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Announcing the 2017 ASCA Hall of Fame Honorees!

Announcing the 2017 ASCA Hall of Fame Honorees!

ASCA is proud to announce its Hall of Fame Class 2017

The American Swimming Coaches Associations will honor 4 coaches this fall by inducting them into the ASCA Hall of Fame during the ASCA World Clinic banquet on Thursday, August 29th, 2017, at the Washington Hilton Hotel.

The inaugural ASCA Hall of Fame class was inducted in 2002. The Hall has enshrined nearly 100 of America’s greatest swim coaches in the last 15 years. ASCA welcomes the Class of 2017: Coaches Bob Mattson, Charlie Hodgson, Jill Sterkel, and Jonty Skinner!

Bob Mattson

Coach Bob Mattson

Coaches would regularly come visit Bob to watch him teach his extraordinary weekly mechanics class where he was always exploring new styles of swimming to unlock new speed thresholds – Paul Bergen was one of those I personally remember sitting in the stands while he was a young coach in Philadelphia. He credited Bob with teaching him the style of breaststroke he taught Tracy Caulkins (I believe Paul did this in an ASCA presentation as well several times we discussed it). Jim Ellis was a regular at the Swim School and one of Bob’s great quotes is “All that is not shared is lost”.

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The Future of Swimming- Panel Discussion Moderated by George Block Panelists:  John Leonard, Phil Whitten, Bob Gillett, Bob Bowman and Bill Sweetenham (2001)

George Block: This panel is about the future of swimming and trying to read some things and see what people in the world are thinking about the future. I came upon interesting quotes from everybody, from Mark Twain, who said, “The future is going to be just like the past, except different,” to Will Rogers who said, “What makes the future hard to predict is that it hasn’t happened yet.”  But there is a concept in industry that talks about bifocal vision. Bifocal vision can either be guys my age who can’t both see the pool and the workout at the same time, or it can be what is meant in industry today of simultaneously having to focus on what you’re doing and improving it constantly and doing it as well as you can do it, while simultaneously looking at how to make that obsolete and looking into the future and seeing what the future is going to be and seeing how and  what you are doing now can make itself obsolete while simultaneously preparing you for the future, and that is bifocal vision. And that is a tough discipline because frequently we either focus on what we are doing or we dream about the future.  But bifocal vision requires us to a very real and concrete way to perfect what we are doing now and plan on how that perfection is going to facilitate it’s own destruction and replacement with the future and how that is going to help us get there.

 

I need to thank in advance our panelists for today and some of them have been very tight replacements. One thing that I definitely learned this weekend is never count on a college coach for Saturday afternoon, they all have emergencies that they have to get back for. Football emergencies or recruiting emergencies, so I want to thank our panelists, John Leonard, Phil Whitten, Bob Gillett, Bob Bowman and Bill Sweetenham. I’ve asked Bob to talk about the swimmer of the future — the person, the body that gets in the water, and then we are going to pass the torch on to Bill, who is going to talk about the club of the future. Bill has studied clubs and intervened with clubs and prodded clubs for years.  From there we are going on to Bob for technology.  Bob is always about 20 years ahead of us in technology, and the things that he was pushing and prodding for two decades ago are standard practice now and widely for sale and widely practiced, and people consider it cutting edge. Bob was probably and probably still is on the bleeding edge.  And then I’m going to ask John to talk both about the pool of the future and how that relates to the meet of the future. And then Phil, from his perspective is going to talk briefly about the future on the drug issues and the future on the college swimming issue.

 

I’ve asked all of them to be a little bit edgy, to push a little bit farther then they’re even willing to push, to try and stimulate some thought in you, and to try and help you hone your binocular vision. Because I’m hoping to get a bit of a discussion at the end and questions and ideas and thoughts and maybe put two unlikely combinations together, because where innovation really occurs isn’t in the center of any one discipline.  Innovation occurs at the edges of multiple disciplines and where those two edges come together and at the edges of discipline is where we can put unlikely ideas and unlikely combinations together. And since I’m hoping today from just combining some different views, even though they are primarily within our one discipline, that we can look at some edges and get some ideas going in this room today.  So, I’ve asked all of our speakers to be provocative and to try and push you and push themselves a little bit farther than we would normally be pushed. And so I’m going to turn this over to our Coach of the Year, who is from a club who has historically looked for the swimmer of the future and they’ve historically seemed to find that swimmer of the future. And having Bob up here, he is a good young coach, and he is a coach that is going to be there in the future. And he maybe right now is coaching the swimmer of the future, but he has been places to have seen some of the developing trends and what he thinks are out there as well as some of the developing controversies that seem to be looming in front of us.

 

Bob Bowman: Thanks George. When I think about the swimmer of the future, in terms of physical characteristics and the talent that we are going to be looking for, or the world class swimmer of the future, I think that there are several parameters to consider. None of these are going to be earth shattering but they are very important.  And I think, as Forbes pointed out, that some of these physical similarities are becoming more pronounced as we go through time. The swimmer of the future is going to be taller more than shorter, I think some events lend themselves to slightly taller people.   Some, maybe the shorter access strokes, you can get by with someone shorter, but people who are going to compete in the sprint freestyle events are going to be very tall. They are going to have large hands and feet, they are going to be lean and they are going to be naturally strong and flexible at the same time.  Those would be the things that I would look at when you see children.  It is very easy to look and see the athletic individuals.  When I look at young kids I think that the swimmer of the future is going to have to be intelligent, and they are going to have to be well versed in an academic sense in science.  They are going to have to do that because they are really going to have to understand and interact with a group of people who are much more scientifically advanced than we may be today. And they are going to have to use quite a bit of data that is going to be provided to them, to design their training programs, to evaluate their performances, and to plan their future seasons and performance goals. I look for children who not only have the physical characteristics but I personally like to see a young swimmer who has a background in the arts, music and appreciation of those sorts of things.  Art and music because I think that kinesthetic ability and the ability to appreciate the arts and understand that go hand in hand.

 

I think there is a lot of the biofeedback that you saw in Mike’s film yesterday if you were here, it is a very powerful tool. I think in the future, the knowledge of those sorts of things and the use of that in daily training and implementation of these plans are going to be important. As always, the swimmer of the future is going to have to have a very supportive and involved parent/family.  Now, are they going to be the traditional, mother, father, and two kids, family? Maybe not. I’m coaching a young man who has very supportive parents but they don’t live in the same household and haven’t for ten years. And quite frankly, their relationship is not at sometimes completely amicable, and that is something that I, as a coach, have to take into account.  All of these swimmers of the future are going to have parents that are willing to allow them to pursue this endeavor without falling into the trap of, “Well, we want them to do a little of this and a little of that, and a little of that.”  I think at a younger age, they may take a number of interests, particularly in to sports, but as they reach a certain age, and I think for the girls it’s ten or eleven, they are gonna start, you’re going to have to start focusing on what they are doing. The boys might be a couple of years later, but they’re going to have to decide that they are going to pursue this in a very serious fashion.  And the parents are going to need to support that and to support the coach and be willing to make the sacrifices that are necessary. The swimmer of the future is going to understand and work with a team of people and they are going to be using a variety of tools, which are available to some people now, and I don’t think that they are something that everybody really uses.

I would like to touch on the subject of nutrition and supplements, which has been raised by several people here.  You know we have had one major speaker say if you use any kind of supplements it is morally wrong, it’s wrong and you’re cheating.  Then we have had another major speaker say that the coach has a moral responsibility to give the athletes supplements.  Well, I’m probably right in the middle. I think it is foolish to think that you can be competitive on a world level and train on that level and rely on the three square meals a day nutrition that the normal kid who plays at recess. and maybe does baseball or soccer, depends on.  I think that they are going to have to learn early what is safe and what is healthy, and I think we have a good idea of those things.  Now, I have concerns in the area of quality control of supplements, and that of course is the biggest concern. But, I think you’ve got to seriously look at what the nutritional needs are, and what the basic foods are that your athletes are getting.  And I guarantee you that 90% of the athletes that you have are not getting a sufficient diet for the kind of training that a world class athlete might do.  They are going to have to use supplements to be able to continue to train on a level to reach a world record.

 

Now, how far do you go with it? I was in Sydney a year ago, and I was very fortunate to be involved in the Olympic team preparation. We were all kind of thrown into this world of a program that was extremely, meticulously planned, and quite overwhelming to me.  I’m not sure that, you know I can get Michael to take a multi-vitamin and we can ask him to take a sports recovery drink two times a day, but I’m not sure he can do 5 teaspoons of glutamine every three hours and take six other supplements.  So, at some point, you’re going to decide what the athlete can handle and what they can’t.  But I think to just take a reactionary position that nothing, you know it’s all or nothing, you’re either cheating or your not, I think that is very narrow and is not going to be the way of the future.

 

The athlete of the future is going to work with a team of people, and they are going to have to know how to interact on various levels with people of different disciplines and at the same time maintain their individual focus in their relationship with the coach. And the coach is going to act as the coordinator of this support team.  And I’m very fortunate we have been able to kind of build a team in North Baltimore, we have plenty of support. But one of the big responsibilities that I have is coordinating the efforts of these people and making sure that not one facet of the core of support tries to be more important than the others, that they all fit in their respective places. And the team is going be something like this.  You’re going to have a physician who is going to obviously take care of medical and health issues, monitoring health periodically throughout the training seasons. It is going to be like our case with Michael, we have a physician at John Hopkins who regularly takes a spectrum of blood analysis where we analyze three things.  We analyze his nutritional values and if we think that his body is getting the appropriate nutritional things that we want him to have.  There are general health markers, to determine his general levels of immunity and health, and then there is an overtraining spectrum of markers, which might indicate that something in the training program is not working, so the doctor is a big part of our program.

 

You’re going to have a nutritionist who is going to deal with a supplement issue and with basic nutrition. There is going to be a physical therapist, and quite frankly I don’t know, having now used a very good therapist on a regular basis, how someone could really achieve good world class performance consistently and maintain that training level without that kind of help.  And that might include massage, and it particularly includes what we use, which is a manual therapist, more of a nuero muscular and a more holistic kind of therapy then the typical physical therapist.  So, I think that is very important.

 

There is going to be use of a psychologist or someone like that, too.  I think right now with Michael, I’m the psychologist.  I don’t know if it is always going to be that way, but I think if you’re going to get in very detailed and advanced things, such as what Mike’s guys were doing, you’re going to need a specialist to use biofeedback, who is going to help them with relaxation, and right brain and left brain.  All of those things are going to be important.  They’re going to have some other people on the support team, like an accountant, because the swimmer of the future is going to be a professional.  There is my edgy part.  The demands of world class swimming in training and competition are such, particularly with the international counter becoming so crowded, that I think the traditional approach of, “It’s a two way swimming,” are moving on to maybe be a post graduate, is not going to work for everybody.  It is going to work for a lot of people, but I think that for the swimmers at the very top it is gonna be hard for them to maintain training programs, competitive programs that are going to work within the confines of the NCAA program.  And that is not at all a knock on the NCAA program, but I think if you really want to look at it, you might find that a majority of the best world class performances over even ten years have been achieved by post-graduates or high school students.  That is not to say that there haven’t been good performances, but I’m talking about world records and Olympic medals, so they are going to have their accountant.  They are also going to have an attorney, and hopefully they are not, but they are gonna have an agent, who is gonna handle their public life and manage that financial side of the equation.  So, there are a lot of people now involved in helping people swim fast.

 

I remember the best advice that I ever got, it really wasn’t advice, but it was such a correct observation and it was at last year’s Olympic trials.  You know Michael made the team and immediately went into this processing for the Olympic team, and he was going upstairs and doing the media and doing this, and Murray said, “You know what? It’s really amazing how many people need to be involved after somebody swims fast.  It was two, now it’s 100.” So, the swimmer of the future is going to work in that environment and I think it is gonna be quite challenging for all of us and very interesting.

 

That was a great start, Billy want to pick that up?  (Changing speakers) I’m gonna use the overhead, I don’t need the mic, mine is gonna be short enough without one. I’m gonna use the overhead I know exactly the computer systems that we saw, I’m living proof that, it’s no match for the system proof idiot, so I’m just going to stay with the basics and go with the overhead.

 

Bill Sweetenham: First of all, I’ll carry on what George said, and I think that history is a term for the future and quite often what comes around goes around, and we tend to go back with the things that were done in the past.  So, in my career as a coach and as a coach of thirty years of age, I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time being a head coach organizing natural teams, and I’ve missed out on quite a bit of coaching, which is my true love.  George has asked me to be fairly provocative in what I teach, but it was easy for me.  Because I figure in about 6 or 8 years or 8 to 10 years I’m going to finish up my career by going back and coaching on deck and being a club coach, which is my true love.  So, I must finish my coaching career in my last 10 to 12 years.  Hopefully I will live that long to be a club coach and go back and enjoy the days on deck.  But listening to Bob I want to make my feelings clear that I think the world has lost the fight unquestionably with drugs.  I think we have lost the fight against performance enhancing drugs.  I think the wording has to change of the lord as I say categorically that if you take anything that enhances the performance you are cheating. And we know that everybody is doing that, so it is a matter of compromise.  Where do you draw the line in the sand?  What is legal and what isn’t?  What is cheating and what isn’t?  I think the rules need to be clarified to say the same.  Anyway, I think one of the things that we are up against today in sports and swimming is a dream for young people who want to go into the extreme force, like rollerblading or skateboarding.  And there is a huge attraction and I think the one major change you have to make is in our competition structures and our competition presentation.

 

So, I know to go through and take you through the things that I feel, and first of all I think you have to have a multi dimensional program that encompasses everything.  And that is facilities, talent, competition, budget and reward recognition. And I think that the parents are going to be supportive because they are unwilling to give up time to come and be involved as officials in your club.  So, I’ve tried to look at the United States, and I have limited knowledge of the club program, but this is how I see the club of the future, the successful club of the United States. The first thing that I see as a priority is having a major sponsor.  I think with the costs of the facilities, coaching, and what it’s gonna take to be successful a major sponsor has to be on board with any successful club.  I think that if the United States wanted to have a really good strong club in the future that they would tie up the university and the city swimming program.  All the great successful sports in this country, football, basketball, baseball are tied through a city. With any program that it is tied to a city, everybody in the city feels part of that time and gets more involved and more committed to that team’s success. All around the world people get behind city based teams and I think that is the way to go.  And tying up a university, which has a lot of facilities that are on tact is a great idea. And I think if you can tie up the club, the major club and the university together are great benefits for the club, and it would also put pressure on the university to have a development program rather than a recruiting program.  There would be more of an emphasis on developing talent within the area of the university and giving the swimmers in that local area a chance to progress through and stay in that area and stay part of their home for a longer period of time.  So, city representations in the national competition, with each city and university represented by a club and a university tie up situation would be good.

 

Anyway, I’ve always questioned why the United States with their scholarship program look forward to offering scholarships to foreign athletes.  If I was a tax payer in the United States I would feel bad if my child was denied a university scholarship because an athlete from a foreign country had taken up that scholarship. I’m probably standing on the university coaches toes a little bit, but that is how it feels.  The programs of the city in talent identification is basically mass participation.  The more people that you have swimming the more likely you are to find that super talent and the more likely you are to raise sponsorships and have a lobby.  By tying up a university and city program you would maximize pool availability and minimize pool pumps, which are continually being put under pressure and costing more and more and more.  The universities have great facilities and most of them go unused for the biggest part of the day.  I think the NCAA short course meters every three years with the long course meet, perhaps the year before the Olympics would certainly help as a club structure in the United States and make relevant between the coordination of the home program the club program and the university.  I think club support for those programs that are tied up is important.  And, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a stand alone, super strong club program independent of the university, but when you can tie up the university with the city program it needs financial support and aid from the national government.

 

You know, the only successful countries in world swimming today have financial support from their national government directly in the clubs that have a history of percent and have shown that they can be successful.  They also have visitation from the national body on a frequent basis and I think perhaps the way of the future is that the national team will have swimmers and coaches of contract.  For instance in Australia, we play a pretty ridiculous game called cricket, and every member of the national cricket team as in the national football team, is tied up at X salary for the year and so is the coach.  Because coaches that go to work at the national level are away from the program so often and for so long they are national team representatives. They have to have a structure to afford to have a good coaching program based below that national team.  So, perhaps swimmers on the national team each year should be put under contract and paid a salary so that they are on call for the national program, whenever they are required to go to meets and to be available for coaching at those meets.  I know they are showing in Great Britain, and it’s certainly something that they are showing in Australia, but with coaches today, I don’t think you can be capable of doing everything in every area, psychology, biomechanics, physiology, it is not possible for a coach to be skilled in all areas.

 

A coach must know their strengths, identify their weaknesses and employ people to look over the weaknesses.  The improvement that should be looked for in the coach/swimmer ratio of maybe 8 to 12 students to one coach, maximum.  Sports medicine you’ve got to keep your athletes healthy, you can’t swim well with athletes that aren’t healthy and on sports diet.  Even though sports diet per say isn’t a contributing factor in dominating country success it certainly is heading that way.  And I think that you have to have great sports science support.  And for a club to have that I think the only way it could be facilitated in most western countries is though a tie up for the club to develop athletes locally and push them to the local university. They need to have the sports diet’s back up within that university so it can be handed down to the better club athlete within that one program.

 

The head coach has to be a head coordinator, manager and facilitator.  I think the days of the head coach, after being a head coach, being a jack of all trades, I think those days are limited.  Going on some of the things that Bob said, certainly a biochemist to work was making sure that the athletes are in prime running condition, their blood profiles are always perfect, the supplementation within the rules acceptable, and well worth it. I think the eighth program is offering some great innovative and support for us understanding the immune system and so perhaps recruiting people.  Doctors are certainly helping us in understanding how the immune system works and it’s developed greatly over the last two or three years, I think in their areas the problem of the future will have to erase.

 

But the other one, I think the other important area is the competition. I think that with the competition structure the way it is we have seen little gains.  I think there has to be a move toward the skins philosophy in the club program, where you have the skins in the 100’s and the 50’s.  And I think everybody is aware what a skins meet is, when you swim the heats over with the team or eight people, depending on the pool size, to make the finals.  And you swim a number of elimination files where one or two swimmers drop out at a time, so you end up with just two people standing up head to head on the 7th 50 to go head to head and try to win it.  And maybe the 100’s you have the heats and then you have 9 100’s and you swim three finals in the 100 and each time the slowest three swimmers are eliminated. So it means the first three that win the 100 eventually has to swim perhaps five times the 100 in an hour in a half or two hours.  But I think there has to be a move away from the traditional swim meets. I think we have to move on, because I think we force parents out of the sport because they sit around on weekends.  And surprisingly you go to a meet with little Johnny or little Mary while Mom’s being the referee or time keeper, and if you talk with the mom or the coach you find out that the swimmer at swim meets eats healthy.  And then you ask the guy that runs the shop and find out that they sold 20,000 cans of coke and 10,000 mars bars and 10,000 meat pies and no one ate them.

 

So I think we have to be careful to run meets that are more parent friendly and we advance the needs of the athlete so the swimming is more attractive than the other sports that we see taking over, like rollerblading, skateboarding, surfing and all of those traditional sports. I feel because we haven’t moved with the times, we are missing out on the best athletes, because those athletes are going into the more exciting sports environment.  So, hopefully those are some stimulating thoughts here on how I think the crowd of the future will be.  Thank you very much.  Ready to pick up Bob?

 

Bob Bowman: I realize that we are there at the end of the time element, so I’ll try to make this real short.  I did have a handout, I hope you got it, if you didn’t we’ll probably have some more in the back of the room and I have some more up here after the talk is over with. What George asked me to talk about was what I thought would be the most influential thing for club coaches to do to improve swimmers’ performances in the future.  And of course, I have always had a great interest in technology and I think that will be a major contributor to us as coaches to get kids to swim faster in the future.  I’m kind of almost on the edge and I’ve felt like I’ve talked myself blue in the face.  And I can remember back in 1982, and I said the same thing and I think we are on the edge of a real revolution in technology application for swimming.  And that was the first time I was ever exposed. I’m 57 now, so I started coaching as a youngster, back in the 60’s, and was exposed to some great coaches like Walt Sluter.  And there was another man who was very innovative named John Tallman.  He had a real futuristic type thinking and I was just exposed to this as a young coach and I thought that was part of the big job of coaching, was to come up with innovative type things and try to improve your swimmers.  And I did do some original type work back in the 60’s with now what is called computer assisted race evaluation. Conceptionally, it started in the 60’s and then went into the 70’s.  The real progress in it occurred in 1978 when they first came out with a turnkey computer that was affordable, a Tandy TRS80.  Some of you that are old enough might know about those.  We paid $4,500.00 for a real small, what would be less than a hand held today, but it was in a big huge package.  And we started what we call computer assisted race evaluation.  And I remember, I went to the training center in Colorado Springs, which had just opened and presented it to the national swim coaches seminar at that time, and it fell quite on death ears.  There was absolutely 0 interest in technology application at that point, but we continued on with it and we put race evaluation into a hand held device, an HP41 in 1982.  And I remember that they asked us to have a presentation at the American Swimming Coaches Association, so for two years in a row I talked about the application in micro computers and this idea of race evaluation that we had put out.

 

We begged U.S. Swimming to get involved in it and I can’t tell you how many directors we approached trying to get into it and no one would listen.  We wanted a descriptive study of the swimmers, how many strokes they were taking, what their tempo was, and we wanted it expressed in seconds per cycle as well as in strokes per minute.  And we pushed and pushed and we got no results on this at all for years and years.  And I’m happy to say that from 1982 to 2001 now, it has changed quite a bit and if you were at the senior national championships they were handing out race evaluations on every race between preliminary’s and finals.  Almost every country in the world is doing it, so that part of it I think has been very satisfying for me to see that program adopted and it flourishing so well.  And I think that you need to really look into that program. They have great resources on the web site for U.S. Swimming, and Walker up there has done a great job of getting it available to all the coaches.  And so that is a technology type thing that you need to avail yourself at.  It will help you with your coaching of your swimmers tremendously, if you are not using it you need to be using it.

 

In the handout today, George asked me if I had talked to him about the idea that I had, one pet project that was mentioned back in the 80’s, and it still hasn’t come about. And I think it would be one of the greatest steps that United States Swimming would make if we can get this system.  I’ve described it in the hand out available to us, which is a group heart rate monitoring system.  We do a lot of things and spend a lot of money on things that really don’t help the coaches be in a situation to really help their swimmers, and something like this would just be invaluable.  And we do have the technology to put it together right now and in fact the new organization, the supplementary organization I would call the National Club Swimming Association is making this a major project.  If any of you would like to participate in a group project to try and encourage the development of this monitoring system we would like for you to get involved.  If you know resource people that can help us, for example you need to get resource people involved maybe from Motorola.  If you have an applications engineer as a parent in your group, these are the kinds of things that can be constructive and really help, by bringing their expertise to technological development.  But, we would like to see this become a part and I won’t go into a lengthy description of it other than it would help you a great deal.

 

Of course we have a heart rate monitoring system right now and it is called Polar, and that is the most famous one and it does not work very good for guys if you’ve ever tried it.  For the girls it works pretty good.  I included a little an example of this in the back sheet of the handout and this happens to be one with Misty Hyman back in January of 1996.  She actually wore a heart rate monitor from the time she went into the senior group at 13 or so years old, all the way through until she went to Stanford.  She came off once and then she went to Stanford and then periodically it has gone back on and off, and I think it will probably be back on in the future. But, this happens to have been used in a little study that we were doing, kind of what we call an action study, to the effect of what we called band training, and it involves blood restrictive training that she was involved in very heavily in 1996.

 

The handout shows what you can get but it can be very helpful to your swimmers and your whole team to be able to do this and it would be extremely influential in your coaching.   I would suggest you would take a look at this and if you support this and again if you want to become involved, if not, maybe encourage and talk about it and see maybe if U.S. Swimming would use some of their resources.  They are the ones that should probably be the leader and the development of this but I don’t know whether it is going to happen. But anyway, I think that applications for technology will greatly help you out in the future.  For example, if you are teaching young kids I think that we are coming to the day where we are gonna be able to make greater use of video on deck to actually teach the kids good technique.  We will be able to say, “Hey, we want you to carry your elbow in this position, and here take a look at it.” And we will be able to call that up and put it right on deck and that is there already.  It’s really getting possible because of random excess and the ability to burn in discs and things like that, so I encourage you to not close your eyes in the area of innovation and in the area of technology.  Even though you may not be a real technical person, sometimes like George was saying, sometimes you have a discipline in one area and the discipline in the other area and when they come together that is what creativity is all about a lot of times.  Thank you John.

 

John Leonard: 120 seconds on swim facilities or swimming pools in the future is not very provocative and 120 seconds on swim meets in the future is very provocative.  Swim facilities of the future are here, they are plastic pools being manufactured in Australia right now.  We can’t do it legally in this country yet, and stainless steel pools are metal pools with liners, what is the advantage?  They can be built in any size, shape or depth.  My biggest advantage is they are mobile.  Don’t put it in the ground, put in on the ground, and put it on a concrete pad, brace it and have a swimming pool.  You got total access to all the plumbing there is, not ripping and tearing when you got a problem.  You got no problems with leather you’ve got no problems with maintenance.

 

The most important thing for coaches of the future is you own a pool.  You lease a site, you try the site for five years, you don’t like it, you move it.  Demographics change on it, you move it.  You want to move to another part of town, you pick up your pool and you move it.  How do you do it?  You start with owning 20 small 20X40 teaching pools, 31/2 feet deep, find the best location to run lessons in your market and put it in a shopping center, in a building on a one foot high pad. This means teachers can be on dry land and in most cases standing upright while teaching children in the water.  They can be comfortable, they can teach for hours, and they can put a great video teaching setup, just like Bob just talked about, right in the store next to them on the pool station for their demonstrator. Alright, make your money that way, move on up to a bigger pool, move on up to a bigger pool, move on up to a bigger pool.  Change up to a whole different section of swimming, move up to the Olympic trials, put them in major stadiums with perfect seating comfort, and a great spectator set up- this is how we are probably going to have our Olympic trials next time around.  We ought to be having all of our major meets in great stadiums with portable pools.  I know Chuck Wilgus believes in that and I believe we need to do it.  Don’t invest in facilities that are going deteriorate or have the market move away from you.  Invest in a facility that you can move with the market and that won’t deteriorate.  There are at least three companies on the market already, Keifer, Murpher and Yamaha, who are building metal pools and there is an Australian company building a plastic pool.  You’ve got flexibility, you’ve got convenience, you’ve got ease, you’ve got no land investment, what could be better? A portable warm building, but that is a topic for another time.

 

120 seconds on swim meets.  Number one. United States Swimming will finally realize in the future that the center piece of our sport is age group swim meets, so they will ban the making of money in swim meets, which means the only reason you’ll run a swim meet is actually to have children have a good experience. That will solve a 60-year old problem in the sport.  We are gonna have different kinds of meets.  We are gonna have sprint meets for all those 50’s and 25’s and some underwater swimming, we are gonna have 400 IM’s or 800 IM’s, 400’s of strokes, and we are gonna have different types of meets for different types of folks.  Bill mentioned that a little bit before, we are going to sneak computer chips in kids caps so we can learn and inspectors can learn all about the different things that are going on during a race.  We are going to do something that some people are already doing right now at an age group level in this country, and that is we are going to put aqua pacers in kids caps.  There is nothing in the rules right now that says that they are illegal.  You think kids can’t swim faster with that little beep going on in their brain?  I’d wait and see what is going to happen.

 

Last thing, somebody mentioned the other night we want to get more people interested in the sport and make it a more TV spectator sport.  I need to get some violence, how about we build some circular racing pools and we swim by weight class?  Phil, your turn.

