Required Skills to Transition from Age Group to National Group by Chris Michelmore, De Anza Cupertino Aquatics (2012)


[introduction, by Jennifer Gibson]

If you were in here the first hour this afternoon, we were fortunate enough to hear about DACA‘s [De Anza Cupertino Aquatics’] first, big part of their program: the importance of getting people into the door and being a part of your program, and taking care of your customers.  And De Anza Cupertino as a team does an amazing job with this.  They are in the San Jose [California] area and currently have 800 swimmers.  So in hearing from Tammy [Hopkins] about how they get those people in the door and how well their program is established, and hearing about primarily their pre-comp through their age group program and what a great job they do there.  And if you have ever had a chance to witness their athlete meets, you would see those results firsthand.  Now, we will move into upper levels of their team.


I have the privilege to introduce… I am very proud to say that he is a former Fellow with the ASCA program back in 2008.  He was assistant coach with San José State, and a year ago, he accepted the position of the National team head coach for DACA.  And I am sure we are going to hear great things about their upper end of their program.  I would like to introduce to you Chris Michelmore.



[Michelmore begins]

(Is that….  It is on?  Everybody can hear me okay?  I hope you guys do not mind a couple of things real fast.  Is this too light for the PowerPoint?  It should be okay.  I also am not too good on the podium.  So the slides really are more for me than you guys, because if I do not stay directed, I will probably talk about the Dallas game last night by the end of the talk.  But I have Eli on my fantasy team, so that was not too good.)


First of all, I am honored to be here, honored to give a talk on this subject.  I talk very, very fast and I get very excited about things and passionate about things.  So if that happens, this is going to help me for you guys to ask questions.  So I do not do too well just reading from something.  So please, at any time, I would like it to be a little bit more of a conversation than anything else.


But when I started thinking about how I was going to talk about skills specifically for transitioning from age group swimming to national level, I started doing what I think most people did is try to come up with, like, a checklist.  “Okay, what are some things that I am looking for as the National team coach, that are really going to be… you know, benefit my kids that they should be learning before they get to me.”  Then I realized that was going to get me into trouble.  What I am not going to be providing is a checklist—that is the first thing I am not going to be doing.


It is not a move-up checklist.  A lot of people are looking for specific parameters for moving-up through groups.  It is also not a way to run your club or a way to micromanage or a way to direct your coaches on what you want specifically.  Because I think there needs to be a little bit more of that autonomy and willingness and ability to grow from the age group level as a coach.


I have done… I have had the opportunity to coach all different levels, like she introduced me.  I was the assistant coach for San José State for five years; I coached 10&Unders; I coached high school for a few years.  So I have had a background in a lot of different areas.  But I noticed something: there is a difference between what the coaches are looking for and what the swimmers think that you are looking for.  And I think that is an important thing to figure out.


So, I noticed there is a swimmer-to-coach disconnect.  Recognizing the difference between what you think they should possess as swimmers, and what they think they should possess.  And who is right?  It is just because we are coaches, because a lot of times we think that we are right and they do not know what they are talking about.  I think that is dangerous.  A lot of times the kids show… teach me a lot.  And they teach all of us a lot.  So it is really important to notice that.  And everybody in this room, too, came in with probably a preconceived notion of skills that they think are important.  And I think that is great as well.  So hopefully I can portray what mine are.


But what I did is I asked my swimmers three things that they… three skills, rather, that they think are needed to be in this group—that they are in right now.  The most common answers are:

  • hard worker,
  • positive attitude and
  • mental toughness.

We have heard a lot of talks, already, about those things; and I think those are really great attributes, those are really great traits.  But then I started thinking: well, this is a skills talk.


So, how did they do?  Did they match what you guys came in with, in terms of what you think [are the] skills that they should have when they moved up?  What I think is that the list that they give are great for anything.  You can give that same list to an elite soccer player, to an elite basketball player; it does not matter what sport it is, those are great traits to have.  But are those things that are necessarily taught?  Yeah to a degree.  But it is a little long of a process.  More importantly: do your swimmers know what your list is?  And so that is what I kind of learned from that was: I was not really educating my kids.  And from the age group level, the coaches that work with me: here is what I am looking for, here is what I am looking for.


And so, what that brings us to is the coach-to-coach disconnect; I think that is equally as important.  What I mean by that is, as a National-level coach, I should be making my age group coaches aware of what I am looking for when they get me.  And the age group coaches should be making me aware of what they are doing.  I think that back-to-back, that constant flow back-and-forth of communication, is incredibly important.  And I think every once and a while we have our own views and we do not like to share them too much, but I think it is really important.


