Thank you all for being here. Today I am going to talk about our Championship Formula at St. Charles Prep School. It is a four year high school in Columbus, Ohio. I am also a club coach so there will be some dross-over there and hopefully it will apply to any level of coaching, but it will be directed mostly at the high school level. You do not have to read all of this, but it is on the board for you there. The year before I joined St. Charles we were 51st in Ohio at the State Championships. Now, I do not mean to imply that we were 51st every year, but that is just to give you an example of our journey and over the last few years – from that area back in 2008 we won the Ohio State Championship – dethroning Cincinnati St. Xavier in the process. Most of you know that is a powerhouse school so that was quite an achievement for us. Along the way we had to overhaul the program. We had to make adjustments to the mentality for the swimmers – for the parents and for the school administration and those are some of the things that I want to you all about today.
First, I want to say thanks for this amazing opportunity – obviously to ASCA for allowing me to be here to speak and for all of you for attending. I have a picture of Coach Bill Wadley up here and Coach Wadley has been a wonderful mentor for me in my development as a coach and I wanted to bring that up because I am sure there are many of you out there who have had mentors or you were a mentor for somebody else and if you do not realize it I want to just give you a reminder of how important you are in the life of somebody else – whether or not that is a direct conversation you have with a young coach – whether or not it is a speech you give that some coach listens to and later on uses in his own speech. Now that is something that is important and I also have a picture up there of me with my two favorite ladies – that is my wife Jamee – she is sitting right there as well so if you are going to talk badly about me, make sure you do not say it within earshot of her and my one year old daughter, Abigail, who is at home in Columbus, Ohio right now.
Again – this is the high school track. There are several other presentations going on. This will deal primarily with High School, even though I am a club coach – I have done all different levels – Masters – summer league – swim camps – club and high school coaching so there will be some crossover there and hopefully some things that are applicable to all levels and I will also be giving demonstrations of things that I have done with my high school team, but again, I think these can apply to different levels of coaching – including club. My background – as Dick alluded to – I have a little bit of a diverse background from maybe what the route others have gone for coaching. I started off as a swimmer with the Greater Columbus Swim Team of Ohio. Of course, I was a summer league swimmer to begin with – as most of us were. Then I went to St. Charles Prep School so St. Charles is my alma mater – that is why I ended up going back there to coach. I then swam on scholarship at Indiana University which played a large part in my life and the direction that I went.
I then became a Deputy Sheriff and that is because you can tell that I am so big and intimidating – that a lot of the inmates were worried about me when I stepped in there so I thought that would be a great route to go. Actually, I was a psychology major and I wanted to get into forensic psychology and the FBI and I thought blending law enforcement and eventually a law school background was going to be a good way to get there – of course that path kind of diverted along the way and there we go – there is law school as well. I went to Capitol Law School in Columbia, Ohio and at that time I still thought I might get into the FBI, but swimming had already kind of rooted itself into my life and so I made some changes there and I actually was a practicing attorney. I was an estate planner for a few years while – after I finished law school, while I was still coaching. Coaching is my passion and that is why I am here so despite all those other things that I have done – coaching is what I love doing and throughout all of those different career moves I always found a way to coach. I think at that point it was made clear to me that that was something I should be doing. The greater Columbus Masters Team – that is when I graduated from IU I came back to Columbus and I became the head coach at the Greater Columbus Masters Team. I did that while I was a Deputy Sheriff so I would be on second shift from 3 pm to 11 pm and then usually I would have a mandatory overtime. I got home around 3 and then go practice – go and coach from 5:30 until 7 in the morning and of those two things – there was only one of them that I loved doing which was coaching so I decided to get rid of the other one. That actually worked its way and helped me get to St. Charles Prep School. Two of the people I coached – Jim and Susan Ritter were parents of a St. Charles swimmer – Adam Ritter who a lot of you have heard of by this point. He went and swam at Arizona – won an NCAA Championship – a very good swimmer and through that connection and my connection with St. Charles – I actually ended up being the assistant coach at St. Charles there and that led to – back in 2006 – with the support of my wife – that led to my decision to become a fulltime coach – not only at St. Charles, but also with the Greater Columbus Swim Team of Ohio. So basically, I went home again – to both of my teams that I had grown up swimming with. I have now become the head age group swim coach for the Ohio State Swim Club which is why I am donning my scarlet and gray. I have my St. Charles swimming shirt on underneath. It is a very exciting move for me, but all these things have played into each other and so that is another reason I wanted to mention them – not just as a bragging background sheet for me, but also in our coaching careers. There are building blocks along the way and I hope that you all have had those – I am sure we have all – depending on each other through out the years and you have found ways to become a better coach because of others and because of opportunities that were presented to you.
Now, I am going to talk about building our team and how we have done that. I am going to start off talking about our expectations and accountability – how we challenged our swimmers and then I am going to talk about those same things and how we challenged the parents on the team and then how we challenged the administration at the school. Then we are going to get into the social aspects of our change – as well as the training aspects of our changes, okay? As a coaching staff – we came in – we had to set the tone. For the swimmers – these are some of the things we changed. We changed the expectations and the focus. That seems very generic. It seems very simple. What does that mean? The expectations – our swimmers did not have – as a team – did not have an expectation for success at the end of the year. Now – obviously people are from different states here. In the state of Ohio it is a winter sport and it ends the last week in February – just to give some background. We did not have an expectation of success the last weekend in February. We had to change that. What we historically had at St. Charles was an issue of the haves and the have not’s. We had 3-4 club swimmers – year around swimmers – who earned all of our points and then we had – you know – 10 to 15 swimmers who just came out for the team – just for the fun of it so I had to find a way and my coaching staff had to find a way to bring everyone together there for a common goal and for everyone to realize that they all played a part within that goal.
