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Developing Young Distance Swimmers

Presented by ASCA Hall of Fame Coach, Jack Simon.

From the ASCA 2003 World Clinic in San Diego, California.

I should probably name this talk “where are you at now”? That seems to be the first comment out of most people’s mouth every time I come back to an ASCA convention. I would like to take a couple of minutes here to introduce two of my current assistant coaches who don’t speak English and are probably out with Roberto Strauss at the pool where there is translation, but I don’t see them in here. David Harbach who is coaching is down here; David was one of my first swimmers back in Florida. John Hayman who is the current coach at the University of Delaware, swam for me at Westchester. Eric Landen swam for me at Cincinnati and is now the Head Age Group Coach at Cincinnati. Tim Murphy worked with me at Westchester, and was probably the best assistant coach I had in my entire career. I knew from the onset that he was going to be a great coach and I think he has proven that to you all because now he is the Head Coach at Harvard University. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Bill Rose for the opportunity to work with him at Mission Viejo. During that time I had the opportunity to work with some great athletes and also learn a lot from Bill. I had the opportunity one year to work with Paul Bergen. It was a tremendous experience to learn different coaching techniques and philosophies.

A young coach came up to me at the very beginning of this clinic and he asked me a few questions. The first question that he asked me was, “what is the best learning tool you have been able to use in your career?” and it really took me back. It took me about 30 seconds to even think about it, and I then said, “well I think it is my ability to listen and to watch the great coaches – Not only of the United States, but of the world, and that is how I started my career.”

In 1959, just after I got out of the Marine Corps in San Diego, I drove all the way up to Northern California and I just stood on the deck and watched George Haines. I drove from there and watched Sherm Chavoor. I drove back down to Los Angeles, and watched Don Gambril and Peter Daland. These were the great coaches of our time. These were a lot of the people that helped me create my own philosophy of coaching and I think it has worked out fairly well. My real mentor was a guy that nobody in here has ever heard of. It was right here in San Diego as a matter of fact. He and I trained together on two or three occasions. He had trained here permanently until my pool, the Kopley YMCA opened in 1959. That pool, where people are training with Jim Montrella, is where we trained. His name was Bob Reed. Bob Reed coached a young man who set the American record back in 1960. He was only 16 years old, the youngest American record holder at that time. About four weeks later Lance Larson came around and broke that record. Bob was a student on Johnny Weissmuller. He had all of Johnny Weissmuller’s films and he would never let any of his athletes swim more than their stroke could hold. If they were swimming on tubing and their stroke only lasted 30 seconds, it only lasted 30 seconds. It was a very, very interesting experience for me.

A little bit more about my coaching philosophy, because I think it is important. I went through boot camp about two miles away from here at MCRD San Diego. While most of us in here can remember our teachers throughout our educational system, I can remember only three actual names of teachers that I had throughout my educational career. For twelve weeks I had three drill instructors. I can remember all their names. The discipline that I learned in those 12 weeks and the succeeding three years after that was absolutely mind boggling. It took me until I was probably 30 to realize the things that I had learned at that time. In the Marine Corps you work as a team. If one person screws up, everybody pays for it because in combat if one person screws up, quite possibly everybody dies. In coaching, my philosophy has been if one person screws up in practice everybody pays for it. I am not 100% with that, but I try to stay pretty even with it. It creates a team atmosphere where the others start to coach the people who want to screw up.

John Urbanbchek and I talked a little bit in Santa Domingo at the Pan-American Games about the talks we would be giving. One of the things that he asked me to talk a little bit about was aerobic base. I think that aerobic base is extremely important in the development process of an athlete. I don’t really care whether they become a 1500 swimmer or a 50 swimmer. Joe Hudepohl, who was on the ’92 and ’96 Olympic teams was not a distance swimmer, but because of the work that Chuck Werner had done with him as a young athlete in Cincinnati (swimming the 500, the 1650, the 400 IM), training him as a distance swimmer gave him the background to swim the 200 meter Free and the 100 meter Free.

