Helping Swimmers Reach Maximum Potential by David Marsh, SwimMAC Carolina (2012)


[introduction, by Ira Klein]

Hopefully you were able to be here earlier for the first part of Coach Marsh’s talk, where he talked about his Elite team.  He said this talk is going to be more about his Senior and high-school-aged swimmers, and what he has been doing with them at SwimMAC.  I have been very fortunate… David has some great innovative ideas.  And I think that is one of the differences when you look at the coaches that make the greatest impact in our sport: they are innovators.  They look at what they think could happen, come up with ways to make it happen, and then sit back and watch the results.  So I know that you did not come to listen to me; you came to hear Coach Marsh.  And I want to welcome David for his second talk today.


[Marsh begins]

Thank you Ira; thank you for being here.  I am sorry the last talk went over a little bit; this one, I will try to be under.  And I am going to use what Dave Salo did, and encourage you to be interactive here and ask questions because I probably have more stuff up here than I really know what to put down in quality information for you in the Senior track.


One challenge I have is I have not coached high school swimmers since 1990 out here in Las Vegas—last time I coached high school swimmers.  And I am taking that challenge on this Fall; I am going back to coach high school swimmers this Fall and I will have a group of 24 swimmers that I will been working with.  So I will be seeking your advice, as well.  One of the differences that probably has helped me quite a bit is I am the parent, finally, of teenagers—in full teenage mode.  So I feel more equipped to coach teenagers now, having the empathy of knowing what lots of parents are going through at their homes when their brilliant children get home and tell them how the world should be tilted.


So this is…. I was going to say, the Dave Salo method was to Twitter questions, and that way you can just….  If you do not have Twitter, we will just take questions at the end, more traditionally.  But if there is a question that pertains to what we are talking about, Peter is going have my phone and my Twitter thing is whatever that thing is, dmswimmac.  Just twitter me a question, and we will answer those.  If I cannot get to too many of the questions, then I will try to answer them on my flight home on my red-eye.  Because you see I am a club coach, and I have a… we have a thing called a kick-off picnic tomorrow, which means we will have most of our new swimmers and some of our veterans at a picnic tomorrow.  It begins at one o’clock tomorrow, and there is really not an option for Coach Marsh not to be there.  So as much as I hate flying red-eye, and I am not good at flying red-eye—which means I probably will not sleep at all—I will be red-eyeing back to Charlotte to be there for the picnic.  And I know you guys can appreciate that.


The first day I was here we were doing a… Kathy McKee, who is one of the legendary minds of our sport, was doing a talk for the Administrative School for ASCA.  And it was interesting because I was in there and at one point we were talking about Boards of Directors and structures of clubs, and things like that.  And they were kind of at… literally this is what happened in the conversation: they were asking questions and my advice on what they should do in this, this and this.  As the questions came at me, I realized, yeah, I don’t really have good answers, because we are not there.  So I turned around and there were a couple of guys who had a little bit smaller clubs that had a really good handle on some things that….  And so the conversation really went to the coaches that were there to learn, to teach.  And I actually I am going to go back with some very good ideas from what I learned.


And I think, again, the lesson there is sometimes you kind of assume that because of some status-level, or some history, that I have, that it gets… it is a whole lot different for me than for you.  And it is to some degree, there is no doubt that there are things that I am able to kind of push through when I need to, just based on more a because I said so kind-of-thing.


But when I moved from college- to club-coaching, it really was not about what my last presentation was about.  I mean what I experienced, and I think it says it in the ASCA bios in program (I think John must have wrote it because I must have had that conversation with him), is that my good friend Rowdy Gaines when he had his daughter go out for swimming for the first time.  She went to her first swim practice and that practice was a 3,000, total distance, of which a set of 200s was part of it.  This girl had not done more than one lap without stopping, ever; and that was the first practice she ever went to.  Guess how many more practice she had ever went to?  None; done.  Done with the sport; one practice, done.


Okay, now I am going to bring it back to put the spotlight on me.  My 12-year-old swims in what we call Middle School Teen Fit, which is not a competitive team.  She went to her first practice in our Silver Group, which is in our curriculum and it is part of our program.  And she also had a… I had her go over with her good friend who is a very talented swimmer—just in Teen Fit at 11 years-old she is going 28s in 50 freestyles, so a really gifted little kid.  I was getting the two of them to slide-over to the team, trying to… (actually probably using my daughter so that’s probably not so good).  But I love for my daughter to swim full-on, so it was kind of an opportunity to go with her friend—starting with a friend is much better for kids.


Anyway, long story short, somewhere during that practice with the Silver group… and it is a big group and that is part of the problem.  There are 35 kids in the group; you know 1.5 coaches, that means there is one coach and sometimes there is another coach there—every other day or so.  Somewhere in-there there were 8×100 IM, and that was my daughter’s last day of that kind of practice, along with her friend’s.  And so I am trying to do a re-start this year.


But… and I go back to when I was at Auburn and my kids had started swimming.  I just… one of the things I am passionate about is figuring out how we do this sport, where we introduce the sport in a friendly, connecting format.  We progressively add education challenges and loading, as we go.  We prepare to deliver these young people to Senior swimming, which is where they start going more training—and I will talk about that in a second.  And, really, as a club coach, my job is to get them to a college, right?  It is within that window.  And then maybe they kick-out, and become a professional swimmer and they stay at a college or swim for Team Elite or something like that, one day—if they are of that level.


But really, what my job is is to manage this path.  And what I see it as: try to create… first of all capture talented kids.  Steal some dadgum shortstops, outside hitters on volleyball teams; let’s get some of those people.  You know this is the year to do it too, by the way; this is when we have to grab some of those people that will do Swimming because Swimming is cool here for a little while.  Thank goodness for Ryan Lochte and those guys to make it a cool sport.  And Missy [Franklin] is going to do, I think, great things for our sport.  So we have that.  But I think that is one of the things, that first capture more numbers of talented kids.


