Good Morning. You guys were all handed out, or at least those of you who arrived early, some “Turtle Bucks,” and we’ll kind of get into what Turtle Bucks are all about as this talk goes on. But it is something I use with my kids and the younger age groupers. I actually have moved on as I am now the new Head Senior Coach of our program, after having been the Head Age Group Coach for 21 years. I’m just about ready to embark on a new line in my aquatic endeavors and I’m really excited about it. I have a great staff and the lovely lady who was handing those things out is one of my assistant coaches, and works with me.
So let’s get on with it! “Making the Most of What You’ve Got,” that’s the title of this. People have been asking me what it’s about. What it’s about is that a lot of times as coaches we always want something more. Only if we had more stuff we could be a better coach. Sometimes we think that way. But what we want to do is to take a practical look at utilizing the resources to their full potential in an age group program; it also could be a high school program. There is a lot of overlapping in our program, because I believe that the more things I can control, the better the program I can build because I do have very limited resources as you will see.
The first thing I want to tell you is to quit whining about what you don’t have. Okay, I don’t think there is probably anyone in this room that is totally satisfied with all the pool time they have, the facility they have or the weight room they have. So just quit whining about it. Okay, I’ve heard people whining on deck, if only I had an extra hour of pool time, if only my pool was a 50 m pool instead of a 25 yard pool in six lanes. I’ve heard all the stories; I’ve been around a little while. So instead of whining, let’s start evaluating. We want to maximize, scavenge, utilize, bridge, educate and steal. I really like the stealing part too. You might be really surprised at what you can accomplish. And, to me as a coach, this is a girl that has graduated. She’s now in college, and I started her when she was about 6 years old. The medal that’s hanging around her neck was a medal she had won at the high school state championships, and you could tell she was pretty happy about that. To me, that’s a big accomplishment, and that’s the kind of accomplishments I like making.
Evaluating; that’s the first part. Careful evaluation of what you already have. Know what your resources are. The biggest resource you have is you. I’m talking to some kids at the age-group sectional meet up in Federal Way, a couple of years back. You as a resource—and one of the reasons I say you are the biggest resource is because you can improve you. All the things that make you what you are. Your past and present experiences in swimming, that’s what we bring to the table with our athletes. We also bring our experiences outside of swimming, and I have a lot of experiences outside of swimming. I was a three sport athlete in high school. I earned 11 varsity letters. I was in cross country, swimming, and track. I set a high school record for my school in track, not in swimming, so I bring a lot of things to the table that are outside, and I use them. Your education, your formal clinic, self-taught education that you bring to the plate. When I first started coaching swimming, I was basically a swim instructor. That is how I started. It helped pay for my college education, but I didn’t study swimming. I was an economics major in college. My mom is really proud of that. The education I got, a lot of it has been where you are sitting right now. I’ve been to a lot of ASCA clinics, and I thank ASCA for being around, and there have also been some great clinics up in the northwest. ASCA runs some great clinics, and a lot of the education I’ve learned at those clinics, I pass on to my kids, and I pass on to my coaches. I try to improve and go to every clinic I can.
Your people network. I’ve learned so much from people out there that are probably sitting in the audience, and I’m really thankful for the coaches that I know. Since I’ve been around for 20 years, there have been a lot of coaches that I know. And there are a lot of great coaches, and I love picking their brain every chance I get. What are your personal strengths? What makes you good? If I had to say what I was good at, I think I’m pretty good when it comes to strokes, and teaching strokes, because that’s where I started out as a swim instructor. I’m a very visual coach. I’m not the kind of coach that teaches from the numbers. I coach from what I see, and I try to use those numbers to change what I see when you’re talking about how many yards, and things like that. That stuff is all interesting and exciting, but what I like to see is change. I like to see that change in that swimmer from when I first get them, and they’re 5, to the time they go on and go to college now, instead of just up to the head coach.
Who am I? You’ve heard a little bit about who I am. I’m now the current head coach for the Tigard-Tualatin 12 swim club. I’m also assistant manager at the Tigard Swim Center. I’m also the head coach for Tualatin High school. What that’s all about, and don’t look at all the accomplishments because that’s not important, but it is that I try to get involved with everything that I can at the pool, because that way I can control it, and I can use it, and I can reach out and change times whether it’s from times in my high school team (and we’ll get into that later too), but I use those jobs with each other. There’s a lot of overlapping there, and I take advantage of it. Other information about me; I already told you I was a multi-sport athlete. I was even a fencer at one time. I went to nationals in fencing. The US did a great job in fencing at Beijing, it was exciting. I have a birth defect in my back. In fact, two weeks ago, I had steroid injections in my back, but what that means is that I did about 10 weeks of back rehab, several years back when I really threw it out. I learned so many core exercises—if you’ve ever had a back injury, and you go through ten weeks of rehab, you’ll learn more core exercises in that period of time. You can take them on and teach them to your swimmers because I think core exercises are so important in swimming. I’ve been LSC all-star chair and manager, and safety chair. I’m an ASCA level four Age Group coach, as well as ASCA level three high school coach. I’ve learned a lot from ASCA so I’m proud of that, and I put that bachelor’s science and economics up there just to make my mom proud. After all, she did help pay for that.
