Today’s talk is about preparation for Olympic Trials and unfortunately there is not a full bio for Steve in the book and it’s probably because it would have taken up a page to talk about all his accomplishments in the places he’s been, but as we sit back and especially those younger coaches in the audience who were really impressed with the performances of his athletes this year at A&M, and the athletes we put on the Olympic team, you know every four years when we go to Olympic Trials there’s always somebody who makes the team that nobody even one month out would have put one dollar on to being one of the people that would be making the team, and yet there’s somebody who comes out of nowhere to do that, and for Steve however, lightning had struck more than once.
Back in 1988 when he was coaching in Pensacola he brought three swimmers to Olympic Trials – all three made the Olympic team and one especially a young man Dan Woods in the breaststroke, still, nobody would have put money on him, but there he was in the 100 breaststroke, swimming in 88 at the Olympics, so when Steve was talking to us here and, by the way some of the best talks always come on the last day, what you hear is not just about the athletes he is currently coaching, but the very storied teams he’s had and everything he’s done for American swimming over the years, so you’re here to listen to Steve, so I want to introduce Steve Bultman, Texas A&M head coach.
Thank you, we actually in ‘88 had six swimmers that we took to Trials, so still a pretty good percentage, but not quite, last day and since everybody else has gone, I’m going to give you all the secret, the secret of how to swim real fast and taper. I wish I could do that, but unfortunately you can’t because there is no magic dust that you can sprinkle on athletes to help them perform well and it’s not just the taper, it takes a lot more than that; it’s consistent, hard work and effort, not only by the swimmer, but especially by the coach as well.
Basically my plan for today: John had asked me to speak on getting athletes ready for Trials and I was excited to do that other than the fact that A&M is playing Florida in their first home ACC football game today, but I’m excited to be here and speaking with you all, but then I see the format and he wants me to talk for two hours and I’m like, ‘wow, okay I can do that, we can do some question and answer and,’ so then I thought about it and I’m like what else can I do to do that; obviously you know, we can talk and basically what I’m going to do is this morning I’m going to give you my perspective, things that I think are very, very important for you to do as a coach and we can come up with some specific things later on in question and answer, but basically we’ll have a 15 minute break and then the last talk, what I’m going to do is in ‘88 we had three swimmers that made the team, another girl that was top 8, this year we had two girls that made the team, 2 other girls were top 8, so I asked Sam, I said, ‘You jot down a couple of bullet points, paragraph, a couple of sentences, what do you think that we did well that helped you make, helped you swim really well, helped you make the Olympic team or make top 8 and so basically in the second talk I’m going to kind of go over that a little bit and kind of give you their perspective which I thought was pretty interesting.
Before we get into that, one of the things that I think is really important, I always feel like athletes perform well when they are relaxed and having fun, I think you saw with our US Olympic team, the video, just I mean, they were just a fun group having a lot of fun and I think they performed well, one of the things I like to do with our girls, first away meets — my first year at A&M, I mean we weren’t really even on the map, we went to SMU to swim SMU; they’re traditionally a top five team at NCAAs, we got up there, our girls were so nervous, you know, and I’m going around joking with them, trying to get them relaxed and some of them are loosening up a little bit, others of them, I mean they are so nervous and so right before the medly I call them over, I think they thought I was going to give them a big “Ra Ra” pep talk, I told them a joke and most of them kind of relaxed, so I’m going to tell you all a little joke right now, get you all to relax a little bit.
An old gentleman lived alone in New Jersey, he wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very difficult work as the ground was very hard, and his only son Vincent who used to help him was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament, ‘Dear Vincent, I am feeling pretty sad because it looks like I won’t be able to plant our tomato garden this year, I’m just getting too old to be digging up the garden plot, I know if you were here my troubles would be over, I know you would be happy to dig the plot for me, like the old days, love papa.’ A few days later he received a letter from his son, ‘Dear papa don’t dig up that garden, that’s where the bodies are buried, love Vinnie.’ At 4 a.m. the next morning the FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area outside without finding any bodies, they apologized to the old man and left, and the same day the old man received another letter, ‘Dear papa, go ahead and plant the tomatoes now; that’s the best I could do under the circumstances.’
That’s one of the jokes I shared with the girls at Trials, I mean it’s one of the things that we do. I’ve got ex-swimmers, actually parents of ex-swimmers that will send me email jokes and , I’ve got to make sure they are reasonably clean and then we share it with the girls and have a lot of fun with that. First off, and I think Eury talked a little bit about, earlier about how you are around your athletes, I mean if you are nervous, if you look a little concerned, and I know, I’m fairly laid back and , I’m pretty relaxed and at that point you get to the meet , the work is done, you just need to relax and let them do it, but what you’re doing is really important and, I mean, one of the things is I feel fairly confident with is our tapers. I talk to the girls about it, all the swimming that we do, the weights, the dry land, we ask them to do some cardio in their volunteer time and most of them do a really good job with that. I mean when you start cutting that back, my feeling is, how can you not swim faster and we talk about that, so I think that’s really important.
One of the things, in 88 I had been at Pensacola for 12 years and so the swimmers had seen success, they had watched us and seen previous swimmers and plus they’d had had some good tapers and swum well. Well this past year I finished, just finished my 13th year at A&M, and so I think that longevity and the swimmers that had been through and that heard that we’d had a number of successful tapers and so I think they felt very, very confident about what was going on and what they were going to do.
Olympic year, I don’t know that you need to do that much more, they are so motivated already, I mean one of the things like I said, we asked them to do some cardio on their own, I mean they are doing that, they are fired up, I think a number of people sometimes, take it a little bit too far, Olympic year we’re going to do this and we’re going to do that and I think maybe over do that too much. One of the things that we do is we do train more long course. I’m fortunate enough that we have a 50 meter pool, we can change it and go long course anytime we want, pretty much. We also swim more long course competitions even during the school year. We went to an invite in the middle of November and it was long course prelim short course finals, we were able to get some Olympic Trial cuts, also get some more experience, racing long course and then short course finals and we were able to pick up some NCAA cuts, we swam one duel meet long course, we also went to the grand pre-invite, over in Austin and had some great swims there, so that’s one of the things that we do.
Like I said I believe people perform better when they are relaxed and having fun and that’s one of the things that we try and do in practice, I’m the kind of guy that I like to joke around with them and it’s like we’re still going to get the work done and they know coming in, okay I’ll get ready to get my butt kicked, but at least I can joke around with my teammates and with my coaches and, and we’ve got some goofy girls — I want them to be goofy. I don’t want them to get to Trials and all of a sudden change the way they normally act because you don’t perform that well. Be yourself, make sure you’re not changing. They like to do belly flops, why? I don’t know, but have fun with it, so I let them do it. One day I guess, they were trying to get me to do belly flops, this past spring is the last home dual meet and the seniors, we were honoring the seniors and I said no, if we win conference I’ll do a belly flop, so I got to do a belly flop this year.
A little bit of an example of how I kind of deal with them a little bit along that. I guess it was 2007; we’d never won conference before, we were having a heck of a battle with Texas at our home pool, I mean, we actually have a chance, I mean it is back and forth really close. Last morning we’re in there in the locker room and having a meeting and of course I’m telling them a joke and then the other thing I’m doing is we’ve got an SID that probably wants us to win more than I want them to win, more than the girls want them to win, so I’m like, hey, let’s play a trick on Chris and I want so and so to pretend like their back is hurting and so and so to pretend like they’re sick and so get him to get worried, I want to take their mind off of the outcome and whatever and just still have fun with it and so that’s one of the things that we did and one of the things that I think is really important to do.
The important thing to do is get to know your swimmers, you need to be able to read them. I mean if somebody is really nervous, if somebody is… I mean, you can read body language, , you can see if somebody is standing behind the blocks and looks confident or looks like they are standing before the firing squad, you need to get to know them, get to read them and know how they are doing and what they need to do. We do three scheduled individual meetings with the girls each season, summer not as much, one more in the summer and we’ll do more if we need to; I mean we basically feel we have an open door policy, if the girls want to sit down with us and meet we’ll do that or if we feel that we need to meet with one of them, we’ll do that also, but that’s one of the things that’s important, first one and we’ll start this in probably about a week is we’ll do goal meetings with the girls and just sit down and talk about goals and what we feel like they need to do to reach those goals and it’s not just listing times; we ask them certain questions and the meetings last 20 minutes up to an hour and so we do it individually with each girl.
Second meeting usually in January we talk about taper and we talk about events that they are going to swim at conference and hopefully NCAAs, and again getting to know them, I want their feedback on taper, I want them to feel like they have input and obviously their first year if they don’t, freshmen we meet with them first because if I feel like it, I’ll ask them, they’ll go, ‘I don’t know, call my club coach.’ And I have no problem doing that and getting feedback, even though we may train them a lot different from what they did, but knowing that maybe somebody needs more rest or doesn’t need that much or needs to rest their legs or these are certain things that help them, is always a plus and then talking about events that they might want to swim and then the end of the season meeting where we talk about how the season went, what changes we might need to make, what their plans are for the summer et cetera, but it’s, you want to develop trust and it needs to be both ways and so I think that’s really important.
The other thing is I look at it as a partnership, it’s not me being a dictator and telling them, ‘hey shut up and swim,’ that’s not the way I am, I want their feedback and I want their feedback both ways and I look at it as me helping them to reach the goals that they want to reach and it is so much fun for me to work with them, it’s funny listening to Yuri talk, I mean I used to coach club for a long, long time and for a number of years I coached all the age groups, all of them and then after a while I got assistants and let them run the age groups, some of the age group groups and I was their assistant on some of those practices and then after a while, once the team got bigger and we were able to hire some coaches and different things, that changes a little bit, but it’s so exciting to see a 9 year old get their first B time or first A time, just like it is to see somebody make an Olympic team, to see somebody reach the goals that they set to do and to work so hard to reach, it’s fun to see that expression on their face when that happens.
Confidence, that’s something that’s so important and people perform so much better when they are confident and so that’s something that they need to build up in themselves, but they also need to have confidence in you as well and we talk about this a lot, how important that is and just tell them there are a lot of ways to develop confidence, but how you perform in practice and in meets obviously is really, really important and sometimes, I mean, we all have athletes that sometimes are their own worst enemy and it’s really, really important with those athletes that you keep reminding them, look at how well you just did in that set, file that away or if they did great in a meet or something like that.
