Swimming and the Art of War by Mark Onstott (2008)


[Introduction] It is an honor to introduce a good friend. We have competed against each other for several years. Last year his team won the mythical National Championship for high school boys. You are going to really enjoy this talk. Since this is the Beijing year, he has gone back to the philosophy of the Chinese. Please welcome Mark Onstott of New Trier High School.

[Coach Onstott] I am from just North of Chicago. Yes, The Cubs and Wrigley Field area. I haven’t checked on the Cubs. They lost 3 straight before I left. I really didn’t need to know that. Teams typically have magic numbers for how many they have to win or lose to get into the play-offs or win a championship. Well, the Cubs have a number but they don’t call it magic. It is a number for how many games they have to lose to be out of contention. This year up until just about a week ago they were doing great. The folks who go to Wrigley Field all the time are called the “The Wrigley Faithful,” with faith being the key part of that. I’ll give you an idea what that is all about in the North Chicago area (the White Sox are in South Chicago). We started school on the 22nd and as I am calling roll for my 3rd period class, I get to a kid whose name is Sheffield. Or let’s just say Smith, okay? And I said Sheffield, you know, you look familiar. I don’t think that you have been in my class. Do you have a brother? He says yeah, I actually have two brothers. I respond, Addison? Yeah, I remember Addison. He caused me a little bit of problems. Those kids are always kind of vivid in your memories so I remember. I then said it seems to me that there is a story that goes along with this. You have Sheffield and Addison; that sounds familiar. I am not a big Cubs fan, but when they are winning I am on the bandwagon. I asked do you have another brother. He said yes. So I asked what his name is. Back and forth we go and I said, Clark, really, Clark? That is interesting. This seems familiar and I am remembering a conversation with Addison while discussing some of his truancies. Then I said, please tell me, do you have a sister? He said, yes, I have a sister, Grace. So, Grace-White- Waveland-Smith – middle name Waveland and I said, okay, that is it, right? That is all the kids? No, I have one more –– a sister I asked? Yes. What is her name? Ivy. So you have Sheffield Avenue on the East side of Wrigley field. You have Addison which is actually the address. You have Clark coming in here. You have Waveland which is where the folks wait out on the street to catch the home runs and whip them back over the fence if they are not a Cub home run. I have been trying to figure out how to work that sort of thing into a swim meet, but all I could think of is attacking the other coach and throwing him in the water and that probably wouldn’t be the same thing. And then you have Ivy, as in the ivy on the wall at Wrigley Field; the famous Ivy.

Anyway, they have lost six in a row. Thank you very much for that information. I am a little depressed right now. Why Art of War? It has been around going on 2500 years, but the first time I ever heard about it was about 8 years ago. I happened to be reading USA Today which I do just every once in a while and there was an article about the Sopranos, an HBO show. I don’t watch it. I don’t have HBO. It was talking about this book, “The Art of War” and how it was mentioned on the TV show and how it caused a run on the book. People were buying the book all over the place. So I thought that is interesting. I will look into that. I looked it up on the web. I learned it was written 2500 years ago and it basically had been reprinted and everybody has their own translation of it. If you go on the web you will see hundreds of different opportunities to get this book. I chose one because it said that it was authentic so I knew right away that was the best one.

There are many ways to pronounce Sun Tzu but I will stick to this one. The book is considered a definitive work of military strategy. It is referred to on the military channel all the time, especially with all the military happenings today. It is referred to in military talks about Iraq and Afghanistan as well as past events like World War II. It is used as a business and leadership text. In fact if you go on the web you can get The Art of War for Running a Business, The Art of War for Sales, The Art of War for Leadership. There are others too. It is also of course a coaching manual for high school coaches. Maybe not in name but it could be one. Here are the chapters in The Art of War: Planning; Going to War; Planning the Attack; Positioning; Momentum; Weakness and Strengths; Armed Conflict; Adaptability; Armed March; Field Positions; Types of Terrain; Using Spies and my personal favorite – Attacking with Fire. That really comes in handy in the dual meet situation. I went through it eight years ago. I read and highlighted it several times and came up with 4 areas that I thought related to coaching high school swimming an absolute team setting.