Your facility is a resource, and that’s the one we usually complain about what we don’t have—by the way, this is not my facility. I wish it was, but it’s not. Facilities tend to be a finite resource. I’m using my economics—“finite resource”—so my mom can be proud that I actually used it. The pool size and shape. You can’t do a lot about that unless you have a lot of money. The location of where it’s at in your community is another thing. You can’t really change a lot about those things. The amount of water time, oftentimes, is pretty finite, depending on what program you’re working with. Sometimes it’s really hard to get extra time. Available pool space, number of lanes that you have at your pool, and available deck space. Weight room, classroom, those are things that are tacked to your facility. Those things are usually concrete; you can’t change them very much. So we have to use them the best that we can. Who owns and operates the pool? That’s kind of important too, because a lot of times you can’t change that too much either. And you need to know those people. These are my pools. We have two of them. They are both school district pools. One of them is a six-lane, 25 yard. The one on the right is the oldest one; it’s about 25 years old. The one on the left is an 8-lane, 25 yard pool. They’re both attached to high schools. There’s very limited deck space. We’re really close to a bunch of other programs. Really close. We have about 6 programs within our facility or within 15-30 minute drive for most people, depending on traffic. Sometimes it can be up to a 45 minute drive. There are a lot of other programs out there that are doing really good jobs, and I bring that up because I have to sell what I’ve got, compared to some things like Tualatin Hills that has a 50 meter pool, and that comes into play. Another thing that we don’t have a lot of is weight room. We don’t have a weight room that is attached to the pools. We do have a usage to the weight rooms that are attached to the high school. That’s one reason I’m still a high school coach is because if I wasn’t a high school coach, I wouldn’t be able to use those weight rooms, but because I am, I have a key, and that helps a little bit. Most of the time, we do things on our deck. Especially in the fall and winter, if you’ve ever been in the great northwest it’s not very pleasant sometimes. You get a lot of rain, so we do a lot of things like bands and balls on the pool deck itself. We can be running a practice, but we still make use of the small deck space that we have. When I’m talking small deck space from the time where my pool ends right here where I’m standing would be the front. That’s about as much deck space as we have on both pool decks. In the Spring I like to take those kids out, and we do a lot of running with them. They have a love/hate relationship with that. We actually sign up for the “Race for the Cure” too. That’s something that I get them going on, because it gives them something that I think is important. It gives back to the community. We had a mom on our team that passed away a few years back, from breast cancer. I do try to get the kids having a purpose for that running. We do stairs, and hills, and body weights for exercise.
Club organization as a resource. These are things that you can usually control because you can set up your program to be something that you want. The team structure, the number of training groups you have—right now we have 6 groups in ours; we have two novice programs, we have an upper novice program I guess, and we have our elite age group program, transitional program, and a senior program, so we have six—days in training that’s allocated to each group; that’s, again, something that you can control. Time allocations per training session. A lot of times you can control it depending on the parameter of the time you already have. If you only have a total of 2 hours of pool time, and you saw that I don’t most of the time, I don’t have 2 hours of pool time, usually I have an hour and a half. I’ve actually managed to figure out how to scrape out 2 hours of pool time three days a week and as the new senior coach, we’re going to start taking advantage of that. To do it I had to do a lot of juggling. Our team is used to bouncing around a little bit, we don’t like to, but we take advantage of all the time we can. Swimmers per coach ratio, again that’s something that you usually have control of, as long as you have the money to pay for your coaches. The team size, the number of kids per group. Our team has about 120 swimmers on a good day. Right now, we’re around 109, but I’ve gotten a lot of calls for new kids coming in, and we start next week. And I really have criteria, that’s another thing you can control. Club bureaucracy a lot of times you can’t control that too much, especially if you have a parent board and you have to bow down to them, but you can do some things to help you out with that. If you are coach owned that’s probably a good thing, you have a little more control if you own it and if you are a Park and Recreation program there is usually a bunch of bureaucracy involved with that. We’re not a Park and Recreation program, our school district still owns our pools and we still operate the pools. So I am an employee of the school district as well as an employee of the Tigard-Tualatin Swim Club. I put in about 10 to 12 hour days most of the time and during high school season it probably gets up to about 14 to 15. That’s the problem when you want to control everything. You have to put a lot of time in.
Things to think about. Delegation of power. You know it’s always good to know and have a good relationship with the head people. What responsibilities, is it your parent board that takes care of all the little things, or do they want to get into every thing. Our parent board is great. They totally let me and the coaches decide what we do at our level, and as long as I have a good reason they usually give me what I want, and that’s a good thing. So it’s a good relationship. Your non-profit status, and I brought that up because a lot of us are non-profit. Make sure you know what non-profit laws are; because sometimes you can get your club into trouble if you step outside those boundaries. Your staff is a resource. Sometimes we have full time staff, part time staff, volunteer coaches, bookkeepers, web masters, and volunteer coordinators I think are also people I consider part of my staff, because they do a lot of work, even though they may be volunteer type positions on the board.
