Distance Training by Jerry Holtrey (1998)


Introduction: This past season at the World Championships, Erica Rose was our World Champion in the 5K. Diane Munz was second in the 800 and sixth in the 400. At Spring National Championships, they were third overall in the women’s division, with Diane Munz being first in the 400, the 800, and the 1500. In the Summer National Championships, the women were fifth, the men were tenth, and the overall team was seventh. He was first in the Junior National Championships Northeast. I’m very excited about the talk he is about to give. I have heard him once before and he just did an outstanding job. I am sure we are all going to hear an outstanding talk on distance freestyle.


Jerry: I don’t know about you coaches out there, but listening to Chuck Warner this morning, I got very enthused. I also had some goose bumps on me watching the race with Brian and Bobby Hackett. I am afraid I even got a lump in my throat when I was hearing the conclusion. I think perhaps these are some of the emotions that a coach has got to have when he’s coaching distance swimming. The talk that I am going to give today can be divided into three parts. One part can be the coach, and I am not going to spend a great deal on the coach. Secondly, we are going to talk about the swimmers. Finally, I will talk about the type of program you have got to have for distance training. I will also give you some examples of some practices and workouts that we have at the Lake Erie Silver Dolphins.


Let’s start off with the coach. In a distance program, I believe the coach is maybe critical in the sense that if you don’t have a coach that is enthusiastic about distance training, you are probably not going to have much of a program. I have to admit I  get very excited, almost daily, when we have practices. I like  to jump around a little bit, and I like to yell and scream and use my arms. I use a lot of verbal expressions to the swimmers, so that they know that I am watching them continually. I believe when they can see the coach is real enthusiastic, that they are more apt to be enthusiastic about practice. When the coach has a real big interest in them, then they’re liable to do a really good job in practices. It works at the Lake Erie Silver Dolphins, and you will better understand when I start telling you some of the intense workouts that we do. I think enthusiasm is important. I believe anyway that you can elevate the status of the distance swimmer on your team to a different level, maybe putting them on a level of being honor swimmers, will help them become even better. Our team is known as a distance team. It is a distance team because all of the coaches, starting with the head coach all the way down, believe in this program.


The program is built on giving a big base. Although it takes many years, all of our swimmers that have come up through the program that have had the talent, are now placing in the Senior Nationals.  We don’t get very many swimmers coming in.  The swimmers that we have at our program, we develop. We like it that way. We develop our program from the age of nine or ten. We don’t start any younger than that because we want to make sure that they learn how to do all four strokes. They must know the starts and the turns reasonably well. However, once they reach that level, then we start applying some pressure. I mean pressure in terms of introducing longer distances swum, such as thousands, two thousands, three thousands, and eight four hundreds. In other words, they begin the big repeat work. Surprisingly, the younger ones really enjoy doing that. On our team, they have never done anything else. Therefore, they have never heard of low yardage and low intensity. They don’t even know what that is. They’ve never heard of low yardage high intensity. When it comes to our young ones, and I’m talking about nine and above or ten and above, they may only work out four times a week. We try to get in maybe five thousand yards in the hour and fifteen minutes or hour and a half that they’re there.


We do a lot of swimming. We don’t do very much resting. At this particular level, we’re very very interested in making sure that they maintain great technique. I have coaches that I think are outstanding. I know every head coach will the same thing, but I really believe it. My assistant coaches are made up of four former head coaches. They have come over to our team because we are a coach orientated team. Parents have nothing to do with our team. I mean nothing except raise money for us. GOD bless them, they do a great job. All of my assistants have bought into the idea of distance work and endurance work. Due to this philosophy, by the time they get to be eleven or twelve, we already know the people that are going to be headed for possible stardom.


We had a couple of promising little kids this summer in our program of development. When I say development I mean they are still learning how to do the four strokes. Maybe at this point I should say that the philosophy that we have is one of endurance, and I should add maybe individual medley. I think they go hand in hand. I think you’ve got to keep working individual medley all the time until maybe age sixteen or seventeen. By that time you should be able to know if they can start specializing. If they cannot start specializing by the age of sixteen or seventeen then they are going to probably be an IM’er. We do a lot of Individual Medley work along with the endurance work for a couple of reasons. One of the reasons being, it gives great variety to the workouts that we have. Secondly, from one year to the next we never know what’s going to happen in terms of growth patterns. One year we may have a swimmer that is outstanding in breaststroke, and the next year they have lost it for some reason. However, during that year they become a very outstanding backstroker. Maybe the next year, they’ll be a butterflyer. It happens continually. I can speak from thirty years of experience. I have seen it happen countless times. A youngster keeps changing their growth patterns, and when that happens, they change in terms of what their best stroke is.



