INTRODUCTION: Hello, my name is Coach Bill Rose and, one more time, I have the honor to introduce to you the next speaker – Dave Salo. I have known Dave for a long time. And, as some of you should know, Dave spent 1985 to 1990 as an Assistant Coach to Peter Daland. During that time he also got his Doctor’s Degree. So, when I first met him, he was Dr. Dave Salo. He is still Dr. Dave Salo. I am Coach Bill Rose and I do not even know what a Doctor does. But indeed, in 1990 he took over Nova Aquatics and was there until 2005. In 2005 he took on an additional assignment that he still has as head coach of University of Southern California (USC). Thank all of you USC fans. When I first met Dave he called himself “Sprint Salo”. That (sprinting) was not necessarily what I was excited about. But during the last 15 to 20 years he has proved to me that he has been a farce this whole time. Dave coaches everything. He just doesn’t want to admit it. But if you look at some of the people that he has coached – whether they be sprinters like Jason Lezak; or whether they be backstrokers like Aaron Peirsol; whether they be breaststrokers like Amanda Beard and most recently Rebecca Soni, Jessica Hardy, Keri Hane; whether they be distance swimmers like Oussama Mellouli, Larsen Jensen – he has done it all. So do not let him fool you. He fooled me for many years. Not any more.
DR. DAVID SALO: Here is what I am going to do with this talk today. It is going to be a little bit different. I want to answer the questions that coaches have and be real specific about answering those questions. Rather than just give you the… what I did on Monday, what I did on Tuesday, what I did on Wednesday, what I did on Thursday, etc… Because inevitably, every time I do a clinic in which I go over my weekly routine, somebody raises their hand and they will say, “well, what did you do the following week and what did you do on Tuesday morning and what did you do on Thursday morning.” And frankly, I do not coach that way.
Right now I am stalling because I have to find my presentation. I forgot where I hid it. I have to go to my notes. One of the interesting things… this is about the 6th or 7th ASCA Clinic that I have been at. And I don’t know how many of you were in the room when I first gave a talk back in about 1984 or ’85, but I had just spent about two years writing articles for “Swimming World” magazine. It was called the physiology column and I wrote an article that was… I didn’t title it, but the editors titled it “The Distance Myth.” In it I questioned the whole concept of aerobic based training and distance training and training for volume.
I got a lot of heat for that because I wasn’t really coaching anybody (of notoriety.) I hadn’t coached anybody and people were writing letters to the editor and saying, who is this guy? He has never coached anybody and why should we listen to him. They were right – I hadn’t coached anybody. I coached Rod Snyder at 13-14 to the Junior National Championships in the mile, training in a 20 yard pool. So that was my first introduction to distance swimming. But I came to my first clinic – gave a talk and threw up some slides and said, ‘oh – you can do this on 3 or 4,000 yards a day and that is all you need to do.’ I am not here to say that I have changed my mind. I am here today to tell you really, if I can do this anyone can do this.
One of the things I am going to give you is some kind of random thoughts and ideas in terms of the way that I coach. And we will extend this into the second session of this talk. One of the things that I am going to pass out later will be little blank cards and they will look like this. I am not recruiting. I am too. I am a liar… but on the back it is blank and if you have questions I want to know what your questions are so that I can answer those questions. I have a few of these right here.
But before I go forward I want to thank ASCA for allowing me the opportunity to again speak here. It is always a great thrill to talk to a collection of coaches. And I want to do this real quickly. I co-wrote a book and I am going to encourage you all to buy this book. It is called “Complete Conditioning for Swimming”. It was co-written with Scott Riewald and Scott should get most of the credit. And in fact, he gets the most of the proceeds. So that is okay. My proceeds go to American Swim Coaches Association and if you buy this book – all my money goes to ASCA and John Leonard. Now, what he does with it I don’t know, but he dresses really nicely. When I told John that I wanted to contribute all my money… not all my money… all the book money to ASCA, it was really to honor. Some of our fallen coaches that left too early: Richard Quick, Paul Blair and Ralph Crocker. So if you can buy the book you don’t have to read it. Just buy the book so the money comes to ASCA. I would really, really appreciate that. Thank you.
Here is what I would like you to do. I put a note card under a chair. And I want you all, right now, to stand up please. Everybody stand up. And now I want you to look under your chair. Look under your chair and if you see this note card come on up (to the stage.) Come on up here if you have got one of these cards under your seat. Have you got it? Come on up. You got it! Mike got it. So Mike gets a copy of my book for free. Ok, don’t go anywhere. Stay right here. I will autograph it for you, or your girlfriend, or your mom, or whatever. I haven’t paid for it yet. That is okay, I don’t even know how much it costs.
Mike you are going to help me out here, okay? Come on over here. Where do you coach? Germantown? Oh, Germantown in Memphis, Tennessee… Dick (Shouldberg) keeps expanding. I am going to give him (Mike) these cards. Mile, you say what is on the cards and they respond. Got it? Go ahead… Mike (reads the cards and) says, ‘Stand up… (the audience follows the Mike’s directions)… turn 360 degrees… applaud… sit down.’ (David continues) you can keep the cards. My mother would be proud. I got a standing ovation.
If I can do this, Mike can do this. That is the message of my talk today. The message is, “Whatever I can do – you can do.” I am not going to tell you how to coach on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. I am here to answer the questions that you have. I was flattered by Bill’s introduction because I think I coach like most of us. We coach in the present. We coach in the here and now. We have got to be real careful not to look back too far or we get too caught up in our own press clippings.
Now I was fortunate to coach some really great athletes. Amanda Beard gave me a perspective on swimming that I still carry to this day. Because as a young coach who had the aspiration to be a classy, world-level coach, an Olympic coach. I went to my first Olympics as an observer. In the 1996 Olympics, with a 14 year old girl on the Olympic team… I had to learn how to treat her, and to teach her as a kid, carrying a teddy bear to the blocks in the 1996 Olympic trials. I had to learn to carry my athlete through those competitions as a 14 year old girl and not as an athlete.
I remember we went to the Olympic training camp in Knoxville, TN and she was a 14 year old kid. And she is still a kid – barely in high school, and we were working out one day and there is a trampoline at the end of Knoxville training facility. It was an indoor pool… and she kind of looked at it… and I kind of looked at it… and she wanted to go and jump on the trampoline. A week before the Olympic Games! So we went down to the trampoline and we jumped on the trampoline. She was jumping and doing flip turns and doing all these things. And she was going into the Olympic games in 1996 as a favorite to win a medal. And Greg Troy tells me he remembers seeing her on the trampoline going, ‘this coach is crazy – the guy is an idiot.’ A couple of people said other things worse than that, but that is okay. I learned from that experience that the Olympic Games is just another meet. Olympic Trials is just another meet. That perspective has helped me be a better coach and that is why I think I have been fortunate to have the athletes that Bill has mentioned – Aaron Peirsol and Rebecca Soni, Oussama Mellouli – and athletes like that. So I have been very, very fortunate in my career to coach some pretty good athletes. But as I said, I stay in the here and now… and not look too far in the past… and only think of myself just as Amanda Beard’s coach.
Now, what are clinics all about? I think if you are here… this is just the first day and it is the 3rd talk… and the thing that I learned when I was going to clinics back in 1984, 1985 was, everything I learned about swimming I learned at the bar. Joe Burnell is going, ‘yup,’ because Joe is always the first one at the bar. I celebrated my 50th birthday last year in Las Vegas and Joe found out about it. Joe went out and bought a cake at midnight. I don’t know where he got that cake and he took me to the bar and we… I don’t drink very often. I am still recovering from that… whatever Joe slipped me.
Clinics are about validation, motivation and inspiration. When you leave this room all your kids are going to know you went to a clinic. All of my athletes always knew I went to a clinic because the day I got back. The kids are like, ‘coach, you went to a freaking clinic. We have never done this. We have never seen that.’ Everybody is going to have shoes on Monday morning doing kicking because Eddie Reese said ‘do kicking.’ Every kid in America is going to be doing kicking streamline with a snorkel on because Eddie just left the room and said that is what he is going to have his athletes do and we are all going to do that.
Did I tell you the time I brought a tree branch down to the pool? Okay… everybody is going to be doing tree branch kicking vertical on Monday morning. But, in fact, there was a day at Irvine, I had a big old tree branch that had blown into the pool. And I saw that tree branch and I thought, ‘that tree branch can be used.’ Put 8 guys on a tree branch kicking vertical in the deep end of a diving tank – you have a great workout going on. The City was not real happy with me, but that is okay. The University of Southern California in its infinite wisdom decided to put up this big old plastic furniture out on our deck. It is a beautiful maroon / cardinal color, and it floats. They did not realize it floats. I did. So consequently, I throw all this furniture… it is like big furniture. I throw it in the water and it floats, and I put kids on top of it… sitting there throwing medicine balls. And the Recreational Department people come out and they scream at me, ‘you are going to give the kids ideas about throwing furniture into the water.’ It’s like, they are college kids. They are figuring out how they can bring their dates down and get in the water and sit on the furniture and drink beer. I am just cleaning it off.
A few years ago I was giving a talk and Coach Urbanchek, who I swam for at Long Beach State in his glory days, not really, he couldn’t wait to get out of Long Beach State. But Jon is a well regarded coach – a very successful coach who is a great friend of mine, and I stood up here at a Clinic and said, ‘If you really want to learn about swimming, get up at 5 in the morning and go running with Jon.” The following morning, just like I said, you go to a Clinic, Jon and I are out there – when I used to run once in a while. Jon and I are out there in the foyer and there are like 20 guys ready to go running with us. We are going out there running. It was awesome. Now, if you want to learn about swimming, go downstairs tomorrow morning at 5:30 in the morning and go walk with Jon. In a couple of years from now we are going to be wheeling Jon, but you get the same information and that is what it is all about. That is what clinics are about.
A young coach came up to me a little bit ago and he, I won’t tell you who it was… his name is Brian, from Connecticut. And Brian came up to me. He apologized profusely. He said, ‘Coach, last year I saw you speak and I said I didn’t know who you were and I feel so bad.’ It’s like, that is okay. My mother still says she doesn’t know who I am. I mean, it is okay Brian. That is not what this is about. I am not here to tell you I am great. I am not great. I am good at what I do. But everyone of you in this room are just as good as I am – no better – no worse – no better – no worse. I have coached some great athletes. They have helped me become better at what I do. But if you don’t leave this room today and this week being inspired and motivated to be as good as I am or have been, then we haven’t done our job. You are all capable of coaching the next Michael Phelps – the next Aaron Peirsol – the next Amanda Beard – you just have to be inspired and motivated to get the job done.
Some of my athletes tease me about the way I coach. I had a girl that just graduated recently from the University of Southern California and she said, ‘Coach, when I was swimming for you… just in two years…we used to call your training circus training.’ Circus training? She goes, ‘no, it wasn’t offensive Coach. It was just really interesting. It was like a three ring circus going on.’ I said I was not offended. I thought that was interesting. Some of my athletes have said ‘Coach, if you had to you could coach a workout in a bucket.’ I thought about that and the following day I had a bunch of buckets lined up. There are a lot of things that you can do with buckets besides just tow them behind you. I believe that is what is so great about American coaching that I am not sure that the Aussies get yet Alan. We are really creative, really innovative.
