Success From Anywhere by Dave Kelsheimer (2004)


Coach Dave Kelsheimer has been the National Coach of the Cayman Islands since 1995. Before developing the team in the Cayman Islands, Coach Dave coached in Australia, Texas, and Michigan. When he started in Cayman 9 years ago, there was no real swim team (http:/ In fact, the government sports department did not classify swimming as a sport but a “survival skill.” In spite of no organized swim club, no corporate support, no timing equipment, sanctioned meets or officials, and less than 30 swimmers in the “advanced swimming group,” Coach Dave made the statement from the very beginning that his mission was to create a top program that could dominate within the region and hold its head high in the world arena. The program now boasts 1000 kids per week coming into the six lane 25m pool. 200 on the swim team, 225 in the learn to swim, and 600 in the schools program. Gearing up for the 2004 Athens Games, the team now has 3 teenage Olympic qualifiers. Not only is this the first time for the Cayman Islands to have swimmers make the grade, swimming is now the largest qualified sport from Cayman with track and field qualifying only two athletes. The two male and one female swimmers have exceeded the FINA Olympic cuts in 6 events. Within the region, Cayman has moved in 9 years from 14th place and no medals to 283 total medals, 25 records, and in 2004 second overall in the Carifta Caribbean Swimming Championships. Tiny Cayman beat the much larger Jamaica, Bahamas, Barbados, the Combined French Islands, and 10 other nations. In the medal count Cayman won more events and total medals than even the many time and current champion, Trinidad. Under Coach Dave’s leadership, the Cayman Federation has hosted 32 Olympic medallists from around the world. As an active and full FINA member nation, the Cayman Islands has successfully bid for and won the right to host the 2006 Open Water World Championships.




We have had a pretty rough month.  Three days after the Olympics we had hurricane Ivan which damaged about 90% of the Cayman Islands or Grand Cayman anyway, which is the largest Island, so it has been exciting for a lot of different reasons.


My topic today is really about big time results with small time environments.  It is not easy to coach in the United States.  I hear a lot of people talking about how great the Australians are, how great their programs are, how much people love and respect swimming over there.  I had the opportunity of coaching in Australia and I agree, it is a great place to coach swimming.  But, I also have a lot of respect for what we as American coaches have had to do within the confines of coaching in the United States where swimming is not the top sport, where you do not always have the resources and the facilities to be successful.  So, I hope that the spirit and the context of my talk are helpful.  I really see things in black and white, so if it comes across a little strong, that is just usually my presentation.  So take it in the spirit and context in which is given.


This photo is actually one of my favorites.  This is an AP photo from our Cypress training camp, before the Olympics.  We were able to train with Bill Seagram’s British team during that time period and right in front is Shaun Fraser.  Shaun is 16 years old and he qualified in the 200 freestyle and actually making the cut in the 400IM.  But, the boy just inside is Andrew McKie, he was .003 faster and also had the 400IM cut.  So Shaun swam the 200 free and Andrew swam the 200IM and the 400IM in the Olympics.  Both of these boys were pretty close in a couple of other cuts.  We also had another girl who qualified for the other sports.


Okay, this is pretty much the essence of our program.  It is from the local newspaper.  We do not wait for some amazing talent to walk through the door and this is really a concept that I think the Australians have done a great job of perfecting.  They have a small population so every swimmer that comes through that door either adapts, improves, or plays rugby.  We had three swimmers qualify for the Olympics this summer.  At the 2003 Island Games we came in with 83 athletes and those athletes won 21 of the 29 medals.  We broke 9 records with one swimmer breaking two British senior records during the meet.  That prompted a conversation online on the internet as to whether or not we were actually British because these guys have got British passports, as well as Cayman Island passports. And in some cases, US passports, but they are definitely Caymanian and their home is in the Cayman Islands.  But our first ever Pan-Am Games championship finalist and the other three swimmers all had top ten finishes. Then, this past June we had a female swimmer win the Bronze in the open water 5K.  It can be done – regardless of where you are.


Unfortunately I have got a little more experience than I want in working with environments that are pretty small.  I went to coach in a place in Australia called Malanda where the #1 industry was dairy farming.  There were 965 people in the actual town proper and then others on the outside. But, it does go to show you how important swimming is to them, that they would recruit overseas for their coach.  At the time I had no idea where Malanda was.  I just knew that it was in Australia and that was good enough for me.  I probably should have done a little bit more research.  You need to have a plan.  You need to have a pretty strong value system.  That is probably #1.  You need to decide what it is you want to achieve.  You need to make sure that you want to walk the walk and defend your dream all the time.  That is pretty tough to do and you need to go forward with confidence.  Like I said, “You either find a way or make a way.”