Getting back to the philosophy, the endurance and the IM work are extremely important. By the time they get to be, as I said, eleven or twelve, we have a pretty good idea of those who can keep going on and become something. That does not mean that we stop the endurance work for everybody else. It just means that the people who are starting to show the ability to do great repeat work, are going to be moving over to another lane to be challenged more. The group that is not able to do it continues to do the endurance work on an easier interval.


I believe that right now, more than any other time that I’ve seen in the last ten or twelve years, we have a window of opportunity for distance training. I am very very thankful that I have the reputation of being a distance coach. If you listen to Chuck this morning, you know that we do not even have one established male distance swimmer. We have a couple of great potentials, but we do not have anybody that has established themselves for an entire year. Right now is a great time. You can change your outlook on distance swimming. If you have a couple of hot shots that you know can repeat all the time, I would put them in a lane by themselves, and start giving ‘em a lot of work. You might be surprised, because as I said, right now is an ideal time for particularly the men. On the women’s side we have got two or three women in the country that are ranked first and second in the world. I think at this particular time we are all right in the women.


I was very fortunate this past summer. In the 1500, Diana Munz was able to win after a tough tough battle with Brooke. We also had Erica Rose place third. I had another little girl, Anna Stroh, who just turned fourteen in July finish in eighth place. Anna is probably ahead of everyone, at her particular age. Before this summer her best time was 4:29, and she ended up going 4:17 in the 400. She also went 8:45 in the 800, and 16:39 in the 1500. After the 1500, which I thought was an OK swim for her. I say OK, only because this summer she worked out like a mad woman. She came up to me following the 1500 and she told me she did not feel very good. I thought to I had screwed it up again, by not letting her rest enough. My point is if she went 16:39 when she was not feeling very good, she may have gone 16:29 or even 16:25 if she had a little more rest. I will be interested to see what she goes when I give her a little more rest. I believe Anna Stroh will eventually be an outstanding distance swimmer if we can keep her as focused as she is currently.


The second thing I want to talk about, are the swimmers themselves in the distance program. I had the opportunity of being  in Colorado Springs for the National Coaches Clinic in May. I was thrilled to listen to five great distance swimmers from the past. They were Bobby Hackett, Brian Godell, Mike O’Brien, Matt Cettlinksy, George DeCarlo, and Kim Linahan. I was so impressed by some of the things that they were talking about. They spoke about what made them outstanding in terms of endurance and in terms of record breaking. I think probably the thing that was most outstanding, was that they were all able to work out day in and day out at a high intensity level. I think when you can do that, and you can maintain yardage, and you can stay free of injury and sickness; then you are going to be outstanding in the pool. All of these individuals that I mentioned, had this ability and great focus.  All of them could repeat extremely well. They had high intensity workouts day after day. They were very consistent. Some of them went up to twenty thousand yards a day, or twenty thousand meters in the summer time. Some of them went only maybe fourteen. I think the key is being able to swim through the pain and the agony that they were experiencing day in and day out.


I think Brian might have had it, and I shouldn’t say the easiest, but maybe the most ideal environment situation. When he was swimming at Mission Viejo, he had a group of distance swimmers that were probably second to none in the world. Somebody is always going to be on every single day when you have a group of six or seven. When you have a group of six or seven, with one of them always being on, then everybody else just tags along. We do the same thing at the Lake Erie Silver Dolphins. We had eight swimmers that I thought were what I would consider elite distance swimmers. I had two boys from college, Shawn Justice from Florida, and Nat Lewis who is at Arizona. I had a freshman boy Paul Kirk that went 9:14 in the thousand and 15:33 in the 1650 this spring. I also had Jimmy Pullan who went 4:25 in the 500 and 1:38 in the 200 yard freestyle. We put those four boys with our four girls. I don’t know why they liked to swim against the girls, they just did. The girls are Diana Munz, Erica Rose, Anna Stroh, and another little girl named Shelly Klouse who also just turned fourteen. Shelley went 16:25 in the 1650 at the Junior Championships Northeast. She was thirteen years old when she did that. She was able to go fifty nine nine or a minute flat for every single 100 that she did, except for the first and the last. Those are the eight swimmers that we had.


I can relate to Brian Godell when he was talking about somebody always being on. With swimmers at the age we had, somebody was always hot every single day. Shawn Justice who was six foot eight was usually the leader. However, if we had some really big sets, it was not surprising to see Erica or Diana passing him. Nat Lewis never really became the leader of the group. It was either Shawn, or one of the girls taking over after three or four thousand meters of repeat work. It worked out great for all of them. It got to be almost like a little club for these eight people. They always looked out for each other. They always congratulated each other. They gave so many high fives this summer, when they were swimming, that it got to be a little bit ridiculous, after a while. They became a very very close group. They were concerned with how the group as a whole was repeating and how each individual was feeling each day. If you ever get into a situation like that, you’ve got an ideal situation. I loved it. I looked forward every single day of practice.