So I asked… so I did the same thing:  I went around and asked as many coaches, all summer long, spring.  And I asked what they thought were the three most important skills to move their kids up from their age group program to the national level.  And I got three totally different answers:

  • be able to maintain focus and technique throughout the entire practice;
  • knowledge of racing strategies and goal setting; and then
  • a solid training foundation and willingness to sacrifice—so, in other words, they are demonstrating commitment to the sport.

Now there is a lot of similarity and ties to the ones that they gave, but they are a little bit more specific.


So what I came to was a defining moment.  I decided: am I looking for general skills to make this person a better person, or do I want somebody who is just a better person coming in?  Or am I looking for specific skills?  And I did not know the answer to that.  But what I realized the difference was, was character traits versus specific skill sets.  In other words: “they’re a hard worker and they’re a great person” or “they can kick on a certain interval”.  So I kind of separated it in two.


And then what I realized was that I think for me the idea of a national-level swimmer is that they have found a place where both these concepts meet, and they become the most complete athlete.  And that is a really big important distinction that I am going to talk about.  They are looking to become the most well-rounded athlete that they can become, by the time they get to me.


So (let me see here, I’m trying to jumping ahead too much.)  So, what I did was (it’s okay) I grouped things into skill sets.  I think we can all agree that there are some pretty major ones, in terms of skill sets.  And then I grouped them into groupings where they relate to each other.  So first one:

  • time management skill set,
  • goal setting skill set,
  • leadership skill set, and then
  • being a team member.

And I will bold the ones that I think are the most important, and why, in a little bit.  But those are kind of the leader… the people that are kind of coming out of their shell a little bit, and they understand maturity.  That is kind of how I group those.


The next sets:

  • communication skill set,
  • listening skill set,
  • mental focus skill set.

A little bit more of the comprehension side of things.  Are they… by the time they get to the national level, do they understand why they are doing what they are doing?  Do they understand what is going on around them?  I use the term active participant.  Are they an active participant in their own lives?  Or are they just going back and forth and not paying attention.


And then the next ones, we have kind of more of being an athlete or being involved in sports:

  • self maintenance,
  • general athleticism—that is an important skill set—and then
  • swimming skill set.

And that’s kind of the overall picture.


So, I think that… now to take the difference between the two, of the swimmers’ three and the coaches’ three, is to relate those bigger skill sets to Swimming specifically; and how I think Age Group Swimming can be tied to that.


So starting with the first one: time management, as a skill.  As an age group coach and athlete, the time management, or time involved in this sport, is a whole lot different than when they are at the national level.  If they are not prepared for that, you often run into trouble, both on the family end… but just as the person, they get rundown very, very easily.  We have all seen that athletes at the national level just get overwhelmed with things.  I think that it is really important to talk about the difference between the high school/college athlete: more time on homework, national practice times increase, the amount of travel time is greater, they are missing a ton of school.  If they do not know how to manage their time, they are going to be overwhelmed.  I think that is a really important thing to talk to them about.


(Does anybody have any questions on this before…?  All right.)


So now, what skills can they have in the group that they can be kind of taught a little bit before they get to a meet?  I think learning how to make a list is really important.  I think that is something that they do not talk about to the younger kids.  How to prioritize.  How to recognize tasks, period—because a lot of times they go right by them; do not pay any attention to them.


And then another important thing that I think is kind of interesting to talk about is:  do you, as an age group program, do you take your kids to highly-competitive, travel trips?  That can have a big effect on people when they get to the national level.  Have they been there before?  Do they know what it takes to travel?  Do they know what it takes to travel?  Do they know what it takes to pack?  Do they know what it takes to be away from their parents?  That is an important skill to move from Age Group- to National-level Swimming.


The next skill set: goal setting.  It is always scary when I get this answer to these questions:

  • What is your best time? I don’t know.
  • What is the qualifying time for Nationals? I don’t know.
  • What did you go on that last send-off?
    I don’t know.

There is too often that that happens.  And I think everybody has heard those things before: it is normal and it happens.  But understanding what is going on around you, and, again, this comes back to my active participant side of things.  If you just know…  the simple thing is to pay attention to the pace clock and knowing what is going on—that is part of goal setting.  And even further than that, things that they can have coming in that helps with that, it is a long process, it is an education process.


But they have to, first of all, know what they are… what is in front of them.  I think it is important to go through the chain of events that they are looking for, how they are going to progress.  Simply going through all of those things with the younger athletes kind of lets them know that it is not just whatever meet is right in front of them but it is the two, three, four meets after that.  If they are only looking at one at a time, they lose sight of the big picture.  But having fun and learning motivating tactics to achieving goals.