And one of the great things about our sport right now: is it is not necessarily a tall person’s sport.  100 freestyle, yeah, usually it is tall people.  But the underwater-kicking factor changes our game quite a bit.  I mean a little bit shorter people are better at underwater kicking, and that levels the field.  So one of the things about our sport is you know, what would have been… and I still do it when I walk through the grocery line: I see a dad who is 6’6 and a mom 6’1, and I see them tagging-along with a Bambi-looking daughter next to them.  I am like here is my card; your kid is swimming, aren’t they?  And I actually had several kids start that way.


But the thing I would say is that once we get them in there, what do we do for them?  How do we create an atmosphere that is interesting and fun, and is something that makes them want to come back?  Then we add load to them, then we try to create systems that push them toward higher performance, and then we encourage them to want to work hard to get the most out of practice, be more intentional—those kind of things.  Those are things, and there is all kinds of different steps built within.


I do not know about you guys, but the toughest thing for me to find is that great coach of that 8-9-10-11 year-old, who loves being there and stays there.  And that is one of the hardest things to get.  And I am a big fan of The Talent Code and Dan Coyle stuff, and that is what he talks about, that ignition phase of joining the sport.  Literally, from the first day they walk-in, what the hallways look like, what the first engagement is with that coach.  What that looks like often will imprint them for their future.  So that first experience, just like a customer going in the store.  You know, when I walked in the Riviera, I felt like I was home again.  Back in 1987, we had our Las Vegas Gold team banquet right here in this hotel; it was the same carpet.  So I feel like I am home again, back in 1987.


But anyway, I am kind of going through some of these slides.  Twitter there.  If you are not a Twitter person, honestly, I would tell you to do it.  I got Bob Bowman to do it—I do not know when it was—but now he is rabid at it.  And he is really good at it.  And he has got a lot of stuff I have learned from reading his twitters.  I do not Facebook, because I cannot read that long in a text, and I do not have time I do not think.  Twitter is less digits, lots of pictures.  I wanted to Instagram, because I like images because I am very visual.  And my daughter says: “Dad, Instagram is for girls.”  And so I am not Instagraming, yet.  I might do it under a fake name or something, at some point, because I like the idea of Instagraming.  But right now I am not going to Instagram.  So, anyway, daughter knows best.


So how do we, as coaches and as a sport, find more ways to have more athletes reach their maximum potential.  That is where I am talking about we capture them, then how do we move them.  And by the way this talk is going to be more… let me be clear on this, this talk is going to be on probably 20%-25% of our sport.  What I mean by that is: most of the kids, up until they are 13-14—kind of that pre-high-school-thing and a lot of times even when they get into high school—they are in Swimming for participation.  Mom is requiring them to do another activity: instead of sitting home playing Game Boy all day, you are going go to swim practice.  And we offer a great environment for kids like that.  And the kid, himself or herself, may not be that person who is looking to go up to the highest level.  So they pay our bills and that is great, and we want to offer something for them, that is good.


But what I am focusing more on is the category of pushing people.  In my program, and my visual is, I have a pyramid, and pushing them over to left side, which is more of a fast-track of the program.  So this is kind of definitely more leaning more toward the left (I shouldn’t say that after the Democratic convention was in Charlotte this past week).  Anyway it is along that left line of the program, which is more the pathway of reaching the maximum potential.


Appropriate deliberate development including and identifying separate elite performance.  So I think one of the things that I have tried to look at as an overall program and through our sport is looking at our sport as a career.  Like when you look at a child entering your program, it is not how fast they can be when they are 10 years-old/12 years-old; it is their whole career.  What does it look like, their career?  Because there are points at which we can make decisions to, kind of, fast-forward things, and press the button more and probably get more results out of them; but what is the cost?  And if the cost is to lessen their ultimate potential, or if the cost is a high possibility of them leaving the sport because of the way we are doing it, then my challenge to you is to say: do not do it.  There is another time, another place, to press that button;  it is not quite ready to get pressed yet.


So when I say appropriate, I mean for different athletes in different ages and different situations, there are appropriate things to do.  Deliberate.  So why are you doing everything you are doing at practice?  You know one of the things is I have challenged the MAC coaches to do a lot less warm-up in the water, do more on land.  And then when they are in the water, to begin with intentional work while you have their attention.  That first 20 minutes is when you kind of have them highly-engaged, so why do we do 15-20 minutes of swimming slow and ugly strokes, and then begin to pay attention?  So I have challenged them to shorten that window.  And by doing that, also—and I think in a long run we are going to be doing more of this—we are going to do more quality dryland training, that is going to allow us to actually have more kids in our program because it is going to take less pool time.  So we are going to develop them on land quite a bit more for the sport of Swimming.  I believe that is huge part of the future of our sport.


Free flow of knowledge and athlete support throughout the career.  So an ever-growing knowledgebase of the coaches, the athletes, the parents, the whole system that is around them, that is going on, that also involves supporting them through their career.


Parent and coach buy-in to the overall process.  It does not matter… the parents at a certain age, especially—I will get to the high school—but especially when they are younger, they are going to have to the heaviest influence no matter what you want to have.  They are going to have… you are going to have moments, and you are going to be able to speak into them and be able to change them.  But the parents are, at those young ages, they are making the decisions up to about 11-12 years-old.  They are making the decisions generally for then come out for the sport.  The child may say, you know, I think I want to swim, but more often they are signing-up because parents think it is a good idea.  Part of why we have so many siblings that are some of our best swimmers is because they have been dragged to the pool and there is really no other option; they are not going to do two carpools.  And they end-up being some of our best athletes, our siblings, like Michael Phelps.


After one of our most successful Olympic performance in the history, there is still much to do to improve the elite level of our sport from an earlier age.  The research that Dan Coyle has done, that Anders Ericsson has done—and we had him as a speaker last year—that stuff indicates how important that first window of experience is.  Not only for the ignition piece, that Dan Coyle talks about, but also to maintain them in that second year of our sport.  We have to get them through that second year.  And then after the second year, the big window is we need to get them into high school swimming.  And I know in some places, that is a nightmare, you do not want to talk about it that way.  But high school swimming is another window of time, and I will get to that in a second.


