By Sam Freas
Sam’s beginning as a small college coach saw no real successes in the area of sprinting, although, in 1977 while at Allegheny College, he was acclaimed the NCAA Division III Coach of the Year. At the University of Arkansas, due to a lack of pool availability, Sam developed unique coaching methods and experienced instant success in coaching sprinters. These methods evolved to earn Coach Freas SWC and SEC Coach of the Year honors as his swimmers garnished world and Olympic titles while setting records along the way.
After having coached on the collegiate and club levels, Dr. Freas became the president and chief executive officer of the International Swimming Hall of Fame. He is a renowned public speaker and activist for the development of all phases of aquatics around the world. Whatever Sam is doing, his motto is “hammer down.”
I’m very appreciative of the American Swimming Coaches Association to allow me to perhaps break people out of the paradigms and the parameters to which they coach, and before I start I just want to tell people where I came from.
I was a small college coach, and I coached a lot of different sports, so I came to swimming. I was a collegiate swimmer and water polo player and rather average. I coached summer league, high school, club, small college, major college, and I coached on the international level.
I told somebody today that if I had to do it all over again, I would be completely more radical than I’ve ever been before because I changed my whole coaching philosophy during an 18 month hiatus from coaching, when I was doing my doctorate work at the University of Iowa. I was selling cars and I had a lot of time to think. I’ve had eight years to think, and I’m even more sure that we’re absolutely going the wrong direction in building speed.
I want to make one thing very, very clear: there is no way to be successful in anything unless you work hard. People who think that sprinters don’t work hard are absolutely crazy. You could do caloric expenditure work on the people that I coached as a sprinter and they burned more calories in the activities that I asked them to do, than the best distance programs in the world. There is this feeling generated through swimming that it’s easy. And if you’re a sprint coach, then you’re just one of these easy going guys who hoses people down occasionally, gives them a lot of rest, and tells a lot of jokes. I like jokes, everybody does. You should work on your joke repertoire if you’re going to be a sprint coach because you always have to keep them loose, happy, so forth and so on. But that’s a little bit about my background.
First thing I would like to do is I want to give you the “Easy Freasy” sprint test for a coach. It’s just my opinion, but it consolidates the thought process so you can kind of jog your mind a little bit on how to build speed. I’ll tell you how to score it. It’s a self-evaluation scoring method so it’s not going to be held against you. You’re right whatever you answer but I want to do it in relationship to where I think we should be.
First question: Is a sprinter born or developed?
Second question: How much cardiovascular training (aerobic) is needed to swim a 50 yard short course, any stroke? And put it in terms of percentage.
For the 100 yard freestyle which is 40 some seconds, how much aerobic activity training do you need?
Now we’re going to do a priority thing where you put what’s most Important (5) to least important (1). Zero is the same as one:
How important is the spiritual development in developing a sprinter? How important is self-concept in developing a sprinter? How important is strength development in developing a sprinter?
- How important is reaction time and agility?
- How important is race visualization or other cerebral activities?
- Which is most important in developing a sprinter?
Three options: time goals, process, or team goals. I know they’re not perfectly clear to you, but we’re doing the evaluation to jog your brain a little bit.
Now we’re going to evaluate the test and I want you to score the test. If you answered that a sprinter is developed, give yourself five points. If you said they’re born, zero. If you said both, give yourself two and a half.
How much cardiovascular training to swim a 50 yard freestyle? If you said zero to ten, give yourself five;10 to 20, four, 20 to 30, three, 30 to 40, two, and anything above 40 zero.
For the 100 yard score the percentage of aerobic activity which you need for the 100 free. Score it basically the same, except 0-15 is 5, 15-30 is 4, so forth and so on.
What is the most important? spiritual 5 (if you gave yourself a three, then score three), self-concept 5 (if you gave it a two, then score two), strength 5, flexibility 5, reaction time 5.
