Question & Answer Session with Bob Bowman, North Baltimore Aquatic Club (2013)


Published


[introduction by Tim Welsh]

Okay, here we are: it is four o’clock on Saturday afternoon.  Welcome.  And guess what?  Did we save the best for the last?  Maybe we did.  Now here is the deal when you plan a clinic, it is really important to have a closer, alright?  You have got to have somebody late in the program on the last day that is going to continue the educational process that we started here several days ago.  And, obviously, in Coach Bob Bowman, we have one.  He spoke this morning: that was Prelims for him.  This is this afternoon: we are about to start Finals, coach—you are about to start finals.  Obviously we could spend the whole hour introducing Coach Bob Bowman, but he really needs no introduction.  We know he comes from South Carolina, we know he swam at Florida State, we all know he was a music major, we all know he is interested in horses.  We all know an athlete or two who he is coached; we all know about his multiple Coach of the Year awards from USA Swimming and from ASCA; and we all know he is in the ASCA Hall of Fame.  What we do not know is what he is going to tell us in the next hour.  So, Coach Bob Bowman, welcome; looking forward to this one.

 

[Bowman begins]

Thanks a lot.  I am going to do something a little unorthodox here, and there are a couple of reasons for it.  But I actually tried this in at a clinic one time in California, and it worked really well.  I want to make sure that I am speaking to things that are of interest to you: the people in the room right now.  So I am essentially going to take questions from you on any topic; and when you get me going, I am just going to talk until I am done with it and we will take another one.  Okay?  What I am going to ask is: if you have a question, you have got to stand-up and use your coach’s voice, and then I will rephrase it for everybody so they hear it.  But that is how we are going to go about this.  And the topics are open, except for Is Michael [Phelps] coming back?—that is off the table; you do not get that. [laughter]  I know nothing.

 

Okay: who has got the first question for me?

 

:  What makes North Baltimore Aquatic Club [NBAC] different from other clubs in the country?

 

:  I am not so sure we are different in many ways.  But what I think makes North Baltimore Aquatic Club special is… well, the team culture.  And the team culture is something that has been cultivated over a very long time.  And I have had very little… you know, in the long span of the club’s history, I have been involved for about twenty years, starting out sort of peripherally and since 1996 in a pretty serious way.

 

And one of the goals that I have is to continue the club’s culture of development; that is what we are about.  If you want to boil it down to a nutshell, we are about the disciplined pursuit of excellence.  That what NBAC… that is our hallmark: the disciplined pursuit of excellence.  Not the crazy-haphazard-we’ll-do-it-sometimes-when-it-feels-right pursuit of excellence; the disciplined, day-in/day-out, steady-progress kind of plan.

 

We think it is very important to develop Age Group swimmers.  I was just having a conversation with Craig Lord and Greg Eggert; and I told them one of my goals is: we are basically rebuilding our Age Group program right now.  And we started about three years ago, and it is starting to bear fruit now with good groups of 10 year olds that we have.  It is a long process, alright.  But if you stay with this process long enough, you can end up with a Chase Kalisz or a Michael Phelps.  It takes a decade to build one of those, and a lot of time and effort and a lot of people go into it.  So I think we are very careful with each athlete, and we try to get the most we can out of each athlete.

 

I think some things that make us unique are that we have developed, over time, our own self-contained development system.  And that includes, most importantly, control of our home facility—which is critical.  Secondly, a wide base of participants, which is brought-in through Michael Phelps Swim School, our summer league team—we run a summer team that has over 300 kids on it at our program Meadowbrook.  So they go from the lesson program to the summer team, to something we call a stroke clinic—which has about 100 kids in it at a time—that feeds into the competitive team, which really only has 200 kids in it.  But we have all of this under one roof; and we kind of manufacture all of the… you know, we are our own feeder system.  And I think that is important because we can control the content of the program, we can control the rate at which people move.  And because we control the facility and really the governance of everything that we are doing, we can be a lot more efficient in terms of the decisions that we make.

