Commitment by Bill Sweetenham (2005)


Introduction: We are about to introduce Bill Sweetenham to talk to us about commitment. If you were here yesterday you heard the extensive story of Bill’s background (I needn’t remind you of his roots in Australia or his roots in British swimming). I would like to remind you about a few things he told us yesterday, lest there be any doubt about whether we have the right person to talk to us about commitment.
Yesterday he told us that success was not cheap. He asked us to examine ourselves and say ‘ will I be a better coach tomorrow because of what I did or did not do today?’ Remember that he asked us to say – ‘am I coaching right now like the best coach in the world?’ He challenged us to say that if we do make a commitment to coach like the best coach in the world, we will make a difference. What stronger introduction could we have to an afternoon talking about commitment than what we got yesterday from Coach Bill Sweetenham. Bill, we are ready for Part II.

Bill Sweetenham: How good was this morning’s lecture from C. M. Newton? I thought it was just absolutely fantastic. I was enthralled from start to finish – what a great talk. I could listen to him again and again. If I could come to learn from him it would be fabulous. He had some great lectures. Mark Schubert gave a great talk this morning as well. These talks remind you of where you come from and your roots. I was the national youth coach in Australia for a long time – seven years – and I put together a group of young coaches. The objective was that this group of 12 coaches in three years had to be better prepared, better educated, and more knowledgeable than the coaches that were currently on the senior team in Australia. It included many of the coaches that are now on the Australian team – Michael Piper, Rowan Taylor and Stephen Woodmar, a whole range of them. I had them go through a whole series of exposures that we thought were important. One of the things that I did was to take these coaches and make them coach with the best rugby league coach in Australia at that time (he still is in my opinion). They had to learn about handling senior athletes.

The average age of the football team – the rugby league team, was probably 30-35 years of age. I left these group of twelve young coaches with Wayne (who was a personal friend) and told Wayne to observe and tell me where we needed to go with this group of coaches in his opinion, after four days of working with him. When I went back to collect them and to work with them on the last day I asked Wayne what he thought of them. I felt pretty proud about this group of coaches we had developed. He said to me “Bill, this is a fine bunch of young coaches, great coaches and they know an enormous amount about swimming. Their knowledge of swimming is unbelievable, but they have an awful lot to learn about coaching”.

So I think it is one the great challenges is that we have focused so much on the technical, the exercise physiology and the sport science today, is that we let the knowledge of coaching, the art – the feel of coaching, slip by. If you look at the podium at the Olympic games or the world championships, what do you see on the podium? Well, you see an accumulation of somewhere between 13,000 and 15,000 workouts, and if you average that out at two hours per workout, that is an awful lot of exposure to the stimulus of training and swimming. Each athlete that stands on the podium, if they started swimming at 12 and they are there when they are 22 (ten years) it is going to take about 4,400 to 5,000 workouts to get them to the podium. So anything that they repeat, any number of times in 5,000 workouts, has to be a reflection of what is going to happen or what is happening on the podium. It can’t happen when you get to the podium. You can’t get to the podium unless you do it in the training pool.

Mark Schubert this morning talked about innovation and coaching innovation. Ask yourselves – what is the most innovative workout you have done in the last six months? What is the most innovative and creative workout you have done in the last six months that motivated, enthused and captivated your athletes? That got them to take another step? I would like you all to think about that during this next lecture and this next discussion, because it made me think this morning. I thought about one of the fun ones I did. I spent four years in Hong Kong, and it was very difficult to motivate young people to want to train in the Hong Kong society. So, in an act of desperation one morning I went to the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club, and with a net I caught ten – sorry – caught nine very small turtles and I took them to the pool and let them go in the pool. I had ten swimmers in the main squad and I told them that for this morning’s workout they couldn’t be against the side of the pool. Each one had to catch a turtle for a warm up before the main set, and the person who didn’t get the turtle would have a punishment. And of course helter –skelter broke loose- the turtles went wild and the athletes chased them all around the pool. It took about 45 minutes, but it was fun and they sprinted and held their breath, because these turtles were down on the bottom. It was great, they had to nominate which turtle they were going to catch; then the last person who didn’t catch a turtle I gave the workout off to, because I wanted that person to feel pretty special, even though they didn’t catch a turtle. Then we went about the main set once everybody had caught a turtle. So do something different. It might not give you an immediate result, but that is the most innovative workout that I have ever done with a group of athletes, to try and get their attention, to grab their attention and get them focused on how much fun swimming can be.

