INTRODUCTION: It is my distinct pleasure to introduce our first speaker for this morning. I had the opportunity to travel to Vancouver with Brian as a member of the Staff for the National Junior Team and it was one thing – I didn’t get a chance to interact with the Women’s Team too much – thankfully – but there was one thing from a distance that was obvious and that is that Brian was all business and all professional and as I watched – from the four days that we were there – I saw that he was kind of the guy keeping things on track and they were very, very successful there. He is coaching one of the hottest teams in the Country at this point. Every time we go to Nationals or Trials – Asphalt Green is there and they are just swimming out of their minds and I think it comes from a mantra that Brian is going to make famous – that he is going to propel into the future and one I happen to like myself is – it is real simple – it is “Work Works”. It is my pleasure to introduce to you Brian Brown.
Thanks – thanks for being here and thank you to ASCA for the opportunity to be here and to be able to talk to you and share some of my thoughts. I am going to have two talks today and the first one is called “Determining Your Position” and it is really kind of about knowing where you are before the season – knowing where you are during the season and knowing where you are after the season and knowing where you are – basically as a coach. I have been coaching fulltime for about 15 years and you know – you come to these clinics and they are wonderful and they just fill your head with all kinds of ideas and things that you should be doing and things that you should be doing differently and you know – after a while you just sort of want to assimilate them, but then also develop your own ideas and so I am going to sort of lead you through where I am at right now – as far as a coach and where our program is and just a little bit of theory basically. It might be a little bit obtuse, but I hope to go through some of that stuff with you and then leave time to talk and leave time to answer questions if there is the opportunity. Some of you read something that was in one of the newsletters about a talk that I gave – same title – a talk that I gave and Ken O’Reilly – my friend at New Jersey Wave – I call him my Publicist because he was in there taking notes – I didn’t even know about it and he was writing down all his notes and so you may have read some of that stuff and that was – maybe a third of what I said that day – because it was a very off the cuff kind of presentation so if you have any questions about any of that we can get to it at the end – hopefully, but I wanted to sort of clarify – if I could – the title of my talk and why I think it is important and how it is working for me and for Asphalt Green.
I got a little PowerPoint here – I am not an expert on this kind of stuff, but bear with me. Okay – so there you are. I got it up on the screen. “Determining your Position” Basically knowing what you are doing and having a sense of what you are doing and at the same time being aware of where you are and being true to your philosophical positions that you have as a coach, which hopefully are developing over time so I want to say – right off the front that the most important skill for leadership is the ability to accurately assess where you are at any given point. I think if you think about great Generals or great Admirals – they have to know where they are – not only on the battlefield, but where they are in the grand scheme of the fight that they are fighting and you know – everybody has a plan that they are going to attack – basically the season and/or a war or whatever you are interested in doing – you have a plan, but situations change with and without your plan. A lot of times situations do not care about your plan. In fact – most times – they do not care about it and I think you have to recognize and accept that and you have to learn to actually accentuate that and make that change – that natural change that is going to happen as time passes by – something that makes your plan better actually.
If you can always determine where you are in a season or where you are in an athlete’s career or where you are in your program development or where you are as a coach yourself – then you can best decide where to go next I think, but often times – I know I have – just sort of floated through and wondered – well – where am I going next and that kind of thing so I have tried to develop ways for me to figure that out for myself and the purpose today is to share some of these ideas and methods that have evolved out of coaching in the unique environment of New York City.
I am located in Manhattan and I didn’t know it when I went there 8 years ago, but there are certainly unique challenges to working in an environment like that – just like there are unique challenges anywhere and my coaching has been influenced by that. It is Asphalt Green Unified Aquatics. We have got a team of about 230 kids. Those kids come from all five Burroughs of New York. Manhattan is sort of the hub and then all five Burroughs of New York and parts of Westchester and New Jersey we have kids coming to our team. That is not an easy thing. I do not know if you have been to New York or tried to get around New York City – it is not easy so that has impacted the way I look at kids and the way I look at their performances and commitment levels and everything else.
The unique challenges there are transportation #1. I would say estimate half of my families do not own a car so there are a lot of repercussions for that. Your meet schedule is affected by that. Their ability to throw the swim bag in the back of the trunk is affected by that so you have to figure out ways to deal with it. When a kid tells me – well I am late because the FDR was closed down because the President was here – well – that is true. There was a bomb scare on the subway so I couldn’t make it to practice today – that is true – I know that happened. So I went from sort of a hardliner – be here or be gone kind of mentality to good to see you – good to see you. I am glad you are here and we will go through some of that later. Real Estate values – and by that I mean every inch of real estate – including every inch of the pool is heavily fought over at all times. Time and space in New York City are at a premium and so you have to make the most of whatever you are given or whatever you can fight for and that is an ongoing fight. It is never a battle that is won and then it is over. You continually have to fight for a place for your program and Manhattan Island life is what I call it – you know – we live on an island. I live in the Northern part of Manhattan – not what you think of as Manhattan. I do not live in a huge high rise, but it is still Manhattan and there are a few trees where I live, but it is island life and what I mean by that is it may not have the Caribbean weather, but there are many distractions – many distractions for kids and parents – many distractions. Most of the reasons that I moved to New York are now the very reasons that I rue living in New York because of just the distractions and the things and the opportunities that people have.