How to make goal cards.  How many age group coaches… how many people here have their kids fill out goal cards at the beginning of the year?  I think that is awesome; that is so cool.  And not just on goals, but on times, on also individual goals, team goals.  Just having that skill set is incredibly important and I think that is fantastic that most of us do that.Also, on those goal sheets, how many of you guys include split breakouts, on the goal sheets?  A whole lot less people.  Which is fine; it depends on what age you are coaching as well, because you know the different ages are going to be different.


But I think it is important for the age groupers to understand [it], rather than just: “Well how are you going to get that goal time?”  “I’m going to go really fast and work really hard.”  Right?  That is that trait that they understand.  But do they know if they want to go 2:00 in the backstroke, do they know they have to go out in a 58?  Or they just know that they need to go out fast?  Do they know what it takes to go out in a race?  And are they doing that in practice?  That is a whole other different thing.  I just talked to my kids about that, the fact that, yeah, maybe you know what it takes and now, I have made you aware of that.  But then every time I am harping on you for going 32s when you should be going under a 30, you are not making that connection between your goal and the actual race.  So that is where the goal setting comes in is connecting the two things: practice and racing.  That is an important skill as well.


The next skill set: leadership as a skill.  This is one I struggle with because I honestly think that a lot of this is developed in the national group, obviously.  They are getting a lot older, so there is going to be… especially on the college level, you know, you have team captains.  And I also think that there is a problem that—not a problem necessarily but a natural tendency—that in age group swimming, there are kids who speak up more.  There are kids who are noticed more: they are louder, there are class clowns.  So, I think it is important to urge everybody to find some way to find to have those leadership qualities, even if it is rarely.  And also: give them opportunities to make decisions on behalf of the group.  I think decision making is not really a big part of the… can be overlooked a little bit sometimes.


So things that they can do when they are in the age group programs is I think everybody should have to lead lanes, not just the faster people.  I think, always putting somebody else in a different… in a position like that is important.  And leading cheers.  So, when we are at the… with my group, when we are at the end of practice, we do a team cheer every single day at the end of practice.  And it is somebody different every single day.  And obviously it is fun to try to get the really quiet ones out—their voice usually cracks when they try to yell out the cheer.  But it is trying to get everybody to do something at all times.


And then I mentioned team captains earlier.  I also do not think it is a bad idea to have team captains at the lower levels.  But I think it is a little bit different in that it kind of happens on its own—but it is also okay to promote that.  What I do is have my kids, they are the ones responsible for get-togethers and team dinners—and things like that.  Not me.  And I do not designate a team captain, but it happens naturally.  But it is kind of looking for that same dynamic.


And I have seen it in our group, too.  We have, all the time, kids… they will come and they will come up with a shirt design.  And they will make everybody in the group do it.  It is not on us; I know our coaches are not making them do that.  But then they will show up to a meet and they will all be wearing some unique t-shirt that they came up with.  And tends to happen a little bit more on its own in the age group level; but I think it is important to promote it and encourage that.


Being a team member.  So I highlighted this one earlier.  Is this my number one, as far as what I am looking for when they come into my group.  I think this incorporates all of those traits and comparative traits that they thought was important: being a hard worker, having a positive attitude.  If they love being there and they have a sense of pride about the team that they are representing, that is a really important thing when they move-up to the national level.  And I think that if they want it at the national level, it cannot happen with the national level; it has to happen with the youngest groups.


I always, whenever we are having meetings or anything, I talk about the fact that I am very lucky because my job makes… if that happens, my job gets made to look very easy.  Because I am very reliant on the coaches who are giving me the kids—I will be the first person to admit it.  They make the national-level coaches look good, because if they… if I get a whole team of people who are just die-hard about a team, it is very easy for them to continue buying into the program.  If they are not, and it is a whole bunch of individuals, it just gets worse and worse and worse.


So, I think having fun is really, really important.  I love listening to [Dave] Salo talk about all the things that they do to have fun—that could not be more important.  I mean, we will stop at random times and do… I could not come up with it right now, but just random things all the time, getting out of the pool.  We used to get out with the lane line, and take a lane line out and run it around campus—everybody had to have a part of the lane line.  I think fun stuff like that makes them have to work together; I think it is really important.  And then having fun creates fast swimming and swimming fast is fun.  And it just keeps rolling on top of itself.


