[introduction, by Joel Shinofield]
We have a great opportunity this morning to learn from a coach who thinks about things in many unique ways, and almost all of those ways are centered on his athletes’ development as people and filter-out to higher performance in Swimming. Never takes the same approach from season to season, constantly evaluates what he does as a coach, as a mentor, as an educator; and truly gets the best out of his teams, as a group.
Coach Bottom has made stops at Auburn, Cal, now at Michigan, where he is the head men’s and women’s Swimming coach. In 2013, Coach Bottom’s team won the NCAA Division I Men’s Championship, and for that work he was recognized as the CSCAA NCAA Division I Men’s Coach of the Year. He has had numerous athletes go on to international success, both in his time at the Race Club, Cal, Auburn, Michigan. And several Wolverines—I believe five former Wolverines—made the World Championships team this summer. So without further ado, I would like to bring Coach Bottom up, and give him a round of applause and welcome. And all of you look forward to hearing what Coach Bottom has to say.
It is great to be here. It is great to be here on this day in particular [September 11], when 13 years ago we were all in a state of shock, that something so terrible could happen on our soil. And with that thought, I would like to us to take some time together to, just think about and commemorate or pray or thank God for the things that we do have and for those men and women who gave their lives and have been giving their lives so that we can continue to do the things that we do. So, if you would join with me in a time of thought.
Thanks, thanks; I appreciate that.
Here is the situation today. And I do not know if you feel it, but I feel it; and I feel it every day, I feel it when I get up. It is a situation of urgency; it is an understanding that our world is different today as a result of the things that have happened in the near-past. It is an understanding that as a person, as a coach, I can have an influence on the future of our country, and I can have an influence on the future of the world. And that is the truth.
It is an interesting thought because it kind of runs at the same parallel but almost contradictory to some of the things as coaches we go through. Because our time is so demanded, everything is so programmed for us. We have very little time for ourselves; we have to fight for time for our families and our friends. But at the same time, we are making an incredible effect on our world. So the talk today is, what I would like to talk about is building a championship team. But what I would like to convince you is that it is worth it: it is worth-it to build a team, as opposed to individuals.
We are taught, over and over again, that the gold medal is it—the gold medal is it. We are fighting for medals; an admirable goal and I do not want to belittle that at all. But I also think that there is a goal above that. Gold medals are a wonderful thing, as long as they are used to champion this world, to make a difference in this world.
And I am just so proud of Anthony Ervin. I am so proud of that guy, because of where he came, as an individual, to a world team player. A guy who won a gold medal, coming out as a freshman in college. Worked with Gary Hall, Jr., tied for that gold medal in 2000. Worked with a number of guys who were competing in the same events; we had a team in Phoenix that we were working with, and a number of them either finaled that year or finaled four years later. A guy who got it, that it is not about him—although it took him a long time to get there, he got there. A guy who sold his medal and gave the money to the tsunami relief. A guy who is swimming today, and making a difference in a lot of people’s lives.
So Anthony has been real good, for me, and, help in understanding that it works; this thing called team—if it is taught right—makes a difference. And those individuals that win the gold medals, will make a big difference in the world, and that is really what we are after. Okay? So let me start.
So what we are going for is building a culture because that is what really makes the difference. And it starts out with a bunch of… I mean, these is my team. These are individuals that I am, again, so proud of and I learn from every day, from Dr. Josh White to Rick Bishop, Mark Hill, Danielle Tansel and Sam Wensman. We are a team, and we understand what we are trying to do. And what is really important for me to do as a leader is to remind them, daily—you know, in the battle, when we have got to the 50-pound packs on, when we are on our twelfth hour, when we skip lunch, when we are putting together the workouts, when we are up on deck for the fourth hour of that second session—why we are doing what we are doing, you know. And this team, they go to battle every day.
But, again, this is my team. And in a way, we are a team here, and we have got to look at it that way, that we are a team. There is a lot of politics that goes-on in our sport; it is not a huge sport, but there is a lot of politics. I am not opposed to getting into politics, but at the end of the day, we are a team. We are out to change the world in a great way, and we have the opportunity because of what we do.
So here is the way it works: the electricity is you, it is me, it is the coaching staff. We are the drivers. And my administrator, Bitsy Ritt, and I sat down last year, and there was… you know, she looked me right in the eye and said, “Mike, you are in charge of your culture. Your athletes are not in charge of your culture, you are in charge of your culture.” And I would the same thing to you: you are in charge of your culture. What goes on around your pool, when your kids leave, how they respond to the world, that is culture. And you are in charge.
There is something exciting about that, there is electricity about that, because that means that you are directly influencing the world. And really, that gives us purpose, doesn’t it? And that is what we want, right. We think that we want to win gold medals. But when we win gold medals and you see the American flag going up and the tears come to your eye, you look at that kid. You look at that kid, right. And you say, God, look at the life that I was able to help change. Right? And you hope that he goes on just like we all hope our own kids go on.
But we start with the culture and the values. Then we motivate and we build that team. And then we tweak the culture, and we talk about the values that we want to move forward. And we motivate, and the team operates and performs. And you continue that cycle.