Race visualization and other cerebral activities: if you gave yourself a five then give yourself a zero or a one. It’s inverse and I’ll explain to you why as we go on.
Which is the most important to make a sprinter?: if it’s process give yourself a five, if it’s team goals give yourself a three, if it’s time goals give yourself a zero.
Add up your score. Has anybody scored a fifty?
Has anybody scored a 50? Has anybody scored a 45? 40? How many people were under 35 raise your hand. Don’t feel bad because if I had taken this test 20 years ago, I probably would have scored lower than anybody else. Basically I was totally consumed by what other people thought in swimming was correct and I changed.
How many people here have coached men who have gone under 20 seconds for a fifty freestyle, please stand up. Now you need to talk to these people because I don’t have all the answers. Randy keep standing up, because you need to be identified by all these people. How many people have coached ten people that have gone under 20 seconds in the fifty free? Please remain standing. One person. How many people have done five men and at least two women under 23? How many people have coached ten women under 23? How many people have coached five different women under 23 in the 50 free? How many people here have coached anybody under 23 in the 50 free? Stand up please. You need to talk to these people who have decided that they’re going to try and develop these young people.
To give you the answer: I have coached at least ten people under 20 seconds in the 50 free, and at least two women under 23.
It’s interesting when you’re out of the game. This young lady from Florida asked, “What do you do?” I said, “I’m president of the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.” “Did you ever coach?” “Yeah! I coached at Louisiana State, Allegheny College, and University of Arkansas.” So I appreciate people who want to hear my thought process. Also understand I’ve had a lot of world record holders in the sprints, relays particularly, but I’ve coached the world champion in the marathon. It’s kind of a paradox isn’t it? Shelly Taylor Smith, when she touched the pad at Perth yelled, “Sam!” And all the Australian press said, “Who’s this guy, Sam?” This young lady never scored a point to my recollection, when she was at the University of Arkansas in the Southwest Conference 1500 or 500 or 400 IM. But we swam open water in the lake and I said to her in the lake, and this is very important, “You know, I think you can be world champion in the marathon. We just don’t have the right event for you because you’ve got a great cardiovascular position and condition, but you can’t get speed until you swim the third mile. You’re unique. Pursue it.” So about eight years later she won the world championship. If you look in the back of the USS text you’re going to see a lot of University of Arkansas teams that still hold the USS long distance records.
By the way, one of the greatest sprinters, and I don’t have my glasses on, but Tom stand up. This be the man right here. Tom Jager. Let’s give him a round of applause. He’s the man!
I happened to be in Arkansas when he was developing in Colinsville, Illinois. And I saw him develop as a swimmer, and I can tell you that Coach Penny Taylor was perfect for Tom’s development because she loved him, nurtured him, and worked with him. It wasn’t like, “This is my program or you’re out of here.” She knew that he was special./p>
I had a guy by the name of Jerry Spencer who was at the University of Arkansas. As a California junior college guy he went 21.5. The first time he dove in the water for the University of Arkansas he went 20.2 in November. Everybody said: “Gosh, how did you do it?” By the way, he’s my brother in law now. When I recruited him I went up to him and said, “Listen, I want to coach you.” He said, “What’s the fastest 50 guy you’ve ever coached?” I said, “22.2, 22.3.” I was the new coach at the University of Arkansas at the time. He said, “Why the heck would I want to be ever coached by you?” And I said, “You know, I figured it out. I figured out what I was doing wrong and I won’t to do it again, and I’ll make sure you swim fast.” He looked at me and said, “Where is this guy coming from?” Anyway as fate had it I did. What I’m going to tell you about this guy, is that in a short period of time he went real, real fast. So if you believe in what I’m telling you, you can get people to swim real fast.
