Playing the Hand You’re Dealt by Carol Capitani, University of Texas (2013)


[introduction by Bud McAllister]

It is my pleasure again to introduce our next speaker, Carol Capitani.  My apologies if you were at the first talk she did this morning, as I am going to embarrass her again with pretty much the same introduction that I did.  I think there are some people that you just know are going to be successful no matter what they choose to do; it is because of their attitude that they have and their personality.  To me, Carol is one of those people.  I knew a long time ago Carol was going to be successful as a coach/whatever she decided to do.  I just found out in the first talk that she did not really want to be a coach, she was not sure she was going to; she wanted to be English professor, and I am sure she would have been a great professor as well.  But I have known Carol a long time.  I coached her when she was 13, way back in 1984 at Mission Viejo.  And I followed her career closely, both as a swimmer when she was at Cal and now as a coach.  She has been very successful working at Georgia for 14 years, and now she is here to talk about what it is like as the Women’s Head Coach at Texas.  So let us welcome Carol.


[Capitani begins]

Thank you.  Thank you for coming.  I am not going feel bad if you do not raise your hand, but just to know—so that I do not bore you with the stuff that I talked about this morning—how many people came to that talk this morning?  Oh good; that makes me so happy.


Alright, so this talk, I really thought of two talks in my head.  And the first talk was really what I went through in any first year, but I wanted to people to walk-away with things that they could take back to their own program no matter what kind of… whether they are coaching Age Group, college kids, or whatever.  And hopefully that made some sense.  So this talk, I still feel really strongly about what I want to talk about.  But it is interesting coming into a program when really you do not have a choice in the kind of people that you have, and you do not have a choice even in the situation or the athletes.  And Sam [Kendricks] is one of the announcers for USA Swimming, and we were talking about these talks a long time ago, and he gave me the idea—I did not really put the picture in there—but playing in the hand you are dealt.  I thought that meant a lot to what the situation I was going through


And so I thought: well this talk, I will give people just this is what I thought about, this is how I went through, here is where I made some mistakes, here is where I learnt the most.  And hopefully at the end, or anywhere during the talk, if you feel like I really do not understand what you’re saying or could you make that clear, I want to know more about this; you can raise your hand because it is a little more loosey-goosey.


So this [on slide] was really the theme of the last talk, so we do not have to go over it much more.  But in thinking about this, I felt this year was interesting in a way that I had come from a program where I felt what we did really well, and that was the culture, I would say, at Georgia.  But I just felt like it was our culture, that we expected a lot out of the athletes; and not just like on a day-to-day basis as people, but I felt that we expected a lot.  I was wondered how we could swim that fast at conference, at SECs, and then just get-up and swim that fast again at NCAAs. And you would think, maybe looking from the outside, that people were really rested and ready to go, and even during the year when you see dual meets from some college teams you think like how are they swimming that, oh they must have been in suits, or they must have taken it easy for every meet.  We always see the blogs talking about programs and wondering how they can swim that fast.  And I do think… it is not a secret but I think that the kind of magic in that is creating the expectation that they can be fast in-season.  And that the more you expect them to learn how to turn-it-on when it counts, is like you are going to win at the end of the season.


And so that was a hard balance for me to come-in.  Because one, the conference is completely different at Texas: it is not the same level of competition at the Big 12 as the SECs.  But I think like when I am expecting… I had to re-adjust my expectations.  Not just… and it was not that I do not think some of them are capable because at the end of the year their times are comparable with anybody else in the country; it is not like they… you know, we did not win anything, but we could swim just as fast as just about anyone in certain events.  But at the beginning of the year they were not training at the level that I thought like this is going to lead… A is going to lead to B.  And so I had a hard time, and I think we did a nice job of, managing throughout the year my expectations versus theirs.  And that is a hard thing to do, as you guys know; I do not want to expect more out of them than they are willing to give, but at the same time I do not want to expect less either because some of them were willing to give a lot.


And so, kind of along those lines I think, in getting to know them—and this is kind of weird thing to say, but—there are people on our team who you just fall in love with immediately.  And I think we all feel that; you want to do everything for this kid or for the people you coach.  But then there are also those kids on your team that drive you crazy, right?  And they are the people on your team that really push all your buttons, and they can really… I think that you can use that opportunity to help you go as a coach.


