The Care and Feeding of Assistant Coaches by Mike Lewellyn (1997)


I have been with the Blazers for 10 years, before that I was in Texas and before that I was, well I was in a lot of places. I always keep track of other teams, you should do that. Look around and see what kind of cool stuff is being done out there, figure out why people do it and see if it can work in your program. In many cases, when I have heard of neat things being done they have been done in Pat Hogan programs, so I really appreciate him introducing me today. Thank you very much.

If you want a copy of the outline of this talk or if you ever have questions or good dirty jokes you can contact me at I am very good at answering e-mail.

It has been a good week! It has been a good conference with a lot of good times. If you have not been to one of these conferences before this has been a very good one for learning things outside of the presentations. The first ASCA convention I ever attended was in Montreal. Through a weird course of circumstances I ended up in a room, sitting on the floor in that little space between the bed and the wall, I was a lot smaller then, and I was listening to a conversation between George Haines, Peter Daland, and Don Gambril. They were just talking. They talked about their programs, and kids and parents they had to deal with and life in general. I had been coaching for about three or four years professionally and it was all the same stuff I was going through so I thought that was pretty much cool.

I have heard a lot of good stuff from people this weekend. A lot of people were impressed with the two talks Dick Jochums gave. I think it is cool to hear the perspective of a guy who was in the sport, then out for awhile, and then back in it again. I think he sees things. Last time I was in Orlando I was in college, they were still building Space Mountain at Disney World, and EPCOT was still a swamp. So coming back now I notice that things have changed. Coach Jochums has a great perspective because he steps back in now and sees things compared to the way things used to be years ago, as opposed to how the were yesterday or last week.

Some people think that he is over the top, he isn’t. You have to remember that he comes from an era when we WERE swimming. In those days the Australians were out there doing their usual marvelous job, same with the Canadians, and the East Germans had just come onto the scene with their ideas of better swimming through chemistry. Dick Jochums got up at an ASCA Convention back in 1978 and basically said “Screw the chemicals, stop the whining, shut up and swim!” And he and others proceeded to turn out swimmers that in 1980 would have turned the world on their ears. It is too bad that we decided to punish the Soviets and East Germans by not going to Moscow and kicking their collective butts, but that is the way it goes.

I want to do a little something, everybody stand up. (Mumbling and grumbling from the audience) I know, I hate group participation too! This is a game that I play with my swimmers when we are going to hand out an award. We have everyone stand and then we make statements and if the statement applies to you, you must sit down, until the only one left standing is the person who is the award winner. So let’s go. If you are a Head Coach, sit down (half of the audience sits down) if you derive more than half of your income from something other than swimming, sit down (half of the remaining coaches sit down). Good, now, if you have the need, urge and goal of someday being the Head Coach. You are waiting for the day when you walk on the deck and you are the person (PC), sit down. All right, let’s look around here. There are about a dozen of you left standing. Fourteen years ago Bill Thompson, then the Head Age Group Coach at Santa Clara did this at an ASCA clinic and when it was over said and done, I was standing, and Kathy McKee was standing and that was all. (From the audience, “Bill is a Head Coach now, you know”) I know he is that Hoosier and I gave him hell about it too. Thank you all, please sit down.

The age of the professional assistant / associate / age group coach is starting to come around. There are a lot of reasons we can use to explain this. We can talk about the fact that there are more qualified people coming into the 263 business, we can talk about there are more swimming teams and more need for coaches, but the fact of the matter is that there ARE more assistant coaches out there. There are more coaches taking a chunk of the Head Coaches business. So I think that the way we are going to raise and find our assistants is something that we need to examine.

In case you didn’t know this, you are involved in one heck of a sport. A few years ago I had taken my Masters team to Masters Nationals at Minnesota and there were several swimmers in the 100 & over age group. And they were racing! Although I had never seen anyone dive slow before! It was like gravity was 100 years old too! It was absolutely wonderful to watch. And there were even more in the 95- 99 age group. This is the only competitive sport you can be involved in until the day you assume room temperature. Ray Nitscke is not going to put on the pads and go after Mike Lucci on Thanksgiving Day Packers and Lions football game. And in spite of the nifty commercials, Joe Namath is not coming back. And I don’t thing we are going to see a 100 year old Carl Lewis down the road. You are involved in the most wonderful sport there is, and as an assistant / associate / age group coach you stand at the gateway to your kid’s involvement in one of the most magnificent activities they can be involved in. First of all, realize that.