Can you make each swimmer in your workout and in every workout feel as though they are the only swimmer in the pool? I think that is a great objective. Mark touched on that a bit this morning, but I think as a coach you have a responsibility to make every single swimmer in your workout at every session feel like they are the only swimmer in the pool. I have always felt with great athletes that they are like Formula I racing cars, and Formula I racing cars do not come off an assembly line. They are not machines that come off a production line. They are machines that have to be worked one on, and finely tuned, and they are the result of a lot of research and a lot of fine tuning. For those coaches here that this applies to, make sure you believe it in your heart. You do not have to have a champion athlete to be a great or a champion coach, but if you are a great or a champion coach it will only be a matter of time before you will have that great or champion athlete. Remember, for those guys that are starting out, you don’t have to have a champion athlete to be a champion coach.

One of my favorite lessons that I learned in the last few years came from basketball as well. My son plays basketball, and the coach asked me to have a look at the basketball session. I watched it and it ran against everything in my principles, everything I stood for. The coach only provided a very short exposure at each new skill that they learned, and they moved on to another skill, doing it in a very different way. I said to him afterwards, I said “Well, I thought your workout was pretty ordinary. In fact, I thought it was lousy and – it didn’t help my son’s basketball future”. At least I was honest about what I told him. He sat down with me and he taught me a very good lesson in coaching. He said “Bill, today’s athletes are about instant gratification, they want it now – it has to be immediate. There has to be an end result. There has got to be a reward. As a teacher I want to understand the athlete”. He said he had a 10 x 10 x 10 coaching philosophy. He only tried any drill 10 times. He had to have 10 ways to teach that drill or skill, and he didn’t spend any more than 10 minutes on any way. He said he did that because he had fast learners and slow learners, audible learners and eyeball learners. If someone learned it the first time, by the tenth time they are bored, but then there are others who won’t pick it up, and might only grab it on the 8th or 7th or 9th time. If he had ten ways to teach it, the one person will struggle with the first way, but they will pick it up the second. So, I think it was a very good lesson for me and I have applied it ever since.

I am going to be pretty quick going through this lecture now. The psychology of a workout, which I feel is important – it is how your athlete is prepared psychologically at every single workout. Motivation is a lifestyle. It is not about being excited for two weeks, three weeks or a month before the major competition – it is about living it day in and day out consistently. So, the commitment to the workout must be total. It can’t be total from the athlete unless it is total from the coach, so your commitment must be total. No mobile phones on deck – totally focused on the athlete. Totally focused on giving.

We often ask coaches to put a stopwatch in their pocket and time. How much 1 on 1 instruction does a coach give in a two-hour workout? I have actually had to grade coaches on the negative because they did not offer any athlete one on one instruction or feedback unless the athlete asked them, so I consider that to be a negative. Thirty to forty minutes prior to a workout I like to walk through the workout mentally. I like to put myself aside 30-40 minutes away from the workout, mentally walk through it and look for the weaknesses in the workout, the weaknesses in the situation. Are the athletes ready? Are they ready to listen? Are they ready to learn? The workout objective must be clear and identified. What do you want from the workout as a coach?

Your responsibility as a coach is to have the athlete rise to your level of expectation at each and every workout, not for you to bring the objective down to what they are willing to give at any particular point in time. The workout objective must be clear and identified, and the athlete must understand it, but more importantly you must understand it. I ask coaches when I walk on deck with them – what are you trying to achieve in this workout? What is this workout focused at? How will success be measured? At the end of the workout how do you know your workout was successful? Did you just waste it? Was it just 8K or 6K and really there was no tangible benefit from the workout? How do you measure whether the workout was successful?

Coach’s expectations – you have to be clear to yourself and know what to expect of the athletes at this workout. Is it focused on a long- term goal? As I said, the athlete is going to come to practice around 4,400 times to 5,000 times before they really get success. How many of those workouts are wasted? How many are beneficial? So it must be focused. I have used this one in Britain; we say that at our Trials the athlete must be within 1% of the podium at their major meet. If you look at trials from the major meets, 1% to 2% is about as good as it gets. So, we have a girl that we want to swim a 2:06 in April 2008. That is 31.5 feet to feet. Is she practicing that now today? Are her paced 50’s focused on the Trials in 2008 if she wants to be a medalist at the Olympics? How many times will she do that? How many strokes does it take? Can she go 8 meters under water off the wall in 4 seconds? Have we measured the pool at 8 meters or 10 meters or 12 meters? The pool should be marked.

Long term technique: taking age groupers to senior, which is the greatest step in swimming; planning for your age group kids – can you take them to the senior ranks? For coaches in Britain this is very difficult because we have lousy facilities. Britain is a third world country in facilities. We have to see our coach’s work in very, very poor facilities. It is not easy. We have great coaches and great athletes – maybe only working in three lanes in a 25 – meter pool. The cost of a lane in Britain is 25 pounds per hour per lane. So how many swimmers do they put in a lane to make that pay in worth? So, the lesson is that you have to make work what you have to work with, but your technique must be geared towards moving into senior. Does your training address heat, semi-final and final and then relay practices? Is there something in your workouts on a weekly basis that teaches the athlete how to swim heats, how to get maximum speed with minimum effort, how to back it up with a semi-final time?

