Team Unity: The Foundation for Success at Auburn University by David Marsh (2001)


Thank you I appreciate the introduction, can everybody hear me it doesn’t seem like it is very loud can you hear me back there, O.K.  The speakers do work then.  Interesting in just being in this room a little before this most of you look like everybody was in here before this for Eddies talk on motivation, I was just talking with Kim before we started and she said was anything real good in there, I said well there was one thing that was very clear and it is kind of in essence the picture of what any of us want when we are trying to get a team together, the fact that their guys would sit around after Friday practice and talk about something that they did while in a circle they can go out to dinner together and basically given up the Friday night dates with their girlfriends and what not and of course they won the national championship, he has that going on within that team dynamics and it is going on without coach sitting over there making them doing that and that in essence is the picture is what you want your team to openly be a team that is not very coach reliant but you know perhaps coaches help with guardrails on but, it is a team that pushes itself and is internally monitored those are the teams that are most effective at least in the time I’ve coached.


Interesting situation for our program is really we coach three teams in one we have the women’s team, we have the men’s team and then we have a combined team and as all of you know especially you club coaches and college coaches that coach both God certainly made the male and the female different and then when you put the dynamics together it is different, so really in many ways I feel like we are coaching three teams and we need to handle and consider that when we are setting up things in three different ways.  A lot of that starts in putting that thing together process the recruiting process.  We try to do some determining of what kind of knowledge individual athletes with a C but what kind of team person will they be.  It has been interesting over the years getting a chance to go into some homes for home visits to see the dynamics in action of a young person, and you can almost full on project their future solely by how those dynamics happen.  You know there have been occasions where I’ve been in someone’s home and by the way the young person was behaving with their parents or to their parents I’m sitting there thinking in my mind does this kid not understand your just losing money every time you open your mouth when you just back talk your parents like you just lost a thousand bucks by that comment that I was going to offer you and in another case when you are in a home and the family is very gracious and connected and you can just see that foundation is so solid and this kid isn’t going to go nutty in school if I don’t appear to like him as much as I appear to like other teammates, this person has a strong foundation of who they are, so the recruiting process is really where the team begins.


The recruiting process of deciding on our staff in our case, I think that is a real integral part of our program to have the right kind of people in place because on our team and several of our former staff members and our staff our in here now and they can appreciate this the most I think is that they wear lots of hats, they personally practice, they have to be ready to jump in the general workout and just kind of follow my lead and just figure out where your place in the workout and help out any way you can.  You have to figure out by certain groups, there are several different ways you break out groups by stroke groups.  A lot of times we’ll break out in stroke groups and usually through the year they will get the same strokes throughout a year and that may not stay the next year it just depends.  They may breakout in distance, so sprint, middle distance I know the middle distance and a distance group maybe be ready to break into those groups, and then maybe they break into skills and drills groups like I talked about so they are in charge of maybe eight to ten athletes with a specific thing that this group needs to work on and then they also break out into academic coaches, we assign our coaches about 8 to 10 of our athletes that one of the things that they do is they meet with them away from the pool at least twice a quarter, I guess three times a semester now and beginning of the year, the only rule basically don’t talk about swimming, talk about academics is the main thing about their daily schedule, about their lives, about the roommate, things like that to help with some of the transition.  The coaches do wear a lot of different hats.


Another important part of I guess a transition has happened in our team over the years is I think that when I first got back to Auburn it was very me run, it was very the way I want it, it will be and if it is not that way I’ll just hook it to the nose and pull it that way because it is just going to get that way and now it is much more like I said earlier this morning, the way I’m coaching Auburn is it is much more the team is involved and the staff is very involved, so there is a lot more leadership roles, Ralph Crocker has really established himself as one of the top distance coaches in the country, he has worked a lot with our distance folks, even though we have a foundation of being known more as a sprint program we had one of the 4:17 400 IM in the Summer and a 4:39 female 400 IM so that was a good start and we think we have up to five or six guys who can be under 4:20 next year in the 500 freestyle.  So we have a very, very solid middle distance to distance group and when we break in the group you know Ralph gets the distance swimmers.


We do break into groups a lot of different ways, early in the season we may break into uppers and lowers and you just basically say O.K. uppers, lowers and anybody that is not sure raise their hand and I said if you raise your hand right now that means that you are in the uppers cause if you are not real clear your lower and your for sure an upper.  And then we break into sprint, middle distance, and distance and sometimes we break into two middle distance groups kind of an upper, middle, and lower middle and then like I said before the stroke groups are a big thing.


After we won our first national championship in 1997 on the men’s side that was a real highlight for our school in a lot of ways for Auburn it was it’s first out right national championship in any sport and the athletic director was there and the president were there at the meet and David Housy the athletic director came down and said O.K. congratulations what can we do to keep this going and I said David what I would like to do to keep this going I would like to turn our attention now to the women’s team a little bit more and try and build that up some more and what I need is a fantastic female assistant coach that can come in and help me to lead the program on the women’s side, you know I had in mind who I wanted and Jimmy didn’t know that at that time, but there was an assistant in Northwestern that Jimmy had and I just thought in just observing her and watching her work with the athletes and having the recruit against her that was an outstanding potential coach and she has made a big difference in the women’s program and is a lot of the reason why we had our highest national finish last year and perhaps in a contending position this year, we will see but what I want to do is turn over now to Kim to go through a little bit more specifically the women’s focus side of the program, she will incorporate both but we’ll turn our attention more to the women’s side right now and then I will fill in the holes on the other side and just kind of give you a feel for our team and Kim’s, part of the other nice thing is she is much more organized than I am and she has put together a power point presentation and we will shift into that and you won’t have to look at me kind of wondering around for a minute.  This is a Kim Brackin.  Nice suit too, model the suit, she bought the suit today.  How can you hear me, I guess that means yes.