 

One of the things that I have learned, that is very important for me, is that I am an educator.  I have to constantly be educating somebody.  It is either an athlete, it is a parent, a lot of coaching education.  Because while I can make any dictatorial decision I want to make, in my tiny little kingdom, and it will be followed, that is not what we are here to do.  We are here to help people grow and learn, and we want everybody to buy-into the system.  And when people buy-into the system, that’s when you get a Chase Kalisz or a Michael Phelps.  What makes Chase so great is his parents are 100% behind what we do.  So they are supporting things at home, we are supporting things at the pool.  If we have a problem, we get together and work it out.  Now we have got Jack Bauerle working with us [Bauerle is the head coach at the University of Georgia, where Kalisz is attending].  Another thing that I have done very successfully is forge good partnerships with college coaches to help athletes get better.  So I think that is one of the things that makes us different or maybe somewhat unique.

 

I think that we expect all swimmers to be accountable for their performances in practice and in meets.  We expect the staff to be accountable for what they do, practices and in meets.  We expect the parents to support us, and for that we thank them.  But we also expect them to let us coach, and we let them parent.  We spend quite a bit of time studying the top programs in the world and taking ideas that we can place into our program; we do not ever make a wholesale change on what we do.  We are based on IM swimming, developing the whole athlete, and a foundation of some-sort of distance work—a bad word these days.  But that is what we do.  And that is why I think we have people that can swim a wide range of things.

 

I think that we have sustained success with a lot of people, particularly through college.  It used to be a lot of our swimmers would go to college and just kind of tail-off.  Because they had been trained really hard; I do not know, something.  But we have now, I think, come up with a good plan where they keep developing through college.  And we all know that college is now more a part of the developmental curve than it used to be.  The Olympic teams are older now: men average 27, women 22 or 23, I think—the age of our last team.  So, we have to have a much more long term approach in what we are doing with our different partners.

 

Next?

 

 

George wanted me to discuss rebuilding the Age Group program.

 

:  I think it was all about expectations.  Quite frankly, I think we went through a period of time—maybe when I was in Michigan—where we became really… (I do not want to say this in a bad way) I do not think we valued the process the way that we should with the Age Groupers.  I think that we had always had a firm commitment to having fast Age Group Swimming, but doing it the right way.  And I think somewhere along the way, it got lost; that having fast Age Group Swimming might necessarily not be good for their long-term development.  So we did not have very much emphasis on, or urgency, in having people who broke national Age Group records, performed at the top level in the Age Group program; we would just kind of wait until later.

 

And I think that we took people into the team who kind of bought into that.  And we had this culture of Man, we love being on the team and We like some of the things they’re doing, and We’ve got some swimmers up here swimming really fast.  But there was a disconnect in the whole progression.  And that is what we are working out now.  And since Tom Himes has come back—well known, been with us for years—I think it has taken a while.  But you know, when I first came back, in the Age Group program—I am embarrassed to tell you this—we had groups where average attendance was 65%.  Now it is 95%.  But that, that is what I am talking about: that level of commitment.

 

And I do not think that… if you saw what our age groupers were doing, Tom is always saying we have got to have more training time, and they really do.  We do not have enough time probably for the good 11+12s right now.  We are making do with what we can, I am trying to find new pools.  But they have to be there all the time if they are going to get better, and that is the lesson they need to learn.  So that is kind of what we have been working on.

 

Next?  Green shirt.  (Oh, I know you.)

 

 

Good.  Great question.

 

:  We do not have a set process for moving people from group to group; it happens when the coaches think it should happen.  Obviously there are times of the year where it makes more sense to do it: Fall, Spring, you know, it is a little bit easier.  But we tend to do a more gradual movement from group to group.  Like, if we have someone we think needs to move from the Challenge 1 group into the High Performance 2 group—and we see that they are kind of ready mentally and can do the training—maybe we will just have them come once or twice a week for a whole season.  Maybe they just come on Saturday.  And that way, they can kind of transition in, but they do not have to just make the wholesale jump to the next level.  And I think that is very beneficial.

 

If you ask any of our parents, they would say, Well, I do not know, in the Fall they just give us this sheet of paper and the kids are in that group. And that is kind of where they stay unless they move-up, and then we send them an email and say, “You are now in this group.”  That is just kind of how it works.

