Improving As You Get Older: Things That Work and Some Things That Don’t by Gregg Troy, Gator Swim Club/University of Florida (2012)


[introduction, by Chuck Warner]

Our next speaker for the last 40 years or so has had three jobs: he has been the head coach of the Fort Myers Swim Club in Florida, for 20 years he was the head coach at The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida, and for the last 15 years or so he has been at the University of Florida where he is now the head coach for Men’s and Women’s Swimming.  At Bolles and at Florida his teams rose to national prominence and have won national championships, and at the same time his swimmers became among the best in the world.  In 1988, Anthony Nesty won the gold medal in the 100m Butterfly.  And then this summer, if you remember at the beginning of Olympic Trials, Elizabeth Beisel, Conor Dwyer, Peter Vanderkaay, Ryan Lochte all coached by Coach Troy, started out the Olympic Trials and set a tone for fast swimming that carried all the way through to the Olympics themselves.  This is a coach I consider to be a friend, but I think more importantly you should consider to be a friend.  Peter Vanderkaay was representing the Oakland Live Y’ers, Ryan Lochte was representing Daytona Beach, Elizabeth Beisel was representing Bluefish from Massachusetts.


He remembers where he came from; he remembers where his swimmers came from.  For all of his years of club coaching, 24 or so, he served on his local swim committee, trying to help make swimming better; going to the USA Swimming Convention, serving in politics and growing and improving the sport.  He currently serves on the ASCA Board of Directors, finding time to help the sport be better for all of us.  This summer I watched much of the Olympics, as I am sure you did too, and I almost never heard his name: he was in the background with his hard work, his intelligence and his intensity, helping us have the greatest men’s Olympic performance since 1976.  66% of our swims were faster than they have ever been before.  And maybe the television doesn’t recognize one of the people that help make that happen; but we come here every year at the ASCA World Clinic, where we can look each other in the eye as colleagues and coaches and friends and acknowledge who has done great deeds for all of us for our country to help get more kids on our teams, more kids signing up and trying out.  And a very significant part of that his work with the Olympic team.  I hope you will help me welcome him and let him know how much we appreciate the job he has done for all of us.  We may never get that chance again, as we get it this time after the Olympic Games.  Coach Gregg Troy, the 2012 USA Head Men’s Olympic Coach.



[Troy begins]

Thank you Chuck, you are way too kind.   Thank you.  I am always humbled in this dynamic; speaking is not one of my better traits.  It’s great times and I am glad I can be here, and hopefully share some things.  This is a little more reflective.  You guys had a chance to talk to Eddie [Reese] and no one knows more about talking about technique and stroke, and you listened to Bill Sweetenham last night, who quite frankly stole most of my talk.  I woke up this morning… I don’t have a topic.  There is one out there: getting better as you get older and the only person who can tell you that is my wife, as she is in here, you have to ask her about that.  Really didn’t mean to me, it was help older athletes get better.  I thought about that as a topic, I started on it—and this is not ASCA’s fault in any matter.  I started on it, and then I saw that I sent them two topics; and I saw I was going to talk on all things that work and things that don’t.  I had a little bit work than that, this last year has been a little time consuming.  No excuse, never accepted it from my athletes, certainly not making any myself.  But it takes time to do those things.  So I had little bit on both of those talks.


My favorite talk would be to just to have questions.  I think so many times when I came to clinics when I was younger, I always felt that you get to a point in the conversation where you really wanted an explanation of what was going on.  Yesterday I had lunch with Bill Sweetenham and Martyn Wilby, my assistant, and I, and great coach and we had a chance to eat lunch with Bill.  And we thought Bill was taking a lot of time with his lunch and being a nice guy; he was rehearsing his speech on it.  But we had two hours and we had a chance to ask questions and he gave us all kinds of great information.  The depth of the understanding of the sport that he showed last night… if you ever get a chance to talk to the guy—and he talked about traveling the world for roller coasters and talking to ten people—it was amazing the information he has.  And he said that the people that are really good at things that they do, don’t be afraid to ask them; because if you ask them they will love to share it with you.  You get a chance to corner Bill Sweetenham and ask him questions, it will be worth your time. 


So I had three topics to talk about and I called John Leonard a few days ago, actually about a week ago and I said, John, I am struggling a little bit with this, I am not really sure what I am going to talk about for an hour.  He said, they would always want to hear about the Olympics make sure you tell them about that—so that was the fourth topic.  So I had four or five topics and I did know until this morning I even had a title.  And I woke up this morning, I came up with a title this morning and I realized that reflecting on all this stuff.


I think Swimming committee guys are really lost a great friend this year past year, Ron Ballatore.  I have known Ron for years as “Stix”.  If you are one of the young coaches who didn’t know him, you missed a real experience; and if you are one of the older ones who did, you need to share some of Ballatore stories with the young ones because they are priceless.  And I thought about you know, maybe taking a few moments and little bit of time for Stix this morning; but those who know him would say: Troy, none of that B.S. for me and there’d probably been an expletive in front of the B.S., so I am not going to do that.  But keep Stix in your thoughts.  So basically, just a little hodge podge of all kinds of things and I hope I can get through most of it enough that I can do the thing I would prefer to do at the end which is answer some questions.


The fifth topic is the one I am going to start about.  The fifth one, coaching as a profession, takes an awful lot of time folks, and that’s my topic in today’s time because I think it relates to everything.  It is very time consuming.  If you are a young coach and you are just starting doing it and you think this is profession whereas you go longer you are going to do less and you are going to have more free time, it’s the worst.  The more you do it, the more it becomes like a sponge.  It takes up your time, it takes up your energies in a very good way.  It’s a fantastic way to share with people, you work with the very best and brightest young people in the United States and I don’t care if you work with 8 year olds or you are working with the 27 year olds I have the good fortune to work with this past year.  They are sharp people, they are the future of our country, it’s the biggest job you do.  It’s way more important than the time they go, it’s way more important than how fast they swim at the Olympics, and I think as long as you remember that, then this whole thing becomes very purposeful because when the swimming is over, one of the things that happened in the Olympics this summer, I think one reason why the team is especially good was because we kept them in perspective.  I think the athletes really enjoyed the experience and I will talk about that a little bit later, but anyway I was talking to Jon Urbanchek, Teri McKeever, and Bob Bowman all periodically through the Olympic Trials and over the course of the last six months and all the conversations were relatively how much time it took, how long the trips are, the impacts it has on your life and in talking about it, even Bill Sweetenham last night, first information he gave was how much time it takes to finish to take care of your family and things and reflecting that, especially talking with Jon Urbanchek, he said, you need to tell people this, and we were talking, this is a… the amount of time taken, Bob Bowman, greatest… one of the greatest coaches I have ever worked with is the best athlete ever.  Bob is articulate, really knows what’s going on.  Another guy if you want to ask questions, good guy to ask.  Bob has taken a year off from the sport and his comment to me was he said, I just want to have a time where I don’t have to be some place because if you are going to do it right, there are places you have to be, there are demands, your athletes are going to require time.  It comes in inconvenient times for you and your family, but here we got a great guy who didn’t really need any coaching, relatively young and Bob is going to take a year away from sport, and he is kind of…I think he will be back, but he  has been questioned a little bit for that very reason.