Now the water is only going to move… if you try to move that water too fast, what happens to that athlete? Boom, right back to the wall: they will give up, they will quit. Right? So you are in-charge of how fast that culture moves forward.
We are moving. Everybody has a different place they are starting from. I start with a bunch of guys and gals that are ready; you know, the water is moving when they walk in the door—they are ready to go. So we have to have that endless pool cranked-up, so when they jump-in, that culture is moving them.
But when you get them… you know, I cannot tell you where you are going to get them. You know where you get them, and you know you have to move them. And it is sometimes a slow process; you have got to turn that thing up for just… just a little bit faster, then a little bit faster. And then you have got to reevaluate, you got to look at the technique; you turn it up a little faster. But you are the driver.
Everything around that athlete or that team gets involved in what you are doing. And when we talk about building a championship team, I am so fortunate to work for Michigan because Michigan puts a budget up that will take care of a lot of these things, a lot of these issues. If one of our athletes has personal problems, we have counselors—we are able to send them to counselors. We have recovery drink on deck; you know, we have… we are able to go to…. Dave Brandon, who is an amazing athletic director, just committed ten million dollars to our athletes’ career development. To getting them jobs; to moving them through and understanding who they are as people and who they are in our society, and then getting them placed. Those are the kind of resources that Michigan has.
But those are not the resources that you have. And those of you evaluating, you have got to think about what kind of resources are, and you have got to grab for every resource that you can get. Because as you get this thing cranked up, those are things that are going to come out that are going to slow down the progress of everything. So you have to look at all of the… building a championship team does not just mean building a culture; it means building a culture and providing opportunity, right, for growth.
When I sit in our first staff meeting of the year, part of my spiel is to look at each one of my coaches and staff in the eye and help them understand why we need to build a championship team; why we have to win. Because we are teaching them all of these things, we are taking care of all of these things. We are putting into their lives values, hard work, perseverance, putting someone else above you, team; we are putting that all in there and it is all going in there.
They are developing individuals. If they end-up a season—and we have all seen it—and they are so upset about their season—they did not accomplish these things—and you cannot give them understanding of why things happened the way they happened, and they gave everything to it; guess what is going to happen after that? Some of them are going to quit—I have seen it. Some of them are just going to do the massive finger to the heavens and say, I’m going to just live for myself, I’m going to live for today: I’m going to get what I can get, I’m going to spend what I can spend.”
We have all been there, haven’t we? Right? In our disappointing times: Is it really worth it? I sit in front of this board, and this board just reamed me for not being at Junior Nationals, when I was at Nationals working at blah, blah, blah, blah, right. Age Group coaches, boards, right?
So we have to give them this flow. And we have to give them results; the urgency to produce results for all the work they are putting-in drives our staff every day. We have an urgency to win, you know, not because Michigan has given us so many resources and is looking over and saying, Hey, what are you producing?” That is not why we are doing it; although that does give us a little motivation. It is not to get on National Teams, although those are all used for that. But the driving-force of our staff, and the reason that they work 12-16 hours a day, is because they are affecting change in people’s lives and we need to have results in order to effect that change.
Can you feel that urgency? Can you feel that urgency for your athletes? Not just one athlete but two athletes, three athletes. That is going to help you go.
Again, I talked a little bit about Dave Brandon. In order for us to move a culture forward—and this is something I learned here at Michigan—you have got to have a plan. It takes time to produce a plan, it takes bodies to produce a plan, it takes different minds to produce a plan; and you cannot produce a plan by yourself because, you know, you cannot execute the plan. So, what the athletic department does at Michigan is they break-up in little groups and they all put together a plan. Then they bring together in bigger groups and bigger groups and bigger groups. And then Dave Brandon puts together, with his leadership staff, puts together a plan.
This has been something that has taught me a lot; and I hope that you can take from this, not, you know, the Michigan athletics game-plan, but some ideas to put in to your own plan. And my hope is that everybody walks out of here going: how can I create a plan to make change, to build a culture, and to watch it happen. Because it does not happen without energy; it does not happen without a plan. We know that; we are the most planning group ever, in what we do. Culture takes the same kind of planning.
So, this is what we all have on our desks, or on our walls, every person in our athletic department—over 700 individuals that work at the athletic department are all on the same plan. And those are—you know, you could look at some of those things, but—basically that talent and culture wins. Not just talent, but culture: culture and talent together.
We have all seen it. We have all seen championship teams that have not won championships, because they have a lot of great individuals. And we have also seen teams that have won championships without any great individuals, or individuals that, you know, just kind of stepped-up—they are great individuals but they stepped-up for it.
Drive change and innovation. Joel, thank you for the introduction, but one of the understandings that we have as a staff is that things are going to change. Because if they do not change from year to year, from season to season, how do you get better? You know, the adage of if you do things over and over the same way, you’re going to produce the same results, right. Make the changes.
Build the brand. The brand is kind of a Madison-Avenue term, but it is a way for us, as swim coaches, to change the world. Because your athletes, your top athletes, are being looked at by your younger athletes. And your younger athletes are getting looked at by even younger athletes. And those athletes are getting looked at by my little girls. Right? So your brand—how you carry yourself, how you present yourself, whether you tell the truth, whether you say yes and mean yes, whether you live up to the culture you are trying to create—it matters. Because that is the brand that you are starting out with.