We practiced in the morning from 5:45 to about 8:00 in the morning. We were back in the afternoon for a couple of hours and usually got out about 5:45 but occasionally would not stop until 6:30. We always tried to get in about seven thousand in the afternoon. In the morning we tried to get in about nine thousand. We very seldom ever went more than about sixteen thousand. The thing that I like about distance swimmers, is that they are so focused. On our team, as I said we put them up on a pedestal. We treat them as the outstanding swimmers of the team. The others look up to them highly. I have a meeting with this particular group probably once every two to three weeks. I go over the workouts we have had the previous weeks, and then we talk about what is coming up the next couple weeks and what my expectations are. I also tell them a couple other things that I think is important. I believe they are role models for the other swimmers on the team. I think it is extremely important that they understand that somebody is watching them and everything they do. They are starting to understand that extremely well. The older boys particularly understood it. The two younger girls did not quite understand it. Erica and Diana understood it very well. They were able to participate in the World Championships and also the Pan Pacs. Due to their involvement in these two prestigious meets, they were asked to give a lot of talks to local schools. So, they understand that they are role models. They understand that everything they do in and out of the water is looked up on by somebody on the team, or in the community. I stress that with them a great deal, because I want our swimmers to not only be outstanding swimmers, but outstanding individuals.


Getting back to some of these elite distance swimmers. I think anytime you have an elite group of distance swimmers, you are going to have swimmers that are not only focused but they are the swimmers who can swim through the pain and agony. They are the ones that can be consistent day after day after day. The eight individuals that I talked about from the Lake Erie Silver Dolphins never missed one practice this whole summer. They were there every single day. They swam twice a day through the week. They also swam on Saturdays, and some of them came in on Sundays just to swim down. They did not like the feeling they had on the following Monday in which they were not in the water on Sunday. So, we permitted that. They would maybe go three to five thousand easy on Sunday just to swim down. They were in the water seven days a week. Ten practices during Monday through Friday, then one on Saturday, and then one on Sunday.


How did they do because of it? I’ll get back to that in just a moment. Right now I would like to talk about something I have been thinking about for quite a while. It is important to get your program started earlier enough to develop the swimmers you put into it. I think without a doubt that distance swimmers are made in the water more than any other swimmer, bar none. If you can get your program started early enough, and get swimmers started in a distance program, you can see who is going to be motivated, and who has the ability to keep going on and on. I believe that I am not saying anything that all of you don’t already understand. I think because of that, a coach can do more coaching for distance swimmers than any other group. I love coaching the distance swimmers because of that one reason. If you have a coach who is enthusiastic and you have swimmers that are capable, are focused, and are able to work day after day then you are ready to go to the program.


I think this is what most of you would like to hear. Our program is a little bit different, at least from what I’ve heard, than most of the other programs in the country. I will start by saying I think technique is critical in distance training. I think if the swimmers you have working out in a distance program are not near perfect in technique, you are doing them a really big injustice. They are doing so much yardage, and if they’re doing it wrong, or not efficiently, then you haven’t done your job as a coach. I think it’s important that you go over stroke mechanics with them all of the time. We talk about the catch, the press, the pull, the push every single day. We do stroke work with them every single day. Usually, it is with the warm up. The key is, we do it every single day. I think it is critical. I think it is also critical that you work on turns. We work on streamlining day in and day out. If they don’t get at least a couple yards out from the flags on every single push then I am not happy. They always come up and say how can I think about the turns, when we’re trying to do all these fifty’s or hundred’s or two hundred’s. I tell them that it is because they are special. I say you are special because you can think and swim at the same time. Not everybody can do that. They accept that. I think it is very important that they understand that they have to have the perfect stroke or at least strive for it.


Does that mean that once we get started in the distance program that it’s all distance? No. We do speed work sometimes. We don’t do it very often, but we do it. My philosophy on distance training is rather simple. I don’t want them to get more than five seconds rest on the fifty, ten seconds on the hundred, fifteen on a two hundred, and fifteen seconds on the four hundred. When it comes to the eight hundred, I don’t mind thirty seconds rest if they swim fast enough. For the 1500, they might get as much as a minute rest. I am talking about my elite distance swimmers only. I have another group of distance swimmers that do almost exactly the same thing as the eight eight, except their intervals are easier. They’re just not able to do the intervals yet. I will talk about send offs in just a moment.