The focus – it is the same thing. Within the high school season – the end of the year in Ohio – the tournament goes Sectional, then District and then State. I think most states have something similar. There will be regional or whatever it is, but just so that you understand my terminology – Sectionals, then Districts and then States and each one qualifies for the next and most of our swimmers ended their career at either the sectional meet or the District meet. That is why we had to change that mentality – that not only were we now expecting people to qualify for the State Championships, but we were expecting to do well there. It wasn’t just to make it. I think that anytime you have had a swimmer who didn’t do well at his or her biggest meet in your mind – if you sit that swimmer down and you ask him – what were your goals for this meet? What did you want to accomplish? And they will usually say – ahhh – I don’t know – I just wanted to get here so that is a problem. Any time they have accomplished their goals prior to their last meet – you are in trouble and we had to change that mentality so the goal was not only to make it and qualify for the State Championships, but to perform well when they got there. How did we do that? Well, we sought out a tougher dual meet schedule. I don’t want to place too much importance on high school dual meets. I think for club coaches especially – they think that sometimes high school coaches – you know – that is all they are worried about wins and losses and that is not at all my concern. My concern is putting my swimmers in the best position to race and so I would rather have losses across the board if we went to challenging teams and forced our swimmers to compete well. I don’t ever want to be in a situation in practice or in a meet where you are doing mindless swimming or you do not have a focus or a goal so we went and sought out Cincinnati St. Xavier, Louisville St. Xavier – powerful teams in Pennsylvania, Michigan and we go to Carmel, Indiana now. We swim them every year. Those are things that we did in addition to swimming all the powerhouse teams in the state of Ohio. We are doing everything we can to challenge our swimmers throughout the year. We set team and individual goals for the year. I can’t imagine there is a team in America that doesn’t do the same thing. Everyone says that, right? Well, how do we do it though? There is a right way to do that in my opinion. We want to hold our athletes accountable to those goals by writing them down for others to see so I am not going to let Billy just write down his goals and then kind of hide them away or just say, okay coach – got my goal – alright? Because that can change in an instant, alright? I want to see what his goals are. I want him to hold himself and his teammates accountable so we force everyone to write down the goals and it is not usually the first week, but it will be during the first part of the season and those goals can be changed throughout the year. We want to at least have something in writing and the phrase, I learned from my sports psychologist at Indiana was “ink it – don’t think it”. Put it in writing so others can hold you accountable and then I make them make copies. They put it up in their lockers so their teammates see it and they have to put a copy up somewhere in their house. Be it on the refrigerator or by their bed or wherever, so mom and dad can see it as well. Then when Billy sleeps in one morning he is supposed to be at practice – at least Mom and Dad can come in and say listen – you know – we are not going to get on you – overall we think you are doing a good job, but if your goal is a 47 flat in a hundred fly – are you really doing the things needed to get to that point, alright? So, there is some accountability from this parent’s standpoint as well. They know what Billy’s goal is throughout the year.
FOR THE PARENTS: Some of the things that we had to change and overhaul. We increased the number of volunteer positions on our team. Now – just so that you understand – when I got to St. Charles our team was roughly 17 – if memory serves – my first year there. We are expecting a squad of 50 this year, okay? Now there are some things to keep in mind – we have our own pool which is wonderful and we do not make cuts. We find a place for everyone so it is a challenge, but just so you know how those numbers have grown. Within that we need to learn how to delegate and how to spread out the responsibility because if it is all on me – one area is going to fall short so what I have done is allow those volunteer positions to flourish so that our parents become owners within the team. They take more ownership and they endear themselves to our team a little bit more so they have a role and they know that they are needed. Some of the specifics that we do – we have teams for fund raising – for travel – for timing and the timing system – for concessions – team dinners – senior gifts and our senior dinner because we obviously cannot have our senior parents giving themselves gifts so we need our Junior parents to be doing that. Advertising and equipment – those are all separate areas where we have volunteer teams and I only delegate that responsibility. Each of those teams work with me, but it allows me the freedom to stand on the deck and coach rather than trying to do all those administrative ends. We have also challenged the parents to make their presence known as a “sea of red” in the bleachers and I have given a picture up there – hopefully it is visible for you all. That is a picture of the stands at the high school State Championships in Ohio and the white shirts you see in the upper corner are still our kids. Those are actually our JV swimmers who decided to go shirtless or put on white shirts there and they were rowdy and they had a lot of fun and all of the parents – or all of the red shirts you see lower are all of our parents. Here is the exciting part – I could have replaced this picture with a picture from our District Meet – with a picture from our Sectional Meet or with a picture from our JV Championship meet. In other words – our parents show up at every single meet en masse. They come to support the swimmers – whether it is their particular son or not – they come to show that support all the way down to our JV swimmers who are swimming in their JV Championship meet so that is a pretty exciting thing about our team. Everyone buys into it. We also encourage non-swimming related events for the parents and I did not put this in writing. What does that mean? That means social activities. They go out and drink. They go out to a bar or to a restaurant – they have fun. Our team parents – a lot of them hang out on Friday nights just for fun because they really do enjoy each other’s company so that is something that – while it is difficult to force – if it comes naturally it is an added bonus for your team. If you can get parents to be in the stands socializing or manipulate situations where you can get social activities for the swimmers and parents I think you are going to have a stronger team in the long run.
For the administration – these things are going to seem simple, but I am going to explain why they are not here in a second. We had to fight for more pool time. I have already mentioned that we at St. Charles have the luxury of having our own pool. It is a six lane, 25 yard pool, but that is more than a lot of people have – so why do we have to fight for our own pool time? Well, because a lot of people do not have pool time – we have six other clubs that use our pool and when I got there – St. Charles had 3 lanes – our team had 3 lanes for an hour and a half a day – or an hour and 15 minutes a day. The pool was not built for all those other teams to come in and use the pool instead of us and I want to help them out. We have actually worked out a schedule where all those other clubs do get pool time, but certainly you understand what I mean when I say I had to fight for pool time so that our swimmers had the best opportunity to use that pool. I had to ask for and receive permission to upgrade our facility – with the basics – new benches – trophy case – flags – lane lines – things like that. That doesn’t seem like it should be a problem and hopefully for you it is not – for us it is. Do you know why? At St. Charles – all athletic teams are separate financial entities from the school. I have explained this to other coaches before and they will kind of nod – like oh yeah – that makes sense – that is how we are too. We get zero dollars from St. Charles. The St. Charles Swim Team has its own bank account – it raises every penny of its own money and a coach one time said, “O.K. – well that is good – so you get paid from the school and then everything else” – NO – NO – NO. We have to raise the coach’s salaries too. So it is its own challenge and it has been a wonderful challenge and it has helped up become fund raisers – as well as everything else we do, but if that is true for your program – you need to find a way to fund raise and self-support so that you do not have to go back to the school or a board or some other administrative tool to be able to get money for a meet or a hotel or the busses or whatever. We have encouraged our teachers and staff members to attend our meets – limited success there, but at least we are extending the olive branch to get them there and we have had some teachers who are very supportive. Our principal has shown up for one meet and our Dean of Students has shown up to two or three meets so you know – at least our Athletic Directors comes to the State Championships and they do show some support even though they are not huge fans of swimming. `One of the big selling points for us and for me personally is the collective GPA of our team. We have one of the highest team GPA’s in the entire country and that is according to NISCA – we have to turn that in every year and so that is a real selling point that not only are they athletes, they truly are student athletes – despite how much we train. We really do take advantage of the academic side of St. Charles and that is a very important thing for us.