And the other is self-talk, self-talk is they need to build themselves up; one of the things that we talk about and again it gets back to some athletes that just are their own worst enemy and some of them talk so bad to themselves, it is unbelievable and I’ll ask them sometimes, ‘so the way you talk to yourself, if someone else was talking to you standing right next to you and talking to you like that,’ I said, you’d turn around and punch them in the nose, so why do you let yourself talk to you like that? , come on, so your mind is your best ally or your worst enemy and you choose that and you think, I mean, my two U.S. Olympians this year, they are pretty tough, but we have a lot of other young ladies and I’ve had young ladies in the past and swimmers in the past and I know you all do to that, I mean it’s just talk positive, turn the brain off, don’t think too much.
So feedback, I’m the kind of coach, I’m constantly giving feedback and I think that’s so important, I mean, if you’re swimming, you want to know, hey coach how am I doing, does that look alright, I mean you want that kind of feedback and it’s really, really important that you give it, constantly doing that. I mean, they are paying to go, they are on a swim team and they want to get better, I mean if you were taking golf or tennis lessons you wouldn’t want the person you are taking it from just to be quiet and just, ‘here is another ball, here’s another…’ I mean, you want feedback and they want that too and I just keep, I think that keeps you a lot more in practice and keeps it a lot more interesting, but you want feedback both ways, I mean you want to hear from them how did that feel, do you think that worked, here’s the drill, did you feel anything with that drill? But it’s something that you need to be very involved with. Work on the little things, they add up; techniques, starts, turns, finishes, pace… all those things on a regular basis, stay on top of that.
Finishes: four years ago at Trials and at the Olympics, even this year I mean there were some horrendous finishes, and it’s just like, this is what you talk to age-groupers about, learn about it. And it’s something you need to make sure you’re doing all the time. I’m a big believer in video tape. The old expression of pictures are worth a thousand words, I think is so, so true. We video tape at least once a week and critique it with the girls. I mean it’s something that, and I think it’s, you can tell them till you’re blue in the face, and all of a sudden they see it and they’re like, wow I am doing that, or I do need to work on that, and so they see that and hear you talking, not only to them, but to the other people on the team, and they learn more about stroke and stroke technique, and we do that in practice and we also do it in meets and we do it underwater as well. I think it’s really important that you rehearse how you want to swim in other meets so that you can get it right when you go to the big meet. Learn to do it right. This is the way you want to swim it, let’s make sure you do it.
Now, when you go to those big meets, sometimes they think I’m tapered, I’m superman now, I can go out as hard as I want and I won’t die. Baloney I don’t care who you are, you still have to pace it right and sometimes they forget that and it’s really important that there is still the same kind of effort. Sometimes you hear athletes say, “I have to feel good,” but not necessarily. You can feel good and go awfully slow. You need to make sure you’re doing, going out how you need to go out. So it’s really important that they learn that and that they keep the same kind of effort. One of the things that we also, I think is important is how you warm up. , learn how to warm up, that’s the best warm up for you, and usually what we’ll do in dual meets, is I’ll kind of have them do a team warm up. We’ll do it together; a lot of the dual meets — it’s not like there are a whole bunch of different teams there and kind of show them and talk about things that I think are important, and after you’ve done, after a couple of dual meets, especially when you’re going to an invite or a big meet, then you let them go on their own, and some of them are fine doing it on their own, and some of them will still come to you and say, what should I do, give me some… , and I’m fine doing that, but we definitely want them to learn that.
Technique, that’s something that I’m a huge believer in, and something that I stress a lot, and I want to give a guy, sitting right up in the front, up here, Dick Bower some credit, because he certainly helped me with technique when I was coaching in Louisiana many moons ago, but it’s something that I’m constantly talking about. I’m the kind of coach, I can’t watch somebody going up and down the pool and doing something wrong and not open my mouth. Do it correctly and I am constantly talking about that, I think it’s really, really important, and I’ll even, I mean they’re so used to me doing that, I mean we’ll be at Trials and I have no problem talking to them and just say, “This looks, , let’s try this. Try getting your elbows up.” Because they hear me talk about it, I mean just the slightest change, palms out a little bit, elbows up a little bit, could make a huge difference and that’s something, and I’ll get them to try different things at Trials. Is that better distance per stroke, time it, is that going a little faster? How does that feel to you? I’m not going to, and I don’t want them to panic and I’m not the kind that’s going to do that, but one of the things I’ll say is, “Okay, that looks better, think about it, work on it in warm up, but when you go out to race, you’ve already worked on it, don’t think too much.” So that’s something that’s important.
At the same token, I do things like that, but you don’t want to over-coach them. If they start thinking too much, they’re not going to perform nearly as well, but it, again that goes back to getting to know your swimmers, what does each individual need and I think that’s something that’s important. We talk about swimming your own race, ‘cause there’re going to be a lot of different people swim things different ways, stick with your plan, don’t think about the outcome, think about what’s the best way for me to swim my race, and I think that’s really, really important, and usually like I said, after I’m talking to them I’m right at the very end, tell them a little joke, have fun, go up and race. , I just think that works out.
Pace; I’m a huge believer in pace, something that we do on a regular basis. I mean, there are a number of practices each week that we’ll get the watch out, that we’re timing them. I want to develop a clock in their head so that they have an idea of what they’re doing. I talk about easy speed, still being able to go fast, but not working that hard. I like talk to them about it’s not how fast you go, it’s how hard you go. I mean you can be out 31 flat and it can be long and relaxed or it can be spinney and rushing and real hard and that’s two entirely different 31-flats. Whatever that is going out so it’s really important. What’s the best way for that individual to swim their race, work on that. Usually every Thursday afternoon we’re doing some kind of descending, we’re doing stroke count stuff, we’re doing some negative split and descend stuff, working on how to finish their races, we’ll do some even-split. Long course I think it’s all about really, really important that you’re able to finish your races and so that’s one of the things that we work on. One of the things that I like doing with them, and some of them enjoy it and some of them don’t like it is I’ll play a game, name that time, we’re doing some kind of pace and I‘m like, alright, what was it? You know, just to see if they know, just to ask them what they think they have learned.
It’s really important to try and give them what you feel like they need to be successful, and that’s something you need to think about and sometimes I’ll hear coaches ‘oh I didn’t have time to work on that or do this or do that.’ I mean if you think it’s important, make sure you do it in practice. I mean most of us are swimming X number of hours per week and certain number of practices per week, there’s time to get it done. If you feel like it’s important, make sure you get them to do that. I mean it’s really, really important that you prioritize and get those things done. I mean, I think it’s really important , that they learn how to finish and that they are doing some negative split stuff. I mean how many times have you all in practice okay, let’s negative split and then you’re checking one or two and it’s like they’re out in 110 or back in 115. I say I told you to negative split, well it felt like I was negative splitting. Well 110, 115 is not there.
So, I mean we’ll do it on Thursdays, but we won’t do it every Thursday. some Thursdays we might be doing some descend stuff, but at least every other Thursday, I mean we’re doing some negative split stuff and we’re going in groups and we’re getting their times and they’re knowing what their times are, and we’ve had some really, really fast negative split descend, whether it’s 200s, 100s whatever, yards-wise. I mean we’ve had some fliers go under two minutes 200-yard butterfly in practice from a push from the third one, backstrokers also. We had a 200-freestyler go 1:47.9 from a push, Christine Marshall who made the 2008 Olympic team and on the 800-free relay, from a push in practice. I mean I’m just like, wow, I mean when she did that, that spring of 2008, I’m like, she’s got a shot of making the team. So I mean we just get some really good things and that’s something that I think is really important and that’s something that we do on a regular basis.
I’m a huge believer in drills, I think that helps you with technique, we do drills everyday in practice and I tell them more with the brains than with the body, but concentrate and make sure you are doing it correctly.
Do things correctly and legally, make sure they’re doing things correctly and legally. In the heat of the moment you are going to revert back to what you normally do. I can remember the…probably the first summer that I was, this is when I’m starting my URAM coaching and everything like that and I had a boy in the team that usually touched with two hands on fly and breast, but occasionally touched with one hand, and occasionally I would remind him not to do that, but not all the time and here we are at the Louisiana State meet at the end of the summer and he is winning the 200 IM, from lane six and he is at this bottom of his age group and he is winning and he comes into the 125 turn on the breast to breast, one hand touch and I was just like, that is the last time I am ever going to keep my mouth shut when somebody does something illegal. Backstrokers: have them push off on their back, have them finish on their back, make sure they are able to touch with either hand, practice great finishes. The other thing that we talk about is train like you want to compete. Train, it doesn’t do you any good if you don’t, if you never six beat in practice on training sets and then all of a sudden you get to the meet and you are a big six beat kicker, wow why am I dying at the end of my 200? ‘Cause you never do six beat in practice, you are practicing two bit and so you are going to pay the price. Practice how you want to compete, and it’s really, really important that they do that.
The other thing we talk about is you don’t have to feel good to swim fast, and I think that is huge, and we had a girl at US Open this year that I’ll talk about this afternoon that kind of went through that, but I mean I have seen it happen so many times, I’ve had swimmers sick and perform great and I’ll tell them stories about that, I mean just to let them know, you don’t have to feel good to swim fast. Classic example: in 88 I was on the staff and just to throw this out to show that it can do, Mike Barrowman told me I was on the team in ‘88 and then 2012, 24 years, so that’s the biggest separation of people making the US coaching Olympic staff and so I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks or continue, I don’t know whatever but, so that, but that was pretty needy, I guess if you stick around you can do that, but Mike Barrowman was in my group for a while in 88 and he had a great Trials and later on was doing well, I remember seeing him in ‘89 at that summer’s nationals, hey Mike, how are you doing — this is the day of the 200 breast and I’m not sure if this was prelims or finals, I think it was prelims — and he goes, “oh Steve I feel terrible, would you mind looking at my stroke?” and I was like, “sure” I said I’ll go get Joseph if you want and he goes, “no, no just watch,” so I watched and looked at him and I’m, “Mike, that looks pretty good to me, look I’ll go get Joseph if you want,” he said ‘‘hey would you mind?” So I went and found Joseph and he went over and talked to him and worked with him and then I saw Joseph later on right before the race, I said, how does he look? He goes, “to me he looks good, he still doesn’t feel good, but too bad, it’s race time.” He broke the world record, and I’m like you don’t have to feel good to swim fast and so that’s one of the things that we definitely talk to them about that.