Now, are we held to a higher standard? Yes, we are held. Coaches, if you are not ready to be held to a higher standard, do not be a coach—do not be a coach. Do something else, because the standard that you set is the same standard that your athletes are going to hold. They are not going to hold anything lower than your standard or higher than your standard. So your standard is what it is.
Now, does that mean, maybe you do not wear jeans on a pool deck? Maybe. Maybe that is one of the things you need to do. I am not saying it is, but I used to wear jeans all the time, right. When I came to Michigan, I made a change, and just in dress. Does that matter? Yes, it matters. Why does it matter? Because of branding. Because what I want to portray to my athletes is: this is the way we are, we are ordered. We have some order in our thought, we have some order in our dress. It does matter.
That is a very piddly thing, but piddly things matter. The more you can understand that as a coach, and the more detail-oriented you are in your own personal life, the more detail-oriented your student-athletes. We are asking our student-athletes to make sure they are eating within fifteen minutes after they are finished their workout, right. I mean, everybody is doing that—isn’t everybody doing that right now? I hope, because that is recovery time; that is when the glycogen gets in, that is when the insulin is popped-up, right. That is a detail. So, what do we need to do? We need to either help them find water bottles or have the Gatorade on deck—or whatever it is that you are using—or ask them to bring it.
And then we need to be more diligent about what we are portraying to them, and what we are eating. I try not to eat a whole lot of McDonalds in front of my girls. Not that McDonalds is a bad place, but it is just not the best choice. And every once in a while, we go to McDonalds. But that is my little girls, right. You have those things in your own life and you know how you are affecting people, and those are choices that you are going to make.
Build the brand and grow in every way. So that is the Michigan athletic department’s game plan.
Something that is really important in what we are doing as a championship-team-building process is defining what the end-game is: understanding what we are trying to produce. This is something that I have been looking for, for a long, long time. I have been trying to do it myself and have not been doing a great job at it; I am just kind of stumbling bumbling.
But what Michigan has done, with Dave Brandon’s leadership, has gone-out and interviewed career guidance counselors, interviewed head hunters, interviewed employers, went around to the different testing agencies that test for future employers; and built an understanding of what it is going to take to get a job—what are they looking for. Right? Because, really, that is our end-game, is to produce men and women who come out and are ready to go out and make a difference. You do not make a difference if you are traveling around the country on mom and dad’s dime still; you make a difference when you get into the society and start producing.
So what we are doing is this; these are, you know, you can see the headings. Basically what we have done, in coaching staff meeting this year I challenged our coaches to look at every one of these—and I challenge you to do the same thing—and own it. Own it.
So pick one: innovative and creative thinking. I would imagine every one of you owns that; every one of you owns it: you are innovative and you are a creative thinker. Now, can you think of a time in the last few days where you have done that; where you have experienced that? Great. Then go to the next one, because you own it.
And the idea is for our coaching staff to own this first, and then to communicate it to our athletes in different ways. Because that is the opportunity—I talked about opportunity—that we have that no one else has. We have these athletes going back-and-forth here—or doing this thing here or doing this thing here—and we are always able to teach them these lessons of life, in the midst of all of this stress. And when you teach a lesson of life within stress, it sticks. That is our opportunity.
So when we take one of these things: flexibility and adaptable to embrace change—what a wonderful thing, right. How many people would be better off if they were flexible and had the ability to embrace change? How would our world be if our world leaders were all adaptable and able to adjust to change? We would live in a different world. You have the opportunity to teach that.
One of the things that I do is, and everybody knows it, when I put together a meet line-up—or when my coaches put together a meet lineup, which I am allowing them to do—in the middle of the meet I am going to make a change. I am going to make a change. They know it; the team knows it: I am going to pull somebody out of here and put them in here. And in the beginning, it all had purpose; you know, to win a meet. Right now, the purpose is to teach them not to only to be flexible but to expect change. Prepare to be flexible; not just to be flexible, but prepare to be flexible. So, boom. We call it sudden change, and you could do it all the time and it is kind of fun.
All right, they think the set has ended. Boom! sudden change: We’re going to go 10 more of those! You have done it, right, and you have heard the grumbling. What happens if you have a team that smiled when you did that, and all yelled out: Sudden change, here we go. Come on, team! Let’s go! That is a championship team—that is a championship team. And when you get your team to do that, when you make a sudden change like that, and they embrace it and they grab hold of it and they know it is going to make them better, that is a championship team.
So these are all things that you could go through. (And I hope that we get this out to ya.) And have some fun with it. Not just in your own life, but in the lives of those that you are working with.
So what we did this year is a little something different: we pulled together our captains—both men and women, past and present—and we said, “What are your core values? What are the core values of this team?” And they all have… they have a handbook on both sides—there is a lot of tradition on Michigan Swimming, men’s and women’s side. And we are a combined team now, so the idea is we are going to work together. We are going to work together, we are going to have a common plan, we are going to have common core values, we are going to work on common themes. So we pulled everybody together; we wrote-out what is important. What are your core values? What are we trying to do here? And they had a whole bunch.