Well, as a swimming coach, I try to really focus on coaching the team, which I think really helps bring the athletes together as a team. One is team building. One is leadership which is important because as you probably know, leaders build teams. There is some overlap between those two in terms of the strategies. Meet strategy is another area. I love dual meets. Training is the fourth area.

I kind of hit the highlights on those. Sun Tzu teaches to command people in a way that gives them a higher, shared purpose. Victory comes from everyone sharing the same goals. That spoke to me because that is what I try to do. I try to coach swimming like a team sport. That doesn’t mean you do not coach individuals. The basketball or football coach at your high school is coaching a team. Obviously, they are working on individual skills and things that they need to do to put that team together, but they are in

Let’s talk about Philosophy. Bob Bowman’s keynote speech the other night was excellent. What I really loved about his talk was what he shared about the choice he made after the 2004 Olympic trials. I believe he said that among the kids he had at the meet, two of them swam great and the rest didn’t swim so well and he made a choice that he would coach the worst like the best. I would not use the word worst because my best are not as good as the worst he was talking about, but that is what we try to do at New Trier. We try to coach the whole team both individually and as a team, and we do this by teaching through our core beliefs. I am only going to hit four of them. We have them on our website (www.newtrier.k12.il.us) but this is kind of the Big 4 for me. The first is Potential. We try to get across to the kids that everyone is capable of high achievement. I think the key to high achievement is Confidence, and we work pretty hard to give kids confidence. Actually we do not give them confidence but we help them develop confidence. Next is The Big Picture. We try to focus on the big picture so kids aren’t thinking they have got to swim this event to do this to go there to be here to qualify for that. We try to focus on the big picture so when we come down to places where we need them to swim something that maybe they do not want to swim, they understand how they fit in there. The Team is the big picture. Every person on the team has a role to play. We have somewhere between 90 to a hundred kids on the boys’ swim team. We will see if we get the Olympic bump and numbers go up a bit, which is common coming off the Olympics, especially an Olympics as good as this year, so we might see a few more. The point is that every kid has a role to play and the goal is more important than the role. The goal is more important than the role. We talk about Adversity. We find a way or make a way. My wife is a director of Mary Kay. I have been to more Mary Kay events in 30 years than seems possible. I have several pink shirts and other paraphernalia. One thing that I hear there all the time is find a way or make a way. Adversity plays out in a lot of different ways.

Sun Tzu said, “United men are strong. Divided men are weak.” A united unit is strong. A divided unit is weak. He repeats himself every once in a while, but I think he is trying to make a point. How do you make a united unit? How do you get people together? One of them is we treat them all the same. I let my wife go through this but we actually didn’t get all the way through it so if any words are misspelled after this it is all on me. We got to this point and she said, “Treat them all the same. You can’t put that on there. You don’t do that. You don’t treat them all the same. How can you put that on there”? And I don’t treat them all the same. I mean, they are individuals and we coach them differently. We work with them where they are. We move them along step by step and there are different circumstances with every kid. On the north shore of Chicago there are really different circumstances with every kid and so, no, I don’t treat them all the same. In the team concept however, I do treat them the same. If they are on the team they gotta come to practice. We are a no cut sport and that is a concept that is not an automatic, at least not where I am. So we have to teach that concept, but we have that expectation. If a good kid gets in trouble we go through the same process with that good kid as we do with a kid who is farther down the ladder or farther down on a JV squad or on our second JV squad. You deal with them using the same process. We go through the school. We follow the rules and what is decided is decided, so we do really treat them all the same.

We have an expectation that our very best kid is going to swim outstanding at the end of the year and we have the expectation that the kid who comes out for swimming for the first time will swim outstanding at the end of year also. And believe me we have kids who come to us brand new and who could not swim when they came out. We have an expectation that each kid will do their absolute best and swim outstanding at the end of the year. So honey, we do treat them the same.