I usually, I’ve got like a weekly cycle, the first four, five weeks, we are just kind of building them up, we are doing technique, we’re doing a lot of kicking, we’re showing videos of people doing things correctly, showing them drills and how we want them to do drills, different things like that, but then after about four or five weeks, we get into our training cycle, weekly cycle and that’s something then I’ll stick with, even when we are resting. I mean we we’ll usually drop a morning, but I think its important that we continue with mornings, I’m the kind of coach that I mean will drop back, but I mean, if they’re going to warm up 2000 say and some do little bit less, some do more, they are going to swim, they’re going to warm down, hopefully make finals, come back and do that again. So I mean they, that we are talking 6000 per day and so I think if you just go back to just singles and you’re not doing too much, obviously some of the big muscle guys, sprinters can get away with that, I’m not sure that age groupers and most girls can do that and so we keep our mornings up, but we’ll usually drop back to two, we’ll come in later and we may switch things a little bit because I’m, we kind of do an IM based kind of program and obviously if somebody is an ‘IMer’ or is really good at that particular stroke, they’ll do more of it than somebody that’s not. In a taper, if they are not good at that stroke, sometimes I may not have them do that stroke or it will be a lot less or give them the option, but it’s something that I think is just pretty consistent and they kind of know and its got a good variety where we’re doing some quality, some pace stuff, but also some moderate aerobic or some aerobic and I think it just works well. But one of the things I think is really, really important is being able to rest their legs and you’ve got to make sure that you do that and that’s something that’s really, really important and this afternoon or the next talk I’ll talk a little bit about what we did with Brier, with her legs a little bit that I think kind of helped her out at Trials.
Once we get them in college, I mean for the most part they’ll continue growing, but for the most part, I mean most of the girls, they’re finished growing and we talk to them, if they want to get better, they’ve got to do things better than they did the year before, more, better, concentrate on things, like you can’t do the same thing that you did the year before, if you are not growing, I mean if you are, 10, 11, 12, 13 year old, you are getting bigger and stronger, just that’s going to help you get better. But if you’re the same size, you’re not growing anymore, then you’ve got to do some things better whether that means you swim a little bit more, better technique, better nutrition, better sleep, better mentally, all those different things that, it’s just something that they have to do, go on faster intervals, different things like that. The other thing is getting them to take responsibility for how they’re going to swim, get them to want to accomplish what you want to accomplish, want them to accomplish, get them to really want to accomplish their goals and when they take that responsibility, I think that’s really, really important and that makes a big difference.
When they want to do what you want them to do, it makes our job that much easier. Obviously taper, as a college coach, maybe some of the private high schools where some of the students are housed there, its pretty easy, they’re going to get to practice, they’re not going to get to practice we’re going to know about it, we can contact them. When you are a club coach and the parents maybe sometimes happen to bring them, they can’t maybe always be at practice or as much as you’d like, sometimes that’s a little bit tougher and it makes your job a little bit tougher, I mean, I know, when I was a club coach, now as a college coach I can set my weekly plan. As a club coach you set that weekly plan and they know, Monday afternoon, we’re going to be doing a good solid IM set, well I’m going to skip Monday afternoons, I don’t want to go there. Tuesday afternoon we’re doing some butterfly, men I don’t like butterfly, I’m not going to go. So as a club coach and maybe as an age group coach, you’ve got to move those days around a little bit, just so that they’re not, I’m just going to miss that one ‘cause I don’t like doing that. You want to make sure they’re getting done what they need to get done and so in my situation, certain situations, it’s a little bit easier.
Again, we talked a little bit earlier on the mental side, that’s so important at the end of the season, so important during taper. I mean they have to believe in what they’re doing, they have to be confident, they have to be talking positive to themselves and if they’re having doubts, if they’re stressing like crazy and all that stress, that’s nervous energy that’s burning that they need to save and that extra stress could cause somebody getting sick and Trials comes once every four years and you’ve got to be ready on that day, they can’t get sick. If you get sick at the wrong time, you’re toast, it’s done, and so it’s really, really important that you work on that. They have to be mentally tough and you have to reinforce things and get them to work on that. They have to be positive, they have to have that positive self-talk, they have to believe in themselves. When I was a club coach, I did that pretty much myself .I mean my undergraduate degree was in psychology and I’m a big believer in that and almost once a week or at least once every two weeks, I’d get either find something in some kind of sport magazine about another athlete or about a swimmer or I’d get some good books and read out of that and about once every four years we’d bring in a sports psychologist to work with the club team to just kind of reinforce some things, that outside expert, bring them in.
Now as a college coach we’ve got access to sports psychologists that can work with them, but we still do that on a regular basis and it’s, even some of your great swimmers, even some of the great swimmers that make the team and do some phenomenal things, they stumble along the way and you need to help them along that way, and so I think that’s something that’s really, really important.
I’ve got a great staff and I’ve had a number of great assistants that have worked with me, Tanica Jameson is my fulltime assistant right now and she was a big help this past year. Like I said great other assistants in years past, we’ve got a great strength coach, a great academic advisor, people that are very, very much involved and are big, big help and help keep the girls positive and fired up about what they’re doing. But you hear a lot of stuff and a lot of stuff that I just talked to you about. It’s important that you use what you think is important, but use it with your personality. You can’t, if you’re not good at telling jokes, if you don’t like telling jokes, get one of your assistants to tell a joke or get somebody else to. I mean, the swimmers, we’ll occasionally let the swimmers do that. But you’ve got to be true to you, you’ve got to be yourself, but figure out what’s important to you, figure out what you need to do and then try and work with them on that.
Just a little bit about how we kind of did things going into Trials this year and then I’ll open it up for questions. Kind of like Yuri said, we basically brought the girls in like two days before they were going to race. I didn’t want to have them around there the whole time. A number of our girls had been to Trials four years ago, but we had a lot of them that hadn’t been, but you just kind of talk about it and stuff like that, but I felt like it was good to go in two days ahead and so like I think I went in on Saturday, Tanica came in with a bunch of them on Sunday and then after that they just kind of came in in groups. But it’s try and make the taper as individual as you can and sit down and talk to them about what they need, make them feel good about what they’re doing and then just kind of go from there. So at this point I’d like to open it up to questions, if people have any questions, specific things or some of this and again like I said, in about 25 minutes from now we’ll sit back and we’ll talk again and I’ll give you a little perspective from the actual swimmers.
[inaudible question from audience]
As far as getting them ready to go to college, what things to work on, what do I think that’s really important? Obviously technique is really important. Enjoying the sport. , I can’t say enough about how important that is. One of the things that I’ll do with girls that we are recruiting is I’m going to call the club coach and find out from the club coach about that particular girl. When I was a club coach I told our girls, I said if a college coach calls me and I was always kind of shocked that some of them didn’t, but I’m going to be real honest with them about you, ‘cause if another year or two or three years down the road there is a swimmer that I think is a good fit to that college and that coach, I don’t want to sell them a bill of goods on you and then I’m telling them about the other person three years from now and they’re going, “I’m not listening to you, that’s not, you told me something different about somebody else. So I want to hear if they’re good team person, if they get along with their teammates, are they positive, do they want to get better, do they work hard, do they come to practice on a regular basis, how are their grades, I mean if two swimmers are pretty equal and one is a B plus and the other one is a C minus and struggling, I don’t want to take a chance on somebody that may fail out.
I don’t think that’s going to happen I think with the academics support that most colleges have for swimmers that don’t make it and go out. I mean they’ve got to work hard not to make grades, not that people are doing the work for them, but there are people around to help keep them directed in what they’re doing. Does that answer your question Jim? Yes.
[inaudible question from audience]
Yeah, what’s the guideline for a perfect taper and again it’s funny I don’t know that there is, you hear swimmers, you hear coaches, oh men we missed that taper by one day. Baloney! there is no missing a taper by, I mean it’s, I don’t think of it as rocket science, I remember Schubert about four years ago talking about , missed the taper you missed the season because you didn’t do all the work before that. So there are a lot of things that go into it, like I said our weekly cycle, I like how we do that, it’s got a combination of we’re doing some short fast stuff, we’re doing some longer, I mean there are two practices where we’re doing some good aerobic training, I think that’s important. And we’ll have 400 IMers doing something a lot different from the sprinters, but we’re still doing that and there’s certain days where we are doing power and quality and we’re talking and so I think we have a good situation and things that are important and like I said we stick with that pattern, but we’re cutting back.
As far as the tapers some of, like my rules with them obviously I think is important that you rest the legs. We work, you don’t want to get to the end of the season, “Okay, now we’re going to work on starts and turns.” Do that all the time, you don’t want to do, all of a sudden do stats like crazy and then yeah you’re resting their legs kicking, but you’re just killing their legs from all the starts you just did and so they’re dead from that. I think people are different, some people you can sprint them or do too much fast stuff at the end of the season and taper and they won’t perform well at all. They’re just dead and unfortunately you learn that as you learn the swimmers, but you have to be careful doing that, doing too much on that and I’ve seen that where in years past, you point for one meet and then there happens to be a meet the week after because you have just sprinted that weekend before and so that next week you are just kind of doing some technique and some moderate aerobic and then maybe toward the end of the week you do a little sharpening again and then they swim great that next week, and sometimes it’s not always in the event they swam the week before, like we’ll go to conference and then there are girls that don’t make it to NCAA. In years past, we have sectionals at our pool and we’ll have the nine NCAA girls swim and most of the ones that swim the events that they swam at conference, a few do a little better, most do about the same, but some of their off events they just light it up and so it’s good to find those things. Part of it again is having them feel confident and believe; that’s one of the things that we’ll talk about and when we’re sitting down with them right before. , if you have doubts don’t talk to your teammates about it, ‘cause all of a sudden then they’re going to start having doubts too and it’s going to cause negativity.