I had a meeting with Speedo yesterday. They are talking about all this product line they are trying to put together. Training equipment in my mind… I am going, you know, Stew Isaac… go to any coach’s garage. There ain’t no car in there. And somewhere on some desk somewhere there is a paddle, a snorkel thing, a fin that does. You will find any kind of item you want. Coaches’ goals are to take the items that Speedo, and I am a Speedo coach, by the way, in case you didn’t know that – but every coach in this country is trying to find a way to get their athletes to be better. So we are in our garages trying to figure out some little thing that will work to make our athletes better. So I just tell Speedo – please, whatever you make, make it at a price point that we can all afford so we are not in our garages until 3 o’clock in the morning trying to figure out how to make a paddle do whatever we want it to do. I am going to challenge you all – HINT – HINT – take a coach to lunch. My room is #1522. You can call my room and I will meet you for lunch. But if you are not here to learn and to be inspired by the coaches you get a chance to meet then we have not done our job. If you are a young coach like I was in 1980, or whatever… don’t be afraid to… do not be afraid to introduce yourself to a coach and just sit and chat and talk. Do not be afraid of Jon Urbanchek or Teri McKeever or Greg Troy. We love talking about swimming. We have no secrets. Except I have a few. I won’t tell anybody about breaststroke. Don’t be afraid. I laugh. Teri McKeever is in the room and Teri McKeever and I are really good friends. We used to be assistant coaches at USC together a long, long… not that long ago, a short while ago. She is like 35. But we used to come to clinics. We would sit in the middle of somewhere and she would get so mad because somebody would be up here inevitably saying oh and remember when Jon did this? Remember when Greg did that? Remember when Mike did this and she would be so mad. ‘Like who is Jon? Who is Greg? Who is Mike?’ A few years later somebody is standing up here and going, ‘and Teri does this.’ And everyone is like… well, we all know who Teri is. So Teri, you are one of those now. You are a single name person. And to be a coach and have your name mentioned up here is pretty cool. So I mentioned Jon, Greg and Mike and Teri and have I forgot? And Brian. So Brian, a few years from now you are going to be up here. Just remember, I started it.
So I am going to real quickly, go over my training principles because this isn’t about training. If you want to ask that question I have got a few questions I will answer about that. These are my guiding principles as a coach: I don’t care how far I go. Bill was right. I didn’t create the term, “Sprint Salo.” That was somebody else that decided that I was going to write a book. I will tell you the book story. I am all about telling stories. I wrote these articles in “Swimming World Magazine.” They would appear every month. They were about physiology of training and have all these ideas about training. In one of my articles, at the end of the article I said, ‘I have a book – if you are interested in the book I am going to send it out to you.’ The problem was, I didn’t have a book. I didn’t think anybody would respond. All of a sudden I was getting $20.00 checks every day. I got like $4,000 worth of checks coming in and going. Oh shoot. I have got to write a book. So I had an acquaintance who was kind of in the beginning states of being a publisher and he said, “I will publish it for you.” So quickly, in a month’s time I had to write this book. And everybody says, ‘oh, I have read your book. I read all your articles.’ I have written one book. I call it a pamphlet. If anybody is interested send me an email and I will send you a pdf file. It is for free. I will give it away. But it does give kind of a premise behind my thoughts on training.
Training principles I have:
Be innovative and interesting. Now being innovative and interesting is what do you do with a tree branch. What do you do with a bucket and what do you do with physio-balls in the pool? One day I had this collection of about 8 physio-balls down on one end of the pool on the deck. And I had a bunch of post-grad athletes that were training with me. Jason Lezak at the time. And I am looking over at these balls and looking over at the guys, and looking over the physio balls, and looking over the balls. So I run down to the end of the pool and I throw all these physio-balls in the pool and they are like, what are we doing with them? I said, ‘I don’t know yet. We will find out.’ I said to get on top of them. So they get on top of them and they were trying to stay on top of them. So now get on top of them and go streamline and they are trying to get streamline. So after about 45 minutes of this game, I guess, you have got guys who are holding their bodies for 3 or 4 seconds on a physio-ball. To watch 25, 26, 27 year old men have a gig old grin on their face, and kind of smile, and kind of happy with their training, inspired me to come back the following workout and be better.
Train hard and fast. Hard is one of those words that we all have different connotations for. What “hard” means… and that is why I put it in quotation marks. We train hard and fast every day. Every day… from the first day we get back to the pool to the last day we train, we train hard, every day. We do not go very far necessarily, but we just train really fast and hard.
Be engaged. When I first talked about training, back in the 1980’s, I talked about doing 25’s. We would go twenty 25’s on a 35 second interval. You go as hard as you can. Or you go twenty 25’s on 45 seconds. You go as hard as you can – but at the end you go three flip turns. Or you go twenty 25’s on one minute. You go 25 all out – you flip in the middle of the pool – flip at the end of the pool – go three wall-outs – do three push-ups – get out and do jumping jacks. But as I told coaches that they thought, well you can’t get fast on going 25’s. If you go enough of them you can. And for me as a coach, I have got to be a lot more engaged if I am having my athletes go 25’s on a 45 or 50 second interval. More so than if I have them go three 1500’s.
I was a swimmer like many of you back in the 70’s and 80’s, and I remember… I was a breaststroker, not a very good one. John can tell you that. My women breaststrokers are faster than I ever was. I got some fast women breaststrokers too. And they are allowed to cheat, and they get swim suits that help, and they can put their heads under water, and they can do dolphin kicks. We swam right. But I remember we had to go three 1500’s on an interval. And I couldn’t understand. I was trying to go 1:02 in the hundred yard breaststroke. 1:02 is not very fast. But I couldn’t believe that three 1500’s were going to help me go any faster on a hundred yard breaststroke.
So, I have to be a lot more engaged in my training sessions. We don’t do a lot of 500’s. We do not do 16 x 400’s. Now I will get to, as Bill pointed out, I was very, very fortunate to coach Larsen Jensen and Oussama Mellouli – two finalists at last year’s Olympic Games in the 1500 meter freestyle, Oussama Mellouli winning the Gold Medal. And I am going to tell you right now, that Ousama Mellouli has not done any 1500 freestyle in practice since I got to USC, and that has been three years. He has done lots of hundreds. He has done lots of 50’s. He has done some really good technical work over 400 – 600 meters. But we have done… most of our work has been race pace driven workouts, like repeat 100’s. You know, something like three 100’s plus three 50’s, four times through. It allows me the opportunity to remind them at the end of each one of those hundreds in which I want them to do a foot touch in 58 seconds, ‘now you better watch out! The Asian kid is going to go 26 seconds the last 50!’ Sure enough, at the World Championships, the Asian kid, the Chinese kid goes 25 something. Paul Bieiterman goes 25.9 the last 50 of the 400. Oussama Mellouli swam exactly the times we planned for, trained for, prepared for. The problem was that somebody came back a heck of a lot faster. We are blaming that on the suits. Oussama trained to go fast. The others cheated with a suit.
Have fun and care. I love coaching. I love walking down on the deck. My assistant coaches had to get used to me since I have coached at USC because they never know what we are going to do on a given day. I walk out on deck. I look at the eyes of my athletes and decide what direction we are going to go. I have my guiding principles of how we are going to train. We are going to train fast. We are going to train hard. I’m just not quite sure I am going to do it that day. I am not telling anyone in here that that is the best way to coach. I think all of you should probably start out coaching like Coach Urbanchek does. And I tested this. I swam for him. But I have been his roommate at every international trip we have been on together. How many have been roommates with Coach Urbanchek? George Block… George, you know. Okay, I do not want to offend anybody, but every morning at 5 o’clock when I have been a roommate of Jon’s he goes, ‘come on, let’s go run. Come on, are you sure you don’t want to go running?’ ‘No John, I get shin splints.’ ‘Ah, let’s see.’ Now, the funny thing about that is that Jon is the only one in this room that can get away with saying that in a mixed room. The only reason I can do it is because I do that little Hungarian accent thing.
A real quick story. In 2000 we were at the Olympic Training Camp in Pasadena. We roomed together and what Jon will do is he will sit up for about an hour. He will write his workout for the following day. You know, very attentive to what his plan is for that following day. I will be crawling into bed and then he will set his alarm. He will set his alarm. He will set his alarm on his… whatever he has got, his watch, the clock, whatever… so he can get up and go running at 5:30 in the morning. So we both go to bed, lights are out, I am starting to fall into a good sleep. And I don’t sleep much as it is, and the alarm goes off. Jon gets out of bed. He is taking his shirt off. He is stretching and he is getting ready to go for his run and he is trying to be quiet because he knows that I am not going to get up when he calls me a pussy. So I said, Jon, Jon, what are you doing? I am going to go running. I say, Jon it’s midnight. You just went to bed. Well, usually it is funnier than that, but, anyway…
These are my training principles: I go out and I have a good time every day. I try to always be really innovative and make it interesting. I tell kids that my goal in practice every day is to make it go so fast that when you finish you look at your watch and you cannot believe that training is over. You look at your watch and you go, ‘oh my God, I cannot believe that we are done.’ I look at my watch most of the time and go, oh my God I can’t believe I don’t… God… I wish I had two more hours to go. And that is the way I want to feel. I want to feel like every practice is such that you get real jazzed about the energies that the athletes put into this.
Before I go into questions I am going to go into my reading list. This is my recent reading list and those of you who have kindles spread the word. Kindle is awesome. I have all these books on my kindle and so I can read everything and anything. I keep notes on it. But anyway, “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch. It is a very… it is an incredible book. I am sure a lot of you have read it. Read the book and then go to U-Tube and pull out the lecture. “Team of Rivals,” it is a book about Abraham Lincoln and it is a great book about the politics. If you are not involved in swimming and have a hand in the politics of our sport you are missing in interesting area of which we need to be concerned. “Out Liars” by Malcolm Gladwell. I think a lot of you have probably read that, and it is a great book which really kind of talks to the statistics of performance. “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle. It is really kind of a physiologic premise about performance and it is a great article or a great book that I think in large part really talks to a lot of things that I present in terms of training. “Terms of Endearment” was recommended to me by David Marsh. It is by David Wolfe. It is a great book if you are looking to enhance the business side of your program and better understand how your relationships with your coaches and your communities and your team can better be enhanced by different a different mindset. “How Soccer Explains the World.” I am not sure what this does with swimming, but it is a real interesting book because it talks about hooliganism and it is really kind of interesting. The stories about how that whole environment has expressed itself over the years. And then finally, “Trived” by Seth Goden, which is another article about understanding the relationship between management and those below them.
Any questions at this point because we are running out of time already. Any questions? I got questions here in my hands. Again, as you leave this, Part I Series, I have got cards up here. If you would ask pertinent questions that I can answer in the second session I would much rather do that than be up here and lecture. I think we can serve ourselves better that way. And remember, I am in room #1522 if you want lunch.
