Preparation of Gemma Spofforth (’09 World Champ in Women’s 100 Back) by Martyn WIlby (2010)


Published


[introduction by Gregg Troy]:
It gives me a real pleasure to introduce Martyn Wilby here. Martyn is a, I think he’s one of the best in the coaches in the country, maybe one of the better guys in the world. Great, he was a good swimmer himself, distance freestyler, 200-butterflier. Great feel for working with athletes, fantastic ability to communicate with them. Like I talked about earlier, he and Anthony Nestyare — Anthony couldn’t be here, someone has to run the show at home. But their real contributing factors to everything, the success we’ve had with Florida with a variety of athletes. Kind of interesting that Anthony was a gold medalist in the 100-butterfly and he works with our distance freestylers a little bit more. He is a real work-oriented, very quiet guy, and he likes to really bang out the swimming. Martyn is a, no criticism here guys, more European. He’s a little bit easier going. He was a distant freestyler. He actually tends to work a little more with some of our speed people and our stroke folks. But he has worked with me for 21 years, 8 at [Indiscernible] [0:01:13.0] and we started 13 at Florida. Our British girls, he travels with him. Has a real good feel for what they do. They swim with him a large chunk of the time. Very instrumental in Gemma Spofforth who I think is probably one of the most unique stories and I think he is going to share some of the things which they did. A lot of their training was real similar to what we did earlier, but Martyn does a fantastic job with them and I think he is going to give you some very unique insights. Martyn Wilby.

[MW begins]
Thanks, coach! 21 years working with Coach Troy. First started working with him at the Bolles School. I remember getting my first contract. It was my first real contract. There was a section there about what classes I was going to teach and it was very specific. Then it had my dorm duties. I was living in the dorm and it was very specific. Then it had the swimming section. It was “Tasks as assigned by G. Troy.” It was my first contract so I was like, maybe I should walk-in to Gregg’s office and I said, “Gregg, it’s a little ambiguous, this contract, what you have me doing.” He took the contract. He looked at it and he goes, “I loved the way that’s worded, that is just perfect”.

The Bolles School quickly realized that I was probably a liability in the classroom. So then after a couple of years, I moved out of the dorms. So then my contract was just basically what I was doing in the swim program. I might have been one of the only one people in the country whose contract was about one line long. It always read “Tasks as assigned by Gregg Troy”.

We would sit around and it’s kind of like a “Dirty Jobs” you know, the show on TV. All right, just the kind of stuff Gregg could say, “Hey you know, I’d like you to do this”. I’d roll my eyes. He’d say, “Hey, tasks as assigned by Gregg Troy.” I made sure that that line wasn’t in my contract when we moved to Florida.

By right, he should be given this talk today as the head coach to the program. I’m deeply honored that he said, “No, you need to do it.” It wasn’t until I sat in here for this that I realized this is just an extenuation of “Tasks as assigned by Gregg Troy.”

Where do I go with this? Because just as we talked, as we talked earlier, we put them back up there, all those practices, the test sets that we do. Gemma does the same ones, just not quite as fast as Ryan. When he put up the practices and he put up the Monday morning practice. When he said, “Ryan’s very much, he is either going in distance group or the middle distance”. Well, it would be the same practice for Gemma. It would just be, would she be going middle distance or sprint?

I didn’t really want to rehash exactly what he’s done. Rick Bishop said that, “We can put up back the practices, we can do that at the end.” But I just didn’t want to repeat what Gregg has said.

He’s given you the nuts and bolts of the program, practices, that kind of stuff. I am going to give you just a little insight into working with Gemma for the first 3 years, from an assistant coach’s standpoint. Instead of all the stuff I did well, I’m probably going to highlight everything, every mistake. I made some pretty big mistakes with it. Gregg usually bailed me out. I think it’s interesting and it’s good for people to see the mistakes. You read about people talking about it. But when you actually do it yourself, you don’t really believe that you could be that stupid, for one of the better term.So, start at the end, Rome.

If you weren’t there — let me actually back up there. I’m old enough to remember going to swim meets where if there was one world record broken, it was big time at the swim-meet. Mike Barrowman, swimmer of the 200-breaststroke.I remember the anticipation before he swam. Michael Phelps in Maryland came back from the World Championship in Japan, I think, was swimming at 200 IM at Maryland and the anticipation behind the swim.

It wasn’t like that in Rome. I don’t — for you — for those who weren’t there, competition pool, it was basically, you go through the first couple of heats, the slower heats. There maybe a big competition record broken. Then you get to the circle seated heat. It seemed to me that if a world record wasn’t broken in the first circle seated heat, at least one of the three, it would happen. Sometimes it went world record, world record, world record and it is just almost a circus-like atmosphere.

If you went through a whole event, and a world record wasn’t broken, it was almost that buzz from the stands where the expectators were that was, what was wrong with that event.

While that was going on in the competition pool, there was this suit thing going in the bowels of the warm-up warm-down pool. There would be a rumor going around that this suit company just got a new shipment in and everybody will be going running and see if they could get that free suit. People were lining up for hours to get these suits. It was just — it was a circus-like atmosphere to me.

I remember walking around the corner one day with Anthony and this line. It was about 7 o’clock in the morning and this line for suit was just going all the way back underneath the warm-up warm-down pool. I just couldn’t believe it. People were passing up and warming up to get the suit, to swim the event in.

We told our athletes, Iwas certainly behind the curve on this. I really didn’t know what suit was good. It was all listening to rumor and innuendo. So we told our athletes at Florida that, “Find a suit that you’re comfortable with, but don’t listen to other people. Don’t wear other people’s suits.”

