  And this is just stuff in open water, because I do again try to give a lot of detail when they are swimming open water because otherwise I think it is boring to just go out and come back.  So I will do like leapfrog drills, roll-over drills; and all these are things that I would do like with the national team group, not necessarily… like Haley and Ous do not go out and practice this like once a week.  I would say they maybe did three practices in open water; and one being in Manhattan Beach in the ocean, one being in the Long Beach, and another back in Naples Island just kind of swimming around the canals.

 

Well, that is all I have.  I have about six or seven slides of practices that Haley did, that I would send to Bryce and Tim Murphy.  I do not know if you all want to see any of them; I can have you come-up and look at them if you are interested in seeing.  Haley hates kicking, but I do try to make her do some kicking in there.  We do a like a lot of knuckle paddles, and that comes from Dave mainly just like working on holding the end of your paddle and keeping your elbow up.  Let’s see… again like you see just some speed play here.

 

During the college season, when we knew Haley was really focused on Open Water, we would try to maybe give her something that was a little bit different than everybody else was doing, just to make sure that she still felt special.  So it was like: okay everybody you are doing this set, but Haley you are going to do it with your snorkel and then you get to add paddles the last… whatever 200.  I think you see it is not… she is definitely is training, and the same thing for Ous: they are definitely doing things that a pool swimmer would do.

 

So does anyone has any questions?

 

So the question was what other competitions are out there for Age Group swimmers to do to be qualified for the camps?  I think for the Open Water Developmental camp, it is actually a time standard.  You had to have a time standard, but I think they go through the top-8 or top-10 from Nationals; and they will send an invitation to the swimmer and to the coach.  And Bryce Elser at USA Swimming would be the best… if you want to go, and maybe your kid is on the bubble, just contact them.  I think any opportunity… if we have people that are really wanting to go do these things, it is important.

 

I think it is just a matter of checking with your LSC and seeing what races are really out there.  Because there are some people that do a lot of open water races, that maybe are not at this level.  I think some of these kids have just been, they have been a great example of, a great pool swimmer that felt the time was right that they could be successful at the Olympic Games or at a World Championships.  There are some qualification standards for like the World Cups, and that kind of thing; but I feel like there are races everywhere, it is just it is a matter of talking about it and getting online and really looking for them.

 

So yeah that is a good question: how many times would someone feed during a 10K?  I do not know the answer to that.  I think it is important that… if you are going to take anything—a gel or Gatorade—you know, you go to the World Championships-level and you see coaches… I do not know what they are feeding their athletes, like we have no idea… the Russians are mixing stuff, and everybody has their own system of what they are doing.  But I think taking a gel with at least ten minutes to go, that you know it is probably going to work and be in your system, like the extra little kick at caffeine.  But I would say anywhere from like three to four times.

 

And Haley always has a gel in her suit; she does not always take it, but I think it is just like confident boost knowing that it is there.  And like I will tell them to take two or three gels right before the race; just get as much as you can into your system.  You know, the excitement is building, anyway.  And there have been some races where maybe people have been really successful and have not fed at all.  Like I know there was a guy from Great Britain, and he did not feed one time and that seem to work for him.  Again you have to take into the consideration the conditions and the course.  And when it is really hot.  In Shanghai, I am sure that people were feeding a lot more often than say in Barcelona, when it was not nearly as hot.

 

Now that is a good question.  There were no practices over ten grand.  No

 

[audience member]:  In 2012, Ous swam pool and then open water; and then this year it open water and then pool.  What is your take on that?  Differences between the two.  And certainly the results were very different between the two years.

 

[Vogt]:  Yeah, now that is a great comment and I am glad you asked.  Just the question was swimming a 10K prior to swimming a pool event.  So in London, I felt really good that the pool event was first.  My only other experience in dealing with having to do both with one athlete was in 2007 at Pan Ams: Chip Peterson was on the open water team and the pool team.  And so he swam the 10K first, and a week later had the mile.  And I was thinking ‘Oh, this is a great set-up’ because we will just do the 10K and then just rest and be good-to-go for the mile.  It did not work that way at all.  The 10K too so much out of him.  Like anytime I even wanted to get anything fast done in practice, it was just like pulling teeth; the speed was not there, nothing was there.

 

So I actually think it is—at least with both of those athletes, which are the only people that I have really had the experience with—I felt like it is a much better set-up to do the pool first and then go to open water.  And this summer, with Ous I think, he has not been training… he has not had the training that he probably needed to do both.  I would be interested to see what he could do if he had done the work.  But I think that… he still felt like he had something to prove in Open Water.  And wining two medals, and then kind of like yeah; like you are excited to be at the pool, but you are happy to have your two medals.

 

So does that help answer that question?  Not really?

 

[audience]:  Yeah.  It all depends on experienced, I guess.

 

[Vogt]:  Yeah.  I just think that 10K takes much more out of us than we feel.

 

[audience]:  And then at Pan Pacs, they are one day apart.

 

[Vogt]:  Right.  Exactly.  It will be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of years too.  And like you said for Pan Pacs.  And I am not sure if there is anybody that did both Pan Pacs and the mile.  How did Andrew do?  That is right: he did not finish the 10K.  You are right; see.  I do not know, that is a tough one then.  I guess there are times you have to make decisions on what you want.

 

[inaudible audience question]

 

Dryland work for Ous, he is kind of always changing it every six months.  It is just a basic weight training; like a little bit of yoga and like pilates-type stuff.  He did a lot with like a TRX band and stretch cords.  Then for Haley, she is not great in the weight room; she does not like going to the weight room.  The main thing she was doing is sit-ups on her own and running on her own.

 

[inaudible audience question]

 

Yeah, I know.  She actually did not qualify for the 10K at our trials.  And again that was one of those things where I probably felt the need… coming back from London, she did not take any break, she got right back in the pool.  She had her senior year of college to finish-up.  And she was ready to go; she said, I do not want to take a break, I want to keep going.  And I felt like we should have made her take a break, but there is only so much you can do.

 

And so she went through NCAAs; I mean, she was happy with her senior year.  And coming around April, the campus is beautiful, you are a senior, you won the silver medal… it is like she definitely enjoyed her senior-year spring semester.  And maybe… I would have liked to tell her like “If you want to win a gold medal in the 10K, then you need not be going to do all these things.”  Like I wanted her to go to Cancun, and I want to do these things, but at some point…. Graduation is really important, and our trials were the same day as her graduation.  So she was balancing having family come in, a lot of different things going on.  And so was actually 8th at our 10K.  And then came back, two days later, and again it was the same scenario.  I was like: “Haley you’ve done this before, you have to win the 5K if you want to go to World Championships this summer. It’s your only chance.”  And she did and so and she swam a much better race.

 

[inaudible audience question]

 

Right.  So Tunisia is a little different for their qualifying standard.  Anyone else?

 

[inaudible audience question]

 

Yes.  Ous knew that they were going to be.  We have another guy on Trojan Swim Club on the Danish team, Mads [Glaesner], and he knew that they were going to be in Flagstaff for like three weeks.  And that was very appealing to him; I think he felt like he needed some altitude training.  And I think that is why he was so tired that week in Portugal.  But yeah, so he did that.

 

And again communication is like so important; for me to talk to the Danish coach about what he has been doing.  And they were sending me his workouts, so I did know what he had been doing.  And I just think that is important for Ous to know like that he has confidence in all the coaches; whoever it is that is working with him, he knows that we are talking about what is best for him.

 

Anyone else?

 

Thank you.

 

 

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