This is an article that appeared in the newspaper in 2000, before the Sydney Olympics.  It’s pretty self-explanatory.  The Olympic committee really wanted us to send swimmers to the Olympics, even though they had not qualified.  This is the “Eric the Eel” clause and I refused.  I didn’t refuse, I just said you can go, but I am not taking you.  I want nothing to do with it because I knew that we would have kids qualify.  Not only did we have our first qualify, but we got our second qualify, and then our third qualify.  So, it was not an easy process.  Not everybody was happy.  But the funny thing is, they learned to smile with me real quick after that level of success.  You need to decide what you want.


This is what I want in life – I would really like all the above – this is some of the press that we got in 2002.  That chart keeps me up at night, usually every April.  That is the medal count chart, from no medals at the Caribbean Free Trade Agreements Caribbean age group championships all the way up to where we are now.  And as it stands now, we have had, we won more events, won more medals than any other country.  We won more gold medals, broke more records, and we advanced from 14th to 6th and from 4th to 2nd in the Carifta standings.  We were leading Trinidad up until the last relay.  The message in this has been that we strive for personal excellence.  The goal is not to win medals, but to swim your lifetime best every time.  The goal is to be an Olympic champion world record holder in an Olympic final.  So the perspective is pretty clear.


As far as struggles, I talked about the struggles.  When I arrived in the Cayman Islands I found out (By the way, I responded to a USA Swimming placed ad in the Coaches Letter of Lane Line that Bob Steele put in, in 1992, some of you may have applied for that.) I ended up making the short list and then getting the job.  The ad said “Head Coach/Aquatics Director” and Assistant Coach.  It talked about success in the region and when I got to the Cayman Islands, what I found was the Government policy that swimming was not a sport.  That is their word, “Swimming is not a sport, it is a survival skill”.  And, in fact, my government job description, my job title is Senior Swimming Instructor.  My accreditation this summer said “Olympic Coach” and that really matters a lot more to me than what those guys would say.  But I have been threatened with being deported, fired, and generally ill thought of because, for example, the wrong wealthy politically connected kid did not make a cut or make the team.  I was told that training twice a day would cause kids not to grow right.  Which I responded by saying, “Well, I just came from a team where I had four guys that were over 6’ 4”, so I am really glad that they trained with me because  they would have been 7’ 2” – 7’ 3”! They couldn’t buy a pair of pants or a decent pair of shoes so in January of 2003 the Sports Director advertised my job illegally.  He was trying desperately to get rid of me.  By October that same year, I was named “Coach of the Year”.  I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t real keen to give them a big old hug there on the podium.  I think the expression is they only try to tackle you if you are carrying the ball.  It is not the toughest I have had.


I will share one other story of struggle.  When I was in Australia, I was hired by the president of the team at the time.  He was a dairy farmer and in this small town he had a habit of bringing a pistol to meetings when he was mad.  The first meeting of the year, his 17 year old son (who was a 1:03 100 flyer) didn’t want to come and talk to me before or after his races because that is what the little kids do.  I said, “Well, Ash, the thing is, this is how our sport works and I know you have a long way to go because frankly you know, 1:03 is a girl time in the 100 fly.”  But I tried to be as delicate as I could.  I was less soft spoken then than I am now.  So anyway, I went to the meeting and he didn’t pull the pistol out.  I am pretty sure he had the pistol there.  After meeting the Australian, a couple of the parents said, “Oh you know, mate, it was just a 22. He would have to stand pretty bloody close to kill ya.”  I somehow did not feel real comfortable about that, so from that stage on, any time I had a tough parent meeting, it really was put in perspective.


Sorry guys, I am not real good with some of the technology today.  Okay, I think it is important to be realistic.  We will try to get to the meat of what we are talking about.  If you want to be successful in this sport, these are the things that you need:  pool time, control over the program, the ability to hire and fire staff, and a supportive board.  I had the pool time.  I had less of 2 and even less of 3 and sometimes I had some of 4.  It is not easy, but #1 on that list is pool time.  If your kids cannot do the training you have to be realistic about what you want to achieve.  I don’t know how it is going to happen unless they are actually in the water swimming.  I think if you are looking at where you are within your own career, if you want to be coaching at the world level, you need to make sure you have got pool time. And frankly, if you don’t have the pool time within the team that you are at, you need to look at moving on because it is simply, by the law of averages, not going to happen.  You need to create the boundaries.


