Collaboration for Success
by Matt Kredich (Tennessee), Bill Boomer, and George Kennedy (Johns Hopkins)
[Introduction, by David Marsh]
All right. What an incredible panel you are about to be treated to here. I think one of the things we are finding during this clinic, and I think in many ways in our sport in the United States, is success is very few times in its own little box; success happens usually in terrific collaboration. And the three gentlemen that are speaking today are going to speak on how that collaboration happens, would it be for large staffs like our MAC guys or whether it would be small groups or whether it’d be like Mike Bottom talked about Tyler Clary working with him and myself still even though he was located to Charlotte. So the collaboration is one of the keys to success, and I really look forward to hearing what the three guys have to say.
George Kennedy as you know is at Johns Hopkins for the past 29 years; one of the most successful Division-II coaches in the country. When you coach at Johns Hopkins, you influence people to the level and the quality of people that he’s influencing, you get on list like Fortune magazine’s voted among the top 50 greatest leaders of our country, just recently. That’s amazing and great stuff.
You guys, most of you know Bill Boomer very well. Bill, literally has changed our sport in the way we look at it. Bill is a legend in Rochester and has given the gift of open-minded thought to us for years and years; and continues the challenges—he challenged me personally. So, Bill, we appreciate you.
And then Matt Kredich is probably one of the great young minds in our sport. He is a guy that has already developed the top 15 Women’s Top 10, Top 20 Men’s program in the University of Tennessee. He is one of the most quality human beings in our sport, probably the highest compliment I give to him is when we get – my daughter got a letter from University of Tennessee or an inquiry of Tennessee was uh immediately went uh – in the — in the pile he wants it in, I can assure you which daddy would endorse whole-heartedly because of the man that leads the program.
So, the three of them together surely going to have some great things to share with us but I also want to just emphasize to the three of you that when you put your minds together, personalities together, I don’t think of three swimming coaches out here, I think of three fantastic human beings and so, thank you guys for sharing this.
Matt Kredich: All right, thanks a lot David. Let me give you guys a preview of the way we would like this to go, because you are swimming coaches you know that it’s not going to happen exactly that way but I’m going to talk a little bit about collaboration for success, to me that’s a really uh it’s a boring kind of title uh but – but I think the concept of collaboration really at this point in our – in the evolution of our sport, especially in this country, really needs to be examined. So, I’m going to challenge you with a couple of ideas on collaboration, the way that you are basically infusing new ideas into your program and your systems and then I’m going to uh sort of segue into having Coach Boomer talk about the ideas that he’s really been tossing around now that he has brought into our program at the University of Tennessee. Originally George was scheduled to be talking at the exact same time as us. Boomer was Division-III coach, at the same time when George was just starting and coming up so he mentored George in a lot of ways as he has mentored me. George and I have exchanged ideas and when we started talking about what are we going to do about this conflict, we decided, well if the title is in collaboration, let’s – let’s get together and the idea – some of the ideas that George was talking about and definitely ones that we want to bring into our program for essentially helping people swim fast between the conference meet and the NCAA meet but I think there are applications beyond that.
So, we hope to kind of give you an example of the way that we have collaborated and then also challenge you to work with each other more and more and – and make swimming in United States or swimming in the world better.
First challenge I’m going to give to you has nothing to do with this talk though, and that is uh Mike Bottom mentioned earlier today, our sport is — is about to change and for those of you who have followed the news, you understand that amateur sports, NCAA sports the way we know it, is kind of under threat. There is a – there are some big changes coming. Athletic departments like the University of Tennessee fund swimming at a really high level, they also fund Football and other sports at a really high level and – and – and if we don’t make a profit, then somebody is accountable, it’s a business. And by we, I mean our Athletic department, I don’t mean swimming. Swimming is not going to make a profit. It’s not going to make a profit anyway. So, we have to be ready for the threat of what happens when Football becomes a lot more expensive which it’s about to do and what we are going to do to make sure that the people making decisions about our sport understand the value of swimming.
Nobody understands the value of swimming more that the people who are in this room right now. And what I would like to do and you will hear more from Joel Shinofield I think as the year progresses, what I would like to do is, have we started thinking about stories, vignettes, it can be, and a lot of them are probably happening at this clinic, you bump into somebody that used to coach, or you bump into somebody that used to coach you, and you tell them how swimming changed your life. And it changed your life because you made a decision a little bit differently because you had the strength to press on with your ideas, because they put you in the right place at the right time. There are so many different ways that swimming matters and if we – if we can collect those stories and have them out there and bond our people with stories and just the idea that swimming matters, then we show the value that swimming has. The people making decisions will understand the value that swimming has in our society.
So, if you have a blog, put it on the blog, tweet it out uh with that hash tag, if you want it – if that – if I just spoke a different language to you, then get somebody who know to send me an email, email@example.com, to you and I’ll collect those and we are going to – we are going to get those stories out there and get the idea out there that swimming matters. Understand?
Matt: Understand? Yes.
Matt: Fantastic! All right, because swimming matters, all right. Thank you. I’m done. All right, so why collaborate? Well, some of these answers are fairly obvious but, we collaborate because every time we do, we get an input of new ideas and new ideas– new ideas we got to deal with and that’s always a good thing. When you get new ideas into your program or into the way you are thinking, into your processes, it’s energizing. “Okay, here’s something I haven’t tried before”, it’s an opportunity for growth. Shifting perspective, if you think about anytime that you have learned something or you have watched the athletes that you coach really learn, take a big step forward, it has to involve a shift in perspective. They are used to doing things the same way all the time. What’s going to get them to change? They have to change the images that they are thinking of. So, they have to come at their swimming or whatever concept they are dealing with from a different perspective. Okay, so how do we expect to change? We have to – we have to look at things from a different perspective and that’s what makes us human, that’s what makes all of you successful coaches as you have that ability. That’s called empathy but it’s also called creative thinking and when we can take a look at a problem or a system or something that seems like this – “this isn’t broken, why are we going to fix it?” Those are the things that may be the most exciting to look at from a new perspective, when we do that, we learn.
In Nature Magazine, in a fairly recent issue, there was a really important statement that was made and that is through a survey of literature the best Science is now coming from international collaboration. And that wasn’t true even 10 years ago and what they’re defining as the best Science is published studies that are cited by future studies and an overwhelming majority of citations now are coming from studies – research studies that are collaborative and not just between institutions but between — between continents and between groups and consortiums of Sciences working from different angles on the same problem. And so, we’ve got – I mean – how many different ways can you look at an athlete or a team? You can look at an athlete or a team from the perspective of a psychologist, a bio-mechanist, a nutritionist, a parent, a friend, a teammate, a coach, a trainer, teacher, so and I just – I just scratched the surface right there.
All right, so why not seek to collaborate. Well, uh because there are some good reasons and the reason is why uh I – I didn’t actually seek to collaborate for a long time because when I started coaching, it can be fairly disruptive to — to throw new ideas into a system, it seems to be working all right, it takes energy and we all are judicious with the way we spend our energy and it’s risky. Collaborating is risky because you don’t know what the other person is going to bring because by definition, that person is bringing something that you don’t know. So, there’s a risk there. In fact just like this young man, everything seems to be going along fine and we are afraid that this might happen, by looking at, he’s committed to it. Well, he is committed to it for a while.
But we – we – I think we’re afraid that the wheels are going to come off. This is a cool looking poster, until you read it, it’s just one of the funniest things I have ever seen, it’s meetings – ‘none of us is as dumb as all of us’. I think we all have experienced that before and so that’s maybe another reason not to collaborate because it reminds us of meetings.
But the bottom line is we – we have to believe and – as coaches we have to believe we can always get better, that’s – that’s why we get up every day. We can get better, the athletes we coach can get better, so how do you get better? Well, you have to introduce new ideas into your systems. Jon Urbanchek has been coaching for 60 years? 60 years, and invented these fantastic color charts and I looked at a work out he was giving back in March or so and there’s nothing about colors on there, it’s gears now, he is talking about gears and like all the rest of us are using his color charts, he has moved on to gears.
Bill Boomers have been coaching for 50-some years and every time he comes on to our pool deck, he will walk by me and say “oh, that was cool, never done that before that was new.” So, we all want to grow, and all want to keep learning, and all want to keep adding new things into our systems. So how do we do that? Well, I have created these levels, they are not copywrited or anything, go ahead and just take them. Level one, observe, reflect, synthesize, read articles, listen to lectures. Right now you – you are listening, you can take these ideas, the way that you take ideas when you read and you can leave them, you can store them, you can incorporate them but you don’t have to – you don’t’ have to —
Bill Boomer: This is one of the ways that we worked together.