Now, the special part of a person’s development, of treating each person special is paramount. I have a priority system in my family and my priority system is God first, family second, academics third, sports fourth. I have four children, they all swim. Some of them swim just because they think they please their dad by swimming, but they do other sports. I can’t tell you how many coaches they’ve had, twenty some probably, and I have told them that unless they do what the coach tells them to do and have their priority system, they’re never going to make it. In other words, they’re instilling their values into my children. Now, as a former swimming coach, I have a real delicate balance to walk. But most of these people don’t have children and live in a different priority system where swimming is the most important thing in their life.
What I’m seeing is the one thing that is very important. If I can’t tell you any other thing, is that if you’re going to handle a sprinter, or a distance person, or any person on your team, every one of them has to have a different prescription for success. You know, a doctor writes a prescription up and it says take 500 mg. of a drug and get rest to take care of you so you can get better. You have to write the same prescription for an athlete to pursue excellence.
There is a young swimmer who I’ve been a fan of who happens to have gone to my son’s high school. And every time I would see him, he would look down. His eyes naturally went down. After the summer he went to swim with Coach Shoulberg. Now when you look at him he looks straight or up. It’s real obvious that he’s had a real change in his life. It’s because somebody cared about him and made him feel that he was special. Now how do you do that? First of all, you don’t coach greatness out of people and it’s so difficult not to. If everyone feels that they’re special and unique, you can have them improve and do radical things with them that would really work.
Now the spiritual development. Let me give you a couple of things. I talked about my family’s priority of God, family, academics, and then sports. I want to tell you a story. The World University Games, I was the head coach a number of times. Zagreb, Yugoslavia was the last one I was on. David Berkoff was on that team. One of the things that I’ve always done, right or wrong, is that I pray with every team that I’ve ever coached. David doesn’t believe in prayers. So as a US Swimming coach I said, “Let’s have a team prayer.” Andy Dyker came back and said, “Coach, you know, this Harvard dude, he’s really upset that you prayed.” And I said, “Well that’s okay.”
I talked to him just before we came in. I said, “David, what did that do?” He said, “It’s really interesting. I’ve had time to think about it, but right away I thought you were a bad guy because you were imposing a value on me that I wasn’t used to. Nobody had ever done that. But you know, at the end of the experience I knew that you were true to yourself and that you were a really good guy. Even though I was opposed to prayer.” The spiritual development of someone is so important in swimming. Because unless they have the answer of who they are…
As a college professor in the sixties and seventies, young people continually asked questions about why they are they here on earth, why are they swimming? They go through this questioning process. I didn’t have the answers then. I probably don’t have the answers now. But, I did know, and I led people to believe that there is a God and there is a method to understand yourself. I didn’t make people feel bad if they were a Muslim, an atheist. I didn’t care what they believed in. (Actually, I did — I’ve had communists on my team, pure communists.) But I wanted them to tap their emotion, tap their spirit, to understand who they are. It is a very important thing, a very delicate thing in our society where legal ramifications run rampant. It’s a question that you’re going to have to work with.
There’s been a couple of people that have come into this sport that have looked at this sport much differently than most people. You see as a small college coach I had 400 IMers, 200 freestylers, 1650 guys, and women. Had a lot of them. But when it came into university division coaching, I was a sprint coach. And what I had done is I had left the mentality of what most people had in swimming and went back to the track mentality. Now think about track. It has all these different sports. You can’t train a pole vaulter, and I coached pole vaulting. I’m very proud that my son won the state high school pole vaulting championship. My daughter won the state high school pole vaulting championship.