So once we got those, we pulled in, we got all the coaches and staff together, we had a three-hour, four-hour meeting. We sat down, and we started on the whiteboard and just wrote down stuff. Then things were starting to shape-up and, you know, you kind of put this over here, we started moving things here…. So we came up with five, what we called, guiding principles.
We have our overriding principles at the top there, which is in-line with our department:
• We strive to be the leaders and the best.
• We are proud of who we are.
• We honor the block M; we protect the block M.
Those are overriding principles—what we call them. And you can pretty much put everything under those.
And then we have five guiding principles, which we were able to slide all of our core principles underneath:
1. we are a positive influence on the world,
2. we value our process,
3. we produce world-class results in all aspects of life,
4. we honor tradition and alumni, and
5. we work to build the team.
So those are our guiding principles.
The idea here was that, as we gain understanding of the guiding principles, that they would be able to make decisions based on guiding principles. As opposed to a motion, as opposed to circumstance, as opposed to convenience. That we are trying to teach them to make decisions based on principles. Wow, that is a concept, right? It is a concept that we all employ at some point, but what would happen if we employed it at all points? We would be more productive, right? I would bet that we would be more happy; we would be happier.
Not that they are rules imposed on you, but they are principles that you have embraced. You see the difference? There is a difference between rules and principles. Principles are choices. Principles are Hey, this is where I’m going, and if I do it this way, I’m going to get there. Rules are Damn, don’t tell me what to do.
So let’s kind of go through them, and how we kind of came around to this.
And, again, I am not saying… I am not wanting to put rules on you. What I am hoping to do today is to place thoughts inside of you as you create. As you create your own plan to change the culture, to change what you are doing; to make a difference. Not just to produce great swimmers. But I guarantee you: you will produce great swimmers—you will, absolutely. This has worked over and over again. And the great businesses employ the same type of principles. Dave Brandon came from Domino’s Pizza, and after years and years of understanding, he’s put together these kinds of plans and brought it down to our athletic department.
We are positive influence on our world with character and class. What we did was, we have the guiding principle and then we have an understanding—and these are the things that we whiteboarded, right. This is the kind of stuff that went under we are a positive influence on our world.
Brand. Again, brand is basically what… when we talk about brand, we talk about their ability to change the world just by standing there, just by being. That is the brand.
When you open the door for someone—whether you are a male opening it for a female, or a female opening it for a man—that is a brand. You are giving someone the courtesy, the respect. Now, whether they take it or not, that is up to them; but you are offering respect. Loyalty, love, team and community. Integrity, honesty, sincerity, courage, service, humility and appreciation. Sounds like a Boy Scout merit badge.
And here is something that I have got to address: idealism. Idealism is a wonderful thing—it is a wonderful thing. We can all go back to the point of idealism in our own life, and we were a lot happier then, when we were believing that we could do anything. When we believe that we can make the Olympic team—that is idealism. You get out and you get a dose of reality and get your butt kicked a few times and you start to give up your ideals, and it is not so easy to live that way. It is not so much fun. We live in a… we have the opportunity to embrace idealism with our student-athletes and our athletes—it is a great thing.
So that is: we are a positive influence on our world with character and class.
We value our process. This is pretty general, but it is so important. Because every one of you has a process; every one of you has a way to do things. Some of you love to do a lot of yardage, right. You are a yardage base program, and you crank it out; that is part of your process. Valuing that process is really an important piece for your athletes. If they do not value that process, they are going to rebel, they are going to complain. You want to teach them to value the process, whatever the process is.
So if we look at some of our understandings that fit under we value the process. You can see, these are some core values that we are building into a program. Plan and prepare, hard work, discipline. These are all things that we will take one at a time; like we are going to sit down with our plan for them for the whole season. Every one of the group is going to get a plan; they are going to understand that we plan and prepare. Because we are not asking them to blindly value our process; we are asking them to buy-into our process. And the only way for buy-in is to increase understanding.
And, again, I am not saying if you coach an Age Group team that you need to sit down and tell them exactly what you are going to do. But you could talk in general terms about what you are doing and why you are doing. That is such an important part of them valuing the process.
We talk about being optimistic; we talk about enthusiasm. That is part of our process, is to teach that. So we put all that underneath that process.
That is a lot of stuff. How you’re going to teach all that? Well, we are going to do it; we are going to get it done, because that is what we do.
The way that we are going to check-off that we get it done is our manager is already set: we have got a whiteboard, it is magnetized, in their locker rooms. When we do a talk on… let’s just say we do the plan-and-prepare talk, we will take that thing that says plan and prepare. We will take it in on their whiteboard and we will stick it to the whiteboard, underneath understanding. Right? So when they walk in the locker room, they are going to see we value our process with that understanding. And they are going to remember what we did. And every one of those things, we are going to have, you know, the whiteboard. And we might be more and might be less; but it is a process.