So, you have to make – the upshot of that is you have to make your program somewhat enticing. The kids have to want to be there – otherwise – they have something better to do. They really do and so that is what I have learned being in Manhattan. The unique coaching opportunity which I saw when I went there eight years ago, but which has increased and I have grown to appreciate even more is the tremendous difference – the ethnic and economic and every other kind of status that you can imagine on my team and I think I have the most diverse team in the country. I mean – everybody is working towards inclusion in their programs, but my program is – it has got everything and everything you could imagine – there are all kinds of barriers and all kinds of opportunities because of that and all kinds of different philosophies and languages and it is a testing environment, but it is fun. So – my way or the highway, but when in Rome so basically I went from it was my way or the highway – I used to work in New Jersey and then I have come around to When in Rome so When in Rome – do as the Romans do. It doesn’t mean that you have given up your principles – it means that you accept the reality of your position and you are maximizing that. So the aphorisms that I developed before I got to Asphalt Green are in yellow and those are things that I still believe in and I have not abandoned it all. The other things are things that have come along since – #1. Rick mentioned it – it is “Work Works”.
My first team – years ago in Tennessee – that was our motto and it is still my motto today. I do not think that there is any way to get anything done successfully without working hard for it – it is just a Universal truth and it is something that I love about swimming and I love the fact that talent doesn’t always win. Sometimes the kids can work harder than everybody else and they can win too. We can question that with the suits that have been out – and whether that is still true or not, but fortunately I think we are going to be on a more level playing field come January 1. It is a race – not a beauty contest. When I got to Asphalt Green – everybody was all about private lessons – private lessons – private lessons – private lessons – okay – well – you look great, but you are slow so you cannot fool Mother Nature – this is related to Work Works. There is just basic physiological work that has to be done and it doesn’t matter how smart you are – it doesn’t matter what your SAT score is – it doesn’t matter which Ivy League School your parents went to – Mother Nature dictates that you have to work hard if you want to be good at what we are doing. If you do not want to – that is fine, but if you want to be good you are going to have to do something. Sometimes you have to go over the edge to know where it is. I think you have to push yourself and you have to push your athletes and your program and your parents – beyond where they want to go certainly and beyond what you might think is safe – just to know where the edge is and as a coach you are the shepherd of not only the athletes, but also the other coaches and the parents and the entire program and you have to be basically pushing everything as far as you can and push it over the edge, but you have a life line. You have to be belaying them and being able to pull everybody back – up over the cliff once you have pushed them over it.
LEARN BY DOING AND TEACH YOURSELF: I used to be much more of a lecturer on the deck you know – because I was so smart and I knew – you know – everything that everybody needed to do all the time and I find that you can really turn people off that way, but if you can set up an environment where they learn by doing something and they do not even know it – that is much more beneficial to you and to them long-term and teach yourself. I think if you can give anybody the ability to learn how to learn – then you have done something and swimming is – in my mind – about a whole lot more than going fast so that is one of my goals. 100% of 100%: That is related to what I was talking about as far as people showing up – people being on time – people missing practices for good and bad reasons. I will never tell you that I am happy about that, but working position that I am at is when you walk in the door you are going to get your ass kicked and you know it and you better be ready for that. It is a 100% of 100% every day and what that also means is if I have somebody that is coming to 11 practices a week – which I do – and they are also getting their butt kicked every single day – they are not going to be good every single day, but if you give me 100% of what you have that day – then we are going to have a good working relationship because it is going to be successful so that is basically A Effort and I preach that. FITTER IS FASTER: That was the first T-Shirt I ever made when I came to Asphalt Green because it was obvious that they needed some fine tuning – let me put it that way. You know, we need to consider ourselves athletes and we need to look like athletes and basically we need to be fit so Fitter is Faster – I still believe in that.
And the last one – I got kind of famous for in the Northeast – we went to a particular Sectional meet. I had not done a particularly good job with my group and I realized during the meet that I was in the battle – The War Against Mediocrity because we were not swimming as well as I thought we had the capability of swimming and wore fatigues that entire meet and the coaches around there inevitably asked me what I am doing – well – I am in a War Against Mediocrity and it is my own team and it is my own fault and I am losing this battle so – you know – you lose a battle and hope to win the war, but I am going to talk about the War Against Mediocrity a little bit more because that has become – since then – something that I think we live with every day and we are engaged in a daily battle – a War Against Mediocrity. It is a battle with familiar enemies – time – how much time do we have every day to do what we want? How much time is there in an athlete’s career to do what you think they can do? How much time do you have as a coach – as a productive career? How much time are you going to have to get as far as you want? I know my friend here Chuck Batchelor achieved one of his great goals of having Elizabeth go to the Olympics and that is one of my goals as well – to have an Olympian, but you know – he also is battling time in the sense that Elizabeth did not win a gold medal. She did not set a World Record and I am guaranteed that that is one of his goals so there is a time line and there is a time frame for that and you have to – you cannot be satisfied with what you have because you are under pressure basically all the time to get it done within the window of opportunity that you have.