As you know, the Hungarians select their age group programs from heats. They select their teams from the heats and the semifinals, which is a great way to go. Is 75% to 80% of your total volume measured, controlled, quality technique and skills? In other words, is your soft swimming done with poor skill? Skill enhancement or skill acquisition must never be ahead of skill perfection. You do not teach new skills until you have mastered the one that you have got now. There is no excuse for poor skills; coaches are accountable and responsible. Any of your training will range from 15 beats below max to 100 beats below max at any given time. Do you know how your athletes will swim at slow speed? Alexander Popov brought that to Australia. We would view him swimming massive mileages with absolutely perfect technique- he would swim long mileages at very slow speed, but with great technique. It is very hard to find swimmers, great swimmers, who can swim slowly. A lot of great swimmers find it difficult to swim slowly. I think it is a skill you have to teach. Slow motion with perfect technique. Coaches should coach that, it’s very important. Swimmers record times, stroke rates, heart rates and you teach the athlete to be accountable for that and be responsible for that. Sometimes you change and do that for them, but you want coaches to coach – coaches to communicate – coaches to sell.

How many coaches conduct a warm-up without a stopwatch? Put the stopwatch away and actually coach in a warm-up. Talk about the main set. Talk about what you are going to do. How many coaches call the back half of the repeat – not the front half? If they are doing 100’s do you call the stroke length or stroke rate for the last 50, or the time for the last 50 in preference to the first 50? Ask an athlete what they can do. Here is the workout – what can you do with this workout? What can you make of this workout? You can’t do it with every athlete in every session, but you can be inquisitive and challenge the athlete. Tell me, what can you do in this workout? What will you gain from this workout? What can you do in this workout? They commit to you, not you to them. In other words, we are great deliverers of information as coaches, but I think we are very poor receivers. I certainly know that I get carried away with that when I am on deck. I deliver, but don’t listen.

How many times do you write up the main set, explain it, have the swimmers record it or ask a predetermined athlete to call the main set and you write it up? The athletes record the workout and then you immediately wipe it off the board after explaining it only once. You only giving them a chance to record it once, then the accountability is with them, not with you. They then lead it, not you. You guide them. Call the warm up. In the warm-up add some of the words that you put your main set, in a written format. The person that is visual – they see the work out written up there. They record it. Then they have got it, so when you call the warm up they have to listen. You force them to listen rather than look.

Attention grabber – you have to do something to get their attention – to get them focused on you, to forget whatever their boyfriend, the girlfriend, what’s for dinner, what their troubles were today. You want them to focus on you. How many times do you circle right to left and then circle left to right? Then circle left to right? You might do one in the AM and opposite in the PM so they don’t learn to turn sideways; they learn to go over. Very few people circle properly. On odd weeks: commence at the shallow end or commence at the other end of the pool on odd weeks, commence at this end of the pool on the even weeks or on even days and uneven days. Vary the stimulus so that it is not just a black line from the same end of the pool all the time. Even weeks reverse the above.

One of the things that I did when I was coaching (and I would do it again) was to have a different warm up for every single session. Never repeat the same warm up twice, and if I did and the athletes recognized it, they had the whole workout off. I would purposely put it in there a couple of times a season to see who was observant, who was keeping their logs, to see who was listening, to who understood the sets. It was a great motivational thing whenever I wanted to give the team a workout off, I would write up a repeat warm up, you see? Someone would home in on it, and I would carry on as if I was disappointed, upset and bent out of shape. I would say, “OK, we have to have the session off”. It was a planned session off anyway, but it was motivational. The athletes looked to doing something different every workout, and warm up. All of a sudden they would get a bonus from it, and it was a way of giving people a workout off.

When to Stimulate, Intervene and Change Things Around:

I believe it is 30% through the workout – the main set. For those athletes who have come in and are just going through the motions and not into the workout (they are sort of there doing it) when 30% through, find something to stimulate them. Come in with some instruction. Come in with a challenge. Find something to get to them, a third of the way through the workout to get them back. Those that have drifted off, find a way to get them back. No rest between warm up and main set; therefore your conditions do not affect your program. Have your warm up so that it leads and flows into your main set – it is complementary to your main set. It adds to your main set because you are leading in. You have a plan.