I traveled to where we get to the whole summer at the end here, but I traveled with Gemma then I had to leave her, come back to the States to go to our World Championship Trials over here. I left there with the information, find a suit that you’re comfortable with and wear it. Don’t listen to other people.

I get to Rome. “Have you picked a suit?” “Yeah, I’m going to wear the laser.” “Are you sure?” “Yeah, this is the only suit that I’m comfortable with, coach.” “Okay.” I’m fine. She’s fine. Swims prelims, 100-backstroke; I think it was the second day, pretty fast—I want to say she went 58.7. That’s when it started for me. It’s interesting listening to Kim yesterday that Kirsty was worried about the suits. We had the same situation. We’re swimming the same event. We have the same situation. The only thing is the coach in this respect started a question, ‘What suit to wear?”

We’ve got people coming up to me saying, “Wow, you let your girl swim in the LZR.” Yeah, okay. “Wow, why’d you that?” Well, that’s what she’s comfortable with.

Come back that night, swim semi-finals, goes a little bit faster, still in the LZR. That’s when everybody became an authority on Gemma Spofforth. I had everybody coming up to me, telling me, “You know, you should try this suit; she’d be better in this suit.” This, this, this. Got back to the hotel, Nesty and I are sitting there. We’re like, “Whoa, you and I are going to look really stupid tomorrow.” Nesty just laughed and then he goes, “Coach, that’s the suit she wants to wear.”

I didn’t sleep too well that night. I didn’t know what to do. She’s coming in for a wake up swim, eight. I put down 3 am here. There is a six hour time difference. I think she’s coming in for a wake up swim about 8:00. So I decided, I’m the assistant coach here. I’m going to look stupid. I’m going to have my coach’s permission to do it. So, it’s 8:00. I called Gregg. What was it? Was it about 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning? It was early, right? Yeah!

It was basically, I’m saying to Gregg, “Hey Gregg, this is the last chance you are going to get to talk to her before she swims tonight. Just give her some race instructions.” That’s what I said. What I was begging and hoping was, “Gregg, we’re having a hard time with the suit issue here, make a decision for me.” Hand the phone to Gemma, because Troy wants to talk to you. I hand the phone to her and I walked away for a little while. Because usually Gregg when he gets, giving base instructions here, it can get a little longwinded. About 20 seconds she hands the phone back. “He likes to talk to you.” I don’t know if this is a correct quote right here, Gregg. It’s basically “Tell everyone to get the hell out of that girl’s way. She’s ready to go. Goodnight”.

That’s basically what happened. She never wavered on what suit she wanted to wear, didn’t listen to everything. I’m the one who’s making the mistake on that. She just went — her mind is made up, her mind is made up. She swam the final that night, 4/100of a second, wins it by — makes me looked really smart. 5/100 slower, I would’ve looked awfully stupid.

Gemma’s characteristics. She’s completely board in to the program that Gregg runs, that we’ve run. I’m board in to the team’s concept. She’s one of the best communicators that I’ve ever been around. I’ve got that highlighted here, because I’ve been an assistant coach for Coach Troy for like he said for almost 21 years now. I’ve got to observe him working with a lot of great athletes. You put them all up there, Gustavo Borges, Greg Burgess, Trina Jackson, Janice Street, Ryan Lochte. You put them all up that, that right there is the common denominator between all of them.

I sometimes think that, everybody knows me. I’m a pretty simple kind of person. It’s not too complicated. Don’t make it complicated for me, because I won’t understand it. But that is the common denominator of everybody who’s been world class for Coach Troy.

I always laugh, not so much laugh — People would call up, “I want to know what percentage of backstroke Ryan does in practice? How much kicking does he do?” You know, all the technical data they questions. I really believe that everybody is missing the most important question. How in 6 years, how does Coach Troy keep Ryan motivated 6 years down the road in the same program that he’s done? What does he do? He’s been pretty successful for six years. How does he keep him motivated on a day to day basis? How does he keep him board in to the program?

If you watch what’s on the Internet, “How does Coach Troy keep this free spirit, motivated to keep doing fast stuff?” I think the key right there is just Ryan and Gemma. We’re talking Ryan right now. He’s board in to the program, completely, but he’s also a great communicator. Everybody would like to think Ryan’s a little bit of a flake. There is some really articulate meaning that takes place in Coach Troy’s office about planning the seeds, he’s planning that.

I think that for me, when you have that in an athlete, they are going to swim well. When you have an athlete who’s talented like Gemma, like Ryan and they are able to do those things and that’s when special things happened. That’s me on my soap box right there about making it simple, but that’s — I really believe that.

Back to Gemma. She’s obviously a physically gifted athlete, 6’1” and really, really strong. The med ball… she uses the men’s med ball—couldn’t put it in any other way. She’s emotionally grounded; it’s not all shits-and-giggles with her. Anytime we have a problem, anytime she wants to give you information, she takes the emotion out of it. It’s the information. “Here’s the information, coach. Deal with it, how you will.” She has an amazing ability to get ready for big meets.

Two years in a row now, we’ve had an injury going into NCAA. Just last year, she couldn’t kick breaststroke from December on swimming the IM. A year before that, we had a shoulder injury. I don’t think she actually took a backstroke stroke for about 3 weeks before she went to the NCAA meet.

When her mind is made up, her mind is made up. Just going back to the suit issue, her mind was made up, that’s the suit she was wearing, nobody was going to change that, that about her.