SOCIETY: That is an easy one. Everyone lives with the Game Boy Society that we have and quick results and how – even modes of communication are bringing everybody down to the same level. They are not rewarding excellence. They are not encouraging excellence. They are encouraging you to fit in. They are encouraging you to conform and this is what is happening to your kids and it is happening to us when we watch TV and everything else and it is happening to me. The athletes themselves – I don’t know about you, but athletes in my opinion have changed in the last 15 years. It is not as easy to sell them on the fundamentals. It is not as easy to sell them on the basics as it used to be and you have to do a good job of being a salesman and also have a rational idea of what the goals are and what the expectations are and how to get there and then – you know – your battle with yourself every day you wake up and maybe you are the person that you want be every day. I know that I am not yet the person that I want to be every day and so that is the battle against mediocrity and it is challenging so everything around you is trying to make you ordinary – trying to make your kids ordinary – trying to make your program ordinary and you have to do everything in your power to resist that and it is a lot like being lost.
I find it – personally – it is a lot like being lost in the wilderness – you know – in the jungle or a desert – on a mountain or an ocean or something like that and I am constantly asking myself well, how do I find my way to my destination which is excellence? Because you have to relive that every day – it is not like you achieve it and then you have it and it is a stamp on your forehead and you are done. It doesn’t work that way. I mean – that is the way my kids think about – many of my kids want to go to the Ivy Leagues and the only reason is so that they have that stamp of approval right on their forehead that they are an Ivy Leaguer – they really don’t know anything about what it means or why it is important – other than there is a status associated with it so your excellence is good for today and it is gone tomorrow. You have to redo it all over again and so the way that I have sort of answered this question to myself is by trying to develop an internal compass and that is where determining your position is important and where it has come about as a theme for what I do. I get really tired and I never knew why, but I kind of figured it out – why my spine would cringe when somebody would say, “well it is all about” and it doesn’t matter. You know – a parent would say, “well it is all about technique”, right? Or a coach would say, “well, it is all about genes” or whatever it is – it is all about what? Any single idea that you put out there in space is just theoretical. It does not exist in reality and if you think about when you were in school and geometry – well we think about a point in space, but so what? That doesn’t exist except in our mind.
So I do not think one thing ever covers anything and the second point is that – well, opposites attract. Maybe it is two things that are really what is important whenever we have a question about something because opposites attract, you know? You have black and white – you have yin and yang and they are also attractive to think about because it is duality, right? Oh – it is all about work for example or it is all about money – you know? Anything that is opposite – it is easy to think that way, but those two things do not exist either. They still are just – yeah – we can draw a line between these two points, but it is not real. It is just imaginary. So – you have black and white ideas, but you have gray and invisible ideas too and I think the only way that you can come up with something real is take a minimum of four things – a minimum of four things. See – if you connect 3 things you still only have a triangle and it does not exist in space. You connect 4 things then all of a sudden you can draw something that has 3 dimensionality to it and the way I like to think of that is 2 intersecting things – black and white okay? Or black and white and it is easier to go this way – black and white and then gray and invisible and you wind up with four things and this is sort of what it looks like. 3-D reality requires 3-D thoughts. If you can look at that and squint a little bit – to me that looks like a 3-D – three dimensional pyramid, but that is the bare number of things that you need to consider that when you have any question about anything – there is a bare number of items – 4 things and that is very much like a compass – if you will notice – I think – so here is your question – what is necessary for really fast swimming?
What is necessary? I answered that question when I first started coaching and it was the first thing that I thought and it is what I still think today. I have other thoughts today, but I used to have only one thought. When I first started – I remember Chuck talking about when he started and hammer, hammer, hammer, hammer every day, you know? And that was my first thought – it is still my first thought – endurance is the #1 thing necessary for swimming really fast. So – that is your North Star – right there, okay? But over time – you know – I come and educated myself and read and you come to things like this and you meet coaches and you talk to them and sort of my own evolution was to go to the opposite idea and that was technique – just like I think the history of swimming within the last 30-40 years has done the same motion. It started out in the 60’s and the 70’s – massive endurance amounts that we do and then in the 80’s all of a sudden everybody wanted to do technique – technique – technique – okay? Well, I think that is right. Those two things are very important and they are very opposite things. They work together, but they are opposite things – endurance and technique and if you ask any parent who is basically your best assistant coach, right? Any parent – they are going to tell you technique is it – that is it – there is nothing else – that is it – technique. Yeah, well – I think where the rubber meets the road – so to speak – that is not enough so for a long time I did endurance and then technique and you reap more benefits – they swam better.