We produce world-class results in all aspects of life. We are fortunate to have a culture that is… you know, I was handed a culture from Bob Bowman and from Jon Urbanchek and Jim Richardson that was already doing this. They had team meetings that captains led; they would go in and they say: This is what we’re going to do this year. This is how we’re going to do it: we’re going to score X number of points at Big Tens, we’re going to score X number of blah, blah, blah; we’re going to go out and we’re going to do community service to these different organizations, our goal is to put in X-number of hours for the whole team; we’re going to have a GPA of 3.3, and we’re going to do it like this because we were here last year, we’re going to move up here this year. Right? And every one of the teammates, they buy-in and they work together to get it done.
Leadership development. Fortunately, again, our athletic department has classes for leadership development; so x number of people are going to take that class. Character development; humility; confidence; personal accountability; win championships; break records; compete at the international, Olympic and national level. Those things all… the more sign posts that you put around your pool or in their locker rooms, to help remind them of their own understanding of this aspect of actually doing things and reaching goals.
We are goal-oriented, and there is nothing wrong with being goal-oriented. The important thing is that those goals are set-up in a way that encompasses the whole thing. Because if you set a goal for one person to do this time and they do not reach that goal, you are left with a devastated athlete. The way our athletes are, they set those goals and if they do not reach them… you know. So we make sure they have a number of goals; not just one. In all aspects of their lives, so that they are moving forward.
We honor traditions and our alumni. I think everybody got one of the books that Peter Daland wrote. Great book. Do we have time to read? I do not have time to read that thing, but some pretty good stuff in there. You know, Peter Daland is great; he was my coach. Boy, that guy’s mind is unbelievable: he could pull-up all that stuff at any moment. I see Peter and he tells me, you know my times when I was a freshman in the 200 I.M. and my time when I was senior. Mike, you know, you dropped 4.2 seconds in your 200 I.M. Thanks, Coach. It is good to know that. But those are important things. And our traditions and our alumni, we all have them.
We all have traditions from our teams. You have traditions; even if you only have been there two years, you have traditions. But here is the funny thing: you choose your traditions. We always think that our traditions choose us: pbbb. Right? Write your history book; do not let somebody else write your history book. If you let your kids write your history book, they will tell you what your traditions are going to be. On your away trips in particular (and we will talk about that later-on with a beer). Because I was part of that when I was growing up. You do not want those traditions and those histories to be taught; you want to take control of your own traditions and history.
Value our past successes. Rob Orr is a coach at Princeton. I remember when I was swimming, Rob used to put stuff on the whiteboard and ask us questions about our alumni. And eventually someone would get it; you know, because if we did not get it, he would play Hang Man and put the letters out there so we would eventually get it. But there were questions about the history at USC, and who did what.
Who got seven medals at a Pan Am Games? Does anybody know that from USC? Seven medals. (Is Dave here? No?) Frank Heckl. That was one of the questions on the board; I still remember it! Right? So you can do that, and you can create the kind of traditions and history and alumni that you want. You create it; you are in control of your culture.
We work to build the team. Here is the most important part of the whole process. If you watch us as a team, you will see some certain things that are developed into our team. The team, the team, the team; it has been handed-down from a guy named Bo Schembechler who was the coach of our athletic director, the words: the team, the team, the team.
But, you know, even at Michigan, our understanding of team goes beyond Michigan. The team does not necessarily mean even our group of guys or our group of girls. It incorporates, it broadens; as we go through the four years, they get an understanding of what the team means. First, you have got to have an understanding of what the team means in a small sense. Then you incorporate the women’s team: you have got the men’s team, you have got the women’s team. Then you have got the university, then you have got your community; then you have got your country, then you got the world.
But you have got to start small. You have got to get them out of themselves into somebody else. Pure coaching. An understanding that what is best for them, is not always best for the team. But it will be best for them in a long run.
You know, I think part of the whole kickback-of-the-world towards us is that we have moved from a society of team to a society of I. And the world recognizes that, and the ugly American that was traveling around the world twenty years ago has been our stereotype. That does not mean that is who we are as a country—I am not saying that. I am just saying that is who these people who are going against us are identifying as who we are. But it is our job to change it, and we could change it starting here, starting now, starting with your team, helping them understand how to support each other.
Hey, you were late for practice today. When we had two freshmen late for practice two days ago, we pulled them all in, all the freshmen, and said, “Hey, how did you feel when you walked in late?” And those two guys, they were honest: I felt ashamed of myself. I felt that everybody was looking at me. I felt bad.” And we turned to the other guys and we said, “Guys, do you want them to feel that way?” No, that does not make them any bigger. And we need these guys to feel confident in who they are and not ashamed of who they are. So we need your help; you have got to help them.
And so then we did some exercises together; we called it one heart—one team, one heart. And they led, the guys who were late led, the freshmen in some exercises. Not difficult exercises, and not as a punishment but as an understanding that they could be one heart. And then the question is: what are you going to do, how are you going to make sure this does not happen to each other? That your teammate does not feel the way that these guys felt. A whole different way of looking at things; it is looking at it as a team instead of disciplining an individual.
So there you go. So that is kind of how we do it.