Second of all I sat there this morning with a very small group of people, and I was very upset, listening to the new Executive Director of United States Swimming talk about his vision of the future, and if you were not in there then you need to give yourself a wedgie, because you should be ashamed of yourself. I leaned over to Coach Phil Hansel, bless his heart, after he was done and I said to Phil, “You know, it is just possible that that light we have been seeing at the end of the tunnel is no longer an oncoming truck”. I think we are going to see some wonderful things happening in the near future and you all need to be involved in it.

Something else happened this week that just blew me away, it almost made me want to commit murder. I was down at one of the local bars standing around talking swimming. There was this young coach there, I don’t know who he was, and he was not wearing a name tag. He turned and looks at some other coaches he had been standing with and says, “Now, who is this Doc Councilman guy?”! I will talk about that a little later, but I almost didn’t make it to this talk.

The Care and Feeding of Assistant Coaches, I tell you I have been sitting on top of this one for a while. The description of this talk says “A motivating primmer on the recruitment, development, and nurturing of assistant coaches. How to sell them on, and include them in your dreams, goals, and programs. Assistant / age group coaches will hear about the expectation they should have coming into the business and how they can influence and direct their futures as professional assistant / age group coaches.” Wow, what a mouthful.

I started to write this thing and I had about eight pages, then I had twelve, then I had twenty four, then thirty six, and that’s when I figured I was never going to make it and I started cutting back. Big subject. New subject. In making this I had to make myself realize that not only do I have the honor of being a professional assistant coach/head age group coach, but I have the honor of being the guy who is teaching my assistant coaches, and the Blazers are going to have 16 coaches this year! And we could use more!

As I said in my talk on Thursday one of my favorite books is “Dune”. For those of you that were not in there on Thursday, there is a name given to the main character by his close friends. It is his secret name, known only to the inner circle and that name was “Usil”. The name Usil means “the strength which is at the base of the pillar”. Everyone looks at the pillar and the buildings they support. But no one walks around saying, “WOW! Look at that big square thing on the bottom. My what a lovely base.” And like it you are sometimes finding your self-ignored, sometimes ill-treated, you ARE support staff, make no doubt about it, as an assistant you are support staff. Just as the footings on the Golden Gate Bridge, just as the first blocks that went down for the Great Pyramid. You are the support staff.

What is the difference between an assistant and an associate coach? In my opinion, assistants work for someone, associates work with someone. Both areas need to be filled, not everyone can be a partner, at someplace along the line someone just has to be the gopher. That is just the way it is in the hierarchy of the real world. Because ultimately the boss is the boss. It is his/her butt on the line in the end. When people look at the Blazers they don’t look at me, most people don’t know who I am. I could make a hell of an American Express commercial! And my dearly beloved boss, Peter D. Malone has this little thing on his desk. It is a pyramid that says:


and it is broke! And it is broke because on day Peter D. In a fit of robust explanation picked it up and slammed it down on his desk and yelled “I AM THE BOSS” Sometimes the boss has to remind you that he is the boss. Sometimes the boss has to be reminded that sometimes you know more about what is going on in your pool that he or she does. It is a two way street. Those of you that are head coaches, you have some obligations, and I am going to jump around in 264 the outline a little bit.

Obligations of the Head Coach, oh boy, here we go! These are obligations to the associate not towards the program, that is a whole other presentation. The first obligation that a head coach has to an assistant/associate is to be teaching them. We are an apprenticeship profession without an apprenticeship structure. If I really want to learn something about this sport, then I have to go out and find someone who has done it before me and learn from them. Or find someone who has written a book about it and read it, but still learn it from them. That is the nature of the beast, the head coach is the one with the experience and the one with the experience has to teach the one without the experience. The head coach need to make their assistant/associate aware of all aspects of the business. You are teaching the assistant/associate how to be better assistant/associate, at least, and potential head age group coaches, and head coaches down the road. That means that you have to make them partners in your dreams and philosophies. You can’t have an age group coach over here, tearing up the little kids, when the philosophy of the head coach is to teach them, bring them up slowly and have them ready to swim with the senior group. I am a Level 3 certified coach and I will probably be that until the day that I no longer coach. The reason is that I don’t believe in chasing time standards and records for little kids. I believe in teaching them what they need to know, teaching them the skills they need to have, allowing them to acquire all of the physical experience and information that they can get. I need to teach them how to be a swimmer. That means everything from learning how to read a pace clock to doing the highest and most competent skills. And along the way, if I have done my job right they should go fast. And I will tell you honestly that the Blazer team I was told walking in the door that I was not going to up my rating any, but if I did my job right that we would have some kids go really fast. So that was my obligation to him. My obligation to him as an assistant is to be sure that he has a never ending supply of prepared swimmers moving into his senior group.