When we did endurance we did great. We did endurance and technique and technique we did better, okay? And then you sort of reached a plateau – in a coaching plateau and you would say – well, is there something else that is necessary and I remember John Morris from Nashville telling me – well Brian – they are not all milers. Other kids are not all milers and he has had many better milers than I have ever had and it really struck home and yeah – you know what? We have got to swim fast too and we have to have some speed and so to me that is the in between the endurance and the technique and I would be off on the East Side – that is a related thought. It is a related thought and when we started working on speed – not in equal amounts, but more and we swam faster and then you move over to ……… and you reap more benefits and in the last few years – which have basically been more productive years of my coaching career – I sort of discovered it is not a secret, but I discovered it myself – this idea of power and how power is what differentiates good swimmers from great swimmers and you need to address that and I have been focused on that for a good five years at least. We still do all the other stuff, but that is the part that I think has made the difference and why I am speaking to you today and why I have had a couple of National Champions and a couple of National Record Holders as age groupers. I mean – I work with 18 and unders and you know – if you take an 18 and under and those kids are not fully developed and you put them up against a fully developed college or post-grad swimmer – those people are fully developed and you haven’t given your athlete any access to the power necessary to compete then you are automatically at a disadvantage. You probably have given them enough endurance work.
You probably have given them enough technique work. Speed – you probably still have less speed work than a mature athlete is going to get in their program, but if you have not addressed power – then I think your kids cannot compete and kids at all levels and ages are able to create different types of power and I will be talking about that this afternoon – how to develop that. We have some role models for each of those four things. We have plenty of knowledge about what produces fast swimming and all of the great coaches – all of us use different things, but some are more well known than others for their particular style so basically in my program – if I am thinking about endurance I like to do stuff that Jon Urbanchek did and Dick Shoulberg – I think these are proven guys that know about endurance swimming. They also know about other things – fast swimming. I remember Jon telling me that he was the only – I do not know if it is still true or not, but at one time he was the only men’s program that had won every freestyle event at the NCAA’s – 50 up to the mile – so, he knows something about swimming fast in the 50 as well as you know – swimming fast in endurance events. I was impressed by that. I think people that sort of focused on technique and became famous for that is Teri McKeever and Richard Quick late in his career – when he was working with Bill Boomer – I think I remember hearing them talk about that and especially Richard Quick and we don’t ever do anything more than a 25 of butterfly. You know – I mean – that is not at all what I do, but there is more than one way to skin a cat – as Chuck said.
SPEED: I think you have got great examples in Dave Salo and Dave Marsh – these guys know about producing fast swimmers – probably through different methods, but they know it and all you have to do is read some of what or listen to some of what they say and you will find out how to do that. I mean – you do not get guys to go 18.7 or 18.6 without knowing something. I mean – he knows something and you do not get a breaststroker to go 2:20 in 200 breaststroke without knowing something. They have to swim fast. And then power – I think the Reese Brothers taught us a lot about power racks and how to develop power in our athletes and how important that is so the way I would look at it is – I set up my season and I set up my thinking in order to sort of incorporate all of these aspects, but not in equal amounts because through trial and error I have sort of discovered – at least this is where I am at right now – that a certain amount is good and then that is it and the philosophy that I am working on right now – which seems to be working fairly well – is maximize each aspect of what you are working on and then move on. I used to get really frustrated when I come to these clinics and college coaches would put up there their weekly plan and it is Monday morning is this and Monday afternoon is this and Tuesday morning is this and they hit all these bases – every week they hit all these bases and I did that with my program, but I always had on Tuesdays – Susi was always absent. On Wednesday Johnny had piano – he never was making it there so you have kids that are missing every week – it doesn’t matter how good that plan is – kids that are missing every week – something that is really important, okay? Or you are going to do power two days a week and your kid is there only one of those days and nothing you can do is really going to fix that and this is particularly exacerbated in New York. I can say that because I have coached in Tennessee and I have coached in North Carolina and I have coached in New Jersey and I have coached in the heart of it – right? In Manhattan and it is like the closer you get – the more distracted and wayward the people can be because they are trying to be good at everything. You know – they are trying to be a genius at the same time they are trying to be an artist and they are trying to be an Olympic swimmer at the same time as they are trying to be a fashion designer or whatever – you know – people have crazy ideas. So – what I have come to is rather than a weekly cycle or anything like that we are just going to focus on something and I will decide what that is and the whole team or the whole Senior group – I have sort of three senior groups – put together there is about 100 kids that I directly manage and coach and you know – a third of them are the ones that you may know and another third are kids that are sectional level and that sort of thing and the last third are kids that are trying to make Junior Olympics in that level, but everybody will do the same thing – not on the same intervals and not for the same distance because they cannot swim as fast as long, but for example – we will start out and go 8 weeks of endurance work – it is just endurance.
