[introduction, by John Leonard]
Good morning all. Our first speaker this morning is Dirk Lange from Germany; and for those of you who are not familiar with Dirk, I am going to give you a quick run-down. Dirk, I believe, started in Hamburg, Germany; had great success with a great German sprinter by the name of Sandra Völker. Moved-on, after a bit there, to South Africa, and was instrumental in starting to build upon… or build the South African success that we have seen in the last few years. Interestingly enough (and Dirk correct me if I’m wrong on this), in Dirk’s first period of time when he was in South Africa, he was working with the gentleman [Cameron van der Burgh] who he wound-up working with in London, who wound-up to be the 100 breaststroke champion in our London Olympic Games. So he had kind of an interesting relationship there and I am sure he will speak about that, in developing that athlete in the beginning and then coming back and coaching him in his final cycle heading into the Olympic Games. Dirk is considered to be one of the most innovative coaches in the world today. He has been in several places which he is going to tell you about, and everywhere he has been he has had great success. And we are very pleased to have him with us here this morning. So please join me in welcoming Dirk Lange to the podium.
Yes, good morning. Before we talk about the Mexican Swimming and everything, what is going around, we have to talk about my experience in sport and my background in sport that you get a better understanding about what I am looking for. Two days ago, I heard Bill Sweetenham saying that systems are not winning medals. By all respect well, with all regards, I partly disagree with that. I would say systems are making, are promoting medals; but actually athletes are winning the medals. For me, you have just two systems, two national strategies: one strategy is a working strategy, a successful one; another one it is not a successful one. The measurement is pretty clear.
You have actually two strategies you can deal with. One strategy is a national strategy where you are just a facilitator. You just believe that the market, that the swimming market, is ruling themself. What does it mean? If you are leading a federation, and you understand that you have some weak areas in your performance range—like long distance or sprint or relays—if you are just facilitating, you believe that these weak areas will… the market will rule them safe. But the coaches understand that is a gap where we have to sneak in. Another way of strategy: it is a clear impact on the system. You try to get impact on the programs; you try to get influence on coaches, on progress and on the programs themselves. Anyway, I believe a perfect strategy, a perfect national strategy, is: individual designed, so that there is no way of saying that this strategy is working for each country you are going on.
To understand my way, my suggestion, for Mexican Swimming, you have to get a clue about my leading experience. My leading experience started in the end of the ‘90s, where I set up the first international swimming group in Europe, in Hamburg; with swimmers like Mark Foster, Therese Alshammar, Sandra Völker, New Zealand swimmers, whatever. So we had a huge success in 2000. Then after four years of leading the Olympics Center in Hamburg—something like the AIS: Australian Institute of Sport—Germany United Olympic Center, then I moved over to South Africa. In South Africa, I became the National Coaching Director, where I had to work on the pool deck and the strategy work. From 2004-2008, I am based in South Africa. 2008 I moved over to Germany, to my place, actually, to my home country. But a lot of things changed from that age, from the years when I left Germany. But from 2008-2011, I lead-up the German National Team, as the head coach for the Performance department. But I was not the only leader; the leadership was split, is split actually in the Sports Director and the Head Coach.
So my problem was that the Sports Director, my boss actually, came from a different performance background; he came from a Diving background, and you see I come from a Swimming background. So we always clashed in the last two or three years, actually more than less on any technical decision. So I decided after the World Championships 2011 in Shanghai: I’m not taking the thing again. I said, “I’m not putting my head on the block for decisions, that I’m not agree with.” And so I said, I asked the president, you have two choices: you follow me and I would like to implement my strategy, or I will move out of the system. So the decision was clear, so I moved out of the system. Luckily, everybody knows about the German results now are pretty bad.
But on this point I started coaching, I went back to the pool deck and I started coaching again with Cameron van der Burgh, prepared him for the Olympic Games 2012—which was a huge success. Beside of that, beginning of 2012, January to September, I consulted Mexican Swimming. So consulted means I got the position as the technical director, but I never have been based in Mexico. I have been there like two or three times just to check the facilities, just to check the options, speak to coaches, understand the system; but I never ever be based in Mexico. My only job was actually to provide the leadership with strategy move with some way of moving forward and to get a high performance impact.