O.K. I’m going to talk a little bit about the pool building we do, specifically with the women’s program, but as David says it does affect our men’s program as well, I really believe that the unity our team shows is very strong factor in the success that we have achieved, both for the men’s and the women’s team, at Auburn, luckily we have a very unique atmosphere, in that the community supports the university so well and the university supports our team so well so we talk about a Auburn family, the Auburn family I don’t know if any of you have ever heard that expression before but it’s very much a reality and if you just take a moment to think about how you feel when you go home at Christmas time or Thanksgiving or you get together at a family gathering, how you feel that support and security and acceptance and loyalty within your family, we have a little bit of that I don’t know how to explain it I didn’t go to Auburn so I’m kind of a step child in there but I certainly feel it and it is something that I think gives us a little bit of a head start so I don’t think every program has that or every club team has that but I do believe that you can kind of create it a little bit, but we are lucky in that.


First my program is going to talk about first of all who we are we are going to talk about building cohesions, creating momentum and then training as you compete.  First of all we will ask our team in terms of who are we, we’ll ask each individual why are you here, it is really the first question we try to get to the heart of within every season and we do that when they arrive in a meeting but as David said I do want to stress it does begin with recruiting as I talk to kids on the phone that certainly is something that you want to figure out are there similarities do they have the same drives and commitment to excellence on the international and collegiate level.  One of the most crucial things I think in determining when figuring out why are we here, is there a collective will within that group, a collective will and then a collective goal, is everyone focused on the same dream and sometimes it’s not and sometimes people have different agendas and sometimes they survive in the program and they get pulled in by their teammates and other times they don’t and they leave and a lot of coaches experience that kids go into different directions and decide to leave and we have a little bit of that too but I think as a staff we try and focus on one goal, I have found in coaching both men and women that men typically can find more success as a individual they can do their own, they can focus on themselves a little bit more and be successful in a group whereas the women focus on the whole, they are very concerned about their teammates, how will something that we decide is going to happen in Auburn swimming.  How will that effect the team, they are very concerned and they are very involved in the relational regions in sport and if you ask a lot of women why they compete many will answer, you know for the friendship, for the fun, to be a part of something vs. just being the best in the world and I think we try and build upon that specifically for the women’s team and also we try and include that in terms of the men we have at Christmas time we do a Christmas training trip and we have a talk where everyone sits around, including the coaches, at New Year’s time so we talk about what their resolutions are but we also ask them to share something about what they are thankful for and I think that this is one step during the season that would bring the team closer together in terms of sharing with one another if you can share something personal with your teammates it means you trust them and you care about them and we try and, we do bring this thing with the men but they have relational regions but they can participate in the sport as well but I generally see that happen a little bit more with the women.  Then we start to ask what do you want to accomplish, this is a look at individual goals I’ve sat down with all the women on the team David has been in some of those meetings and he has had individual meetings with all the men so far and asking them what do they want to accomplish, what are their expectations throughout the season.  We have a variety of goal sheets that we use each year, we don’t use the same one, we are going to hand out at the end a copy of one of those goal sheets that we use, and we do at the end of the year self evaluation sheet that we will give out and that is kind of a standard every year where I think that David is going to talk about that a little bit later.  I do want to point out that within those meetings we talk about our team goals and that is where we start to facilitate the team building.  We ask each individual what is your role on the team, how will you fit into the program, whatever you are going to be, Maggie Bowen may say I’m going to be a individual NCAA Champion, I’m going to be on relays and somebody else at the other end of the spectrum wants to get better individually but their role is also to help the team, her role is to help the people that are helping to win championship in kind of the excellence of Auburn swim at the highest level, their role is to help push that, to be a good team player, to be a good teammate, to be supportive and hopefully it is a semiotic relationship where everyone is in a win, win situation, lastly we start to ask with whom, and this I think is extremely crucial, developing your team identity, who is this team.


When I was at Northwestern, I was inundated with all the feel good stuff about swimming, that was something that Kathie Wickstrand and Jimmy Tierney they developed a tradition there of valuing the relationship of sport, that was one of the, at that time one of the closest teams I’d ever seen, and they did the regular team bonding stuff, the stuff that we do at Auburn now, roads course, big sister/little sister all those kinds of things and Northwestern is just a women’s program that I worked with so that was just the women.  But what I think that they had that was really unique was a purple identity they were known, they stood out on a pool deck because of the purpleness but those women took pride in their teams and there was a responsibility they carried with that, that is something when I left, I was really proud of, I was really proud that I was a part of that, when I got to Auburn, one of the first things that we did in the first two weeks is we had our ropes course a little outdoor gathering camping team bonding trip.  We had done that in Northwestern and you know they did a great job, one of the things in Auburn is that the women cheated and it shocked me, you know those little spider webs things you have to put your whole team through, I don’t know if all of you have done this team thing and you can’t touch ropes, if you do you have to start over and that was just one area where our women cut corners, oh, well that didn’t count it was just a little movement and that didn’t matter, and that really stuck with me I was really shocked by it, I don’t think if you ask me today if the women on our team would cheat I would say absolutely not, this year/last year no way they wouldn’t have done and I think it was because in years prior there was a lack of pride, it wasn’t because they didn’t have an identity, it wasn’t that they weren’t proud of Auburn, sure they were proud of Auburn, but as a team they didn’t have a real strong identity and that was interesting for me to see and to start working to build towards.