It was really interesting talking to Teri McKeever, fantastic, cannot tell you how great it was to work with Teri this summer.  She understands the sport, really good technically, knows how to motivate athletes, but especially good at presenting things to women and equally as good at managing; she had more than an opportunity to do it, she is fantastic, but she was talking about how it took her a long time to find a husband and basically she was from a big family so she already had a… she is from a family of ten and she was the oldest of 10, so she kind of was a mother sometimes so you know, she didn’t raise a family of her own and one of the reasons she said it took so much time to do really, really well at what she is doing.


And then the one that really piqued my interest is Jon Urbanchek, one of the best ever.  Special thanks to you Jon if you are in here; if you aren’t you guys need to thank him today.  He did the toughest job in the Olympic team.  He took the distance freestylers from day 1 and kept them the whole way through to the last day of the meet, everyone else is resting, playing games and stuff, and I specifically wanted Jon on the team because his way of doing it was one that the athletes stay relaxed, he is respected by the athletes, but his attention to detail and staying on top of it all the time was amazing.


Jon and I were talking, I was talking to him that swimming took a long time that I was reflecting a little bit on what I would do different if I was going to go back and coach again and one of the things I would do different and I offer this to you younger coaches, I offer to my assistants that have families and maybe even some who are little bit older and are still doing it.  If I had a chance to do it over again, I would once a month take at least a 3-day weekend because the job is so consuming and takes so much time, it’s not 9 to 5.  Its not 20 hours a week, 40 hours a week, the other coaches at Florida, really class coaches, big time sports, the best at what they do, they are always amazed.  When is your off season?  There is no off season in swimming if you are going to be really great at the highest levels and if you are working with age groupers, and younger kids, you may not put quite as much time as at the deck of the pool, but you know what it’s like dealing with parents, and you have to deal with them, they are concerned, interested people; you have to deal with parents, you have to deal with boards, you have to learn a lot about the logistics of what’s going on, so it’s very time consuming no matter what level you are at, so I would take a 3-day weekend and when I took a 3-day weekend off I would tell my athletes, either on Thursday night or Friday morning, “hey folks, I am leaving you with the assistants.” (Actually they aren’t assistants, they are other coaches)  “I am going to leave you with the other coaches, they have got the plan, they know what they are doing, I am taking time with my family and I am going to be back on Monday, and I will be a better coach because of it.”  I said many times that sometimes I feel that I spent more time raising other people’s children than my own.  I’ve got three fantastic boys, great wife, but I think sometimes we miss that.  So if you come away with nothing else, I would recommend very much what Bill Sweetenham said last night: take care of your family first.  Now you cannot do that and be a great swim coach and great swim coaches come whether you are working with 8 and unders or whether you are working with 27 year olds.  It’s just a different level of recognition.  You can’t do that unless you are taking a lot of time, it takes a lot.  You take that weekend off you will get very much of ‘I am leaving my athletes short.’ You are not.  Only good things happen if you will take that weekend off.  First of all the coaches you work with that are under you, they are going to be better because you are showing your athletes that you respect them, that’s going to help you do your job, that’s going to help your athletes feel better.


Second, it’s going to help your athletes because it makes them dependent and it’s going to make them develop a value system which is very, very important.  You heard it last night.  Bill Sweetenham talked about character.  You want your athletes to have character.  Your whole team will be better.  Your athletes will be better.  They will make you a better coach because your family will be better and they are the people you are supposed to take care of, #1, and on top of that you will be better because you will be a better coach on Monday because you have taken care of all your responsibilities, you will come in fresh, you will be ready to go and your athletes will know that.  So if you are young coach and before you get in that mode where it’s all work, work, work, it’s still work, it’s really important, spend the extra time.  Bill Sweetenham always says, compromise won’t get it for you; this isn’t compromise; it will make you a better coach, you will have great family and your athletes will have better values.  That’s topic #1.  And those things take a lot of time.


Topic #2, actually I am going backwards, that was 5, I am going back to 4.  Olympic Thoughts.  It’s a special time. It’s after the Olympics, everyone thinks swimming is great right now.  We are, TV ratings were amazing, our sport is getting recognition we never got before.  It will slide off a little bit as you go through four years.  It seems not as much as it used to be, but it’s a great time for our sport.  It’s special.  Olympics.  Olympic Thoughts.  I was extremely fortunate to have this opportunity, and I thank everyone that supported it.  I thank everyone in the room because there is amazing…it just amazed me at how many people ask what they could do to help.  It was good.  It was also a lot of pressure.  I didn’t realize until after it was over how much pressure it was; it affects you because you are carrying a big burden. The last thing you want to do when you are working with someone else’s athletes is mess them up.  It’s… so it’s something that you think about a lot.  What I expected?  I didn’t know what to expect, I have never been head Olympic coach, I have been on the staff before, way different.  When you are staff, one of the best things is being an assistant coach on staff.  Someone else has the pressure and they are going to make decisions; you get to contribute and when it’s made, you just kind of move forward and we had a tremendous staff, they all worked tremendously, and that’s why we were successful, but I didn’t know what to expect.  I knew the Chinese were going to be good, I knew that the Australians, if you looked at their Trials, they should have been tremendous.  The Brits were swimming at home.  They have invested a tremendous amount of money in swimming.  I would suggest to all of us, money is not what it’s about, it’s love of sport.  The amount of money that some of those other countries invest in the sport is unbelievable and sometimes they are not getting paid off on their dollar, but looking at those things and especially looking at the men’s side, but Teri and I worked very closely with both sides.  We felt that was important, you just have to do that.  There were some big challenges and the last thing I wanted to do was for the US team not to be good on my watch.  The… and those challenges we had some… on the men’s side, we had lot of old guys, I have said for years the team is getting little long in the tooth and I think it still is and the question was whether they can hang on and do it again; there was a question whether we are good enough in the freestyle events.  It’s the basic part of the meet if you will; there was a question of freestyle events.  Our sprinters hadn’t been especially good the last few years, our distance freestyle weak, our middle distance guys weren’t good at the Trials at all, my fault, but we weren’t putting any… and the rest of the world is good in the freestyle.  So I thought those are real challenges.