I think with those kids there is a tendency, like if your personalities do not mix right away.  I think that… one time, Jack [Bauerle] told me and it was… he rarely gave me criticism, but when he did it, I mean it stung but it was a great thing.  And finally—it was about 10 or 15 years ago—and he said, “Well, I know you just like coaching all the good kids.”  And I was really hurt because I thought I did a really nice job of coaching everybody well.  But then when I kind of looked at it, it is easy to gravitate towards the kids who you like and who are most like you.  And it is easy to gravitate towards the kids who are the best kids on the team, because usually they are doing everything right.


But I kind of made this secret goal that I was going to try, at that next year’s NCAAs… that really, it was this thorn on my side, I guess.  So I took the kids that we took to NCAAs—we had a big group that year—and there were about five whom we brought that did not score at the meet at all.  They were not getting ignored; they just did not score any points for the team.  So they made the meet.  So I made the secret goal that… and it was not that I said, “Hey, can I coach these kids more?”, because as an assistant, you just sort of do what you are told.  And I said to myself: I am going to make sure that these kids score at least in one event.  So if you took this average, I thought: if I can get five kids to score five points each, then that is like someone winning and that could really help our team.


And so I just pretended in my mind that they were the kid that were really going to do something.  I mean just because I wanted to prove him wrong too.  I did not worry about best kids because they were getting enough attention anyway.  So I started working on all those kids.  And then I realized that I would… maybe through the years I think I would go one step further and try to pay more attention to the people that really drove me crazy.  The people not that you cannot stand, but the people you just want to wring their necks sometimes, right?  Because of what they do or the decisions they make.  And I thought: well if I can coach the kids on the team that really just want to get me out of coaching, then I might be able to coach.  And I think that that maybe the important thing.  I mean I do not even want Steve [Bultman] to tell me, because I probably did just hang out with the best kids at the beginning—because I did coach with Steve a long time ago.


And it is funny, one time I was making-up rooms and I realized to what an extent this had worked—because it took a long time.  Because I had seen… and this is what I think: it is easy to see where the kids kind of fall apart and where you can see their worst-selves like a lot.  So I think I had done such a nice job, maybe just in my own mind, of concentrating on what they could bring in their best qualities that I sort of like put a blind-eye to their worst quality.  So then sometimes because I did not see that as much, then I roomed together some people that really could not stand each other, but I did not know that.  So one of the girls came to me and she said, “Carol, you can’t do the rooming like this anymore.  Just because everybody gets along with you, it doesn’t mean we all get along together.”  But I still made them; that is the whole point: to get along, so I did not change it.


That is I think important in getting just… what I thought was important in moving forward and trying to remember that.  Because I think it is a little scarier… not scarier, but just different, going to be a head coach because it is a little bit of a different role.  I mean, hopefully, I can still do it in the same way, because I do not know how to change myself that way.  But sometimes I think as a head coach you have to see the bigger picture and do it a little bit differently.  So I guess I am still learning that; I do not have any wise things to say about that just yet.


We did these goal talks at the beginning of the season.  I did not really think this was… I kind of went over this with the other coaches and they thought it was a good thing to share.  And it was just kind of a basic thing.  We meet with the kids half-an-hour the beginning of the season—half-an-hour/45 minutes, depending on how much they need.  And I thought these were pretty natural questions, but it is obviously: what are your goals, have them list their goals and their times.  And even just figuring out what kids are uncomfortable with saying.  What they want to go is an interesting process in itself.  Their long-term swimming goals, some people have not even figured that out yet.


The goals outside of Swimming I think are really, really important.  Most of the kids say something about academics, because I think they are trying to please us; and Oh, I want to get a 4.0, I want to get at 3.5.  But I try to stretch them a little bit so that they have a really another goal that does not have anything to do with Swimming or school, because that is the point of colleges to be a little bit more well-rounded.  It is also interesting to see what they think are their greatest strengths and weaknesses.  It is usually not a lot what I think it is, which either helps add or subtract from the version that I am getting to know of their selves.


I think it is also interesting… I just had some goal meetings yesterday.  And asking the questions like how…. and Roric [Fink, Capitani’s assistant coach] sits in the meetings with us and so does my volunteer assistant, so we do not miss an opportunity to hear these kids talk about themselves.  But saying to someone like how do you think we can best help you do that?  Some kids can really articulate that, and say: “Well, I need a lot of this”, “I do not like being yelled at”, “I need this”, “I would rather have this”.  And I think that is fascinating.