I am going to answer this first question: How do I train distance training? I am going to tell you real quickly. Here is a good story. I get to the University of Southern California and if you are familiar with collegeswimming.com and you go to message boards, it was really fun before I got the job at USC. It was all the speculation who was going to become the coach to replace Mark Schubert. It was this guy and that guy, and this person should get it and that person should get it. My name would kind of appear in there once in a while and then it was kind of becoming more prominent. I had my Assistant Coach come into my office one day and he goes, ‘Coach, you are getting the job at USC.’ And I say, ‘ Oh, that is cool.’ And he goes. ‘and I know what you are going to be making.’ It was like, oh? What am I going to be making? ‘You are going to be making a quarter of a million dollars a year.’ And I said, ‘oh, I am going to say yes to that job.’ I do not make a quarter of a million dollars a year from USC. I do from my book sales. No, not really. I don’t. One day. If anything, I am a hated guy on the message boards… me, myself, and Indiana University. Those are the two people that, for whatever reason, get a lot of scorn on the blog side. I am not sure why. But, where was I going with this story about the blogs, the message board?
Distance swimming… so I get the job at the University of Southern California. I am noted as a sprint coach, as Bill Rose mentioned and there are a lot of distance kids that were swimming for Coach Schubert. So the word on the street was, ‘oh! They are all going to transfer. They are all going to swim with Greg Troy or places like that.’ So when I got there I was like, ‘oh shoot.’ So anyway, we got through the first season and I go to the NCAA Championships for men and Larsen Jensen wins the 500 freestyle. He goes 4:09 in the 500 freestyle which is a pretty good time. Not bad. He dropped 3 or 4 seconds off his lifetime best time. That was pretty good. We would all take that. Alright? A bunch of coaches are coming up congratulating me on my inaugural year. Congratulations, Larsen won the 500 free. That is pretty good for a coach that is known as a sprint coach. And then their next statement: the question was: who is your distance coach? I am like, well, I am pissed off. I am (the distance coach!) Purposely, because ya’all don’t think I can coach distance guys. So the meet moves along and we get to the mile on the last day and Larsen Jensen misses the American record of Chris Thompson’s by .08 seconds. He is the only one that has come close to that record. We are still trying to figure out if Chris cheated because everybody has been so far ahead of that record until the last 50 and Chris is no sprinter. But anyway, Larsen wins the 1650. Those same coaches were coming up to me congratulating me again and going’ ‘so coach, so how did you get them to go so fast?’ I said, ‘well, I taught them how to sprint the mile.’
How do I coach distance athletes? Look, I have been real fortunate to have some pretty good distance athletes in my program. And now I have to recruit distance athletes into my program for my college team. I have to tell my recruits, ‘you have got to trust me. You just have to flat out trust me.’ Larsen Jensen trusted me. He wasn’t sure what he was going to get, but he trusted me. Oussama Mellouli didn’t really have any reason to stay at USC. He was done, but I think he just liked Southern California a whole heck of a lot more and just decided that he was going to trust me… that I was going to help him with the 1500 freestyle at the Olympic Games in 2008.
I am a real specificist. I believe that if you are going to go the mile you have to go 14:30. He would have won the mile and under World Record pace at the World Championships this year, but he was so frightened by what happened in the 400 and 800 that he decided to be more strategic. I am real honest. The way I do things is, you want to go 14:30 you have got to go 58 seconds per hundred foot touch. Everything that we did was geared towards that. And when he wasn’t going 58’s then I would yell at him or stuff like that. I would call him a pussy. Naw, that is Jon Urbanchek.
So I just really get to the nitty-gritty of what you have to do and that is how you have got to do it. No, I do not go 1500 repeats. But I also listen to my athletes and in a collegiate environment I think you have to do that because they come in with pre-conceived ideas and notions about how they need to train. So there are occasions where Larsen would come into practice and he would go, ‘Coach, it doesn’t have to be today, but can I go sixteen 400’s?’ And I would say, ‘Larsen…’ I said, ‘look, I would never give you a set like that, but if that is what you want to do let’s plan to do that on Thursday, and I will give you a lane and you go sixteen 400’s. And if you are going to do sixteen 400’s I might give some suggestions on how to do it.’ But the kind of trust that I had was that I also trusted in my athletes. When Larsen would come in and say, ‘Coach, I am not feeling it today. Can I just swim?’ I would say, ‘yeah, take the outside lane. Just swim and that is cool. That is fine.’ I didn’t force him to do anything because the receptivity to my ideas about training were what I needed to know that he trusted in what we were trying to do. So I think trust is a huge issue.
Now, when you are coaching high school age kids you do not have to trust them. You just tell them what to do. That is the way it goes. It was interesting to listen to Michael Bohl earlier talk. He was talking about Stephanie Rice and I recruited an athlete from Hungary this year who ended up winning the World Championships in the 400IM. And I am giving away one of my secrets. Oh, it is no secret. It is no big deal. We probably all do this but, we knew that she was pretty good. She was like top 16 at the Olympic Games in the 400 IM last year and as we got to know Katinka through the course of the season she went on to the NCAA Championships to finish second in the 400 IM with a 4:01 effort. As we were going through the Spring and preparing for World Championships we started to call her the Rice Cooker. That is kind of funny… Stephanie Rice… the Rice Cooker. The plan was to win the World Championships. The plan was to go 4:29. We goofed up on that, but the plan was to win the World Championships. Her splits at World Championships were exactly what we had planned on and I think that is what we are really good at as coaches. You can do that. You can figure out the splits that a kid has to go just like Mike showed with regards to Stephanie. He showed her Yanna Klotchkova’a splits and said, ‘well look, you have got 3 years to get there.’ In 1995 or 1994 I was coaching Amanda Beard for the first time. When she moved into my group out of our age group program she was 13 years of age and I realized she was pretty good. I realized that she would listen to what I had to say. She went to her first Nationals, probably the third time she was swimming the 200 meter breaststroke, in Minnesota. I think and she was seated second. No she wasn’t. She was seated like fifth or sixth in the 200 breaststroke. I got her to the pool and walked around the pool with her. I stopped at about the 175meter mark and I said, ‘Amanda, when you get to this mark, with 25 meters to go, you are just going to tear it apart. Whatever is out in front of you you are going to run it down. And she did. She didn’t win, but she ran it down. I realized that there was somebody here that was going to trust in me and listen to what I had to suggest. That following year I suggested that she could make the Olympic team. As a 14 year old kid, making the Olympic team back then was a rare event. She just kind of looked at me as a 14 year old would do and go, ‘okay, whatever. Whatever.’ Her parents were great because I sat down with them and I said I think Amanda Beard can make the Olympic Team. Her dad, Dan, said, ‘okay, so what does that mean?’ I said, ‘nothing, don’t worry about it. It is just… you just stay just the way you are.’ Coming off the results of the 1996 Olympics in which Amanda won the Silver medal in the 200 breast and the 100 breast, and Gold medal in the… I will tell you another story about Amanda. It gives me perspective… and the Gold in the 400 medley relay. I will tell you the story. I am a personal coach. I was there at the Olympic camp in Knoxville. I went down to Atlanta. I had my tickets. I had to pay for them. They were real expensive. I was a young coach and I didn’t make any money. I was trying to see Amanda a couple of days before she raced. It was like a Wednesday and I am trying to get a hold of somebody that can get me in so that I can see her and help her work out. I think I called Coach Urbanchek and I called Coach Schubert. Schubert was going to get me a day pass and it was a real struggle to get a day pass. I finally got a day pass. I think Coach Schubert pulled out all the stops to get me a day pass. I get in there and Amanda is not there and somebody went to go get Amanda. Amanda comes over to the pool and she stands there and she says, ‘WHAT?’ And I said, ‘well, I am here for your workout.’ And she goes, ‘IT’S MY DAY OFF!’ I pulled my tail between my legs and I left. She won 2 silver medals and a gold medal and I learned the perspective of, “It is just another meet.” And she taught me that. As a 14 year old can teach you.
I will tell you another real… we are almost done… we will go to lunch pretty quick. Aaron Peirsol, in 1996, he was 13 years old. He moved into my training group out of our age group program and he was a pretty good age group kid anyway. He was a record holder in 9-10 – 11-12 year olds. At 13 I said, ‘Aaron, I think in four years you can make the Olympic Team. I think you got the skills to make the Olympic team in the 200 meter backstroke. We are going to focus on the 200 meter backstroke. Those of you who know Aaron, what he is like, and Eddie can attest to this… he is like a man… he just kind of looked at me and he goes, ‘okay, whatever. So, whatever.’ And he trusted me, that everything that I was geared towards, being focused, was about helping him achieve what I thought he was capable of achieving.
That is what I think… that is what our skill really is. It is about motivating athletes that are motivateable and to think beyond where their minds think they can go and I think that is one of the exciting things that we do in our sport. Part II is going to be about answering questions. Thanks, appreciate it.
INTRODUCTION: My name is Mary Anne Gerzanick-Liebowitz. I am the Assistant Coach at Oregon State University. I am here to introduce you to Dave Salo. Coach Salo is one of the top club and national level Coaches. He is currently beginning his fourth year at the University of Southern California as the Head Men’s and Women’s Swimming Coach. In 2009 he coached three swimmers to World Titles as well as a double World Record performance by breaststroker Jessica Hardy. In 2008 he guided Rebecca Soni, Oussama Mellouli and Klete Kellar to Gold Medal performances in the 2008 Olympics, as well as a Bronze Medalist in Larsen Jensen. Coach Salo has served as an Olympic Coach for Tunisia. He has also been a USA Assistant Coach at both the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games. Prior to coming to USC, Coach Salo served as the Head Coach of the Irvine-Nova Aquatics from 1996 to 2006 where he had the opportunity to work with several Gold Medalists, including Lenny Krayzelburg, Aaron Peirsol, Amanda Beard, Staciana Stitts and Jason Lezak. He was named the USA Swimming Coach of the Year in 2002. He has also served as the USA Head Coach for the 2005 World Championship for men. David has been the 2001 Goodwill Games Head Coach. Please help me, if you would, in giving a warm welcome to Coach, Dr. David Salo.
DR. DAVID SALO. It must have taken Eddie’s introduction about 10 minutes longer because he has gotten so many things behind his name. The best thing about doing a clinic now, when I did it 20 years ago it was they introduced me, and said my name. Now you get all these adjectives, it takes longer. I don’t have to speak as long, as we have to get out of here, because they have to set up for dinner tonight. What I said I would do in the second part is really to address the specific questions that everybody had and try to answer them. I did get a lot of cards back. One said, “You are still a wussy.” Somebody wrote all over the front of it Notre Dame – Go Irish.” When we kick Ohio State’s butt this weekend, we will see what Notre Dame does. Anyway, I am going to answer the questions that you have. If we have more time to answer additional questions, I will do that. Like most coaches, I really enjoy talking about swimming. I love talking about my program and my philosophies, but I always temper that by saying that these are my principles. These are my ideas. If you want to share in them that is great.
There are so many ways to get it done in swimming. My goal every time I speak at a Clinic is to walk away from the experience that coaches feel comfortable that they can listen to a Coach Schubert and on the other hand listen to me and fall somewhere in the middle. They will borrow from Coach Schubert, from Eddie Reese, from Michael Bohl, from Coach Salo and find their nitch in the realm of swimming. Your circumstances will dictate a lot of the philosophies that you employ. As I said, some people think I could coach a workout in a bucket. I am challenged by that thought, probably could do that. I am not afraid to try to do that and feel, oh, I can’t accomplish what I want to accomplish. I wanted to be an Olympic Coach.