But I think finding things like that.  I remember listening to Todd [Schmitz] up at the Colorado Stars one time talk—because it snows there all the time and obviously it does not in Cupertino in California, but—they would get out, if it started snowing, they would get out and see who could make the best snow angels—right in the middle of practice.  And this is Missy Franklin and the top, top level of girls in the country—he is doing fun stuff like that.  But that is because the whole age group program before that encouraged that all the way along the line.  So I think that is really important to notice.


So what things can they have moving up from… transitioning from age group to national-level swimming?  Knowing every single team cheer, you know.  Who here has a list of all the team cheers for their program?  Probably not… a couple of people.  I think that is a really good thing.  And I could admit that we do not either—that is something that we can do better.  But having a list of team cheers that every single person on the program knows.  I know we are a larger program, but that is no different—just because we’re a larger program.


I also think that they should know their teammates best times and what their goal times are.  I think it is a way for them to be supportive of their teammates.  That is very easy to do, I would imagine, in the age group level.  One of the things that we do is we have team buddies—I got this from Jeff Pearson at the Sierra Marlins, we talked a few years ago.  It is fantastic.  What I let them do is they sit down and fill out their goal sheet—the same goal sheet we were talking about.  Then I collect them all—and I did not tell them I was doing this the first time we did this.  I collect them all and then made a copy of all of them and handed them [back] out in a different order.  That is the person that they were accountable for the entire year.


Now on this goal sheet, they had not just their goal times, their best times—because that is important as an athlete.  Wow, I am at a meet and my teammate gets a best time?  I know it right away, and I congratulate them before having to ask them.  “Well, was that a good swim; how did you do?  Wow, you did a best time and that’s great, that’s fantastic, that’s a goal time.”  Rather than me having to tell the rest of the team, too.  Other thing I had on the goal sheet was: goals that were individual goals but not time related.  I want to go a certain number of dolphin kicks off the wall.  Okay, well now, you are kind of screwed because you are in the lane with your buddies and they just saw you go four and they are going to call-you-out on it.  You know, I think that is important.  You have… in a supportive way obviously and sometimes not so supportive, but in a supportive way of hey… or my goal is to have 100% attendance.  “How come you missed yesterday, everything okay?  I know your goal is to have 100% attendance.”  So that little bit of back-and-forth and connection between the teammates is I think a good thing.


And then one last thing is being a team member as a skill is: relays.  This is the easiest way, first of all, to be noticed at a swim meet.  It is also the easiest way to get a group, a larger group, of kids going to a higher-level meet.  There are a lot of times where teams—and I was on a team like this, too, growing up—where that is the first time we get to go Nationals is on a relay.  It is the first time you get to go to a big meet relay—that is important.  And also I think they should know that it is an honor to be on a relay.  Here are the kids that I am looking for transitioning from age group to national-level swimming.  There are the kids who want to anchor the relay, and there are the kids who want to lead-off the relay because they know that their time is going to count.  That is a big distinction.  And for some reason that caught my eye this summer, and I paid an awful lot of attention to it.  And there are the kids who are swimming for themselves:  “Can I lead off the relay, my time counts.”  They are not putting the team before themselves, and I already know that before they get into my group.  But rather than [that], I want the kids who are the anchor in the group, the anchor in the relay, the ones who are willing to put the team before themselves—that is really exciting.  And I think you will probably agree that those are the kids that we all want in the group.


So, that is what I’m looking for in terms of skills as being a team member—things that we are looking out for.


Next skill is: communication.  You are going to have both types of people obviously: introverts and extroverts—and that is a good thing.  It is important though to be able to communicate with both those types of people.  Here is another—this is just a pet-peeve of mine, so sorry if I’m ranting on this—but there is a difference between being told as a coach or being asked as a coach:

  • Hey, I’m going to miss tomorrow, versus
  • Is it okay if I miss practice tomorrow, what are we doing?

Being asked a question is just something that I have noticed, over time; it shows a whole lot more respect, I think.  And it is not that I am a mean guy or looking for a whole bunch of respect; there are a number of coaches that know me here: I try to have as much fun as possible.  But things like that are noticed.


Now, it is different for things that are far enough advanced, but that is also a skill of communication.  Hey, I took the time to… wow, you gave me the meet schedule at the beginning of the year; I took the time to compare it to my family vacations, I took the time to compare it to… whatever other responsibilities that I have and I realized that I have a commitment here and I am going to try and uphold it.  As opposed to the kids who: Oh, I forgot to mention that I am going on a vacation for a week next week.  Well, you probably knew that.  So that level of communication is really, really important; as I mentioned it shows a good deal of respect.


Communication as a skill set.  What can they have coming into this group?