Coaches coach and parents parent.  We have had a lot of resources.  I have had a lot of help.  The Australians have been a huge help to me as mentors and I have learned a lot from their system.  I have been able to speak to some of their support staff, their team psychologist, and their outlook was really helpful in the framing of my belief system.  Dr. Keith Bell has been a huge resource.  I read his books when I was in high school and he has been able to work with the team quite a bit.  Actually, the area that he has done the most help with is not what you would expect.  I found that if I put him in front of our board or in front of a group of parents, he could do some great things.  He definitely made a pretty forceful case and he has been a very huge help in meeting with our Board and parent group.  The most important boundary is the parent to coach discussions.  It is not possible with swimming.  Coaches should not attempt to have a discussion with a swim parent about swimming because a discussion is two parties sharing equally.  It is not a discussion if you have a conversation with a swim parent, otherwise, that swim parent should be doing the coaching and you need to be very clear about your approach.  You don’t have to be obnoxious about it, but you have to be very clear that you are running the program.  I don’t care if that parent is, you know, the late, great Doc Counsilman.  It doesn’t matter.  They are the parents and you are the coach.  I also think that older swimmers really want that faith.  They want to know that this is their sport in which their #1 developmental goal is to develop themselves as individuals.  They cannot do that if they don’t have an arena to become their own individual.  If you let swimming become their thing without mom and dad being there then odds are they are going to be pretty devoted to the sport.  Make it clear that only when, and if, a severe problem comes up, will you discuss something with their mom and dad. It can be tough.  I once had a parent who was in the insurance industry.  She wrote me an email that laid out all of these arguments why she thought our training program was too tough.  I wrote back about four paragraphs and explained why I thought the premiums at her insurance company were out of proportion to the deductibles within the policies that they were selling.  I laid out my arguments very clearly and I said, “Listen, I have been buying auto insurance since I was 16.  I have had a lot of experience. I know some people that were on the board of a school that was buying insurance so I am pretty knowledgeable about what I was talking about.”  She hasn’t written back.  But, I think in the same vein, it is important that coaches take the same level of humility when discussing the swimmer’s home habits and personality.  The parents are resources.  You need to make sure that you are getting what you can out of them.  They can help you learn the quirks and foibles of their lovely child.  I think it is important to be very clear about professional boundaries.  We do not, within our coaching staff, drink in front of our swimmers.  In fact, we would rather that they just thought we didn’t drink.  It is not appropriate to go to their house and have dinner with the parents, to sit down unless you have an important serious meeting.  These are non-negotiable. But, I am not saying that it is necessary for your program, but it is our value system.  We want to make it very clear to our swimmers, our older swimmers especially, that their home space is their home space.  I am a little over the top on a lot of things.  One of them being, I don’t even sit down, even if I have to go to one of our Olympic qualifier’s house, unless, that is, I am there for a set meeting and it’s the venue.  I am not going to sit down in that house.  I am going to let them have their space and do what I can to make sure that there are very, very clear boundaries.  I think that helps the athlete.  I know that it helps my sanity.


I am going to advance to the next frame and am hoping that this comes out clear.  This is from 2001.  The TV station helped me out. [Video plays, audio on video] “Our coach really rides us hard to improve our strokes and set higher standards, to be like more of the Olympic athletes.”  All three of these guys qualified for the Olympics.  “I think it’s the training ethic, how you train, how hard you train.”  If it is consistent all the way though the peak, it is one of the main goals to becoming an Olympic athlete.  Also, in training, if you know that you put in the same amount of training as Olympic athletes then that is a huge step.  Knowing that we put in the work, as hard as many of the other athletes, we don’t have a problem. Sometimes there is not really that much support for swimming in Cayman.  It’s like in the US; however, they have even less support for swimming.  But there is not really that much we can do about it.  However, it does give us challenges all the time, in workout and meets, all the time.  They are always making fun of us.  They are always in there making a joke, annoying us, picking on us.  We do whatever we can to beat them and beat their expectations of us.  We have pretty good practices, but, it can always be improved.  Dave is always trying to get us… if anyone is not working harder….to focus on what they are doing.  He is going to get them out of the pool so that the rest of us can have better lane space and train harder.  He makes workouts reflect how we feel, how we look in the water, if we are training hard or just slacking off.  If I am having a good day, he will make it harder, if we are having a bad day he will still make it harder.  But he also gives you some support.  He keeps training interesting and fun.  Dave always gets some competition.  He invites as many people down here as possible so that the team could have some kind of competition.  He tries to get us to get up and race during workout.  [Another speaker on the video] Dave sets the standards mainly and then you do the best you can to meet them.  We do the best we can and we get to travel as much as possible.  We have meets here and also have people come down.  So, we still have a wide variety of competition.  The most important thing that we learn, mainly when you are younger and you are just starting, when you first meet the team or whatever, one of the main things you learn about making the Olympic team is coming to practice.  As long as you come to practice and do the work, then with this program, you will get better, you will achieve. Well, I think the most profound statement came from Heather Roffe, “If you come to practice and you do the work you are going to get faster.”  This is the most important rule.  You can’t give your precious resources to kids who are not willing to do the things that excellence requires.  Drew made another great statement when he said that if anyone is not working hard, Dave will get them out so the rest of us can have better lane space.