To answer one of the questions that came up on the cards is that I always thought I could be an Olympic Coach. I wanted to be an Olympic Coach. I didn’t know what that meant for sure. I went to my first Olympics in 1992, as a coach, with a Turkish swimmer. I walked on the deck and was so intimidated by the experience of being on the deck, and seeing the great coaches of the world walking up and down the deck. I really felt like I was incapable of doing that, but then I saw somebody who shall remain nameless. It was just somebody that I knew in the United States. He was coaching for a different country at the time. Oh, I felt, if he can be here I can be here! I really learned from that ’92 experience that I can do this. I had to tell myself that I could do it because nobody was coming to a Clinic saying, “Hey Dave, you can do this.” At these clinics, coaches were saying, this is the way I do it, and this is how I do it. I was writing down all these little notes. When the clinic was over, I went back home to do what they were doing.
I will tell you a real story and then go into answering questions. In 2003, I was on the staff of the World Championships in Spain. I was coming back from a session where Bob Bowman and Eddie Reese were getting ready for the 2004 lead up to the Trials and Olympic Games. We were coming back from a session talking about what we were going to do next year in training. Bob was talking about running 7 workouts a week and going two workouts a day. Eddie says we are going to go 8 days a week going to go three a days. – He is not here is he?? He is recruiting, so I am okay. We are going to go 3 workouts a day and all these other things. I started getting caught up in the euphoria that is the 2004 Games. I am going to go 8 workouts a week, with 3 of these and 4 of those. Then on my way back from the meet I just say, that’s not me, that is Bob and Eddie. I don’t do that when I go into an Olympic year. I don’t change everything. I don’t change.
My kids know today that there are 1,079 days to the 2012 Olympic Games. It is not important that they start on day 1,078. What is important is that I know that it is 1,079 days and I am ready tomorrow. I am ready the next day and I am ready the next day and somewhere along that timeline they get involved with that. I did do something different though. I decided I had always wanted to go three days on and one day off. I went the other direction. That same year while everybody was going up to Colorado Springs to do altitude training, I went to Hawaii. That is kind of funny, but I went to Hawaii to do a sea level camp. We went to karaoke, had fun, and train hard. We went to the beach while everybody was in Colorado Springs going to that bar across the street. Coaches, they don’t tell you that.
I went to a 3 day on and 1 day off schedule, planned it, came in the fall and lined up all my athletes. I gave them a calendar looking over it, explaining to them the plan. The off day was going to be migrating throughout each week. It might be Monday off, or Tuesday off, or Wednesday off, so you might be going 2 workouts on Sunday. We got 2 workouts and then were off. The sprinters would train dry land, swim, swim, dry land, swim, day off. They all thought this is intriguing. My mindset was going really hard for three days and then take a full day off, so you could recover. In the back of the room one of my athletes is thumbing through the calendar. She was dating Jason Lezak at the time. Anyway, she is frantically going through the calendar. I could see this look on her face of desperation. We finished the meeting and she comes back up to see me. She says, oh thank goodness! I said what’s the deal Danielle? She says Jason and I are getting married and it is an off day. Thank God. Indeed, they took that day off, and had the wedding. They did miss the next day, but they were back the following day. It is amazing what we can get our athletes to do. It worked really well. We swam really well that year.
I am going to go through some of the questions that were handed up to me late to answer some of those questions. The first question, a lot of times people ask, what my opinion about long course training/short course training. I always like to tell the story about a friend of mine, one of the best coaches we had in Southern California, moved away, and was in an area that wasn’t really aggressive with swimming. He didn’t have access to long course pools. Every summer he would drive over the hill to go and swim at this long course pool at another club to get some hours there. At the end of every year he would come to me and say, “I don’t get it. My kids are doing well. They swim well long course and swim well short course, but every year I lose these kids at the end of the summer season to join this other team.” I said, well the problem is that you are telling them they have to go long course because you are going over the hill taking an hour ride down the hill – to go get long course training. You told them you can’t compete unless you do long course training. You have just shown how easy it was to go over the hill and down the road to swim in that pool. No wonder they are joining that team. So every year they would all join that team, because it was so easy to get over the hill.
My opinion is that I don’t care for long course. I love short course training. I love short course training because it allows me to be kind of innovative with tree branches and physio-balls. I love going 25’s and 50’s and 75’s. I am not a big fan of going repeat 1500’s. I like the ability to create a real innovative workout by going five rounds of 375’s and 325’s or ten rounds of 325’s and 100 and descending the hundreds 1-5 and the 25’s are fast swim – fast kick – fast swim. I like that kind of innovative opportunities that a short course presents. I think if you are convincing your athletes that they have to go long course, they are going to believe you. They are going to do what you tell them is important to their ultimate success. If you don’t have a short course pool, get a bulkhead. Show them they can do it in a bucket and won’t worry about it.
When Aaron Peirsol broke his first world record in 2002, he hadn’t been in the long course water from August of the previous season, 2001, all the way until March of 2002. He hadn’t touched long course water. When he got to the meet, he had a great swim in the morning. I met with the team that afternoon, and I said, “gang,” we had a great meet. We did have a great meet. The kids were all swimming great. I met with the team and I said, “tonight you need to watch the 200 backstroke, because you are going to see something really, really special!” Remember, this was a time when we didn’t see 50 World Records broken in a meet. You would see one once in a while. Aaron Peirsol broke his first World Record in 2002, without having been in a long course pool from August of the previous season. I really owe that partly to the fact that we didn’t make a big deal about training long course, even though I had plenty of long course water.
This past year in 2008, I had a number of athletes that were very traditional type athletes like Klete Keller, Larsen Jensen, and Oussama Mellouli. I like to switch lanes back and forth from short course to long course to short course, and back to long course. It doesn’t really matter to me! They all were complaining about wanting to go long course. I said, once we change long course, we are not taking them back out. We are not moving into short course, because I am tired of the time it takes to move in and out. I adapted to their needs psychologically to go long course. I just would go 25’s and 50’s and 75’s and stop in the middle of the pool. Then, I would figure out what to do in the middle of the pool. I was able to adapt. I think adaptability is one of the key components to being a successful coach anywhere. I think we can do that in this country. It goes along with my idea that, if I can leave you with one message when you leave here, is it doesn’t matter where you coach. You can get it done and be very successful.
I see Chuck Batchelor in the room. Chuck, I hope you don’t mind, but I visited Chuck this last year recruiting one of his athletes. He introduced me as, “this guy is so good and he is a great coach.” I said Chuck wait that is fine, I really appreciate that. Do you know where Chuck trains? Chuck trains in a lower middle class neighborhood in a crappy pool, low roof, a not a very pleasant place to be, but he and his swimmers are busting their butts. He bought this van from somewhere. His assistant coach lives out in Boston and uses this van to drive these kids in to the pool. That is a great coach! That is not what I have to do. I have got three 50 meter pools. I got a great opportunity where I coach. A coach like Chuck, to me, is a great coach. I hope you don’t mind me embarrassing you, but that is what I mean. Chuck is not sitting there bellyaching about the fact that he has got a crappy facility. He is getting it done in a 25 yard pool. I watched him do a workout and it reminded me of some of the work that I do where we are getting up and out of the water. We do some fancy stuff that is pretty cool. He is producing really great athletes. That is what we need to leave with when we leave here today is if you can do that in a bucket, you can do it in a 50 meter pool. You can get it done!
YOU TALKED ABOUT BEING A MOTIVATOR. YOU TALKED ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE INTRODUCING BOTH AMANDA BEARD AND AARON PEIRSOL TO THE IDEA OF MAKING THEIR FIRST OLYMPIC TEAMS. WHEN DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU COULD GET A SWIMMER TO THE OLYMPICS? Again, I think that goes back to my experience in 1992 when I went to the Olympics and I saw what it was. I saw a lot of coaches on the deck that I knew were not any better than I was. They were not any smarter. They were not even necessarily more experienced than I was. I came away from that ’92 experience resolved to put somebody on the ’96 Olympic team. I met with my team that year, ’93 I guess, and sat them down. I said, our goal should be to put swimmers on the Olympic Team. I finally told them that. I finally said, our goal as a team in Southern California should be to put athletes on the Olympic Team. I said, our goal is to put 3 people on the Olympic Team in 1996. I was not coaching Amanda at that time. She was still like 11 or 12. She wasn’t in my group yet. I ended up with 4 athletes at the Olympic Trials in 1996. We put one on the Olympic Team and one of them was a 3rd place finisher in the breaststroke, so we came pretty close to our goal. Amanda then went on to win 2 silvers and a gold.
I came back from that experience in the fall of 1996, sat down with my squad again, and announced to my team at Awards Banquet, we’ve got four years to prepare for the 2000 Olympic Games. Our goal is to put four people on the Olympic Team in 2000. Everyone said, you put someone on the Olympic Team, so maybe he has got something going here. We ended up putting 5 people on the U.S. Olympic team in 2000. I came back from that experience and said okay, goal in 2004 will be to put 6 people on the Olympic Team. Now everyone said that he has a track record that is going pretty well. Everything he says seems to pan out. We ended up putting 6 people on the Olympic Team, which two included Aaron Peirsol and Amanda Beard, plus an additional four that previous to that had not been training with me. When I came back from the 2004 Olympics, Lenny Krayzelburg sat me down. He was kind of shaking his head. You are going to put 10 people on the Olympic Team in 2008! I said Lenny, naw. I don’t think I am going to go that far. We had a few on the 2008 Olympic team.
What I am trying to tell you is that I didn’t believe that I could do it until I walked the Olympic Games deck. Now, you are not all going to get that experience, but I can tell you again that I am not any smarter than any of you here. Once I told myself that was my mission and told my team and my squad that was my mission, that was our mission, that if they would buy into that we would get there, then the process by which we got there was doable. I think talking about what it is that you are trying to accomplish is one of the key components in being successful with your athletes. They have got to believe you and trust you. You have got to believe in yourself and that is my message this weekend, to tell you that you can do this.
When you leave here this weekend, get out there and do it.
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON SPEED BASED SWIM PROGRAMS FOR AGE GROUPERS? I think age groupers, contrary to some of the talks that I listened to in the other room, should not be in the aerobic base mantra. I am not a believer in over-distance training. I really believe that age group swimmers should learn the skills and competitive repetition of the skills. That is really, really important and not the overwhelming need to swim volume upon volume to develop their skills. One of my top age group coaches that I had at the time when Aaron and Amanda were coming up was Brian Pyor who went on to start his own team. He is a really good age group coach who was just doing nothing but repetition after repetition after repetition. They would go 25’s and 50’s over and over again and when they were not doing it correctly they would do more repetition. They wouldn’t do the thousands of yards, not hundreds repeat, but 25’s and 50’s, until they got it right. The patterning was so critical to their ultimate development in my group when I began to train them. They did not train until they turned 13. They were learning the competitive, repetitive learning at 12 and under.