But even the kids, sometimes they cannot even articulate what they need, and that is a process that I would like to move forward with them.  And I note the kids that probably need a little more help in saying that.  Because at the end of the day, it is a give-and-take between athlete and coach, and if they cannot even say how they like to be coached or where they have done the best…. I mean some kids are pleasers, some kids just want to be bossed around; so I think that is important understanding where they are in that process so.


The last one is more just like: how do you see your story ending.  And I think that is pretty important because you see their whole picture.  And rarely do I have to kind of rephrase that sentence for them.  So that is how we started.  That is where we are starting now, this year.


This is very basic, but it is the exact thing we used all last year.  It is not so interesting… the schedule itself is not particularly interesting; I think we tried to just cover all the bases.  I think the hard part was starting from scratch.  And it was an interesting exercise to go through because I had been doing the same thing for about 15 years/16 years.  And it is easy, especially when you are achieving some kind of success, to not change much; because you are doing well, so why would you change a lot?


So now that I was on my own and designing something else, and I brought my assistant Roric into the mix and he is fantastic.  Then we… he has been used to the same thing for a long time.  And I thought it was important that I used his expertise; I mean, I did not bring him in so I could just order him around.  So I think it is helpful, especially in a single-sex program if you only have two coaches: you do not have the luxury of having like four or five coaches on deck.  We just took a calendar and said: here is what we have and how do we start.


And the challenging part was, one: our weight time was in the afternoon.  We were not given a morning time, so we had to do weights in the afternoon.  And for some of you might think well who cares because that is what everybody does; but to me, we had always done weights in the morning.  And we had swum for an hour and a half, and then we done weights after; and it seemed to work really well, so that is what I believed in.  And then Roric on the other hand had done, in the programs he has been, they did weights in the afternoon.  And I could not get my head wrapped around that part.


And the other part that we needed to work out was where it says diving well.  We do have the hardest working diving coach in the country, and he is in that diving wall almost every morning and every afternoon.  But he was not in the well on that Tuesday and Thursday morning.  And I think a lot of… the thing that I think we did really well this year, and that I was most proud of, is on those mornings, there had been this pulley system set up by Randy Reese.  And it is a fascinating system, you can take like twenty kids and have them pull weights across the pool, okay?  Like buckets.  And you can add whatever weights you want, and it is awesome.  And I really wanted to use that and I thought it would be really easy.


And then when I looked at the pool schedule, I figured like how we are going to do this?  Matt [Scoggin, the diving coach] is in the diving well 24-7.  So the only time we really could use those weights was in the morning.  And so we designed almost our season around this Tuesday-Thursday power weights, that kind of stuff.  And so, just to talk you through it: we came in at 5:30 in the morning, and when it says 2,000-3,500 it was more just the first hour, we did it warm up.  And then we broke the group into—we had 24 kids—so we broke the group, usually, into three or four, depending on how many minutes per station.


And where it says 3,000 IM set on Tuesday and a pull-set for distance: I did not really think the distance kids… I needed some place to get their volume up, and I needed some place for the IM to knock-out a really-good IM set.  So I had them a little bit in a separate group.  And it was like doing those GRE-things, when you take the test, you had to figure out like what goes in what box and how to organize that.  And so we spent a lot of time on Monday nights—the night before—figuring out how to work that.  And so I felt we did that well.


I guess the hard part was me still like… probably even till December, just realizing how fun it was to start from scratch and to realize that there are a lot of ways to do something.  And I was just reminded when I saw Steve Bultman, when I first got to Texas and I showed up three weeks later, and I said, “Steve, I do not know how I am going to do this.”  And he said, like, what are you talking about?  And I said, “Well, we only have these two-hour time slots.  I’m used to going an hour-and-a-half in the morning and two-and-a-half hours at night.  Can you really get all the work you need in like in two hours?”  And he said yeah.


Like then I thought: well, wait, why did they hire me in the first place; I do not what I am doing.  But it is just a different way of thinking.  And you really… it taught me like: man, what a great exercise to go through, maybe we should throw the schedule and start over every year.  But then I do not think that would be very good for consistency.  But I did learn a lot; Roric and I both learned a lot going through this process.


We did want to pay attention to the stations, especially, because it gave us a lot of opportunity to teach and to break things down.  And that is a lot different when working with the smaller group of athletes, and then you have the luxury when you do have less people to work with.