 

I do not believe in having set training standards or anything like that for groups because you just get hamstrung by all those requirements.  Once they are out there, you have to live by them.  And maybe there is a kid who can do 10×100 on 1:10 who is not emotionally ready for the day-to-day swimming in that group: even though he can physically do it, maybe he is not ready emotionally.  Maybe there are people who are a little bit behind on that kind of work—the aerobic end of it—but we know that they have some talent and some size or something that makes us think that they need to be in a higher group.  So we take a lot of factors into account, and just make an individual decision for every kid.

 

I think that is another thing that is unique about our program.  I know that people are always shocked when I say we have 200 competitive swimmers; that is basically what we have.  You know, we are not one of those 800, 1,000.  So when you have 200, the whole staff pretty much knows all the athletes.  You know every year we get a… we probably bring in 30 or 40 8&Unders every year.  Some stay with it, some do not.  But we, in general, from the age of about 9 or 10 on up, we have a very good picture for: who those kids are, what their skill level is, what we think they can do, the groups that they should be in.  And we talk about it quite a bit.  Even to me.  So, it is not just something where it is an automatic process, based on what you published in a criteria kind of thing, okay?  Good question.

 

 

:  The question is—well I think it is more of a statement—what would you do?  I think she is working in a program where maybe the head coach, she feels like, is burned-out and maybe not providing the kind of energy or direction that you need.

 

:  You want the real answer?  Go to a new team; you need to find a new job.  That is the answer.  It is not going to change; it has to come from the top.

 

And as much as I would like to delegate a lot of things, and I try to, there are some things… there has to be some place where the rubber meets the road and that is my desk.  And, you know, that trickles down to the whole organization.  And if you do not have that direction or somebody setting it, then you just sort of idle, right?  You are just kind of in the same place and do not make much progress.  So I do not think you can change that; I think that has to be changed up here.

 

 

[inaudible question]

 

:  Yes.  And that is one thing we… because I… we had to have something.  And we said: Well, what do people like to do?  They like to swim in meets.  So, to swim in a meet, you had to have had at least 85% attendance the six weeks prior.  So, it involves some… you know, making sure you take the attendance every day.

 

One of the things that we went back to was, in the age group program… you know, we were always very strict on attendance and we published the attendance in the newsletter, right?  Kind of… this day and age, people do not like that very much.  And I know that Tom, I talked him into not doing that for a while.  But now that everybody is kind of in the 80s and 90s, we just publish it.  So everybody kind of sees what people are doing.

 

So, if you can kind of look at it… and see, to me, that is a positive thing: You want to swim at meets?  Great.  Be prepared: come to 85%.  You do not have to come to 100, come to 85; miss one a week.  Basically, for the age groups.  And what happened is, once they are in the pro… you know, the habit of coming all the time, they just keep coming.  So it is good.  That is what we did.

 

Yes?

 

 

How much emphasis do we put on nutrition for the team?

 

:  Not enough.  And that is actually something we are trying to target more systematically.  I think we do a very good job with it with our Senior-level swimmers.  I mean, I do not know if there is a good job in the actuality of how it is carried out, but I think the education part is pretty good.  And they value that.  I think we need to do much more with the developmental levels.  Every team has stuff they are working on, I promise you; a lot of areas where you can better.  And that is a hard one because we do not really control that, right?  We just have to sell it.

 

Yes?

 

 

:  Specifically, how do we take attendance?

 

We just have… we print-out the HyTek sheet, you know the roster for the group, and just check it off every practice.  Each coach enters that and averages it out, and we keep a record of it.

 

One thing that I used to do for attendance—and it is actually a very good idea and I think I might go back to it just personally—is I used to give every swimmer a grade for their attendance:  1-2-3-4-5.  1 is like Why did you show up?; 5 is like Wow, that was awesome.  And you can add the points at the end of the month, and that gives you another variable, right?  And if they are doing, like if they have a really terrible practice, I put a 0.  Zero means you didn’t come; even if they were there and got a 0, it is like they did not come.  That was back when I was mean.