But dealing with Mexico, as far as I understood it, is for me, especially for a German it has been a bit tricky part. I learned a couple of lessons in Mexico. First thing, Mexico, they always keep telling me: tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. My understanding, as a German, “tomorrow” is one time sleep, going to bed, and next day is tomorrow. But in Mexico, it is always the next day tomorrow, the next day tomorrow, the next day tomorrow. Then they used to tell me about they followed my strategy move, my consulting, my suggestions; but two/three weeks later I figured out they move exactly the opposite way. So I asked them, “Sorry, but you told me that you’re following my consulting.” “Yeah, but we changed our mind, now.”
Next story: money. At the beginning, a lot of money there; then from one-day-to-the… no money at all. It is actually, it is an impact on my salary but another point is that it also impacts on the technical part. I will give an example. We said before, as we set up the Mexican strategy on the way for London, that performance… a high performance team should move or should go participate on the Mare Nostrum tour—Mare Nostrum tour is a huge European tournament [meet series]. They said “Okay, it’s great; we’re going with ten people.” Then actually one month ahead of the Mare Nostrum tour they told me, “No, there’s no money, we’re not going.” I said, okay, we are not going. Then I went to the Mare Nostrum—it is competitions in Barcelona, Monaco and Canet—I went there with Cameron van der Burgh. And then suddenly I saw a Mexican team there, and I asked them, Hey, guys what are you doing here, I thought there was no money here. “Yes, but we changed our mind. So we are here with a little team, but we are not participating on the racing, we are just on training.” I said, But if you want to save money, you can stay at home. What you guys are doing here? And they told me “But when money is there, we are here.” So there is no point. You see, it is always a different treatment, a different way of thinking, Mexico. And for me as a German, sometimes it is a bit tricky to deal with that.
But anyway it is an interesting project for me to show you my ideas: how Mexico is supposed to move. If they are going to take that thing, and that is actually that is presented to the executives, that is presented to the president and all these guys. That is not my choice, that is the decision of the leadership, okay?
(I will try to move that thing. Okay some, it’s not, next slide, just bring the next slide. Yes.)
Okay, so I try to keep it very short and very much fact-orientated. So we will speak about my experience in South Africa, like Swim SA [Swimming South Africa]; DSV is German federation [Deutscher Schwimm-Verband], and then about my suggestion about FMN, Mexican Swimming [Federación Mexicana de Natación]. We will always talking about:
• first, about the structure
• then about the national strategy what I implement or would like to implement, and
• then about the results.
For me a good organization must be functional, flexible. What mean flexible: just working as a system—what actually Bill told as couple of days ago that is not delivering any success. Delivering is a flexible organization, with a communication impact, such that the communication in the system is one of the most important things. And obviously a federation must have success, otherwise any national strategy is useless.
As I told you, 2005-2008. My position was a coaching… National Coaching Director. And together with the Performance Manager, a very similar set-up to my German job; so I had Performance Manager, and me as a Head Coach. We created a new national strategy.
What was the situation when I moved into South Africa? I moved in 2004 after the golden relay, the golden boys, won in 2004 for the 400 freestyle relay [at the Olympics]. So it was a really high standard, technical standard, but just a little amount of people. So was no standing National Team; there was no clear structure. Actually, there was always a kind of resistance for club coach. And any club coach in South Africa, same as in the States, the same as in Australia: is self-employed person; he is running his own business. So these club coach are not really interested in any federation things. They are always saying: no, federation is not my way, is not my stuff; I make my money with my learn-to-swim program, with something else.
So the situation was that the success was outsourced to U.S.-based athletes, most likely in… (sorry, where are they swimming usually in, Roland Schoeman and Ryk Neething? That’s where they swam in? yes?) Arizona, that is right. So even the team, the team was completely split in two parts: we had American-based team and the South African-based team. These people actually spoke to each other, but [did] not interact as a team. So my first classification was very flexible I think, and success was high just on the American side. On one point in time there was 95% of the National Teams, which are sent out to any international galas, based in the States. Just 5% of all swimmers lived in South Africa and trained in South Africa.