Relay get-out swims is a thing we do about once a year. In my high school one my assistant coaches (Mike Leissner) came up with this. We used it with our girls’ team first. It was one of those things where rather than putting one person up and having a get-out swim we did something that helped develop leadership and helped us see who the leaders were when we put them into groups. The instructions to them were that we want every group to swim a 400 free relay and all the relays have to be less than 4 minutes. Oh, I need to add that we did not put them in groups. We had them put themselves in groups and it is amazing who jumps up on the starting block and says you go there, you go there, you go over there and you go there. Sometimes you have one of your captains looking to where they are supposed to go while we have a junior or even a senior who is not a captain leading the way, showing what is going on and who should go where. We did that. We had to do two heats. I think we had the varsity and the JV there and we alternated and ended up with I think 9 teams less than 4 minutes. Again, they had to figure out who was going to go on what relays and spread out the kids. It was a great experience. We have done it a couple of times since then with the boys and it has always worked great. We are all in this together. This is just a concept: it is cold out; it is dark out; the water is wet; the water is cold. The point being that we just all have got to get in and go. We are all paying the same price. We are all making the same sacrifice.

I am a big believer in moral victories. I believe in them a lot more when I am not getting any of the real kind, but moral victories can help you get over some rough patches. In the early years at New Trier we had several moral victories that really made a difference in how we progressed as a program, and not just in that year. We like to win some battles. Again, more so when we first started in our first 5 or 6 years, we would go in and swim somebody and maybe the best thing we did was win the medley. You know, we put all of our horses or maybe a couple of horses and two ponies into the medley relay so we could win the medley. We didn’t forget about the rest of the meet, but we tried to do that to lift everybody up and feel like we won something, even though at the end of the meet maybe we didn’t win. And we like to share all of our victories. It could be the freshman invitational at Glenbrook North which is one of my favorite meets. They come back to our pool where we are having a meet we host every other year with a team from Iowa. It is actually my old high school. That meet is still going on and those kids come in from their freshman meet which is their first meet as freshmen. It their first high school invitational and they come in with their ribbons and sometimes a trophy and they got great times and they are excited and then they watch us continue swimming the dual meet with Kennedy from Cedar Rapids.

Sun Tzu said control a large army the same as you control a few men. You just divide the ranks correctly. We have approximately a hundred kids; between 90 and 100 with 10-12 of those being divers. Well, 10-12 of them are going off the boards and hopefully by the end of the year we have 10-12 divers. Let’s say we have 85 swimmers. We have a freshman group and we try to keep as many freshmen on that group as possible. We do not swim freshmen with our JV, even though they may be at that level. They are either freshman or they are varsity. We have it divided up and we are very flexible in how we place kids. We have another group that works out with the freshmen at our other campus where we have a second pool. That is our JV team. We call them Northfield JV because that is where they are located. They are our lowest level kids who are about freshmen level. Then we have our JV which works out at the Winnetka campus right after the varsity. We are very flexible in how we work out so if you have a kid who appears like they can move from freshman to varsity, we might bring him in three mornings a week. If we have a JV kid who we think might be moving up to varsity, we can bring him in two mornings or three mornings a week. Over the holidays we bring kids in. We might move the freshmen up to swim winter break with us or we might bring them up to swim the afternoon practice with us and they will keep the morning practice with the freshmen. It kind of depends on what is best for that kid, but we try to be very flexible in how we move them up. It is class-related. I choose the varsity squad. It looks like we will have about six freshmen on our boy’s team this year and a couple of them are projects. One of them is about 54 in the hundred free. If he was a 54 and he was a junior, he probably would not be on the varsity, but this kid has done a little club swimming. He was injured most of last year. He also played football. We are probably going to have him on the varsity and look for the growth that we are going to get out of that kid. I think I already went over the fluidity of the split practices.