So I think, before you can develop a teamness, a unity, a strong team I really think you need to figure out who this team is and each year it is going to be different, cause you have different people on your team, it could be a different environment and you have different goals, for example this past year, we have a girl on our team, Demiray Christianson, she is from Wyoming, she came to the team with a little expression she used all the time, she said yahoo all the time and she often said it when it was something that was real hard that she really didn’t want to do but she knew she had to do it and she would buy into it and she would say Yahoo, she was going to do it and the team really caught on to that and so part of our identity this year this was one of our shirts in NCAA’s Yahoo!  And that was something that we really bought in and that was part of our team and they took ownership in that, you know they had their own little slogan they used throughout the season, and as coaches we capitalized on that and brought it to be a real big part of the program, I do agree with what David talked about this morning that there needs to be a level of selfishness in terms of the sport, you need to be concerned about yourself as an individual on the team, absolutely, you are going to need that if you want to have individual goals and reach those, but there must be a collective will, the team has to be reaching for something together and a pride and I believe that that will drive them towards their team goals.


O.K. building cohesions in 1997 that is when I came to Auburn and I think that was because David wanted to truly help develop the women’s team so I was real excited to be a part of that, we had to learn to build a cohesiveness within our staff and my role is primarily with the women’s team although I do coach the men and David coaches that upper end of both groups of both the men and the women so we share a lot and what is neat, I think for the team and for us as a staff I think that any of us will tell you that there is, we really appreciate the opportunity that David gives us to work with the group and I think the team appreciates that so for those of you whether you coach club or college, you have assistance and they are capable, if you give them the responsibility to work with individuals I think the team will appreciate that, the individuals will take that as your staff is cohesive and they trust one another so I think that they will start to emulate that a little bit, the women I believe are really appreciative after a little while, cause I was pretty hard on them at first so I don’t know if they appreciated it right away, but, I think that they appreciated that new role they had within the staff, they felt like they were still part of a bigger entity the whole program, but they had a little bit of separateness and they had a capable coach that was always looking out for them.  I do think that having a strong female on the staff was important to them and now they have two Stephanie Cookie is with us, another strong female, another role model we both try and act as role models for the team and I think that they appreciate that, I think women, female athletes need that my own personal opinion.  So that is kind of the set up of our staff.


Within the team building cohesiveness I think that combined atmosphere allows for a lot of different things, the women love the support that they get from the men, they love the fact that the men believe in them now and they, they thrive off of it, it is phenomenal, I do think that the atmosphere of a combined team, mirrors the club programs, they all grew up swimming together, so it is kind of nice to have, basically society in our pool, you always have to interact with men and women every day so I think they enjoy that.  It also challenges our fastest women on the team our most elite women will get challenged everyday by the men and it allows for larger and more competitive training groups, so instead of having three women in our distance group we’ve got 8, 9, 10 men and women training together, we like to use all those kinds of positives of the combined team.  When we do split into whatever kind of group it is, men or women, middle distance all the things they would talk about, we try and recombine at the end of the workout, David will walk by and sometimes it is frustrating, you have 20 more minutes to finish up what your doing, your like but this equals thirty minutes, you know, so we have to cut things short, but it is for a good reason, because it brings the teamness back together, they have become Auburn men and women swimming again.  So if you have your program set up and you swim in a lot of different groups, I think that doing that every once in a while will help foster that cohesive kind of group.  So as we have the combined atmosphere, we are developing our own identity in the separateness; we’re also learning to work as individuals; we just kind of go back and forth and I really enjoy that.

What we’ve done, since I’ve been at Auburn is we have separated our women’s group once a week starting in late November, and on those days we will typically do a MV02 set so they are getting challenged physically and mentally and the men are as well, sometimes the men aren’t doing MV02 but they are doing something different and they are learning about their team the team that is going to be there at the end of the season.  You’ll learn what motivates each other, what your capabilities are, and then plus it’s different, it is different then what we do every other day of the week so I think that they appreciate that.  This year I’m working with David to try and separate a little bit earlier, maybe in October because it has been successful so why not try it a little bit more.  We also will revisit our circuit and you are going to see a little clip of that later on, but that is something within our program that has just been phenomenal in terms of developing cohesiveness besides the strength and the conditioning factors you go through the team is challenged mentally as a group they are challenged to support each other through one of the most grueling things they’ll do all season long, and I’ll stop there I think that David is going to talk a little bit more, but is one of the best things that we have in our program.  So our women will revisit that in January.  Mainly because it brings up their confidence, it gets them together, they remembered what they went through as a group a little shared misery I guess and it increased their confidence as well as it revisits fitness which at that time of the season for us that are starting to do a little less and fitness becomes pretty important to continue.  I rarely see an us vs. them, kina of atmosphere with our men and women but I will tell you that we all know the women’s team at Auburn we all know that our team swims somewhat in the shadows of the men every day we walk out on the deck and we look up and we see NCAA and FEC banners we see the men’s pictures on the wall championship team and fortunately for us we swim with Georgia in our conference and they challenge us to swim at the highest level all the time you know and we appreciate that, sure we want to beat them, but we appreciate that challenge and sometimes I think, and I know it has happened in the past the women had looked at that, those banners and that success the men has had as a pressure on them instead of motivationally and that was because I think they viewed the women’s team as an extension of the men’s team.