Before I get us talking, this talk came out of John Leonard and I just having a long conversation about the sport.  After coming back from college and now having children in the sport, my disclaimer is I have all three children swim.  Two of them swim as much as mom requires; one of them, you know, she is about to turn 15 and she was at the Olympic Trials in 100 Fly—so she is a swimmer.  And done it relatively in a non-traditional way.  It is interesting because she really has not done the SwimMAC program; she has really done a hybrid-version because she was a gymnast that to turned to Swimming.  So she is, kind of, still relatively new to our sport.


But anyway, looking at these things, this is just my brain; this is not any research or anything that is correct, probably.  This is just my opinion.  If you look at the all swimmers experience was made up these elements, and interpreted through their own grid of values.  All the elements exist at any point in our dynamic throughout a swimmer’s career.  So if you looked at the professional swimmers—that I generally am probably more adept to working with right now—coaching is a real critical thing.  Because anything that can increase efficiency….


I heard Dave Durden talking about Nathan Adrian’s breathing.  And Nathan Adrian, when he breathes, you cannot tell he breathes—in practice or in meets, now.  And that is an improvement over the past year.  Now at 47.5, that is really important that he does not lift-up at all or bury his head too much.  That that head stays inline and breathes properly.  You know at 1:08 in the 100 yard freestyle, if you have a little movement in the head, it is not life and death.  If the feet are doing two-beat kicking, wobbling out-wide here, and the hands are going like this, that is probably where you need to spend your time.  Not on if there are little off on the breathing.  So I think coaching, you know, that specific eye.


The other thing that is happening with elite swimmers is that most of the best elite swimmers now have 5 or 6 coaches.  Literally, they have people that… you know, every one of the Olympic swimmers has kind of their person on the National Team staff—whether it would be Russell, George, Rick Bishop.  I mean, we use Rick Bishop a lot at MAC, and he made a huge difference with our elite guys.  And I am excited that he is going to be at Michigan this Fall, coaching again—that is great news.  But they have those guys.  They have their home coach; they have their college coach; they have… usually they are seeking out other input too.  One of the greatest things to kind of watch happen at these camps is to see other coaches tweaking athletes.  You know, maybe just a little bit on technique, but a little bit just, kind of, working on their mindset for races as well.  A lot of it is affirmation stuff: man, you’re awesome, and you look gorgeous in the water.  And, yes, they do not hear that as much from their home coach necessarily because you have coached them a long time, and you do not have the credibility anymore because they see your face every day—so you are no longer the expert.


Okay, so coaching.  I think at the Elite level, coaching is really the knowledge, the body of knowledge, the experience of the coach, the ability to be correct is really, really important.  Relationships, probably more important than a “one”.  But I just want to emphasize that at the end-of-the-day you kind of need your critical relationships, probably your real interpersonal relationships that mold the life you have, are probably more important than necessarily the relationships you have in the water.  I definitely had guys in the Team Elite group that did not like each other.  But they did respect each other, and they were harmonious when it came to helping each other to achieve success.  So where is the Age Group and the Senior settings: those relationships can be different.


The parents.  If I could know how to get the thing down to zero, I would have it down to zero.  But I do not.  Did I have any parent encounters with the Elite guys?  I had a couple of parent encounters with Elite guys.  But nothing, obviously, compared to what I do with the phone call I got two days ago when we had our award ceremony and one of the girls did not get the Sportsmanship Award.  I did not have to talk to the parent directly.  But I had a long conversation with the coach that had to encounter the parent, and she was calling for advice on what do I do with the situation.  And, unfortunately, I probably gave the wrong answer, which was: “You mean she didn’t get the Sportsmanship Award?  That girl?  What happened?”  Probably, the wrong answer, right?  I did not say it to the parent; I am going to support the coach, of course.


But yeah, awards: what a pain in the butt awards can be.  We actually sat on the phone and we were like: what are we going to do with these awards.  So we came up with, we are going to make a lot of awards more quantitative.  Like we give a Kicking Beast award, because we want to emphasize… we want to reward the outcomes.  So we have: an IM award, a kicking award, a dryland award.  But we are going to make them quantitative now.  We are just going to say you know: if you can kick you know 6×100 on 1:25, then you are going to get a Kicking Beast award, or t-shirt.  They get a T-shirt.  So it is things like that; we are still adjusting.


Emotional maturity.  Yes, I mean that is what Davis talked about when he is up here.  If you heard Davis talk, it was about the emotional maturity of these pro-swimmers.  If it is at a high-level, it is a game-changer for them.  And there are definitely people on the Olympic team that did not make the team because they were more talented or worked harder; it is because between practices the choices they made before they ever arrived at practice were more mature choices.  And they came to practice engaged and ready, and in-between practice they rested and recovered, or did their professional-development stuff.  And that is a huge difference.


Athletic development.  I would like to think that that is as high as number two.  But honestly, we have some amazing Olympic swimmers that are complete klutzes.  That just literally… and I have told many people—and I do not know if this is correct—but my feelings is that as tall and gangly as Missy is, and how that could have led her to not be able to walk-and-chew-gum kind-of-thing, I think this fascination she has with dancing has been one of the best things for her athletic development.  Because supposedly what she does—and I think this is correct—she will go home after school, go down to the basement, and dance to DDR [Dance Dance Revolution] and these other things like, you know, full-body dancing stuff.  And I think that is something that has actually probably helped her in her swimming, in that athletic development way.  But I can tell you, by watching the Olympic athletes—I am not going to point out any names because it will come back at me—but we have some on-land athletically-challenged athletes.


