Permalink

Training with Speed and Pain by Chuck Warner (1999)

 Good morning and welcome to Larry King Live. We are going to try to do something, that in the twenty or so years that I have been at this clinic, I don’t think has ever been attempted. It is either going to be wonderful or it’s not. But we’re going to try to get into a specific area of training, and even lead into some performance things that I think you might find to be very interesting. I need to give you a little background before I bring these guys up to explain why I think there is some value in doing this, this morning. If we could turn the lights down in the far corner over here. This is a difficult chart to see, so let me just explain to you what it says, basically.

 

This is a history of the 1500-meter freestyle and the progression at each Olympics from back in 1904 or so through 1996, and there are two big leaps in time. They are from 1968 to 1972, and there’s about a 50 second improvement and it was basically Mike Burton that went from one Olympics  to the next, which has never happened before, making that improvement single-handedly. And the second which was the largest percentage of improvement ever at about 4% over four years, which was between 1972 and 1976 when the 1500 went from 15.52 to 15.02. I don’t know how many of you can see these slides, these are pretty tough even for me over here. This is Tim, Brian and Bob as well as Paul Hartloff and Casey Converse. It’s a slide that I put up there last year that takes them from 1972 to 1976, and if you can see this you will see the difference in improvement. Tim went from 4.13 in the 400 to 3.51 over the course of three years. You’ll see Brian at 15.57 two years before at Montreal and two years later at 15.02. You’ll see Bob Hackett 18.12, 16.34, 16.16, 15.32, 15.03, just an incredible progression from year to year. This was also the height of American men’s distance swimming.

 

As shown by this graph, the red line is the United States and the dark line is the rest of the world and the percentage of world rankings the United States had… I’m sorry, the percentage of world rankings the United States had is the black line and the red line is California. The peak you see there is 1975 when we had eight out of ten guys of the top ten world ranked 1500 swimmers and in the 400 we had ten of the top ten. So it was that one special moment in time where we dominated.

 

This whole subject, which I won’t get into at length, but created the idea of writing a book about these four guys, there’s Tim and Brian and Bob and Steven Holland too and Bill Sweetenham was Coaching into the 1976 Olympics, a book called “Four Champions, One Gold Medal”. Through the process of writing this book, another challenging  slide to see, I wrote three stories to start out with. One of each  of the three lives of Bob and Brian and Tim and then went back and looked at what were the things that were common to each of them, and then re-weaved the story together again so that it addressed some of those characteristics. Without going through this whole pyramid that is in the book, when we got to the next to last rung below being a champion, this is just Chuck Warner’s opinion, the next to last rung was out-of-body training and out-of-body performance. What I mean by that is their capacity, and Steven as well, to be able to deal with pain and to be able to train fast, and that is what we are going to talk about this morning.

 

First of all, I am going to go from youngest to oldest. I want to introduce to you a fellow that between 1973 at twelve years old or thirteen years old was in the top eight in the 1500 at our national championships. He progressed over the next four or five years to become the silver medalist at Montreal with a time of 15.03 which still stands as the third fastest swim in the history of American swimming. He would have been fourth at the Atlanta games. By 1978 he was a member of the world championship 800 free relay splitting 149. He had a wonderful career at Harvard where he graduated. I would like to introduce to you the third fastest 1500 swimmer of all time in the United States, Bob Hackett. Before there was ever Matt and Tom  Jager, there was Brian and Bob, the icon of distance swimming. And the event that everybody wanted to go see in the late 70’s, the national championships, was to watch Bob and Brian race the mile. Brian was someone that came on between 1974 and 1975 in a rush and by 1976 he was the world record holder at the Olympic trials in the 400 and the 1500. In Montreal he won the 400 and 1500, setting records in both events, and between 1977 and 1979, or 1980, along with Bob, ruled the American men’s distance swimming. He won 9 NCAA championships in his first three years of college swimming before he got sick his senior year. During his collegiate years, he not only was a great distance swimmer, but would lead off his 800 free relay at 135, something we have a difficult time getting American men to do today, lead off for his 400 free relay in 45.

 

The second fastest distance swimmer of all time, Brian Goodell. Long before Australia had Ian Thorpe, we had Tim. In 1974, the 200, 400, 1500 world records. This had only been done one other time or held one other time by one person who was John Conrad.  Tim  was someone, in the words   of his Coach Dick Jochums, that between 1974 and 1975 took American men’s distance swimming, picked it up put it on his back and carried it ten steps forward. Sometimes I wonder in looking back, if Steven Holland might have been the Karen Perkins of the 1970’s if it wasn’t for Tim  Shaw, because while the American men were coming after Tim, Tim was going after the world. He set seven world records during his swimming career. He continued to go on past the 1976 Olympics when he was under the world record which would have been a top eight time at the Atlanta Olympics swimming 352 in the 400 free. By 1984, also making the US water polo team winning a silver medal and becoming the first and only person other than Johnnie “Tarzan” Weismiller to win a medal in both swimming and water polo. The 1975 Sullivan Award winner as the greatest amateur athlete in America, Tim Shaw. This is the first time in a long time that these guys have been together and some of this gets to be difficult for me at times, and I’m sure they’ll take over if I stop talking.

 

I’ve coached some great swimmers and some people that have been Olympic gold medalists during the course of their career, but I’ve never coached anybody like these guys. They are very, very special, and I think as we go through this you will start to get a little more of an idea why.

 

We are going to start out with Bob defining pain and swimming and Bob explaining back at the Flushing Y,  that  first 16.50 that you ever swam and what it was like and how it felt and what it meant to you. Bob answers, “I’m happy to do that. It’s one of those sort of defining moments when you’re a twelve-year-old if I can remember that far back then. We were talking about it last night, that for me I can still see the pool, smell the chlorine, see the coach and see the swimmers. For me, I really had a difficult time when I was eleven, I wasn’t swimming as well and I had just joined the Brunelle’s Gators, and I was rapidly improving my times in practice in the mile. We used to swim every Sunday a timed trial of a 16.50, and I had a lot of fun trying to catch guys that were five, six, seven years older than me in a very small pool, swimming eight across and they always forced me to swim against the wall.

 

All of those things were sort of very helpful for me, in sort of defining my approach to that kind of race. I was joking last night with everybody at dinner that the thing that was actually the most painful thing about that race was not the race itself, but it was the rubdown that I got prior to that. And it just so happens that the gentleman is here that gave me that rubdown that long ago, which is Ed Camons, who is right here. When you see him you’ll see why it hurt so much. Ed please stand up. For me, I have to say that was probably the most painful mile I ever swam in my life, because even when I was twelve years old I went out fast and I went out fast to see how long I was going to hang on. I love to be out in front, and you know a lot of my teammates were in that final, I’m twelve years old and I’m in the finally in the local region meet, it was a pretty big deal for me and for anybody. For me that pain, I can still feel that pain, I can feel the pain right here in my arms, and I mean, Ed could see, I was dying at the end, but my time improved so tremendously and that to me was a feeling that I felt. For me as I progressed in the years from twelve to thirteen to fourteen, kind of fight through that pain and try to figure out how to improve while continuing to go out at a fairly rapid rate.”

 

(Question.) Bob, how did you feel about that pain for the first time that you felt?

 

You know, I actually, maybe I’m just worked and that’s why I’m a distance swimmer, but I really liked that pain a lot. To me the more it hurt in practice, and in fact the more it hurt in a race, you know, it was good. I actually learned how to deal with the pain over the years, to kind of fight through the pain. Once you fight through the pain, either in a practice or in a particular race, and I vividly remember some of the races with Brian where I would be both hurting physically and hurting mentally, and all of a sudden see them kind of rapidly closing in at 1100, 1200 yards to kind of fight through that. It became more of a mental game for me, really focusing in my race, and I could still see it today of just really working on technique. When I got older I really worked on, in the middle of a race, in the nationals, count my strokes per lap, working on my turns, streamlining, making sure I’m kicking in and out, learning from some of the mistakes that I made when I was younger. When I found that I focused on finishing off my strokes, staying long, that the majority of the time I was able to kind of fight through the pain. Periodically, I wasn’t able to and most of the times although I wouldn’t admit it, it was probably because I didn’t work out hard enough up to that meet, but basically that’s how I kind of fought through it.

 

Okay, Brian are you okay? Do you have something that you want to add or do we move? Brian answers, “ No you can move.” Okay, Tim when you were twelve you would look over at the one end of the Belmont plaza pool and see Hanz Fashnock going three 1500’s with Coach Gambrell and that wasn’t necessarily the most interesting thing that you felt like you were headed for. Your speed efforts were more around seeing how fast you could climb into the gutter and get around to see Hanz. Can you tell everybody which kind of kid you were like between the age of eight and twelve?

 

Tim replies, Well I had a great opportunity to grow up in Long Beach and Belmont Plaza was right on the beach there. My age group Coach was Skip Kenny, and he just kept things loose and fun and basically we were just racing and goofing around all of the time. The gutters at Belmont you could actually just slide right in and crawl along the way and go down by the senior group. The trick for me with speed and training was to get past Hanz and the rest of the German group with Gambrell and not be detected and get past them because they would try to drown you if they ever caught you in there and teach you a lesson. But at the time I really appreciated Skip because we could look down there, and we knew that our training bar mitzvah was to come sooner or later when we were going to have to make the step and transition into really hard work.

 

What do you remember about when the idea of  swimming faster in practice, was that the advent of Coach Jochums or when did that kick in, looking at the pace clock and knowing times and improving sets was real important?

 

I think there were two great opportunities for me. Skip gave me sort of the fun speed and the extrinsic value of racing your buddies and having fun and going fast and being on the relays. Then when Stone Cold Steve Austin walked in the door, there’s Dick Jochums with his butch hair-cut and his bravado. The great thing about Jochums is when I was thirteen or fourteen, a young man growing up and ready to mature and wondering all kinds of things about life and what is to come, what came out of his mouth was Greek philosophy. And it was about the process and the struggle and it was about the meaning of life and the importance of measuring success on your own individual effort. I couldn’t believe that the Greek mythology was coming from such a man like Jochums. He just sold me on the reality of why we should be in sports in the first place, and so he gave me the intrinsic value of the sheer enjoyment of performance through pain and speed in training to reach my best potential.

 

We are going to look at a few things, if we can dim the lights over here up on the screen. This is a graph that I put up last year, which is, it may be inverted but believe it or not it still works. The idea is that at eleven and twelve years old these kids were training pretty much training 30,000 yards a week. I noticed that with Graham Hackett they say the same type of thing about him. Six practices a week, 5000 or 6000 a day. And then over three seasons, basically adding some doubles in the summer, keeping the doubles the next winter and then adding more doubles the following summer, they vaulted up to somewhere between 80,000 or so yards or meters a week for Tim and as many as 100,000 to 110,000 for Brian and Bob. That graph doesn’t exactly show it but it could have, oh boy, okay.

 

We had the other splits of 1500 from those days compared to now, but this is kind of interesting. This is Eric Vendt 15.10, his average 100’s were 007, Chris Thompson 15.04 average, 100’s were 003, Graham Hackett the summer at Pan-Pac average 59.0 and Karen Perkins 58.8. If we had looked at the previous slide, or if I had been visible, you would have noticed that Kieren Perkins’ last five 100’s of his world record swim are almost identical to Brian’s last five 100’s when he went 15.02. As a matter of fact, I think Brian may still stand as having the fastest last 500 in history of a 1500-meter swim. In the 400, the difference was in speed between 58.9 for Chad Carbin and Ian Thorpe 55’s. John can you throw up that first overhead please? We’ve got here a few overheads of Brian’s log book that we wanted  to talk about. The first one is going to be May 16, as this warms up a little bit, May 16, 1976 about five weeks before the Olympic trails. The morning practice is 11,000 the afternoon practice is about 8800. You will notice in the morning practice there’s five 1000’s or four 1000’s there, it’s the third row from the top and I can’t see it real well here but, Brian you start out with what 10.05, 10.10? 10.45, Brian says.10.45 and do you want to read off those.Brian says, The second one was 9.58, the third one was9.51 and the fourth one was 9.30.

 

Okay and down at the bottom, Brian’s got a comment there, absolutely dead, just really awful. That was 19,900 yards with five weeks to go. Um, John if you can pull that off, this slide is kind of mixing and matching. John hold-off on that one for just a second I think.

 

I think this next one is Casey Converse’s log book, and actually it is Brian, and it’s the next day or two afterwards and you had written in your log book that you were, you didn’t come to afternoon practice you were so exhausted I think. And this is Casey in practice, two 1500’s, the first one 16.28 and the second one 15.47. Can we go to the next one John? And we’re just trying to give an idea of what Brian was doing in those days.

 

The next overhead, this is the end of a second practice, two 800’s at the end on that day and Brian that’s kind of the epiphany swim there the second 800.

 

Can you talk about what happened in practice from a speed stand point, not necessarily from a visualization stand point.

 

Okay just the times is that what you want? Brian asks. Well yeah and your effort.

Brian answers, Okay. This is coming in on a period when I was in a slump I would call it in training. I felt awful I was stinking up the pool, I felt like that for about two weeks, I had been really down, really tired, exhausted, and not doing well in comparison to what my expectations were and what my teammates were doing. And we had an excellent training environment at Mission Viejo. We had what we called the animal lane, and we had Casey Converse and Taylor Howe and a number of great swimmers were there swimming with us, Jesse Vassallo, and so I was feeling pretty bad because I wasn’t leading the lane. Here I was, supposed to be one of the best distance swimmers in the world at the time, and I was kind of going at the end of the lane, dragging off everybody else and feeling pretty awful. And so finally I got fed up on this swim because my earlier one wasn’t to exciting there. And the second 800 in this workout was broken 10 seconds at the 100, and so I decided that I was feeling so terrible that I would just sprint the first 100 and if I died, I died, I didn’t care. In fact, I was starting to maybe think like Bobby Hackett here, just sprint out the first 100. Normally I didn’t do that. I usually saved quite a bit for the end of the race. And so I went out in a 61 flat, and then I went 60 points, 60 points, 60 points, 60 points and then a 59 and then 60 points, and then I think that was a 58 on the last 100.

 

The thing that I remember most about that swim was that I had a major mental break through in that race and that set me up I think right for the trails. And for that workout I remember Mark gave us a warm-down of like 400 and then he left the deck so everyone did a 300 and got out, except for me, and I was in there just relishing what I had just accomplished, the mental break through. And I kept swimming, and I think I swam about another 1200 meters that day. And I was just in the water, and I remember I was up on top and I was gliding and the strokes were long, and I felt like I was almost cross-country skiing, you know and I was just shushing through the water there and I remember Mark came out, he finally comes out and everyone else is gone, the showers were off and everyone else was out of there, and I’m still in the pool swimming, and he comes out and he’s standing on the side of the pool and he’s looking at me and he’s got his sunglasses on. I stopped and looked up at him and he goes, didn’t you get enough, and I said, it is amazing the power of the mind, and he just got this big grin on his face and so did I. It was, just like Chuck said, an epiphany for me, a real breakthrough, that I found out that I could break through that slump I could break through the pain.

 

And I’ll talk I guess a little bit more about how I did that in a minute.

 

This is the next day after that set, and I think the sequence in training here is interesting which is eight 100’s free on 130 going 55’s down to 53’s, 52’s. I think and then four dive 50’s free where Brian was going from 22.8 to 22.2. And I think this is just significant in the day after day type of speed work these guys were able to do still within the context of going 20000 yards, 15000 meters, whatever it is today, and certainly in contrast with some of the things we hear about just going miles, miles, miles.

 

Bob, this is, John you can take that off of there, this is a picture, a short story of Mike Brunner goes the 10000 swim averaging 1 minute under every 100 at the November Swim-A-Thon on Coach Rosen’s team in Danza. Joe Bernol hears about it and calls up Coach Rosen and confirms that it’s true, looks through his log book and see you have gone a few 100’s on a minute before and calls you in the next day and says Bob why don’t we do this, we’ll try it our way, and Bob by the way, training in a four lane 25 yard pool , there was a picture of it in Splash magazine recently, and why don’t we try thirty and if you can keep going, keep going, and if you don’t make it to one hundred 100’s today that’s all right. We’ll keep adding to what we did in the future and go from there.

 

Can you tell us about your epiphany and that experience and the element of speed involved?

 

Bob replies, You know Joe was always one to test the swimmers. He and I sort of had an understanding that he would give me these things to do, and I would shrug and smile and go off and do them. On this one, really on my development between the ages of fifteen and sixteen, I knew that I didn’t have much of a kick. But I knew that if I really wanted to break fifteen minutes swimming in a twenty five yard pool, four lanes with 65 swimmers, you know, I knew that I really had to do close to 54’s on my feet and really worked hard on splitting those 27, 27. And had been doing it fairly well for 15, 209 and we were starting to do a lot of these on 130, 120, 115, 110, and I would take them on a minute.

 

So when he approached me and said here’s what we’re going to do, I said okay fine and I knew I could do it. But I knew I could do it if I went 58’s, and I wasn’t doing it on my feet at that time, it was just a hand touch. And it started off, you know, everybody was in the lane and everybody was told that this lane is if you were going to do it under a minute. You go, if not, you basically increase the pace and you do your one hundred 100’s and you go them on 110, 120, whatever you could do. And certainly it was a team effort. I mean certainly the focus was on me, but you know you had 65 swimmers and you were kind of going along. And what ended up happening was, you know Joe is a master of the mind and manipulation in his own little way, he quietly started getting people out of the pool when I was going 56’s and 55’s. But I think probably that by the 60th one, half of the swimmers were out of the pool watching, and Joe had the other swimmers swimming next to me, trying to beat me. And so it became a game, and when I was swimming in practice it was me against the clock. You know, twelve people in the lane, really enjoying running them all over, you know. So for me it was the clock when I was swimming, and I was enjoying the fact that I was able to beat my fellow swimmers who were swimming 100’s every ten to fifteen minutes, and I was progressing and progressing.

 

So for me it was a phenomenal event, and when I got to fifty I knew I could keep going. I mean I went one hundred 100’s, but I could have probably gone another one hundred that day, and I threw in a 52 at the end, which for me was pretty darned fast at that time. It was great, and I had the whole team cheering and it was a very supportive environment for me. It was a very fulfilling kind of thing. As far as I was concerned, Mike Brenner did his 10,000-yard swim and Mike was the evil person as far as I was concerned. And I was able to one-up him and we progressed on those one hundred 100’s through the year where I was doing 54’s on my feet splitting 27’s and progressing along.

 

Tim, Coach Jochums gave you pretty much similar sets all the time. Can you tell everybody at least a couple of examples of what those sets were like and how fast you were commonly going on the?

 

Tim responds, We’ll I kind of liked and hated this one set, twelve 400’s, was my favorite and it always seemed to catch you around the sixth of seventh one. We would go a tiered four sets of three, and you’ve got a little break in between each set of three, but it was great to work on pace and descend at the same time. So the first group of three would be on a certain interval and the next group of three would be on a faster interval and the following a faster interval and the last group of three you would always get hung up around six or seven. You felt good, took it out a little strong and smooth, and now you are sort of stuck with the fact that you have got to go faster, but you are getting less rest on the intervals. That formula to me worked for twelve 100’s and twelve 200 and especially twelve 400’s, and I thought it was a great set and it got an awful lot of things accomplished at the same time.

 

How fast would you be going?

 

I would say, I can’t remember the times really, I would say on the last set of three 400 long course, we may be going on an interval of 420, and I might be holding about four 10’s. 420’s going four 10’s? I think so. And your typical set of 200’s was 10 on 230 or 245 long course or ten on 230 short course?

 

What I liked to do was basically descend every set, and I actually preferred an interval that was sort of strong, you know not to easy not to tough, and then just descent to all out. But the trick was, early on in the career you know, not just do numbers eight, nine and ten hard, but I remember Dick sold me on a point, that, you know, the day that I really make it a tight descending set, and I’m really moving on numbers three and four and really getting into it on five, six and seven, and then I come through and still perform great on eight, nine and ten, that’s when I’m going to be a champion.

 

147’s on 230, does that sound familiar, ballpark, yards?

 

I think I came down to maybe 144’s. Yes, in the middle of the set though 147’s. Yes, 147.

 

So if we are thinking about threshold type training today that you were swimming more like 147, where a lot of people might be going 155 or 157.

 

Yes and that’s in the Belmont at the shallow end with no lane lines and pretty crowded so you would have to duck and move and read out somebody that you were trying to lap.

 

We heard that you were throwing people out of your lane to get out of your way.

 

I threw a couple out of my lane. Brian adds, Chuck, we did similar sets like that. Tim’s sets reminded me of some things that we did, like twenty 200’s descending one to five, where number one would be the slowest and number twenty would be the fastest, and you guys know how that works, and we would go something like on, this is long course, 230, 225, 220, 215 something like that as intervals. And as Tim was saying picking it up where you’re getting pretty fast pretty early in that set is not common, I don’t think, and we used to really bag the first one, and then barely make the first interval and you know how people do that. They give themselves plenty of room for error.

 

I remember in getting ready for Montreal we had a special work-out group just for the people who qualified for the Olympic trails so we had plenty of room in our lanes. We had a half of a lane to ourselves, usually I think we had about thirteen people that qualified for the trails. And I remember leading off on one of those one morning and going 205 on the first one. I remember Shirley Babishoff coming in and looking across the pool at me, she was like four lanes over and she goes, what are you doing, because you know she went like 220 or something, and she was pissed. And everyone was looking at me too like glaring at me like, what was that about, you know, what’s Goodell trying to do. But you know what? We were so competitive that the next one they were all right there with me, and so I remember Mark taking me aside after that workout and saying, I really loved the way you attacked that set. And I fed off that, and I started doing that more and more throughout my training. I think that fast training really made that huge difference when it came down to the end.

 

Brian, this is Bobby Hackett’s least favorite song. Can you tell everybody a little bit about this song? And how it came into your training, and why now there is the Aqua-pacer, but in the old days there was ‘Radar Love’ and it gave you tempo. If you want to dance while you’re doing it that’s fine too?

 

Brian answers, This is a perfect tempo for a sub-15-minute mile.

 

Bobby adds, I’d be running it 78.

 

Yeah that’s Bobby, he’s going double speed. I heard this on the way to practice one day on the radio, and it just stuck. It just clicked for me, and everything I relate to, going back in my memory because now it has been so long ago, all of my memories are tied to people and songs. And so, and the songs that played in my head over and over in those practices, and this is one that caught on for me. And when I would kick into ‘Radar Love’ and ‘No more speed I’m almost there’ I could push through the pain, and  I would start really cranking.

 

And so there was one practice in particular I remember, and I just remember kicking into this at the end of a 3000-meter swim for time. It was a Sunday make-up workout. I didn’t want to be there. I was kind of bagging, but I knew that the times were being recorded, and that if I didn’t go fast, I’d get to that swim again on Monday. And so I got up to about 1500 meters in this 3000 swim, and said Goodell, you’ve got to swim faster, and so he started playing Olympics in the last 1500 of that 3000 for time. And I started singing ‘Radar Love’ and I started cranking, and I came in on my last, I remember on my last 100 of that. I was racing a guy named Jimmy Carter from Great Britain in the lane next to me, and I blew him away in the last three laps and came in. And Brad Lynn was his coach on the deck that day, and he just looked at me, and I came and hit the wall threw my hands in the air looked at the score board and saw that I had broken fifteen minutes. You know imaginary in my mind. And he says, what are you doing. And I said, I just won it all, and he said, well, not bad your last 100 was 59.2 on a 3000 swim in practice on a Sunday when I didn’t want to be there. So I would use music like that like ‘Radar Love’ especially, and I actually played ‘Radar Love’ in my head on that last 500 in Montreal to kick it in.

 

Tim you had your own method of keeping your mind out in front of your body, could you explain that?

 

Well I sort of thought there were two types of pain. One was associated with everything bad about the sport and your body. It was sort of like it could either happen when your head wasn’t into a set or it wasn’t at the meet that day, you didn’t show up to perform, or it could be in the middle of a mile where somebody pulls ahead and just plain old breaks your spirits. And at that point I felt that the world sort of collapses in on your body, and you start to notice little things about each limb of your body and everything collapses in like a black hole. And I think my success, going through pain and taking swims out and being in a zone was, when my mind was sort of out in front of my body about three to four meters. You know, sort of dragging me along, and I was in a groove and I sort of felt, you know, no overall specific pain, just a general deep pain building and building and pushing and pushing, and when my mind was out in front of my body, I felt that I was performing at my optimum.

 

And you had kind of an unusual situation in that even though Steven Holland might have been your biggest rival, you guys only got in the same race twice your entire career.

 

But it was interesting that Australia would have their nationals in January, and we would have ours in August. Can you talk about Steven Holland and the impact he made in training with you and motivating you?

 

I really think you know, that was the best for me, the Australian summers and their performances, and sometimes saltwater performances that were very fast and hearing the training coming out of there, you know you get past December the cold and flu season, and you are just about ready to have a slump, and the end isn’t really in sight for your high school or your college championships yet, and you hear news out of Australia as you’re sitting home deciding, well are you going to step up and get the job done for the United States and take the ball, or are you going to sit back and grovel and applaud their performances. And as for me you know every December and January, I would hear news of what was coming out of Steve Holland camp, and I would decide over one long night that I was going to take the ball and then visualize usually in the main set or anytime during the evening program, what is he doing in his pool in Australia, and what did he do today in performance. And I absolutely have to train harder than what I can imagine he is doing that day.

 

And he was a high mileage guy and you were a relatively low mileage guy in the sense of being about an 80000 a week guy, and so your feelings about intensity and speed in practice?

 

My feelings then and they still are to this day, are that you know mileage has to be done with speed and effort and leg drive and great wall, and if it’s not done with those kind of parameters, I think it’s just junk training and you are wasting a lot of time. You are burning out the kid, and it has to be specific. So, I felt that Steve Holland, he could sit there bragging about how many miles he went, but I felt that our quality miles were far surpassing his training over there because the one thing that supported it was you know he almost would do his best time in the 400 on the way to one of his great miles, and so I thought we were accomplishing more speed variables in our training.

 

Bob, you got into this a little bit earlier, but you said that every single day when you would go to practice you would be looking for the pain barrier and it was a regular event and the way Joe would train people was not tell them when practice would finish and work hard and work hard and you might get out at eight you might get out at nine, you weren’t really sure and the pride you took in going hard and continuing to go hard even though you didn’t know what was next. Could you talk about that a little bit?

 

Bob says, Yeah, Joe was, um, he never, you know, practice was about two and a half hours, and it was supposed to end around eight, and he is very much into the team performing at a high level, and I was part of the team. And like Tim, I always found that in a small pool, you get out and you race and you try and keep your sets real tight and real focused and Joe would keep us an extra hour to do a set and you know nine o’clock at night being at a University in the Bronx with my brother waiting, and you know turning around and the next thing you know several hours later, getting there at 5:45 to start the day all over again. You know I could see a lot of my teammates get real down, and you know I relished in knowing that I didn’t know what was going to happen next. I would throw in a set, and I would swear it was the last thing to do, and I would see this smile on his face, and I said oh my god here it comes again. And I know he prepared his practices, but I’m sure he threw a couple of things in there just to test you all the time. And you know to me it was a game. You swim with a guy from when you are twelve years old and you stop when you are twenty-one. You know, eventually I got to know the practices, and I got to know the body language, and I was able to actually predict what the practice was and the mileage and the time. So, after a while it was more of a game for me than to him. But I mean I liked practice, I really I loved training. I loved competing and for me, I didn’t have a lot of competition when I was swimming, so for me the clock and the running over people and playing games and focusing was really what drove me to be successful.

 

Was hurting in practice a well-received body sensation that you knew you were going to go through and beyond that you would train better?

 

It was a required part of the curriculum.

 

Thanks. Brian we want to get this video up here soon, but can you go back to that set of eight 100’s on 110 on ten seconds rest and your Supertramp visualizations and some of the things that you should probably write a book on alone, but hopefully we have covered some of that.

 

Yes, I was just talking kind of with Tim and with Bobby who had mentioned in terms of the pain varies and everyday it’s there. Tim has a great quote in the book about you know he’s there in every workout waiting for you, he’s going to arrive, and you’ve got to stare him down and face him down and go on. And one of the things that Tim just mentioned about being about three to four meters out in front of his body, I had a similar experience or technique that I used to push through the pain in practice. And, besides as he mentioned visualizing what Steve Holland was doing that day, I was visualizing what Tim Shaw was doing that day, and Bobby Hackett and Mike Bruner, and I also had a pack of guys in the lane with me that were right on my heels all of the time. So I had great competition and great rabbits to chase. But I used to imagine being a pilot in a 747 because it’s kind of like what Tim was saying, being out in front of your body. The pilot in a 747 sits way out on top he’s on this bubble on top of this fuselage there. He doesn’t feel the engines, he doesn’t hurt when the engines are screaming or when the plane is shuttering and shaking, he can feel it, but it doesn’t hurt his body. He just knows that the plane he’s pushing it to the edge and that’s the way I felt. I was the pilot, the body was the plane, and that it didn’t matter if the engines and the wings and all of the stress points were screaming like my arms and my legs and my back and my gut and everything else because I just separate it out from the body. I would just visualize myself sitting up there and just pushing the throttle all the way forward, and the whole thing falling apart and it just didn’t matter. I was just kind of just saying go, go, you know, kind of just like a Conair movie or something, just push the thing and just push it through even if the plane just gets destroyed. And that was just one thing that I did.

 

Chuck mentioned the Supertramp, there was a cover of an album by Supertramp called ‘Crime of the Century.’ I don’t know if you guys remember that, if you are old enough to remember that album, but that was one thing that I visualized. I particularly remember doing it on a set in Kanton in training camp with Bobby blowing me away on something some sets, and I was in such pain, and I remember just seeing, on that album there’s jail bars and there’s these hands and they are sort of suspended in the middle of space and   I imagined a box like a cage like that, and I just imagined exploding it, and the cage was the pain and the lactic acid and whatever was going on in my body that was making the muscles scream, and I imagined exploding that cage just by sure will of my mind, and then I was able to pick it up and go faster and stretch further forward and that sort of thing. So I played a lot of mental games, and had a lot of visualization going on—real spacey stuff, but that’s what it took for me to push through it in practice, and then of course always having the rabbits to chase and looking across the pool and pretending that Janet over there in lane eight is Bobby and Tommy in lane two is you know Tim and Steve Holland was in the pool. I did that all the time, and I did it. I raced people in and out of the walls on turns that helped me stay sharp and fast on my turns in practice. Because I know that’s a big place where people just get lazy and rest.

 

In fact, my very first international competition was in New Zealand, and I remember Steven Holland was there and he broke the world record, I believe there. I think he went 15.27 at that meet. And right before that race, he was over in an outside lane with his coach standing above him, and he did ten full speed flip turns, and I was already out of the pool drying off getting my sweats on getting ready to go into the race, and I was watching him thinking why is he doing that? But that stuck with me and that was in January of 1975. From January 1975 until July of 1976 when I went 15.02, I thought about that every day in practice. And I worked my turns really hard.

 

I thought we would try to take this discussion into the performance level of what was going on in the minds of these guys. While we are getting this ready, Bob doesn’t look any different than he does now, except that his hair is a little more chlorinated. It’s very interesting to hear Brian talking about his turn work and hopefully you get the impression as to the degree of personal responsibility these guys took for their swimming. Bob can you talk a little bit about what’s happening here on the front end?

 

Bob responds, Yes, you know, my coach and I every single race from when I was twelve until I was twenty-one in my last race at Harvard, was how are you going to swim. So you know you always were mentally prepared for your race, and I remember thinking jeez, I’m world record in the 800 meter free and that was all the talk of the town, and I figured that I was swimming so well in training camp, but never really had such fast people to train with. And I knew what I was able to do, and I was actually working on some of the things I was a little weak on in coming back, and I felt jeez I’m not going to go out that fast. I figured there’s no way anybody in their right mind would go out faster than me. I think it was in everybody’s head that I was just going to go out like I did in trials, and I held back, and I was actually fairly surprised that I had gone out fairly fast and my first turn I really nailed. And after the first 175 meters, I figured he was not going to survive and thought in my mind jeez, I got myself a bronze medal and was thinking that I was going to really nail it coming home. And I figured Holland’s turns were so bad when I saw them, and I didn’t think that he actually could come back I knew that I could out-sprint him. I felt that Brian, if he would just tail back a little far and might get a bit discouraged. I think unfortunately for me he was mentally tough and right next to me and that was probably the only part of the strategy that didn’t work. But I swam the best race of my life at the right time the right moment and speaking of pain, I had no pain in this race. Which means that I probably could have swum a little faster. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I would have won.

 

You went out too slow.

 

I went out too slow. You know and actually I was splitting 1001 after the first 300 meters and that wasn’t really the plan. I slowed down a little bit too much from 400 to 800. Brian’s down here two lanes down from Bob and Brian had never won a major race until the Olympic trials in 1976, and one of the hopes we might have the year before 1975, everyone thought Tim and Steven were the two guys just like we all think Ian Thorpe and Graham Hackett are way out there. You never know what’s going to happen that last year.

 

But Brian can you tell a little about what’s going on with you right know the 300 meters, leading up to this race your lack of warm up pool and that sort of thing?

 

I was really feeling the pressure of coming into this race  as the world record holder from the trails. I went 15.06 in Long Beach, and I think Steven had made a comment in the press that one of my buddies from Mission Viejo said to  me that if he can only go 15.06 he might as well not even show up in Montreal. There was a lot of buzz about this race beforehand, and I was feeling the pressure. I started to lose it after warm-up. I was in the warm up pool with Don Gambrell doing my pace work, and I couldn’t hit the pace that I wanted to hit. I was a little bit slow about 5/10, 4/10 slow on every hundred, and I kept wanting to do more. I did about five of them, and finally Don said Brian you are just going to get tired, you will be fine in the race and go have a rubdown and a shower and get ready. So as I went through that process, I started to get really nervous, and I started to kind of lose control. Thankfully Seldon Fritchner was my masseuse there. He also happened to be one of our assistants at Mission Viejo, and he realized what was going on and he got my mind off the race and finally turned our conversation to what were my plans after the Olympics. So he was able to get me to calm down. I was shaking so bad he thought that I wasn’t going to be able to even walk out and get on the block. So I was really disoriented when we started this race, and I was just gauging everything off of Bobby, and luckily I had such great racing experience and racing skills that I was able to come back and salvage what was really a disaster at the start of the race. I was so nervous before I started that I had hyperventilated and my arms and legs were numb as I stood on the starting block.

 

This just jumped ahead here to the 600, and Bob is still leading Brian one lane down. It’s a good video, it just something in the system that is not giving us a good picture.

 

That’s Steven, now, they have jumped ahead, and this is where Steve Holland has taken the lead, they did an up close and personal expecting Steven to be the winner of this race. And he is in the lead and we are approaching 1100 meters right here at this point. What’s going through my mind is that I’m looking behind me to see if anyone can catch me. I am feeling pain all of the nervous energy took its toll, and I was hitting the pain barrier and I was looking behind me to see if anyone was catching me because I was having a conversation with myself as can I do it is third place good enough. And luckily I decided that third place wasn’t good enough, and I visualized myself standing on the awards podium in third place, and it just didn’t look very good to me. So I started kicking a little bit harder and reaching out a little further out in front at this point.