So the national strategy. What we put in place was actually based on some issues. One of the thing is that my… I was employed with a clear target from the executive; they told me, “Dirk, improve, make bigger, the numbers of South African athletes representing South Africa.” Okay. So at first we changed the selection criteria, and we said there is a national duty of selection. If you are not willing to go to training camp, not willing to take part in competition, you will not get an invitation to represent South Africa for international gala. So I tried to put soft skills in and I tried to set up national squads.
So on the right-hand side [of the slide] that is the National Team. On the right-hand side you see the big, yeah the Senior and the Age Group team; which is actually the standing pool of athletes. And on the left-hand side we pre-select some Junior Elite and some Senior Elite swimmers on different criteria—very similar to what Bill Sweetenham made in England. So you will see, we selected boys, girls in the age of 12-14, and preselect them 2004-2008. We work with the same group of swimmers all the time: Junior Elite and Senior Elite. The right-hand side, the Senior National Team and the Age Group Team, are just kind of [the] pool, pool of talent, where we got these elite swimmers out. So as a Junior Elite swimmer, you are just two ways: you are going up straight to the Senior Elite or you are going back to the Senior National.
Actually this set-up is working still to now. What [I] mean, you see on the Junior Elite team, the people, the swimmers, we selected 2004 are still now on this Olympic Games 2012, participating. 80% of the team of 2012 in South Africa was based on the Junior Elite team from 2004. You see even we selected coaches; we try to fix athlete-coach relationships. So for the Junior Elite team 2004, we said: these four coaches dealing with that swimmers, these eight coaches dealing with the age group team. So that swimmers and coaches get familiar with each other.
Just as you see, give you an idea about the Age Group Team, just around 30 swimmers. There is not a lot of supporting, but we are doing, they have done, like three training camps, each one between 14 and 21 days. And it was more focused on local trainings camp. For the Junior Elite, as I told you, these elite swimmers are pre-select to 2008 like four years. The selection was based on facts, based on soft skills; with the same three camps a year, but there are much-more focused on Senior-level competitions. So we travelled with these 6-10 junior swimmers the whole year. They are much more linked to the federation than the other ones.
(So I thought I will go a bit quicker.)
So the Senior National team, once a year, go quickly through that. Important is now the Senior Elite team. Again Preselects must not go through all the selection criteria for each year, but you have to be one of the top-8 of the world. So the first two pre-select Senior Elite swimmers has to be on [at] that time: Ryk Neethling and Roland Schoeman. We provide them with a lot of racing opportunities; so we send them over to Europe, to a lot of galas in America: always giving them what they are asking for. But they have to be a link to the national duty of South Africa; what was not always the point. I am not blaming any swimmer, but on some stage, some swimmer said, “No I’m not going to represent my country on All Africa Games”—something like [the] European Championships. “I’m not representing in any camp or whatever I’m not doing, I’m doing just in my way.” So my answers on that stage was: Okay, if you’re doing on your way, it’s fine. You can be selected for Olympic Games or World Championships, but you will not get any financial or any support on top. You are in the boat or you are out of the boat. If you’re in the boat, you’ve got a lot of support; if you’re out of the boat, you can do your own preparation, that’s fine. It was a high involvement of myself and that swimmers.
You see what happened. 2004, I just listed up a bit: 2004 obviously one got medal in the 4×100 Freestyle Relay, one silver, one bronze—for Roland Schoeman’s 50 and 100 meter results. Just 7 athletes participate on the Olympic Games; 6 of them are based in USA. Four years later, we had 22 athletes participating, and every swimmer made at least a semifinal. Obviously, we were a bit short of high-end performance, because we did not win a medal in Olympics Games 2008; but we improved the number of athletes by far. Since then, World Championships 2003, 2005, 2007. 2003, just one bronze medal; 2006, 6 males and 2 females made finals, and you see it is actually an improvement as well. Obviously the strategy works.
Commonwealth Games, it is [every] four year, maybe not as really important. But it was a huge thing for South Africa, in Australia 2006 to win 5 gold medals. Same Short Course [Worlds]: 2004, 2006, 2008. 2004, no medal; 2008, 1 gold, 1 silver, 4 bronze. You see the strategy is working because we try to get influence, at least, how the swimmers are committed, how the coach is committed, to the national strategy. If they just select them like three times a year in camps or competitions.