 

Phil Whitten:  How do you follow that?  I’m actually going to talk about two things and since we are way over time here I’m gonna make them brief. Although, I can’t talk nearly as fast as John can.  First of all I want to say few words about drugs, which is a topic in which I’ve had some passing interest for the past several years.  First of all, I think what Bill Sweetenham said earlier about drugs is basically correct, that the battle has been lost even though the war has been lost, even though we have won several battles.  But, what we need to do is redefine and what I suggest we do is to redefine according to the Hippocratic oath.  First, do nothing that’s harmful, so any drug that we know or any substance that we know causes harm.  A person who tests positive for any drug at any time should be banned from the sport for life and everything that the person has won all of the times all the awards and so forth should be rescinded and given to the person who actually earned them.  Both in our sport and in the United States as a whole, we are not serious about the drug issue even though there is a lot of Broderick and we have conducted a so called war on drugs, which by the way I think is misguided, except in the area of performance enhancement.  We really are not serious, and I think, and this is a bipartisan comment, and I’m just going to give three recent examples involving the three most recent presidents.  George Bush, the first man appointed as his chairman of the president’s counsel on physical fitness was a man named Arnold Schwartzenager, who never would have gotten where he was without the use of steroids, and has admitted that.  Instead of using his platform to convey against the use of steroids, which probably led to his heart surgery at a very young age, that was just ignored and his star power was the thing that was emphasized. That was an opportunity that was lost.

 

This was quickly repeated by president Clinton, when he appointed as co-chairman of his president’s counsel on physical fitness, Florence Griffith Joyner, at age 39.  Probably, almost certainly, the use of drugs, or at least drugs were a contributing factor, and again Flow Jo was a romantic figure. There was never any talk about the effects that drugs had on her either before her death or afterwards.

 

And finally, last year at the republican convention one of the featured speakers was some guy called the Rock.  I don’t know what his real name is but this is a guy who is built of steroids and the republicans who are supposed to be the hardest on crime and the hardest on drugs has this guy as the star.  So, until the two political parties are serious about dealing with the drug issue I think society as a whole is not going to get very serious about it.

 

What I wanted to do at this point was to go on to some other issues related to the drug issue, designer drugs genetic manipulation or ultimately cloning or some version of it.  A topic that was raised with regard to the taking of Ian Thorpes blood in July and the possibility that some geneticists either in the present or the near future might be able to take that blood and create Thorpe clones in other countries. Presumably so, Australia would have a national interest in defending his blood and making sure it wasn’t used for the wrong purpose.  Yes, they have a great relay, we have trouble beating them.  These things sound far out, I was asked to be edgy and I wish I could go into them a little bit because I don’t think that they are far out at all.  The other thing that I was asked to talk about is the problem with the NCAA’s and the NCAA issue.  And this is something that I’ve already spoken about here and I’ve written about and I’, constantly writing about on our web site.  Just to bring you up to date, there is a lot of good news that is happening, or at least potential good news.  One is that we have formed and we are ready to go into business with our legal defense group.  This is a group of lawyers under the ages of a scholarly master swimmer, former competitive swimmer, who is a state judge in the State of New Hampshire.  This will make it possible for us to fight in the courts, every case in which a swim program is cut at the NCAA level and presumably at the high school level as well.  The relevant case law will be made available to the 60, currently 60 or so lawyers who have volunteered their services pro bono.

 

The second thing is that ASKA has decided that it is going to fund, or hire I should say, hire a lobbyist that will assist the College Swim Coaches Association of America in fighting the attempts to cut swim programs.  This is something that has been needed for this organization, because even though they should have been the leaders in this fight in the last few years, until very, very recently they have ignored the issue.  And now, their eyes have been open and they realize that everybody is in danger.  When one of us is threatened, all of us are threatened.  This is meant and this is quite literal it is not figurative and ASKA stepped up and I think this is a fantastic thing and I think it shows that the swim community is finally working and can serve with each other.
The third example with this is I volunteered some time ago out of my experiences being involved in a journalistic sense and a proactive sense with a bunch of programs that have been cut or threatened with being cut to write a “How to Save Your College Swim Program” booklet.  That booklet is now finished and I sent a draft out for review a few days ago.  I’ve gotten the comments and by Monday evening this will be finished and United States Swimming has stepped up and offered and we certainly accepted and offered to print this and distribute this book to every college swim coach in the country.  It will also be available on line and we hope that we will be able to make copies available to high school coaches as well.

 

Having said that, what I really wanted to talk about and I’m just going to hint at some of the issues here is that the problem with male swimming at the college level starts much earlier than that.  It starts at are not tailoring our program to fit the needs of boys and Bill Sweetenham touched on this subject yesterday.  For those of you who don’t speak Australian, he talked about Sheila and Blokes, those are girls and boys, we need to tailor our training programs psychological as well as physiologically to the different needs of girls and boys.  We first have to recognize that these needs exist and then we need to put into place a program that speaks to the needs, not only of girls, which are well spoken to at this point, but to boys, because there is a declining number and more importantly a declining percentage of boys in our sport in our country.  I have some ideas in this area but I know that we’ve gone overtime so those are the ideas that I wanted to throw out for now.  If there are any questions or if we have time for questions I’d be happy to entertain them.  Thanks.

 

Due to the constraints of time, I was going to bounce a couple of quick questions around you and then we will take a fifteen minute delay and then we will move right into Bill’s talk.  If I could start with Bob Bowman and Bill Sweetenham.  Both of you sort of eluded to a coach now going away from the generalist role to the specialist role to the coordinators role. I’m wondering if that is really saying that where we have to move to is almost to the professional model, where we have a general manager that will sort of handle all of the coordinating details, and a head coach who can actually go back to being a head coach, or if you think the coach by definition has to coordinate all this stuff.

 

I think that is an excellent question and I think you have to look at it maybe in two ways in terms of the collective organization of clubs, or any sort of training program.  I believe the way of the future is to have a general manager, more of someone like that, and a coach of a professional franchise, who may not be responsible for a particular element of the program, but for coordinating the assistant coaches and having them do more specific jobs, so that would be something that we are actually trying to be responsible.  Where Murray Stephens is administering a very big growing program, and I’ve taken over more of the day to day coaching of the senior athletes on the specific side, in terms of one athlete, I think that the coach, while having to perform the jobs of coordinating with the other people, is ultimately the person in charge of the training program.  And the bottom line is the key to performance and it’s going to be the consistency, the planning and the daily implementation of the training program.   I don’t think anyone but the coach can do that and all of these other people effect that.  So if we are going to maintain the integrity of the training program and the planning process I think on a individual basis the coach has to be in control of all the other people in the support team.

 

Bill, from your looking at clubs in depth and trying to almost develop a new club system in Britain, how do you see this working?  Is the coach going to be able to manage all of these dispread professions or is he going to need a collaborative manager as part of his team?

 

I think we have a lot of coaches in the world who either prematurely retire or stay in the sport where they have great knowledge, but their motivation wanes a little and I think that their expertise is lost.  I think that there is a great opportunity to have, to seek a coach who stays in the sport and runs the management of the program and has a younger coaching staff, a very enthusiastic staff under him.  It is the old story in coaching, that when you’re young you lack the knowledge and you have great enthusiasm, and as you move through your coaching you end up with a whole lot of knowledge but time takes its toll and the enthusiasm wanes a little.  You should have the best of both worlds, keep the senior coach with an expertise in there and put a coach instructor under that when the head coach recruits. That is what’s required for the team for the implementation of the coaches who are running the program, and I think it is going to be such a complex issue, coaching in the future, that no coach is going to be able to coach as a stand alone coach without having a recruitment of expertise.

 

This is similar to what is happening in football in this country and football in Australia, where perhaps you have a coach that comes in once a week just to work on turns, like you have a defensive or an offensive coach in football.  Maybe not to that extreme, if you have expertise recruitities under the guidance of a very experienced coach who hangs up his stop watch so to speak and runs the program from that position.  This is probably one of, a good subject for the application of even technology here, and one of the things that we’ve been interested in for many years.  John will know about this, it is what we call remote site coaching, and it is where we basically, it’s a reality now, we can use the Internet to visit anyplace in the world that we can get the appropriate band width in and that’s our problem. That quality is low right now but it is going to be real high quality and eventually what is termed as distance learning or that will all be available for support, so it’s going to be a big influence on it.

 

John you have probably visited more clubs then anyone in the United States and one of the common problems is that clubs can barely afford to be at the status they are.  They can barely afford to pay their coach and barely afford to pay their eating bill.  If this is where clubs need to head or maybe are heading in, in having a very broad support staff and maybe two people at the top head coaching at GM, how are they going to afford to do this?   They’re not. I’m dead serious. I mean I think if that is where it’s going, we are going to have the haves and the have nots.  And the haves as Bill said are we are going to have to go out and find a sponsor and there aren’t that many sponsor’s out there because our sport is what? It’s somewhere behind the Westminster dog show in terms in popularity on TV, so there are going to be very few sponsors that are going to be willing to do that until our sport gets more popular. So, if you haven’t got sponsors, there are going to be a few haves and a lot of have nots.

 

Bob Gillett, you all sort of led us in technology, but in just going down the technology that you mentioned, it was as cutting edge as the trash 80 polar heart rate monitors. Now you can find it in almost any elementary school in the United States today and the most advanced technology of all rubber bands, it doesn’t seem like the technology that you are recommending is what I would call advanced technology.

 

Well again, it is mainly because of resources and I and you know, that this is one area where I think we can get some sponsorships, because a lot of spin-offs are available just like the heart rate monitoring system that we talked about.  It involves a lot of technology from Metronics.  In fact, we did have Metronics on board in the early 80’s to develop what is now called the Polar. The reason they opted out is because it was so expensive to develop a medical quality EKG device and that was taken.  I carried that up personally to the training center and talking to them up there there was 0 interest in it at that point. And one of the problems is we are not embracing technology.  We have to go out there and pursue it and tell people how important it is and participate. We can just stand back and say it’s not possible to do that, but it is possible we can do those things.

 

Phil, I’m going to finish with you on the boys issue.  The boys issue isn’t new to swimming, it’s been a two decade long decline, if not more, and it’s just not swimming’s problem. Until recently, it was every single Olympic sport. Male participation was dropping and the last couple of years its even dropping in such things as football, and we see the State of Oklahoma dropping high school football teams and then suddenly we see boys dropping out and not even going to junior college or even four year colleges.  And something somewhere along the line that we’re doing to the young males in our culture is really bad.  What is there in this room that all of us can do when we go back to our pools, to turn that around in our neighborhoods? Maybe we can’t change the world, but maybe we can clean up our street corner.  What can we do to bring boys back into the traditional sports, which to me means, into our traditional value systems which leans to things like higher education and those types of larger participation?

 

George, I don’t claim to be an expert in this area at all, but it seems to me that we need to think seriously about the psychology of young boys and the interest of young boys.  We need to and tailor our programs especially at the younger ages to meet those physiological and psychological needs.  Boys, I think that Bill Sweetenham mentioned the other day, no it wasn’t Bill Sweetenham, it was Mike Bottom. Mike Bottom mentioned, that boys in particular that are sprinters, have shorter attention spans than girls and Bill talked about the greater ability of young girls to work harder with shorter rest intervals than boys.  And yet while I’m sure there are programs that exist that do this, I personally have never seen a program in which sets were divided up by sex or gender, is that the word these days, yes we like sex? O.K. Where sets are divided by sex, so that girls are doing one set and boys are doing another.  Probably, a better idea than that is to separate them at a certain ages and have the workouts done separately. But we need to think seriously about that.

 

We also need to talk about reward structures for boys. For example, I just posted a story on our website the other day, yesterday about Kim Black being named one of the finalists in the NCAA Woman of the Year award.  She was also a finalist in the Honda Woman of the Year award.  Each time I put it in there, I realize there is no similar award for boys.  Likewise, we have here a very, very good clinic structure called Girls Power Clinics.  These are clinics that focus specifically to the need, the wants, the desires, and the interests of young girls.  We don’t have anything like that for boys.  I think the genesis of this is the woman’s movement and the political correctness of seeing girls and soon to be women, as being an oppressed group, and they are not.  I don’t think they were then. although there were inequities that needed to be overcome, and they certainly aren’t now.  But, I think now for some reason it is not yet politically correct for us to focus on the needs of boys and I think we need to get beyond that political correctness and focus on the issues that are impacting the youngsters who are or could be in our sport.  That is, the concept of the future of swimming might be in truth as opposed to political correctness.  Panelists thank you very much.  Audience, thank you for hanging in there on a Saturday afternoon in New Orleans.

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Handling the Fearful Child By Dave DuBois

The first day of swimming lessons rolls around and when the moment comes to walk into the pool area, or enter the water, or get started with the class, many children react with what appears to be fear.  Parents and swimming teachers find themselves in a difficult situation. Many search for understanding and for more successful strategies to deal more effectively with the fearful child.

 

One important thing to acknowledge is that fearful or upset children need not be the norm.  Sadly, it is too often just accepted that when swimming lessons start, most children will cry and be upset.  This will always happen with some children, but is not the rule and should not be accepted as the “way it has to be.”

 

If an adequate facility is available and the staff are properly trained, a good infant/toddler program can create an introduction to the water that may reduce the number of children that start a swimming experience for the first time as a 3, 4, or 5 year old, which are often the age range in which fearful responses are seen.

 

There are also a lot of programs that are trying to teach young children in water that is too cold.  Cold water, adequate for competitive swimming, can be a common factor in apprehension, tension, and distress in the young learn to swim student.

 

Environments, which provide no stability for the child, can be another factor.  Some pools used for swimming lessons have no ledges, steps, or platforms and can create a distressing situation for a new swimmer.  As much as these environmental factors can be addressed, some of what appears to be “fear” can be alleviated by providing a more comfortable and approachable place for the swimming experience to take place.

 

In the swimming lesson process, there are many different perspectives to consider.  Teachers and parents may have very specific concerns and individual agendas about what will go on during swimming lessons, while the child’s point of view may be very different.  The child’s state of mind needs to be understood and addressed.  Everyone else’s expectations may be that skills should be gained right away, while if a child needs some time to adjust to various factors, that is important and should be the focus initially.

 

The question begs to ask – where does the fear come from?  That question may not ever be answered completely for each individual child’s situation, but there are some answers to be found.  Swim teachers and/or the swim school should ask for some history on what an individual child’s experiences have been.  This may give an instructor some information that may help them in dealing with a child.  There are some fears that stem from severe trauma, possibly related to the water or likely some other experience, that the child may relate to what they perceive is happening at the swimming class.

 

A child’s ability to imagine, which develops significantly at 2 and 3 years of age, makes great teaching opportunities available, but can also create irrational images and perceptions that may scare them.  These are things we cannot see or even understand, but they can be very real to the child.  All of these are things a child may bring with them to the pool before the lesson ever starts.  This brings to light the point that the “fear” we are seeing may not be about the swimming lesson or the water in and of itself, but the experience we are exposing them to may be a catalyst.

 

Even without any of the underlying issues described above, children will commonly be cautious, sometimes fearful, about new places, new people, new activities, challenges to their control, and anything “unknown.”  These aren’t really about the water or swimming lesson specifically either, but the new lesson experience involves many of these factors and can therefore stimulate a fearful reaction.

 

One effective way to deal with the issues described above is to establish rapport with the teacher and familiarity with the environment.  This suggests the idea of preparation, and coincidentally enough, there is often very little preparation that goes into the first swimming lesson for a child.  The swim school may train their teachers and prepare the pool, but for the child, walking into the pool area is many times when it all starts, and there can be too much to take in.

 

Through written material, advice given over the phone, and even at orientation meetings offered for parents, ways to help prepare a child for swimming can be suggested.  Many parents will want to talk with their child at length about the lesson.  While a parent should do what works best for their child, many children can become more apprehensive when something is talked about too much.  Swimming lessons are a physical and experiential learning process, and the preparation for swimming lessons should be also.

 

So, what can preparation for lessons include?  Visits to the pool should be suggested to allow a child an opportunity to become familiar with the environment before lessons start.  Even if this happens once, it will mean when the child returns for the actual swim lesson, it won’t be the first time they have been to the pool and that can help make them feel more comfortable.  If a few visits can be made, that’s even better.  During the visit to the pool if a lesson can be observed and they can meet their prospective teacher, that can further familiarize them and start to build rapport and trust with their teacher.

 

One obvious opportunity to develop comfort with the water itself is in the family bath.  Chances exist every day to help a child become more comfortable with water on their face and therefore more likely to submerge comfortably in lessons.  Many children start lessons with an aversion to water on their face, and this may be reinforced in the bath at home.  Yet, it is expected they will come to tolerate and even enjoy going underwater in a few lessons.  Consequently, many swimming teachers find themselves trying to work miracles.  A little practice at home and routine exposure to water in the bath, in a fun way, can make all the difference.  What an asset it would be to swim teachers everywhere if children coming to lessons all were comfortable with water on their face as a starting point.

 

Continuing with the idea of preparation, it can be a good tactic to play little games and perform activities which get children interacting with the water and getting wet before they are asked to actually enter the pool.  Many times children are a bit more secure while sitting on the side of the pool and it can be easier to get a little wet there than when in the pool.  The teacher can relate this “getting wet” to activities that might be familiar to children already, such as washing their hands and face, taking showers, washing dishes, raining, etc.  If the objective is washing the face to make sure it’s clean before we get in the pool, the emphasis is off just the “getting wet” part and sometimes that makes it easier.

 

A teacher needs to have a whole “toolbox” of tactics they can use with children once it’s time to get a class started.  Hopefully many of the preparatory steps can be taken, but when the moment comes to get the lesson started, what options are available to the teacher?  The inclination many teachers have is to “nurture.” Indeed, reassuring hugs, cuddles, and a gentle tone can be just what many children need to feel comfortable with a new experience.  However, a teacher needs to be ready for a significant number of children who may reject the focused attention a teacher may want to give them.  These children may need to observe and need some space.  A teacher may keep an eye on them and keep them very close, but not pay such direct attention to them, apparently ignoring them.  Sometimes this allows a child the time they need to adjust and accept the situation.

 

Sometimes a child shows outright resistance to joining the class and the decision is made weather to “force” a child in the water.  There are teachers who look at the whole adjustment process as a waste of time and feel that if they can just get them in the water and away from their parent that they can “make it all work.”  There may be circumstances when a quick entry with a resistant child works to some degree, but the problem are the times when it doesn’t work out well.  A child forced in may break into hysterics and the teacher may eventually return a desperate and howling child to the side and to their parent.  What we now have is a much worse situation to deal with and a much more difficult task to have that child relax, to trust, and to enjoy the lesson experience.  Because of the ordeal, a parent may very well give up and plan on returning to lessons “later.”  Who knows how long that will be, but bottom line we’ve lost time, possibly years, with that child.

 

Even when the situation of “forcing” a child in does result in a child entering and even enjoying the class, hasn’t something been lost?  Part of the magic that swimming lessons, and all learning experiences, have to offer is the process of a child playing, exploring, being challenged, making decisions, and learning from that process – with the guidance of a teacher.  When they are forced in against their will, much of that process is forfeited. The pressing need of skill attainment often motivates these actions, but what is being lost should be considered and if skills can still be gained along with a child’s cooperation and enjoyment.

 

The first entry to the pool can be a crucial point and shouldn’t be rushed.  If a child appears a little apprehensive, allowing them to watch for bit with their parent, or sit on the side and observe may be just what’s needed.  The teacher can still talk with them, interact with them, and all the while build some of the rapport that will eventually draw them into the class.

 

Diversions can be used to focus on something other than the task at hand.  One good standby idea is pouring water.  A simple stream of water pouring out of a container provides fascination to many children and can distract them from a tense situation.

 

If a teacher makes efforts to “narrate” what they are doing it can help children understand what is going on and avoid being taken by surprise. This is very helpful when the time comes to enter the pool and get started on some simple games and activities.

 

Ultimately, when dealing with children in swimming lessons, a fundamental decision needs to be made about the program.  Is it child centered or program/skill centered?  If a program is skill centered, then expectations are placed on children that certain things will be done in a certain time frame.   They may be physically capable of the skills and the need to attain the skills for whatever reason – safety, value, etc. – is seen to supersede any other concerns.  An example of this would be a program that dictates “all children will go under the water on the first lesson.”

 

A program that is child centered would take other factors into account, including all the areas of a child’s development.  A child centered program may determine that submerging is a good skill to accomplish and may work toward that, even getting some students accomplishing that on the first lesson.  However, if a child showed resistance to going under, their psychological or emotional needs would also be attended to.  That child may be experiencing an issue with security and to be forced under when they are showing that resistance could be very upsetting, and even damaging.  A child-centered program recognizes needs in all areas of a child’s development and gives them attention, where a skill-centered program might sacrifice those other areas.

 

Skill centered programs will usually have more children upset and even fearful by the nature of how they are approaching students and their needs.  Deciding which approach a program takes will have a significant influence over how successfully the fearful child is being dealt with.  It should also be pointed out that a child-centered program can still develop skills; it is just that the timeline is adjusted to the individual child.

 

Take some of the recommendations made here in handling the fearful child. Encourage preparation that can lessen anxiety, build rapport and familiarity.  Good luck and happy teaching!

 

 

 

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Australian Swim Schools – What Can We Learn From Them? By Dave DuBois

I count myself as fortunate to have spent a fair amount of time over the years in Australia and count many Aussies as close friends.  This association began in 1985 when I went to work for an Australian in Southern California by the name of John Bainbridge.  An innovator in learn to swim, especially infant aquatics, John became my mentor in swim teaching and acted as my introduction to Australian culture.

 

Through casual visits, attending conferences, and working in Australia I have become exposed to what I consider to be the greatest swimming culture in the world.  This is not meant to be traitor’s statement or to deny the swimming dynasty that the US has enjoyed through the years.  It is, however, meant to acknowledge the societal roots of a country fanatical about swimming that, while being much smaller than many other countries, has maintained a significant presence in international swimming over the years.  The recent successes of the Australians in the Sydney Games and World Championships are a testament to this success, which may be argued, is proportionally more significant than that of other countries with a much larger “pool” of swimmers to draw from.

 

Australia and the US share many similarities in their origins.  Both countries had their basis in exiles from England finding a new life in a new land and both countries share a similar tragic past in dealing with their original native inhabitants.  Both the US and Australia have become a refuge for large numbers of immigrants over the years.  Sharing a rather dubious distinction, both countries have a terrible problem with pediatric drowning.  However, in how the cultures relate to the water, there are significant differences.

 

With 90% of the Australian population living within an average 25 miles of the ocean, they are very much a water and beach oriented society.  Up and down the east coast of Australia you will rarely find a popular beach without at least the historical remnants of the requisite “rock pool”.  Many of these pools are indeed still in use.  These pools were constructed using various methods.  Some were chiseled into the tidal rocks while others were shaped with the help of concrete.  While some depend on the daily tides to refresh the water supply, others use pumps, but all use ocean water to fill the pools, which range in size from small wading pools to full 50-meter competition facilities.

 

Australia has enjoyed a proud tradition of competitive swimming and has been an innovator in the training methods and equipment developed through the years.  An example of this would be the icon of interval training found on most every pool deck around the world, the pace clock, which many credit to Forbes Carlile, an Australian legend in his own right.

Growing up in Southern California I came to recognize that positions as a local beach lifeguard were well paid and highly sought after.  It was quite different when I became familiar with the tradition of Australian Surf Lifesaving Clubs with their largely volunteer lifeguards and nippers programs for getting even the youngest children involved in the “sport” of surf lifesaving.

 

I was also amazed to find swimming lessons included as part of the curriculum for most school children and every school having a swimming carnival, which is basically a big swim meet.

 

On a recent trip to the Sydney area I was impressed by an ad used by local real estate agent who advertised, “we can find you a new house between swimming lessons and dinner.”  What struck me was that swimming lessons would be considered such an expected part of the daily routine that this agent chose mentioning them to demonstrate how conveniently and quickly he could help someone find a new home.

 

On numerous flights to and from Australia I have been impressed with the use of water, swimming, and related images used in the airline’s in-flight magazines.  Most memorable was a recent photo shoot featuring the Sydney Dance Company where the dancers struck creative poses underwater.

 

Arriving in Sydney within six months of the Olympics, most people could not have avoided seeing the Westpac ad campaign featuring giant images of Aussie swimmers all over buildings in the central business district.  Not that ads featuring swimmers is anything unusual in Australia, but to an American, the commercial presence of swimming in Australia is amazing.

 

Before the Olympics I was witness to Ian Thorpe making a personal appearance at a local shopping mall and was amazed to see his “rock star” status with a police escort protecting him from the fans trying to grab at him as he moved through the crowd.  Ian’s popularity was amazing, but that could have been any one of the top Australian swimmers and there would have been a similar reaction.  To see the swimming competition at the World Championships get prime time coverage on national TV across Australia is evidence of the country’s love of the sport.

 

A promotional poster produced by Swim Australia with the help of their sponsor MILO (a chocolate flavored drink mix made by Nestle), epitomizes the Australian vision of swimming.  It pictures Olympic silver medallist Liesel Jones, with her medal, in the water holding a baby in her arms.  The baby, seemingly mesmerized, reaches out for her medal.  It isn’t like there’s this great pressure to push all kids into competitive swimming.  They don’t need the pressure, because there’s a dream that exists.  Many kids already think, “maybe one day, that could be me – I want to be a swimmer!”

 

I have gone to great lengths here to give examples of the swimming culture I have been witness to in Australia and I have only scratched the surface.  This culture plays a big role in providing large numbers of swimmers that eventually make their way into competitive programs.

 

So what things do you see in swim schools around Australia?  Well, of course, swim schools are not the same everywhere you go in Australia.  Even in this great swimming culture, there is variance with very good and very poor schools being found.  However, I will identify some of the trends I’ve seen.

 

In general, groups are taught differently in Australia with less one on one focus and more group-oriented teaching.  There is a tendency toward more structured lessons and a significantly higher amount of movement, even in beginner level classes.  Year round programs are common and there is a concentrated focus on freestyle with fundamental skills, such as kicking and streamlining emphasized more than I generally see in the US.

 

For a longer time than in the US, I think swim schools have been seen as viable businesses and many owners have been applying business principles to what they are doing.  Consequently, some of the most commercially successful swims schools in the world are in Australia.  There are a few companies, which have grown quite large.  One has a dozen locations, each grossing over a $1,000,000A per year.  And these are learn to swim facilities operating mainly out of 6 lane, 25-meter pools.

 

There has also been a significant call to action in response to the drowning problem and need for water safety education.  The Kids Alive program, promoted by Laurie Lawrence, is one of the best examples.  Laurie has won sponsorship by McDonalds nationally in Australia and has a touring pantomime show that is getting the message out to kids.  While it has taken longer than it should have for the problem of drowning to get the attention it warrants in Australia, we have yet to address this issue in any large scale public way in the US.

 

So, what can we learn from these schools and this culture?  Well, we can’t change our culture, at least not very quickly, and don’t know that we should.  There are some wonderful things about our culture, but in a grass roots way, there may be room for greater recognition of the multifaceted benefits of swimming and for ways to make it a more integral part of the American lifestyle.

 

Might swimming become part of the school curriculum? I think we are a long way off from that happening, but that would start with the public recognizing the basic need for swimming, seeing it as a necessity, and not seeing it as an option, like any of the other activities they may choose from.  The tactic has been to scare parents into getting lessons because of the fear of drowning, instead of promoting it positively, which is a much better long-term motivator.

 

Improvements can definitely be made in the way group lessons are generally taught in the US, offering a one on one focus when warranted, but with a greater utilization of group dynamics, peer relationships, and group movement.  I think the greatest strides can be made not in what we teach, but in how we teach it.  How the teacher presents themselves, the lesson, and the skills is of great importance.  Dealing with issues such as the consistency of lesson quality and the standards that are set and maintained contributes largely to what can be expected from a program on a regular basis.

 

In many situations, running better businesses with a real focus on customer service is an area where improvements could be made. Ultimately, we need to be ourselves and not try to copy anyone, but some of the ideas discussed here may be things that can become a welcome part of the American swim school scene and change the face of swimming into the lifestyle status it deserves.

 

We can’t go out trying to manufacture great swimmers, but as Forbes Carlile once said, “Our aim is not produce champions, but to create an environment where champions are inevitable.”

 

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Adding a SwimAmerica Stroke School by Rob Emary (2001)

An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family.  He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by. The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end his career.

 

When the carpenter finished his work and the builder came to inspect the house, the contractor handed the front-door key to the carpenter. “This is your house,” he said, “my gift to you.”   What a shock! What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently. Now he had to live in the home he had built none too well.

 

So it is with us. We build our lives in a distracted way, reacting rather than acting, willing to put up less than the best. At important points we do not give the job our best effort. Then with a shock we look at the situation we have created and find that we are now living in the house we have built. If we had realized that we would have done it differently.