 

Bob says, and just to give you an idea, I think Brian decided to do that between 1000 and 1100 because his split went from 1009 to 59.5. So he kicked it into gear and for me I was feeling great actually, I was still swimming a little too slow. I probably should have picked it up a little sooner, but when Brian started catching up you know I still thought that I had a chance to win this thing and unfortunately Brian had a really good last 100 which you will see.

 

These guys weren’t 6’5,” very good athletes, but still not 6’5” like some of the competitors today.

 

Bob continues, and you can see my turnover is much quicker than it was before. You can’t see the kick, but I really had a two-feet kick, and boy could I power a two-feet kick within the last 50. Steven had gone out a little slower than what he had planned trying to go out a little bit easier. He’s really hustling knowing Brian at least is coming back on him. At this point I knew I was going to beat Steve Holland. At this point the question was whether I was going to be able to hold Brian off. I had that much confidence believe it or not, in my last 100 of a 1500 meter race.

 

Okay 1300, 200 to go Brian, what’s going on?

 

Brian says, Well I just came off of that turn and finally moved off the lane lined and decided that I was going to pass Bobby on this lap. And I had been dragging on Bobby for 1300 meters. Actually I dragged on Bobby for about four  years, five years I think, but I was dragging on him for 1300, and I moved across the lane. I didn’t want him to have any benefit from my wake as I went by. And I got into my sprint at that turn there, I, that year I knew this was where I was going to have to win this race if I was going to be in contention because I didn’t feel, I didn’t have the confidence to get out fast. I knew I could come back hard. I could rely on my endurance, and so I put my kick in with three laps to go. Usually I wait until the last two or even one lap and I gave it three. Kieren Perkins went 14.43, I believe it is. He was 57.1 on his last 100 and Brian was 57.7 here going 15.02.

 

Bob what’s going on in your brain?

 

Bob answers, I’m sprinting! And actually I’m catching Brian going into this turn unfortunately I didn’t nail the turn.

 

Brian adds, Yes and all I was saying going into that turn was you’ve got to hit this turn, you’ve got to hit this turn, because I was dead if I missed this turn, there was no recovery.

 

Brian is this 747 stuff?

 

Brian continues, Oh yeah this is autopilot, out of the body experience right now, and I know right now that I’m not going to beat Brian and actually I’m not wearing goggles and I’m kind of swimming like this. If you’ve seen this before you’ve seen Bob’s great finish. Before we finish up here, I  did want to tell you that in the room today are two of the best swimming parents that have ever lived who started the Mission Viejo team, and they are Mr. and Mrs. Wayne Gadelis. If you guys could please stand up. Just a little something to do on Thursday night, start the Mission Viejo team.

 

Tim, I think that video is so poor that if you could just talk a little bit about your 400 in Montreal and the fact that you felt as though you could not let Brian get ahead and what you were doing with your own body and your own mind to bring everything out of yourself that you possibly could.

 

Tim responds, Well, to set up the 400, I had had a devastating year of training. The eleven and twelve year old girls were beating me on kick sets and everything else, and I didn’t know what was happening.

 

Now you are not going to tell the whole book are you?

 

Tim continues, No! But basically it turned out that I was anemic through the late summer and just really fortunate to even make the Olympic team. And really, I think if Casey would have qualified in the morning, I think he had the silver medal secured, and I really feel he would have pushed Brian to sub 350 no problem because of Brian’s last 200 here and the mile. He was definitely the dominant individual that night, so I could not use any of my strategy. I normally like to go smooth and swift the first 100, build the second 100, move into the 200 wall and really turn up the heat in the third 100 and anchor coming home with a great finishing kick. And  I had no tools what-so-ever to use, so I just wanted to sort of save face that night and stay somewhere up by him right from the start. I knew I didn’t have any tools if I fell behind and tried to get tricky, I’d be way out of the picture. So all I did was just start trying to stay up with Brian, and I basically sprinted every lap, just hanging on his coat tails and witnessing a great performance. I had the best seat in the house, to see him win the gold.

 

And who told you your time that day?

 

Brian did because I am blind as a bat, so I said how’d we do?

 

I think we can try to stay over a couple minutes to answer a couple questions for these guys because I don’t want to lose anybody from this room. I do want to tell you there’s been a lot of nice things said about me in the last year or so. Coach Rosen a year ago said, Chuck thank you for the service you are doing in bringing this sort of information back, but these three guys are really the ones who have taken so much time to spend time here today. None of them is getting a dime for being here. Mr. Hackett from New Jersey…he had a bed to sleep in last night and a bed to sleep in tonight, and their only compensation is to help American swimmers and help American swimming coaches to be better, and I wish we could all thank them for that.

 

Does that mean were getting old?

 

That’s pretty darned good compensation. And as Pat said earlier if you want for yourself, for your swimmers, for an auction, whatever, they are going to be autographing this book out in the exhibit hall between 10:30 and 12.

 

Is there anybody what has a question that they would like to ask? And we can go I think for a couple minutes about this or anything else? Sure.

 

(Question.) Tim can you start on this because you were talking about this last night, and you have been coaching the last several years as well, so you probably have a good look from both sides.

 

Tim starts, We’ll to me it was at that age you know where Dick Jochums just took me under his wing. I was in the right stop under the right direction at the right time, and he sold me on such an intrinsic value to sports in general, and how it relates over the history of time and the early Greek competitions and the way you want to be a good father and a parent and a brother and a sister and everything else, and he sold me on that at a very early age. And I was set to go. I didn’t need anything else. I believed it the first time. I still do and to his credit where I am today. Brian?  Bob?

Brian answers, I would say similar. Mark Shubert had a major influence on my life. He came to Mission Viejo as a very young man, I think he was 23 or 24, but he had very clear articulated goal of where he wanted to take the club and where he wanted to go. And I bought into that. We were mediocre county kind of a YMCA type program, and he said we are going to think nationals. That’s our total focus is to think nationals. And no one in our club had ever even qualified for nationals before, and so that was a big deal because a lot of kids quit. They couldn’t think that big. And the other thing was in 1975 on the world championship team in Long Beach at the training camp, they had a seminar there that I really got a lot out of, and I think it was the Pacific Institute at that time, or Jeff Goforth seminar, I’m not sure what he called it. Anyhow I learned a lot of great techniques. I learned about how the brain works, the subconscious, the creative subconscious and overcoming obstacles, and I bought into that hook, line and sinker and used it and used it and used it with great results obviously.

 

Bob answers, For me, I grew up in an area that swimming was a non-existing sport as far as most people were concerned, and I had parents that knew absolutely nothing about swimming. I had derived a lot of success from swimming and had struggled. I grew up sort of academically and just trying to find myself. So, you know, when I realized I wasn’t swimming well when I was eleven and, you know, you had the Brunell’s Gators swimming pretty good, you know I really wanted to swim well, and perform and not be beaten. So I joined the team, and Joe you know really, I was lucky I mean I had a great father and a great mother, my father knew nothing about swimming when I started. He still claims that he knows nothing about swimming, you know but like Joe was like a father to me. And you know like with your father, you fight when you are a teenager, and I fought him when I was a teenager, when I was fourteen, and I hate to admit it, and I told him this before I swam bad, and he was right and I said fine, let’s dedicate it, let’s focus and you know it definitely comes from within. But there’s definitely influences from your parents who basically said you know you do what you want, if you don’t want to swim do something else. We don’t want to be driving all over creation, driving you all over the place. So if you want to quit, it will probably be easier for them, we didn’t really have a lot of money, and there was financial hardship. So, you know, by just dedicating myself to my coach and to my parents, who spent a lot of time and energy, as a thirteen, fourteen and fifteen year old, I realized that and I wanted to please them, and I wanted to swim well for myself. So however you can instill that in your athletes and try to get the parents to understand, it’s a real challenge, and it’s not one that I envy, being in your position. But you always think back to those kids that you coach and you love it, and if you can find one, all it takes is one. One to motivate two, and it becomes exponential, so you know, that’s my answer to the question.

 

Tim adds, I would like to add one thing to that. Bob triggered it in my mind, and that is commitment. And I think all three of us talked a lot about our coach, and so my hat’s off to you guys because you have that commitment. That’s one of the reasons that I chose not to go into coaching. I didn’t have the maturity to commit to be there for those kids the way that you people do. And it’s such a big burden, such a big role. So anyhow you have to look within yourselves, I think and step it up and take it to the next level and really show that commitment. And there’s an old speech from the 50’s from Rich Divosta, it’s called white heat in which he talks about that. It’s a white heat, you’ve got to have that passion and have that commitment, and so that everybody knows exactly where you stand.

 

Maybe we can go one more question, all the way in the back.

 

(Question.) Oh boy, you’ve got to buy the book. How did Rick Demont lead into thing? One of the really interesting things about doing this whole project was seeing how one thing lead to the next thing, to the next thing, to the next thing. And there’s about seven or ten different important stories that could go on right now about the impact that Rick Demont made on Tim, on Bob and on Brian, just huge. But one of the unusual things, and then we are going to go to another question because I am going to avoid this one, is that we had somebody in the United States the year after an Olympic year, after being the best distance swimmer in the world. And that was just the beginning, there was a lot more to it than that. But how many times after an Olympics do we have somebody that’s leading, not lead anymore, and Rick Demont took the baton, and he went with it that next year because of the fiasco that happened in Munich. One more question?

 

(Question.) Bill? There were four weeks just to be accurate, and as we all know everybody went after Mike Brunner    in those days because nobody liked him Coach Rosen but everybody liked you.

 

Bob answers, I’ll take the first stab at it. Yes, I remember doing the first set of three 800, that was our first practice, and I went 807 on my last one, and I am swimming with a lot of fast people and you know I am very friendly with Brian and I was when I was swimming, and you know to me swimming is a sport, it’s fun and games. It’s playing basketball with your brother and getting in a fight and then going back and wrestling in the bedroom later and laughing. I mean, that’s what it’s about, you know. Getting the team together, building a team, you had a bunch of people from college and USC that I looked up to. I was sixteen years old. They were making fun of my accent, when I had one, and for me it was just, I mean, they clothed me, they drove me everywhere, I got to eat 24 hours a day if I wanted to. I mean it was one of the most happiest times in my life. And you know I was in a zone for four weeks and having a great time. I mean I would not have swum as well or had been as focused because I was swimming for the United States of America. I was swimming to beat Steve Holland. I mean he was the evil enemy, I mean it was great. And we all fed on that and I was very happy that Brian won. Brian put in a great 400, and I cannot feel bad for myself. I was very proud, I punched the wall, I cut my hand, and I was like USA is doing pretty well and that’s what it’s all about. If it’s different today well, you know, what can I say, it’s different today. Brian?

 

Brian responds, That’s a great answer. We had a great time, a great team and great leadership with Doc Counsilman as our head coach. And I think there is some discussion in the book as well about the discussion between Don Gambrell and Doc Counsilman, as to whether or not they articulated the goals of our team that year because it was so awesome, what we could accomplish, and they decided to risk it and go ahead and put that pressure and that burden on us. That we could win all of the gold medals at the 1976 Olympics. Our men’s team could do it. And we ended up winning twelve of thirteen golds, and I think ten of eleven silvers, and I don’t know eight or so bronze medals, I mean it was unbelievable. The success that that team had, and you know sometime you’ve just got to speak it into existence, and you’ve got to get out there and be bold and just go do it.

 

Mark Shubert did that every year at nationals. We won 48 nationals at Mission Viejo over the years. And he would do that, we would have the team meeting every night at the nationals. We would know exactly where we were, we would know where the points are, and we would know where the points had to come from. You have just got to go out and do it. I think that it speaks back again to commitment. And what are we doing it for if we’re not doing it to go win and do the best that we can possibly do, then maybe we should do something else.

 

And Tim you were training in George Haines’ group for the most part with middle distance people, a tremendous group, but you guys did a lot of fast swimming in that group.

 

Tim answers, We did. I just think it was sort of like, you know we’re beating each other up and racing each other, a lot of pressure, and going after each other for four full years. We finally made the Olympic team, now were brothers in arms, and now were going to take on the world and show them what we’re all about. I think that was day one of the camp. Every lane, every coach and every athlete was getting along with each other, supporting each other and you are going to those workouts and every single lane was just cranking with hard work. We had no worries about where we were headed and how much taper we needed, it was just a ball. And they were in the distance lane over here if you look at the sets they were doing, night after night they were outstanding performances for a solid three weeks at least.

I think we need to stop because of the business meeting, but thank you all so much for coming this morning and thank you.

Permalink

Distance Training of Eric Vendt by Josh Stern (1999)

Can everybody hear me? I’m not used to being miked up, so if I start screaming, let me know. Thank you Tim. Tim is one of the coaches who has helped me tremendously over the last six or seven years. Always there for advice, support, and I think the world of him. He’s had a tremendous influence on my coaching, and it was an honor to be introduced by him, but one thing I want to do is add a little thing that Tim forgot to mention, that is that I am ASCA Level Zero, and I will be speaking to you, today, about Eric Vendt. I want to thank ASCA sincerely for letting me talk. I am incredible excited about doing this talk, and I want to try and slow down, not try to go on too many tangents, but the way I figure it, I was going to get all organized and talk about Eric’s development and then talk about the way I train him. The way I look at  it is, there are probably two types of coaches in this room. What I mean by types coaches looking for two things out of this talk. You’re either here trying to figure out how to take young kids 10, 11, 12, 13 and develop them along the line so they can have success typical to, you know, like Eric Vent. Or, you’re here with kids at a real high level, and you’re just seeing if you can learn anything about how Eric trains, what he does on a consistent basis. So, what I’m going to try and do I realize that I’ve been coaching for seven years, which is obviously a very short time. Six of those years, I’ve been coaching Eric Vendt. I never really sat down and figured that out until a couple days ago, but I think it’s important to explain his development to probably explain where I’m coming from. Explain my background a little bit, and show how I developed, and how that influenced his development. I’m going to try and give you as much information as I possibly can, not only on what he does now, what he’s done over the last couple of years, the things I feel are instrumental in his training, and in his approach to swimming, but also to give you some background on what he was doing when he was 11, 12 years old.

 

If you can learn anything from it, a lot of people here are a hell of a lot smarter than I am. I figure you can use this kind of information and figure stuff out, but I’m lucky to have been involved with this kid and before I go any further, I want to say a couple of words about Eric. This is a great kid. Any of you, and I do mean any of you, if you care at all about swimming, would love coaching this kid. Works his butt off. Incredible positive, there is not anything about him that I would term as arrogant. I mean, he’s one of those kids I think when you have someone real successful, especially real young, you have people all over the place that get jealous of him, or they think he’s stuck up, or stuff like that. There isn’t a kid in New England that feels that way about Eric Vent. He’s the most popular kid on my team because of his work ethic and because he’s incredibly supportive, and if you have a kid like that in your program, who’s not just your fastest kid, but a kid who’s willing to work, or outwork, everybody else, it’s a wonderful example. And I have learned as much from Eric as a coach, and probably more, than he’s learned from me. It’s been a pleasure knowing this young man. I’m going to miss him tremendously look forward to see him grow up into an adult, and I hope you all get a chance to meet him. I could go on for hours about that kid. Instead, I’m going to talk about myself a little bit, which is another thing I love to do.

 

I was coached by two guys who had the most influence over me as a swimmer. I swam for Chris Martin at the Petty School. And those of you that know Chris an incredible, top coach. And when I swam for Chris, he showed up at the Petty School and turned that place into a national power. Did it through hard work, attitude, approaching the sport with an intensity. And whenever I think of Chris, the first word that comes up is “intensity.” After that, I went to college, and I swam for a guy named Bill Boomer, who is probably on the other end of the spectrum of Chris Martin. He’s a technique guy a huge technique guru. Started talking to me when I was a 17-year old freshman in college, and did not understand a word he said nothing. But, I was raised, luckily, to adjust to my coaches, and he had a profound effect on me. But I think the one thing he really raised up that influenced me as a coach, they both had an incredible effect on me growing up. They were very interested in not just how fast I swam, they took a huge amount of time and effort in slapping me around. Teaching me how to grow up emphasizing it, had a profound effect on my life, and I came out of those relationships with a huge amount of respect for coaching. Not so much because, well, they coached me, and I swam fast, but because they helped me grow up. And both of them really focused on that.

 

So, I came out of coaching in a situation where I had both of these guys that I thought were incredible coaches, and they were absolutely different. Absolutely. I swam for Chris for two years, and it’s probably a good thing because if I swam for him for four or five years, then I’d probably be just Chris Martin, Chris Martin, Chris Martin. Which some people do, and that’s great. Instead, I swam for him for two years, and I don’t remember doing one single thing about my technique, and I think it’s because I wasn’t fast enough. I think it was basically just survival. Boomer, used to pull me out of the water and tell me to calm down. And that used to drive me nuts because all he wanted was perfect swimming. And I came out of both of those relationships and got really lucky.

 

In fact if you told me I was going to be coaching seven years before this, I’d laugh at you. I just didn’t think I was good enough to be a coach. I put coaches on pedestals. I didn’t feel like I could possibly walk into that situation, and I started coaching ten and under kids at the New England Barracudas. At the same time I coached at Wellesley College. It’s a division three school at Boston all women. incredible luck that that started with me because what I ended up doing in that situation, was I got to coach absolute blank slates, and if any of you ever get the opportunity to coach 10 and unders, I think it’s a huge deal.

 

I think one of the lucky things that’s happened with my coaching is, I’ve been able to coach every step along the way. What I mean by that is, I’ve coached a lot of levels, and I’ve coached every different age group, including 5, 6-year olds. It’s not like I planned that, but it happened, and it gave me a really nice perspective because, when I came out of college, Boomer only coached me my freshman, kind of my sophomore year, and then he retired. When I came out of college and I started coaching the 10 and unders, I had all this Boomer stuff. And those of you who’ve had anything to do with Boomer, it’s confusing stuff. He says stuff like, linear flow, tangents, velocity, power vectors. I don’t get it I really don’t. I understand the swimming part of it, but I’m not really a science guy. I just try and understand it enough so I can apply it. But I understand that it worked and I became a student of it because for two years, really, Boomer was gone. I had all these ideas in my head as a swimmer, but I didn’t have Boomer telling me what to do, so I was left on my own. Started coaching 10 and unders and I used that stuff. And at the time, Boomer was of the mindset that that stuff is for college guys and pretty much smart college swimmers. I started using it on little 6, 7, 8-year olds, and it was incredible, because they picked it up. They may not have understood it, but they grasped it. They understood the basics of what we were doing and they kind of moved on with it. And instead of talking about guys forever, it was a pretty big deal for me. It’s because of that, that right now, standing in front of everybody here and there’s a bunch of college coaches, age group coaches, things like that.

 

The most important people to me in USA swimming are age group coaches. They’re the most important people because you’re teaching mind set, you’re teaching approach to swimming, by far. And as an age group coach, you get to decide on priorities. You get to pick up what people are going to do, and especially in today’s society, and I’m going to get to this a little bit later on, but, age group coaches aren’t just 8 and unders, or 9 and 10’s. To me, age group coaches are all the way up to when kids are around 17, 18, going in to college. And, when you start coaching, you have a possibility of influencing kids along two lines, technically and emotionally.

When you start coaching these kids I started coaching Eric at 12 years old. He was 12 years old. Talented? Yes. The most talented, no. Physically gifted, no. Wonderful competitor, but incredibly bad technically. He would get in, take  a ton of strokes per length, spin his wheels, attack everything as hard as he could, and that age, especially, I think you have the aerobic capability of just attacking stuff and slowly falling apart, but you can go and go and go. When you look at that stuff with Eric, it depends upon what you want to create. Now, my question to all of you is this. When you see an 11, 12-year old swimmer, what do you see? You look at these kids, they’re 11, 12 years old, maybe even 9,10, what do you see? Myself, personally, I see a champion. I can’t help it. I look at these kids and I don’t think, well what do they do in the water? How fast do they go? What can they do right now? What are their best strokes or best events? I honestly don’t care. What I see when I look at kids that age, is I see potential, and I imagine each one of those kids as a perfect swimmer.

 

Now, when I looked at Eric, the best thing about him when he was 12-years old was his attitude. He would attack things. He was hungry, aggressive, very competitive, and he loved what he was doing. He enjoyed it. A ton of energy. But when I looked at him as a swimmer, I didn’t think, well, he’s small, so he’s better have a nice stroke, because for all I knew he’d go through a huge growth spurt, I don’t know. I didn’t think, well, he’s going to be a distance swimmer, I had no idea. What I thought was, he needs to be trained as hard as he can because my influence was Chris. You need to work hard and get better, and, he needs to be a perfect swimmer. Why not? We have a mentality a lot where we cut corners, and when you’re dealing with 11, 12-year olds, why? It’s   a battle of wills. If you can sell them on your vision, then you can create the skills and help them learn the skills, then they’re going to be the ones going after that. So every kid you look at when they’re 11 and 12 don’t look at them and see what they do doesn’t matter. I couldn’t care less about who’s the fastest 11 year-old, 12-year old, 13,14. I can go through every kid in New England that kicked Eric’s butt, and there were a lot of them.

 

Now, it’s not like I want them to lose, but the biggest thing to me was long term focus. You got a kid at that age, you look at long term focus and you try and create a better swimmer. Now, the part of this that I like the most, when, not just Eric, but any of these kids were 12, and I was coaching Eric at Mass Bay Marlins, the head coach of the Harvard men’s team, Mike Chassan, and I absolutely loved what I was doing. Coach of the men’s team as a volunteer assistant, gave me a wonderful perspective that I got to see some very, very, good, very, hardworking division one athletes trying to raise their team into a top 10, and then to two A’s. And at the same time I’m coaching these 11, 12 year olds, and you can’t help but just try and have a vision of those kids when they’re older, when they’re competing in college. And it was a very nice situation for me.

 

I learned a tremendous amount from Mike this gives me a chance to say thank you to Mike Chassen because I had no experience. He watched me the first couple months, and let me go. He gave me direction. He gave me also an awful lot of responsibility. And it was a blast.

So, as I was coaching these kids, you start thinking about perfect swimming, you think about two things. You think about perfect technique which I’ve already mentioned, and that’s potential. And then you think about perfect attitude. And that’s the part that I like the most. As a young coach, still a young coach, but as a coach, the thing that I get the most enjoyment out of is not necessarily kids winning or going fast, but when you talk about trying to teach kids how to attack their potential. Not just as swimmers, efficiently, but as their attitude. To me, the greatest thing about Chris, and the greatest thing about Boomer, and about all the coaches that I’ve dealt with, and predominately I was a baseball player up until Chris showed up at Petty. But every coach that I had that ever meant anything to me, it was about teaching me how to grow up. So the nice thing about attitude, when you get into work ethic and things like that, is you can start trying to teach that stuff, and yeah, maybe these kids won’t become world beaters, maybe they don’t become gold medalists, but it’s you teaching potential, and you’re attitude that’s going to help them be successful. You’re going to teach them attitudes like working hard, not being afraid to fail, taking a chance, attacking things, thinking positive. And it affects their work, it affects their school, it affects everything. So if they fall on their face, hey, it’s okay. You did your best effort. You can pat them on the back.

 

At a very early point, all I cared about was effort and attitude, and my goal, with that group was creating an environment that that’s all they cared about. What I mean by that is this. There’s no cool and uncool. There’s no that kid dresses nice, or that kid’s good looking, and stuff like that, it’s where you walk into the door of the pool, that stuff’s left to the side. And you’ve got kids that start to treat each other based on who works the hardest. Attitude and effort. So, in order to make that work, you’ve got to back it up. And that’s a big challenge because you’ve got this one kid, Johnny over in the corner, who’s really fast, but if Johnny doesn’t work hard, you can’t treat him better than the kid who stinks, who’s in the other lane who’s killing himself. You can’t do that if you’re sitting there saying, well, what I care about is attitude and effort. Now this is with 11, 12 year-olds. Wonderful.

 

Well, to me, this is with everything. It’s the biggest thing I like about coaching, and to me it guarantees success. You have kids whose priority is having a great attitude when they walk into practice, and giving the best effort they possibly can. There’s no limit to that. There’s no 100% of that. There’s always something you can pass through. So when you have that kind of stuff, and you try and promote that, and push it, you get training out of it, and you teach kids that there’s stuff that’s more important than, well, that kid doesn’t have the nicest clothes. All right. I like that stuff. I could talk about that forever. But the thing about it is, you gotta’ sell it, and to me, that’s coaching.

 

Coaching  is  communicating it, selling the vision. Having a vision of not just the work and the attitude, but also the stroke. I think that’s something that I’m going to get to a little bit later. There are a lot of people that learn mechanics of swimming, but if you don’t have a vision of what that’s going to look like, then it’s garbage it’s useless because then you keep just trying to teach kids, well, use your hip here, and put your hand here, but you’re not trying to promote a vision and talk in different ways to the kid about it, and then the kid can never really take it and make ownership of it. That’s why the first couple years of coaching, that was my whole deal. I loved it. I still do. But, just to kind of go over it, Eric at that point ate this up. And I had a group of , well they’re all young kids, but there were scattered some old kids in there, and they ate it up, and they not only adapted to it, but they enjoyed it. I think it takes some pressure off people because you can always focus on it. It takes the pressure off your final time, things like that. Puts things in perspective. I didn’t talk to these kids about how good they were going to be at 13 or 14. Never. Everything I talked about with them is four years down the road. Talked about, if you want to go to nationals, and beat people at nationals, this is the stuff you gotta’ do. Used swimmers all the time as examples. Harvard swimmers because they were right there. Or swimmers on a national level. All the time. And it was something that I was a big proponent of because at that point I felt that I saw so many swimmers, U.S. swimmers in general, sloppy. Just phenomenal athletes, trained really hard, and incredibly sloppy. And then you see other swimmers that are beautiful, but they don’t do any work. I never understood doing one or the other. It was a big focus for me, and obviously a big focus for the kids that I coached.

 

Now, in the process of that, the training environment at that point there’s a couple things I should probably throw in there before I go into that. This is something I find very interesting. Eric, at this point in his swimming, you could not hold the kid down. These kids would work really hard, but in the process they were always moving around. These were not kids at home playing Nintendo. These are not kids at home watching T.V. They were nonstop motion. And it wasn’t just him. And it’s something that I find really interesting, and it’s something that I think you have to promote with the young kids. Now a lot of times you go into pools and you watch other teams, and you see they’re young kids and they’re playing around and playing tag out in the corner, or something. And their parents or their coach is saying, sit down, relax, don’t do that. We used to be in a society where if a kid was sitting down watching T.V. they’d get yelled at if it was a nice day out. Now, you got parents buying them $60.00 games so they can sit down and play for three hours, and it’s not like I’m 80 years old and back in the 20’s we kicked ass, but it is a reality, and it’s a big reality. These kids right now growing up, if they’re not in something organized, there’s a very good they’re not doing anything. And I listen to some real smart people telling me if these kids aren’t being aerobically challenged, or in aerobic situations at young ages, you can’t open that up later on, and I absolutely believe that. To kind of simplify what I just said, if these kids aren’t training hard when they’re young, when you try to get them really active aerobically as they’re older, there’s nothing there. And that’s absolutely true. And I’ve only coached seven years, but I’ll tell you, every year I’ve coached, every season I’ve coached, I’ve dealt with kids that are in that situation, and it kills them. It limits what they can do down the road.

 

Now, what I mean aerobic, I’m not even talking swimming here. I’m talking about running around. And Eric as a kid, man he should have been strapped down, because the kid did way too much. He was all over the place. They would play,

I hate saying this he’s going to kill me if he hears this, but they would play tag non-stop. And it would drive people nuts, but it was constant motion. And I’ll tell you what, I think it has a lot to do with where he’s at now. But, my reaction to their training, I did a ton of reading. Why, because I take a lot of responsibility that I’m coaching kids, and I don’t want to be wrong. So, I did a ton of reading, and everything that I read was all about aerobic background and stuff like that. And I had all these kids my background, personally, I remember specifically being good at certain events that two years later I stunk at, two years later they were my best events. So I had an attitude like every kid goes through that. So when I was coaching Eric and all these other kids I said, okay, they’re all milers and 400 imers. And I didn’t do that because I’m some genius coach, and I didn’t do that because of my experience coaching, I did that because everything I read seemed to back that up. Everything that I personally experienced seemed to back that up, and it made sense that I had no idea what these kids were going to be in five, six years. I didn’t have any experience in watching kids go through that stuff. I couldn’t say, well, this guy that used to be a stud in the 100 looked like this five years ago because five years ago I wasn’t coaching anybody.

 

So I train them for the mile and I train them for 400 im, and probably more of an honest truth, it’s fun. It’s fun stuff. I mean, you’re not sitting there working on, all right, we’re just going to do some 25’s . No offense to Dave Salo, wherever he is. But, the point I’m getting at, I couldn’t tell where they were headed. And it just made a lot of sense to me to put them in the mile, put them in 400 im, and swimming them everything. And it didn’t seem to hurt them, and I liked the idea of being able to have some kid potentially get up on the blocks and be able to do everything. So, my attitude towards it started that way, it stayed that way, and I’ll tell you what, the kids swam pretty damn fast for little kids. But it was fun.

Now, in the process of all this, my mentality for these kids meets. Huge, huge amount of learning at meets. A lot of stuff focused on just learning from your mistakes, attacking these, getting after things, not worrying about the outcome, and then coming back and saying, okay, what’d you do right and wrong. That was a mentality that really permeated everything we did. It was a long-term focus, so it took off. Oh, we had a bad swim, everybody freaks out. And again, this is sold to the kids, and it’s sold to the kids as a way of approaching their swimming. We didn’t rest for anything. Championships, that’s it. I like that stuff. I think it works. People call it old school, I just call it smart. Especially with young kids. They swim tired. Why not. You know, young kids, how tired are they? They did a lot of work. Tried to challenge them. Tried to get them to respond to the challenge, and value it. And again, attitude and effort all the time. The meets, learn what you’re doing right and wrong. And they swam everything. Didn’t allow a kid you know you have those kids, I think everybody gets them, that they just can’t swim breaststroke, no talent at all in breaststroke. Well, as a coach, you’ve got to be willing to sit through a two-minute and 32nd hundred breaststroke. Deal with it. Especially if you’re going to sell these kids on swimming im, 400 im, well, deal with it. You can get ways around it, but you’ve got to go through that stuff. And you can’t give up on any of that, ever. Always, long-term focus, and championships race.

 

You look at these kids, and again your thinking about, this kid is a champion, so what are you trying to teach? You want to teach the things that are going to help him be successful when they’re 16, 17, 20, 25. Why not? They’re good things. Going up to championship meets and just racing to win. Well, if you get third, so what? If you’re racing to win, and you’re supposed to get tenth, getting third is a pretty good thing. Attitude and effort. You step up, be aggressive, you’ve got nothing to lose. Plus, don’t worry about it. In five years, you’re going to swim so fast, this is going to be ridiculous.

 

Then, the last part, and this is a part that I think helped me a lot. I was not the senior coach at this point. I was training kids to move into the senior group of the Mass Bay Marlins. Coach Bygone and Dave Fuako, who’s an incredibly good friend of mine, some of you know him because he announces. What many of you probably don’t know is that he is a kick butt coach. And he was a senior coach at that point. And what I started to realize was that I wasn’t training these kids to swim for me down the road. What I was training these kids to do was swim for Dave Fuako, and that was my responsibility. So I started spending some time looking at what Dave’s program was like, and trying to figure out how best to train these kids. Areal important thing happened, about the second year I was coaching Eric. He moved up into Dave’s group Dave did a wonderful job with him. Doesn’t get any credit for that. Because in the six-year period, there’s almost a year where Dave coached him, and I coached him like probably two days a week with Dave as Dave’s assistant, but Fuako did a phenomenal job, and really emphasized the work ethic, as well. And, like I said, a great coach. But, a big thing happened that I think really affected Eric at this point. Two things. One, I had swimmers that moved up into that group who were tied into me. What I mean by that, that as a coach, I was producing some swimmers that didn’t take ownership of their swimming. They got up there and they looked at me as big reason of why they were successful. And the other part is that I think I finally established the way I looked at swimming. What is meant by that is, Boomer had filled my head with a lot of stuff, and in the process because I was always reading and always talking to other people, you get to a point where you have ideas in your head of what you think is right and is wrong, but at this point, I was always learning up through there. And always looking for ways of getting better, and at this point, I think I finally established what my views of freestyle, backstroke, all that stuff, and it’s pre-solidified in my head.

 

Now, one of the things that I think Eric is known for and looked at is there’s a lot of people that look at his training and like, wow, this kid trains real hard, and man, he can finish his races, and can go and go and go. Yes, it’s true. And a lot of people look at it and say, wow, he’s got some pretty nice strokes. He pretty efficient. And you may not realize it when he’s swimming in the water, but he’s a good six to eight inches shorter than every kid he’s racing against. And, one of the things that is looked at is in some ways that comes across as a paradox here, as a, . . . what’s another word for that. It’s a conflict, how’s that? What I mean by that is this. I go up to U.S.A. swimming and this gets me so angry. I see this slide, and still it gets me very angry, and if I’m not careful, I’ll go on a huge tangent here. This slide has efficiency over here, and endurance over here. And every time that slide’s put up, and any of you see that, it hurts our swimming. I hate it because I think it’s garbage. I think that’s a choice you make. If you sit here and you have a swimmer and you decide I’m dying for this kid to go this fast in practice it’s okay if he starts getting sloppy and just starts banging through it. Well, hey, that’s your choice. Or, if your kid has a great swim inside of practice, but he starts doing ugly stuff with his breathing, well, start him over. Keep your priorities. Just like your priorities in this stuff’s supposed to be work ethic and attitude, well, if you’re trying to create swimmers, or help swimmers learn that they have to swim efficient and be successful, then why do you let them swim with a stroke that’s not efficient? Why do you let them do anything in practice that you don’t want to see them do in a meet? But we have this attitude in our country, like as a coach, you’re either one or the other.

 

When I started coaching in New England, people walked around there saying, oh yeah, he coaches 25’s of stroke work, that’s why all his swimmers have such pretty strokes. We were not doing 25’s of stroke work, it was mixed in with some other stuff. And then now, you know, I have people come to me thinking, all we do is just grind it out. Do 31 thousands all the time. The thing about that stuff is, we, and I don’t mean myself, but my team, these kids, try and do both all the time, every day, every practice. To me, that seems like everybody does that. I don’t think there are coaches out there that are saying to their kids, we just going to train really hard here. That doesn’t matter what your stroke looks like. I don’t think that’s going on, but every time we put up that slide, we’re allowing people to think it’s okay if I let this slide or that slide. I let this go, that go. It’s not okay.

 

I’m going to go through quick the vision that I have of  the strokes with Eric. Freestyle. I started basing my vision of freestyle on what happens to kids when they fall apart. You watch kids swim, they get a little vertical, and they slow down and they get short. So to try and teach kids how to do the opposite, we base all our freestyle work on attacking the front of your stroke. Now, this stuff’s good stuff. I think it works. I believe in balance, which is a big Boomer thing. I believe in balance so you eliminate frontal resistance down your body. I believe it’s easier to do that than to use your legs. I believe in hip roll. But I hate hip roll the way people talk about it when it’s about grabbing water and ripping it through, because if you don’t teach something going forward, you don’t have a focus in front, I feel like you get sloppy and you go to power. This was developed in my head based on watching guys that are a lot weaker than other guys and beat them. The more I watched, the more I learned about it. Another influence on that, a guy named Barry White I think that’s his name was at Harvard doing some smart stuff Ph.D., I don’t know. And he talked about he’s an incredible kicker and he swam against guys in, I think 1980, he got second in the mile I’m not sure. I should have researched, but I didn’t. He talked about his legs. He would throw his legs in at the 300. Like 300 to go? No, no, at the 300. He would throw his legs in in the 1650. So that was a big deal to me as well. I started looking at the kick as something that you could train into your swimmers so that they always did.