Sun Tzu said, “Make your commands easy to follow.” You must understand the way a crowd thinks and I have to be honest with you, I used to understand how 13 – 14, 15 – 16, and 17 year old girls and boys thought. I say I use to. It has become very obvious to me in the last few years that I have passed over the hill on some things because there are some things that happen and some music they are listening to, and I use the term loosely, that I do not understand. I am not even talking about rap. We had a run on techno for about a year and a half and it just drove me nuts. Make it easy for them to obey the orders by training your people. We do that with expectations. Create a clear understanding of what is expected at all levels at all times, at practice, meets and everything that you do. We try to outline what is expected of them so there are very few problems. There still are. We talk to the parents about this as well. Lay it all out for the parents. The parents’ meeting is always interesting. After the parents’ meeting I usually have someone come up to me saying, we want you to know that Johnny is totally, 100% committed to swimming. We want you to know as parents, we are 100% committed to him being on this team and doing the best he can to be at practice and to be at meets. Now here is a list of the times that he cannot be here. Commitment means something different nowadays I am afraid.

Routine is important. We try to teach a routine so kids know what is going on. We have a routine I go over with them before the first couple of meets. I address things like what to put in your bag. Pack your bag the night before. Have everything ready. Do you think you might need two pair of goggles? It is possible. Do you think you might need an extra suit? Bring your drag suit. We wear drag suits, big PE suits at a lot of our meets. Bring your drag suit, but have your Speedo. You never know, I might want you to swim one event without the drag suit so be sure you have it because otherwise it could be embarrassing. Try to be clear and concise on directions. I am going to say this next thing because I am going to buy this 99 cent presentation and I am going to let my head girls’ coach listen to it, just for this part right here: So Coach Woodberry, listen up. When giving directions on a set, I always try to give them a few different ways. For example, we are going to do three 100’s on 1:30, IM with fast freestyle at the end on every one of them. Okay? We are doing IM’s and they are hundreds. I want you to really hit that freestyle well and it is going to be on 1:30. You are going to do ten of them. Got it? And then go through another way and tell them again. My good buddy, (Larry, one of our other coaches is laughing already) who is our head girls’ coach is an outstanding coach. He is the best head coach I have worked with. He is incredible, but he is a little quirky and he would give a set something like this. We are going to do 10 on 8. We are going to do hundreds. I want you to do them backstroke, breaststroke, ah –- we are going to do 8 of them and they are on 1:25. So by the time the kids get done they don’t know what they are doing. They don’t know what stroke they are doing. They know it is hundreds, but that was just a lucky guess. That is an extreme. Bruce, I love you. I hope he understands. Concise directions also make things go quicker and that is not just for workouts. It also applies to things like when the bus leaves, where the bus is going to be, what the process is going to be, any directions you have on the meet and what we expect to be happening. Make all that stuff clear and concise as possible.

Sun Tzu said: “You must control your soldiers with esprit de corps. You must bring them together by winning victories. You must get them to believe in you.” Wow, back in my first year at New Trier I came in and I had no idea that they didn’t do morning workouts the year before I got there. I came in and held mornings. In their minds I am creaming them. In my mind I am taking it easy. I am kind of building it up, kind of getting things going. We had a great first year. We had a great freshman come in. He was about a 59 hundred backstroker and 2:08 in the IM. At the end of the year he went 1:54 in the IM and I think he went 53 low in the hundred. He scored in two events and it was glorious. New Trier had not scored for a couple of years. Anyway, we had a great first year. A tradition at New Trier is that the Captains speak at the banquet. So every Captain got up to speak and each one made it very clear that if we had not won our first meet which was 2 weeks into the season, that they were going to like tar and feather me and ride me out of town on a rail. The parents were not happy. They didn’t want to get them up in the morning. They didn’t want to do any of that. So, you must get them to believe in you. I fortunately had no idea of the problems I had or could have had. I was oblivious until the banquet.