Coaches, this is the most important standard or expectation you can generate to your program.  It is a privilege to be able to train in the top groups.  It is a privilege to be able to train hard.  Lane space is not easy.  Your kids can attempt to make any of the sets the gold medal coaches have been presenting here and it won’t matter.  If they aren’t training with the level of consistency that Shawn was talking about, the first boy, he now stands over 6 foot, it just won’t matter.  I will come back to these thoughts after we cover the practical issue of establishing an environment.  I just want to show you these guys in this year.  This is Shawn in practice before the Olympic Games in Cypress.  This is a time trial in the 100 free which Shawn didn’t qualify for.  He ends up going 52.2 long course which is pretty good for a 16 year old and he was, I think he was third in the third heat at the Olympics in the 200 free.  This was the same small boy in the first part of the interview.  For us as well, you have to know that we don’t train in a 50 meter pool except when we travel to other places.  We have a single 6 lane, 25 meter pool that was built before there was a swim program.  They were convinced when they built it, that it was going to be too large.  We now have about 200 in our competitive program, 250 in the learn-to-swim program, and about 600 kids per week in our school’s program. This number doesn’t include the count of the adults.  I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the adults.


By the way, I think there is somebody else here that has been pretty helpful and that is Dominick Ross.  Dom is my senior assistant and certainly helped me. I valued his help over the years.  I would not have been able to make it if he had not been there in the last few years.


This is Andrew McKie.  He qualified in the 200 and the 400IM.  He is doing the 100 fly for time. I think he ends up going 57.2, which is pretty good for a practice time trial.


I think it is important that you establish the idea of empathy and not sympathy.  You need to respect that what the athletes are doing is tough, but you don’t pity them.  It is extremely tough and the ability to walk that line is the essence of coaching.  Walking the line between the possible and the impossible is coaching.  There is a shot of Heather, I think I am saying “nice job.”


A leader is a servant.  We make a huge effort of giving every possible advantage that we can to our athletes.  We will make sure that they have water and Gatorades in the fridge for the senior athletes.  The better they get, the more stuff they get.  We make sure they have the best gear.  I have annoyed Speedo to no end.  When the fastskins came out in 2000, way before we needed them, we had them.  This was all part of the plan.  They are going to do whatever they can in the water to be successful.  While we are going to make sure that we do whatever we can outside the water.  It generates a pretty good atmosphere.  It is one of my favorite quotes from B.J. Bedford.  BJ has been a big friend of the program.  She is one of the now 33 Olympic medallists who have been down in the last six or seven years to visit us in the Cayman Islands.  We have had pretty much everybody here.  Our pool records are pretty amazing as well.  The 50 back record is held by Jeff Rouse, the 100 back by Neil Walker and the 200 back is by Lenny Krazelberg.  The fly records are held by Neil Walker and Tom Malchow.  Neil holds the 50 free as well.  Neil has been down a lot.  Chris Thompson has the 400 free record.  We have had quite a few guys come down.  Neil also has the 200IM, much to Drew’s chagrin.


It is pretty important that you make sure that the athletes know that this is important to you every day.  Bob Steele said something great a lot of years ago, he said “If it’s boring for you to watch, it is boring for them to do.”  We try to make sure that we package our workout so that it is not only interesting, but that it still totals up to something worth your time and theirs.  That is pretty self-explanatory.  I don’t know how many guys have gone home angry because of what 10 or 15 teenagers did or didn’t do that afternoon.  That has never happened to me.  This has to do with parents.  This has been a tough lesson because I try to make things happen that are beyond my control.  There comes a point where you just have to say, “It is not meant to be.”  If the parents don’t understand or don’t want to understand, you can’t change that.  You are never going to have more influence over that particular swimmer than the parent.  That is pretty self-explanatory.