  • Knowing when it is okay to talk in practice.
  • They can—this is a fun one to try—try to tell the set to just the first person in each lane, and I have them go back and try to explain it to the rest of the lane. You usually get a totally different set.  But that is a fun one to try.  You can pull them out of the water and explain it to them.
  • And also… it says emails. I know with the age group level, you probably do not want to be giving out your email. But whatever level of communication that they are able to give to you.  I know for me, I do email and text all the time back and forth—it is easier.  But I do not use Twitter (like Dave Salo).
  • Are they the ones that are communicating with you or is it their parents? At a certain age, it is going to be them, but where does that transition happen?  When do they start communicating you?  When do they start taking responsibility for their plans?


So, the next one: listening as a skill.  This is probably the most frustrating from the coach’s level, I would think—at least for me.  How many times do you have to repeat a set during practice?  Probably a lot.  And I can tell you from coaching college, it is no better; in fact, it is probably worse—they check-out really, really easily.  (And I have a member of my college girls [team] in [the room] here.)


How many times do you have to quiet the group when you’re explaining a set?  This is a… by chance, I have found this to be a lot better.  When you give out a set, are you saying: here’s the set, XYZ, okay now, we’re leaving on the top?  I think something that is really…  try this some time: give the send-off [of] when you are leaving [first].  Next top we’re leaving.  Watch how many of them are going to go like this: clock, you.  They know when they are going to be leaving; they have to pay attention.  So you say, alright, we’re leaving on the top, and the set is….  Most of the time, I only have to say it once.


It just gets them to register; I do not know why, it just gets them to listen.  They know that they have to get ready; and a lot of times I have very complicated sets where they needs lots of equipment.  And they know that by now, so they know that they have to… they are going to have a bunch of stuff to do by the time I am done talking.  And it also keeps me in check, because I talk a lot and talk very fast—like I said.  So it gets me to go: ‘I’d better be done explaining the set in the next minute.’


So, what skills can they have as far as listening?

  • I mentioned being able to hear or see a set once. So there are a number of people who are more visual—that is great, give them the set.  Maybe you have a whiteboard and you write it down and erase it.  Okay?  It might not go so well the first couple of times, but it probably does not because like me, because I just go: okay, that’s how it’s going to be.  So you have to be a little bit more persistent about that.
  • Knowing how to be quiet before a start, especially during quality sets.
  • And also knowing and understanding the ready position before a set—I think that is a great listening skill to be able to have. The right position: one hand on the wall, two feet on the wall. It just shows that they are ready to listen and they are ready to go.


And then we have mental focus as a skill.  (Am I going too fast through any of these skill sets?  I hope I’m not.)  So, mental focus as a skill:

  • Ability to handle intensity. This is a little bit more ambiguous and vague.  Again, this is going to be one of those things that just like leadership, it is kind of continued through the national level,
  • Ability to maintain composure. and
  • Ability to handle a new environment.

So the kids mentioned the hardworking side of this; the coaches mentioned the ability to focus on technique and stay focused all the way through a practice.  When I went… and with any of these points, please take away the ones that are working for you.  But I went in a completely different direction.


I went to: be in a big meet situations and acting like you have been there before.  That is something that is totally different when you get to the national level.  I mentioned going on big, age group, travel trips, that helps with this.  But the question is what is their first trip to Nationals going to be like?  Are they going to be the one that are acting like they have been there before?  Or are they going to be the ones with their jaws-dropped, intimidated and looking for autographs the entire time?


Seeing those kids at a lot of the Nationals, what stood out with me this summer was—I went to the Swim Invitation in Omaha and [Olympic] Trials—imagine as the first-time swimmer, you know, the first event of the first day of the meet.  It is also the first time anybody has swum in that pool.  A little intimidating.  It is also not a full heat, and it is also the slower kids of the qualifying time.  And then on National and Olympic Trial level, they clear the pool deck; it is silent, everybody is watching them.  So have they rehearsed being in that situation beforehand?  I mean their faces go pale, they start shaking; it is a very intimidating place to be.  That is an upper-extreme example, but I think it is important to practice that.


So what do I do, and what I see a lot of our coaches do which I think is great, is they them get up and race, a lot.  And randomly.  They get them out of their comfort zone.  That is an important skill to be able to have as an age group coming into national: they are okay, they are comfortable, being uncomfortable.


They also… when I say randomly, if you have done dryland, we do this quite a bit where we…  we have just been doing dryland for 30-45 minutes, maybe an hour.  They are warmed up, they are ready-to-go.  Surprise them.  Hop up on the blocks and go a 50 for time, you know.  They might not be comfortable with that: But I didn’t get to warm up my normal way.  So, I think that is important for creating mental focus, is taking them out of their comfort zone as much as possible.