I told many people, in the Olympic Village one of my favorite things to do is sit in the Olympic Village and watch the Track athletes walk by.  It is so awesome to watch—oh my gosh.  Because they are doing their skill thing when they move on land, you know.  They just have this gait about them, and they look like they are just gliding across the land.  At any moment they could just explode into a….  And it is not just you know [Usain] Bolt, I certainly saw him a lot; but I am talking about all of them.  Like especially the sprint to middle-distance athletes; they are unbelievable athletes—I love watching them on land.  It is kind of like when they look at us in the water.  They say: how do you glide like that, and all that.  Well, they get to live that way on land.  We have to wait until we….


You know, I went to Greece for vacation, and I got to play a little water polo game with a bunch… it was a resort thing, and so they had a water polo game.  So we had been playing water polo game with the guys, and I got to score a lot of points because I could stay in the deep and closer to the net.  So I get to be on offense a lot more.  And it was kind of fun to be a swimmer then.  You know, it was kind of fun at that point.  Track athletes get to look good all the time.


Skilled development, for professional swimmers, critical.  Training development, probably you will be surprised it is not a five.  But you guys have heard my feelings in terms of the training piece: I would slightly like to under-train them than over-train them.  If I had to do anything, I would let the athletic development piece take more ownership of an athlete’s performance than my design of training and thinking that by training them to the 10-out-of-10 level that I might get the performances.  Because if I go to 11-out-of-10, I have just over-trained them.  So I would rather rely on that relationship of athletic development with the training development, the training plan.  So if anything, I may tend to under-train, slightly, some of those athletes.


And then competitiveness.  I mean at the highest level, if you are not almost dysfunctionally competitive, you probably are not going, certainly not going to reach the ultimate in sports.  You know, to some degree you may make the Olympic team without being a 10-out-of-10 there.  But the ones that are winning the medals are all, at least, pretty-damn competitive.


Okay, Age Group Swimming.  And this is, again, my opinion of what I see as ideal.  The coaching is important, but it does not have to be… it does not have to be anything to anybody.  Relationships are huge.  Parents have to be involved and are huge as well.  Emotional maturity is not going to happen anyway, so if you try to force it on they and it may make them a little less fun.  Athletic development may be more important than that.  Skill development is the biggie to me—skill, skill, skill.  Training development, there is probably something to it.  But training development to me is more like the appreciation for what is to come.  So knowing how to read a pace clock, knowing what negative splitting is.


We do Open Water Wednesday.  We do Open Water Wednesday not just because we want them to lead them to Open Water Swimming, this is the way we are introducing aerobic swimming to our little kids—is that they do open water stuff, and then they do not… it is not a lot of back-and-forth across-the-line stuff.  Plus with Open Water, we go to the lake and the lake does not have pool rent; we can swim in the lake for free.  And we can put other programming in the pool that day, specialty programming, when we are out of the lake with that other group.  So it works out pretty well for the overall program.


And then competitive development.  So I think you probably never want to have anything below a two in that competitive development, and you always want to be developing it.  If it is at a five level, you probably will have a lot of fistfights in your lanes with the young kids.  So to me an ideal world they would have some understanding how they can control that a little bit.


This is… and obviously way too much to put down over this is a typical; this is a Gold group in the SwimMAC program.  The Gold group is our better 11 and 12 year-olds.  And I have two fantastic coaches that coach this group.  This group has to be coached really well.  And this is basically what the coaches are to put in.  This is their guidelines, and then the coach’s job is to bring the salsa.  You know you guys make it interesting; you guys do it in ways that work with your personality.  But we expect these kind of things to kind of get done.  Any questions on that one?


Yeah, we have added more kicking measuring to it too, as we have all grown to appreciate the value of kicking.  That is probably one of the things that has grown quite a bit over the years.  We have always had an event focus.  Like even though they do not race very many 500 freestyles at this age, we want them to begin to appreciate the 500 Free; introduce them to it, probably more at practice than at meets.  So that they are being developed in that way.  And we are at every level an IM… we call ourselves an IM team.  I do not know that we really have results to back that up, but we consider ourselves an IM team.


Question?   [inaudible question from the audience]


How often do we practice guidelines?  Okay.  Ira claimed that I was a creative coach; I am a thief, I am not a creative coach.  I just steal stuff from you guys.  A lot of the body of this is Pat Hogan, Kathy McKee, Dynamo Swim Club back in their early 80s—that I got to work there for three years, and then I brought out Las Vegas Gold.  Most of that was already there when I arrived to SwimMAC, but it has been kind of Marsh-ized, which to some degree probably means it has been softened a little bit.  It probably is a little bit more about fun; it is a little bit more about like quality skills.  Okay.


[inaudible question from the audience]


I do not know why that said…. we revisit those every year.  So that is not one that continues.  We for sure have a kick test set.


[inaudible question from the audience]


That is a good question; I do not know—the Gold coach is in big trouble (no).  I mean what they are supposed to be doing is collaborating, right now, and determining what those are.  We have two sites, two main sites, so they are supposed to be collaborating, figuring out, what those kind of sets are.


I do not know how many, not many of you heard the Fellows report during the Business meeting, but there is a terrific report out that the ASCA Fellows did this past year.  They have a shortened document.  But, in essence, it does, once again, reinforce the idea of at certain ages doing more separate things between the girls and the boys.  The report is about Swimming and boys, so it is what we can do in our sport for boys, and it has a really good questionnaire.  I was surprised, and not really surprised.  It was kind of good to know, and affirming, that 39% of the people they surveyed of these young boys were on some kind of ADD or ADHD medication.  And we have got to know that when we were coaching them, because they are off of it by the time to get to us because school is over and it has worn off.  So we are coaching kids that are getting recycled-up, and that is when we get them.  And a lot of times those are going to be the best swimmers, by far: the ones who give you the most trouble when they are young.  Those are your swimmers that are probably going to be your high performers later on, so do not run-them-off if you do not have to.


Curriculum focused on long-term development.  So everything on our curriculum is about setting up for the next level.  It is not about how fast you can go as an 11+12 year-old; that is irrelevant.  Not irrelevant; it is good, but it is not the most important.  Parent education is still really critical, because they are not 9+10s anymore but they are going to have a big impact.