Again as you guys have different groups if you break that down, if you are just, if you feel like you’re a little part of that part, you don’t have that much pride in your group, so now that we have our own real Auburn women’s swimming, they have that pride and I think they look at is as wow the men are successful and we are going to be just as successful, so that seems pretty neat.  So as a club team, if you have satellite teams, you know you have a team on the west side of the city and a team on the east side of the city, instead of you know those teams feeling like they are competing against one another at a senior circuit or a state meet or nationals you want to bring those two teams together, so it is real important that they have their own identities but they know that they are part of the bigger whole.  And lastly building cohesiveness through the Auburn family and that again, the outside support that we have is just phenomenal, that is a picture of our parent’s group, but I don’t, but maybe there is, but I can’t imagine that there is a better parent’s group in the country, always there to support their kid, unconditional love and that is what every child needs, it’s what every adult needs.  So they know they have that and we also have our tiger splashers in that bottom corner, that is a student run support group, they come to our meets, they work our meets, but they also do team dinners, they make signs and posters, then there is a little perk of massage, even our massage people get way into the team.  Post grads, a post grads are just reminders daily of the tradition of Auburn swimming so reminding your program, your kid, you know what came before them, that helps build the teamness.  Then the alumni, our alumni are great, what we do at meets, the alumni sends emails and letters of support and encouragement we post those all over our team room, we remind them that there were thing before them and that people care about them, so you know everyone is downed into what we are doing, they know about our success and they want to be a part of it, and the team loves that they thrive on that.


We also do community projects, because at Auburn it is a small town, and we want the town to support us, we also want to give back, so we do a thing at Christmas time, we have Christmas families where the team splits up into four different groups and you know it is probably more for the team then it is for these families, we go in and they put some money together of their own and they buy some gifts and maybe some food and they go to the families house, they are lower income families and they give them the gifts and they just sing a few Christmas carols and just spend a little time with these families and kind of showing them a little bit of be thankful for what you have and give back and a lot of times they walk away with that in their minds.  They also go into schools and talk to kids and then last week, this year we did something I’ve never done before, but we spent about four hours cleaning our pool.  The whole team came in and what that did is they took pride in their own environment.  They took pride in their pool, you know where they do their training and they did it together as a group.  So, those are some little things that we do to build that cohesiveness.


Momentum, I think underachieving the significant of your goals is real important, but you need to build into them, it is just like swimming a distance race any race, you need to pace yourself a little bit and what I found is the women tend to embrace a goal right away and then run with it and then come January, February they are tired, mentally and physically, they are just tired of it, they have ate, drank, breathed it for months and they are done with, well that is too soon to be done with it.  So, what we’ve tried to do is focus on being the best you can be at the moment and then building toward the goal and that is mentally, physically, and spiritually you know, building into our season in terms of momentum.


These next few terms up here, I worked on this power point presentation with Steve, my husband, and he is a ranger in the army so these are kind of military terms but, it was fun because we paralleled a lot of what he does with the men that he works with.  Gaining the initiative is the first one, and that is where we establish our team goals, we know who we are, we figured that out, we have identity now, but now we need to identify our competitors, who is going to keep us from reaching our ultimately goal.  We need to learn about them, where are their strengths, what are their weaknesses.  I think that is real important, instead of just focusing on yourself or the team knowing what other teams have out there.  Maintaining the initiative.  That is where we set intermediate goals that we will try and achieve along the way and I’ll give a couple of examples in a second.


Lastly adaptability, that is the ability to make adjustments as a group, as a group, not losing site of the goal because you might have failed at some of your intermediate goals, or because circumstances have changed.  For example if a swimmer, one of your best swimmers is out because they are sick, or they leave or you just have a poor meet performance, not just giving up, so we have to, you have to train that, you have to work on that and that would be training as you compete.  All of the things I’ve talked about are ineffective if you don’t train them, if you don’t practice them, you can create or you can destroy momentum, and we have to give our athletes, our team opportunities to practice being their best at everything, at being the best, the best team that they can be all the time, as well as their best swimmers, so this is, these are opportunities to attack their intermediate goals.  I feel like it’s very important to create opportunities for success, the women and I’m going to focus here a little bit more on the women because that is who I work with and they are a different animal then the men, I do think that they need to be coached a little bit differently, but the women love to celebrate, they love praise, they love evaluation, they are always asking was that good, how’d I do, cause we need that for some reason, it seems to be more than men, men need it too, but I think women need it a little bit more and those answers hopefully will enhance their self perception and their self worth.


I’ve worked with David a lot trying to give them more opportunities to experience success, experience winning, one of things this year that we did, is David and I argued about this for a little while, but I really wanted to go to the SMU Classic with a team that could win, I felt that it was real important that the women experienced winning, whether we won it or not we were going to at least to try and go there and give it our best effort and we did, we won, it was great and they loved it, the pride in that was awesome, then those nine women that went to that meet came home and shared it with the rest of the team and that was something that we built off of throughout the season.  Daily team challenges, whether it is a get out swim, or a set with certain time parameters that they have to achieve, those are ways that they can evaluate themselves and feel successful, one thing that we have done before, I think maybe Dave Jerden did this, this year I can’t remember, like a 500 a relay, people have to swim different amounts in that, a 50, a 100, a 200 to add to a 500 to get the you know the American record in the 500 something like that, so you can break it up and make it more fun but put a time parameter on something that they are going to try and achieve.  Our test sets are always ways for them to evaluate themselves the 3 800’s that David talked about earlier today, 10 200’s we will do that a lot and when we do the things like the 10 200’s we often break it up into groups, so kids are cheering for each other while one group is racing, or, this is really fun, if you have enough pool space, what we’ll do sometimes, is set up if we are doing short course, we will set up our bulk head in the middle of the pool and the kids will start from the bulk head and race in different directions, and this, there are two things, number one they are going to try and race the person across the bulk head from them and beat them back to the wall so it’s not just a normal your seeing who you are racing but you are going to get your hand on the wall and look up through the bulk head and see if you beat your competitor and what it also does it allows them to talk more our kids are real vocal during workout they encourage them to cheer for one another and talk and it just brings the group a little bit closer together if they are kind of head to head so that’s one that has been real successful for us.


