[Introduction] Have you ever noticed that when you give an introduction to the speaker you are not supposed to use that speaker’s name, as if it is a surprise who you have all come into this room to hear? I have never quite figured that out. I am going to use the speaker’s name and I hope the Gods of introduction will forgive me, but when our generation of coaches was growing up, especially the club coaches, it was George Haines who set the standard for all of us and it was Mark Schubert who exceeded all of those standards and set the standards for your generation of coaches and it was incredible to be a bystander and watch him do it. It was incredible to see him move from high school to Mission and do it and then to move from Mission to Mission and then to USC to see him succeed at the collegiate level. And as astonishing and impressive as all of that was, the past couple of years have been even more impressive. Because, I have gotten to see him in the position that I saw him with Doc Councilman being mentored and Don Gambril being mentored and Peter Daland being mentored and passing that on and passing the wisdom that he gained the hard way onto the next generation of coaches and I found out that as incredible as he was as a leader of athletes, he is even more incredible as a leader of coaches and so it is my great pleasure to introduce a man who needs no introduction, the greatest coach of my generation, Mark Schubert
[Coach Schubert] I enjoyed Bruce’s talk. It reminded me of Barack Obama’s acceptance speech, except he said “go swim”. My talk is going to be a little bit like the Democratic and the Republican Conventions in that it is going to be a very slanted point of view, American, and we are very proud that we have so many coaches from other countries here, but if you came to hear me talk about your swimmers, that is not going to happen, but I will say I think there were so many countries that were successful and impressive at the Olympic Games that the whole sport has a lot to be proud of. Everybody showed up to compete.
It was just an awesome event, but we really had no idea what was going on in the United States on NBC and the enthusiasm that was developed. I have heard a lot of it from my colleagues here, the people at 7-11, and at the gas station were all talking about swimming and noticing that if the coach had a swimming shirt on, congratulating them about swimming. It is what those of us that have attended major championships in Australia have always dreamed about, that our sport should be like that in the United States and I think we have to give a lot of credit to the foresight of Chuck Wielgus getting the trials on TV for 8 days. Our help and our partner NBC getting the Olympics live on TV and then it is going to be up to us to keep it going, not to just ride the wave, but to keep it going and I truly think we can do that.
Why were the games so fast? First of all I would like to say that the people of China and the people in Beijing and the organizing committee were perfect hosts. There was a lot written in the tabloids and I call pretty much the media, the tabloids, because they all seem to be tabloid-like these days. If you remember there was a great fear about the food, the pollution, the 10 AM finals, ALL NON-ISSUES. So, the next time, before the Olympics, just remember, when you are reading all that stuff, it is just stuff that they have to write about before they say “take your marks” because once they say “take your marks” the athletes know how to make it happen.
The facilities were all first-rate. The village, was the best that there has ever been to this point. The venue, was totally outstanding. I think the 3 meter depth was very good foresight and I think it is really setting the standard for competitive fast pools in the future and the World all showed up to go fast. For whatever reason, at Melbourne, everybody was a little out of sync and we took big advantage of that. At this meet you had to show up every session. You couldn’t take anything for granted and if you were not ready to pretty much go all out in most sessions, unless of course you were Michael Phelps and could manage it, you were not going to succeed and we had a lot of people succeed and other countries did too. I heard a lot of, the World is catching up. I guess when you have been around the block a few times like I have, you’ve been hearing that for 20 years. The World is not catching up, the rest of the World is just good and they are going to remain good. We are always going to have tough competition. We have been saying this really since Seoul, we had better watch out because the rest of the world is catching up. Maybe compared to Montreal when the men’s team won all but one event, the world has been catching up since then, but they are just darn good.
There are a lot of good coaches out there. The main observation I would make is that technique has really improved around the world. Swimmers from other countries are doing the little things a lot better than they used to. I think the suit had a lot to do with the meet being fast. I think if you were to take the World’s top 10 times as of February 1st of this year and then compare it as of the end of the Olympics, basically the rate of improvement is staggering and not in sync with improvement since 1988. I do think that the suit had a big affect, but that is not to take anything away from the athlete and I was pleased that the suit was the big talk back in the spring and early in the summer, but once the games started the focus was on the excellence of the athletes because everybody was pretty much standing up in the same suit and had to get the job done.