In 1988, when Mark Dean made the US Olympic team we looked back and wondered who would be next. We work on a 5 year plan with a one year overlap. Who’s next, well Janie Wagstaff, who at the time was a heck of a freestyler and a little bit of a backstroker. She became a backstroker, Who’s next? It was Catherine Fox. Who’s next? Janie was 6’1 world”, Catherine is 5’4” go figure. They both came out of a place where there is no pressure from the outside. It happened because there is a philosophy that comes from the boss, and he has taught that philosophy to me, as is his obligation, and I have passed it on to my assistants. Pete gives me his workout so I know what he is doing, therefore I can prepare my kids for what he has coming for them. He educates me as to what he is doing. He does not say “This is what I am doing, just take these 20 x 100 and turn them into 10 and let the 10 years olds do them”. I have to design the whole age group program. He gives me that right, he gives me that freedom. That is also one of his obligations.

He gives me all of the rights and opportunities in the world to sit there and screw it up. I was telling somebody the other night, I have never made the same mistake twice in the Blazer program. But I have invented some real unique ones! If an assistant coach screws up and fails, the head coach has two obligations. That is to say one of two. He can fire him. Which is the obligation the head coach has to the assistant. “You are a rotten coach. Get out of the business!” The dime a dozen mentality. That is the bad way. You’re done, you go, your fired, now let’s see, I have this line of 35 other incompetent people over here. I’ll bring in one of them. More cannon fodder. Just bring in another inexperienced person that you are not going to coach, throw them to the wolves, and fire them next year.

Or you can teach. Teach them again and let them learn from the failures that they make. Remember this is an apprenticeship program. You can sit there as a head coach and scream and holler and yell and whine and cry and get all over the guy as much as you want, but if you are not going to tell them what they did wrong and how to not do it wrong again and how to do it right then you are setting yourself and your program up for failure.

Another obligation…………pay! What a novel concept for assistant coaches. Head coaches, your future is dependent upon how well your assistants do their jobs and I guarantee you that for the most part people do a lot better when they are paid. They do a lot better if they can take a paycheck, put it in the bank, go the grocery store, buy food, and not sit on the deck like they are dying. If you can’t pay money, do the best you can and make up the difference in knowledge and experience. I understand that there are some small clubs in this country, I used to own one. I had one assistant coach that I managed to pay $4.00 per hour. But I also managed to take everything I knew, and if I didn’t know I learned it, and I passed it on. What I couldn’t pay in dollars I made sure that I paid in experience and knowledge.

Contracts are a whole other thing and it depends on your situation. I don’t have a contract, I am a government employee. The Kansas City Blazers are just a little old park & rec. swim team. So we don’t have contracts, but as government employees we do have the security that it is difficult to fire us. You need to give your assistant/associate security. If you aren’t in the situation I’m in, you need to give them a contract. Whether it be a one, two, three year or whatever length contract, you need to give some sort of security so that they feel they have the freedom to go in and do what it takes to get the job done. Otherwise they are going to feel like they are walking on eggs and they are going to be afraid to step in any direction.

You also need to give them opportunities to supplement their income. Whether it be through swimming lessons, office work, programs were say they bring in $500.00 is sponsorships they get 10%, or they get 1/2 of all heat sheet or newsletter ad income they bring in. There are all kinds of ways to invent money to put in your assistants/associates pockets. Money in hand does not have to be a limiting factor.

In return for these things you as an assistant/associate have the obligation to first and foremost be competent. Your job is to do the job. The first thing you have to understand is that even if you are there just long enough to move on and become Gods greatest gift to coaching someday, which we all know we are, your obligation to that head coach is to buy into the program and pass on that information and those visions and values as thoroughly and as competently as possible.

One of the pitfalls of being an assistant/associate coach, being an age group coach especially, is that you are always teaching 10 year olds to do flip turns. You are always teaching 8 year olds to breath on the other side. You are always teaching Bosco to swim with the left arm………… the other left arm! And it is probably the one thing that burns out age group coaches as fast as anything. But another obligation you have as an age group coach is to remember that that 10 year old is only 10 once. It may be your 30th year of 10 year olds, but it is his or her first, and only 10th year. That should motivate you every day to be fired up and to walk into that practice and be excellent. That is your obligation to the head coach.