Matt: Oh great going.
Bill Boomer: You can add to that level number one, see what you are looking at, see what you’re looking at. We just have a tendency to just look, but see what you’re looking at.
Matt: Sometimes I hear that voice in my sleep. See what you are looking at – that was good, but that doesn’t require any interaction, it requires some – some time with yourself and that’s really valuable. Second level, is actually having conversation and even debate which most of you are probably doing quite a bit at the clinic this week and that’s one of the reasons why we love the clinic. We actually get to – we get to exchange ideas. So, if we are talking about how to swim faster from the conference meet to the NCAA championships, then we are doing some things and George is doing some things and – and we have some commonalities and when we talk about that, some light bulb is going off from my head and in his head and we walk away from that conversation having exchanged enriched ideas and that’s really valuable. But again, there’s no real commitment to following through with it, there’s just – there’s back and forth and that’s – that’s another level right and that can be really, it’s — it’s incredibly valuable, incredibly valuable. But the next level is collaboration, and we will define that as an exchange of ideas and separation of roles that basically requires a commitment to roles, commitment to a process and then a commitment to a common goal.
Okay, so when we collaborate, it’s not just talking, it’s — we have an end goal that we are going to work towards and I wouldn’t have a kind of a specific role and Boomer is going to have a specific role and here we go. And that – in order to avoid that from – from — in order to avoid disaster of that interaction or having the wheels come off from that interaction, we have to start with trust and there has to be constant communication. Okay? And there also has to be a real commitment to this process, a commitment to your role in the process. Does that make sense?
George: Matt, can I add one thing?
George: Yeah, this past summer I — for the first time in 13 years, was not doing a summer league’s swim team and one of the things that I have decided to do is to try to read more and something that caught my attention was the different definitions of connection. And I think what Matt’s talking about is connection and when our athletes see that we are connecting um or that the Tennessee athletes come on to the deck then they see their connection, then I think it automatically creates a trust bond, they look at that and these two guys can have that kind of trust, then they can start trusting in their captains and in us. Uh one of the books I have read and I throw it out to you, it’s called the ‘Gift of Imperfection’ it’s by a woman named Brene Brown and her comment is she goes on and defines connection as, you know, feeling seen, heard, believed in without judgment. But I think the key thing she says that is — connection is the energy that surges between two people, it has to happen in both directions. And like so many times as coaches we used to just say, “do this” and now I think we are more into try to believe what we believe.
Matt: That’s a great point. It’s the difference between compliance and leading from almost a position just purely a positional standpoint, “you listen to me because I’m up here”, to leading from inspiring and that’s – I think that’s one of the real strong beliefs that the three of us have in common is that the best and really the only way to lead people down the long path, the meaningful path is to inspire them.
So, who can you collaborate with? Um mentors, very few of us are – are fortunate enough to – to have a mentor come into our lives at age and Dave Marsh thank you, I’m still a young coach, just turned 49 probably can’t say that much longer by age 46 or -7, Bill Boomer came in my life and he easily stepped into the role of a mentor. But we all had them at some point and if you don’t then find them. There are a lot of coaches who want to give back and if you feel like you can connect on a certain level with a coach who is – who has an experience that you want to tap into, a level of experience or knowledge you want to tap into then ask. Peers, I mean there is no excuse for not collaborating with peers. People who you view essentially is the – as the same age and stage. Jimmy Tierney let’s try something out this year, let’s each try something with our teams and — and report back at the end of the season. I mean Jimmy and I have — have had discussions that have led to those kinds of changes and to me that – that’s pure collaboration and we have each learned something from that.
And then mentees, one of the things that Boomer has told us over and over again is that teaching is – is the most powerful way to actually learn, to solidify learning and solidify the way you think on a subject. So, so being a mentor for somebody uh can be an incredibly powerful, collaborative relationship um and – and I hope really rewarding. But those relationships can look fairly different. I was never quite sure how these two, I kind of view them as equals although, I guess Yoda is older uh but at — at the point where the first one started anyway, I felt like they were fairly equal, uh – somebody know who this guy is or these guys? Uh-Huh, grasshopper and the master who has crazy eyeballs, but the master – I remember asking this when I was very young, the master always had really, really good advice but it was also clear that he was – he was still learning, he was still looking to learn, he wasn’t perfect. And then, there’s Boomer, uh so peer coaching have a colleague giving feedback, you guys come up – come up with a project that you want to enter into together and assign roles. A mentorship, you can have a — if you are looking for a mentor, imagine that person in the position of being a master teacher.
Okay, so a teacher who – who has confidence and command of something that you want to learn and a real clue here is that make sure that our master learner also, that you observe them learning, you observe them changing because I think that’s – that’s the difference between somebody who is a mentor and who positions himself as a Guru, uh if you bring – you feel like you want to look to somebody as a Guru, then that’s – you’re not going to collaborate, you’re looking for an easy fix, um you’re looking for a magician. That — and that will be really neat if we can find that guy to come in and fix our problems but I’m not sure that he exists.
Take — take a look at the – some of the collaborative relationships we have in our sport right now and this – this one was kind of uh first one was what really kind of inspired me to – to work with Boomer and that was uh Richard Quick and Bill Boomer worked together for a long time starting around 1991 which is the year that I left, my volunteer assistant position with Richard and Boomer came in and – I watched Stanford proceed to win about seven national championships in a row. Uh Teri McKeever and Milt Nelms have this wonderful collaborative relationship. Dave Salo and Jon Urbanchek Dennis Pursley and John T. Skinner and if you look at each – each of the individuals in these pairings, they are different, man they are different, what – what they may be known for in the sport, a really different and different perspectives. McGee Moody and Mark Bernardino, that’s going to be great to watch. David Marsh and Bob Groseth, what an incredible move that was to have David who’s one of our country’s all time great coaches, one of the best ever, bring in and learn from Bob Groseth. Ray Lewis hiring Dennis Dale probably sent shockwaves through anybody that swim on the Big Ten in the last uh in the last 10 years but those two are going to – those two are going to make an incredibly formidable duo and then I gotta tip my hat to Jack Roach because I think anybody that’s ever had the opportunity to work with him, walks away feeling like you helped him, and he helped you. He may be the finest uh temporary kind of partner that anyone could ever have in coaching. So, it’s happening all around us.
Now, I want to move now into a little bit more specific, a little bit more specific images I guess of the way that that Boomer helped change my perspective. So, we each have this idea of when a swimmer walks on to your pool deck, what are they to you? We are going to go ahead and go out there and get it out there and say that they’re not points, they’re not 30% of the scholarship, they are not a pain in your neck with parents, they are human beings. We all know that. But what do they — what do they really about to be to you when they into your practice. In other words, what is this practice going to do to change them and act on them? Like systems are primary and I will tell you that — that the perspective that I have had – when I first started coaching, I really thought it was all about hitting them with the right energy systems at the right time and what a magnificent puzzle that is to try to put together. That can occupy you for a long time and it did. And then – and a close second was this — the bio-mechanical aspect of – of swimming. So, how is this person actually moving through the water and — and what is it about these — these spectacular athletes who seem to slide through the water, what are they doing? And, so those are the things that I was pursuing like what – what kind of practice and stress are we going to give them and how can I help them become more slippery, more efficient, and better swimmers. So those were really the first, that was the first paradigm I guess I had and then at some point it shifted because I felt like we could train their energy systems um so they get really, really powerful at swimming, really, really crappy. So, something else had to come first, so you can look at them as a mechanical or skeletal system, you can look at them as a – as an energy production system but the brain and nervous system has really started to come to the forefront of performance sports, high performance in sports with this explosion in research in basically brain plasticity, and the more we find out about the brain, the more incredibly fascinating it is and the more it has to move to the forefront of our thought.
And so, I felt like I was on a path to to really move the nervous system up right up there with energy production and maybe just below bio-mechanics when Boomer started challenging me to think of not just the nervous system as neuromuscular skill generating system, but the nervous system as a series of instincts and reactions that you have and your athletes have that they have no control over them. And I think some of you guys have heard me give this demonstration before with but, this is what did it for me.