Everything we do in practice is hard. I mean everything except the warm up! I have to say most of the time, the warm down. I say that only because, at times I forget. We always like to finish up with something extremely hard. It could be only 4×100 on 1:10. I do give them a time I expect them to do or make. I try to talk to each one of them on every send off and tell them what I expect out of them. It takes a lot of time. I should not say a lot of time, because I don’t give them much. It takes a lot of organizational skills, because I have to jump around real real quick and I’ll say Shawn keep ‘em at five, Diana you gotta go six pluses, etc… Usually, we only give them about one minute rest between sets. Do they ever get more rest? If I see something that is being done poorly, we may stop the whole set. I will chew them out, and then we’ll start all over again. It is important that they understand that I have high expectations. Everything is a challenge to them. They accept this. They thrive on challenges. What I like about six out of the eight in the elite group is that they are highly competitive in practice. They hate getting beat in practice by one of their own. Most of them know where they should be in their line. We use two lanes. I put two boys and two girls in each lane. They know where they are supposed to be. Sometimes, the one that is going third starts moving up and passes. It drives the person that is getting passed crazy. They do not like getting passed, because they know they should be going second. I won’t hesitate. If somebody who is third moves up and passes the second person then the second person becomes the third person. They do not deserve to be second anymore. They were passed. I like it very competitive. They like it.  They respond to it extremely well.


How intense are our workouts? I set up my work out this way. I do a warm up of anything between a thousand to about fourteen hundred, maybe even fifteen hundred meters. I’m talking about summer time right now. Right after that, then we’ll go into a set.


As I said, I like to do a lot of IM work. We may do 40×50 on a 45 second interval, and they go ten of each stroke. You may say, even the breaststroke? Yep. We even do breaststroke on the forty five. I have got a couple kids that do not make the sendoff. They just keep going breaststroke over and over again. They make the other three strokes without any problems. Right after that, and by the way, when I say intense, I tell them to go as hard as they can. If they’re going butterfly, at thirty eight seconds. We stop, I tell them that is ridiculously slow and we start again. The boys should be able to go thirty three or thirty four. Are they flyers? Maybe not, but it’s a great conditioner. I think fly is great for conditioning and endurance work. We do a lot of butterfly.  I give them times that I want and a range. I’ll say thirty three to thirty six, and girls you can go thirty six. The boys need to be to thirty three. I’ll do the same thing for backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle. By the time they get to freestyle, they’re getting a little bit tired. I’ll say, in terms of repeat work, on your freestyle, I want you to be no more than thirty one for the girls, and thirty for the boys.


After they get finished with that set of 40×50’s, they will go a set of say, 8×400 Free. If it is in the early part of the season we’ll just keep it at five minutes. I’ll tell them that I don’t want anything more than four thirty five for the guys, and the girls will be expected to go four forty. At this point of the season they are just not ready to do outstanding repeat work. After that we will do a set of kicks. We may go 8×150 kick. I would think they should be able to go on the 2:45, and keep them all under 2:30 without any problem. Right after that, I’ve been told by the boys and girls that their shoulders hurt, because they keep their arms out there, and I’ll say, that’s fine, maybe we need a hard thousand to loosen them up. So, we’ll go a hard thousand right afterwards. And, then after that, we’ll go into another set. In other words, it’s just one set right after the other, over and over and over again. And, we do this, I want them to be able to repeat hard all the time. So, that when they get to a particular meet, they can go out hard, and it’s almost refreshing, because they know they’ve only got three more one hundreds after that first hundred of the four hundred. If they are going an eight hundred, it’s only eight one hundreds. We have done that so many times, it’s unbelievable. It is important that you just keep on them all the time. As I said earlier, if you have a group that is very competitive, they can do that by themselves, and they do it all the time.  Intensity is the key.


I would like to give you a few sets that we did this summer that I thought were pretty good sets. One set was 50×100 on the 1:10. These intervals are for long course meters. I had planned beforehand, to only go twenty five, because I didn’t know if the girls were ready for it yet, but the boys started repeating threes and fours without any problems. Once the boys were starting to do it, then the girls fell right in line, and they were going fives and sixes. At the end of twenty five, I said, you know, this is great, I didn’t think you guys could do this. And, I’m really proud of you, let’s do twenty five more. And, so they did, twenty five more. And, so we ended up going fifty of them on the one ten, maybe one of our best sets that we’ve had this whole year. We also did 100×50 on 35 seconds. I gave them a minute rest at the end of fifty, because I thought they were doing it very well, and I wanted to give them a reward. The reward was an extra minute. Actually, a couple of them didn’t want to, they just wanted to   keep going. They thrive on the sets that I can give them, if they are not absolutely ridiculous. A ridiculous set might be this, and we’ve tried this set a few times: 4(5×100) The first set is on 1:15, and then 1:10, 1:05, and 1:03. They get a minute rest between sets. Six out of the eight were able to do it. The two fourteen year olds did two of them, and then they fell apart. That was to be expected, obviously. Another set that I like is going eight hundreds on the nine thirty. We’ll go 8×800 on 9:30, and the boys have to keep them all under nine minutes. The girls have to keep them no more than nine fifteen. You might say to yourself, that is probably not too bad. I don’t think it’s too bad either. The reason I say that, is that that’s just part of a work out. That may only be one set out of five sets, that they’re going.