 

Think of yourself as the carpenter. Think about your house. Each day you hammer a nail, place a board, or erect a wall. Build wisely. It is the only life you will ever build. Even if you live it for only one day more, that day deserves to be lived graciously and with dignity. The plaque on the wall says, “Life is a do-it-yourself project.” Your life tomorrow will be the result of your attitudes and the choices you make today.

 

 

Building a successful swimming program is exactly like building your own house.  If you use shoddy workmanship and skimp on materials the end result will not be desirable.  Just like a house there are three main parts to every swimming program.  First, is the Foundation swimming lessons is the base for any successful swimming program.  This part of your program houses the future success of your swimming team.  Your lessons program houses the greatest number of potential athletes, and allows you to be in control the quality of who advances to the next level.  Second, the walls of your program is your Age Group swim team.  The Age Group swim team consists of the second largest group of athletes, and is where most swimmers will spend the bulk of their careers, about 4-6 years. Third the roof of the program is the Senior team.  The Senior team is the smallest group, but marks a long-term commitment to improvement and excellence.

 

This, of course, would exist in a perfect world.   The reality of program development is quite different. In a survey done by USA Swimming it was found that only 15% of all USA Swimming programs run there own learn to swim programs.  Most coaches would say, “so what.”  Here are the problems created by not being actively involved in running your own swimming lesson program.  There is no quality control over instruction and terminology.  Ask yourself how many times you have had to teach a new swimmer on your team how to properly do a drill, or correct a stroke that was improperly taught in a swim lesson? The blame does not lie with the swim instructor, but rather the swim coaches for not properly training and cooperating with the lessons instructors.  How often to the people that run lesson programs get to see great swimming or see drills and strokes done properly?  Being involved with your lessons program assures that the stroke technique a child learns at age 6 will be the same basic technique and terminology at age 16.  Secondly, there is no way to objectively identify and recruit potential athletes.  If you do not look at the kids in lessons how will you know whether or not any of them could be the next Ed Moses, or Josh Davis?  Put a different way assume there are 800 children in a lesson program, yearly, at the facility your team practices.   If you actively recruit 10% of those children, 80 kids, and 10% of those children turn out to be long term prospects you have brought 8 athletes up from the beginning to the Senior level.   Finally, most children drop out of lessons before reaching proficiency.  In order for a child to be able to survive in a water emergency they need to be able to swim 300 yards of freestyle.  How many swim lessons kids do you know that can jump in and swim 300?  Most parents think their kids are safe when they can do beginner freestyle, arms and kicking.  By drawing these kids into swim team you improve their skill level and aid in the mastery of water safety skills.

 

The challenges at my club KJ SwimAmerica were as follows:

 

We had more than 800 children in the lessons program and had no systematic or effective way to identify talent and convert that into swim team numbers.

 

There was a 75% drop out rate on our Age Group team within the first year.  Kids were quitting because they did not posses the required skill, conditioning, or commitment to be on the Age Group team.

 

The quality of our Age Group swimmers was so diverse some of the A and AA swimmers were not being serviced due to novice swimmers monopolizing the coaches time.

 

There was a need for the club to grow monetarily by keeping children involved in the program over a longer period of time, and capture the interest of lessons swimmers at an earlier age.

 

Our club need a way to bridge the gap between the basic skills learned in swim lessons to the more advanced skill and commitment level of the Age Group level of our program.  We needed a way of identifying talent, recruiting that talent, and developing that talent into long-term team success both in quantity of swimmers as well as quality of swimmers.  For us this was what we call Stroke Team.

 

Stroke Team serves a variety of purposes in our programming.  We teach the athletes all four strokes.  They learn work out etiquette.  This ranges from putting on your goggles to how to wear a cap, what type of suit to wear, using a pace clock.  All these skills are taught exactly the same from this level all the way to the senior team, this allows the coaching staff to focus on athlete improvement and development and not re-teaching skills that were supposed to be learned at an earlier time.  The children learn starts and turns from the coaching staff, and again they are taught exactly the same at all levels of the program.  The Senior coach does not have to re-teach a turn or teach a different way because the athletes have heard the same thing since they were 6 or 7 years old.  The swimmers on the Stroke Team learn basic meet behavior through in house mini-meets.  This allows the coaching staff to manage the racing situation to specifically instruct swimmers on how to behave at a meet, how to get behind the block, and how to translate practice skills into racing situations.    The whole concept of Stroke Team is to allow young talented athletes fresh out of lessons to be developed into competent and confident Age Group swimmers without rushing them into a situation before they have basic skills to successfully compete at that level.

 

The nuts and bolts of what the Stroke Team ties directly into the benefits that it provides.   Stroke Team provides an opportunity for the swim coach to become involved in the consistent teaching and instruction of children from lessons to Senior Team.  What a streamline is at swim lessons is exactly what a streamline is on the National team.  Coaches need to be involved in training the lessons instructors on what is taught and what terminology he or she wants to be used.  An example in our program is how breaststroke is taught at KJ SwimAmerica.  The timing in breaststroke in our program is taught as kick, stretch, pull.  There is no difference between how this is done in a lesson setting or at the Age Group or Senior Team levels.  Another benefit of Stroke Team is we have begun to tap into the talent pool in our lessons program, and develop it into Age Group swimmers.  There have been 8 swimmers that have moved onto the Age Group team from the Stroke team in just the first year of this program.    The class is held during the Age Group practice time so they can see good mechanics being modeled by other swimmers, and measure their progress versus where they need to be at the next level.  We have nearly doubled out Team size in a years time from 83 swimmers in August of 2000 to 150 swimmers in August of 2001.  The revenue generated from the creation of Stroke Team has already doubled our yearly income through the third quarter.

 

 

How do you get started? Identifying and recruiting talented athletes is the first step in the process of starting a stroke team.  At KJ SwimAmerica we use five tools to identify talent and recruit them onto the stroke team.

 

Recruiting from the lesson program is the first tool we use in identifying talent and recruiting onto the team.  Swim lessons is the largest pool of potential talent that you will ever have access to.  This makes the swimming coach’s participation in training the lesson instructors even more important to your team’s success.  By training the lessons staff you have taken a step forward in helping them know what good swimming is.  Think about it, how often do learn to swim instructors get to see good swimming? Once every four years at the Olympics if that. Use your senior swimmers as demonstrators during your training. Use video footage of Olympic caliber swimmers.  Show your lesson staff what a good freestyle looks like.  There is a wealth of video material available that show drills and strokes, use this resource to improve your team by improving the quality of instruction children get before they join the team. Children in lessons have already shown interest in the sport, and a properly trained lesson instructor will teach them the correct skills and be watching for potential ability.  Tomorrow’s champions will not walk into your program they will be made over a long period of time.  They have to come from somewhere, that somewhere is your lesson program. I can tell you from personal experience, if a lessons instructor had not dared me to go out for the swim team, I would not be standing here in front of you.

 

Another tool that we use is banners.  You would not believe the number of calls that I receive each day regarding the advertising banners that we use.  They are up in public places close to the facilities that we use, usually a fence by the pool.  These banners are inexpensive and reusable.  We tend to recycle banners to keep the look fresh and promote interest in the program.  This gets your team name out into the communities that will house your potential athletes. You can use banners to promote all your programs and not just stroke team, swim team or lessons.  We promote lessons, water polo, synchro, and our competitive teams.  Ultimately this will bring numbers into your programs and provide a greater pool of potential athletes to draw from.

 

A third tool is kick testing.  We use this kick test in both our regular lesson program and in our school lesson programs.  The purpose of the kick test is to make a correlation between natural kicking ability and swimming potential.  Once an athlete has basic freestyle the lesson instructor will time the swimmer for 13 yards of maximum effort freestyle kicking.  That time is recorded with the other times and turned in to the team manager.  I then compile all the results on a spreadsheet and then percentile rank them according to their grade in school.  We recruit the top 40% of children in their respective sex, and grade group.  A letter on team letterhead is then sent to the swimmer letting the parent know that their child has some natural swimming ability, and that it would be worth their while to join the stroke team to develop that potential.  The interesting fun fact about this testing is that of the 400+ children we have already tested every team, 132 athletes on the stroke team, all of them tested in the top 40%.  This also lets the parents know that there is a professional coach involved in their child’s instruction and progress.

 

The most effective recruiting tool that we posses at KJ SwimAmerica is inactive mailings.  Four times a year we mail materials to children who have been on the team, but have dropped off for whatever reason.  20% of those children come back to swimming and stay on the team.  These children already have some skills, and some idea of what being on a team means.  The stroke team provides these swimmers with an opportunity to develop their skills and be taught commitment more slowly, resulting in a lower drop out rate.  A child’s interest in anything will ebb and flow over time, there have been many times where a child who said they hated swimming on one day has come back and made a major contribution later on in their swimming career.

 

As far as reaching a volume of people school flyers and lesson programs provide us an opportunity to reach a mass of potential customers.  This activity allows coaches to form relationships with local elementary schools and use the school as a delivery system for program information. At KJ SwimAmerica we have access to 7,500 students in the Broward County school system.  Out of that number we get around 1% per year or 75 students participating in one or more of our programs.  Some schools yield better results than others.  Getting into the schools with lessons as part of the PE curriculum allows the coach to develop basic skills for water safety as well as identify potential athletes.  This is a great community service item, as well as an opportunity to find swimming talent.  School flyers also allow you to promote your other swim programs as well.  The great thing that happens is we are trying to recruit stroke team athletes, but we end up adding to our lessons and water polo programs as well.

 

Once you have the bodies on the stroke team what do you do with them?  There needs to by a systematic program that provides stroke instruction and competitive experience.  From an instructional standpoint the class is short, 30 min.  This allows the stroke team swimmer to receive stroke instruction in a compact format that fits their fitness level and attention span.

 

Two key elements of our entire stroke team are using the same drills and terminology in lessons as we do on the stroke team.  Those drills and terms are fundamentally the same on the stroke team as they are on the rest of the competitive swimming program.  It is essential that a swimmer is taught the same basic skills and technique from day one of their lesson experience until the last day they participate on the team.  Our team and lesson staff meets to make sure that we are all using the same drills and terminology to make sure the children and athletes are receiving the highest quality instruction possible.

 

The stroke team athletes warm up, usually with some type of swimming, about 200 yards, or dryland activity, push-ups or sit-ups.  The daily instructional schedule is the same throughout the program and is reinforced by the mini-meets that we hold twice a month.  If the stroke team is working on free, back and fly, the next mini-meet will include those strokes.

 

Team building is also important at this stage and after every practice the swimmers do some sort of team cheer.  This is fun for the coaches to make up different cheers and different ways to do the cheer.  Some days it is loud, and some days it is a whisper cheer.  Mix it up and have fun.

 

The next component of the stroke team is the mini-meet.  This is the place where the swimmers practice the basic racing skills they need in an instructional environment.  These meet are just the stroke team kids from our team, and occasionally we allow our age group swimmers to participate.  We try to keep the time of the meet down around 45 minutes.  If it looks like the meet is running slow or taking too long we will cut it short.  The reasoning behind this is we want the stroke team swimmers to race, but also stay interested and active as much as possible, not to mention to keep the parents active and interested as well.  No matter what the age range of the swimmers we will do 25’s and 50’s of strokes and occasionally a 100 IM.  We usually do free, back, and either breast or fly.  There are between 40-70 swimmers at these meets. We give out heat winner awards and meet participant awards on the spot.  As the kids race we record their times, and after the meet I compile the times and post them on the team web page, along with their improvement.  We often have some type of talk or instructional time with the kids before they race.  We will sit them down in a group and ask them questions about the strokes or racing that directly pertain to what they will be doing on that day.  If you tell them what to do they may do it, but by asking they are reinforcing that they know what they need to do on their own.  Make for a more self-reliant swimmer.  This also is an opportunity to educate parents as to what to expect at a meet, and how to behave at meet.  I would much rather have to ask a parent to sit down on the bleachers and cheer at a small in house meet than to have to ask them to sit down at a large USA Swimming meet.  The swimmers are learning how to race, and the parents are learning how to be a good swimming parent.  This is also a good time for parents to see who their children are involved with and what they are learning as well.

 

The stroke team is not supposed to be the end of the line for athletes, but rather a stop over between lessons and the Age Group team.  This is supposed to be a place where coaches can develop the athletes to be well-disciplined, well-behaved, committed, fast Age Group swimmers.  There are some basic factors that coaches consider when deciding whether a child is ready to advance to the Age Group team.  This relates to an article that George Block wrote regarding the four components of leadership and communication.  This is a good tool to use to evaluate where your athletes stand in relationship to their training group as well as their stranding in regard total team development.

 

The first level is the operations level.  At this level the swimmer is learning the basic how to’s of swimming.  Another way to describe it is competency.  This includes basic stroke mechanics, starts, turns any item that requires doing.

 

The second level is cooperation.  Cooperation refers to the ability of a swimmer to perform skills with competency and help the coach by being an enthusiastic participant.  This includes areas of listening to instructions and practice attendance could be called the mastery of followership.

 

The third level is leading by example.  This is where the swimmer is confident in there abilities and can begin to exhibit those skills and perform for the benefit of new teammates.  This is the key ability that coaches look for when considering swimmers moving to the next level.

 

The fourth level is leading by voice.  With young children this is a unique skill indeed.  This is the credible swimmer that is competent in skill and is able to help others with encouragement and friendship.  As I have tried to monitor where each swimmer functions within their practice group I have found few vocal leaders at all.  This is a skill that can be cultivated in young athletes, but will be most useful at the Senior and College levels.

 

At KJ SwimAmerica the stroke team is at the operational level, but within that framework I have noticed swimmers fit into these categories within their group.

 

Why should you go home and start a stoke team in your swimming team? Look at the benefits that it has to offer.  Stroke team provides a consistent pipeline of athletes from the lesson program to the Senior team level.  This includes consistency of instruction when coaches actively participate in the training of the lesson staff.  Secondly, you are considering the long-term investment that a parent will spend in your program.  The total investment that a parent will spend on training from lessons at age 3-5 to Senior swimming ages 15-18 is close to $12,000 in dues alone.  This does not include money spent on equipment or meet entries.  If you as a coach can hold on to 10 athletes for the 13-year duration of their swimming experience that is $120,000 into your program.  At KJ Swim America our stroke team brought in over 14,000 in the first three quarters of 2001.  From a total team standpoint the stroke team concept will help in providing Age Group swimmers with a better background of stroke instruction as well as basic meet and workout behaviors.  This will add to the overall success of your swimming program.

 

Ask yourself the question what type of house are you building?  Is the foundation you build in your lessons program broad enough and strong enough to support a successful Age Group and Senior team?  If you do have a large lesson program and you are actively participating in your team’s success at that level you have already taken a step in the right direction.  Starting a Stroke Team will provide a valuable connection between the foundation you have built with swimming lessons and the house of success that you wish to have on your swimming team.

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After Learning to Swim What Then? by Ursula Carlile (2001)

My qualifications for giving this talk:

 

  1. I) I am Australian, so I’m different and possibly give a different slant on things you all know already. We all go to these conferences year after year-place after place, we remember them more for where they were – Hawaii, Australian Gold Coast, great weather in California etc., than for what we learnt there. However every time we do pick up something different – hopefully this year you’ll go away stimulated to think about whether you do things the same as we do in Australia, or you do things better than that mob of up start swimming people in Australia – don’t know how they could possibly have beaten us at Fukuoka.

 

2) Clearly one of my credentials for talking to you is my age. I’ve been in swimming since before many of you were born, that alone means I’ve picked up something about swimming along the way.

 

I started, as the best coaches all do, I believe, in Learn-To-Swim in an unheated outdoor salt-water pool filled from Sydney Harbour, we pumped in seaweed and jelly fish as well as ship oil and dead cats.

 

That was how swimming was in Australia in the 1950s, a 6 months affair from 1st October in cold 60°F water to the end of March when the water was again cold. Our international teams went to Northern Queensland -similar to Florida -to train in winter.

 

In Sydney our water was deep, cold and dark. Beginners had floats made out of empty oil tins strapped on their backs, painted bright colors so you could quickly count that they were all still there. Teaching was done treading water or by dangling a loop out over the water from a long stick so the teacher didn’t have to go in the cold water.

 

There was a lot of kicking, “Johnny, you go off and kick 10 laps, then report back to me” and I’ll probably give you another 10 laps to kick.

 

In fact I have a very strong belief that we have worse swimmers today because children don’t kick enough in L.T.S. Back when I was in L.T.S. everyone, – all standards – came to the pool, after school at 4pm, they all left at 6pm when it got dark, there were no lights. In those days, beginners – 10 or so together – got in and kicked for an hour, had a bit of arm work instruction for 10 minutes then kicked again for another 50 minutes.

 

Today 4 beginners come for a ½ hour lesson during which they do everything, push, glide, kick, bubble and breathe and they use their arms and dive for rings, so they don’t do enough kicking, but if you spent ¾ of the lesson just kicking the parents would scream, “You’re wasting our money” we could watch them kick ourselves, we’re paying you to teach them to swim, yet in the long run the children would be 100 times better swimmers for it.

 

Having started as a cold water LTS teacher, I was smart enough to get out of that by marrying the boss, so then I got to “coach” from out of the water. I started coaching just above LTS then, gradually as our business became bigger I moved up to Junior Squads and Intermediates, by now we had our own LTS school in a little 12 ½ M indoor heated pool (very hot 92°F) in our back garden at Ryde in Sydney.

 

That pool, now 30 years old is still there, doing well financially we take ½ hour, 4 in a class LTS lessons, as does everyone else, with not enough kicking, we also take babies and toddlers, also very popular with so many back yard pools in Sydney.

 

About 400yds from our home is the huge Ryde Aquatic Center – totally rebuilt as an indoor center for the Olympic Water Polo. My husband Forbes Carlile and I have coached there since it was first opened in 1960. Forbes and I have both been Olympic Coaches, now we have good assistants, we work in several locations and I have stepped back to coach at the lower levels. If you don’t have good people at those “just above LTS levels” you don’t have good senior swimmers later on.

 

It would be wonderful if I could say we have studied and we work strictly in accordance with the teachings of the world’s most eminent scientists in the area, Madsen and Wilke. I can certainly say we have studied their works and acknowledge that that is how we should be working. Running a Swimming business is a little different from theorizing in a laboratory. However every swimming teacher and coach should have in his/her head 2 sets of hugely important principles.

 

Age Group Training Principles

Technique Principles

 

Lets look at Age Group Training Principles as originally set out by Madsen & Wilke, and then borrowed by almost everyone. Here are the factors which science has proved important in taking Age Groupers to their best performances as mature swimmers. Every swimmer, parent and administrator who is involved in planning Age Group Competitions should fully understand these principles.

 

Children should not be trained to win races when they are young where it means neglecting the 2 main elements, which go towards producing top older swimmers – These elements are

Technique & learnin2 to be streamlined- unless good technique is learnt when you are young it’s very difficult, if not impossible to acquire this later. Counsilman -“the faults they have when they first come to me are the same faults I am trying to correct when they leave.”

The Aerobic System, the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood to muscles can be trained in young swimmers, but the anaerobic (sprinting) physiology of the individual cannot be changed significantly until girls are about 13 and boys 14 or so.

 

If the opportunity is not taken to fully develop the young child’s aerobic capacity the window of opportunity will be closed forever.

 

While the body is young, (pre pubescent) it is 1) most receptive to being trained aerobically and 2) is most receptive to learning swimming skills.

 

The implications of these proven scientific principles are that children, (under 12) should do very little sprint training or interval training trying to make fast repeats. They should not carry out “power” exercises other than working on flexibility and core strength, using their body weight as resistance.

 

Early developers (particularly if big) may do well in sprint events but in the long run the child who is allowed to develop with long swimming, repeat 200s, 400s, 800 etc at moderate speeds and who learns good technique is more likely to keep on improving at the age of 15 and 16 and as a senior swimmer. Speed comes through the endurance you did when you were young.

 

As Dr. Madsen points out providing 50m events at Junior Meets is not the way for Swimming Associations to develop swimmers to their best potential.

 

50m races are school races for non-training swimmers and novices not in training programs.

 

Knowledgeable coaches understand that a great deal of aerobic training should be done particularly when young but even by older both sprint and distance swimmers with carefully rationed out sprint and anaerobic training sets.

 

Our own World Record holders Karen Moras, Jenny Turrall and Shane Gould all did a lot of 1,000 and 800m repeats. Shane, who broke Dawn Fraser’s 100FS world record did primarily repeats from 200 up.

 

Jonty Skinner spoke at the World Coaches Clinic in Orlando in 1997. He gave the same message, the sprinter needs as much long swimming as the distance person but not at such a high intensity. Alexander Popov, also confirms this.

 

So if our children are to have any hope of becoming good, later, they must get an endurance base when they are younger.

 

How are we going to fit all these wonderful ideas into our Business Plan for a Swimming School? We all call ourselves the “Forbes & Ursula Carlile School of Swimming” and our catch cry is that “Our aim is not to produce a champion, but to provide an atmosphere where champions are inevitable.”

 

We have a very carefully structured system starting with babies and going right up to Olympians.

 

There are 14 levels from babies learning water confidence, through pre-schoolers to school age L.T.S, then the 3 stoke correction classes on to squads in 6 levels. Of course you can call them whatever you like, we use fish type names, sea horse, sea turtle, starfish, goldfish, kingfish, marlins etc and we have colorful, shiny certificates for the 7 bottom grades, we use expensive artists and sign writers. Each certificate lists what the children can do at that grade. We have detailed teaching manuals for each of the 14 grades.

 

Our beginners are in very warm water, about 1 to 1 ½ m deep; the pool is divided into quite small sections by ropes. We use platforms as landing stages, 4 in a class, homogeneous groups. We don’t use floats, we have hand supports cut from noodles. We train our staff very thoroughly, each session has a Supervisor who is the liason with parents, checks children are in the correct class, deals with complaints, and is able to fill any emergency teacher vacancy. Supervisors are very experienced and well paid.

 

Parents sit in the pool area but do not talk directly to teachers, they go through the Supervisor. We have a “Welcome” sheet for newcomers with 15 things they need to know and do, like,

 

(1) Be on time. (2) Provide goggles and caps, (3) Understand there is a learning curve with plateaus, it shows the progression chart.

 

You all do these things whether you divide your classes into 3 grades or 20 grades I could simply list for you exactly what we do in each grade but you all do this, you all know this.

 

Instead I’m going to give up another way of looking at how you can help your young swimmers, above L.T.S and just starting to move on.

 

Fundamental Laws and Principles which apply to all swimming strokes – these are the building blocks of a novice swimming program.

 

A complaining parent, who felt his child was not getting enough stroke correction said, “there are some things everyone knows are wrong in technique.” Implying these things were not being corrected in his child’s swimming – I replied – in defense of the child’s instructor, that each child is different depending on it’s strengths and weaknesses and it’s body shape etc. – However, I knew of course he was right there are some very basic principles which have to be observed in swimming technique – but I stress they are PRINCIPLES into which some variation for individuals will occur, but they are important principles which we, as teachers must observe.

 

I like to look at it this way, to swim fast you have 3 very fundamental laws.

 

FUNDAMENTAL LAWS

Motivation – inside your head

Streamlining – your body

Speed – your engine

 

I am not concerned, in this talk with motivation, which, of course is a very important aspect right from Learn-to-swim on – in LTS it’s often a question of overcoming negative motivation. “I won’t put my head in the water, I’ll learn to swim without getting wet” etc. I shall tell you the type of training we do at Ryde with our novice groups and so I shall touch on Speed as produced by the “engine,” i.e. the heart and circulation, the muscles, breathing, the chemical reactions which occur and are the whole huge subject of “training.” What this afternoon is about primarily is  “Streamlining” – the movement of the body through the water and streamlining can be divided up like this –

 

STREAMLINING

Propulsion

Flotation

Rotation

 

So streamlining is one of the Fundamental Laws and we now come to the Principles of streamlining which apply to all swimming strokes.

Principles of Streamlining which Appy to All Swimming Strokes

 

Flat body position F

Keeping everything within the streamline of the body – vertically – horizontally F

Rotation around the central axis R

Rotation of the forearm R

Keeping the elbows up R

Kick should be secondary to the arm pull P

Breathing should be unobtrusive F

The need to “feel” the water P

The need to be balanced F

“Stabilizer” muscles need to be strong P

 

 

The Fs, Ps and Rs show how each of these Principles relates to flotation, propulsion or rotation. Having established the Principles we then look at each of these in relation to:

 

Head position

Body position

Position of the legs and feet

Position of the arms and hands

 

FREESTYLE

If you follow all the principles as outlined you will swim pretty good Freestyle.

Flat body position

Head position should be low, with the face parallel to the bottom of the pool, this means the chin will be tucked in – I do not like a high head position, if the head is high everything else sinks. Drills for head position – every drill you do should incorporate keeping the head down low, right from push and glide on, all the kicking drills, with and without a board, and all the arm and stroke drills.

Body position – head, shoulders, hips and feet should all be in a straight line, once the head is down then the hips and bottom can float up to be in the same horizontal plane. Guard against sinking in the hips or having the bottom push up out of the water.

Legs and feet should also be just along the level of the water, the heels should just break the surface as the swimmer kicks, and there will be only a small bend of the knee. To keep the legs up into the horizontal plane you need to kick, at least a bit, and to use a whip like kick, which is started in the hip and is carried out by the feet.

 

What is the point about a whip kick? It’s something – a movement – which is generated in one place with a lot of power and is executed somewhere further off with that power being changed into movement, power at the source results in movement at the end. Examples are cracking a whip, using a mechanical lever, shaking a branch in your hand etc.

 

Drills for flat body position and flat legs and feet are numerous. Again, the most basic is “push and glide,” then push, glide, kick, on to push, glide, kick and take 1, 2 or more arm strokes. In all of these drills we emphasize flat body position. All kinds of combinations of push, glide, kick are available, push, glide take 4 arm strokes, take 6 arm strokes, take 3 arm strokes and a breath, take 4 arm strokes and a breath etc, etc. There are lots of drills for kicking and holding the body flat with hands on the gutter, both hands on gutter-head low, body flat, legs kicking, one hand on the gutter or wall, both the above either with or without breathing.

 

Then there are the kick board drills, holding the board in various ways, top, bottom, sides, one arm, combining with different breathing patterns, and different stroke patterns. You can kick in a flat body position with hands in front, by your sides, with fingers interlocked behind you, or interlocked out in front. You can hold something other than a kickboard, like a tube or a rubber ring; you can have several children all hold a long stick or one of those long foam tubes. All the time you should emphasize the flat body position – the best way to stop the bottom popping up and moving is a strong kick to anchor the backside.

 

You can push off from the side feet first, and kick back, you can do all of the above with flippers, you can have great fun as a 2 person contest facing each other, hands on shoulders, with arms outstretched attempting to push each other backwards!

 

Keeping everything within the streamline of the body both the vertical and the horizontal streamline.

 

Think about a racing single scull boat. Think how narrow it is, how smooth the bottom is, the owners spend ages rubbing the bottom till it’s like silk, not a blemish on it because they know the slightest bump reduces streamlining. Now the human body has lots of bumps and humps, some we can’t reduce, but at least we can do our best to cut out those unwanted aspects of the stroke that hold back streamlining.

 

All the things we said about flat body position apply here, in addition lets look at feet.

 

You want flexible ankles. You will notice that all great Freestyle swimmers are able to stretch their ankles out to put their toes on the ground when they sit on the ground with their legs straight out in front of them – they have extremely flexible ankles, their whole foot acts like a flipper! The total opposite of this is children whose feet hang down at right angles when they do freestyle kick, and, like putting on aircraft brakes, the feet stop the swimmer from moving forward. You often see this in adults who want to learn to swim! You ask them to kick – they go backwards! Don’t let the kick be too deep or you lose streamlining, keep it a narrow, hard little kicks.

 

All of the kicking drills we have talked about should emphasize pointing the toes, one of the earliest things we do with baby learn to swim is get them, in their mother’s arms to push off the wall and stretch their toes out! Flipper drills can be helpful for really un-streamlined feet; at least it gives the feel of how the feet should be stretched out. Out of the water ankle flexibility, sitting on the ankles, twisting the ankles by hand, shaking the ankles, are important.

 

Continually emphasizing, “streamline the feet,” “point the toes,” is very important. To help children feel how easily they slip through the water when they are streamlined, do a vertical jump straight up in deep water and in shallow, holding the body very streamlined, or do some from the edge of the pool, in deep water and see how deep down you go if you are very streamlined. Keep bottom in, don’t let head drop back, hands up or at sides.