I think we come back to the third point of having a plan.  I have learned a lot from US coaches like Peter Banks and Jon Urbanchek.  I know how much work John Leonard has done to increase the level of professionalism in US coaches.  But, I think the biggest single difference between some of what we do as US coaches and what the Australian programs do is the quality of the weekly plan and the importance of attending practice, even at the age group level.  I think the two go hand-in-hand.  We still have programs in the US where it is okay for coaches to show up without a plan or a workout.  It is sort of made off the cuff or to let the core values slide for expediency sake.  I don’t think that is helping us as a nation to develop faster swimmers.  This is our plan and I am only showing it to you because we have a plan, I think it is important that you have one as well.  I am just simply not clever enough to plan and execute a season on the fly.  I am not saying this is the only way; there are many ways to climb a mountain.  Peter Banks, Bob, Dave Salo, Jon Urbanchek and Eddie Reese all have vastly different approaches.  But they all have an approach and they sell that approach to their athletes.  You will have been looking at similar things throughout the conference and there is nothing that I want you to gain from mine, other than to stress the importance that you need to have one of these charts and know what you are doing every afternoon, to be able to explain it along with selling it.  I have visited a lot of teams in the US and I see a lot of coaches that care about what they are doing.  But, they are not prepared to do what they are doing.  I don’t know how you can expect your athletes to put their heart and soul into a workout if you can’t put 20 minutes to an hour of your time into preparing what they are going to do.  These are the ground rules.  I will let you read through that and I am hoping that you can see that.  Basically, it says, “Show up and show up on time.”  I had a problem with getting people to show up on time when I first started in Cayman and occasionally got tardy slips.  I solved the tardiness problem by locking the gate when practice started.  They ended up showing up earlier the next time.  That might be a little harsh or it might seem a little harsh, but we had no other choice.  I think it sends a pretty clear message.  The younger kids were pretty flexible on what they did.  For example, we tried to schedule five, well, we have five practices within our lower groups when space allows.  But we only ask them to attend two or three of those.  We want them to do ballet or baseball.  At the senior level, however, there is no acceptable reason for missing a practice except for extreme circumstances. Extremes in this case meaning you can miss practice once or twice a year, at the most.  Early on, when I started going to conferences I started to spot trends that the top swimmers were doing in their programs.  What were the things that 90% of the teams who did not share the success were not doing?  The most important point is that the top swimmers train 10 sessions a week through their teen years.  That is not in all the programs, but it is in most of the programs and I am just not going to gamble on bad odds.  I also have a problem with telling swimmers that they must attend 8 of 10 workouts.  I don’t know how it can be okay to miss 10 workouts a month.  If you put together a weekly plan, is that Tuesday or Wednesday?  For example, heart rate monitoring might be expendable this week because Johnny has an exam, doesn’t feel like coming, or really wants to catch that next episode of Gilligan’s Island.  I tell parents that it is arrogant to insist that any one high school is tougher than every single high school throughout the world, except for these elite athletes; I mean, you hear that argument no matter where you are in the world.  I have coached all over the place.  We have dealt with the British system, the Australian system, the US system and they all say the same things.  But there are athletes that can do it.  Exceptions happen, just make sure they remain exceptional.  If they are too sick to phone, have someone bring the phone to their bedside so they can call to let me know what is going on.  If you have an emergency or something else comes up, or they are ill, it is on the athlete to reschedule the practice, although  sometimes it’s just not possible.


The other deciding factor is the athletes’ desire to be there.  No one should be allowed to stay in practice if he does not want to be there.  It hurts to visit some teams because the bad ones cry so loudly that the good ones cannot concentrate on the work.  I really can’t stress that enough.  You need to get them out of there.  They are a drain.  You tell me, well, they pay the bills.  Don’t let them pay the bills.  Let the little kids pay the bills.  Pack your pool with little kids because there is nothing worse or more annoying, it really hurts my lower spine when I see senior swimmers who don’t want to be senior swimmers.  They want to do something else.  They want to do something two or three months a year.  So, I am telling you, I know the numbers have to add up at the end of the month, but you make them add up elsewhere because senior swimming done poorly does take a lot more time than age group swimming.  Why is it that in the classroom, 10 year old Johnny or 15 year old Johnny is not allowed to say, “Hey Miss, I don’t feel like doing math today,” when she gives out the homework?  Yet, the swim coaches let their swimmers whine about practice or gripe about practice.  It just doesn’t make sense.  We need to show more professional self-respect.  We spent 20 minutes to an hour planning the workout in order to help these kids.  They need to buy what we are selling or go buy something else.  This is pretty important.  These wet/dry issues are something that I think John Leonard came up with.  He said, “If people like the idea, it was theirs and if they don’t, then you made it up.”  So when I checked about it, he actually did come up with that.  Well, that is what he told me.  I think it is a John Leonard concept.  It has really helped me out.  It is defined as, “If an athlete is getting wet then it is a wet issue.  These are the things that we are solely responsible for.  You need to grip it with both hands and hold on tight.  The dry issues, well, that is the boring bit.  I don’t care, I don’t even care what color the track suits are.  But there are people who do.


I added a third category called the moist issues.  These are the cooperative and uncooperative effort between the board and the coaches.  Those are all those things.  When I said you are in uniform, I mean, you know, whether or not we spend any money on getting the better suit or those sorts of things.  These are things that sort of banter back and forth.


This is Katlin who is an open water swimmer, who was not far off the Olympic cut.  I think both parties do want the same thing.  I am talking about the athletes and the coaches, but it is our job to make sure that they know what it takes to get there.  This is the base of the system; this is how you make it work out.