I had a boy by the name of Blaze Matthews – great name – back in Westchester in the early 80s. Blaze was 20.3 I think in the 50 and 45.0 flat or 45.1 in the 100 as a high school boy back in the early ‘80s, but his whole career before that was 500, 1650, etc, etc. To put a little bit of humor into it, every race that he swam, 50 or 100 was always negative split. Even the 50 (in short course yards) was a negative split, and that is almost hard to believe. In 1985 at Concord when we swam the Russians (the junior team) Blaze, at the 25-meter mark was in sixth or seventh place. All of a sudden a gasp came out from the crowd. It was like an explosion. He just lifted up on the water and boom, won the event. I wasn’t even sure that I believed it! But that again is relative to one, his explosive power, and two, his aerobic base. We have too many people today not training aerobically and effectively at young ages.

I have been fortunate to have a lot of great athletes that have swum with me over the years. I give them a tremendous amount of credit first, for putting up with me and second, for the work that they put in. I have had a great number of fantastic assistant coaches who have been extremely loyal and like many of us in the room, we have probably had some that have been disloyal. It is fantastic to work with people like that.

I am going to move a little bit to the side here in terms of distance swimming and talk a little bit about coaching because I think it is absolutely imperative that everybody here and everybody in coaching understands that you as a head coach are the person that is responsible for the environment that allows assistant coaches and athletes to work at a very high level. There is no one else – No parent – No president – No one else. It is you and you alone that have to create that environment. It is your responsibility. Don’t ever try to push that off on anyone else.

How to Spot a Potential Distance Swimmer- Train everybody like they are a distance swimmer when they are young. Pretty soon you will be able to distinguish who the distance swimmers are. First, I try to look for their ability to float, specifically, with their legs. If their legs can float fairly high in the water, I think that is a good indication.

Secondly, I look for their ability to relax in their recovery. I think if you see somebody swimming with a fairly stiff armed recovery, you are going to have a hard time getting him or her to swim 1500 meters.

Thirdly, who handles the workload the best in practice? Can they handle the challenges from you? I try to challenge athletes every day and challenge them in different areas. I don’t use this set very often, but I will do it from time to time. You can vary this in any way, shape or form. You can go six 100s with long rests and test recovery. Test recovery on each one hundred. You can do 6, 10, 15, and 20 X 100s. Whatever your hearts desires, but have them do it at maximum pace and then test their recovery rate. If their recovery rate is dropping very fast (and if they have some of the other tools that go along with it) chances are they are a distance swimmer.

The fourth attribute of a distance swimmer is their ability to take criticism. I think it is an imperative quality in a 1500 meter or 800 meter swimmer. Constructive or not, I think it is imperative that they are able to handle criticism. They are generally the kids that are going to work very, very hard, but they also at times are going to have to be able to take the criticism and handle it well.

Another sign of a distance swimmer is a person who loves the work and who can swim four strokes efficiently. I think I would like to talk a little bit about that because I think you are going to have a hard time training at any level if the athletes don’t swim efficiently. I think it is a weakness in our swimming society today. In spite of all the efforts that United States Swimming and ASCA have gone through to talk about technique, I think we are still very weak in that area in this country. I watch swimmers internationally and I know there are a lot of people that say everybody else in the world is swimming better because we are coaching all their swimmers, or because they are using drugs, etc, etc, etc. Those things are totally out of our control. We have an open society so if people want to train in this country we shouldn’t shut them out. We should just swim harder. We should swim faster. We should be more technically correct. Unfortunately, the technically correct part is the thing that I feel is hurting us, not just in distance swimming but also in every stroke. Our depth in this country is not good. I just came back from Korea, and the Ukrainians kicked our butt. If the Ukrainians and the Russians were ever together like they used to be we would be in deep trouble. We have got to do a better job at the younger levels in teaching the kids all four strokes.

A person who can swim all four strokes and swim them efficiently has a variety of training mechanisms available to them and I think that is imperative. Think of all the great distance swimmers who were backstrokers. Because they could swim backstroke efficiently they could train backstroke efficiently. Many coaches will tell you that they swim a lot of backstroke with distance swimmers, but in order to do that effectively they have to know how to swim the stroke. Most of our great 1500 meter swimmers have been very good 400IMers. Most of our great 400IMers have been very good 1500 swimmers. Coming back to technique, work with your assistant coaches or if you are coaching an age group program, work on that aspect and work hard.