The great philosopher Nuke LaLoosh (the character from the movie Bull Durham) says “Winning is, like, better than losing.” I can’t argue with that. I watched the movie and the quote is a little long and it has one “F” word in it and so I decided to condense it for all of us here. But winning is better than losing. If you can get them to win some victories so that they start believing in what they are doing, good things happen. A second favorite Nuke LaLoosh quote is: “Why does he keep calling me meat? I am the one driving the Porsche.” Of course he is talking about Crash Davis, Kevin Costner’s character. My feeling is that he is calling you meat because it isn’t what you own, it is who you are. It is who you really are, and not for example, who you are because you are the president or this or that, but rather what you really are on the inside. That is what matters. I don’t think Nuke ever figured that out.

Sun Tzu said an organized force is better than a lone individual. This is part of organization. Put the tough and the weak together. We try to do this in many ways. First we promote tradition. Paul Turno does some work for NISCA on our All American program. I asked Paul to find all the All Americans from New Trier. He sent me back a large file. Between the boys and the girls going back to the first ones that he could find going back to the 1920’s, New Trier has over 450 All-Americans. We have most of those honor certificates ringing around the pool, and I truly believe that it is easier for one of our kids to get better because they see that tradition. It wasn’t particularly easy for them from about 1976 for about 20 years, but we kind of got back to the tradition. We had some coaches who wanted to separate themselves from it. They didn’t want that tradition riding on their back but I looked at it a little different. I don’t think it is on our back. I think we are on its back. Routines, as I mentioned earlier, are incredibly important. Relays are important. This refers to relays in meets where we may put a younger kid who maybe shouldn’t be on the A relay, but we put him on the A relay and he has to really perform. One of the great meets for us is the Trevian Relays. The Trevian Relays is a meet where you have two entries and you add the times together. They swim separately, but you add the times together. We have IST software thank goodness which does it all for us, but it is a great meet because you have to place your kids carefully and a lot of times you are putting a really quick kid with the kid who is not quite so quick and that kid has to really perform in order for that relay to score. We also have two medleys, two short and two long and one of them is a JV. JV for this means that you can’t be a senior so that puts us in the position where sometimes we have to bring up a senior kid to swim on a senior relay, varsity relay, and sometimes we have got to bring up a younger kid to swim on one of those JV slots and it puts him in a tough situation. That is an incredible meet for us every year. We have break-through swims. Leadership opportunities present themselves in lanes such as leading a lane. One of the worst times for me is getting the kids in for warm-up at a swim meet. I have more trouble getting them in for warm-up at a meet than at practice. I really don’t have any trouble getting them in for practice. Therefore I put the captains in charge of it. We have a standard meet warm-up. Once again, that is part of the routine and they know what it is. I tell them what time I want them in and they take care of it and I sit back. I only had one time last year when I had to make the process go faster. We mix things up a bit with groups and lanes. When we do any type of freestyle set we base things on cruise intervals. That comes from Coach Dick Bower who I see sitting here. We use a version of them so they are mixed up in the lanes. We do up to four different practices. For example, for an IM practice there might be two lanes. In what we call a stroke practice there could be four or five lanes doing different strokes and then of course we have distance or sometimes we do a middle distance and a distance session

The story of Johnny, Meyer, John and James involves four kids that went through our IM lane over a period of about 4 years. Johnny was a senior captain when Meyer came in. Meyer was very good. I think he was about a 2:08 IM’er coming in. He was a very good swimmer and a real pistol. I thought he was great. He was not real excited about anybody telling him what to do. Johnny is just kind of a laid-back guy. He was actually a track guy who was swimming and did a pretty good job. They were in the IM lane together and Johnny took Meyer under his wing and taught him everything that I would not want him to know. He taught him things like if the sun is just right you can go under water and skip a 50 or that if the coach is at the other end of the pool you can jump out and run to the bathroom. He taught him things and treated him like a little brother like the good big brother does and like the bad big brother does so Meyer took some abuse. It was nothing bad and they learned a lot. Johnny was about a 2:04 IM’er and at the end of Meyer’s freshman year they were both 2:00 IM’ers. They learned a lot. The next year I had no IM’ers except Meyer so I moved John over. John was a breaststroker. He had a horrible butterfly. It was painful, terrible. He had a backstroke where he did that alternating whip kick you have probably seen a kid do. He had a decent freestyle, but at the end of the IM it was atrocious. The kid could get up and go a flat out 50 pretty well but in the IM it was not good. I put him in there with Meyer. Breaststroke was the one stroke he could do and Meyer was weak in the breaststroke and they worked together the whole year. It was mainly the two of them in there and by the end of the year John, who I think was maybe a 2:12 IM’er ended up going 2:02 and Meyer had a great year. I think he went about 1:56. Then James came along. James was another hotdog. James was like Meyer as a freshman, almost identical and they worked together really well. Both of them swam great. I think James was right at 2 minutes and Meyer won state that year with a 1:52 I believe in the IM.