I like the athletes not to have a drink bottle or not to use a drink bottle until the main set, then I tell them it must be finished by the end of the main set. So for the warm up have a drink before you get in. You don’t need the drink following the warm up, through the main set, but it has got to be finished. If I come around and look at a drink bottle it has to be empty at the end of the main set to get them to re-hydrate, especially if you are outdoors. With 30% to go, change the stimulus again. Have a preplanned – preordained concept that you want to change, with 30% to go, for those athletes that have swum out of the workout. They have lost the plot – it hasn’t worked for them. Find a way to get them back in. Find a way to finish the workout. Make the last third of the workout valuable.

I guarantee that if you value your workouts you will find that where you lose most in your workout is in that last 30% – athletes going through the motions. They are now focused on dinner, study, getting out of the pool. Get them back into the workout. Therefore I like to put the workouts into thirds. I asked the athlete to nominate a skill i.e. breathing pattern. “Alright guys, we are going twenty 50’s of freestyle. I want great technique and we are going on the minute, right?” In order – I want each athlete to nominate something that we are going to concentrate on. The first person leading the sets says the focus is breathing. The second person says on the second 50’s, concentrate on stroke length. Each athlete nominates what the rest of the team is going to work on so it is not always up to you. The athletes get to call what they think they need to work on. It might be that each athlete does it differently each time, so to get the athlete to take responsibility by calling the set, don’t be afraid to have your athletes do the set wrong. Quite often the athletes will start heading off on a tangent, you can see they are going the wrong way with the set sometimes, occasionally. Let them go with it so that you can pull them out at the end, and say “Now guys, that wasn’t what we were planning, was it? That wasn’t the objective. Where did we go wrong? Where did we do it wrong?” Doing things wrong always helps in learning to do things right, and understanding it for the right reason.

Every athlete leads a warm up each week. The athletes must select it, and say “ I am going to lead this afternoon’s warm up or this morning’s work out” so the athletes take responsibility and you create leaders. Have an athlete nominate the skill for each repeat. For discipline, learn to leave on time without you having to instruct them. Don’t leave late – don’t leave early – it becomes automatic. If you are doing heart rates or you are doing lactates or times, turn the pace clock off. If you are doing heart rates, before you let the athlete look at the heart rate monitor ask the athlete “What do you think your heart rate was”? That tells you what the perceived effort is. What do you think this lactate will be on this repeat? You went a 1:02.6 – what lactate will it be? You tell me – they learn to feel themselves in the water. At the end of a workout ask the athlete – if we were to do that set again how do you think you would do it better? How would you change either your approach or the workout to do it better? How do you think we could do it better? When you ask these things you will get great feedback. Ask yourself the same thing, if I did that workout again what would I do differently?

Put a workout of the week up on the board for parents to see, best ever workouts, ones that last a lifetime. Get the athletes to select it, but have a best ever workout for the week up on the board. Teach breathing control and hypoxic training. A lot of great swimmers do not know how to breathe properly, and do not use that last third of their lungs. They do not know how to. Take them to yoga classes, martial arts classes – teach them how to breathe. Get someone from the asthma foundation in to teach breathing. Learn how to breathe. If you have an assistant coach, rather than the assistant coach who just gets lost in the workout, before the session, ask the assistant coach, “Who are you going to work with this afternoon and what are you going to do? How are you going to help the program and how are you going to help an athlete? Tell me what you are going to do this afternoon how you are going to help. I want you to tell me now.” Then at the end of the session say, “Hey, great job. How do you think it went?” Ask the questions. Ask the assistant coach how they have positively changed the sport or the athlete or the environment. How they have challenged you?

I have a great friend, Dennis Pursley. I enjoy Dennis’ company whenever we get together and we worked with the institute for many years. I was the head coach with the Australian Olympic team in 1980. I was 29 years of age, and I thought I knew everything. We had a great Olympics’ as a team, and for me personally. I came back and they started the Australian Institute of Sport. As the head coach of a very successful Olympic team that turned Australian swimming around, I thought I was a certainty for the job. They gave it to Dennis Pursley. Boy, was I bent out of shape. The guy that was the head of the Institute was a guy called Judge Ellicott, and he came to Brisbane and said “Bill, you have got to take the assistant coach’s role”. Well, that didn’t appeal much either, but I met Dennis and decided that I would do it. From the very first session on deck (Dennis had a lot of tolerance fortunately) I gave Dennis a workout. I told him that if I was coaching the team this afternoon that is what I would do. And I kept that up, it didn’t work so then I thought, well – he is not going to give me the whole team is he? So I said to him “If I was coaching the women this afternoon here are the workouts that I would do”. At the end of the season Dennis said, “Bill, on the condition that you don’t give me any workouts, you’ve got the women’s team”. As an assistant coach make sure you learn to grow in the job. Make sure you learn to have a positive impact on the team and support, unconditionally, the head coach. Give 100% loyalty. Support unconditionally. If you can’t do that then resign.