Things to think about regarding your coaching staff. What their prior coaching knowledge base is. Make sure when you are hiring, if you have that ability, that their knowledge and what they are bringing on to the table either enhances what you do or is in line with what you do. If you hire somebody that has a totally different view of what’s going on than you do, then you’re up for big problems. I’ve learned that in the past and right now I am really lucky. What is each responsible for? Make sure they know what their job is, and what you expect of them. What are their individual strong points? Don’t give somebody a job that’s going to make it really tough and they can’t do it. If they’re not good at writing newsletters, or something like that, then minimize the stuff they are not good at, and maximize the stuff that they are. What is their coaching philosophy? Like I said make sure that it mimics or it is at least inline and enhances what you do. And are they temporary or committed? And what I mean by that is that a lot times you can tell from day one when a coach comes in whether they are planning to use this as a step up or a step out in a short period of time. I think it is always better to try to hire those kinds of people who are going to be committed to your program, because turn over in coaches is a great way to lose swimmers. Kids get really attached to coaches, it creates a lot of havoc. So if you can hire those kinds of people that you think are committed and are going to be with your program for a few years down the road, then that’s the best kind of thing that you can do. Sometimes that’s not possible; sometimes you have to take those interims along the way.
Your people network as a resource. Your parents and families of swimmers help out a lot around your programs. Another thing that we have is a coaching network. The club alumni can be a great resource. Team gear distributors, team sponsors, local business people, and friends in high and low places. We’ll kind of get into why these people can be resources and how I’ve used them in the past. I don’t think people like to know that they’ve been used. Which resources can you add or improve. That’s what this talk is really all about. How do we get those resources that we have and really use them and make them better, and use them by maximizing.
Probably the number one is maximizing the water time and space you already have. If you are the kind of coach that likes to spend a lot of time talking to your swimmers out of the water, telling them about all the wonderful things you know, why spend the time you could be in the water doing that? Budget your time. If you want to have a fifteen minute meeting before your have water time, then do that, build it into your practice. Say I have a two hour practice but maybe I only have an hour forty-five minutes of actual water time. I can put them in the bleachers, or I can have them watch videos, if I want to be the kind of person that wants to talk to them for that time. They have a two hour practice and that’s included, but when I get to water time, it’s water time. We’re going to get in the water on time, we’re going to use every single minute of the time that I have. So make sure you’re maximizing. It’s important.
Make use of the time the pool isn’t available to you. Like I said scheduling the non-water time into your practices, replace. In our program one of the things that we have to deal with a lot is with Water Polo, especially in the fall. We lose some days sometimes along the way. We juggle back and forth between our pools, because we do have two pools, which helps out a lot. But if I lose a day of water then I replace it with something else. When I first started our program we were in a six lane 25 yard pool and whenever we lost a day to water polo it was gone. And then I starting going well, that’s ridiculous, and people were paying and they really kind of want some things to happen on the days they’re supposed to have practice. So we started using either dryland kind of activities or I would do little clinics on nutrition. Since we’re attached to the school district I was always able to get a classroom if I couldn’t use the one at the pool. And parents love those nutrition talks. I get more thank you notes after a nutrition talk. Yes, we missed a day of practice, but the kids learned about nutrition and some things that were important on the dry side of swimming, that I probably would have done somewhere else along the way.
Another thing is be organized. That’s really super, super important! Plan for the chaos and keep the parents informed of changes along the way. If you’re a program that has to jump between pools because you have a water polo game at this pool, and everybody comes to this pool and your time has to change then let those parents know right up front, and let them know from day one when they walk in the doors of your program. The more time they have to adjust, the easier it is for their schedule. People are really busy and you have to respect that, and if you give them time they are usually willing to make some arrangements, whether it’s music lessons that they have to change or things like that. Plan early. Get copies of all the breaks in your routine out as soon as possible. One of the things that we do, we have is information for the new swimmers. I kind of almost plan out the schedule for the entire year because some of the time, like right now, we are about a half hour later for our pool time. We start at 5:30 during the fall and then in winter most of our practice time starts at 5:00. In the spring some of the program moves to about 4:30, especially this year. So it all changes up. Plan it out ahead of time. Give those people that yearly schedule ahead of time and then it’s a lot easier for them to make those adjustments along the way.
This is our wonderful water polo season coming up ahead. There are quite a few days that water polo is using our pool. One thing that I did is I went through that schedule and I looked at the Tigard schedule. Tigard isn’t quite as much. Their coach isn’t the zealot and he is actually now on staff. Remember I said how to utilize people. If you have the water polo coach kind of in your back pocket a little bit, it can help with your scheduling and sometimes you can see the difference. It makes him more aware of how important not having all those silly games is. When there is an away game at another pool, Tualatin or Tigard, it means that I’ve got more pool time. And I take advantage of it. I actually schedule, when I’m creating the schedule for fall. For example, I know that on the 15th which is a Monday, I know that there is a home game at the Tualatin pool and an away game for the Tigard pool, and that’s our smaller pool. It means that instead of starting practices at 5:30 I can start practices at 4:30, which gives me more time. I can’t go much earlier than 4:30 as it is really hard for our kids to get there. But I can start there earlier so I have more time to use at that site, and get all my kids in because I’ve got 120 kids. Does that make sense? I hope so. I really watch the scheduling. It gets to be a nightmare sometimes because Water Polo changes their schedule.