We had a young woman, is anybody from SwimAtlanta here? Okay, Abigail Alton came from Swim Atlana, she is beautiful swimmer, long, graceful freestyler and she was also – she was tough to coach. So from the very first day when she arrived on our pool deck, she swam with her head way up here and we would – we would tell her, “hey Abbey, if you lower your head a little bit, you’re going – you’re going to change the angle of your [head] – you’re going to change your posture, you’re going to come into a better line, the hydro-dynamics are going to work a lot better. Get your head down.” So she put her head down for about 30 yards and then cranked it back up again. Show her on the iPad or on the video camera and say, “look at – look at your head, it’s still way up there and just bring it back down, show me you can do it” she bring it back down, she swam a few – a few strokes of beautiful freestyle turn my back and right, it’s right back up again. Abigail was also very, very stubborn and I say also because I thought while I’m coaching her for three years and her head is trying to weigh up, for three years just being stubborn and she – she doesn’t want to change. She is stubborn, she won’t change therefore she doesn’t want to change.
So, Boomer came on to our deck, he watched her for about maybe 10 seconds and said, “he asked her to—to step out of the pool and he asked her to do this, he said, “walk backwards” so she is walking backwards and she’s fine and then he asked her to look down and walk backwards and look down, she walked backwards and she fell. I looked at him like what did you just do to her, did you just send mind waves at her and make her fall? And – and he – he said, “that’s primal, she’s looking to the horizon, she has to look to the horizon to orient herself, you can’t – you can’t change that.” And so, she was very unstable walking backwards and she was looking at the horizon, as soon as she looked down, she — she fell, she literally fell. And so, the lesson that I learned there was “okay, she is stubborn and that has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that she can’t make the change in the way that I wanted her to make the change.” And so, there were so many instances of this idea that there are movements and reactions that are primal and if we know what we’re looking at, if we – if we – what’s your word, “see what we are looking at”, if we see what we’re looking at and try to see what we are looking at, then we can – the perspective changes dramatically and so the nervous system comes first.
Bill: It’s – it’s um – everything you see is related to survival in swimming, everything that you see a swimmer do is related to their survival so when — when you are trying to correct them, you have to correct them from the point of view of their survival and how they see that and how they feel that and if you start there and make them feel comfortable or more comfortable, at least safer in the environment, then you can move forward, till that happens, you, as Matt said can, you know, you can put your hand in a bucket of water for 50 years and you take it out and 15 seconds later they never really know you were there. All right, so you have to start from where they are and most people in the aquatic situation, it’s about safety and survival, it’s not about swimming.
Matt: So, I’m now going to transition into just being the computer operator and I will throw in a few comments here and there while uh while Boomer continues down that thread that he just kind of introduced, but before we do that, do you guys have any – any questions or thoughts. Yeah.
Audience: Okay, so she needed to look at the horizon to keep from falling?
Matt: She was looking at the horizon.
Audience: So, she needs that and what does it prove that’s what she needed to do, that’s her survival.
Bill: Well, that – that’s one thing that you do it in a terrestrial land situation, when you fall or when you are unstable, the first thing you do is you look for horizon to stabilize your sight line so you can move inside that sight line. All right, so she proved to me that she was unstable in the water, in an aquatic situation and she was referring or deferring a land-based survival move to an aquatic move.
Audience: So, would you probably say to her, this is why you’re doing that and you are stable and this is why you are stable?
Bill: No, you—you can’t reason with someone who’s primarily upset. Those are reactions, they are survival. So, for you to try to talk her into something as Matt was trying to do, you never can do that, you have to make them feel safe in the environment first and then you can have a conversation with them from the forebrain. They are basically dealing from the two brains that – we have three, the two hindbrains are basically about our safety and our survival and so she was operating under those two brains.
Audience: I have a lot of adults that keep their head high in the water to be close to the air, so I talk to them about that and talk to them about keeping their head down. Is that kind of the same thing?
Bill: Do you have a drink of water?
Audience: Do I have water?
Bill: Does anybody here have something that they can drink? Would you – would you take – no, I don’t want it but – I’m going to – I’m going to ask you – I’m going to ask you to take that drink and head it toward your lips.
Audience: Right now?
Bill: Yeah. What did you just do before it touched your lips?
Audience: Opened the bottle.
Bill: Head it—head it towards your lips again, what did you just do? No, what –
Audience: I pursed my lips.
Bill: And as it approached your lips what did you do? You don’t –
Audience: [Several guesses]
Bill: You inhaled. How many times have you put water on your lips in your life and never thought about that?
Audience: It’s the first time I thought about it.
Bill: Exactly. So, where does that come from? Why does – why do every one of us when water or liquid approaches our lips, why do we inhale?
Audience: It’s survival.
Bill: That’s right, it’s survival. It’s the survival instinct, so what do you have to do with your swimmers is you have to get them to realize that breath holding is about survival in the moment. Exhaling is about survival over time. Okay, that’s a big, big issue with people who are unstable in an environment. You have to separate those two and you give them experiences in the facts of breathing which over time is about the exhale and for the momentary safety, okay, if you would have made a mistake there now you have aired or expunged any liquids but there are two different things, that’s kind of what I want to talk about here but I mean those questions are awesome because we all deal with those questions whether you are an adult or a child. The only way that you can – the only way that you can relieve aquatic anxiety is through experiences. So you as a coach have to make up experiences for the kids or the adults that you are coaching that will lead them down the path so that their primal system doesn’t feel at risk all the time. They know that that basically where I get my information for breathing is on my cheeks. If you don’t run water over the cheeks of a child or an adult when you’re teaching them, they’re going to still be breathing from the forebrain. You get water running over their cheeks and automatically they work out whether there is pressure of water there or not and they can take their breath or they can’t, all of a sudden that goes to the hindbrain.
All right, now it’s a primal issue, I don’t have to think about breathing but unless you have education of water pressures and whatnot on the cheeks so there are a lot of things you can do to get them experienced away from the forebrain and their breathing or feeling insecure or unsafe, all right. That’s the basic beginning when you teach non-swimmers or children.
Audience: So, in that this specific example of freestyle, when did you guys do it address it afterwards?
Bill: Well, you just mentioned, what do we do with our freestylers?
Audience: No, no because it was added, yeah.
Bill: I forgot.
I mean – I don’t have a – I don’t have a system. I just look at a situation and I – I – empathy. You used empathy as a word. I basically try to figure out what I can do in that moment for that person, what is it that I can do, whether it’s Dara Torres or it doesn’t matter who – how fast they swim or who they are. How can I rectify that fear that they have? How can I help them move forward, okay? So, I never do it in a stroke, I never do it in a stroke, I never have them moving or swimming, all right, it’s about them and the water. It isn’t about movement. So, you have to take them out of the context of competition, you have to take them out of the context of going from A to B, just get them with sitting comfortably on the side of the pool and begin to pull water over their head, talking to them, I mean whatever it is, you can do to bring them to a point where you can – “okay now we’re going to take those ideas and we’re going to insert them. When you’re comfortable, we’re going to insert them into freestyle.” So you work your mechanics around their safety feelings, and does that make sense? Okay.
Bill: Okay. Before – I – I just have a couple of things I want you to think about, John’s idea of a – you get your own fish, I have a fishing pole here. Um the reason, I – I stopped doing swimming – I made a conscious decision like John did, um that I had the rest of my life, I am almost 80. I had the rest of my life and what do I want to do with it? I was my own wife. So, I stopped doing swimming but I never had a place to put Richard’s death, Richard Quick, I never had a – I never could put that down. So when the Women’s Championship was at Auburn I decided I want to get my truck and drive to Auburn, I want to sit in the stands, I want to watch a great meet and think about Richard. So I did. So, after the first morning I am still there, sitting there and I’m watching this beautiful diver and I get a tap on my shoulder and I looked up and I didn’t know who he was and then he introduced himself and I realized that I had – heard the name before because Josh Stern, one of my former swimmers and Matt were bosom buddies in New England and Josh Stern had talked to me about Matt. What a wonderful human being he is and so, I – he introduced himself and I introduced myself and we sat down, we started talking. It was a three-day conversation. It was amazing.
Matt: I did go back down and coached my team.
Bill: But because I had not – I had not talked about swimming for three years and it was like I realized at that time that I still had all these thoughts about swimming, I had never not kept thinking about swimming, I just stopped doing it, doing swimming. And so, it was – I was able to release all those thoughts and ideas and it isn’t about – I have never in all the time that we have been together, I have never felt like I had to convince him of anything. All I had to do was explain what I felt and how I got there and we just kept moving on and the velocity is – I would say the velocity of our relationship is kind of move – still moving forward. It’s not peeling off. So um with that in mind, um yeah can you go to the next one.