I think it is real important for 12 and unders to have that focus of learning the skill, having fun with the sport. I will worry about training them when they get to be 13-14 and older. Then you start planting in their minds the idea of going to the Olympics and how you are going to do that, but keeping it in the perspective that they are still kids. I do not have a problem with 14 year olds making the Olympic team as long as the perspective is such that it is balanced. So, in terms of speed- based, it is repetitive technique that is coupled with that speed but it is not speed for speed sake either. It is not speed-based, it is not distance-based, it is really skill based and repetition based. You are trying to teach those 12 and unders to get to practice on a regular basis. Once you get them to practice, then you can start working on the fundamental skills and teaching them how to compete and teaching them to have fun in the sport.
DO YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS ON TRAINING ALL THE ENERGY SYSTEMS OVER THE COURSE OF THE SEASON PLAN? John Leonard asked me about two years ago if I would do last year’s physiology school. I said, well John, I am not sure I would do your physiology school, but I will do my physiology school, if you are okay with that. My opinions are a little bit different. I remember coming to clinics like this where coaches would put up on a slide three circles, these interconnecting circles, and they would say there is the ATPPC System. Here is the aerobic system. Here is the anaerobic system. I kept saying to myself, it is not the way it works. In reality physiology is a dynamic thing, but you can’t have aerobic without anaerobic. To understand the physiology of glycogen breakdown, which we are not going to go into, you have to understand that you cannot have one without the other. By me just walking from this end to that end of the room, I am going to be engaging aerobic and anaerobic systems, so you cannot help but train all the systems.
I had enough background in physiology to look way back in the 70’s to show that if you want to engage the entire musculartur, you have got to engage it at pretty high intensities. When you do that, you get aerobic and anaerobic benefits that if you try to just coordinate your efforts on just one system or the other system, you get into problems. Thereby, in my group, my program on Day 1 we are just going fast, going fast and working on technique. We go for about up to 2 hours of training. Now, the yardage changes as you go along because you can get a little bit more work in those two hours. For my training purposes, I don’t worry about how far we go. The kids will tell me if we are going too far because sometimes I am getting like a mad scientist. I will get on the Hy-tek program to write workouts, not very often, but I will write workouts. I don’t even worry about how that little yardage thing is adding up. I think this would be a cool set and this would be a great set and this would be really fun and this would be really cool, because I look at each set independent of the total. Everything is about the content and not how far we go.
I would finish those work-outs, and send them to my assistants when I am out of town. The assistants will tell me this is like 15,000 yards in an hour and a half. What I usually say is YEAH, that’s right. That is what you are doing. The way I operate, just so you understand, as I said this earlier is that I don’t write my workouts down. I have a sense of what I want to do. I kind of gauge my team and where we need to go and what it looks like. I come in with an idea of certain things that I want to accomplish in a workout and it just comes off my head. The coaches will come in and ask, what are we going to do? I say, I don’t know, just tighten up the seatbelt and let’s go. They are just kind of going what the heck? I never had assistants when I was coaching Irvine, so the kids were not asking assistants. Now I am in college. I have more coaches. The kids are asking them about what are we going to do today? The coaches can only answer, we don’t know, but we do know that it is going to be fast and hard. They used to get a little frustrated at me.
Is there anybody that doesn’t write their workouts down? You do it like this? Okay, you are going four rounds of 5 x 25 plus 100. Sometimes, I forget what I tell them and what I do is I find myself putting it back on them. I am going six rounds of 3 x 25’s and 75 plus 100. On the 25’s, you are going to go a half lap kick fast streamline kick, etc. and at the end they say how many rounds coach? And I will respond, HOW MANY DID I SAY?? So they will say six, coach. I will say THAT’S RIGHT, YOU ARE PAYING ATTENTION, because I forgot. I have no clue. What I have started to do now, which is really kind of fun, includes my white board. I have got this big white board at the side of the pool. I want things to be interesting, so I get my big white board and tell them we are going to do this Triangle set. I am going to show you my triangle set. I love my triangle set. We might go 15 rounds of that, so I draw pictures. Some of the kids do not understand language. I have a lot of International kids. So, Dave is now into this hieroglyphic thing. I have fun with it and plus it takes a little time. They are resting a little bit on the wall as they get ready for my next set. If you are really into entertaining your kids, and I don’t care how old they are, get a white board to draw up what you want. My workouts are so detailed that I need pictures because if I just give them language they goof it up.
I was telling you about one of the things that I like to do with my assistant coaches. I will tell the team, you are going to go ten rounds of X, Y, Z at this interval and that interval, we will do that set and with about two minutes before they are finished I look at one of my assistants. You are doing the next set. They are like OH SHOOT, which they don’t say shoot because they have to come up with the same kind of thing. It really tests their skills. I hope I answered that question. Oh, the energy systems. Look, a lot of you find that having terminology like VO2MAX and aerobic and anaerobic in describing sets helps give structure to your workouts. When I was getting my Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science, I was like that. We are going to do an aerobic set, and then we are going to do an ATPPC set, and then we are going to do an anaerobic set. That is the way I was running my workouts. I had a professor say, what are you doing? I felt bad and then I stopped doing that. I think we are just training the entire system by doing what we do. I don’t worry about which system I am training. You don’t have to do it that way. You can do it the way you want.
DO YOU THINK YOUR METHODS WORK BECAUSE OF THE AGE AND MATURITY AND BACKGROUND OF YOUR ATHLETES? DO YOU THINK IT WOULD WORK FOR AGE GROUPERS AND YOUNG SENIORS WITHOUT AFFECTING THEM LONG TERM? The ways I can only answer that question are the athletes that have come out of my age group in Irvine-Nova Aquatics. I currently coach college kids. I have to deal with college kids coming from 40 different programs across the world, dealing with them and teaching them my philosophies. Aaron Peirsol, Amanda Beard, Jason Lezak, and Michael Cavik are kids who all came out of our age group program where the focus wasn’t on over-distance or aerobic-based training. Here is a story about Michael Cavik. About his junior or senior year of high school, he was so reluctant to come to morning practices. We would go two morning practices a week. We would go about an hour and 15 minutes and a lot of time it would be really specific stuff like doing underwaters for an hour. Just doing underwaters and getting better at your underwaters. Even with Eddie Reese’s help, Aaron Peirsol’s under-waters still are problematic. Michael is a really good swimmer, but he is so reluctant to get to practice in the morning. He is a sprint type guy with a lot of talent. In his last year he swam for me, I said okay Michael, after February 1, you will not have to go to another morning workout with me ever. We got to February 1 and I said Michael, this is your last morning workout. He goes really? I said yeah, you do not have to ever come to morning workouts again (until you go to college). I did not tell him that as that was between him and Mike Bottom.
Do you ever get this? The kids end up on the other side of the pool? You all get this. They end up over the other side of the pool and what do they do? You announce 7 rounds of whatever. You end up on the other side of the pool and they always say, but coach, we are going to end up on the other side. I always tell them we have got the technology to bring you back. It’s okay! Did you ever find that kid’s goggles break on the opposite end of the pool from where you are standing? That is why I stand on that part of the pool. The first time that you do that, they are like shoot, I can’t stay here. Those are athletes who came out of my age group program. They didn’t go to morning workouts until they got to be 13. I kind of brought them into morning workouts. I rationalized morning workouts were about preparing them to go off to college because they are going to have to do morning workouts. It gave us a chance to kind of work on really specific things at those morning workouts. It was about an hour and 15 minute timeline, so it was not a huge amount of time that we are trying to put in. We were not trying to put in more yardage, but maybe a specific kicking set or something like that.
Those are athletes that to this day are still swimming. Jason Lezak is 34 or 35 and Aaron Peirsol, if he goes to 2012, is working on his 4th Olympic Games. Amanda Beard just finished her 4th Olympic Games. Michael Cavic was always kind of one of those guys to say I think I am going to quit and then he would stay. Again, he would say, I think I am going to quit and then he would stay in and do something special. Those are all kids that weren’t harmed by a focus that was so different than a traditional mind set of you have got to have an aerobic base and you have got to pound them into smithereens. They have sustained their careers with no major injuries. I am really proud that they have been able to go on and that they were not negatively impacted by my philosophy. I would feel really bad if that had really been a detriment to their performance, but I don’t think it has been.
IF YOU HAVE AN INCOMIMG FRESHMAN WITH CONSIDERABLE STROKE FLAWS, BUT Has BEEN SUCCESSFUL AT A HIGH LEVEL OF SWIMMING – DO YOU IMPLEMENT TECHNIQUE CHANGES RIGHT AWAY OR OVER TIME – MIXED IN WITH THE TRAINING PROGRAM? My workouts are a mix of training and technical drill type work. I will kind of give you my examples. I might do a set that looks something like that. I won’t really worry about the intervals running at 5, 10 and 15 seconds rest. I might go 25’s where I am using rotation kick and the 50 is the three minute 50. I love three minute 50’s, because you can make a 50 last three minutes. I won’t put all the details of this 50, but imagine going a 50 where you are going streamline kick to the half way mark going ten squat jumps, sprint swim into the wall, do 3 flip turns, do 4 wall outs, climb out of the water, do 4 pushups, do 3 more squat jumps out of the water, diving in kicking to the half way mark, going horizontal stationary kick for 10 seconds, going the rest of the way to the wall high elbow catch-up freestyle with a fast flutter kick. That might take 2 minutes. That is what that 50 is right there and the 75 might be pace 200 and look like a typical type of a set.
The rotation kick is a funny story. I went to one of these clinics where Mark Schubert was talking about one of Lenny Krayzelburg’s favorite drills was rotation kick. You just alternate going 360 right and 360 left. Then Lenny came to train with me in 2004. Lenny, we are going to do one of your favorite drills. We are going to rotation kick 200. He says what is that? It is your favorite set. Mark said it was your favorite set. Lenny says, I have never done that. Well, it is one of my new favorite ones. It is just the body position thing, kicking, and teaching body rotation. It teaches kicking within the planes of the rotation, good body position, tight core, and all of those kinds of things. The 25’s are and the 50’s, like I said, all of these things that combine technique, high elbow, freestyle catch-up, the flat back, and fast kick. It creates resistance so there is some power work going on. The 75 is a technical thing. It is pace work under stress, because you have gone three 25’s and a 50 before it and that looks kind of like the sets that I draw up. It combines the technical components, the drill components at a high level of intensity and in turn I think what it does is it takes all of your stroke and components and puts them in a high level. My hope is that the corresponding result we be that you will go fast. We have been fairly successful with that.
So, let me give you a story that kind of epitomized my philosophy about coaching an athlete that is just coming to the program, especially in a collegiate environment. I am pretty confident in telling you that I was not Rebecca Soni’s favorite person my first year. She was a little ticked off. She was coming from New Jersey to swim at the University of Southern California with Coach Schubert. She just left a very distance type program where she was with Tom Speedling. I have heard they do a lot of training, even right up into a race. She grew up as a distance freestyle swimmer that did a little bit of breaststroke. Tom designed the stroke for her, so she has a very unique stroke. She is kind of a distance-based athlete. She goes from Coach Schubert, who is famous for being a distance-oriented coach. She loves that. She loves the University. Here comes Coach Salo. He is a sprint coach. That is what Coach Rose said. He is a sprint coach. He has had some success with breaststroke, but it doesn’t look like your stroke. Her biggest fear was that I was going to take her out of the distance group and change her stroke.