And I think in the afternoons, when it says kick set… I listened to Matt’s [Kredich’s] speech this morning and I thought, well, we actually use boards; so I am wondering if we need to use boards anymore.  But those kick sets were about 3,000 yards.  And so we really… it was some underwater kicking, some with boards, some without boards.  But it was fast kicking, so we really were getting their legs.  Between doing weights… between doing stations in the morning, and then in the afternoons they do weights from 2:00 to 3:15—it says 3:00 to 5:00, but that was the summer schedule.  But they do weights from 2:00 to 3:15 in the afternoons, and then we swim from 3:30 to 5:00.


So when we got in, we did a quick 800 warm-up—to a 1,000—and we got in and we did 3,000 kick—we worked our way up-to about 3000 kick.  And then after that kick set, when they were really compromised, we usually did a little bit of sprinting.  And you know something maybe at pace, or the distance kids would do some: 25 no-air/50 easy, a 125 at 500 pace.  Or we do something where they felt I am dead, I cannot move but then we had to make him go fast.


The rest is kind of self-explanatory.  I was a little nervous to not have Friday mornings because I thought maybe they would go out on Thursday night, but they seemed to handle the schedule pretty well.  On Saturday it seems like a little mixed bag of tricks there; because we wanted Saturdays to be kind of catch-all to do kind of sets that may we missed during the week, or if we had a meet or we had something else going on, I left it open.  I wanted to use feel; I do not want to write practices two weeks before and then I have to change it.  I just… I go a lot on feel, and I try to sense what the team needs and what kind of work we need to do.  Sometimes it was fun to go really fast on Friday night and then follow-it-up the next day—if we did something really well—and then challenge them again.  And that is most of the time what we did.


So looking forward, kind of a big screw-up but it did not hurt us that well.  I mean, I do not think our 500 kids did that well, or they just fell asleep on the first day of the meet.  They did well on the mile, which is really hard to understand; but on the first day of NCAAs I just felt like a complete failure because they did not swim that well.  And so I looked back at the season.  And we have realized that they had come in earlier on Tuesdays and done like a really long distance set, and gave them some volume and made them feel pretty confident on what they were doing.  And then we went through the season and finals came, and so we were on a different schedule.  And when we came back from final, we had Christmas training, we kind of kept it up.


And school started so late that we did not get back to our original schedule until late January.  So there was a good month—I mean maybe from the beginning of December when we had the Invite until January 16 when we started school—so there was a good six weeks where—just being the good coach I am—we kind of let it slip that those distance kids needed that work.  And then when we started-up again, they said “Oh Coach, do we come-in earlier for that work again?”  And then I thought, Well, jeez, I’ve kind of messed that one up because now I do not want to restart that.  So I do think I need to pay a little bit more attention; I am just admitting where we kind of messed up I think.  I think we need to keep their volume up and do things a little bit differently moving forward.  There is a lot to think about this first year, a little bit got away from me.


When we first started, we were in this other pool at Texas—which is called Gregory, which is the outdoor Recreation pool.  And so for the first three weeks we were in an outdoor pool, which the kids loved because they got really tan and they had a great time.  But I realized after-the-fact that it was… that is the time in the season where I really enjoy doing all the teaching and slowing things down and teaching the drills how we want them to be done.  And spending the time to get everyone on the same page: this is how we expect you to do turns.  And doing the turns until they are exactly the way we like to see them.  Doing freestyle drills with a full kick.  Doing everything.


We did not spell it out that well because it was 100° outside, and it was hot and it was sunny.  And we were in a public forum where there are twelve lanes of rec kids running around, and adults, and I did not want to draw that much attention to ourselves.  And it was not a great teaching environment.  So I was not able to do it.  And we did not realize it until Roric started yelling me one day because he was so upset that the kids were doing these really dumb drills, like fingertip drag and stuff, that we just do not want to see; it is like drills that reinforce all the things that you do not want your kids doing.  And I said, “Well, Roric, you know, we didn’t really do a very good job of teaching those drills in the beginning of the year.  How do we like to see them.”  So this year, we are spending a lot more time and it is what we have started with; is really spelling out what we want to see, what we expect, and how to do it.  Because it is our fault that they were not doing them correctly.


So the breathing thing that Matt talked about sort of threw me for a loop a little bit too, because I like to tell you kids that… I said the same thing about: “Well, it’s just a build-up of CO2.  It’s okay when you feel that; you can keep going.”  But I do think we were better at underwater kicks this year, and I think it is just a process of letting them get better as we go along.  In the beginning of the year I think we had about two people who could kick 25 underwater—it was weird; I do not know.  There were not very many people that could kick really well, and so I inherited a mishmash of kids: some were really good underwaters and some were not.  They were not used to doing a lot of breath-control work.