 

But what happens is, every day they are getting some feedback on how I thought they swam.  And a lot of times I will ask them, “What do you think you got today?”  Three.  No… some kids will always downgrade themselves, “No, I thought that was a four.”  And then some will always be, Oh, that was a four-and-a-half.  “No, two.”  We need to look at… then that stimulates discussion about what is actually happening, right?  So there are a lot of ways that I think you can do that.  And after a while, I just let the Senior group grade themselves; I did not grade them, they just put it up there.  So we knew if they were at practice, and we knew what their grade was.  And if there was a big discrepancy, I would talk to them about it.  But it is just a way to get them to think about what they did at practice.

 

Next?  Yes, sir.

 

 

:  The question is: Why are you coaching that French boy?  [laughter]

 

And there are many, many reasons for that.  I do not think there is a concern, because we have been doing it forever.  The colleges have been doing it, and continue to do it; and most of the good clubs have continued to do it.  I am going to tell you from my personal standpoint why we have ventured into some international athletes.

 

I learned in the last quadrennial, which is really kind of one of the first—I guess it was the second—but really the first main quad we have had where there are a population of professional athletes, right?  Or post-grads: whatever you want to call them.  And I had four; because no Americans wanted to swim for me because I am too mean or whatever I am, right?  Do not know how to do speed or any of that stuff, I just do my thing.

 

So, I had four and I trained them with high school kids, some good high school kids.  And it did not work.  It worked from probably a… they could all do the practices, but the social environment was terrible.  It was not motivational.  They do not… a 27 year-old and a 16 year-old just really… they can mesh for a practice a week, but not for 10 practices a week.  So I decided if I was going to come back and do this—and this summer I kind of decided I was—I had to have enough post graduate and kind of professional athletes to have a whole group and I did not think I could do that with just Americans.  The irony is, as soon as I got the French boy, all the Americans want to come swim for me—I am not kidding.

 

So, I think that adds a level of excitement and quality.  And I do not just take just anybody, right?  You know, Yannick Agnel, Olympic champion; he is, number one, from an attitude and preparation standpoint and work-ethic standpoint, exactly what fits with us.  And he wants to do it our way.  There are some other foreign athletes that want to do that; I only have three.

 

So, that is why.  I think that they add to what we are doing; they do not take away from it.  Look at Conor Dwyer: trained with him every day, I think it paid off.  And I think it will pay-off long run.  Team USA: I think if everybody gets better, we are going to be better.  I am not afraid to share ideas, I am not afraid to help other country’s athletes, because I know they are helping ours.  That is why.  Great question.

 

Yes?

 

 

[inaudible question]

 

:  That is a great question.  I do not hire any of those—I told you, it is a dictatorship.  No, actually I am constantly putting them on the spot, to contradict me on something; my key people—Erik Posegay, Keenan Robinson, who is now is back with us.  We discuss all kind of things and none of them are afraid to raise their opinion about anything.  And I love it; they know I respect that.  I try to seek other coaches that have different views from mine and try to learn from them.  So, I am always trying to update my education through certain means.  But definitely at home, I am always trying to stimulate an honest conversation about what is going on.

 

Another thing about NBAC: if you do not like to hear the truth, you should not be on our program because that is all we give you.  If you are pretty and beautiful and everything swimming’s going wonderful, we will tell you.  If it is not, we will tell you it is not.  That is it; you do not get any kind of fluff, you do not get any kind of like false hope.  If you need to improve in an area, we are going to expect you to improve in that area.  And if you do not, we are going to tell you: you are not improving in that area.

 

So it is feedback that is… the only way I know how to do it.  And that did not come from me, that came from all the coaches that were before me and I learned from.  I think this process is only valuable if there is an honesty-level to it; so that is just another outgrowth of that.

 

Next?  Yes.

 

 

[inaudible question]

 

:  Wow.  It is getting a lot faster and I did not think it would.  I did not think we would catch-up to the suits so quickly.  So I think it is just going to continue to improve.  I think the backstroke events are going to get a little bit better with this block that is coming in—you know, the ledge.  I do not think it is going to be earth shattering, but it is going to help.  I think we are still making technical improvements, and people are still training smarter.