 

Backstroke real similar to freestyle. I just didn’t like people attacking the front. I’m starting to change that a little bit for balance as well.

 

Fly I dig using your body to throw it forward.

 

Breaststroke I’ve changed 100 times, but at that point, I was really focusing on riding your legs, gliding down the pool, not being a physical breaststroker. And we based a lot of this stuff off of im training. I started feeling that in order to control stuff, a huge talk that affected me I can never say this guy’s name right Arturis Arzukas something like that. I listened to this guy talk, and he talked about how there’s no distance swimming anymore. And he’s using Caren Perkins as example because he was fast in the front, fast in the back, and the more he thought about it he talked about 15 minutes and even at this point we were training pretty hard. So I’m thinking 15 minutes isn’t that long. I mean, you can deal with a lot of pain for 15 minutes. So I started thinking, you should really be able to work a mile. And everything, all this stuff, was based on really, not just the philosophy of swimming smart and having beautiful strokes, but, pain. The coolest thing about our sport, by far. And you sit there and you look at that stuff, and we just started focusing a lot on it.

 

When these kids are 12, 13, 14, sat them down on deck, told them to go in the shower, turn it on as cold as you can when you get home and focus on how that felt. I couldn’t get away with whacking them or anything like that, so that’s the best thing I could think of. I used to go through anything like that that I could think of, and it’s selling what you’re talking about. Turning it into something that the kids wanted to do. And I don’t mean wanting to sit in the shower that’s freezing cold, but deal with being uncomfortable. Dick Jochums said something, I think I heard him say this a couple of years ago, and it made a huge impression on me, and I really dig this. He said, swimmers need to feel being comfortable being uncomfortable. And I absolutely agree with that. If you see swimmers now, some kids get uncomfortable at the end of a 200 form, they don’t know what to do. But if you have kids that are uncomfortable all the time, and you force them not only to work harder at that point, but you teach them how to attack their stroke at that point, well, you start to hit on something that I think is going to be pretty successful for you.

 

So, the other part was teaching ownership, and I still struggle with this. What I mean by that is, I don’t say I’m a control freak, but trying to teach kids on how to put themselves in a position where, all right, this is up to you. And I think I’ve done a much better job of that I know I’ve done a much better job of that, but I don’t think that’s a huge challenge for age group coaches. I think it’s obviously a lot harder with the young girls. The guys tend to be easier with it. Tell them they’re studs. They tend to like that. But, it’s something that changed my coaching at that point, and it was pretty big deal.

Right before I started coaching Eric again, this is Orlando Juniors ’95. I was taking over the senior group, Fuako was leaving, and I watched Eric swim a race at Juniors, and he swam catch up for the first hundred because if he didn’t, he would spin his stroke. And then he did a hundred build, and then he swam, and his stroke lasted for about a 400, and then he spun the rest of the way. Had a good swim. That was a huge deal, and this leads into a pretty big breakthrough for Eric Vendt. At that point, figure out the math that’s ’95 in the summer, he’s 18 now I don’t know how old he is. So, when that happened and I started coaching again, I used that as a weapon. I made him feel embarrassed all the time. You have to do a drill at the start of your race. You have to do a drill at your championship meet. You didn’t get up and race your event, you had to do a drill. That’s ridiculous. And we started a fight that lasted about a month and a half. That fight was making Eric really value, not just holding his stroke, but making his stroke his swimming. Taking that freestyle that he had learned and turning it into his swimming. And in short course, he had two big breakthroughs. And during it, he got his butt kicked. There were four kids in team that beat him in a mile in one of those meets because he could not hold that stroke. But he did, and he held it, and he died doing it, and they killed him, and I was psyched. I wasn’t psyched that he lost, but out of all those kids, he was the one that held that stroke, and if I’m backing up these kind of priorities, I made sure everybody knew that.

 

A month later this was not an issue anymore. But during that meet, it was a big deal because he took a beating doing it. One of the things he started to realize was he needed to really use his legs a lot more in his balance. Some kids don’t, he does. The way his body lies in the water, he had to. I started changing an emphasis that I had in his training. We did a lot more freestyle swimming with boomers. Cut fins, and I loved this. We did stuff like eight 600’s, I mean ridiculous stuff where you just keep your legs going. Hard steady kick, beautiful stroke. To the point we’re doing 1500 meters or 1650 with a steady kick wasn’t that big a deal. Try it. You can create that. I think everybody needs to work on their kicking no matter what, and I don’t like kicking as a way of making your stroke better, but it makes sense that you’re going to have some kids gonna be able to work their legs for a long long time.

 

Now, does Eric swim with all-out kick? No. He doesn’t. His legs are going six feet and they’re going hard from the start, but there’s a difference between how hard he’s working them and then when he really throws them in. And it’s sometimes hard to figure that out, but every time I hear the announcer going, wow, look at his legs, it gets me actually kind of mad. Because that’s not really true. He starts out fast with his legs, but it’s fast and quick, but it’s based on a lot of training, you train it in. The other thing that was a breakthrough, that short course season he did five 500’s on five minutes. And that was a huge set. Never done anything that hard. He made that set, big deal. That long course season, ’96, my last season at Marlins and Harvard, him and another boy, Mike Dowling, he was a, I think a freshman in high school, and Mike was either a sophomore or junior, made nationals in Alabama Juniors, went to Ft. Lauderdale because Eric’s mile wasn’t that good. And he had a great swim at Ft. Lauderdale, and then Matt  Kredich started Squid.

 

I don’t know if any of you know who Mack Kredich is, but he’s the tall dude right there. That guy rocks. Matt Kredich started Squid, I left because Brown was very supportive of a team and because Matt’s a very close friend of mine. The biggest reason why I went there is, I think Matt Kredich is just one of the best coaches in the country. Period. And if you don’t know about him, you should learn about him. He’s the head coach at Brown. At the time, just the women. Now he coaches men and women. And I went there specifically because just the little I talked to this guy, I just wanted to learn from him. And I loved his attitude and what he wanted to start with the Squid. And actually at first I didn’t like Squid as a name. Now I love it. Love it.

 

So Squid started. And Eric actually came down, which I didn’t expect, but he came down, and this is my favorite part of the talk. How many people here have ever heard of Animal Lane? Raise your hands. I love that stuff. Animal Lanes, Mission Viejo, Santa Clara, any of that stuff, man. Guys on your team, or girls on your team, your best swimmers, your distance swimmers, duking it out. Great stuff. Well, my attitude when Squid started was to create, instead of a lane like that, a team with that attitude. I didn’t like the idea of a bunch of kids walking into meets with squids on their chests, and having some people say, well, these kids over here, they’re tough. They train real hard. These guys do pretty good work, and those guys over there are babies because I like the team deal. And I didn’t understand if you’re promoting work ethic and attitude, why are you going to go away from that? Why are you going to water it down.

 

So, my whole attitude towards it was, that was going to be our focus. That’s what we were going to go towards with our team. And we were going to try and create that across the board. No one’s going to be judged based on who’s the fastest. They were going to be judged on who worked the hardest. No one’s going to be judged based on who’s the coolest or the funniest, though it is nice to have funny people, we were going to judge on getting in with attitude and effort, except across the board the entire team. And in the process of it, it just backed up everything that I really liked about coaching, backed up everything I believed in, and it backed up any kind of vision that I had of not just a great swimmer, but a great team.

 

So now you get to hear all those clichés. And now we started to talk about the training. I did not want to show practices, and I did not want to show what we do, like, this is how many practices we do a week, and things like that, but I’m going to. The reason why I don’t want to show that stuff, because it’s not ideal. You have to deal with all these different attitudes towards what you’re doing. We try and make it work. Try and get in the water as much as we can. If we were associated with just a pool instead of with Brown, we wouldn’t have to worry about when the varsity practiced, we’d be able to do it earlier. And actually, Brown kicks butt for us. They help us out a lot. They let us use their facility when it comes to the gym, things like that. And they want to see the team do well. So they try and help us out, and it’s a huge positive for us as a team, but the biggest attitude we try and create without training is no fear of failure. Failure’s a daily, definitely weekly, almost a daily thing. Pushing limits. Aerobic training, yes. Tons of it. Tons of it. What we do on a daily basis everything I can think of.  I’ll explain my training.

 

Ernie Maglisco…I read it, I read all that stuff. He’s got this whole deal where you do this, this, this and this. That’s what I started with. I go from the back of the season to the championships backwards. Taper changes from two to four weeks, things like that. But basically, what I’ll do is this, if you go backwards I’ll have about 5, 6 weeks where it’ll be speed work, and it’s probably easier to tell you the other way.

Permalink

The Training of Lenny Krayzelburg by Mark Schubert (1999)

Thanks a lot Pete for reminding me about that birthday. I really appreciate that. First of all, I want to thank Doug Cross for not coming to this clinic because usually I don’t look forward to giving clinic talks, and I do them because John Leonard asks me to do them and a lot of times he gives me some very challenging topics, not many of which I really relish. This time he was looking for volunteers and I volunteered because this is a topic that I really enjoy talking about. Right before the 100 backstroke at the Pan-Pacific Championships, I was sitting next to Brad Bridgewater and he leans over and he goes, “Coach, when was the last time you had a world record holder?” And I said, “Not since 1982.” So I am very excited to talk about this subject Lenny Krayzelburg.

 

I want to give you a little bit of a background on Lenny so you know basically what his age group background was. It was kind of unusual, and I think it had a lot to do with his success both physically and emotionally. First of all, I would like to give a lot of credit to his age group coach in Odessa because, obviously, he gave him a lot of great tools to work with from a technique standpoint. Secondly, I would like to give a lot of credit to his parents.

 

I think one of the things that I really am impressed with Lenny about, is his appreciation, his genuine deep appreciation, for all his parents have gone through, all the sacrifices that they have gone through to give him the opportunities that he has in the United States. His father, when he first moved to this country, kept him from quitting swimming. Basically, he told him that he could not quit, that he was too talented, that he had put too much of his life into it, and he didn’t let him give it up. When he first came to this country, he had to work thirty hours per week to help the family make ends meet. Basically, he couldn’t even swim once a day for many years, so he was kind of discouraged in that he wasn’t improving and it wasn’t as much fun as it used to be, but his dad intervened. After he broke the world record in the 100 backstroke, I told him when he called his dad that night to thank him for not letting him quit.

 

I think the other thing that his dad gives him is motivation, and this is going to sound a little unhealthy, but it’s not because his dad does this in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, so it’s not. It sounds like a bad age group parent, but it’s not. I’m going to give you some examples. Every time when Lenny broke his American record in the 200 backstroke, and he would either go to talk to his dad or if his dad was at the meet or talked to him on the phone, the first question the dad would always ask him was, “Well, why didn’t you break the world record?” So Lenny always jokes about the fact that he can’t ever please his dad.  When he broke the world record in the 100 back and went 53.8, the first question his dad asked him was “Why didn’t you go 52?” Then after he went 155 in the 200 back, Lenny admitted that his dad was almost satisfied. But Lenny made the mistake of telling him what I told him after the race because I was so excited, really, I was a lot more excited with the 150 split because I thought he was going to go right by 155 and go 154 and he told his dad that and his dad goes, “Well?”

 

So, you know, that kind of tells you a little bit about the mentality that Lenny is dealing with all of the time, and I think that he is going to take that mentality to a new level as we start to look for challenges. We’ve already started talking about trying to get the backstroke records ahead of the butterfly records and maybe challenge Tal Malchaw to see who can go 154 first, and I think that will be a good thing for United States swimming.

 

I also want to give a lot of credit to Lenny’s junior college coach Stew Blumpkin, Santa Monica JC, probably the most unselfish coach that I have ever met. I brought him to our program after his freshman year in college and he basically said to me, “This guy is way too good for my swimming pool.” It would be real easy for me to keep him in JC for another year, and he is great for my program and he is a state champion, but he is a lot better than this. I think that kind of unselfish attitude really deserves a lot of recognition, because I think that really helped Lenny to continue to improve and prosper and Stew has continued to be his best supporter. He was one of the first ones to call me over in Australia after he broke the world record.

 

His age group background, basically growing up in Russia, when he was seven years old his coach told him he was going to be a back-stroker and he spent most of his life training on his back. He developed his work ethic in the Russian age group program. He did double workouts, plus weights, plus running when he was ten years old. From the age of eight to thirteen he did six to seven thousand meters per practice. He went to a school that was next to a regional sports complex, which included a swimming pool, so he grew up and most of his classmates were swimmers, most of his friends were swimmers. Most of his training was done as an age group or long course and to this day he is a much better long course swimmer than he is a short course swimmer.

 

One time, I sat him down and kind of interviewed him a little bit to find out a little bit more about his early background, some of the things that he did when he was younger, and I asked him a pointed question. I don’t even know why this popped into my  know, Lenny, since you’ve been an age group swimmer in Russia and you’ve been an age group swimmer in the United States, what’s the main differences in your mind?” And his response was kind of interesting. He said that “All of the swimmers in Russia that he swam with have one goal and that is to win the age group nationals.” I said, “Well, did you ever win the age group nationals?” He goes no, but he got third three years in a row.

He said the second thing was that hard work was not only accepted, but they looked at it as that is where the fun came from. The fun was going to practice every day and racing your teammates as hard as you can. The hard work and competition at practice was what they looked forward to. He said what he saw when he came to the United States was most people started swimming in America for fun, for safety, for fitness, but if they felt like they weren’t having fun that they quit right away, they stopped.

 

When Lenny left Russia, he went through a four-month immigration period living in Austria and Italy. He didn’t swim at all. He was about fourteen years old at the time. He came to the United States and did single practices or less for five years. He swam at team Santa Monica for one year at the age of fourteen. He had a real difficult time relating to the short course system in the United States. He was going 221 for 200 yards backstroke when he went 248 for 200 meters backstroke when he left Russia. I guess at the end of fourteen his best time was 230 for 200 meters backstroke, so there is a lot of hope for those of us that aren’t national age group record holders. He swam for the Jewish community center for three years and basically worked out for an hour and a half four days a week. He did weights on his own, basically kind of imitating what he had learned in Russia. When he enrolled at Santa Monica JC, swimming became fun again because of the camaraderie and competition in practice. He trained against the freestylers. He had some good partners to train with, Jerry Rodriguez, one of the editors of Swimming World, would train with him at Santa Monica College and they became training partners and pushed each other. I give Jerry a lot of credit for really keeping Lenny in it, training wise and competitively. He kind of learned a little bit about pacing from his JC coach and that has always been something that he struggles with a little bit. And when I started coaching him it was something that I noticed, that he wasn’t aggressive at the beginning of his races. He always would finish very well, but was very timid about going out fast.

 

He started training with us at Trojan Swim Club in the summer of 1994. He wasn’t a citizen. We tried to get our Congressman to get his citizenship moved up so he could try out for the World Championship Team in 1994 to no avail. He did improve that summer from 212 to 203, and I would say that was primarily done on training and it was primarily done on competition and practice which he really thrives on. I had two two-minute backstrokers at the time, Jim Wells and Jason Stell, and they would beat him all the time, but he never got discouraged. I don’t think he ever beat them  that summer in practice, but he would literally race them until he couldn’t go anymore. His goal everyday was to stay with them at practice.

 

It was notable to me how much he enjoyed the dryland aspect of the program. He really thrived on that. In the fall of 1994, he went back to the JC program and had decided not to do the eligibility, but he still needed to get his JC degree to get admitted to SC. He had an automobile accident in January of 1995 and so didn’t go to the nationals at all that spring.

In the summer of 1995, that was his second summer with our program. At that time, Greg Burgess and Brad Bridgewater had joined our program, so the training level had taken another step up and Lenny took that step with them. He was rookie of the meet in Pasadena and went 202. I was surprised he didn’t go faster, but I think that was primarily because he really hadn’t had very much competition at that level, and I think that he was still very nervous competing at that level.

 

At the 1996 trials, he couldn’t train with our team until January when he became eligible, and I think that probably is the one single factor that kept him off the Olympic team. He did continue training with Jerry Rodriguez. He was shocked to say the least when he qualified second in the 200 backstroke at the Olympic trials. I didn’t expect it at all. Probably, I could have done a little bit of a better job helping him with that self-image, but sometimes these things you just kind of have to learn as you go along. It’s a process. He finished fifth in the finals, and I can’t really say that he was disappointed because I don’t think he really expected to be in the finals. I think he was kind of in shock that whole day. But his reaction was interesting.

 

We went onto the NCAA, he had a terrible NCAA, and he often reminds members of my team that at his NCAA in 1996 he finished last in the 200 backstroke. He was sick at the meet and just had a horrible meet. He came back and I had to force him to take three days off. He came back and he said, “Coach, I don’t want to take any time off.” He said, “My biggest advantage over everybody else is if I don’t take time off.” He said, “I took time off all those years when I couldn’t train twice a day.” He goes, “I’m not taking any more time off.” I said, “Are you talking about this year?” He goes, “No, for the rest of my career.”

 

Although, I moderated that stance a little bit but that was his attitude. He came back after those three days off, and he said he was going to help Brad win the Olympics and he felt that Brad was going to help him win the nationals. He went on to win both the 100 and 200 back at the Fort Lauderdale nationals in 1996, and I think one thing that will always stick in my mind, and I think one of the biggest learning experiences was when he went to Santa Clara in the summer of 1996 and raced against Jeff Rouse in the 100 back-stroke. We came back and we watched, I think it was on the Wide World of Sports or something, and we had the tape and we watched it and re-watched it and re-watched it. It was real easy for Lenny to identify the fact that his issues were tempo, particularly in the sprint events, starts and turns and the weakness of his underwater off turns. He literally fixed it, or at least as much as he could fix it, in six weeks from Santa Clara to the nationals and made striking improvements.

 

The 1996 -1997 season was really the first time that he swam on a full-fledged team doubles for an entire season. He had a spectacular NCAA season although he swam in the shadow of Neil Walker, and I think learned a lot that season from Neil Walker about what he needed to do to change his underwater backstroke. I think, again, that was an experience that really helped him to define what his issues were and what he needed to work on to improve.

 

At Nashville in 1997, he kind of came into his own and came to the forefront of American backstroke swimming and established himself as a world-class performer. He went on to win the Pan-Pac and have his first national team experience, which for him was extremely meaningful, and he said it was the most fun experience he has ever had in swimming, competing on the national team representing the United States for the first time.

 

In 1998, he went to the World Championships in Perth, and I think he handled the situation of racing against the world very well. I didn’t think that his times were great. I think that he made a lot of mistakes, but I think that he handled the pressure very well. He won two very close races, scared me to death, but won the races the last 10-15 meters. He had a bad experience leading off the US Medley Relay. That was the only race that he lost at the meet, and of course the United States lost that medley relay. I think that situation has stayed with Lenny and I think served him well in the Pan-Pac in the last event this year.

 

We came back to the NCAA season, and he was very out of sync. It was real obvious that he had really just focused on long course for a year. He didn’t have a very spectacular NCAA. He was second in the 200 backstroke and left disappointed but not discouraged. I think he understood with all the focus on the World Championships that it was tough emotionally coming back and doing as well as he had done at the NCAA the year before.

 

This season, basically we started off the season pretty well at the US World Cup meet in College Station, but then we came down to the last event at that meet, and he was going to try to do something special in the 50 meter back-stroke short-course and suffered a back injury. We had to withdraw him from the US Open. He came back over Christmas, kind of struggled through Christmas training, trying to do the rehab and do the things to take care of the back injury and finally we started getting a little bit better. He went to the World Cup meets in Beijing and Hong Kong, and I had to bring him home early because he was in so much pain with his back.

Basically, I had to force him to stay out of the water for three weeks. But probably the hardest thing, coaching wise, that I had ever had to do with him was convince him that he would be okay to take three weeks completely off, no weights, no dryland, no running. It drove him crazy. He would call me up every three days and he goes, “Are you sure about this? Are you sure I’m going to be okay?” I said, “Lenny, as hard as you work, this is why you work hard, because every athlete is going to go through a time in their career when they are going to get sick, they’re going to get hurt and your background will see you through.” I think that was a big learning experience to him for how much the background was serving him in the long run because these things will happen. Good athletes with long careers are going to face these types of situations.

 

He came back and trained hard when our team was involved with the NCAA season, he went up and trained at altitude with Jonty Skinner in March. We decided that we weren’t going to rest at all for the nationals in Long Island, but Eric Gudhanson called me and said, “You know, Lenny went 159 at the end of a set of 200 backstrokes in practice today, so I think he is going to be pretty good at nationals.” So I said, “Okay, we’ll rest him two days.” So two days before he got on the plane he went 5000 at practice the first day and 4000 the second day, and then we came to the meet and kind of treated him like everybody else.

 

He swam unshaved and broke the American record in the 200 backstroke and all the coaches were going “Why didn’t you rest him, he just broke the world record?” I said, “Well, you know, he was hurt, it wasn’t in the plan, plus I didn’t know he was going to go this fast.”

 

We came back, he went right back to work with no break. He had a great spring. One of the more impressive things that he did was he came to the zone distance training camp and was phenomenal. He swam in the animal lane with all the best distance swimmers that were there, did everything in most cases, did it backstroke with the distance swimmers.

 

Actually, he has a tremendous capacity for work, and I don’t usually have to cut him a break in practice at all, but by the time we got past Saturday, I had to give him all day Sunday off. I had to throw him out, just because he literally had worked himself into the ground. It is not often that I become concerned, but at that point I did become concerned. I had to apologize to the kids in the camp, but I said, “You know, it’s one of the things that a coach needs to recognize, when you get to that point, you need to know when to pull the plug. And I do know Lenny pretty well, and I do know that he will keep going if I ask him to keep going. There is only one way that he will stop and that is if I stop him.

 

Part of our plan was to have him go to Monaco and Kinay. Larry Leibowitz, my assistant coach, gets this fine duty because I get to stay at USC and run camp. He gets to take all of the world-class guys to Monaco and Kinay, tough  duty, but somebody has to do it. We kind of look at that as part of training. I think you have to have one good world class meet every month. I think that is important, and I think that a lot of people lose track of the fact that it is important to race well as part of your training. Even though that was in the middle of the hard training phase, Lenny went over there and made sure that he continued to do his workouts and so forth and he raced very well over there and did some fine times.

 

He came back and the Janet Evens meet was the highlight of the month of July. Quite frankly, I was disappointed that he didn’t break the world record in the 200 backstroke at that event. I expected him to do that. I told him before the meet started that I felt that he was ready to do his best time. He’s got some great quotes sometimes. I told him that and he looked at me and said, “Well, coach, that’s what it’s all about.” So I knew that he expected that also.

 

Basically, we started to taper for Pan-Pac the week before nationals. We went 6000 that week, kind of kept the mileage up but cut some of the intensity out, didn’t shave for nationals. We came real close to the world record in the 200 backstroke. But probably swam the best race I’ve ever seen him swim to date in the 100 backstroke at Minnesota from a tempo standpoint, from an errorless standpoint. That was very exciting to me because I think if you put the shaved effort that we saw at Pan-Pac with the errorless effort that I saw in the 100 back in Minnesota, I think he can swim a lot faster.

 

We came back after the nationals, and we went 5000 for two days at USC basically, aerobic type work just to kind of maintain the endurance component, and then when we went to Australia basically the taper went from 3500 to 3000. He is not very comfortable going under 3000 at practice. That is kind of the level that he feels that he can maintain his feel for the water. We have tried some tapers less than that he feels that he loses feel for the water. This is input coming from him.

 

The other thing that I want to mention that I think has had a big impact on Lenny, and I touched on it a little bit, is competition in practice. I think along that is his relationship with Brad Bridgewater. Needless to say, it has been a coaching challenge, having the Olympic champion and the World champion in the same pool racing against each other. I mean, it’s like a dream some days, but it’s something that has to be managed carefully. But I’ll tell you, these guys handle it extremely well. The way they support each other, the way they encourage each other. Some days Brad kills Lenny, some days Lenny kills Brad, but they both recognize that they help each other.

 

There are some days when I intentionally put one on the other side of the pool from the other, there are some days when I put one in the same lane going ten in front of the other, then there are some days that I put them in lanes next to each other and have them race each other. I don’t have them race each other next to each other every day, because I think that would be too hard for both of them. So it’s something that I kind of have to manage and use my intuitive feel for that.

 

Lenny really enjoys racing in practice, and if Brad is not there, he is going to find a freestyler to race against. In fact, you know, when Bella Zabados is there (he is usually) if it is a quality set, he is usually lining up against Bella Zabados to race him and this is the guy that went 134 at the NCAA in the 200 free. Lenny expects to train backstroke next to him, and he expects himself to keep up with him. So before Pan-Pacs I said, “Hey, you swim like freestyler in practice, let’s put up a time just like a freestyler.”  He goes, “I can do that.”

 

The other thing is, I think he gains his confidence by what he does in practice. Winning in practice and doing things that are spectacular in practice. I’m going to tell you a little bit more about that because he does some things that are sometimes beyond even my wildest dreams. He trusts his coaches one hundred percent, not just me, but all of the members of the coaching staff. He really has a lot of faith in us. I think that is a big responsibility on our part, but I think it really makes things a lot easier when you have an athlete that trusts you that way. I am going to start to go into some of the specifics in training.

 

Let me start this off with another great Lenny quote. One time, they were complaining, as swimmers will sometimes do, about how hard the set was that day at the end of practice. I think we had done a 6000 set or something like that, and Lenny looked over at the guy and kind of gave him a dirty look, and then he looked up at me and goes, “Coach, the way I look at is how much can you hurt me in two hours? And  I say if it’s ever hurting real bad I just remember after two hours it’s going to be over with.” I thought that was a pretty interesting way to look at it.

 

Another pretty good story about the way he approaches training is, this guy worked really hard to get into SC and almost didn’t. Then when he was at SC he worked really hard to be successful. I think one of the things that he struggled with was coming to this country and English not being his first language. He finally got to the point where he graduated from the business school with above a 3.0 and we were all really proud of him. It’s Graduation Day he was at practice that morning. We have 20,000 people on campus for Graduation Day on Friday morning, and he’s there at practice and graduation starts at eight a.m., and we practice from six to eight. So I figure, okay, well he’ll get out at seven or something like that. So now it’s seven-thirty and the guy is still training, so I go “Lenny, isn’t that your parents standing outside the gate waiting to go to graduation?” I said “Don’t you think you should get out and go to graduation?” He goes “Yeah coach, but I am feeling good—this set is going really well.” So with about twenty minutes to go, he gets out of the pool and goes in and puts his coat and tie and puts his cap and gown on a runs out the gate. His mother is shaking her head, and they run across the street and he gets his diploma. That kind of tells you about his attitude towards training and his understanding of how important the work is to his success.

 

We train two two-hour swimming practices a day, ten practices per week. The practices vary in length depending on what we are trying to accomplish that day, but usually between 7000 9000 meters. He basically trains with the distance swimmers and the 400 IM’s, particularly in the fall and the spring. He does like to get in the outside lane. I think both because of the fact that he likes to work with the distance swimmers, and also he likes to swim in the lane that is next to the building so that he can tell that he is going in a straight line. I think that is the other reason that he likes to get into that lane, but I think he likes to do the distance work as well.

 

Most of our practices in the summer are long-course. We swim eight of ten practices long course. The other two are twenty-five yards. I think that is important for speed and tempo. Olympic year and world championship year we train eight of the ten workouts long course during the collegiate season, and the normal collegiate season we will train long course in the morning and short course in the afternoon through Christmas training and then go short course through the NCAA. Basically, we kind of have a little cycle that we do where two of the practices of the week in the morning, usually Monday and Thursday morning, we do some type of a long pull set.

 

I am going to just pull out some of the sets that Lenny has done this summer just to give you examples. Some of these examples, obviously are some of his best workouts, I mean, not every practice is as spectacular as some of the ones  that I am going to tell you about, but many of them are. An example of a long pulling set might be sixteen 50’s on 40, eight 100’s on 120, four 200’s on 240, two 400’s on 520, one 800 on 10 minutes. He would go the 50’s free, the 100’s back, the 200’s free, the 400’s back and then the 800’s free or back depending on feel. A lot of times he’ll like to challenge himself on the long aerobic sets to see how long he can hang with the freestylers, because he is not a great freestyler. It is actually harder for him to train freestyle than backstroke. And I know when he gives up because that is when he rolls over on his back and then he starts going faster. He wears buoying paddles for pulling sets. He does not wear a band, both because of the situation with his back and also because I think with backstrokers I think they need that little balance that you get some time with a little bit of kick. I think that helps them so I usually don’t have my backstrokers pull with bands. I do have my freestylers pull with bands. Two practices a week, we do a long aerobic set and that varies depending on when during the season.

 

We start off in September, that set will be about 3000 and in October and November it gets up to 6000 or 7000. Examples for the backstrokers might be five 800’s, on ten minutes and keep descending them down to 855 backstroke. A set that he did this summer four 50’s free on 45, two 100’s free on 120, 200 back on 240, four 50’s free on 45, two 100’s free on 120, two 200’s back on 235, four 50’s, two 100’s, three 200’s on 230, four 50’s, two 100’s, four 200’s on 225, four 50’s, two 100’s, five 200’s backstroke on 220. He would do a set like that on the 200 backs probably averaging about 215 and maybe break 210 on the last set of five trying to descend those on one to five. Those practices usually we would do on Monday and Thursday afternoons.

 

Two practices a week are centered around kicking and that is not to give you the impression that that is the only kicking that we do, because I think that it is really important with backstrokers to do a lot of good kicking. But our focus practices are on Tuesday and Friday morning where we try to go between 1500 and 2000 kicking and this could include but not exclusive of vertical kicking, board kicking, flyer free, non-board kicking. I like to do side kicking with backstrokes with a rotated forty-five degrees but keep their head position perfectly centered for backstroke. Fifty percent of this kicking is usually done with fins, and with fin kicking I usually emphasize breath control and underwater work with it. Some examples might be sixteen 50’s one easy one fast with mono fin, emphasizing underwater drills, time distances.

 

Toward the end of the season, we might do mid-pool 25’s from a turned time underwater. Some examples of some  of the better fin kicking sets that he has done might be two 100’s side-kicking backstroke on 140, four 100’s speed-kick on 130, (and when I say speed-kick they are required to go at least fifteen meters underwater on the first fifty, more if they can, they are required to go at least twenty-five meters underwater on the second fifty, more if they can) two 100’s on 140 side-kick as kind of a recovery, although I try to ask them to keep them within a certain range so that they are not easy, but as I say smooth, three 100’s on 125 speed-kick, two 100’s side-kick, two 100’s on 120 speed-kick, two 100’s side-kick, one 100 on 115 speed-kick, this is long course and he would be under a minute for that one.

 

On these Tuesday and Friday morning practices, we also try to integrate power work. I like to do surgical tubing training and one of the things that we did to kind of help Lenny with his tempo in April and May was we did some tethered swimming at constant stroke rates, like for one minute or one minute and fifteen seconds or one minute and thirty seconds, six to eight times. I think that kind of helped him. Then as the summer went on, we would add sprinting with tubing and usually that is like broken fifties, where they would sprint at twenty five against the tube we would time that, rest fifteen seconds, and the sprint twenty-five back and we would time that, and sometimes that would be assisted by their teammates. Usually, sets of four to six, and we usually would kind of do that to finish up practice.

Some other examples of some of his better fin kicking sets, four 50’s on 50 long course, and I would ask him to swim the last fifteen meters and practice a good finish, so he would go mostly kicking, thirty-five kicking and fifteen swimming, four 100’s on 140, and I would try to keep the same concept where they would swim the last fifteen meters into the turn so they were practicing a good full-speed turn and then kicking under water twenty-five meters or more and then swimming the last fifteen meters into the finish, and then four 150’s on 230 with the same concept swimming the last fifteen meters of each wall so they are working on turns and finishes.

 

I think there is some real value in practicing your kicking taking the backstroke into the wall and then doing your breath control work off of the turn. One of the better sets that he did one year he was doing some mono-fin training, and he would get so competitive that he kind of lost track of where the bulkhead was, racing somebody trying to break twenty seconds for a fifty meter sprint on his back with the mono-fin, and he crashed into the wall and subluxed his shoulder. He gave me a heart attack, I had to walk him down to the health center, and you know my heart is pounding, and they told him that he had to kick for a week, I mean, it didn’t cause any major damage, but he had to kick for a week.

 

So he came back the next day which was Thanksgiving Day, and we were doing this 5000 set where they went ten 300’s and then they had to finish up with fifteen 100’s on 110 short course holding the fastest pace possible. So he is kicking these ten 300’s backstroke and doing a pretty good job he did the last fifteen 100’s with fins on backstroke, and I told him that he had to stay under fifteen meters on every single 100 of every push off, and he did and he descended on those fifteen 100’s. This is at the end of a 5000 set from 55.5 to 48.5 on the last one with fins on backstroke kicking, with that much underwater that was pretty impressive.

 

The other thing is two practices a week, usually Tuesday and Friday, we work on either some type of race pace or some type of easy fast swimming where they will do some mixed speed work. Sometimes we integrate some short rest work into that as well, but it is always something easy and something fast. And this was kind of when I knew that there wasn’t much doubt he was going to break the world record in the 100 and 200 backstroke this year. On the 30th of July, so this was the week before we had left for the nationals, everybody else had left the pool because they were all tapering, and we had a group that either was back to work because they didn’t make it to the nationals or was going to Pan-Pac and was still working. And these guys were doing about a 7000 meter practice, and I had them do about 3000 in warm-up, and then they did this set where they went 50 on 45, 100 on 125, 150 on two minutes, and they could do those any stroke, and then they had to go 200 their best stroke on 230, this is long-course, and the backstrokers were to go the 200 backstroke and we did that six rounds. I told them, and they always give me this look, well so how fast do you want these to be, and I said, “Well let’s start at 215 and see where we go,” and then they would roll their eyes  because they knew what that meant.

 

So Brad and Lenny started at 215 on number 1, by number 4 actually Lenny was at 205, Brad was at 204, number 5 Lenny comes in at 202, Brad comes in at 201.8, this is one of those days when I had Brad going 10 seconds behind Lenny because I knew since he was going 10 behind that he was getting a little drag and that would really piss Lenny off because he would be going faster and it did. Eric Gudhanson and I are sitting there because Lenny is at Pan Ams and Jim’s at the weight room, and I looked at Eric and I said you need to get your watch out now and I said watch this and then the last one, number 6. Lenny is leading the lane, he goes a 158.2 and breaks the winning time from Atlanta and Brad is 130 at the 150 and comes back in 29.8 159.8, and I said to Eric you just witnessed the best backstroke practice in the history of the sport.

 

A couple of other kind of interesting practices we would do, two practices a week, actually to finish on that last practice, you know that is supposed to be variable speed, but they kind of turned it into a quality practice, and they both looked up afterwards and he goes, “Today’s Friday and tomorrow’s Saturday does that mean that we get to do quality tomorrow?” and I said “No I think that we will count that as quality.”