It is also hard, it is just something that I want to pay attention to, was difficult this year knowing really what they were good at; and what their best events were.  And we spent a lot of time… we did not spend that much time working on their third events.  And by the time we hit December, we were still trying to figure out how to inspire them to do some other things.  So, hopefully, we will have a better idea this year of working on third events and doing things.  And that is what we will do on #7 on Saturday mornings, instead of just the mishmash of stuff.  I think Saturday mornings we really will concentrate on spending some time on weak-stroke, IM and their third events, so that we can get things rolling.


We are going to make time for paired-teaching, which is just the athletes helping each other with turns and drill work and doing things right.  And filming them more, because filming them in the morning during stations works a lot but I think they can get a lot out of it.  And a lot of them do want to be filmed outside of hours, so that was helpful.


[question from audience]:  Who does your filming?


[Capitani]:  Roric does it.  He loves it.


[audience member]:  And you do it separate from your training?


[Capitani]:  Yeah.  He put-up a schedule and some people say can I get filmed when I start freestyle, I want to look that.  And he will stay.  And I said, “Roric, you don’t have to do any…” and he said this I what love doing.  So I am lucky enough to have him there to film it.  And then we put it on a TV and send it to him, so he can go over and watch that later.


I think I covered this [on slide].  Raising expectations in training is probably the thing I tried to work on most during the year, and just making sure that they knew what we are expecting out of sets.  It is funny—and I am sure you have kids like this.  When I started out the year, I would give them a set.  And let just say we said, “Okay, we’re going to end with 6×100 descends.”  And then somebody always says: Descend to how fast?  And I think that is an interesting question, because to me, I mean like descend to all out; like I want to see what you can go at the end.  And whether they were not used to it from their club programs, from whatever it was, I think they were given a little bit… I had to learn to give them better parameters about what was expected.  Sometimes I say descend to pace, sometimes I say descend to at max.  But most of the time I think they understand that when we say descend, it is max; and the one before max is really setting yourself up for the fast one at the end.  And that took a long time.  Which is being fair to them and understanding that it takes a long time for somebody to learn how to train in a different way.


Sometimes I do think that we are aware of what our athletes can do, and just because we know that they can do it.  I mean, at the end we do not say like I told you so; I mean maybe we do.  But at the end, I think it just takes patience to have their belief system catch-up with what they are capable of, and just keeping that in mind is important.


This… I took a sophomore from our team—and we did not really have any freshman—so we had a sophomore, a junior and a senior.  And this is just… she is a great girl from California.  She had been a really good swimmer in high school.  And the times in the orange are since she has been at Texas: what she went, like, her freshman year in Texas, 2012, and what she went in 2013.  And I guess like… I was really proud at the end of the year of how she swam.  I did not even know really what her times were, because, again, I did not know these kids.  Then I was looking at this when I was putting together a talk, and I thought well that is exactly not that great, to go from 50.1 to 49.3.  I mean it is, but that is over a three-year period.  I was looking back; I mean those were suit times in 2010.  But the neat thing to me is the fly: her finally believing that she actually had a fly.  And she is not a great fly kicker.


But sometimes it does take time, and it takes times through the years.  I think she did learn a lot.  I think she learned a lot in the 200 breast.  She never was able to swim… her being able to swim long course this Summer did not have anything to do with her capabilities, it was just her decision to start liking long course.


And the way to get to those times was not really… as with everybody we coach.  The thing I learned about Gretchen is she really needs challenges; she needs me to help her with those challenges.  And the more I get to know her… like, she looks-up at the board and she wants to run people down.  And I have to remind her of those.  But it is a kind of a secret, because she does not want to tell her teammates she wants to run them down.  So she has been really open with me about like Don’t think I am being mean, but I am going to take her down.  And I will say, “Well great!  That is great for our team.”  And so helping her with little nuggets and trying to like put some carrots out in front of her, I think has been the key to her success.


And it is just figuring out what kids are made of.  She loves get-out swims, she loves racing; and sometimes I mess-up because I do not say a time that is even fast enough.  You know, she will say something and she will say, What do you think I can go?  And now I have learned to think of, really honestly, what I think she can go, and then I will minus some time from it.  And then I will say it, and she is like That’s what I thought.  So I mean it is funny, because I forget that some people are really like that.  Like I never want to underestimate the kids, so I would rather at least be on the other side of that.  That is a big learning curve for me.