Self-maintenance.  This is a little bit more specific, but I mean this in terms of taking care of yourself.  This again comes back to being an active participant in your life.  I talk to the kids about: why would you go through… it is like there is a rule of, you workout for 1 hour a day, say.  Well, you have 23 hours to screw that up.  So why would you go through everything you could—pain, focus—and then screw it up by not taking care of yourself the right way.


I put this on here, and it might not be on some of you guys’ priority list, but I think learning self-maintenance can happen at the age group level, to be moving up into the national level.  And it is simple things that we all teach.  How to fuel; how to eat the right food.  How to warm-up and warm-down.  Are they even doing it?  You know there are those kids who hate to warm-down:  “Oh, yeah, I warmed down an 800.”  No, you just… your race was five minutes ago.


And then injury prevention.  I put this on here only because it is something that has been stirring my curiosity at national-level meets.  For those of you who are sending kids from age group to Nationals level, there are a lot of people walking around with foam rollers and sticks and skins, and all kinds of recovery tools.  But I know for a fact there are a lot of people that do not really know the purpose of it.  So I think that education has to happen before they just start using it, because I think that they are just using it because everybody else is.  So that comes down to that education of understanding why.  In other words: get them to ask why.  Why are we doing this, rather than just being told to do something.


Other skills that they can have:

  • clean eating habits: proper fuels post workout/post recovery, and
  • proper warm-up and warm-down tactics.


Now, I could spend, obviously with any topic, I could spend a whole talk on just that subject.  So it is not my point to give specific skills on that, but what I think is an important skill set to have.  And if you want, I would love to answer questions on this kind of stuff.  We will probably have plenty of time, I think.  So, like I said, do not… please ask me questions because I do a lot better in a conversation rather than just reading stuff.


General athleticism—this is the second one that I bolded.  I think from an age group level’s point of view, that is kind of the goal.  I mentioned that we are coaching the “athlete” rather than the “swimmer”.  I do not treat it any differently at the national level: I still do not think of them as a swimmer; I think of them as the athlete.  But [if] they do not understand that when they are younger, it becomes a problem.


So, how I define that is: the person who has the fewest weaknesses.  The person who has the fewest weaknesses as an athlete, they will be the most-focused on their sport.  In other words, it is probably the kid who played the most sports when they were younger.  They have done a little bit of everything; they understand a little bit more about being an athlete.  So what I did is I took this list of ten physical skills, and I started looking at it.  And I said: okay, the first two, what kind of athlete is that?  Could anybody, what kind of… the first two things, what kind of athlete is that?  Swimmer?  Soccer?  A triathlete?  Marathon runner?  Something like that; those types of athletes.


The next four, what kind of athlete is that?  (What’s that?) Gymnastics?  I would say that is an Olympic lifter.  The strength, flexibility, power or speed?  I would say that you are right; I think gymnastics is really important.  I think the last four are gymnastics—that is at least how I would. I mean take it however you want; that is how I broke it up.  But you are right in terms of everybody has named those three athletes, one way or another.  I do not want the best triathlete, I do not want the best weightlifter, I do not want the best gymnast; I want the person who is the best at all three of those things.  I think that, to me, that is a really well-rounded athlete.


Anybody have any questions on this list?  What’s that?


[inaudible question from the audience]


The Olympic lifter?  The weightlifter.  The power athlete: the discus thrower, the shot putter.  It is the power athlete—that is how I would define that.


Any other questions on that list?  Yes?


[inaudible question from the audience]


I think that those can be developed, yes, I think.  But I mean strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, those can be worked on.  In terms of genetic based?


[inaudible question from the audience]


So, I am looking at two things:

  • One is the talent recognition side. Yeah, I think it is a good list for talent recognition, too.
  • And the other side is the side of working on it.

So there are both those: people who are naturally gifted and well-rounded versus the ones who are working on doing that.  But my point is I think there are ways to work on that, and as a coach that is what you are trying to focus on: the things that you can affect.  And so I think ways to do this, to affect those that are not already genetically predisposed: a well-rounded, dryland background.  Like I said/mentioned: make them an athlete first.  Do they play a lot of sports, also, within your dryland?  Some of the things that we do that might be a little unique, maybe you guys do it—I love to hear about it.  We have had kickboxing, we have had Krav Maga, we have yoga; we have done a whole bunch of other sports as part of our dryland program.


It is three things:

  • One, it is doing something that is out of their comfort zone.
  • It is making them more well-rounded because they are playing a different sport. and
  • It is also fun. It is really, really fun; and that it is really, really important.  They need stuff like that, where it is not so monotonous.