I am just going to tell you the Olympics through my eyes and how I saw it and what impressed me and some of this you all saw on television, the spectacular moments and probably the spectacular moment for me was being able to witness the Michael Phelps/Bob Bowman phenomenon. I think we all knew that he could do it, but we all knew that it was going to take a little bit of luck for it to happen and what was interesting is that if you were on the team, although there were quiet whispers about the goal, nobody really spoke it out loud. It was like when you have a no hitter going in the 8th inning and nobody in the dugout talks about it, it was just like that. Michael had to earn it all. With the swims and events that he dominated in, setting the tone in the 400 IM, going 4:03, which probably was the most spectacular time, in my mind, swum at the games. He planned it all with Bob. He visualized it. He practiced it in Athens. He practiced it better in Melbourne and then he just executed it and I think there are many things that are special about Michael Phelps when it comes to swimming in the pool, but the most exceptional thing about Michael Phelps is how he can compartmentalize and just do one thing at a time and then immediately do a mental switch and do the next thing that he needs to do, whether that is warm-down or eat or go to the press or go back and take a nap and he knows what his schedule is and he just doesn’t let anything deter him or defer him from that schedule.
The relay performances obviously were not a given and I think all of the members of the team felt like they were a part of this special thing that was happening and they were all contributing in their own way whether it was support and by the way, Michael also was tremendous in his support of his teammates, both through training camp and at the meet, but I think that the three men that swam with him on all three of those relays really took the responsibility to make sure that the United States won those relays, not just for Michael, but this team really did get the fact of why we were there and it is way beyond gold medals.
It was all about representing the United States of America and I think probably the best thing that happened was at a team meeting when Larsen Jensen read an email that a Navy Seal sent him who was sent back to the United States from Iraq. He was in San Diego and basically the email said, you men need to understand what you are to everybody in this country and you are doing basically the same thing that we do in Iraq, you are symbolizing America, you are setting an example for everybody else and the pride that you are generating makes everybody feel better. It was a huge thing and it was a long email, I wish that I had brought it and read it to you, but then, Larsen read the second email that was sent a day later and the guy sent an email back and he said “the email I sent you yesterday was a little bit heavy, just think about naked chicks. So he kind of got it, we needed to keep things loose too.
What can you say about the 400 free relay? I will always remember standing next to Bob Bowman during that relay and I wont say the exact words because it is mixed company, but it was something like G-G why is he going so slow on the second 50 and then we look up and Michael Phelps has just broken the American Record in the 100 free, but two people were ahead of him so he wasn’t going slow it was just all relative. We talked a lot with the team about, you don’t have to do anything super-human, you just have to be at your best and I think we did that to kind of keep them relaxed mentally and emotionally, but you know what? To be successful at the Olympics you have to do something superhuman, you have to, and Jason Lezak did. I don’t know how. I don’t know where it came from, other than just pride and guts and having been to two Olympics before that and having had less success than he wanted to have, being on the relay that lost for the first time. The first men’s team ever to lose the 400 free relay. Being on the relay that lost again in Athens and I think the Phelps project, all of that just came together and he decided, I’m going to find a way. He said on the first 50 to himself, I really do not feel that good and then he decided, that is really not important, it is not relevant and he just found a way. That was the most outstanding Olympic swim that I have ever witnessed in my life and I know that everybody felt the same about it. It was great to see him get that kind of recognition.
The other big challenge for Michael was the 100 fly and we knew that was going to be the tough one. Of course, being Americans, we felt like his toughest competition would be American, but we were surprised. Michael Kavic was there to swim. I think that will be used for years to come with coaches and this is a fact we all know, but I don’t know if we all teach it and it is not just teaching it, but its insisting upon it every day in practice and that is to win the race you have to exert 6 ½ pounds of pressure on the pad, it is not about touching the pad first, it is about turning the clock off and yeah, it was a little hair-raising, 100th of a second is pretty close, but it was just meant to be. We will take every 100th of a second we can get. We lost a few by a 100th of a second, but that was a very cool thing for Michael and I think it demonstrated his determination. A race that was maybe not his strength, but he knew he was going to have to win a race maybe that he wasn’t as favored in to accomplish what he accomplished. I think that I will always remember the joy on Michael’s face, seeing him after he finished with the press, walking down the hallway to the drug testing room, to the complete and utter look of joy that you really never saw on television after it was all over with and that is what I will always remember. The example that he has set with class, modesty, and the example that he will set in giving back to swimming is what we want to teach every member of our community, whether they be swimmers, officials or coaches. I think those are the kinds of heroes that we want to try and develop, whether they win 8 gold medals or one bronze medal or just make the Olympic team, those are the kinds of citizens that we want to develop.