The social aspect – the social changes that I have made since I have been there – these are very basic things. I am sure every team has done something along these lines. These are just some ideas – maybe it is something that you have not thought of or maybe it is a new way to do something. We have a team picnic every year. I am sure every team – be it a club or high school – has some sort of initial team meeting. We have turned ours into a social event. We go to a park. It is a pot luck. We have Frisbee’s there and basketballs and things like that for the kids to go off and play. We actually have our team vendor already there on site so that they can start going through all the sizing and get everything ordered right there at the team picnic to begin the season so we are trying to do those things later on. That has been something that has grown and grown and grown throughout the years.
Water polo – if you are in a situation and I will talk about this a little bit later – if you are in a situation where you are trying to grow your high school swim team or grow your team in general – strongly consider adding a water polo program – even if you have no water polo background – which I don’t either. I am a terrible water polo coach, but it was something that I did as a tool to aide our swim team. Swimming is a winter sport. Water polo is a fall sport in Ohio so we have an excellent opportunity to get the boys in the water – learn some team chemistry and camaraderie – have some fun – play against some people and get beat up and just kind of start the season early in a sense. So – even for club swimmers – if they are in a down time and you are not worried about injuries or anything like that I would strongly consider adding something like that if you do not have people who are doing fall training already for swimming preparation. Saturday morning basketball is along the same lines. It is just something during the spring and the summer just to keep the kids together and be in a competitive sport. We will show up on Saturday mornings – play basketball. Unfortunately, one of my knuckle heads busted up my ankle so I stopped playing, but they continued on without me and they enjoy that time together. Ultimate Frisbee – I cannot imagine there is a team in the world that does not do Ultimate Frisbee at some point in the season or know what I am talking about with that, but it is certainly a rough sport. It usually has a few minor injuries, but it is also a lot of fun. I think that Ultimate Frisbee, for some reason, goes hand in hand with swimming and swim teams. I have actually incorporated ultimate Frisbee into our training – particularly in the fall and the spring seasons. I found that it is a great way to do some aerobic training and get a lot of conditioning out of the water so that then when we jump in the water we can focus on stroke technique and the things that we need to do without pounding yardage during those times that they are just not going to be there sometimes.
Friday night game or sporting events – that is where my team will all get together. They try and put on the same shirt and will go and support one of our other teams. We will go and support the basketball team or the football team – volleyball – whatever it is – we will try and go to one of those events as a team – make our presence known so that we have a stronger standing in the St. Charles Community and also show our support for others with the hope that they will reciprocate and do the same thing for us which they have done.
Hot Dog Night: It is another social event – we got the idea – we ran out of pool sometime in the summer and just go and have fun and let the kids jump in and of course have hot dogs and Lakeside Campout – this is something that I think is somewhat unique to our team, but if you have a situation like this I would strongly advise that you take advantage of it. We have a very wealthy family – they have an extra house by a lake in Southern Ohio. They let us go down there once a year and just ransack the place – go fishing – use their speedboat – pontoon boat. The kids absolutely love it. I love it. Almost all the dads go down there together. We all just have a blast down there. Think of things like that that can help build your squad outside of the water. Anytime you can build that unity I think you are going to have a stronger squad when it is time to get back in and train.
There are two things that I am going to mention to you that I really do think are important and if you have never heard of these or never done these – I don’t want to stand up here and give advice to people who – I know that there are people in this room who have forgotten more about swimming than I will ever know, alright? So I want to make sure that that is very clear – I am not giving advice – I am telling you what we have done that has worked well, but I really do think that this is something that would strengthen your program if you don’t have it and I took this idea from St. Charles Prep School – the school itself when kids come in as freshmen or sophomores. They are hooked up with a junior or senior and they form small groups of four and they are allowed to talk about anything they want to talk about – how much they hate a class – how much they love a class – how much they hate a teacher – how much they love a teacher – you know – what the schedule is – what to expect. They can just talk about things and they get advice from an older student and I have taken that same principle and used that on our swim team so that when my freshmen or sophomores come in and are newer to the team – they already have a built in friend or group of friends that they can go to as mentors.
Some of the things that we have done and I will explain them in detail here. We have increased the number of practices. When I got to St. Charles we had – I believe it was 5 mandatory practices – right away and I am going to say – I made a mistake with this. Right away I went to 11 mandatory practices a week – 11. So that was Monday through Saturday morning and Monday through Friday afternoon and there were some benefits to it in terms of setting the tone of working hard and trying to catch others – that was the idea. If we are already behind people we need to outwork them to get at to where they were. What I didn’t keep in mind was that I have a lot of high school students – a lot of high school only swimmers who are – this is brand new to them. I have made adjustments as I have gone and I have also changed my training strategy from trying to count yardage for the swimmers to actually looking at the intensity with which they work – along with stroke specific things that we will get into in a bit.