After dong all that stuff with the craziness of the water polo schedule. I create a schedule which goes out to the kids, and what I do is get that schedule going. But what we do is jump back and forth between the two pools. Like I said on days that we have water polo we start earlier. The other thing that has complicated my life by being the new head coach is that I had to give up some of my time in the morning so that I could coach our senior athletes. The school district really frowns on “double dipping” so I want to keep that job because that’s where all my benefits come from. In order to do that I had to pick up the back side of that and so on Tuesday and Thursday nights I have to help be the administrator for the pre-school lessons, kind of a drag, so I am there until 9:00 now. But in so doing it means that I had to make sure that our senior program was on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at the Tualatin site. Okay remember I also said I wanted more time for our seniors because I believed they needed some more water time. At the Tigard site we have no public swim behind our practices so I can bump time in that direction. So my seniors will practice Monday at Tigard, Wednesday at Tigard and then three days a week, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday they’re going to be at the Tualatin site. Another reason they’re at Tualatin on Friday night is that Tualatin doesn’t have a public swim on Friday night. So again I can steal that half hour time for my seniors so they get two hours of water time. And I’ve pulled in all the seniors and I’ve told them this is what the schedule is and this is why it is. Part of it is because of my schedule, but part of it is because of what is already out there, and I want more time for them. I’ve told them why it is important they have more time and everybody has bought into it. Everybody is okay with it. But you have to sell it, sometimes it’s not an easy sell, especially when people are use to only going to one pool for five days a week.
I do try and make the schedule as close as I can even though we are doing a lot of changing. I also create along with these fall practice calendars, which you can’t see, I also put it up on our web site. I’m a MAC girl so I use ICAL and I love it. What I was doing for a long time, I was creating, and I had this calendar already in my computer I was using. I had all the meets and the crazy changes in the schedule and stuff like that. Then I’d re-invent the wheel and create another calendar and pass it out to the kids. I did that for years. Last year I became a MAC subscriber. MAC, I guess now it’s me.com or something like that. It allowed me to publish the ICAL calendar in my computer on our web site. You can put a link to it and people can actually subscribe to it so it will actually go right into their computer on a subscription kind of thing. So when I change my calendar in my computer, it is automatically changed in their home computer, especially if they subscribe to it. It’s really, really nice. They can look at it by the week, by the day. I try to stay up with it as much as I can. All the meet stuff tells them when warm-up times are. When I find out about a warm-up time it goes right into my ICAL calendar. If there is a change in warm-up time it goes right into the ICAL calendar. The most current changes are published on our website under the new information part. You can find this information under the yearly calendar and yearly schedule and changes in times are there. It is kind of the place where you can always say to the parents that you did know about the changes because they were given to you on the very first day.
Swimmers that have been with your program the longest generally don’t mind the changing, the jumping back and forth between pools. Sometimes you can sell that, sometimes I’ve had to sell that a little bit to those kids who aren’t in the senior program and aren’t necessarily getting anymore time. But there are people that will live closer to one pool or another. You can tell them that “I am kind of balancing it out a little bit. Some days you have to drive a little farther and some days you get to be a little closer to home.” So you can sell that idea a little bit too. With the newest swimmers I try, as much as possible, to keep the schedule the same, as close as possible all year long, both in terms of time and also on the days that they practice. Our novice swimmers don’t practice more than three days a week So I try to keep those days and times as close as I can, with maybe a half hour switch. I think with the newest swimmers you have to kind of get them hooked a little bit first before they are willing to do the extra stuff. I deliberately through the years have made our program, when you first come in, look like a basketball, or soccer program. I try to give them a schedule and I try to make everything look like something else that they are already familiar with, like soccer. They already get their meet schedule. We actually have our novice swimmers pay for the meets for the season ahead of time. We don’t do that with the rest of our kids, but we’ve figured out the cost of the meets for the season and then we expect them to go to the meets. I believe in meets and if you can’t sell the meets to your parents they are probably not going to be with your program very long, in my opinion.
Another thing that we do is build the needed water time into the progression of our program. That’s why I made some changes this year. Our seniors were swimming in the evenings about the same amount of time as our elite age groupers, which is the group that I had been working with. I wanted there to be a little more at he senior level. I think they needed more time and I went after that time and this schedule came out of that idea. I don’t believe in cutting the time at the top. With novice swimmers you can probably bring them in two nights a week and stuff like that. I know some programs say you can come in five days and pick the days that you like to come in. We don’t do that mainly because I want it to look like soccer or basketball. They practice on Tuesday and Thursday and have games on Saturday. I think it’s easier to sell that because people can compare that to the soccer program. That’s just my philosophy.