Endurance is the focus – might throw in some fast stuff along the way, but everyday they know it is going to be endurance and then what happens is – over that period of time – over that focus and having that focus – you get better at that. You get better at that and I mean – I have a 14 year old girl on a team – Leah Meal is her name. She has been 25.3 in the 50 meter freestyle and 55.0 in the 100 meter freestyle and she hates this period, but she does this period and she gets better, okay? She also was able to go 2:02 in the 200 meter freestyle – at 14 I think that is not bad, but the difference between me now and me ten years ago is I just would have kept going with that. We would do endurance or 8 weeks and you know what? We are going to do it again – 5 times through – 40 weeks – way to go and then hope that it works out at the end. So we will do that, but then maximize your benefits for that – even for your distance swimmers and then move on and do something else and I don’t think it matters what you move on to do. I think the goal of training is to induce evolution and that is what you are trying to do to your kids. You are trying to make them evolve one way or the other, okay? But I do not think that you can do that through the same method over and over and over onto infinity. You have to focus on something else so just for example – because it is next – I would say technique so you know – Chuck talked about needing to improve Elizabeth’s turns, okay? Well I think there are two different ways to do that. You can talk to her about that and that becomes a daily focus and you work on it or you can say – you know what? We are going to do two weeks and you need to get it right in that time.
We are not farting around for a whole year here for you to get your turns better. Get it done now. Here is the deadline because at the end of those two weeks we are moving on and we are not messing with it any more because I don’t think they have the – I was – I certainly believed it, but I do not think I have an athlete like Bill Furniss had with Rebecca Adlington where I could say okay – we are going to work on technique for 18 months, okay? It doesn’t matter what your relationship is because I think that is a hard – that is a hard thing. I mean really hard – it is no wonder she is an Olympic Champion if she has the fortitude to do that and just work on technique for that long. I don’t think you could work on anything for that long and keep most of your kids so – or keep most of them improving so I would say – well – we are going to do this – maybe we start out with technique and we do two weeks of technique and lets get certain things fixed. We are not going to make everybody perfect. We are going to get a few things fixed and then move on. If we are going to do speed for example – for about three weeks – I think if you tried to hammer speed for 8 weeks the kids are going to be dead. My kids are dead after 3 weeks because every day, everything is hard. You know – they are begging for something to be different. They like it when we hit this phase because it is – well, we are going to do some fast 50’s or fast 100’s or even if they are a distance swimmer – we will do some fast 500’s – that sort of thing, but it is every day and in our program – we do not have a recovery day. You work hard every day and if you can’t today – that is where 100% of 100% comes in because I have way too many athletes to manage and I am not smart enough to manage the biorhythms in the recovery cycles of everybody that is in the pool. I mean – you got 8 kids per lane and do you know how I know that you need a recovery? You are going slow, right? That is how you know. The kid is going slow. He is a good kid. The kid comes to practice. He has got a good work ethic. You like the kid – oh okay – well, you are beat. Just move over here and give me whatever you got, but lets get out of the way for these people that are going fast so I think that you can do that for about 3 weeks and then I think you need to move on and you are going to reap some benefits – those kids are going to swim fast at the end of those three weeks if you have a meet then. If you have a meet and they are going to swim fast and then power – you can do – I think for about 5 weeks and then you know – if you put them on a bucket for 5 weeks – they get better, but they get burned out too after a while, but they do get better so you maximize it and then you move on because another principle I didn’t really talk about here is – we don’t rest – we do not taper – we prepare ourselves to swim fast is what we do and how you do that is again, by maximizing each part and I think if you know anything about our program – we swim pretty well during the year and it is not because we are resting for every meet.
I rest – I don’t even rest – I only focus on one meet per year and that is whatever the big meet is in August because I am on a year long plan. It takes me that long to get my kids to where I want them to be you know? We probably are not going to be great in December, but we are going to be good in August and that is good because I am interested in long course swimming – I am focused on that actually and again – it takes that long for this evolutionary process to reap any benefits. Alright – so charting your whereabouts during a season you must be able to adjust and know where you are – whether or not that is your plan or whether or not that is where you thought your plan was going to take you. I remember very clearly years ago – Eddie Reese talking about – well, we did it by the book the last three years. I had my plan – I followed my plan the entire year and those were the worst three years of my career. He said – forget that – we are not doing that any more and he went back to his instincts and the guy is a great coach. He knows what he is doing and he is able to – obviously – have some plan – whether it is written down or not. He has a plan in his head and then he is able to adjust as he goes along. It is like navigating in the ocean, right? I mean – I don’t know much about that, but I do know you have to figure out where you are before the days of GPS and all this stuff right? You have to figure out where you are. You have a compass and you have to figure it out and that is sort of the same boat that you and I are in. I think you need to verify your map. You make a map. You have to verify whether it worked or not or you need to change it and you need to have an explorer’s mentality. We are all trying – I think – if we are trying to get better – then we are trying to go somewhere we have never been before, okay?