So, where we are right now – we are at the 5 afternoon practices and then Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings, alright? But the way we break those down – it is not all training in the water. Basically Monday through Friday is a combination of water and dry land. Monday, Wednesday and Saturday mornings are weight lifting and then that is followed by recovery in the water or technique in the water or yoga sessions and stretching so we let the bodies recover immediately after they have been doing the heavier lifting things like that. Then on Friday we will have an intense dry land day – followed by some fun water things and then we have increased the amount of dry land. Dry land is not just something to do just throw out random exercises. We try and sink our dry land with what we are doing in the water so that they can replicate those motions. I think that is something that we have had a lot of success with working on range of motion and also strength building – basically core based strength training and we have mandated time in the weight room. That is kind of a sticky subject with a lot of club coaches that might have a problem with. Here is the reality in high school training. The majority of my swimmers are only going to be training basically three months out of the year. I have a very short window of time to get the best results so as long as we are doing dry land and weight lifting exercises and doing them properly – they are supervised by a weight lifting instructor with a swimming background on our team and as long as we are doing those things properly we found that any time you can build strength and put on a little bit of muscle mass, especially for young males or teenage males.
Now, there are several other factors that play into that, but just as a general rule, that is what we found to be true and every year – year in and year out – our JV swimmers just swim lights out at the end of the year with really only three months of training. I think that that is one of the things that benefits them pretty well. We have educated our swimmers about training cycles – nutrition – biomechanics and stroke cycles. Now let me say this – when I swam I had excellent coaches. They got me to the Senior National level. They got me to swim in college. I had great results for being kind of a smaller guy with a shoulder problem. I am pretty proud of the results I had, however, I didn’t know anything about a training cycle. I had never heard micro-season – makes a season. I didn’t know these terms. I didn’t know what – if someone said – you know – it is almost talking about your release – where your release is in a stroke. I couldn’t have told you what that meant. I didn’t know those basic things and I think that swimming as a whole has advanced because of our knowledge and our shared knowledge as a coaching community and then what we then convey to our swimmers. However, there are a lot of things that my swimmers now know that I didn’t even know until I became a coach so I think that sharing that knowledge – in addition to several other great tools like underwater video cameras and Dart-fish and a lot of other tools we use on a daily basis have really enabled us to take that huge leap in swimming. Those are just things that I think that we should all make sure that our swimmers are aware of and really communicate with them. In other words – if you are doing a drill explain why you are doing the drill, alright? That is something that I try to make sure I do every time and then I ask them – why did we do that drill afterwards – to make sure that I am getting an answer that is correct so that they know what they are doing and why they are doing it.
We have also worked – on our staff – we have worked to our coaching strengths and we gave our swimmers variety within their workouts. Everyone does not have this opportunity – I understand that. You know – there will be some of you out there may have 50 swimmers and you are the only coach because you cannot get a volunteer, but if you can find good volunteers who know what they are doing – take advantage of those resources. Bring in other coaches or try and fund raise to get a budget for additional coaches. We have – on our team – we have a sprint coach. We have the middle distance coach – I act as a middle distance coach and the IM and stroke coach and then we have a specific distance coach. Distance training in high school is a little bit different because we max out at a 500 which is really basically mid-distance for most people, but you get the idea. We give them their own identity and then they get to kind of razz each other. Sprinters get to razz the middle distance guys. We did better in this meet than you guys so you create some fun rivalries within those sub groups and then the second thing – I mentioned earlier – the mentor.
Mentee – this is the second thing that if you are going to take away something from my speech – if you don’t do it I would really love for you all to consider doing is peer coaching. I am sure most of you do that or a lot of you do that already. If you don’t know what that means – that is where you get the swimmers out of the water and you have them coach each other so they act as their own coaches. We found – we actually stole this – along with many other things – from the University of Arizona – because Adam Ritter brought it back to us and he said it is one of the things that he loved at Arizona and this allows the swimmers – not only your best swimmers, but also your new guys – your lane sixers – to interact with each other where they normally wouldn’t do that. It gives them a chance to coach each other so I am not just going to have my best swimmer – you know – get in the water while my JV guy watches him. I am going to work in reverse as well – go both ways with that so the JV guy gets a chance to actually say something to my best swimmer and vice versa and of course. The coaches are walking around the whole time and listening and interacting with that process – making sure we are hearing that communication – that verbalization, but that is an excellent tool that you can use for any level of swimming.
THE RESULTS: The results of these changes have been pretty impressive in a fairly short span of time. In 2003 we were named the Independent School Runner-up and the Swimming World Mythical National Championships to Cincinnati St. Xavier that year. We have had multiple top 15 NISCA National Dual Meet Rankings, including our 3rd place finish back in 2008. Another kind of interesting thing – we won the State Championship in 2008 and we beat Cincinnati St. Xavier in the process and then we flip-flopped in the National Rankings and they won the National Championship and we were 3rd. I think – Brophy was in-between – might have been and we have had 26 swimmers who have earned 90 All-American or All-American consideration awards since 2003 – keeping in mind – we used to have independent and public and private were split up until recently so it might have been a little bit easier back then, but it is still a pretty impressive number for us.
THE STATE RANKINGS: We won the 2008 State Championship. We finished as a runner-up in ’06, ’07 and ’09. We have won the Central District Championships from 2006 to ’09 after finishing as a runner-up from 2003 to 2005 and back in 1994 and 1995 when I swam there. Now – I am going to go back to this relay. This relay right here just missed setting the National Record in the 200 freestyle relay in 2008 and our goal was to set the National Record. We were at 1:23.2 and we had – one of our boys who went out at about .3 or .4 from his previous week and had he swam the same time we would have had that National Record, but still – it is a good goal. It is a goal that they set out to try and achieve early on this season and we kept them together throughout the year so just kind of mentioning as a sub-goal – things you can look at to set up those team goals. In other words – you work on your individual goals and if those come true and everyone does what they are supposed to be doing – all of your team goals should fall into place as well. Even more important than the rankings – we have watched the young men grow, mature and believe in something that is bigger than any one person.
Here are some of the things that they have learned. They have learned to be confident. When we walk into an auditorium now there is a certain bravado – a certain – you know – confidence that they know who they are and there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance as we all know and I always try to monitor that to make sure we are not coming across the wrong way, but they are proud to be St. Charles swimmers and I am proud of them. We have learned how to handle success. I think that goes hand in hand with what I just mentioned. You need to make sure that you are respectful to your opponents. Make sure you shake hands afterward. You congratulate people for what they have done and also – try to empathize with others because you need to remember – while you are standing on top of a podium or while you are happy with your success – somebody else fell short. Somebody else wanted to win a State Championship too and that person didn’t do it so that person is hurting right now and they are still trying to be brave and put on a brave – you know – a brave front for you so make sure that you are empathetic with them and you understand how they are feeling as well. We have learned how to set a goal and work toward it. Hopefully these words mean something to you – if they don’t – I will explain them.