The last part here, swimming is only a, it’s only a part of her day. She doesn’t like to think of herself just as a swimmer. It’s just a minor part of what was happens in her day. She spends a lot of time at the crisis center, volunteering in Gainesville. She started working the phones, suicide hotline. I don’t know if you quite call it graduate, but then she got from there, now she’s the person that if they really believe that there is a problem, she goes and visits the house and has face to face contact with the people.

About eight months ago, Saturday night, Sunday morning, it’s about 3 o’clock in the morning, my phone rings. For college coaches, you know, that’s nobody calling you to tell you what a great job you did this week. It’s Spofforth on the other end and she said, “Coach, nothing’s happened, nothing’s happened, there’s not a problem here. I just want to let you know, I went out to my first call out and I’m so excited right now. Saved somebody’s life, I think. I couldn’t get a hold of my dad back on England so I’m calling you to tell you that it’s probably one of the best moments in my life.” And that’s — talk about a little bit further on here, but that’s a big part of her life right now. I have — well, we’ll get to that point in a moment.

Like I said, it is not all fun and games. Diet and nutrition is a constant struggle with her. I’m really happy back home in England. Cadbury’s chocolate, right after the Olympics, sponsored Rebecca Adlington. I’d like him to keep doing that. The girls never found a chocolate bar that she didn’t like. But she does get now, I mean, I joke about it with her. (No, I’m not telling that story.) I joked about it with her, but she’s got it under control, but diet is a constant problem for her. She says no to all supplements. I can’t get her to take a multivitamin to save my life. “I am slow; I’ll eat more broccoli, coach. I’ll take care of it, but I’m not taking a tablet.” When her minds made up, like I said before, it’s one of her greatest attribute. When her minds made up, her minds made up.

It can also be one of, you know, the hardest thing for us to struggle with us coaches, because when her minds made up, her minds made up. I told my Dad that that once we were in England training before, before Rome and my dad came down to watched me practice and he was just, you know, my dad’s a swimming nerd and he’s like, “Oh, it must be great, it must be great, oh yeah.” I say, “Yeah, when her minds made up, her minds made up.” My dad’s like, “That’s a great attribute in an athlete.”I’m like, “Dad, you don’t understand. When her minds made up, her minds made up.” So it’s a negative as well as a positive.

She came to us — we go back to, we call it, her first career. She’s a great age group swimmer back in England. She was European Junior 50-meter Backstroke Champion. I asked her before I came here what year it was. She couldn’t remember, but she was European Junior 50 back champion. But along the way, she had health issues and her mom was diagnosed with cancer. Reported retired from sport. She didn’t really retire from the sport. It was just of no interest to her. She decided she wanted to have a second career, was looking to come to United States, and we got great recommendations from Bill Sweetenham, who at that time was head of British Swimming, and her old-age group coach, Chris Nesbit. They couldn’t be more glowing about what she was like as a person. I think if everybody knows Bill, he was like, if she can never get the girl fit the game and mentally into it, she can do some damage. That was Bill’s comment on it.

I’m going to go through each, the three years leading up to Rome, and make it college season and then the summer season. She came in real poor physical condition. She was out of shape, and she had a wonderful attitude. We have a 5K run that starts at our offices, and it goes around the lake on campus, and faster girls were about 20/22 minutes, average girls probably about 26. You got a passing grade basically from the team if you’re on the 30 minutes, and the first time Spofforth did it, she was closed to the 40 minutes than she was 30. That’s one of those where the whole team is in, but as a team-building activity, you’re waiting for the last person, but you’re waiting and you’re waiting and you’re waiting and you’re waiting and she’s just never appearing.

She came to the States and it was stated that she wanted to make the British Olympic team. That’s was a long-term focus and that’s the approach that we took with her right from the start that you coming in, in the fall of 2006, and the only meet that really counted was going to be Olympic trials in 2008. She came in strictly as a backstroker, and we had no indicators of what she was going to do later on. At first SEC meet, she got sick before it, but at the meet, she was 20-second in a 200 IM and didn’t swim twice. She didn’t swim the 50 backstroke on the 200 medley relay. She strictly just swam the 100 back, the 200 back, and led up the 400 medley relay. Like I said, we had no indicators what was going to happen other than she had just a great attitude about everything that was going on.

OK, this is…we got here to NCAA, Minnesota. First lesson for me, she’d made the final in the 100 backstroke. She’s pretty excited about it. She qualified first in the 200 backstroke. Saturday night, I’m there, I’m really nervous. All right, I’m really nervous about it. I’ve heard Brett Hawke talked about it at National Coaches Meetings about the fact that the perception he got from the Australian coaches sometimes would that, they didn’t believe that he could do it. And yesterday, a lady was talking about non-verbal communication, probably, the worse at that. All right, bottom line is right there going in the finals. I was obviously giving her the impression, the perception that I didn’t think that she could win the event. She comes over to do pace work. I’m sitting there with Coach Troy on the chairs behind lane 8, comes over and asked what a pace work is supposed to be. What was it this morning? I said 29 flat and at that point, it’s one of those which sticks out in my memory as Coach Troy goes on one of his Coach Troy’s “29 flat! What do you plan on doing tonight? Listen, young lady. It’s going to take faster than that. You are going to have to break 153 to win tonight. Do you understand what you’re about to do tonight? You’re about to win the NCAA 200 backstroke.” Coach [Inaudible] [0:25:03] and I going, Oh, shit. I’m just glad she is in the final. Let’s not puke all over ourselves right there, OK? And Coach Troy is talking like – You don’t understand it, do you? You’re English. You don’t understand this. You’re doing something really special tonight, and I’m going to make sure that it is special. The school is going to love you for it. You’re going to be the first freshman, won from a long time, to win that NCAA title. You do need your freshman year. It means we can win three more of this after you win it tonight, but you’re going to have to go faster and not paces too slow. I want you to be 28 flat right now. You come off that last wall and nobody is tougher than you in swimming. You get it done. It’s going to be special. OK, I’m shrinking into the background right now. Actually, the story and that is after that, I’ll show you the video, because it’s one of my favorite swims that she did. From then on, I haven’t taken her pace work at a short-course meet. It’s always been Coach Troy. We’ll talk about what’s going on, but I always send her to Coach Troy for pace work. It’s a given, all right, because I’m not about to make that mistake again.