I wanted to show some statistics here. From 1964 to 1972 in women (that is an eight year span) there were nine medals, three of them gold. From 1976 to the present, there were only 7 medals. That is a 24-year span folks. Out of those 7 medals there were only 3 gold medals, not very good. From 1964 to 1972 in the men’s 1500 there were ten medals, with only three of them gold. From 1976 to the present there were 12 medals overall, and only three of them were gold. Again, we are comparing an eight-year span with a 24-year span. Women in that eight-year span won a total of 19 medals, followed by a 24-year span where 19 medals were won. Here are some more statistics: This is combined, both the 800 and 1500. In eight-year span, there were eight medals, four gold. Followed by 24 years, 13 medals, 7 golds (most of those women). That might give you an indication. Why do I bring this up? Motivation – Motivation – Motivation. How do you do that? Motivation is communication with your athletes. I think communication is absolutely imperative. You have got to place challenges in front of them all the time. Let them know that the mile is the easiest (always was and always will be) event to qualify for the National Championships. Notice that I didn’t say Junior National Championships – I said National Championships and you know, John, Bill, several others in this room were all, excuse the language, old farts and when kids used to come to us and they would say I want to go to the National Championships – what do I need to do. Swim the 1500. Swim the 400 IM. Swim the 200. Those were the events that people could qualify in, and they did. I can’t tell you the number of kids that I was able to have jump over everything else because they made up their minds that they wanted to train for the 1500. They didn’t all become great 1500 swimmers, but they all started their career.

Yesterday, I think it was John that mentioned Tom Jaeger. One of Tom’s very first events was the 1500. There are many, many swimmers, who started out as distance swimmers. Most people do not remember that Matt Biondi swam the 1500 at one time. Most people do not remember that Mark Spitz not only swam the 1500, but if my recollection is correct held the world record at one point. You have got to understand the aerobic base and how important it is in the overall development of an athlete. To not do that you will cut the athletes career short.

Forms of Motivation – Skip Kenny and I started this back many years ago when he was at Cincinnati and I was in Santa Barbara. We started trying to find the most challenging workouts we could and then we would share them with each other. Well, the Cincinnati Marlins hated my guts and the Santa Barbara swimmers hated Skip’s guts, but it was fun and since that time I shared workouts with a lot of coaches and a lot of coaches have shared workouts with me. Find out what other people are doing in distance training. Get great sets and bring them back and challenge your athletes to those sets. Tell them up front, that this is what so-and-so did, and he is the world record holder right now. If you cannot do it at that particular interval, do it on a different interval, but challenge them all the time.

Keep time standards in front of your athletes. I don’t care if they are 8 years old, put the national time standards in front of them. Put world records in front of them. I think it is absolutely imperative to the eventual success of an athlete. I think it is absolutely imperative to the motivation of a team. Further, put the individual successes on bulletin boards, like when kids do great sets.

I learned something important from Ron Young and Jack Nelson many years ago. They created what they called the “steak boards.” The “steak boards” were just a kick boards that they painted with their team name on it and a set. One of the sets that I used was ten 400s free on 4:30 (long course). Ten 400s Free on 4:30 or ten 400 IMs on 5:10 for and then the girls I think were 4:45 and 5:30 respectively. If they made that “steak board,” they could choose any restaurant they wanted to, either the most expensive or if they wanted to go to McDonalds that was fine and I would buy them dinner. We had other boards that went right on down, all the way through our age groups. To get your name up there you really had to challenge yourself. Paul Hartlauf in Santa Barbara and Ann Tweedie were the only two that were able to make that “steak board.” Paul did the ten 400s Free and averaged about 4:18 or somewhere in that vicinity. Ann averaged somewhere around 5:10 in the 400 IMs. Those were kids that were able to accept challenges and I think success is only relative to how you motivate your athletes. The communication involved is absolutely imperative.