 

I think we have a long ways to go in terms of training efficiently and smarter.  And here is the key: training efficiently and smarter is not less and easier, it is more and harder.  That is our little catch-phrase, a joke we always have; you know, we are all about more and harder, not less and easier.  So, I think that is where the key is: we are going to make technical improvements and we are going to train more efficiently.  And I think in five years, we are going to see the same level kind of rate a progress that we are getting now.  And maybe if some of these young swimmers that are swimming so fast, keep developing, it will even surpass our expectations.

 

Come over here; blue shirt.

 

 

:  Good.  How do you sell your Age Group parents on the idea of long-term development?  (Boy, that is a great question.)

 

:  I communicate with our parents in several ways.  Twice-a-year we have like a general meeting where I get to do some talking, right?  So that is kind of one way; not probably the best way.  Every month I put-out sort of like a blog in our newsletter that addresses some of these things.  And then we will have smaller group meetings, where I can actually meet with them or interact with them.  So that is kind of the mechanism for how it works.

 

I just think we are always talking about the value of our process.  For NBAC it is all about the process, not the outcome.  So, the biggest part of the process is: learn the basics, learn how to use them in practice, learn how to build your physical skills and your problem solving skills—all of those along the way.  So our natural, our kind of default, position is that everything is a progression.  So, I think when they come in, it is just ingrained in basically everything we do.

 

There is not a real heavy emphasis on… I should not say that.  When I just said, we want a better emphasis on fast swimming as Age Groupers at the top level, is because we want every level of our program to be at the top of whatever that is.  We want to have the top 13+14 year-olds, we want to have the top 11+12 year-olds, we want to have top 10 year-olds; because our experience has proven that those are the ones that tend to be the top 18 year-olds if it is done the right way.  I sat in a meeting one time and this guy—it was actually a lecture, I won’t say who it was—but he was like: No #1 ranked 10 year-old has ever won an Olympic gold medal.  I was like, “Excuse me, we’ve had two: Beth Botsford and Michael Phelps, right on our team.”  Probably some others.

 

So I think as we talk to the parents, we are constantly talking about development, we are talking about what stage they are in and what the next stage is.  So I think they know there is a plan, and that is how they buy-into it.

 

Yes?

 

 

:  What new technologies am I using in my program?

 

:  Probably the most exciting technology I have used is Ecos Training.  Yeah, and I was a complete skeptic.  Shawn, who developed it, is like my best friend, right?  He told me about this, I am like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, okay, you are going to look at a movie and…”  So he came in with it and he brought it, and this is a true story.

 

This was somewhere on the way to London and it was a morning practice and, unbelievably, Michael was there.  And he was not very happy about it.  And Shawn was coming in, and he was going to bring the Ecos and he wanted to show me how it worked and whatever.  And Michael was struggling in freestyle, big time; he just could not get his stroke right.  And I said, “You know, it would be great if we could program in Ecos Michael’s 200 free from Beijing,”—which I thought was his best swim ever, of any kind—“and, you know, freeze some portion of his technique and then have him look at it and see what happens.”

 

So Shawn comes in.  And I asked Michael to get out and he was just unbearably mean that day, grumpy.  Right?  I was like, “Look, Shawn is here.  We are just going to do this for me, and that’s it.”  He is like, All right.  So, I was like, “Look at this video of your Beijing swim for five minutes.”  He did it.  Then we came over, he put the blackout goggles on.  If you do Ecos, you must do the blackout; that is super important.  You know why?  That takes your visual cortex out of the equation and it can be used for learning.  It is like 80% of your brain; you are freeing-up 80% of your brain when you use the blackout.

 

So, we did the blackout, and I was starting to see something.  But, you know, I was still… I was like, “Let’s just humor Shawn”; that is why I even did it.  I was like, “Michael, let’s just do this.  We’ll tell him no thanks, we don’t care.”  But he did it and it started to look like his stroke.  And then he put the regular goggles on and it was exactly his Beijing stroke.  He was like, That’s my stroke.  I am like, “Yeah.”  I am like, “How did that happen?”  He is like, I don’t know, but I know it’s from that movie.  I was like, “Okay.”

 

So we bought it for our team and we started using it.  And that is the single most important thing that Chase Kalisz did to improve his IM.  He improved his backstroke—horrendous as it is now, you cannot believe how bad it was before.  He was going 1:12 in the IM split; he was like a five this time, right?  But we started using it with him and you would see an immediate change in what he was doing in backstroke.