On the women’s side, the question was who was going to step up.  We knew we had some young girls that had some talent, but will they step up in the big stage and Bill told you last night, the Olympics is a different stage.  It will always be, it should be, that’s why we are all here.  Whether the youth would handle the pressure, I thought it was a big question.


Staff-wise, we had some questions staff-wise because you always select your staff late, but even more than that transition, Mark Schubert one of the best leaders we ever had, transition to Frank Busch who did a fantastic job, but difference in styles, certainly a difference in approach, I think looking at expectation-wise there are some questions about that and then the real reality is the Trials is very close.  It was the closest it has ever been in the Olympics, and the question is you know, whether that is going to work, is there enough time to get the athletes ready for the two and then top of it we went through the year and found that it was going to be a bigger, bigger, humongous meet, I am sort of a small meet guy, a little bit it worried me, I thought we might select the wrong team.  So those were the expectations and thoughts going in.  What actually happened?  For the time our Trials turned out to be perfect.  I think we did some things that were really great, the large Trials, it actually hardened them.  We may have hurt a few athletes here and there.  First day was a little long, I think it might have hurt some of the athletes, second and third day maybe an athlete made the team and missed an event here and there because of it, but basically hardened us, it made us really really, ready to go.  So I think it was good.  Didn’t have a response.  The athletes took everything in stride, they rallied, performed real well.  Actually looking at the Trials on paper, we were not very good.  We had a lot of big holes, a lot of weakness, it still was questionable.  When we got there they raised the team in 10s, it was close.  We all know the results, I don’t need to go through them, it was really interesting about the close Trials. One of the Canadian coaches as we left the trials called Martyn Willby and he said Martyn that we should be preparing for a 7-day meet and we all know the Olympics was 8 days and his philosophy was well, your Trials were so long, by the time you pack it all and you take the people out, the reality is this meet is going to be a lot shorter, it is only a 7-day meet and its not an 8-day meet with a whole lot of people, so I think there was an expectation across the world.  He had little feel the first few days in the meet in the deck that maybe we weren’t as good, you know, Australians were pretty confident, but we did a tremendous job, I am not going to go over the results.  I think it’s a tribute to the athletes, fantastic group of athletes, fantastic coach.


Frank Busch and the staff, had everything ready to go, Frank did a tremendous job keeping the focus where it needed to be so that the coaches can work with the athletes.  Logistics, all the travel things, they were fantastic.  Housing was good.  The response to everything that we asked as coaches that we needed usually got done.  I would like to take an opportunity to especially thank the staff that was working at the meet.  On the women’s side, Dave Salo, Steve Bultman and Todd Schmitz did a tremendous job.  Men’s side, Bob Bowman,  Eddie Reese, and David Marsh, all tremendous, worked right together, gave great ideas, helped the athletes, many women staff crossed one another and again I would reemphasize Jon Urbanchek was special.  Jack Roach from United States swimming did a lot of filling in as kind of assistant coach, and I would give special credit to the number of American coaches that come to the camp in Knoxville, showing interest in their athletes who will never know how important that it is to athletes to show up. Every once in a while, they act like they don’t appreciate it, believe me they do and as the pressure gets closer, it’s really obvious and they speak up about it.


The women obviously stepped up, those young girls, Missy Franklin, Katie Ledecky, Elizabeth Beisel, Lia Neal, just to name a couple, they are really young, big futures.  I would offer to you, if you are an age group coach out there and you sit and you listen to talks like this, you say…hey, this doesn’t apply to me, what Bill Sweetenham said didn’t apply to you, remember four years ago, someone was sitting where you were sitting, working with a little girl called Katie Ledecky, no one knew who she was, they had no idea, but someone planted a seed four years ago that girl won.  No one expected her to win.  She is going to be one of the best ever.  I mean it’s really amazing.  So this is… it is one of those things, it frustrates me to no end than when we are talking about a sport about age group coaches, college coaches and senior coaches, we are all coaches.  You do the same things, you use the same skills.


Bill Sweetenham last night talked about what he did when he first started, working with a team that was made up of all different things and you know, he missed 4 years old who won 200 IM, I mean pretty amazing stuff and we are all coaches, every one does the same thing.  We need to get away from all the stratification a little bit, we all do the same thing, so its just real luckier to work with the right athletes at times or being a dynamic where you got a chance to really work with those people.


But anyway, the women stepped up, people worked with those women its tremendous and one of the best things I have ever seen in swimming were great people, Natalie Coughlin.  I don’t think its any secret Natalie was disappointed, she didn’t swim as many events as she wanted.  For her, her background what she has done in the sport, for her to be going just basically a relay where she was, she didn’t actually make the relay I mean that’s a setback, she handled it like a champ.  She took on the role of taking care of those younger girls, tremendous, the leadership in the men’s and women’s side, we were lucky to have good coaches, we were lucky to have tremendous staff and great organization.  We have fantastic leadership in those older athletes.  Men’s side, Peter Vanderkaay, Brendan Hansen, Jason Lezak. Lezak very much like Natalie and they handled it really well, really class act people.  The men, it’s obviously the old men could perform, as consistency may be not.  Quite to the same levels as they would have wanted to, maybe not, but enough that when all of them did it and put in the bits and pieces together – fantastic team.  Just tremendous way they got about it and I think it’s a real credit and what is even more important the maturity on the team allowed us to come back from disappointments.  When you are working with your own teams don’t even misunderstand that, its really really important because swimming never goes the way you want.  Who would have ever thought that Michael Phelps was not going to medal it all in the 400 IM at first day, comes back the next day sets up the meet.  In some ways I talked with Michael about this, I think he wouldn’t mind this hearing, in some ways it helped him.  I think Michael enjoyed this Olympics more than any other because he was no longer about how many medals you are going to win or things, but just racing which he is the best at.  Just absolutely tremendous.  He comes back from that.