One of the things that I have to be careful of as a coach, because they respond to some of these sets so well, is to have a set of maybe five one thousands after they’ve warmed up. If they go well on that and then do a hard set of kicks, I would sometimes say, all right let’s do a hard three thousand as the last thing of the day. Hopefully one or two can say, OH GOD that’s great, what a challenge to see if we can go a hard three thousand and to go under thirty three minutes, or under thirty four minutes a three thousand in meters. We did that several times this summer when they would get to the end of the workout, with about thirty five to forty minutes left. If I wanted to just challenge them and see just how much I could push them, we would do something like that. If one or two will accept the challenge, then they all fall into line. That happened almost every single time. One time the boys got so tired that they got passed by the two little girls. Anna Stroh, the little one, ended up winning the three thousand. I say winning, because we treat the workouts almost like a meet. Every time they are doing a set, they are racing each other. Anna got great satisfaction from that. We have another team that works out with us over in the far lanes, and their whole team was out on the side watching. Shawn had taken it out way ahead, and all of a sudden Anna started catching him. The last two hundred meters she threw in I think maybe a 2:11, and her best time is only 2:10 in a two hundred meter freestyle, at least until this summer. She finally passed him, and of course, all the big boys started clapping when she finished. They went over and gave her high fives. That was probably one of the highlights of the season for her. She really got recognized for the first time as being one of the big wheels in the distance program. I think that it is so important that they understand that they do belong there. As soon as we get a boy or a girl that can start repeating, then we move them over. Right now, in our elite group we still have only eight.

I’d like to give you some workouts, and I was going to put it on the handout, but I didn’t have the time to write it all down. I’m just going to read some of these work outs that we did so that you get an understanding. I will also tell you my expectations for them when they swim. We do very little descending sets, except towards the end of the season. Towards the end of the season, we start doing the descending sets, because that’s when I want to see a little bit more speed in their practices. One of our practices was as follows: we pulled 4×250.  Usually every time we warm up  I like to throw in backstroke. I think it loosens up the shoulder better than any other stroke. So, we always do backstroke in the warm up. So, we went 4×250 on ten seconds rest at the end of each 250.  We went two free and two back.  If somebody asks me to do back and breast, I will say fine.  I really don’t care too much about it. Then we went 4(3×400). We went one set on the 5:00, and one on the 4:50, and one on the 4:40, and the last set on the 4:30. They get a minute rest between sets. After that they went 8×150 kick 2:45. All of the kicking is hard. Then they went 2(4×200), one set of IM on the 2:45, and one set free on the 2:20. After that, they did 4×100 all out on the 1:10. That completes that workout.


Here is another one. We did an 800, we did 16×50 Fly on the 45 seconds. We then went 4(4×100), on the 1:20, 1:15, 1:10, and the 1:05. We are able to do up to maybe eight or ten 100’s on the 1:05, and do them at the time I want. As of yet, I can’t get them to do more than that. We can go on the 1:10 and do the times that I want. I want them to do it on the 1:05. We have not reached that level yet. I think we will be able to by next year. We then kicked a hard eight hundred after those sixteen one hundreds. We then kicked two two hundreds, and then we swam three eight hundreds on the nine thirty. They were all swam hard. After that we did 16×50 from a dive, four of each stroke. That is an example of my speed work. We followed that with an all-out two hundred from a dive. One thing that I’ve learned, is that you have to be flexible. As a distance coach, if you see something not working, don’t keep doing it. Change it. Do something so that it saves them embarrassment. I don’t like to embarrass my swimmers. I want my swimmers to be at a very positive level at all times, even if I have to be embarrassed. Who cares if the coach is embarrassed. I do not want my swimmers to be embarrassed about anything concerning the pool.