Speaking of motivation, one of the things (and again, it is off of distance swimming) in 1995 when Joe had dropped out of Stanford and came back down to train with me in Long Beach he had reminded me of a challenge that I had issued him back in 1991 and that challenge was a set that Lori Lawrence had done with Duncan Armstrong before the 1988 games and those of you who do not remember, Duncan won the 200 meter freestyle in the 1988 games in Seoul and beat Matt Biondi. It was one of the great drags of the world, but the set was twenty 50s on 0:35 seconds (long course). Now that doesn’t seem too difficult, especially for a great athlete, but the challenge was that they were all from a dive, which means that you had to get out, get up on the blocks and get ready to dive. So Joe reminded me of that and I said, “well do you want to do it now,” and he said, “yup, but I want to go 21.” So we did. I actually stopped practice one day and let the rest of the kids watch. We went twenty 50s from a dive on 0:35 seconds, all long course, all from blocks at both ends of the pool and he averaged 28.3 seconds per 50. I just looked at him afterward and I said take your heart rate, and his heart rate was about 29 I think. I told him, I think we missed. We probably should have been swimming the 1500, but it was a great set and it is a great motivational set. To this day, I thank Lori Lawrence for having done it, because it was a tremendous challenge and Joe remembered it and went after it. Again, the communication of telling kids what other people in the world are doing is important.

I had to give you a little humor because most of you know that I coach in a foreign country right now, and when you live in a foreign country you eventually begin to think in the language. You even begin to dream in the language. On June 6th of last year I was sitting in a restaurant. It had been a long and very, very stressful day and like every place you coach, you always have somebody that wants to impede your program. Again, this had been a real bad day. It started at 4 o’clock in the morning and I was just dead tired and I went to this restaurant. I sat there and I had a couple of beers and some tacos and I got into this mental conversation with myself, which was in Spanish. Anyway, I am going on and on and on, just not really paying any attention to it until all of a sudden I figured out it was not a mental conversation. It was out loud. Now, if it hadn’t been for one thing which I will mention in a second, I think most of the people would have just looked and said well that is just some gringo trying to practice his Spanish if it were not for the fact that I, because of this particular person who I was having this mental conversation with, was cussing profusely in Spanish. It is an interesting experience. Right now I have to speak three languages, English, Korean and Spanish. My Korean is a little rusty though and it is tough to communicate with kids when you are speaking a foreign language, especially if your mentality is still in English, but we have been able to do it.

The first rule of coaching is that you must love the event. The second rule is that you must be personally disciplined to coach these events. These two things are imperative. You cannot be late. You have to be motivated. Without these attributes you will never get anyone to do anything in a distance event.

This is a little bit more humor, but speaking of coaching and motivation, I just sort of took these pictures. This can be a classic pose of a lot of coaches (picture of coach sitting, or doing something unrelated to coaching, like reading a news paper). It is sort of a disinterested pose when the athletes are in the water. A little self-deprecating humor there, but I hope you are all more like this (picture of coach at side the side of the pool waving arms, or clapping) and unfortunately without a video it did not come out the way I hoped, but you know, flapping your hands.

This is a set right here. Again, I do this once a year. Depending on the athletes I have to adjust the intervals. It is basically three 400 IMs, three 100s stroke in reverse IM order, three 400s Free and three 100s Free. The next round of course is the backstroke and then the next round is butterfly so you are putting the stroke order in reverse and in may ways reverse difficulty, depending on who the athlete is of course. In 1985, we were at the National Team Training Camp in Hawaii and I challenged all of the distance and IMers to this particular set. John Peter Bent who was an East German defect at the time (and had held the world record in the 400 IM) looked at the set and he says “woof easy.” He didn’t make the first round. Before we started the set I warned everyone that this was a set that they needed to pace themselves on, and that if they didn’t they could be in trouble by the time they got to the last round. Dave Worton and John Killian took off after each other. They decided they were going to race the whole set. Well the bottom line was that John Killian made it to the backstroke. I think he made it to the third 100 of backstroke before he failed on the second round. David made it all the way through the second round. Then averaged I think 4:47 – 4:48 on the three 400 IMs on the third round and came to the first 100 fly, after a sensational set of three 400 IMs and he took off on the first 50 of fly and went out in 30 seconds. His time for that 100 fly was 1:25, and it was bad. So he didn’t make it. The two swimmers that made it were both distance swimmers, John Micken and Dan Jorgensen. They paced it. I remember Rod Stracken, before he won the gold medal in ‘76 had done that set. Again, using things that other coaches have used successfully is very important.