Second re-set – make sure the second re-set has a value. It might be complementary or it might contrast physically, but it must be mentally stimulating for the main set. It must be mentally challenging, but stimulating from the main set. Change the order of athlete after the main set so that there is a different group, a different group dynamic for leading. Collect the recording boards. Check times, and ask questions. Be provocative with your questions. Correct faults in the second re-set, which is much better than doing it in the main set. Athletes are more ready to listen. Make sure you criticize the faults, not the person after a great set. Athletes are ready to listen after a great set. They are not ready to listen after a bad set. If they failed the set they are not ready to listen. After a great set they are all ears. They are open, but learn to criticize the faults then- that’s when to do it.

Highlight personal strengths after a poor or medium set. When you criticize, criticize the fault. When you praise, praise the person but do not praise the action, we touched on that this morning. Was your objective achieved? Be prepared to change the workout or the set and the number of repeats. If it’s not working, don’t just stick to it, make a change and find a way to get the objective by manipulating the workout. Get the objective. Focus on the outcome, even if it means changing the workout a little.

The best and hardest workers stay in the longest. Give them more personal attention. One of my favorites to finish off a workout is to do a kick set. You might say OK we are doing a kick set, not that we are going to do sixteen 100’s (this is long course on two minutes, and you have got to hold under 1:50) however, if you are a little more adventurous we are going to do twelve 100’s on 1:45 and you have got to hold under 1:40. That’s the set you want them to do of course, so make sure that that is the most appealing one. Then you say that they can do eight 100’s on 1:35, and that they have to hold under 1:30. Maybe there’s one person in the squad that can do that, so everybody gravitates to that middle set- right? It is a way of improving your kick at the back end of a session or the front end of a session. Offer them three options that they can choose from, but put the one you want them to do as the most attractive.

I always tell athletes – don’t get out until you feel good, but make sure it is structured, don’t just float around and do dead man float, swim easy and comfortably and pop out when you feel good. When you hop out of the water feel good. If you have had a bad workout swim easy and work on technique until you feel good, and then hop out – even if it is 2,000 don’t hop out. Ask them – do you feel good? If you don’t feel good hop back in and do some easy swimming, or do something that is going to make you feel good before you hop out. The more often they hop out feeling good, so motivate them. Put a lollypop in a jar for every 50 under 31.5. Get a big empty jar and every time you swim a 50 under 31.5 (which is what you want to do in April 2008 i.e. an athlete like Lizzy Simmons) you put a lollypop in a jar. Then in April of 2008 you are going to take all those lollypops and you are going to share them with all the people that have helped you. It has a tangible meaning. There is a meaning, even with the colors. I asked the athletes to have different colored lollypops in the colors of the rings, a very good motivational tool. Have a reward system for the athlete. If you swim a PB you get two lollypops. If you do a best ever kick set you get one. (No red or black because those are not positive colors).

There are two types of athletes – leaders and those who want to lead. High talent and high work ethic – that is the great combination – hard to find, but you have got to try to sell both and recognize both. You will have low talent, but high work ethic, and they add to your squad. They add to your team dynamics and they have a positive influence on everybody. High talent with low work ethic; for me these days they would have to be awfully, awfully, awfully talented for me to accept that. You have to try and change that if you can. Observe, and make sure you take time to observe. How do you know if your athlete has been pushed too hard? If you have worked them a little bit too hard, then you have over trained them, you have over exposed them. I don’t think there is over training as such, I think there is over exposure to any given stimulus, too much sprinting, and too much distance work. You can over train someone with 15K a week if it is all quality; you have over trained that athlete.

So, how do you observe? I always play reaction games with the athletes because it is a way of getting them focused, and if the reaction time of the athlete is slow or they can’t focus, chances are you have got someone who is too tired. With weight loss, am I not over trained? Eye to eye focus, do you look eye to eye at every athlete in every session? Do you let the athlete know by eye-to-eye contact that you are watching them; they are the only swimmer that you are focused on.

Start each new set with a racing start, every time you do a new set of training, help them out and do a racing start. When you are doing timing of quality work, try to do it one on one. Just work with one athlete at a time. Ask yourself, how many times do you say to the athlete things like (you have to draw a list of sayings that you have so you don’t repeat yourself) “Mary, when I see you swim like that I just believe unconditionally that you are the best athlete in the world in this event”. Ask yourself how many athletes have you coached have heard that from you, because that is how you sell confidence. That is how you sell unconditional belief. “Fred, when you turn like that I know that there is no one in this country that can out turn you. You are superior in this area. If we can only get the start to match your turns, boy, you are going to be great”. How many athletes that you have coached have heard that from you with that conviction? With that belief and that support that you have for them? I think that is the important thing. Every athlete should feel like they are the only athlete in the pool in every session. It is very difficult to do – not easy.