Operative versus theoretical goals: Has anyone ever discussed anything like that in this room? Does anyone know what those terms mean specifically? It is great terminology if you want to steal it and use it. I have a theoretical goal – I want to win the Lottery. I would love to win the Lottery, you know? What is the problem? I don’t play. I don’t buy Lottery tickets, okay? So, while I would love to win the Lottery, I don’t buy the tickets to get there. That is a theoretical goal. It is never going to happen. It is still a goal. I would still love to win the Lottery. I am just not doing anything to get there – the exact opposite of an operative goal. An operative goal is something you set into motion by the actions that you take and that is something that I learned years ago at St. Charles and I tell my swim team that every single year. If your goal is to win a State Championship you need to set yourself up to do so. You need to explain to me how you are going to get there. Is it skipping morning practice? NO. Is it missing the weight room? NO. Is it – you know – it is doing things the right way. If your goal is to qualify for Senior Nationals in three years you need to explain to me now how you are going to get there because right now if you are a 1:10 in the 100 freestyle – that is a pretty lofty goal so I need to know what your plan is in motion – how you see yourself doing that and then I need to be realistic with you and re-assess that goal because that is a challenge, alright? And you could direct yourself there. The name Austin Stop stands out. That is somebody who did something like that, but there are not that many people out there who start off in the 1:04 range and end up in the 44 range in their high school careers. You need to learn how to – I put it politely – fall short of a goal with class and dignity and basically what I am saying is that you need to learn how to fail. You need to learn how to fail because we are going to fail in this sport. A phrase that I tell my swimmers is that without the sour – there is no sweet so you are going to have your ups and downs, but you need to learn that everyday is not going to go your way – you just need to kind of balance everything out. Don’t do it too high – don’t get too low – just kind of take everything as it comes and make sure that you stay focused on your goals and you need to learn how to bring out the best in.
My swimmers have learned how to bring out the best in themselves and their teammates and I gave an example earlier of those relays and another training tip with that in mind is for some reason swimmers love to race – I guess because they are creatures of habit – they love to get together in one land so my best swimmer – my second best swimmer – my third and fourth and so on – they love to go and jump in Lane 1. Is that true for most of you? Alright – okay – I have no notion why that is, but it is and then my worst swimmers love to jump over here in Lane 6, alright? So then somewhere in the middle everyone kind of spreads themselves out. The problem is that my 3rd best swimmer needs to be swimming with my best swimmer on the upcoming set so every day I tell him – alright – you are moving to Lane 3. Second best swimmer – you are moving to Lane 2. I line them up in what I call “racing heats” so we can get up and get after it and that is just another little tip and it is something that we have done that has led to a lot better results is that you are not going 5 seconds after the guy in front of you – you are racing him because that is what is going to happen in a meet. I am pretty certain they are not going to have you line up behind the guy and jump in behind him and try to catch him. You are going to be right beside him and it has also allowed us another opportunity – is to learn when to go in a race and this is more true for mid-distance and distance swimmers and someone like Dick would probably be a much better speaker on something about distance swimming, but the idea is that even for our 500 swimmers – you need to know when to go and so we will put them in racing situations. We will swim sides instead of swimming circles and we will give one of them a queue and we say – within this given 100 or 200 at one lap you have to start sprinting and the other guy has to catch you and has to beat you to that wall. That is the goal, so they will just be cruising at whatever speed – and all of a sudden one of them has to go and when he goes you have got to try and catch him and it is kind of a fun little game that we do and it has led to some good competitions.
Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the scalper to discover it. That is a quote from Michelangelo and I have an edited version of Michelangelo right here so we are family friendly. These times do not mean anything to you, but they will in a second. These times all belong to one swimmer on our team – certainly not our best swimmer, but he was a solid swimmer for us. He came to us as a 54.92 in the hundred freestyle. Just to set it up – this is his best event. It is not like he is a 500 guy who kind of does a hundred – this was his event – 54:92 as a freshman. We got him down his freshman year down – I think it was a 50. Sophomore year he dropped down to a 49.1 – you know – pretty good drops. His junior year he decided that he needed more training and so he went to a year around USA Swimming club team rather than training with us at St. Charles. It wasn’t that there was a falling out – he just thought that that would further his career. He actually added time in the 50 that year and he only dropped from his 49.2 to a 48.8 in the hundred so he said hmm – that didn’t work out so well so he came back to us for his senior year in high school. His name is Neal and at the District Meet he swam a 47.5 to qualify for the State Championships. At the State Championships the next week – in the preliminaries he swam that 47.72 you see up there – he swam that time and that qualified him 16th for finals – meaning he tied so he had a swim-off. Now this was the year I mentioned the State Championship year – so every point counted so do you think that kid he swam against in the swim-off had any chance against Neal? No – Neal crushed him, alright? And Neal did a 47.08, alright? And then at night he came back and he gave us a 47.5 and actually went from 16th – he moved up to like 11th, alright? The point is this – how this quote relates to Neal is that Neal always had a 47.0 inside of him. It took that set of facts for him to bring it out and as coaches – I think it is important for us to remember that our swimmers are capable of things that they may not be able to see, but we can see for them and so if you think about David and Michelangelo – David begins chipping away so here we go with my swimmer Neal – morning practices – working on flexibility – working on turns – working on starts and I am chipping away – we are getting him down to that 47.0, but he still needed the right set of facts to get there. Had he not tied for 16th place – had the other guy been 1/100th slower when he got into the meet – Neal probably would have ended his career with a 47.5 and thought WOW – I did a great job – that was the best I could do. Little do we all know that he was capable of a 47.0 so do your best – I am not saying we control everything, but do your best to put your swimmers in position where they have to challenge themselves to be great.