Jason Lezak was a consistent leader on the team. He was very steady. He was very mature. Yes, he has coached himself the last couple of years, but I think you have to give Dave Salo a lot of credit for making Jason Lezak self-reliant and if I were to say that we have a weakness in some areas of our team, it is that a lot of swimmers are not coached to be self-reliant and I am certainly not saying that we should coach swimmers to coach themselves, but he knew what he needed to do and he did it.
Rebecca Sony was a thrill for all of us. It is always nice to have an unexpected, not only an unexpected, but a spectacular victory, breaking the world record and dominating the event. Beating the former world record holder by a body length and a half and again, she was very self-reliant. I give Coach Salo a lot of credit, there was no doubt in my mind after watching her swim the 100 breaststroke that she would win the 200 freestyle, or the 200 breaststroke. I didn’t know that she would break the world record, but I was very confident that she would win it just because of her demeanor. She owned it. I told her after the semi’s of the 200, “you know Reb, you are the best swimmer in the world and nobody knows it yet, it’s up to you. You can let the secret out soon or later, I prefer soon”.
Natalie Coughlin, what a leader she is. She swam 11 Olympic events and medaled in 11 Olympic events. That is a pretty outstanding accomplishment. Her victory in the 100 back, I think, really gave her a lot of joy, being able to repeat. I think she is the only swimmer to repeat in the 100 backstroke. I was most proud of her and also of her coach, Teri McKeever, for accepting the challenge of the 200 IM. Natalie didn’t make the team in the event that everybody thought she was going to dominate in Sydney, the 200 IM, and kind of stayed away from it for a number of years and I think to accept that challenge, to accept a bigger program, was huge for her.
Larsen Jensen, what a piece of work, he is a loyal American and he really takes that as a responsibility. When he was introduced, and I don’t know whether this was shown on TV or not, in the 400 free he looked up into the stands to where President Bush was sitting and saluted him, just like a soldier, it was pretty awesome and then afterwards when he was marching around the pool with his bronze medal in the 400 free he walked up into the stands and gave the flowers to the first Lady which I thought was pretty awesome as well, and then at the end of the day he came to me and said, “Mark, I really trust that you can get almost anything done, could you get me George Bush’s daughter’s email address”? This is a true story and two days later I got an email from the White House asking for Larsen Jensen’s cell phone number. So if you don’t try, you don’t get.
Aaron Peirsol, is confident, a great leader, a great example, and provided a great amount of heartburn in the semi-finals of the 200 backstroke. He was on his own schedule. Eddie was trying to get him going and get him to the ready room, and all the managers and myself, we have radios in our ears so we kind of know what is happening all over the pool and the managers are screaming “you have to get Aaron down to the ready room.” It was like 15 minutes ago when he was supposed to have been there, and we don’t want to say anything to upset Aaron. So we said, “Aaron the managers are kind of encouraging you to go down there”, you need to get down there, well, it was so close that they were starting to look for the first alternate for the semi-finals, that is how close it was and Aaron learned a little bit from that, so he was there 5 minutes before the race for the finals. He just didn’t like to go to the ready room.
Ryan Lochte, I am so pleased for him, winning his first individual event. I think Gregg Troy has done a masterful job coaching Ryan, probably the most difficult coaching job in the world when you have a man that has to compete in almost every event against either Michael Phelps or Aaron Peirsol. He would probably be considered the best swimmer in the world if it wasn’t for the Americans that he has to compete against in those events, but it was great to see the joy on his face. One of my favorite pictures that I have up in my office is the picture of the reaction of the men’s 800 free relay in Athens and Ryan’s smile and we saw the same type of smile in Beijing.
Matt Grevers, I think Matt is going to be a tremendous up and coming superstar for American swimming. I think that he has really blossomed this year. I have been impressed by the fact that he is willing to attack events from the 50 to the 200. He is a great relay swimmer and obviously his performance in the 100 back was outstanding when you consider his previous experience at major international competitions, he is going to be dangerous.