Now for the Dennis Pursley-ism – Dennis taught me to like Jimmy Buffett. I was probably the only one in Australia that liked Jimmy Buffet, and I made a deal with the athletes, where if they swam great they could play their music on the PA system. If they did less than great, they got to listen to Buffett. Didn’t have to say anything, but it worked. Great set got their music, an average set was my music – didn’t have to say anything – the message went out pretty clearly. Judge your performance as a coach by that of your least talented athlete. It’s easy to coach great athletes. It is not difficult. It is hard to coach athletes that don’t have that touch of genius, and you will know if you have the touch of genius – the X-factor – by how you get your weakest athlete to swim great. Share equally your time for those that are committed and give 100%. The best athletes on the team – remember the athlete knows you and understands you far better than you will ever understand or know them. You are coaching 20, 10, 60 – whatever it is athletes – they read you every day. You are trying to read one in 20 or one in 60. They know you way better than you know them. Remember athletes control their parents in this day and age. Parents do not. It is very exceptional that you have an athlete (control is probably not a good word). Who can pick the main set of warm-up? What do you think it is? If any athlete can tell you, you are in trouble. You are boring, you are not innovative and you are not creative.

My son wanted to play rugby and I didn’t want him to play rugby, it was a sport where I grew up with a lot of injuries and I didn’t want him to play. So I tried to think of ways that I could prevent him from playing rugby. I called him and said “Look, to play rugby you have really got to be strong and fit, there are a lot of spinal injuries so you have got to go to the gym and work on strength for 12 months before I will let you play rugby, and you have got to learn to run properly. It is no good playing football if you can’t run, so you have got to go to athletics and learn how to run – run properly. You have got to do it for 12 months before I will let you play rugby”. I could see him adding them up. Then I said, “ You have got to learn martial arts because it is a rugged, physical sport. You have got to learn how to center your gravity, and learn how to fall, and do that for 12 months before you can play rugby”. He said, “Well that’s three years before I can play rugby!” Then I said “No, not if you do them all in one year, organize your time and learn to do them effectively and efficiently. Learn to do the four things before you try and do the end result”. (That is one of the weaknesses in sports today). He played rugby.

Avoid cramming. Trying to do too much too soon, and too quick. If the athlete takes six months off, when they come back you are fraught with cramming, risk injuries, taking shortcuts, making risks – you don’t want that. Try and have a program that is lengthy, that is organized, that is planned, 1% improvement at the major meet. Vary your presentation of a workout. Write it up on the board some days, put it on sheets and hand it out other days. Do it differently. Don’t be the ‘same old’.

Challenge the boys and love the girls. George Haines gave that to me. I lived in Georges Haines’ filter room at his pool for six months on a camping fold out bed. I came to America and said, “George, I want to work with you”, and he said I could, and I asked if I could live in the filtration room. It was warm, it was noisy, but it was warm so I went and bought a fold out bed and I slept on the fold out mattress in the filtration room. I followed him around the deck every day writing everything he said down, and every night I would decipher it all and I did that for six months. Ask yourself if you are prepared to do that as coaching education. When I finished I said “George, give me something I can really take with me that is valuable”. And he said, “Bill – challenge the boys and love the girls”. The boys (you have heard me say this before) train with you because they want the challenge; they want the physical challenge of racing each other, fighting each other, struggling against each other and really going head to head. He said that when you coach girls you had better know when their birthday is, what their favorite dress is, what their favorite cap is, when they have a new hairdo, what color is their favorite, who their favorite band is. I think the girls or females like to be challenged now as well, I am sure they do, but you still have to do that. That is why we have coaches in the world today who can’t coach both sexes, they really struggle. I told Shannon Rollason, the coach of a couple of world record holders in women’s swimming, “Shannon, you will not coach well with women until you are married, and then you will understand”. Then he got married, he understood and he got a world record holder. Have camps for men and women and separate them.

Are you a hobby coach versus a career coach? If you are a hobby coach then teach quality skills and give the athlete a tool bag that they can take with them. Then pat them on the back, and if they are great or if they have areas to improve, then send them on to a higher program and do not be afraid to do it. Frequency of exposure is the most important thing. It is not how much you do – it is how frequently you do it. That is how you learn. Ten exposures every week for an hour is better than six exposures for 2 ½ hours in my opinion. It is frequency of exposures that allows quality of performance and quality of exposure. Coaches ask me (and I have heard John Leonard talk on this) if I have only got five workouts a week, what should I do? Teach technique, technique, technique, and technique – because that gives the athlete a chance. Coach speed and fitness secondary to technique. Anyone ever try and add technique to speed and fitness? It doesn’t work; it doesn’t work for me anyway.