Some high school specific situations – issues: How do you get the athletes in the water? Well, I have already mentioned water polo. Water polo is a great way to try and bring in a team sport. If you are a high school coach and you are trying to build the sport of swimming that is something that you can do to think about. Lettering – I am sure that – you know – if you are a high school coach – you also have a lettering system – maybe thinking about more people to letter so you get your people who came in for water polo – you allow them the opportunity to letter in swimming. It just brings in bodies and then who knows what can happen from there? And then my motto has always been, “success breeds success”. I had a coach at a rival high school who said – of course he used the dreaded “R” word – he said, how are you recruiting these kids to come to your school and I said, “whoa, whoa – we don’t recruit – we are doing things the right way” and he says, “no, no – that is not what I meant” – he says – “how are you bringing bodies into the water?” and I said, “well, all I can tell you is that there is an excitement generating at St. Charles and I think it is done by word of mouth because the kids that are in our program. We are retaining those kids and they are having a lot of success and their friends are seeing that. They see the excitement and they see the camaraderie. They see that we are kind of building our own little sub-culture within the school and they are buying into that so we have more and more kids each year, who have never swam before. Soccer players – football players – other sports, who come out for the sport of swimming and it is a lot of fun and they have a great time. They don’t usually make it to the State Championships, but they have a lot of fun.
POOL AVAILABILITY: This is a problem. It is a problem and certainly in Ohio and central Ohio. I don’t know if it is a problem in your areas. Some things to consider – maybe split your groups based on gender, age or varsity and junior varsity status so while your varsity team is in the water your JV team is out doing dry-land and vice versa. Instead of fighting for 6 lanes – if you only have 3 lanes – do that. Try to add an hour to your practice and make that last hour a time for the JV team to jump in instead of fighting the school all day long to try and get those 6 lanes if someone else is using them. Mix applicable dry-land into your sets to give more lane space and utilize your deck space more. For instance, I might break my team – if I have 30 people there at practice one day – I might break them into thirds and I am going to have one group of ten in lanes 1-3 doing something – one group of ten in lanes 4, 5 and 6 and then one group doing dry-land and so you might call these stations or circuits. Then do a lot of those types of things and then just rotate them through so that you can maximize the use of your space. Your deck space and your lane space and then you might be able to arrange with a club team to have swimmers swim out. Maybe for a reduced fee or you start working an arrangement so where you basically have swimmers going to another club team, but it also helps you with the space you have available for your high school only swimmers to make use of that time and that space.
The public versus private debate is huge in Ohio. Is that true in other states? Is that an issue? No – okay – so I probably already have some resentment – being a private school – I think there is always the implication okay? We have two choices in private schools. We can be terrible at sports or we can be good at sports and be accused of recruiting – that is the way I found it to be true so it is a dilemma. It is a challenge. All I can do is act with integrity – make sure I am not contacting or recruiting people in any way. The first time I find out someone wants to come to my school is at our 8th grade open house and usually we have parochial schools are our feeder schools and they come through, but I am as shocked as anybody else when I see names of swimmers when they get there. It is a pleasant surprise every year, but until then I have no idea they are coming. At that point they have contacted me and they have expressed interest in my school and so we get them that way, but the best thing that you can do is just maximize the talent that you have available so you know – if you don’t have the luxury of having big numbers – then really make use of the kids that you have and get the best results out of them so that other people see that. That will draw interest into your sport. To throw a football coach in there and say – go to work with them – because you know – bicep curls and maximum bench press does not really correlate well to really fast in swimming, although there are a lot of exercises that we can do and we certainly take advantage of at St. Charles.
I am going to finish here with my “Unnecessary advice for any High School Swim Coach”: These are things you already know – I am just going to reword them – things that I remind myself of every year. Begin with an optimistic – yet realistic – goal for your team. Make sure that you can quantify and qualify the goal. I use this term – “Kick Butt” as an example. I had a friend – a swimmer at Indiana University with me – he was notorious for this. We would get into meetings and we would be talking about goals and he would say, “I want to kick butt”. I said John – what does that mean? What is kicking butt? Is that qualifying to the State Meet? Is it scoring at the State Meet? Is it beating your rival? You have to be able to qualify these things so make sure that when the swimmers are saying things – they are not saying them just to hear themselves talk or to get someone else excited. They are saying things with purpose so it is my job as the coach and it is our jobs as coaches to kind of reel them back in and say O.K. – you want to kick butt? How are you going to do that? What in your mind is kicking butt? And very quickly – a way that I have done that whenever I do visualization or goal setting sessions with my swimmers – we walk through the visualization so they will close their eyes. We will walk through relaxing the body. Then we will walk through the visualization of the race itself – especially toward the end of the year and then I say – you have just hit the wall – look up at the clock and what does the time say? Whatever that time says – I say well – what is that time that brings a smile to your face? That is your real goal – not the goal you are going to tell me – not the fake goal you want me to hear that is going to make me smile and say yeah right – I am going to put you on the varsity lineup. The real goal – that when you look and say – I accomplished my goal. I did what I wanted to do this year.
Secondly – hold yourself, your staff and your swimmers accountable throughout the season. That is very simple. You can look at the attendance. You can also have test sets and that is what most of us do – test sets and meets. We use those to gauge performance throughout the year. Make sure that we are making progress and if we are not go back and look at why we are not. Sit down and have a talk with that swimmer or that group of swimmers to find out what else is going on. There could be some extra-curricular things that you do not know about. Maybe they are getting into something they shouldn’t be getting into. Maybe there is a situation at home – so make sure that you communicate with your swimmers and you know them outside of the pool and finally – don’t cookie-cut your workouts. You want to individualize as much as possible – based on training groups and ability and I touched on that earlier – sprint groups – mid-distance or stroke – IM – distance – make sure you give each of your swimmers an identity, even though it can lead to maybe a little bit – too intense of rivalries on your team. I think any time you get something like that it is going to be a positive for your program – that you have people who identify themselves as something and they see their place on the team. Find what motivates your athletes and capitalize on it.