And you can’t follow somebody else’s map to do that. That map may be flawed or it may be outdated and even if you have been to the highest levels – like some of the coaches speaking here – have multiple Olympians – multiple World Records – even if you have done that – your own map might not account for changes in the terrain – meaning – all of a sudden you have got a jacked suit to deal with, right? I knew how to get my athlete as far as they had to go, but now kids that are maybe not worthy of beating them are right on their tails or right about to beat them, you know? It means your map is no good anymore. You have got to figure out a new way. I think one of the great examples that I know of about that – that sort of thinking is Shawn Hutchinson from King – deciding well these suits are a major issue. I do not necessarily like them or dislike them, but they are a major issue and I am going to train my people in the suits, okay? We are going to consciously learn how to swim in these suits and I think you saw what happened with Coukors when she finally put the best suit on – it was amazing, but it is from the experience that she had with suits in general and him being smart enough to recognize that my plan – my map needs to account for that change in the terrain. Now, if we are not going to have them anymore – he is going to have to make a new map – just like the rest of you – just like the rest of us. So, when you went through that thought process of developing those four things – there is at least four things that you need to consider whenever you have any question. I think your first thought is your best one.
It can’t be your only one, but it is your best one and that is your North star so I guarantee you Dave Salo – when he asks himself – what is required for fast swimming – his North star is not endurance. I mean – I don’t know him, but I have heard him long enough to know that it is not going to be endurance, right? It is going to be speed – because I remember hearing about – oh we do drills – tons of drills, but everything is hard – everything. We do not do slow swimming and so that is his North star and he is going to follow that, but he also has a great miler – you know Oussama Mellouli – a fantastic miler so he must be doing some endurance work as well. It is not just 50 freestylers so I think – you have your own natural bent is what I am trying to tell you and you need to trust that – and what this means – I sort of reached on that already –
NEW COACH – NEW SUCCESS: How many times have we seen so and so’s team fires their coach and they get a new guy in and now he is really working them hard, alright? And those kids – they are really starting to come around. Now they are working and now they get better, right and then two years later – well you know what – that guy never did any technique – never did anything else and they fire him and now they got a new coach and the new coach has a different philosophy and the new coach comes in with his philosophy and we are really going to focus on technique – whatever and the kids respond to that and they swim faster. Well yeah, I mean, dah – of course they swim faster. It is a different thing than they were used to. The same program year after year creates stale swimming, okay? So that is why you have to vary what you are doing and dinosaurs become extinct or at least irrelevant. One of my former coaches from my age group days told me – we had this same discussion and he told me his greatest fear was not not getting to the Olympic trials – his greatest fear was becoming irrelevant and I said well – are you still doing the same things that I used to do? Well, those are tried and true things. Yeah, I know, but you have got to evolve, don’t you? You have to change and that was a heated exchange and then by the end of the weekend it was a kind of thanks – I needed that kind of exchange.
REAL LIFE IN SWIMMING: I think you can see – kids can swim fast off of any type of work. You can disagree with the coach across the street, but his kids swim fast. He disagrees with you, but your kids swim fast, okay? The high school season is short – those guys hop in there and they do a bunch of sprints and all of a sudden they are swimming out of their mind – right? They are not doing it my way, but it doesn’t matter – they are doing something right and they are able to swim fast. I can swim fast off of anything and you have various examples all around you. Every coach here has a different philosophical bent and all the kids can swim fast off of that, but if you are going to beat the odds – you need to be a master of many different ways of doing it and understand that different kids are going to respond to different things and build into your program a way to explore those things with those kids. My goal is not to have one swimmer that I am known for or one type of swimming/event that I am known for. We have had some pretty good miles – we had a girl win Juniors in a 400 IM – set the record. We have had a National Record Holder in the 50 free. I mean – the biggest weakness I have in my program is it is mostly girls that are successful – not guys and that is my issue and I will address that. I am addressing it. I do not know how successfully, but I do know that it is something that I am trying to do and again my goal is to be whatever sort of athlete comes into – because I am in a club and you do not recruit a backstroker because you need a backstroker or whatever – you wind up with a backstroker because that is what you got because they live next door or something like that. You have to be able to coach that kid in whatever they are good at and not run them off because they do not want to do the mile at every meet you know? I have been there.