Less barriers to entry that result from Swimming being more family-friendly.  One of the things, for example, that we have done is we will look at meets. Instead of the 4-hour rule, we prefer a 2-hour guideline—that is the ideal of course.  But even in a coach’s report at the end of the meet, the information I want to know is what time the parents walked-in the door to arrive for warm-up, and then when did they walk-out of the doors at the end of warm-down and the relays being finished, and all that.  That is the window of time I want the coach thinking about, not when that athlete started their first race to their last race, because the family experience is happening that whole time.  They are sitting in those damn hot pools, in those crowded pools, breathing chlorine—unless they have an evacuator.  It is not a good experience, you know generally, for a lot of them.  Hopefully some of them are officiating and helping our sport.  But that is the family experience I am talking about; that we are accountable… that we are responsible for.  And you know we talked about this quite a bit.


You will be excited to hear that in the Steering [committee] meeting the second day, Frank Busch started the meeting off with that topic; with what do we need to do for Age Group swimming to help create an atmosphere in USA Swimming that sends more athletes to the highest level.  That was the first topic, and one of the first times I have heard at that level of Age Group swimming come-up at Steering to that degree.  So… what advice, as the old-fart coaches that we are on Steering, can give to [the] Age Group Planning [committee] to work on, getting the results like we had at the Olympics.


Using other sports.  Increase athleticism, fun; gymnastics, volleyball, soccer, karate—a lot of ways to do that kind of stuff.  Gymnastics is awesome; my kids did it.  And I think if you can get the kids to do like level five and then leave the gymnastics before they get hurt, it is kind of the ideal, you know.  Because they are going to get hurt; you just keep going up the levels and something is going to break and your back is going to do something and something and something.  And you are probably over 13 years old, so you are not on-track to be an elite gymnast, anyway.  So we can use that to help us.


So I love them doing other sports.  The problem is we lose them sometimes, when they go do other sports.  The other challenge is when they do winter sports, for us during the championship meets, we lose them during the championship meet sometimes.  But again, if you are thinking long term, you know, you can work with that kind of thing.  I can see Paul Silver back there, and as committed and tough a coach as he is, you know, he has been wise about his talented boys coming through and doing other sports and staying involved in those sports.  I think that is really wise.  And to some degree, especially we parents who have especially good swimmers, you know like Steve Lochte with Ryan.  I know he used to let him kind of play around on the basketball court and then, hey come over here, the main set is about to start.  Get in the water and go.  Why can’t we create more… the challenge is to create more environments like that, where you can use other sports.  Or develop some athletic development within our programming.


We would like to do Gymnastics at our place, but the equipment is just… there is such an advantage to having all the right angle of mats, and things like that, for teaching.  But I know… over the years I have had the college kids, and I have them, you know… one of the things we have done over the years is, when we kind of figure that on Friday night they are out kind of late and doing things we would not ideally want them doing, we do handstands on Saturday morning for extended periods of times.  Just to make them very uncomfortable.  But it is amazing how few high-level swimmers can do handstands, front rolls, back rolls—you know, basic elementary movements that we used to teach in the school curriculum as they are coming through.




[inaudible question from the audience]


Okay, I just gave really bad advice then.  Would a front row be considered gymnastics?


[inaudible comments from audience]


And that is awesome, yeah.  Yeah.  And I am really excited about the talk after mine about swim gym. So that is something else.  But you know what?  Insurance gets in the way of excellence; and we have got to figure out a way to call it something else, or we only go to certain level, or have that gymnastic certified coach come in and do the thing you need done.  You know, we have three or four trampolines in the pool were are at, and we are not allowed touch them, get near them, because we are the swim team—you know it would be a bad thing.


New meet formats.  I think that we have to keep looking at our meet formats folks.  And I know we all, including my club, we generate our money from that.  But at the end of the day, in terms of measurement, if you as a coach or your coaches cannot determine their progress as an athlete by the way they are practicing, they are developing during practices; then you are not doing a very good job.  So you do not need really need the meet information that much.  Dick Shoulberg talked in the Steering committee about how few meets he has.  You know he has few meets because he knows what level they are.  And that may be something to consider.  We have tried to go to more two-day meets rather than three-day meets, which is not ideal for, especially, the teams that host the meet or even for our team because it is less income.  But the experience of a two-day meet for a family versus a three-day meet is an enormous difference.  Especially during the school year.  And my goodness, championships that are four days during the school year, it is a brutal.


(I just got a hurry-up from Peter, so I must be yapping too much.)


What are the objectives on the Senior level to help athletes reach their maximum potential in their career?  Define, if not decided, on the appropriate path to include college and post-grad swimming?

So I think that college piece is an enormous part.  I would say that it is our greatest advantage, our college programs that we have in the United States.  But it also can be a tremendous limiter to some degree.  So we have these kids coming through our programs.  We want them all to swim in college and experience one of the best things you can in life, which is making those college friends on the swim teams that are your best friends often in life.  Where is it appropriate?  To help guide them to the appropriate place for them in the different levels, hopefully with lots of options.  To help them get to Ivy League schools where they otherwise they might not be able to get to, is an incredible blessing to a family.


At the highest performance levels there are… there is a school and a coach for every… there is a best combination of a team culture, a coach, and a school for every big-time athlete coming out of high school.  And if they make that decision and go to that school, it is going to increase their chances to reach their full potential, ultimately, at a much higher level than if they are two or three degrees off.  And the good thing now is there are so many outstanding options in different niches out there of programs. You know, they may not be top-5 at NCAAs, but boy they have got a quality coach, a decent facility maybe and a good positive team culture.  So those are out there, and getting to know what they are and where they are, is a challenge for you Senior coaches to dive into.  It may be one of the most important things you can do with advising those young kids, because they are going to listen to you more than they listen to mom and dad, in that category for sure.