I said if you have doubts about something come see me, come see Tanika, ‘cause we’re the ones that can explain it and can change things. Your teammates aren’t writing up practices, we are. If you feel like you’re not doing enough of this or doing too much of this, come sit down and talk to us, and then you could just kind of make them feel comfortable, make them feel like they’re having input with taper and sometimes I’ll give them options, okay? We’re doing this and this and you can do this or you can and then tomorrow morning you can either come in or you can sleep in, and ninety percent of the time there’re not going to be many people there the next morning, but you give them and with college girls and sometimes you don’t have the options because we’ll have options, “Okay we can come in a little bit later or we can come in earlier or we can change practice a little bit…” and I give them that option and they feel like, “Wow this is, he’s letting us choose” and sometimes maybe I’d like to sleep in a little later, but the girls on my team they like to get it done and over with and then they’re finished and so I’ll get up early and get it done and they’re happy and like I said, a happy swimmer I think performs better, anything else, or is that…?
[inaudible question from audience]
Steve Bultman: The question is; do we during the college season, do we rest for a meet before conference and NCAA’s? Yes. We normally go to a meet that weekend before Thanksgiving. Our exams are early December and those early December meets, I did that one time and we had girls freaking out about exams coming up, but I told one girl just stay and then I learned quickly and I’m like we’re never going to another shave and taper meet in December; I’ll, maybe for like a Nationals or something like that, I’ll say does anybody want to go? But we go to a meet that weekend, we take a very short rest and we let them shave and put a suit on and it’s amazing how fast some of those girls go. I mean and we talk about it, I say every year we get some girls, they get their NCAA cuts and I mean I’m talking like two, two maybe two and a half days rest.
When we used to go Friday, Saturday, Sunday, we‘d even do a double on Monday and a little bit of weights and then Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday we’d go like five thousand, four thousand, three thousand, one a day and that way I don’t feel like I’m losing all that training. I mean, we had a team come to our Fall invite one year and they had rested like three weeks for that meet and they lit it up, but most of their fastest times of the year were at that invite and I want to see them do better and so usually after that conference if they have their NCAA cuts, they’re hardly resting at all. Those that don’t will rest for conference and then plan on going good at NC’s.
[inaudible question from audience]
Was I surprised about Breeja’s performance at Trials and at the Olympics? I knew she would swim fast at Trials, winning Trials – yeah I was surprised about that and I’ll talk about it a little bit more in the next talk, but I mean going in, Camille, even though a lot of people weren’t picking her to make the team, she was the top seed in the 200 fly and I felt pretty good about her because nobody else was popping up out of the woodwork that looked like, “Oh they were going to challenge and we had kind of talked about that I think you can go faster, let’s focus on going faster, thinking your race and if two people happen to go faster, tip your hat to them and just give congratulations.
Breeja, she was coming on. I mean she yards had broken the American US Open NCAA record that spring at NCAAs, but yards and meters, particularly who was in front of her meters with Jessica Hardy being the world record holder and Rebecca Soni being Rebecca Soni, I mean I knew she was going to swim fast, I didn’t know how fast she was going to go. I mean even, she went 1:05.9 to win Trials, I wasn’t sure 1:05.9 was even going to make the team, thinking about it, I was like wow if Trials was a year later I would have felt more confident just ‘cause the way she’s coming on, but you can’t say let’s move the you have to do, you have to deal with that and so the hundred was her best chance and so knowing what she was up against, we rested her a little more than what I would normally do, just because I knew we needed a great swim and then after prelims I knew she was going to swim well. I knew we had a chance then because we had talked at Trials that we were descending three one hundreds breast stroke, that was our goal and I said, ‘cause she had just gone 1:08 like three and a half weeks before that which was her best time, and I told her; I said “Let’s just go like seven high 1:08 flat.” I said “That’s going to make top sixteen…” and when she went that easy and went a 1:06.5 I was like “whoa, she can definitely go faster.” So, but again, is that going to be fast enough? I didn’t know that.
Question about our weekly cycle: During the school year we’ll do doubles Monday, Wednesday, Friday. During the summer, early on we’re doing doubles every day except off Wednesday afternoon and then just a single Saturday morning and off Sunday, but our plan during the school year and then we eventually, as we got closer to Trials, we eventually shifted back to our school year plan and then as I said, we dropped down to two mornings, but a normal plan is Monday morning after warm up we’re going to do some work on freestyle and then we’ll split up into groups and we’ll have a distance group, we’ll have a breaststroke group and then we’ll have a group of sprinters and usually flyers and backstrokers that need to work on some underwater kicking; and so we’ll have them do some kicking we’ll also do some monofin stuff. A lot of times we may go over to the diving well, our diving well is 15 to 17 meters across and we’re doing some short, fast stuff across.
Monday afternoon after warm up we’ll do a really good solid kick set, we’ll do a little bit of drill stuff and then we’re doing an IM set. We’ll have a 400 IM group, we’ll have a 200 IM group, we’ll have a middle distance free style and IM group, where they’re doing more free, but some IM, we’ll have a sprinter IM group where they’re doing a little bit of IM, but they’re also doing some timed stuff so like their set is shorter, but we’re also throwing in some far stuff in that set. We’re timing them during that set. In some years we have breaststrokers and that’s really all they can do is breast stroke and we’ll do a breaststroke hoping to make it into an IM set, into an IMer kind of set.
Tuesday is our basically power day, that’s the day we’ll do power racks, we’ll do surgical tubing in the water against it and with it. We’re doing some short fast stuff. Whereas the sprinters and middle distance are doing 50s, 25s or shorter, distance are doing hundreds or shorter, that’s also a day we do some butterfly and everybody does most of the drilling and the short kind of fly stuff that we do, that are usually 25s and 50s, and then we’ll usually do some kind of fly set and if somebody is a 200 flyer or 400 IMer, they’re doing almost all of that fly. If they’re a 200 IMer 100 flyer, they’re doing a little bit less fly, and if they’re a non flyer they’re doing even less than that where they are doing some fly and some other strokes. I just think that’s important variety, I think all the other strokes transfer to each other and they are still getting some variety. I don’t like to have somebody that’s a one stroke swimmer swim that stroke all the time, and so we do that — mix it up a little bit. Then we’ll usually do some best stroke stuff Tuesday afternoon also.
Wednesday morning we’re working on underwater kicking again, we’re doing backstroke. It was funny I forget which coach talked about how being a good backstroker, a lot of good swimmers that’s kind of their base when they come up, a lot of distance swimmers were pretty good backstrokers. I also like doing backstroke because you see all the swimmers walking around like this, they’re so tight in their chest. Backstroke helps open them up a little bit, helps exercise those back muscles to kind of help balance things out. But after a certain amount of time if they are not a backstroker or an IMer, they can turn over and do freestyle. Wednesday afternoon is breaststroke. Wednesday afternoon is kind of a recovery day where I’m asking them to use the brain more than their body, the intensity is not as much. And everybody does the sculling and pulling. We’ll do some under waters and we’ll put fins on and do that. So everybody does the upper body breaststroke stuff because that I think it transfers to a feel for the water and high elbows. Breaststroke kick doesn’t transfer to anything but breaststroke kick and so at that point the non-breaststroker and IMers will move apart. Wednesday afternoon is usually the day that we video tape and we’ll video tape in a couple of groups and let them watch it. Sometime we’ll video tape and then watch it there, sometimes we’ll might go twice and video tape and watch it and then get back in, video tape again and watch it again. I just think it’s really really good. The breaststrokers will do some more drills and kicking and different things like that.
Thursday afternoon — that’s a breaststroke day, that’s the day I talked about we’re doing some descend stuff, some negative splits. We are working on finishing your races. We get a lot of girls that would come in and hundred yeah and to them it’s an all out sprint, breathe when you need to. Oh no that doesn’t work, I tried it — right around the 75 you’re going to feel some serious pain if you try and go on an all out sprint . And so you try and teach them about easy speed, and being a little more relaxed and making sure you’re breathing and things like that and so.. And that’s usually breaststroke day, so they’re working best stroke stuff.
Friday morning we’re usually doing some free style putting fins and paddles on. I’m a big believer in snorkels, we definitely use the snorkel. And usually the last half an hour I let them work on what stroke they want to work on. Sometimes I’ll give them breaststroke or IMers let’s work on your best or your weak stroke maybe or give them some guidance, but sometimes just let them work on what they want to work on. Friday afternoon is again kind of an IM and some kicking and some freestyle maybe even some best strokes combination. It’s kind of moderate, a little bit easier aerobic because by the end of the week they’re get pretty tired, and I kind of want to get them in and get them out. So they’re usually in less than two hours. They like the fact they get out a little early and I think that sets them up for a better Saturday and Saturday especially later on in the year. We’re asking them to get up and do something fast. And in different times. It might be a good solid set or it might be something specific for them. We’re asking them to be doing some rehearsal things and working on something that maybe they need to be working on. But like I said, a big believer in kicking, a big believer in technique and so, but that’s kind of our weekly cycle pretty much.
Weights: we usually do weights after morning practice during the school year. And everybody lifts twice, some weeks sprinters will lift a third time. We usually do dryland on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon before we get in. And dryland will consist of Med balls, abs, stretching and in the Fall we’ll go out in the stadium and do some stuff out in the stadium. Just this past Tuesday, we’ve got three levels of the stadium and on the bottom level they would sprint to the top, walk back down, sprint to top, walk back down, different things. We’ve got a great strength coach that’s been with us for like 11½ years. He used to swim himself in Australia. And the fact that he did swim himself I think is a huge plus and he’s really a great motivator.
How long is each session? Morning once we’re up and going it’s either an hour and a half to almost two hours, and then the afternoon it’s about two hours.
Effective Preparation for Olympics Trials [part 2 of 2]
by Steve Bultman, Texas A&M / Aggie Swim Club
[introduction, by Ira Klein]
I don’t think I need to do another introduction, but I’ll leave my question on the table here. You know I am just wondering how Steve sees their [Texas A&M’s] move into the SEC. What it is going to do for his team, and what it is going to mean for the SEC, as they start competing in one of the toughest conferences in the country.