Let’s just say that my job was not to change her stroke at first. My job was to understand and appreciate how she moved so fast swimming the stroke that she swam. Now Coach Speedling gave me a few hints like how many strokes she takes in a 50 and things like that, but unfortunately for me – I am good at hearing stuff, but it never quite stays in there so you have to keep reminding me. If I met you once I may forget that I met you. It is okay. I forgot where I am now. So, getting back, Rebecca wasn’t really happy. When I got on deck in the spring of 2006, I was her third coach in one year. In less than a year, I was her third coach, with all these background dilemmas that she had to deal with. The only reason why Rebecca, I had never asked her about it, but I kind of heard through the grapevine that she contemplated transferring from the University of Southern California because she was so conflicted with such a rapid change, but she loved the University so much (PLUG). You have got to catch these things quick I just move right through them. She loved the University so much that she was willing to just endure it and maybe not reach the goals that she might have had when she originally got there.
I will tell you real quick, well, none of my stories are quick, but one day we are doing a set with some breaststroke drill type stuff in long course. Rebecca stops at the end of this 50 and she is visibly upset. She is kind of crying about something. I had only been there a few months at the time. I say, what is the matter Rebecca? And she says, “I just hate your drills.” I say, well Rebecca, I never wanted to do this, but I have coached some pretty good breaststrokers in my time and you are just going to have to be patient. She kind of settled down a little bit. She would not have won the Olympic Games last year had she not begun to just kind of trust that I wasn’t going to change her stroke. I had to let her know that I understood her stroke and we were going to work from the strengths of that stroke. We wouldn’t modify unless there was a real need to make any kind of considered changes. There are some things that she does that I do not know why breaststrokers do this, as they recover and their hands kind of go like this. I hate that. For every breaststroker that I coach, if I see that, I am on top of them all the time. I want them to extend forward and turn the elbows out. When she is not swimming great, she will do this. She will kind of go forward like this. That is not a stroke change, but that is just to make her more efficient. She learned to trust that I wasn’t going to make wholesale changes.
In my first year, she was always in the distance group. By my second year, late in my second year, as she began to trust what I was doing and was effective in her performance, she began to move out of the distance group and go into the breaststroke group sometimes. Sometimes, I would see her move over into one of the other different groups that I might have. I might have five or six different groups going on. Sometimes she would ask, should I go in the distance group or the breaststroke or the IM group? Today, why don’t you go in the sprint group? Go do that for today or no, go to the distance group. I think we have some things planned for that. What I saw in her over the last couple of seasons is she has become more trusting in herself. That is one of the things that I am trying to teach my athletes is I am here to manage your decisions that you make in your training. I am there to guide you through it, but you have got to trust yourself as well. I will knock you up the side of your head if you are doing something wrong. She is an athlete that will always work hard.
I tried to convince her all season long that you don’t have to go to World Championships coming off the Olympic Games. As successful as she was, she really struggled through this past year. I knew she was going to struggle, because I remember in 1997 how Amanda Beard struggled so much with everybody’s expectation that this little girl would get up and go fast every time she swam. I encouraged Rebecca through most of the year, not to go to World Championship trials. Don’t go to World Championships. Take a year off. Take some time off. Get your head in a sense that you can attack the next three years. She didn’t take any time off and every race we would compete in last year, I wanted her to get beat. I wanted her to lose once. I wanted her to lose. I knew that she would get beat once during the year and I wanted her to get beat. She needed to learn that it was okay to lose a race and her world was not going to crumble. The sun was going to come up.
We got to the PAC Ten Championships and she wasn’t really motivated. She wasn’t really feeling it as she stroked to a 2:04 in the 200 yard breaststroke. That is not bad for someone that is not feeling it, who was having a really tough year motivationally. Then she went 58.1 in the hundred breast stroke. She will get to NCAA’s and get beat in the NCAA’s by a hundred, I bet. If she gets beat, she can just have this catharsis. No dice as she wins the 200 breast and the 100 breaststroke and had some pretty good swims. I once again say, okay Rebecca, you do not have to go to trials, if you don’t want to go to trials. Just take the rest of the season off. No, coach, I feel everybody expects me to go. I said, okay, but you don’t have to go to the Championships, if you don’t want to go. Just go to trials to swim, have fun, and take a break. NO, again, as she goes to trials and swims 2:20 and 1:05.
Alright, let’s go to World Championships, which everybody knows the story. She breaks the World Record in the 100 breaststroke. She comes up on the 200 breaststroke and goes out in a 1:05.7. I am up in the stands thinking this is going to be great and at the 150 mark she is still a second and a half under World Record pace. She pushed off that wall for that last 50, with me going, oh my gosh, I wish I could be there to help you Reb, because this is going to be painful. She faltered and faded to 4th place. I thought oh, she got beat, but not really when I wanted her to get beat. The PAC-TEN’s would have been alright. So I was a little concerned about that and went over to see her at the team area. I am not sure what kind of response I am going to get. She looks at me and I kind of look at her and draw a little closer to her. She looks up at me and says “you know, with that 1:05.7 split, I would have won a medal in the hundred breaststroke!” We both kind of laughed and I said, Rebecca, you are going to be okay.
HOW DO YOU TRAIN FOR DISTANCE? I think that is the thing that everybody wonders. Coach Daland, one of my favorite people of all time, talks with me once every month or so. He is a great mentor. I will give you another real, one of those long, quick stories. I was coaching with him from ’85 to ’90. He comes into the office one day, which I shared with the diving coach. I don’t know what prompted it, but he sat down and shut the door. He says, “You know Dave, these ideas you have about training, they are interesting, but do you really want to crawl out on that limb? Maybe you want to tone it down a little bit?” I didn’t know that I was going to stay in coaching, so I didn’t really care about what anybody thought. I appreciated his effort, but Coach is one of my biggest fans and it is great to have a fan. My mom, Marty, and Jon Urbanchek are big fans, and that is about it.
My philosophies haven’t changed a whole lot. I still believe that you train by race pace training. My distance guys do volume. They go two hours. They train for about two hours and whatever we do in that two hours, I don’t really sweat it. It could be 5,000 or it could be 6,500, or it might me 7,000, but I don’t really worry about it. As I said earlier today, my distance guys don’t go 1500 straight in practice. We don’t go 400 straight in practice. This is what we might do is a training set for the distance kids. We might go something that looks like this. I am also not a big fan of driving performance by interval. I think that is a big mistake that we have a lot of distance kids, especially women in the United States, driven all by interval. It is such a fast interval that they just get their arms going and try to make interval. They end up on a touch and go. I don’t do that.
Here is a set that might be a typical type set that I would do in practice where you go an 800, four 50’s, 600, four 50’s, 400, four 50’s, 200, and four 50’s, where I am not really worried about 8, 6, 4, 2 in terms of how fast it is. A lot of times what those longer swims are is negative split. I might say the last 50 is full speed and then these 50’s are generally a foot touch or I might go two at pace plus 3 and then two at pace minus 1 or minus 2. I don’t care as maybe it is a 400 pace, maybe it is an 800 pace, maybe it is a 1500 pace and that might change. The intervals for the 50’s might give them about 10-15 seconds rest or it could be anywhere between 5 and 15 second rest. I do not get too caught up in intervals that much. It depends on what I want to see. I want to test them. Sometimes I want 5 seconds fast, so we will go on 35.
I went six 50’s on 35 long course the first week of the college practice that we were allowed to go, one of my former athletes came by and said “Oh, I heard workout is really hard.” I said six 50’s on 35? It was six 50’s on 35. It wasn’t six 500’s on 25, but the kids all thought it was really hard. 8, 6, 4 and 2 might be such that they get 30 seconds to 45 seconds rest – not putting a whole lot of intensity into it. Other than the specificity of what I am saying about negative split and really focus on technique. Go really fast that last 50. Really get things motoring that last 50. Take the neuromuscular adaptation of the stroke technique. The first part of that they would go a little bit faster the second half and then the last 50; you just go as hard as you can. That is what I want, so the 50’s are more of a race pace type thing. Again, I don’t worry about volume. We go about two hours of practice. I am trying to introduce a little bit more dry land with the distance kids because a lot of times they are kind of reluctant to take up more time in the dry land component as I think they really should. I think they can get faster by focusing in on having a really good 400 speeds and 200 speed and not just thinking of the mile.
OUTLINE GENERAL RACE PLANS OR STRATEGIES FOR SECTIONAL LEVEL SWIMMER FOR 400 IM, and 800 FREE. IS THIS A DIFFERENT PLAN THAN AN INTERNATIONAL LEVEL SWIMMER? I don’t really think of myself as a different coach for different populations. At one point in my career, not too long ago, before I went to USC, I was the head coach at Irvine Nova Aquatics, the head coach at Soka University and the head coach at Orange Coast College in the same year. I was transitioning out of one and going into another. Now you know why I get about three hours of sleep every night just trying to balance my responsibilities. At Orange Coast College, I had a girl at the beginning of the season, probably 5’ 1” and kind of roundish, come in my office to say she really wanted to swim on my team. It is Junior College, so everybody can swim. I said that is fine. I said, “Ok,” and she lasted about a week and then took something else up. At Orange Coast College, we were coaching kids that if they could break a minute in the 50 free was really exciting. At Irvine Nova Aquatics, we had some pretty good kids with Aaron, Jason, Amanda and kids like that.
Then, Soka University was a brand new program. I was starting the program out at the small private university. We were taking kids who had never swum before. We were teaching them how to streamline. I took them to our first meet in San Diego. We have a few people that saw that meet. I have all these girls up on the block, because we were really slow. There were a couple of other teams there. The girls all get up on the block and the starter gets ready to start them. So, what does the starter do? He blows the whistle. I forgot to teach the kids how to start. Here is this heat of women, one going off and the other one going off and they are looking at each other. The other one is going early and the other one is going as the whistle is blowing and they do not know what is going on at all. I felt so bad. They were so mad at me. You didn’t teach us how to start. You embarrassed us. I didn’t mean to. I forgot. So, I had a broad collection of athletes. I don’t know that I have a different strategy for the inexperienced kid or the advanced kid.
I can tell you my basic plan. I look at the distance events in components, so the 1500 free I love to descend three 400’s and then descend the last three 100’s. I had a lot of fun this summer when Takeyka Ho was going to the prelims of the 400 IM. I met with her and said, here is what I want you to do. I want you to kind of cruise through the first 50, get into your stroke, then the next 25 just kind of hold steady with a little bit more speed and the last 25, I want you to really go into that wall like you are going to race for the final at night. I am watching her do exactly that. I love it when you get an athlete who does exactly what you ask them to do. It is so much fun! It was all preparation leading up to the 400 final where she would put her whole race together, but I wanted the last 25 of each 100 to be more of that final race type mind-set and physiologic set. So, generally in the 400 IM’s, I am probably like all of you. We always want them to come back the second 50 faster than the first 50 obviously, except for the first 100 fly. I am not a pure negative splitter. Trying to break it down into three components or descending three components and descending the last three 75’s. We go from a pretty good pace that is coming down, then we really get into some real sprint speed, as we come down to the last 150 or so. We might descend the last three 50’s on 800 freestyle.