These are kids that train with me right now. Louis Gonzalez is a 14 year old who has been 16:28 in the 1500 meter Free. He is growing like a weed. I do not train him very much. He comes to about 8 practices a week and if I see that he is really exhausted I just have him do some kicking or move him over in a different stroke lane or something like that. He is a very good 400 IMer and he is I think going to be potentially the best distance swimmer and 400 IMer in Mexico in a couple of years.

Juan Yeh was last year I think 8th or 7th in the world in the 800 and 10th or 11th in the 1500. Juan is a real interesting kid. He is 18 years old, and a very good trainer. Technically, I think he is one of the most talented swimmers in the world who catches the water as high as anyone I have ever seen. He has a heart rate that is impossible to lift and I think has the potential to be on the podium in Athens. I don’t think he has had enough history and training to be able to beat Grant Hackett, but I do think he has got the potential. At the very least he could be on the podium. He is one of these kids that goes home to Korea and eats and then comes back to the Jack Simon diet form. This year he came back at 90 kilos which is heavy, and was worse than he came back the year before. The first time he came to me when I was in Carson City, he was overweight. I think in three years we might have gotten six months of effective training out of him. He is coming back in October after their Korean nationals so we will have the entire year to be able to train, which gives me some hope. However, I did tell him if he came back one kilo over 76 he was back on the plane to Korea. so we will find out how that works.

Claudia Faria is another girl that trained with us and did, I think, a very, very good job. She may be on her way out of the sport or she may decide to get back into it and really go after it this year. Three of those kids from Mexico all came up to Austin this last year and they all swam the 1650. All three of those kids in their age group this year will be in the top 5 in the United States of America in terms of the rankings. They have trouble understanding that. It is part and parcel the problem with the environment of swimming in the country, and there is a lot of talent in the country. It just has not been developed yet. Unfortunately, again, the environment has a lot to do with how far you can take kids.

Breathing Cycles: I remember Carlton Brunner was one of our best 1500 Meter swimmers for a number of years. He trained with Alex Bronfeld and then trained with Skip Foster at the University of Florida. The first thing that I said to Alex, was that I felt like he needed to breathe every two or at least do some switch breathing where he was breathing similar to what Brian Goodell used to do many years ago. Swim 25 meters on one side, then 25 meters on the other side, but Alex said no. He swims like a girl. He said he needed to breathe every three. I think that is a big mistake and I think it is even a big mistake in some girls. Some of the girls who are very small, do not have very much muscle, and can get by breathing every three. I have never seen a guy not breathe every stroke. Ironically, when Carlton swam his best ever, he breathed every two. I would watch as he would fall off after 1200 meters every time, and in my opinion, it was primarily due to the fact that there was not enough oxygen exchange. I really believe that you need to be breathing every two.

Paul Hartlauf back in 1976 would train phenomenally. We would never breathe every two in practice until we got to the week before Nationals, and that was just to get into rhythm and to feel his stroke in breathing every two. He would breathe 3, 5, 7, and 9 all the time. I think it is imperative in training because it creates balance and it creates a little bit of hypoxic training, but breathing every three seems to have gone out the window in training for many coaches and personally, I would like to see it come back.

Swim Caps: Silicone or Latex – It is not a good idea to wear either one in a 1500. Maybe in an 800 you can get by with it. I think the energy expenditure in your cooling system goes up dramatically after a certain period of time. Your body temperature, the temperature of the pool, the energy that you are putting out, that heat has to escape and if you have a cap on the top of your head it is not escaping. As I say facetiously, be a marine and get a haircut, but I think wearing a cap hurts, especially in the last 2, 3, 400 of a 1500.

Examples of Training: Bill Sweetenham used to use this every Monday morning. He would go (and I cant remember the distance, whether it was ten or twenty – maybe fifteen) 300s as an aerobic test set every Monday morning to find out how they were doing. They were to swim it at an aerobic pulse rate probably around 150, and each week the object was that they keep improving.