I have gotten a little smarter as I have gotten older I think and the trick is to listen to all of these different ideas – explore them, but not get lost in all of these different methods that are presented to you, but this is what makes coaching fun for me. It is what makes it exciting for me – it is what makes it exciting for me – it is what makes it mentally stimulating and that gives me energy to move on every day and every season. What it means Part 2: The goal of training – I talked about this – the goal of training is to induce evolution. You cannot always control these things or their timing, but you need to be aware that that is a natural process that is going to happen and if it is something – if there is a change that happens that you did not anticipate – you need to recognize it and then come up with a way to address that. I think one example I can give of that from another program is – Dave Marsh will talk about – well you know – we are training and we are training and some kids just look amazing this week so throw a fast suit on them and they go in the middle of the training and get their NCAA cut – NCAA cut, right? They are responding to – they are responding to training in a different way than the kid next to them and you have to be aware and you have to maximize your potential that is right there in front of you – take your opportunity – not say well – it is not time for the suit yet – we are not at our big meet yet or whatever. You know – the reality of success is facing you right in the face and you need to take advantage of that.
I got EXPLORE NEW DIRECTIONS, BUT ALWAYS TRUST YOUR NORTH STAR. I do not know anybody that has deviated too far from what they really believe – they have just gone in different directions for a while and then come back to what they really believe and they have sort of learned from that journey.
I want to thank you and I want to leave time – if anybody has more specific questions about what we do at Asphalt Green and there will be another talk later. It will be a little bit more specific and I thank you for your indulgence.
Yes Chuck: Just curious with how you came up with your number of weeks for each of your points so 8 weeks of endurance – 2 weeks technique – 3 weeks ………… The one that psyched me most is the 5 weeks an hour – and did you for the last couple of years …………. With this? Answer: Trial and error and also just an educated guess after having done – we used to swim on a tether. You know – you get kids to wrap a band around them and swim 25 yards with a band and then come back. 4 per lane – one on each side of the lane and they go down and then the other kids are waiting there and these kids come back. I remember doing months of that – months of that and they got better, but not relative to the amount that they put in and so you kind of sort of keep cutting it back to where you think – well maybe they only need to do this much of that or maybe they only need to do this much of that and I have + or –‘s there – don’t take that as gospel. Do not take it as gospel – I just think everything has a relative intensity to it and power can be very intense or it can be very subtle, right? They don’t have to swim incredibly hard with a bucket on – it is good if they do, but I think they are still reaping benefits if they had a parachute or something and they are working on their feel and they are gaining some power that way so I think it has to do with physiological attention span is the way I would think of it.
Question/Answer: Yeah – well I got those from Jon Urbanchek and it is required that you do a 3,000 for time or a T-30 and then he has them I think – he used to have them up on the web – do you know if he still has them? So he will contact you and what happens is you find out what their threshold pace is and then you design your practices to incorporate the speeds that the kids should be swimming for 300’s, 200’s, 100’s – relative to their threshold pace and I can tell you – I overdid that too. Jon came to our program and we did that and we did that every day and we were working it man and it was unbelievable and the kids get so tired of that stuff – so tired of it and that is just another lesson of overdoing it so we will do an endurance phase – like right now – I am not doing anything like that. I am just doing general sort of endurance work, but then in the spring usually I pull the charts out – they are in good shape already – they are able to perform well on what the charts are asking them to do and then we use it and it becomes a very visual, visceral way of motivating them so I assume you know they are.
Question/Answer: No, I had to – I don’t have the space for each swimmer to have their own. We will have lanes that are grouped up and there is a range – 3 second, maybe a 5 second range and the times that they are supposed to hold and they know that they are + and – a little bit too – nothing is exact, but it gives them a concrete goal to hit and then you know – they will improve on that and maybe we will do a test again and show them that they improved.
Question/Answer: Yeah – I talked about never going below 7500 in a workout. Chuck talked about 4,000 an hour. Some of our practices are two hours – some of them are three hours. We had the opportunity to go three and a half hours at some point so I do definitely like to have a constant of yardage value. I think there is benefit to that so even if you are doing technique or even if you are doing speed – we are still trying to swim a lot. I really believe in that. In my mind what changes is the intensity and the focus that is necessary – not so much the yardage.
Question: I have a question – when you get into the middle of your season and you are working – lets say your ——————– how do you determine when ———- do you have testing or do you just ————— Answer: Yeah – I test a few kids because I know like what paces they can hold and what they should be able to do – some of the kids that are faster frankly, but I have such large numbers that usually I just sort of see the group. You know – you can see the whole herd looks good – they look good, right? And then there is a famine period there and they don’t look too good and that is how you know instinctively – you need to do something different. That is all. It is not – I am not a science coach – I am very much a feel and sort of instinct coach and I trust basically what I think the kids look like and go by that. I go by what my plan or my ideas, but then also you have to test your ideas with well – what do they actually look like?
Question: You are saying that you have a plan and it is not working you change okay?? RIGHT – RIGHT. So you are in this endurance phase and they look like crap ———-. ANSWER: Right – the endurance phase I think all of them – you are going to go through – all those phases you are going to go through a period where they do not look good and I am not advocating bail at that moment. I am advocating continue and see if they come around. If they do not come around – then cut your losses – that is what I think.