Cullen Jones, it was wonderful to see Cullen Jones with an Olympic gold medal around his neck and I always kid Cullen when I see him. The first time he broke a World Record, it was on the 400 free relay that broke the world record at the Pan-Pacs and I put one finger up in the air. The second time when he broke it at the World Championships I put two fingers up, and he kind of caught on and said, “are you keeping score?” I said, “yeah, for a long time” and then at Beijing I put three fingers up a 3rd world record. Cullen is starting to get it from a motivational standpoint. He changed programs in April. They did a body composition test on him. He was at 20% body fat. He came a long way from April. He is probably the most talented swimmer out there, particularly from a technique standpoint and I think now he is going to be very motivated.
Christine Magnuson, she is going to be a leader on our team for a long time. I am always impressed when people go to a meet of this magnitude without experience and other than the finals of the NCAA’s her only real international experience was the Japan trip last summer and what a great job her coach Matt Kredich did on making her self-reliant and mature. Her ability to work with other coaches on the staff, most particularly, Teri McKeever, was fantastic. She was flexible. She would race against other people in practice and when she showed up at the meet, she owned it and she knows that if there were five more meters left in that race, she would have won it. She is a real comer.
Katie Hoff, the thing that I was most proud of with Katie Hoff was she left the Olympic Games feeling successful and how many people, when you have so much expectation, and you do not live up to that expectation, leave an Olympics and feel like a failure? She was no failure. The beautiful thing in our sport is when you do your best time, you have won and those of you that watched her swim in Athens know that she had a less than successful meet in Athens. Her first race, the 400 IM, in Beijing, she did her best time. It took two swimmers to go 4:29 to beat her and she was very proud of the fact that she did her best time and won her first Olympic medal and that she had fought the whole way. She swam the 400 free to win it, but lost it on the touch. She didn’t medal in the 200 free, while breaking the American record. She had a lot of tough competition. She handled it really well and she is going to be our future for a long time.
Dara Torres, if I could figure that one out and bottle it, I would give it to all of you. I will say that a year ago last September, Dara called me and asked me questions about the training camp. She said, “when I make the team next summer is it alright with you if I reserve some rooms for my mom and my daughter in an adjacent hotel so that in the middle of the day I can go and see my daughter?” It wasn’t if I make the team, it was, when I make the team. That is the kind of confidence that you have to develop to be an Olympian. I mean, she obviously has the experience, but she hasn’t been to the Olympics for 8 years. She won the 50 free and broke the American record at the Nationals, but certainly there was no assurance of making the Olympic team. I did send her a text message because I was not at the Indianapolis Nationals, I sent her a text message after her 50 free last summer and I said, “train for the 100, we need you on the relay” and her coach took that very seriously. Dara didn’t take it quite as seriously, but her coach did and she did train for the 100 and thank God for that, 52.4 on the end of the 400 free relay, and 52.2, the fastest split in history on the end of the medley relay. Not to mention 24 flat in the 50 and missing the gold medal by less than, well by 1/100’s of a second. She was a different woman from previous Olympics in that and I don’t know if parenthood changed, but she was such a leader, not outwardly, but any young swimmer that had a problem, she would go and seek them out and talk to them and we had some people that struggled with some of the meet and she would seek them out and talk to them. She was a real leader and a great captain. Again, flawless technique how does she do it? Flawless technique and never having been out of shape a day in her life. I got a call from her last week. She had a second shoulder surgery last week. Three days later she was doing a 20 mile bike ride. She is into being fit and she trains hard.