Being consistent. Just when you think you have it figured out, something happens. I had given my outline for this talk to John and two weeks later a sign was hung on my door telling me that our older site, that was 35 years old, had a broken sewer line in two places and it was on our deck. The older Tigard site was shut down. I lost 6 lanes and 25 yards during the high school season. During the high school season we have two high school programs that run into our program. It was a three and half month shutdown at the pool. They dug up large sections of our deck, redid all the lines and the place was a mess. This is what we had to deal with all of a sudden. We had two high school programs the very first day of practice and this is what we had to deal with. At the Tualatin site we had two schools from out of district who rent space, or club team and a Water Polo club. Everybody had to use the 8 lane 25 yard pool.
So you can imagine what my schedule looked like. Fortunately I can control a lot of that and that helps a little bit. This is kind of what I had to do because I was just going nuts with the numbers. They like to have that 15 minutes where it takes them to lounge across the parking over to the pool-drives me nuts. So I put the JV there because they are afraid of me and they had to be there a little earlier than the Varsity. As you can see the other thing that we had an advantage is that the Head Coach of our program last year and for the last 20 years was Andy Carlyle, and he was also the Head Coach at Tigard High School. We worked together anyway for the club. We had to make priorities and one of our priorities was that we didn’t want to hurt the top end of the program. If you notice from the slide the senior group worked out from 5:00 to 6:30 in three lanes. That was our priority and we worked everything else around. Even as a high school coach I’m a club coach too. The people who will perform the best for you, and some people will take offense at this, are those swimmers in your high school programs who have been age group and senior swimmers on a club team. So I protect them. If that meant that my varsity kids had to suffer just a little bit, they did. Like I said you have to be organized. Even by time and by lane I knew who had what and where. I had to really juggle the numbers to make it work. The outside programs used later time and that kind of helped me out too.
That was part of my organizing. The other thing that we did, and this is just the high school side of it, when you’re that organized and you know that you’re going to have to shift lanes, you have to make sure that the workout you design matches those shifts. Because if you don’t do that, shift lanes, and you try to shift kids in the middle of a set, it just creates chaos. So you have to make sure that your workout design is workable with your lane movement. Scavenge. I am a big scavenger, and I take pride in it. I look for any available time for water and deck space, and I create the opportunity to use it for my program. Like I said I use Monday and Friday nights now. Instead of having that pool sit empty, I’m going be using it. And here are some places that you can find scraps that I’ve found along the way. The deep end or the diving tank may not be used. We use to have evening exercise classes and they always used the shallow end and nobody ever used the deep end of the pool. This was years back when we only had a 6 lane, 35 yard pool. What did I do? I created a mini-mite program, and those kids never went the full length of the pool. They only used the cross-width. I created my own lane lines with ropes that kind of floated, and anchored them on the other side of the pool. Again, I don’t like seeing water sit empty. I’ll find something to use it for. Available time on Saturdays before public swim or morning practices. One of the things we developed was a stroke school, and I’ll kind of talk more about that later on, but what it is, we used about 8 kids at a time. It’s an hour program, and they get 45 minutes of working with me with individual type strokes and then for 15 minutes they’re videoed and my assistant coach will go over the video with them. Kids pay a little extra for that. They love it. It’s a great way to really help out those kids that need a little extra. Use the time to make up for mixed practices. In the fall, with our novices at Tualatin, because Tualatin is that site where the kids bounce around a lot, And I don’t want my novices bouncing between pools, so I our novices will practice on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at Tigard because almost all of the water polo games are on Monday and Wednesday. At Tualatin we have more kids and because the Water Polo coach there is a little bit more of a zealot, one of our groups will do a Tuesday, Friday and Saturday morning, and the other group goes Thursday, Friday, and Saturday morning. But they have a little bit of a switch, Wednesday, Friday Saturday morning or something like that. They both practice Tuesdays, so one of them goes Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, the other one goes Tuesday, Friday, Saturday morning. So we do use Saturday mornings, but only in the fall.
Some other places to find scraps during your high school season, if you have a high school team that’s away, just like water polo if they’re away, I’m going to use that time. I use the additional lane space to transition some swimmers that are going from one group to another. Our high school season is in the winter time, so it’s a kind of a good time for transitioning kids. So we may bring in some kids that may be just about ready to move to the next level, give them a few days of swimming with the higher group. Usually one of those days is when the high school is away, because I have more lane space, or more time. Lap swim, or have a lesson program by only using half. Again, rent the other half, and use it for one of your age-group squads. I don’t like empty water. Being a good scavenger means you take advantage of what’s convenient. We did a “you gotta have guts” run. It was for the Crohn’s Disease and Colitis Foundation. I don’t really have any love-hate relationship for Crohn’s or colitis. I don’t have any connection to that other than I like their t-shirts because they say “you gotta have guts” and the kids really like that too. We’ve supported that meet a couple of times. The kids go and run, and it’s a really flat run down in Portland. There are a lot of ways that you can get your swimmers in shape that don’t involve water. Running, I think, is a really good balance for swimming. If you improve your swimmers’ fitness levels, I think you’re no doubt going to improve their performance. Like I said, there are a lot of ways to improve that fitness level.