Another opportunity I’ve given them to be real successful is pull ups and this is where they’ve taken leadership and this, we started doing pull ups I had felt like that was a good indicator of strength and toughness and the women, we challenged them to do, by the end of January early February a goal of ten pull ups per female on the team so if we have 26 women on a team they will have to do 260 pull ups as a team we have some women that can do 20 something not many, we have some and we have some women that walk in doing 0 so that person that can do 0 they are going to try as hard as they can by February to be able to do at least 3 cause they have to make some sort of impact and that person who can do 20 is going to try hard to do 30 cause they want to help that team goal so they are doing something as an individual but working towards a team objective, and besides getting them stronger and it’s neat to watch them at the end of practice, we didn’t have to ask anymore they go and they practice their pull ups, so that is something that we really enjoyed.


O.K. building competitive spirit, this is the fun stuff this is where they, our team, this is where we look alike, we dress alike, even going to wake up swim, we wear the same sweats, or we wear the same T-Shirt it makes them feel like they are as one, cheer, the fight song, the creed David read earlier, those are all things that they take pride in and they are very loud and we encourage them to sing the fight song often, they all know it, they have to know it, day one of being a freshman, the circuit, again, that atmosphere, builds competitive spirit and it’s unique its something that I don’t think any other program can emulate purely because our strength coach is just out there, but it certainly is an area where they develop a teamness.  Then we have our orange and blue meet, a lot of people have intersquad meets but for us it’s pretty serious, as you can see the blue team is taking a lot of pride in who they are, you know it’s something that they just run with, and of course we have the orange team as well, writhing those whole units they are building a cohesiveness right there we give them lots of opportunities to take pride in who they are.


So training as you compete give them opportunities to do what you want them to do in the very end this will instill confidence to their successors, the opportunities will teach them confidence and it will give them the ability to accept challenges, we throw out challenges everyday as coaches, the important thing is do they accept those challenges or do they just go through the motions, and we are teaching them to accept the challenges and I think if they do they will eliminate some of the mystique of the big meet, they won’t enter that meet quite as nervous because they will have that real true confidence inside of them that they are prepared and in the end of it all when they are standing on the podium, some others may wonder, may be surprised that they are up there but they are not, because they know, they knew because they believe in each other and we took the entire year to develop that, so knowing who you are as a group, having that collective goal and a collective will or you might just say a unity I think that will really enhance your ability to have a group success and it needs to be fun, it needs to be playful cause that keeps it more exciting for them and lastly this last slide if you were in David’s talk this morning is the McUndy tree, as you can see there is people on the bottom are doing a lot of hard work, but so are the people on the top, they are holding people up, that really is a good symbol, I mean I didn’t know much about it until David talked a couple days before that his talk, but it does emulate our team a little bit, because the support that each of those people have makes the tree strong and in our program everyone is a big part of that.  So, I’m going to let David take over here again.


You can see she is quite thorough and covered a lot of basis there we have a couple more things and then we are going to show you a short video of a couple things within our program and you get a sense of how it works, also she talked about the arguments we have, if she and I ever have an argument about she wants to do this, I want the team to do this, she usually wins, just so you know where it stands.  In terms of communication, a couple of things about communicating within a fairly big team.  I try to do a lot of our communicating, I try to have them write a lot of the communication to me so that when we get face to face I can already be framed up mentally from where they are coming from.  I’ve also found that when they write and I prefer they write in their hand writing even though it is hard to read sometimes I think you can pull out some more of the emotion when they write in their handwriting, a lot of times computer e mails can be fairly sterile and I think that your in a different mind set when you are on a key board vs. actually using your pen, I prefer out notes in handwriting, a couple of other ways that we communicate like we talked about.  Our goal sheet that we’ve used and we use different goal sheets we don’t stay with those same goal sheets for ten years in a row and we’ll change it every couple of years if not every year just to try to get them to look at their goal in a different way, like a diamond that is cut in different facets, we want them to look at their goals in different ways and kind of considerate them different, in fact one of the things that we did last year is we handed out a dream sheet before we handed out a goal sheet and what that talked about is what do you want to be what do you want to do, if you could have your choice of doing anything in life what would it be and some interesting responses from young people, but it was nice cause you can see where it comes from, they are very honest when they are doing that, so anyway we have a copy of the goal sheets and in one of the main stays that I’ve done since I got there 12 years is this self evaluation, I really like this, in the beginning of the year I tell them that they are going to fill this out and I tell them also that the two most important question on this self evaluation is what have I done to make the Auburn swim team better or now or in the future and the last question which is your overall contribution as an extremely positive citizen in the Auburn community and around the Auburn campus in terms of appearance, language, politeness… those are the things that I expect from our team and we have a copy of that too if that helps you out, and it is interesting sometimes when they grade themselves is for example maybe before they arrive to campus what was your general fitness level they will say a 10 and we will say yeah, but your two mile test run the first week of school was five minutes lower than last year so it creates a lot of good conversation, to kind of have them evaluate themselves first before we do.