I think what is great to see and what needs to be a part of our culture is being relay special. When you put the red, white and blue on and you have the honor of swimming on a relay, being relay special and I would define that as Jason Lezak and Dara Torres, that is a great thing for all of our swimmers to shoot for, that goal. Some of the things that you never saw on television, but that were pretty awesome and actually the next three things are three of the things that I will remember from this Olympics:
Emily Silver broke her hand in the 50 free at the Olympic trials, badly. They decided that she would fly to Palo Alto and have surgery with a specialist at the Stanford Medical Center which was done two days after the end of the trials and it was out-patient surgery, but she was back in the room with the x-ray laying on the foot of her bed and she had two plates in her hand and sixteen screws in her hand and she had this blue foam thing so that when she went to sleep at night her hand was always like this and she had to walk around in it for the first three days with her hand like this. She was back in the water in three days. The doctor was obviously into the project. She was swimming in a week. Eight days after the surgery she was pushing off 30’s for 50 free. She was doing some unbelievable kicking and I think actually her kicking improved. Teri McKeever did an unbelievable positive job and it was just positive, can do coaching. We didn’t know whether she was going to swim or not, but we were going to give her every opportunity to swim. We never talked about her not swimming until three days before the start of the meet and 400 free relay is the first day of the meet. Jack Barley informed her that we were going to need a proof of performance, I mean, this is the American relay, we all want you to swim but we do want the relay to make the finals, it is important and she was told that she had to break 55 in a time trial. Two nights before the Olympics started, for the 100 free, so the whole team was there warming up and the coaching staff, basically we tell every coach on the deck what is going to happen and can we clear two lanes because we wanted her to swim in the outside lane but kind of have a wash lane so there were no waves. Well, the whole pool stopped because everybody kind of knew what was happening and then the whole team lined up on the side of the pool and she swam this 100 free time trial, 54.8, better than she went at the Olympic trials and that was the first swim of our meet, that started the meet off, that made everybody smile. I mean, if you can break your hand and have that kind of determination to do what you need to do, what a great example for everybody. That was a really cool Olympic moment.
Eric Shanteau, one of the most amazing young men I have ever been associated with. After he made the team in the 200 breaststroke he sat me down and he fully explained that two weeks beforehand he had been diagnosed with testicular cancer and he told me all of the doctors that he had been to, all the diagnoses, and this all was going on two weeks before he made the team and that the doctor would prefer to do surgery, but he said he would prefer to go to the Olympics and they said well, “your markers are still very low and we think we ca manage this, but you have to be tested once a week.” So basically, I talked to Scott Usher and Scott’s coach and they agreed to kind of train for the 200 breaststroke in case we had to tell Eric or the doctor basically, if the doctor did not clear Eric so every week he went in for a scan and a blood test and we got the results back and I would call Dan Ross and tell him the results. Scott was still training. I am so proud of Scott and so glad that Scott went to the US Open and did his best time, that was a cool thing and we really owe him for staying ready. We did get the word right at the entry deadline that the doctor had cleared Eric and I think that was a tremendous inspiration for the whole team and he did have his surgery a week ago, he is fine. He is going to recover so it is wonderful that everything worked out, most importantly for his health, but also he could have his dream of swimming in the Olympic Games.
The last swimmer that I would particularly like to talk about is Mark Warkenton and I had the privilege of coaching Mark for several years at USC and seeing him go through three Olympic pool trials and not make the team. He had come very close and we knew how much he wanted that goal of making the team and he made the team in the open water at the Seville World Championships in April. Just watching him in the training camp. his enthusiasm, getting in there with Larsen Jensen and Erik Vendt and Peter Vanderkaay and Michael Phelps and mixing it up with them every day and just had a smile on his face and enjoyed every single minute of it. Relished it all, from the meals with the other athletes, to the bus rides to the events that we did. I thought that the coolest thing was when we took a flight from Singapore, which was where our training camp was to Beijing, Mark wore his opening ceremonies uniform which kind of looked like chariots of fire. It had a white vest and these white shorts and he had this white cap and I saw him get off the plane and I go, man, going to the Olympics and he says “yup – chariots of fire”. He was just absolutely so into it. He did a great job in his race, basically was right with the guy who eventually won the race at the end, but I hope that we have more and more coaches become interested in open water because I think we can be very successful in it.
I think if we are going to bring pride back into distance swimming in the United States – open water can be a big quotient in that. I think we have a lot of pride in swimming, but I don’t think we have the same kind of pride in distance swimming that we used to have and I think that the toughness that that brings on every level, even if you end up going down is so beneficial, so I challenge you to bring the pride back.
Some of the highlights for us: the USA basketball team coming to three finals and sitting with the team in the team section, not separately, but with the team. I distinctly remember LeBron James, one time when we forgot to organize a cheer and he instantly caught it and he says, “hey cheer” he’s leading and they were all there. It was such a thrill because it made those kids understand that they are at that level, it changed their perception of themselves and there was true respect of those NBA players for those magnificent swimmers.