All right, so as I’ve come back into swimming I begun to realize that we are basically in a different century, all right, than we used to be in. The previous century was dominated by surfers, warriors, and in that century all the little changes in swimming were absorbed by the events, didn’t matter whether it was a track start, didn’t matter whether it was the touch in the backstroke, didn’t matter whether it was surface rules for breathing and breaststroke, all the little adjustments by rule or regulation were those adjustments were able to be absorbed by the events. So, the events didn’t change, Okay? In this century, there are two new realities that we need to think about, all right. The first reality is that subsurface travel has radically changed the swimming landscape, from the perspective that I just talked about, the change has to do with your nervous system, it has to do with your survival and your safety and how you deal with it and how the kids deal with it, all right.
Matt: So, if this is a diagram of a swimming pool and the arrows indicate where swimmers in each lane are essentially either approaching or coming off of a turn. So, the different colored segments are different ways to approach the turn both into the wall and out of the wall. This is maybe the way a pool is now and then we’re going to show you uh where we think we are headed.
Bill: When underwater swimming came in, basically, events choose you, you don’t choose events. We don’t – we don’t do stuff that we’re not successful at doing. So, when underwater swimming came in there were certain people who swam fly and breast and back in freestyle underwater really well. And, so those people moved forward in the events and so what you had it was a big – what you had was a big disparity between the winners and – and maybe six, seventh and eighth. As we went forward toward 2010, the disparity became less and more people were at 12 [meters underwater]. A few people were at 14. Within three years, maybe five years, most of the people who swim at night are going to be at 14. Why? Because those kids were 7, 8, 9 and were chosen anthropomorphically by the event, and those kids are moving towards 20 and those are the kids that are going to be swimming those events. So, everybody is going to get more equal. Now what do you do? Who chooses the winner now? What is the surface going to be for in the future? Last century, the surface was for beating people. The next, this century, the surface is going to be for preparing to go back underwater and beat them because underwater swimming is faster than surface swimming.
So, we are going to have to change how we look at the surface, we are going to have to change how we look at training for being underwater, who we think is good at it or bad, backstrokers used to be 6’7, now they’re moving down towards 6’, the lines of the body are shorter, they don’t fracture as much under water, there – there’s much more fluidity there, they are faster than the big people, with some exceptions, all right. So, going underwater hasn’t just changed events, it’s going to change the future of us as swimming coaches and how we value certain activities and who’s going to be really, really good at it and what the nervous system is looking like. Another thing to think about, I believe it was a capricious decision to choose 15 meters. The – the idea is that they were trying to halt somebody from doing something but they didn’t make 15 meters as an endpoint from health – from the perspective of health. What they did is they took surface warriors out of the picture, in five years, surface warriors in Short Course Swimming are going to be dinosaurs. They took them out of the sport, and to some extent, 15 meters is a little too long. It is too long because you now don’t have enough time to recover and get back under there. So with our approach to training people for 15 meters is – is more work, longer distances under water, that’s dangerous. So, I would really — and this is my personal opinion, I would like to see it come back to 12 and I would like to see both people racing under water. I think the mix in swimming would be a lot healthier and I think it would be better for television, it would be better for viewers and we would have people who are, you know, your expertise underwater would take you to 12 faster than somebody else’s. Anyway, that’s a personal thought.
Bill: All right, um I can’t read that yet because you’re in the way.
Matt: I’m sorry, all right, yeah.
Bill: We have already talked about primal-neural acceptance, all right. What we have done is we have complicated the issue of risk and safety in the water, we have in – in early – yeah, all right, in the early last century when we were basically swimming on the surface, it was pretty simple, that is, kids just had to learn how to exhale, they didn’t’ have to learn how to hold their breath, they had to learn how to exhale. Exhaling is in itself a primal response for safety. Exhaling is in itself a safety valve and considered so by your primal system. So, we have complicated, by going underwater, we have complicated the whole issue, we have added another dynamic. Both of them are about safety and survival but they are on opposite sides. One is a breath hold and one is a flush. All right. We have gone from being surface warriors to asking our kids to compete in the columns of water that are in our pool.
Volume versus surface, all right, but we haven’t done anything about preparing them for that in terms of their primal acceptance. You have to have both today, you have to have surface and basically, you have to be able to operate on the surface with exhaling and you have to be able to operate on a moment’s basis um with a breath hold, yeah.
Audience: When you talk about columns, are they vertical or horizontal? What do you mean by columns?
Bill: No, the vertical, right. Okay so, so — so you get your swimmers and they walk out on to the deck right. And, what do they see? Did you ever ask your swimmers what they see when they walk out from the locker room on to the deck and they see this pool in front of them? What is it that they see? How do they recognize it?
Audience: They see the surface of the water.
Bill: Right, they see a surface right? All right, so primarily when they walk out on the deck, they are not on edge, their adrenal system isn’t leaking because they see a surface and they know how to deal with that. They exhale on that surface so they can keep doing it as much as John wants them to. All right, now what we have done is we have asked them to go underwater, now they have to begin to look at it as a volume, not a surface. So, when they are – when they are under the surface, it’s a breath hold, all right. So, we have complicated the whole situation in terms of survival and how they think about it and what they see. So, we need – we need to deal with that. We need to — we need to, um, we need to focus on the fact that — that they are in a – in a volume of water, a column of water now. Now, they are both life threatening.
Audience: So how do you deal with that?
Bill: Ah, so how do we deal with that? Um, yeah that’s — what’s the next slide? Okay, let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about how you deal with that? That’s going to be part of the last piece of this. Matt, can you go to um the last piece about the second reality.
Bill: Yeah, keep going, keep going. All right, here’s the second reality, let’s talk about that question? Think about what – how your swimmers today live their life before they get to the pool, all right. Even 10 years ago, life was much more simple for their nervous system than it is today. We have two nervous systems, all right. When – when you are using texts or when you’re using electronic communication, that’s all in the forebrain. That is you are thinking about what you’re doing. Survival is all about the hindbrain. Two days before I came down here I heard that driving, texting or electronic communication while driving is now the leading cause of death by automobiles in this country. Why is that? Because we are in the wrong brain. It’s not just that we shouldn’t be texting, is that we are in the wrong brain, when you drive defensively, you’re in your hindbrain, you don’t make decisions, you make reactions, all right? So, anything that you do that brings you to the forebrain puts everybody else on the road in danger because you’re not reacting to danger, you don’t have this instinct anymore. So kids come to your pool in that condition, when you are all – our brains are supposed to be balanced, that’s how we are, that’s how we have survived, that’s why your DNA is still in this room, because your ancestors had a balanced approach to daily life. They could think about stuff or they could react to stuff equally and there was communication between the two brain systems, all right. Now, we spend all day long on electronic gear, this brain is basically on fire all day and all of our lives are based upon comfort, so there’s no neural danger, okay, and so this brain kind of goes to sleep. It just kind of dampens down and we live in just this brain. The problem is – the problem is, this is, this is – we are hunter-gatherers, all right, we are hunter-gatherers, our nervous system is a hunter-gatherer nervous system. For our sensory, the things that we talk about like sight, sound, smell, taste and touch, well, that’s an early warning system. It’s cognitive forebrain, you can choose to touch something, smell something, taste something, all right, hear something. That’s an early warning system, all right, it’s cognitive. Those systems respond to external stimuli that is, what did I just hear, should I get the heck out of here so I’m not a meal. Is there a fire coming? All right, what’s in my environment? All right, this is the near sensory system, this is the athletic system, this is the system that works out of your hindbrain, this is the system that’s gone to sleep all day because this system in terms of your electronic communication is on fire.
So, they come to your pool, all right, let’s talk about vestibular balance, basically that’s where the weight of my head is, all right, relative to my support system. Tackle sensitivity is — what do I feel on the skin of my body? Heat, vibrations, stuff like that, that’s – that’s tactile sensitivity and proprioceptive awareness basically is – is where are my limbs? You don’t – I mean if – if – if I were to ask you to stand up, take your hands and put them in front of you and begin to move them apart and you lost sight of your hands at your peripheral vision, I could see the change in your eyes. You could feel it in the head. Why? Because you don’t know where they are now, you can’t see them, 80% of our information is visual and now you have lost sight of the defending where are they? Can I get through? Can I defend myself? So, you are on alert. Unfortunately, most of our stroking in freestyle is in the wrong position and we are on alert all the time because they are out of our sight. Think about it, all right.