One time, they were informing me that we hadn’t done any speed work. I decided to have them do some break out swims. I think you college coaches can understand this, and maybe even club coaches can understand it. I don’t do it very often. They started on me with about half hour to go and kept asking me if we could do something different. Nat Lewis had been coming up to me for three or four straight weeks, asking when can we do break out swims? I decided that this particular workout was when they needed it. We did twenty break out swims. We did them from a dive, and we did it for about fifteen meters. When they got finished with those twenty break out swims, they were dead. I told them we were going to try it. I told them it was going to be up to them whether we stuck with it or not. I said, if I see you not putting in the effort, and not really blasting out, trying to keep your head down, we are not going to do it again. They really did the job. At the end of those twenty, they were really exhausted. As soon as they did each one, they would swim over to the sides, get back up, and get back in line. I try to make sure that we try and do some speed work all the time. To me, speed work is going 50’s on a minute or going 200’s on the 2:45. We are at the point in our program, where they can repeat almost as well on short send offs as they do long ones. If they can reach that particular point, then I think they’re able to swim very fast in a swim meet without having to do anything special in terms of speed work in practices. They don’t need the long send off. It takes a long process to get to that point. As I said, all the boys and girls in our elite distance group have been with us for years. It has taken them years to reach the point that they are at right now. If you can be very very patient, yet demanding, giving the proper pat on the backs, to make sure they understand their importance to the team; then they usually respond.  Of course, they must have the ability.

To sum up what I like about the distance program, as I said earlier is, I think you can do your best coaching. I think in terms of technique you can do great coaching. In terms of strategies, there are so many strategies that you can introduce to your swimmers for distance swimming. One thing I heard from George DeCarlo, at Colorado Springs, is that he likes to practice and do different things within the set, so that he can do different things in a meet, to surprise his opponents.  GOD, that’s good. That’s very good. I like trying to do that, too. A lot of times we do sets in which I’ll say, I want you to kill yourself on the first two four hundreds. The next two four hundreds you can go five minutes, then I want you to drop down to four thirty, and then I want you to go up to five minutes. We try to fluctuate sometimes for strategy’s sake. I think it is important when you start racing different people in the National level. When you get to that level you are going to get people that may be as fast as you. If that’s the case, then two things have got to happen. Either you’ve got to be in better shape, so you can go out hard and just keep going. Or Secondly, you’ve got to outsmart the other person. I try to tell them, that not only do I want them to be great endurance swimmers and be in fantastic condition but I want them to be real smart, too. I want them to be able to study their opponents, and know exactly the tendencies they may have, and then do something that’s going to throw them off. I said that six out of my eight are outstanding competitors, and the other two are still learning to get that killer instinct. They are all still learning to follow directions down to the last letter.


For example, this summer Diana Munsz qualified twelfth in the two hundred free and she went something like 2:02.9. I was livid. I was not livid due to her time but because she did not do what I wanted her to do. I wanted her to go out in a minute flat. I wanted her to kill herself on the third fifty. I did not want to say anything about the last fifty, because her last fifty always seems to be fast. It must be something in her head that gets her going fast because it is the last thing. I don’t know what it is, but she always has had it. Any ways, she went out in 1:01, followed by a slow third 50 and then came back with a great last 50. As I said earlier, I was livid with her. In the finals, I cornered her and talked very sternly to her. I reminded her that she was supposed to go out in a minute, and go under thirty one in the third fifty. I knew her last fifty would be under thirty one as well, but I didn’t tell her that. Well, she went out in a minute in finals and I thought GOD, she’s finally following directions. Her third fifty was thirty one nine. I had a clip board, and I threw it against the concrete and said a few words, then she did the last fifty in thirty point six, which is typical for her. She does this all the time. However, I do believe that she is one who capable of going under two minutes once she understands racing strategy better. In fact, we talked about that a great deal this summer. I told her I thought she had a chance at it, if she could have gone out under a minute. She just wasn’t ready for that yet.


The same thing happened In the four hundred. She qualified first in the four hundred. We knew Christina was going to be outstanding going out, and she was. I told Diana she had to stay close in the first 100, and then pick up on the third 50 and last, or pick up on the third hundred and then see if you can bring it home on the last hundred like you normally do. Well, she got out of the race early. At the end of the two hundred, I believe she was two and a half seconds behind. She picked up the third hundred a little bit, and then the last hundred she picked up a great deal. The fact still remains that she still got beat by three tenths. I asked her if she understood my directions. She said yes. I then asked her if she knew what I meant when I said she had to stay close. She said, “well that means by the feet.” I said, you got it. I think it’s important that you communicate extremely well. By the way, I blame myself. I did not make my directions completely clear. When you are working with youngsters at the ages of sixteen. seventeen, and eighteen, they still need a lot of guidance from you as a coach although they may be great young swimmers. It is your responsibility, as a coach, to make sure that they understand every detail. As I said earlier, in Diana’s case I blame myself, because I should have made it extremely clear to her, exactly what I meant by being close. I think if she had stayed as close as I would have liked she might have been a little bit closer.