I used to use that myself, but right now what we are going to do is we are going to do what you see on the screen and we are going to do that for 15 weeks. Every week – 3K, the next week a 5K, the next week a 10K and again, the object is each week we try to move to the right. We want to make sure that they are getting a little bit faster at the same pulse rate. That is important. If you are going to train aerobically you want to make sure they are training aerobically. If they lift the effort and their pulse rate goes way up, that might be wonderful for the work, but chances are they are probably are not going to do as well the next time, so train at a pace, a disciplined pace. These are other sets that I do in the aerobic phase:

20 X 500
100 X 100
20 X 300
40 X 200
rest 0:20
rest 0:10
rest 0:15
rest 0:15

Again, I am the kind of person, where I don’t remember much about what we did a week ago, let alone ten years ago. I just believe that you need to create your own form of work. Many kids years ago will remember that God, we did a lot of 300s, or we did a lot of 800s or we did a lot of this, etc. I don’t remember that. You have to create whatever is good for your personality, your level of intelligence, and your athletes. The point is you have got to create things that are aerobic in nature to be successful. These are sets that I do a lot of, but that doesn’t mean that we just do this. Most of my aerobic sets will run between 3000 meters and 10,000 meters.

If we are swimming aerobically I want them swimming with good form. I want them working on turns and I want them swimming at a heart rate of around 150. When I have the opportunity to use a heart rate monitor, I will use it on girls. I think it is one of the things that the Australians have done very, very well with, and that is monitoring swimming. We try, but their method is a little bit more accurate and most of us do not have the finances to buy 30, 40 or 50 heart rate monitors. So we have to rely on honesty with the athletes and that is important.

Using heart rate, is in my opinion, the best way to train. But it is not necessarily the easiest way to train, especially when you are coaching 25 or 39 athletes, which is why we use intervals like 1:30 and 1:20 and 1:15 and 1:10 and so forth. The problem is that interval training can create different energy cycles for different athletes, whereas heart rate training keeps everyone within the same energy cycle while getting the amount of rest appropriate. If you put your athletes on an interval you can’t guarantee this. Do I do this all the time? No, but within the aerobic phase I usually try to stay with seconds of rest versus an interval. Again, you have to rely on your athletes and their honesty. You have got to train them to be honest swimmers or it will not work. They could be sitting out there swimming at a heart rate of 110, whereas using an interval might correct that. However, using an interval might hurt someone else.

We try to improve speed as we go through. I learned something from Ray Essig many years ago when he was at Southern Illinois. I heard him screaming one day at his athletes. It was later in the season and they had the same warm-up all the time which was something like 20 X 50s on 0:45 short course yards. I remember him yelling at the athletes and saying you know, here we are in January and you are still doing your same time in warm-up that you did back in September, and you can’t do that. You are in much better shape now. I think this is an absolutely imperative point. The warm-up is a warm-up, and if the athletes are warming-up the same thing in September as they are in January, they are not warming-up correctly. Their heart rate obviously should have changed in that point of time.

The O2 Max in Anaerobic Training – We do not do much anaerobic training, at least in terms of actual sets where I am asking them to do that. We do occasionally, but not very often. Many times they may be training at anaerobic levels because of the challenge of the set, but most of it would be the O2 max. These are just some steps that we try to do – Thirty 100s on 1:40. This is a set that Grant Hackett does. This is a set that Ian Thorpe and Kieren Perkins have also done. Lars Jorgensen has done this set, and I am sure that there are many, many great distance swimmers who have also. This set should be done at a stage in the season when you are looking for people to swim at race pace in the 1500.

Three 500s on 7:30, that is a good deal of rest for somebody that is going to be swimming probably under 5:15. Again, if you have athletes that are not up in that level, just change the intervals. That is all. The object here is to give them more rest. You know, when Joe does the 30 X 100s we are expecting him to swim at 1:01 or better. So, if he is swimming at 1:01 or better on 1:40, he has 0:39 seconds of rest, which I think, is sufficient for a distance swimmer.

Another set is 30 X 50s on 0:50 at race pace.

This is a set that I like to do: 60 X 25 on 1:00 (to the feet, all below race pace). We use short course meters for this set. This is a tough set, but the kids like it because it is different and they usually go after it, especially when they hear the word “25.” They get some rest and they go after it. Again, create your own sets.