This is Sarah.  She had a great summer in the summer; I put her up for long course time just because they are kind of the most dramatic.  And she is a little more difficult, in some way.  She is a transfer, so we only had her for year.  And she is a pretty good swimmer in 2010; she was good at backstroke.  And her story is a little more interesting because she is always right, in some ways.


It is fun, as you know, to coach someone who on her recruiting trip, she ended up telling me: Well I just swim fast at the end of the year; I can’t swim fast in dual meets.  I am like, “Really?”  It does not make it that exciting when somebody is trying to convince you of that fact: how slow they are during the year.  And then that first dual meet, she went 2:04 in the 200 Back, which was really slow for her—and she is a 1:52 200 backstroker.  She said, See, I told you.  Alright you win.


And so the challenge with Sarah: it is not that she did not have talent, but I could not wait for her just to swim fast at one meet a year.  And so my big challenge with her, as much as she drove me crazy and she is a delightful kid, but she loves being right.  And so she did have this idea of really who she was, and I kept having to remind her of who she wanted to be.  And in that process, I convinced her—because her freestyle is beautiful, so I convinced her—that she could double, and she could swim the 200 Free and 100 Back at the same meet, and at championship meets.  And I tried to convince her that she could swim the 200 back and 100 Free at the same meet.  And so we set her up.  And she was kind of in to the challenge because she also thinks that she is pretty tough, which she is—at least we had that going for us.


And we talked about in this meet in December and just talking a little bit about her progress, which is interesting.  And she said—you really have to explain stuff to her and just really spell it out.  She said: Well, what’s the goal for this meet?  And I said, “Well the goal is to make this December Invite harder than NCAAs; how does that sound?  So that when we get to NCAAs, the meet seems easier.”  So she bought into that idea.  So on the second day, she has to swim a bunch of stuff in the morning; and at night, she has to swim 50 back on a relay, then she has to swim 200 Free, 100 Back and then the 800 Free Relay she has got to get-up and stand and do another 200 freestyle.


So she swims in the morning, and she is feeling a little bit sorry for herself and she kind of gets away from our combined goal of her being tough.  And she comes over and she says, “I really want to talk to you about something.”  This is the time… I mean I almost my patience, you are trying to deal with an entire team.  And I just said, “What?”


And she said, “I just do not think I can do it tonight.  Do you think I can just not swim the 200 Free, and then I can… then I can just swim the relay really well and it will help our team.”  And I just said, “You know what Sarah?  I know I can convince you of this if I had the time, but I don’t have 15 minutes to talk you into this.”  So this is like… it was just my impatience coming out of my system.  And I said, “I don’t have the time to talk you into it, and this is something we agreed upon.  And it is okay: I’m letting you make a bad choice if you get out of it.  But it’s fine, I forgive you in advance; but I have to get on to some other thing and coach some other people.  So go ahead and scratch.”


She was like: You’re really not going to be mad at me.  I said, “It’s not about how I feel. I’m not mad, I’m just…” disappointed—no I did not said that.  I just said, “I’m not mad at you, but we are already spending more time than I need to right this second.  So thank you for talking to me, I appreciate your honesty; we’ll talk in a second.”  And then she… I talked to some other swimmers who were getting ready.  And she walked over kind of sheepishly, and then she said, “I’m swimming it.”  And that, that was like a breakthrough with her.  And just watching the rest of the season, NCAAs, she was kind of up, she is kind of down.  She was all over the map, but she actually swam really well.


This summer, I was still caught on the idea of doubling.  And it was a struggle, because Roric knew Sarah from growing up and he coached her—he was her age group coach.  So he knew her really, really well; and he was kind of telling me like she can’t do it.  I mean that is kind of sad, but he was just saying maybe she just was not the kind of kid to be able to do this kind of stuff.  And I really believe that… by only… this way by doing thing, it was going to give her the confidence that she was tough enough to be great at a couple of things.  I do not want her to do it all the time; I was just trying to build her up.