German [federation]: Deutscher Schwimm-Verband
Germany, 2008 to 2011, I was National Coach, as I told you. The leadership was split in my person and the Technical Director position. I took over from a very good friend and highly exploit in my eyes, Ørjan Madsen—a Norwegian coach who was responsible from 2000 to 2004 for the German team. In my eyes one of the best experts in World Swimming, was very clear structures. But again it was still kind of disagreement of the East German, mean GDR, history and the West German, Germany history. There was a disagreement in treatment, was a disagreement in moving on technical side on training, and the disagreement in communication.
I give you example. So in Germany it is the last ten years, common that the federation is trying to get influence on the daily-based work. So the German federation is trying to provide any coach, any club, any local system, with a lot of support, but they have to give up some kind of some feedback that the German federation is leading the program. The German federation is appointing coaches, and sets them on different clubs and different centers. The German federation is leading the whole German team. So there is no way that a German National Team swimmer, a normal athlete, can do whatever he would like to do. He cannot go to any camp, say “No, I’m not going to whatever”—Tenerife or Monte Carlo. At first he has to ask federation: “Is it okay for me to move to that thing?” That is a clear structure: a four-year plan, two-year plan, one-year plan; so a very big structure behind it.
And obviously, the problem was, what I would like to tell you, with Ørjan Madsen: he set up a high-altitude program. High-altitude program mean, if the personal coach, the National coach and the local coach decide that some swimmers belong to altitude programs, what mean that they are actually three/four months out-of-country and staying on some hills and whatever they do on this altitude thing. You cannot move in-and-out. You cannot say, it’s okay, I will take the next program, the next camp and then I will be at home for the next five months and then I will take next year another camp. No. If you are on the altitude program, you will be on that the whole four years, the whole period. So Ørjan Madsen set-up the same thing. He began with actually around 30 swimmers in the altitude program, and at the end of time, end of story, before 2008, just one swimmer left. All the coaches had big resistance: were not doing that, it is not our way of moving. So there was a clear negative impact of communication. So what does it mean? My classification of this organization is: it was very functional, the communication was just one way, but it was not flexible at all and success 2008 was very little.
So just to put some things on that. The idea, from the new national strategy, to get a clear influence on the home training; the idea was to set up flat priorities, to do a clear communication to athletes, to do a better international networking. Actually, it went so deep that we actually rescheduled that season planning, the selection criteria, we changed the German Nationals—the program of the German Nationals—and we set-up a network of bünde stitz bünde (means center systems) that any athlete is provided with the best option he can get. But on another side, athletes get a lot of money out of it; not a lot, but they get money from the government. So a good athlete on this point and time, as a National squad member—if you are A, B, C. If you are a member of A team, you will make around with, we named it Sportive Sport Support System with club system, made easy around €1,500/€2,000 per month. We have a lot of athletes they are based, they are linked, with the army system; we have a lot of athletes linked to the police system. Actually their job is doing sport.
Just to give you an idea of what happened [in] 2008, 2009: how quick the success came in. You see on the bottom the 2008 results, and over there the 2009 results—World Championship in Roma. So 2008, Germany just won two medals: two-times Britta Steffen with two gold medals, 50 and 100 freestyle. One year later, just pool Swimming, won nine medals. 2 medals to 9 medals. Even that list show better the improvement rates. See the bottom one, the bottom one is giving the performance quotes; what mean: how many semis… how many races went for the semis, how many races went from the semis and the finals, how many races from the semis to the finals. You see, at the end, we had 60% of our semis at the World Championships 2009 made finals. 60%, so actually every second person which we got in the semis made the final. We had around 60%, 57%, but 60% of all our starts made semifinals; instead of 23% and actually lower success quotes. You can see it is a different kind of understanding. The green thing is 2009 results, men’s results, and the black one it is Olympic results. You see, we improved in one year time, just one year time, a lot because we tried to get the influence on the daily base program.
What happened the next years? European Championships 2010 and World Championships 2011. You can see European Championships 2010, we won nine medals; World Championships, five medals. So there was actually no reason when we won at the World Championship 2011 five medals, that one year later the Olympic Games Germany came out with zero, big zero, with no medals. So again here the success quote, so we got what is… when we got swimmers at the European Championships in the semi, we got a 96% success quote to bring them in finals. What mean: more then less, every swimmer we got in the semis made the finals. But how many swimmers we got to the semis? Actually close to 70%. So at the end of story, at the Europeans, one year later after Rome, after World Championships 2009, we got more than less 7 out of 10 swimmers in the semis and one hundred percent, like the same guys, went to the finals—so it was a huge success.