I say I’m not about to make that mistake again. I made exactly the same mistake with – I gave her the impression that I didn’t think she could do it this last year at Commonwealth Games Trials. We’ve flown with one NCAA meet. She’s worked to the Crisis Center. We’ve flown to England. We’ve got off the plane. We’re going straight in the European Commonwealth Games Trials. We’re at baggage claim. She looks at me and she says, “What do you expect from me at this swim meet?” And in my flippant way, I said, “Well, it’s a trials meet. They’re taking the top two people to the Commonwealth Games. The third person is going to have to go to another trial’s meet. I would like to think that you’re going to be in the top two.” Flipping comment from me, I saw it in her face right then when I said it. Her face said – You don’t think I can win. All right, so, I’ve really haven’t learned my lesson. She did actually get second in both backstrokes at that, but I could see it in her face. Three years later, I had learned so many things. I was given now the same impression. She’s in lane 4 right here. I never asked Coach Troy this question. A girl in lane 3 is Leah Retrum. She also swam on the team. My question I never asked him…but my question to Coach Troy is – Did he actually give Leah Retrum the same talk that he gave Gemma Spofforth then.

I love this video, because I love this first 50 right here. We had a coach on staff. He would call at pooling concrete. She just got hold the water and just great distance per stroke.

[audience member]: That’s the biggest change in his name. She is a lot [Inaudible] [0:28:09].

[MW]: Yeah.

[audience member]: Matching the race instruction, Leah Retrum is…you catched her at the 150 [Inaudible] [0:28:22]. So right here, I’m pretty certain Leah Retrum is going to win.

[MW]: I’m going to play that again for you. We learned a lot from that race. Not only the last 50, but there was no consistency in her underwaters. Some walls with seven, some walls with two, and head was all over the place, and that was the race that we used to improve areas of her swimming. That was our baseline, because that was the first time we’d seen it and do something special. So for us, it was the baseline swim. I’ve often refer back to it when we’re working on stuff.

Nothing special at summer other than we thought we were pretty decent swimmer, but we weren’t going home to England. We weren’t going to go to chase and make in the World University Games Team. We weren’t to go and go try and make the world championships or anything like that. The sum of focus was on the Olympics and into that state in the United States, laid lowing games or laid a great base. I actually looked up at times before coming in. Swimming 101, 800 backstroke 2.14.02 at Summer Nationals in Indianapolis that year, and I think the key for her was right after that meet. She took no break. Flew straight from Indianapolis with Coach Troy and they went on a two-week training trip at Altitude Colorado Springs, and left straight from there into the next College Season. So everything we’ve done to this point is based around British Olympic Trials.

Mistake No. 2, Coach Wilby. I like to think Coach Troy is very good at giving Anthony and I kudos, and I like to think that we work really well together, because fundamentals about swimming were all three on the same page. He said when he hired me he didn’t want a “yes” man, and I don’t like to think that I’m a “yes” man. A lot of times I argue with him just for the sake of arguing, but it’s all on minuscule stuff. It’s all on small stuff. We are going to argue about which women we are going to take to our first away dual meet. It’s a guarantee. He’s going to have his listed 24 that he wants to take, and it’s going to be about 2 or 3 people different. Fairly certain, we are going to argue about what events [Inaudible] [0:32:08] in the first dual meet. All right, I want to swim this events; he’ll want to swim those events. That’s small stuff. The basic fundamentals of Coach Troy’s program were all on the same page. I remembered we’re in his office and I dug my heels and with that question right there. Why are you taking a good backstroke or who wants to go the Olympics and changed, and I mean, to an average IM. I dug my heels in about it, because I’m British. I got a girl that I think can make a British Olympic Team, all right. It’s Olympic year right now. I’m starting to get my blind disc on. And I think it’s one of the best things that Coach Troy does, and we are doing a program. It’s always exploring other horizons, other avenues for the athletes.

Lochte, everybody forgets Lochte; his freshman years from the 1650 at NCAA. Caroline Burkle in sophomore and junior years, she’s struggling a little bit with freestyle. She was always exploring the breaststroke option, and I think it’s one of the program’s best attributes is that we do that. Some time I think we do it to a fault. We had a girl this year that by the time Coach Troy and I finished staff meetings, we were convinced she should be in the 200 IM the first day at NCAA. We had each or both of us convinced she should. She’s fourth in the 50 freestyle at NCAA, Shara Stafford, and if we’d have actually gone through with our plan, we’d have swum her in the 200 IM and not the 50 freestyle, because we’re always exploring that avenue with the athletes. So I was going against everything that we’ve said right there that Coach Troy sat down, he goes, “We are going to make a great IM or out of [Inaudible] [0:34:06]. She’s going to win the NCAA 200 IM. That’s going to be the goal, and I’ve dug my heels in about that. I’m glad I lost the battle, but I always remember making that mistake and making that comment in a staff meeting one day. The athlete right now is in great shape and Coach Troy’s like he said, “It’s time to broaden her horizons.” OK? We’ve learning to deal with the fact that with the NCAA champion, we’d focus on making the British Olympic Team.