And so Santa Clara [meet] this summer, she ends up making the finals in the 200 Free and making the finals in the 200 Back—it was on the same night.  And in the 200 Free, she got bumped into Finals, or something; she was in the end-lane, right next to Megan Romano.  And then in the 200 Backstroke, she was right next to Missy Franklin.  And I was so fired up.  We were… she got two best times; she had the meet of her life.  Two best times at that point, I think she went 2:12 in the 200 Back.  She was so excited.  And then, I mean I have to say: she did terrible at night.  She added time; she did terrible.  That is kind of non-negotiable thing I learned even growing up, it is like: you have to swim faster at night; that is what is expected.  You just learn how to do it.


And she ended-up telling me in confidence like, “Hey, I didn’t think I belonged there.  I just… those people are really fast and I’m not that fast yet.”  So you see the progression of her belief system kind of as it moves forward.  And I think it was only because of meets like that, and then she realized that she could be there.  And… it was like steps moving up.  And she did have a fantastic summer, and then got faster at World Championship Trials and went a little bit faster at the end of the summer.


So I think those kind of things, it does take some time.  And we still have to struggle on her being really stubborn and trying to tell me like at certain points of the year, how tired she is.  And I say Oh really, okay great; and then I ask her to perform.  But she needs goal times and she needs to know the plan and I guess she just needs to say stuff out loud.  So then I just listen, I do not really comment on it.  And that is just… just kind of what we do with all of our athletes sometimes: like learning what they need and then giving it to through sets or other things.


Laura is senior; I only had her for a year, unfortunately.  She is a different kind of animal because she did have a lot of confidence in long course, right?  She liked long course more than she even liked short course.  And she came-in out of high school and she was really fast—long course and short course.  And I think that she made some breakthroughs this summer.  You know last summer, I had had her for just a couple of months and she already made a big breakthrough.  And she was disappointed.  You know, I will show you a set, I still do not know how we did not go faster.  But she was disappointed that she could not be faster because her goals are really, really high.


She is the kind of kid that I messed-up with a lot in the beginning because she believes that she can be really good.  And she just needs me to tell her what to do sometimes; like she will say, Well, what do you think I should go?  And I am… sometimes I am not that comfortable telling people what they should go because I think it should come from them.  So coaching Laura, it just makes me a better coach and makes me grow because I feel that… I have to… it is like a contest on who can believe in other person more.  So then I have to encourage her to go a little bit faster than I even think is possible, and then she starts going faster, then she starts to believe it, and then… it is a kind of cycle that goes up.  And I think that is something that has really worked with her.


And she does sets, and the way that she thinks of about stuff is, she wants to feel how she is going to feel at the end of the race.  So reminding her sometimes in pace… when we are at meets, she has to—and I think this is a kind of new thing—she has to do 75s.  She does not just want to do 50s pace, she wants to do 75s because she really wants it to hurt.  And she wants to be go able those times in warm-up like at a meet, and she wants to feel how the end of race is going to feel.  What we have to learn to do better with her is just: she is such a racer that she does not swim her races very smart.  And so that is why she gets run-down sometimes, because she just wants to race and she has not learned… as much as she likes feel and she likes to feel how hard it is going to feel, she has not learned how to swim things really smart.


Alright I am giving… I know it is not about the set, but I do think that is a set that works really well for us.  And it is just one version of a race set, and something I took from Georgia.  And we do a lot of negative-split work, and we do a lot of 200s negative split.  I just said Laura was still learning how to swim maybe; I mean, she pays attention but it not like she has adopted this quite well yet.  So we did this.  Sometimes it is fun to put on suits; and I struggle with how close to meets to do this but we put on suits.


And we did 200… these are about eight or ten minutes; so this set took about an hour.  We put them in heats and organized them so they could have people to race.  And this was what the main group did; not the sprinters or distance.  200 negative-split, straight.  And this is the funny thing that Sarah said: Well, how fas….  When I say negative splits, like when we are doing a race set, I want them to go as fast as they possibly can while still negative splitting.  It is almost impossible to do fly.


We do a lot of 100s—I learnt this from Roric—we do 100 negative-split as fast as you can, but instead of—on fly or breast—taking the time when they touch, we take the time like when they are coming over-the-top.  It was the first time I had never heard of that, in a long time; so I thought that was neat.  We do a lot of 50s negative split with fins.


So Sarah says to me: Well how fast is the first one?  I said, “It’s really fast.”  Well she says: Well, how fast?  And I said Sarah, “It’s as fast as you possibly can go.  I want you to go under.”  And she said—this is short course—she says: Under two minutes?  And I am like, “No, under 1:50.”  Like, like her… that is the thing: her expectations sometimes are so off what I think they are going to be.