President Bush and the first lady met with the team in the area between the warm-up pool and the main pool after one of the finals and spent about 30-45 minutes with them, taking pictures, chatting, doing autographs. It was awesome.
Another impressive moment, I believe it was on the second to the last day, it was after the 100 fly. Tony Blair, the former prime minister from Great Britain and his wife came down to the rub-down area to meet Michael Phelps. I felt a little bad for the British team because there was one of the coaches and the managers telling Tony how incredibly the British were swimming, and they were and Tony was saying “can you tell me where Michael Phelps is,” but it was just really cool that he took the time to come down and congratulate Michael. I thought it was fabulous.
How much time do I have left? Training camp: I guess there is one thing that I want to emphasize about what it takes to be an Olympic coach. In order to be an Olympic coach you have to be great at coaching other people’s swimmers. We all know that people that place swimmers on the Olympic team are great coaches, but in order to be a great Olympic coach you have to be great at coaching other people’s swimmers and I think this staff did an outstanding job of that. Here are some things that I saw, just some brief glimpses of some of the training and without giving you the whole workout.
I saw Margaret Hoelzer do a set with Sean Hutchinson where she went three descended 100’s, probably on about 4 or 5 minutes, started at 1:02 and ended up I believe 1:01.l, 100 backstroke, and then went right into six 50’s, I think they were on 1:30, all 29’s descended to 28’s.
Scott Span, descended three 100’s breaststroke, starting at 1:02, the last one he did his best time for 100 breaststroke 1:00.1. Aaron Peirsol, same set, 55, 54, 53:1 on the last 100.
Bob talked a little bit about Michael Phelps’ fly set, but he really didn’t explain the set as I saw it and that was three 50’s at 200 pace, followed by an easy 50 and those 50’s were all like 26’s and 25’s and then an easy 50 and then a dive 100 and he did that three times with some easy recovery swimming in between each set – 52.2, 52. flat, 51.8 and not just the 100’s, but going the three 50’s and then doing the 100.
Some of the most spectacular kicking sets I have ever seen. We had three guys that could absolutely kick spectacularly. Matt Grevers I think I saw him do a 10.1 25 kick. Ryan and Michael got into some of these kicking sets early in the camp, no breath 75’s, backstroke kick where you kind of come up on the turn and then stay under water, most people cannot swim that fast. I did hear Michael say after the second day of training camp, training with Ryan and I think he said it to Bob, he said, “you know, if I had Ryan to train with every day and it was this much fun, I would keep training for the 400 IM”. I thought that was pretty telling, but Bob, we still want him to keep training for the 400 IM. I don’t know how you are going to do that big guy, but we cannot deny how good 4:03 is. Rebecca Soni, a 2:17 broken 200 breaststroke at the end of the series.
Probably the best was Larsen Jensen and this was the last day of the training camp in Palo Alto, twenty 100’s on 1:30 with most of the team on the side of the pool. This was kind of like the pinnacle of the camp, averaging 56’s and 53 on the last one and that was a pretty special set. Everybody stayed and watched and cheered.
Our strengths, as a country, team – T – E – A – M – is our biggest strength. People that go to the pool every day and care about each other, that the picture is more than just the individual. That is the culture of our sport and our country. That is what you teach every day. It is so important. That is why our National Team is successful. In one word – TEAM. When this group gets together most of them are friends. They accept each other for what they are, strengths or weaknesses, they enjoy each other’s company and there is no substitute for experience, whether it is a little experience or a lot of experience, experience really helps. The more we can get athletes the experience of competing at the highest level and get rid of the anxiety of doing it, the better we are going to do as a country. Many of the members of this team were together on National Teams before Athens so it is easy when they come together.
Competition: I think the swimmers that were most successful at the Olympics didn’t shy away from competition during the year. They were at the Grand Prix meets on a regular basis. They were racing on a regular basis. They were swimming non-dominant events. They were losing some races, but they were racing against good people.
Expectation to win: Americans expect to win. If not now, then soon. There is some urgency in it.
Great coaching: Our Olympians are so well prepared and it is years in the making. It is years of planning. It is developing a faith in the program on the part of the athlete and trusting the coach. Most importantly, it is developing a routine at every meet so that it is second nature in what you need to do to succeed and you can do it whether your coach is there or not. Your coach does not need to be there for you to be successful, if your coach has been a great teacher and a great coach.