This is Meyer. Has anyone seen the movie, “Don’t mess with the Zohan”? I don’t blame you. I saw it. There is a scene in where Adam Sandler’s character was swimming butterfly, chasing down someone on a jet ski and he is coming really high out of the water. Has anybody seen it? Thank goodness. I know you wasted your money, but at least you know what I am talking about. So after he graduated high school Meyer visited during a practice and he said that while he had been working out at USC trying to make the Israeli Olympic team the folks from that movie came to the pool and they needed someone to swim butterfly for a scene so they had me. They actually had a stunt man do what Meyer did but the stunt man hurt himself so they realized they should get someone that knows how to swim butterfly. This is really short (about to show a video clip). Referring to a point in the movie video clip, Meyer said that hurt. So I had two thoughts when I saw this. One was that is a really cool video. Two, I wonder how I could build a little scaffolding seeing as they dragged him at about 30 miles on hour in the scene. Again he said, “coach that hurt.” It looks like Adam Sandler. I do not know if they grafted it on. He showed me an actual picture of the two of them so I am confused by how the scene actually looks like it is Sandler. As I said Meyer was home visiting practice and he said, coach – this is my last practice with you. I have been here 9 years between my 4 years in high school and then coming back after that. He went to Princeton and scored in the 200 butterfly as a junior. He said this is it, my last practice. I gathered all the guys together to do a little thing we call Rudolph’s Last Ride. We do it over winter break often on our Christmas Eve practice. Rudolph’ last ride is where you put a freshman in the middle to swim a 50 butterfly with all the other guys on the side making it a rough ride. Remember that it was foggy with a lot of things going on for Rudolph. We always pick a freshman and Meyer of course was the freshman. We usually picked the littlest guy. Meyer was the littlest guy. Part of the deal with that is that whatever freshman gets picked, the lore that goes with it is they are going to have the best taper at the end of the year. They are going to have a great taper. So we chose our guy and just before we did it I said that Meyer is visiting for his last practice with us and he did this when he was a freshman here. I noted that he is out of USC working to be on the Israeli Olympic team which is a really cool thing. And I also said that Meyer was a stunt man for this new Adam Sandler movie. They all went WOW and cheer. I reinforced that he is going for the Olympic team but the really big deal to them was that he was in a movie. That was the big deal. I was a little disappointed. I said Rudolph’s Ride is a cool thing and Meyer did it his freshman year. The kid who swam it this year came in at 5:16 for the 500 and ended up going 4:49. We will keep doing that tradition.