Question: Do you heart rates? ANSWER: A lot of heart rates? You know I think part of what I find interesting about coaching is that some years I do some things and then I come back and it is two years later and I remember oh yeah! We got to – it would probably be good if we did that again. So there have been years when we have done heart rates. We have heart rate monitors. The kids can wear them. We also do manual and ask them to be in certain ranges, but I don’t know about you guys – I just find my group of kids – because some of them you have 4 or 5 – 6 years – if you are asking them to do something all the time they get just tired of that stuff. It doesn’t matter if it is good work or not – they are just bored so if they are bored they are not going to be putting 100% of 100% so sometimes yes – sometimes no – that is the answer. Yes sir?
Question: I know you very well and I am very surprised when you say you don’t rest and you know – I have watched you for years swim very well and then swim very, very well at …… what you really focus on and now I am very curious and I do not think that you are really going to be able to explain it right now – but how you – obviously you are preparing them to swim very fast at a certain moment and I cannot wrap my brain around the fact that you are not – that Florida ……….. preparation isn’t resting a lot. ANSWER: I think the way I think about it is rest is sort of a relic from the past. When you and I swam it was just a massacre for 8 or 9 months and then oh – you got some rest and then WOW – I feel better – you know – I swam faster – maybe – and I don’t like psychologically putting all my eggs in one basket if I don’t have to and I would prefer to again – get them to swim fast off of this and then get them to swim fast off of that so their confidence is much better. Physiologically I can’t explain it – I just know that there are many times – I am sure everybody has experienced this – the kids are swimming well – right in the middle of training. They are swimming fast – well – why change anything? What is – are you going to have some pixie – magic pixie dust you put on top of them that is called rest and all of a sudden they swim faster? Yeah – well that is because you are not in control of the evolutionary process. You think you are because you are a coach and coaches know what they are doing dam it, right? You are not in control of the evolutionary process and I also would say Chuck – like none of my kids – I look at it like this – I just want to keep getting better – I just want to keep getting better so yeah – it is a year season, but we are not where I want to be yet so why am I selling the farm for this meet when I am not even close to where I want to be yet? That is the way I look at it and I will tell you a short little story and if this goes into print – which I guess it will – it will probably come back to bite me in the ass, but I have – probably my 14 year olds that you may know – Leah Neal and Annie Zoo. Annie won both of the breaststrokes and was at the Junior meet – 1:09 and 2:29 – pretty good swims so we are getting ready to come out to Seattle and I decide – we are going to come to the US Open and swim a few days – swim two days of the US Open and then Juniors is really the focus, but I wanted to get them out there and get acclimated and everything else. Well, you know, because your best assistant coach gets in their ear and says, you know – Brian might not rest you – in fact – he has told you he is not going to rest you. You probably need to skip this practice, okay? Alright – so – alright – we are going to skip this practice okay? Well, why are we still doing doubles – there is no reason to do doubles, right? Lets do a single this day – lets do a single so your best assistant coach – all of a sudden you know – your kids have been swimming well all year long and then that assistant coach has to step in there and just make sure they get it right – right at the end because the coach might F it up, right? So anyway – we go out to Seattle and they swim at the US Open and it is not the focus, but they swim ahh – like that right? Well, they had gotten out of their rhythm – they were not doing doubles any more, but we get them to the meet – oh we need to go and warm-up this morning, ok? And you swim your event – ahh – we need to go back to the pool and warm-up again. Oh well the next day we need to go swim – so basically – we are at the meet doing doubles again, right? Here we are. And then we get to Juniors and they are back where they need to be, right? Because the assistant coaches were not telling them well, you don’t need to do that – you need to rest – you gotta rest – it is all about rest – rest. Yes sir? Question/Answer: Fortunately – I talked about unique challenges in New York because of the diversity – there are often language barriers that are convenient. I will put it that way – as much as possible. I think you cannot exclude the parents from the equation. You just have to manage them as best you can. I try to informally. I wouldn’t say we have formal education – no – but I think – you know – the best education they can get is when it works, right?
QUESTION: Do you have dry land with them? ANSWER: We do. And dry land I would say has gone from good dry land like – Chuck was showing you – we have done a lot of that same kind of thing and I will talk about dry land and if the kids are not into it – then I do not want to waste time doing it – I might just add swim time so it is different – what I am saying is we have gone through a cycle where yeah we did a lot and then we did a little and probably going to come back to doing a lot at some point. We offer dry land every day, but it is basic dry land – medicine balls – push-ups – sit-ups – pull-ups. No weights or anything like that. I am going to talk in my next talk about power – about how to develop it in and out of the water and what I would call amphibian power so we will talk about. I need to have something to talk about next time.
Thank you for your attention – I appreciate it.