 

I did tests.  We have Gillian Ryan, who is a very good freestyle swimmer and does not even swim breaststroke—it is unrecognizable.  “All right, Shawn,” I called him up, “So I’m going to test your thing out; I’m going to let Gillian watch Brendan Hansen’s breaststroke and see what happens.”  Swear to God, she did it like Brendan Hansen for a couple 25s.  So there is something to that, and that is the most exciting technology we are using.  Very important, I think.  And the science behind it is very sound.

 

Next?

 

 

:  Yeah.  Oh right; that is a great question.  He is like, you know, with all the kids that are coming in, we are going to have to grow at the top.  It is going to be too top heavy

 

:  And your first thing was right.  We are trying to grow really gradually and slowly.  It is hard to do because we are pushing some kids in.  And the unfortunate byproduct of that is: when there is not enough space, we can set the standards pretty high and those that do not meet it have to go.  It is good in some ways, but, you know, hard to say goodbye to some of those people who have been with us for a while.  But we are trying to grow slowly so that we keep the integrity of the program; I do not want to just add a satellite and all of a sudden have 300 new people and then just start from there.

 

Yes?

 

 

[inaudible question]

 

:  Yeah, sure.  Definitely.  There is like, me up here, and then there is a whole line of people… no, I am just kidding.

 

The organizational structure is: we basically have two main… if you cut the team in half, you have your Senior program and your Age Group program, right?  We have four divisions on the team.  So in the Age Group program, we have Discovery, which is when they come in, and then we have the Imagination division which is basically the 9+10s, 11+12s.  Those.  We have a head age group coach who oversees that, Tom Hines.  And then the Senior divisions are the Challenge division and the High Performance division.  And Erik Posegay is the head senior coach, and he sort of oversees those from an administrative standpoint.

 

And those guys are tasked with monitoring the other coaches in those divisions, helping with educating them; you know, making sure that we have sort of the right consistency through the program in what we are teaching.  But each individual coach—I am a firm believer—has free rein to design their training program.  If it is way-far from what we are doing, they do not have free rein.  But in general, I encourage them to learn to experiment with things; to do some of the core things that we value, but to, you know, put their spin on it because that is what makes good coaches: creativity.  So, from that standpoint, they are there.

 

So, if we have an issue like with a parent—I will show you how this works.  Let’s say there is some issue in the Imagination 4 group—which is the first one.  You know, some 9+10 year-old parent, My daughter doesn’t get enough attention, or whatever it is.  They would go to the coach of the group, and likely they will not be able to solve it because they are kind of young, you know?  But maybe they will.  But if they cannot, they are going to go to Tom, who is the head of the age group program, and they are going to try to resolve it.  And if it really cannot be resolved there, it will come up to my desk.  But we have done this enough now that people know: if it comes to my office, it is pretty serious—it is really serious.  And the same in the Senior Program.

 

So, we have a lot of levels where people can communicate and where they can resolve any kind of conflict before it gets to the one that kind of, you know….  We want everybody to be happy; and if you cannot be happy here, we want you to be happy somewhere else.  And we will help you do that.

 

Yes?

 

 

:  Yeah.  Wow.  Describe my typical work week and what percentage of time I would put in different areas.

 

:  I will give you kind of like a day when we have a double.  I am an early morning person; I get up at 4:45.  I also kind of live out in the country.  So, I get up, make a little breakfast, get myself together, and try to be at the pool by, at the latest, 5:45.  Okay?  And then I spend the time from 5:45 until 7:00—when my first practices starts with the post-grads—doing, number one, usually finalizing that morning practice, getting that organized.  And then doing some administrative work when I have that quiet time, when the phone is not ringing.  I get a lot of work done in that hour.

 

At 7:00 I would coach until kind of 9:00-ish, you know?  8:30-9:00.  Then I would work-out, personally; I think that is important and I encourage everybody to take time to do that.  Get cleaned up.  I would probably actually work-out, then do some more desk work, take a shower, eat lunch, you know by then it is like noon, right?