And then at this point, we have an understanding and now we have the action plan—now, you are going to get it done. The coaches have their action plan; we have already kind of put how we are going to get it done. We have handed this to the team, and now they are going to have meetings and they are going to make goals. The action plan is goals and it is immediate, kind of get it done this year. And hopefully by the end of this month, we will have that filled in and we will be able to put it up on their board and each of them will have a copy.
Some of the things that we did to kind of start this out is we had a group of Marines that came in this year. And, again, thank you Michigan, for paying for this. But they brought them in, and our girls and our guys were separated and they did these exercises. And we were all concerned that they, you know, that, one, the Marines would yell at them, and, two, that they would do some physical activity that would hurt them. As coaches, we had a whole meeting with these guys telling them Hey, you know, blah, blah, blah, don’t do this, don’t do that. You know, they are professionals, they have already been through it; but we were paranoid.
They did a great job. The work was difficult, but there was no one that was injured and no one got yelled at. They got addressed honestly. And that, in our day and age, to tell a kid that you could do better, that you’re slacking, is… it is a difficult thing to do because they will take it personally.
How many of you have heard, You know, this isn’t about you personally, we’re just trying to get you better. “But I can’t help it.” And they start crying, like, ugh, I can’t take it; I’m trying the best I can. Right? But these guys were great, and it was better that them doing it than us, especially with the ladies.
Core values. (This came from our team.) You know, it is something if you do have kind a history, a long history, it would not be bad to say: Hey, let’s put together core values. Have your team put it together. This came from them. You can see that a lot of the same things that we addressed in the guiding principles are right here in their core values. This was before this year; kind of handed to us.
(Can you guys read that back there? No. Would you like me to read it real quickly? All right.)
Dedicate yourself to a noble purpose. Always give your very best and know that you could be better. Remember that a great effort is the result of a great attitude. Talent is God-given, be humble; fame is man-given, be thankful; conceit is self-given, be careful. Work on your weaknesses until they become your strengths. Do not ask to be deprived of tension or discipline: these are the tools that shape success. Ignore those who discourage you. When change is needed, do what has to be done, when it has to be done. Work to improve your moral/spiritual strengths as well as your physical ones. Remember that how you conduct yourself out of the pool is just as important as how you conduct yourself in the pool. Never underestimate your opponent; remember that when you are not working to improve, your competitor is. Win with humility, lose with grace. Practice like a champion, compete like a champion, live like a champion.
Pretty good, huh? How would you like your team to come and give you that? And say, “Coach, is this okay if we live like this?” And you are saying, Mike, you have an easy job. Eddie Reese once said, “If you don’t have the talk with your athletes every year about alcohol, you’re going to have a problem.” And the same kind of thing: no matter how many… even if they are seniors and they have been through this four years, if you do not every year remind them, I am constantly understanding, the decision-making process works against you. That is why you have to have guiding principles.
So this is a team ethos, and we have our team sign it. We give them a choice to sign it, because it is important. Especially today, when college programs are shrinking, to understand it is a privilege to swim on any team, whether it be an Age Group team or a college team.
I am going to stop right there, real quick, and just talk on an understanding I think we all need to have. In one aspect of our culture, college Swimming is such an important part. And, you know, your Age Group kids are looking forward to that transition. Some of your age group kids are like my girls; I have a 3-year old, a 7- and an 8-year-old. In ten years, my 7-year-old is going to be recruited; in nine years, my 8-year-old is. Hopefully—hopefully somebody will recruit them.
That is ten years from now. What is college Swimming going to look like in ten years? The hope is that you all will leave here and you will start to think about your kids; not your own personal kids but the kids you coach. And you will start to think: what is college Swimming going to look like when my kinds are out there. And you will start to think about it, and you will go: ooh, ooh. With all these new rules that are set out, it is great that we could feed our athletes but it is a million dollars—it is a million dollars to feed our athletes. Okay? It is a new rule; everybody gets it. Well, where is that money going to come from? And Michigan, again, we are blessed. But even at Michigan, an understanding that future is future, there might be another A.D. in there.
So what are we going to do about it? What are we going to do about it? What are you going to do about it. Let me just tell you what you could about it, right now: you can add value to the college program system—you can add value. And the way you add value is you write a letter or an e-mail. You get your parents to write an e-mail about how you appreciate the college program. Whatever college program; it does not have to be any one college, it could be every college program. But write an e-mail, get your parents to write an e-mail, get your LSC to write an e-mail. About the value of that program is to you as an individual, to you as a parent, to you as a team. What is it doing for your team? Is it motivating your athletes? If it is, then tell somebody about it, because that adds value to the college program.
Then you can donate. Hey, what is fifty bucks to your program—whatever program? But fifty bucks is a lot better and it puts an exclamation mark on your e-mail. It means to the college athletic director, Hey, I’m going to think about this. Not a lot of money. Is it worth ten years from now to have a program there? I think it is.
So those are just a couple of things that you can do, right? And then there are other things that I am sure that Joel talked a little bit about. An easy one… and I do not get this and I am a little bit upset about it. We have great swim meets in our natatorium, and our local teams do not show-up to see incredible swimmers go against each other. Why? Why would you not as a coach cancel practice? Yeah, your practice is not that important. Because motivation, four practices after that, is going to be up and you are going to way-pass that practice. Cancel practice; take your kids to the meet. What does that say to the athletic directors? That this is valued.