Determine how and into what level Swimming fits into the college experience—which is kind of what I covered already.  Use Swimming to develop great people to great character.  I love that at ASCA now, we are including intentional educational programs of teaching character while we are getting to do this great sport of Swimming.  And we started this whole conference off with Coach Sweetenham indicating to us—I forgot the exact quote but to paraphrase it—it was: take character over quality whenever you have to make that choice.  Because with character, you can grow the athlete; with just the athlete, without character, very little chance to grow the athlete.  Because the character will matter, and it is going to matter mostly as, again Dan Coyle talks about quite a bit, during the struggle.  Because every kid in our sport is going to struggle at some point, and they should struggle.  When they struggle, their character is going to be on display.


Athlete By Design is a guy I have met and I have really enjoyed some of the stuff he has.  He does surveys and gets feedback and does seminars for… he has a program called Parent Your Best, Coach Your Best, and Play Your Best, and his websites is Athlete By Design.  But here is a couple of… you will find these some of these interesting.  He interviewed kind of the mid-level of our team; so probably about a 150 of our 13-16 years olds in our program.  And this is not broken-out male and females—it is all of the same.


Have your parents ever discussed with you their definition of ‘competition’?  And what we do is, on the backside of this, we ask our parents to have these conversations with their children, moving forward.  Because that is a big important thing to know.  The parents may be, “Yeah, I want them to be blah, blah, blah”, and the kids are like, “I just want to see my friends everyday”.  And that conversation needs to happen.


Which are the following mental performance areas you struggle with the most?  This is to the athlete; this is to the young athlete.  Which are the following mental performance areas you struggle with the most?  Self-confidence and focus.  And I would say to you, I think that is only going to get more-so in our current culture.  Those lines are not going to be drawn backwards unless they are worked on.  And it is also just good to know.


And by the way, every one of these ones he did—and Jeremy Boone is the guy’s name.  Jeremy has done surveys on… he came from Soccer and Lacrosse and Cricket—believe it or not, because he does international stuff.  And he has done this for thousands and thousands of kids.  And he says, pretty much our profile at SwimMAC was dead-on with almost every other sport.  We were not very much different than other sports.


When it comes to what you want out of your teammates, what matters most to you?  Does that surprise anybody?  I mean we know friendships, but it is just good for us, we coaches, to know that.  That just reminds us that probably going to get the yogurt after Saturday practice may be the most important thing they did all week—if we want to keep them swimming.  And that is going to create the friendships.


There is also some good information from the Fellows about the, I think, 11-12 year old kids in that 29% did not feel they were respected by their peers.  I think that was the number.  But anyway, y’all really need to read the Fellows report: it is really outstanding.


(How are we doing with time?  Any good Twitter questions?)


Alright, this is from Charlie Brown.  This is kind of the… and you do not need to necessarily get a copy of that.  I think has a website, Get Your Head in the Game something [].  But this came from kind of after US Tennis; they have a lot of really good stuff out.  Pat Hogan said Hockey has some good stuff out right now too.  But getting into the 13-18 year olds, you can look at a couple of the categories where the biggest one is that when you move from that 12-13—somewhere in that range—the young person will move from concrete to abstract thinking.  When they move into abstract thinking, they can handle delayed gratification better.  You know before 12 years old: I practiced hard, I should have gone fast, I’m crying, doggone it.  And my mom is crying with me.  I was supposed to go fast in the meet because I came to all the practices you suggested that week.


As they get a little older there is more things like this: the role of the parent shifts from providing instruction to facilitating the athlete getting good instructions.  So that is why, at that point, they might be helping them to… that is where you need to engage the parents to convince them that you have good instruction.  Otherwise they might leave and go to another team, if they are sensing that they need to make those kinds of moves.


So that is a very good document.  And if you need to know where that is, Get Your Head in the Game:  I think he [Charlie Brown] has it up on his website.


Ideal Senior-level experience.  Again, this [slide] is what I had up for Age Group in the orange, already.  And then as you move to Senior level, in my opinion, this is where it begins to move too.  You really need probably a more detailed-approach to coaching.  So instead of more of a relational coaching, you need a coach, probably, that has all the skills.  And, again, this is more of a high-performance orientation.  I have a hard time… you know the participation thing to me is wonderful; I have two kids who do that.  One kid does this kind [performance] of stuff.  But talking here at ASCA about the performance part.


The relationships, maybe, take a step-back as their priorities are a little more than swimming.  Parents should hopefully begin to move back.  And we have to work on ways to have that happen by having the communication happened with the athlete and not as much with the parents—as far as what tomorrow’s practice starting time is.  Emotional maturity, you certainly are expect them to get better there.  Athletic development.  Skill development, I would say it does not become less important, but I would say it is of even importance to all the things; it begins to blend with the other things, whereas before it was a big tilt.  And competitive development: we have to teach the quality competitive nature all the way through this process.


And here is our Senior 1: this is our top Senior group in our program.  This is kind of some of their stuff, and you can see it is more detailed.  Expectations are much higher; expectations for attendance is higher.  Now I have kind of pillaged these groups this year, because what I am doing is taking from the Senior 1 North and South groups, kind of like the best swimmers, and I am bringing them all downtown.  And they are going to train downtown with me this year and named Coach Alan Pfau—who is one of our super coaches on our staff.  We are going to be coaching the best high school kids and best 13-15 year-olds, downtown, four times a week.  So we are trying to get our best kids in the program and build a little high-performance piece within our program.  And, honestly, maybe the biggest factor I am concerned with is to protect locker-room talk.  You know, these guys when they move into this group, the understanding by the families and the kids is that they have high expectations.  And they will be held to a high level of accountability, as far as their standards of effort.  We started this last year with an Advanced Age Group, we called it, and it had some really good success.  But similar, just everything is ramped-up a little bit more with what we are doing.