I have – one of my swimmers on my club team – she is one of the fastest. She is one a Top 10 swimmer in multiple events in the country and if I had her sitting right here and brought her up in front of you guys she would melt. She would be bright red in the face – she would be horrified, alright? So that would be a bad move on my part – to congratulate her in front of other people, alright? So that would be a bad move on my part – to congratulate her in front of other people, alright? I have another girl who is one of the Top 10 breaststrokers in the state or in the country. These are all 13-14 year old girls and if I brought her up here she would be doing rockets. She would be cheering for herself – she would be shaking hands – you know – she would be doing all these things and she would be so excited to be up here – in other words – two swimmers of similar ability in different strokes – completely different personalities so know your swimmers and know what motivates them. If you congratulate someone publicly – that is not necessarily going to be a good thing for that swimmer – even though you might think it would be so make sure you know what motivates your swimmers and capitalize on those things, okay? And that is our Championship Formula and that is how we have had some of the success that we have had – those are some of the things we have done – some of the changes we have made in our program and hopefully that is some good information for you all that you can take with you to your programs and I will be happy to answer any questions you might have at this time.
Q.) Would you elaborate on what you had down there about mandated time in the weight room.? I know that is an issue for some schools. How do you handle that and how you urge your athletes to be there?
A.) Okay – before I got there we had optional weight room practices and they were just run by the weight room instructor there at St. Charles and he did not know anything about swimming. I didn’t know what was going on either. The kids would just show up and so I do not know if they are getting one workout a week or they are getting two and what muscles they are exercising at those points so we have made it a point to bring weight lifting into our program so that we know specifically what muscle groups we are working on. We actually have – the weight lifting instructor and I work together on our schedule. In other words – I will set up my micro season and then show him throughout the week what we are going to be working on and he makes sure that he adjusts the weight room routine so that we are not doubling up on a muscle group or fatiguing a muscle group when we shouldn’t.
Q.) How often and how long – and that is required?
A.) It is required. That is correct. Our weight lifting sessions are three times a week and I would not advise to do it any less than two. If you are going to do weight lifting you want to do it right. Otherwise, it is going to be like – you know – an older person who says I am going to go and jog once and they are dead tired and then they never do it again. They go – all you did was hurt yourself so you want to do it at least twice a week so that the muscles can go from breaking down to – and rebuilding to strengthening. So – two to three times a week minimum and it is about a 45 minute session with some time in between. We do – if you guys know the term – we do cross-fit style training. Are you familiar with cross-fit? Anyone in here? That is kind of a culture – cross-fit is a culture and if you go to cross-fit.com you can see a lot of their types of workouts and it is pretty intense so we have incorporated that into our training, as well, but basically it is a very quick – very muscle specific movements that work on not only strength, but also flexibility and range of motion.
Q.) Mornings or afternoons?
A.) Morning. We lift in the mornings. Yes – Monday and Wednesday we weight lift. Saturday morning we weight lift as well and then Friday we do an intense dry land – usually in the gym. Yes?
Q.) Do you have many swimmers on your team that swim year around at different clubs?
A.) Yes. We have many swimmers actually and I talked to Dick earlier – St. Charles is a little bit unique in the sense that most people assume that a team is built because club swimmers come in and then we get kind of the extras – we get the – only the high school guys and actually St. Charles has worked in reverse. We actually have 26 boys now who swim year around because they came and joined the St. Charles Swim Team so most of them train with me year around. I am also a club coach and most of them train in my spring, fall and summer group. We have two or three who are with another club team in the area.
Q.) You talked about test sets. Can you give us an example of one of your favorite test sets. I know that there are very many out there and how often have you found –
A.) Okay – I will give an example of a test set that a lot of people still do for threshold is a T-30 and I used to do that and actually in the high school level we have done away with that – not that it is not important – do not misunderstand me – it certainly can be, but for our swimmers – most of those kids – especially if they are just doing high school – they do not know what they are doing and they do not know how to use that so we have done away with that. What I will do is I will kind of trick them into doing similar things so we will do repeats of – 100 repeats or 75 repeats is a great way to do that and we will have a send-off base on percentage of best times so I will set it up so that – lets say we are doing a set of 20 100’s and they will start off on – you know – a set of 1:15, 1:10, 1:05, one minute – seeing if they can hold within that – those types of sets throughout the year. We will also do sets of sprint 50’s and that is typically done three times throughout the year and the whole practice is just a get up and go day. We are going to do a long warm up and then we are going to let them take the drag suits off – get a cap on if they need and I put them in racing heats and we will have – I got that from – that was at Minnesota – they have an example of that and I kind of did a variation of that a few years ago. We will do 10 or 12 50’s with the first half so 5 or 6 of them being freestyle and then the second half being best non-free and I will get their times throughout the season for those 50’s and we will average those out. This is based on the first month, second month and third month of training and in a typical high school season – obviously we do not have as much time as other people do so those are good examples of test sets we will run in that short span of time.
Q.) I was just running – is swimming part of the PE curriculum at the school? Do you teach that?
A.) No it is not. It used to be a couple of years ago and I do not know why they did away with it, except for maybe just the locker rooms were all messed up and they did not want to clean everything up, but we did used to have that and the swim coach at the time would run it, but they have done away with that.
Q.) Your staff – are they teachers at the school?
A.) No. One of our staff members is a teacher – not at St. Charles. The other one is actually a nurse so we all have crazy hours and then I was – for a long time an attorney. Then I became a full time coach and then the other one is going back to school for Exercise Physiology. He is our weight room instructor so we all have different things we do outside of swimming.
Q.) How have your team goals changed?
A.) Our team goals have not really changed. I was telling Dick – You know – I said – we have had to change our team goals this year. I am going to go ahead and say – this could be inflammatory – I don’t know for other coaches out there, but I had expected going into this year that we were going to win a State and possibly a National title. I thought we were looking good for the Swimming World National Title this coming year, but losing a 49 low – 20 point guy from your team – that is a junior hurts so we lost one of our big guys because of academics – he had to go to another school and so I have changed my goals because of that. As to D1 and D2 – I was against that. I wrote a letter to Ohio High School against it, but it is here now so I am not going to complain about it. It is just that I loved the fact that it was a pure – one of the last few pure high school State Championships in America. It has actually made it more challenging for everyone except St. X. because as much depth as I feel like we have at St. Charles – it is nothing compared to St. X. So, you know St. X – St. Xavier – you know – their 5th or 6th guy or 4th or 5th guy before – who might not have made it to the State Championships or might not have scored has a much easier time now because it has been somewhat diluted and it is true for all teams who have depth and we have it as well, but I just feel like the more depth you have – this is definitely – it definitely favors teams with more depth and nobody can match theirs so it has made it more challenging.