December 19th. Her mom has had a long battle with cancer and she passed away December the 19th, and I went straight… It’s a statement of Coach Troy. You got to always enjoy the process. Kim Brackin talked about that yesterday. Not worry about the conclusion. You just enjoy the process, enjoy getting there and mom passes away, and I’d made that mistake. From that December through Olympic trials, I didn’t enjoy coaching her, because I don’t like it when coaches say that their athlete has done this, that they’ve made their athletes do that, that the swims belong to the swimmers. We’re just the facilitator. So I wasn’t going to put her on the Olympic team and the staff wasn’t going to put her on the Olympic team. She was going to put herself on the Olympic team, but I was going to feel amazingly responsible if she didn’t make it. And it was an emotional time and I didn’t enjoy… Paul Donovan is in the back of the room right now. He moves over from Ireland. He was watching a number of times that the main group is short course getting ready to different situation. We’re outside the long course with the people with long course emphasis and looking the pool, saying, “Paul, she has to make the Olympic team. She has to make it. She has to make it. So, I wasn’t enjoying the process. I obsessed everyday about the conclusion.

We went to SECs. She swims to the 200 IM right now. She’s on all-out relays and got NCAA. It’s really emotional. It shows where she is as a person. We never realized it. NCAA was at Ohio State. We never realized it, but every day we drove past the Cancer Hospital going to the pool. So four times a day, she sees this thing and she’s keeping it to herself. She is worried about the meet. She is worried about Olympic trials next week, and she has this burden of seeing this hospital or this hospice on the way. And it wasn’t until the final night 200 backstroke that it all… the emotion came out. Coach Troy disappears. He’s off the pool side. He is talking with Gemma. I don’t see them the whole of warm up. Basically warming up the team myself, I know something’s happened, all right. She swam that 200 backstroke that night at NCAA with zero warm up. Hearing Coach Troy being off in the backroom just talking about the process and her mom and things like that. So, it was an emotional time for her. The following week, we leave straight from there. We’re going to England for Olympic trials.

Make the team in a 100 and 200 backstroke. We immediately reset the goals then for her. I told you at the start she came to Florida. Her goal was to make the British Olympic Team. She thought she could make the British Olympic Team. It’s one of Coach Nesty’s sayings that people are t-shirt wearers. All they do for your program is wear the t-shirt. Well, she wasn’t going to Beijing to get the Olympic kit and get the Olympic ring tattoo, all right. The expectations there would win the gold medal. We set those goals immediately after the final, the 200 backstroke in a warm down pool. She warmed down. We’d said, “OK, this is where we’re going from here. You need a plan on winning the 100 backstroke at the Olympics.”

Like I said, it was that summer. It’s a real emotional time for her, because… and Dorsey Tierney was really, really good explaining this to me. We talked one day and I said, “Yes, she’s handling it fine. She’s handling it great.” It was at SECs. She goes, “There’s going to be a time when she’s going to let down the guard, and she won’t be able to handle it. That was after Olympic trials. We had to fly back to England for a meet and then she was staying over there, probably about six weeks out of the Olympics, and I remembered sitting next to her in the plane. I said, “What book are you reading?” and she said, “Well, I’m reading a book on how to handle death and a death in the family.” Being a stupid person I am, I’m like – Oh, it’s all highlighted. Who did the highlighting for you? And she said, “Oh, my mom did it when she was coping with her mother’s death. So, I’m actually… I’m reading the same book as my mother read… how to handle this adverse situation?” So it was a really emotional time for her. Put this in a real lot of 101 practice that probably where our relationship became pretty good, because we had a lot of 101 practices in England . It would go free to one of us. She’s a real social person. She likes to talk even in practice; she’s focused, but she’s social. I’m kind of social too; alright, I light up conversations with as soon as why it’s going on, I just don’t like to just sit there and watch; we’re talking about stuffs the whole time. We get down with warm up and, her and I are done talking ‘coz we talk to each other out during warm up there’s nobody else to talk to.

It was a good time, we had a lot of good one-on-one practices, but it probably weren’t the best for us. Guess that says it all. We’re 4th in the 100 backstroke, we’re 4th in the 4×100 medley relay and we were 9th in the 200 backstroke. Coach Troy likes to call me Pollyanna every once in a while, alright, ‘coz everything is, you know, like days to be fun and enjoyable, alright, like sunshine and everything’s good, I’m working at Florida, life couldn’t get any better.

So I had a real hard time with this. Was their performance good? Because 9-12 months ago, sorry, 18 months ago she’s sitting on the couch eating chocolate watching Nintendo’s back in England or should we really be disappointed and I didn’t know which way to go with it. She set me straight real quick soon as she got home, I mean I think that face says it all. She was not a happy camper. We come back; she has no Olympic like that.