Brendan Hansen – Lot of pressure on Brendan.  Medal in the breaststroke, we didn’t really expect to get a medal in the breaststroke, we did, the rest of the world didn’t expect us to. Brendan expected too, but it wasn’t easy to do.


Peter Vanderkaay – trials was a little rocky, his trials was rocky because he wanted to medal in the 400 freestyle, he would like to win, but we felt strongly we weren’t going to do that, if we got ready for the trials we had to keep something in the bank.  His performances the first day were amazing because the first day was key for the team and it’s a good coaching thing to understand when you are looking at multiple day meets, the first day we come in, Michael wasn’t quite as good, but Ryan was better than what he was at the trials, the 400 freestyle on paper going into the meet, you know, we had been good last year, but what we did in the trials compared to the rest of the world, we had no one swimming in the finals, we had two guys step up that day, they are both better than what they were, one of them medals.


Dana Vollmer, really great prelim swim, great semifinal swim.  Elizabeth Beisel goes faster in the trials, it set up the whole team.  They all believed they in fact could go faster.  It was a great first day, but again it’s a credit to the guys, guy like Matt Groover stepping up.


Ryan when he wasn’t good in… really it’s a big time disappointment, that guy is not used to losing a tall, he didn’t like it a bit, come back and he swam the rest of the meet, pretty pleased with where we were, could have been better, possibly.  But it was a team effort, everyone was very unselfish, tremendous group to work with.


Challenges for the future after the Olympics – When I keep in mind the good things and the stuff that we learned, we can make it work on a short time between the two.  It was probably tremendous for the athletes to have an opportunity to go home.  The ones who were in Beijing team where they were going for 50 plus days, constantly said, boy, so much nicer when we aren’t gone from home so long.  We have an older community, it was good for them to get back see the family, their friends and also see personal coaches and get things started, I think that had tremendous impact.


All right…told you… I think I told you the… we kept relaxed, and its just swimming, one of the reporters, did I say that already?  Went through this talk before one time. One of the reporters on one of the days, it was either Michael or Ryan when they hadn’t been swimmers especially while it was after Michael 400 IM or after Ryan’s relay split and you go back to the mix zone at the Olympics and the mix zone is where the reporters get to, you understand they are talking about 40 reporters which is great for swimming.  I hate it, but it’s fantastic for the sport that we are in before 10 years ago or 20 years ago, but one of the reporters asked me, was he going to recover from it.  I kind of looked at the guy, see Olympics it’s a biggest meet there is, they are well prepared. The team is swimming pretty well, of course he is, its just swimming and it is just swimming and the report kind of stopped like there was some big deal.


Bill Sweetenham said it last night: it’s the Olympics, it’s a big deal, but it was just swimming.  You are trying to get a normal performance in an abnormal situation so you have to be prepared.  It takes lots of time to do that.  We constantly remember we need to do it the American way.  Everyone in the world is spending money, throwing money at swimming, putting small training groups together, really making a lot of big push, trying to put all their athletes in one place, our biggest strength is all you people out there, the versatility, the different ways we can go about it.  Our ability to put a team together.  Team is part of the American way.  We understand team sports, the other countries they don’t get it yet, it’s American clinic, so I can say those things.  But we want to keep that mind because there are lots of different ways to skin the cat and they are all good, but none of them are easy and they all take time.  We have to keep that in mind.  We shouldn’t be overconfident. You take 2 or 3 athletes out of the meet in the men’s side and we are pretty average, and whether the young guys underneath will be able to step up, that’s up to you folks over the next four years.  How we work with those 11 year olds.  I feel very strongly about this.  I have said at committees. You have to quit telling your young boys they cannot compete with the older guys, its wrong.  Do not do it.  They can.  A year ago the fastest 100 freeestyler in the world was an Australian who swam better last year when he was younger than this year when he was older.  He just turned 19 last year and he won the world championship.  These are men’s events, sprints event, quit telling your young men they can’t compete, they can.  The 19 year old Japanese boy that was second or third in the 400 IM, and no one told him he couldn’t do it.  We have to stop doing that.  Is it harder for them to do it?  Without a doubt.  Is it uncomfortable for them to do it?  Without a doubt.  What did Bill Sweetenham tell you last night about comfort levels?  You make them uncomfortable, have high expectations and when they fall short, go back to work, do not allow them to feel sorry for themselves and do not allow their age to be a reason why they cannot do it.


Michael Phelps was in the finals of the Olympics, he was 15 years old.  Do not tell me they can’t do it.  We have to stop doing that.  We have a generation of young people, we got 4 to 6 years now and everyone makes excuses and keeps telling young men, hey listen, you will be good when these older guys are gone.  That’s what indirectly we are telling them.  They can compete, its hard to do, they have to be challenged. They need to work hard and if they do their time will come.  But we certainly shouldn’t be overconfident, we do not have the world.  The Japanese swam very very well, the French made big gains because they didn’t like what they did years ago, four years ago, they went back and reevaluated, they made gains, we should reevaluate now, start now to make the changes we need so that we will continue to be good in 2016 and 2020.  Do not be overconfident.  The Australians are not happy about where they were at, they will be better in four years, I will guarantee it.


I think its key for us to always remember, familiarity with athletes is really important in that dynamic because it’s an unfamiliar situation, you can only repeat it once every four years, so very few people really have experience, four years is long enough that even the experienced athletes get very nervous, so you need to have a staff that works with them that is familiar with them.  So I think one of the credits is all the people I named earlier did such a  tremendous job coaching so many of the staffs three years prior they had relationship for those athletes and they know them well.  That’s the Olympics folks, it was fantastic.