 

Rotation around the central axis.

 

This is seen in all good swimmers and makes the difference between dog paddling and swimming. You must hold the backbone very straight but then you can and should rotate the shoulders and hips around it. You will see pictures of top swimmers whose shoulders are almost at a right angle to the water surface. A propeller on a ship is more effective than a paddle wheel, which does not have the sort of screwing, turning movement of a propeller.

 

You must learn to distinguish, and get the swimmers to distinguish between “rolling” the shoulders and “dropping” the shoulder, “rolling” is good, “dropping” is bad.

 

A very good way to demonstrate this is out of the water. Have the swimmers stand feet apart and put themselves in the freestyle position about to enter with one hand, then apply pressure against that hand and ask each one in turn to push down as if swimming. At least ½ will start to apply pressure then drop the shoulder instead of rotating it. It is a subtle but very important difference. As one shoulder rotates down the other will come up to give the body roll around the central axis. Along with the shoulder rotation there must be a hip rotation in the same direction, right shoulder down, right hip down etc. The backbone must be kept straight.

 

Drills for this include all the kicking and swimming work on the side, 6 kicks one side, 6 on the other, 4 strokes on one side 4 on the other, also all the one arm drills should be done on the side, emphasizing the roll across to the other side as the stroke is taken. Specific body roll drills are – Opposite cheek (of your bottom) on each stroke touch the opposite cheek of your bottom, 3 stroke glide, where you take 3 explosive strokes, kicking hard then on the 3rd stroke lunge forward and glide on your side as far as possible, keep the arm that is back right up out of the water.

 

Rotation of the forearm.

 

In freestyle the shoulder joint and the elbow joint both act as “fulcrums.” The forearm rotates down with the elbow the fulcrum between it and the upper arm, and the whole arm rotates down with the shoulder joint the fulcrum.

 

Again this concept is best demonstrated out of the water in the same way as previously, again hold the hand, feel their pressure, watch that the elbow does not drop but is firm so that the forearm can rotate against it. It is vital that children become strong in their wrists and forearms and work out of the water as well at strengthening in this area. A good concept is that you are putting your hand (freestyle) or hands (butterfly) over a solid object in the water and pulling your body forward over it.

 

All the delayed entry drills, will help here, sharks fin, double entry, and later pulling and paddles, under supervision, and one arm swimming under supervision. A drill we use is – on your side one arm out, you do a couple of sculls then a half pull back under the water, changing arms each lap, but feeling you are getting power and momentum even in that small distance of the pull. We use this for backstroke too.

 

Keeping the elbows up.

 

This goes along with the forearm rotation, you really cannot do the rotation unless the elbow is kept up – and that means kept UP throughout the stroke – in fact this is much more important than being up when out of the water.

 

Out of the water, hold the swimmers hand so as to apply pressure and ask them to push down and back – check that the elbow stays up and finishes up in front of the hand as the hand completes the push. Weak swimmers will let the elbow give way – this must not happen, swimmers must be vitally aware of how very important it is to hold that elbow firm and push back. All the drills outlined for forearm rotation are applicable and great work can be done with the swimming harness.

 

Kick should be secondary to the arm null.

 

It is much more efficient to pull yourself along than to push yourself along. A heavy leg kick uses O2 less efficiently than a comparable amount of shoulder muscle activity, and a too regular kick can prevent the free movement of the arms – this is what used to happen 20 or 30 years ago when swimmers concentrated on a heavy 6 beat kick and “waited” out in front with their arms for the kick.

 

The great improvement in freestyle swimming times coincides with the arms taking the dominant role and the kick becoming an easy 4 or 2 or cross over beat to fit in with the arm stroke. Albeit in top freestyle sprinting for a short distance there will be fast kicking, and children should develop good, flexible kicks, but should not let the arms be dependent on the kick.

 

All kicking drills should emphasize flexibility and efficiency and should be done separately on a board, without a board, with flippers and in all the combinations we have looked at before – there should seldom, if ever be a 1,2,3,4,5,6,1,2,3,4,5,6, type kick (an occasional problem pupil may need this).

 

Breathing should be unobtrusive.

 

You need to have the head low so the breath can be taken almost underwater in the little cup of air formed as the head turns, in this way the head win not lift at all and will fit in with the upward movement of the – shoulder on that side and be almost unnoticeable, and provide no disturbance of the body position. This is best demonstrated by having slightly more advanced children watch beginners and see how long it takes them to get a breath, and then watch advanced swimmers and see the opposite.

 

I like the pattern of the eyes following the hand around for the timing of the breathing, and I believe there should be a steady and continuous bubbling out from the nose and mouth, and a suck in of air through the mouth.

 

All kicking drills and all one arm and gliding drills should include unobtrusive breathing as part of the exercise. This should go right back to the most basic kicking and breathing on the wall, and right up to top swimmers who will be doing breath control in and out of turns etc.

 

The need to “feel” the water.

 

We all talk about “feeling” the water, but what do we mean, and how do you teach it? We also all know that “good swimmers automatically have good feel of the water”!

 

I see it as meaning, being able to feel pressure against the hand, and responding by taking up the pressure. I think you have to get children out of the water standing, legs apart, one foot slightly forward, bending over and putting one hand at a time into the start position for freestyle, Head low, elbow up, stretched forward in a good boomerang shape, then you, the teacher ask them to push down and back against your hand, and see if they are exerting pressure, then they can do this in pairs once you are sure they know what they are trying to do, (be sure they keep their elbows up while they push down).

 

In the water, more or less the same thing but get each child to bend over and actually push the water back, well back, feeling the pressure all the way. They need to learn that only when they feel pressure will they move fast, they must not avoid taking the pressure feeling the pressure is good; not feeling pressure is bad although it feels “easier.”

 

Other drills are the “fist” drills versus using your fingers, chicken wings versus the whole arm and hand, and all the pulling drills with and without paddles, pull buoys or any other gear. Also tethered swimming.

 

An easy “feel” drill is “Sliding,” which is similar to catch up freestyle. You start with one hand on top of the other in a streamlined position, then you pull, the bottom arm, leaving the top arm outstretched, emphasizing, “feeling” the water as you pull, the upper arm does not move until the hand and forearm are below the elbow.

 

The need to be balanced.

 

Rotating around the central axis is like asking a child to balance, being outstretched along a gymnast’s balance beam, and move their arms and legs on either side of it! Not easy! You can see that a lot of balancing skill is required to do this.

 

The best way to get hold of this principal is to see what happens if you are not balanced. Take a child who swipes across well past the mid-line in one freestyle underwater arm, immediately his hips and legs, pop out in the opposite direction to counter balance causing a dramatic cut down in his streamlining.

 

Similarly if one foot thrashes out sideways, the shoulder and head skew off in the other direction. One hand flinging out too wide causes a huge scissors kick to counterbalance it. Single side breathing can be the original cause of many unbalanced arm and leg movements – so lots of bi-lateral work.

 

The drills will be specific for the specific fault, but out of the water every child should be looking at basic strengthening exercises for abdominal muscles, back, torso, legs, work with balls or bean bags, and sandbags should all be on both sides, both hands, both feet etc.

 

Kicking drills are very important for the lower back stability, watch that children are kicking with both feet evenly. As soon as you see an unbalanced movement, stop the child, point out the error and try to get it reversed as soon as possible. Young children find it hard to balance using, as in freestyle, only one arm and one leg at a time, for them double sided, stronger movements like breaststroke and butterfly are easier to perform.

 

Needing strong stabilizer muscles is closely linked to principle no.9. All of the muscles, which are used to keep you balanced, need to be very strong.

 

We’ve all struggled with those awful “jelly children,” they have no idea of “putting pressure” against your hand because their elbows, shoulders and backs give way. Arms and legs in swimming are mechanical “levers,” but there must be a firm “fulcrum” against which to push, or nothing happens. Getting that firm fulcrum means having strong stabilizer muscles throughout the whole body. You can’t rotate around the central axis if the axis – the backbone and head – are not firm. You can’t keep your bottom in place if your abdominal muscles are weak. If your bottom wobbles around you don’t have a firm fulcrum against which your thighs can kick. The leg lever won’t work. You must be able to hold the shoulder girdle firm or the arm lever lacks a stable fulcrum.

 

I am a firm believer in muscle strength being built from the very start. “Baby Gym” programs are marvelous – such programs, well run by specialists do tremendous good for the growing organism. At the very least get youngsters doing a wide variety of physical activity, some of it quite challenging, running, throwing, climbing, balancing, coordinating etc. etc. then there should be daily physical education in primary schools as well.

 

Coming back to our specific needs for swimmers. The best drills here will be out of the water exercises, using light apparatus, balls, sand bags, skipping ropes, hoops, light hand weights, body weight, push ups, pull ups, sit ups, leg lifting, emphasizing abdominal and lower back strength.

 

You will not get specific “stabilizer” muscle strength, quickly, by doing in the water drills. All in the water drills will contribute, but only a very small amount, the best drills would be Butterfly kicking drills, turns without a wall or underwater turns, but again, real gains for those important muscle groups should be through out of the water work.

 

BACKSTROKE.

 

I spent a lot of time with Freestyle because everything follows on from that. So let us look at the Principles of Streamlining as they apply to Backstroke.

Flat body position.

Remember we will go through, head position, body position etc.

Head position must be pushed back with the chin in, you just don’t drop the head back, you tuck the chin in and push the top of the head back, as if you took a doll, attached a piece of string to the top of its head and pulled. Every drill will incorporate head pushed back position, watch for it.

Body position must be flat with the hips and shoulders along the level of the water. The tummy must be at water level, it must be pushed up from the buttocks by a strong kick.

Legs and feet must also be up. Along the water line, head, shoulders, hips, knees and toes should all be in a straight, flat line along the surface. The kick is fundamental to good Backstroke. It needs to be (at least in the learners and beginning stages) continuous with small, hard up beats, and it needs to be shallow. Guard against too much knee bend, as with freestyle the kick comes from the thigh and is executed by the foot.

 

Drills for flat body position are numerous and pretty well known.

 

The fundamental drill is kicking on the back with a flat body position, which usually means guarding against the tummy dropping. (“NO bananas here!”)

 

Think of all the ways in which you can kick on your back – against the wall, with one or two hands holding on, away from the wall with arms anywhere from by your legs to above your head, to up in the air, one arm or both arms in a large variety of positions, all of these can also be done with apparatus, holding a kickboard above the knees, under the chin, above the head, in the air etc. with one hand or 2 hands, and varying the position of the other hand.

 

Keeping everything within the streamline of the body, means in backstroke, again that flat body position, and not kicking too deep. If swimmers sink in the middle they are not within that streamline position. If the knees bend, they lose streamlining.

 

Also under streamlining comes the bent arm pull in backstroke, if you keep your elbow straight you have a very wide sweep around, very wide of the body, to ensure a narrow, streamlined body let the elbow bend midway through the stroke and push back towards the feet, “throw a tennis ball at your feet.”

 

Similarly if you pull straight-armed your hips will swing out sideways and your legs will swipe with a wide sideways kick, very un-streamlined, a lot of resistance. To keep in the streamline of the body the arms need to touch the ears as they go back. This will give a completely straight arm entry, which is what we need.

 

Rotation around the central axis is vital in Backstroke as it is in Freestyle.

 

Keep the head and backbone completely still, so you have a stable fulcrum, then allow the body, shoulders and hips, to roll around that firm axis. To keep the head still, put a stone or a cup of water – a foam cup of water is best, it floats – on your forehead and do backstroke. To do this the swimmer must “inwardly rotate” each shoulder before the start of the stroke, keeping the head completely still roll the shoulder around to touch the chin before lifting the arm straight up (I like little finger up for young novice swimmers – as this helps them to inwardly rotate the shoulder). As that arm goes up the opposite shoulder goes down.

 

Similarly the hips rotate (keeping the backbone still) in the same direction as the shoulders, one hip up, one down.

 

Drills for streamlining and rotation.

 

Kicking on the side for a specified number of kicks then rotating to the other side, with hands by the side and outstretched. Triple roll drill has hands by your sides, 6 kicks, on one side, shoulder and hip up out of the water, then roll to the other side, 6 kicks, then 1 arm pull on opposite side, then repeat, i.e. 6 kicks on right, 6 kicks on left 1 stroke with right arm, and repeat. One arm Backstroke swimming for a specified number of strokes then rolling to the other side and the other arm.

 

Backstroke catch up drill emphasizing the roll from arm to arm, arms outstretched and the kick and hip roll helping to turn the body.

 

4) Rotation of the forearm.

 

This is vital for correct Backstroke swimming, and means the bend and push down and forward of the hand when the arm reaches about shoulder width.

 

As with Freestyle it is essential to “keep the elbow up,” you stabilize the elbow as a fulcrum. If the swimmer just drops the elbow the hand falls down and does not get any purchase on the water. Thinking of the movement as a “throw of a ball” towards the heel is a good idea, to throw the elbow must be up and stable.

 

Again this should be worked on out of the water with the teacher putting pressure against the hand at about shoulder position and checking that the swimmer exerts pressure.

 

Drills include – double arm Backstroke, you pretty well have to bend and push to do double arm Backstroke, and it is a very good drill for several reasons, streamlining, head position, kicking etc. Swim the rope, Pulling on a lane rope or a special rope soon shows you the importance of the bent arm.

 

Similarly, one arm Backstroke, concentrating on being on the side, needs a bent arm pull, or you go around in a circle, so one arm and alternate arm drills are good, specifying the number of strokes on each arm.

 

Sculling and building up – here you scull on your back for a count of 2 then do the forearm rotation and take a half stroke to the waist, then recover underwater, change arms at 25 emphasize the power of the bent arm stroke.

 

5) As we have seen to do the forearm rotation you must keep the elbows up. Swimmers can look at more advanced backstrokers from out of the water and see the firm elbow and hard push.

 

Drills as for rotation of the forearm and out of the water work with rubbers, great care being taken to hold that elbow “up and firm,” as with Freestyle. Elbow up, also means shoulder up and firm.

 

6) Although it is essential to have a regular and flexible kick, in top.

 

Backstroke the arms will call the tune, the kick is a stabilizer, a rudder and it helps rotation and streamlining. All the kicking drills work towards a flexible, quick, firm kick which fits into the pattern of the arm pull, and in younger swimmers, fills in the gaps.

 

7) In Backstroke breathing is not a problem, I, personally do not worry about a breathing pattern in children learning Backstroke, except for the breath control needed at the start and turns, where, increasingly we are seeing everyone make fun use of their allowed 15m underwater Butterfly kick.

 

8) The need to “feel” the water is just as important as in Freestyle. The same out of the water work is needed.

 

To feel the water in Backstroke you must have the correct angle of the hand on entry. I like to teach (and I emphasize to teach) little finger up recovery and entry like an oar, ready to push the water, because then the child immediately “feels” the handful of water.

 

Pulling with a band is a great way to get that early feel and catch in Backstroke, although hard, you may have to settle for a small pull buoy as well. Its’ also good to try to get children to feel the water against their toes in Backstroke kick.

 

9) The need to be balanced, and to do this… 10) The need for strong stabilizer muscles come together in Backstroke.

If it was hard in Freestyle to lie along that balancing beam on your front, then its’ twice as hard in Backstroke because you are lying on that couple of inches balancing on your back, and moving your arms and legs with your longitudinal axis, backbone and head held firm.

 

To do this you must have strong stabilizing muscles to stop you wriggling sideways and to stop you dropping your tummy. Again out of the water abdominal work of all sorts is required, and, as soon as possible work with rubbers, tied up behind you, preferably used with a bench to make you keep the body firm, otherwise being aware that you must keep the shoulders and backbone steady.

 

Drills to help balance and strengthen stabilizing muscles, are drills where you slow the Backstroke down, and where you hold one hand above your eyes for a period of time, such as Backstroke catch up in the air, where you hold that arm up until the other one meets it, delayed or double entry, where you bring the hand back up before it enters the water, so again you are balanced with the arm in the air.

 

Holding a pull buoy in the air with 2 hands while you kick is another simple but very effective drill.

 

Backstroke turns away from the wall are good.

 

BREASTSROKE.

 

Principles of streamlining as they apply to Breaststroke.

 

Flat body position is so important, and so difficult.

 

In Breaststroke this means that the shoulders, the bottom and, for as much time as possible the feet will be in a straight line. Remember we are considering “beginner” – Breaststroke, there may be variations as swimmers become stronger and in top line specialist – breaststrokers.

 

To help keep the head flat, right from the start Breaststroke needs to be taught as a continual forward movement, not a stop start movement. By looking at a flowing pattern you stop the jerk up of the head to breathe. Just let the head ride up with the shoulders, there should be no independent head movement, and keep the head fairly well crouched forward between the shoulders.

 

To keep the bottom up you need a strong kick with emphasis on pushing the legs up at the end or the kick, and children need to be reminded to keep the bottom up and work at pushing it up. Similarly you’ll need to continually remind swimmers to push the legs up at the end or the kick, to help get that flat body position.

 

Drills for flat body position are all the Breaststroke arms-only drills, and gliding drills, these can be done with equipment or without, but the legs need to be kept up, so pulling with a pull buoy, or with fins or pulling lying on a kick board are good.

 

You can do ¼ or ½ the normal pull, and build over 3 laps, ¼, ½ pull, whole pull.

 

Straight arm Breaststroke, arms straight out to shoulder level then clap the arms back together. Head up pull, as it sounds, and can be combined with various other pulls, or use dolphin kick, or double dolphin kick.

 

Breaststroke RALADA. 2 right arm pull, etc.

 

Keeping everything within the streamline of the body is obvious applicable in Breaststroke than in any other stroke.

 

However, it means using the ankles, having flexible ankles – from out of the water flexibility exercises – trying to get as much ankle rotation as possible. Some of the very best Breaststrokers are able to keep the knees in fairly close because of the extreme flexibility of their ankles.

 

It means being aware that you must minimize the time your arms are out wide, and maximize the time you are gliding forward. You are going to be “all long” for a long time and “all short” for a short time. Only individual experimentation will tell each swimmer what is the optimum width of arm pull for him or her, and it must all be “working” arm pull.

 

Keeping within the streamline of the body also means keeping the bottom up so the legs are not too deep, and working at finishing the leg kick with the feet up, so that as you glide you are very streamlined.

 

Rotation around the central axis is a negative in Breaststroke – there must be NO rotation.

 

Rotation of the forearm – for Breaststroke it is very important to have strong wrists and forearms to get the outward and inward sweep of the hands and forearms – tie up the legs of your little girl Breaststrokers (pull buoy and a band) and you’ll be horrified to see how weak they are in the forearms. They’ll wriggle and get along by making dolphin body movements but they need heaps of work at Breaststroke pulling to get that arm strength.

 

Best drills are any sort of work to make them use the Breaststroke arm action. Pulling, 1 arm (holding foot across behind) or 2 arms, with equipment or partner resisted – pull a partner races.

Keeping the elbows UP is essential to get that fulcrum still to be able to do the forearm rotation. If the elbow is not up its impossible to apply pressure in the arm pull.

All the drills are as for 4 above and also underwater pulling and straight arm Breaststroke clapping the hands as the straight arms come back from the shoulder width position.

Breaststroke is the exception to the rule, the Breaststroke kick should dominate, but each swimmer will be individual in percentages of propulsion from arms and legs. In general all girls will get more out of the kick than out of their arms. To be a good Breaststroker you need a strong kick. We always teach the traditional Breaststroke kick and later some children will move towards the dolphin type kick.

We do Breaststroke kick first on the wall then with a board – if necessary we teach it out of the water on an exercise bench in the very first place, then we move on to Breaststroke kick on the back then all the numerous kick drills. Such as – on back, on front, with board, without board have boards flat, at slight angle, at right angle, fully under the water at a right angle, touching hands with the feet hands together behind you, hold right foot with left hand kick with other leg, egg beater kick, 2,3,4,5 etc. kicks to one arm pull, kicking with a pull buoy, hands on shoulders kick your partner in opposite direction.

Breathing is not a problem in Breaststroke, except that children must not “stop” when they breathe, and in this sense the breath must be unobtrusive, do not lift the head, just let it ride up with the shoulders. If a child finds it hard not to “stop” get them out of the water doing the action, then standing in the water, finally gliding out doing one arm action and one breath at a time.

Feeling the water is a bit easier in Breaststroke because of the double sided, strong movement again work on this out of the water and standing in the water, then use all the pulling drills, to pull yourself along you need to feel the water. Emphasize the feel of the outward and the inward arm sweep, keeping the hands forward of the shoulder line.

Breaststroke is one of the easiest strokes in which to be balanced because of the double sided nature of the movements, but of course this will need… 10) Strong “fixator” or stabilizer muscles, particularly in the neck, upper back and shoulder region. The shoulder girdle must be a strong fixed fulcrum, against which to pull, this strength can be acquired in the water by doing Breaststroke – watch that weak swimmers don’t “cheat” by doing wriggling dolphin movements to get along (the dolphin kick must come only after the initial strength and balance have been acquired).

 

BUTTERFLY.

 

Principles of streamlining as they apply to Butterfly. Finally we come to Butterfly, and you will by now understand how we’ll look at this stroke and you’ll know for yourselves what to look for.

 

Remember the idea of categorizing the strokes this way is to give you a scale of reference to use when someone says “Why is he swimming Freestyle, Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly so badly?”

 

You say – What’s he doing wrong in relation to Principle no: 1, or Principle no: 2, or no: 3, etc. Having picked out a few principles, which he is not fulfilling, you then say, O.K. It is his head, his body, his legs etc. and you are sure to come up with several reasons for why he is swimming badly, i.e. several areas in which you can work, and you know what you say will not be incorrect because these principles do apply – either in a positive way or in a negative way (Breaststroke kick) they are not just your interpretation (which could be wrong) but they are fundamental to swimming well.

 

They are not gimmicks and they are not high tech, hydro dynamics, they are understandable.

 

Flat body position in Butterfly means the head, shoulders, bottom and feet must be up along the water line – plenty of good Butterfly swimmers will even get their bottom above that but this should not be at the expense of pushing the shoulders under. With youngsters, getting that bottom up is usually the hardest thing.

 

To help get the bottom moving, out of the water stand about 12cm from a wall hold a kick board in both hands up in the air straight above your head, keeping the board – hence the shoulders and head – still push your bottom in and out to touch the wall – wriggle the bottom do not bend the legs.

 

In the water work the “kick” emphasize it is a movement of the bottom not a bending of the knees – do laps with and without a board, on back, front, each side, and corkscrew, all 4 together! Do kicks above and below water, from a push and from a dive.

 

To keep the head in the flat body position learn to nod up and back quickly for a breath, and to enter the arms wide enough to leave the head down between the arms. Swing the arms around rather than jump them over, jumping over leads to a very un-flat body.

 

Keening everything within the streamline of the body means, as well as the flat body, getting the hands entering about shoulder width and pulling down and in to touch under the hips and push right back, don’t let the hands get stuck at the back, and drive out non stop.

 

Rotation around the central axis is a negative in Butterfly. We certainly don’t want any sideways rolling. Drills to prevent this, which results in arms going in one at a time, are hard to find if the child has no shoulder flexibility – so out of the water, towel over the head flexibility work is recommend. Also getting the child to watch himself in a mirror, taking the arms over, can be useful.

 

Rotation of the forearm is just as important here as in Freestyle, in fact the Butterfly arm work is just (for these children anyway) 2 arm Freestyle so all the same drills apply.

 

Once again keeping the elbows up will be very similar to the need for this in Freestyle there must be that stable fulcrum against which to push. Again the same drills in and out of the water apply.

 

The kick should be secondary to the arm stroke – this is very important in Butterfly or you end up with a wait of the arms in front while the kicks are made (Jan Andrews 1959-60).

 

Again, as with Freestyle it is much more efficient to pull yourself along than to push yourself along, putting a propeller driven engine on the back of a jet engine doesn’t help, it doesn’t make it go faster, it just uses fuel.

Of course it’s not quiet as bad as that because there are lots of other benefits from the kick, it gives body position, it gives streamlining because the legs are not dropping, you need to kick hard in and out of the wall and during the underwater phases, but one should develop a rhythmical, flowing kick that does not use up too much O2 and enhances rather than detracts from the streamline of the body.

 

So we need the kicking drills as we talked about before – and also things like kicking with head up, with folded arms with the hands touching behind you, underwater kicking and combining with a set number of kicks per breath, or kicks then pull and arm strokes.

 

Breathing should be unobtrusive – very important in Butterfly. You must snatch the breath quickly; the head should be down most of the time, with a quick nod back when the shoulders are up to snatch a breath. Most of the time the face should be parallel to the bottom of the pool. To be unobtrusive there must be a fair bit of breath control, this means being aware of how you are breathing out, a big snatch in of air, a slow controlled blow-out, continuously – I believe, but more controlled than in Freestyle.

 

Drills include heaps of kicks and strokes without a breath for various distances, breathing every 1,2,3,4,5 and 6 strokes, and going ¼, ½ and 1 lap without a breath, heaps of turns with a push off without a breath.

 

The need to “feel” the water – as with Freestyle, you need to “feel” the water to be able to push it back. All of the pulling drills and underwater recovery Butterfly drill help you to feel the water. Children who don’t feel the water, tend to make holes in it rather than push it back.

 

As with Breaststroke it is not so difficult to be balanced, but as we said earlier it is very important or the swimmer will be putting the hands in one at a time. Work out of the water in front of a mirror will help.

 

Very important for Butterfly to have strong “stabilizer” or “fixator” muscles to keep the body firm. To some extent the fulcrums here relate to movements up and down, the vertebrae of the backbone and the attached muscles are the fulcrum for the up and down movements of the lower back and legs, and the shoulder girdle and arms. All the abdominal and torso muscles must be strong, out of the water abdominal work and lower back work are good for very weak children, and doing the Butterfly kick and associated drills will also help. Much of the work on Butterfly kick is really to strengthen up these stabilizer muscles rather than to produce a fast kick in itself.

 

A lot of Butterfly work is done with kicking and arms separately until children are ready to put the two together, however this difficulty does not seem to be there if children have learnt Butterfly as babies, I think it is a flexibility problem, children lose that shoulder joint flexibility as they grow.

 

I have seen great Butterfly from 8-10 month old babies, but underwater, perfect strokes about ½ a meter down, they do 4 or 5 strokes then climb up for a breath, then go back down again!

 

 

Very important books to consult.

 

(1) “Coaching the Young Swimmer”  “Swimmer IMPROVED” by Wilke and Madsen.

Printed in U.S.A. in 1993 by Sports Support Syndicate 108 South 12th St. Pittsburgh PA 15203 U.S.A.

Phone 412-481-2497

Fax 412-481-2540

 

(2) Drills and Games.

A Fun Way to Practice

By Debbie Potts

Published by American Swimming Coaches Association

301 S.E. 20th Street Fort Lauderdale Florida 33316 USA

 

 

Building a training program for novice swimmers.

 

Now that we have all the “building blocks” we are ready to start putting together a program. There are many, many, considerations here.

 

The WILKE and MADSEN book dwells heavily on not over-training youngsters, not “turning them off” by too much training – it wants swimming to be only a part of the physical activity of the child. It suggests a perfect set up where other water work, games, water polo etc. can be incorporated in the swimming training program and where out of water activities can be focused towards swimming strength etc. In fact the sort of perfect set up only possible in an East German Sports School! Of course a lot of what Wilke and Madsen say is good and valid but you and I have to make our living by getting kids to swim fast in the short (or fairly short) term – most of our pupils are never going to make the top flight and – statistics tell me that – look at how many coaches are here and how many pupils each of you handles compared with how many Victorian swimmers will make the next Olympic Games Team!

 

So, this is not the counsel of perfection but rather of expediency of what works for us, what satisfies most of the people most of the time enough to keep them coming, to keep them paying and for their children to keep on improving at least while they are at school, and its really not going to do much damage.

 

The fundamentals I consider when building my programs are

 

Each session is a teaching session and each child actually learns something.

We teach the best techniques we can in line with the principles we have outlined.

Where possible we do some of every stroke at every session.

We get as much done at each session as possible, each session is a mini endurance session.

 

The limitation factors into which you fit all this are –

Standard of the pupils – try to get groups as homogeneous as possible.

Amount of time for the lesson ½, ¾, 1 or longer session.