Place people as a single unit where they can see and hear. You must unite them as one. The brave cannot then advance alone nor can the fearful withdraw alone. You must force them to act as a group. We do this with pre-meet meetings where the coaches and captains talk. We get them all together and get them close, all 90 of them. We do post-meet meetings with the coaches. We also do team meetings just after practice. We call them TM. I will say TM up here. When we do that I ask them to stand up and come in close and we talk. We usually have about ten things going on so we do it to get them to act as one and to understand that everybody is connected. To command people and to get the most proud people you must study adversity: People work together when they are in the same boat during a storm. In this situation one rescues the other just as the right hand rescues the left. We do some things that create adversity so that when we are in an adverse situation we are ready to go. Your pain is my pain, basically because I am doing the same thing that you are doing. Your good time is my good time. I tell the kids as we go through the season that people are going to go fast at different times so when somebody else goes fast, I tell them to realize that it is in the cards for you. You may go fast next week. Somebody else went fast last week. Your good time is my good time. We do a set called one hundred 100’s. One hundred 100’s is pretty self-explanatory. I started it in Texas. We did one hundred 100’s on 1:30. I did them on 1:30 because the swim club down there was doing one hundred 100’s on 1:40 so I said okay, we will do them on 1:30. You start out at 1:30. This is on our website. The fastest I think we have had anybody go is maybe 1:06; one hundred 100’s on 1:06. A bunch of kids go on 1:10. It is totally up to them. They can go on whatever interval they want. We do an hour of power which is basically sixty 25’s on a minute from the block. I got that name from a preacher who has a Sunday show called “Hour of Power.” I can’t remember which one, but I liked the name so I decided I will make something up to fit that. Another thing we do is mental toughness Tuesday. That is from my good buddy Bruce Woodbury, our girls’ head swim coach. That was his thing. He did that with the girls. Mental Toughness Tuesday is where they might go fifty 175’s. The toughness aspect is that you have to keep going. It really was not a tough interval. It was just a bit boring and required sticking with it. I don’t think a little boredom killed anybody.

Dry-land: Coach Stoegbauer is going to be talking in a minute about our dry-land and how that instills some toughness. Do you do the roller-coaster? That was a question from the audience. Yes. The roller-coaster is based on my understanding of Dick Bower’s cruise intervals. We do a 6 minute distance which is based on their cruise interval. So we do a 6 minute distance on 6:30. We start connecting those together and I draw it on the chalk board. I draw a roller-coaster and I start doing it a couple of days in advance and with the words “under construction.” The guys can see there is a real big peak in there. They may do a 3 minute distance and a 6 minute distance then an 18 minute distance that are all based on the 6. Then they may go a 6 and then up to a 12 and then maybe I fill in 25’s and draw a curly-Q. Basically it is about an 8,000 to 8,500 yard set. You do it over winter break. The first day of practice in November the kids ask me two things: when are we doing one hundred 100’s and when is the roller-coaster? We do it every year. They don’t like it a lot, but it is one of my favorite days.

Always arrive first at the empty battlefield. Await the enemy at your leisure. This is part of meet strategy. If you are late and hurry to the battlefield, the fighting is more difficult. I like to get there early so this Sun Tzu belief fit with what I like to do. Lea Maurer was the Coach at Lake Forest. She is now at Stanford. I swear there were state meets where she did not get her kids into the state meet pool until they swam their race. They warmed-up up in Lake Forest. Why do you want to get there early? (Shows a picture) – This is the Evanston pool. They celebrated 100 years of swimming. This pool is 50 years old. Do not look for lanes seven and eight because it is a 6 lane pool. This picture is our state meet preliminary session last year. This picture was in Sports Illustrated. It is crowded. We get there early. We have to get there early. You have to wait in line. You have to wait around. It takes forever. Just so you know that is us (pointing to a group in the picture). That is where New Trier was. This is the first heat I believe of the 100 free. This is a great picture, but I will use it to show my kids how not to dive into the pool. That is me by the way and this is Coach Stoegbauer. And believe me it is not easy to pick out a bald guy in that crowd because most of those kids had their heads shaved, but I am reasonably sure that is him. Let’s talk more about swim meet strategy. I am going to go through this quickly since I am over time. Know your enemy. Know yourself. Your victory will be painless, alright? I spend a lot of time with my assistants including Coach Stoegbauer doing meet lineups. We spend that time in order to win meets. We swim some of the top teams in the State. We swim Naperville Central whose coach Mike Adams is here. We swim Fenwick whose coach Dave Perry is here. We swim Glenwood North which has the best pool in the state and one of my favorite people, Coach Josh Runkle who is here. We swim good people so we have to figure out how to beat them. We spend a lot of time planning. Glenbrook South is another one in our conference in Evanston. We have great programs in our conference. We have to be on our toes so we want to know ourselves and we want to know them so we can win those meets. When you form your strategy, know the strengths and weaknesses of your plan. Know when to execute and how to manage both action and inaction. Again, I know where I think we might get beat. I know where I think it might not go well. I know where I am taking a chance and I usually have two or three options of what I can do in case things don’t turn out at that point the way I want them to. Manage both action and inaction: Most of our varsity guys know how the scoring works. The JV guys are learning as are the freshmen. Whether they know the score or not, when something happens good or bad, if I feel I need, I will gather the crew together or possibly talk to an individual about what is happening. I will explain the situation and what we need to do. I will explain how we planned to win a race but how we now really need him or a few guys to step up to take care of an upcoming event or more to get things fixed.