Training older athletes to get better. That was one of the topics.  I thought about this for a couple of years.  I talked to Bob Bowman and I asked Bob if I could use one of his earlier talks, I asked him about a year ago, I don’t know if he remembers, but if you want to hear a swimming description, training and what you need to do, you don’t need to listen to me, you can go back and get Bob Bowman, he has a talk on capacity versus utilization.  It is a tremendous synopsis whether you are an age group coach, whether you are working with age groupers, whether you are working with seniors, whether high school kids, college kids, 27 year olds, it’s a tremendous explanation of training in terms that are very understandable.  Bob has tremendous grasp for that.  But in talking to him, my concern is when he gave the talk about training and I think there is an aspect to it that people forget that it is hurting our older athletes.  I just told you tell your younger kids would win, but older people are getting better.  There is no two ways about it.  Briefly when he talks about capacity and utilization, he talks about capacity and these are in very broad terms, I don’t do justice and I am probably little bit off, but its my generalization for the talk a little bit.  Capacity is your endurance work.  You might look at it as your volume work.  It’s the platform that gives the ability to be great in the sport.  In broad terms it’s aerobic.  Its the long boring swimming, you can… I am not real big in scientific terms, I just have a feel for what works for me, so my terms aren’t really scientific, so I apologize to the scientific community and excuse me for reading the notes, but I don’t want to miss anything here.


When Bob discusses, so its volume, its endurance.  When he talks about utilization, utilization is more technique, it’s more specific training, it’s very relative to what you are doing, it’s your adaptation, that’s not correct, it’s very specific.  There is tremendous community in the world that really focuses on specific training and it’s important.  We are a very specific sport as I look forward to the Olympics I think we received less people like Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.  The swimming world is so much better than ever before. There are so many good athletes.  You are going to have be slightly more specific and because you are not going to be able to swim in a multitude of events.  I hope that isn’t true.  If you got someone that can’t keep trying to do it, but I think it’s going to be a lot tougher, I think both Ryan and Michael will tell you that.  There are people stepping up all different places from different worlds, its tough to swim multiple events.  When you take that, the capacity work and utilization work or for lack of a better term or generalization a little bit, you take the capacity which is the endurance work, and you combine that with the utilization which is a specific word and I think the technical issues come into that too especially as you get older.  Most important thing you do for your young coach, teach the athletes how to swim correct.  Again, Sweetenham last night, make sure they have the skill, but when they get older then those refinements become even more and more important, they are smaller, but it’s the same skill, the same things, so become specific.  When you take those two things together and you take the broad terms and you mix the two together and the athlete adapts to both of them, you get some tremendous performances when both are done correctly and Bob’s talk is tremendous.  I don’t do it justice, but when you do those two things together you get some tremendous swims.  Unfortunately, I think in today’s and its very much in the get-rich-quick world, everything is fast, our athletes want it fast, they will do whatever work you give them, they can work toward long term goals if you direct them to do so, but its a little bit harder than it used to be, its not that they can’t, its not that they want they will, but you have to be the driving force and making it happen.  Unfortunately, when you put those two things together over a course of years and the capacity work might be a little more effective when you are  younger and the specialization work might be a little more effective when you are older, I am not sure that that’s true, I listened to our cross-country coach talk, we have a new cross country coach in Florida and he was talking the other day at a press conference asking what he was going to do different and he talked about energy systems, and he said you know, some people work one energy system for part of the time and another energy system for another part of the time and they get in the end they don’t expect to be good.  They fatigue.  They… atrophy a little bit if you will, if you don’t stay on it.  So we have to work all the systems during all parts of the season, what correct proportion that’s for you to decide, its going to be different body athletes, different body of programs, different whether it is long course or short course, different where you are in the athletes’ career, but you have to use both of them, when we use both and you get these really really great performances.  There seems to be a school of thought out there that while you do the capacity work when you are younger and then when you are older you do the specific work, the policy there is so so flawed, we have to get it in the United States because the rest of the world is still there.  The specific work, the utilization work is not easy.  It is extremely demanding.  It is dependent upon doing the capacity work.  If you do not do both of them as you get older, you do not improve, and the problem is there are so many coaches, when you do the utilization work and you do more of it as you got a little bit older. So some place in that 16-18 year range, 20-year-old range I don’t know where it is, but somewhere in that ballpark the mix of those two comes again and the athlete has this tremendous performance.  Unfortunately, the perspective in our sport is a little bit short.  All the athlete remembers is that the taper, they all remember the taper, they are really good at that, they can tell what they didn’t taper.  They got that down, they know they left the pool a little bit earlier, they know when they weren’t there as long, and it didn’t seem as hard so they like that, but that whole scope of things, they like to think, wow, and there is people that say this and its not… I don’t believe it is correct, could be wrong, talk to scientists, I don’t know, but Dr. Bob he is way better at it than I am but, you cannot forget the capacity, it is no longer not important because the specific steps in utilization made you fast and the athletes want to believe that and that buys into the short term easy society, because hey, I don’t have to go to the pool as much, I don’t have to swim as much, I don’t… it takes every bit as much time to do the utilization as does the capacity, they are just two different things, but as they get older they have to do both.  If they do not continue to do the capacity work and they only do the specialization and utilization work they will not get better.  They will stagnate, we have lots of our older athletes that are tremendous and they stay at one point.  Our job is not to keep them at one point.  Our job is to help them improve and get better.  We have a lot of older athletes staying the same.  Fortunately the rest of the world hadn’t figured out and didn’t catch us yet and our guys had lot of class, they stayed on top of it. 


Success – Success tends to have the athletes think there is a diminished need for capacity.  Success is one thing, improvement is another.  Our job is not to rest in our laurels as gold medalists and silver medalists, or the time our job is to have them continue to improve and I think that’s what Bill Sweetenham talked about yesterday, I had lunch with him yesterday and he talked about that character issue.  He said, I asked him what will you do Bill if you are starting over again, he said he will build his team around character.  He constantly wants to raise the bottom in character because we raise the bottom in the top end its better too.  And back to those 18 and 19 year olds, our older guys got hurt the last four years because we refused to challenge 16-, 17-, 18-year-old boys to race them.  If the 16-, 17-, 18-year-old boys raced the older guys, they will get better, if they believe they can beat them they will get better, and the older guys will get better and respond.  We want people to get better older, quit telling our young folks that they can’t do it.  On the women’s side we didn’t do that and we are getting ready to take off.  We have four more years like the last two and the women are no longer would be [Indiscernible], but we have to keeping on challenge the women too, we cannot rest on our laurels.