Okay, so um they cannot be directed, they can be influenced by experiences but they cannot be directed by the forebrain. That’s your athletic system. If you don’t get those two systems working together before you get your kids in the pool and start working with them, you are wasting your time. I want you to think about this, if you will. I had asked at least a hundred coaches all over the world, how long does it take in a two hour practice for you to feel like you have got your kids ready to go to work, metabolically? And almost universally, it’s like 20 minutes to 25 minutes. It takes me 25 minutes or 20 minutes to get my kids ready to receive the metabolic stimulation that I want. I don’t think that’s the case, I think it takes 20 to 25 minutes of indiscriminate activity to get your brains balanced.
That’s – that’s the issue, why not take five minutes at the beginning of practice maybe eight and balance your brains before you even get in the pool or while you get in the pool. So subtract ten even from 25. In a two hour practice, you get 15 more minutes of stimulation and it’s stimulation that’s useful because the brains are balanced and you put that over a week, that’s another practice, simply by recognizing that the nervous system is what you’re dealing with early in – in a practice or when kids come off the street into your – into your pool, all right and you’re just gathering time and they are feeling a lot better.
Audience: What would you do with your athletes in that time that they are on deck?
Bill: Pardon, pardon. Would you – would you raise your hands, excuse me, thank you. What – what would I do if they were on deck?
Bill: Breathing exercises. All right, breathing exercises, of some of kind of Yoga or some – something where there were deep exhales, all right, deep exhales. So that — when those kids know – they know what’s coming, all right and they have got to be comfortable with knowing what’s coming. So they have to be – they have to – you have to work on the exhale side of the inhale-exhale so that their — their CO2 levels, all right, don’t bring anxiety into their system. I am – I am not saying that that’s what you should do at all but I’m just saying that you could start there, you could also start when they walk into the building and turn off their phones. Okay, no electronics until you walk out of the building, why, it’s real, it’s not just something you’re asking them not to do and they could start their deep breathing as they are walking into a locker room and focus on it and there’s a — yeah, yeah – now here are some examples in today’s world. Like 80% of our communication is visual and – and if you go to the airport, if you — where would you go- people are looking at their hands, bumping into each other or there’s no conversation between six people, among six people sitting at a table. All right, and they are advertising today – even if a kid gets a ride to your class — to your pool, they are –they are going through – they are going through advertising that is designed to get them upset, nature has a flow to it, all right. The wolf hunts the deer by shape and movement, all right. That’s who we are, one, when they want to get your attention, six-tenths of a second bytes of flashing lights and sound and you have come to the conscious level because it’s not comfortable and they get you because you are now looking at what made you feel that way. So they are not interested in your comfort, they are interested in getting your attention but that’s what we get all day here. All right, so does um does that answer your – are there any questions about that? Okay, there’s another issue here.
Audience: [inaudible] [01:036:06]
Bill: Wait a minute, can we go back to um yeah, so yes, yes here we go. This is – this is the other issue. It used to be that in Short Course Swimming, you would push off and you would have about five, you know, three to five seconds at the wall and then you’d come up and you’d have maybe eight or nine seconds to swim on the surface, depending on who you were and what your age is, there’s a shorter period of time for your turn so maybe double that if you want for swimming on the surface. Now, we have gone underwater, now the surface activity is reduced below the turn activity and we have — what we have done is, we have added activities to the same period of time or distance travel. We have added activities. We have made movement more dense in the same period of time or less because it’s faster in the same space that we are working in. That – that is called serial activity, all right and that’s a nervous system issue. You have to be – your nervous system has to be ready to change positions, attitudes, everything in seconds or under a second, all right. So what I just – I wrote down, if a kid let’s say were – you are at your state meet, and there’s a ready room or they get up off the block or off your – off of your seat at a dual meet or you’re preparing them, okay. I wrote down the things that would happen to that kid in the first forty yards of a swim. Each of those stands alone as an entity that should be taught. Want to go to the next one?
Twenty-one different things to accomplish before they get to the second fifteen off the wall. That is – that is unbelievable serial density and if we are not dealing with that fact that is getting kids to act in certain ways in really, really short periods of time over and over and over um then we are really not teaching Short Course Swimming. We are – we are bringing the history of surface water activity to Short Course Swimming, we’re out of – we’re out of step with the reality of that today. Long course hasn’t changed very much, that’s cyclical in nature, let’s say there’s a 30 second period of time when you’re doing the same thing and then there’s a short break where you’re doing a number of little things but in general your body responds to the length of time that you are doing the same thing. All right, so it’s difference, a nervous system. This is how I feel like — like preparation for long course and short course are diverging in the nervous system, they’re diverging. I’m not saying that you can’t swim long course coming out of a short course pool but we are going to have to be much more creative about what we do with kids in a short course pool, getting them ready to go long course. All right, maybe one thing is, we take away one wall, just turn around after the backstroke flag so there’s only one wall.
All right, so all this comes back to the question from the rear here and that is what do you do about all this? Well, I think what we have to do is we have to change the way we look at a warm up, we have to change the way we approach readiness in a practice on a daily basis. So, one of the things that we have done at Tennessee is we have experimented with – with those changes um in all kinds of ways, just trying to feel the water that’s tactile, we’re trying to get a little more tactile sensitivity and this is called Nelmsing, as in Milt, all right, it’s basically up and down and it’s ribbon candy from the bottom to the top and an important thing here is that at the hip you don’t want to V change, you want a rounded change, you go to the bottom and you round off in the hip, round off, all right.
So, you get them traveling and maybe they go from lay marker to lay marker not long arcs but short arcs and using body weight, taking your breath and leading with a good aquatic line and not leading with your face out of line but you get your breath fly, come back and – okay, so you’re – you’re using the body line to drop yourself into the water, um, you are working on the exhale, all right and now I don’t know if we have any of this but we have asked them to do somersaults on the surface, we have asked them to do all kinds of things in the ribbon candy, all right. We have done backwards ribbon candy, sidewards ribbon candy, you give them task where they forget about breath holding and feeling more comfortable and fun and all of a sudden their brains basically harmonize, all right. Yeah. Do you have that one where the – the whole team is working?
Bill: Um if you want to get metabolically ready for swimming um I don’t think there’s anything harder than eight bobs and ten feet harmonic target bobbing. Coming off the bottom, going back down where you started, coming off the boundary and back down when you started, you’re ready. So you can introduce your metabolic readiness into this nervous system adjustment, it’s just how you put it together.
Matt: You ask them to do a number of things in warm up, they are synchronized, so that — again what – what we are doing is what Boomer explained earlier is just giving them experiences. So, creating practice so that they have specific experiences, they get down uh essentially into the – into the correct brain so that they’re Nelmsing, there is so much information that comes to them when they do that activity. Uh they — they have to be aware of their buoyancy, um how — how that changes when they — they move their center of mass over the top of their center of buoyancy. They are using the whole column of water so that they become more comfortable um and — and they are not locked into the surface. Uh this is essentially with aquatic signature and then coming into some – some jumps and lines off the bottom, they are all just experiences that are designed to – to get them to feel certain elements of the environment and tune into those things, uh in ways they are a little bit surprising and sometimes uh it’s more work.
Bill: These are – this is fun, this is a drop in so you go dropping together, that is the quality of the line takes you down either faster or slower than your opponent and then the first one that breaks the surface on a harmonic on a way up in 16 feet and this is competitions, and I don’t know what depths you have. Another thing that we do, that I like a lot, is we take 50 kids and we put them in one lane from the backstroke flags to the wall, 50 kids and we ask them to go into a “signature”, that is you take a breath and you let your face fall forward and you give yourself away to the water and there are 50 kids and they’re bumping and slamming and they’re just all over the place. When they want a breath, they have to exhale what they have and drop to the bottom, they have to look up and find a space in the cloud and come up, take a breath and go back into the signature and what you have is you have human rain, okay, and basically the first five minutes that you do that, they are all on edge. All right, people who are really uncomfortable move to the outside of the circle and then, all of a sudden, you can just see the shoulders drop in the group like this and it’s just human rain, they are just comfortable, they feel good, they are bumping into people, it doesn’t matter. So they are going – you’re in the column, all right, but they are comfortable in the column. Now just think about yourself going to NCAA or State Championships or whatever you do, you know, you can’t find a place in a lane much less a bathroom. All right, everybody’s on edge. So, it doesn’t matter to them anymore, they can swim over people, people can bump into them, they are – they still have their focus and that’s what we try to mimic with this and they love it, all right, human rain, they call it a swarm. Yeah. So, it’s about warm up, um thanks for listening.