Number of pupils in each lesson.

Amount of space you have – and the type of space, deep or shallow etc.

 

Those things will be set for you or by you. Preferably by you, all these things are related to dollars of course. Where possible look at the above and change them to get them as much as possible how you want them. Don’t give in too easily – I used to believe we could only teach between 4pm and 6pm. Then this winter we had much less space available for our younger groups and we had to move to 3:30pm and going on to 7:30 and 8:00pm and the parents did it! They also came at 7am before school with their 7 and 8 year olds.

 

The same with pupil numbers we had to almost double the number of children in each class, and we cut down the lesson time, to ½ hour from ¾. Of course we had to have very, very good teachers who were right on the ball all the time, (I ended up taking a lot of the most crowded, really short classes myself).

 

About the most important of the limiting factors is to get a homogeneous group, you will have to have lots of grades – but at least everyone keeps on moving. This winter with our 7-12 year olds we had 6 different grades before they went to “Intermediates.”

 

½ an hour is about the minimum you can get away with and call it a “training session,” and in our ½ hour groups which were very weak it was always Freestyle for 15 minutes + 1 other stroke and that rotates week by week. In the ¾ hour group and the 1 hour groups we do all the 4 strokes, but making the “stroke of the week” + Freestyle the main areas to work in.

 

In our 1 ½ hour groups, it’s all 4 strokes in about equal amounts.

 

Lets assume we are taking a 1-hour group, (8-11 years roughly, doing 4×100 Freestyle on 2.00 minutes). At this level I think its important to keep the stroke and its’ drills together, a much better teaching environment is produced when you work through, Freestyle kick, Freestyle pull or combined or drills Freestyle swim and do each stroke in the same way, breaking up the swimming somewhere for starts, turns, finishes etc.

 

Our sample program starts out of the water for about 3 minutes using a few seconds for arm circling and leg stretching, ankle flexibility then working on doing the arm stroke out of the water, feeling pressure on the child’s hand by your resistance, feeling that they are holding pressure against your hand, and pushing well back, do Freestyle and the stroke of the week.

 

Your biggest problem with a 1 hour group is time – although its much better to do only 3 strokes, i.e. Freestyle + 2 other strokes, its just possible to do all 4. There’s no time for a water warm up.

 

Sample Program for 1-hour group doing 4 strokes with Butterfly being the stroke of the week.

 

Out of the water work

Freestyle

200 1 arm F/S 100 4.4.    Four on one arm

then 4 on other arm          3 mins.

100 6.6. As above           3 mins.

100 Sharks fin drill

or chicken wing drill

or sliding drill

4 x 50 F/S Kick 1-15       2 ½ mins

2 x 200 F/S 3-45                         5 mins

or 4 x 100 F/S 2             8 mins

Total time          21 ½ mins

 

Butterfly We always do Butterfly after Freestyle before they get too tired.

8 x 25 Butterfly kick

2 on BK

2 on one side      about 6 mins

2 on other side

2 on front

I start each one of these and push them along

100 RALADA                2 ¼ mins

8 x 25 Butterfly. I start each of these and

comment on individual technique – about 6 min        14 ¼ mins

Total Time         35 ¾ min

 

Breaststroke

200 BS Kick      100 on Back

100 Fold arms    4 ¾ mins

or 200 2 Kick 1 Pull

or 100 4 Kick 1 Pull + 100 BS Pull

4×100 BS 2 ¼                9 min                                                                13 ¾ mins

Total Time         49 ½ mins

 

Backstroke

100 BK Kick                  2 ½ mins

100 Catch up drill           2 ½ mins           4 ¾ mins

(in air)

4×50 BK think about turn 1.05 mins

4.20 mins

9.05 mins

Total Time         58.55 mins

59.00 mins

 

I rotate the stroke of the week and I try to organize classes so I can do only 3 strokes in 1 hour, I can do that if some people are coming several times in the week. Its; much better to have more time for each stroke. I have one 2 hour class and two 1 hour classes all at the same time in 2, 25m lanes, so I can swap people around a bit, e.g. put a very good Breaststroker across to do more Breaststroke with the 2 hour group etc.

 

Here is a sample of my 2-hour program for 9-12 year olds who repeat their 5×100 F/S on 1.45

 

5 minutes out of the water going through the arm stroke, before the session starts.

 

Warm-up            200 mixed          5.00 min

4×100 IM 2        8.00 min

 

F/S                   4×200 FS – done as follows

  1. Drill 6 kicks one side, 6 the other, big arm stroke in between 3.45 min
  2. Swim 3 ¼
  3. Touch your bottom, opposite side 3.45
  4. Swim 3 ¼ 14.00 min

4×50 F/S Kick 1.10

4×50 F/S Drill, 1 arm 1.10                       9.20 min

Total Time         36.20 min

 

Butterfly

200 1 Arm Butterfly                    4 min

8×25 Butterfly Kick Races

2 on Back

2 on one side

2 on front

2 on other side                            7 min

16×25 Butterfly Q                       10 min

or 8×50 Butterfly – Freestyle         21 ½ min

Total Time         58.10 min

 

At 58 to 59 mins I put both groups together and the new people for the second 1-hour class and we do 8×25 Dive-Races, 2 of each. This marks the end of the first 1-hour group, its followed by Toilet Time for the 2-hour group, and I mark off the second 1-hour group.

 

All of this takes about 11 minutes, so we continue from about 1 hour 10 min.

 

Backstroke

200 BK Kick. Hands in water above head                                        2.20 min

200 BK Drill, 100 Scull + ¼ stroke

100 1 Arm         4.00 min

Backstroke turns  3 or 4 for each person                                                       8.00 min

4×100 Backstroke 2         8.00 min                                                                        22.20 min

Total Time         1.32.20

 

Breaststroke

100 BS Kick on back

100 BS Kick touch hands behind bottom

100 BS Drill Hold one foot behind,

left hand holds right foot              7 ½ min

200 BS Pull with Paddles and pull buoy     4 ½ min

100 BS Drill (keep paddles on)

3 strokes underwater         2 ½ min

3 on top

 

200 BS Swim                 4 ½ min

2×100 BS Swim             2 ¼ min                                                            6 ¾ min

21 ¼ min

Total Time         1.53.35

 

8×50 FS 45 for speed        6 min

or Med Relay with other lane

Total Time         1.59.35

 

These are only samples, and show what I do.

Permalink

Own Your Own Swim Team as a Family Business by Pat Murphy (2001)

“It is good to have a failure while you’re young because it teaches you so much. For one thing it makes you aware that such a thing can happen to anybody, and once you’ve lived though the worst, you’re never quite as vulnerable afterwards”

Walt Disney

 

Maybe there is a touch of divine intervention that comes to us when either great things or horrible things happen to us. These things force you to examine what you have believed about yourself and those around you.

 

Today my wife and I own the team and the facility. We have a thriving SwimAmerica program, and we have just retired the last of the loans from building our pool in 1996. It is a twenty-five yard pool with three fifty-meter lanes, and a separate teaching pool. This past year we built an office on site that looks out over the pool.

 

My talk is about the challenges I encountered that compelled us to take the risks that created my current situation,

 

Out of college I started a team called the Cobb Stingrays. I remember that the Aquatic Director for the county pool told me that if I was worth anything I would have 40 kids at the pool on opening day (I remember thinking pooch’). In the next three years, we ran it as a County Park and Rec team, and the team grew to 300 members. In our fourth year the county requested that we leave the nest and become a separate non-profit organization.  Little did I know what would happen. A board was formed, and I was continually reassured that nothing would change, it was just paperwork These well-meaning folks wrote themselves in as permanent board members, beyond the ballot or recall, and of course the coach did not have a seat or vote on the board. Over time a few elected positions were added, but they had to be approved by the permanent members.

 

The team grew and prospered. In 1992, we had 400 members on the team, and a waiting list of 200 plus. We had just qualified our first two swimmers for Senior Nationals, had top seeded individuals and relays at Juniors, and had knocked Dynamo out of second place at the State 14-U meet. We annually raised 25 to $30,000 in our Swim-A-Thon, and in three yearn of operation as a board run team, we had put over $100,000 in the bank.

 

Our newest board members were enthusiastic parents of fast 11-12 year olds who possibly felt that with the Olympics coming to Atlanta soon, that the time might be right to get a world class coach in there, and that the team was poised for greatness. Perhaps I might grow to be a world-class coach, but they didn’t have time. Two days after I was forced out, United States Swimming named my team number one in the nation for  Management and Motivation of a Large club (“Could It Be You in 1992?”).

 

I decided to start my own club a month later my wife had a good job and we didn’t want to move. Friends and supporters at the time told me that this would turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to me, which seemed to be the sort of line you throw a drowning man. I drew up plans and hired a coach. We put a bubble over a neighborhood pool and I prepared for my first parents’ meeting. I was under the impression, and there are probably some of you out there that labor under this same idea, that parents will only accept your authority as Head Coach if there is some sort of power-sharing arrangement, like a board.  It was all I had ever known in my time as a swimmer and coach. So I drafted an elaborate plan, trying to build in safeguards so I wouldn’t create another monster. Fifteen minutes before I was to meet with the parents’ group, I showed my draft to the ax-president of the Stingrays, who had come with my club. He looked up from the paper, and said ‘What are you doing? You have been given a gift, one allowing you to walk out of that cell, and now you are asking that they shut the door on you?” He continued, “These people are willing to hand over their kid to you every day, because they believe in you. They will pay a fee to you as a professional for what you will teach their children. That’s all there is to it”.

 

I made my pitch to the parents, many of whom were from my old team and were trying to decide what to do. I very nervously got to the end of my speech and said, “and there won’t be a board”, with kind of a hopeful wince. They burst into applause.

 

Since that day, I have immersed myself in learning about business, and how to apply other examples to what we do. Today I will share what I believe to be the essential points of successfully owning your own club, and also tell you of the setbacks and shortcomings that I have experienced.! am not an expert at business operation, especially as it applies to financial matters, but I believe that what we are doing with Chattahoochee Gold is pioneering a new direction for swim coaches.

 

In his book The Millionaire Next Door; Thomas Stanley profiles the average American millionaire. It is not someone who inherited his or her ‘money, or someone who won the lottery. Here is his profile of a millionaire:

 

-Is 57 years old, married with three children

– About two thirds are self-employed, which is why I am referring to this book. Self- employed people make up less than 20% of the workforce, but they account for two thirds of the millionaires.

– three out of four millionaires consider themselves to be entrepreneurs

– Most of these businesses are in the dull to normal fields; welding contractors, rice farmers, owners of mobile home parks, pest controllers, and paving contractors (no swim coaches yet).

– About half of the wives don’t work. Of those that do, the number one occupation is teacher.

– The average taxable income of these households is $131,000 annually.

– 97% are homeowners. Halt have stayed in their homes for 20 years or longer

-80% are first generation affluent – no inheritance,

-Only 17% attended a private elementary or high school.

– Two-thirds work between 45 to 55 hours weekly.

– They invest 20% of their taxable income each year.

– 20% of their wealth comes from stocks and mutual funds. 21% of the wealth is in their private business.

-91% of millionaires never received, as a gift, as much as one dollar of the ownership of the family business.

 

Clearly the path to wealth in this country is through owning a business.

 

A couple of ASCA clinics ago, I heard John Koontz, of Australia talk about his swim lesson business, He described his operation in North Sidney, and mentioned that at his primary pool, they had grossed 1.5 million dollars in the past year. I was floored by that number because I had thought that the $35,000 we had done the summer before was pretty good. Here was one of the millionaires next door, and he does some thing that I know about, that I could do too. Since then, I have been developing a business model by absorbing examples of other businesses around me, and trying to apply it to coaching.

 

Mr. Koontz had gone through the IL-Myth Academy consulting firm, and shortly thereafter I signed up for it too. I had read the book by the founder of the IL-myth Academy, and it was sub-titled “Why Small Businesses Fail”, which should be required reading for all of you entrepreneurs out there. One of the first issues I encountered in self-employment is a great deal of resistance from many people in the coaching community. A business model implies that there are standardized procedures; that what we do here can be replicated in another place. Just as a company can teach their least skilled workers how to always produce a perfect widget at any of 11,000 locations, a business model attempts to put on paper what the successful clubs do, and by this means provide a how-to manual that can allow new coaches to become more productive more quickly. It also allows a satellite team to be reproduced anywhere, and for the parts to be interchangeable. This is the key to being successful in this business, having a number of pools doing the same great stuff, every day.

 

However, there are coaches who feel like this is strictly an art form, and they sea themselves as independent consultants. The idea of a business model seems to threaten their sense of the unique relationship between athlete and coach. Here’s the problem that all of us will eventually get to, you can’t do it all yourself and you can’t let coaches that may come and go redefine your team which each new hire.

 

In my IL-myth reading I came across the story of a woman who had her own business

 

Story of Sarah and her pie business

If you are a good coach, you too will get to the point that you personally can’t do anymore, get up any earlier, work longer, coach more kids. Your success will bring you to this point, and here you will either evolve, quit, or simply resign yourself to suffering.

 

When you get to this wall, coaching will not be very much fun. Once I was hearing Karen Leonard speak at a clinic, and she was espousing the benefits of swim lessons. I remember thinking “Great, I work 70 hours a week, can barely pay my bills, have no time for myself and she’s saying that to be successful I have to take on another career!” At the time, I was thinking that this was career for suckers. Slowly, I started to think about how I could move from overworked swim coach to business manager.

 

Let’s use another field as an example. A dentist provides a service like we do. He also uses assistants and office workers to get everything done. At the end of his career, he can sell his practice, which consists of his tools, his customer list and his community goodwill and reputation. He sends out a letter saying I am retiring from the practice, and I have turned it over to Mr. Smith, who is a fine young man, your scheduled appointments will all remain the same, etc This hand-off might result in a loss of 10% of customers, but otherwise it goes seamlessly. What the retiring dentist has done is created a vehicle of wealth by which he can reap the rewards of his years of hard work. It is not about the building he rented or the property that the office sits on, it is about the reputation of his service.

 

On the other hand, those of you who work for a board-run team live in a topsy-turvy upside-down world. This is like a dentist practice in which the customers get together and tell the dentist what the prices will be, and what services will be offered. The prices are not based on what it costs to offer a top caliber practice, but on what the board and their friends are comfortable paying. The prices are not set to reflect your true value. Nor do they take into account profit sharing, retirement costs, disability insurance, or future expansion. At the end of the day, this customer goes into the cash register and divvies up the money as he or she sees fit, regardless of your effort. There is the explicit understanding that your love of teeth drilling should be enough, and that the modest pay is

a bonus.

 

There are lots of stories we have all heard where a coach gives the greatest part of his working life to a team, to a community, and then is turned out on the street with nothing. In corporate America, people do get let go, and companies throw out their management. But many of those people leave with their 401 (k) s, their vested retirement packages, their severance pay in many corporate jobs it is very difficult to fire someone. In coaching, you would be surprised at how many coaches don’t have contracts – head coaches of big teams. My old team told me this was because contracts were meaningless, not worth the paper they were drafted on. The truth is that by not having a contract, the board can fire you at any time, on any day, without paying you a nickel. The only reason a board doesn’t offer you a contract is because it will save them a boatload of money when they fire you on the spot. This unstated threat is their primary means of controlling you.

 

In my twenties, I was at the mercy of the business members of our board that could justify any decision by saying it was STANDARD BUSINESS PROCEDURES. The other good one was: IRS REQUIRES THIS They used this to justify not giving contracts, to not having the coach on the board, to paying themselves for services rendered, and so on. The truth of the matter is that the best businesses do whatever is in their best interest, is most efficient, and is legal. This is called innovation.

 

Reasons to Own Your Own Swim Team

Here are the reasons to become a business owner who happens to be a swim coach:

1) Control your professional destiny

2) It’s fun and invigorating

3) All great things in history have come from one person persevering with a great idea.  Few great leaps in human progress have come from committees.

4) Work hard and give yourself a $20,000 raise this time next year

5) Establish more honest and direct communications with your customers. It has really cut down on mindless bleacher-bitching. If a parent is upset, the universal response is ‘have you talked to the coach yet? On a board team, they go around you to the board member that they gossip with, and then this board member will come to you and say, “Everyone thinks you need to do more breaststroke with the kids” in order to prevent you from knowing the source This is fundamentally unhealthy communication, and it will make a coach paranoid and unsure of himself. Parents will find that it is tar easier to go around you than to go to you.

6) Create wealth instead of just receive a paycheck. At the end of your career, have something that you can sell, lease, or pass on.

7) You can move much more quickly in response to competitors, or the market, or just a good idea. No more sitting around the board meeting discussing the same thing over and over.

  1. S) Pick who you want to have on your team. It is almost impossible to kick someone off your team with a board, no matter how much trouble or damage they cause. Likewise, you have to endlessly suffer with under performing staff, or bad morale, because this one coach may have a sponsor on the board.

9) Enjoy a tar better relationship with your staff. On a board team, it is every man for himself and your goal is to look better than the coach next to you, because you want to be more indispensable than the others. If the head coach gets the axe, don’t be standing to close to him or her. It is a real life game of survivor. The result of this is that coaches offer only limited support to one another— ‘I am not going to tell you any really good training tips because I need my kids to progress faster than yours’. On a board team, all coaches feel that they have a back channel to their favorite board member anyway because it gives them a firmer grasp on a slippery slope.  When you own the team, you have a vital interest in the well-being and success of your staff. You want them to know everything you know, and to have the fastest, happiest kids in the state. If a parent attacks a coach, you aren’t running the political formula in your head of who that parent knows on the board, and how much political capital you will spend protecting this guy.  There are drawbacks, and I will fully cover those shortly.

 

The only reason I can see to have a board is in order to get everything done, which you should know by now is way more than you alone can do. However, the dentist office doesn’t call up the customers and ask them to come volunteer to work at the front desk, or to clean the office at night. They don’t ask the customers to fund raise so that the dentist can buy a new drill. They don’t require you to sell advertising in the local paper for the dentist, or fine you if you don’t. How did we get to this crazy place? The way the world works is that you pay a professional a fee for a service. The customer wants to be treated right and receive good service. That’s all there is to it. Shakespeare said, “The first thing we should do is kill all the lawyers.” I would do the lawyers after the board members.

 

To get everything done you need a dedicated staff. In the beginning, this will be your coaches, because you won’t be able to afford anything else. This staff should understand that ‘work will set you free’. In other words, they are making a trade: working harder than the team across the street in order to be free of a board. As the team grows you can add more administrative staff. This tall, in addition to the coaching staff, we are fortunate to have a receptionist that does light office work and answers the phones, a swim lesson director who is also a jack of all trades around the pool, a pool tech (part time), an outside lawn service, a cleaning service, and an outside accountant In the early days, the coaches did everything, cleaning the bathrooms, vacuuming the pool, book keeping, answering the phones, running the pump room, painting the building, and so on. I was very blessed to have two great assistants in the early days of the business, Todd Chamelin and Ron Turner, who gave their all to get our team on solid footing. The low point of starting our team happened when we were setting up these rented construction trailers behind our bubble to use them as changing rooms and bathrooms. It was left to us to install the sewer holding tanks under the trailers, and as Murphy’s Law would have it there wasn’t enough clearance. So we had to dig out some dirt under the trailer and test-fit the tanks Every time we moved the tanks they would slosh around and muck would spill out of the top. Todd keep asking himself aloud, if this was a standard activity for swim coaches.

 

How to Free Yourself

How do you become this business owner if you currently work for a board? A growing number of coaches have simply gone to the board and asked that the team be turned over to them. If the team has struggled in recent years, sometimes the board will be grateful to do this. But suppose they say no. If there are people on the board that use their position as a natural power base in their own lives, and you can tell who these people are in about 30 seconds, they’ll say no, giving you all sorts of reasons why it is not possible, why it’s immoral, and why even the request is a threat to the community.

 

My coach friend in Augusta, Jeff Rout, started coaching about the same time I did, and he experienced some of the usual board outrages that we all do, including a few flew ones. He was repeatedly turned down for substantial raises by the treasurer because, she said, there just wasn’t enough money year after year. It turned out she was embezzling tens of thousands of dollars.  After twelve years of this, Jeff went to the board and proposed that they make him CEO. No, no, no. He tried again the next year, always better preparing his argument, and including board friendly charts and statistics, How about letting me buy the team? No. How about a raise?  No. Then they decreased his incentives and tried to cut his vacation time in halt implying that he had too good a deal. Jeff sums it up by saying that

the board wanted to remind him who was boss – “The Lord Giveth, and the Lord Taketh Away”.

 

At the end of the year cookout, Jeff passed out the usual awards and words of thanks. Then he announced that this would be his last day as the team’s coach, that he was starting his own team, and that he would welcome all interested parties, so he started Greater Augusta Swimming. The next day the board president offered him a 25% pay increase to stay. A month later he saw his old job, the one for which there were no more funds available, advertised at this dramatically increased rate.

 

The Downside

Let’s talk about the downside to this:

1) There is risk involved. If your business fails you will lose all your money. If you have financed this thing through lots of loans, maybe a home equity loan, you could even lose your house

2) You will have sleepless nights worrying about payroll and other upcoming expenses.

3) Ultimately everything stops at your desk

4) You will have to change the way you see yourself. You are no longer a coach who does a little paperwork. You are a businessman or woman who gets to coach.

5) If you are successful in the first five years, and many businesses aren’t, then you will reach a period of critical mass, in which your success has ruined the rest of your life, like the lady with the Pie business.

6) The learning curve of business is steep, and the time you put into learning tax code, accounting methods, employee management, is time that your competitors might be putting into learning flew training ideas. In other words, you may feel that your growth as a coach suffers in proportion to your growth as a businessperson. In the long run your family will be happier in your growth as a businessperson

7) If there’s not enough money to go around, it’s your paycheck that is late.

 

Prepare Yourself

Let’s say that you see the upside and the downside, and you think this is for you. Here’s my list of things to do right away to help ensure your odds for success:

 

1) Take a time management class right away Coaches are terrible at prioritizing their time and meeting deadlines. You will need superior management skills to survive. The Franklin Covey classes are great and we send our key staff members to it as soon as we hire them.  It is vital that you realize that you can’t get everything done in a day, so you have to pick the most important things.

 

2) Get advice from a business mentor. Early on, I had an accountant tell me to beware those people looking for discounts on their fees (and I was surprised how many there are). He said “If you tell them no, they might be mad, but stay in business and everyone else is happy. If you tell them yes, then they are happy, the floodgates are opened, and you go out of business, and everyone else is mad”. So at first I wouldn’t give anyone a discount, though you might consider a trade-out for fees if they had a skill you really needed, like tax expert.

 

3) Check references like crazy. You will live and die with your staff. A good staff is like having guardian angels sent down from above to Sheppard through the dark valley of your start-up. But if you end up supporting a bad guy, one who is secret tearing your business apart, then you’ll be in trouble. We had a guy, who was an adequate coach, and he was secretly setting up his own team. He covered his tracks pretty well. Employees that get caught stealing or otherwise engaged in damaging acts always have it worked out in their head…they didn’t get paid enough, they weren’t properly recognized for their hard work, or they should have gotten a bigger raise. These rationalizations allow them to believe that you have done this to yourself. Checking references allows you to be tipped off against guys like this. I didn’t check this guy’s references because I thought I was slyly scooping him from one of our big competitors. Never again will I make that mistake. The evidence of half-truths and made-up stories were all over this guy, but I looked the other way. If a person can’t come up with three sterling references after living this life for twenty-five or thirty five years, then something is terribly wrong. The best references are the personal ones, not job related, where you went one person beyond the listed reference.

 

4) Don’t spend your money trying to look more successful. There is a real temptation to go out and buy those goodies that you lusted for at your other job, or to do those things that give the aura of success, like a nice office desk and chair. In Texas, they call this “Big Hat No Cattle”. Your expenses will be double what you projected and your revenues will be half what you thought. The ‘investment that you had to have will leave you wishing you had to money instead later.

 

  1. S) Get a payroll company right away. There are software programs that can tell you what to withhold, and it is not that hard to figure out. The problem is that when you pay someone on the fifth, the FICA and Medicare withholdings are not due to the government until the 15th of the following month. What happens is that you begin to think that your payroll expense is only what you’re paying out on payday, and that you will worry about the withholdings later. When later comes, you may or may not have the money. The penalty for missing the withholdings deadline of the 15th is often 100%; the government takes this very seriously. The penalties have single-handedly put small businesses, otherwise profitable, out of businesses. The payroll companies charge very little. The fee for our company is between $75 to $120 monthly. For the peace of mind, and complete freedom from paperwork and penalties, this is must. We use Paychex.

 

6) You are now a business owner, not a swim coach. People that have a set of skills or a craft are technicians. Coaches are technicians. People that run businesses are Managers. The best managers are those that know the skills of the technician, but understand that their role is to figure out how to best apply the resources of the business to achieve the business’s goals. The business will not run itself and all businesses do essentially the same three things, which we will discuss in a minute. Those three things cannot be left to chance, and will not happen by themselves. The coach that thinks owning his swim team is about getting to coach all he wants and doing a little a little paperwork is not going to succeed in his own business. That person is having a seizure of start-up fever, and when it passes he’ll be in trouble.

 

7) You must have a passion for this. My passion is that I am trailblazing a new way for coaches to get more out of their lives. The passion will sustain you will things go wrong or you have several bad days in a row.

 

8) Become the best boss that anyone has ever worked for. Take classes, read books, talk to business people about the qualities that make for a good boss. Assistant coaches want a lot of freedom, and some resent any feedback, but it’s your butt on the line, and it’s your job to give navigational checkpoints if the ship is off course. You can not afford to look the other way when you know the ship is off course, but I have been amazed at the length that some coaches will go to tell you that everything is just fine, just to get you off. their back. I imagine them saying, “whew, he’s gone, now, how do I put this fire out?” If it’s not being done right, and this does not mean your way, it means as measured against the desired results, then you have to step in. The trick is to clearly discuss it and offer encouragement. Good efforts with bad results are acceptable, poor effort or sloppy work leading to bad results is not acceptable. Stick with the people that are really trying, and get rid of those that aren’t.

 

9) Lay out your vision: This is your one big chance to take a blank sheet of paper and start from scratch.

 

Getting Started

Let’s say that you are ready to go for it. How do you begin the process?

 

1) Decide on the Greatest Name of all time. Most people don’t give this a second thought. In advertising, a copywriter will spend 90% of his time dreaming up the headline. A great name is unforgettable. Jeff Rout’s team has the team abbreviation GAS, and their motto is that you can’t pass GAS in the pool.

 

2) Apply with the IRS for a Federal Employers Identification Number. This will be needed for everything else that follows.

 

3) Go to the Secretary of State’s Office and do a name search to be sure that no one has your great idea for a name. Register your company with the Secretary of State’s Office.

 

4) Meet with an attorney to get your company set up. There are number of different set-ups, each with various pros and cons, and different tax liabilities, we’re a sub –S corporation, and have recently formed a 501 (c)(3) non-profit corporation too. These things cost some money, so budget for this,

 

5) Set up your corporate checking account. You will need business checks to make some transactions happen, like water rental. Be sure that you don’t co-mingle funds between your personal account and business, Your spouse may think of the commercial account as some sort of slush-fund or scheme to buy things for the house but not spend your personal money. If you’re audited, this would be a bad thing.

 

6) Find and secure your water time.

 

7) Do NOT go out and build your dream pool. We were in business for four years already when we built our pool, and it was a huge stress. The staff and skills that it takes to operate a pool is a whole other layer of responsibility that you won’t need when you are starting out. A new pool will probably lose money until you get all the other programming going there – like swim lessons and fitness swim.  Who’s going to develop those? Your coaches already have their hands full. At the end of this talk I’ll show what we did to give you some ideas.

 

8) Understand that the first year will be very tough.  There are people sitting on the sidelines waiting to see if you’re going to make it, and only time will tell. If you are going against your old team, a number of people will be loudly hoping that you fail. The main reason people fail in business is that they either don’t understand the business they’re in or they run out of capital.