We had, as Kim talked about right now we are having fifteen minute meetings with the team, so they come in for fifteen minutes and we kind of go over some of the basics one of the things that I’ve been asking regularly is who should be captain and why.  And it has been interesting to have them answer that question, and it tells me a lot about them to hear who they think and why to who they are framed up as far as a team and I think there is kind of right answers and wrong answers and it tells me a lot about kind of where they are at the start of the season and most of them fortunately say similar people and in the past to be honest with you we have elected captains in the springtime in the previous year I just didn’t feel like the team was clear who would be the best leaders this year so we are waiting to get the year started a little bit more before we elect captains.  Email now obviously is an effective tool for everyone on my computer and I’m not very good at computers but one of the things that is very effective for me is I have a field of parents, I have a field for the men’s team the women’s team a make up of a lot of different fields so if I want to communicate I have the post grad field, if I want to communicate with all of them about something pretty quickly and easily I can just hit that field and fire that out to everybody and that has been very, very effective and kind of a new thing for me anyway.


We have weekly team meetings as part of our routine every Wednesday we’ll have a team meeting, usually it is scheduled about half an hour and because I’m talking it usually goes for about an hour and a half or at least an hour and then we will do a team set right after that, we will do some kind of team set where everybody goes on the same interval, it doesn’t mean that we all do the same sets some will be on 400’s while others will be doing 100’s but we do a team set right after that and bring everybody together as we try to elevate the team.  One of the things that I think works really well in our program, is the team teaches each other, there is a lot of the upper classmen teaching the younger swimmers, turns, starts, relay exchanges and we really put it on the upper classmen to be the teachers of the younger swimmers.  One of the nuances that I would say that we do is I kind of guard our nicknames on the team I really don’t like it when a person gets labeled with a poor nick name, my question to the team when I hear that kind of stuff going on and it does of course, is you know how is that helping that person to feel better about themselves, so I would suggest to you guys if you have people that have bad nicknames you know fatty or what every, you know it just doesn’t help so why go there, try to have empowering nicknames.  We do this thing every now and then on the women’s team especially it doesn’t really work very well on the men’s side but the women’s team where we will put somebody in the hot seat, and usually it is somebody who maybe didn’t have a great swim meet but trained really, really well that year or in a case where there is a lot of pressure and we will sit them down and the women’s team will circle around them and five or six people the whole thing is tell us something you like about Cassidy, for example, and why, and so, actually I think everybody says something about them and it’s usually pretty emotional and it’s very effective in terms of making that person know that they are loved and cared about you know either they didn’t swim fast or if they messed up in somewhere or another and we’ll do hot seat occasionally other than meets but usually that is the big pressure meets, we do birthday swims, swimmers of the week things like that, on the Christmas training trips a lot of times we will break into teams we will break into teams we will have like scored teams where during the course of the week there will be tests sets that they are doing you know a series of that a volley ball series for everything they get to score points and at the end of the week I will have some kind of mini meet or something and we will have a little champion and they get to have the fancy dinner that night and everybody else gets some kind of minimum type dinner so that is one of the ways that we keep the motivation up for that group.


I found it is interesting and it has been a surprise the tangible, noticeable recognition is a big thing for college students and probably even more so for high school students to, you know I always thought the banners were really sharp looking and cool and that was the best looking thing in the pool, but we had Shoney’s come in and say we’ll buy you one of these giant photo things you know you can get these giant photos and we’ll put our logo on it and put it up on your wall and say oh gosh that is kind of cheesy but what the heck how many times do you get people offering like that so we put up two of the giant photos of our two championship men’s team I couldn’t believe the response, in the dream sheets I had several people say I’d like to see myself in that picture, it was just an interesting, I didn’t realize that them seeing their face was that big of a deal, I think swim Atlanta does something kind of neat when they have a national finalist or an Olympic trial finalist they put the names, they paint the names on the wall of their pools, of their home pools and it obviously effected them in a lot of ways and I know that from a young age, the kids at Swim Atlanta, they want their name bold up there because I’ve had several swimmers from that team and that is one of the things that motivates them to get to that level to get that name on the wall, so that is pretty effective, so recognition even though I don’t think that we’re as tuned into that, their tuned into it.  We talk about if we win a championship or if something happens big at Auburn or some strange reason everybody goes down to this one corner with toilet paper and throws toilet paper in the trees it is a tradition that started long before I was ever there.   But we encourage the swimmers to have a thought of that as we are going through the season; we have our seniors and upper classmen do this picking out the rings and the watches and things like that when we do any form of a championship.  So we try to get them involved in all those kinds of things we make a team video every year, try, and kind of encapsulate the year in that team video.