And it is kind of interesting because I am going to have to… I have been working with these pros, and the pros have been fairly fluid.  I mean, I definitely have my lines-in-the-sand [that] we do not go in past; but I have been really fluid, and with the younger kids I am going to have to tighten-up all my lines.  It was nice seeing Dave Durden, in one of his grids, he had some of the basics of what they do at the beginning of the year, and it is stuff we did at Auburn, forever.  And it is like: yeah got to get back to that stuff, where they have to do 6 dolphin kicks off every wall.  I could not ever get Cullen Jones to do that, but I can probably get these 14 year-olds to do that.


The National Junior Team has become an incredibly good assets to the development of our best young kids, something they can shoot for.  The most important thing, in my opinion, about the National Junior Team, is that they get to be influenced by Jack Roach.  Period.  I think the other stuff is great—going in to competition, getting their friends, that kind of stuff.  But under the incredible… I do not know what he has, he has some kind of voodoo ability, with not only this-aged kid but also with the Olympic-level swimmers, to just… in an extremely positive way draw-out the qualities in them.  Everybody feels like Jack is their best friend, including me—I am his best friend.  And I know a lot of you guys are his best friend too.  But he has that skill, and a lot like Coach [Jon] Urbanchek when you watch him work with the National Team athletes, just has a way of building these relationships that are just amazing.


And the second thing about National Junior Team.  We had one guy go for the first time, Peter Brumm, and had a really good meet: 1:49.2 in 200 free—and he is off to Michigan now.  But he said, his comment, when he got back from Junior Pan Pacs this summer was, “I couldn’t believe within a week, I really feel like I have best friends.”  And when I was at the Olympic Trials, there was this one moment where I am watching the events and all that, and I hear this group of people yelling and I think that is a really good spirit.  I am looking up, I am thinking it is going to be Indiana or UNC—or one of the teams that has a really big group there.  I look up, and it was like a group of the National Junior Team swimmers, from about eight different teams, cheering for one of the other National Junior Team swimmers that is getting ready to race.  And I am like: “That is so cool”.  The subcultures that are getting built are extremely powerful, where they feel a connection at the age where connection is so critical.  (I’m not going to read the other stuff.)


Again I talked about colleges a little bit.  I do think that here is a couple of things maybe to think about.  The influence of the head coach in the program’s training tradition, and the program’s training tradition.  So there is the coach, what do they oversee, what segment of the team, or do they oversee the whole program?  And then what influenced do they have?  So if you have a great sprinter, but the head coach of the program coaches the distance swimmers, that is probably, to me, one degree a little less-enticing; unless they have one of those long-term assistant coaches which some programs have.  I generally never had those because I worked my coaches too hard, they always had to leave.


A long course tradition in the program.  What are the results of the long-course development while they are in college?  Well short course, of course, they are going to get better: get stronger, lift weights, learn how to turn faster.  But how are they developing long course?  That to me is the big marker.  Inclusive culture allows free-flow of ideas and support.  What I mean by that is: do they allow for a variety of assistance with those kids?  In other words, do they allow the club coach as part of the formula in developing them even through their college years, and allow their relationships to stay intact?  Watching Chuck [Batchelor] and Gregg [Troy] with Elizabeth Beisel: that is teamwork, you know, to help Elizabeth Beisel be as good as she can be.  I mean Gregg was stepping back on the Olympic deck, and Chuck was warming her up there at the Olympics.  That is some of the stuff I am talking about.


Scope of the program.  Dryland, strength conditioning.  You guys heard Nick Folker talking about this, if you heard his talk—a really good talk.  But generally what he said was a guy like Tommy Shields did not lift any weights his first year, because he was too tight.  All he did was stretch first year.  He would have been faster if he had lifted the weights first year.  But that was not best for his long-term development and Nick did not have him do that—good on him, especially in a college situation.  Support staff which is usually also awesome at colleges.  The financial stuff, which usually ends-up playing in.


And then for the even more elite swimmers, something they can think about: is the college program focused on reaching the athlete’s ultimate potential, even if it is beyond their college eligibility?  Nowadays, very few of the swimmers are going to be necessarily at their ultimate potential during their college years.  I showed you in the last talk at the end the article by Mike Stott in Swimming World were Frank Busch is quoted that colleges are into some degree farm-systems for our total process of developing Olympic-level swimmers.  And if they extract every bit of passion and drive them toward being super-strong for that 50 freestyle, at the cost of developing them as a whole athlete, there will be a long-term cost to that; there will be a limit put on that athlete.


Does the college program collaborate with the club’s philosophy and coaches?  Does the college program keep the best interest of the post-grad in mind, including financial support on recommending their other option?  So what I mean by that, I was so excited to have Micah [Lawrence] this last year from Auburn.  She went back and Brett [Hawke, the Auburn Head Coach] texted me when she was voted captain this year.  When she left to come to Charlotte: zero chance she was ever going to be a captain because she just was missing so many of the things you need in being a captain.  Well, during that year of maturity, she changed, and went back a changed person.  Now by being a captain, she is going to change further.  To me, that is the most important thing for her development, in the here and now, is that she develops as a person.  The captain role will do more for her Rio [2016 Olympics] efforts, and I think she is a Rio player.  It will do more for that than maybe almost anything she can do.  By being in that role, she is going to develop her that maturity way.


How do we, as coaches and as a sport, find more ways to have more athletes reach the maximum potential in their career?  And I do think the deliberate piece of this is a critical part:  why are you doing what you are doing.  You know, to know and have the reason.  Having that knowledge back and forth.  Some of the slides that you saw, to have an appreciation for what the young people are looking for in that experience and then moving them toward more preferred behaviors.


Buy-in from parents.  You can do what you want.  If they are getting in the car and the carpool, and the parents are complaining and moaning and all of those kinds of stuff, they either are not going to be swimming very long or they are going to, at some point, have to decide between do I make my parents happy or do I make my coach happy.  You do not want them in that challenge.


How about any other Twitter questions that are interesting….