 

9) Don’t give your company away. Coaches are not the best business people, and there’s the temptation to give too much too soon. Resist this, and run your compensation ideas by your wife or significant other to see if they scream “What!!!” Most companies don’t offer profit sharing, stock options, or 401(k) until an employee has been there awhile, so just a nice reasonable paycheck is sufficient at the beginning. Remember that in America, the rewards go to those who take the chances. It is encouraging that your staff is working hard, and they should be properly rewarded for their sweat equity, but only those coaches that have financial equity at stake, like you, only those people are truly exposed. If you have a financial partner who is footing the bill, and you are providing all the work, remember the Golden Rule of Business: He who has the Gold Makes the Rules. The financial partner has all the leverage, and the other partner gets screwed nine times out of ten. So be very stingy about giving up any portion of the business.

 

10) About Money: Early on, I remember throwing up my hands on several occasions and saying ‘that’s it, we’re out of business’. I couldn’t believe the natural gas bill for example or the employer’s portion of FICA and Medicare. You may feel like it’s a conspiracy to bankrupt you. Watch your money like a hawk, and do not let anybody else handle it. This is absolutely not something that you can delegate. If you are a spender, get someone who can be the brakes for you. For me, that’s my wife. We have worked out a good system in that we try to beg borrow and steal office equipment and furniture, and she makes sure that if I have to buy it, that’s it really necessary.

 

Raising Money

Go to the bank. They’ll want security, which can be land, cars, or financial assets. I found that my performance at my old team (top fund raising team in country, no debt, a non-profit with a huge surplus, a waiting list) didn’t count when I went to the bank because it wasn’t my company A bank will want three years of successful history in this field, and as much collateral as they deem necessary. Most banks won’t tell you ‘no’, they just make the terms unbearable. Bigger banks use a formula and are more likely to turn you down. My banker tells me that my loan was a tough call, but the economy was humming along then and I had a slew of parents that believed enough in the project to back the project personally. That made him believe in me.

 

They will probably not give you an unsecured loan, unless you can pull a Jedi mind trick on the guy. Once you have gotten a loan and have paid it back, then you be able to get an unsecured loan.

 

Go the parents. Most will want to help, but only a small number will be able to do much. The key thing is that it has to make financial sense, i.e. they will need to make interest on their money. We raised $50,000 from our parents in a month’s time, over the Christmas holiday, to make our pool happen.

 

Stretch the Payments: Don’t be late on previously agreed payments, just ask if you can get more time on the payments to come from friendly suppliers – those people that will get more business when your business grows. When we built our pool and our office, we asked for an extra 90 days to pay the back portion, and it made all the difference. This is the same as having more revenue on the front, you just trading time for money. If you tell a vendor, ‘gee I really like your product, but the other guy will let me pay over 90 days”, almost all the vendors will match it. Just be sure not to burn someone, because then you make it harder for the next start-up business. I approached a swimsuit supplier about joining with us financially, but he had been burned by a similar deal the year before when a Georgia club failed in their financial obligations, leaving him holding the bag.

 

Use Credit Cards: Be careful because this can be steep hole to climb out of. When we were building the pool, we wanted it to be open before the Atlanta Games, so that we might have an Olympic swim team come stay with us prior to the Olympic Village opening up. There was very little time, so I ended up using my credit card to open lines of credit at several hardware stores so that the crew could get what they needed without having to track me down. My card soared over the limit, and with all the penalties and fines that were attached to being over the limit; this account was closed on me. The amount was almost $10,000, and every single item charged to it was legit, but it has taken us five years to pay it down. That was a very expensive source of money. You’ll see that 90% of small businesses use credit cards for funding.

 

Now That You’re Set Up…

All businesses do three things

1) They search for potential customers

2) They convert potential customers to members

3) They deliver on their promises to their members

 

A lot of coaches think that only number three is important, and they posture with self-important talk about how ‘if you’re doing the job, the swimmers will come’, or how it is really the role of swim lessons to bring potential swimmers in the door. The truth is that successful businesses do all three. The first item, searching for potential customers, is about profiling who your customer is and where they live. This includes what they read, watch, where they eat, and other such demographics. This can inexpensively be measured by doing an informal survey of people that represent your average swim family. Call up ten families and quiz them on the demographics that are important to your business. Make sure that you are asking the decision maker in the family. Be open to surprises, not just confirming what keen insight you must have.

 

Once you know where these profiles live, where they shop, eat, and have fun, find a way to get in front of them. It takes the average person seeing an ad seven times, for the message to stick. That’s a lot of advertising! The more specific you are, the more specifically you can target your money. The series of books by Joseph Levinson called Guerrilla Marketing is really valuable because he explains the why some businesses prosper, even though they have little money available for advertising. Guerrilla Marketing, says Levinson, “requires time, energy, and imagination- not necessarily money”

 

Conversion

The second point is helping them become members. In Guerrilla Marketing Excellence, Levinson writes…

People buy clean shiny hair, not shampoo

They buy the promises you make, so make them with care

They buy your credibility

They buy solutions to their problems

They buy success, security, love, and acceptance

They buy your guarantee, reputation, and your good name

They buy other people’s opinions of your business

They buy hope

They buy consistency

They buy the stature of the media in which you market

They buy selection

They buy acceptance of others of your team

They buy certainty. No one reserved seats at Kitty Hawk

They buy convenience

The buy respect for their own ideas and personality

They buy your identity

They buy clarity, if they don’t understand they walk

They buy style, especially if it fits with their style

They buy success, your success that can be given to their child.  They buy good taste

 

On this second point, ask yourself if you can sum up in one sentence what your vision of the team is all about. If you can, convey that to your staff. If you can’t, get to work on it. My old team has come up with a very good slogan, “Training for Life”, which is perfect for what we do.

 

Marketing is the sum of what you do to promote your business. It is not enough to be a good swim coach and a nice person. You have to be able to clearly define your prime benefit to your customer, along with your uniqueness.

 

What are your competitive advantages? Compared to soccer? Compared to other swim teams? Areas of competitive advantage are coach to swimmer ratio, retention rate, staff experience, water time and facility, price, number of swimmers in a lane, and so on.

 

To highlight why a potential customer should become a member of your team you should find the inherent drama within your service. Olympic TV ads that choke you up are a good example. A story that touches people and illustrates the goodness of your service will convince people to trust you with their child.

 

Deliver on Your Promises.

Look around you for companies that do a good job when you buy from them.

Mindspring:

An early internet service provider that was bought out by Earthlink. The have a creed that all employees are expected to take to heart, and that belief system made it a pleasure to call up Tech support and deal with their people. Here’s their Creed, I hope to develop something like this for Chattahoochee Gold (read Charles Brewer’s Mantra)

Saturn:

My wife bought a car from Saturn three years ago, and that was some experience, a super fun thing to do. Their cars are okay, nothing remarkable, but the way they treat their customers is outstanding.

 

On the third point, delivering on the promises, you might think that the secret is about training or technique, but it so much more. Where coaches and coach-run teams go wrong is often on the dry end of point three, all the support items that have to get done, and by whom. It is important that the owner put a position chart (organizational chart) together, and gets everybody on there. The positions should be labeled by job title, not by person (people come and go but the team remains). List on there who reports to whom. Then on a separate sheet attach the list of duties to each position. Again avoid the temptation to create the position around a particular person. What you’re really doing over time with this process is creating a manual on how to run the business, the how-to book on everything you do. This book will take years to write, and takes input from everyone. Some companies have an entire position dedicated to just this pursuit. Without this manual, whenever someone leaves all the wisdom of that position is gone, and the next person starts from scratch, maybe getting a little guidance from here and there. On a board team, this is a given, because remember ‘we don’t want the new guy to show me up, and if he stumbles a bit early on, then I look just that much better’. This is the coach-owned teams secret weapon. We have strength that is greater than the sum of our parts.

 

Have Faith

It will really be a struggle early on, because you won’t have the money to have everything in place, to have all the positions filled. It has often felt like I was in shackles, and could only move an inch and a half a day, but knew that I had twelve miles to go, We would all have to do all the jobs, and make a little more money, but then there was never enough to make it the way we wanted. Walt Disney said that before they opened Disneyland, they had run out of money for landscaping, so he had his assistant go out and put Latin names in front of the weeds. Just keep plugging away at it, and keep inching towards the clear vision you’re making. People will be willing to overlook a good bit when you have shared your vision with them.

 

There will be people that will be inspired by you, and there will be people to hate what you’re doing. Let me give you an example… In our second year, after reviewing again and again the monthly expenses, it seemed that we could maybe save money on travel expenses, so we bought an old RV, painted it black and put our team logo on it. We drove this to meets and sometimes slept in it. My wife would come in the day before we left town for a meet, and ask the coaches for their grocery wish list, which was always the same. She would load up the cooler with steaks, potato salad, baked beans, pop-tarts, instant oatmeal, etc, and most of the time beer would appear in the cooler too. We were saving a boatload of money using that RV, which we called the mothership. But other teams hated it. This move allowed us to save about $9000 after paying for the RV, over a two and a half year time span. Shortly after we got the mothership we came to the pool, and every window on it had been smashed out (five windows in all).  Someone really didn’t like that idea.

 

The first time a person joked about me making money at Chattahoochee Gold, it offended of me because my sense that coaching was a calling, that it took a person who wasn’t interested in money to be a coach, in effect an oath of poverty. Let’s be clear – ft is time that coaches stopped being their own worse enemy when it comes to money. We give ourselves away – plain and simple. We undervalue ourselves, because we have been reminded by boards over and over that we can be replaced tomorrow.

 

You can do well by doing good.

 

You are dealing with the most important thing in a parent’s life. My father asked me if I felt vulnerable with the economy turning down since he assumed I was in recreation. I told him that we have never had a child drop for economic reasons. If a parent loses his/her job, they may ask us float them a little time on the payment, but parents will fight to do everything they can to prevent a financial hardship from affecting their children. So we’re not in recreation but rather childhood development, which in certain fields is one of the most lucrative areas of all.

 

Our office assistant recently drove her first born to college, and she was struggling with it. Because of her I spotted an article in the newspaper about bringing your first child to college. The writer recalled that on his way home he passed the playground near their house, the same one that his son, as a little boy, had begged his father to take him to. What, the writer wondered, had been so important that he had said no all those many times. The truth is nothing. My job is to remind parents of this fundamental truth – that these are the good ol’ days. There is nothing more important than the time and money that they will spend on their child.

 

In her book about Financial Freedom, Investment writer Suzy Orman tells about something that she noticed as a portfolio manager at Merrill Lynch. Some investors had the Kiss Of Death, and some were charmed The Kiss of Death investors would put their money into a stock, and it would begin to go down. No matter how she tried to steer their account. She began to analyze these accounts in depth to see what separated these folks from the lucky ones.  What she found was astounding, and speaks volumes about our outlook on what we think we deserve in this life. The charmed investors had one significant difference. They gave. Their percent of donations to charities and the needy was at a much higher proportion then the doomed investors She believes that those who practiced goodwill and generosity were open to receiving all they were meant to have. In other words, what goes around comes around. The doomed investor held on to their money so tightly that their fists were clinched closed. The author says this is like holding your hand under a faucet, but instead of water coming out, money comes out. With a closed fist, you can try to drink from this faucet all day, but you’ll remain thirsty with an open hand, your thirst will be quenched.

 

Coaches are some of the most generous people I know. It is completely noble to commit one’s life to showing children how great they can be. Coaches give the best years of their lives to this pursuit. But many are not open to receiving all that they are meant to have. The generosity you show to the community in your blood, sweat, and tears can come back to you, if you are open to it, and believe that you are worth it. That’s what it really comes down to… most of us don’t think that your work should earn you $100,000 a year because we’re just swim coaches. I say that you are one of the most valuable members in the community.

 

A board will not want to pay a swim coach more than they personally make. Going into business for yourself is the key. Many of you may feel that you like your board, and they would never do anything to harm your career. Remember that the turnover rate in year round swimming is 50%. In a couple of years, you could have essentially an entirely different parents group than you have today. There’s also the observation that parents change once they are on the board and hold your future in their hands. Many coaches have encountered a coup attempt, and often it takes place at the 7 or 8 year mark, and if it subsides, they can hang on a little longer, but this is an exhausting, unsatisfying, and ultimately humiliating existence. If you work for a board, and you are not an Olympic caliber coach yet, sooner or later your job will be at risk.

 

 

Here’s another simple truth: Your business is worthless if it is built around you. No one is going to want to buy your business if it is dependent on you. In real life terms that means it has to have independent structures that can operate without you. I am not talking about coaches on the deck. I mean procedures that happen whether you are there are not, position descriptions so that people can be trained and up to speed quickly, This is a revolutionary way of looking at coaching, because it is the flip-flop of the position you’re in with a board-run team. There the idea is to make yourself indispensable. When you own a business, the point is, among other things, to build equity, and then translate that into liquidity. Someone looking to buy a business wants to see Systems in place, and operational manuals telling them how to run the business. There are no operational manuals, that I know of that tell you how to run a sub-s corporation swim team.

Just remember that you are running a business When I called up Hy-Tek last week, I referred to Chattahoochee Gold as our business’, and the Hy-Tek guy stopped me and said ‘Are you a business or a swim team?” It’s a small comment but it tells you a lot about what you’re up against as we seek to professionalize our sport. This is the future, and for some it will seem overwhelming. When I started Chattahoochee Gold, I didn’t know whether I could pull it off, but my hurt and anger over how I had been treated, and how I had nothing to show for all my hard work, fueled my drive to succeed. I hope that you will find a way to join me in re-creating the position of swim coach.

 

Thank you.

 

 

 

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Listening Skills for Coaches by Greg Malszecki (2001)

I want to tell you what a privilege it is to be here I am surprise actually at the large number of people who turned out for this session because what’s often looked at is the soft skills draw the less number of people who feel they need them in order to be successful.  As you might know, the things that are familiar but often neglected can become significant factors in your success in helping others be successful.  Most people forget the obvious….

 

I was telling Guy Edson this morning that having over 30 years of university teaching, celebrated appearances, workshops and conferences that I have been, I estimate that I have probably talked to about 1 million people on this topic.  Of that million, I would say that less than 1 percent of 1 percent has never taken the objective to becoming a better listener.  I am not going to ask you all this now, I am hoping that at the end of the hour, if I have been convincing to you at all, you will be among the 99.99 percent of 6 million people on the planet.  To do something you can practice everyday, all day long.  Watch the affect on other people as you get the results you are looking for and the relationship you want while fulfilling ……

 

I wanted to start off with a little story about David Hemery who wrote the book “Sporting Excellence”.  He was the 1968 Gold medal champion in Mexico City Olympics for he high hurtle from the UK and he tells a funny story about himself because he was in a field in the finally heap in which everyone else there was bigger, stronger, faster, and more experienced.  In fact, in all the meets that he ran, his times were the slowest out of everybody else on the field but yet he ended up winning the Gold Medal and a World record time.  How many times have you been surprised to see someone who looks like an underachiever or who has obvious deficiency or inadequate training go on to be the champion while those people who were technically superb, physically at their peek condition and trained with an excessive intensity of coaching expertise can not perform at the moment of the contest.  Now this is fairly normal isn’t it, I’ve seen this upsets all the time.  What makes the difference or what are the things that make the difference?  It is whether or not the coach is bringing out the best in the athlete at the moment that it really counts and how clearly and accurately the coach and athlete understand each other, each other’s goals, and how accurately they can agree on the way to achieve their goal successfully.

 

Your in a business where you are bringing out the best in other people and one of the ways you can do that is by modeling being the best to yourself.  You would not be here if you were not already expert listeners because that is the best way to find out the information you need, the best information we have comes wrapped up in people.  What I would like to do is offer you a step to a higher level of unique listening.  With becoming a champion listener in your own life time understanding clearly what you need to do in order to accomplish that, what the benefits are going to be, what the obstacles are that will challenge you and how you can go ahead and apply this in every facet of both your personal and your professional life so there is a greater harmony there rather than tension and conflict between your work life and your personal life.

 

Okay, let’s see what I have to say…How many people here has ever switched clubs, teams, coaches, jobs, organizations or partners because they felt they were not listened to?  Raise your hand if you have ever done that.  If you look around the room you will see that about 2/3 of the people can recall having made a life decision based on a simple fact that they were not listened to.  Now if you take a look it at what we understand to be communication.  Communication means setting up the best atmosphere for people to be able to exchange ideas and understand each other while they develop the essential organizational goal and accomplishes a skilled performance.  It is a complete process of learning to go and assert yourself and to receive the information that other people have to share with you.

 

Now John Williams said that in the United States, I am originally from the US, I was born in Detroit, lived in California and Northern Kentucky and visited almost all the states and my relatives are scattered all over including Alaska so I say this without prejudice.  John Williams said that in the United States talking is a competitive exercise in which the first person that draws a breath becomes the loser and therefore becomes the listener.  Why is it?  Because we are, a result-oriented civilization and we think of speaking as active and listening as passive.  But yet, the Harvard Business School did a study of the CEO’s of top fortunes 200 companies and guess what they found out?  80% of their time was spent listening to people, 15% of their time was spent speaking to people, and the remainder of the time was reading or writing.  So to be successful, in any organization, the prime organizationally tool is your ability to listen.  The most important person in any organization, as you must know, is the person that everybody goes to when something happens.  They’re going to talk to that person because that person knows everything.  The title, the position, the authority does not necessarily mean that the person who holds those titles, positions and authority can exercise them without the guidance of the person that everyone goes and talks to.  Hopefully, at the end of this session you will want to be that person.

 

Bad communication forces us to deal in absolutes; yes/no, on/off, go or no go.  At the heart of every catastrophe is the failure of somebody to listen to the information that was generally available.  How many times have you been involved in an organizationally crisis or a team split or a personal feud where people have stopped listening to each other and could have resolved their differences through applying themselves using one simple technique of listening to each other.  A message that is not received is no message at all.  False assumptions about listening, well communication is good; no, about 1 out of 4 people is actually listening to you.  We often assume that if somebody says something important they are going to repeat it.  Most of us are in for ten seconds out of every minute of conversation where someone else is speaking and then we’re out for fifty.  In for ten and out for fifty, sometimes we forget to come back then we have to try and play catch-up.  Why is that?  Let’s talk about why this is so.  We can digest between 450 and 850 words a minute.  You can process that many words a minute however; speakers can only speak normally between 125 and 150 words per minute.  What do we do with the differential?  We’re bored, we’re thinking about other things, we are preparing and rehearsing what we are going to say, we fill up the time with daydreaming or planning things.  Everybody in here can tell when he or she is talking to somebody on the phone if that person is fully listening or not.  How do you know that?  Because you know, people cannot do two things at one time.

 

You’re worth 100% to somebody else’s attention and because we are an exchange culture, if you give the gift of your 100% attention to somebody they will response in talk.  If they feel they’re being pushed away, they’re going to push back and it makes everything harder, more difficult, or extensive and less accurate.  You can’t assume that people share the same meaning.  The top five hundred words that people use everyday have more than 15,000 meanings.  If I say self-discipline to you, we may be in agreement because we all have a perspective of having coached.  However, you athlete may have a very different understanding, each may play a part in it.  I would never even have thought in my coaches’ presence of saying anything back to him when the coached told me to do something.  Now, instead of saying how high, athletes are saying how come.  It is a very different phenomenon that’s going on.  Also, the fact that involvement in the sport has been extended far beyond what it was in earlier years.  Back than you were involved for a lot longer time at more intense levels than at higher levels, before expert coaching.  You can assume that the quality of communication is carried on without friction that when you are talking to someone, they are actually listening to you, they may only be hearing.  This is one of the chief myths of the way we raise our kids we assume that hearing is listening.  I will give you an example, when a first grader goes to school; they listen to 90% of what the teacher says.  By grade two, they only hear 80%.  By grade eight, they only listen to 47%.  By grade twelve it’s 28% or less and then they come and see me at the university where the definition of university professors is someone who talks and other people sleep.  So you can see that there is a decline in the ability to concentrate on what’s being said because we have inadequate listening modeled for us in a society where people are often ordered to pay attention and as soon as they are ordered to pay attention they begin to resist that and they’re listening declines.

 

Secondly, I said the differential between speaking speed and listening speed is we are not taught to listen.  The third thing is that in your waking day everybody in this room gets 168 hours to live on.  80% of your waking day is 1/3 of that week, work week or living week, is spent in sleep, the other 2/3 is your waken hours of those waking hours 80% is spent in communication with other people or with yourself.  45% of that time is spent listening, 32% of that time is spent speaking and then about 14% of that time is spent reading and the rest of that time is spent writing.  How do we educate our kids?  The first thing that we do is to teach kids to speak after they learn how to swim and walk.

 

In the school system, we spent the most amount of time with grade 1 to grade 12 learning to write and read, reading drops off at grades 3 or 4.  At what point in our school system outside of language or music programs are people actually taught to listen.  Although the whole system is set up on the assumption that people are listening because we assume that hearing is listening.  I have teenage kids and I can tell you the difference between hearing and listening.  I can say you are not listening to me and they can tell me exactly what it is that I said but I know that they are still not listening to me.  Is this common with your athletes?  I’m sure, you know that they can repeat back what you said but how many times have you seen their eyes shifting around in a team meeting or waiting for you to finish so they can begin their practice or leave the locker room.  That is the difference between listening and hearing.

 

When we think about people that we know who are great listeners, they have a tremendous amount of influence on us.  I asked a class of 200 people what they thought was the most important factor in life decisions that they had made.  Of the 200, 80% said it was a single conversation with a single person face to face with them that took less than an hour.  How many times have you been a crucial part because you took the time out to listen to one of your athletes, peers, colleagues, co-worker or friend by just taking the time out to reflect back to them what they were thinking over a situation that they were in made all the difference in the world to them.  When they did a study in 1983 at Montana State for the Track & Field Team, they asked them what factors they felt were most important in the coaching staff, the ability to listen was ranked as number one of the top five factors.  Now if you did a survey among your own athletes, what do you think the response would be if they saw you as the person that they can go and talk to and that you will always be able to hear what they had to say.  What difference would that make in the quality of your work together and your ability to bring out the best in them?

 

How mush does listening figure in terms of our life direction, one of the things that we know is that this differential between hearing and listening has confused us because we think that we are informing people when we’re speaking and we are hoping that they are getting most of it.  How much do people actually get?  The average listener takes in usually less than 20% if what is said by the end of the conversation.  15% is fairly common; among this group I would say about 30% would probably be the average because you are very successful at what you do and you work closely at both the individual at the group level and in large complex organizations so you have to have a few listening skills.

 

In our society, anybody who can remember and can take in 40% of what is said in a single conversation is considered an extraordinary individual almost psychic, why?  Because listening is related to memory, attention, and positive relationships and to performance results, therefore, people who listen are going to be more success.

 

Let me show you a little bit about how it works, I thought that late in the day, for us swim coaches usually about 8:00 in the morning is about the middle of the day and late would be around noon time, so I figured 3-4 that’s a great slot for everybody’s metabolisms to slide right down to the bottom of the cycle.  I thought what I would do is to ask you to participate in a little exercise called the triad exercise; I wanted to just remind you of what it is that I am talking about directly.  I would like you to just kind of get together with two other people in groups of three and I would like one person to volunteer to be the speaker, one person to be the listener, and one person to be the observer.  So, if you can just do that now then I will give you instructions as soon as you are in groups of three.  I know that you did not feel like moving today but this is, believe me, you’ll understand what I am talking about when we have a vivid demonstration.

 

Okay, are we ready to go?  Have you decided who are speakers, listeners, and observers?  What I would like you to do is have the speaker speak for two minutes about situation that they have been in where listening was the crucial factor in either a success of failure.  I would like the listener for the first minute, and I will give you a signal, I want you to be an awful listener, just let that speaker know that you can careless without anything truly offensive, you can careless about what they have to say.  When I give the signal at the end of one minute, I would like you to switch to being an excellent listener and try to focus in on what they were saying, and the observers will just watch the whole set go on and watch both speaker and listener and then we will talk a little bit about it at the end of the exercise.  Okay, are you game for this?

 

We’re all in positions where we’re usually in control and we’re use to having people pay attention when we are trying to speak so it is double frustrating to be in a situation, even though it is only an exercise okay this is all pretend, but the fact is, that was a very long minute, I can tell that people were really struggling you could feel the waves of frustration coming out and also people were on the verge of loosing their tempers and saying something because the response is going to be that frustration interrupting what you are trying to say to get someone to pay attention to you even if it takes an intense reaction.   I have to say to all those who were listeners, you did a great job at being awful listeners you did need and training to schooling but on the other hand when you switched you also made good listeners.

 

When they did a study on couples who were happily married and those who were on the verge of a break-up they could find no social economic factors, no personal trait consolations, no physiological profiles that could determine which couples would be happy and which weren’t.  They did find something that has not been study that much but maybe a significant element of it in the Gayse Behavior arena which was that couples that were happy looked at each other when they were individually both speaking and listening and couple who were on the verge of a break-up, the partner who was speaking would look at their partner when they were speaking but they would look away when they were suppose to be listening.  How many observers saw people looking away as a way of being a bad listener?  If you break eye contact what happens?  They did a study at Ohio State University and they found that people would tell you half as many lies in any given unit of time if you were looking them in the eye.  If they do not have constant eye contact, they feel like they can get away with a lot.

 

I am going to talk a little bit about the gender gap because women are trained in techniques of communication because of their position in the overall society.  It is much more important to them to be understood and men are trained to ignore certain things so that guys do not take certain things personally if you don’t look at them and your yelling at them they just feel that that’s the way it is that’s the relationship.  It has more to do with the sub-cultures that we are raised in which is often raised antagonistically.  When they did a study of voices of nine year olds people had no trouble separating which were, the male voices and which were the female voices, with one exception, girls who identified themselves as tomboys could not identify as either male or female.  The second thing is the association of women executives in the United States did a survey of all of its members and found out that 100% of them considered themselves tomboys as children.

 

Let’s talk about what it was like to be a speaker when you were talking to the bad listeners?  You are not getting anything back from that person.  You are trying to strategize and you’ve forgotten what your message is now.  Now it has become a contest about whether you can get that person attention or not because they are not giving it to you, they are withholding it.  Suddenly your message, and as important as it might be for both of you, is gone because now you are strategizing around how am I going to get this person to pay attention to me.  Now you see that out of a million I may have talked to less than 1% of 1% has ever adapted becoming a better listener as one of their five life goals, because most of us who are not that good at it do not recognize it because the norm of the society we live in is its not noticeable if we’re not that good.  Most people have no training in that skill, we think that people who are listeners are gifted or special in some way.  We do not think of them as people with practice, who have trained themselves, who have been self-disciplined to be at their best, when they’re in a conversation with someone else.

 

Let me tell you this ladies and gentlemen, what is so valuable about what I have to offer to you today is that you yourselves are the key to raising the level of communication in your team, families and in your organization because you can model for others what you want to have in terms of your own ability to relate.  You can set the tone.  Remember what I said about being an exchange culture, we respond in time.  If you give somebody 100% of your attention first, they will try to match you and reciprocate.  If your idea of going into a team meeting that you are going to tell your team what they really need to know before you know what they really want to say to you then you have put yourself in a situation where you are going to get some push back.  The push-pushback phenomenon.  It is going to be a lot harder for you, now you will have erosion of your message, you will be distracted from what you are trying to communicate, you are going to loose the team unity that you can develop by offering first to hear what they have to say while you give them 100% of your attention and then respond to it with what your concerns are.  That does not mean having the same views, it means have the sense of respect that you can offer first and then respond.

 

We do not see ourselves as needing rehabilitation, I guess my message to you is that when you were about five years old you were run over by the deafness truck and you have to spend the rest of your life in rehab to try and recover some of your original capacity to listen.  Look at little kids before they start school and they hear everything.  It doesn’t matter whether they understand it, they hear it; on the other hand you can have someone stand almost nose to nose with you while you are trying to tell them the most important thing you can say to help them achieve their best performance of their life and then after it is over know that they did not hear a word that you said.

 

I wish there was a formula, that if you do as I say this will be the result.  Remember if you have every tried to change a bad habit of your own, by using that as an index you realize how hard it is to change human behavior.  People are trained to be bad listeners for an entire lifetime.  If I asked you do to this for me, for the rest of the conference I want you to take all your notes, sign all your checks and bills, and make you r telephone calls with your non-dominate hand, I do not think that ninety percent of the people would get to the end of the conference doing that.  Why?  Because it is a lot of work to change those habits that have become so familiar to you.  You can start on a one to one basis and you can build the team ethos around listening if you can take the time.  One of the things that you will find about kids is that they are so use to not being listened to by adults that they have to repeat themselves five to ten times to get a single idea across to an adult.  Ask my kids, they are teenagers now, but I am sure that they can still remember when I would just be five more minutes talking to a friend of mine to go in the car and then they would just leave by themselves because they are use to being ignored because we are not giving them the respect of being listened.  Listening to children is something that grandparents offer not parents.   We’re busy taking care of the details of kid’s lives.  I will try to get to that.