Matt: All right
Bill: You know, the — the question is – once you get them, what you think is ready metabolically and neurally, so what do you do with them?
Matt: So, we don’t really start practice the same way twice, um it’s important for – for them I think to – to know that when they approach the water, they gotta listen because there’s going to be a set of instructions that is different from yesterday, uh and so typically, we – we all uh – we take the first maybe five to eight minutes to do something and that something could be anything from – from jumping in off the diving board to jumping, doing back flip off the blocks, all are very safe way, uh we will start with the diving well, we’ll start in the pool, they like start in the side of the pool and we will – we will swim 25 yards over and under the lane lines, but the purpose of the first, say five to eight minutes of practice is to – to essentially always, what we call – “partner with the water”. So that they are – they got to anticipate the way they’re going to interact with the water and then we give them the chance to interact with water in a way that isn’t swimming 500 and I’ll talk to you in 8 minutes. There’re sometimes metabolic activity so a really simple start might be to go a 100 yards of Nelmsing down on your front, coming back on your back and then — they will create some lines both on the surface and underwater.
So, on the surface we may start in the signature and then come up into aquatic line, move into a – uh into a posture that’s ready for kicking, kicked down in the other end of the pool, um bob a few times, come back underwater. And, so there’s some metabolic activity there um we may alternate kicking a line with swimming down line, there are some metabolic activity there. We will – um there are concepts that we try to reinforce in a 200 freestyle and the idea of cruising the first part, building second, attacking the last. We use that language pretty early on in warm up maybe five to eight minutes in and sometimes we – we will give them a shot um start hold with a 100 IM race. So, it can be different all the time and I think that – that flows from your idea that the first purpose of the practice is to create a relationship with the water. We have to be clear on what that is and if it’s very casual in diving and swimming 500 or 400 or you have thousand kick pull swim, then uh – then certainly that’s predictable but if they have done it a thousand times before then that — that partnership offers nothing new that day. We – we really want them to get into the mindset of discovering something new, we try to include opportunities for exhaling, make sure that their – that their breathing systems are where we want them to be, uh so there are a lot of different elements and I don’t have it here — basically a checklist of things we want to cover in the warm up that we haven’t mentioned.
Bill: A lot of the warm up is – is around walls – that the skills and the walls. So, when we ask them to do stuff it pertains a lot to wall skills and that’s to lead into the fact that Matt and I just made a turn and start video, probably be out in the spring and it’s pretty comprehensive and it deals with all this and we made another video about freestyle and it’s called Freestyle Re-imagined and that will come out um at the same time, I think in the Spring.
Matt: All right, let me move forward to George’s talk and I think it’s segues pretty nicely, let me know if I am wrong George, but in talking about the – when – when we talked about his plan for continuing to improve performance from a conference meet to 30 days later, NCAA Championship, the theme kept coming up that what – what we are really doing is looking at the nervous system first um so ––
George Kennedy: Yeah for – for years uh approx, I am just in my 30th year at Hopkins and for about 27 years I always believed that our taper was about the expectations we – we – we uh challenged our athletes with and then how they get after them and we were doing quite well but I would say this about 90% of teams underperform. We need to be honest with ourselves at some level. So, um what was it that we needed to change and I think from – from my aspect, I had to go from being disappointed in what we were doing to being dissatisfied. Our team was finishing in the top 10 at NCAAs but we just – we were dissatisfied and I think to make that big change uh you have got the throw everything, Bill and I were talking about it last night, you always have to throw everything out on the table and start over and so one thing that comes to my mind and Dick Jochums was talking earlier today about what he has learned from the Greeks, well there was a Greek warrior many years ago um and in just survival, the Greek warrior basically said, in times of crisis, we don’t rise to the level of our expectations but we fall to the level of our training and our preparation and what I would like for Matt to do is and before we start talking about what my perception of that is and it’s really different and it’s fun, uh I think we have to ask ourselves these questions before we even begin to plan for a season.
So, “what does your favorite team look like?”, and I am going to come back to these because I want you to get thinking about these. “What’s the proper size for your team?” “What are the physical dynamics that affect this group and probably the psychological dynamics that affect this group?” “How does this team fulfill their potential?” I am currently reading a book by a Tufts athletic trainer, encourage you all to get it, it’s called, Beneath the Hidden Jersey and he talks about the other 150 hours a week in that. My favorite hero, my hero in sports is Michael Jordan and when he won or he was admitted into the Hall of Fame for basketball, the famous line goes that one of his coaches held him back a little bit because he told Michael, “There is no ‘I’ in team” and his response was, “Yeah but there’s an ‘I’ in win”. And I’m convinced that the ‘I’ in team is where it begins. It starts with each one of us and I think the panel earlier today mentioned that.
So, Matt if you can fast forward to the 20th and 21st century, so here are the value systems of what we for years I think looked at and how we set up our training program and then what we – I think you can only rest or perform at a championship meet if you do the work. We elevated training above everything else. Now at a school like Johns Hopkins I got to let you know, the academics are always there. I mean these are smart kids. A little story is, the first meet I went to 30 years ago, I put an itinerary on the bulletin board and came in all fired up, ready for the team to go and the whole thing had been edited in red ink! So, I came back to that. That was my initiation to Hopkins. But we put training here, up here and then there were vertical columns to everything else.
Matt and I spoke last night about how important the alcohol management part of that is. I’ve never had a team that is both had a you know drank successfully and been fast at the end of the year. Stress management is huge at our school. But, what happens with the old philosophy or what I used – how I used to looked at it was, the training was here and then there were vertical columns to everything else. And it was okay, maybe, if you didn’t get your sleep because you were going to make up with it in not drinking. Or it was okay to, you took – maybe you didn’t, you always took care of your academics but I think you get the point. And so, we started looking at it in a different way and Matt we go to the 21st century and we got the subject video there. I can speaking while Matt gets it but that training is on a horizontal column with sleep. And you name it, sleep; management of alcohol, management of stress, hydration, nutrition, attitude. You look at any lead athletes now: massage, we have two massage therapists that go to the NCAAs with us. Out teams get massages twice a week. How we handle, or how we manage that I think is totally different than how we used to when we were dissatisfied, before I became so dissatisfied for the change, it was one thing that we would do okay, we’d be doing things halfway. And now I think we have an all in mentality. So, while we tried to collect what we were doing, I do want to talk about the value of sleep. I want to talk to you about that as maybe one of the most important, maybe impelling habits that’s out there.
We have working with our team in Baltimore, we’re really fortunate, North Baltimore Aquatic Club is three miles from where we train. We have as our sports psychiatrist, is the sports psychiatrist with the Baltimore Orioles. He studied sleep with professional athletes. And in a layman’s term that we all can understand, he says that, “You can go two days if you get six to six and half hours of sleep and take an afternoon power nap but the third day, if you go to the third day after that, it will be a five day recovery from that”. So, it’s really powerful in how we’re setting up what we do during our seasonal training and what we do when we set up our championship training. So, a couple of things that we try to stress with our athletes is, when you talk about alcohol management, there’s a study out there, about 56% of athletes are the worst but 56% of college athletes binge drink at least once a week. So, if they’re binge drinking on a Saturday night, the best they can possibly come back is to Tuesday morning. So, if you can, this is what we do during the year and what we stress up top is probably more important than what we actually do with our training pattern because we all know that coaches tend to train or change their training pattern.
We come off of 36 hours of recovery and we just say to our athletes that has to be big sleep and it can’t be big sleep because you’re sleeping off a tough Saturday night. They have to make a decision. You’re going to party hard or you’re going to swim fast? And so then we get into – I’ve often felt that we’re coming off a day off on Sunday and I like what Bill and Matt were doing with getting the body ready to swim in and so, we would actually take a whole session to try to get the body ready to swim for the entire week and we just called it our weekly setup. All right, we worked with tempo trainers, we tried to get to sweet spots of our strokes and go on from there. And then basically we do a tremendous amount of effort, there’s a tremendous amount of effort in our practices on Monday and Saturdays. There’s a tremendous amount of strength, power and racing on Tuesdays and Thursdays. And where Thursday there says ‘race prep’ generally speaking we’re doing in the fall a little bit more of a threshold type work there.