If there isn’t someone that is paying the dues, there can be no money to pay your salary.  So, if you want more dues so you can make more money, then you need to understand that if you set your program up along those lines, you are not expecting to have most of your team numbers at the top.  You are only expecting a very small amount at the top.  This is because my expectations of the younger kids are so small; it makes it pretty easy to retain them.  This is my favorite way to break this down.  Again, if you like this, I came up with it and gave it to John, if you don’t it, it was his idea.


Like the airlines, one learns as they get older that we have three classes of service.  Everyone starts out in economy.  The space is less, the service is not quite as frequent, but it comes at a price that everyone can afford, even the very young.  Show up when you like, follow the basic rules, and don’t interfere with the other passengers.  When swimmers get a little older they have the option of staying in economy or upgrading to business class.  The space is better.  Service is better.  The gear is better, but the fare is definitely more.  Just like in the plane, there might be 15 business class seats and only 10 in 1st class.  The space is the very best possible in 1st class.  Clearly, airlines cannot afford to have a 1st class section without the economy class, but by the same token it is only natural that everybody in economy wants to eventually sit in 1st and that is how we break it down.


I am going to go through some of these other slides.  I am trying to be right on time because I wanted to allow some time for questions so, sorry.


Now, everyone wants the maximum number of passengers.  This is what I truly believe.  Alright, they are all good at 10.  Most of the time, you still get 11-12.  Of course, I am talking about swimmers; their attitude and effort do count more than results at the 11 & 12 age.  We actively discourage the 6’ 4”, 12 year old who is already shaving and has more chest hair than I do, from thumping on the kid who comes to practice more often.  Who, you know, looks like they are 8 years old.  We make sure that we are still rewarding attitude and effort.  Ages 13 and 14 is where you start to make a transition.  Some kids are going to be late bloomers and that is fine too.  We just have them swim with the 11 & 12 year olds and do not make them feel bad about it.  I have had to make sure that my assistant coaches understand that.  Sometimes assistant coaches have a hard time with that.  We tend to give boys a pretty bad rap if they can’t handle it.  They cannot handle it as well as the girls can for they are not as mature.  I have known plenty of women that have told me that that’s a lifetime thing!  It’s not just a developmental thing.


Needless to say, we try to make sure that the boys are developing according to their own time line and not something that is artificial.  By the time they are 15 or 16 years old, if they don’t want elite coaching then they should either swim at the lap swimming times, join tennis, or do something else.  Or, you know, if they are just happy being, let them be.  There is no problem with them being in just a high school group or a casual swimming group.  As long as they are not saying things or their parents aren’t saying things like, well yeah, but he is good friends with Joe, who is a senior national qualifier.  I think developmentally or socially it is better if they train together, don’t you think?  And it just doesn’t work out that way.  It is not good for either swimmer to be paired in together when they have completely different abilities and more often – goals.  You need to keep your eyes on the fries, you need to find that line in the sand and you don’t have to fight every battle.  I have a tendency to attempt to do that.  You just need to make sure that you are able to coach athletes, to take care of your athletes, and develop them over time.  Only then will that line in the sand be pretty clear.


It is the wet issues.  If you can make sure that the wet issues are always protected, then you are going to have a good program.  Now, before I start the questions, I want to show you what the pool looks like now.  You saw our pool on the video.  This is what our pool looks like today.  We had Hurricane Ivan come through a while back, so before I get any questions, I want to run through these shots.


[Slide show]  That is just off of South Sound where most of the swimmers houses were.  Some of them, its funny, you start saying things like, “Well, it just had water damage. It was only water up to about your knees – no problem.”  We used to use an apartment in this complex.  Most of the complex is actually over here to the left of the slides.  This is where the apartments were and now they are across the road in a pile, it’s called Mariner’s Cove.  We were using a couple of those to house counselors and people who came in.  Not so much any more, I’m afraid.  That is another view of the beach.  That is not far from where I live.  This was after the hurricane; people were standing in line, probably just to get gas and/or water and food.  It looks like the gas line.  That is West Bay Road on 7 mile beach.  That is what it looked like during the storm.  Somebody was silly enough to stand that close to take a picture.  The wind meter broke at 208 miles an hour.  It was faster than that.  It lasted for about 18 hours.  It was a pretty wild time.  That is a little above view.  This sort of looks like a construction site that went bad, those buildings were all finished, at one point!  There is another view of another part of the island, South Sound.  This one is entitled MUD, mud at your feet and sky at your head.