I will get to Ira’s question shortly. Let me get to our second joke of the day. A husband and wife were shopping in their local Walmart. Husband picks up a case of Miller Lite and puts it in his cart. Wife goes, “What do you think you’re doing?” He says, “They’re on sale: $10 for 24 cans. That’s a bargain.” She goes, “Put that back; it’s a waste of money,” demands the wife, and they carry-on shopping. A few aisles further along, the woman picks up a $20-jar face cream and puts it in the basket. The husband goes, “What do you think you’re doing?” She says, “It’s my face cream; it makes me look beautiful.” The husband retorts, “So does 24 cans of Miller Lite and it’s half the price.” Husband down, aisle 5.
Okay what we are going to do now is, basically… like I said in ’88 we had four swimmers made top-8, and in 2012 we have four swimmers made top-8, at US Trials. And I just thought it would be good to get their perspective on what they thought helped them be successful at those Trials.
1988 – Sherri White
The first swimmer—I was going to do the 1988 group first—is Sherri White. Sherri White Hart now. [She] was actually swimming in Montgomery, Alabama, and came down and swam with us the summer of 1987, and then decided to stay. We had a bunch of good backstrokers; she was a pretty good backstroker. She ended-up staying with us through the Trials in ’88. Trials in ’88 was actually like the end-of-July. The Olympics were in Seoul, [South] Korea in the middle-to-the-end of September. I thought this year’s Trials and training camp was so much better, because we got to go home for three or four days and then it was a much shorter training camp. In 1988, when I left for Trials ‘til I came back after the Olympics, we did not get to go home. It was a little over two months, which was very, very long.
Goal with Sherri was we wanted to make the top-8. She was a sophomore in high school, that summer of 1988, and our goal was just: let’s see, let’s see if we can make top-8. Figure out what the time was, and kind of go from there.
And so I basically asked them to just give me, give me some information; just some bullet points, couple of sentences, a paragraphs. And some of them were very short, and some of them were very, very long. But basically, overall summary.
- Attention to detail.
- All the smallest stuff really matters. (This is some of them thinking back 24 years, too.)
- Master technician.
- Stroke drills were part of every practice.
- I feel like you always emphasized good technique. Even if [only] a few words in the middle of a hard set, I always knew what I needed to focus on; but the reminders were awesome, even if I was rolling my eyes behind my goggles.
- Video analysis every Wednesday—we would review films after practice.
- Every meet, we would review [via video] our races. What a difference it makes to see the mistakes for yourself, and then you can make corrections. And sometimes prelims-to-finals, you know watch it: ‘okay you see that, all right let’s work on that again.’
- Out-of-the-pool talks every Wednesday. We would spend half-an-hour talking about important topics outside of the pool, just trying to educate them. Most notable: “I felt like Steve did a great job talking about the importance of good nutrition, hydration, rest, visualization. These themes were also reinforced on a daily basis.”
- Variety and specificity. I think the variety in workouts helped me build an incredible aerobic base, and prevent injury and overuse from doing the same stroke over again. However, we always had one or two days specifically focused on pace work for our best events.
- Good temperament. Even though you might want Steve to jump up and down when you swim an incredible race, he was always very mild with his responses. There was always something to learn from a great race, but do not dwell on the bad ones.
- The bottom line is that I had and still do have a whole lot of respect for Steve and his approach to coaching.
She went from making finals at Junior Nationals after her freshman year to making finals at Olympic Trials after her sophomore year. As a master swimmer, I still receive compliments on her stroke technique, and she’s doing very well in Masters competition.
1988 – Beth Barr
Beth Barr. She made the [Olympic] team in the 100 and 200 back. She was 16 years-old at the time, just finished her junior year in high school. She was someone that had won Nationals before. So going into Trials, we had her and Andrea Hayes (Dickson)—who I will talk about shortly—had both won nationals, and so we knew that there was chance that they could make the team. But there, every year at Trials, there are always a couple of top favorites; and then there is a group of about—and it depends on the stroke in the event—there is always 5 or 6 or so that are really in the mix; and then a couple just a-little-bit on the outside of that. Beth Barr Bullard is her married name now. We knew that that was something that could happen. As it turned out, she got 2nd in the 100 back at Trials, won the 200 back; ended up being 5th in the 100 back at the Games and 4th in the 200 back at the Games, and then was on the medley relay—and I am pretty sure they won a silver.
Really talented. Kind of a funny story: she came out for the team when she was 5 years-old: I did not take her. She reminded me later on: I turned-away a future Olympian just because she was 5 years-old. I felt like she needed to be 6 years-old before she could start; and I almost turned away a future Olympian, but I just felt like that was the right thing to do. She came for tryouts and I just said: you know, you can take some lessons or you can do this, and then start with the team next year. But I coached her for a long time. Like I said, made the team as a 16 year-old; I actually coached her again later on [in her career]. Really talented.
And like… you want that talent identification. You can see the talent; but you can not see what is between their ears, you can not see what is in their heart. How much they want it; how hard they are going to work. Well, she had it. Unfortunately, that next Spring—Spring of ’89—she was in an awful horseback riding accident. The horse, I don’t know, something happened; but the horse took off. And just, you know, she was on it, made a quick turn. She went flying; broke her arm, broke her foot. Broke her arm so bad, the doctor was going to amputate it because it was swolled-up so bad, but he realized: oh, this is Beth Barr, the Olympian. And then saved the arm. Put these… had to open it up, all the way up, put plates in. And to her credit, she was able to come-back in the summer of 1990. Won Nationals again, qualified for World Championships.
But like most swimmers, I mean… I was coaching here… I mean… she wanted to do it in Summer of ’89. I am like: look, the fact that you are back in the water. We had to design… where we did a lot of one-arm, a lot of kicking. You do things to keep ‘em. Certain days she could do things, certain days she could not. She ended-up that next summer winning Nationals, making World Championships; ended-up actually winning NCAAs. Then had a little bit more problems after that, but pretty amazing. I think that had that not happened, she would have been really something special. But she enjoyed doing: the negative split, the pace stuff, build 50s and 100s, time guessing—see I did it back then. Race strategy, we talked about that. Swim your own race. Starts, turns, visualization, 200 pace, quality, resting outside of the pool: you know, different things like that.
1988 – Andrea Hayes
Andrea Hayes (Dickson). She was my first National champion. She won the 200 back in ‘85, and we both got to go to the Pan Pacs in Tokyo—which was awesome. Betsy Mitchell was the big backstroker at that time—that very next year it was World Championships Trials in Orlando. She [Hayes] was swimming along, was having a good meet; but it was a long meet because I guess they did it the same order of events as World Championships. 200 back was always the last day. She had not made the team at that point. The year before she had beaten Betsy, and she was thinking: ‘you know, I’m swimming well, I can beat her again.’ She was normally awesome at pace. Did not have lots of speed, but really good at pacing. Betsy went out; Andrea kind-of went with her. Lo and behold, Betsy breaks the World Record, and Andrea falls-off because she went out a little-bit harder than she should. Ended-up finishing maybe 4th, did not make the World Championship team.
But that was something, you know coming up to the Summer of ’88, that we knew. I told her, this could happen. I said, we might get to that last day and you still have not made the team. And you… we need to learn from that. She kind of panicked a little bit because she had not made it, and did not swim her own race. Kind of let… kind of swam Betsy’s race.
She had a great Trials. We put her in the 400 IM, I think the first day, just to get her in. I think she went 4:49 and got 4th or 5th. Went 4:09 in the 400 free, got 4th; still had not made the team. And then… 200 back is the last day; the 800 free is the third-to-last day for prelims the second-to-last day for finals—the day before the 2-back. And I am like: Andrea, what do you want to do? Do you want to swim it? We should rather rest for the 200 back. I mean the 800 free, we knew Janet [Evans] was going to win it, and it was pretty much between her [Andrea] and Tami Bruce for second. I said, you know. She goes: ‘Well, I’m swimming prelims.’ So she swam prelims, and qualifying was good. And I am like: what do you want to do for finals? I knew the answer; I knew she was going to swim. And that was what she said: I am swimming. And she and Tami Bruce had one heck of a battle for 500 meters, and then Andrea fell-off and Tami got 2nd. Andrea went 8:30-something—back then—and got 3rd and still had not made the team. But to her credit, she swam a great race; and the girls got 1-2 in the 200 back. And it was really, really awesome.
Coached her from when she was 7 years-old, on. She ended-up swimming at college. I think it was after her sophomore year—she was going to Texas, Richard [Quick] was there. Richard really improved her freestyle, but she just swam better backstroke for me—even though he was coaching Betsy at the time. She just swam better backstroke for me, so she would come home and train with us in the summers. And just did a great job.
Was so focused. I mean, you know, you coach… those of you-all that have coached little kids, you know you start talking to them and all of a sudden they are looking out here and fooling… their attention span is gone. I can remember her 7, 8, 9 years-old. I would be talking, and she is looking at me the whole time, paying attention. Did not have the talent that Beth had, but was smart and listened. And was so organized, as far as like…. she had a social life, but boy she let me know: hey, can I do this, so that I can miss practice, can I come in early. And it just was awesome.
Some of her things she said:
- An active, dedicated coach. No board workouts; did our meet entries; watched all the practice; taught us all the time.
- Empowered us on how to swim a race. Pacing, starts, turns: we worked this all season not just at the end. Race pace 50s.
- Mental visualization. Every week we learned how to visualize ourselves winning. We learned to see ourselves doing perfect stroke, a perfect turn; a perfect stroke and a perfect swim. Understands how to rest swimmers, as everyone is different. And we believed in him, which is probably 90% of the equation.
- Kept swimming fun, for the most part. Saturday swims at the beach, team travel trips, and I am sure there is more.
- Taught stroke technique even after we were fast. Always something to work on.
And I will… like I said, say that again. We videotape underwater, like I said, almost every week, we are doing that. Because I have seen world-class swimmer’s stroke change in two weeks easily, and go from man that looks good to like whoa, what are you doing, you know. And so I just think that so, so important.
1988 – Daniel Watters
The last one is Dan Watters. Daniel came to us the summer after his eighth grade, moved in. He played soccer and swam, but came in, decided to swim. Just somebody that was a breaststroker but decent IMer, and worked hard. One of these… believed in himself. I mean heck, he was around some really fast girls, and if the girls can do it, I can do it too, you know. Just kind of a character that really believed in himself; started going… qualified for Juniors [Junior Nationals], started going to Juniors, actually won Juniors. Had never placed at Seniors; I think he had gone to one Seniors before that—before we went to Trials. And this was after his junior year in high school; he had just finished his junior year that Summer of ’88.