 

Quality practices we usually do on Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning and normally it’s sets of descended 100’s or 200’s with recovery swimming in between. I try to have it be about 900 of very fast swimming. Sometimes we will go over that, but that is kind of my goal to make sure that I get at least 900 of race pace swimming.

 

Actually, on the 14th of July, which was on a Wednesday before the Janet Evans meet, and I had meant to have this be a little bit less than a quality practice because we had a Janet Evans meet coming up, but what it became was a little bit more than that. We did a set of 400 free smooth on 6 minutes, and then four 100’s descended on 130 and Lenny descended to 58.2, 300 smooth on 430, three 100’s on 130 he descended to 57.4, 200 on three minutes, two 100’s on 130, descended he went 56.2, 100 on 130 and then 100 all out and he went 58.8, in other words he crashed. If I’d have been smart I would have said take a two-minute break and then see what you can go for 100, and he would have gone 55, but we progressed with the set.

 

The second part of the set we went 200 smooth on 3 minutes, four 50’s descended on 45, descended to 27.7, 150 smooth on 215, three 50’s on 50, he descended to 27.2, 100 on 130, two 50’s on 55 he went 26.2 on the second one. Then I was smart and I said okay go 50 on 2 minutes and then we will see what we can do on the last one. He went 25.2 leading the lane, so that is why I wasn’t extremely impressed  with 24.99 because he had been 25.2 in practice.

 

I think one of the places that this speed comes from is by doing some type of variable sprint work every practice. We do 600 meters of some type of a variable set every day, and for the backstrokers this could also include some underwater training as well. But basically what this is, is doing a set where they are focusing on three cycle sprints, going three cycles as fast as they can go. And usually it might be twelve 50’s doing what we call redline sprints. I’ve got these red lines on the bottom of the pool, that actually one of my assistants years ago recommended, and every pool that I have had since then I have tried to put them on the bottom. Since we have the fifteen-meter backstroke rule, we put them at the fifteen-meter mark and at the twenty-meter mark and we kind of use those as sprint guide lines. So, if they are doing red-line sprints, number one will be sprinting to the first fifteen meter mark, number two will be sprinting from the first fifteen meter mark to the twenty-five meter mark, number three will be sprinting from the twenty-five meter mark to the last fifteen meter and number four will be sprinting the last fifteen meters into the wall. Usually we will do those on a minute or 65 so that they are getting enough rest in between and can really do them with good technique, but do them fast. Sometimes we do those integrating mid-pool turns or we might do 100’s where they go the first fifteen meters sprint or the last fifteen meters sprint, on the odd ones sprint the turns and on the easy ones. But we try to do that every single practice, and I think that it’s really helped us to be able to compete faster during practice and compete faster during the season, and I think that has helped us to be faster at the end of the year.

Permalink

The Breaststroke Training of National HS Record Holder Kristen Woodring and Kyle Salyards by John Pontz (1999)

All right, thanks. Thanks for coming. Can you hear me in the back, Greg. All right, we’re O.K. No handouts today. But we have a laser pointer and overheads. So… All right. Lots of overheads today. John Pontz. All right, you’re probably wondering who is this guy. All right, I’m 29 years old, hadn’t been coaching U.S.S. club too long. I started in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Quick history, then we’re going to move on.

 

All right, 6 lane pool, with a very limited pool time. All right, I was very fortunate to have some pretty special athletes. We’re going to talk about them today. O.K. So why am I here today? All right. February 27, 1998. Had a look at Kristin Woodring, who was swimming for my club … national high school record in the 100 yard breaststroke. Minute point 7.4. O.K. About five weeks later, we had a kid in our squad, Kyle Salyards, go to the national championship and go 214, 9.4, and he tied Nelson Diebold’s 200 meter 17-18 age group record. O.K. So, what are we going to talk about today? Today, we’re going to talk about our training plans with the kids, what we did with them last year, how we got them to progress to a point in time where we broke these, or tied these national records. All right. A few questions. All right. Is this guy very extremely lucky, or does he know a little bit about what he’s talking about, and… just wouldn’t find out later, but you can do something once and be lucky. All right. I think that when you do something twice, there is a little bit of skill involved.

 

Now, I’m not the breast stroke coach of the year. I don’t profess to be a breast stroke guru. I just train my kids very hard, the kids pound it out. All right. They do what they’re supposed to do. A little history about the kids. I have a progression chart. My goal today is not to trip on this cord. We have a progression chart from the two kids about when they started with the team.

 

We’re going to start with Kyle Salyards at the bottom here. I’ve been coaching Kyle since 1994, and at that time he was pretty talented little kid, and we got him down to 111 in the 100 meter breaststroke. In the 8th grade, he made his first junior national cuts, and at his first junior nationals he got 106 and 224. I think he was the second or third fastest 14 year old in history. At that time, I thought I knew what I was talking about. I found out a lot later that I didn’t know somewhere around here what was going on. Kyle made his first senior national cut in 10th grade in the 200 meter breaststroke, and then later that summer at junior championships I think he made his 100 cut. Along that way, he made his … IM cut for seniors, and his … cut as well.

 

I started coaching Kristin in 1996. She was swimming for a club about 45 minutes away when she was 12 years old. She went 108.99. She turned 13 shortly thereafter. The following year, she went 108 again. I think she felt that she needed change, she needed something new. She came to me in the spring of I guess it was 1996. This is like Speech Comm 101 in college, by the way. You know. So, every once in a while I need to get some kind of drink here. And you can see the progression that Kristin has made from her first junior championship cut after training with the club for 3 months to her first senior cut here later on when she broke the national record here in 1999. So, it’s been a pretty straight progression throughout.

 

We moved to Florida, as Chuck stated earlier, in June. We went to nationals and Kristin went to Pan Ams and we swam in my opinion very poorly. I think that Kristen was second in the 100 and she won 109.6. I don’t know how she won 109.6, but she squeezed it out. I thought, if you ask me back in May, how fast the kids were going to swim in August, when we were in Harvard training, I would have laughed, because some of the stuff we were doing at practice was amazing.   I mean they were killing themselves. They were the most unbelievably fast times.

 

We went to Florida, it was a big move, it was an adjustment. I was down there a couple of weeks early. I was faxing workouts up to Pennsylvania. They came down, and they got the experience with swimming in water 85 degrees. And they’re used to in Pennsylvania, jump in the pool morning practice, we’re used to like … in the water when it was 77, 78. Now they moved down to Florida and they swim up a set of … IMs and after the first one they say I’m melting. I’m melting. We had to change our entire training scheme the entire summer. It did not work out. We got away from what got us here to 1.7 minutes in our 214. So we’re going to get back to the way we used to train. We’re going to talk about that, what we used to do. Leading up to this today. Just a little background about what kind of training program I run with my kids. O.K.? My goal is to create an environment that creates fast swimming. O.K.? It’s not necessarily my job, I don’t feel, to coach fast swimmers. All right, my philosophy is hard work, you train hard, and you’re going to swim fast. For my middle distance kids, I don’t focus on yardage at all. It’s not total yardage equals success, but how hard you train. And I actually believe… this is just… my beliefs up here, you know, if you have a bunch of slackers or you got a bunch of kids who don’t want to swim fast, throw them in a different pool. O.K.? Throw them in a different time. Throw them in the opposite end. All right, let them swim in group B. Because you want to separate the kids who train hard, the kids who want to swim fast and will do whatever you say, from the kids who want to swim fast but really wish they could. Who really don’t want to put the effort in. O.K.?

 

We train our breaststrokers middle distance and stroke. I have a perfect world here. I think in a perfect world… I know this is not a perfect world, everyone should be trained middle distance and up. I don’t believe, this is just my background, I don’t believe a 50 free style is an event. I’m sorry folks, all right, but you got, you know, guys who are 6’5”, who are big and shoulders out to here. I don’t train anyone for the 50. Never will, never have. It’s kind of a joke at my club that when the 50 comes around, I go and get coffee. When a kid comes up to me and says, hey coach, I went 22.1, I’ll say, Is that good? I’m not a yardage-based program. As far as yardage goes, I don’t care. I never try to get a certain amount of yardage in. And the reason we do this is everybody kicks. We kick all the time. We kick and we kick and we kick. Every day, a half hour at least every day. Most of it is straight kicking, meaning we do a set of 20 100s. It’s all … kicking. And my philosophy in kicking is this: The last 2 percent of every race is kicking. What’s the first thing to go? Your legs. What’s the largest muscle group in your body? Your legs. Train your legs. And train them hard. All the time. So we train our legs really hard. Everybody kicks. If you can’t kick, you’ve got to learn how to kick.

 

Now, this is where we’re going to start to impress you. Josh Stern was over there, and he was ogling my overheads a little earlier. That looks, good, doesn’t it? I’m not trying to teach anyone anything here today, all right, this is just the theory that I’ve developed, adaptation. This is my main law of training, and this is going to come into play later when we talk about rest cycles, recovery cycles. All right, so at least you know where I’m coming from. Adaptation… it’s an improvement of an athlete’s fitness of the body to accept physical load. I’m going to read this right off here verbatim. Definition: The adjustment of an organism to its environment, hopefully a positive one. So basically, what you’re doing is you’re working the kids out, and they’re going to make gains. You train them hard and they’re going to make gains. All right, your major objective is to induce positive adaptations in order to improve performance.

 

So, what you do is you train hard, and you’re going to swim fast. O.K.? And an overload must be applied. So, what’s  an overload? Something above normal. You have a senior athlete going 20 100s. I use 20 100s on 130 and his heart rate is down at 140 and that’s his main training for a long period of time. You’re not going to make any gains. O.K.? So your magnitude of training must be above the normal or something new. Again, this is going to come into play about how I cycle my kids through the year. This is an old XI, I guess, 475 class and college. Great class. Talks about a super compensation. Basically, what this means is you train hard, your preparedness is going to go down, it’s going to bring you back to a level higher than you were at. O.K. And I don’t talk about this as far as a workout goes. I talk about that as a week. All right, and this is your rest phase in here. Let this apply. A combination is if the same training load is applied over a given period of time, your gains are going to decrease as we go through. O.K.?

 

Now, how I train my kids through the year in their cycles, my breaststrokers, as we go three to four weeks of very hard. All right, they’re going to get broken down. O.K.? We go three to four weeks very hard. They’re going to get broken down. On our fourth week, we give them a rest phase. Their bodies adapt to a higher level. So, we cycle our kids through the entire season, three to four on, one off, three to four on, one off. And we have what’s called a recovery week.

 

So, what’s a recovery week? A recovery week is not slow swimming. It’s long distance free style, no kicking because we just kicked for three weeks as hard as we can. Five 1000s is our main set one way. 40 100s on the heart rate, 150, a lot of hypoxic work, keeping our sprinting down to 25, if that at all. Very little sprinting. So, you know, if a kid comes in and goes nine days a week, and he is at his main set every day, his 5,000 yard aerobic set, you know, like, whatever, 3200s, or something like that, ….. to use some intervals cause his heart rate is going to be normal and fairly low, and I personally believe, now it’s going to give them a time to let all that junk flow out of their body, all the toxins and everything else, when they’re ready to come back and train… They haven’t lost anything. In five days of rest, I don’t believe they lost anything. I just think that now they come back and train really hard again for three weeks.

 

So, in my training scheme with the kids, I don’t give them a lot of recovery days where they come in and swim easy. We only had two hours of practice. That’s all that we were limited to do. So, in two hours it was bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. All right, next day they come in, bang it out. Next day they come in bang it out. Then every third… after three weeks.

 

All right, now it’s the long distance free style stuff. O.K.? As far as where we’re training in zones, I’m going to explain where we train in zone with my kids, and we don’t have any lactate analyzers, we don’t do the 3,000 for time. I’m really, you know… Here are the U.S.A. swimming categories over here. And, you know, my program we kind of do it a little differently. We have everything from here up is the aerobic end, the endurance end, and here’s our VO2. The VO2 area, and here’s our sprint. And we’re going to call everything from here down fast. That’s our fast swimming. All right, so what governs this? Basically rest. When we talk about hundreds we go hundreds, rest 10, work ….. 30 minute, more than a minute. Everything from here down is fast. Really fast. All right, so they’re hurting. They’re hurting people. O.K.? Like I said, we don’t really give it a 3,000 for time. I think these are great. And they’re really useful. But I’m really kind of hesitant about doing all that, you know, a kid goes 3205, all right, Susie, now you want to go 105 on your red swims, your EN2 threshold, anaerobic threshold, you want to go 105. Well, Susie was up late last night studying for a test, and she can only go 107. Maybe, you know, maybe she had a really hard day at the gym. I mean, this kid’s feeling great, you know, she’s going 101s today. She’s feeling really good. And what do you say, you’re feeling good? What are you going to do, tell them to back down? Oh, just let em go. Let em go and swim hard. So I use this a little bit.

 

But this is the stuff I use. We call this the endurance aerobic. And this is where the majority of our training comes into play right here for most of the season. At that end. Especially early. O.K.? I believe there is an overlap in training zones. All right, you might have a kid who is supposed to be doing EN2 work and in fact his lactate levels are way up here and he is swimming in this zone. So I don’t think that there is  a real exact science to this stuff. It’s very useful stuff, but I have more 3 zones instead of the 6 or 7 that U.S.A. swimming has. O.K.?

 

Now we’re going to get into breaststroke, finally. Breaststroke. Breaststroke training specific. As I mentioned earlier, I guess in 1994, I really thought I knew what I was doing. O.K.? I found out a little later that I knew absolutely nothing. And now I’ve gotten to the point in time where I have a couple of key ideas that we focus on and I don’t know, I don’t know what I think about myself right now.

 

Breaststroke. In order to really understand the stroke, my first suggestion is watch the experts. And who are the experts? I remember my first couple of national meets. I’d be walking around with a video camera all the time. And I’d be sitting there filming people, and I’d be sitting there at warm ups and watching them warm up. And I’d be running around, and my kids would be over here, Where’s coach John, you know, he’s over there watching such and such. And I’d be sitting there with my stop watch in my pocket at nationals and, you know, Brad Bridgewater would be in lane 1, and I’d be sitting there getting his pace work and I’d… I’m always at the warm down pool. At national, I’m always at the warm down pool. I was trying to spy on Ed Moses at the last nationals. I sat there for an hour. I sat above his lane for an hour, and he wouldn’t swim breaststroke. It really got me worked. And Kyle said, What are you doing? He knows, he knows I’m watching him. He’s a full form breaststroke. So, I try to watch people all the time. All right, because there’s a couple of things that allow these breaststrokers… they all have something in common. All right?

 

To understand breaststroke, watch videos. Currently, in my home, I have the 92 trials, the 96 trials, the world championships, the Olympics from 96, the Olympics from 92. All right, and all these little things, we have the wave breaststroke tape. And I probably watched those tapes a thousand times. And when I first started to getting into watching, you know, on NBC they go underwater for about 6 strokes. And I’d sit there and I’d watch in slow motion, and rewind it, because they only do 6 strokes under water each race. I’d watch Deburgery and I’d watch Jeremy Lynn and I watched Anita Knoll from 92, and I watched and I watched and I watched and just over and over and over again. All right, I got a whole wave breaststroke tape and Bereman’s stuff. And I got his underwater footage. I just… over and over and over again, and I sit there with the kid and say, all right, look at this, look at this, look at this, look at this. O.K.?

 

Step number 4. Find a natural. I’ve got two natural breaststrokers. What do I mean by that? They walk like a duck, they walk like this, their feet are out, their stocky kids, meaning they’re strong, they don’t have a lot of body fat, all right, short kids, they’re just natural breaststrokers. All right, who like to train very hard. I think when you find these kids, you have to treat them a little differently. What I mean, I should say train them a little differently. Because one of the mistakes I made I know when they were starting out it was O.K. … We’d be doing a set and we were going to do some 200 IMs at X interval and the one group might be doing 12 200 IMs. I said O.K., kids, why don’t you do 12 200 breaststrokes. It doesn’t work that way. At all. You can’t train breaststroke the same way you can train freestyle. My opinion. Yeah, what I call whole stroke training, everything else, and kicking.

 

When we do our whole stroke training, we focus on perfect technique all the time, and as soon as they break down, we stop. We just stop. We might be doing sets of, and we’re going to show you some sets here. Let’s just give you a random set. 10 50s. On the 50. And at number 7, if they can’t maintain perfect technique, pull the next two. Come back on number 10 and let’s see if you can get it right again. Then, there’s certain things that we look for. We might be doing a set of 100s on X interval. A number 4, number 5. If they can’t hold it together, stop. Do something else. The majority of our training for breaststroke is everything else. So, we want to make sure when they are swimming breaststroke that it’s done perfectly. That’s really hard to do.

Most of the whole stroke training that we do is in short bursts of 400 to 600 yards at a time. Those are our main sets. So we do a lot of mini-sets, with something else in between. Example. I love to set 5 100s on 140, and this is a threshold set. 5 100s on 140. For getting your heart rate up, 300 pull. Freestyle right after that. Mix it up a little bit. Do that set four times. And, by the last set, you know, when they’re doing their nineteenth 100 breaststroke on 140 and they’re killing themselves to maintain everything, it’s a workout. Believe it or not, it’s a workout. So most of what we do, whether it be our long stuff, you know, we’ll go 3 200s. Break it up. Stop. Do something else. 3 200s. Stop. 3 200s. Stop. When I say stop, do something else. So most of our training for breaststroke, 80 percent of it is like that.

 

We might go out and, like, one day try to the stupidest set I’ve ever given my kids. We went 2200 breaststroke last year. Kyle was on 230 yards and Kristen was on 245. And Kyle was holding 221-224 yards for 20 of them in a row. He was getting 6 seconds rest, and I thought, yeah, that’s awesome. But by number 19, 200, it looks like crap. And then the girl looks even worse. You know, just barely making it. And it takes him a week just to get that stroke back to somewhere normal. O.K.? So what is everything else?  O.K. One pool 3 kick, one pool 2 kick. About 4 different pulling exercises. O.K. Pulling with paddles, pulling with a buoy, pulling  no buoy fly kick. All right.

 

Kicking. What do we do. We kick them literally as much as they can handle. As much as we can kick, we kick. And most of it is done in the mornings. We kick with a board, we kick without a board. We kick with our hands at our side. We kick with a board one leg at a time with a buoy between the legs. We kick with lunges around the ankles. We do vertical kicking. We do a lot of eggbeaters, especially to start off. We do a lot of eggbeater, strengthens the knees. We do eggbeaters. We do a ton of vertical kicking.

 

They have weight belts. We take medicine balls and we throw them at the kids in the water and they have to sit there and kick breast stroke and throw the balls out. And we literally kick until they can’t kick any more. We do a lot of kicking. O.K.? Now, when we pull, there are certain things that we look for when we pull. And this is something we copied down from a magazine here. There are a couple of things that we’re looking for here when we pool breaststroke. Number 2, you gotta make sure, I make sure my kids are wide. Wide. Way out here. When they’re pulling breast strokes, I want to make sure that their elbows are near the surface of the water. I want to make sure that their thumbs break the surface of the water. I want to make sure that the body is in line from knees to shoulders. O.K.? And when we pull with a fly kick, we draw our feet up, all right, and probably the hardest thing to do is we use the fly kick for balance only, without letting the rear end go up. Because once your rear end goes up, your rear end is going to go up, your center of gravity shifts, and the front end of your body goes down. So, those are the key things we look for. O.K.?

 

Wide hands, a very aggressive insweep and follow through where they’re hard, fast. Hands and elbows near the surface, thumbs out, body position correct, with the proper alignment, low hips. I like their hips low. And without moving your hips, lunge forward, and never down. Because what I tell my kids, is Mother Nature will take care of that down part. That grabby thing is going to bring you down. We will lunge forward and not down. Lunging forward with the shoulders, and never with the chest. That’s what we look for when we pull.

 

What do we look for when we kick? Again, low hips. You gotta keep the hips low, make sure that when we kick our rear end doesn’t fly up in the air. Keep the hips stable. Don’t let the hips go up in the air. When you kick with the board, loosen up your shoulders a little bit, to let everything fall down. You don’t want to be too tight. Loosen up the shoulders. Let them fall down.

 

What else do we want to look for? We want to make sure that the feet are placed outward as far as we can. That’s what we look for when we kick. And when we kick, we kick the whole way through. Very fast and very hard. And the feet come together all the way through. So that’s what we look for when we kick. O.K.?

 

Power rack. I love the power rack, and I just put it up here because we don’t have a power rack in Florida. I want a power rack, and after this meeting, I’m going to buy a power rack. We use the power rack three times a week from December to March. I like the power rack for a lot of reasons. Number 1—Breaststroke. it allows you to swim at sub max speeds, because you have this belt holding you back and it allows you to hold positions in the water. I like it for technique work, believe it or not, because it allows you to go a little slower through your outsweep and insweep, allowing you just to put pressure on the water. O.K. So we do a lot of that in November.

Permalink

Development of Ed Moses by Pete Morgan (1999)

Hi. While we’re working on that, let me just say thanks to Pat and thanks to John for inviting me to come to the house and share a really fun story with you guys. I always call the period from summer nationals in our schedule to our first training in September our Human Being period, and so named because for us coaches to see the light of day come through our bedroom window before we roll out butts out of bed, that is a very special period. I know it’s special to me, so I thank you for letting me intrude on your human being period, because most of you are on somewhat of the same schedule.

 

We are set up today to go over a really fun story. I think for those of you and so many people who stood up in the audience who were first to their ASCA clinic here, it doesn’t matter whether your charge of the season coming up is going to be in developmental 8 and under swimming, your first introduction to swimming, or whether you are amongst the most elite of college coaches and used to bringing in a super talent and taking it to an even higher level.

 

When you have a story like Ed Moses, you can relate to your personal coaching experiences of as an 8 and under, taking a learn-to-swim kid that could make it through a 25 of a really brutal stroke, and by the end of the season, they are on top of the world and can command the stroke, go breathing rhythms that are better, or for you lucky college guys, not that you think recruiting is such a fun aspect of your sport, but you girls and guys who do the recruiting in college know the joy of taking a no-name recruit and taking that recruit through a season or two to the point where they are then a known swimmer at a national level, and the joy of taking part in that athlete’s development. It doesn’t have to be an Ed Moses, as you will see, that goes from a fairly casual, although fast, high school swimmer background and no-year-round background, and in a period of twenty-two months, becomes the world’s fastest hundred-meter breaststroker in 1999. It can be a 500 hundred freestyle in yards that comes to Division 1 program for men’s college swimming, and he brings a 4:50 time in yards to the table, but he has only been training once a day and at that, maybe 5,000 a day, and then you take him into 4:20 land and this is the story. And so, if I can, with the presentation today, help you guys to identify with Ed and open up some doors on how you might take guys like Ed to a higher level, then I think we’ve done our job.

 

All right, for those of you who don’t know Ed Moses or what he is all about, what I thought we’d do is, with Eric’s help, we are going to put a face on Ed for you. When the music dub comes in, know this: that when Ed first met me, countrified music was not part of his listening, and we  use country music to focus on some aspects of his swims. I usually dub in country music over his swims, and it helps us both when we’re doing this to focus on….. The new Pan Am Games record for Ed Moses. Here’s a look at just how close it actually was.

Moses only started swimming year-round just two years….. take that back to the beginning….. Folks in the back, come on in and have a seat. We’re getting a little technical start-up here to put a face on Ed. I think in the back, some copies are going to be made available of the notes that I had, and if you would, the word is please just take one page of each, because if you take more than one page, we are going to run out of the handouts. And so that’s in the back, and those of you who want to take advantage of this time while we’re setting this up, can take those notes and follow along. Give out those handouts, go ahead and stand up there, but up on the screen we’ll put a little face to Ed for a second……

 

Here’s a look at just how close it actually was. Moses only started swimming year-round just two years ago. This is his biggest accomplishment to date, and he becomes the second fastest American at the 100 meter breaststroke behind 1996 Olympian Jeremy Lynn. Here at the Pan Am Games, he is going through a… it’s going to allow me to keep my goals in focus for next year at Sydney, and I am going to be able to train hard and…..(Recording of “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” by John Denver)…. Boy, did he love this the first time we did it. (Music continues)….. All right, I think that sometimes it helps when you’re talking about an athlete to have that image, and what I’m going to do over the next hour with you is take you through some of the notes that I have provided….. you can refer to those as we go along, but I’m going to focus mostly on Ed’s development, and the considerations of training plan management, and I think that that’s going to be critically important when we step back from this story because training management is going to be a big emphasis of what I am going to talk about.

 

The fact that Ed swims breaststroke is going to be almost incidental to this presentation because this is not going to be a talk about the techniques of breaststroke per se, although I will share with you some of the training that we do with Ed, and when John asked me to do this, the first thing I considered was, all right, what can I bring to the table for you all that would be meaningful and what do I have to research Ed’s background. Well, I am going to show you right here something that I think is a valuable tool for all of you, whether you are starting out or not. This is a teacher’s plan book, or grade book, and it’s not paper on the outside cover, so it’s lasted me through five seasons, and I’ve gone through two of these since I went to this system of recording. So I had two sources historically of bringing Ed’s training to you, and one of them is here, and this is five seasons worth of attendance and notes on training. The second source is I use a computer program to track my training practices, so I use those two sources to bring together some notes for you.

 

Now, this is an awesome tool, coaches, no matter what level you are. The kids will frequently come to me in training and say, O.K., let’s go to the book. And so we’ll open up the book and maybe we’re on a challenge series, and can be a test at, you know, 15 100’s on a given sendoff, and find out what you did in November last year on the same set… perfect. Open it up. O.K., John, here’s what we did. On this case, Ed, here’s what we did. And what it does is it helps set the table for the current challenge of the day, and this is an invaluable tool that sticks with me every single practice that we do.

 

So, those two sources brought together to bring you this presentation, and I am happy to share ideas on the idea of cataloging your workouts in computer. I find that a little bit less of a useful tool for me because I don’t have the habit of going back into my program plan and editing everything that I changed during a deck session. So when I come back to you and I give you in my notes the workout yardage parameters, those are fairly rough recollections of what I adjusted Ed’s workload to, and I was pretty amazed at how little he did, but you will also be amazed at how much he is doing now, and I framed that in twenty-two months. So you can kind of follow along the notes.

 

Eric’s helped me put this schematic on the board on the yard development, and you can kind of refer to that as I go through a little historical development of that. He began swimming in various summer leagues as a youngster, and his dad’s Air Force, and they were up in New Jersey, and he had a summer league experience as an 8 and under that was real positive. He typically took that positive experience and decided to jump into the year-round pool, and he did that with the Fort Ix Aqua Devils. They have since been renamed to New Jersey… anybody from New Jersey help me with that history?… but it’s a different name now. I asked Ed if he could share with me the name of some of his age-group coaches so we could give them credit in the venue, and he couldn’t recall their names, but maybe some coaches are out there that see Ed’s name now and are real proud that they had a stake in getting him going.

 

It didn’t take too long for him to show some pretty good talent in breaststroke swimming. As a ten-year-old, one year after his third year-round swimming, he made the zone team in the East for the mid-Atlantic LSC All Stars, and he placed third in 50-yard breaststroke going 35.54, fifth in the 100 yard breaststroke that year, going a 118.07. Well, typical of these guys and girls at this age, racing is really one of the most fun aspects of the sport, and he had developed soccer to a pretty high age-group level, and had been introduced through a friend of his Dad’s to the sport of golf.

 

At age 11, preferring to spend his time more in those loves, he left swimming, and really pursued select soccer and traveling around the East Coast with that, and kept at it for his golf game. So, by the time he was going to enter into ninth grade, Ed was moved with his family to duty station in Burke, Virginia, right in my back yard, but I didn’t know him yet.

 

All right… he is still not swimming year round, and although he wants to take his skills and he joins the high school team as a ninth-grader, and he posts a yards best that year of 1 minute 6 seconds. Pretty good. He’s fourteen years old, 1.06 in yards. Second year, he posts a 1.02, and I still really don’t know Ed. I’m sure that when I reviewed some of the high school results I ran across his name, but nothing rang a bell. He attended a high school called Lake Barrack High School, right in our back yard. I had several of my kids in Corral Burke with him on the team as teammates, but they weren’t impressed enough with the progress he was making to say something as they did in his next year, his junior year. In that year, I had a couple of good breaststrokers at the Junior National level who swam pretty decently in season, and you know, typical for our group, we bring all our senior groups in to train and a long course pool on Saturday mornings, and with our high school winter schedule, the high school dual meets are on Friday night. So I always quizzed the kids, O.K. how’d you do, how’d you do, how’d you do? And one of my breaststrokers who takes great pride in racing when well rested was, Ah, this guy named Moses beat me.

 

Well, that was probably the first time I had really clicked with the name. I said, oh? O.K. And they were going like 1.01s, for yards breaststroke at that time, in season. And then comes the end of the season, and I hear the name again, and I went to see that region meet, and granted, I have a swimmer. My breaststroker and Ed are side by side, and Ed puts up a 58.9 on the board and wins our northern Virginia region in yards 100 breast. Forget it! And so, you know, that got my attention, and he swims for Lake Barrack, but he doesn’t swim for a year-round team. That really got my attention, and I had an opportunity swimming side by side… only kidding. This will be interesting.

 

So the kids picked up on his personality and said, Pete, you got to meet this guy, he’s just fun. And I didn’t get a chance to meet him until the following summer. This is now the summer of 1997, and each year I run a benefit swim meet for Special Olympics, and the way I’ve set it up, is I invite all the better summer league swimmers to apply for a spot in the meet, and we swim a long course meet, and then afterward a 50 meter pool. So Ed, on the heels of that 58.9, decided he wanted to swim summer league that year, and he was putting up low 30s for diving off Coppin’s stone in 25 meter pools… pretty good for a breaststroke, and so he wins the top spot going into my benefit meet. I run the meet, and I’m watching it, I’m kind of announcing it, and it was kind of fun. He puts a 32 flat going out in his first long course experience, probably since he was 11, and brings it back in a very pitiful 38, and my guys chasing him down, but Ed won 110, congratulated him, and that was our first chance to really meet each other, and I could tell just by the look in his eyes and the grip on my hand that this guy has got character. We promised each other to follow up. He acknowledged that the kids have been pushing him to try to get him involved in swimming, and he indicated that that would probably be something he was interested in doing, too.

 

So flash another couple of weeks, I was playing one of my three or four rounds of golf a year… I was in my human being period, and there’s Ed Moses behind the starter, and he’s working a summer job at a golf course. He smiles and says, how are you, O.K., let’s sit down. So we sat down in September, finally, right before the season begins, and he says that I’m a good golfer, I’m captain of my high school team, it’s the fall season, and here’s what I’d like to do. I want to get through my season, I want to do it up proud, but then I know that I can’t take my 6 handicap and play at a real high level at the college level of this game, and so I want to give swimming a shot. I said, Terrific. No strings, we just left it at that. But here’s the first impression that he made on me that has stuck with me. He would call me, and we hardly knew each other. He would call me about every two weeks during the golf season. Hey, Pete, this is Ed, and I just wanted to tell you that I’m thinking about you, I’m playing pretty well, but I don’t think I’ll make States the way things are playing out. Just fixer up. O.K., then he calls me, O.K. I’m going to regions and as soon as I finish, I’m coming to you.

 

Well, he had a rainy day before his region tournament. Team and swam, and he made it through about 1500 yards, and I remember first impression was, Wow… I don’t mean good Wow. How’d that guy go 58.9? You know, no swimming fitness at all, and I think.. .I don’t know what… I never talked about that first experience with him, but the following weekend he wraps up his golf season, and now he becomes a…. on October 20th, and I can pinpoint it because the green book says so.

 

The first couple of weeks were pretty rough, you know that Wow didn’t change much. Here were some of my impressions that I recorded. He had really struggled with his balancing points. He was what we would characterize as a sinker, and Jonty Skinner’s probably not here in the audience, but when Jonty was doing some buoyancy tests last spring, we were at a Pan Am assembly at Colorado Springs, and he would have the kids on the Pan Am team do this buoyancy thing where they were pressed down horizontal on the floor of about 8 feet, and then a video would record first of all what’s the first position of their body to move, and how long it would take them to break the surface. Well, about a minute later, they were afraid he was going to die, and he had come up off the floor about 2 inches, and said O.K. he’s a sinker, we’ve established that.

And you can see this as a coach in his first couple of weeks. Yea, low hip position, really plows through the water. When he swam breaststroke, he took advantage of his power at that time, upper body, and he would swim way too vertical, and when we finally started doing a little bit of speed issue with the breaststroke, I could tell he had some instincts at pushing his balancing point further forward, and it heavily revealed his great weakness at that point: his legs, naturally. His legs would not support distance per stroke, so therefore, he’d need that pull real fast. And in those days, in his first few weeks, he went on to record distance per stroke stuff, he was typically at what we’d characterize as easy breaststrokes swimming in a yards pool, about 10 strokes per 25. Now, compare the progress that he makes.

 

Now, he swims virtually everything that we do in a yards pool that is not fairly maximal effort in six strokes or less, and so his distance per stroke and stroke efficiency and learning to balance his body position along with everything that we have done, really has enabled him to do some of these fun things that we’re doing.

 

O.K., so now we’re in the end of the third week of his yards jump into the pool, and we go to Richmond, Virginia and we had set up a plan that really wasn’t going to be concerned with racing, and one of the strengths that Ed carries today is that he will be a student of the sport. Study and buy the plan, and the plan basically was this: that we would attend no morning workouts. Six sessions would be our schedule that we would try to follow. No morning workouts with the exception of Saturday morning.

 

So he was just coming from 3-6 every day, and obviously in the beginning, he wasn’t taking advantage of the full three hours. Furthermore, before we made huge biomechanical stuff, I would take a couple of weeks to really evaluate where he was and just offer some suggestions. Finally, he grasped the idea, and I think that this is critically important. He grasped the idea that it was O.K. to allow himself to  get into condition without competing with the group. Very important point.

 

As an example, mid-October, you can imagine that our aerobic development at that point, you know, for the kids that are in condition, you know, would handle, let’s say 6 times 500 yards freestyle with a 112 base, therefore they are going on 6 minutes. 2500 yards set, and I would say to Ed, O.K., you get a set like this, son, you try to swim 500 yards in a set that’s 2500 yards long like that, you’re going to be dead in the water after 300 yards, trying to keep that tempo. So instead, let’s learn how to take our heart rate. We established heart rate 22 as an easy aerobic development tempo for his heart, and I said I want you to get about 20 seconds rest. If they are doing 500 yards getting 20 seconds resting under 6 minutes, you do 300, I don’t care. But just time it out even if you have to turn around on that last 50 to get your 10 or 20 15 seconds rest and your heart rate’s at 22, great.

Now, it took him a couple of weeks not to race the group, and he got very tired and, you know, we kept his yardage low. But then he finally got it, and the kids forgave him that period like most good athletes would not forgive others who are in good shape, and they allowed Ed to do his aerobic development properly. And Ed bought it. He knew that that was in his best interest, yet his instincts were RACE, RACE, come on.