The people who know me real well, there is a… I think there is another good tool for this.  I also own and run a CrossFit facility.  Who here has heard of CrossFit?  Probably a fair amount of people (that’s awesome).  Who here does CrossFit?  Not quite as many.  CrossFit, to me, is just a tool to play as many sports as possible.  All CrossFit is, is it is a way to put the sports philosophy into anything we do: it makes them competitive and it makes it fun.


What I mean by that is take a… we have a 100-yard freestyler.  You know what they are doing: they are swimming.  You know their stroke: they are swimming freestyle.  You know the rules.  You know how far it is: it is 100 yards.  And you know what the time at the end.  Why can’t you do that with everything?  There is an accountability system where you know what you are doing—how far, how many, how much—and what the time is of the result at the end.


And kids will die for points.  So what we do is we put all the scores up on the board, every single day.  They start being competitive with each other.  Now, this is outside of Swimming, and a lot of the exercises have nothing directly to do with Swimming.  So what are they really doing?  They are playing sports; they are just playing different sports, every single day.  So that is why I use CrossFit as a tool, to: get them to be competitive in random things, get them to become more athletic.


Other thing that it does, is I mentioned weaknesses.  If you are doing all these new things… if I have a weakness in the pool, and I continue to have that weakness; and I am… everything is not… there is nothing changing, playing a new sport might increase [improve] that weakness without me really having to focus on it.  I might be my core strength, my leg strength, whatever it is; do I need to repeat the same movement that I am having a hard time with on the land?  I am probably going to have the same weakness.  So it is just used as a tool, as an avenue, to continue working hard on land.  Rather than: okay, I did something for 30 seconds.  Well, how many did you do?  I don’t know.


Okay, so bottom line is: whatever the tool is, it does not matter to me.  It is whatever helps you make them play sports and have fun and become a general, well-rounded athlete.  I think that general athleticism, the amount of time that we can spend on promoting it is really the key.


Anybody else have any questions on that?  Yes?


[inaudible question from the audience]


You are right; yeah, it is.  His question was: how do you keep them from jumping ship?  Basically, right?  Once they start playing with other things.


Unfortunately… so, I know a lot of younger age group programs who encourage that.  They do not let their younger kids come to practices more than three times a week; because they want them doing those other things.  I think that is not… you are not going to be able to stop that.  If they are miserable in this sport…. I think the opposite of that is if they are being pushed only to do that and focus on it, over and over again, they are going to be burned-out by the time they get to the national group.  They are going to be exhausted of it.  So, maybe there is a middle-ground somewhere.


But I do think that if we do put these little things in-place that make it a little more fun, they will stay in this sport a little bit longer.  But yes, it is inevitable that some of them will jump ship.  There are fun things out there—there are a lot of fun things out there.  I am a huge fan of sport and athletics.  Anybody else?  Yes?


[inaudible question from the audience]


You mean one before the other?  Well in terms of relating it to here, where it is age group moving to national: no, I do not have a preference.  And I do not necessarily know if I still do in the national level.  We have done it now the last two years, both different ways.  I have found more success doing… it is not that I do one or the other—I separate them a lot more than that.  I do all dryland in the morning, with some technique work and drilling afterwards and kicking.  And then I do full swim practice in the afternoon.  As opposed to doing one right before or one right after.  Because bottom line is: I think you are going to have a little bit of give on one of the two things, regardless.  So I separated them a little bit more than that.  It makes them work equally hard on both of them.  But that is just me.


Anybody else- yes?


[inaudible question from the audience]


Core strength, for/as a short answer.  I think that if you focus on the right movements, if you do functional… focus on functional strength and the right movements and technique.  My focus on dryland is technique, just like it is on the pool.  If you do focus on that, your core is going to come first and everything else will become afterwards.  In other words, you will move from your core to your extremities, naturally.  So, I focus on core strength and then let everything else happen.  Does that answer your question?


Anyone else?  All right.


So that is just a little… like I said, I chose to focus on these specific ones.  There are… I mean I could spend an hour on each one of these skill sets.  But whatever ones are more important to you, you can make those your focus.  These ones happened to be mine, and hopefully, you do not mind hearing them.


Swimming as a skill.  Now this is the most obvious one, just because this is the sport that we are in.  Being proficient in all strokes.  It is a little more complicated than that: do they have a familiarity with, and a knowledge, and experience in training for all four strokes and distances?  Does that mean they have to be really good in all four strokes?  No, because you are going to have the breaststroker—like me—who cannot swim anything else.  But I think that training transitions, training portions of races—no matter what they are—helps with all the strokes and all the events.  So are they transition training?  Are they doing component training?  Things like that I think is fun and it gets them to train all four strokes without having to be an I.M. specialist necessarily.  Although an I.M. specialist: there is nothing wrong with that, as well; especially at an age group level.