We worked with the five weeks preparation thing. So five weeks preparation mean five weeks in advance, the whole team came together and everybody is under clear, under the clearly guideline of the federation. We had the biggest improvement rates since ’91. And you can see the point that all relays made to final. Is actually pretty good results. We came after Beijing; Beijing was at this point in time the worst Olympic Games ever, was just two medals. I think we came 2nd or 3rd on the medal table at the World Championships 2009.
2010, 2011: what was positive conclusions out of that? We set up the altitude program, I told you altitude philosophy based on Ørjan Madsen philosophy: if you are in this philosophy, you have to continue the next two or three years. We set up a competition system with a lot of international racing, where the federation decided which athlete has to go to which competition. We try to get internal camp system, to establish internal international camp system. What we have done for breaststroke, for long distance: we invite swimmers from different countries. Like long distance was always the beginning of the year, January. So for two weeks time, we invited Russians, we invited South Africans, Italians; and let them train with our German athletes. Same for breaststroke, we had [Alexander] Dale Oen, Cameron van der Burgh, we had a lot of top swimmers; and let them train with our two or three best breaststrokers. They get international exposure.
Negative conclusion out of that thing was pretty clear. Was actually a huge success, but at the end we had just three finalists… just three male finalists: [Paul] Biedermann, [Helge] Meeuw and [Hendrik] Feldwehr; just three females [Sarah Poewe, Daniela Samulski and Britta Steffen]. Just 16% of the overall German team reached the final, and the team was over-aged [in] 2009. 2010/2011, our conclusion was actually same: that we had actually a high quote of semifinalists and finalists, but very little numbers of medals. And the development increase rate was too little: too little swimmers swam personal best on their point. So actually started to get a negative point of view.
One year later, Shanghai, was the same thing. Our success rate was too little compared to the international top-level athletes. The periodizing… what do I mean with that? We had… in Germany we had going-on discussion with the coaches: how long the preparation period is supposed to be? Five weeks? Six weeks? Nine weeks? That is the kind of philosophy. The East German coach has always said we need nine weeks; the West German coaches say we like to have three, four, five weeks—very short term—between the national selection competition and the top event. At that point we move every year. But at the end, the 2011 result was okay with five medal; [but] was not perfect at all.
Coaches’ selection: conclusion out of that—the coaches’ selection. We gave points, that was different to South Africa, we gave points for performance of athletes for each coach. So if you reach the kind of points, you are in the team; or if you not made it, you are out of the team. The team interaction must… and the communication was not good enough. Our young guns, our young swimmers, like: Christian vom Lehn, 3rd in Shanghai in the 200m breast; Silke Lippok, European junior champion; Marco Koch. All these guys has to be, has impact for the German team. We set up relays, relay project, and some other things to actually provide the German team for the Olympic Games conditions.
Also we try to interfere [improve?] the physical fitness of athletes. We employed special fitness coaches; we set up special trainee’s camps just for athletic. So we start-up a season just with athletic camp, and then we put a lot of camps on that just to improve the physical fitness. Also what made Germany because of these disagreeing between East and West, we establish a code of conduct, a code of honor. The coaches must be loyal, helpful, constructive; like disagreements supposed to be not… avoidance of delivery of personal disagreements supposed to be… on the private things. And we establish a center system. What does this mean, center system. We establish nine centers in Germany: Hamburg, Berlin, down to Heidelberg. And each center is responsible for junior centers; you see there is [Lange mentions two German cities] junior centers. So we have three or four junior centers. We had an army center, we had a police center, we had an open water center. So we tried to give the whole thing, the whole German Swimming performance, a kind of structure.