Utilization, specialization… Utilization and capacity are both important.  Get Bobs’ talk and read it, its fantastic.  Another aspect that makes it worse, they are always individuals, there will always be individuals who are exceptions, they are the freaks of the swimming world if you will.  They are going to swim faster no matter what we have them do.  Again Sweetenham talked about that last night.  They are the people that it won’t  matter whether I coach them, its not going to matter which one of you folks coach them, they are that good they are going to have some level of success.  In today’s world, with the social media and the way the contact is as quickly as information flies out there.  Our athletes don’t look for the place that is going to help them be the best, they are going to look for the work that is going to be the best.  They want to be better, but the natural tendency is to look for the exception to the rule.  The exception is that freak and everyone wants to be the exception – they or not.  We need to make the other people good so that the freak exception does what they need to do and makes them better and we will all improve because of it.  So I… that’s the kind of the way I look at where we need to go in training and getting older people better and young people better.


Byproduct is sometimes older guys think they need to train less because if we remove some of the boredom, if they don’t do the capacity work, they know how to do those longer boring sets.  You got these guys somehow they still do them.  They real interpret it as less time, if they don’t have to go to practice as many times, I think it takes as much time to be a great swimmer, doing different things as it does to be a great distance freestyle.  You might be using a little bit different ways.  In reality, swimming is a combination of talent, work, and rest which equal performance.  You could call that technique training and specialization.  You could call it technique, capacity, and utilization, those are the things that relate to a good performance.


And some personal observations that I feel relevant to older athletes because I learned a lot the last four years.  Three 27-year-old guys they did pretty well, I had a lot of 25-year-olds, I had a couple of older women, they did fairly well.  I think they could have done better in spots, so I am not satisfied I think they could have done better, but it was good.  First of all, the phenomena, I just talked about, understanding training, keeping it going, I think you want to do it.  At the same time you want to put in new things, you got to find new ways to do it .  #2 I think is confidence is very key for them.  You have to get to them to buy into what they are doing, no different than anything else, but it takes a greater conversation, it takes a lot of talking with them.


Peter Vanderkaay and I had some tremendous conversations these couple of different great coaches, Mike Bottom, Bob Bowman, Jon Urbanchek, Jeff Cooper did a tremendous job developing the guy and doesn’t get credit for it sometimes, so again its coaches, not older kids, younger kids, but coaches.  But Peter Vanderkaay and I are talking.  Pete is one of those, you tell him what to do and he is going to do.  I mean he is blue collar on the numbers go, it’s a joy to work with him, but one of the things I talked to him about is, hey, Pete, you know, last two years your career, I don’t know you very well.  You got to communicate, you got to give me some things.  He had a very very hard time telling me things that he thought he needed to do, but I think it helped him in doing it.  I think it made him a more complete athlete. He could have been better, there were some aspects to that, but he did really well.  400 freestyle he set the tone for the meet.  But I think that exchange is much more important with the older folks is like I told Pete, Pete was 27 years old, swimming for better coaches than I swam for and I was coaching at 21 working with guys that were at the almost not as fast, but kind of the same level as Pete.  He had some great ideas for him not to share them and I think Sweetenham talked about that yesterday.  You have to have a rapport, there has to be some honest relationship with your coach and one of the key things he said last night is your athlete has to trust you because really your perspective is different.  I always tell my athletes, give me information because I can’t tell how you feel, but don’t tell me to feel, just give me things that are specific.  Then trust my judgment to put it back to you the way you want because they are distorted by fatigue and hopefully I am not.  But again, takes a lot of time so that weekend you take off because your chance not to be fatigued, you got a better perspective on what’s going on.  There is no pressure for the older folks, its way different.  Money – way different.  If you are working with older athletes and they are swimming for the money, I think there needs to be a program to figure out how to do that, they want to be professionals, they are not professionals in that football, and basketball and baseball sense, so it has a completely different pressure.  You got athletes that their performance relates to paying their rent.  You got some of them are married relates to raising their family, so it’s a big deal.  I think on top of that social media – its so quick, everyone has an opinion on what happens.  Your athletes read it and it makes it hard with them to work them, it affects confidence.  Long term planning, its … they have to take part in it.  So I think all those things, they take a lot of time, but you got to spend time individually to work with them.  Specialization is more important as they are older, it’s very important, but by the same token I feel again conversation with Bob Bowman, the rest of the world has become so specialized, they don’t know how to train anymore, we still don’t know how to train in the United States.  Bob and I were having this discussion, and Bob said we don’t go 20×400 all the time, but we do go it once a year.  We do some 400s, I think its good; I am not apologizing for it, it is fantastic.  Bob’s comment to me, he said you didn’t have a group it would to be harder to get Ryan to do that.  It would be immensely hard to get Ryan to do that alone.  He would do it or it wouldn’t be anywhere near as good.  Again Bill Sweetenham talked yesterday, you know eyeball to eyeball and practice is relevant to what happens in swim meets.  The rest of the world has got this very small, specialized, little groups and they are so specialized that their athletes don’t come eyeball to eyeball enough and I think it hurts them at competition.  If they were smart enough to come to the clinic, maybe they will go back and change some of those things, but if you look at… the athletes that are really successful not all of them, but some of them.


Allison Schmitt, Michael Phelps, not a very small training group.  Now when they travel they might be smaller, but Bob’s training group Bob’s back down guess its somewhere around 30, and he is working with… there are lot of people coming in and out of the group.  He has people coming in from other places, those two folks are really successful.  Ryan Lochte, I feel sorry for the guy a little bit, got five medals from the Olympics and he is kind of unsuccessful and wanted him to be more successful and there are some reasons there, but it was good.  Ryan Lochte and Elizabeth Beisel, those two programs, both training in larger groups, going eyeball to eyeball people, and I even left out Vanderkaay and Conor Dwyer, I mean they have lot of medals.


Take a step further.  The Chinese, SUN Yang, and I don’t know, not very good in the names, but the little girl in the 400 IM [YE Shiwen], they don’t take the easy way, they trained in Australia, the highest volume Australian programs and the Australian programs they are training are big training groups.  I think Dennis Cotterell’s group, I think Dennis was telling me, I believe its somewhere in the 30-40 range that he sees sometimes in his pool.  There is a tremendous aspect to that.  Specialization is good, you have to get with your athletes, you have to work especially on the things that they need, but that big training group is a tremendous thing there, we don’t want to lose that.  So older people tend to think that that should go away.  They don’t like being uncomfortable.  Sweetenham again, uncomfortable is good.  You are going to be uncomfortable at the Olympics.  Recovery time takes longer, it takes more time for the older people.  I go for my run in the morning, it takes me longer than it did few years ago, as you get older it just takes a little more time, I think it’s true with older athletes if you are working with them.