You know, Coach Troy talked about Ryan and he had a hard time getting back into it. Spofforth was back at it right away. It was no Olympic let down…she handled the situation probably better than I did. For the first time ever she embraced the fact that she was a pretty good athlete; she had a target on her back and those expectations to be a world class swimmer. She shied away from it a little bit before that. She became a true leader on the team at this point. This is her junior year. A screen saver on her computer is in the media by the way, it was a photo of this scoreboard after the 100 backstroke. Never talked about it; never got upset about it; every time she opened her computer, it was a picture of 4th place. Coach Troy likes to make the comment that ‘every back stroke finish’. She lost the medal on the finish. Probably one of the worst finishes we’ve seen her do. But every backstroke finish after that was hard, it was purposeful, it didn’t matter where we were in practice, what we were doing; she would swim in backstroke, she would come into the wall, sometimes we thought she was gonna break her hand. Every one of them was that way.

I really believe that we’re not over mom’s passing, but we started to enjoy our swimming again. I don’t think to this point from Mom passing thru the Olympics we’d enjoyed our swimming. We’re now in NCAA caliber IM, what I want to say we’re in the final of NCAA’s that year and we’re on all our freestyle relay, we’re not on the 800 freestyle relays no, that would be bad. But we’re on the 200, 400 freestyle relays and I wanna say she was in the final of the IM that year of the NCAA’s. 3rd in the 200 IM that year and 200 backstroke game went 1-2-3 in the 200 backstroke with Crippen and Steph Proud.

For one of the better term right there I, she just got great balance in her life. Kim talked about it a lot and Teri McKeever talked about it a lot with Natalie. Crisis center works becoming a big part of her life, as a coach, I need to deal with it. So if she’s working a shift from 8o’clock at night until 4o’clock in the morning and they come in at their 6o’clock morning practice, I’ve got to make allowances, but also it’s what makes it tick.

We’ve fast forward here, right before this last year’s NCAA meet, we had an argument, it’s spring break, the week before the meet and she wants to work every night at the crisis center. We’re having this conversation that I don’t think it’s in her best interest as an athlete to do that. So she’s adamant about it, I think we compromised on 3 or 4 nights that week, but she wants to do it all the time. It’s become a big part. She had balance in her life like I said she’s enjoying who she is and really enjoying what she’s doing, in and out of the pool.

Coach Troy’s already talked and somewhat right here is basically what Coach Troy has talked about, work at conditions where it’s optimal. We’re in a 50-yard pool, it’s costly to pace-clock, it’s hotter than Haiti’s and very inadequate lighting, no bathrooms, alright; and for the first time ever, I’m going back to England, we’ve got a trial’s meet, this is going to be the first chafe, not the last chafe. Normally we’ve come; everything’s being planned on going back to England after the NCAA meet. We swim the NCAA meet; we’re going back to England after that, so we’re at the very end of our taper.

This was the first time we couldn’t go to the trial’s meet that’s what anchors us right on top of NCAA’s, but there’s a 2nd trial’s meet, end of June in Scotland. So we’re going back there and it’s gonna be our first chafe. Jackson didn’t chafe for the meet, but it’s the first meet that we’re gonna prep for. It’s gonna be a long time on the road, I’m getting a little low; I can’t handle being on the road that much, it was 7 plus weeks for her, from leaving England…I mean leaving the States to getting back to the States after the world championships. Think she handles it real well, but there’s a lot of stress involved; we’re changing hotels, we’re staying at people’s houses; we’re not consistent in our training, because we’re going from various city to city to train.

Like I said seven-plus weeks; we gonna thank Ian Armiger and the staff at Loughborough University, their always accommodating when we come home for meets. And Ian’s always taking care of her when I can’t be there so she has a good relationship with an English coach. And we knew that she was gonna do something pretty special, when 14 days out, we call it a suit set, she went a 100 backstroke short course meters, and she broke the European record. I knew then that she was gonna swim fast, it was a question of how fast she was gonna swim and the question for me was could she hold on to it, with 14 days out, could she hold on to where she was.

Just going back there, we did so much, 50-yard, 50-meter work. That once we went back to England right then, we were looking for all the short course water time we could get. Just so we could sharpen up the turns and we could just do some faster swimming. I know that all the Brits there were like typical Americans they come in back and they’re looking for short course meter walk or short course yard stuff; it looked that way, but it wasn’t that way at all. It was just we swam so much, we haven’t swam short course either yards or meters from the ends of the NCAA meet through June the 25th. 100 backstroke from the meet.

She is set on one up. My view is a whole lot better than your view. I look at all the race analysis from this, I’ve got one of British’ swimming swans on here, who start her turn on a finish, about the same as they always are. Obviously the actual swimming time is a little bit less. The main difference between this and all the other swims that she’s done, she took two strokes less both glance. We’ll talk about it a little bit later on, but if you compare this video to the one on the short-course, freshman year 200 backstroke, everything is a work in progress with her. It’s not the finish product. Right now we’re working on the start and the difference in the starting positions.

Alright, enough of that, okay so we will record holder, we will champion, alright. Coach Wilby’s got to find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory here. And I manage to do it. I made this huge deal, not a huge deal, I made a bigger deal than I should have done about who having this swim; the heats of the 4×100 medley relay, the same day as the final of the 200 backstroke. Why I did that, I have no clue. ‘Coz what I did right there, we, and Coach Troy talked about the doubles of Ryan’s done in the past. I think it’s one of the best things about college swimming is the fact that your athletes are pretty tough. We pride ourselves on being tough at Florida.