 

I have about 20 minutes left to try and get some very sophisticated ideas across to you about something that you have done all your life not as well as you could.  Our whole society is organized around the fact that most people are crummy listeners.  You tell me, haven’t you seen a relationship between a coach and an athlete that was a very positive one where the coach actually listened to what the athlete said or just said a couple of things to that athlete and knew what that athlete was all about.  Where another coach would not have done that and bring out a totally different performance.  Haven’t athletes been one type of athlete in one club and another type of athlete in another club?  At one time, I started writing a paper about great athletes who had been cut.  Remember Michael Jordan got cut from his grade nine basketball team because he was considered to be too awkward and clumsy so he was going to quit the game but he decided he was going to get up 1 hour earlier everyday for a year and practice basketball and then the next year recognized his talent.  Wayne Gretsky was cut because he was considered too small when he was a twelve year old from the kid’s hockey team because if not considered six feet tall they wouldn’t be a good player.  If you look at his numbers and compare them with anyone else in the NHL, it will be ions before someone can match them.

 

Think about this, this is a very powerful tool because it doesn’t require authority, it doesn’t require power it requires influence based on rapport.  You can motive people by bringing the best out in them by offering something that they find so rarely in this society.  Who are your friends, aren’t your friends’ people you can talk to?  How many people do you know have problems with their relatives because they can’t talk to them?  Biological families can be a hassle, look at Christmas and Thanksgiving.  Consider what happens, other people you have to get together with on celebratory holidays that you don’t feel like spending time with because you can’t talk to them.  What about your friends, you can hardly wait to tell your friends when something happens to you good or bad because you can tell them anything.  People who listen to us are valuable to us.

 

If I, as an athlete, had a coach who told me that I shouldn’t smoke because it was bad for my win while I was in training and stood under a no smoking sign chain smoking what message is that?  How many times have you been in team meeting where the coach talked the entire time and then released the team without hearing one single thing from the team members?  How many times did you call the meeting where you said to your staff or athletes have you got anything to say to me before I talk about the situation?  How many times have you yourself strategized around listening first before you had something to say?  You can that it is damaging, it is a lot of work, and you are guaranteed less than optimal results, it is less fulfilling for us.  One of the reasons why I think John Leonard wanted me to be here today is because the sport across the board are experiencing a crisis particularly among younger coaches who find that they are getting less fulfillment and satisfaction out of the job because they find that the frustration level is much higher than the satisfaction level.  Part of that is the function about the way we do things and the way we mentor those who are coming in to this field.  It is very difficult to put up with something that does not give you a lot of joy and when you find that some relationships and results that you have been looking for are less than what you’d expect you start looking elsewhere for that satisfaction.

 

Listening can change that, you don’t have to believe me, test it yourself.  I will give you a program at the end of the hour.  If you can try it for three weeks and tell me if people are responding to you differently, not that your not excellent listeners because you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t.  Test it and write to me, although I offer this support, I would have to say that out of the thousands of people that I have talked to at conferences, I have gotten less than 100 letters back on over twenty years.  Let me just give you a few more ideas and then maybe some of the questions you have will be answered.

 

One of the things we think is that we do not recognize that we do not learn anything new when we are talking, we learn more when we are listening.  You may think you know an athlete from observing them from the deck, but until that person actually tells you what they are about, why they did this, how they were thinking about it before the competition started, why they came and joined your club, you don’t really know.  You may have a good guess, but you don’t actually know.  You need to hear that and if you don’t ask you won’t hear.

 

What about that differential time?  That is a big differential.  No matter how fast I talk, you guys are going four to eight times faster in your mind.  What are people doing with that differential?  Often sidetracked, doing other kinds of things.  It’s a Friday night I’m sure your not thinking about what Greg Malszecki is going to be doing in the next ten minutes.  The thing is if you are wondering where I am coming from, what is my message to you, how does this apply to you, what are the benefits to you?  Have you ever done this in any planned or programmed way?  You have all made out schedules of training for athletes, have you ever thought about giving yourself a schedule of training to improve your ability to listen to other people?  Probably not and that I think, is part of the problem.  It has never been a goal for most of us and has never been a goal for most in the organization and yet how many times have we had time spent wasted in meetings.  The definition of a meeting is a dead end street down in which great ideas are lured and then strangled but yet it takes forever to suffocate that great idea.  Why?  Because most people are not listening, while other people are listening they are preparing their notes.  How many times have you watched people go through the agenda and while someone is giving the report there not actually there, they’re someplace else, they could be in the pool, at home, at the country club.  They could be thinking about their program or the problem that just came up in the club.  If they were there, it would take a lot less time, less paperwork you’d have to have a lot less back up.  The trust level would be a lot higher.  The benefits of unity would be a lot bigger.  People would see themselves as collaborators working together to try and find a solution.  There is no such thing as a private decision in a club or organizational setting.  Every decision affects everyone else and the more information you have the more accurate is the perception of what other people’s goals are.  The more you understand where someone is actually coming from and what their strengths and talents might be if they are willing to work with you the more successful you are going to be.

 

There are four layers of listening; most of us do not go beyond one or two.  The bottom layer is hearing.  You hear the word, take in what you can and remember what I said, the national average at the end of a conversation people remember about 20% of what has just been said.  Within 8 to 12 hours that decays by another 50%.  How many times have you said to someone “Don’t you remember me telling you that” and his or her response is “You never told me”.  I have teenagers; I hear this all the time but I have impaired hearing along with the 20 million Americans who have impaired hearing.

 

The next layer is listening for information, that is what a lot of us do and what men are actually trained to do.  Men listen to the information for the critical amount that they need to know and then there off, they don’t need the rest, its all garbage.  Meetings, have you ever noticed where people are just there for a little bit and then they have to get stuck for the rest.

 

Next is critical analysis where you are actually thinking through the issues and you are trying to stay with the flow of conversation and follow the ideas.  The highest form, the one which is the most rewarding, the one that we all need in our personal relationships and that the most successful coaches and athletes have found in their relationship is a kind of empathic rapport where people are sharing their feelings and their understanding and the coach can identify with where that athlete is at.  They can actually see and feel things from that athlete’s point of view.  That doesn’t mean that they approve of them, doesn’t mean that they accept them, and it doesn’t mean that they don’t have a different view.  It means that they have been empathic enough to actually stand in that athletes shoes and understand about how they feel about what they are doing.  Now, if you could do that with each one of your athletes, including the younger kids, how much more successful would all of your instructions and practices be because you would not have to pry things out to see what the response would be.  They could tell you or show you.  You have to listen first in order to be able to reach that level of empathy.  The benefits are immense.

 

First of all, you are showing basic respect for people, you are reducing barriers and confusion.  You are building trust, you want to build team unity, try listening instead of speaking.  You can give them all the inspirational models that you want, people can memorize them, they can have them tattooed on their arm, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to live by them.  If they feel that you have extended yourself to understanding them and have gone the distance first and have taken that initiative, they will respond by wanting to be more like you because you have listened to them they will listen to you.  Remember what I said, it is an exchange culture.  Try this, it is not the way we normally go, it is not the way most people normally go but when you look at people who are successful, and yes of course there are some coaches who believe if you keep people in high negative energy you are going to get the highest results but that is very difficult to maintain.  You will need two special kinds of extreme personalities in order to sustain that.

 

For most of us, champions are people who deliver consistent results, superior results, consistently, and how do they do that?  By taking pressure off themselves, by clarifying and focusing on their goals, by concentrating on a shared objective and so when the coach is on the deck and the athlete is in the pool, the athlete is carrying out the planned program they have both trained for in a peek performance that is their optimal performance at that moment, trying to achieve the goals that they both agreed on.  That kind of rapport I very fulfilling for coaches who deserve to have that but the great thing amount this skill that I am offering to remind you of it that this is a general prime communication skill that is used outside of your professional life as well.  It will make you successful in your personal life, because every time you engage in a conversation with somebody you can practice this skill if you have the intention to focus, to develop an awareness, to give your attention and to listen, follow and reflect back to meanings that you understand where who ever you are responding to knows where you are coming from.

 

The essential quality of effective leaders is marked by their ability to perceive, digest, simulate, and then act upon the best quality they see.  Eighty percent of people who fail in a leadership position fail not because the lack technical knowledge, not because they have an inability to work hard and not because there is not fire in the belly, they fail because they cannot relate well to people.  The prime comparative in relating well with people is being able to listen to them.  Why is this hard for us?  Because we get derailed so easily that we can see from our little triad exercise, how expert we are at knowing how to do it well, not do it well, and how much work it is.  When the US government used to test Morse code, sending and receiving, they didn’t test the sending part they only tested the receiving part because it was a lot of work.

 

What are the issues that interfere with our listening; there are external disturbances such as the TV on, people making noise, cars back firing, kids are running around.  Pronunciation such as someone’s accent, someone coming from a different part of the country than you and you find it hard to listen to him or her.  Impaired hearing, ethnic speech, internal distortion, stereotyping, gender gaps.  Do you know that when you look at interruptions, what’s that line, “don’t try to talk while I am interruption you”, when you look at patterns of interruptions you will find that the number of times that the males interrupt a female speaking and the number of times the female interrupts the male speaking are almost an inverse proportion because we are trained in different ways around communication skills.  If you have a coed team or if you are coaching just males or females, communication patterns are going to differ substantially almost antagonistically, are you aware of that?  The experience gap, not only is there parent/child, teacher/student, coach/athlete but also old coach/young coach.  A young coach comes on to the deck and the older coaches decided that they don’t know anything.  That athlete, now a coach knows more about your coaching style then you know about it.  Because they’ve been observing you, listening to you, and finding out about you all the time that you have been coaching.  That filters out our ability to listen to other people that we think do not have as much experience as us.  Our personal concerns and past get in the way, “oh yeah that happened to me once, I know what is going to happen”.  Right away you cut the other person off while they’re trying to communicate something to you.  It maybe a completely different scenario but it reminds you of something that had happened to you so you stop listening because you have already made up your mind to where it is going.

 

The last thing is a block, which are strong feelings or strategies that destroy our listening; they create a kind of deafness.  This is often around the things that are most harmful in relationships; criticizing, name-calling, arguments, put downs, reassuring somebody in a superficial way, trying to solve their problem for them, all the kinds of things that coaches are use to doing a hundred different things all in one day, and being go getters often take on more responsibility for other people and even responsibility for their own goal.  That person develops a sabotage strategy because they don’t have the intention of reaching the same goal that you have assigned to them.  They try to mark out a space for themselves, why, because had you listened to them you could actually hear that.  Males are successful 28 out of 29 times of interrupting.  Women tried 47 times in a recent study, some as long as five minutes could only manage 362 more success at being able to interrupt males.  Women and children most frequently start a conversation with a question calling for a go ahead answer.  Men often talk far longer on the floor than women and when women talk as long as men, they are perceived as talkative women.  These kinds of things are problems for us because then affect the way we relate to other people and because we often misjudge the situation based, on the how we’ve been trained.

 

Someone who is ready you have to tend to people, you have to focus yourself on being silent and not doing anything other than trying to pay close attention to the meaning, “What is this person saying to me”.  Secondly, you have to reflect back the meanings that you’re getting, because we don’t all mean the same things by the things that we say.  You have to empathize with that person, not that you have to agree with them but you have to show them that you can identify as closely as possible what their situation is from their point of view.  The last thing, you have to rephrase what they have said and summarize it to check to see if you got the meaning or if there is anything else they would like to add or correct, because we are all human, we make mistakes and we get inadequate understandings.  What will this do for you if you do it?  It will help you identify messes, handle conflicts, save time in errors, decrease your paperwork, help you have more effective telephoning and meetings, better discussions.  It will build the team in a way that you can probably see within a month.  If you tried this for one solid month, you will see a significant affect on the consequence of your efforts of team building.  Its going to create and nurture trust its going to defuse conflict, it will heal the split between your personal/professional life.  If you look at the divorce rate among elite coaches and you are going to say that people tend to get stuck in over-working and the family, personal, and social side dries up and then your successful but you don’t have anyone to share it with.

 

Improving organizational efficiency, accessing personal growth, educating your superiors with in an organization, deepening relationships, you can mentor your superiors and teach them how to listen by showing them how you can listen, acknowledging contribution, acquiring the best information, preparing for a significant change, appreciation.  Bob Marley said once, knowledge speaks the wisdom listens.  One of the things that are important is that often times we are so busy that we don’t even know what we ourselves think about a situation.  How many times have you said to someone, “I’ll get back to you later on that” then you go over to your day planner and write in 30 minutes I will think about this between 1:00 and 1:30 p.m., none, because we don’t do it that way.  Why?  Because we do not have the answer right than because we are not listening to ourselves.  Our feelings, bodies and ideas are often confused so that triad exercised, you are all three; you are the speaker, listener and the observer of yourself.  Without the intention of improving on your listening skills, you will suffer the consequences of being inadequate training.  I would like to say that I hope that this has been useful for you and I realize that this has gone a little longer than it should have, but thank you for your attention after all, without that I would not have had anything worth while to talk to you about.

 

 

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Effective Communications with Parents by Greg Malszecki (2001)

As I stand here at ASCA’s podium, they put you way above everyone else.  I’m used to being on the floor and involved with people will be do some dialog here so I hope you will try to make yourselves heard so I can get your input as well.  I am really pleased and privilege to be here this morning and I am so glad that you decided to join me to this particular section be as you know, nobody is a success alone.

 

Behind every success story, there are hundreds of incidents of people opening doors, helping out and giving you some energy.  Part of the challenge of being a coach at this level is recognizing that team building for you means not just the athletes in the water but the parents and the staff that you are working with as well.  That’s all part of the challenge of being successful in this sport is seeing how you can develop success out of the relationships you have with the parents.  Those relationships can go along way in terms of building your career and giving you the personal satisfaction of doing a job well done.  I am not sure exactly what the situation is like for you, if you have ever dealt with a parent who has made you feel proud to be involved with this sport or you have dealt with a parent who has made you feel like leaving the sport.

 

I know in Canada there are a lot of young coaches who are in the sport for two or three years and then decide that it is not for them.  It is not the eighty great parents that they meet it is the one or two that give them a very difficult time and discourage them to the point where they decide that they may change professions.  Even though they love the sport, they feel that those types of experiences are difficult for them.  There is also a problem all across North America in terms of the way parents are dealing with the officials, the way parents are dealing with athletes.  I want to get some of your feedback on this and we will talk about that in just a little bit.  Don’t forget that I have had parents, I am a parent and the success that I have experienced with all the athletes I have worked with and all the athletes I have played with have been to a great extent due to they relationships with the coaches and the way the coaches related to the people who were important in their lives.

 

Let’s talk about how it works.  I wanted to mention that an effective communication with the parents depends a lot on what you can expect as a coach.  The program we sponsor and a lot of programs have had to clarify what the role of parents is.  In some cases, they’ve had parental contracts.  Up in Canada where hockey is a religion, they put together a whole training manual for coaches called “Hockey and Conflict Mediation”.  A lot of this has to deal with enthusiastic parents or parents who do not know what their boundaries are as parents.  Coaches sometimes find that their advice when coaching an athlete is contradicted by the parent on the ride home from the school.  These are the kinds of situations that I would like to address.

 

Before I do so, I would like to talk about a book which has very much impressed me, it is called “Sporting Excellence – What Makes A Champion” by David Henry, who is a British Sports Sociologist.  He was a gold medal winner in the 400 meter high hurtle where he set a record in Mexico City in 1968.  His sub-title “What Makes a Champion”, is based on the interviews he did with about sixty superstar athletes in about 24 different sports all around the world.  He asked them a number of lengthy questions in chief interviews and then wrote up the findings.  He has got a most interesting section on childhood and growing up, I will just read you a few of the conclusions that he had come up with;

 

“The best performances came from those athletes where the decisions were the child’s and the parents were supportive but not pushy.”  The only way that parents would find that out is they would ask, “do you feel pushed or pressed by us”?  Three quarters of the champions that he talks about describe relationships with their parents as “Close and good”.  Those parents allowed the athlete to be independent and responsible.  Now in that sense, parents can be role models or guides, they emphasize the fun aspect of the sport, fair play, sticking to the rules, ethics, and codes of the club and as well, the types of agreements that they made with the coaches were based on trust.

 

Less then one half of Henry’s studies have parents who were competitive themselves.  You will certainly come across swimmers who have high ambitions whose parents themselves were never swimmers or maybe not even competitive athletes.  A child has input on challenging but obtainable goals, as long as the child leads the discussion, Henry concluded, then that child will have a successful and satisfying career in the sport and that will make a difference to you as the coach because you can help that person bring out the best that they can accomplish.  When Henry asked “What about your parents concerns about results”, one of the answers he received from Billy Jean King was her parents never asked whether she won or lost but rather are you happy playing?  Are you sure this is what you want to do? And then they left it to her to decide.

 

One of the things that you can see is that that describes a lot of the parents you have been meeting.  If you think about the 80/20 rule of life, 80 percent of the instances, the parents are going to be positive or neutral and they are going to be a source of great satisfaction to you.  They are going to give you positive feedback; they will be part of the reason why you want to stay in coaching.  Twenty percent are going to present problems and conflict in some way.

 

I would like to hear from some of you if I asked what are the traits in an ideal parent what would you tell me?  What has been the ideal parent that you have experienced?  Supportive, available, volunteering, consistent behavior, positive and trusting; the trust must be there because in many cases, the coach becomes a surrogate parent.  You may see more of their kids then they do.  In a survey done in the USA, they found that parents generally on the average, have 8 minutes of conversation with each one of their children a day.  That is about 1 hour a week.  If you think about the number of hours you are with their kid in you program that may exceed the number of minutes that the parents, on average, in contact with their own child.  So, this is a type of partnership.  Is their one characteristic that would be most desirable for you in finding parents?  What is one thing that you would say?  Built on trust positive interest, supportive and allows you the freedom to bring out the best in their child without interfering.  In contrast, describe the traits of the parent from hell.  I do not know if you have ever had any experience of this, it may be theoretical for some of you; talking to you while on deck, being negative to the swimmers, raising the anxiety level of their own child and making their peers aware that somehow they are being used as a tool, negative to other parents, undermining or sabotaging your efforts so you as the coach spent time organizing the practice schedule, the drills and preparing this athlete and the parents can undo all that during the ride home.  A parent co-coaching or counter-coaching, using the organization against you as the coach or creating problems or conflict with your superiors.  Lets take a look at one thing, if we look at the impact of the parent on the coaches’ life.  What if you have to be on deck at 5:30 in the morning and parents are calling you up at 11:30 at night wanting to talk about their kid, does this sound familiar.

 

What about parents that do not like the way that you have scheduled the practices because it is inconvenient for them.  Parent who always end up defaulting when they have helped to arrange transport from one place to another.  Or parents who will wait until an important moment in a contest to talk to you about some trivial concern they have, do any of these things sound familiar?  How do you resolve those conflicts?  That is exactly one of the things that I would like to talk about today.

 

What things do not work?  Criticism does not work, withdrawal does not work, contempt does not work however it can give you a little bit of a fence but it does not work as a long term solution and defensiveness does not work.  Just standing there and taking it, as a submissive personality, is not going to help you solve those problems.  What is going to help is effective communication.  That is ideally, what I want to talk about.  It is very hard to change human behavior, by the time, you have met the parents of your swimmers, and they have been pretty much the way they are since high school.  In the few instances of contact that you have during the collaboration with their child as one of your swimmers, you are not going to effectively change their personality.  You know that in every organization, conflict is inevitable.  If it is predictable, inevitable, and unavoidable you can also use it in a very positive way.  Think about it, the United States of America was created out of a conflict.  Those can be moments for collaborative solutions and you can bring that parent on to your side.  I think one of the first things to do is looking at the parents that are supportive of you and parents who are creating problems for you if you have to look at all of them as part of the team, not just the athletes that are in your club.  In fact, your team building skills are going to be challenged by trying to find a way to communicate with that parent what their role is as part of your team.

 

If we think about the fact that when you get involved with a conflict, what happens?  We talked about the fight or flight syndrome, I was talking about this with Guy Edson beforehand.  I was saying that one of the things that happen when the adrenal starts pumping is that the blood does not go to the head but rather to the stomach and this is not a very good time to start looking for solutions while you are feeling the pressure of emotions that may be annoying or frustrating, you have to deal with peoples feelings first.  Instead of fight or flight you will be able to use a verbal option.  The way to do that is to look at the three approaches you have to relationships and this includes all of our relationships, whether it is with the parents, the players, family, etc.

 

The three approaches are; You can choose to be submissive, which is that you do not express your own desires or wishes, you except what other people are offering and you adapt to them.  A lot of times when a parent comes on very strongly to you, you may think that it is a kind of relief to just go along with what they want and let them have there way.  If somebody is consistently calling you at 11:30 at night, you have told everybody in the club that you will only except phones calls until 9:30 – 10:00 at night and after that you will either be a sleep or spending time with your family.  One parent particular continues to call you after that period of time, the longer you allow that to go on, the more difficult the problem will become.  Your reaction is going to have negative consequences and when you do eventually deal with it, the conflict is going to be far more intense.

 

I do not know if any one of you garden but I have a couple of fruit trees in my back yard and between the squirrels, the wind, storms and the natural ripening they are always falling off all over the grass, now if I do not pick them up for a week, I have to spend an hour on the weekend that I don’t have to go around and clean up the garden.  If I do it every time I am out there, to take the time to deal with it immediately, then I have only lost five minutes not fifty to sixty.  One of the things that you want consider is that if you take a submissive attitude towards the relationship, you are going to end up not being able to express you needs and not having those needs satisfied as a coach.  On the other side, you can look at an aggressive relationship.  Aggressive people at the expense of others go ahead and push their agenda forward no matter what the consequences are they are going to make sure that they get their way.  The problem is this creates negative consequences as well because at some point, people are going to resist and resent that and they are going to try and sabotage you.

 

The next option or approach is the assertive relationships in which you can state your needs, desires and plans and then negotiate what can be done by the other person to maintain a positive relationship.  We all have a need to protect our personal stakes and we can have the best impact on swimmers when you have decided that you have the right to protect the stacks and negotiate with their patents around what your role is as a coach.

 

I talked to the president of the “Sink or Swim” Canada, Pat Murray, whose also the athletic director of my University which has forty thousand students, she told me that one of the things that many of the clubs are doing is setting up parental contracts.  In fact there is an organizational response to reduce the likelihood of difficulty for any of the individual coaches at any level.  If you want to participate in this club then you will abide by certain agreement about how things will be done.  It clearly states what the rules of the coaches are and in a very positive way what the rules of the parents.  It does stipulate that there will be consequences if that code is not abided by.  This maybe a solution for you rather then you having to deal personally with parents who are creating difficulties for you in carrying out or interfering with your relationship with your swimmers.  If this is brought up at the level of the club or the organization you are working for, have them push forward some kind of a statement, code, or some type of agreement that people can buy into.  One of the things that happened in another sport, they found that in El Paso the youth sports where having such difficult times with parents that they were taking the children’s games and training too seriously that the parents had forgotten why the kids where there for in the first place.  Paul Apel, who is El Paso’s Sports Operations Supervisor said that I have been attacked by parents two times and once by a referee.  Youth games were just not healthy places to be.

 

A parent was once evicted from her daughters’ softball game for walking out onto the field to complain to the umpire; she said, “I have done things I am not proud of, not violent things but stupid things”.  Disgusted with the heckling, temper tantrums, and violent outburst with parents the city decided to play hardball.  Last August, El Paso began mandatory parent training class for those children who play sports.  The 3½ hour program includes video of parents acting up at games, essays and artwork from children displaying why they like sports, a review of how each game is played and a psychotherapist and child crisis counselor talking about problem behavior and child abuse at sporting events.  At the end, parents must sign a code of conduct that calls for a suspension or even a lifetime ban for breaking the rules.  It has made a big difference, explaining that out of the 6000 parents who have taking the course have not once had to be disciplined.  This is an extreme example of escalating epidemic aggression at kid’s games.

 

Even at the minor frustrations at the club level and on the deck when you are trying to do your best work, you yourself want to be at your best, you are going to find that possibly having organizations provide you with a context that set the standards for parental behavior so that those parents who are really positive in your club or a positive influence can help be supportive in bringing the kind of code of behavior so that the parents who are likely to create problems are going to abide by and reduce the conflict that you will experience.

 

The other to look at is assertiveness training.  This can be very effective and I will give you a simple technique for approaching it right now.  The price of being nice is too high you end up feeling bad for long after the conflict with the parent who has the toxic attitude toward you, the coach, the situation in which the child is experiencing or maybe even the child themselves.  One of the things you need to be able to do is to develop a technique for assertion.  The penalty for aggression is too high.  It is not healthy for you nor is it healthy for anyone involved.  There are advantages in assertion because it fosters fulfilling relationships.  Sometimes the parent, which created the greatest conflict, can become your greatest supporter and this surprisingly reduces the anxiety and stress you feel and make you more effective at your job.  How can you do this, one of the things I talked about yesterday was the advantage of listening skills and the difference between real listening an pseudo listening.

 

When you are in the presence of parents, who are communicating a message that you do not want to hear, need to hear or can not do anything about at the time, often just to reduce the tension in that situation, we pretend to listen when in fact we are not.  They want to be able to eliminate that and the way to do that is to develop a three-part message.  The three-part message works like this; a non-judgmental description of the behavior that needs to be changed, for example, “when you phone me at 11:15 pm and I have to be up at 4:30 am”.  The second part of the message is disclosure of your feelings; this is the assertion part “I feel very annoyed”.  The third part is the clarification of the specific concrete tangible affect of that other person’s behavior on you on the assertor.  When you phone me at 11:15 and I have to be up at 4:30, I feel very annoyed because I am fatigued the next day and cannot do my best work.

 

What will happen?  What do you think the reaction will be?  “Oh I did not realize that”, is that likely?  What is the human tendency?  Defensiveness, they will be defensive right away and see this as a confrontation.  They will not see it as information or as team building, and they will not see it as feed back for them, they will see it as a confrontation and will become defensive.  Here is where things become tricky because you can get in the “push, push-back” phenomenon, which leads you to an upward death spiral increasing anger and frustration.  This works with personal and intimate relationships as well.  I can tell you, I come from a family of eight children and have been married twice, and I promised my wife this is the last time, so yes I have experienced this.  What happens is you get involved, the person gets defensive they say something back to you again you get defensive back to them when you have been trying to give them some information and it begins to escalate.  How do you break that up, you have to anticipate an attack when you make an assertive statement.  You have to avoid the upward death spiral by preparing for it and having a plan of action, like a game plan for any other contest.  This is a challenge for you as a coach.  This works not only for parents but also for dealing with officials, sports administrators, organizational members, executive boards, and job interviews situation.  Let’s take a look, give me some examples of a few situations where you can use this three-part message.  Take one of the frustrations you have had in dealing with parents and how would you put that into the three-part message.  First lets come up with a situation.

 

A parent coming up to you and talking to you while on deck during a workout.  What is the first part of the message?  A non-judgmental description of the behavior; “When you approach me on deck when I am coaching.  Now, the second part, “I am unable to stay focused on what I am doing at that time”.  The third part would be “It makes me compromise my intentions and the safety of the swimmers in the pool”.  What do you think the reaction would be by the parent?  You will have people right away this is all they need.  They did a study with some college undergraduates, placed a confederate in the room playing loud music, and then gave the students a complex mental task to accomplish.  They found that 85% of people that were tested refused to ask the person to turn the music down or off while they completed their test.  85% said nothing during the entire test trial.  10% of the people asked once and the remaining 5% asked twice and on the second request the music was turned down that is what the experiment was set up to prove.  You can see that the tendency for most of us to avoid a confrontation, but that means we are absorbing more and more of the difficulties and the communication, when it finally happens, is going to confrontational.