Occasionally and really dependent on the athlete we go 6 X 100s on 7:00. For an athlete who is fairly big and strong and can handle it, it is great. I have done this set with girls, and I could do it on 1:10 and they would swim just as fast as they did on 7 minutes. So why waste the time?

15 X 100s on 1:05 has historically been a challenge set for great distance swimmers in this country and perhaps in the world. Many years ago, back in 1975 I think, Mark held an impromptu camp down at Mission Viejo where Brian, Casey Converse, Salnikov (one of the great Brazilian swimmers), and Bobby Hackett was there. This is one of the sets that they had done. We had already done it up in Santa Barbara. They all made the set. In the Olympic training camp, with all the kids, again, they all went after this set. Don Gambril gave them the same set, and they all made it. Skip Kenney told me one day last year that he had been trying since he has been at Stanford to get someone to do that set, and no one has been able to do it. I think it is a great motivational set. It really lifts the athlete up when they make it. Even if they don’t make it all the way, they at least have some parameter of where they are at and what is necessary to move forward. It is a great challenge set.

We do a lot of broken work. This is just some example here:

Dive 100
14 X 100
r:0:05 (Fast)
r:0:10(Pace)

I think one of the great things that Grant Hackett does is that he can go out in the first 100. He doesn’t go out just because he is a big strong guy, he goes out because he trains to go out. I think this is a good set to train for that. This set is basically just a broken swim. You dive, you swim your first 100 with five seconds rest (and you want to be out). If you want your athlete out in 0:56, by gosh, they need to be out in 0:56 in that training session. Then you want them to hold the race pace the rest of the way with 10 seconds rest. It is a good indication, and I think it puts some emphasis on the first 100, which is how I think Grant trains for that. He works on his 100 speed. If you have someone that goes out and can’t handle it, they are going to have trouble on the next 14 100s, so I think you do need to train for that.

Planning Strategy

1500, 800: If you and your athlete are not looking at the competition and looking at past splits of great swims from those athletes then you are making a mistake. You want to find out points of weakness in other swimmers. I think this is absolutely imperative to coaching at a high level in distance swimming. I think it is important in all aspects of swimming, but by the same token, find the point of weakness of any athlete. Do they have weak turns? Do they show weakness in the middle of the race? Find these weaknesses and challenge your athlete to overcome them.

Many years ago, when I was with Bill at Mission Viejo we went to a meet over in Long beach and Phillip Demerist was going to swim the mile and the 200 Fly. He was swimming against the fastest distance swimmer in the area at that time, and I asked him if he wanted to win this. He says yep, and I said okay. I had watched him swim, and I told him to just stay with the other guy, and just before the 1275 (I just made that up), I wanted him to sprint through the turn and sprint the 25. I guaranteed that if he did this, he would win. That is probably the first and the only time that Phillip Demerist has ever listened to me, and he did. He did exactly what I asked him to do, and he won the event. Strategy is extremely important.

This is just a little saying that my secretary uses on all her emails (paraphrased from Spanish): It is basically, that there are people who fight every day and they are pretty good. There are people who fight every year, and they are a little bit better. Finally, there are people who fight for many years and they are much better, but then the people who fight the rest of their life and go on are the ones that are very impressionable. I just sort of promised that I would put that in for her.

There are just a couple of things that I wanted to do here before I close this out. We have two of the greatest coaches in the world right now, George Haines and Doc Counsilman, who I think all of you know are probably in the last days of their life but are still alive and trapped in their mind. I would like to take 10 or 15 seconds and just try to create a little bit of positive energy for these two men. I know both of these men personally, and I think every coach in here who has been around for any number of years realizes what they have given to this sport. Those who know them and know them real well know how competitive they are and probably one of the reasons that they are both still alive. If you could just take maybe 10 seconds and put some positive energy into those two men I would sure appreciate it. Thank you.

As many of you know, my plans are to try to hang this up next year after the Olympic Games. I think 44 years will be enough and, it is not a guarantee, at least no more taxes. I just wanted to take the opportunity to thank all the coaches, because without you I wouldn’t be here. I also wanted to say thank you to all my athletes and all of my assistant coaches over the years, because without them I wouldn’t be here. I have learned so much about this sport from everyone. I encourage all of you to continue to learn as much as you possibly can from everyone and with that again, thank you very much for the opportunity.