And I completely sent to her the wrong message right there, right, making her deal about it, the message I was giving her was I didn’t think that she could do the double. I think, maybe, I caused her a medal in the 200 backstroke by doing that, I don’t know. But it wasn’t ‘til I got on the plane coming home that I thought about what an idiot I’ve been, because if you look at this right here, her freshman year when she’s out of shape, alright, she swam a six solo times over four days, alright. The NCAA meet, three-four months earlier, she swam a total of fourteen times over three days. And here I am making a big deal about having to swim eight total times over seven days in Rome. Told her at that non-verbal communication this we’re in, I sent her the wrong message. Hey, you just look at the NCAA one right there, I mean for those people haven’t been to the meet, it’s a pretty intense meet, alright and she’s going to the block, three times pretty much every session and has to be on the numbers.

We didn’t have the team right there at Florida where we take her off relays, so she’s on those relays on every one and has to be on the numbers. I think that’s one of the reasons people ask why she goes faster at SC’s season not NCAA’s. SC’s season is kind of a fun meet for her. If you look right there, Wednesday night she swims a 200 medley relay, Thursday morning we got a 200 IM, but you know shouldn’t be getting in a lane for the night, okay. NCAA’s, she’s just playing wiped out by the time she gets at the end of the meet. And then I’m complaining and roaming that she’s got to swim a 100 backstroke before the 200 backstroke final and she has paid hours rest. Did not come out as well as I wanted right there, but I got great information from British swimming.

Jodie, who works at British swimming, really good about putting it in my terms. So a lot of times, Gemma will swim or race, Jodie will say I’ve got some information for you, I say let me tell you what I think I saw and you tell me in your words whether I was right or not. Like I said right here, you can’t see it, but I can. Most of time she’s coming home at 40 to 39 strokes, right there she’s coming home in 37. Normally she goes out in 34-33 strokes, there she was out in 32.

We go on here; Coach Troy that was up there was one of Coach Troy’s basically how the week sets up. I think the one thing that he didn’t talk about and for me the most intense hour of our week’s practices is at first hour on Tuesday-Thursday afternoon, our kick, I mean we get on it, it can be like he said, it can be under water kick and it can be a plain old kick set, it can be vertical kick, it can be kicking with a monofin. But that’s a pretty intense hour and obviously that the step test that we would talk about will go in on that Wednesday.

Special stuff for her. The drills, it’s pretty basic, I’m sorry I don’t have any new drills for you. Right after that NCAA 200 backstroke, head was moving around a whole bunch, she did a whole lot of backstrokes for me with a Dixie Cup right there on her head. Do a lot of right-left and 6-3-6 drill on backstroke, always looking for great body position, making sure it’s up tempo; and she raises a basically, the 100 backstroke, she raised a 46 strokes a minute, put a lot of emphasis on the hand placement. Attended to a lot of drills with her just to hold the body position with fins on, thing is she could put fins on, she holds good body position and she’s able to keep the tempo going. Done a lot of work on monofins under waters; pulling with a band; Kim talked about that yesterday with Kirsty Coventry and then Chuck loves that with Elizabeth Beisel. Alright, just plain old stuff.

This is probably that the main difference between Ryan and her I, I do a lot of timed, if we do on start we time-in through 15 meters and what’s good. Spofforth’s usually 7-2 to 7-4; timed turns 5 meters in 10 meters out, needs to be under eight seconds. That’s what she is on the race. Finishes last 5 needs to be under 3 seconds. And again, Jodie helps me with that, that actually came from, we’re doing a set one day with a girl whose hundreds that you’re basically diving off the block, time-in 15 meters and floating down to 15meters out; time-in 5 in, 10 out, flow back towards the finish; swim in 50 meters, but I’m only timing the last 5. I’m reading times, it’s a Spanish girl, I’m reading times and she says what’s good, I said I don’t know. This is why Jodie really helps me out. I called Jodie right after it and I said listen I need times on the best in the world at the specific start-turn-finish off and she gave me a form with all that in. And George is very similar to United States swimming; he helps me a whole bunch with that kind of stuff; bounced ideas off him all the time.

Questions?… My boss is the only one who has a question, great. [laughter]

[audience member]: She’s a more of the work expert, she’s the off-serve one, he’s on the end results perish, awesome.

[MW]: Yes.

[audience member]: She’s not on call for hurt what you did last of her.

[MW]: I’m talking about that one-on-one was not good for me. We had a sequence of Monday morning sets that we were doing, and we’re actually in lost for at the time so we’re going one-on-one. It was about a five thousand practice before the Olympics and its about five thousand practice one-on-one with her. It’s all aerobic freestyle. I shouldn’t joke about it. I almost needed to call hurt for help, because I was watching her swim was making me have very, very bad thoughts. And she gets done; and I’m like ‘Gemma that was awful’; she said ‘what are you talking about that was the best I’ve ever done on that set’. And she goes then and she’s right, because that’s the way I do it, she was ‘you just don’t choose not to watch me on Monday morning ‘coz you know how painful it is.’ [Laughter]

Alright, but if you go back, those sets the 40-50’s, she has a real hard time doing three a pace and then 180. So she might be 32-32-35. And then she’ll come down to 30 where there’s two a pace 180 then she could be 32’s right there. Now one a pace 180, now we’re rocking, we can get on those. It’s not on who’s doing the hundred set on 5minutes, 6minutes whatever we send it off at, she can start off sometimes at 102, but then by the time he get to number 5 or 6 we might be up at 107-108;, but we always know the effort is, it’s always honest.

[audience member]: She probably have a lot or work a lot on hand placements, we thought you don’t like the curled hands?