So we went a 200 negative split, then a 200 broken.  I do not necessarily think broken like—I am not sure you all agree—but it does not really mean at the end of the season.  I mean, you give them enough rest, and it is not even close so.  But I like trying to see what they can do on the second one.  Then a 100 race, just from the top, no problem.  Then a 100 broken.  And then a 50 race.  It is like pretty simple stuff.  This is the set they did, what Sarah did, when she thought she was going to go like 1:58.  And then she ended up going—this is in a suit though—she ended up going 1:46.


So this ended-up being kind of a monumental day for a couple of people on our team.  Because we just had that kind of day where the atmosphere is right and people are swimming really well and they are excited about the practice.  And those are the kind of days you live for; it is just when everything is going great.  I mean sometimes you can use this set and it would not work because the emotions is not there.  But the emotions was there, they were getting excited to rest and it was about two-and-a-half weeks before the December Invite.  And it was a Friday evening, and they knew the next morning they were just going to… well I gave them something fast but they did not know it.


So there was some magic happening in the pool.  Then she went, you know, a 51 or 52; she went almost close to what she had ever been in her backstrokes; she went an even-faster broken backstroke; and then she went 50 free, 22.9, which was her best time.  And those are the kind of things that once they do buy-in, and then you give them the sets, and then the confidence just grows and grows.  We did this set again in February, and had some… you know, because they knew what to expect, because they done this set before, they had a lot of confidence in what they were doing and that part was fun.


This one is… I have to put it out there.  This one is Laura.  And she did this set a little bit different; I put her times at the bottom.  She had been going 2:09s and 2:10s in dual meets, so the 2:09 in a real suit did not really surprise me that much.  But then she said well, “Hey Carol,” when she saw that she went that fast in the 200, she said “can I just could go my second 200 straight?”  And I said yeah.  And then on two watches, she ended of going 2:05.6, which makes me look like a terrible coach when at the end of the year she only goes 2:05-flat.  But… I mean I am just… sometimes it works and sometimes it does not.  And sometimes the difference between learning how to swim at practice, I mean in a great suit and in that kind of environment, is different than standing-up and doing it when it counts.


And we have all known swimmers like that.  I was talking to Eddie about Ricky Berens: he can go certain time at Charlotte and then he can stand-up at Olympic Trials and go four tenths faster.  Like there are certain kids that can always swim within a range of this fast.  And I like it that she swam that fast in practice, but then I am still learning like how… how come she did not go faster at the end of the year?  With rest and with belief, and how did we not… how did we not do that?  She did get tired, as you saw, just going through the set; her last 50 all-out was a 29.


But I do think that creating that kind of atmosphere, so that they are able to do some of that magic stuff is what we are all kind of striving to do.  And telling them where I expect him to be also helps just on any kind of set; just making sure that they know your expectations.




[question from audience]:  What did she go out in at NCAAs in the first 50 of the 200 Breaststroke?


[Capitani]:  28.1 maybe… 7.9.  She is a nut job, I know.  Yeah, I mean, she is still learning.  She just goes-out because she thinks….  But I have also learned with her—I mean I think everybody has a kid like this—I have tried to slow her down and she ends up swimming slower.  So I think it is my job to help her go out fast and relax, and just help her bring it home faster.  I mean, I would love her to be one of this beautiful, negative-split kids that does it like Breeja [Larsen] or something.  I mean, it is beautiful to watch; I want a kid at the end of the race who just runs everybody down and wins.  I have coached kids like that, but she is not one right now.  I hope she turns into that, you know.


[question from audience]:  Carol?  You said that took about an hour.  How much time between 1, 2, 3 and 4?


[Capitani]:  They were on about ten minutes.  I put them in heats and made sure that there was no… just sometimes… 10, 12 minutes.  You throw the distance kids; I think they did five or six 300 or something, two negative split and three tight descend.


[audience member]:  And they are doing warm-down?


[Capitani]:  Yeah; they are doing warm-down in between.  So they do one thing, you know, heats, and then they go to the diving well, warm down, and the next group gets-up.  And so at the end, if I realize, like when we are start doing 100s and broken, if we do the whole team and then it is like 7 minutes, I make sure that we are not just rushing things.  Warm down between.


Oh good!  Okay.  Does anyone have any other questions?  I wanted to give people something they could take away.  No question.  Ok good.  Well thank you for coming.


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