Keep the place you choose for the battlefield secret. The enemy must not know. Force the enemy to prepare his defenses in many places. Down in Texas when I did my own scheduling, a lot of times we had situations where the enemy did not know where the battlefield was. But up North we have athletic directors who handle scheduling so we usually don’t have that. The thing I am really talking about for the battlefield is the event line-up as in where will we place our big guns? Where will their big guns be? How are we going to line up against them? You want to force the enemy to prepare his defenses in many places. When we swam Glenbrook South this year they had an incredible team. They had four incredible swimmers. Going into that meet I felt that they could win two relays and 8 events with those four swimmers so our job was to figure how we can line up our people to take some of that away from them. I hope we did it by the way we swam people in meets up until then to make them think we were going to swim people in different places or to have them think maybe we were going to go for a medley when we were really going for a free relay. We do things over the season so they can not be sure what we will do so they have to spread themselves out. Forcing those adjustments can make them weaker in the end. You make your men powerful with momentum. Win the medley. No, Sun Tzu did not say win the medley but I always like to start off by winning the medley. We haven’t had a real tough breaststroker in the girls’ program for six years so we don’t win a lot of medleys, but we try to come back strong. I believe in race, meet, season and program momentum and we have had several places where our program turned around based on a single swim at a single meet. It started with the very first meet that I coached there when we had a freshman boy anchor a 400 free relay and he came from 25 yards behind to win the relay. I might not have had a job on Monday if he hadn’t done that. An enemy has weak points so prepare your men against them. He also has strong points. Make your men prepare themselves against those. Spend the least to get the most. In other words, if I can win an event with a kid who really can’t do another event and who may not be our best kid in that event, but if I can score the points with him or score the points with two or three similar kids, then we try to do that. Take your flexible kid who can do a lot of things well and move him around where you need him.

Well, this is it. We are going to the end here. Larry, are you ready? Okay. Sun Tzu said you must be creative in your planning. That is one of my big weaknesses. I mentioned routine two or three times so this Sun Tzu dictate spoke to me. I need to be more creative. You can use a variety of approaches and still have a consistent result. Again, creativity is not doing the same thing all the time. I need to work on that. I love this next one; a few weeks determine your failure or success. When I read that I thought about the 2 ½ – 3 weeks we call the taper. It is all right there. Then I started thinking about it and I realized that it can refer to any two week period during the season. You know, it all adds up to where you are going to be and this maybe is my favorite quote: “Victory goes to those who make winning easy.” I think we make winning easy by working really hard, by involving all the kids and including kids who you never thought were going to end up on a varsity relay. We had a kid this year on our short relay that went 21 flat. He had been swimming the 500 for us. He didn’t start swimming varsity until his junior year and he came out of nowhere to go 21 flat on our short relay which we really, really needed. I believe that is it. That is my email. onstottm@newtrier.k12.il.us Feel free to contact me. I think I am way over time. I will be around after the next one as well so you can ask questions at that point. Larry Stoegbauer and I will talk about the fusion of dry-land training and swimming. We will start in about 8 minutes if you want to take a little break. Thank you very much for being here.

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