Another thing that I think is really important is what is close to your pool that you can use for your advantage? What’s really close to our pools, is we have some neighborhood running trails. That’s one of the reasons that we get those kids out there, running. A lot of it is really soft-surface, and I think that that’s important too. If you have water athletes, try to get them to soft-surfaces for running. I think it helps with some joint issues and stuff like that. It makes problems for them if you’re making them pound on concrete. If you can get them to soft-surface, then definitely try it. And we do have some running trails. The kids really love this park that this picture is in. It has this little dirt trail through part of it and I make them go over the logs. They beg to run there. If they’re going to go anywhere else, it’s kind of a pretty shaded place. It’s only about a mile to the actual park that has a lot of this trail stuff along the way. Along with these logs that the kids have to go over, which is really funny because half of them will fall in the creek. That is like the moniker that they actually accomplished it. There’s also this really steep hill that you have to run. I say run up, but I use this term marginally, because you’re not running up, it’s like you’re grabbing the roots of trees and climbing up this hill trying to get up to the top. The kids love this and they beg to do it all the time. The other thing that we’re close to is high school campuses. What is at a high school campus that you can use? Track? I don’t like the track very much. I mean I ran track, but I don’t like any of the kids on a track too much. We do a little bit of that, but that’s not what I was thinking. What else is at a high school? I’m trying to wake you guys up! A gym, yes. Stadium!! Stairs, yes! We have some really nice high school stadiums and I take advantage of those. Old fashion stair master, our kids do stairs all the time; we usually do them once a week. Some of them prefer that over the actual running. So we’ll actually do some stadium stairs where they have to run up and do some triceps dips at the top and then come back down for some crunches on the stadium grass. We actually have some nice stadium artificial turf and those kids who are allergic to grass can no longer give me problems about that.
Another thing that’s located really close to our pools is grade schools. What’s at a grade school that you can use? Playground structures! You’ve got hand over hand bars; you’ve got all sorts of playground structures that you can use to build body strength. We make them into obstacle courses. And you know when you’ve got those middle school kids out there going through the tunnels, zigzagging between the swings and stuff like that, it’s a nice variation. We also have soccer fields that are by the grade schools and actually at the high schools. One soccer field is right outside our site at Tigard and cars get used to seeing our kids out there running in their swim suits back and forth, wind sprints and stuff like that, waving at cars in their swim suits. It’s actually a pretty well-traveled road.
There are always ways to teach your swimmers about the sport, by using things like a classroom. Both of our pools do have class rooms attached to them. We review videos, we do dryland. We do what’s called a spring swim camp after most of our older kids are pretty much done with their season, or at the start of long course. It usually happens in April and we bring all the kids, the little ones all the way up to our elite level age groupers. Our elite age groupers get to be co-coaches. It is a pretty good way to get everyone together; especially when you’re dealing with two pools. Having that bonding time between the two pools is really important. The little kids get to feel like they know things. I’ll give them a drill in each of the lanes and in every lane are a few of our elite level age groupers who will then explain to the little kids how the drill is to be done. It’s really hilarious actually. We do our nutrition talks and things like that during this time.
I believe in other activities that build team unity. I think you need to plan for fun activities in your program, but it is in addition to and not instead of. The fun activities happen in addition to our training and not instead of it, because I don’t like to give up that pool time. Remember that it’s important. Kids often feel like they have to give up a lot to be a swimmer because of how demanding the sport is,, especially as you get older. So I think by giving them some of those extra team activities, it not only builds the team but it also makes them feel like they haven’t given up that school dance and things like that. They’ve actually gotten to go to the beach and have a bonfire.
Create a seasonal activity calendar and plan out where the best locations and times are for those activities. Some examples of things we do at Tigard-Tualatin Swim Team are holiday parties and beach bonfires. We’re located about an hour and fifteen minutes away from the beach and there is usually a meet and we go to the beach and have a bonfire. It’s a huge success. During Christmas time we have a bowling and pizza party kind of thing. This usually happens during the second week of Christmas training and we try to get as many kids to come because it is a lot of fun. Swimmers are lousy bowlers by the way. Last year we did a snow day. We went inner tubing on Mt Hood. Another fun thing we do is a movie night after practices. Plan out a movie you want to see, then take the whole team to see the movie. After one practice we went to see Ratatouille. Our spring swim camp as I mentioned earlier. Holiday parties, okay these may not be politically correct, and I work for a school district, but the kids love them. We do two big parties a year. One of them is a Halloween party. We use the cafeteria and we do it on a night that water polo has a game. The kids dress up and so do the coaches. We also have a big Christmas party. We do in-water time with this one. We do a Santa Hat relay and a Reindeer Sleigh Relay, which is just a hoot. We use those big pink mats and the belts from the parachutes. The kid on the mat(raft) is holding the reins which are attached to the belts around the swimmers who are the reindeers pulling the mat. Most of the time the kid gets pulled off the mat. There are a lot of pictures taken on this relay, especially by the parents. I believe in taking advantage of our good location. Our team bonfire, like I have already said, is a huge hit. It is also a great way to get the parents together, which I think is super important to pass on knowledge. When planning activities plan for some that get the whole team together and involved. Plan some events that are group specific. Create traditions and get yourself an event coordinator, because it gets really busy.