And again our goal with him, we wanted… his best was like a 1:04-mid. We wanted to see a 1:03; we wanted to see him make top-8. I felt like four years down-the-road was going to be when he was going to have a shot at making the [Olympic] team. About three-and-a-half weeks before we go to Trials, we go to Regions—which now are Sectionals—and he was not very good. And it was funny: David Marsh and I roomed together during the training camps and over in London, and he remembered Daniel. But I mean three-and-a-half weeks before Trials at Regions, I think he made consols in one of the breaststrokes and bonus in the other breaststroke. So if you have swimmers that have high goals and they are not doing it, it is amazing what can happen. His timing was off, and it was something….
You know, we came back after that, and it was like: all right we are going to… twice a week I either had him come in an hour early or come in an hour later, and we worked on timing. Just kind of him and me, working on things and trying to get the timing. And slowly it came back, and got better and better.
And then when we got to Trials, it was like wow—it just it really clicked. He went from 1:04 to 1:02, and he was top seed in the morning. And I remember coming over, and we were so excited. I think that was if not the first day, or the second day of the meet; and he was there with five other… five girls that made Trials. And he is there and everybody is excited. And he is just like: man, you know—he is nervous. And I am like: “Whoa.” I said, “Time out.” I said, “We had two main goals. We wanted to go 1:03-something.” I said, “You skipped 1:03; you’re 1:02.” I said, “We wanted to be top-8.” I said, “You’re top seed.” I said, “You’re sitting here, worrying about the older guys; those older guys are going: who the hell is this guy?” I said, “Let them worry. You go back and get some sleep. Come back tonight, get some rest, and then, you know, and let’s race again. And let’s see what we can do.” Well he told me later, he did not get much sleep—he did not sleep much at all. But he came back and we talked about it. We knew he could not… he was not going to be first at the 50 and then come back and winning at the end; he had to swim his own race. I think he was like 5th or 6th at the 50, and then ran everybody down but one other person. And made the team, got 2nd. Went a little slower at the Games; and I think he ended up like 12th over there. But a pretty neat story.
And basically, what he wrote is:
- I think all this needs to be predicated on the fact that you, we, realized that I needed more rest than your typical swimmer, even in high school. I never swam particularly fast in-season, and you realized how to keep me progressing while managing toward the end goal of swimming fast at Nationals.
- We trained very hard leading up to taper, but you always set aside a day each week to rest a bit and concentrate completely on stroke. I think that helped me greatly.
- In season, you were insane about strokes per lap and finishing strong. You realized that I was not a true sprinter, and goes: hell, I was a better 200 swimmer. And I actually thought that he would have a better chance in the 200. Had he not made the 100, I… he might have been a little better; I think he ended up 4th or 5th in the 200 at Trials—and did a great swim.
- My race technique… my race was technique-over-power, and swimming a back-half race. Depending on that strategy helped me stay in the race with the big guys, but finished the second 50 stronger than they did.
- I think you did a really good job of building a stroke that worked for me. Cadence was key and timing was very important. Not being very big or having an exceptional kick, per se, you developed a balance in my stroke that relied on long, efficient strokes and constant motion.
- Come taper time, you brought me down with rest but continued to stress the fundamentals. I know this, above all, helped me when I wanted to freak-out going into finals at the Trials. Thinking about it now, I knew exactly how to swim that race, even at 17 against 25 years-olds.
- If we are being completely honest, I was a disaster three weeks out from Trials (basically what we talked about). But you showed a lot of patience in helping me get through it. I was pretty discouraged at the time, but as the rest came and my pace 50s got faster, the timing got better as well. And it was funny because David Marsh, you know… David said something and Daniel brought it up too. He says: I am not sure if you asked him to or not; but I remember vividly David Marsh watching a few pace laps in Austin, and really encouraging me and reinforcing what you had been telling me all summer.
- In summary, I know you had a plan for me and, yes, I know you would have been thrilled if I had simply finaled at Trials. You knew what you had in me, and played to my strengths. I am not kidding: to this day I still count stuff. Steps up a flight of stairs, number of seconds hold my breath, driving through tunnels—yes, I do that. Or jumping rope with my girls. You have turned me into a rainman.
So, moving on to girls from this particular year .
2012 – Sarah Henry
Sarah Henry was one. She made top-8 at Trials in the 400 IM. A very interesting story, in that she totally blew out her knee—total ACL—her junior year in high school. Came in freshman year, had a great freshman year; we were excited, had a bunch of best times, couple of school records. And then ACL again, in May of … a little over a year ago. Had surgery, again. We found out later that, I guess, [in] that first surgery they used the cadaver ligament and that did not really take—it was just going to be a matter of time before it was going to go, anyway. So it was probably better that it happened then, instead of maybe like right before conference, or at conference or at NCAA’s.
And so the surgery happened, basically last summer, she hardly swam at all. She was chomping at the bit. I mean she is one of those kinds of girls that you know: I need to do more; I want to do it now; let’s get in; come on, this is going to hurt me. And it was just like: relax. The doctor knows what is going on; the trainers, they will get you back stronger than ever; but you have to have patience. And that was something that is really important. And I will get to a little bit more about her later.
[what Sarah wrote]:
- But one of her favorite quotes is: The only thing getting in the way of your success is you. And she is one of those that is really hard on herself.
- Steve has helped me immensely getting out of my own way, out of my own head. If I do something wrong in practice or at a meet, I am the first one to beat myself up, and will continue to beat myself up until I can redeem my actions. This is something my parents were never able to understand about me. They would still get mad at me for something even if I was already mad at myself. Somehow Steve gets this. And after I do not do something right, it is never yelling or negativity that comes out of his mouth; it is usually just a few words of correction. Or even sometimes he does not even have to say anything other than: ‘well, we both know you can do better than that.’ No extra pressure, no expectations.
- (She talks a little bit about tearing her ACL for the second time.) [I] did not even know if I would be capable of making it through another year of recovery (you know because that was the thing, I have to go through it all again, because that is never easy), let alone to Trials. I was forced, not by my choice, to take the entire summer off. After easing back into the water, Steve really had a chokehold on my swimming. He really limited what I could do in-and-out of the water, and for a very extensive period of time. He was not my favorite person at that time, by any means. Practices that I usually… that I used to be able to make ‘no problem’ a year ago, were incredibly difficult. Intervals that usually came easy to me, would elude me. And many, many practices were concluded by tears.
- Throughout the year I never felt pushed to the side by Steve, and I always felt part of the team even if I was unable to compete and represent my school. (I allowed her to choose whether she wanted to redshirt or not, and that is what she chose to do.) When Olympic Trials came around, Steve was confident in my ability to swim fast even though I was not very convinced. (The year had proved to be interesting. From March to June, she had some of the best practices of the two years that I had coached her—even with all the setbacks before that.)
- When sitting down with Steve to talk about my goals at Trials, he had confidence that I would be able to make an Olympic Trials’ final. This would be a huge feat, indeed, given that I would have to swim very fast in my events, forcing me to go best times in hope of making top-8. The hardest part was convincing me that I could achieve this success even though I had only put in about six months of full training during the season the previous year. Little did I know that in my very first event at Trials, I would drop four seconds in the 400 IM and qualify for finals 5th.
- Steve believes in me even when I do not. He knows my capability, even when I do not. And he patiently reminds me, time and time again, of my training, even when I question my abilities. (I remember one time after she had a great 400 free, she goes: “How did I do that?” And I am like, “Look at your training.” I said, “You’ve been training phenomenal the last couple of months.” I said, “You just, you know, just get in there and race.”)
- Very, very pleased (she was dazed) after the 400 IM was success. Got out of the pool, walked over to Steve to share the excitement. What I got from him was a grin, a pat on the back, and the comment: ‘Your second 50 backstroke could’ve been a little faster and your back-to-breast turn wasn’t very good; but your second 50 of free was awesome.” (She said:) The day that I do not hear that from Steve, I will be shocked. You know, I will know that maybe I have had a perfect race. (And that is just kind of the way I am. I mean, I see them good, I tell them that, but these are some things that you can work on to get better. And there is always a lot of excitement to do better.)
The interesting thing, too, is that after Trials a lot of people stopped. You know, [the 2012] U.S. Open was not very big, and we talked about whether she should go or not. And I just said, “Yeah, I think you should; I think you can make the World University Games team. Let’s go and swim.” And so she did. And I was still over in London, and got back during the U.S. Open—it had been going-on for a couple days. And I did not come up there because Tanica [Jameson, Bultman’s assistant coach at Texas A&M] was up there, and we just had two girls up there.
But started off, and I am hearing from Tanica, “Sarah, all she’s talking about is she doesn’t feel good; she doesn’t feel good.” And first race, I think it was the 800 free, she actually did a best time and I think she got 4th. And I was like, that was pretty good, you know. But that is what she kept focusing on. The 400 free came up, and she had a decent morning swim, qualified. And then in finals, I had actually got back… I think that was right when I had gotten back in the States. And I watched part of it on the live feed, and she was… at first, I turned it on and I did not know where she was. And finally I find her and it is like coming-in on the 300, and I am watching her and she’s in pretty good position. And then she just did not finish, and usually she finishes like crazy. And she ended up 8th, and I was like wow. And then I am talking to Tanica, and: she doesn’t feel good, doesn’t feel like she feels good. And so I sent her a text, and was like, you know: quit worrying about how you feel and just do what you do best and just race.
So the next day she had 400 IM. Did a really good 400 IM, went 4:40 again and got 2nd. I think I talked to her and congratulated her, and, you know, ‘good job’. The next day… I mean 200 free had a… I mean she made semis at Trials in the 200 free. Went a best time; went 2:02 which was about a two second drop. She gets to U.S. Open, goes 1:58.5 and got 3rd. It was a great swim; really got home, you know. So excited talked to her, and she was pumped and she had the 200 IM the last day. I said, “Keep it up; let’s kick butt tomorrow.” And actually I got—I guess I texted her at that point—and she goes: ‘Thanks, I will.’ And the next day she won the 200 IM, went 2:12. And just… quit worrying. Like I said: you do not have to feel good to swim fast.