After the storm, I was deputized, so you know it was real bad.  What is really funny about this is, true story, alright; I had been a police officer for 8 days so I was experienced.  I had the shirt and I had the hat.  They kept giving me more responsibility and my whole attitude was, “I don’t know what I am doing.  You know, I don’t know what I am doing!  And you know, because that was my attitude, they gave me more and more responsibilities!  I handled some drunk and disorderliness, I handled some domestic disputes, landlord disputes, pulled people over for curfew violations, recovered a firearm, all the things that I had never done before.  And this officer Sigsworth, there to the right of me, he has an MP5 sub-machine gun.  You can’t see it there.  No, they didn’t give me a gun.  That was usually the first question from the swim parents when they saw me driving around.  They are like, “You don’t have a gun do you?”  Sigsworth would say, “No, that is next week.”  But the funny thing was, when I got in the car, I knew what I was doing.  We were zulu2, which was our squad car.  I just had to go by my name and usually over the radio, they would say, “Ohh – the swim coach.”  Yeah, special constable Kelsheimer, he had a badge #189, and was zulu2.  So I had that worked out, I knew the radio and some of the lingo. I was doing alright except that I couldn’t turn on the sirens if you paid me.  I didn’t know where they were.  But, I couldn’t say, “I don’t know where the sirens are.”  I could do the lights, the lights are well marked, they are right over there, but I couldn’t do the siren.  Anyway, that is my presentation or the bulk of it.  I wanted to, well, I hope it wasn’t too preachy.  I wanted to give a little more instruction as opposed to just what happened in Cayman.  We did develop from a program that was pretty much non-existent and it wasn’t easy.  It can be done.


So I am going to open it up now to questions.  I know that we wanted to keep this as close to 4 and I think that we still have a couple of minutes.  Questions??  She asked if you divide the swimmers by age and ability or age and ability separately. She was also talking about if you removed them, if they are being soft from the lanes.  We divide them up first by age and second by ability and we sort of, it is vague in the transition between the groups based on that.  Sometimes you have kids that just take a little longer to get to their next group.  And, that is why I broke down that chart, but being soft is not really, that is sort of a vague term.  I am not saying that you should remove them because they are not always swimming as fast as you think they should, that is a tough one to do.  Most of the time, if they are taking the time to come to practice, by showing up, indicates that they want to do well.  The thing that will automatically get you out of the pool is if you are in the way, especially if you are maliciously in the way.  If you are not swimming in the neighborhood of what you need to go, then you probably need to see a doctor.  You should get out of the pool right now and seek medical attention because I am very concerned for your health.  Otherwise, we really don’t try to make it that tough for them to stay in the water.  We want them to be successful.  We want them to be there, but over a period of time too, their teammates are going to make sure that they are working hard.  It is not an easy thing to do.  But the only thing that really gets to me though, is, you know, kids who are disrespectful to the system, to their teammates, or to the coaches.  That sort of gets under my skin pretty fast.


Bill, yeah, we have some funding and we have some sponsors.  He asked about funding and sponsorship, where the money comes from, if the parents pay for it, if the government pays for it, or sponsors pay for it.  It is actually all three.  Yes, we do have some sponsorship that has come on board within the last couple of years, especially when people started to get excited about the Olympics.  We had the Cayman National Bank and the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism who sponsored the team and they really liked the work ethic of the kids involved.  We need those sponsors and it does take a lot more money because every time we go to a meet, we are traveling internationally.  Except, that is, if we are hosting a local meet.


There is more sponsorship, but if you are looking at your area and thinking, well you know, I just don’t have that sort of sponsorship.  You don’t really need it because you can just drive to the next meet, you can get there.  We have to fly internationally and it is a lot more expensive.  We have had to have help from the government, from private sponsors, and from the parents.  But we try really hard to make sure that is not based on parents being wealthy so that we try to make, I have a discretionary fund, we the coaches have a discretionary fund for kids that couldn’t otherwise afford it.  But we sort of do it under the table.  I was only there for a season.  You know, it was really tough coaching there in that program, but you know it is also tough coaching in Texas.  High school swimming is very important there.  I don’t have a problem with high school swimming in itself.  I mean, I was told that the team, that the high schools were limited to 8 hours a week which was fine.  Okay, that makes sense.  Then I found out that they had a 90 minute PE class every day that was also a swim practice.  They didn’t tell me about it, in addition to the 8 hours, which was actually 10 hours by Texas standards because that is how I got 5 X 2.  I don’t know what they got, so I said, “Okay well, it is what it is.”