This guy sitting up here by the name of Ray Buzzard. Ray Buzzard, not many people know, was the US decathlon champion. I hate to tell when. But he was a track man. He came into the sport and approached the sport as a track coach would, from a different basis. Was he accepted or rejected? Rejected. I came into university division coaching as a same mentality, different method, but going in the same direction where I wanted people to have fun, I wanted people to bust their chops, and thought people could swim fast. Accepted or rejected? Rejected. Now, I can tell you in other environments whether it’s soccer coaching, football coaching, or track coaching, there’s not such a consensus: if you’re different, you’re bad. We need different people. We need guys to come in from gymnastics and show ways to develop strength. I can tell you I was greatly influenced by the track coaches at the University of Arkansas. And they have a great track program. I spent a lot of time with those guys and they spent a lot of time with me. I saw them bring in guys in the 100 meters who were 10.9 or 11 in high school, which is pretty mediocre, and coach them to 10.1. They weren’t giving money for sprinters, they had a distance based program./p>
I watched what they did to develop distance athletes. I watched what they did to develop Mike Connelly and the jumpers. They learned from what I was doing because I was doing a lot of jumping stuff which I’m going to show you in a second. I can tell you right now that sprinting is the worst thing that we do in the US It’s the worst thing in the world, and if you want to become famous and have world champions, be a sprint coach, because 18.5 is going to happen in the 50 freestyle. 21 flat is going to happen in the 50 meter freestyle. We haven’t yet begun to go fast.
Crockerman stand up. This is my man Steve Crocker. The guy can dunk and throw it down. What a stud. Crocker is a great story in itself. Steve tell your story of where you came out of high school.
Freas: What was your best 50 meter freestyle time? Crocker: 22 flat for yards.
Freas: And you played basketball?
Freas: And then you went where?
Crocker: Western Kentucky.
Freas: Right on! And what did you do your freshman year?
Freas: And what did you do your sophomore year?
Freas: And what did you do your junior year?
Freas: And what did you do your senior year?
Freas: And when did you break the world record in the 50 meters short course? How old were you?
Freas: You were lucky that you had a very special coach at Western Kentucky. Later you got involved with Paul Blair, and Sam Freas, and a bunch of other guys who think differently. If someone who you respected said to you: “I want you to do 10 x 200s on 2:30,” and kept you on a steady diet of that, what would happen to you?
Crocker: I probably would have lost some explosiveness.
Freas: And what else?
Crocker: My 200 free probably would have been a lot better.
Thank you. I ask you this question: think of Michael Johnson. Fast, powerful, 19+ world record holder in the 200 meters. Let’s call him a 50 freestyler. And 40 some odd seconds in the 400 meters, let’s call him a 100 yards freestyler. He walks on to your pool deck, what do you do pre-season? I’ll tell you that in two weeks, he’s history. He’s going to professional football. This doesn’t make any sense at all. Think about it: I know it’s an analogy we have to think through, but we chase off so many great athletes through stupidity. Absolute stupidity. Because we have this thing where you have to bleed from every orifice of our body, and that we have to train cardiovascularly and we can brag to each other on the deck, “I did 28,000 today.”
I’m not saying sprinting is easy: because when I show you what we do, you’re going to understand that these guys blow lunch, get sick, they have a hard timer recovering, and they work as hard as people who put themselves on a diet of distance.
I want to talk about the Canadian track people right now: what are they doing? What are they doing in the sprints that’s different than the Americans? They’re doing exactly what I’m going to tell you today, and they are the best in the world. They are coaching people that have ability or desire to run fast, and they are not making them feel bad, and they are doing an awful lot of dryland work.
Women and men are different in sprinting. Basically, women dryland is exactly the same. Weight training I would do exactly the same except I would keep them going a little bit longer when you are tapering. If a person is a mesomorph you have to rest them more, and if it’s a female mesomorph you have to rest more. I think women because of their makeup, have to work a little bit harder during taper and maybe a little bit harder than a male sprinter.
Because our society is changing, we need to develop sprinters even more and more. We used to have a physical education program in schools. I think the state of Illinois is the only one that has a requirement for physical education. I used to play, believe it or not even though I’m a fat dude, I used to play outside when I was growing up until it got nightfall, and my dad would have to go find me and pull me in. Now guys watch television and play with computers and stuff like that, so physically you’re getting kids coming in the program that are inferior to what they were naturally because of the physical education programs. Also, when I grew up fighting was okay. I mean if you got mad at somebody you got it up and you whacked him a couple of times and then you were buddies. Now if you’re mad, you kill him. Fighting was much better. Somehow our society has gotten that, females particularly and mothers, it’s so terrible when you hit someone.