WHAT IS A MAIN SET SINGLE PROGRESSION FOR 1500 FREE? I think I went through that a little bit. I like to break things down. We do not go repeat 400 IM’s. We don’t do repeat 1500’s. I break it down into its components. I like some of the things that Mike showed with Stephanie Rice today. I like that set where they go 50 plus three 100’s – plus a 50. I like doing those kinds of transitional type swims, but I like to break things up. We don’t do anything straight up 400 IM or straight up 1500 free. I want the technique to be really good. I want the technique well done. I want them also to have the speed component to it and not just swimming 400’s for the sake of swimming 400’s. I am not as much a backstroke coach as I was when I was coaching Aaron Peirsol and a few others at the time, back in the early 2000’s. I really like to do a lot of work on backstroke where we are connecting the body position, rotational skills to the rates of swimming. What do I think about stroke count? I don’t do stroke counts on backstroke. I do stroke counts more on breast stroke. On backstroke, I work more on the acceleration of stroke into recovery and looking at turnover rate trying to fine tune that turnover rate.
I love doing backstroke sets like 5 times X + 2 Y + Z. I will show you a set when I want my whole team on the same interval. Let’s say, I am going 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes. This is great if you want to combine your distance workout with your sprint workout. X is = to 25, 50, 75 or 100. Y is = to 50, 75, 100, 125 or 150. Z is = to 25, 50, 100, 150 or 175. These are just examples. You can put anything in that you want. Now, I give a set like that, especially if you get closer down to our Conference Championship, where I want everybody to be on the same page. The intervals are all the same. The X is on 1 minute, the Y is on 2 minutes, and the Z is on 3 minutes. I want to prove to the kids I earned my page from USC, so I do these algebraic sets. They are like what the heck? That is ridiculous. I really don’t worry what people think about me anymore. I am way too old for that. So, it is 5 rounds, X they do it once, Y they do 2 of those on 2 minutes, and they go Z on 3 minutes. What is the sprinter going to go? The sprinter is going to go a 25, 2 – 50’s, and a 25 almost always. The distance kid gets to go a hundred, two 150’s and a 175, but I give them that option to pick and choose.
What I try and do with my athletes is manage the decisions that they make. I haven’t told them what the interval is. I might say X is equal to build. 2 Y might be a differential of 5 or the second one is 5 seconds faster than the first one and that Z is fast. Really fast! I will give them the detail to that. They choose the stroke. Now they are going 5 rounds, so you might have individual IM athletes go a round of fly, a round of free, a round of back, a round of free, and a round of breast. They might figure out how to do an IM in this set. I let them make those decisions and then manage the decision they make. If the back stroke swimmer is doing this set, I might tell him to work on very specific components to the set, but this is how I work my sets. There are no main sets in my workouts. Every set is important. Every set means something and every set is generally broken down into its components. Now don’t ask me what is the next set. I don’t know what it is yet.
REFERRING TO HARD AND FAST OF REHEARSAL SWIMMING – HOW MUCH REST IS APPROPRIATE? I think this is one of the things that we as coaches just have some instinct for that. Sometimes you don’t want to give them a whole lot of rest and sometimes you want to give them a lot of rest. Now my athletes tend to think that I don’t give them a whole lot of rest. They all think that I do not believe in tapering. They all think a lot of different things, but I mix it up. A lot of my work for my sets is designed around the idea of creating fatigue. I have got to learn how to spell fatigue. Creating fatigue and then working on specific speed or specific race speed, I should say. So, what I mean by that, like Marty said at lunch, you get a 3 minute 50.
Now a 3 minute 50 can again be 3 minutes of intense work that if you just look at the yardage, it is only 50 yards. Within the 3 minutes of active work, you are doing push-ups and pull-ups. You are doing in the water and out of the water. You are doing some kicking, some pulling. You can do all these things in 3 minutes and the distance covered is only 50 yards or 75 yards or 100 yards. It is 3 minutes of intense work and then you go something like a 75 race pace, hold stroke count, hold the speed, and finish with a flip turn. The time should be equal to your goal pace 200, so you are creating what it is going to feel like the last 75 of a race so that is how I operate. If I go thirty 75’s and I say easy on the odd and fast on the even, it is not as much fun. Hold a tree branch above your head, kick vertically for 30 seconds , do 2 flip turns, and then do a pace 75.
Well the take away message is you don’t have to go up and down the black line over and over and over and over and over again. I have such a blast figuring out triangles. How can you do triangles? How can I use the bottom of the pool? Have you ever taken an athlete with a stretch cord? Go and buy a stretch cord. I love stretch cords. Put a 25 kilogram weight on the end of it. Put them in the 12 foot end of the pool and have them vertical kick for a breath, it is pretty intense. There have been times when I have had to grab for their arm. They had better hope I like them. A stretch cord, where it is not going to go 12 feet, but it only goes 9, is a great workout.
When I was coaching Jason Lezak, he is a funny guy. If you ever talk to him about his high school days swimming for me, it was like, I hate you and you hate me. Let’s just get over it. That’s just the way it is because I am a perfectionist. He would swim through the water like crap during warm-up. He would tick me off and I would tick him off. Every year he would come back. He always came to practice. He would never miss practice. Jason, never ever missed practice, as he got older and more focused. He stretched really well. He just didn’t like swim training. He was good in the weight room, as well, but I had to learn how to keep him engaged in training. Otherwise, he would just not be swimming today. He wouldn’t be able to coach himself. He trains himself because coaching is about watching. He doesn’t coach himself. He trains himself. I think we gave him the skills to be able to do that competently, but I had to learn how to make him a better swimmer by making workouts more interesting. Putting a stretch cord on him, saying you have got to go 20 meters down as fast as you can. Then you have to go stationary kick without moving, then you have got to finish into the wall full speed, pull yourself out of the water, go ten push-ups , dive back in, and then kick all the way back. You will then get 40 seconds rest. I could challenge him to go four 100’s really fast. Sometimes I would do sets. Jason, we are going to go eight 50’s. I want them all out full speed on 2 minutes. You go full speed and inevitably I would get 5 full speed 50’s. I could tell as he would laugh to himself, ha, ha, ha, I only did 5 of them full speed. I would say to myself, ha, ha, ha, I only really wanted 3. You have got to play those games.
Nobody wants to have kids specialize at a young age. I am talking a lot about 14, 15, 16, and older type kids. We do not want to run our kids out of the sport, because we think they are lazy. Michael Cavic was not a great trainer, but that guy is so talented. He was faster in high school than Aaron Peirsol was in the backstroke, because he had great underwaters. High school championships came around in 2002 or 3 and Michael Cavic had a better 100 backstroke time than Aaron Peirsol, but they swam in different leagues and never competed against each other. He was not a trainer. Jason Lezak was not a trainer, but Jason got better technically over and over and over again. Every year we would sit down at the end of a season when I would say Jason, here is what I think you need to work on. What do you think? I would try to get him to use a tempo trainer for a couple of years. He was resistant, resistant, and more resistant. Then finally one year, he says, yeah, let’s try that tempo trainer thing again. I said, okay, you are ready for it. You have to be prepared for that. Some of you, if you do this right, you might end up with a Jason Lezak that you are coaching well into their 30’s.
I will give you another quick story. Jason got so mad at me. We were at a workout. This was before the 2004 Games or maybe the Trials. It was spring. He got real mad at me because I said something derogatory like, “you are lazy.” I didn’t call him a wussy like John or anything, but I just said you are lazy. I had a bunch of post-grad guys that were swimming for me at the time. Jason gets out, just so mad and is storming over to get his stuff. He turns to look at the rest of the team and he says, “I AM LEAVING. I AM STARTING MY OWN TEAM. IF YOU WANT TO JOIN ME LET’S GO.” I just looked at him and was like whatever. The rest of the team was like you are going to stop him aren’t you? I was like NO. He is going to go and start his own team. The next day he wasn’t at practice and the next day he wasn’t at practice. His good friend, who was swimming for me at the time says, “Dave, you have to talk to Jason!” I said well, Jason knows where I am. I am here every day at the same time. He knows where I am. Jason is not going to do that because he is too proud. He tried working out by himself for two days and said he just couldn’t do it. That gave me some satisfaction, so I called him up. Jason, I said, look, I am going to come over to talk with you. We are chatting at his house and he says Dave, I just couldn’t do it by myself. I said, that’s okay, we will start fresh. We will start anew. We will move on forward. You can start your own team later when I leave to take over USC, so I had planned on doing that anyway. No I didn’t. I was kidding!
HOW IMPORTANT, IF AT ALL, IS STROKE COUNT TO BUILD STROKE RELIABILITY? I like stroke count for some components. I think breaststroke count is important. I think that really keeps kids narrowed in on their stroke. I will tell you the problem that we had with Rebecca in the summer with the 200 breaststroke. We looked at Rebecca’s analysis of her stroke from USA Swimming after the semi-finals of the breaststroke. She is pretty good about always taking about 22 strokes per 50, but somehow in the prelim session or the semi-finals she was taking 18. She had finished that swim. I hadn’t looked at the analysis. She got out and she said, “it just didn’t feel right. It just felt really crummy.” She had gone 2:20.9, which is pretty good and just off her lifetime best and the World Record. Russell said, “look at the results. She was like 18 strokes.” I said, that is just really odd. So, in preparation for the final, we said just get back to your regular stroke count of about 22 strokes per 50 or 21 and you’ll be fine. Just, you know, don’t worry about it. Lo and behold, like I said, she goes 1:05.7, which was the end, but she took 22 strokes. It was good. Next year, when we go that fast, we will be better.
I do like stroke counts on breaststroke. I don’t worry about stroke count too much on fly, but a little bit on free. I am constantly reminding the kids, be aware of stroke count, but I don’t count. You know, I don’t have enough time to do that. I can’t remember that. I can remember Rebecca’s 21 or 22 because Tom Speedling told me that she needs to take 22 strokes. I better remember this because Tom was a good guy. I don’t want to screw him up. He has produced this good athlete. I don’t want to screw her up. So, I remind the kid of her stroke count. It is the simplest, easiest way to coach somebody to better performance is be aware of your stroke count. Reduce the number of strokes it takes per lap. That is my opinion on that.
Once you create a vision for an athlete like Amanda or Aaron, how you sell the vision makes the difference. I mentioned that earlier in my first part that with those two, they never verbally accepted what I suggested in making Olympic teams. They just kind of went OK, whatever, like it was never a big deal. What I would do is continue reiterating my belief in them. I remember Aaron coming to practice one day and he goes, “Dave, I can’t be at practice tomorrow, I have got some thing to go to.” It’s probably like an exam for school or something so I said, “Well you know, I am going to Trials, and maybe you won’t be going to Trials?” I always give them that guilt trip. You know coaches are really good at that. Is it alright if I have a milkshake? Yeah, sure go ahead, but you know, I am going to trials. You might not be going to Trials, if you have that milkshake, but go ahead, that’s fine. A lot of us over time developed the look. You know I am not sure what my look is, but the kids know when I am not real happy. So I think it is just reminding them periodically.