Now where it says, ‘recover on own’ what we’ve decided to do is, to really value the sleep there. And the athletes come in, the two coaches, I have an assistant coach in my office and we stay in our offices, we’ve given them the practice to do. It’s more about, this is how much – these are how many minutes you need to get in the pool and it’s a value. The heart rates are not above 140, it’s right in line with the sleep. And so, ‘recover on own’ they actually get our practice, it’s a paper practice. And then we come back and do a really tough day on Thursday. We’re off Friday morning and we come in on Friday afternoon and the coaches, this is what I decided, what coaches need to be all about; we decide what we think we really need to do that day. And it’s ranged from an hour of kicking into swimming to, having as much fun as you can ever imagine. My assisting coach is young and she’s enthusiastic and one day she decided to throw a candy bar in the pool. Well, have any of you ever seen Caddy Shack? Okay. Well, we had a Caddy Shack scene one Friday afternoon. It was a whole lot of fun, I won’t go from there.
But one of the keys in our program and I think Matt had mentioned it earlier was peer coaching. One of the best ways to learn is by copying. We had a young lady on our team who just graduated, who could kick underwater better than any of our guys. And Bill was talking about that’s the wave of the future. It’s really interesting. Her background, she swam in high school but had never done anything in a practice longer than a 50 but she’s a synchro swimmer and she could hold her breath forever. And for 200 yards of backstroke most of her race with probably almost two thirds of her race was underwater. So, she taught, for instance she taught the body flow underwater.
We had another young man who just could do turns like no other. He taught freestyle turns. The coaches would walk around. So, what I’m trying to get to you is, I don’t think you can have anybody do anything well unless they really want to be there and they feel connected to it and to some extent they believe in what you believe in. And I will say this, hard work is valued, all right. It’s a different kind of hard work but it’s really valued. And we really work hard at swimming our races properly.
The two hour swim, an hour weights on Saturday is probably the only day where we totally exhaust them and they’re recovering off that. And I’m not a big fan of totally exhausting them because we want more in the system. So, naturally you see what we’re doing during the – John there’s a rainbow up there, which is pretty good right. You saw there?
George: You see what we’re doing as the years go on and now for the last 30 days we switched that. We talked about our strength training. We call it, ‘HIIT or high intensity interval training’ and we’re going to change this a little bit this year. Our assistant is become certified in spinning. So, we come in Monday morning and we get our bodies acclimated to the pool and then we’re going to do a 30 minutes spin. Then our heaviest – I wouldn’t say we lift heavy but our heaviest lift day is on Tuesday. Our recovery day on Wednesday is, we don’t want them doing anything that’s going to stress their muscle. Plyometric work on Thursday, high intensity interval training on Friday is done before the hour of what we do in the hour of peer coaching and then a combination lift on Saturday. I have all this stuff, I don’t have the specifics with me but I can send it to anybody. So, now what we do with our championship is, we have 30 days. And what we do is a similar pattern but what I was seeing between conference meet and NCAAs I thought we were training really well, throughout the year. I thought we’re doing, making the right choices, I thought that we were teaching them from the inside out. That was that I thought they were taking care of themselves but they weren’t managing something. And our kids were getting a little bit sick and they’re getting stressed out about academics. And I thought, this is where we need to make the change.
So, if you will, we’re doing work on day one. We’re doing work on day two. We’re recovering on day three. It’s more, and then we come back to work. And after day four, everybody gets a massage about six hours after they’ve done the work so they can let the lactates flow out, and you take the massage before the day off. And every fifth day we were taking off. And what I found, which was amazing, is, I’m not sure if it’s – if a physiologist came in here and told me it was the right thing but it’s the right thing for our kids, they’re going to the meet, they’re kicking butt, they’re healthy. We have not in the past two years missed a single minute of practice, a single minute from a health problem or a stress problem that we were missing all the time going into NCAAs. And I think it’s psychological, I think it’s mental, I think it’s emotional but I think what’s happening here is that we’re ridding the body of what you would call some residual fatigue on a regular basis. Who has the guts to take every fifth day off? Our kids love it, they connect with it, they believe in what I believe, because I believe in this. And one of the really interesting things that comes out of it is that with the six, five day cycles, at some point in time, they want to start getting back in the water. I think that’s a great thing. I think it’s awesome!
It means they’re engaged, they’re ready, they’re rested and so, this is an example of the patterns we had. This past year we, the entire east coast, and we were in Charlotte, we had a snow storm. Anybody here from Charlotte, you surely don’t know how to take care of snow. Dave Marsh, okay? And so, we got back from our conference meet at 6 in the morning on Monday. So, usually our cycle would start on a Tuesday. So, we went Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday a lot of regeneration, off on Sunday, like most teams probably would. Our team was ready to be off on Sunday. Then we went Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and during that time, we decided what we were going to do during each day, and that’s the art of coaching to me, and then we took Friday off. And on that Friday my assisting coach and I went out for the best walk, we just released from it, everything else. The interesting thing about what happened in the next cycle, is we go Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and a whole lot of people don’t want to do that but what we made a decision to do is to treat Sunday like we normally do a day off. We flipped Sunday and then we were going to work on Monday. But we got blasted in the north by a snowstorm and now with litigation as it is, we used to try to sneak into the building on a snowstorm day and every building is like, locked now. You can’t – it’s locked down. So, nobody could do anything on that Monday.
And so, we had to adjust as we went and pretty soon that just started into what I would say a nice rest pattern and we went on to the NCAA Championships and I got to say, our kids were very well rested. I’m a big Chip Kelly fan, I’m a Philadelphia Eagles fan; if you stay with me for a little while. Chip when he was at the University of Oregon would rest his people, they’d be drinking smoothies, all the offensive linemen and other programs would be eating cheese steaks and fries. And he’d go to nutrition, hydration, what the stuff that lasts. But what Chip discovered, he’s a statistic guy, was that, when teams go like this to win their fourth quarter in a football game, that’s not where it’s at. Where it is, is right here. 87% of the time, in the PAC 12, he discovered the team that was leading at the end of the first quarter won the game.
Well then I just thought, well, maybe if we come out of the gates at the NCAAs so charged and ready to go, without losing it emotionally, and day one is like Chip Kelly’s first quarter. We’re going to carry some momentum and we did, the first day at NCAAs was pretty magical until the men’s medley relay got up and our six foot five breaststroker with size 18 feet lost his goggles and so he swam crooked and then our flyer jumped. And I think only when your team’s connected to what you’re doing when you have – I mean it could have been devastating but they saw that everybody was swimming fast, we were all ready to go and so, I think at that point in time, a coach’s job is to try to understand the personality of his program. What do you need to tell this group of guys who are so charged up so they can bounce back and move on? And I basically said this, and I said, “Guys everybody’s coming to this meet. We’re swimming fantastically. Almost any team is going to have hiccup” and then I asked them, “Did you get the shit out of your system?” and they just laughed and said, “Yes!” And they moved on. And I thought it was awesome. And the next session was even better than the first. Now, how we set that up is, I think we do it through the training like I was talking about and here’s an example of what we do. We use – rather there’re a lot of coaches don’t like to do the same practice, what we like to do is, progressions of the same practice. So, it’s different but it’s so similar that it makes sense to our athletes.
So, I know that people who use the color codes and John has set them up, what we’re using our color codes for, because our kids are so doggone smart is they just know that as each color we go through, it gets faster. So, you’re really not doing 4×50’s orange, I’m not sure if that’s the right thing there but – so, we went through a program where the goal was to try to get our 50 and 100 and 200 yard swimmers to swim their races right. And of this set, we had a young lady who went 22.8 in the 50 and she thinks this is one of the reasons why she was out in 11.24 and back at 11.56 good second half. But what we’re doing is taking 8 x 25, working on tempo with the tempo trainer in October and we go three rounds through that set so, it’s still some volume in there and we might do a 100 or 200 easy. So, it becomes a 3,900 yard set. Then in January, the 5 x 25s at – and this is now, I think really where it becomes on them. There is a 25 at their perception of what 85% is, their perception of what their 90% is, their perception of 95%, 100 and 100 plus. And 100 plus is just wailing arms, you know, and we recorded tempos, times and stroke counts. And what we found with this, and the young lady who went 11.24 and back in 11.56, she was most efficient going at 95% of what she thought her max effort was. And so she had an opportunity to do that set and then her cue word when she’d stepped up on the block would be, ‘Go 95, right?” I said, ‘Yes”. And then she just would go and believe.
So, now that’s in January and then during the championship preparation, because we had five day cycles, we were able to do this set in every other cycle. It just made sense for the kids and we did it three times through about 20 some days out, two times through 14 days out and one time through. It’s just getting the kids to buy-in and I think the silver bullet is 100% buy-in.