Be early on deck, well dressed, professional. Don’t sleep in. Don’t come late. Don’t miss the team meetings. That is for the coach and the athlete. Consistency: You have to go to the world – the world will not come to you. That is the main part of the presentation that I push in Britain. Maximizing individual potential within a team environment. As soon as you put athletes in a team environment some of them get lost in the team. They get over-crowded by the team. You have to teach team dynamics and get the athlete to have and maintain their individuality within a team environment. It is very difficult. It is not easy because some people are leaders, and they lead. That intimidates others in the team, so the team can strengthen the individual. You make sure that that happens, that the individual is not weakened by a team concept.

Swimmers joining the program: make sure they are integrated with everything that is going on. You as a coach are master of your own destiny, you have total control – it is you. If the program doesn’t work, look in the mirror before you do anything else. No one is right and no one is wrong. There is no right way or wrong way to coach. In the art of coaching, the feel of coaching, it is conviction that counts. Are you totally convicted to your belief in what you are doing? Do you unconditionally believe that what you are doing is 100% right? Because if you don’t it will not work. If you do, even if you are wrong, it will still work.

Are you going to change? What can you get people to help you with? Seek help and seek people that will support you. Write down two lists, the psychology of a workout, and the requirements of a coach on a national team. I am sure it is everybody’s aspiration to be on a national team. Look at the coaches on the national team and ask yourself, how do I become better than them? What skills do I need to recruit for me, to be a better coach than they are? Do I understand the psychology of it?

Two least used pieces of coaching should be the clipboard and the stopwatch. Great coaches don’t need clipboards or stop watches. Great coaches’ coach.
• Communicate: sell, with conviction, belief, and confidence.
• Stimulate: know when to push, know when to back off.
• Attend to all: as a coach you are accountable and responsible for everything the athlete does. That is very important. Coaching competency is the key factor in producing great athletes and the key factor in great athletes not producing their best result.
• Focus: be totally focused on what matters.
• Motivation: you have to have great motivation. Will you be a better coach tomorrow because of what you didn’t do today? Coaches have total control over the work out. You lead, you get people to buy into it, but you lead.
• Coaches versus trainer: it is easy to train; you just apply the physical session. Most coaches write a work out and think that is the end of the game. That is not even the start of the game because if we gave everybody in this room the same work out we would get (if there are 200 people in this room) there would be 200 different results. Everybody would do it differently. It is not what you do; it is how you do it.

Compete above and below. If you want to swim the 200, in the early season do some 400’s. In mid-season and late season, do some 50’s – compete above and below. Train above, compete below, depending on one event versus many meets. I have never understood why coaches take their whole team to a meet, one meet. If I look at race -horse trainers, probably the most professional people in the field, they do not take their whole stable to every race meeting, they take the ones that are ready to perform. You don’t take people to a meet if they are not ready to perform, if they are not ready to race. They might not race fast, but they have got to be ready to go through the process of racing. So, sometimes take them to one, an athlete to a meet and say you can only swim one event, and you have to get it 100% right. A lot of pressure, because if they swim four events they have one in four chances to get it right. If they only swim one event they have one chance. Okay? That is being done with the psychology of the workout.

I am going to finish it off by saying to coaches that the psychology of a workout is cumulative. If you want an athlete to be strong, under the spotlight of the arena of the Olympics, the worlds, then the accumulated effect of every single workout, every single exposure and opportunity that the athlete has is at every single workout. They do 5,000 workouts in their lifetime. Any swimmer that goes from 12 to 22 is going to do around 5,000 workouts. If you multiply that by 2 hours of workout, that is a huge investment. If anything is repeated that is not good, or isn’t well done or isn’t perfection, then the accumulated result of that is a negative one.

If it is positive (and there is a thin line between 100% right and 99% right which is about 1%) then that is a very narrow margin. So in 5,000 workouts you have got a 1% differential, so the psychology that you use at every single solitary training exposure for the athlete is going to make a difference in the end result. If you head someone off on a winning path, a positive path, then you have done a great job. (If that 1% is that which you can recognize; you have to be totally observant to recognize that).

If the athlete may have a negative result you must make sure that as a coach, every single day you coach as though it is your last ever workout on deck. This is your only chance to have a positive influence on that athlete. I believe that is what makes a great coach, and it is what makes great athletes. This is the reason they either succeed or fail regardless of their talent levels, because an athlete succeeds if they have given totally and got totally. An athlete fails even if they win the Olympic gold medal, but it wasn’t their best performance. If they walk away thinking they could have done better, then it hasn’t been their greatest ever performance and you as a coach can change that. It is within us to have that influence, to change that mental approach of each and every athlete. And each and every athlete is an experience and an experiment of one. Everyone is different so we must accept that as a leader in the coaching fraternity of the athletes you work with, that each and every athlete is an experiment and experience of only one. Guys, thanks very much. I hope you got something out of it.