So I went and I sat down with this high school coach and I said, “This is my weekly plan, I just want to make sure that when the kids come on the afternoons they are having practice on a Tuesday for whatever the set is hard lactate or whatever the set is on that day, that you haven’t done the same thing that morning, or I want to make sure that if you have had a hard workout that day, that I take that into account before I plan the season.” He looked at me and he said, “I think coaching swimming is about developing good people.”  I said, “So do I.”  What are you doing Tuesday afternoon in the fall so I can set that up?”  It was tough because he really didn’t have a plan for the week.  That has worked for him at the high school for a long time and I think, I mean, he has done a great job with the programs.  But if we are going to be truly effective and that doesn’t mean that it is bad, I am not saying what he was doing was bad, but I am just saying if we are going to be working on maximum potential, I need to know what I am doing every morning and afternoon for the week and for the season. I think if we are going to truly work together, you know, join hands and sing Kumbaya, then we need to at least know what we are doing on Tuesday afternoon so that these kids do not end up under-performing or getting hurt.


Well, if they do not want to be a part of our program then that is their choice.  It is not a partial choice, it has to be a full choice and if it is not going to happen, then they need to find a program or a sport that they can be successful in.  So you are right, but it is a full choice.  It is not a partial choice.  They are either in or they are out.  I think it is real important because halfway, you know, if you are on a ledge you can fall and get hurt.

Yes?  Because the younger kids have a great time and we started out by having hundreds of little kids who loved what they were doing, who loved showing up.  We didn’t have older swimmers until they were ready to progress.  Dominick Ross, who is my Assistant Senior Coach, was a huge part of helping that progress. You know, he helped in the selling of the program to those kids and letting it develop naturally.  You run into problems when you do not develop the program over time.  You run into problems when you kind of artificially advance kids.  But I have a senior group along with a development group.  That doesn’t mean that those kids do not have a place in your program, but they need to understand that there is a big difference between swimming casually and being at the top group, being in the first class.  If you don’t get a ticket in first class you still just want to pay the economy fare.


Question?  He asked about how big the program was and how big it is now, how has it progressed.  When I came back from Australia I went into a program in Texas where I inherited from a pretty big club team.  Some of the kids were senior national qualifiers and there were struggles there.  But you know, even if there were struggles, you still had some kids there that could swim.  When I walked out onto the pool deck in the Cayman Islands I found out that swimming was not a sport, that I wasn’t a swim coach, and that they did not use lane lines or flags except when they had a swim gala which was not timed or seeded. Except, that is, on special occasions in which case, it was only timed by watches and it was not seeded.  They hadn’t had electronic timing and they did not always have an official working that particular swim gala.  It was a struggle coming into that scenario.  You know, I was teaching kids how to do flip turns.  There were some kids who had tried to do well in the sport over a period of time, but they were pretty frustrated.  Dom had attempted to swim and had gotten stronger with a group with kids but it was as the wind blows. They would have practice for a few months and somebody would make a stab at it and then it would die off.  We had maybe 30 kids in what they called advanced swimming, which were two or three times a week for 45 minutes.  That was advanced swimming! It was the “Swimming is not a sport, it is a survival skill” mentality.  This was a government entity and I had to dance to their tune.  Now, as I said, the program is closer to 200 or was before hurricane Ivan and most of our senior athletes are in the states, all but two of our senior swimmers I believe, no, maybe four.  All but four are in the States somewhere training because we don’t have a pool as you saw in the slide show.  The program is suffering but that is what we have developed.  We developed some pretty strong numbers.  I had Dom as my main assistant coach and I had two female assistant coaches that were there as well.  Their involvement was different in varying degrees.  We also had to handle the learn-to-swim program along with the government school classes.  It was a lot for us to handle.  It was 1000 kids a week.  As some of you guys might know, Mike Barrowman used to be my roommate and he came down here to do a clinic in 1996.  He showed up on my doorstep after that and lived on my couch for several months.  I am never doing that again!  Every time we have somebody come to visit, I tell them “You are going to the airport.  I am taking you there and I am not leaving until I see you get on that plane. Only come back to visit.”  Mike takes care of the Masters program.  He has been a great resource and a big help.  Well, we only have one pool.  We only have one 25 meter pool on Grand Cayman so we only have one team.  There was a small team on Cayman Brac.  They used essentially, well, it is about the size of a hotel pool.  They attempt to run a team over there and it is very tough for those guys.  You know, we had, we have you know, like every other place, have the disgruntled parent who is talking about starting another team.  But it wasn’t going to be on my watch, so we have one program because we have one pool. To do so with every possible inch of that pool already programmed and called for, you just can’t start another team.  That has been kind of my experience.  Yeah, who do I answer to?  If you ask my boss he will say no one, but technically I answer to the Sports Director who answers to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Community Development of Sports Youth Culture and Gender Affairs.  He answers to the Leader of Government Business who answers to the Governor.  They are a support group and they fund the trips.  It is sort of a different system; however we are working to change that.  We want to make it go private because it doesn’t work right now.  I don’t fit the bureaucrat mold very well.


Thank you for coming, I appreciate it.



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