My son had a good friend who was the basketball coach’s son at Kenyon College where I was athletic director. So Stephen said to me one day in the car, and this guys’ son was in the car, “Daddy what should I do? Somebody is picking on me in the school yard. He’s picking on me and treating me bad, what should I do?” I said, “Tune him. Whack him, whack him so hard, and when you beat him, beat him bad. You’ll get a rep, and nobody is going to mess with you anymore.” He looked at me. The next day I am sitting in my office at Kenyon College and the basketball coach walks in. He puts his hands on his hips and says, “All right. Unbelievable.” I said, “What happened?” His son is black. He was in all white community. Somebody called him a bad name. Erin tuned the guy. Big time. So he gets called into the principal’s office, with Bill Brown the basketball coach and he says, “Do you teach your kid how to fight? What is the problem?” Bill goes to Erin and says, “Erin. Why?” He said, “Oh! Coach Freas told me to. Somebody calls me a bad name, tune the guy and they’ll never mess with me again.” So, the point is that our society — and I was wrong as a person and so forth and so on, but I’m kind of happy I did it — we are establishing people that aren’t TOUGH! Not in the sense of the swimming coach because they bleed from every orifice of the body, but we don’t develop the physical entities necessary, and the aggression necessary naturally to be a sprinter./p>
Let me get to the meat. The meat is this: in order to develop that, you have to develop an athlete on dryland.
My son Stephen is going to demonstrate. Let’s start off with some basic jumping drills. Let’s do five front jumps and five back jumps and don’t fall off the platform. What are we doing? We are working on jumping ability. Let’s do jumping in and jumping out of your hands. Five of them. Let’s do needles. Just do samples of a needle, either way. Let me take off the mike.
Do donkey kicks. Do handstand pushups. What we want to do is work dryland activities that physical education programs used to do. Let’s do cartwheels. These guys that coached with me will tell you that I had everybody doing cartwheels, hand springs, because I used to coach gymnastics believe it or not. We worked jumping, we worked all these things. In the twenty hour rule, when some people say, “I only have twenty hours to coach them and I have to put them in the pool,” I have a gesture that I would like to say to them, but I won’t. Take those twenty hours and develop these people as athletes. I ask the question, and I use to say to Steve Crocker and to people like Steve Crocker, “Steve, are you a good athlete?” Yeah. “Are there many people as good an athlete as you are, who are swimming?” No. Then just go do it. Isn’t that fundamentally the message that I’m trying to get across? You develop athletes. They are not born.
I was about 11.4 in the 100 yard dash. And I had great ambitions of being a football player. I knew I would not be a good football player unless I got fast. I ran on soft sand, I did all this stuff, and I’ll never forget when I took the baton at the Penn Relays in high school. I was running the 4×100 in the high school championships of America, running the third leg, with three brothers and myself. I could run under eleven seconds with a baton pass. That’s all I could do. I couldn’t go any faster. My stick work was great. But I made myself faster. I developed as a sprinter. I wasn’t a world class sprinter, but I got faster. I worked at it. A coach did not know how to do that. I worked at it.
Now. You’re talking about dryland activities where we do a lot of jumping. The best exercise that I know is the horizontal ladder. You know the monkey bars? Do the monkey bars and time people to go the distance, very, very important. Do butterflies with the monkey bars. All those experimental things that you do where you develop kids and develop athletes is important. Because what are you doing by having them do new things? What is one of the things on the list that you are doing? Self-concept. I find that self- concept changes quicker by people doing things they have never done before on land. Forget the water stuff: it’s too hard. You can’t see them, you can’t verbalize what’s happening, but you can actually see someone develop, as you do the dryland activity.