Weaknesses: I think I touched on that a little bit with a certain percentage of the team. Learning how to swim at the highest level. Even if we go to great meets like the Olympic trials, some people win easily. Some people can swim easy in the prelims, a little faster in the semi’s and only have to race in the finals. You cannot do that at the Olympics. Everybody is a threat. How are you going to approach that? Are you going to be confident? Are you going to be a little nervous? Y Can you direct that nervousness in the right way and then perform or is that different kind of pressure going to affect you? And I think that experience has a lot to do with it. Don’t let great times psych you out because the definition of a great time just isn’t as clear as it used to be because of the swim suit situation. It is just about racing. It is about the ability to race against the other guy.
We had a great steering meeting the last two days and Sean Hutchinson made a comment that really stuck with me, he said, “we need to decide if we are amateurs or professionals” and when he said professionals he didn’t mean making money. He meant approach to the sport, are we going to take a nonchalant approach to the sport or a professional approach to the sport? A year ago, after the Melbourne World Championships, I had a National Team Coach’s Meeting. I went around and we asked every coach that had an athlete that was spectacularly successful, what was the difference that year? And in almost every case it was the seriousness that they took their sport that year.
Hidden training: Things like nutrition, sleep, a balanced life, a social life, but not extremes, focus, but fun, and.the psychological part of the sport. Goal setting, dream, belief, visualization, in the words of Yogi Berea, “90% of the problem is 50% mental”, you are supposed to laugh at that, but it is true.
Goals for London: I read the goals for Beijing that was sent to the USOC right after Athens and the goal was to remain the dominant swimming country in the world. What a gross goal that is. That turns my stomach. That is like, we want to remain the same and you know what? In the last three Olympics, we have pretty much been the same. We have been very good, but the results have pretty much stayed the same. It is like swimming not to lose. The goal needs to be, to improve. Peter Daland has always told me and challenged me, we have 50% of the swimmers in the world, we need to win 50% of the gold medals. I think we could do better than that. We need to develop more depth. We have a lot of people that have been on the top and that is a good thing because they have continued to swim well, but we are not as deep as we need to be in relay events. We had one go to swimmer in the 400 relays on the women’s side and one go to swimmer on the men’s side, although the women all swam fastest splits in history on the medley, you have to give them a lot of credit for that, but we need to have more than one superman and one superwoman. We need to have depth. I am going to ask ten coaches to take a challenge. I am going to ask ten coaches in this room that coach in this country, that coach American swimmers to step up and develop an amazing winning culture, a North Baltimore type culture. That takes a lot of self-confidence. That means you need to take a risk. That means you need to get out of your comfort zone. Can I get ten coaches to make that commitment? Raise your hand, that is more than ten. We are going to be way better. I think a good comment that came out of the steering committee came from Richard Shoulberg, he said “when was the last male Olympian, high school age, to make the Olympic team? The answer was Michael Phelps in Sydney.
Well, there are Olympians winning gold medals, males at 19 and females at 16, but many coaches have the philosophy, as if I am getting them ready for college. I am not pushing them too soon. I don’t want to do a strength program. We will let the college coaches do that. I am here to tell you that Michael Phelps started working hard a lot sooner than college age and he won 6 gold medals as a 19 year old before he won 8 gold medals as a 23 year old. And you heard about the challenges and the age group goals that Bob set for him.
Personally, if you are coaching high school aged athletes and you are saying, well, I don’t want to burn them out, that is a copout. I am sorry, that is a copout. Make them as good as they are right now and then it is the college coach’s job to make them better. Do you know what burnout is? Burnout is when you stop improving. If you keep improving your enthusiasm for the sport is awesome. You have two choices, you can sit back and watch the show on NBC and feel proud that you are an American or you can challenge yourself to be a part of it. I love seeing those hands in the air. I know I am way over, but since I got the go-ahead from George, I am going to show you just a brief, it is about 8 minutes video clip highlight, this is more entertainment than it is educational, but I have to give a lot of credit to Russell Mark. He and George Heidegger do these videos for me, and always make me look better than I am so I am going to give Russell the credit for this one, especially for the first third during this rap music which I want no credit for.