And so, now we were at three weeks, and we’re doing our first racing. Boy, he was in heaven, because he remembered back to that 11-year old experience. This is what he lived for. All right, so we go to Richmond, Virginia, and we’re swimming the Nova team, a very fine team in Richmond, that had just opened their own pool, it was a 25 yard by 25 meter, and we’re swimming a tri-meet with Nova, and NCAC, North Carolina Aquatic Club. Ed gets up there in the 100 yard breaststroke and he’s like a bull… Come on, lemme go, lemme go. And it caught our eye. You know, he goes 27 out, you know, and just blistered the first 50, and then struggled just like he had in that summer league experience, you know, bringing the 110 home in 38. He comes back home with a struggle. Nevertheless, he goes 59.1. You see that on the 8th of November, a 59.07. Now his life … 58.9.

O.K., so all the coaches said, wow, that was pretty impressive. You know, a guy at about 13 yard pull out and you know, good power off the block. All right, so here we are and his aerobic development continues. A couple of weeks after that, oh by the way, he went 217, pretty ugly 200 yards breaststroke, and you know, front-loaded out to the tune of about a double 0117. Hello, Ed.

All right, so though we came off that, and we said all right, what are we going to do. There is some natural racing instincts that have to get some refinement from the get-go. And we started talking about the relationship that his legs would play in the stroke and how that would have to play catch-up so that he could take his stoke to a higher level at lower stroke counts. And he did just that.

Then, five weeks later, even though a lot of our group at an invitational meet that we run is fairly well rested, for him he was relatively unrested. You know, he had a couple of those weeks of 6 practices and, you know, we had some good practices in there, but his mental side just took over when he knew he was going to get in a more exciting racing pool, deeper water, and he showed some good progress going 57.17 in a 100 yards breaststroke. Now, this is at month 2, end of month 2 of training. He goes 57.17, blows away his best time by a second and a half from the previous year, and made good progress in his 200 yards on working his body position and goes 210.45.

Very important point, coaches, now the training plan has to now involve management because any coach that sees this progress after two months, could have come to the conclusion, Wow, this 100, particularly, is going to develop very fast, so how am I going to incorporate that development of the 100, which is, you know, skewed much faster than his development of his sport, so that his coming out party is justified with a little bit more swimming. How’s that translate? I was afraid that he was going to make his yards, 100 breaststroke cut, to a senior national level of the United States, and his 200 wouldn’t even be at the junior national level, and he would be at a disadvantage as a result. Management. Critical. So what did we do?

I sat down with him, and I told him that I wanted the rest of his sport to play catch up now. So I kept him tired for his dual meets in high school, which typically really get rolling for us in January. That wasn’t too difficult to keep him tired, and he understood the bargain, you know, because he was throwing some 57s in little throw-away dual meets in the 100 breaststroke. So then it became necessary to limit his opportunities to make that cut so that I could let his sport play catch up. And we manipulated those opportunities.

For example, as we worked our way through the season, you will see… Eric, would you put the meters up there for me? We had a late January, I think might be the date, long course meet, and he was pretty tired in this, but it was a good experience for him. On the 24th of January, 1998, he swam a little long course meet that we host in Northern Virginia, and he went 109.8, front-loaded, 239. Boy, if I have the splits for him at 239, he would laugh again, because that was real ugly. But you could tell, he was real powered in late January, and then as we got into the championship series of meets in February, that’s where the manipulation of his training and opportunities had to kick in, so that we could have his coming out part with a little bit more swimming to show off.

Our goal was to swim the senior championships in early March, and bring that 210 to a junior national level, I think was a 208 cut at that time, maybe… 208 probably, and limit his exposure to the 100 yards breaststroke, take away that exciting final swim at our high school region meet that he had won the previous year. And so, what we did is we went into that meet, swam in the trials, and I had him mentally try to negative split the race. So he went like a 57.0, or 57.1 in high school in the morning, scratched finals, swam his relays for the team, and then we lined up in March and true to our plan, he takes a real long stroke and low stroke count to a 207 in yards 200, makes his junior cut.

So, we’re facing the meet at Pat’s pool in Mecklenburg, very excited that at least now I can bring the 100 and the 200 for this young man to his coming out party. Let me back up. All of you, when you’re doing your training plan and you have to manage your training plan need to call on you previous experience. My experience that I called on in this training manipulation, and the plan, was a guy named Mike Schwankle, a very fine breaststroker that I had years before and against all odds, he went nuts at the end of the season, he had just made his junior cut the prior December, and he bust a 57 flat and a 203 in a yards effort and never goes to juniors and goes to Federal Way that year, and he won a 107 and a 224 in meters… I never managed his plan as well, and I always thought, gosh, you know, if I had that same situation arise, I would remember this, and I would manage it better.

Mike landed on his feet fine. His dad came in one day, he was a military gentleman, after his 10-year-old son,  announced that he needed a $110 pair of shoes. Dad said, good, pack your bags, we’ll go get that $110 pair of shoes, and  he took the Schwankle family that summer to Alaska. And there they stay. Mike had to spend his senior year in Alaska. The coach at the time, Chuck Horton, recruited him, and he swam high school that year. That was the only thing they had going where he was in Alaska, and he had a fine collegiate career, although they ended up going, I think 201 and 55 as yards best. But I think that if I had had Mike for that senior year, I would have managed his training, and I remember that story, and you all need to as well. Learn from your experiences of management and take you athletes developmental best interests to heart when you have the opportunity to do just that.

 

Well,  I can’t have a better example that Moses, so we go  to Charlotte, you know, with the opportunity now to swim two swims. Now his, as you’ll see from my plans, he had  a couple of college visits before Charlotte, and the coaches were great, you know, they were saying, yeah, Peter, I hear you, 57 is good. It’s good, Pete. O.K., so he goes to Charlotte, and he looks at his first psych sheet, and this tells you a little mental side of Ed Moses. He sees the psych sheet and he is buried …. two 7s like 35th, 37th, something like that, and he comes to me and he goes I’m a witness. Now, bear in mind that he had gone from 210 in December to 207 in March, and I’m thinking, yeah, good. I’m thinking, great, there’s no way, but I mean, if he even comes close… If he even comes close, it’s going to be as a result of this competitiveness and this desire to be the best.

 

So two days later, he lines up, takes six strokes, goes out in his first 25 six strokes, goes out in a 56 and I thought, well the plan’s come through… the plan is coming through. Thank goodness I gave him this coming out party. He goes 201 in the morning and 200.01 to win that swim at night. And, as you can imagine, when he came back to me, I visited that moment where he came to me with the psych sheet, you know, 37th and declaring himself to be the next junior champion. And we went over that. I said Carry that with you, boy, that was just impressive. And then he goes… he bypasses 55 in yards and he never sees it, goes 54 twice in prelims and finals, and he splits 54 in a real fun relay that we had, so everybody is rubbing off Ed for our men’s team at that meet, and we really had a good showing there and it was really fun.

 

O.K., now management comes back into play. So here we have a young man, he has gone 54 and 200 and you can imagine, you guy, I’m everybody’s best friend. I walk on deck in Minneapolis, I got coaches calling from the stand, Hey Pete, nice tennis shoes, baby. I look up, and you know it’s not a woman’s coach. But who could have forecast that. I mean, when I was calling coaches that year and saying Hey, you gotta keep an eye on this guy, you know, given the background, golfer turned swimmer, 58, coming into season with 57 at Christmas time, O.K. now he goes 54 and he was, you know, he is going to be a player, and this decision to go to nationals, this is critical management, I believe.

 

So very often our athletes shy away from meter swimming if they haven’t had some decent exposure, and we really need to jump right into the pond here, and this was a critical decision that his parents were extremely supportive of. Take him from that wonderful experience in yards that, you know… many would look back and say, boy, we should just end the season there on this high. But I say, we’ve got to throw him into the big pool now. The parents supported the issue, management of the plan. Go to nationals. So we go to Minneapolis, and  I distinctly remember that first warm up in Minneapolis. He gets out of a 50, I mean, just loosen up, 400. Swims a 50 and gets out of this one long pool. You know, we had just flown in, you know, he’s pretty tired from …. you go, it’ll get better. And it did.

 

You know, next day is the 800 day and the strokers get an opportunity to work out the kinks, and he did, and he got a little distance per stroke going, and so then he lines up and he is bringing the 239 to the table, but the 200 in yards, and he goes 2 minutes 22 time, and that was his final, so I think that he might have been 223 in the morning. But, critical first step in his venture in meters because that’s a playing time for a first big opportunity.

 

And then a couple of days later, I think that my notes will indicate on his 100, which was a real fine swim. His morning swim, he took it out in a 29, and he finished fairly slow, and we work these aerobic finish ratios, and I will share with you, we have a very definite plan of race rationing that we developed for this summer, and this is true to his character. He looked at those splits, looked at the way he developed the race, and at night he was almost the same time, like a 103.3. I think that was his morning swim, actually. The 103.32. I think he went 103.36 at night, but he raced it much better. He was out 7/10th slower at the 50 at night, and he had like about a 2 second split differential coming back, and even though his time didn’t change, his ability to manipulate race started showing up right there. And so that was real nice, he placed third in the nationals. That certainly didn’t have our best players because the NCAA season had just finished up. But it was a good jump for him.

 

I think that the critical point is management, you know, and once again bridging from this world class picture to  be to your 8 and under or your 9 and 10, you’re faced with the same decisions. Do they take that real nice age-group championship development, and now do I have him apply for zones, you know, or do I have him go, you know, on a travel trip, or do I let him stand on his accomplishments. Well, you visit that all the time in the development decision in the management of your training plan. But, to have that plan, to have your athletes buy into it, that is a critical part of this whole process, and I would encourage you to come off this talk to visit your notes, your plans, and see where are your opportunities to manage better, and maybe take that opportunity to a new level of plan management.

 

So he comes back, and now he’s a graduating senior to be, and we’re faced with more management because there’s  no question that he’s feeling good about himself, and he’s developed nicely, and so what to do?

 

Well, I had to keep his nose down. He’s a very social guy, as you can imagine, he’s got prom coming up, he’s got graduation, and in our area we live close enough to the beach… it’s almost a ritual, you know, parties, graduate, all night grad party in our area that’s you know, a lock in, you know, to prevent dangerous situations in drinking and such, and then you go right from the lock in and you rest a day and you go to the beach for a week of unsupervised activity. And, so,  I had to have a plan, because I had several graduating this spring of 1998, at a very good level of swimming.

 

So what I did, I’m sitting there developing my plan, actually, at juniors in Charlotte, because I realize that I’ve got all these cats that are going to graduate and I need a good plan. So, I was asking around, and somebody introduced me to Michael Stuart, West Florida. I chatted with him, and got a great little trials and finals meet in the Clearwater/Tampa area the third week in June. So I immediately put that in the plan. I said, O.K., kids, there will be graduation, and I had 13 that year graduating in my training group. And, of the 13, about 5 or 6 of them were at this junior/senior national level. And so, my role is if you do go to the beach week, that’s the end of your season competitively. I’ll train them, but they are not going to swim meets. So the kids bought into the plan. We had this cool deal where several of my kids were going to graduate, go to their all-night party, wake up, well, not wake up, stay up, get on the plane, go to Florida. And that’s what we did.

 

The idea, and the carrot out there was 3 days of trials and finals and then we were going to spend two days in Florida, and we would do a 3 hour workout in the morning which Michael set up space for me to do, and then we would go  to the beach, you know, and we had a blast. We went down, and they rented jet skis, and it was so reinforcing of a great plan… it kept everybody in the fold, and it kept Ed’s nose right where it needed to be, you know, clean and with a lifestyle of training. Critical point. Managing the plan.

 

So, now we’re back, it’s the end of June, we’ve come off   a couple of real good days of fun and training, and we’re looking at Clovis, and if you follow my training plan, you’ll see that he had several weeks where we were finally able  to move into a stepped up plan… we went a few weeks of  9 sessions in the water, and he was hitting his first morning and afternoon. At this time of the year, we’re doing meters in the morning for about two hours 15 minutes, to the tune of 6 or 7,000 meters for him, and then we come back and we do finesse biomechanical race speed stuff in the afternoon. We do that Monday through Thursday, and I give him Friday off, and then we come back for another yards look on Saturday.

So there were 10 opportunities a week, and Ed was, if you follow that log, somewhere in 9 or 10 for several weeks looking at Clovis, and we’re looking at that meet, certainly with some lifetime best times in mind.

 

So I’ll step back. I’ll go with you a little bit on some of the race strategy stuff that we developed. As a training group, we’re looking at some relationships, and what we want to be able to do in practice, is, for example, for a stroker, we want to have them swim into a turn, watch—will start when their hands touch the wall, initiating the touch and turn. So the watch starts there, they’ll swim 50 meters long course, and watch stops on the hand contact at the end of 50. Consistently, one month out the athletes need to show that they can do a time that represents at least the speed of the finish of their shaved 100. Consistently. That’s just the way we train, and we find very good results with using that as a step of indicator. And we’ll also do some dives, and in my 50 meter pool, it’s all coping stone finish, it’s a beautiful training pool because it’s so slow. Shower at one end, 3 1/2 feet, it’s great, you know, you can go from that blue collar pool to the real fine pools and feel like you’re stepping up into it.

 

So, we’ll dive off the coping stone to do some 25 indicators, and what I will do is I will stand at a 25 meter break point, and what they want to do is establish a time where their head breaks the 25 meter plain, the watch stops there… take that time, double it for a breaststroker, add 3 to 3.5 seconds, and if they can consistently hit the time that they need for what we’re working for in the swim, then we know we don’t have to do relatively taxing dive 50’s to establish it can be done. And I can also do like an altitude adjustment, I can do a pool adjustment.

 

You know, for Ed coming into this season, when I wanted him to be under 13 seconds at that 25 meter break point. You know, in our blue collar pool, he struggled to do that and his stroke was pushed artificially too hard. So, typical for him would be a low 13 in the pool, but I knew that when rest kicked in, you know, this was really not going to be an issue.

 

So, the summer before Clovis, though, he was hitting 33s on those touch/turn/finish 50’s, and he was hitting, you know, the high 13s on his 25, so we went into the meet thinking that we weren’t going to really change too much from the spring. We were trying to effect still a 29 front end and see if we couldn’t bring that 32 into the picture on the back end. And, I feel like in hindsight, if you looked at the NBC coverage of the Clovis meet of Ed’s swim, it doesn’t really focus on him, because he placed third. But is showed enough of his cycles… it really looked ugly. He was too vertical, he wasn’t pressing his balance point forward, and he was just trying to power his way through the water.

 

So, he comes in, he goes 102, which was a best time, and he places third. So it’s good, I mean, despite the mistakes, he got through the nervousness and the stakes were higher now, and he gets to the point where he can now play at the international level, being selected for the Pan American Games the following year. His 200 made some progress, he goes 218, pretty ugly, still not being able to manage his leg strength, so I look back at his training plan in hindsight, and we really suffered the dryland training from graduation through that Florida trip, leading up to the Clovis meet. And that was evidence that his legs were not supporting his distance per stroke and even though he made that jump from 222 to 218, that wasn’t a reflection of where he could have been, maybe should have been. It left him real hungry in that event.

 

All right, so we finish up, and now we’ve got the new training plan, and as I had a lot of college coaches in the audience, and those of you who have worked with me… my plan there is to be partners with the college coaches and be an active part of the partnership. Mark Bernadino deserves so much credit in the continued development of Ed during his first year at the University of Virginia, Dino and all the classmates at UVA and so it is so easy to get that rapport going on what we did with Ed, but Mark was well aware of the training limitations that Ed brought to the table. You know, with just the amount of time he had been in the water, and really helped him come along at a continued slow pace.

 

But Ed didn’t want to compromise too much and quickly got into basically a 9 session a week routine with UVA. He would swim Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, and basically there he would lift and do 2-3,000 yards of swimming, and he would swim Monday through Friday in the afternoon and do a weekend workout.

 

We said, go on, take a practice off in the fall and Ed checked off on that and said No thanks. So his development was secure. His mind set was great. The environment was wonderful, and Dino, like, continued to chat at least once a month and Ed got to participate in a little dual meet with the Big 10 All Stars and in late October, early November in Chicago,  I believe, did O.K. there. He swam a Princeton invitational in December, and on yards, unrested, he went 55 and 201, I believe. Some pretty good swims to have a highlighted midseason meet, but he didn’t shave for that, and as the college coaches will tell you, one of the big issues, you know, even with talented kids, it takes a high degree of talent not to rest and make NCAA cuts. So that’s always the rub, you know, how are you going to treat your athletes, you know, who do have the capacity, perhaps, to make some cuts unrested.

 

Well, that was the plan, to give Ed the opportunity there at Princeton without a big rest and shave, and he came close, but no cigar there. So he had to plan his rest for ACC champs, and that was fun for me, because I stayed in good contact with him, and I was at the University of Maryland, and he put some good times up, 153 and 157. He was second in the 100 there, at ACCs and won the 200. Feeling pretty good. So here’s the big test now, because he’s looking… we had already made the decision to go to NCAA… well, not that decision, but to go to nationals after NCAA, and that was a tough.

 

One for the men especially, because that necessitated them flying directly from Indianapolis into Long Island. But again, that was planned management. My feeling, very strongly, was that Ed simply didn’t have enough meters experience, and the more racing he could do—we wanted to take advantage of that. And so we followed up with the plan.

 

He went to NCAA, did well, and improved on that 53 and 157 marginally, and I thought he was O.K. in his swims. ESPN covered it, and I was able to watch his strokes and that was really the first time that I put swims to countrified music, and we slowed down the tape and, you know, we would start with the entry stuff, and, you know, I’d show him last in the water frame by frame and then I would really blast the volume on country boy. So that was one of the things, we’d study tape, you know, take some noted down, and we were fine as Dodge, so he would be in the water faster, lower trajectory, and he was able to accomplish that by the summer time. And he was beginning to show that he was pretty beat up.

 

By the time he got to Long Island, he swam O.K., kind of like Clovis, though, tired by that point, but we were really investigating his window of being able to swim fast. And so he did O.K., 102.2 and wins his first national championship. That was significant in and of itself because again, the management of the athlete… he wins his first national championship, albeit not with the stellar field. We don’t care. He gets in a race and takes that experience notch in his belt, carried it forward.

 

All right, so now he gets home after a spring that college coaches will attest is not always an easy time frame, you know, from the end of NCAA to get him bridged over and Ed did a pretty good job. What he did… we sat down with  a plan, we’d take away the traditional lifting that the rest of the guys did, and we just went medicine balls. And all he did was pick up Mike Bereman’s program, and he did medicine balls four days a week, and the program is about an hour long, and then he would swim, and he was swimming every day except Sunday, and as many sessions as he could get in. He typically got in about 8 sessions through exams.

 

So we get back, planned management again, looking at Winnipeg. What are we going to do with the plan? Well, I want to take this to a new level, and just like all you guys do, you’re looking at the green book, you got to raise the bar up, you got to bring them to an even higher level of performance. And true to Ed’s character, he rose to the occasion where at 10 sessions a week he takes these 10 sessions, we’re working with races that all along the way showed that he was making the progress that he needed to make.

 

So, his summer in a nutshell… last summer… in Richmond in mid-May, in one of those blue collar pools he goes 107 and 229. Three weeks later, in Maryland State he went 105.1 and 224.7, and two weeks after that at Santa Clara he’s 104.3 and was deked in the 200, but he did put up a 220, and then our senior champs he goes 103 and 218 and those were real confidence swims for him because he is going to take this now into Winnipeg. The plan was going to be for two weeks rest. Well, you can call it anything you want, race preparation taper, and we maintained those training sessions all the way up to when he left and incorporated the time that he was going to spend transitioning to Winnipeg. So that’s what he got.

 

What we wanted to see was how long that fitness would last, because we wanted to create such a monster of fitness that he could take his racing and race for a month off the training that he did. Now, in fact, we didn’t investigate the month, but he could have had the opportunity to go to Pan Pacs on the heels of his fine swimming at Winnipeg and then at nationals and we turned that down. That wasn’t in the plan to investigate it fully, and I saw that the rest that he could have following nationals was critical, being the last opportunity to get guilt-free rest prior to getting into his final preparation for Olympic trials next year. He had the opportunity also to take part in the competition that’s going to be here this weekend, and we passed on that for the same reason.

 

All right. How’s he doing with his plan? Just a little tentacle stuff if you will.

 

(Eric, can you throw that race ratio stuff?) So I told you a little bit about what we’re trying to do in practice, indicating where they can be. He indicated all the way through in those 50’s and 25s that the plan for the summer, no question, could be 28 and 32 — 28 out and 32 back, and we were shooting for 17, 18 strokes on the front end, and wanted to see what the stroke cost was on his back end, and in his different looks at the 100 he was anywhere from 21 to 22 strokes coming back. And almost all of them are consistently 28+, 32+. So we feel like the plan fulfilled itself, but also mentally on the back 50, we’ll look at this ratio to get him to keep his body position strong and rely more on his legs.

 

On that second 50, we look at this ratio, what he can do from his touch time to the head, breaking the 25 meter and now we’re at the 75 meter mark on the way back to 100. I want him to be that twice plus one second.

 

So on the morning at nationals at Minneapolis, he was 2Y plus about 1.9. And Rick is standing up with me, I like watching the races in Minneapolis from up top because I can really see where the race is see their bodies, and he made all the adjustments. He is out slower, he went his 2Y plus one exactly and 101, 012, and it was a real superior race for him, particularly under these circumstances of racing Ferrera. So he has got this capacity to make these adjustments. I’m not suggesting to you anything other than this is what we used to create the framework for racing, and it allows me as a coach administrator to see if the athletes are on my path, and Ed makes this a real fun journey.

O.K. Eric, if we can, let’s look at a real fun ending of the season. I’m going to show you a little countrified version of his 100 race at nationals that ends out the season, and then a little ESPN/Canadian coverage of his Winnipeg swim going the 009. So, sequentially, they are not right. The music is first to the 101.2 and that of course happened last in August, but we’ll go the 101.2 first and then the 00 swim at Winnipeg. (Music)

 

I haven’t beaten him at golf yet, but that’s a project, too. I actually used this song for his march out in Minnesota. He is giving thumbs down. We’re looking for 13 1/2 meters under 6 seconds. He was 5.5 on this dive and at about 13 1/2. I tell you, I recall he was about 12.8 going out here, on the way to 28.7. We’re looking for a turn touch to put departure under 1.0. Strokes on the way back of 17. (Applause)

 

(Announcer) So Ed Moses continues his ascent in the world of swimming. We talked about his leg kick… You can see him coming off the wall there… Look at the streamline. He keeps his head down in that locked position looking straight down at the bottom of the pool. Look, he brings his legs, feet, excuse me, all the way up to his buttocks and then just slams outward and then back inward where he finishes his kick so well, points his toes to the back. Right there he sees his toes pointing backward, and look at the front… Throws his head down, and that’s so important. Very early in his career he had where he was putting his head straight down, but now he tucks his chin underneath his chest and throws his head between his arms which gives him a nice streamlined position out front. This guy’s just going to keep getting better and better. Nice reach to the end. You can see how undulating he is to the finish. Boy, I tell you, this guy is so exciting to watch.  National meet record for Ed Moses.

 

Ed, a couple of years ago you were a golfer. Decent golfer. Now you’re the best American breaststroker. How do you explain that?

 

ED: It’s really hard to explain, but I feel it takes a lot of discipline in both sports. They’re both really competitive, and you have to focus in on what you really want to do, and I think that’s how I transferred from a golfer to a swimmer. It’s really the same thing.

 

(Announcer) Such a quick ascent leads to a lot of jealousy amongst your competitors and fellow Americans and all around the world. Is that difficult for you to handle:

 

ED: Well, it was at first, but I feel that I’m working just as hard as anyone else is now, and I’d rather be setting an example and be the role model than everyone’s saying, Man, he came on strong just lately, but I feel that if I keep working hard, I don’t know what I can do.

 

(Back to speaker) I can tell you that I partnered with him on medicine balls and my wrists are still recovering two months later. He does work as hard as anybody I’ve ever trained or seen trained, and that includes some pretty good breaststrokers. This will go off of freeze frame, right into the Pan Ams.

 

(ANNOUNCER): The 100 meter breaststroke finals. Two lengths of the pool in the men’s 100 meter breaststroke. The Canadian is in lane 5, Morgan Navi. And this morning, Ed Moses had a tremendous start and had a half a body length right off the start, but does not have that distance this race right now, so perhaps the pressure is getting to him because he made the other American is moving up on him. He is probably right with him at this point and after the preliminaries, Ed Moses is flying at the half way, was way ahead of everyone else. As far as the lane 3, got the good start, is Ed Moses, currently in second place, the Morgan Navi is off the wall. His quick time is 28.91. That’s a fast time, but Morgan Navi 29.1 is very fast for him going down the lane. He is in a great position… he’s in third right now, he is obviously going for the gold medal, or any medal he can get to plus that Canadian record of 101.9. It’s Ed Moses of the United States in lane 4 with a slight lead on Garret Morris and Morgan Navi of Canada. It’s Ed Moses continuing the lead, just over 5 minutes to go. It is going to be Ed Moses at the wall for the gold. The battle for silver. A tremendous battle for silver at the wall, and it goes to Morris. Navi makes it a dead heat. We have a dead heat in the men’s 100 meter breaststroke for second place. Ed Moses takes the gold.

 

(SPEAKER) Thanks, Eric. O.K., I felt that was kind of fun just to wrap up with a little visual, you know, of how he ended up this 22 months, and folks, I think… what I challenge you to do is, you know, every time we have something really cool like this, you know, somebody that does a Maher-like 200 fly or in this case somebody takes a very humble beginning, and in a short span of 22 months really racks up some eye-opening numbers. But you know that there’s going to be somebody who does it even better. So, if you have the opportunity, if you have that athlete, how are you going to do, and hopefully, a little presentation like this might make that process a little fun because someday, somewhere, there will be an athlete who will be on a faster track than Ed was for 22 months.

 

I want to wrap up just real quickly just offer a couple of little fun things that we do… this is not a talk on breaststroke, but one of the fun things that Ed had with this summer is that we took some paddles, stroke makers that we make for the hands, and in an effort to really work on some flexion and resistance, I fashioned about a month before he came back from UVA some for the feet. I put it on a lot of my IMmers and breaststrokers, and we just tried it and as you can feature, it would be just a task, just from the ankle all the way up to the toe, and we used extra finger tubing just to effect that.

 

And, here’s Ed, and you know, and I was telling him this on the phone, and he said, I can’t wait. So he comes back, we buy ten pairs of stroke makers, he takes it to his little shop at home, and in the period of two days he’s crafted the stroke makers exactly to the angle of his ankle, and he just takes the idea, he owns the idea and takes it one step further. I think that’s testimony to the kinds of stuff that you’re looking at with an athlete at this level. Just wants to make everything better, wants to own and take ownership of everything that we do. He makes my job real easy, makes us all look good, and I’m very blessed to have had a guy like that.

 

What I’d like to do is just entertain your quick questions and then send you guys out for a much needed stretch of your legs. Yes sir?

 

(Question). That’s a good question. The question was what do we do with ankle flexibility? His flexibility was very poor when he came on to the team, and the way we measure it is, we’ll have the athlete kneel down and create a straight line from the knees to the shoulders in that position, putting their feet back, and we’ll take a ruler and we’ll measure their flexion without forced stretching as a starting point, and then we go through a lot of flexibility and stretching each day that pushes that. The medicine ball routine does a great deal of stretching those issues, and we will also do some assisted ankle stretching and sit positions. So by this summer, he could kneel in that straight line position and have his ankle flush to the floor, and that we felt was so critical, and in the development of his legs his first kicks in that 9 or 10 strokes 25, he would kick down and then drift together. So we changed that to kick straight back and have the simultaneous close, and when you look at his kick underwater, there’s nothing real impressive about most fast breaststroke kickers that just strikes you, wow, because most of it is the quickness of their ability to grab water on the flexion, and Ed does just that. Boy, from here to here, he grabs tremendous amount of water, and we did work on that a great deal. Good question. Anybody else? Yes, ma’am.

 

(Question). Oh, high tec workout manager. You’re talking about my training schedule and workouts? That’s what I was referring to. I use just the high tec workout manager to record my workouts, and I keep some notes in that category, but most of my notes are on this handwritten.  Yes ma’am.

 

(Question). Yeah, the question was how much forward motion or forward balancing did Ed bring to the table? He was much more vertical, his balance point too far back in the beginning, and so I would just teach him through some dolphin balancing drills to press forward and feel his hips elevate, and so that he could stay forward better, and he really has developed a superior attitude. We use the phrase walking posture. I think it is critical for beginner breaststrokers too. Very often, on the insweep, kids will lift their heads up and get out of this walking postures. So, we’ll try to get that image using that phrase, and we’ll say O.K., let’s take this walking posture forward, let’s do just one breaststroke in the walking posture, try not to let them get out of their posture during any phase. Yes sir.

 

(Question). O.K., yeah, I was concerned with the development overall. He’s got a powerful freestyle that he still has some wrist issues with, but he went 53 and the 100 for us in the relay meters, and he’s been 46 in yards and his IM development is really going to take hold next year. I intend… I think the sport is much more interesting, you know, if they have some more doors to open and our training particularly our aerobic development training, is really heavily IM based. Yes, sir, in the back.

 

(Question). I’m sorry, couldn’t hear you … Oh, does he practice other sports other than swimming now? He plays an occasional, very occasional round of golf, and he spanked me at the end of this season, but I only played two rounds myself. But no, soccer is no longer part of his workout routine, and he stays fully focused. Other questions. Yes.

 

(Question). That’s a good question. I don’t really have a 25 test base very frequently. We do an old version of super 500 that employs a lot of 25 stuff, and we’ll do that in scuba belts for the first half, and they’ll wear about 10 pounds. Yes.

 

(Question). Oh, for the race, yeah, well, we find that we get a lot of looks in the 2-week resting period, and I’ll give him a starting point, so I’ll give him a couple of looks on the watch early in the season so that he can again reference their power starting points, you know, in the beginning of the season. But, we get several looks, I would say, at least two or three looks on the watch per week in the last two weeks of race prep.

 

(Question). That’s a good question. The question, if you heard it, was when he was only 207 and 57 going to juniors, was it in the plan to go to seniors? I had no doubt in my mind that he would bring the 100 to the senior table, and yes, we would have gone just for the 100. I was so pleased with that 200 development. All right, one thing that I left out that we couldn’t manage and it was through no fault of our own, we thought we were going to get a 200 look at Winnipeg. Two days before the meet, the administrators decided they would not allow extra swims by the athletes. And so we were denied an opportunity to even get a swim. So, Ed stayed much of the night trying to get out of Canada on Sunday. He flew in, I picked him up at the airport about 11:00 o’clock, and then I let him sleep about an hour, and he came over for time trial and put a 213.4 up on the board for a time trial. Under very difficult circumstances, so we expect him to be a 200 player now in meters. Yes.

 

(Question). Kick time compared to swim time. We did a lot of kick looks, and what I wanted him to be able to do is see how close he could get to 30 seconds in kicks and yards, and we would do less frequent looks at meters, but I think his best time in a yards kick that we recorded was 31. Yes.

(Question). How do I manage his knees? You mean, for flexibility? Most of his knee strength… we’ll do two things. First of all, is dryland routines exclusive medicine balls now. And so he gets a lot of warm up jumps prior to doing that, and then he will do a mild stretch routine before he gets into the heavier knee aspects of the medicine ball. And then in the swimming workouts we’ll do two things. The routine that we’ll follow is that they will swim for about 400 meters, and then we’ll do a 4 minute stretch that’s in the water that does incorporate some knee stretches, and then they’ll swim a warm up series that might be 800,000 meters, and then we’ll do a continued warm up that doesn’t address the knees at all, mostly shoulder work. And then they get into their first heavy set. Yes sir.

 

(Question). In the water? On land. Yeah. The only measurement that I use is that one that I mentioned where the athlete, and I’ll have a ruler and I’ll look at the distance they can achieve, but hyper, beyond that, I don’t. Yes, sir.

 

(Question). Whole stroke training to drills. Everything that we do is set up with drills. Always. And because I really feel they have to get into their stroke, and the same thing  is true of racing. They have to set up the races exactly that way, too. We’ll warm up with drills, and they’ll carry those drills and carry the image of gotta get my stroke, can’t race without the stroke… don’t leave it behind. Though Boomer would say you left your trike back there. Yes, sir.

 

(Question). Yeah, that’s a good question. What’s our percentage of breaststroke swimming? Well, typically in the aerobic phase, they’re going to be about 40 % in IM, and then once we get out of that phase, you know, depending on where we are in the season, and they’re into some really good serious stroke work, twice a week we’ll devote especially to lanes and some really heavy breaststroke work. Typical of that work out in yards would be 9,000 yards for Ed in the winter time for us, and, well, let me change that around… in the summertime, now that he’s with me, when we do those in meters, typical of the workout would be about 7,000, and in breaststroke about 3,500, and he does that twice a week in specialty lanes, and then other looks and test sets might add up to maybe 20-25% of his total work in breaststroke and drills and swimming. That would not include kicking. Yes sir.

 

(Question). What is Ed’s strategy to carry his speed into the wall? What we want to do is we use the phrase swim through the wall, as opposed to swimming to the wall, and we will swim through the wall at the turn and through the wall at the finish, so that by image there’s not this end point. Too often… I’ll never forget Joseph Naj chiding Berryman in Barcelona when he puts up a world record 210 and they look at the tapes afterward, and Joseph kind of tongue in cheek would say, Michael, here’s the wall, and in the video of his underwater finish, poof, and in Joseph’s perfect English, How’d you touch fingertip 209. O.K. So I think swimming through the wall is the best answer I can give you, certainly with maximal speed. Now, as opposed to Michael, who was coached to really pick up his stroke tempo, stroke rate, underneath the flags, we don’t promote that too much. There is an adjustment that has to be made, a decision around the flags, you know, to carry into particularly the turn speed right before the full extensions were won. Other questions. Well, folks, I really thank you for your time. It’s been a long morning.

 

(Applause)..

Permalink

Core Strength and Stability by Vern Gambetta (1999)

The bill’s in the mail, Chuck. In those days I was getting paid very well by the White Sox, so I didn’t have to charge. When I decided to go on my own four years ago, a friend gave me some advice, he said just don’t forget when you go in business for yourself and particularly the consulting business, you eat what you kill. So the freebie days are pretty much over. Anyway, thank you very much for the introduction Chuck and it’s always a pleasure to be here.

 

I couldn’t help it, I caught kind of the tail end of Bill Sweetenham’s lecture this morning and I’m a student of coaching. I think I still coach, even though, being kind of pigeon-holed in the strength and conditioning area, and I went back last spring and coached track and field for the first time, day in and day out, in about twelve years, and I realize how much I miss being an actual day-to-day coach. And listening to some of the things that he said, I’m just going to reinforce that. And this topic area I think is really, really current, and I hope that in the time available, Guy Edson said I could go about 15 minutes over, so I beg your indulgence if we do go over since there’s nobody after, and I won’t go any longer than that. I have plenty of material too, but that’s not the intention. But I think there’s a lot, a lot of you have heard me speak before and heard me speak on medicine ball training on the shoulder.

 

I realize how many times in the 90s I’ve spoken here. And what I hope to do today, to give you a little bit of a different twist, and share with you some of the things I’ve learned in the last two years in this area. Some things that I think you could use. Much more practically on the pool deck, and then I think we’ll only serve to reinforce what Richard Quick said, what Terry Lochlin has said, and just the more exposure that I’ve had with swimming.