Utilize. Sometimes it’s not what you know but who you know, and how you put them to work for your program. Make sure your staff is doing their job correctly. Become a mentor to those inexperienced coaches. When you hire someone make sure they fit their philosophy to yours and that you hire for the long term. Make it worth their time. Because bringing in coaches is really hard for your program. Saturday Stroke schools, we talked a little bit about that as a small group format, and it’s intense stroke work with the kids. It is also great training for the novice staff members. One of the things I really like doing is having my assistant coach video the swimmers and then she has to go over the video with the swimmers. It teaches her how to analyze the strokes with the kids. The stroke school can also be a source of extra money for your program. I believe that the swimmers should have to sign up and pay for the stroke school ahead of time. If they sign up and don’t have to pay, people won’t come. So charge them something, like $10.00 and make some money for your program and pay your coaches who have to come in and do the school. The stroke school is also a great way to film the kids. I was always struggling to find a way to get filming going with the kids. Filming this way just fits, and it’s not like having to pull the kids out of the water and interrupt their practices to film them.
Parents are a wealth of untapped potential. We always ask out parents up front what they do for a living. If you have parents who are accountants or book keepers, make them into treasurers. If you have PE people have them help you with your dryland. If you have marketing people they are great for making brochures and newsletters and apparel design. That social butterfly, what would you do with her? Make her your event planner. What would you do with a great cook? Anybody have any ideas? Hospitality! If you have a good hospitality at meets people will come. Feed those coaches well and they will come. If you have an old swimmer, turn them into officials as they usually know the rules. If you have computer geeks, which I love to death because I don’t know much about computers, make them into your web master and IT people. PE teachers make great dryland people as I have already said.
Regarding members of your Parent Board, and some things that are important to remember. Get the right people into the right place. Cultivate them early, and a lot of times go looking for those people in your program with talent. Lobby for support. You don’t want people who don’t support you on the Board. Let them learn the process before becoming part of the process. Don’t get novices on your Board; they don’t know enough yet. If you get those parents in your program who cause you to spend more time answering e-mails, just let them go. You don’t want to waste a lot of time with them.
One of the things I’ve told you, that it’s not what you know, but who you know. In 2003 we almost lost our pools. The school district was going to cut funding because Oregon does not have sales tax and we’re a property tax state. We came close to losing our pools because of the downturn in property tax revenues. So we created the “Golden Gala,” and I want to thank Speedo as they sent Lenny Krayzelburg to help us do a clinic. We did a clinic with him for kids from all over Oregon. We used him at the Golden Gala at the Portland City Hall downtown. We did this over a two month period and we earned over $30,000.00 dollars. I used swimmers to provide singing and entertainment. It was the thing that kept us from having our pools shut down.
I believe in creating bridges, especially to our lesson programs that feed our program. The lessons program that we have feeds our swim team program. I ‘m involved with the lesson program through the school district. I’ve created an introduction to competitive swimming class that kids sign up for as part of our lesson program. For that class our club donates ribbons and things like that. This is a good way to get your name out and get the right kind of kids into your program; usually it’s kind of towards the end of the lesson program when they have learned the competitive strokes. Also by doing the lesson program thing and being involved in it, one of the things we do is that if they graduated at a Level 4 we provide them with a certificate that says you are invited to try out. I personalize it and put the kid’s name on it and everything. The certificate has a pretty good return rate. We also do what is called a summer splash program. It’s kind of like a little summer league deal. By being involved with the lesson program, we have access to kids we are looking for. It also helps you establish relationships with parents. Those parents become parents on your swim club.
Creating consistency in your stroke technique is very important. We’re a Red Cross program but I teach competitive strokes. I also think that high school swimming is a bridge. If you have some high school kids who are older swimmers that are more like JV kids, you can encourage them to attend their high school practices which will free up some lane space for you. We also have a link where we created a program for the high school kids when their season is done. Through the summer time it’s only a three day a week program for those kids who just want to get into the sport, but haven’t made a commitment yet. We do common purchasing, which is a huge advantage of being the high school head coach. I can purchase equipment for the high school team and it’s used by everybody and vice versa. I think there is nothing quite like the energy of the high school district meet. It really gets kids fired up.
Transition time, that’s something that I talked about that we do in our program. In our program the idea is that they earn the right to do more. So they get an extra day or extra time. It also allows those friendships to develop and you can adjust the number of kids in a lane a little easier during transition time. It also weeds out potential bad apples.
Education. Become a student of the sport. When I started coaching I didn’t know a lot about coaching other than how to teach kids how to swim. Attend clinics, read books, study videos, adopt from sports and explore other viewpoints and find a mentor. I also think it is really super important to become a better communicator. Get the information out to the right people. Paper doesn’t always work. It ends up being a big glue ball in the bottom of kid’s swim bags. We use a lot of e-mail and list servers, we send things out by training groups. Text messaging works awesome with high school and middle school kids. My kids respond far greater to text messages than to phone calls. I guarantee you their phone is on when they take the text message. I’ve already gotten about 20 since coming here. Website: make it interactive. One of the things we’ve done is added a picture section so it gets the kids on there. We take pictures at every swim meet that we do. Put parent meetings on the web site. I do have my own web page and web site that I control.