Camille Adams (Let us get… we will wait on Camille—we will come back.) We will do Caroline McElhany.
2012 – Caroline McElhany
Caroline was somebody that at Trials in 2008 was like 15 years old, and I think she made one semi, and just missed another. Just was an outstanding swimmer. Was swimming with Randy Reese in Austin. Family is from Houston, but I think she and her mom were over in Austin training with him. And he had her swimming well. Somebody I remembered watching as a younger Texas girl, coming-up. You know, living/swimming in the State of Texas; this is somebody I am going to recruit.
Well, Randy took the job and went down to Clearwater. I think she went down there, and tried it and decided she needed to be closer to home—that was too far away. And then she kind of struggled for a while after that. Decided to come out of high school early, went to college. Did not perform very well in college, and decided she was going to transfer. And Randy called me about her. You know: she was really good, and I think she can get it back and stuff. And so we talked to her, got a release to talk to her; and she was trying to decide whether she wanted to swim anymore or not. Went down that summer to train with Randy, still trying to decide. Went to Nationals and just was awful at Nationals.
I talked to her afterwards, and she was trying to decide whether she was going to keep swimming or just stop. And I was like: Randy is a great coach, but he cannot turn three/four years around in six weeks, you know. But I said, “Really this would be the end of your senior year in high school. Give swimming a chance. Because,” I said, “you know, it might be six months, it might be a year, it might be five or ten years; but if you quit now, you’re going to regret it at some point.” I said just, “Come to A&M; give it a try.”
Well, she decided to come and swim. Had a little arm, elbow and triceps, problem her freshman year. So we ended up redshirting her; even though she swam like one meet and had a great first meet—but it acted up after that. Then last summer, had a great summer; did a bunch of best times. Broke a minute for the first time in the in the 100 fly, something she had really wanted to do, you know, back in 2008. Just had a great NCAAs: placed in three events. And then ended up at Trials making top-8 in both butterflies; making semifinals in the 200 IM, but she wanted to scratch. And I was fine with it because the 200 fly was the next day and she wanted to be ready for that.
And her comments were:
- Steve put a lot of time and energy into fixing my stroke and these improvements have really helped my swimming. I like that at the beginning of each year the team spends a whole long time working on drills and stroke techniques so when the season starts there are no problems to fix.
- I can count on Steve to not let my stroke get sloppy or let me lose focus of the changes I need to make on my own stroke.
- One of my favorite aspects of Steve is his confidence in me as a swimmer. When I began talking to Steve about transferring, I found a common theme about all of our talks: he firmly believed that I could be a great swimmer. This took me by surprise because at that point I did not even think I had the potential to be a great swimmer.
- (And she talks about) I remember about a week-or-so from Trials, Steve came up to me and said something to me that I do not remember exactly. But I interpreted it as saying: Caroline, you’re going to do something special at Trials. I remember walking away from the conversation with the smile on my face and an internal confidence that I could not shake. When I arrived home the day before leaving for Trials, my parents said they saw a confidence in me they had not seen before. I truly believe that knowing my coach had confidence in me allowed me to reach my potential when it really counted.
- Lastly and most importantly: Steve makes swimming fun. I can always count on a fun and relaxed atmosphere at practice. Steve does a really good job of keeping us laughing with the jokes he tells before every meet and allowing us to do belly flops in the pool. Steve knows that people swim fast when they are having fun, and I know this is very important to me: swimming fast. This past summer at Trials, I really enjoyed my swims and allowed myself to take-in the moment. (And she says) The main reason was being able to have fun with teammates and coaches between swims.
Two more [swimmers].
2012 – Camille Adams
Camille Adams. Camille was somebody that we had watch grow up in Houston. And you see these younger swimmers coming up, swimming in the state. And you watch them and make mental notes—you know: these are some people that you are going to definitely be recruiting. We were excited she chose to come to A&M. The summer… the June-before she came to A&M her freshman year—and both she and Breeja [Larsen] are going to be juniors next year—she had slight shoulder surgery. Just a repair: there were some little things in there. And it was not until that November invite [meet], that we went to, that she was able to start competing. And we were not sure she was going to be ready too; but went over there and she did great.
She had a great freshman year. Set two school records; got second in the fly at NC[AA]s, which was a really good time drop. That summer we went out to Nationals—long course Nationals. Had a great 400 IM, big time drop; I mean, her strokes had gotten a lot better, particularly her breaststroke. But unfortunately she did not have a very good 200 fly. We were kind of shocked about that, because she had done better, had done great. I think she had a swim the night before, and I do not… I was just really surprised.
That next year she came back, and she was really focused. I think she made four or five U.S. Junior Teams, but had never made a National Team. And so she came in, and [was] one of those ones: I think it would be good to do cardio. Boy, she did cardio. And she would work on the little things, and stay after. Let’s work on my kick-outs, because her freshman year… Katinka Hosszú… they dove in and the kick out, and she is a body-length behind her almost—coming up at her ankles, you know. And so that was something she knew she had to work on. And just did a great job.
Went to the Fall invite, had some good swims. We did a great job over Christmas training. We had a dual meet against SMU [Southern Methodist University], and then we went to the Austin Grand Prix. Did not rest, let them put suits on, did not shave; and she just lit it up. I mean she lit it up. I mean… we had a bunch of girls that did it. And I mean, like, wow, do we need rest? Like we talk about ‘you don’t have to feel good to swim fast,’ and some of them did not feel good at all. But it got contagious, they were swimming well, and we had a bunch of best times. I mean she dropped 4:43 to 4:38-high; she had been 2:10-high for a couple of years, now she goes 2:06.8 or 9—or something like that. Just had some phenomenal swims. You know, we were just really excited. Got 2nd at NCs again in the 200 fly, and just really did a good job.
I think part of her success in that January meet… you know you hear people talk about the benefits of sleep. And I have read a lot of articles and things and hear people. And that is true. I mean Christmas training, without school, she was able to swim, sleep, swim, eat, sleep. And she loves to sleep; she loves her naps more than anybody I know. Her nickname is The Hibernator. I mean but she loves it, and I think that was a big part of why she did so well.
She is a great racer, great competitor; I mean, she will fight you tooth-and-nail. She was the top seed, like I said, in the 200 fly coming in; and nobody was popping-up to throw… I mean I just figured somebody was going to come up there and challenge her before we even got to Trials. But nobody was coming out of the woodworks; so even some of the… maybe a young person, you know. But they just never did it. So we talked about: just focus, focus on your race. This is your plan. Let’s go. Our goal was to go at 2:05-something; to swim a smart race. And like I said, if two girls beat us, congratulations—I mean that is tremendous. But they were going to have to do some great swims to do that.
[It was] Pretty interesting watching her grow up. She was the type, like I said, she was a racer. But she was a racer, and it was like: I have got to be in the lead; I have got to be in the lead right away. And she would hold on. If you remember her at Trials, she was nowhere close to the lead [in] the first part. I think she was 7th at the first 50, moved up to 2nd, and then really came home—that was her strength. We worked on that; I talked to her about that. I said, “Camille, this isn’t NASCAR; you don’t get lap money at the 50, the 100, the 1….” I said, “It’s who touches at the end.” And to her credit, she bought into it; realized that was the best way. Felt a whole lot better; it is no fun dying at the end of races, you know—particularly at the 200 fly. And I just said, “There’s going to be some people that are going to be ahead of you: don’t panic.” I said, “Nobody can finish like you can finish. Just be calm, and just swim.” And she bought into it.
And that was… I was a little worried that, you know, ‘I’m top seed, oh my god, what’s…’ you know. And thinking about the outcome too much. And again, you have to read your athletes, read your swimmers; and I just never saw that. She was good. She was… you know, she is a goofy, fun girl. I mean she has got her Justin Bieber music on her headsets, and she is just having fun. And that is the way I want them to do it, and that was pretty much what she did.
Some of her comments:
- The past two years at A&M have been a learning experience more than anything. Training with Steve has not only been a great opportunity to better my swimming, but he has also showed me the kind of training that I need and has been very open to my input.
- He has really pushed me to understand what my body is doing in the water, instead of just going through the motions and focusing on the final time. Placing such a great amount of emphasis on my technique has transferred over to making my swimming faster.
- Steve has been persistent in changing simple things that should have been altered years ago. For example my kicking, in general, and having some kind of pull pattern on my fly.
- Steve has also put a lot of large focus on race strategy. (And she talked about [how] in high school where she would just go out and just try and hold on.)
- Although the technicalities in the race strategies have helped me immensely the past couple of years, the mental side of the sport is an aspect that I feel I have grown the most. Steve, as well as the rest of the team, has taught me to believe in my abilities and myself. Before coming to school I did not do much goal setting, and swam and practiced most days without purpose. Steve has the team set goals, as well—or set team goals as well as individual [goals] for each individual athlete. I now feel when I get-up and race, either in practice or a meet, that I am more clued-in to what is going on. I am not so much focused on my time goal, but instead what I need to do to get there.
- If I could give you one piece of advice, to a coach or a swimmer, it would be, definitely, to have fun. Do not take your sport too seriously. You know, that is why you started in the first place: because you were having fun.
And so that is Camille.
2012 – Breeja Larson
Breeja, pretty amazing story. She was somebody that swam as a youngster, but usually just during the summer. You know, a little bit at other times, but definitely not seriously. Freshman year, swam high school. Then the family moved from Arizona up to Boise, Idaho; and just decided: I’m not going to swim my sophomore year, I’m going to play other sports. She did other sports when she was little; I think when she was younger, her goal was to be a gymnast. She is 6 feet tall. And I do not know if you all have read the article, [but] her dad kind of broke her heart and said, “Honey, you’re going to be too big to be an Olympic gymnast.” And it just kind of crushed her, and then I think she realized: yeah, Dad was right, you know. But… so she did some other things.
Her sophomore year she did not swim, and then her junior year decided: okay, maybe I’ll go back to Swimming. And then junior year, you know, she got a little better. But she was like: I need to be on a program; I need to swim year-round, have a good club program. So she talked her parents into sending her back to Arizona. She lived with her aunt and uncle; swam on a club team there, [and] a high school team. And she dropped from 1:07 to 1:02.6 her senior year in high school. Her club coach had contacted me; said he had a girl with a lot of potential. Thank goodness I listened. You know, she did.