 

Fortunately I’ve known Nort Thornton for a long time and we spend a fair bit of time talking on the phone. I feel bad that when I was at Cali I didn’t spend more time with him then, but I think he’s kind of the always willing to try things and give me really good feedback, and that so we’re going to share some of the things that we’ve learned there. I also want to interject just a little bit of a personal aspect, and I guess and I always felt that I’ve done in 30 years of coaching, done core training, and I’m going to define what that is in a second. But, 30 years ago when I found out that I had arthritic changes in my low back and realized that that was Happy 50th birthday that I was going to be physically active, and that was how I was going to make my living, it forced me to take a whole different look at this too. And to really, really look closely at research and to separate the wheat from the chafe and find out what was working and also what possible causes for that was. And I also look back on training, and I think there’s things that we’ve done that possibly caused things like that and I think we want to avoid those things. So, I think that was also a motivating factor for delving deeper into this area.

 

Just wanted to recognize my sponsor, MFF Athletic Company, performed better and, I’ll tell you right away, there is no way on God’s earth given the space and the structure of the room that I’m going to be able to do the amount of demonstrating that I hoped to do. I’m going to do my best, so if you want to come by tomorrow between 9 and 12 at the booth, I’ll take the time, as long as there’s a few you, and go through some of the stuff there. Because I feel very, very strongly that you need to see it and you need to experience it. I think you need to feel some of this stuff if you’re going to go back and try to teach it to some of your swimmers. It’s not good enough to see a video or just take notes and as Bill said in his talk this morning, it is coaching. You got to get hands on to try this yourself and it’ll all make sense as I go through some of the theory of it.

 

I also want to acknowledge a couple of people that I’ve worked real closely with. Some of you heard me speak about Gary Gray, who’s in Adrien, Michigan, who I think is the best physical therapist in the country, a really, really creative thinker. When you say thinking outside the box, he was doing that before there was a box and just a really, super, super guy. And then Mike Clark, who is a young PT that starts my seminars with me and has really done, delved into the research very deeply into this core area, and I’m really thankful for the information that Mike has shared with me on this area.

 

The first thing in terms of I’m going to follow your handout in detail, in some areas and in some areas there’s some things there, some information you can just, you know, look and derive the information from. I think the realization that I came to about 12 months ago was that all training is core training. The fact that I’m just standing up here, and I’m upright and overcoming gravity is my core is active. And I think if we re-examine what we’re doing, and also if you reexam swimming in kind of the new paradigm that’s evolved in the last ten years, you realize the importance of the core. The awareness of the core, the strength of the core and that. And so things like overhead lifting with dumbbells and that kind of stuff really becomes core training if you change your awareness and emphasis when you’re doing it.

 

So when I’m thinking about designing a program,  because the core is so important and your basic principles of looking at toenails to fingernails, O.K. the whole, kinetic chain with the core the key link in the chain, that all training is going to be core training. I have a good friend at University of Wisconsin and he calls it linkage.  O.K. And the key link  in that chain is going to be the core. If that area is weak then we can lift a house and you can get in the pool and you can swim mega miles. It isn’t going to make any difference because you’re not going to be able to hold the position to do the things you want to do. So all training is core training and we’re always looking at toenails to fingernails. What  is the core? Kind of big words, and I heard Terry Laughlin say he’s not a sports scientist, and nor am I. I’m just a coach and I always think about it in the least common denominator and put it in terms that I can understand. It’s a lumbo/pelvic/ hip complex and just think of it simply as hips, abdomen, the back, the low back, the upper back and including the neck.

O.K. Not just the abs I’ll never forget the first talk I gave at Aspen, Washington D.C. I think it was 7/8 years ago, and  I said how many people do core work and there was maybe 700 people there.  Everybody put up their hand, and then   I said, well how many people are doing rotational movements? And three people put up their hand. And I said well how many people are doing at least 1,000 crunches a day, and everybody was very proud because they put at least two hands up. O.K. Cause we’re doing 2,000 a day. But that’s only one aspect of the whole core. In fact, that’s only one aspect of the abdomen. It’s probably the wrong aspect of the abdomen, which you’ll see in a few minutes. So we got to look at that whole, if you want to think of it as a muscular corset. O.K. the other thing that I have in your hand-out, that I don’t have in your slide is, it’s more than six pack abs. It’s more than appearance. I’ve seen some people that are ripped. O.K. That have tremendous rectus abdominus and have terrific low back problems. Cannot hold a position in the water. Because the right muscles have not been strengthened in the right manner. So it is more than appearance. That’s the thing that we, doing correct core work, you’re going to look pretty good but you’re not going to have a wasp waste because you’re going to develop a muscular corset and that’s everything around that area not just the rectus abdominus. So I think that’s an important point to make.

 

Why train the core? First of all to improve dynamic postural control. Obviously in listening over the last, in the time that I’ve been coming to this convention and listening to swim coaches that I know and respect, that posture and alignment in the water is just become a key, key element in everything you’re doing. O.K. Appropriate muscular balance around the core. Not just the abdomen but the back, the rotators and all that. develop dynamic three dimensional flexibility. By working through four ranges of motion with control, we are going to develop flexibility. Flexibility is range of motion with control. Movement that we can control. Not movement that we can’t control. And in a dynamic manner, that’s the key thing, not static flexibility. Allow for expression of dynamic functional strength and improve neuromuscular efficiency.

If you are strong and stable through the core it’s going to open up a whole new vista in terms of your whole patterns of movement. And especially when you’re horizontal in the water.  O.K.

 

The foundational principal for all of this. And I’m very, I apologize. There’s a couple of people that came up to me right before and I didn’t get to really answer their question completely, but this is the paramount, underlying, guiding principal to everything I do. I’m talking to swim coaches now. I’m talking to football coaches. It doesn’t matter, or track coaches. Core strength has to be developed before extremity strength. I do not care how much you can bench press or how much you can pull down or how many kiloponds of force you can watch, you can express on a dynamometer or leg press or anything. It is of no consequence if you don’t have a strong and stable core because eventually, and probably very, very soon, you’re going to break down and you’re not going to be able to express that strength if you don’t have good core strength. So those of you who are working with age group athletes. The first thing and the most important thing you need to develop is core strength and it doesn’t change as you go through your life span of athletic development. We want to make sure and that’s true in a work out. Let’s go from the micro to the macro. It’s true in a workout, it’s true in a work week when you’re planning your training, it’s true in your year and it’s true in your career. That you’re always going to emphasize and develop core strength before extremity strength. And hopefully, what I’m going to in the rest of the talk now, is explain to you how and why to do this.

 

I’m not much of a podium guy, but I’ve got to stick near the computer. I’m in a high tech world. What’s the function of the core? All movement begins from the center. Terry said go look at the video out there. I looked at that video and I looked at some of the other videos around the exhibit area again. I’m looking at the core first, and I see the core move, the center move, and that’s true in any movement, before the hands and the legs move. Alright. All movement is controlled by the center. If you can control the core you’re going to  be that much more efficient. O.K. What is the function of the core? Somebody said to me a couple of weeks ago on the phone that we’re working from the inside out. From the inside or the center of the body out. So just to reinforce that whole principal or that idea.

 

Now the other area that I want to talk to you about because I keep hearing, people ask me a lot…swim coaches are always asking me what do we do? We’ve got shoulder problems. What should we do? Should we do more internal rotation, should we do more external rotation of should we do more stretching? No. Probably most of the stuff that we’re doing at the shoulder does no good. In fact, I’ll go so far to say, it’s wrong. It’s, probably, it’s a waste of time. This kind of stuff. You know super rays, this external rotation and all of that. The paradigm that I’d like to share with you, and I talked on this a couple of years ago in New Orleans, and now we have some proof—Dr. Ben Kibler has done some research on it. There’s a quarterback that plays here for the “Chargers” that Mike Clark has worked with, Eric Kramer. And he has it all documented in terms of where his shoulder problem started. Nothing to do with his shoulders. It had all to do with his hips. And I think a lot of you are going to find that if you shift you’re thinking away from the shoulder and look to the core, a lot of your shoulder problems are going to decrease. There are going to be some people who are prone to it because of possible things that I’ll talk about in a minute. Basically you want to look at your hip to shoulder relationship. Unfortunately I’m not going to be able to go into detail, this is a talk unto itself. But basically internal rotation, any problems with anterior shoulder pain is going to be related to same side hip. Same side hip what? Could be sore, has tightness, internal, external, rotator tightness or weakness or whatever, and you got to find somebody in your area that can help you ascertain that. Your typical rotator cup problems, posterior shoulder problems are going to be related to opposite side hip. O.K. And it relates to one of the next few slides. So you can think about that and look at that relationship. I think you’re going to see that bear out more and more. Just as you’re sitting there kind of play back. People who have had shoulder problems, and I can exhibit some of the posture. What is the function of the core then? It’s balance. It’s going to aid tremendously with balance, whether it’s your water skiing on your hands, whether you’re horizontal, whether you’re on your back in the water, or whether you’re standing upright. It’s going to help with stabilization.

 

Then, what is the role of the core in swimming? Hopefully for better positioning in the water, it’s going to help positioning the torso, positioning the limbs, the arms and legs in relation to the core, and it’s going to help above all in streamlining. Oh. That’s what we’re looking at. Now when we go to access core, and we try to access core strength, your typical, and I’m going to try to move down here, your traditional test has been to use what’s called the straight leg lowering test. You start at 90 degrees, you want to call that 90 and you look and basically you see that the person will lower their legs until they lose contact with their lumbar spine and that. And that’s not a very, very functional test but it does at least give you an idea. What we’re trying to do now and this is  a work in progress, and I hope for the next couple of years to share it with you is look at some more functional tests. To look at some med. ball throws. This is just a dynamic, posterior reach test where we’re actually looking at hip flex or soas tightness and all I’m going to do is simply measure the distance from her hand to her heal. I’m going to look at the difference from right to left and that’s one aspect of core strength. And we want to do a rotational test, you know and that. And again, this is a work in progress.

 

You’re going to do the traditional stuff to alert you to some things, and I’ll go into this in more detail you know, when we get into training in a few minutes and that. So just, actually I’ll go back for a second, I’m kind of proud, that’s  my daughter and Loch, you haven’t seen her since she was a little kid. The interesting thing is that she’s a soccer player and a track athlete. The interesting thing is that in the last 15 months, she has significantly changed her posture. Just like Terry said, things can be taught by doing this little ab coordination routine and I’m going to share with you, there was no way, even, (that was the most athletic thing I’ve done in about three months) even just in that position there, she wouldn’t have been laurdotic. O.K. And on this test, again, you’re going to have a certain asymmetry because of soccer and because of running that she was able to cut it down from about six inches to about two inches, so it can be done and it’s just part of a daily routine. O.K. And I’ll share with you how that was done and how you can do it. Postural dysfunction, again, I don’t know that I can do it justice in the time available but I want to make you aware of this that in your hand-out, if you look on the bottom of the first, second page, this was a paradigm laid out by a Czechoslovakian physical therapist named Vladimir Yonda. This guy’s a genius. I went back and looked at his writings from the 50’s on, and he was saying stuff in the mid 50’s that was so, so right on about this stuff. And basically what he did was he identified three kind of what are called serial distortion patterns.

 

A lower cross syndrome. And I’m just going to imitate them for you in a minute up here. A lower cross syndrome, an upper cross syndrome and a lot of you don’t work, I didn’t put it in but it’s called a pronation distortion syndrome, if you’re working with runners. You ask your swimmers to run though. So you probably should become familiar with pronation distortion. And basically what I did was I put it in your hand-outs, and I’m not going to go through it in general, but what he said, and this is I think if you can just listen and grasp this concept. That certain muscle groups are prone to tightness and hyper activity, and they’re readily activated in most movement patterns, they dominate in fatigue and those muscles generally cross two joints. For example the gastroc, the solius, the hamstrings, the soas, which is a big player. They’re going to be prone to tightness. And then you have another group of muscles that are prone to develop weakness and inabition. They are less activated, they fatigue easily, they primarily function in stabilization and they cross one joint. Those will be either the gluteals, the rectus ab. , there’s a whole bunch of them.  And he identified those.

 

Basically what I’m interested in as a coach, I understand this theory a little bit but in practice, what I’m interested in is this. What does this tell us? What does this tell you as a coach on the pool deck that wants to look at your swimmers’ mechanics in the water, that wants to design an effective dry land program. It’s going to give us direction and content. When and what strength and this is what I think has really helped me. When and what to strengthen and when and what to lengthen. We talk a lot about stretching and that. So let me just exhibit the typical posture for the upper cross syndrome. I’ll do it from straight on, and it’s going to look real familiar to you.  Especially to this audience.  Right? There, see who does that look like? Most every swimmer I’ve ever talked to. Why? What’s tight? What do you need to stretch? Pecs, right? Then why aren’t we doing more bench pressing? O.K. We need to stretch the pecs, and we need to strengthen posterior shoulder, you know lower traps, all of that. Lower cross syndrome. Right there. That’s about 90% of all of us now. Why? Because we spend most of our time doing what we’re doing right now, sitting. And you’re dealing with the lead athletes, most of them are in school and they’re sitting for 7 hours a day. And we’re not going to reverse that in one hour with one stretch for 30 seconds.

 

O.K. so we have to become very, very converse with what are the effects of lower cross and the upper cross syndrome. Rather than, and that’s going to be the thrust of what I’m going to show you in a few minutes. Is to try to design things with to overcome that. This comes back to something that Bill Sweetenham said this morning, too, is you have to look at each swimmer individually. That’s hard to do. I go for a swim at the pool in Sarasota, and I look at the number of kids, and I admire those coaches. I don’t know how they do it with the number of kids, but we’ve got to try to find a way to identify those syndromes and be able to cure those syndromes. So hopefully the exercises that I’m going to show you, at least to my experience have addressed this.

 

O.K. We’re going to look at some criteria for exercise selection. My first question does that look familiar? That’s basically the type of core work that I did throughout my athletic career and probably the first fifteen years of my coaching career. Right? I did basically a weighted sit up. With my feet somebody holding my feet. In fact the president’s fitness test when I was teaching physical education was what? 60 second sit up with somebody holding your feet. And guess what? We never figured out the relationship between the two. All the kids would come in, the fittest kids, the kids that got the greatest number of sit ups, would come in the next day with what? Sore what? Yeh. Not sore abs, dumb coaches, I mean we should have figured that out but, we still do it and people still do it. My question is why? What are we doing? If we’re going to use it, let’s understand why. And we’re really going to cause the soas to dominate we’re going to cause the rectus to fire, but we’re not really getting at the muscles that really, really need to work.

 

And the other thing that we need to do this is the most important thing for you, is you need to look at the demands of the stroke of the athlete your training. Is it a short axis stroke or is it a long axis stroke? You got an IM swimmer, you gonna look at the proportion. You’re going to look at their strength. But I don’t think every swimmer is going to do exactly the same crawler. O.K. I think it really, really depends what you’re trying to accomplish. Also you want to look at that postural analysis, and you want to look at the core strength and stability relative to whether they swim a short axis or  a long axis stroke, and then be able to design the program accordingly. O.K.

The other thing is look at the physical qualities of swimmers. Postural analysis. Do they exhibit the characteristics of the typical upper cross syndrome, lower cross syndrome and what do we have to do? And then we got, and what you have to do is you may have to try to find a manual therapist in your town or something who would be able to help you and work with you on that. You need to look at their injury history. O.K. Just talking to a friend of mine from Australia right now about a couple of situations, and he started asking questions. I was going to talk to someone else this morning where the origin of shoulder pain was. Performance history. Do they swim real well in heats and terrible in finals. We tend to say well that’s a mental thing. Well maybe not. Maybe relating to core fatigue, maybe other things. And their training history. Are they good trainers and poor racers or are they good racers and poor trainers? Can they handle low mileage, high mileage? All of those kind of things. And I think those are all kind of factors we want to look at. Not just in core strengthening, but in developing the whole dry land program.

 

O.K. What’s our progression then? And these are pretty basic but I still think they bear repeating before you see the actual exercises. Go from easy to hard. The two basic things I’m going to show you are “easy.” And if you want to talk to Nort after he’s had the swimmers, a pretty good group of swimmers, I don’t think they’re thinking that’s easy right now. That is abs is easy. And we did it with the Australian women’s softball team, and I don’t think they thought that was easy. But it is very basic. O.K. Simple to complex and stable to unstable, known to unknown. And one slide that I don’t have up there, and again, I talked this morning, and it reminded me of that, there’s a thing that I’ve learned. It took me 29 years of coaching to learn this. And I guess if they can’t do the exercise right; don’t do it. And if they don’t progress to the next exercise until they master that exercise. I have some core programs with athletes I’m working with that have three exercises. It’s O.K. If they do three right, that’s better than ten incorrect. Because they’re getting compensation patterns, substitution patterns, just engendering and building in bad posture. Guidelines for core stabilization training. Systematic progressive and functional beginning the most challenging environment the individual can control. The difference, there’s different environments, and I’m going to show you some progressions using stuff like a Dina disc, an airax, using stuff like a physio ball or a stability ball, which I think is one of the best environments a swimmer can train in, but if they can’t do the exercises on the ground without these, I’m certainly not going to go to a real, real dynamic, unstable environment that they can’t control. Cause all I’m going to do, Terry Lochlin made a great statement. That great athletes are just really good compensators, and they are. But most of you are working with developmental little people. Let’s try to train them without compensation, and then let them fall into their normal patterns based on strengthening.

 

O.K. The question I ask of you, and you don’t have to raise your hand, but I just thought a little note what percentage and how much are you doing of this? My daughter knows that those things are not very valuable, but every night she does them. O.K. And they’re going to do them. It’s just like when I worked in baseball, they all did wrist curls. It has nothing to do with hitting, but they all did it, and they’re going to do it, but I don’t think you need to design those into your program very much. That’s a small percentage of what you need to do. What’s the problem with those exercises? Basically what we’re not doing is we’re not getting, if we’re doing it for the abdomen what we need to do is get to exercises that are going to get to the internal obliques and the transverse abdominals not the rectus abdominus. Not the six pack ab look. And so what we’re going to do is, we got to do what we call a drawing in maneuver. Everybody can do that right now. It’s not one of the things right away, it’s not a posterior, pelvic tilt, alright? That’s the other hoax that’s been perpetrated on us by the medical community along with rotational things and things like that. Basically what it is, is me just taking and pulling my belly button to my spine right there just by and that’s going to cause preferential recruitment. I’ll show you in a few minutes on the ground. That’s going to cause preferential recruitment of the internal oblique and the transverse obdominus. So I can learn to do that on one leg, I can learn to do it walking, I can do it running, even as bad a swimmer as I am, I can learn to do that. It’s a functional position. O.K. You can learn right now, as you start to get tired, you just draw in and all of a sudden it just cures some of those problems. So I think that’s one of the problems with choosing those exercises. Design variables.

 

We want to look at plane of motion, traditionally where have we worked? We’ve worked flexion extension, which is just sagittal plane. But motion occurs in three planes; sagittal plane, frontal plane, which is side to side, transverse plane, which is rotation, which is really the important plane but it’s a combination of all three. It’s diagonal, rotational patterns. So we want to work multiple planes of motion as large a range of motion as we can control. So that we do have flexibility, which is controlled through the range of motion. Loading parameters. What are we going to use to load? Now we have loading parameters. We’ve got stretch cord, we’ve got medicine ball, we have physio ball, we have a body blade, which is a great core training tool if used correctly and that. So we’ve got a lot of tools available to us if we just look around. We’ve got gravity and we’ve got our body weight. Now granted in the pool, gravity is less of a factor but we’re talking about some of the things we’re doing just to create an awareness out of the water. Body position. Now one of the big arguments that I’ve had people say, a lot of the stuff you talk about is great, but it has nothing to do with swimming, and I think some of the stuff I’ve talked about before the more I’ve learned I certainly would agree with that. I think the more things that we can do in a horizontal position, either prone or supine, the better off we’re going to be. Once we learn some of the basic things. And consequently that environment, and I’m going to share with you some things we can do to try to simulate the environment of the water. That’s tough. Of all the sports that I work with, trying to be specific, swimming I think is the toughest. There’s a lot of other sports that are a lot easier that may look a lot more complex. And then the amount of control that you have. Are you doing it free or are you doing it in a controlled environment?

 

O.K. Core training, design variables, your speed of execution, again, your rule of thumb is speed is as fast as you can control. Now there is a concept called time under tension  in regard to strength training that the longer I can keep that muscle in a contraction, the greater recruitment I’m going to have. We want to keep that in our thoughts too. The amount of feedback in terms of how we’re doing it. The duration, how long we’re doing it, which would be sets and reps and the tempo of exercise, how fast we’re doing it. O.K. So those are all things that we’re going to build into our program. Now, I’ll give you a little clue right away. In a typical core strengthening program that has evolved, in terms of my thinking now, there’s a lot less exercises. There’s a lot fewer exercises with what? A lot more changes in those variables. And what I found is, if you can confuse the athlete, they’re not going to do anything. This is a lot simpler because basically, I teach a few basic exercises then keep building on that and change variables within those exercises rather than try to bring a new group of exercises every week and that. And whether it’s younger kids or whether it’s world class athletes, I think that works pretty well. And then as I mentioned time under tension. Exercise classification. Now when we’re laying out our program, and this is laid out in your hand-out for you on the top of page, I guess it would be page three, basically you want and try and some of this is a little bit intellectual gymnastics and arbitrary, but it still will help you so you’re not doing the same movements every day and creating a stagnation. Basically you’ve got exercises that work just stabilization and that’s going to be our two most basic exercises, which are going to be iso abs and ab coordination. We’re going to do those every day. O.K. Because we’ve  got to wake up and teach again, to preferentially recruit, I call it iso abs but it’s more than abs. Then we’re going to work flexion and extension. Alright. In those planes. Then we’re going to work rotation. And if I were to say which is the most important, after stabilization, I would say rotation. Then we’re going to work throwing and catching because we want a certain ballistic component to work the elasticity of the muscle and that. So that’s how we’re going to proceed with the exercises.

 

O.K. Training criteria. I’m just going to go dynamic multi planer as summary, multi-dimensional, proper septively challenging, systematic, progressive and specific. Core training tools. O.K. Now this is the question that Bill talked about, Terry talked about, are you training them or coaching them? One of the gripes that I have is to see, I was at my daughter’s high school, I have to digress, the other day. We went in there to train and they have a new basketball coach, and he gathered all the kids around and he gave them a sheet of paper. It was a very, very involved workout and he said  I want you to go over there and see how much you can lift. Then he proceeded to go sit down at the desk and have them come over and write down their maximums. And I thought, I mean I just wanted to scream. You know. That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen, but you know what? That scene is repeated all over the country. Not in weight rooms but on pool decks and everything. And I’m not saying that in an accusatory tone. I’ve done that too. And I think what we’ve got to do is get back to coaching them rather than training them. And that’s one of the big things, one of the messages I want to get across to you that every kid on your team is not going to do the same exercises. They’re going to do some of the basic stuff, but they’re not going to do the same sets and reps. The only tool you have is a hammer then everything becomes a nail. And we’ve all done that. I know we’ve done it. O.K. I know a lot of people in this room but hopefully we learn from that.

 

O.K. Now here’s our basic, basic movement. Alright. Ab coordination. And again, there’s no point in demonstrating it because you’re not going to be able to see it all. The first exercise in the ab coordination routine. It’s not a functional exercise. Gary Gray ‘s a good friend, he goes, Vern that’s  a he says that’s not a, I know Gary but we’re leading to a functional exercise. And what we’re doing with Kristen, my daughter’s doing here, you can see the drawing in. She’s basically pulling, trying to make herself as thin as possible and pull in and there’s no posture or pelvic tilt. She’s not trying to tighten up her gluts or any of that stuff. And what she’ll do is she’ll hold that for ten count, release it, hold for ten count then she’ll change. The next thing she’ll do is then the next thing she’ll do is she’ll put her arms out extended behind her or her hands up. O.K. Then she’ll do that. And in the middle, she, in track or soccer at breaks, and the same thing, if you have a break between sets, sometimes to reawaken those muscles, you do it right in the middle of a workout. Then the next one, without using her up here statically, the next thing you’ll do then is you’ll just do it a one leg slide. So she’ll take this left leg and just gradually slide it out and bring it back up and the other one just slide it out and bring it back up and when you get better, you do it with the leg off the ground. And there’s a progression that you go on. But the idea of this is to just teach you to preferentially recruit those muscles in regard to the abdomen. The reason those muscles are so important is that they’re the only two abdominal muscles that actually attach to the spine. So in terms of that’s why we put it in the thing about stability.

 

Alright. How am I doing time wise?   O.K. Iso abs. This   is something I learned from the University of Washington strength coaching staff what three years? Yea it was three years ago I was over there. Three years ago. And I think that this is something you can build up every day. And what I’ve done now is work out a pretty detailed progression so that it becomes more and more and more difficult. Now I want to show you one other thing about exercise and coaching. Now there’s a basic problem right here. And it’s still a problem with her thoracic spine. See so every exercise you do is a test every day. Now one of the reasons she couldn’t be in position is because she lifted heavy the day before and she was so sore, but see how her, see kind of the hump in her back, she’s really not a hunch back, right there. But you want that, her head up a little bit more in perfect alignment. And so that’s position one. You’re on a prone position on your knees and you want as straight a line as you can hold. What you’re trying to do, now let me review the positions for you. This is iso ab routine. Then you go to side, you’re on your elbow. And she’s very, very good there. Then you want to roll over onto your back on your elbows so you’re going to go supine. Then you go to other side and you should build up to be able to hold 60 seconds in each position, which is tough, alright. But that’s the way the core functions in regard to stabilization, is isometrically. Then the next step in the progression you would do is you would take a partner and what you would do is you would just come right, partner goes right here and just push it right in the middle of the back, almost like, you know like shaking the person. And force them to have to stabilize there.  And you do the same in each position.

 

Alright. Then what you do then you have them put their elbows on an airex pad. You say no big deal Vern. Well if you want to stick around I’ll take whoever thinks they’re the fittest person here. I’ll take you through it on the airex pad. And if you make it 60 seconds and you position on the airex pad, I’ll give you $10.00. Alright. That’s ten dollars off my son and daughter’s education right there O.K. So then you go to an airex pad then you put your elbow, one each on this, and when you get to that you put one elbow each on that and then you put your feet on the physio ball. When you get to that I want to talk to you. That’ll be about three years from now. O.K. But if you have somebody that is that good and that strong, you want to challenge them. You want to keep challenging them. This is a remedial exercise that can become very, very advanced. But don’t go back and take your best 14 year old swimmer and put him on a Dina disc and the physio ball because I said it was hard. Make sure that they can hold each position on their elbows for 60 seconds on the ground before you progress. O.K. That’s the progression. You want me to repeat that again, the positions? So you’re on elbows prone, elbows side, both elbows supine, elbow side.   O.K.

Then you go to partner. Yes

 

(Question) Yea. The tough one’s on your back to be honest with you. I can’t. There’s no point nobody can see it. I’ll show it to you after. Your elbows are right back behind there like that. And your supporting on your elbows, I’m sorry, does that make sense? Just like she’s supported there but now she’d be flipped over. She’s holding her hips up yea. Heels on the ground yea.

 

(Question) No you want to go from position to position. Now if you’re dealing with, the question was is there a rest between each position? I said no, but if you’re dealing with 9 year olds I think you better.

 

O.K. Yes. Let me finish the positions then I’ll go through the rest of it. So then you’d go all four positions. O.K. and basically, what did you start out? Did you start at 30? 30 seconds, yes that’s with collegiate swimmers. What did we start out with? Twenty? Twenty at each position. I’d say 15 to 20 seconds at each position and then you add ten seconds a day, five to ten seconds a day because they’re going to adapt pretty quickly. See the thing about the core too that all those muscles, most of them are all primarily slow twitch muscles they adapt pretty fast. And the other thing that I’ve learned and I’m sure you’ve learned is kids are very and athletes are very, very adaptable and we need to change the stimulus fairly rapidly. That’s the big mistake we’ve made particularly in this area. And then you just use your imagination in terms of how you’re going to create the instability to make it more difficult to hold that position. O.K. You can use a lot of different toys and tools to do that. O.K.  right. O.k.  Any questions?

 

So those are my two basic exercises. The ab coordination and the iso abs that I’m going to do basically daily. Alright. Now, then it’s a matter of how I’m going to distribute my work. Body blade. Where do you put body blade? Body blade could be done in this case. It’s easiest here, standing tall and there. Now it’s more, I would put it almost in the flexion extension right here. By the way this is not the body blade you want to use. This is the little baby. You want to use the full on pro, I think it’s called. But then what I would do is combine the body blade with the stability ball and again, we don’t have time or space to go into that, you’ll see a few on the medicine ball things but that’s one tool that you can use. What’s the down side of the tool? You need one body blade for every swimmer. They cost $200.00 each. So you know that’s, so Good Luck! But there’s different ways you can do it and I can talk to you about that in private. You can maybe make your own.

 

This is a new thing that I tried to invent. It’s not basically I can describe it to you. The idea is it’s a vest like and old fashioned weight vest with a bunch of different hooks all over it and basically you’re attaching a stretch cord in different places. So, for example, I may have a stretch cord attached back on my posterior right shoulder and I may be doing a flexion and rotation movement there. And I can do the same thing on the ball so I’m getting resistance one way then I have to stabilize back the other way. And theoretically, I can attach a stretch cord in front, a stretch cord in back. O.K. So unfortunately and this has been used a lot in physical therapy, not much in training in that it has a lot of potential if utilized with the other tools. It’s not it’s just not available yet.

 

A power ball, I don’t have one up here. That basically for those of you who are old enough to remember it, is it’s basically a modern kettle bell, which the Europeans and the Russians used a lot and it’s just a medicine ball with a handle but see what it enables me to do is a lot of rotational type stuff as well as ballistic type stuff where I can repeat it. I also am very, very in favor of using this instead of a dumbbell. And one of the things that it does because it is on a handle, is just a little bit unstable if I’m doing like a pressing movement or doing like pull overs on a physio ball with this there’s that little bit of torqueing going on that forces me to use more of the synergistic and stabilizing muscles than if I would have a dumb bell in my hand. O.K. And you can use it a lot of different ways. So that’s another tool that’s available to you and you can do whatever movements you want with that.

 

Dumbbells. Now typically we don’t think of dumbbells as core training tools. Right? We tend to think of dumbbells as training the extremities. But all of a sudden if I’m doing stuff on a physio ball, and I’m doing like one arm rotational pullovers, now look what’s happening, I’m coming there and I’ve got some flexion and rotation as well as working my shoulder in there. Same thing I could do, if I’m going to do any kind of seated presses, if I’m doing them on an unstable surface like the physio ball or even sit fit, or doing bench presses on this I mean on the Dina disc, now I’ve got to activate my core, that’s got to be stable so that I can apply force with my arms. So it’s kind of a neat tool, and I think you just have to open your mind and think outside the box just a little bit.

 

Stretch cord which is very popular in swimming but again, we tend to think of it more as training the extremities, and I think what I would like to see you do is combine it with the physio ball, combine it if you’re doing it standing on a Dina disc or something like that where you’re getting a lot of diagonal, rotational movements, and don’t think of just the stretch cord as going against resistance, but one of the big functions of the core is like in that case is to decelerate movement to help stabilize. So I think that can be a real good tool to use too.

 

Just a half foam roller like here, one of the things, if you  do bench press and I think in your weight training program somewhere along the course of time you should a little bit, I just put this on a bench a fairly hard bench, if you can imagine, lie on that, you following me? What happens? Now it’s unstable, so now the problem is I can’t lift the house now. So, it’s not as ego gratifying, but what I have to do in order to lift any weight up is what? Stabilize my core. I have to balance and where does balance come from? So you know to do that if you use the Boston swim trainer, don’t sue me if you fall off because I fell off in the garage the other day, O.K. But that’s why I’m a little dingy because I’m always trying this crazy stuff just figure out how to put this on the seat. I’ve talked to Rob about making the seat different. But now all of a sudden, you can get a little bit of rotation. I even tried putting one of this, but it didn’t work. That’s the other time I fell off so you know, those are different tools now ostensibly I’m doing that to work, you know, maybe imitate stroke mechanics or that. But really what I’m doing is  I’m forcing the core to activate and work. Where I would   just normally, it would be just there. My butt would be on the bench and I wouldn’t be getting anything out of it. So I want to put my money where my mouth is about all training being core training. If I don’t rip the microphone off up here. O.K. Let’s see where are we? Just and airex pad. Same thing. It’s a foam pad, you can stand on it, you can sit on it, lie on it all kinds of different things there.

 

Medicine ball. I’ve talked specifically on the medicine ball. I want to show you video of some of the stuff that you’ve seen before, but where we’ve taken now some of these additional tools, you know and put those in and utilized them. O.K. So you can see how we can do it. One thing I can’t show you on the ball because it would take us 5 minutes to advance the tape that we did, but it’s kind of an experiment where you’re lying prone on the ball and if you imagine I’m lying down here and I’ve got the medicine ball out here and I’m basically dribbling a medicine ball out here on that. And then with my feet in contact with the ground, I’ll try to do it here so you can see. So I’m here like this, here, imagine. And the medicine ball is out here and I’m dribbling it. O.K. Then I take my feet wide, and I get them narrow and narrow, and I have somebody just, I cross my feet, I have somebody hold my feet and people say well God, you got to have gorilla arms to do that. No. You got to have one damn strong core. Because you can have the strongest arms in the world, but if you can’t stabilize on that physio ball, you see one of the things and all the things that I read and see on the tapes with the stability ball too is they don’t talk about progressions.

 

On the stability ball. You know you start with your feet wide, bringing them narrow and narrow and narrow, and you get to the point where hopefully you could get to the point where if you had a good enough athlete, they could balance on that ball, particularly in a prone position. I’ve seen a few people be able to do that and now you’re coming closer to simulating the environment of what you have in the water.

 

O.K. let me see what the next slide is then we’ll look at this medicine ball tape. How am I doing time wise? I’m supposed to go to 5:15 alright? O.K. I’m not doing too bad. Dina disc we showed you. O.K. Let’s do this now, let’s see if I can, hold on. (pause) Now this, I’m just going to show you as I said some of you have seen this before. (Does anybody know how this works)?  Push play?  O.K.  There you go.

 

Now what we’re doing here, the idea is you notice how Steve is moving from one foot to the other foot? This is the opportunity that I think that some of the earlier medicine ball stuff that we did was always in a very stationary and static position and by doing this it forces him to have to stabilize and really, really utilize all of the muscles of the core right in here. O.K. As he’s shifting weight. Back and forth. Now he’s just moving through the figure eight pattern. This is a very, very, in a sense, it’s a very basic exercise. It’s also a very, very advanced exercise cause you can now begin to do this in different environments. Now this is a basic theory that I want to show you and what we’re going to do is, it’s a wall series, and every, virtually every sport and particularly swimming, Jack Simmon is back there they use a lot of this with, I can’t remember your swimmers name, before ’92, but just tons and tons of wall series where you start out with an overhead throw, soccer throw, and this is all pretty basic. He’s just moving and that’s a 3 kilo ball and working for speed. Now we’re getting more rotational stuff each side, and you’ll see a different shot of this. Now the key thing is how do you progress? See the rotation. O.K. And that was the purpose of that shot.