Becoming a better teacher is very important. Become a performer. If you can get the kid’s attention they are far more coachable. Hopefully, if you come to my next talk I’ll show you some of the things I do and I’ll perform for you at 4:00. I think that multimedia, especially with the younger kids, works really well. The I-Pod is something that I used to hate. But I’ve come to like them as practically every kid has one. Every Friday we do an I-Pod Friday. Every kid who comes to practice puts their name in a hat and then at the end of the week we have a drawing and if their name is drawn out of the hat they can put together a play list from their I-Pod that we will use at next Friday’s practice. So we get to hear what type of music kids like. There are some rules like no more than two country songs at once. I do have a limit on my country taste. Any song that is explicit I have veto rights over. Use props. If you went to Steve Haufler’s talk last year he had a few display heads and I stole that idea from him. Use rulers. I’ve used rulers and tap them on the heads a couple of times. We use art dolls. Again, I stole this idea from Steve’s talk.
One thing that I started doing this year is I created a swim-cast. What it is, is a pod cast. I have all these videos from the stroke schools that we do, and what I do is create a mini personalized video with a voice over for the kids of their swimming. They can down load it and put into their video I-Pod. I put that up for the Doc Counsilman Creative Coaching Award. You have to keep them short because it takes a long time to down load. If they subscribe to the service then it automatically comes to them in their program. It can be a revenue generator if you want to use it as such. I charge for Pod cast because it does take my time, and I don’t necessarily believe in doing everything for free. It’s above and beyond my coaching because it takes me two hours to turn out 20 Pod casts. I try to figure out what two hours of my time is worth. Why Pod cast? Because I think a picture is worth 1000 words, and what do you think a video of themselves doing it with stroke correction on top is worth? It does make a difference. I’ve seen kids that have watched their own Pod cast over and over again and I see improvement on it, it’s great. And it takes advantage of those video I-Pods I used to hate. And kids love to watch them over and over and they really learn from them. It also creates an archive of personal video, which I think is cool. They can see their own improvement.
Like I said I like to steal other people’s ideas. I told you I stole Steve Haufler’s ideas last time. A few great ideas. Those Turtle Bucks I passed out. That’s something that we do for our kids. They get Turtle Bucks for attendance, for making a best time and for answering questions right. And then we have a Turtle auction where I’ve picked up things that have turtles on them. If you haven’t guessed, our team logo has turtles on it. Pool bottom mirrors I stole from Steve Haufler’s talk last year. Kids like them and I like them. Some other things I’ve stolen are Styrofoam cups on the forehead with a little water in them to keep the kids from wiggling on backstroke. They have to get all the way down the pool with the water still in it, without moving their head. I stole this one from my last assistant high school coach. Freestyle over-kicking that was something I learned from Sean Hutchinson. It means to kick as fast as you can and do an easy arm stroke. You don’t have to steal the whole idea. You can take parts of it and adapt it to your program. You put your spin on it. You sell it as your own. Some things that I do also, one of the coaches in Oregon used to give beads for best times on goggle straps. I thought that would just bang me in the head and annoy me so if you see me at Age Group Sectionals or our High School meet I carry around a bunch of beads, like Mardi Gras beads and if a kid gets a best time the kid gets Mardi Gras beads. Those kids carry around those Mardi Gras beads on their back packs like they’re trophies. They mean a lot to them.
Turtle auction like I said. Mark Maxwell used to do a turtle store, well he did a dragon store because his team is the dragons. So we do a turtle auction; anything that is free I will auction off. Things like Speedo posters and other things from clinics like this one. Take only what you can carry, just because it is a great idea for somebody else, it may not fit your program or your philosophy. So don’t use it. Don’t be something you’re not. Just because it may work for someone else, it may not work for you. Become a bargain hunter. That’s those display heads, they only cost about $5.00, and on the right hand side are those art dolls that Steve Haufler talked about. They cost about $14.00, and if you work for a high school you can probably get them for free. Ask the art teachers if they have any left over because they usually just throw them out after awhile. Cheap stuff, we use a lot of this stuff. Rubber ducks, rulers. I love TJ Maxx, a great source where you can find real cheap medicine balls. Broken noodles and noodles at the pool, things that are already there at the pool. Resistance training: we use tennis shoes in the summer time. We don’t have long course time and I believe that we need to find a way to make the kids work harder somehow. Tennis shoes are one of the things we do for kicking. Exercise hand buoys are around and I teach the class. It’s a great way to do strengthening, and if you kick with those things and you do some arm motion stuff, you can get a good arm workout. You can fill old water polo balls with water and make cheap medicine balls, rubber duckies. Stretching your equipment dollar. Group Sales: I work for the School District as a high school and club coach so a lot of times we do group buying. It’s a great way to keep your costs down. Test drive one before you buy it and it you think it is something that’s gong to work, then buy it. Don’t buy a bunch of them because sometimes it will just be in your closet. You can also get clubs to help with group purchasing. Find different uses for the same pieces of equipment. That’s important, I think. I’m almost done, I promise. In fact I don’t want to hear anymore whining. Make the most out of what you’ve got. Find ways to use what you already have and make it better.