Q.) How many entries are allowed?
A.) Four entries – yeah – that is why I should have said their 4th guy – I shouldn’t have said 5th or 6th because they have so much depth they move people around, yeah.
Q.) When you went from 5 practices a week to 11 and now down to 9 – did you have any problems?
A.) I did – because I explained why I was doing it. Here is the thing I thought about myself as a swim coach. I am a very passionate person and I am passionate about swimming and I am passionate about being successful. I think if I can convey that to them and they can see how and why I am doing the things that I am doing, it is going to be much easier. I am not saying they are not going to be resistant when they walk away – going that guy is a fool, but at least they are going to listen to what I have to say and they can understand my rationale for doing it. It is not just hey – lets just do this to do it. At the time I thought the purpose was in catching other teams who were in front of us so I said – we are not going to catch anyone by doing less than them – we need to be doing more than them and I have changed that philosophy quite a bit through the years, but that was the idea at the time. They were resistant. They were also resistant to – we do dual meets on Fridays and Saturdays to avoid conflicting with practices, as much as possible. My team captain the first year said, what are you doing? You took away our Tuesday – Thursday meets. I said yeah – right – so now we can practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays and then do extra stuff on Saturdays and they understood that after a while, but there are always going to be those changes.
Q.) Did it take a year?
A.) Oh no – within the first year because I think that first year we finished 4th in the State and that was our runner-up year and people were like oh, ok – this works.
A.) Travel? Or do you mean for me as a club coach and a high school coach (your high school) Yeah, it is a little bit of a challenge because the Columbus Dioceses sets all the rules for all the churches and schools in Columbus. We are not allowed to – we are not supposed to use $15,000 for vans – we are not supposed to do a lot of things and I think those things could go on – I am unaware of them – NO – we do what we have to do. I mean, I get a van and I take kids and you know – we get a few vans – coaches drive kids to places. We get parents to volunteer and they are very willing to do that – even when we go over to Carmel – we have you know – 30 parents there – which is a pretty cool number because – we do that over Christmas break – during one of the work days so we have that much support there. The parents like doing those things and that is where we get them to buy into it. In Ohio you are limited to 16 competitions and I try to do – whatever competition means – tri-meet – invite – dual meet – whatever it is.
Q.) But that doesn’t count District Sectionals?
A.) Correct – outside of your conference meet and the post season tournaments so I try and maximize that number as long as it does not interfere with additional practices and I try and give my JV swimmers their own meets so I have 5-6 JV only swimming meets which of course – that is an additional challenge because trying to find people in the central Ohio or Ohio community to swim against people at that level is challenging. They do not want to be embarrassed and I don’t want to embarrass them – at the same time I need to find meets so trying to blend and get enough meets for my varsity and my junior varsity squads can be a little bit of a challenge, unless you are encountering another big school like St. X or University up in Cleveland – those types of schools that have bigger squads like we do.
Q.) What is your budget and your budget for athlete?
A.) Our budget is somewhere between $35,000 to $40,000 a year now. It has more than quadrupled since I have been there and per swimmer – it comes out to around $900. per year so we have actually – in fact – this year we are talking about making changes for people. We are going to have people pay – basically pay up front. They can pay in installments, but they are actually going to pay for each swimmer and we are going to do away with a lot of the extra fund-raising and things we try to do that way. In other words – in the past years we have said alright- you are going to pay $300. to be on the team or else I am going to want you to fundraise here, here, here and here and then take care of this yourself and now we are just going to say – lump sum – this is what your kid costs to be on our team – pay it here or pay it in installments and you don’t have to do anything else throughout the year and we have gotten a lot of good responses from that so I think that will be a good way to go and there is going to be some resistance too – anytime you make a change like that they are going to say – oh my goodness, but the reality is in most cases 10% of the families are doing 90% of the work when they fundraise and things like that so this is a much fairer way to handle finances.
Q.) Is that like what all sports are – I have a kid in a Catholic School and our athletic team is $125. per swimmer. You are saying you get $900.? Is there a lot of resistance to that?
A.) No. Actually most sports are right in that area – in fact – yeah, I was surprised when we actually ran the budget this past year what each swimmer costs and again – this includes social events – dinners and all the extra things we do. My wife is fond of saying, “A lot of people can do the things you do, but they do not necessarily do them as well”. So, you need to commit to doing them well and I am not implying because it is a lower price that you guys do not do a good job on that. We have a lot of outside – like you said – all our team social stuff – the parents end up paying for it like you say, but I mean, that is a lot of money.
Q.) Compare $125. versus if they were spending it the same period of time in a club – plus club fees, travel – you know – you could triple that and it is still a huge bargain.
A.) That is actually the word that most of my swim parents use. When they come to our team they say that their sons get the best training with the best coaches. I will use their words – they get the best training – they get comparable coaching to what they would have if they went to a club team and they get to do it right after school. I mean – the parents drop their kids off. The kid – you know – stays at St. Charles for morning practice – goes to school – has practice right there at St. Charles right after school – it is a luxury that a lot of people do not have. They are bouncing all over the city so they get everything in one and it is worth it for most people.
Q.) I am interested because I am coaching an International School, but the point that you just made that they come right after school and I guess maybe the cost of running a swim school is quite high – but some of the club teams – the training – the kids are getting home at like 9 or 9:30.
A.) Well, you can ask my wife – my morning – I mean – I leave at like 5:30 in the morning and get home around 10 o’clock at night because I am a club coach too so I have got kids – I bounce around from pool to pool and then my last group ends at 9:15. I have to close up. Of course – 13 year old girls – they are doing their hair and everything else in there so – you know – I am 20 minutes away from that pool so I get home around 9:50 – 10 o’clock at night so it is a rough schedule for everyone.
A.) That is something they have and nutrition on both ends is very important. We know that as coaches that you know – they need to be eating prior to and certainly have that post-exercise snack – very important too. Anyone else? Thank you guys very much.