[MW]: When she gets tired she just puts her hand way back behind her head back here. And then it gets stuck underneath her body and so it’s constantly, it’s never on this plane. It’s coming across her body this way, back in here, and she has a hard time lining it up, it gets stuck in the hips so it’s constantly just reminding her to clean it off at the bottom, but also clean it off at top. One thing that you are not supposed to do, right, I demonstrated it wrong, yeah, so we clean it off at top, it’s not over here. Yes Matt?

[audience member]: What were some of the basic perch that she made with her eye on? You know from average to NCAA?

[MW]: We didn’t win the NCAA, we won the SECs this last year, and then it’s probably the worst swim of her career the NCAA since last year she’s consolation final. We didn’t have to be a breast stroke swimmer and I think we have to swim sixteen breast strokes-strokes well with the turn. I never wanted to swim at long course, but with her underwater, her walls, I think we have to work on getting sixteen good strokes. And then she gets the freestyle, everybody’s watched the freestyle, it’s not the prettiest thing in the world, but it’s functional and that’s when you let the athlete take over.

Next Speaker: What about, butterfly? She’s really good in butterfly? She’s talking about her in the water and that she’s faster and she trained a lot of her, butterflies and the combination through her, butterfly and she did her freestyles, the whole package I think.

[audience member]: Do you have any main sets leave up to her for supports, you think she would care?

[MW]: Main sets?

[audience member]: You know any like she likes to breathe in breathe out just break once…

[MW]: She’s not. That goes…that she likes to do, absolutely not. She will just…When I say it, it sounds like she doesn’t think about it, but it’s purely in our hands, that Coach just tell me what you want me to do. I think of a set that we do, I’m trying to think of one that we’ve done… 450, I think the 50 set, that set right there coming down, she don’t like that ‘coz she says it’s pretty painful towards the end. And there’s another one where you go 450’s and I’d like it the whole 33 and then the 50 easy; and then 3 hold and 32 at 50 easy; 2 at 31, 1 at 30. And usually hold it at those times it’s just a decent 50 set. But she’s usually, at least a second and a half faster when she does that.

[audience member]: When you figure your set 20-50’s, speed work, case work that you do, do you go over and search stroke count on that?

[MW]: Not stroke count, stroke tempo. And the only problem with that is when we do our work towards the 200 backstroke, if you look at the stroke tempo on a 200 backstroke, it’s all over the place. For me, that is the one event that I really want to see her improve in. It was her junior year that we finally got her to swim back to back 50’s in the 200 backstroke. She’s got on it, that ‘s when she’s really, I think she set the NCAA record, I think she’s 148:1 and she swam back to back 3rd and 450’s really well. We just got back from European championships and she’s 31plus coming home the last 50, but she’s taken herself out the race a little bit with the 33 second 50.

[audience member]: For her, it sounds that she wants to be the one, if she’s gonna have a better workout something, will you start that or would you give advice on what she’ll do? You know what I’m saying?

[MW]: It’s not whether you’re pretty worked out so there’s gonna be a better work out so what you want is pretty mature. So yeah, I think she wants to get better.

[audience member]: Like if she does everything good she’s just…

[MW]: It’s really, it’s really unique. It’s, the year where1-2-3 and turn at backstroke at the NCAA; there’s three girls probably great at this stroke than how she does…

[Gregg Troy]: These three girls right, and she’s a work in progress, she’s still wants easy warm up, every time, but hey, her work outs got a lot better and makes sure that at the iron shifts Ryan does… she is as tough. She first came to the States…this was the video of her 200 backstroke on she was off at turn a bit and it quickly round it and revitalized she starts down perfectly this one…Gemma starts down perfect, Spofforth. And she always hear that…when she went to 148 first-last and then at third, less than a second start, one of our whole point to start in seconds. And it’s first time she did it, and she didn’t think it’d work. At the second round she went to me and she said she did lie there in this effect, and therefore find where she have left and neither she has security when she’s lying back there and she’s fine and starts to hold.

[audience member]: Yes Sir.

[audience member]: What is good on land is the exact place is there anything on land that fits with her?

[MW]: Yeah the dry run with Matt for her was pretty specific. I joke about it a little bit. She’s done a whole lot better. She’s probably done a better job at changing her nutrition that Ryan has. And the fact that, you know, she’s on top of eating healthy these days. She would go for extra runs, extra bike rides, that kind of stuff. She’s English, and I mean this nicely, it’s okay for her to go to the weight room and weight herself and then come back and tell you ‘listen I need to lose three pounds’ and that stuff; Is that the best way for me to say that? Go Edsel…

[Edsel]: She’s dropped 30 pounds thought you know at least, and look at her body now, it stayed a lot and she doesn’t have to worry about it. The whole process of going, do you guys call her attention? Or probably see the nutrition for her, then understand what a lot of people are talking about nutrition, they’re talking about a woman that’s why, and we’re sorry if that we thought she’s not fit…we’re sorry that…she walked into our zone and says what’s wrong with the Americans tell them, that’s what I’m sorry for perhaps… [laughter]…that’s where she laughed.

[audience member]: He’d lost over a little bit, because we get along with our detractors and she wants there first, all she wants, and she’s even willing to teach Ryan backstroke right after that and then he is, all the people are talking of this, get a whole of it, people will say that they are all very, very professional. She really likes the work, it’s her stuff and based in a decision for her is, she’s taken ownership with these so she’ll lose broad hand and certainly she’s a bit covered, she’s a whole new her in shape and she does better in everything.

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