Is it better for a group to move from State to Regional to National level together or individually?  Wow, that is a great question.  If they are all the same, like clone, personality group, for sure.  But… okay, I have a good answer for that one.  So definitely better together, because then you are bringing-up a culture of kids that are moving along.  You know, like watching Mission Viejo at Junior Nationals: you can see that there is a really good culture within that group of young people.  But you have to allow for individual excellence.


What happens within group culture a lot of times is they will be like crabs in a bucket.  You know, when you put crabs in a bucket, when you get one that gets up and gets to the top lip of the bucket and they start to pull themselves out?  The other crabs will grab them and pull them right back in.  So they will keep them in that control.  So you have to build aha moments or opportunities for training camps or go to visit another club, or do things like that, to keep the training to where you are opening-up thought and opportunity for them.  And maybe visits to other groups; you know that might help to do that kind of thing.  With our elite group, we have high school kids visit all the time.  And they come in for a session or two during the course of the week, and we know that they are there for a specific reason.  And we will try to push them forward, kind of, emotionally during that window of time.


[audience member]:  If you have a 12 year-old boy, would you move him up to the Senior group in order to get more competition?


[Marsh]:  No.  Next?


[audience member]:  What are some challenging Senior-level kick sets?


[Marsh]:  That is a great question.  Everything.  I mean… I was talking to the guys with the kick socks back there, and I love all this new creation we are having for kicking right now.  You know we are kicking this Fall with tennis shoes with the Senior group up north—going back to that kind of thing.  Being creative for full kicking.  But the big thing is teaching proper kick technique, which I learned a lot from Sean Hutchison.  You know, the way he taught a lot of people—and in particular Kara Lynn Joyce had changed her style of kicking while she was swimming with him—and it is more of a full-leg kick.  You have to teach that full-leg kick.  If it is a little pity-pat kick—if you are doing this stuff—they are not becoming better kickers for the long haul.  They may be pretty fast right now…. If their feet are way out of the water, no good either.


I am not going to tell you sets.  And then the other thing I would say is: kick fast a lot, kick slow very seldom.  You know, really, I am not sure that slow kicking does anything to make you a better kicker.  If you are kicking, kick fast; unless you are just intentionally doing a social kick.  And in that case, you might well, to some degree, have them outside doing some dryland because they will probably like that even more.


Another one?


[audience member]:  What are your favorite formats for Age Group and Senior meets?


[Marsh]:  My favorite format for Age Group meets, which we did out in Las Vegas back in the late 80s, is when you incorporate stroke counts into times, and your ultimate result is a swolf time. I love that.  I love meets that you get rewarded based on the swolf time, not on a time on the watch; so you are rewarded for less strokes.  And swolf is swim-golf, right—I think everybody knows that one.


For Age Group, my favorite is one-day meets; my second favorite is two-day meets; my less favorites, three- and four-day meets.  And I like formats that encourage development of a variety of strokes.  And I think to some degree, a little bit like Bill Sweetenham talked about.  He said (help me with this): it was one above, three at, and two below.  Right?  So to some degree, and that kind of format, having them swim the variety, the rainbow, of strokes.  So the [USA Swimming’s] IMX program, I think is a phenomenal program that is I would strongly encourage you to dive into.  We have even built a mini-IMX for our younger kids, to get them thinking IM and scoring beforehand.  So probably anything that increases that, and probably decreases the scrambling/sprinting strokes at that younger age.  High school formats are great too—dual meets are awesome.


Any other questions?  Yes sir.


[inaudible question from the audience]


[Marsh]:  Okay great question.  And this happens all over the place.  What are some ideas that if you have a group or individual that is working toward a Sectional kind of level, but they kind of get complacent right there—that is their level.  That is the whole culture thing—that is what I am talking.  That is the culture you start at 9 years-old.  And the language you speak: do you speak about qualifying or do you speak about performing at the Junior National and Senior National level?  When they come back from Junior Nationals, they need to speak to those young kids, even the kids that are not as fast right now, about how much fun Junior Nationals were.  Put the images on the website so they see: gosh look at them, they’re having fun.  The swimming part, you do not really need to put them doing laps, so much; unless you show a relay or something.  But capture the fun, and send that back to the young kids, of the meets you want them to be at.


Do not allow… and you know this better than me, but do not allow the language of limitation to be put in there, like cuts.  I hate that we are such a sport of cuts, because cuts have limits on them.  They kind of encourage this; they do not encourage this.  And I am sure it was accidental, but it certainly worked at Auburn over the years, that I never let the guys talk about NCAA cuts—that was not a language they were allowed to use.  It was: what did it take to score at NCAAs.  That was all that mattered: how are you going to score the maximum points?  Do you have to change events to score more points for the team?  That is all that mattered.


So the language of what the future behavior is.  So if there is any landing, it is more like the trampoline that Tim gets in trouble for: you bounce right-up to the next level.  And you quickly show them the path forward in visual ways and in emotional ways and in personal ways—that is how I think you can win that culture over.


Because I think to some degree that is what I had when I first came to Charlotte: it was more of a Sectional culture within the team.  And I think the team has done a little bit better job of moving toward more of a National and Junior National, and really career, culture.  Because a lot of the kids, I think, will be good, you know several of them will be good career to swimmers.


Done.  Give me a one more….


[inaudible question from the audience]


[Marsh]:  Junior year in high school.  Because you have got to get that college opportunity, so you might have to specialize that year in order to get the attention of that ideal college situation.  So IM focus, let them specialize a little more their junior year so they can get the attention and more of a focused event of those college programs—because that is going to have such a huge part of their development.  And then, ideally, the college coach picks it back-up from there.


Because there are definitely kids/athletes I had at Auburn over the years that they came into college with their fourth best stroke being this, and ended up being….  Jeremy Knowles; you know his parents are here at this conference, came in as his fourth best stroke as butterfly; ended-up his senior year at SECs beating Ryan Lochte in 200 fly to be the conference champion.  There is a lot of that that happens, and those stories need to be told, also.


Thank you very much for your attention guys.



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