Another set that I know Bill put in the magazine that he puts out but our distance guy tends to be able to do long distance really well. We had a young man who this summer from Division III, it’s really good, went 15:27 in the mile. He just dropped down by understanding pace better. And so here’s a distance set that we picked up and everybody may have done something like this. We did 1 x 400s, 2 x 200s, 4 x 100s and 8 x 50s. And then in the fall, we repeat the 400 and just drop the 8 x 50s and then the goal would be to descend the 400s tremendous walls, quadrant swimming that type of thing.
Then in January when we’re looking to try to increase our race pace, we would descend each set of 8 x 50s. Then we knew he was going to swim pretty fast. When he did this set twice, a cycle about 20 some days out and then once a cycle about 10 days out, he did a 400 on 5:30 and he went about 3:50, 2 x 200s on 2:15 and he held about 1:51 and then he was holding :53s and :54s on the 100s and :26s on the 50s. And it’s just like we’re trying to get buy-in from our athletes and I’m not sure if we get that unless it makes sense to them. And that’s the way they get to believe in what we believe in. So, those are two examples and now with the power rack example, we also want to be motivational and inspirational, Matt said earlier. And we love setting it up so they’re successful. So, with power racks, we always use a cycle of four weeks and so, the week before the conference or NCAA Meet, we’ll do one to five racks, they’re holding body weight or body weight plus five. That’s kinda, like just to make them still feel that they’re doing some power, but what we progress in weeks one through three is, we’ll do a base weight on the day one. We’ll do the racks twice a week. Base weight plus five pounds on day two. We’ll do a three rounds of five on :30. The next week we do base weight plus five and base weight plus 10. Two rounds of five on :35. Base weight plus 10, base weight plus 15, one round of five on :40.
And so, the key thing here is, when they start seeing they’re improving by 17.1%, “My power’s up” or 20.01%. And that power ratio goes up like that. We tend to make it a little bit of a mind game, and so now they’re buying into the physiological and the emotional and the psychological part of it all. And so, that’s what we’re doing to try to get what I would call “ahead of the curve” and find a way to go from being dissatisfied to reaching performance capacity. And it’s thinking outside the box. Now, what we did at the conference meet, usually we have maybe 8 to 10 make their cuts in the fall and maybe 7 or 8 women make their cuts in the fall. So, what we did at the conference meet, we just gave everybody three to five days rest. And I do that knowing that the men are just not going to swim as well as the women. And that might be anti- what a lot of you think but our goal is, pick performance at the NCAAs.
The women tend, and I don’t want to sound sexist, but I found with women, I have two daughters; confidence is the key in their life. And if they see that they’re really hitting it and they do on five days rest at the conference meet, it just carries over to the NCAAs. Men on the other hand need a kick in the yeah, need a kick, and by setting it up three to five days out – an example I was telling Matt, we had an IMer go 1:58 at conference, he went 1:49 at NCAAs and the bottom line was, he wasn’t ready. He was in between, he just wasn’t ready to perform but he was there mentally and emotionally, we get ready for all the relays. And our team does well in the relays in the conference meet but then they do really well in the relays at NCAAs and this past year, our men and women combined won six out of the ten relays.
Coming back to the training. Something we’re doing with relay is that I’m not sure a lot of people are doing but our speed sets during our rest patterns are done in relays. And so, they race one another and we handicap – like if we have our A – 800 free relay next to our B – 800 free relay and usually we’re going 150s or something that is little bit of a lesser distance but they find a way to race, they find a way to compete, they find a way to say, “Hey you got to hold this guy off over here. He’s hot today”. And I think that’s really helped our relays. So, we race relays in practice. And so, it’s been a lot of fun. My life has been much more enjoyable knowing that we go to the meet with pretty much a programmatic change that I generally can see that our kids are going to swim pretty fast. I mean they come to practice every day, they’re healthy, they’re going four days, they can focus on four days. We would get stale with our academic loads, we get stale going six days in a row, everybody’s excited to go to NCAAs. And it’s really working for us, it doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you but it’s really exciting because it’s changed the whole dynamics of our team, so thanks, yeah.
Any – any questions? Yeah.
Audience: When you started the thing to play that taking that rest in the middle of the week and four days on, one day off, did you see a difference in their investment as I guess it’s overall interest and motivation to train outside of that season? Did having that change their motivation overall?
George: The question is, did I see any change outside of the season? I just saw a change overall. They wanted to be there, they’re really engaged, they felt like we were preparing them for their world and not mine. I remember ten days before my conference meet in 1970-something, I was a 100 backstroke I didn’t want to be a 200, I was really a 75 backstroker but where we go like x 800 backstroke, 10 days out I’m saying, “Really?” I was so – it really, I’ll tell you what happens. Is I want to come back – I’m sorry I should, if you can stay with me for a second. I want to come back to the questions the first part because I think this is really important. So, what does your favorite team look like? Well, doing it this way, our team looks healthy, fit, energetic, ready to go, believing. I mean just ready to crush it and I think the key thing is they’re coming in feeling like they’re a 9 or a 10 before practice even starts.
So, I don’t know what your favorite team, what you want them to look at like at that time but prior to this, they’re looking tired, they were having the sniffles, they were sick and I don’t know what the magic answer was to it other than sometimes change can be psychological or emotional. And I think stress had a lot to do with it. So, I was always interested in my daughter’s athletic careers and one day I asked my older daughter when she was 10, “What’s your favorite sport?” And she said, “Well dad that’s easy. Lacrosse” I said “Okay” and she went on to play lacrosse. And then I asked my younger daughter who’s a little more cerebral and she was 7 at the time I said, “Sarah what’s your favorite sport?” She said, “That’s easy dad!” And I say, “Well what’s that?” She goes, “Whatever sport I’m playing at that time”. So, I got to thinking. What if, somebody will ask John maybe what’s his favorite team of all time? And the only answer can possibly be, the team you’re currently working with. That has to be your favorite team. So, what if your athletes see that that’s your favorite team every year? What the buy-in would be?
And then the second story I want to tell you, I am sorry we’ve run long but, in 29 years of coaching up to this year, my favorite individual moment didn’t come from any meet or any award that anybody ever won. It came from – I was behind one of our athletes who was talking to a recruit as they were going around campus and I was back with mom and dad, this was a young lady so I knew that I had to recruit dad and so my – our athlete, who would improve 9 seconds in a 200 free, could have said when asked the question, “What’s the best thing about Hopkins Swimming?” And that’s a loaded question. So, I wanted to hear because I wanted to make sure she said, “That’s easy” and the young lady said, “Well what’s that?” She said, “Everybody’s into it.” And I said, that’s probably my favorite moment. We all have our favorite moments in a coaching career but if everybody’s into it, doesn’t that form the base of what we can do with any of them? So, I thought those two stories were really important.
So, physical dynamics, we have a six lane 25 yard pool with 60 athletes. Our coaches are on the pool deck some days 8 hours. We have to do the work. They have to see us doing the work so that they can go fast. And so, what’s the proper size of this team, I’m really going through a tough time right now because what we’ve seen usually it’s around 25 men and 25 women and we have 30 on each side. And I say 25 men and 25 women because we’re allowed to take 25 men and 25 women to the conference meet and only 18 to score. And we all know what happens is that, the 19th through 25th kid always think they should be scoring and then the 26th through 30th kid always think they should be going to the conference meeting. So, they become the real pains. And so, you don’t want too many bottom-feeders on the team. And the other 150 hours in a week are just critical as we’ve described. I think it’s changing, I think you need the sleep. And we preach it but we don’t do it. On Tuesday, I was able to speak to 50 doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital and they were talking their residency program. They just kill their residents. And they’re very interested in going to this kind of pattern and it really was exciting to me. And then what I also noticed is that a lot of colleges are going to – during their final exam period, they’re going to a reading day and then two days on, one day off; two days on, one day off and you always have that recovery day because no matter what, you get that third day in a row and you’re toast. So, here we go. Any more questions? Yeah.
Audience: Can you tell us how you determine the base weights for each individual per athlete?
George: They are individual per athlete.
Audience: How do you measure that?
George: Usually we measure that by a set time range that they can fall in between. Like for freestyle it’s a set time and it’s not – I think it might be between five and six second for freestyle; 5.5 and 6.2 for back and fly and 6 to 7 seconds for breaststroke. And then we base that off of that they have to stay within that range with the weight that they start out with and then they’re gradually adding in. I think power is really a great indicator of where they’re going to go in the speed races if you increase that power. So, it’s really helpful to them to see that they’ve increased that.
Matt: All right thanks, all.
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