 

Now what you’re going to see and I don’t have a means, unfortunately, of speeding it up, I don’t know how to work this so, now around the back and if you don’t have a wall, which a lot of you aren’t going to have, and you have a limited number of medicine balls, you can do the same series with two swimmers and partners. So one ball takes care of two swimmers. Now. Now it’s advanced. It’s one, one leg. And you say well big deal, well this is a pretty good athlete, and he’s going to start to struggle in a minute on one leg. As the reps start to go up. O.K. And then he’s got to maintain that drawing in position, the sucking the belly button to the spine, throws, now he’s going to go two arm, one leg, just different positions. Basically the same exercises, same weight ball, we’re going to try to strive for the same reps. Now he’s going one on two legs. O.K. Which is going to change the demand on the core. So it’s two arm one leg, one arm two leg, now you probably with younger people, you’re probably going to have to go to a little lighter ball on this. O.K. and then one arm, opposite leg. Alright. So you’re trying to mimic all the different patterns of movement that could occur. And now a pushing type of movement, which isn’t going to be as, well it is. You still want to do it. See he’s struggling, already, which is kind of interesting. Now you got a super athlete doing it. Now you’re on a half foam roller doing the same thing. Now I’m fighting. I’ve got to fight, see the thing is, what we tend to do is, we tend to look here or here, but where’s the center of the action? Where’s everything happening right there. O.K. By the way the orthopedic surgeon, who’s a great friend and saw my back said I’d never be able to do this stuff again. But I sent him the tape afterward so, I was in the hospital for a week after this but, I didn’t tell him that. So and again, I just change the position, you know, there. And I think the lesson or the moral of the story that I’d like to get across to you is by using your imagination, you can take your selection of exercises, O.K., can somebody, no, I’d better do it. You can take your selection of exercises and vary it and get a lot of different training stimulus without necessarily adding tons of different exercises. So that’s the moral of that story.

 

Up to now are there any questions? Can we take a couple of questions before I go on to any of the next few things? O.K.

 

Covered a lot of stuff now.

 

(Question) Yea. Stabilization. The order of exercises, I’d want to work my stabilization daily. Again the theory being, and it is somewhat of a theory, but I think we’re feeling more and more comfortable with it and that I’m going to wake up in a sense and teach those two key abdominal muscles to help stabilize the spine and then move to the more vigorous, dynamic exercises after that. O.K.

 

(Question) Leg movements. No I didn’t. You just came up with a different version. So what are you doing? Lifting your legs? One leg at a time. There’s another version of iso abs. So just lifting one leg. Are you holding it there? That’s another great way to do it. And see this is, you’re going to come up with a million variations and again, I say think outside the box, but I start to, you get things that you’re comfortable with, you get locked in. That’s why I love the opportunity to get around people like you who are thinkers and get away from baseball coaches and things like that, so. Never resist that opportunity.

 

No. Determining the work load. Here’s the thing you got  to remember. Just like everything. More is not necessarily better. I’d rather see you do quality. But you can work core every day. It will recover. I think if you want, that little paradigm that I have in your handout is something that we’ve experimented with for about 8 years now, where you vary the movements, the stress on the movements and that seems to allow enough time for recovery. And I’ve experimented on myself and some athletes that I knew who were very fit, with some real, real high volume stuff going through a week of that and they recovered very, very well. Now they weren’t swimming 10,000 yards a day. So you have to factor that in, and so you’re not just trying to do more and more. I think that’s one of the key things. When do you do it? Sorry, volume and testing.  No, we’re not going to go into that.

 

Determining the distribution of work, I’m trying to do that for you. I think you want to have a high volume day, a low volume day, and vary that. You know so that you vary your volume and intensity daily as well as the stress on flexion extension or rotation in a diagonal pattern or whatever. The question is when do you do it? I think your stabilization exercises would be a great thing to do, warm up before you get in the water. If we can, based on a again, everything I’ve heard over the last few years here, about what you’re trying to do in the water with your swimming technique and mechanics, that would really, really get them aware and create that feeling that you want. Next part, I don’t think it’s very practical in the swimming, is during practice to be able to get them out of the water and do core work out of the water. Now if you can figure out some stuff in the water, med ball throws in the water, you know like vertical kicks, you know and with the med ball overhead, yes.

 

(Question) Yes you could. See you can do it. You just got  to use your imagination. I just don’t have the opportunity to do it day in and day out. Yea. Typically when we’ve done it is post practice, and I think you have to use that judiciously. You’re already fatigued, you know and that. So I would rather see you try to marry that up with your overall strength training and not make it being done in a fatigued state. Because I don’t think you’re going to get your maximum benefits or returns there. If you need to get a hold of me in the next three weeks, don’t call, I won’t be there, I’ll be in Australia, but you can Email me if the Email works.

 

So are there any more questions or anything? Like I said, I’ll take the questions, but tomorrow morning, I’ll be there from 9 until 12 at the MF booth if you want to come by, and we’ll go through some of the little, I’ll take you through and let you experience some of it and that. You had a question back there sir?

 

(Question) I think you only need to go once. Again, realize, you’re only doing that stabilization work every day, you’re doing your ab coordination too, you’re using that, you know to create an awareness, now eventually you’re getting a minute to each position so you’re looking at four minutes of work right there. In terms of your total time of work. So that is quite a bit, in terms of your whole percentage. O.K. Yes.

 

(Question) Well I would try to build up and this is somewhat of an arbitrary, and I’m depending on my experience and the guys who taught it to me, they felt that when a person could build 60 seconds in each position, on the ground, then you could start adding variations. O.K. But in a sense, yes, you are building that volume first. Right. Good.

 

Any other questions? Well thank you for your attention, have a good night and I’ll be around to talk to you.

 

That concludes this program.

Permalink

Coaching: The Intangibles by Bill Sweetenham (1999)

Coaching is convincing the willing and unwilling to accept the unwanted and to achieve the unattainable and unknown.

 

Coaching is living, feeling and smelling success. Coaching is achieving great joy and satisfaction in working with young people, having each individual reach their individual potential and capitalize on it. You do not have to have a champion swimmer to be a champion coach, but chances are if you coach like a champion, the results will reflect this commitment and enthusiasm.

 

Coaching is challenging the unknown coaching is a continual quest for knowledge. It is about touching the intangible. Coaching is learning. It is about convincing young people to accomplish tasks and goals that without your influence, they would otherwise consider impossible or unachievable. Coaching is running where others walk.

 

Coaching is not so much about what is achieved by the super-talents in your care, but more about what is achieved by the least talented. Coaching is promoting personal pride in performance as paramount to all else. Ask yourself how many senior athletes have you coached to their full maximum potential without rationalization of any type? How many have you coached at senior level to perform above their talent levels?

 

This is a coach’s job and it must be done without any rationalization of why it could not be achieved — know no boundaries! Coaching is about giving totally and not entertaining compromise. It is about converting involvement into commitment.

 

Coaching is converting a “group” of swimmers, parents and officials into a “team”. There is a huge difference. It is developing individual excellence and team success. When an athlete wins when they should have achieved a lesser result, both you (the coach) and the athlete recognize that you made the difference.

 

Coaching is having the swimmer(s) perform consistently at training and competitions to your standards, not necessarily what the athlete is willing to give at any given time. It is knowing when to “go” and when to “stop”.

 

Coaching is expecting and demanding the impossible, along with motivating the athlete in order to achieve the possible. It is having the athletes able to perform their best in all conditions.

Coaching is having great empathy for young people who attend the program willingly and continually put their talent and commitment on the line and scoreboard for all to see, and to perform beyond their limits. How many business people are prepared to display their business dealings on a scoreboard for all to see and give opinions or ratings on?

 

Young athletes do this, knowing that everyone thinks they are a sports expert. As a Swimming coach, we get to work with the best young people in the world. Unlike school, they attend because they want to, not because they have to. We sell dreams and assist in turning dreams into reality.

 

Are the athletes willing to do the right thing when they don’t have to? Have you sold commitment, enthusiasm and excellence to them as normal facets of their lives? Have you converted participation into commitment? Do you coach and/or train athletes? Do you know the difference? A few questions for the coach to ponder on.

 

Coaching is communication, building confidence and providing leadership for athletes, other coaches, parents and officials. We are ultimately held accountable. With that goes a responsibility for developing your skills and knowledge in all areas to enable you to be successful in communicating this to the athletes. Coaching is managing all facets of the program (both creative and scientific) and selling commitment to parents and swimmers.

 

Coaching is thinking laterally! How many coaches have Learn to Swim brochures on offer in local doctors’ rooms introducing new parents, asthma sufferers and the injured to the benefits of learning to swim and swimming as a therapy? How many associations and coaches ask the referees at swim meets to talent spot the see all swimmers and have an eye for talent?  Coaches and parents only watch their own.

 

As a coach, you must be and be seen to be fair, consistent, flexible, open-minded, ready to listen, prepared to delegate authority and have patience, i.e. to coach the total person. Coaching is developing male and female athletes both at age group and senior club level through to international ambitions and talent across all events. Coaching is producing coach independent senior athletes as an end result.

 

Coaching is eliminating weaknesses and negatives. Ask why will these swimmers go faster this year than they did last year? Why will swimmers want to join this program? The answer is giving total commitment. Part-time commitment always concludes in part time results. Will you be a better coach tomorrow because of what you did or did  not do today?

 

Coaching is making eye contact with every athlete in every workout! Coaching is spending 10-15 minutes one-on-one with a different athlete before and after every workout. Formula 1 cars do not come off an assembly line. Coaching is being able to “read” athletes and people in general. A coach must handle individual and team success and failure with the same conclusion do it better next time and not dwell on past performances, good or bad. Do not see success as the end of progress.  Go beyond!

 

Coaching is maximizing individual and team potential. Why be normal when you can be anything you like? Success is a choice and more importantly, it is your choice. Dream, say, and do the same thing to enjoy happiness. Ask yourself what attributes do the great coaches have that you do not, and then set about developing them. Ask yourself what attributes do you have that the great coaches do not have, and use these as your strengths. Eliminate weakness-be invincible. An athlete and coach will enjoy success due to their strengths and be defeated due to their weaknesses.

 

I strongly recommend never coaching tired this is a big negative. Every coaching decision I have ever made that I now feel I would either like to change or deliver differently was due to being tired.

 

It is said that the most aware and alive person in the world is the person due to be executed within the hour. Whilst I have no desire to be executed to find out if this is indeed true, the greatest feelings of being truly alive have happened to me about 9 12 times in my life.

 

This has usually come about when I have enjoyed a time just prior to a major event when both the athlete and I have had a perfect performance preparation, where there has been total commitment from both us and a feeling that something special lies only minutes away and nothing can prevent it. From many years of experience, I have enjoyed the sweet feeling of success. However, I must say that no matter what monetary gain success brings, the best times have come from those rare moments when the successful athlete comes to you and thanks your for all you have done in contributing to their success.

 

This is coaching! This is being truly alive! Coaching is expecting to succeed rather than hoping it happens. Success is the difference between expectation and hope. Is coaching an art constrained by scientific principles? Coaching is the greatest profession in the world, and great coaches have a real touch of genius.

 

—————————

 

 

This is why I am a swim coach

 

God created Donkey and then told him:

“You will work tirelessly from sun up to sun down carrying heavy bags on your back.

You will eat grass.

You won’t have intelligence and you will live 50 years. You will be Donkey.”

 

Donkey said, “Okay but 50 years is too much, 20 will do. “ So God said, “Okay 20 years.”

 

Then God created Dog.

“You will look after the house, be man’s best friend, eat whatever they give you and live 25 years.

You will be Dog.”

 

So Dog said, “Okay but 25 years is too much, give me 10.” God said, “Fine.”

 

God created Monkey.

“You will jump from branch to branch. You will do silly things.

You will be amusing and live 20 years. You will be Monkey”

 

The Monkey answered, “God, giving me 20 years is too much, give me only 10.”

God agreed.

 

Finally, God created Man.

“You will be Man, the only rational being on earth. You will use your intelligence to control other animals.

You will dominate the world and you will live 20 years. You will be Man.”

 

Man said, “God, I’ll be Man but living 20 years is not enough.

Why don’t you give me the 30 donkey refused,

the 15 from Dog, and the 10 Monkey didn’t want.” So God said, “Okay, so be it.”

Since then, Man lived 20 years like Man, then he got married and spent 30 years like a donkey working and carrying loads on his back. When his children left, he spent 15 years living like a dog, looking after the house and eating whatever was given to him. Then, old and retired, he spent the last 10 like a Monkey, jumping from house to house or from children to children, doing silly things to amuse the grandchildren.

 

 

Permalink

Win the Workout by Bill Sweetenham and Wayne Goldsmith (1999)

Confidence is the key factor in determining podium success with all athletic talent. The reason why athletes win is that, due to their training work ethic, talent, enthusiasm and commitment,, they have not considered second place as an acceptable position in any given competition. Giving their absolute best consistently is without question the most important common denominator in champion athletes.

 

The greatest challenge for me as a coach was to sell 100% commitment and enthusiasm as being special and paramount to all else,, and that 99% commitment and enthusiasm is worthless for each competitive athlete. That 1% is reserved for only a few totally committed athletes. This 1% probably represents the same effort and concentration as does the initial 99%.

 

The greatest satisfaction for me in coaching has come from working with this small group of athletes willing to offer their total commitment, regardless of their individual talent levels,, consistently at both workouts and competitions. Many are able to give at one and not the other,, and this is extremely frustrating and challenging for the coach and program.

 

However,, the greatest challenge in coaching is to convert as many athletes and parents into the 100% philosophy. The chances of doing this are greatly enhanced if everyone in the club from Head Coach,, assistant coaches, age group coaches,, learn to swim teachers, pool staff, receptionists, club officials, parents and most importantly, swimmers also believe and commit to this philosophy at every workout and every competition. Coaches must sell commitment at every workout or practice session.

 

Convincing athletes that every workout should be practiced as though it is THE most important workout in their lives also applies to coaches. Are you coaching at your absolute maximum potential at EVERY workout? If not, then the goal of having athletes do the right thing when the coach does not have to is lost. The athlete must do the right thing and make the right decision because they want to and not because they have to. Coaching negative or passive/negative athletes is a complete waste of time and coaches should avoid this at all costs as it takes focus, attention and support away from the positive side of the program.

 

The coaching and workout environment must be a positive, challenging, fun, open environment. A coach must have the ability to focus the athlete on a result and have the ability to achieve and practice for this outcome, utilizing a large number of options, all aimed at the same result. The job is done when the preparation is complete, the outcome is achieved, the athlete is successful!

 

The psychology of the workout, as in the physical side, has an accumulative positive and an accumulative negative side to the total outcome. Most club training sessions that I see are middle-pitched in that they are directed at the average swimmers in the group, thus motivating the less fit, less committed athletes to be average and, unfortunately, the more committed athletes to be average. A great mistake in coaching is to middle-pitch and focus on negative aspects.

 

The coach must sell commitment in preference to enforcing commitment. It is the coach’s duty to ensure that the swimmers willingly rise to his or her standard of expectation at each practice session, rather than a lowering of standards to accept whatever the athlete is willing to give at any given workout.

 

Developing confident athletes is a daily occurrence, utilizing the psychology of the workout to build psychologically invincible swimmers. The goal of any given workout is to have the athlete arrive at the training pool with a positive, open mind and depart the training venue with a feeling of accomplishment in preference to it being just another workout or in just surviving or just making the workout. The athlete must feel like “I” won the workout. “I” was the best performed workout swimmer in the pool frequently and consistently.

 

The difference between the good athletes and great athletes that I have coached is that the great ones wanted success for themselves over and above my expectations for them. They were willing and pursued the opportunity to do more than  I asked of them. This happened consistently. The coach should aim to instill in his workouts a subtle competitive element, so that swimmers arrive at the pool in that frame of mind where they feel inspired to “win” the workout, and not depart, having just managed to get through it.

 

As a coach, I always attempted to have a training environment where, on a workout by workout basis, the encouragement and motivation for the athlete was to be competition-ready. Every coach must look at the team prior to each workout and ask which swimmers are involved/participating and which ones are mentally workout-ready and committed to a workout result.

 

The ability of the athlete to consistently arrive at EVERY workout ready and prepared for a competition-based training session will, in the main set determine:

 

 

  • The physical commitment to the workout;
  • The gain to be made in that workout; and
  • How often the athlete leaves the workout arena, having been challenged and

 

The physical demand of the workout will then become secondary to the mental aspect, but will be of equal value. The confidence of the athlete will be determined by their attitude on arriving at the greatest percentage of workouts committed, rather than merely involved. The coach and athlete must convert involvement into commitment. The coach’s ability and training environment will do much to enhance this, so that the athlete will complete the greatest percentage of practice sessions with a sense of accomplishment.  This builds CONFIDENCE.

 

Motivation is a lifestyle, not just about being excited for two months before a major competition. How many times does the coach write the workout with an objective in mind, only to find that the athlete completed the workout in a different training zone or energy system to that which the coach desired? Without experience, the coach may not even recognize this within the individual swimmers.

 

How much is too much? How much is too little? Is the athlete training focused and pursuing an objective in any given workout? Is the difference between effort and speed recognized? Effort should always be recognized if and when an athlete gives totally. If effort is given totally and unconditionally and the workout objective is not achieved, then this is not the responsibility of the athlete. However, they must be rewarded and confidence built accordingly.

 

How many times in any given workout are competition standard correct form racing starts demanded by the athlete and coach? Note that success comes and ultimate optimal individual performance is achieved when, on a workout by workout basis over an extended period of time, the highest standard of workout is demanded by both the athlete and the coach similarly. An overriding desire by one of these two partners is usually a recipe for a sub-standard training and competition result.  It must be a joint commitment.

 

It is estimated that the vast majority of Olympic and world championship medal winners and world record breakers had a minimum of six years competition lead-up with the same coach.

 

Is their aggression in workouts the same as it is in competition? Do athletes “race” the workouts? Do athletes ‘win’ the workout? Does the atmosphere for this opportunity exist? Are the workouts competition based, or in reverse, is the competition workout-based?

 

How many workouts are there where relays are the main set, eg:

 

12 X 200                               (50-150)                (100-100)

(150-50)

Swimmer 1          (50)       (100)                         (150)

Swimmer 2          (150)     (100)                        (50)

 

Two man teams matching slowest and fastest the goal is to break the Australian record on each 200. This becomes a team-based, highly challenging workout, videoed to check starts, turns, finishes and technique. A referee should be present to check changeovers and legality of performance.

 

A coach should not exercise with the athletes for the following reasons:

 

  • You are easily beaten by the senior
  • You cannot observe the tone of the
  • You cannot appraise, support, correct and applaud the skill and effort of the

 

A coach should leave workouts on most occasions on a positive note.

 

This is a challenge to coaches “Would you coach any given athlete (compare the most dedicated, hardest working, most talented to the least dedicated, least hard working, least talented) exactly the same way in this workout, if they were the only athlete present?” As a coach, spend your time and effort on all the positives, especially the athletes.

 

Ask an athlete, “Tell me ten really great things that you have done in workouts in the last three weeks” and give them 1 1/2 minutes to respond. Observe how many and how quickly they come up with and then compare this with a second question, “How many things could you have done better in workouts in the last three weeks?” Again, compare their responses and the speed of response.

 

Ask an athlete:

 

  • What is your best swim set?
  • What is your best resistance pull set?
  • What is your best kick set?
  • What is your best gym set?

 

This will tell you what area the program and athlete focus on. All can usually get the answer to 1), few can get 2), and very few, if any, get 3), while all males usually get 4), but very few females can answer it.

 

Are all of the above competition-based at workouts and are the above all workout-based at competition? Are the athletes willing and able to do the right thing at workouts and competition when they do not have to?

 

Sometimes (occasionally? often?) a coach must set a workout when he or she knows that all the team can do it in preference to looking for the impossible of each individual and team. Sometimes a coach can simulate, by his or her demands, a competition atmosphere in the training arena, when no matter what the athlete does, it is just not good enough.

 

Organize this in advance so that either the Head Coach or skills coach plays the over-demanding role and the other one plus any other support staff play the role of encouragement to live up to the demands. The training area will then reflect an environment tougher than that which is to be experienced by the athlete in the toughest competition arena. The reaction of the athletes (positive and negative) must be measured and recorded and adjusted as deemed necessary. The same applies to the reactions of the coach.

 

The toughest arena to be met by the swimmer in competition should not be the first and only time that they have experienced this level of pressure. In fact, it must not be the most difficult or challenging exposure that the athlete has ever faced, or both the coach and swimmer are going into the competition under-prepared for every eventuality. Try creating scenarios, conditions and pressures at training and/or competitions that are greater than those expected to be experienced at the athlete’s highest perceived level of competition. Demand, on occasions, the impossible in the worst conditions and work back.

 

A couple of examples of being the ‘tough coach’ are:

Example 1

  • 8 X 50 on 4 minutes, holding 26 seconds and convincing the athlete that 8 holding (4 at 26 and 4 at 27) is not good enough, and we need to repeat them

OR

 

  • 16 X 400 freestyle on 5:30 and accepting whatever

times the athlete is prepared to give.

 

Example 2

 

  • 20 X 50 warm up or swim down, holding 36 seconds

and accepting whatever. OR

  • 50’s swim down until you have achieved 20 at 36 seconds with 34

 

The athlete must ask “‘Will I be a better athlete at the conclusion of this workout because of what I did or did not   do in this workout?” The answer must be clear and easily identifiable.

 

STANDARD STRATEGIES

 

A few ideas/strategies that should be considered in the presentation of your session(s):

 

You will have your own coaching philosophy; you may make personal modifications but keep in mind that everything you do, everything you say will be dinner table conversation in each swimmer’s home over the next few days. Your perception of your performance as a coach or teacher is sometimes the least important consideration.

 

Dress appropriately and act professionally. On deck no mobile phones, no eating or drinking, no sitting down etc.

 

Speak/demonstrate clearly and confidently. The swimmers are seeking and appreciate leadership.

 

Keep your approach simple and consistent. Don’t complicate things, simplicity facilitates success. Demand attention (both looking and listening) and do not proceed without it. Praise endeavor, show confidence in the ability of swimmers to achieve the standards you set. Communicate to the swimmers that it is not what you do, it is how you do it and how often you do it well.

 

Review skills from the previous session 10-20% of time allocated should be associated with this purpose. Do not prioritize skill extension ahead of skill acquisition.

 

Continually and consistently reinforce expectations equipment, punctuality, lane etiquette do not compromise standards.

 

Plan your lane Organization to allow efficient use of space, e.g. down backstroke, return freestyle, vary lane leadership.

 

Be prepared “”why are we doing this?” Relate activities (drills) to the outcomes you are seeking to achieve.

 

Always outline (in advance) to the swimmers “what’s in it (the session/the drill) for them?” Use incentives and rewards, e.g. cards, certificates, praise (to every swimmer at some stage), novelties (e.g. treats such as candy) but be sure to expect the best they can offer (no more no less no excuses).

 

Positive, corrective feedback (coach @ swimmer -> coach) should prevail. Swimmers should walk away from every session confident they have enhanced their knowledge and/ or skills.

 

Be in control at all times, eg. allowing swimmers to make decisions is just another way of you being in control. Keep the session moving a minimum of talk (demonstrate, explain, but on a needs basis). Have many and varied skills to achieve any pre-determined objective.

 

Don’t be distracted.

 

Have a theme for each session, e.g. 100% right is 100% right, 99% right is 100% wrong; good is not enough where better/perfect is possible; do your best no more, no less, no excuses, no reasons.

 

Use care and common sense, but don’t be afraid to challenge the swimmers. Young people love to acquire new skills and have those skills recognized. They enjoy being able to do things others cannot do.

 

Do something positive and personal for every swimmer, every session, eg. praise, stroke correction, special attention, a comment/joke, personal comments to swimmers in view of the parent, have the swimmer demonstrate to the group, lead the lane, or answer (correctly) a question.

 

Eye-ball every athlete at every workout.

 

There are many other issues and strategies. Every swimmer is an experiment of one. You will constantly add to your strategies it’s called experience. You cannot buy it, only acquire it. But, keep in mind that teaching is fundamentally a simple process. You take a group of students/swimmers into a classroom/pool, show them, and explain to them how to do something, organize skill acquisition opportunities, and provide appropriate feedback. Then, let them have a series of attempts, see how they perform, reinforce, refine, replicate the learning process never ends!

 

MINIMUM MAXIMUM

 

 

A simple and common test carried out by most coaching programs is the minimum number of strokes and maximum effort swim. A value is achieved by adding the number of strokes and times together. This gives both the coach and swimmer an efficiency index. The coach may compare this then to other top swimmers with similar technique and event emphasis.

 

However, it has been my experience and certainly the emphasis of my priorities at club visits, state camps and national camps that a minimum (strokes) maximum (effort) efficiency value is of lesser significance unless it is developed further to a minimum (effort) maximum (speed) value as well and after the initial efficiency index is achieved.

Minimum                              Maximum Number of strokes + Effort = Efficiency Index Effort + Speed =  Economy Index

This end result is focused on swimming maximum speed with minimal effort. The difference between effort and speed must be clearly understood by all involved. The goal of every single competition or practice session (workout) must be to optimize speed and minimize effort.

 

With the ‘maximum force and minimize resistance’ principle, the total minimum maximum effect can be confusing to the young athlete. When learning this skill, it is not so much how many strokes you take or at what rate, but more so how much concentration you can put into each stroke with the least amount of effort.

 

The goal is to swim a given distance at 100% speed with less than 100% effort (the less the better). This is probably best done over 50 meters. Stroke rates would be taken over the minimum effort maximum speed repeat in preference to the minimum strokes maximum effort repeat.

 

In the minimum (number of strokes) maximum (effort) repeat, it is about learning distance per stroke efficiency. The minimum effort maximum speed is about learning economy of speed at rate stroke rate. This can be developed by means of linking drills over 25 meter or 50 meter repeats at training. This can be worked into the 10 X 50, 5 X 100 etc. youth and age step test.

 

Linking Drills

 

For butterfly and breaststroke, this drill is complete when the swimmer can push off the wall to normal swim streamline position, then complete either:

 

  1. 10 6 front mid-point sculls, then 6 full strokes to complete 25 meters (twice through for 50 meters).
  2. 6-3 mid-point sculls and 3 strokes twice through for 25 meters or four times through for 50

 

The swim section must be completed at race stroke rate. Note also the difference in mid-point scull variances within breaststroke and butterfly mid-point scull. This teaches distance per stroke, minimum maximum values and stroke rate economy of speed values.

 

For backstroke and freestyle, this same routine is completed from a laterally trunk rotated pressure point scull position with 8 sculls and 10 strokes once through for 25 meters and twice through (changing arms) for 50 meters or 8 sculls and 5 strokes twice through for 25 meters and four times through (changing arms after each segment) for 50 meters. Full strokes should be completed at desired race stroke rate.

 

The later progression in both freestyle/backstroke and butterfly/breaststroke would be used for younger swimmers as a stepping stone to the longer, less repetitive progression. This can be mixed with some breaststroke head up/head down pull (pull buoy only) and some backstroke pull (hand only) to facilitate the teaching of feel of the water and early limb force application and specific strength development for all strokes.

 

Note the importance of applied limb force and hand speed for the longest period of time during any given stroke as well as the application of a greater amount of limb force application during the minimum resistance phase of any given stroke.

 

Backstroke pull also facilitates the teaching of early limb force application and range of mobility. I have found these routines to be beneficial for all four strokes. However, I have also found that learning and accomplishing the 8-128-12 (100 meters SC) and 16-24-16-24 (200 meters LC) individual medley values should be achieved prior to commencing this skill.

 

Does the swimmer go faster if they can apply the greatest amount of force when the body has the least or most amount of resistance? Or is it a matter of sustaining application of force through the longest range of time within each individual stroke? Is it different for different strokes? Is it a combination of all of the above?

Permalink

Trends in USA Swimming by Dennis Pursley (1999)

 

  • demise of aerobic base training

 

Values and Attributes Related to Excellence Three “A”s

  • Appreciation
  • Accountability
  • Attitude

 

Three “C”s

  • Character
  • Commitment
  • Confidence

 

Three “D”s

  • Discipline
  • Desire

 

Dedication

(other “D”s: Determination, Drive)

 

The “E,” “F,” “G”s

  • Enthusiasm
  • Focus
  • Gratitude

 

Three “P”s

  • Perseverance
  • Persistence
  • Purpose

 

Three “R”s

  • Responsibility
  • Resiliency
  • Respect

 

Three “S”s

  • Selflessness
  • Sacrifice
  • Spirit

 

My Favorites

  • Character
  • Discipline
  • Perseverance

 

Factors Influencing the Performance Plateau Declining emphasis on character, attributes and values Misleading sport science resulting in:

  • inordinate paranoia of over training

 

Shift in focus from:

  • performance issues to “fortune and fame”
  • intrinsic motivation to extrinsic motivation
  • the good of the team to individual “rights” and agendas

 

Philosophy of mediocrity

  • if everyone can’t have it, no one can
  • anti-elite sentiment
  • majority rule

 

“Lowering the bar”

  • from Senior Nationals to Junior Championships
  • from top 16 to top 24 (bonus finals)
  • from challenging time standards to more easily attainable time standards

 

Growing imbalance of focus, interest and incentive between sprint events and distance events

lInstant gratification mindset demanding immediate results

lDismantling of the authority and control of the coach

  • changing social norms
  • Legal restrictions
  • athletes “rights”

lParental commitment requirements

lCrowded competition calendar and “we can have it all” attitude

lNCAA training restrictions and sprint focus

 

Fundamental Philosophies and Principles Related to Excellence

lEmphasis on character and values

lAerobic base training:

  • should be emphasized for all swimmers during their development years
  • is essential for success in long course events of 100 meters or longer
  • will enable swimmers of all ages to adapt to anaerobic

training more effectively and efficiently

 

Trends in USA Swimming (1970s 1990s)

 

Positive Trends

 

lSwimmers have become progressively larger, stronger and more athletic.

lCoaches have become better educated and more aware of the science of swimming.

lMore and better facilities have become available.

lFinancial support has increased dramatically for elite athletes and to a lesser degree for coaches and clubs.

lSport science involvement has become more predominant.

lSwimming is being more effectively marketed and promoted than in the past.

 

Technical Trends

Aerobic Base Training —> Race Specific Training

Distance Emphasis —> Sprint Emphasis Training Competition —> Training Diversity

“We Train Harder” —> “We Train Smarter, Not Harder” “No Gain Without Pain” —> “Don’t Over train”

Simple Training Plans —> Complex Training Plans Uncluttered Competition Calendar —> Crowded Competition Calendar

Invincible National Team Image —> Vulnerable National Team Image

 

Sociological Trends

Desirable Attributes —> Undesirable Attributes (Discipline,

Sacrifices, Long Term Commitment)

Team Focus —> Individual Focus (“Rights”) Intrinsic Motivation —> Extrinsic Motivation

Achievement Focus —> Reward Focus (Performance Excellence) (Fortune and Fame)

Appreciation —> Entitlement

Long Term Focus —> Short Term Focus (Instant Gratification)

Respect Authority —> Challenge Authority

Limited Athletic Choices —> Many Athletic Choices Male/Female Balance —> Predominately Female

 

Philosophical Trends

Character Emphasis —> Performance Emphasis Uncompromising —> Compromising

“Right” Thing —> Politically Correct or Popular Thing Coach Directed —> Parent/Athlete Directed (Majority Rule)

High Expectations —> “Lowering the Bar” Spartan Environment —> Pampered Environment Self Reliant —> Environment Reliant

Objective Evaluation —> Exclusively Positive Focus

 

“The Other Side of the Coin”

After 40 years of involvement as an athlete, coach and administrator, I am more convinced than ever that no sport has a more positive impact on its participants than does the sport of swimming. The personal growth experience is the greatest benefit that we have to offer, and it is one that needs to be protected at all costs. Because of the quality of people involved in competitive swimming, I have all the confidence in the world in our ability to do this. But I also feel that we are approaching a turning point in our sport. On the surface, it appears to be a “no brainer,” a change for the better. But when you look beneath the surface, you’ll find that it should be approached with extreme caution. I am talking about  the growing inclination to embrace the entertainment side of sports with the promise of increasing fame, fortune and popularity.

 

It is important that we take a close look at other sports which have preceded us in this evolution. In many cases we will find that the pursuit of fame and fortune has resulted in the disappearance of positive role models, the proliferation of drug use, decline in performance and the demise of the team concept. Rather than producing an increase in revenue, in some sports the financial resources have merely been redistributed, making the rich “richer” and the poor “poorer.” The high profile athletes have become wealthy at the expense of the clubs and the rest of the athlete population. Is it possible to have the best of both worlds? I think so, as long as we don’t lose sight of our most valuable asset in the process.

 

Society is always changing. It has been interesting to observe that many of today’s parents are pulling their kids out of programs for exactly the same reasons that parents were putting their kids into programs 20 years ago! The popular programs of the ’70s promoted the value of a long term commitment, a strong work ethic, the team concept and discipline. In the ’90s these clubs are losing a the recruiting battles to teams which emphasize short term results (instant gratification), flexible commitment requirements, individual choice and “fun” workouts. Although the preference of the ’90s may be more appealing to our human nature, the “old fashioned” value based philosophy is clearly more productive and successful in respect to character building and performance. These social changes, by the way, are not unique to our country. My counterparts in England, Australia and Russia have made similar observations. (Could this be why world swimming is in a slump?)

 

The shift in focus from the process of personal improvement to the end result has had more than just a philosophical impact on our clubs. Training volume has decreased, attendance may be encouraged, but is usually no longer required, and the aerobic base work that is essential at an early age for long term development in all events, is being neglected. Our tendency to rationalize is also impacting decisions as to whether to travel to an exotic meet or stay home and train, focus on sprint or distance events, demand our “individual rights” or sacrifice for the team, etc.

The attitude of the ’90s has been characterized by the phrase, “if it feels good, do it.” Unfortunately, what feels good is not always what will lead to success. If we are to continue to be the model sport, we will have to be different. Our vision must be driven by values and the pursuit of excellence, not the pursuit of fame and fortune. The good of the team must take priority over our personal agendas. We must be willing to sacrifice short term results in order to more effectively lay the foundation for better long term results. A healthy balance must be maintained in the focus on sprint and distance events. After we have done these things, we can have the best of both worlds. Then we can say, “show me the money.”

 

The State of World Swimming

The 1996 Olympic Games are now in the history books and the USA Swimming Team will be credited with a highly successful effort. While we were very proud of the aggressive performance of “Team USA” ion Atlanta, many of our toughest competitors (both teams and individuals) failed to perform up to expectations. For the first time in Olympic swimming history, the overall performances regressed from one Olympiad to the next.

 

Two thirds of the winning times in Barcelona were faster than those in Atlanta. This is not surprising on the women’s side, since it is generally believed that the use of performance enhancing drugs was not as prevalent in Atlanta, but this statistic holds true with the men as well! United States Swimming has not been immune to this phenomenon of stagnate or even regressive performances, even though it plagued the rest of the world more than it did us in Atlanta. In fact, world swimming is just beginning to encounter some of the problems that we have been contending with for many years. I would like to share some of the observations that have been made by my colleagues from around the world.

 

Sprints vs. Distance

Many of our top college coaches have told us repeatedly that the imbalance between the sprint and distance events, resulting from the inclusion of the 4 x 50 relays in the NCAA program, has negatively impacted overall performances in several ways. Because there are many more opportunities available to swimmers in the sprint events, distance programs (and distance swimmers) have all but become extinct. This same trend has surfaced in world swimming, with the addition of the 50’s of each stroke and the 100 IM in the World Cup format, and the short course world rankings.