Distance training is fantastic. I don’t think there’s any other type of training that I could ever possibly do. The other day I was thinking about how I ever got into coaching distance swimmers. The answer is because a long time ago I was a distance swimmer myself. A long time ago, USS was called, as all of you know, AAU. I swam in AAU Swimming in the 50’s, and that’s telling all of you how old I am. In the ‘50’s, they had a national four mile open water championship. They swam it in a quarter of a mile course. You swam around this quarter mile course sixteen times. That was my initiation into the distance training. My coach at that time was Glenn Hummer, from Huntington, Indiana. He was a great technician, as well as an outstanding distance coach. So, distance swimming sort of just fell into my lap.


When I first started coaching, I was coaching at a private school. I am still at the same school which is named Hawkin School, in Cleveland. They are highly demanding in terms of the academics. I could only get in about an hour and a half of training each night. In the mornings I would get maybe an hour and fifteen minutes to an hour and a half. This caused me to have my workouts very organized so that they could still get in the yardage that I thought that they needed. I think I started to send kids off on a short interval because the kids had to get home to do their homework. They started responding to it.  I think all of you have kept logs. I have got logs going back maybe twenty to twenty five years. I’ve looked at them and I’ve seen what I’ve done, and how I’ve changed. I’ve changed my sendoff times from 200’s at the 3:00 level, down to 200’s on the 2:05 short course. I think it is a result of two things. First, the kids responded to what we’re trying to do. Second, the time element for us has been so short that we haven’t had a great deal of time to rest.


This doesn’t mean that we haven’t had good sprinters in our program. There’s a young man by the name of Byron Davis  that went to Hawkin for four years, and I consider him a great sprinter. He was in the same program that everybody else was in. He could not repeat very well though. However, he still did everything that everybody else did in the program. Another swimmer named Melanie Valerio was in the same program, and she loved doing the middle distance workouts. She was able to go fifty point in the one hundred free as a senior. We do not favor anybody in terms of getting out of workout because you they are sprinters nor do we allow you to have an easier sendoff because you are a breaststroker. We treat them all the same and harshly, most of the time. They respond to it. We try to be very fair with them, but demanding at the same time. Well that is it for my talk and I am open for questions if anybody has any.



Jerry: The question is, “What do I say to the swimmers when I’m talking about stroke technique.” The way I do it is I talk to them in terms of their catch. I want their catch slightly inside their shoulders. What I think is funny is that my ideas have changed. I use to say, get your hands right in front of your shoulders. Now, I tell them to get them a little bit inside the shoulders. They start their press out slightly. I’m a real real big fanatic on bending their wrists, and grabbing the water. Getting the pull here, and then pushing back and out. I have been very fortunate for years. When I first started coaching, I had a mask and an air compressor. I went down to the bottom of the pool, and all I did was sit on the bottom and watch stroke. I started picking out the strokes that I really liked from the swimmers that were going the fastest. I then started watching them. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to swim for Doc Counsilman, as well as Gus Stager at the University of Michigan. Both of them were excellent coaches in my opinion. I believe Doc was the master. When I was at Indiana, I talked to Doc a whole lot. I saw a lot of his films, and all of my ideas in stroke mechanics, probably came from him. As I said earlier, we talk about the catch a lot.  I believe that is the key.


In distance swimming, I like to see the hands entering the water and pressing immediately. I don’t like to see a glide. Only because, I think in distance training, the arms are key. Does that mean a six beat swimmer can’t make it? Gosh, no. Eric Vendt was fantastic this summer in the four hundred and the fifteen hundred. What I like to see, at least in my own case, is the catch with no hesitation at that point. I let the kick develop by itself. I have told some of our swimmers, to try and develop a two beat kick. Therefore, I emphasize a two beat kick except when they want to start picking it up. Then, they have to go to the regular kick. By the way, kicking is really important in my opinion. We do hard kicking every day. We try and get in at least a thousand meters every practice. I think that if you are not able to use your legs well when you need them, you are going to deplete the oxygen from your body, and you are going to die badly in the water. So, when we kick, we always kick hard. Here are some of the kicking sets that I think are great. The first one is kicking hundred meter repeats on the one thirty. The goal is to try to keep them all at one twenty. We have been able to do maybe six of them at a time on that sendoff. We do have a guy who can kick one hundred yard repeats under a minute. Diana can hold about 1:03-1:04.