Slides from the PowerPoint Presentation:

Commitment to workout must be total
30-40 mins prior to workout commencement walk through and identify weaknesses of situation
Workout objective clear and identified
How will success be measured (tangible)
Coaches expectations clear to yourself

Is it focused on long term goal?
i.e. 1% of Medal at 2008 Trials
Lizzie Simmonds 2:06 (31.5 feet to feet)
? Strokes
8 metres in 4 seconds off walls
(Pool marked)
Long term technique (Age to Open and include body changes)

Does it address H-SF-F / Relay practice
Aerobic 75-80% of total volume must be measured, controlled & quality technique & skilled.
No excuse for poor skills.
(current National Open Camps)
Ranges from 15 BBM to 100 BBM at any given time

Coaches Coach
(Swimmers record times, stroke rates, heart rates)
Coach warm up without a stop watch
Coaches may call back ½ splits
Ask athlete what they can do
They commit to you, not you to them

Write up main set and explain have swimmers record it or ask a predetermined athlete (create a leader) to explain. Athletes record workout.
Then wipe off board once recorded and explained once.

Call warm up (attention grabber)
Circle right to left AM
Circle left to right PM
Odd weeks commence at:
Shallow end in AM
Deep end in PM
Even weeks reverse above
Different warm up every session

When to stimulate
30% of workout
No rest between warm up & main set. Conditions then do not effect your programme
No drink bottle until main set (must be finished by completion)
With 30% to go, change stimulus

Ask athlete to nominate skill i.e. Br pattern
Do not be afraid to have them do the set wrong as lessons are learnt
Every athlete must lead 1 warm up each week (test your group dynamics)
Sometimes avoid numbers of repeats in warm ups & swim downs

Have athlete nominate skill for each repeat, either to you or rest of group
Athletes disciplined to leave on time
Always ask athlete to nominate h/rate and/or time, and/or lactate etc. prior to you confirming

Ask – How would you do this better if you were to do it again
(Ask yourself the same)
Workout of the week on the board for parents to see best ever workout (life time)

Teach breathing control and hypoxic
Assist coach to nominate who they will work with
Assist coach how have they positively changed the squad, athlete, environment etc.

Secondary Set
complimentary or contrast physically, but must be mentally
Change order of athlete
Collect recording boards
Ask questions
Correct/call faults
Criticize fault not person after a great set
Highlight personal strengths after a poor-medium set

Was your objective achieved – be prepared to change workout set – no repeats etc.
Best/hardest workers stay in longest
Kick set i.e. 16 x 100
12 x 100
8 x 100
Do not get out until you feel good. But structured

i.e. lollipop in jar for every 50 under 31.5 feet to feet

De Bono’s colours
Reward system
No red or black but take one out

Two types of athletes
Leaders and those who want to lead
High talent/high work ethic
Try to sell both/recognise both
Reaction time/ability
Weight loss
Eye to eye focus

Start each “new”set with a racing start
One on one when timing/working with quality
Eye ball every athlete/every workout they should feel like they are only athlete in the pool

Music effect (Secondary Set)
Great set – their music
Average set – my music
(Do not have to say anything

Judge your performance by that of the least talented athlete
Share equally your time
Best Athlete & Team
Athlete knows you better than you know them
Athlete control their parents

Who can pick main set or warm up & what do you think it is
Ben football (Rugby)
Gym (strengthen)
Track (run)
Marital Art (Learn how to fall)

Avoid cramming
1% – Major
Vary presentation of workout
Challenge the boys; love the girls
Camps Men & Women separate
Hobby Coach versus Career Coach

Frequency of Exposure
Quality of Exposure
Coaches ask me I only have 5 workouts per week, what should I do??

Be early on deck/well dressed professionally

Sleep in
Come late
Miss meeting

Consistency/Us to World
World not to Us

Maximizing individual potential within a team environment
Team strengthens individual
Swimmers joining program
Master of your own destiny

No one is right and no one wrong
Conviction is what counts

Are we going to change? And what can I do to help you
Write down 2 lists:
1. Psychology of a Workout
2. Requirement to coach on a National Team

2 least used pieces of Coaching
Clip Board
Stop watch
Attend all (priorities right)
As a coach you are accountable & responsible for everything the athlete does

Coach Competency



Will you be a better coach tomorrow because of what you did or did not do today

Coach has total control over workout

Coach versus Train
Compete above and below
One event meet versus many event meets

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