In my book, “Sprinting,” I details pretty much everything that we do. What I did for dryland development is put a concise program of about seven minutes where we do jumping and all these different things on the pool deck with mats. Then we do flexibility, then we do reaction drills.
One more story. Don Easterling had David Fox and the guy was not swimming very fast. Ray and I were out of coaching. Easterling calls me, “Come, because I’m not doing what is right with David Fox.” I told him what I did. He said, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” He called Buzzard. Buzzard told him what he did. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” That year he won NCAAs in 19.1. It works!!! Try it!
Reaction drills: Hands together, I’ll give you a target, I want you to fire and comeback.
Let’s do feet. Easy starts. Fast feet. Foot reaction drills, long jump position.
You can develop foot speed. If you don’t think you need foot speed for sprinting, guess what? It ain’t happening.
Weights. Strength development is really important. At the beginning of the season we did circuit training. At the middle of the season we did what I called strength training, and towards the end we did power lifting. And then from whatever people reacted the best from, I wrote a personal prescription for them.
I did demonstrate flexibility, but it’s in the book and you guys need to do flexibility. You have to do flexibility before you do weights and flexibility afterwards.
Do flexibility before you get in the pool, flexibility afterwards. The other thing I want to talk about is a team coaching concept. I didn’t ask people to be like me. I wanted people who thought differently than me to be on my staff. I wanted them to at least be willing to try what I believed in. I wanted each person to work with all groups so we rotated groups because I might be able to ring Tom Jager’s bell but Ray Buzzard might not be able to. Think about it: if someone is on a team when they are stuck with the same coach all the time, and they don’t have the opportunity to work with other people that are available, who might ring their bell? It takes a lot of communication. That’s what I call a team coaching concept, rather than groups.
Turns. On turns, you go in a pool and push off the wall on your side, not on your back. I disagree with Ray Bussard on this. I never convinced him of this. Sticks, myself and Ray Buzzard used to go in diving tanks and push off the wall and kind of race each other coming off the wall. None of us were great athletes, but my point is the more you have your feet pointed straight down towards the bottom of the pool, the better you come off the wall. The rotating thing I don’t believe in. I don’t believe on the back. I believe you can gyrate on the somersault, get your feet down as best as you can, and push off and go very fast off the wall.
One thing that’s happened in swimming since I’ve left that’s different but the thing that’s different is fish- tailing and butterflying off the wall. I’ve been messing with that. It’s good. I don’t have the answer yet, because I just started working on it recently. But I still believe for men that probably pushing flat off the wall is the answer. Now in the book there’s a whole bunch of things on streamlining. I used to hear Ray Buzzard doing a “pop-up.” I used to get beat all the time. Then I realized that you had to keep in a streamlined position as long as possible, even after the first couple of strokes, and our turns got better.
Mental training: do you remember the mental training thing and visualization and cerebral process? Forget it! You want to teach an athlete not to think as a sprinter. It’s got to be automatic. You don’t want a sprinter to be cerebral. The intelligent sprinters are the most difficult to handle. You can be natively intelligent where your IQ might be 130, 140 but you want one of those guys who doesn’t worry too much about things. If you have a guy who thinks all the time and wants to get really technical on those things, the best thing to do is not think.
The other thing I never did is give sprinters times. When I would time somebody for a 25, it was one of these, “YO! Fantastic, Man! Do another one!” Because if you told them 9.1, they’ll think about it. “Ooh, that’ really fast. I wonder if he’s being a rubber watch kind of guy. I’m going to check it out with Steve Crocker, because Steve Crocker times differently.” And all of a sudden somebody gives him 9.3. “Oh! I’m slower. I probably shouldn’t have done the sprint in the first place. I’m tired already.” I don’t believe in giving times to sprinters because it makes them think.