 

I would spend the time from about 1:00… see my practice starts at 2:00 with the post-grads, so it is kind of narrow.  Then I am planning my afternoon practice.  I am coaching a practice from 2:00-4:00.  I might be hanging-out and kind of seeing where their drylands… what is going on with that, after, just so I have a feel for it.  Or I might do some more administrative work.  And then usually by 5:00, I am out of there; I try to go from about 5:45 until 5:00.  Sometimes it is later.

 

But that would be a typical double day.  If we do not have a double day, maybe I will stay at home and then come in at about 8:00, do all the same stuff.  And probably work at home in that first hour and try to do stuff.  You know, I still get up early, I just try to do it at home.  That make sense?  Yeah?

 

Yes?

 

 

:  Okay.  What kind of recommendations do I have for tapering?  Oh, wow; we could spend a week on that one.

 

:  Tapering, for me, is very easy to do if you have done the work.  Swimmers never miss the taper, they only miss the work. [laughter]  That is kind of funny; like I always joke, you know, Eddie Reese would be like: Oh, they’re not rested enough; I always say “They didn’t work hard enough.”  Right?  It is just how you look at it.

 

But, I think that the taper is something that you can do quite well if they have the strong foundation of consistent work and you come off of that.  The key things for me on the taper are: only change one variable at a time.  If you are going to start dropping the volume of the work–whatever that is—the intensity has to stay the same.  You know, you can keep the volume up and drop the intensity, but you can only change one thing at a time.  Because then you know, if you make an adjustment, you can say, Ah, this was the result of that.  So, I only change one thing at a time.  And for me, I stay with basically the same weekly cycle and start cutting the volume in a systematic manner.  And then at the very end, I will cut the intensity out after the volume has already been done.

 

But… yes?

 

:  Do I taper men differently from women?

 

:  Certainly the older guys, for sure.  You know, the high school guys, probably the same as the high school girls because they are not as developed.  But definitely the men will do much-less strength training.  You know, they will recover more from the strength training, of the weights particularly.  I keep my women on a weight program until like five days out, four days, depending.  You know, Allison [Schmitt] went until five days.  Because I think they lose strength quickly, so that is a big factor.  I think their volume is generally higher, depending on who it is.  But I know that I feel like for most women, keeping their volume higher is important, and the men can drop it lower.  But, you know, the general guidelines.

 

Yes?

 

 

:  Okay.  The question was: what is the breakdown in ages of the 200 swimmers we have on our competitive team?

 

:  I will tell you an interesting statistic: the last… about… well it was 2 years ago now, we were about 50/50 boys and girls.  It is like unheard of, right?  That is the Michael effect: in Baltimore, every boy thinks it is cool to swim.  So that is a little bit unusual about our team, is we have almost balance between boys and girls.  Where before Michael came along, it was probably 75/25; you know, we had lots of girls and not that many boys.

 

The ages are… we are split just about down the… we are a little heavier on the Seniors than I would like.  You know, the 14 and ups; well, not even the 14 & ups, the 15 & ups.  We are a little bit heavier, so it is not exactly 50/50.  It is probably about 60% is 13 and younger, 14 and over is 40[%].  And that iss, you know, we have some 26 year-olds now which skew the ages a little bit.

 

Yes?

 

 

:  A very good question: how do you oversee the dryland or athletic training for your program?

 

:  We have had someone, and recently we are very lucky to have him come back, who is Keenan Robinson, who is the head athletic trainer for the Olympic Team.  Worked with me for 9 years, Michigan and at Baltimore.  He is also our strength trainer.  And he oversees for the whole program, but we have two other guys that work with him that administer the program.  We actually have dryland coaches for all the groups that are not the coaches.  I mean, every now and then, the swim coach will need to run it if something happens.

 

But we are… particularly at Goucher [College], along the safety lines that we had, we do not want to pull a coach off the deck because we have to have two coaches on deck at all times—we think—during the swimming part.  So I do not want to pull a coach off the deck to coach dryland for another group, so we have a coach who does that.  You know, part time—not that big a deal.  But we have a program that is… I think pretty cohesive, and starts at very basic movements that we think are important and progresses all the way through to the real, you know, Olympic lifting, up here at the top.  Good question.  Thank you.