New training techniques constantly and new stimulus and things, I think we are back to time there.  When you put a new training stimulus, you are going to go home from this with all kinds of great ideas, if you are putting some new training things, if you put on those training things, it will take time to get results, do not throw them out just because the results aren’t coming 3 months, 4 months, 5 months, maybe if you work on it this next year you may not see the results for the year after, it takes time.  The key component for older athletes and I have watched it pretty closely.  I really believe this.  I think the key component for older athletes is they still have got the love for the sport.  If they are doing it because they don’t know what else to do, if they are doing because they get paid to do it, they aren’t quite as good.  And I don’t know… I know Bob’s back there, I think I am back to Michael.  I think Michael was tremendous after that first day because it actually allowed him to re-love just racing and swimming.  I think it helped him tremendously at the Olympics and Bob working with him, but it helped him a lot.  He was a different guy than the two Olympics before, tremendous athlete.  So what does it take for older people: it takes some good tools, it takes the same direction they have had in the past, the direction, it takes focus, it takes good training concepts, you have to constantly look at new ways to do things and new ideas and more than anything else it takes time to improve again.


So I did that in 55 minutes, so we are still talking about time.  I have 5 left, but I will be willing to stay even 15 more if there are questions.  If you have questions, I will go back to what I would have rather talked about, Swimming.  So, umm… open to anything.  Yes, and you might have to yell, sir.


Question:  What changes did you make from NCAAs to Olympics Trials?


Gregg:  The group of 22 were guys that had no collegiate and they were on one path and the collegiate guys were in another path, but within those two over the course of the year I didn’t really make changes.  People like Elizabeth, Teresa Crippen who maybe wasn’t as successful as we want them, we had some other guys trials we run, we were over 60% lifetime best at the trials from our group and while those were college athletes they weren’t quite a big as drops, but they were people we knew that didn’t have good a chance, but we wanted to go to the meet and be really good, we had a big team concept.  Those two groups were in different courses and the international group was actually on its way down if you will, by the end the NCAA started they were going through a different phase and the other people met them there and then we did some different things we kind of went this way for a while and then we brought them together except for Elizabeth and those folks and her whole focus, the NCAA meet for her don’t… this is not an excuse for anything, it was good meet, we expected it to better, but her NCAA meet we approached that like a Grand Prix meet that we would get ready for a little bit which we don’t very often so it was kind of a different world, she jumped right back into training. We put in a little more aerobic in, for about four weeks we took it real big aerobically, but still did the quality work that the other guys in the way down were doing, so they got a little bit of both mixed in there just to get them back, and then my goal is a month after the trials, they were all together in one group and moving from there, but we did talk, there was absolutely no break.  We swam the NCAA meets on Saturday, we came home on Sunday, they were back in on Monday morning and we did give them a long weekend, the next weekend just to keep them kind of fresh a little bit, if they chose to take it.  Elizabeth chose not to.


Question:  As a coach, do we need to have fewer people at the Olympic Trials?


Gregg:  He asked as a coach whether we need to have fewer people at the Olympic trials?  You know, before the Trials I would have told you without doubt, yes, and I still believe that.  I think it was a little too big.  But by the same token of enthusiasm what it does for the sport, fortune enough to be in the community where I got a copy of the letter from a gentleman in some very small area, he had one girl qualify and what he did for swimming in their area, I think that’s large Olympic Trials and obviously athletes will perform pretty well.  It might have affected a little bit few people on the team that first day is too long, I think we have to negotiate it.  So most probably little too large, I think more like 1,000-1,200 we could handle a little bit better. Warm-up is the problem.  The really, really good athletes warm-up became a real problem.  But again I think back to Sweetenham, we made it uncomfortable and maybe it helped paid off, so…  yes.


Question:  If you got away from swimming for three days would you work?


Gregg:  The three days?  You’ve got to remember this: I never did it.  But I said if I was going back, I would.  Would I work?


[inaudible question about 3 days off]


Gregg:   I will tell you what, I don’t know what to do because I think its… maybe it’s a preference thing, but I think if you get away from swimming for three days and in today’s world its even harder, because you got to turn the phone off because someone is calling and asking questions, if you got away from swimming for three days I think you would be fresher on Monday morning and now you got to have help, you have to got to depend on your help, but you know, maybe home, mow the yard, maybe do something with the family, might maybe go to the beach, maybe just go the movies, I just think away from the training environment will be real helpful.


Anything else?  Questions?  Yes…


Question:  When you had lunch with Bill Sweetenham, what question did you ask him?


Gregg:  I asked Bill Sweetenham yesterday, Bill, what did you find out in the 10 guys who talked to.  I… I… if you… well, yes, if you ask about world class swimming coach, I asked what kind of things work, what would you do in this situation, umm… what have you done for people that are swimming this event, I am having a hard time with my backstrokers getting this time, what do you address with, how would you do this? Umm… what kind of things don’t work for you, I think the more… if you want a big general training think, ask something general if its something specific, a problem you are having, be very direct.  I do think that if you get a chance to get with good coaches in other sports, I think sometimes will inbred a little too much, if you get across other sports, you get some really great ideas, that is one of the best things that I have been in a college environment, you see great coaches and other things, not sure that I answered your question but… you know… Yes.


[inaudible question from audience]


Gregg:  Swimming practice, correct.  I see way too many people that technique work is about in your 25s and your drills and we are doing stroke work today.  If you aren’t doing stroke work every single day at practice through practice you are not doing what’s relevant to the meet.  Holding technique when everything falls apart is when the technique is most important and I think that… we had this problem, we are back again to taking a little time to reflect and being walking and being fresh, its real easy and I start giving them sets and you got lot of people doing things and all of a sudden some things go bad, every time if you ask for something that’s important and you know its important  then you better expect it all the time because the first time you don’t expect it all the time then it wasn’t important  anymore and then it doesn’t become important for the next practice and everything, I think that’s the thing that I see most with guys coming into college.  Their attention to details on a regular basis isn’t where it needs to be.  They are fantastic, they go over 25s and work on techniques, boy, everyone perks up.  But you know, it’s going to be the same thing when they are training because that’s what relevant to the race when you fall apart you fatigue a little bit.  Yes.