But what happens? I will tell you what happens. This is what upsets me, and I was an Age Group coach. I think that, Oh, I can’t do that; I’ll mess up my schedule. My, my, my, me, me, me. Where is team in your attitude? I hope the team in your attitude says That college program is enough. It’s important enough to me and the future of my program to go watch that meet. For two hours, right? I hope, I hope, you are hearing me. All right, that is my soapbox for today.
Recovery. We do a lot with recovery. (Now I am moving back to that….)
So once you have the cycle going where people are motivated, excited; their volition is equal to their motivation. In other words: they want to do what you want them to do. How many times have you have a kid for one season say, Whatever you want me to do coach, I’ll run through a wall for you. And then they have that crazy season—crazy season—and then the next season, they are just… there is something not there. I have seen it, you have seen it.
Volition and motivation, they are not the same. That person is still motivated, they will still come to practice every day, they still want to be an Olympian. But their volition has been tampered with somehow. That is where we need to combine the two: the motivation and the volition.
And then we give him opportunity. That is where you get to be a coach. Whether it be technique, whether it be training—whatever you get. So I am going to go through some of the stuff that we do to give them opportunity, and we will start out with recovery.
We have a recovery scorecard, where we try to get a handle on what they are doing. Our strength and conditioning coach just designed an e-mail that we send out to them every day now. All they have to do is check, check, check; it takes less-than thirty seconds for them to fill it out. Then they send it back, and it is tallied and we get the results.
That is not something that you have to do, but just a simple question as how’re you feeling today? Take the time to do that; try to get an understanding. And then when they say, “Well, I’m really sore.” Well, maybe we need to get an ice bath going. And then you see—if you get an ice bath going—you see where motivation and volition will combine. If they get in that ice bath, you know volition is there, they are ready to go. Truthfully, that is how we tell.
Now here is something here, this is something that we put together this year. What we did was we wrote down all the stuff that we do. We have had pieces and parts of this, but this year we put it together. I am just going to read the headings, all right. Academics—we have a whole, uh, job description and assignments on what we do with academics. Administration—we do that. Alumni relations, budget and expenses. These are all things that you do as coaches. It is really important for me to know what I do, because then I will get it done.
Calendars and schedules, community engagement, competitions, compliance, equipment and apparel, events, facilities. And then there is a whole list there. Managers, media… you know, just, basically, all I am doing is going through the stuff that we do.
Questions at this point?
[audience member]: Can you talk about value, valuing your program and trying to get the value. What do you do locally if your program is like the biggest secret that ever it was?
[Bottom]: So I think what he is asking is if you are going to value your program, some of that value might be to keep your secrecy of that program. I think that somehow you have got to get out of that. I do not care what you do. First of all, no one can do it like you do it. You do what you do, you do it well, and no one can do it like you do it. So if you share something of what you do, it does not matter.
It might, it does open things up a little bit, and maybe they will give you some stuff. And you will make that your own, they will make that your own. You know, we are fortunate here in the U.S. to have ASCA, because, I do not know if you saw it, there is… for ninety-nine cents [each], you get the recordings of all the ASCA talks. That is just crazy. Ninety-nine cents and you can get all these. You can get everybody’s secrets.
Do you think Jon Urbanchek hides anything? One of the greatest coaches ever. No; he talks it out. Mark Schubert, no. These guys, who are my mentors; Nort Thornton, unbelievable guy, unbelievable. He will share anything and everything; this guy has inventions, he still sends me inventions that he is making. He is not. That is our culture in USA Swimming.
So, if you think you have got something that no one else has, keep it—keep it. If you feel that about it, patent it—whatever. Somebody else is going to come out with it in two days anyway. We have a creative… you guys and gals are so creative, and that is why we are successful, because we are always doing things innovatively. And the reason we keep getting better, is because we keep sharing. You do it that way? Well, I’m going to make it better. Really, you made it better? Tell me about it. That is what happens.
[audience member]: Mike, when you brought the captains and former captains in, in terms of the meeting about guiding principles, and you said you want to share that process, and now they know that….
[Bottom]: You know what, that is a great question. Let me just tell you how that went. They sat down and, we said, This is what we’re going to do this year. We are going to teach all your guiding principles. And they were upset, they were angry; because they want to teach their guiding principles; they want to be in charge of their guiding principles.
But remember what I said in the very beginning, that my athletic director said to me, they’re not in charge of culture. That is the truth; you do not want to give up your culture to anyone. As a head coach, you want to hold on to your culture, you want to create your culture, because you are going to be judged by your culture—that is your brand. Especially your athletes, in this day and age, you do not want your athletes to drive your culture, because things happen, outside of your control. Thank you for that question.
But, yes, we ended up sitting down. We worked through it, we listened to them, we shook hands and here’s why we’re not going to do that. [laughter] But we listened to them, and they came around. It is still a process; especially when you move a men’s program that is very powerful with a women’s program that is coming up. Whoa. There is a lot, but that is what we do. That is why communication is really an important part of the whole process. Thank you.
You had a question?