One of the challenges that I’ve found is, it is always a challenge to have better and better swimmers in the program, to be honest with you it is easier to be a better team we weren’t probably quite as good a team and then everybody kind of just bought into the same thing, but now you have people that come into with really different needs, different agendas most of them have been the best swimmers on their club team and bringing them in together is a real trick and you can see why we work at it methodically and a lot of ways we do including trying to select the right people into the program, it’s a real T because if you don’t fit In that you really become an isolated individual and it’s tough and it’s not obviously nearly as effective In our program, but I want them to know to swim for the greater cause at Auburn, you know the alumni, the swimmers that swam before you for, swim for the, your parents at home to bring pride to them, your home coaches, think how proud they are going to be, so try to paint the picture of all the things that they lift up by given their best, so that is something we shoot for too.  I’m going to go into this video now and we have about enough time to show it.  She talked about PK a lot his name is Brian Corkowski he is on PK cause he was a place kicker on the football team although he looks more like a linebacker, in fact he has the unique distinction amongst place kickers in the United States history, he is the only kicker, he kicked off for the football team for one of the kick offs cause that is when he kicked, he got two personal files I none game for running down and knocking the crud out of somebody and needless to say he didn’t kick off any more the rest of that year, but he is an excellent strength coach and he has been with us now for nine years and he is a big part of our staff, we really pull him in and consider him a big part of our program, he works with a lot of the other Olympic sports including men’s basketball, women’s basketball, but you know, he let’s the swimmers know that they are his main team and he is with them all the way he goes to the NCAA’s with us and all that kind of stuff, so you will see a little bit of footage in here and his nuttiness.  This is one of the bonding things before hand, you are hearing the sound but I don’t know what is going to be said.


(Video playing here) almost all of the nowadays the little YMCA’s camp and stuff have these kind of things.  You always end this day with a nice lake swim where they try to find a point and you can hardly see it unless they swim there and back, it is usually our goal in some of these kinds of swims.  This is Tuesday before we came out here in the morning and they were doing I think testing on some pull-ups and then the two mile run they tested on just trying to see what kind of fitness they have when they get back to town.  Most of these are cheater pull-ups and we do them in the weight room and they really count they are not allowed to do any cheating they have to do it with their legs completely hanging no body torque.  We have some weak freshman too, this is a pushup test and as you’ll notice the very poor body positions I’ve ended the morning session by making them all do 5 perfect technique pushups rather than the hump back wale pushups, hold the fits down there and they have to touch the fist.  They should be going to the sternum, if you guys have some questions while we are watching I’d be happy to begin to answer a couple because we are going to be short on time.  (Video: the circuit has become unique to Auburn, remember when I talked to you we are the only programs that do this, the only, all programs try to duplicate it, it is not the same.  This has become our standard, this is us, wherever you stand there is a few things to remember, you’ve got to see my basketball guys walking around with these shirts on I totally believe this now, you will always be third, first is the entire program, that’s overall, you need to ask yourself if you find yourself in a compromising position, if you are not studying not doing what you need to do, ask yourself the question, how is the effecting the overall program, am I benefiting it, am I bringing it down what am I doing to the program, number two on that list is team, how does this effect the team am I being destructive to the team or am I bringing it up, I’m asking you to leave a legacy for Auburn swimming not bring it down, you want third on that list) there is discipline, he is reciting the creed there while he is doing the bagpipers.  Some of these circles can go a long time an hour and half a couple of them have made two hours or more.  I’m amazed at the enthusiasm they maintain through the length of time they do in this room.  The women’s team revisits this in January; the men’s team doesn’t revisit it they get too beat up from this stuff.  Marga Holter is saying hello to her coach, Kelly Jones saying hello to her coach, she says hi mom, is Pam in here, yeah there is Pam, is Wes in here there you go, crazy man Bret.  Any questions, yes, the question in essence is how do we deal with the people from varied backgrounds, no weight lifting, different, I think that is one of the things we do pretty well, we really try to evaluate each person as an individual, some people have never done morning practices, some people that need a lot of intense training we’ll place them in groups based them on their background, we will place them in the weight room, how many times they go in the weight room based on their background, so they are in the structure phase, a lot of that is considered, some of our swimmers will do sprint afternoons but middle distance mornings, you know some will do in the weight room they will break into, they’ll only go into the weight room twice a week and the instruction is only go medium.  So it is handled I think very individually and knowing what kind of their background is and you know a lot of times their body type, you know some of the more muscular guys we don’t want them hitting the weights too hard, we want that natural strength, and in the water it has to deal with sometimes what coach we assign them too, even in the academic groups there are people that have different strength in different areas so we try to match the right kind of personality with our people and we just try and stay with it.  Does that kind of answer the question?  So I think the structure is in the key not just the adjustments but in the initial structure.  O.K. good luck to you and your teams.  Thanks.




























2001 Indicator Sets for Maggie Bowen


February 2001 This SCY set was done 1 Y2 weeks prior to SEC Championships and then again one week after for comparison. All swims from a push except the last 200 IM.  Goal on the l00’s (on 1:30) was to hold < American Record pace and to descend the 200 IM’s (on 3:00) down to 1:59. 1


1st time              2nd time

100 Fly             :58                    :59

200 IM (2:04)     2:04                  2:08

100 Back           :58                    :59

200 IM (2:03)     2:03                  2:06

100 Breast          1:05                  1:06

200 IM (2:02)     2:02                  2:03

l00 Free                         :54                    :55

200 (1:59)          2:01                  2:00


June 9.2001

This LCM set was done during the National Distance Camp in Colorado Springs. The primary goal was to descend ALL 400 IM’s 1-3 x 2.


1200 IM on 18:30

3 x 400 IM on 6:00 (5:39; 5:32; 5:28)

3 x 4x 100

  1. Fly on 1:35 build
  2. Back on 1:35 neg split
  3. Breast on 1:45 neg split 1 :00 Rest


800 IM on 13:00

2 x 400 IM on 6:15 (5:37: 5:31)

2 x 4 x 100

  1. Back on 1:35 neg split
  2. Breast on 1:45 neg split

2:00 Rest


400 IM on 6:30 (5:17)

4 x 100 Free on 1:20 neg split and descend; last one timed  (1:09)


June 14.2001

10 x 400 IM’s dive on 8:00

5:11; 5:12; 5:10; 5:09; 5:11; 5:10; 5:10; 5:10; 5:10.9; 5:06.9 Average 5:10.4


June 24. 200 1

Throughout the summer the team did a set of push best average LCM 200’s. We began at 10 x 200’s and decreased that number, as well as increased the interval from 3:45. Maggie returned from distance camp and we modified the set because of the proximity to World Championships.