Question:  Talk a little bit about the time between trials and the games what you do and [Indiscernible]


Gregg:  Umm… he asked about time between trials and the games, tremendous experience when you are on staff, you get to see how different people approach it, it was a little trickier this time, we went back to work, as a rule of thumb for our collegiate team, we did even pretty good getting from one to the other and we have always been really good second shaves in the summer and people and I have always worked at, you need on planning on two shaves and back to younger kids, I think that if you just plan on one meet, I think you have to train them once in a while that we are going to shave and prepare at this meet and we are going to swim another meet three weeks by intention because it’s a skill and you are going to have to that swim to be in the US Olympic Team, so if you are going that direction.  We go back to about 80% of our maximum workload as a rule of thumb.  So if our normal week is 80,000, if our normal week is 60,000, we go back to 80%, so we go back to about 48000, but it will be a little more… it will be a little more specialized in it, little less in the utilization side, but we go back and I think that that might be something, some people wish they could go back and hit the utilization side, but it  is really tough because if you do that too much too then you are going to hurt the specialization at that pint.  So we go back in a 3-week time period, we go  back for one week to about 80% and then two weeks out we pick up pretty much if we were successful, the same two weeks we did before with a few other minor modifications.


[inaudible question from audience]


Gregg:  He asked at Bolles what did we do to create a basic culture of not being afraid to work and moving forward.  I have been really fortunate my boss allowed me to do it the way I wanted to do it. That’s the first thing.  All three of my jobs I have worked with someone that understood where we were going.  So if your boss allows you to do it, whether its your board, whether you work in a school or something, they got to know where you are going because if you can tell them where they are going, then they can understand what’s happening along the way.  And I think it’s a little relevant of what I just told him, you tell the athletes what the expectation is and once you are told what the expectation is then you have to live up to the expectation.  I think Bill Sweetenham gave… not the only way to do it, but he is very very direct on it.  We valued things where people did well.  We tried to build a culture around.  We have an age routine at Florida that we work pretty closely.  The age group coach that come in, we got a team trip planned,  you are going to go some place and swim and you get a little bit of fun along with it and that’s something everyone looks forward to, if you take the kid that doesn’t come to practice you are making a mistake.


Anything we ever did when we were building that culture that Bolles was around, you have to be at practice first.  It was always been around trying to be good students, they are not all angels, but you know there was an expectations, I started coaching, I am kind of a teacher, planning on law school I never went.  I stayed in coaching because I thought we are working with young people and teaching values, it was built a lot around the value and the value was hard work, we did things to value the people there, I tell stories, once we had a tremendous group of boys, I think we had ten guys sign major division, one got a scholarship, they all graduated together, and the one that I had almost no junior class, but a sophomore named Greg Burgess, he was just a heck of a swimmer, went on to win a silver medal and ace swimmer of the year, I think he held the American record short course, just missed the long course, but Greg swam with all those older guys, when he was a sophomore and they would just lead him all the time.  Martin Zeboro was one of them, world record holder and gold medalist in the back stroke and those guys could really train, they are not just knocking it off.


The next year I started realizing we weren’t quite as good, but Greg was a good swimmer, sophomore, he is one of the 4-5 best guys in the county and really good, he came, I gave the same group of practices, same sort of design, same intervals and no one is making intervals.  Well, Greg is my leader and he could make it, when it realized it took me about a month, and I am raising hell with people and getting after him about it because it wasn’t what we wanted in the half interval, we… I finally realized he couldn’t do it.  He was following the other guys and there were no leaders.  So went… it was really frustrating, because we had a crowded pool, lot of people,  8 lanes and the one lane next to wall was obviously the one where the fastest folks were and that was the fastest interval and we went a month and no one swam in that lane, they swam in 7 lanes and Greg used to get furious, why can’t I go, well, I can do this intervals every day, I gave him an interval, so we were increasing the expectation, I just… when you… I am on the edge there.  When you tolerate people that don’t come to practice then you are tolerating a scenario where why should anyone come, I am a big believer in that.  So I… we don’t have people miss practice, and if you miss practice, there is a repercussion, and we know where people are, it wasn’t uncommon even in Bolles, you know, we have a 5 a.m. practice and if you weren’t on the deck of the pool at 5:10-5:15, I called, your responsibility was… I think it was a life skill, your responsibility is if you weren’t going to be at practice you had to call me and let me know why.


At 5:15 we are winding up that first setting, assistant coach and myself went in, we picked up the phone, called your phone and parents would get mad, and I was told the parents were mad, I am worried about your son, your daughter, they are supposed to be at practice, they have to be alongside the road some place, you want to be in interested in them, I am being interested, so they aren’t at practice, they didn’t take care of their responsibility, let me know, so you are up because they didn’t know their job.  I think when you do stuff like that it becomes very… thing to do.  I have an assistant coach, Martin Webb and I know Bob had the same sort of experience, but Martin is into the… the college level and our morning practice starts at 6 am and Martin has this thing where he likes to be the first guy at practice and we try to have a whole staff there and practice starts at 6, but Martin is going in, we are at the point now, I am kind of the last guy sometimes, I feel bad about it, but I need to get a little more sleep, but lot of years of getting up.  If I walk in the deck at 5:50, I am in trouble because practice probably has started because we have this little thing that last person to practice is late.  So the last guy that is in the door is late and Martin is there in the morning, he got in this thing, it has gotten so bad now that at swim meets you know, we like to warm up an hour and 15 minutes before the meet and we have to change that because they are there 15 minutes before the 15 minutes, it’s a good problem to have, I don’t know if that answers your questions.  Its demands and following through on the demands.


Question:  Mr. Gregg.


Gregg:  Yes.


Question:  I just want to say thank you for helping our country get gold medals namely in your athletes, speaking of gold medals, I had my three on my table and one of them is missing, so if any of you today keep an eye on one of the gold medals I had in my table, I would appreciate it, to return to the presentation table, I am so sorry of that.


Gregg:  You [Indiscernible] that anytime Josh.  You guys couldn’t hear back there, Josh had three gold medals on the table for him to show and he could only find two of them at the moment, so if you see one let him know.  That’s why you don’t see him very often, it really is, the folks would have those medals, some of them don’t even display them because they mean that much, it takes a lot of time and lot of work to get those things. So yes, that it, guy just told me that’s all, thank you very much.




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