 

Single focus vs. “Smorgasbord” Approach

Not too many years ago there was one major international event on the competition calendar each year. All other competitions were strategically planned and used as tune up meets in preparation for peak performance in the main event. Today the international calendar is crowded with “major” competitions which are offering attractive temptations to deviate from a long range training plan for peak performance. The superstars of world swimming were seen on the world circuit much more frequently in the two years preceding the Atlanta Games than they were in the two year period prior to the Barcelona Games.

 

Short Course vs. Long Course

186          1999 ASCA World Clinic

 

Here again, with the advent of the Short Course World Championships and the short course world rankings, short course competition has begun to command a much greater focus and emphasis in world swimming…some believe to the detriment of long course competition. Competing in short course meets is not the problem, but TRAINING for short course competition (instead of long course competition) can inhibit progress in long course performances.

 

Fame and Fortune vs. Peak Performance

For many years, with very rare exceptions, fame and fortune were not available to athletes in our sport. Our focus was directed toward the pursuit of excellence and the resulting positive impact on character development. In many cases today, this focus seems to have shifted to the pursuit of fame and fortune. Many coaches of the world’s elite swimmers were extremely frustrated with the fact that the time and energy their athletes committed to preparation for peak performance was compromised by the time and energy they committed to the pursuit of commercial interest. Ironically, if we could somehow maintain the focus on these more fundamental (and more valuable) objectives, fame and fortune would be more successfully attained. Money can be a good thing when we manage it properly and use it productively, but it can become one of our worst enemies when we allow it to manage us.

 

Many of our observers of world swimming believe that these trends have also contributed to the deterioration of the work ethic in one way or another (sound familiar with Track and Field?). We cannot forget the old axiom that, “more important than the will to win is the will to PREPARE to win.”

 

As a result of these comments, I will be accused of being short sighted, old fashioned and resistant to change, but change does not bother me. I am concerned about regression and mediocrity. Desirable change is change that brings the best out of us rather than inhibiting development and performance.

 

We probably can’t prevent these trends from continuing, but we can individually choose (as did many of the ’96 USA Olympians and their coaches) to avoid the pitfalls and mistakes that have plagued world swimming. Instead, we can choose to pursue an uncompromised long term plan of preparation for Sydney in the year 2000. All questions of how and when to train, when and where to compete, how to prepare for each competition, and how and when to pursue commercial opportunities must be answered in light of the question, “How will this impact my performance in Sydney?” The athletes who take this focused approach to preparation for the 2000 Olympiad will have a huge advantage over those that don’t.

Permalink

Where the USA Stands in World Swimming by Dennis Pursley (1999)

I think the title of my talk was supposed to be U.S.A.: Where Do We Stand in World Swimming?” and the simple easy answer is just look at the world rankings. Maybe if you want to take a look at the results of the recently completed Pan Pacific championships, then you can see where we stand in world swimming. We’re still number 1, but we are hanging on by the skin of our teeth, and I am very sorry that I was not able to complete in time for this presentation some research that we’re doing, some trends that we’re taking a look at, mapping and charting the performance of the field as measured by the 8th place swimmer in the U.S.A. in each event, men and women, over the years, starting, I believe we started with 1952 up to last year. It’s almost completed. When it is, we’ll have that information available for distribution and publication. But what we’re seeing is that looking at the field in

U.S.A. swimming, on the men’s side, and again, beginning in the early 50’s up through 1998, we noticed significant progress up until about 1984, and of course, for different events there’s different plateau points. But it was about 1984 we began to see a plateau in men’s swimming in the U.S.A. represented by the field through their current year. Women’s swimming, the plateau started a little bit earlier. It was about 1981 that we began to see this plateau in swimming in the United States. And, if you factor in the real changes, the no-touch backstroke turns, the underwater swimming, things that have attributed to faster performances, when you factor that in, then it becomes even more noticeable, more dramatic.

 

Of course, there are individual exceptions. There’s an exception in the breaststroke as well, and I think as we all realize that there have been some significant advances in the biomechanics, the stroke technique in the breaststroke that has contributed to improved performances worldwide, including in our country up through the present decade. But the bottom line is we have seen a plateau that for quite a few years now we have been trying to find a way to get off that plateau and get up to the next level. And I think a question that is more significant, more important than where are we right now in world swimming… to me, the more important question is where are we headed? And I’ve decided for this presentation to take an approach that probably most of you weren’t expecting.

 

I would imagine that most of you were expecting me to make comparisons of where we are compared to our major competitors, and we have many of our Australian friends in the room right here, but that’s not the angle I’m going to take for this next few minutes. I’m looking at where we’ve gone over the last couple of decades, trends in U.S.A. swimming, and I sat down to do this and I came up with between 30 and 40 of them at my first shot at it. If I sat down and did it today, I would probably come up with a few different ones, as everyone in this room would. This is not meant to be inclusive. What I hope will be accomplished over the next hour is just to stimulate some thought, to start thinking about what direction are we headed. We’re going to have different opinions about some of these trends as to whether they are ultimately going to positively impact performance or negatively impact performance. But we at least need to be aware of what direction we’re going, and if we like it, great, let’s make the most of it. If we’re uncomfortable with it, then we need to make some adjustments and some modifications.

 

Just to break it down into some smaller groups, these 30 or 40, I don’t know what the total number is here, I kind of divided it into subheadings and one we’ll see up here, and don’t worry about writing that down, as there will be handouts at the back of the room for anybody that’s interested at the end of this. It’ll have everything you see on the Power Point plus more. But some of the trends that we’re looking at, I think that there is a general consensus that most of us feel are positive trends. There are a number of trends that some of us are going to feel are positive, some maybe not, maybe feel like they’re negative. There are a lot of them that in my opinion are maybe indifferent in themselves, and it depends on how we manage them or mismanage them as to whether they are going to have a positive or a negative or whether they have had a positive or negative impact on performance. And I think that that’s the key, especially for the indifferent ones, to make sure that as our environment changes that we’re managing that environment to help contribute to better performance and get off the plateau that we’re on right now.

 

Now, some of these positive trends I have labeled as positive trends. Remember, I’m speaking of them relative to swimming in the U.S.A. in the 70s. Why did I pick the 70s? That’s kind of the glory years, when we were the most dominant, and where we started to see that curve plateau on the performance charts. And I’m looking at our swimming in the country today as compared to U.S.A. in the 70s. Not compared to our top competitors today. These statements might not be valid if we’re comparing to our top competitors today. Not compared to where many of us would like to see us in these areas. They might not be valid; you may not think they’re positive. But compared to the 70s, our swimmers today are bigger, stronger, and more athletic than what we saw on our national teams in the 70s. Our coaches today unquestionably are better educated and more aware of the science of swimming. We have more and better facilities. The fourth one, nobody’s ever going to be satisfied with it, no matter how far we go down this road, I can guarantee you that, but the fact of the matter is we are supporting our athletes financially much more significantly than we were a couple of decades ago when actually we had no financial support. Sport science involvement has become more predominant and swimming is being more effectively marketed and promoted that in the past. I think there is pretty much a consensus that these are all good things. These are positive things. So, if we’re doing a number of things better than we were before we started to see that performance plateau, why aren’t we swimming faster? To me, common sense says that if we’re doing some things better but we’re not seeing an impact on performance, then maybe there’s some other things that we’ve lost, maybe some things that we’re not doing as well. And the rest of these trends I’ve kind of broken down into three groups of subheadings of technical trends, sociological trends, and philosophical trends. Don’t pay any attention to the subheading name. As I started to put these in place, I quickly recognized that most of these trends could go in any of those headings because there are elements of all three in there. It’s just a way to break them down into smaller groups. Well, if we want to go to the next one and look at what I’ve labeled here as some technical trends. Now, the first one, we’ve seen a shift in coaching philosophy from an aerobic base training philosophy to more of a race-specific training philosophy. And I know that that’s oversimplification because any good program is going to have elements of both in it. I’m talking about where the priority, where the emphasis is right now.

 

You could come to this clinic in the 70s and you could go to any presentation by an accomplished respected age-group coach, and you’d hear the same message from all of them. They’d all say I trained my swimmers as if they were distance swimmers and 400 IMers. Because it was universally accepted, that that type of training would better position them to accomplish their… be the best that they can be and accomplish their ultimate potential later on in their career. Now, I’m asked all the time, well explain to me if I’m a 50 man or a 100 swimmer, what is the benefit of swimming the miles and the aerobic work and putting all that time in the training and in that type of training. I don’t know if there’s physiologists in the room that can answer that question a lot better than I can. I don’t know if there’s a direct carryover. But what I do know that it does is it dramatically enhances the ability to do the race-specific anaerobic work, either later on in the season or later on in the career or whatever the case may be. And we have absolutely gotten away from that. There is some European research that has tracked swimmers that came up through a race-specific anaerobic oriented program in their development years and those that have come up through the more traditional aerobic base foundation type of training. And what they found was that it’s a different age for each individual, but for most of them somewhere in their high school years, up to that point they’ll see progress at a comparable rate. But then what they saw was the ones that were trained with the aerobic base foundation concept continued to progress until much later in their careers, whereas the ones that were training in a more race-specific focus,anaerobic focus, up to that point, began to plateau.

 

There was a sports science summit that was conducted in Colorado Springs last year, and I’m not going to read it    to you but I would recommend… this is what it looks like, and it’s available, but we had quite a number of scientists and coaches that gathered in Colorado Spring to talk about these issues and on page 5, very succinctly and to the point discusses what we’re talking about right now: the importance that aerobic-based training for the younger swimmers. We’ve gotten away from that. We’ve seen a change from an emphasis on distance to sprint emphasis. Most of the people in this room remember that it’s the animal lane. That was a badge of honor. That was your badge of courage, to be in the animal lane. They were kind of put up on a pedestal, the people that swam in those distance training lanes. That’s kind of disappeared; it seems to me, today. And if we have anybody training, being that type of training, that’s one or two swimmers that usually feel disconnected and not a part of the team. Training competition has switched to training diversity. This is one of many things that I think are good things in themselves, good things up to a point, but they can maybe sometimes be taken to a detrimental extreme. And there’s a lot of people in the room here I think that maybe remember twenty years ago in the 70s, it was not uncommon for coaches to be on the phone or for the grapevine to be working and people finding out what other people are doing and because the training methodology and philosophy was more compatible and what one person was doing was similar to what someone else, they could take that, put it in their program, and they come back the next week and say, well so and so did this last week. So, this week, we’re going to do the same thing, except we’re going to go a little faster or a little further, whatever the case may be. And there was that competition in training sense domestically that I think was very healthy. We’ve gotten so far to the extreme, I think, in diversity, where we look at that now and I see a lot of coaches saying, wow, that’s impressive, but it doesn’t fit in my program. So we’re going to do something different. And diversity is usually a product of creativity and creativity is a good thing. But at some point, we, I think, again, in moving in this positive direction, we’ve maybe left behind and lost some of the competitive element that we saw in the programs twenty years ago.

 

We heard frequently in the 70s “we train harder.” Now we hear “we train smarter.” Not harder. We used to hear “There’s no gain without pain.” Now we hear “don’t overtrain.” When the kids came to the pool every day, and swam the laps for two hours and went home, we used to call that a workout. You don’t hear that word much anymore because the word “work” has taken on a negative connotation. It’s called “practice” today. And I’m not saying that that’s a bad thing, but it’s just another little clue of some of the changes in the mindset that we’ve seen. We had… Doc Counsilman use to tell us, using layman’s terms on a regular basis, that top swimmers had to push themselves into “the agony zone.” Now, we tend to think from that.

 

We had a couple of years ago our top, and admittedly, this is distance swimmers, but I think the mindset that they projected was characteristic all the way down through the events of their day. Most of the top great distance swimmers, as you know, of our past, were from the 70s, early 80s. We brought them all to Colorado Springs a couple of years ago to talk to our national team coaches and tell us what they felt most contributed to their success. And most of these athletes, with every single one of them, the one common theme, there were a lot of differences in their approach and their preparation, but the one common theme that came forward from all of them was that they came to practice every day and went to war. And they just put the nose to the grindstone and just hammered it out, repeat after repeat, set after set, day after day. One of them made the comment that we felt recovery was what happened between workouts. Not during workouts. And the concept of devoting a good portion of our training time to low intensity recovery work is really a fairly new concept. And I’m absolutely convinced that for some swimmers and certain situations, maybe all swimmers in certain situations, that’s a good thing. But have we maybe gotten too far from that, and is there some value somewhere in the training program to going back to the former concept and mind set of just getting in there.

 

And of course, you’ve got to cycle the stresses. You know, you work the arms while you rest the legs, then you come back and work the legs and then you work the anaerobic system and come back and work the aerobic system. But just getting in there and hammering away.

 

Another thing we did that weekend was we saw a video about the Kenyan distance runners. The Kenyan distance runners, as most of you know, have dominated distance running to a greater extent than maybe any country has dominated any sporting event in modern times. And one of them, during the course of the interview, he said, You know, there’s days when you feel like you just can’t get out of bed. But you don’t have the choice. You have to get up and you have to run with those guys. It’s just a whole mindset that I think we’ve kind of gotten away from, and again, as I said, I think that in our sport, in swimming, in our country, it kind of filtered down through all the events. To take it to the limit, psychological mind set is one that I think if it doesn’t have direct physiological benefit and I’m not going to argue with the physiologists as to whether it does or doesn’t, but I’m absolutely certain that it has a significant psychological benefit. We have swimmers who have, let’s just say for the sake of discussion, you don’t need to ever go more than 3,000 in a set in order to develop the aerobic component that you need for a 100 meter race. I have no idea what that number might be. I’m just picking a number out of the air. But if that’s the case, and that’s the furthest that you ever go, then that’s going to be an intimidating challenge every time it’s presented to you. And it’s going to be real hard to really aggressively attack an intimidating challenge. If you’ve gone 10,000 in a set and then you come back and are asked to do 3,000, you’re going to be able to more aggressively take on that challenge and perform a lot better, and I know there’s a psychological benefit and I suspect again the benefit physiologically may not be direct. As I said before, maybe the benefit is that it helps you do the race-specific work more effectively.

 

As I said, we’ve got a number of our Australian friends in the room, and I’d be interested and have been interested over the last fifteen years, I coached over there in the early 80s, and watching the evolution and the message that’s been coming from our friends down under during that period of time. And when I was over there, and this doesn’t apply to everybody that’s in the room but for the most part the message I heard was similar to what we were hearing from our sports scientists who developed their opinions and theories based on classroom study and information. The basic message was that you’re training too hard. You’re defeating the purpose. You don’t need to spend this much time; you don’t need to swim these many miles. But, what I’ve observed is some of those scientists unfortunately unlike many of ours, unfortunately for us, and some of them that are in this room, at that point started to spend long hours on deck with the top teams and top swimmers, and they’ve been on deck with the top teams and the top swimmers for the last fifteen years, and now I’m getting a different message. I’m reading a different message. They’re sounding like coaches, and they’re basically saying the harder you work the faster you’re going to swim.

 

Some of these things, I’m going to run out of time here, but we’ve gotten so complicated, and maybe this is just thinking back on my last few years on deck. I felt like I got so much into all the technical aspects of training that my training plan at the end of my career would take a Ph.D. to figure it out. I had a hard time figuring it out, much less my swimmers or anybody else. If I had to get back on deck now, not if I had to, if I had the opportunity or the privilege to do it, I think one of the things I would try to do is maybe simplify a little bit. Have we gone too far in that complex direction? Uncluttered competition calendar we had twenty years ago. The goal was clear for everybody. There was one big goal at the end of the season at the end of the year, and all the competition prior to that were just leading up to it in a logical sequence. Now we’ve gone from one world championship every four years to one every year. We’ve got the world cup circuit. We’ve got these privately promoted entrepreneurial meets that are very attractive to the athletes. It’s tougher today. That single focus was a huge advantage, I think. And we have to really… this is one of the things that changed that in some ways can be a good change as many of these other things, but one that has to be managed. And we have to work hard to guard against the “we can have it all” attitude. And this, just from my position as national team director. We once had an invincible national team image. We’re still number one, but as far as our competition is concerned, we’re vulnerable. That makes our job tougher. We’ve got to be aware of that.

 

 

There’s a couple of things that kind of came to my mind just this morning, and again if I did this every day I’d come up with a different list of things that I’ve observed, as you would too. But a couple of disturbing trends. We’re not finishing our races in international competition as effectively as maybe we were twenty years ago. Is that because the competition is tougher? Is that because our race strategy has changed and we maybe need to reevaluate that? Or does that have to do with the aerobic-based training concept that I talked about earlier? We’ve got to look at those things.

 

Another interesting observation: it wasn’t unusual as many of you remember in the 70s to see world class swimmers stand up and three or four times in one night, maybe fifteen or twenty minutes apart, lay it on the line, swim lifetime best performances, swim world rank performances. That’s a very, very rare thing today. And I’m not talking, either, about times that are not at all competitive to what we’re seeing today. I’m talking about some good impressive times that would even be competitive today. Again, why is that? Is that a function of training, and that the recovery period that we need seems to be much longer between competitive efforts.

 

Some trends that I’ve labeled as sociological trends. The first one probably needs a little explanation. When I was coaching in the 70s, I sold my program, promoted my program, on the basis of the character-building attributes that were associated with competitive swimming. And specifically, I promoted that the appreciation for discipline, for sacrifice, for long-term commitment, these were things that were in the recruiting flyers that I would distribute. This is what I would talk to the parents about and that’s what the parents wanted for their kids. I had to turn people away every year. And today, I hear coaches tell me, and I have to believe that it’s not an excuse, it’s a reality based on my experience of having five kids of my own involved in all different sports and being to some degree involved with the parent groups in some of those sports.

 

Our environment has changes in our society, in our country. Those things, the sacrifice, the discipline, the long-term commitment, they’re still essential for peak performance and progress in our sport, but they’ve become seemingly unpopular in our society. Coaches tell me today that those things scare people away. We can’t talk about those things, or we won’t have anybody in the water. But I think that this is a battle that we cannot afford to lose. There are some trends; there are some things that we can just chalk up to a changing environment, changes in society. We’ve got to accept it, we’ve got to live with it, we’ve got to manage it, and we’ve got to make the most of it. This is not one of those things. Because if we lose this, then our hopes of seeing any progress in the performance area are just going to go right down the drain. So, we need to find a way, and I don’t know, maybe than rather not talk about it, maybe that needs to be a higher priority, and we need to try real hard again to sell the value of these things to our swimmers and to our parents, rather than eliminate them from our programs altogether and give them what they seem to be wanting, which is just a kind of fun in an empty sense, or something to keep the kids off the streets. There’s more to it than that and we have to show them the value in these attributes. That’s a trend that we can’t raise the white flag on.

 

There’s been a shift from team focus to individual focus, individual rights. And I use the word “rights” very loosely here. I’m not talking about the inalienable rights that are described in the founding documents of our country. I’m talking about more just… it’s gone again, a good thing maybe taken to a negative extreme, where we’re not even willing to sacrifice just personal preferences anymore and not acknowledge that there is a greater good. Used to be the good of humanity or the good of your country that many people would willingly sacrifice their lives for. Or in the case of our sport, it was the good of the team. That was considered to be the greater good that people… it was just a given… would willingly sacrifice their individual rights or preferences in order to contribute to. It’s more difficult now. And again, it’s a sociological change. There’s intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation.

 

In the 70s, we had nothing else to offer but intrinsic motivation. Personal improvement. Team success. That’s where the focus was. That’s what our sport had to offer. And again, as it now has more things to offer, we’re moving more toward the fame and fortune, not so much in our country.

 

I was just talking outside the room here. It was a real interesting experience in Australia for the Pan Pax and not a big surprise to me having coached over there years ago, but it’s gone way beyond what it was then. You think the Super Bowl is big in our country. It’s nothing compared to the Pan Pax way over there. You go to the gas station, you go to the super market, you go anywhere, and people aren’t talking to you, they’re talking among themselves about the races the night before and about the races that are coming up tonight. It was the big focus of the country for eight days. And that can be a good thing, but it can also be taken to a negative extreme to serve, to distract you from your focus for performance excellence.

 

And we can all think of a couple of people in our country and in other countries that were world beaters in 1996 and could be world beaters again in 2000, but they’ve dropped out of the picture. And why did they drop out of the picture? Because they wanted to capitalize on the other things other than the personal improvement and the team success that the sport now has to offer the athletes. And so the reward became the material reward became a higher priority than the intrinsic rewards that previously our sport had to offer. And the training has suffered and the performance has suffered. It’s another change that has to be managed. We’ve gone from… this is similar in achievement focus, a focus on performance excellence to a reward focus.

 

 

This is another interesting one. We’ve gone from an attitude of appreciation to an attitude of entitlement. And really, this runs across the board. I think all of us… have crept into our attitudes a little bit — coaches, swimmers, administrators, that somebody owes us something. I don’t know who it is, but somebody owes us something. And the problem is that when we had an attitude of appreciation, it’s a lot more to put your heart and soul into something. If you appreciate just the opportunity to be involved with the sport and the opportunities that sport provides. And you’re real happy   to be a part of it. It’s a lot easier to put your heart and soul into it and enthusiasm into it. But if you have an attitude of entitlement, like, I’m not getting what I should be getting… I don’t know who should be giving it to me, but I’m not getting what I want — then it’s going to be a little bit more difficult to be as committed and as enthusiastic about what you’re doing.

 

I think we saw and already mentioned this shift from more of a long-term focus to a short-term focus rather than base what we’re doing with our swimmers on what’s going in the national team sense, get best results in the next Olympiad or in the age group sense, and what’s going to be best for them later on in their careers, it’s the instant gratification direction that our society has gone. What’s going to get best results in the next meet? And again, that’s something that needs to be managed. We’ve seen a shift from a kind of a universal respect for authority to a new attitude of challenge authority. Here again, a good thing may be taken to a negative extreme. It’s good that authority should be held accountable. It’s good that measures should be put in place to prevent the abuse of authority. Those are all good things. But when you go to an extreme, and we see bumper stickers today that say just challenge authority. Just for the sake of it, challenge authority. And when that authority that is accountable and has the measures in place is not respected, is not supported, or worse yet, if it doesn’t exist, then you end up with chaos. You end up with anarchy. You sure don’t see progress in your sport. Or in anything else where that is lacking. And coaches in our environment today have been stripped of much of their authority.

 

We’ve had limited athletic choices for our kids years ago. Today, they’ve got many more choices. It’s more competitive. Another trend that’s disturbing to us in our country today is the shift in the balance, where we used to have pretty much a 50-50 ratio of boys and girls involved in the sport, and our numbers, our total numbers, we’ve maintained those numbers, but we’ve brought in more girls, which is a good thing, but we’ve seen a corresponding loss of boys in the sport, which is not a good thing for those of us who want to see the sport in our country continue to be strong.

 

Another trend that I thought of this morning — it’s not down here — is that we have a lot more postgrads in the sport, especially at the national team level than we did twenty years ago. And most of us thought that that trend would contribute to improvement in performance. We haven’t really seen that yet. Now, that’s not saying that it’s a bad thing. Wouldn’t our performance have dropped off had it not been for the increase in postgrads. Some of these things we can only answer with speculation or opinion. But it is a trend.

 

The last group I have here I have just entitled philosophical trends. The first one, we’ve touched on it in other things as a shift from an emphasis on character development to maybe performance emphasis, and we see this more in other sports that we do in ours. I mean, twenty years ago, you didn’t see some of the sports figures that we see today that were off the field involved in some of the things that they’re involved with and still promoted and worshipped and put on a pedestal the way they are. It doesn’t seem to matter anymore. And I don’t know if you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but today the only thing that matters is performance. Well, the problem is that performance is going to be short-lived in those situations. And we tend to more often, I think, turn a blind eye to the things that contribute to a successful performance that may be lacking … if the performance is there at the time. But that sends the wrong message to the ones that are coming up through the ranks.

 

Another difference that I’ve noticed is most of you will remember in the 70s, it was a good thing if you were uncompromising and it was not a good thing if you were a compromiser. That has done a complete 180 now. This is another thing we can never get back to the 70s on, and it’s probably good that you can’t be confrontational in your coaching style the way some of us may have been a number of years ago. You can’t coach with the “my way or the highway” approach. But we have to find a way to be uncompromising because compromise still results in mediocrity. That hasn’t changed. You can’t compromise if you’re going to pursue excellence. If we’re going to get to the next highest level. We have to find a way to be uncompromising in a more palatable way. The velvet glove with the iron fisted approach, whatever that might be. I think today we’re more influenced by what the politically correct thing is or what the popular thing is.

 

Now, I believe that there’s three questions you need to ask in the process of making a decision or dealing with an issue. The first question is what’s the right thing? And if there is a right and wrong, if it’s a right and wrong issue, then you don’t even go to the second question. That ends it. You stop right there. You do the right thing, regardless of the ramifications. Then the second question, I think, if it’s not a right and wrong issue, is what is going to best enable us to accomplish our big picture, long term goals and objectives? Is this going to contribute to that or is this going to detract from that? And if it’s going to do one or the other, then again, you stop right there and you don’t go to the third question. Well, if that’s not an issue, then you can go to the third question and say, well, what’s popular? What does the group want to do that will make them happy today, here and now. But too often, it seems that we have a tendency to skip over the first  two questions and just go straight to that third question.

 

We’ve shifted from coach-directed programs, which is related to what I just talked about, to more parent or athlete-directed programs. And, again, we can’t go back, and shouldn’t go back. That’s a good thing in my book, to the “my way or highway” approach. We do have to have input. We do have to have involvement. But the coach still needs to be the final authority if we’re going to get off the performance plateau and move to the next level. And why? Because the majority is always going to opt to go the easy way if there is a choice. They’re always going to want to go in the direction of mediocrity. And it takes a person with vision and a person who’s willing to set the standard, set the bar high, and motivate the group to make a commitment to rise up to that level. And the leadership has to come from the coach in that respect. We’ve seen a tendency over the last twenty years to kind of lower the bar, and a lot of these things, again, are related, but has the focus in most of our clubs around the country shifted from achievement in the senior nationals to achievement in the junior championships.

 

At one time, you had to be in the top 8 to get a second swim at night. Then it was the top 16. Now it’s the top 24. And I can see some good solid arguments on both sides of the fence. I’m not saying that that’s a bad thing. I don’t know. But it’s something that I think is a trend that I think we need to look at. Time standards in this, I personally feel very strongly about. Time standards that are tied to our domestic strengths and weaknesses only serve to perpetuate those weaknesses. And every time I’ve seen a situation where we’ve raised the bar and kept the time standards constant from event to event relative to the world history of swimming, it has served to strengthen our weaknesses when we’ve done that. And we’ve seen the swimmers respond to the challenge and move up to the next level. It may take some time. We have to be patient. There may be a period of time before the swimmers and coaches figure out how to get to that level. But if we don’t lower the bar, I believe that it’s going to happen. And when we’ve seen examples of that in the past, it has happened.

 

Another observation… we’ve changed from an attitude that in preparation for competition. a Spartan environment is the ideal environment. And we’ve gone a complete 180 on that and have changed to a pampered environment in preparation for competition. And that leads into the next one. I think it’s had an impact and made us less self-reliant, more environment-reliant. Rather than relying on your God-given talents and abilities and the preparation that you’ve done to overcome obstacles, to perform whether it’s because of, or in spite of, the circumstances, we see too often today where we’ve created a situation where our athletes rely on a perfect environment to be able to perform.

 

And the last one I have on this list is a kind of defense I guess of the approach that I’m taking here. We’ve seen a  change in the sense that not too long ago what we’re doing right now, what I’m doing right now, which I like to think of is objective evaluation, constructive criticism, maybe, in some cases, was considered to be a good thing. And we’re living in a society now which in a lot of cases tends to give us the message that it’s not acceptable any more. That everything has to be positive. That it’s O.K., it’s all right, we’re O.K., it’s all right, good job. Well, the problem with that is that it’s not reality. And if we want to get off this performance plateau, we have to be realistic in our evaluation of where we are, of what direction we’re going in. And I don’t consider myself a pessimist. To me, a pessimist is somebody who doesn’t have any hope for the future. But I’m very optimistic that we have what it takes to get off of this performance plateau. But we’ve got to take a good hard look at these things. And, again, some of these things that I see s negative trends some of you in the room might consider to be positive trends and that’s fine. But just be aware… be aware of the trends, be aware of what’s happening, because I think what happens to us a lot is that these things change so slowly and so gradually that we don’t even realize it. And we just sit down and we think about where we are today, and we look at how that compares to where we were twenty years ago, and there is some dramatic differences. But unless you really sit down and think it through, it may not be clear. And I guess that all I’m doing is cautioning and saying don’t unknowingly be led down a path. that you don’t feel is going to contribute to your performance success.

 

I covered a whole lot of things here and actually your handouts were seven-page handouts and I intended to go over seven pages. I just went over one page and I realized this morning that I was biting off a whole lot more than I could chew, but all that information is in there. I would like to bring it to some sort of closure and read here from an article that was in U.S.A. Today a couple of years ago that’s an editorial actually by William Bennett, and it’s called “In Education, Character is as Important as Skills.”

 

… about the Founding Fathers of our country. They knew that teachers in America must educate not only the abilities of children, the sort of thing the much disputed national tests are intended to measure today, but also their character. Samuel Adams describes the mission of educators as nurturing the moral sense of children. Abigail Adams told her son John Quincy that “great learning and superior abilities, should you ever possess them, will be of little value and small estimation unless virtue, honor, truth, and integrity are added to them.” I believe that it’s who you are that determines what you do. And if we pay more attention to the who we are, in ourselves and in our swimmers, I think the performance results will take care of themselves. In my opinion, the surest way of producing performance success is to focus on character development. If your team is disciplined, if it’s unselfish, if it’s committed, if it’s hardworking, it’s going to perform better. Some things haven’t changed, and that’s one of them. And I acknowledge that it’s possible to be relatively successful as an individual of talent, you can be relatively successful, maybe without the integrity and good character. But I ask the question of what value is that? And to me, in the final analysis, integrity and character are not only the most important thing, but they’re the only important thing, and what we do… it’s what we’re all about. It’s what brings value and meaning to the commitment that we make to the sport and that we ask of our swimmers. And I believe that everything else has to be measured in relation to how it impacts that.

 

Well, I got through this a little bit quicker than I planned, but I’m going to finish up with the last slide, from Pope Paul VI. I came across this recently, and regardless of what you think of the Popes or of Christianity, for that matter I invite you to think real carefully about what this says, because I think it really captures the essence of what I’m trying to convey. It says that there is also needed a patient effort to teach people or teach them once more, and that’s our challenge… how to savor in a simple way the many human joys of the creator places in our path. And how foreign is this next statement to our culture right now? That sometimes the sheer joy of work well done, the joy in satisfaction of duty performed, the transparent joy of service and sharing, the demanding joy of sacrifice. Just think about the key words there… Work, Duty, Service, Sacrifice. These are not negatives that we need to shy away from or eliminate and replace with other things. These are positives that we have to embrace and we have to cling to as the heart and soul of our sport in the core of what we’re all about. And if we can successfully do this, then I believe we will get off this performance plateau and move on to the next level.

 

Thank you. (Applause.)

If there are any questions, I got through that a little quicker than I thought, so we’ve got a few more minutes here.

 

(QUESTION). The question is do we have a feel for why we’re losing boys in the sport basically. And Will, can you answer that question with surveys that we’ve done with U.S.A. swimming, or has that maybe shown us that you are aware of any… given us any indication of why that might be happening? Well, you know, I think I can just offer up an opinion, and we all have opinions on this issue, and it’s gradually being perceived by the public I think as more and more of a feminine sport… a sport for women. And I’m just basing this on… I have four boys and one girl. The girl is a committed, enthusiastic, avid swimmer. My four boys swim because their mother makes them. They also play football and basketball, and much prefer to do that and I think it’s just the perception that swimming is more of a feminine sport. Now, why do we have that perception? I can’t answer that question, but it’s one we have to look at and try to find ways to make it more attractive to the boys.

(QUESTION). Coach Daland’s comments were that if you factor in the real changes in underwater kicking and so on, that we may not even be on a plateau. In some performances in some cases we may have seen a regression over the last fifteen years or so.

 

(QUESTION). I think you hit on a great point, and for those who didn’t hear in the back, that we may be rewarding mediocrity. This is one thing I’ve noticed again with my kids in all sports. It’s in all sports. Just to be on the team, they come home with a trophy that’s bigger than they are.  And  I went to the state age-group swimming championships, twelve and unders. They marched out for the finals, they were escorted by people in tuxedos under the spotlight. My son asked me, Dad, why do they do that? And I said I don’t know, but I tell you right now that the Olympic trials is a big step down from here. So I think… we laugh at it, but I think that’s a real good point, and it kind of goes back… I was just reading some research that the big educational effort that our government really put its weight behind back in the 60s, and is just kind of coming to fruition today, really, is an effort to raise the self-esteem of kids in our country, which I think to all of us sounds like a great thing. And the premise was, the assumption was, that if you raise self-esteem, a performance will increase along with it. Well, the research results that have been done over three decades now, that have come in that I’ve seen show that we’ve been very successful in accomplishing the objective of raising the self-esteem of the kids in our country. Compared to other cultures, other nations, our kids across the board have much higher self-esteem. But it’s said in the research that I read they’ve got the highest self-esteem but the lowest performance and achievement level. The performance did not come up as expected. So again, maybe that’s getting back to reality. And there’s a negative way, and a harmful way, I think, to challenge our kids, and I’m not talking about degrading them, belittling them. But I think that they want to know if we were praising everything they do, whether it’s worthy of praise or not, rewarding everything they do, whether it’s worthy ore reward or not, then common sense tells you that the praise and the reward eventually become meaningless. It doesn’t mean anything anymore. I think it’s a great point.

 

(QUESTION). You know, this has happened ever since United States swimming or U.S.A. swimming has existed. It may be to a greater extreme now. You’ve pointed out another interesting trend, and I don’t know what this means, I don’t know if it’s good, I don’t know if it’s bad, but it’s a difference where numbers of swimmers have remained stable over the years in U.S.A. swimming, but the number of clubs has increased dramatically. So we have more, smaller clubs than we did in the past, and I think that your comments are that those clubs may not be focused on performance excellence. I think that what really hurts us is when they’re not honest. If you want to say that we’re not focused on performance excellence, on being the best that you can be, what  we’re offering is just a wholesome recreational alternative for the kids to keep them off the streets and we’re not expecting high levels of commitment and uncompromised commitment. Well, that’s fine, if you’re going to be honest with it. But I think that what really hurts us is when we have programs that pretend to be committed to excellence and then aren’t doing the things that are required to achieve excellence. But, I’m not sure if that’s worse than it was in the past or not. But it is a problem. Coach Steele.

 

(QUESTION). As you said, that issue has been discussed over and over again and we need to keep discussing these things. Until we get to where we want to be and we start seeing progress, we need to continue to evaluate. Peter.

 

(QUESTION). I think it starts up even above the coaches, and the attitude is if everybody can’t have it, then nobody can have it. And I think that’s a good philosophy of mediocrity. O.K., well, you have another one?

 

(QUESTION). I’ll carry that forward. Thank you. And thanks everybody for your time.

 

(Applause).