And then I started thinking, okay, what about an actual, measurable data point for a skill that is important for moving from age group to national-level Swimming.  And I think it is cool that both the other speakers today that I got to hear—Eddie Reese and Dave Salo—both said the same thing—and this I promise that this was on here before that—kicking.  That is the #1 thing I think that can always be developed, for a number of different reasons:

  • It is a really easy way to recognize talent.
  • It shows work ethic, without having to hit specific time standards. You could have somebody new come into the group or start swimming, and they can typically work really hard and become a good kicker while they are learning the techniques and they are learning things.  So without having to be in great shape or having to be really, really good at strokes or have good time standards, they can show that they can be a really good kicker.
  • And it does not have to rely solely on conditioning, like I mentioned.


What we started doing this year, as all of our programs in our club, is 4×25 for time, rest as needed in between.  Or something similar to that.  And we record them, and we compare them. So you have four data points that you can be like: Wow, that person just crushed that 25 kick; they are probably going to have a lot of things in their future.  But it is just something to compare it to.  It is not, obviously, a one-size-fits-all.  But it is something really important that I think can be focused on at the age group level.


And then lastly, as far as swimming as a skill, is underwater.  I believe that short-course Swimming, specifically, is an underwater sport.  I think that we should… that is really important to focus on that, so that it is not a shock to them when they get to the National level group.  I think that they should be okay with being underwater.  So what skills can they going to have?  Well, in my group, it is a minimum of eight dolphin kicks off of every single wall.  That is just the number that I chose; it is the number we have been working with for years.  And I think that is really, really important.


And also, more of a question… I do not know that there is a right answer, but do you also have a time standard that is a minimum time standard to move-up to the national level?  Some people do.  Do teams here have a listed national level team time standard?  Just a couple of people?  Yeah, I do not… I mean that is a question; I am just curious.  We do not have an official list either.  I do not know if you necessarily should or not.  But it is something to think about, in terms of giving them that extra goal set.  It does not have to be a recorded time standard; it can be something that you guys think is as important.  But having a carrot out-in-front is usually a good idea.


(Let’s see; make sure I didn’t forget anything.)  Does anybody else have any questions about anything?  Yes?


[inaudible question from the audience]


How did they get into the national group?  So the question was: What does a national group actually mean?  Are they all going to Nationals?  No.  And I actually struggled with that a lot when… I started rewriting this whole thing because: wait, I should be talking about Nationals. But I do not think… most national groups, it is just a name on it; a senior group.  The point… what I tell the kids when we have our first meeting of the year is: the point of this group is to go to Nationals, and perform and score points.  That is the point of the group.


Are you all going to do that?  No, but that is what they are always working on doing.  So when you are trying to break-out paces and goal times, if your goal time is not to do that, then we have a problem.  But what do they actually have in my group?  Sectionals; sectionals to continue on and be in the Senior group, National group—whatever you want to call it.  But it is called the National group because that is where we are trying to go as a team and score points.  So, it is kind of that adage of:  dress for the job you want, rather than the one you have.


[audience]:  So, it is more of a goal-oriented name rather than a defining name?


[Michelmore]:  Yep, exactly.  It is a goal-oriented name rather a defied name.  Anybody else?  All right.


I also wanted to… in terms of the actual development of the age group coaches, I also wanted to… Bill Thompson here is going to be giving a talk tomorrow.  I want to, he is going to… that is going to be a really good talk to listen to for developing the age group swimmer to elite age group swimmer.  So I would highly recommend that.


I am going to be sticking around.  But if nobody else has any questions, thank you for listening, it was an honor and I will see you guys around.


Sorry, one more question, you guys can…


[audience]:  On your goal sheet—you talked about the goal sheet early on—did you put any other things on there outside of Swimming?  Like what your expectations are?


[Michelmore]:  I do.  Yeah, the question was: Do you put lists on the goal sheet that do not have to do with Swimming?  I do, and I also put ones that do not have to do with themselves.  So I make them put team goals on there as well.  Most of them, especially in my demographics, that is #1.  So they always put it.  Like a certain grade point average or something like that.


[inaudible question from the audience]


Maybe they have a goal to have a certain placing at Nationals.  They have a goal to place a certain placing on relays.  I leave it up to them.  I love reading that stuff; I think it is really interesting to hear what they have to say naturally.  I do not give them any parameters; I say you can write down whatever you want.



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