Erica Rose is probably one of the greatest workout swimmers That I have ever seen. She has done it purely on desire. She doesn’t have the ability that Diana has, but she has the heart. She has developed all four strokes because of hard work. She has also continued to keep getting better and better because of her attitude and effort during every single workout. She is just A fantastic workout swimmer. It was not too long ago that she was only able to hold about a one thirty in yards when she was kicking one hundred yard repeats. Currently she can hold under 1:10’s repeatedly. I believe 1:10 is good kicking. I would not call it great kicking, but it’s pretty dog-gone good. Getting back to what I was saying, I think kicking is extremely important for distance swimmers.  Are there any other questions?



Jerry: I do not use any of them, to tell you the truth. I am not sure why. I like to use flippers in kicking because I can go on a faster send off and get more yardage. I only use paddles during warmup because I think there is a tendency to run into shoulders that are not fully developed, especially when you are working with younger ones. If you are pulling hard with paddles, I think you can develop some shoulder problems. We have got it made, because we have the Cleveland Clinic and also a few University Hospitals that have great sports programs. The programs have given us a whole list of exercises to do for the shoulders to maintain good strength all around the shoulders. A lot of times swimmers will develop in front of the shoulder here, but will not develop in  the back area of the shoulder. So we have gotten these exercises from the Clinic and also the Universities to develop the muscles in the back. I can say that we really have not had any shoulder problems, and if anybody should it should be us because of the yardage we do. By the way, our yardage is not as much as maybe Mark Schubert did at Mission.  He was going twenty thousand. I think Bobby Hackett was going eighteen thousand. We do that once in a while. However, our average weekly yardage is about sixteen thousand every day. We never try and fluctuate from that. Any other questions?



Jerry: I hate to see the breathing going in and out of the turns. I like to see them at least take two arm strokes before they start their breathing pattern. It is easier said than done. We have got two of them, that continually do it and we yell at them continually. We tell them that it is just killing their momentum going when they do that. We have showed videos to them on it. They understand it, but they still do it wrong. It is terrible.



Jerry: I encourage them to pull opposite arm from breathing, first. So, if they breath on the right side, their first arm pull is to the left, then they keep their head down, and then they can start their breathing at that point.



Jerry: Yes. The girls, and I am talking about Diana and Erica, have had a total of about a week and a half or two weeks off in the last two years up to the Summer Nationals. However, following the 5K on the Sunday after Nationals, I told them that I did not want to see both of them for at least two weeks maybe three. I just felt that they were completely depleted, I just thought they were tired. Erica probably more so than Diana. I made a really big mistake with Erica, and I might as well tell you. In Erica’s case, I started working her out more and more freestyle this year than at any other time, because I wanted her to be ready for the 5K and the World Championships in Australia. She had to swim high school right after she came back. She wanted to keep swimming, so she did. She started to get what I call staleness in the water. She could not repeat worth a darn in freestyle. I thought I had ruined her. I was not sure what I was going to do. We started doing more and more IM work. She started responding more and more. This summer I was very happy how she swam in the Nationals. I thought for sure that she was going to swim extremely slow. The reason being she had not done any great sets in freestyle this whole summer. In my mind, I always think that if you do not do it in the water, you are sure not going to do it in a meet. She hadn’t done it in the water, and so I was concerned, to put it mildly. However, she was repeating out of her mind in the IM sets this summer. I could not understand and I still can’t understand. The only explanation I can come up with is that her muscle groups for freestyle were so over tired, and mentally she was over tired in freestyle. She just could not get herself to do it.

Let me give you an example for IM; she went 6×400 I.M.’s going two on the 5:30, two on the 5:20, and two on the 5:10, with a minute rest between. She made them all. These are four hundred meters. Then she went another set, I thought was good She went 3×400 meter I.M’s on the 5:15. She went 5:09,5:08, and 5:03 and too me that was very impressive. I kept asking myself why she could not do that kind of work in freestyle. I started doing more and more IM work, just to get her ego up, so that she knew that everything was there. We just needed more rest and that is what we did.


Jerry: We don’t start out that way. When we go back in the water starting next Tuesday, we’ll go probably two hours. We are going to be going long course for the first six weeks, and then at Cleveland State they change it to short course. We will start off going for probably just an hour and a forty five minutes. I do a lot of long easy swimming during the first week or so. I like that because I can stop them and grab them and tell them some things about their strokes. I do a lot of talking on the side of the pool too. I like to walk up and down the pool. if we end up going maybe four to five miles then I may walk three miles. They know most of my gestures and so we can communicate very well about stroke. Once again, we will start easy until I start to see them getting antsy. I can usually tell by their actions when they are ready to start going harder.

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