Here is a good non-thinking story and it’s a breaststroker: I had a guy at the University of Arkansas. It was my first year of major college coaching. He got busted for public intoxication before the first meet and they threw him in jail. I find out that he’s got a record. I didn’t recruit him, another guy recruited him. I was going to kick the guy off the team. I decided not to kick him off the team, but I said, “You have to go to church, you have to go to Fellowship of Christian Athletes, you have to go to every class, you have to go to bed at nine o’clock. You have to void your mind completely and just do what the coach tells you to do. If you do that I’ll keep you on scholarship. You do it for two months, we’ll see what happens. Or you can give up your scholarship.” To make a long story short, he took the hard way: he basically did everything I told him to do. We go to the Southwest Conference Invitational. He’s a 1:02 breaststroker. He stands up and goes 57.1, 100 breaststroke. He comes out and says, “57.1. That’s great. I think I can go faster.” I said, “I think you can too.” He found out who he beat. And from the time he swum that race, he started thinking about who the other people were that he beat. And he went a minute in the finals. Because he wasn’t ready for what his body could do.
I’ve had more problems as a coach, because kids swim fast, and think too much, and can’t handle the success, because they improve so rapidly that their mind can’t keep up with their improvement. It’s a strange problem. How I would solve that is that you need to prepare them that they are going to be great. Then not worry whether they do good or bad. But if each person is special and you allow someone to have a process to get better, a process, not a time goal, a day to day process and treat them special, give them an individual prescription, that will help the mental training.
Let’s go to the sets. You have to swim fast every day if you’re going to swim fast. How many people sprint the first day? God bless you. How many people sprint the second day? Same people. Why not? Every single day you have to be swimming fast if they’re going to swim fast. We trash more people including myself during pre-season than I can possibly imagine. The book goes into precise sets that we do. I’m going to give you my favorite sets. My first favorite set is what I call speed development, where we have blades on our hands, hands are straight out, we kick, and we keep really high feet. In the book it says 9 inches to 15 inches.
I don’t think we have too many good sprinters right now. There was a time when we had some people going 19.2, 19.3, and a whole bunch of guys in America swimming really fast. And why don’t we have people swimming real fast right now? Why don’t we have people swimming real fast right now… I love Dennis Pursley as a person, more than you can imagine. He’s a great father. He’s everything that everybody should try to be. But taking short course out of the swimming equation in our country is wrong. You can develop speed better in a 15 yard pool, a 12 yard pool, than in a 50 meter pool. I know we were swimming better in 1974, 1976, than we are now. Why? Because it was the height of… and it’s not the only answer, but short course swimming develops speed. A 20 yard pool is really important. A 15 yard pool is really important.
So the drill: head out, full speed, and they have to max out. HAMMER DOWN. MAX OUT! Our whole society doesn’t do that. We always hold back. Don’t hold back. GO NUTS! And I wasn’t afraid to jump up and down and scream and holler and go nuts, while all the other cool coaches were quiet. A guy that I love, I’ll never forget, called me a very dirty name at the Southeast Conference Championships, because I got too emotional. It’s okay to get emotional, because we’re dealing with the human spirit, it’s an emotional thing. How many people when you see “Running Brave” don’t feel something special when you see Billy Mills coming out of nowhere in the 10,000 meters. It’s an emotional thing.
Hands out straight, feet up. Four of them, maxing out. With blades, head up, water polo stroke, full speed. MAXING OUT! Take the blades off. Head up. Four, no interval. Interval? You put an interval on something they can’t max out. The key is learning how to max out. You have to supervise that. The next thing you do is take your blades off and you either do it with fins and then you max out. And that used to set people pretty well.
Next thing: weight belts. All that weighted swimming is paramount. The one that used to make people blow lunch more than anybody else and would make every swimming coach proud that you had them do it, is that you would put a 10 lb weight on a swimmer, have them dive off the block, and have them descend 5 x 100’s. First length underwater with a 10 lb weight, freestyle with head up out of the water, butterfly with head up out of the water, and then no breath coming back with a 10 lb weight. Descend five of these. Guys: I was as close to getting beat up in that set than any swimming coach in the world. It’s a very good one. Swimming underwater, 100’s, 50’s with the first length underwater maxing out.