And all these centers, all these little units, worked with special-employed coaches by the German federation—full employed coaches. I count last season we had 60, six zero, full paid coaches in Germany by the government or by local federations, 60. That is actually a kind of result from the former GDR point/perspective because there was lot of coaches unemployed. For example Hamburg Center, north, is not just responsible for Hamburg; this center is responsible for the whole region. What mean, if the center would be based in New York, it is not just New York; it is New Jersey and… the whole area is under the leadership of one center. What mean that the coaches, the center coaches, who are full employed by the German Swimming Federation and full under my guideline, full under my power as a head coach; that this guy is not anymore just a coach, he is a kind of manager. He has to take care about administration, about structure, about training philosophies, about the operative work and the control of the training.
We have once a year, we named it I.T.P. talks, which mean individual training talks. What mean: we are talking to athletes, to home coaches, to schools, to university; just in a big meeting, everybody is seating at one table and then they find individual solution for any swimmer. That no swimmer then can’t say, I am not able to go to that trainees camp, this trainees camp because of academic reason, because of whatever. Everything is sorted at beginning of the season. So that is a job description of a German Center Coach; he must organize everything.
Me as a Head Coach, I am just approaching to Center Coach and say: What’s the story with Paul Biedermann? What’s with Britta Steffen? Why they’re not at these camps? Why they’re not doing that? So he must actually: doing controlling, coaching and actually living and publishing the national strategy of the German federation. You see it is a big impact on the daily program of each National Team member.
My Mexican… actually my Mexican job is done now. It went to the end of last month, as a kind of technical director; but at the end I was just a consulter. I was assisting and my main thing was actually evaluate, consult and advise coaches to coach. And get set up and create a national strategy with implementation of different projects. And for that I sent some consulting over to the Mexican Swimming Federation.
What I found when I came in, there was complete… no strategy. There was no standing national squad; they were not even thinking national squads. What mean national squad; what mean: if you are member of a national squad then you get this or that support. There was no high performance structure. Actually, there is a big Age Group problem in Mexico, because Mexican Swimming, it is very, very tough on the junior level. There have very, very strong results, maybe even better as the results in the States, to the age of 12, 13. But why is it happen like that? Because a lot of Mexican Swimming pushing little kids in mileage and doing a lot of pressure on little kids. It is actually not working, but… who will make the next step? But they understand they cannot make the next step, because the kids will move out of the system at the age of 15 or 16 because usually they are moving over to the States. So more than less, 90-95% of the Mexican coaches, they are not actually looking for deliver on the Senior program; they are just looking for junior to get to the peak performance at the age of 15, 16. Then they are giving the swimmers away—that is it. So it is actually a junior program that is running in Mexico. Coaches… actually what I got, they are jealous on each other. But the relationship, and especially the responsibility, of coaches is very little. Any coach is just responsible for his own swimmers; nobody is taking any responsibility for the federation.
So what does it mean for me? Functional; we are not flexible a lot because there is no structure at all; success, so-so. My idea was now, from now 2012 to 2017, to implement a Junior and an Age Group team to get the responsibility by national coaches. To get national duty for athletes and coaches because, on this point in time, there is not a real duty. And to promote them to implement a lot of projects like science, like relay, like sprint, like long distance project; and give the responsibility to different Mexican coaches. I would suggest them to work with flat priorities and integrate a lot of athletes, a lot of experts of different sports and disciplines, and change the selection criteria.
So, for example this season, they could select for the Olympic Games like in the range of five or six months. So there was no way of preparation of your athlete to be on the peak preparation for one day. They could try 10 times, 12 times, 15 times; and when the swimmers made it, they have made it, and if they have not made it, they have not made it. So that is not what we, what you are doing here in the States or what we used in Germany: one-day, two-days, three-days gala or whatever, one week gala, that is in the selection criteria, that is the competition you have to prepare for. End of story, at the Olympic Games, as far as I understood it, like 90% of the Mexican swimmers are worse than their entry time.
Also I would like to set-up an army and a police system because we have to implement something for, not Age Group, for Senior athletes. So it might be a perfect strategy: the President must be on top, Technical Director, and then underneath that must be (Spanish there) is the National Coach (Entrenador Nacional is the National Coach), Senior National Coach, an Age Group Coach for the age of 15-17, and Talent Identification Coach. And for me the most important person on the whole thing is the National Coach, the head coach. He must lead-up the whole system; he must guide the junior and the age group coaches. And underneath the national coaches are the different centers that they have. And the facility of different center is… it is extra top; it is very, very good—it is even better than in Germany. It is not understandable that Mexican results are not, at least of the same standard as European results, because international centers on the very high technical standard.