I have a little clock on my desk that tells me how many days it is to 2012 Olympic Games. I will come out at practice and announce we have got 1,079 days until the Olympic Games. They say, what an idiot, what a crazy guy! We have got 1,078 days. At my age, everything goes by really, really fast. You forget half of it, so you have got to keep them on top of that. My biggest concern, when I put together a season plan, is when are entries due for Nationals? I start from there. A Blackberry is one of the best things that I have ever had, so I will just plug in a meeting that I am supposed to be at and it will beep me and tell me where I am supposed to be. It is great! I have never, well, once in a while will forget things.
PSYCHOLOGICAL PREPARATION IS HOW AND AT WHAT AGE DO YOU IMPLEMENT THIS IN YOUR PROGRAM? Let me tell you how my program at Irvine Nova really got started. We were not very good in Southern California Swimming. My age group coach, Brian, met with the top age group kids. There were probably about 25 of them. He sat them down and gave them the old Top 16 times, the list for the 9-10 and 11-12 year olds. They were having this meeting while I was running my workout. The kids came back after the meeting was over, coming behind me because we used to have the age group kids right next to me where I was coaching. One of the kids was laughing and he thought it was so funny. I said, “What is so funny Quinn?” He says to me, Brian thinks we can go this fast, as he was pointing to the list. That is a joke. Oh, I thought, that is kind of disappointing that you didn’t think you could be a top 16 swimmer. Well, all it took was two kids in that group to really believe they belonged on the top 16 list and their focus and attention became all about getting on this top 16 list.
Once those two started focusing in on it a lot of those other kids started going. Gosh, Donnie and Kristen are going to practice every single day trying to make this top 16 list. Maybe I need to do that. It wasn’t okay for parents to come to me and say, “Coach, can’t you reduce the expectations? Can’t you just say they only have to come to practice three days a week?” It’s like, no, we want them there regularly. This is contrary to what Mike does with his program. We are trying to teach those top age group kids that regularity and focus helps your performance. Once their kids got caught up in that, we were pretty good. They did a pretty good job. Of that group, I think Kristen Caverly, Aaron Peirsol, Amanda Beard, and Michael Cavic went on to the Olympic Games. We had a number of kids out of that one group who got psyched about Top 16 Times and began a more focused approach to swimming. I don’t think that it is ever too young to introduce those components, but I do not think you have to tell every kid that they are going to make the Olympic Team. I have only told like three kids in my life that they are going to make the team and they have.
SHOULD DRY-LAND TIME VERSUS WATER TIME DECREASE AS THE SEASON PROGRESSES? With our age group program at Irvine, we did dry-land with all the kids. Our entry level novice kids were doing just introductory type dry land things. Maybe it was just stretching for about 5 minutes, before they get in the water. As they got older and a little bit better, up to the 12 year old range, they would go more. I know our program now which I manage I have some coaches that introduce Pilates as early as 12 – 13 years of age. They become pretty skilled at that. They will spend at least 30 minutes to 40 minutes every day on some dry land component. Yes, I think as you draw closer to your championship meets some of those things back off. One of the things at USC that I am doing that might be a little bit different from what it was before is there is this huge emphasis on dry land. Every morning we have a practice. Every single morning! You have to be at practice about 6 o’clock every morning. Part of the reason that I do that is because it really changes their behavior at 11 o’clock at night.
How many of you coach college? You know what I am talking about. If you have a practice at 6 o’clock, you are not going to be out at 11 o’clock at night and hopefully, you are not drinking at 11 o’clock at night. So every morning we have a 6 o’clock practice which everybody is required to be at practice. Every morning for most of the groups, is in the weight room. They only swim about 35 to 40 minutes following the weight room workout. Then the afternoons tend to be more of our swimming workouts. Yes, I think as you draw closer to your championship part of the season, backing off both your dry land and the water time is appropriate obviously. I think we all figured that out.
MIX OF DRY-LAND WITH SWIMMING SETS: Again, I kind of alluded to that I like the idea of doing some things out of the water, as well as in the water. You might go a 50. Finish the 50, climb out and go 20 stretch cord butterfly pulls or triceps extension, jumping in or diving, doing a 25 fast kick, the last five yards fast swim into the wall, getting out and doing 10 pull-ups or 10 push-ups. When you have real limited space it is a way for you to use your space more effectively. If you only have three kids in the water at a time, but you have another three kids that share that same lane, they are out doing something out of water like pull-ups or push-ups or stretch cords or Pilates stretch, then they are in the water. You are just constantly moving in and out of your water. It is a real effective way to use your space more effectively, so there are not ten kids in a lane on top of each other.
One season we lost our pool. My age group coaches, for almost a whole season, did no swimming at all or very rarely were in the water. Saturdays, were the only day because we didn’t have the pool time. He was doing all this stuff in the park adjacent to the pool. They were out swimming through the park. He had them all convinced that they were going to swim fast at the end of the season and in fact, they did.
HOW MANY TIMES PER WEEK DO YOU SPEND TRAINING BREASTSTROKE? I manage the decisions that my athletes make. For our breaststrokers, I do not do straight out breaststroke all that often. Rebecca does less pure breaststroke. It is more IM and distance free, but she started to do more breaststroke. Keri Hayne does a lot more breaststroke type swimming during practice. Jessica Hardy goes about 60% freestyle and 40% breaststroke. Usually the full stroke breaststroke is at full speed and then it is mostly a lot of components. Somebody mentioned doing kick, kick, pull. I like kick, kick, pulls or it is swimming breaststroke with a flutter kick with or without fins. Or maybe doing it with a dolphin kick or doing vertical work. So I let the kids determine which strokes they are going to do a lot of times and manage the decisions that they make within the framework of my workouts.
HOW DO YOU GET QUICK FOOT RECOVERY IN BREASTSTROKE? I do a drill that we call the piston kick. If your body position is like this with your hands out in front, it looks like a piston. The kids don’t know what a piston is. They are in the water horizontally and just bring their heel up to their butt and then push their legs straight out. Toes are pointing down. They are just pushing against the water and go that as fast as you can. That is one way we teach quick recovery of the heels. The other thing that we do with our breaststrokers is even when we are doing slow breaststroke kicking we remind them to get their heels up really quickly and just glide longer so that they are not bringing the heels up slowly.
HOW DO YOU TEACH BREASTSTROKE TURNS? I will tell you how I teach breaststroke turns. You go into the wall. The hands touch the wall at the same time. The left hand comes off the wall and you are pretending you are cutting through a tropical forest. You extend out; pretend you crashed a plane in a tropical forest, okay? You gotta go with me on this. This is kind of funny so you have got to cut through the forest and build a runway. Then you have got to guide your plane down the runway and off the wall. Wasn’t that a good image? Okay, I think you have got to tell good pictures. I do this to the college kids. They are like, what? The tropical forest? Cutting through a forest, what? We are in college, man! Yeah, well some kids need pictures. So, that is what my analogy is to the breaststroke turn. Some of you do the hand behind the head. I don’t do that. I come over more the top towards the front of the head. Those are the things that you decide yourself, but I like pictures. I like them to get their knees bent and draw the heels to a wall as quickly as they can so their legs are not straight. That is what my focus is.
HOW DO YOU HANDLE HELICOPTER PARENTS? How many of you have helicopter parents? Anti-aircraft, I don’t know. I don’t know if you ever can handle helicopter parents. Everybody thought oh, coach, it is going to be so cool when you go to college. You won’t have to worry about parents anymore. BULL! I have had to deal with more parents in my three short years at USC. My first year, I would get a call every day or my boss would get a call. He would come ask me, Dave, what is going on now? Here is what I did when I was in my club environment. I gotta page Steve for a reason, okay? Imagine this. You are sitting down with a parent who is complaining about what you are doing. They say well, Coach Salo, I just do not agree with you. You say, Um, it is Doctor Salo. I did that once and the parent just melted. You want to be a successful club coach get, a PHD or an MD or just JD. I don’t know. It really can set the tone for parent meetings.
I had a parent come in once, when I became manager of my club team. I get calls from my coaches asking, Dave, do you mind coming in? We have got a parent that we have to deal with. I come in one day for a meeting with a parent of an 8 year old boy. My assistant coaches were there as well as the coach that coached the kid. The parent pulls out one of these Power Point deals. He has got every swim his kid has swum. He has got bar graphs and charts and he says, “My son is not improving in the backstroke.” It’s like yeah, but it looks like he is improving in everything else. So, he is not improving in the backstroke as much as he needs to. It’s like your kid is 7. Then he started to call the kid an athlete. I got a chuckle. I said, your kid ain’t an athlete. He goes, YES HE IS AN ATHLETE! I coach baseball. I know athletes. Ohhhhhhh, I said, I don’t want my kids on your team. So I just said, look, this isn’t the team for you. He said, YES, IT IS! I said, no, it is not. We do not do that with our 7 year old kids. They are not athletes. We are going to teach them to have fun and teach them strokes. He ended up quitting about a month later. The guy was so high strung.
Beware. When a parent comes in with a Power Point presentation, it is time to move that parent away. So how do you deal with helicopter parents? You just tell them the honest truth. You tell them the honest truth. It is okay to say look, our program is not for you. What I have been telling my coaches at Irvine now is I want them to interview families that want to join the team. If you feel comfortable that they shouldn’t be on our team with our values, you need to tell them to move on. There are a lot of other teams to go join. Go and ruin Mission Viejo’s program, not ours. Just kidding, Bill.
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOUR RECRUITS KNEW COMING INTO YOUR PROGRAM? OF COURSE, I LEAVE THE RECRUITING ONES TO THE END. College coaches are no different than anybody else. I just want kids who want to come in and work hard. I want the kid who will come in, work hard, trust me as quickly as they can, and is really good as they come into a new environment. I never ever, ever, ever got a call from Amanda or Aaron or Mike Cavic or Jason Lezak. I never got calls from those kids, calling me up in their first year of college saying Eddie is not doing it right or Frank is not doing it right. I never got those calls. They never called me. I would see them at some meet somewhere down the road, but they never called me. I felt bad, but at the same time I felt good that I had taught them to be self-reliant and to rely on their new coaches to help them out. I wasn’t their coach anymore. Having that kind of trust in your coaches I think is so important. I think that is what they need to learn. They need to learn to go away and move on. Learn from all the people they get a chance to learn from.
What I am looking for is a kid who is willing to work hard, trust the coaching staff, and not have self-perceived notions about the way things can and cannot be.. As I said, I used to get calls from Jason. He was at UC Santa Barbara and it was funny. He would call me up and say Dave. Yes, Jason, this is Dave. Dave, I have been kicked off the team again. He was kicked off the team so many times. He would call me up for workout. I would say Jason; I will send you some workouts. Then, of course he was put back on the team and swam really well. Anyway, I have had a good time. My message again is, please, if I can do this then you can do this. There are lots of ways to get it done. I hope I have inspired you or kept you chuckling for the last couple of hours. Thanks again, I appreciate it!