She was somebody that came in and bought in. I remember watching her at Nationals the summer-before she came to A&M. And she was swimming right next to Amanda Beard in the 100m breaststroke; I’m going to race her, I’m… you know. She was fearless, you know; does not make any difference who it is. But she went out with Amanda, and then coming back Amanda just left her. But this was Breeja in the spin breaststroke, where she used to turn-over like crazy. And we got her there, and I was like, “Breeja, you’re 6 feet tall. We don’t need to be taken 12, 13 strokes per length. Let’s work on distance per stroke.” And she bought into it, and really changed herself around.
I mean, she was so raw. So with starts and turns and… I mean there were a lot of things she was the weakest person on the team. And she did not have that much background. So it is, you know, you are treating her with kid gloves: you do not want burn her out, wear her out the first couple months. And so you have just got to be careful with them when you are doing that. But had a great freshman year, improved a bunch. Had the cancer scare that summer, so she really did not get a chance to maybe really improve too much that next summer. She went home for that summer; but she said, “No, don’t worry; next summer I’m going to stay. I know I want to go to Trials and do well.”
And then came back, and that second year, she took her training to a new level. I mean that is… when I see a swimmer do something like that, good times are going to come. She came in and went from the weakest kicker to going a lot on some of the… not the very fastest intervals, but I mean we challenge them on kicking and she moved up, you know. She was better at so many things, and it was… you could just see her do that. And understood things and really, really worked hard. You know she has got talent—there is no doubt. You do not get that far without talent. But talent only takes you so far, and you have got to put in the work ethic. She has got the mental makeup. You know she is, like I said, she is fearless. She believes in herself. She does not set limits.
And like I said, going into Trials, I made the conscious effort: she is going to be over-rested as opposed under-rested. I just felt like we needed a breakthrough. And normally she does not take… I mean we hardly rested her at all for conference, and she broke the NCAA Record and came pretty darn close to the American Record at conference. Not shaved, you know, with hardly any rest; yeah, she was in a suit. So there has been time when she has done well with very little. But it was just like: this is Trials, she has got two superstars in front of her that she might…. And I felt like she was going to swim fast, but that may not be enough, you know. So we did that.
The other thing interesting that happened, that I thought about afterwards, was that Thursday before Trials. She came in and her knee was bugging [her] a little bit, and that was the day we were going to do some pace stuff. And I said, “We’ll take it easy. Warm it up, and if you feel like, if it’s bugging you, then we won’t. But, you know, just gradually warm up.” She said, “No, it’s all right; I can do it.” So we did some pace and she did great. And then the next day is the day where we worked on some freestyle. They were just in and out, and I just said do not do any breaststroke; you do not need to do any kick. And then I left and went to Trials on Saturday, and she stayed and came on Sunday with Tanica. And Saturday her knee was bugging her again, you know; so she did not do any breaststroke kind of pace stuff on Saturday. And we were going to do a little bit on Saturday but she did not do it.
Got there Sunday and it was bugging her, and she was a little concerned. And so… well let us go see, you know U.S.[A] Swimming has got doctors and people that understand, let us go see them. Even though she had seen our trainer; our trainer had told her—and our new trainer knows Swimming. But she was just like, just ease your mind. The trainer looked at her: oh it’s just this, you know. They did a little whatever on her, and just said, “It’s no big deal.” And I am sitting there thinking: she has had a couple of extra days off from breaststroke kick. I said, this could be really good, [for] her breaststroke kick. Because this is something… you want to rest the legs. And sure enough, I thought, that was something that really helped her do as well as she did; getting that extra, extra little bit.
Some of her comments:
- This year I felt that Steve started preparing me and the team for the Olympic Trials from the very beginning.
- He was very instructive on our technique, with every stroke that we took. And one of the things I really like about Steve is that he does not scold me when I am doing something wrong; he just explains what I can do to improve my stroke or racing techniques. So having that mindset all year, I knew one of my main goals was to improve and tweak my technique to have a more efficient stroke.
- Having his consistent reminder to change body positionings or breathing pattern or head position during practice really helps me become a better swimmer. And not only during easy sets, but during difficult sets when I get tired and my stroke becomes sloppy.
- It is easier for me to stay focused and happy when I feel someone is trying to help me improve, rather than scold me from swimming the wrong way.
- The consistency in Steve’s training has also helped me feel prepared for Trials. It is nice to know that I will swim a certain number of breaststroke practices before Trials, so I can take full advantage of every opportunity to work on my stroke.
- Another thing I feel Steve has mastered is keeping his swimmers calm. I tend to freak out and think I need to change a lot of things to make sure everything goes perfectly. Steve tells his team constantly that you do not need to change anything; that we should stick to our usual routine.
- He never tells us that we have to… that we have limits, never discourages our dreams, only encourages the hard work it will take to get to our higher goals.
- One big method to his coaching always worth mentioning is his jokes. He can tell when his swimmers are nervous or uptight about upcoming events, and always seems to have a good joke on hand that will make us laugh and forget about our stress and help us realize that swimming is fun. I feel like once I realize that I am doing it for fun, the experience is so much better and my nerves disappear for the most part.
Camille was… I mean she could handle things pretty much, you know. She would warm up, come back over, okay let’s do pace. We would talk about stuff we were going to do and stuff like that. Breeja, kind of, because she was so new, just liked a little bit of reassurance, and I think that that was something that was… that was good, that was important. But just trying to keep her relaxed and having fun. Just really, kind of, getting out of her way and let her do it.
I thought… like her prelims swim in the Trials, she was really good distance per stroke and came back really well. Finals, we knew we needed to take-it-out maybe just a little bit faster, but try not to be that much harder. She kind of scrambled a little bit, but she got the job done. It was a little bit of a change, and sometimes to do something great you need to push the envelope just a little bit. But you cannot, kind of, forget.
It was kind of unfortunate at the Games… I would guess most of you all saw that: that phantom beep. And I am sitting up in the stands going: why did it have to happen here and now? I mean, she had just done a great warm-up, and I was excited to see what she was going to do. And even now—whether she got 6th or 8th or whatever—I just… I would have liked to have seen what she would have done without, you know, going in. I mean, because she got in. She has ear problems, so she will get earaches. So she has always got ear plugs in, so she does not always hear the best. And, you know, she heard the beep, and she went. And I told her, “You didn’t do anything wrong. I mean, you hear the beep, you had better go. Because if you hear the beep and don’t go, and everybody else goes, then you’re in serious trouble.”
And so when she came up, she was like: wow, am I getting DQ’ed or what? And then they did not tell her, and she kind of, unfortunately, sat around and got pretty cold. And I am trying to telepathically go: ‘Breeja, put your warm-ups on,’ you know. I was sitting way up in the stands, and she did not. She thought about it, but she goes: they might make a standup right now and go. Unfortunately she got a little excited and went out a little bit too hard, and did not finish like she planned. But what a great girl and just, hey, upbeat: “I’ll learned from it.” It would not surprise me to see her back in four more years.
So… questions? That is kind of their perspective; gave you a little bit of my perspective. But please, if you all have any questions; shout them out. (George?)
[unheard question from audience]
Yeah. I mean, they actually, since Breeja had… NBC wanted to do a little thing on that. And USA Swimming kind of knows—because Russell but has been to our place twice and knows—that I am big into video. So they did a little, short clip—that took us about an hour to do—and I think it took…, they showed it for like two and a half minutes. But that is something we do. I mean, USA Swimming is going to video, and then we go in and we watch it, and look at it. I mean, [the] nice thing is they are… because we do that and they get feedback, you know. I mean, I am talking about it; they are talking about it, and they are seeing…. So it is good. So, yes, between prelims and finals we definitely, we look at that.
During the season, absolutely. Like I said, in practice at least once-a-week. And sometimes we will set it up, you know, underwater, and put it between two lanes. And set a TiVo and set it on like a 10- or 15-second delay; and two swimmers, two lanes, can kind of watch. You know, they come in and, while they are resting, they can see themselves swimming-in—because it is on the 10- and 15-second delay. And, you know, if you are not in one of those two lanes, and you want to watch, just go over there for a second, and then you can watch and then move back. So yeah. And we videotape above-the-water at our meets, so they have an opportunity to watch. So, yeah, I am a big believer in that, for sure.
At dual meets, yes, it is after the meet is over with. And sometimes what we will do is, if we have a meet on the weekend, sometimes maybe on that Wednesday—instead of us videotaping them and then watching it—I will say go watch at least one of your races from the meet this past weekend. And then we will go in there and start, okay, who wants to watch this event, who wants to watch…. And so we will tell them we are starting at the beginning and just kind of come in. So, yeah, we definitely do that.
[unheard question from audience]
Can we do individual preparation for college swimmers? Yes. I mean, obviously depending on how big a group you have. I mean, yes, you are going to do some group things. But even in those groups, we will have some people that we know need more rest or need more rest for their legs. And sometimes I will just give them the choice. You know: okay, we are kicking, and certain people are doing this amount, this amount or this amount. And then some people can… you can do either of these. Or we will do a certain amount of a set, you know, and kind of… you know some people are doing… you know. Those people not resting are doing three rounds, some people are doing two rounds or part of two rounds, or some may only do one round—something like that. So we try and do that so that they feel like yes they are getting some individual attention, you know.
And like I said, I want them to feel like they have input into their taper. Especially the first year or two, when you are starting to get to know them. I feel like I am real good at that, but I want them to feel like they are part of it—in that partnership part of it—and that they feel like they have input.
[unheard question from audience]
Training after the Trials, before we went on to London, is that basically we built back up. Not to as-much-as what we were doing, but it was kind of a gradual building back-up—because you do not want to, you know, jump it up too much. But we definitely did. And we kept it up depending on when they swam. I mean, obviously, the breaststroke was early. The 200 fly was later on, so we kept Camille up a little bit longer. But we were doing some pretty good, solid training even when we were over in France—especially the first part of when we were over in France. And so we probably went up to, I would say, maybe 80-85% of what we were doing before. And then we brought the kicking up again, not as much, but then again rested the legs coming back down and such.
Other questions. Well, thank you very much. Good luck this year.
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