The other thing is, don’t breathe when you sprint. This longitudinal rotational thing that I’ve always been taught and you’ve been taught, it’s wrong. Good-bye. For 200 meters, 400 meters, distance swimming, if you don’t longitudinally rotate, you’re hurting. But the fastest way to theoretically swim is to try and square your shoulders and get them up out of the water as high as you can. I know I’m blowing your mind. Try it, you’ll like it.
I want to show you this “Sprinting,” book again, because I can send Stephen to college if you buy this book, or the Aquatic Games book. They’re available by calling ASCA at 1 (800) 356-2722 or by calling the Hall of Fame.
Listen, it’s always a pleasure to talk to you. There are some people here that are different an have made people swim fast. Talk to them, ask them questions. It takes guts to be different. It really does, because the society will say you can’t do that.
As far as total volume in swimming, you can do anything you want to do in terms of volume, as long as you allow people to swim fast every day. The key to this whole thing is being able to know how to taper people and how to have people go fast once, twice, and three times in a row. That’s a whole different lecture. That’s reading the parasympathetic, the prioreceptive, and the central nervous system that not many people talk about. But I was taught in physical education, and so was Ray Mann, and so were certain people, because we were taught to do this. I wish I could talk to you more, because that’s an important read. For you to get the success that you want, you have to be able to make those reads. Thank you.
Freas’ Ten Essentials of Sprinting
- Race every day in practice.
- Swim at 100% speed all year long, not just during a taper.
- Swim superfast all year long, not just during a taper.
- Always work dryland to improve the components of fitness: strength, cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, agility and flexibility.
- Work on starts, turns and finishes almost every day in practice (at least five workouts per week).
- Practice swimming with no breath during a 50 and with only a few breaths during a 100. This gives better body position and better speed.
- Execute a high kick with the heels nine to fifteen inches out of the water. This gives better body position.
- Practice reaction drills every day.
- Change the training if a loss of speed results due to the trashing of the cardiovascular system or overtraining of the neuromuscular system.
- Be happy, don’t worry;get plenty of sleep and eat healthily.
The Big 4 of Starts and Turns
- The flatter a body is in relationship to the surface of the water, the faster and farther the body will travel on a turn and a push-off.
- The longer the head stays in a streamline position, increased speed and farther distance is achieved on a dive and turn. Keep the head in line for at least four strokes.
- The feet cannot start kicking soon enough off the wall and rarely too soon off the start.
- On the finish, when the body rotates to elongate the reach for the touch pad, a problem with the quality and accuracy of the touch is created. Keep your head down while watching the fingertips touch the wall.
The following axioms are widely accepted truths:
Speed is lost in freestyle whenever the shoulder is placed into the water by longitudinal rotation.
Make sure you follow through with everything. When things are going well, be even more attentive to detail.
Elevating the pain threshold is extremely important in training a sprinter.
Do not create unnecessary scheduling conflicts in a sprinter’s environment.
Do not expect a great championship season unless the preseason and season were properly planned and executed.
You can only control what you do, not others.
Always contact athletes who do not attend practice.
Following are personal beliefs and favorite sayings of Coach Freas:
Do not coach the greatness out of an athlete.
Tugboats don’t go fast — hydroplanes do.
A sprinter has different switches in his body — if the mind goes, Coach, you and your sprinter are in bad shape. As a coach you must push to do more and more, but always be attentive to where the sprinter is mentally.
Don’ t overtrain a sprinter during preseason.
A sprinter who swims slow all season will be a slow championship sprinter.
Don’t be afraid to have sprinters shave during the season, if they are not swimming fast enough.
Never let a sprinter think he is working harder than another.