So for me the technical leadership must be by the National Head Coach. And this guy, actually, if he identifies any weak performance areas in his team; what I said like long distance, sprint or whatever. He must advise the Talent Identification Coach, 11 to 14, run some clinics, run some programs to provide me with more long distance swimmers, or whatever, butterfly swimmers, whatever. Then the coach, 15 to 17, he must take the guys and bring them to the international standard when the national coach can work with them.
So again, similar to the German thing, a head coach. A Mexican head coach, in my point of view, is the head coach who is not anymore coach, he is actually a manager, much more a manager as a coach. So he must be responsible for the long-term development; for the long-term strength and power development. He must be a permanent member of the coach association. He must be supervising the different coaches underneath of him, but supervising. What I have got in Mexico, nobody is really supervising another coach because everybody is saying: No, it’s not my swimmer, it’s not… I will do what is good for me, but it’s not good for the federation.
So my suggestion to the federation was: take a foreigner, take an international top guy, for the head coach position, because this guy is the key. That guy is the leader and this guy will rule the whole thing. The head coach must be able to analyze national and international competitions. He must be a person responsible for the preparation, because at this point in time nobody is really responsible. I have been with the Mexican team in one international event, now, there was one coach responsible for the trip. And some other Mexican swimmers just came in and swam warm-up, whatever they have done. And I asked him, “So what is your position to those guys?”
He said, “No, they are not my swimmers.. I’m just responsible for my own swimmers.”
But I said “But you’re responsible for the whole trip?”
“Yeah, but I’m just from the technical team, from the technical side. But I’m taking care about my swimmers, what the other guys are doing is their problem.”
That is not my understanding of leadership.
So, very similar because I believe it is a similar situation as we have found in South Africa. I would set up a big Senior and Age Group squad. A big one, taking out some young kids. You know, 2017 in Mexico will be World Championships—2015 in Russia, 2017 in Mexico. Actually on special conditions, like at least 1,800 maybe 2,000 meter high. So pre-select a couple of guys, a couple of boys, a couple of girls, and run them through from now to 2017. I am not going so far to pre-select coaches, because that must be the clear responsibility from the head coach: what team he would like to make that move to the 2017 World Championships.
The national squad. As far as I understood it, on this short time I have been… I worked with Mexico, was that the physical condition of Mexican swimmers/athletes are very low. Actually they are training a lot; they are training like hell. They are actually training, they are doing something, that we in Germany or South Africa and you here in the States made in the ‘80s: they are coming about mileage, mileage, mileage. A taper program from a 1500m swimmer in Mexico, it is easily going up to… taper in the competition week going up to 80 kilometer. I asked a coach, “What is this for taper? Are you not sure just 10-kilometers swimming a day is making your swimmer a little bit tired?” No, he needs it.
Maybe, in some individual points, it is working. But you see that is more kind of: if you keep your guys busy, it will come out some result, but not necessarily the best results. So they are not working enough with the race speed. We have just to stabilize aerobic base of this team, but the start speed, the speed availability, the start and turns: everything that is used for professional, leading federation, is actually a bit short. There is no competition with team for the athletes. And I am not saying, I am not blaming, any athlete for it; but I am just blaming the structure. If you give the athletes or the home coaches the right strategies, the right support, then they will learn quickly.
So my understanding is: take an outsider for the position as the head coach, and that guy will bring the international exposure. Because at the end of story… the end of story is that the key will be the home coaches. We have to educate and re-educate the home coach system, to support them. But if everybody is running over the field of what they would like to do and there is no strategy behind, they will not improvement at that point.
Okay, thanks for your attention. That was a short-base affect-orientated presentation for Mexican Swimming. I hope Mexico will take some out of that things out of my consultation, because I really believe Mexico has a chance to have a big and huge improvement with 2017 because of it is special conditions. It will be the same conditions as the 1968 when the Olympic Games were in Mexico City. Attitude training will become a much more important impact for any country now. Just… if you would like to be successful in 2017. So the Mexican facilities and the Mexican conditions on that point in time are pretty good, but they have to use it.
Thank you very much for your attention, thank you.
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