 

Effective communication means recognizing that there is a problem and informing people or giving parents feedback.  One of the positive things is people want to be great parents; they want to be involved and create the best environment for their kids.  Many parents will go along with this.  The second thing is for those parents who don’t understand it, don’t get or have a life habit, remember you are not going to change human behavior, of getting their way by being doggedly aggressive and making sure that they wear other people down are the people you will have to deal with in a very specific way.  How would you be effective?  What would think would be effective?  Raise you hand if you have someone who is always on your case, just raise your hand if that has happened to you.  Well, that is almost everybody in the room.  Okay, so what are some of the solutions you have come up with so far?

 

Okay, let me tell you how this works.  One of the things that could happen is you are way out numbered.  There is one of you and there is all of the swimmers and their parents as well as staff members, superiors, subordinates, etc. etc.  People often feel if they haven’t recognized what your boundaries are that they have a right to approach you and say anything especially if they are paying fees and feel that in some ways they are paying your salary.  You may have heard this before, “I am paying your salary and therefore”.

 

I am meeting a class that has a projective enrollment of 800 students at 8:00 on Monday morning.  A lot of these students unfortunately think of themselves as customers and not learners.  They think we are in the mist of a commercial exchange and they will often say to me that they deserve a higher mark because in fact they’re paying my salary.  When in fact, I know I am being paid to be their teacher so sometimes failure is a lesson they need to learn.  What does this have to do with the situation you are in?  Until parents learn what your boundaries are for your personal stakes they will insist on intruding into your space until you teach them, educate them and make them part of your team.  Part of the team is when you try to do things at an appropriate time.  If you are on deck and you cannot talk to them you have to be able to give them a message by talking to them at times when you can win your agreement.  Here is how the cycle works about the three-part message;

In order to handle the “push, push back phenomenon” you want to first of all prepare your message.  You want to specify for yourself what is it, a vogue three part message is not going to get anywhere for you it will just get you into an argument about interpreting words, positions, and attitudes.  Its fine to have a difference in attitudes and views, but the thing is you want to try to get to some agreement.  When you want to prepare for meeting with them you want to make sure that the conditions are as optimal as possible.  Arrange to meet them specifically by giving them a call; pick a time and a place where you will not be interrupted, not trying to do other things, and are not responsible for the care and safety of other individuals.  .  Secondly, you want to send the three-part message. Non-judgmental description of the behavior to be changed, the disclosure of your own feelings about it and clarification of your concrete, specific, and tangible affect of the other person’s behavior on you.

 

The third part is real simple but real hard it’s silence.  I did six years of sales training for corporate clients and one of the things they use to say is at the end of your presentation, shut-up, for the first one who speaks is the loser.  After you have made your assertion, do not follow it up with anything because you want that message to register and you want them to respond to what you have said.  If you add anything more to it, you are going to end up getting into an argument about what is going on that will divert you away from the issue.  You want that specific behavior to change because of it affect on you as a coach.  You want to be silent about it.  However, you have already anticipated that they will have a defensive reaction.  While they are reacting to you, you want to use those listening skills and you want to reflect back to them what you are hearing without judging the content.  So, if they say, this is really important and I do not think that you really understand what I am trying to get across to you.  You can say to them you think that I do not understand how important this is and that I am not responding to you.

 

Okay just to make sure that you have an agreement, you are reflecting back to them what it is that they are saying.  Using that reflective listening you recycle steps two to five, you go through restating your message again, then you are silent again and then reflect listening until you reduce the defensiveness.  Again, this does not work all of the time however, it does most of the time, and it requires some practice.  It also requires some consistency on your part to be able to hang in there and as you said to continue to restate your message because ultimately what you need to have done is to have an agreement that this behavior needs to be changed so that you can be at your best in your role as a coach.  You are in fact educating them about the limit that they have as parents and being involved with your role.

 

Finally, after you have recycled sending a message, being silent and reflective listening you an end and go on to look into a solution.  When they have finally come to understand that you are focused on just one specific concrete behavior because f its affect on you, that you are not judging them for it but rather asking them to adjust or change that behavior then you can begin to look into solutions and you will feel when that happens.  I will tell you what, one of the things that gives you the greatest satisfaction are the relationships you build around the work that you do.  If you get enough positive support it does not even feel like work because that same feeling should carry you beyond things that you feel you are able to do on your own.  Instead of blaming, shaming people who are difficult to deal with, you can practice this message of the three-part assertion and work toward a solution then.  Think of these parents, all of them, the positive and negative ones, people who have the absolutely incredible enthusiasm that move you to think about things that you have never done before and that are always making contributions and the people who have toxic personalities who are bringing you down as soon as they walk within vision of you.  All of those parents can be part of your team and part of the team building experience.  By diminishing their defensiveness and focusing on a solution through this process, your communication will be far more affective and in fact, you have educated them to listen to you in terms of what you are doing.  They get a much clearer idea of what your goals are, what your attitude is towards their child and to come to appreciate the amount of effort you are putting into your job for the sake of their child.

 

This is going to ultimately be a common ground, in fact you have a common interest in what is best for their child.  When parents come to realize that your needs, goals, and values are part of what is best for their child and that you being at your best will bring out the best in their child, you have a common ground to look for a solution.  As I said before, you have to go through the preparation for assertive message; you have to delivery the assertive message in all three parts, you have to be silent after you have given that message, you have to use reflective listening until you can reduce the defensiveness to the point where you can work together toward a solution.

 

Now one of the things that I just wanted to finish up with is that I think it is great that you have put yourself in a position of learners and one of the things I do since I have always felt it is invalid for a teacher to teach students things they already know they should always be putting themselves in a position of learning they do not know along with their students so they can remember how hard it is to accomplish anything.

 

I have been in the martial arts for a number of years and started boxing when I was in grade nine and have kept up with forms of combative sports and every year I take on a different form that I study and try to learn so that I can keep a mind set.  I think that your athletes and your parents are very lucky to have you take the time out of your lives to refresh and educate yourself, to network and to get all the needed information you need to be at your best.

 

John Leonard has graciously made it possible for me to be here and it sounds like it is all very simple but believe me when it comes right down to the core of where we live, our daily experiences and our daily relationships and things that we deal with in terms of effective communications have everything to do with our success or our lack of it.  One of the things I mentioned yesterday is that 80% of people who leave or fail at a leadership position do so not because they don’t have the technical expertise, not because they are not hard workers, and not because they do not have what it takes, they leave because they do not relate well to people.  If you really want to be at your best one of the things that you will have to adopt as a professional as well as a personal goal is that you are going to improve your ability to communicate by practicing active listening.  As I mentioned yesterday, it’s treated as a passive exercise.

John Leonard use to say, “In the United States of America, conversation is a competitive exercise which the first person to draw a breath loses and becomes the listener”.  We think of speaking as doing things and listening as not doing things, however, it is harder to listen; it takes more effort, focus, and concentration.  The concentration that you are asking your athletes to perform while they are learning the skills of swimming is exactly the kind of concentration that is enhanced when you practice listening skills.  If you listen carefully to parent, many parents are trying to tell you something either about themselves or about their child that maybe you can use in becoming a better coach.

 

I want to give you one thing that you can take away with you that you can definitely use and I say this, try it for one month in situation where you find yourself frustrated, annoyed or confused and see if it does not pay off for you, recognizing that there is a learning curve using this technique as well.  I did bring in some hand-outs for you because I felt one of the things that we need to be able to keep in mind is that it is important to recognize that active listening is a skill that is never taught in any methodical organized way but it pays the greatest benefits.  For coaches, it cost nothing it makes you far better at everything you do it improves your sense of fulfillment and you have satisfaction with every relationship you have.  It clears up a lot of confusion and reduces errors, reduces your own anxiety and stress it makes it more fun for you to be with people that formally you may not have wanted to spend time with and it helps you to be more successful in having a greater impact for a longer period of time on all the swimmers you are with as well as all of the parents who are on your team.

 

There are four steps in active communication that I want to mention.  One is quantified commitment to use your skills and that is what the hand out is there is two parts to it.  The first is “My commitment to you” courtesy of Greg Malszecki and it is a tune-up.  The first part is on the skills and the second part is on listening to yourself because you also have an internal dialog that we do not often listen to.  The second step to better communication through active listening is to select an appropriate situation.

 

Don’t put yourself into the most toxic relationship you can think of and think you will be able to use this three-part message effectively, it is guaranteed not to work.  If someone is really a vicious personality, don’t stand there and take it.

 

We read, write and we learn the alphabet but where our most positive source of inspiration comes from and our greatest difficulty in our relationships with other people.  This simple message of being assertive rather than being submissive or aggressive is never taught in any organized way so persevere through it because you are going to be able to make mistakes but learn from those and you are in the same situation that you put your swimmers in.  You are asking them to do something they haven’t done before in way that they haven’t done before and to learn skills that will benefit them in the long run and make them better at what they would like to accomplish.

 

This is the same thing I am offering to you.  The last part is to prepare others for change.  Tell people that for the next three months you are going to be working on some skills you learned at the ASCA conference in New Orleans and yes, you had a great time on Saturday night at New Orleans, but one of the things that you are going to be working on over the next three months is becoming more effective as a communicated and practicing your active listening and your assertiveness.  Ask people to go along with you and to give you some feedback on it.  It is better if it is not a secret because then you won’t be discourage and also people will step out of your way to help you in getting better at it.  If you gave yourself three months which is how I set this up, once a week for about fifteen minutes just sit down and self rate yourself on a scale from 0 to 10, ask yourself “How did I do on my focus attention to people”, “How did I do on my non-verbal awareness”, “How did I do at identifying their emotions”, “How did I do at encouraging them to tell me things, information I needed, positive things” and “How did I do at reducing blocks that I was creating myself during conversations or controlling filters, the way I was filtering out what they were saying”.  You already have an idea, remember what I said about pseudo listening, how much of your lifetime is spent at pseudo listening rather than real listening.  In fact it does not save time, it waste time.  “How many times have you stopped interrupting” we talked about interrupting a little bit yesterday.  It is amazing how you can divert a conversation to right off target and then waste time.  Meetings take forever because people are forever interrupting and going off on tangents and have to be brought back to the agenda.

 

I once sat on twelve committees and chaired six of those, I got a great view of the fact that meetings do not consider agendas and things that need to be done they consider them as things to be talked about.  I always wanted to get things done so I always set my meetings for an hour and fifteen minutes.  I was thinking that the best solution would be to take all the chairs out of the room and make people stand through meetings so anyone who talked for a long time would get the message from everyone else that you are taking up too much time.  Be that as it may, I hope that this is going to be helpful to you and I just want to mention this other part, the second part there are two of them together, “The Listening Notations, Ideas and Meanings”.  Most of us do not plan our communications but I would like you to take the form and try it out.  Once a day, try to plan some communication you will be having beforehand with a particular person and prepare for that communication, write down three ideas that you want to make sure you get across and have agreement with and three questions that you want to ask that other person.  Then after you have had that conversation, just write down how the conversation flowed along and what new questions developed.  You can use it over this over the phone; it is great for phone conversation, just keep a form right on your desk.  At the bottom, look for areas of agreement, the differences between, the action you will take and then see if there is anything more that you want to do, more research or anything else like that.

 

Try this with the three part assertive message I am sure that the rest of your affective communications will be completely magnified and enhanced and you will get a lot more satisfaction as your role as a coach and people will see you as the kind of coach that they always wished they had themselves.  A lot of times you represent coach, as terms as somebody’s past experience not your present personality.  What you want to do is to be able to assert yourself so people see you for who and what you really are and where you are in terms in trying to bring out the best in their child.  Thank you so much for your time and attention and let me know how it goes.

 

 

 

 

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What is the Best Meaning of Excellence for the Individual and Their Country? by Eddie Reese (2001)

I’ve got some bets on who’s not going to be attending that last talk before that free lunch.  You know it doesn’t really matter if it’s a bun and lettuce if its free we are either going to eat it or wear it, and we like that.

 

I’ve been talking to groups like this for a while and I still cannot eat before I talk, I still get nervous and occasionally I wonder why, why does that happen.  I thought you were supposed to get desensitized to a number of things.  This is just one I don’t get over, because your putting your ideas out there, your putting your theories out there and I don’t really know that I want you to take them and believe them on my word, I just want you to investigate them.  Cause most of us live in a world of theories, we’ve all got theories as far as when you set up your season, you have a theory on your season plan, and the theory is no guarantee and then you have theories on what it takes to swim or to train for different events, it’s not always right, mine are not always right.  So what I’m going to present to you today is a number of theories.  They have nothing to do with the topic I have written down; it’s a great title though.  It took me longer to come up with a topic then the talk or the title, so it will pertain to that, because I’m very concerned about that.

 

Ultimately I would like us to find a way to get together and I’ve been doing this for a number of years, over 5 and that is supposed, your supposed to chuckle at that it will help me if you laugh a little bit at the right time.  I know that in the past our diversity, the fact that everybody was doing different things was our strength but now swimming has reached a level that we still need the diversity, but we need some solid foundation to go from or to work from or to work towards and you’re the ones that are going to do that, I’m not going to do that, if we got a guy that comes into college that needs an aerobic background, then we have made a mistake, we have missed the optimum moment to get that swimmer to the level that they can be the best that they can be, that’s all we can ask, is to get them to be the best that they can be or try to.  We don’t know where that is, that’s theory; we do know an aerobic background is very, very important, if you wait until college to work towards aerobics, the cardiovascular system, and the circulatory system is less changeable.  If you take a 12 or 13 or 14 year old and you do something in an aerobic fashion with them for 2 years, you can get more changes there than you can with somebody from age 20 to age 30 because the organism, we can be impersonal, is growing at that time and they can make drastic changes and it gives them a future, it gives them their future.

 

Not everybody’s going to make the Olympic team, but we have a problem with people dropping out in our sport, why do they stop?  They quit when they don’t go faster, it’s real simple, they can put up with it for a year or so to have that bad year when they are young, but they continually don’t go fast, or if they don’t improve, that’s when we lose them, we don’t want to lose them.  I feel like we are training specifically to early.  We find somebody that is 12 that is fast and we think they are a sprinter because they are the fastest kid maybe in the country, so we train them to sprint, and they may be fast because they are big and strong, they’re coordinated or they just may have swam more, they may have been doing doubles for 2 years and it has nothing to do with how fast they really can be at the end.

 

Back in the junior national days I had an athlete come into school that at the short course nationals had made every freestyle cut for senior nationals, 50 through the mile, so there is nobody that can do that and is a 50 swimmer, but the worst thing that happened to him that summer he went 52.5 in the 100 meter freestyle and he thought he was a 100 man and he wasn’t a 100 man, and it did not matter what I thought or what I tried to get him to do.  He wasn’t a miler either.  Sometimes that’s more from the neck up.

 

Alright back to the theory thing, we all advance theories and we do it logically as logically as we can the way I feel about that is we are like grandparents who think our grandchildren are the cutest and the smartest, we think the same thing about our theories that they are the best and the most logical.  Now I am a grandparent and my grandchildren are the cutest and the smartest as my theories are the best and you can match me with the intensity that I feel that.  One theory that I’ve formed over the years is about the 400 individual medleys.  If you look at what I call world class times under 420 for 400 meters IM there have been two people in our country that have not come out of the mile to break 420 one was Mike Barrowman, one was Tom Wilkens.  Mike Barrowman holds the world record in the 200 breast.  Tom Wilkens has made the Olympic team in the 200 breast, world championship team in the 200 breast so they are world-class breaststrokers.

 

Generally, they come more, and more of our 400 IM’ers come from the mile so what does that mean, that doesn’t mean you have to do it that way, you may get the gifted athlete, the person who doesn’t go by the rules who can swim the 200/400 IM and is a pretty good breaststroker and doesn’t go the mile and they may do a good 400 IM but is it the best they can do?

 

Another theory I’ve got, you wanted to hear these I know.  Is about sprinters and we’ve got two guys out there that can disprove this in a moment, but a long time ago I heard that the exception proves the rule, never understood it but I’ll use it in this case.  Most sprinters were distance swimmers at some time in their lives at least back 8 to 10 years ago and the most common item I threw out there was Tom Jager was a, his first standard was the junior national mile and he ended up swimming 50 meter free for a long time and I know Gary Hall very well and his first standard wasn’t the mile, but I also know in the 9th and 10th grade Gary was going to 10 workouts a week, I don’t know Anthony Urbin’s history but the guys I’ve had some guys that won NCAA’s they have been in programs that they may have been 400 meter swimmers until their senior year in high school.  Now logically that doesn’t work, that goes against specificity and basically that is what I’m doing, going against specificity, I just, if I had a 12 to 16 year old group and I was going to take myself out of the equation, which a number of people ask me how do you get to go on trips how do you make a lot of money, I’ve never been able to answer that.  How do this, how do you do that in swimming?   First thing, I tell them are you got to take yourself out of the equation, you got to always put the swimmer first.  So a 12 to 16 year old group, you want them to be milers and train for the 400 IM, train all strokes, we are not good enough to predict where they’re going to be.

 

Now maybe if we start taking muscle biopsies, we can tell early if somebody is going to be a sprinter, but then we still only go theories and past experience to decide whether their going to be, will they be a sprinter best, will their best sprinting come after their 2 years of the aerobic or 3 years, or whatever, and when I say aerobic, I don’t mean that’s all you do but you focus on it.  Like Nate Dusing was a one a day swimmer as a 12 year old, he went 5000 at practice but it was distance oriented.  When he was 15, his 1st senior national cut was the mile and the 800 and then he went to junior nationals in the 100/200/400.

 

Senior year in high school he swam high school records the 100 fly, I think it was first in the nation in the 100 back, we never know where these guys are going to end up.  He ended up making the Olympic team in freestyle, world championships in freestyle, winning the NCAA title and the 200 IM and the 200 back, we don’t know what their going to do.  Their body shape changes a lot of times no matter what you do to it and there are some beneficial body shapes in our sport.  I believe if we leave something out at an early age I don’t believe we get it back, they still can go on and still be very fast swimmers but if we leave it out, I don’t believe you can get it back, that’s a theory, but isn’t that logical?  It’s like it, you’ve seen in movies, a blacksmith pounding a hammer and a horseshoe on an amble with a 1 to 2 pound hammer.  One guy does that all his life with a one-pound hammer, his arm is going to look like X let’s say, the guy does it all his life with a 2-pound hammer, and there physiology potential is similar.  His arm is going to look like X plus, because of the consistency and the greater stress.  That’s all the body reacts to, is however you stimulate it.  I’ve got down here, let’s take Josh Davis for example and I’ve got a line through it, Josh had a great summer, he is probably too much to talk about at this time, to go as fast as he went off of the workouts he did, but people don’t realize he’s got about 8 years of over training in there is no doubt about that, I was a big part of that.

 

When Josh comes to practice, he starts with the pedal to the metal in warm-up and he does not slow down.  I was lucky enough to train other guys like that, a guy from a long time ago, a guy named Rick Kerry, Rick Kerry refused to lose anything in practice from warm-up on, and I was lucky enough to work with Steve Lundquist for a few months before ‘84, and whatever you’ve heard, I know we used to hear things about Steve in practice, we knew he liked to start late, I know why he liked to start late, cause when he got in he would not lose anything in practice and so when Rick Kerry and Steve were in the same practice for about 2 months it was a battle royal, I mean they would finish a warm up and their last 200 meter IM from a push would be in the 2:16/2:18 range, they were just hammering everything.  Josh does that.  But the point I’d like to make about Josh, are the choices he makes in life, he eats right, he drinks right and he sleeps, it’s all the things we ask the swimmers to do and Josh has got it right.  He just makes better choices outside of the pool then any swimmer I know and he has put in the time and he is 28 years old.  He is one of the few swimmers that has stayed around long enough to get that matured strength that we try to rush upon them by doing Dryland and weights, because swimmers notoriously are late maturers, I mean just hair on their body, I mean Josh has gone, last night he had gone 4 days without shaving and you could barely see it, he is just finally got that mature strength that I try to get in college before age 22.  He has got a phenomenal mind when it comes to racing.

 

The biggest mistake I make is sometimes I judge a swimmer by exactly where they are, and I don’t look at the past as well as I should and I try to take that into consideration.  Let me, you know how good a left hander is on a chalk board, you’ll notice they never write below their waste, there is a reason for that.  You don’t notice any of that stuff do you?  Notice they have trouble writing on cloth, because they push, you didn’t know that you would get this today, did you? Right-handers pull it so it is easier to write that way.  So that is good that it is more stressful for us.  All right, here is all I want to talk about a lot of our theoretical assumptions come from this is a triangle, I started out in engineering, it just didn’t work.  Mechanical drawing with all the apparatus didn’t help me either.  When a swimmer is a beginner, it doesn’t matter if they are 8 and under or 15 anything you do with them in training works.  Anything you do will make them better down in this area it doesn’t matter.  If you look at the, when I was in graduate school, I went back and researched every article on swimming in the research quarterly which was a big research magazine back then, yes they did have paper back then.  Of course most of the studies were done by dock and it would take a swimming team that only swam and a swimming team that ran or did push ups or sit ups or climbed a rope, a swimming team did exercise.  This group always improved more, for a longer period of time.  So, anything you do down here is going to work.

 

As the swimmer progresses, this is what they don’t particularly like, as they progress and they get up at the peak, this isn’t the Olympics this is close to what they can do, close to their potential, as they get up to that, there are fewer things that work, and if they have a bad year, and it can be their fault that they had a bad year, like I had a number of guys make the Olympic team and start back training in mid October scared me to death, because I don’t know what training from October 15th till March does, I’ve never done that, we start in September, obviously, the first day the NCAA allows that.  I didn’t have a clue how that was going to work out and we had some dual meets that indicated they were 3 to 4 weeks and they are the best swimmers, obviously, so occasionally they can get away with more, relative to other people, you can never get away with more relative to yourself and that is the point that we have to get through to them when they get to here we need to know what works there.  What they did last year to get them there is not going to work.  You can take that organism of a swimmer and let’s make them an X and give them an 8-value stimulation.  At that level right here where they are, X is there 0 fitness level, that’s where they start each season 0 fitness level and ideally you would like that to go up every year, I don’t know how you would measure it, it’s a theory, but you take this X person and your workouts stimulate them to an 8 well they are going to get better, their going to be X plus 3 and will that workout work, or that program works let’s use it again, now if the athlete does not get bigger and stronger like when they get to college, there is a lot of them that their matured strength that they gain is down compared to where it was 12 to 16 so you haven’t got that going for you.  So if you take this person whose 0 fitness is up and you stimulate them to or give them the same 8 there is a real good chance he will go slower.  If this 8 is the same program that is over here.  So very simply what I’m asking is don’t be satisfied with knowing that the athlete is improving.  Improve the workout, as you go, don’t get caught in that trap.

 

I’ve got a swimmer right now that is postgraduate and he made some choices this summer that weren’t conducive to going fast and I am very glad that he didn’t go fast, I didn’t want that to work and I didn’t think it would for him.  So he said well part of this we were talking about at the end of summer and he said well let’s go back to worked and I said your different then you were at that time, sure that worked at that time, like we did a set we did a 100 back on a minute, 50 free on a minute, obviously the 100 back was his fastest yards, 50 free was easy, then he went 2 100 backs on a minute, 250 frees on a minute, and then he went to 5 100 backs on a minute and was holding 55’s and he said well I need to get back to where I can do that and I said but then that will probably just mean you are X fast which is what he was when he was doing that stuff I said you got to go beyond that and you need to aim beyond that as an athlete and I can only speak for our country and only for the men because those are the only ones that I know well enough, as they get better, they want to take more time off and do less and very few people can exist like that.  So I’m not real popular with him because I’m into the you’ve got to be faster, there is about 4 ways an athlete can get better, they can get bigger and stronger, that usually occurs probably up through the sophomore year in college they can get better just cause they can get stronger.

 

Have you ever noticed that in college there are a number of swimmers that after their sophomore year don’t get a whole lot better?  If it’s my school then it’s probably my fault.  Cause you’ve got to work them harder, you’ve got to make them work harder.  There is no easy way.  So that is in a sense what I was talking about earlier is getting you, which I think are the most important part in the equation for international success.  Cause your coaching the 10 and unders, 12 and unders, 12 to 16’s and 16 to 18.  If that swimmer no matter how or what their potential is, if that swimmer is going to be as good as they could be and have a shot at international swimming or state swimming or city swimming, you got to find it, I don’t believe in systems but we have to find a way to do it.

 

Back in the old days we would come to this meeting, I couldn’t have done that a year ago, I’ve been doing lunges, I like to say I’m out to lunge, the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but, years ago, we would come to these things and we would sit in the back of the room and we would trade workouts, we wouldn’t trade easy workouts we would trade our best workouts.  So before we get out of here you have my permission and there are some geniuses sitting out there known and unknown, talk to anybody you want to and ask him or her about workout.  Anything I know about the sport is been through watching the swimmers and listening to other coaches and listening to swimmers.  I don’t ever listen to them during the hard training phase.  Because I know what they want then, they want out earlier and less, but I used to go to meetings like this.  Even the NCAA’s, they used to have a banquet on Wednesday night before the meet started on Thursday I’d stand at the door of the banquet and wait until Don Gambril came in and I’d grab him and sit down and I’d fire 100 questions at him and he sat there and answered.  We went hunting together a couple years ago, I fired 100 questions at him and he still knows.  Did you understand about that triangle, the more of a beginner a swimmer is the easier it is to get them to go faster, as they get better the harder it is to get them to keep them improving and so the workouts, oh the 4 ways to get them to go better, get bigger and stronger, work with their technique and given them stroke drills and not correcting the stroke drills is not the way to do it, I run a camp every summer and I’m not advertising, we had more applicants then we could take this past summer, here is what I see year in and year out 12 and unders have got good strokes, some 13 year olds and it goes away, the 14 and overs, their strokes, not all of them, and we get a lot of repeats and they were great technicians at 12 and under and they’re not at 15 something is happening, and don’t blame it on swimming on more yardage, you haven’t got time to work on stroke, you’ve always got time to work on stroke, you don’t have to stop them to work on stroke it’s like my swimmers are always begging to do turns, I said look we are going to do 8 500’s there is a turn on the end of each lap.  So you give them things to do, I tell them when you push off the wall, when I was Auburn University in the old pool we didn’t have lines on the bottom, we would put a hose underneath the flags on the bottom of the pool at each end and they had to push off and their first stroke had to pull their head beyond that hose off the wall, never breathe off the wall, never breathe into the wall, breathe every three that is how practices are run, you just do that in practice all the time, I think there are simple things we have to do or we can do to make swimmers better but it requires effort on our part.    Third thing is we can get them to work harder and I’ve ended up seeing this and it does work and it is hard, I think the harder someone has to go in practice of their own volition in other words they’ve got to provide their own impetus to go that fast all the time, I think that takes a lot out of them.  Fourth one we make workouts harder and there is some good ways to do that whether it’s get them to ride the turn better, we do a warm-up that I really like which means they don’t like it and we’ll do a 400 and I’ll give them 15 seconds rest, it doesn’t matter, long course short course and everybody goes three kicks off of the wall fly kick off every turn, fly kick is the weapon to have I try to treat it like the fifth stroke, it’s the second fastest stroke, but I just treat it like the fifth stroke and try to give it comparable work.  So everybody is fly kicking three times off every wall and then they will go a 100 stroke drill and they’ll go their weak IM stroke except those, there are people in my age group that are never going to do the IM in public they are never going to swim breast stroke in public, I don’t let them do it cause I don’t want to watch it.  I have all my life had trouble throwing up; it bothers me a lot so I don’t need to do that.  So I don’t let them do it, and you’ve got to face that, and I want you to get them right so I don’t have to look at it.  That is the crux of this old dog.  Now those four things sounds simple, but it does take some work.

 

When I have a smaller team around 20 people and I was the head coach for the first time and I made it a point to say five good things to everyone in practice, even with a small team you can remember that, I mean some days you had to say ah, nice bathing suit, I mean that’s all you can say, got a hair cut, you know that kind of stuff, but you can’t be positive all the time or there is no reason for them to change, but there are ways to handle that.  One summer I took Randy’s team for a week and he had 70 people in practice, I got through about 20 people one time one good thing, I couldn’t remember who I’d said anything to, I just sat down for a half hour and then started doing it group wise, so if you got 50 or 60 people in a workout that’s hard to do, but, one of my theories about why somebody’s good when they come from Oviedo Florida or Michigan City Indiana they get a lot of attention, and I really believe that’s important.  We have a tendency to give attention to the real good swimmers and the real bad ones, but I really believe that attention is really important.