[audience member]: I ask this question fearfully, but I know that you have a little bit of a reputation. Do you still do 75s hypoxic, no-breathers?
[Bottom]: The question is: do you do 75s no-breathers? I am sure there is all sorts of… like, I can just feel the weight of that question. [laughter] (Hi John.) No; no, we do not.
[audience]: Can you tell us what you do do, then.
[Bottom]: We do 50s no-breaths, we do a lot of 15s underwater, we do a lot of 25s underwater. We do not ever do even 50s underwater without, you know, doing it as a team; as a team, a pair.
[audience member]: Have you finished your first year as a combination of boys and girls team? (We are on our third year.) Do you find that after, like, that thing just raises both teams just up? Like what is the dynamic of that?
[Bottom]: Truthfully? (Yeah.) Well, you know, we were so separate; our cultures were so different. It is difficult. So what we have done is… actually, for two years—and that was my commitment to the men’s program—was that we were going to run separate programs with some overlap in the mornings, but that would not affect culture, right. Until we brought the women’s culture in to an understanding, we were not going to put them together. So this is the first year we are actually having combined practices, and we have three of those a week. So, your question is how does affect them? I think it gets them both better, if they are ready for it.
But, you know, you saw the swim treadmill. You cannot put that thing on, you know, at 52 seconds and throw a 10-year-old in, right. They might have some fun. Actually my daughters did that: they are hanging on like this. My one who is the middle one, who is the craziest, was trying to stand up with her feet like this, and trying to see… she was pushing against the water. You know, that’s not going to work, sweetie.
[audience member]: How do you evaluate recruits during the brief time they are on campus for their potential to fully embrace your culture?
[Bottom]: That is a great question. I think the best way to evaluate a recruit is to let them self-select. And the way they will self-select is, one, our recruiting trips have no alcohol. If they ask for alcohol, if they want alcohol, great, let him ask, and then tell me. Two, we tell them that: you are not going to make it here unless you are ready to work hard both in academics and athletics, and ready to serve your community.
The hard thing is, as a recruiter, you start thinking: well, I have got to do this and do this and do this. You know what? Michigan is not the place that anybody who wants an easy way out is going to come anyway, right. I mean, we do not have the beaches, but we have a lot of tough swimmers. They are tough because they choose to be tough, and that is how they select.
[audience member]: You are obviously a guy with conscience. How do you, yourself—personally, if you do not mind explaining—how to do balance that fact that most people in high places—politicians, Roger Goodell, people in current events—are all so results-oriented that they really do not give a rat’s ass about the process. And yet we know, from our work with kids, that the process is paramount. How do you …?
[Bottom]: Well, you cannot. Again, I think that… what he is asking is: you have got these guys that are results-oriented and then you have got these guys that are process-oriented, right. And we all know the process-oriented guys do not ever… they are not successful. You stick to process, you get a lot of process but you are not going to get success. Because, like I said at the very beginning, unless you get results, the process does not stick anyway. You have got to be results-oriented.
I get really angry when we lose; when we lose a football game, I get angry. I am committed to winning, I am passionate about winning; and there is nothing wrong with that. Because I believe that if we do not win, they do not grow; it does not stick. Maybe some of it will stick, and they will be nice people. But they are not going to be people who walk out with their chest and thump their chest and change the world, and that is what I want. If you are a winner and you win this way, you could bet that you are going to lead and people are going to follow you. If you are a process-oriented and you get your ass kicked all the time, who are you going to lead? (Losers?)
Well, not… I do not want to go there with losers and winners. You know, we are all people, and we are all losing somewhere, we are all winning somewhere; we are all getting better. I think [Dick] Jochums said it, in his marriage: we’ve got an understanding and we’re getting better, you know. And that is just where we are.
But we have the opportunity, and not every one of your athletes are going to be like this, but you do have the opportunity to build-in an understanding of team into that athlete. And know that when that athlete wins, that they are going to take that championship, instead of wearing the gold medal around their neck and beating their chest, they are going to give it to some kid, right, and change their life. And that is what we want to do—that is what we want to do.
David Marsh, over here; I learned a lot of this stuff from this guy. This guy has won more championships than anybody in NCAA history, right. But you could bet, when I throw a Tyler Clary in his direction and we get together, we are not talking about Tyler Clary’s training, we are talking about his life. What do we do with the guy? How are we going to get this guy to get through the gold medal and do something? And that is a great thing that we are doing. Some of you are throwing your high school kids to us: thank you. Thank you for trusting us; thank you for trusting the college coaches that are here.
But Whitney Hite is back there, and I know he is the same way: he is not going to let a kid not graduate and not understand the process. And you could bet, Whitney wants to kick my ass. Right, Whitney? (Yes) [laughter] All right? And it would not be fun in our Big Ten without that. But the truth is I know he is doing the same thing I am doing. And yeah, I want to fight him and we are going to battle, and you know what? He might beat me. (Probably not.) [laughter]
I do not mean to stand up here and preach. This is not…. you know, I make mistakes; man. You can look at me and you guys could talk about my history: hell, I have screwed up a lot of things. And I have screwed up some people. But I am getting better—I am getting better.
And I hope you join me in that. All right?
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