 

Yes?

 

 

:  What do I find in my coaching is most motivating, exciting and fulfilling?

 

:  Helping a kid do something they did not think they could do.  That is it.  Seeing a smile on their face when it is like, you know, his sister—that is it.  You know, it is one thing… you know, and I love all Michael’s swims, too, you know?  Who would not like that?  But to have someone move to a new level, or make a breakthrough, or gain a confidence that they didn’t have; that is what I like, that is why I do it.

 

 

:  Oh, man.  What does the program cost?  (I wish Kathy was here, she already went to the airport.)

 

:  I can give you a basic rundown of how we do it.  Everybody has to put a deposit down in the middle of the Summer for the next Fall.  They pay their dues: September, October, November.  One third of each is automatically taken-off a credit card—they have to give us a credit card.  All the dues are paid by November.  Then we have to, you know, be smart about how we use the money, but it is all there.

 

At the very top level… I will give you the top high school kids.  The post-grads pay even more; the post-grads are paying about $4,500 just for dues for NBAC, but they pay more on top of that.  They have to pay to come to us: another reason why we like to have them.  The high school kids are paying… I think it is $3,600 a year.  Maybe $3,750 this year.  The top high school kids.  And it works down, where the ones in the Challenge division are at $2,700.  The top level… the more time they get, the more they pay.  You know, we try to do it that way.  You work down to kind of the $1,700s for the Imagination groups, and then the Discovery’s are about $800-$900 for the, I cannot remember, I think it is $900.  But that is a great question.  Kathy could give it to you specifically.  I usually just do not get involved in that.

 

 

:  Do we pay the coaches according to what groups?

 

:  No, we do not.  We pay them what we think they are worth.  Mostly more than they are worth.  No: less than they are worth, by far less than they are worth.   You know, the coaches, we… I do think it has to add up.  I think that the dues and the salaries basically add-up for us; that is kind of how it works.  And then we have to fundraise to meet other expenses and do stuff like that, or find other ways to generate that money.

 

In the back, yeah?

 

 

:  Facilities, what we have.

 

:  We are blessed.  At Meadowbrook Aquatic and Fitness Center, we have a… the centerpiece of it is an outdoor 50-meter pool by 33 meters—it is an enormous pool.  It was actually… it is about 80 years-old and we have renovated it several times to make it a competitive swimming pool.  There is a bulkhead that makes the 50m course; but we have a permanent bulkhead in the middle which has six 25-meter lanes, six 25-yard lanes on the other side, and we have five long-course lanes at all times—because we like to train a lot of different courses.  Inside, we have a six-lane, 50-meter pool which has a permanent bulkhead—well, permanent, temporary bulkhead—in it which divides a four-lane, 25-yard course; a four-lane, 25-meter course; and then two 50-meter lanes pretty much all the time.

 

And that is what we use.  We have a warm-water teaching pool beside it.  We also use Goucher College, which is a six-lane, 25-yard pool for the Age Group program.  That is about it.

 

 

(Guys, I am going to take one more question.  I hate it, I could do this all night, but I am going to have to run.)

 

:  Yeah.  Oh yeah.  The question is: what kind of power training do we do?

 

:  I think it is important, you know, resistance training and developing power, particularly for the older guys.  We have a rocket tower—have you seen those?  It is like one of those power towers, but it goes 50 meters.  And it is real smooth; it is very well made.  So I like that a lot.

 

But we do the basics.  We do, like, stretch cords, parachutes.  I like wall kicking.  You know, it does not have to be fancy.  Wall kicking is one of the greatest things you can do and everybody has got them, they do not cost anything.  We use various kinds of paddles, paddles and fins.  We use weight belts, sometimes.  We vertical kick with weight.  So, those are kind of the basics we use.  But I think it is really important, I do not use a power rack, per se;  I like the towers better because they can go further.  You know?  But, I think it is very, very important.

 

 

Guys, it is been an absolute pleasure.  Thank you.

 

 

##### end #####

Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Sponsorship & Partnerships

Official Sponsors and Partners of the American Swimming Coaches Association

Join Our Mailing List

Subscribe and get the latest Swimming Coach news