8 x 200 IM’s       even’s were moderate -she held -2:35’s

odds were descend to best effort she held 2:27, 2:24, 2:20, 2:18





Some indicator swims for Maggie were her 1:06 backstroke swum in practice and her 4:48.9 400 IM at Santa Clara. Those were the only racing opportunities we took advantage of for Maggie after Nationals. We felt that training and the altitude at distance camp were more beneficial for her than racing since her competitive confidence was already quite high.




In regard to stroke technique, we made some major adjustments to all her strokes throughout the 2000-2001 NCAA season. There has been a strong focus on lengthening her breaststroke, maximizing the power of her legs and increasing her distance per stroke. We tried to open up her freestyle by having her train a lot of straight-arm.  Maggie has always had a good catch and has been able to create a substantial degree of power below the water. Through the year, and especially in the spring, we did do a lot of sculling to maximize her underwater.


The most substantial changes were made to her backstroke and butterfly during the season as well as immediately prior to World Championships. During her freshman year Maggie’s backstroke tempo was on average 1.8 for the 400 and 1.5 high for the 200 IM. We put a lot of focus on learning to swim comfortably at much faster tempos; ideally we wanted her building to 1.6 and 1.4 in the 400 and 200, respectively. At World Championships she actually swam at a little bit faster tempo than we planned. During the 200 she was 1.36, 1.39, and 1.38 from prelims to finals. In the 400 she was 1.44 in prelims and 1.55/1.65 in finals. This year we will work on more efficiency at 1.6 and 1.4.


She made some significant body position changes for example, better balance and keeping her head in a neutral but more submerged position. Probably the most drastic technique adjustment was the change in width that she made to her entry. The goal was to have her enter wider, a bit outside her shoulder, thereby allowing her to drive downward immediately into her catch. Actually, about 2 weeks prior to her leaving for Japan we decided she was actually too wide and she tweaked it in. That is the beauty of coaching Maggie; she is extremely coachable!


Maggie’s fly is similar to her breaststroke in that she is rather short and high tempo oriented. We worked a lot on keeping her length in the front of her stroke, becoming comfortable extending forward during her landing phase of the stroke and allowing her hips to rise. Maggie was required to count her strokes on the majority of the fly sets she did; our goal was between 21-24. Again, with the sculling work we were doing her catch was maximized. We would have liked her to keep her head a bit lower during breathing but that gives us something to work on for the future!


One of the last adjustments we made to her training was more emphasis on power during the last month of leading up to World Championships. We had planned more speed and power work after her return from distance camp, but after looking at the feedback from Genadi Sokolovas, Director of Physiology at USA Swimming, we significantly increased that amount. After her land-water power testing, Genadi told us Maggie’s power on land was good, the result of an intensive year of lifting, but she didn’t transfer it efficiently to the water. We increased the amount of work we had planned on the power rack and involved her in a lot more of the power swimming workouts. We also felt more comfortable keeping her on the power rack closer to the meet. While in Japan in preparation to race, Maggie did two different speed/power workouts one prior to the 400 and one prior to the 200.



Auburn Swim Team Self-Evaluation For 2000-2001 Season


Rate yourself from 1-10 with 10 being high or positive, and 1 being low or negative.


Prior to start of season (Sept) – 1st  day of practice


  1. Expectation of dramatic performance improvement in swimming or diving 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


  1. Expectation for achieving a 3.0 or higher GPA each quarter. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


  1. General fitness level- dryland, body weight, non specific aerobic, etc. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


  1. Fitness level- swimming/diving (sport specific). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


  1. Desire to be a team leader. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


  1. Desire to contribute to team goals (NCAA Top 3, NCAA Champs, SEC Champs). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


  1. Perceived ability to contribute to team goals. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


Please score based on your evaluation of how well you performed by quarters:

Fall Quarter (Oct-Dec 1) Winter Quarter (Dec. -Mar.) Spring Quarter (Apr. -June)


  1. Academic effort: (attentiveness in class, study routine, test prep. Etc.)

Fall 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Winter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Spring 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


  1. Daily swimming/diving -hard work: (in the pool or on the boards)

Fall 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Winter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Spring 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


  1. Dryland: weights, flexibility, power improvement.

Fall 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Winter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Spring 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


  1. Your individual contribution as an overall extremely positive member of the current team:

Fall 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Winter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Spring 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


  1. Body fitness (nutrition, choices, body composition)

Fall 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Winter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Spring 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


  1. Mind fitness (social, spiritual, centered) in regards to excellence.

Fall 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Winter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Spring 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


  1. What have I done to make Auburn Swim Team better for now and the future


Post Season Review. overall for the 2000-2001 Year

  1. Academic achievement. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


  1. Improved fitness level, Dryland. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


  1. Improved Swimming/Diving training level. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


  1. Swimming/Diving performance improvement in mill2r competitions. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


  1. Overall contribution to current AU swims team academic goals. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


  1. Overall contribution to current AU swim team athletic goals 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


  1. Your overall contribution as an extremely positive citizen in the Auburn Community and around the Auburn campus (appearance, language, politeness…). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10



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