Your obligation to the head coach is to be loyal. There are probably as many horror stories as there are coaches. Stories of assistant/associate coaches who undermine the head coach. “Gee, Mrs. Bosco! I would never do that too little Bosco if he was swimming for me.” “That mean and nasty old head coach, what a son of a gun. It is a shame that he yelled at Bosco out there in front of God and everybody” That kind of coach should be shot.

Compensation. Well there is pay, we talked about that. Most of the time there is not much. Usually small clubs equal small bucks. Although there is money out there, folks! We need to learn that from gymnastics. If you want a wakeup call, go down to your local gymnastics team. “Excuse, me. I’d like to get my little Bosco into gymnastics. How much does it cost?” Then brace yourself.

Pete has three daughters. A few years ago they were in gymnastics together. Three kids, all rookies. Let’s say you have three kids and that they are all about a year and a half to three years apart in age. To give you an idea of the fees here. You walk in the door as novice and all members at the novice level pay a training fee. Oh, and a choreography fee, because they have to have their dance routine built. Oh, dance class so they can do the choreography. Oh, required private lessons because after all everyone needs a little extra help. Fees for novice gymnastics kids like Pete had run him to the tune of $550.00 a month. Why will people do that for gymnastics and not swimming? Because we let them, well yeah that could be. Of course, everybody can swim. And yet someone will go out and pay $150.00 per month to have someone say to their little Bosco, “Bend over and touch your toes ……………… stand up straight. Bend over and touch your toes ……………… stand up straight. Bend over and touch your toes ……………… stand up straight. Fall backwards.” $150 bucks!

Novice kids in my program pay $35 to $45 a month. Kids in my Gold Group pay $75 per month and they have to pay for 11 months, whether they swim, quit, or whatever. Kids on our senior team pay $100. Plus if they lift weights they pay another $350 a year for weights. Plus if they need the help of our team sport psychologist they pay extra, if they need to see the nutritionist, they pay extra for that. We supply the opportunity. But we don’t say, “You’re nuts! See the psych.” Unless they are.

There is money out there. There is a source out there for you to fulfill your obligation to your assistant/associate coaches. Oh, by the way, assistant/associate coaches, NEVER SAY THIS IN PUBLIC ……………………”I LOVE THIS SO MUCH, I’D DO IT FOR FREE!” “You know last night over that fourth beer I heard you say that you would do this for free, let’s talk about your contract!”

Benefits. Head coaches supply your assistant/associate coaches with some benefits, at least health insurance. If you can figure a way to tag them onto a health plan then do it. Tell the insurance company that they are your mother, I don’t know, but find a way. At least health insurance. Help them set up an IRA. Pete has a degree in business, he is telling me things to do with money all the time. If I had any money I’d do it. He is going to hear this tape. To tell you the truth, I get a great package. With benefits and bonuses am up in the $36-38,000 range. That is not bad, for a coach. If I was an assistant CEO somewhere it would be a trifle, but I am not. I am a head age group coach in a sport that doesn’t charge enough money.

Then again there are the intangibles. You need to supply your assistant/associate coaches with some intangibles. About four and a half or five years ago Pete finally figured out that old Mike here was not motivated by money. You see I’m stupid, I would do this for free. I hope my future employer doesn’t hear this! I am motivated by a pat on the back and a thank you. I’d walk through fire for someone who appreciates the effort that I put in. The intangibles, sometimes a very simple thank you. A note left on the desk to be found in the morning saying, “By the way, your kids did great this weekend. They looked very good. Thank you 266 for making me look good.” Most assistant/associate coaches will drool all over themselves something like that.

It is the sense of satisfaction, she was nuts! She just wanted to swim fast, didn’t care if it was legal, she just wanted to go fast. “Coach! Watch me race to the other end!” Splash, whoosh! “Nice Breaststroke, but that was supposed to be Freestyle!” It got to the point where the kid and I would have conversations like this before a race:

“Coach Mike, I am going to go swim my race now and I will be in heat 2 lane 3.”

“OK, do well.”

“What stroke am I swimming?”

“What does it say on your card?”

“Mummy, freestyle.”

“Then you’re probably swimming freestyle!”


You get a lot of satisfaction from working with those little nut balls! Those kids are crazy! They will keep you going.

So I am standing one evening in my favorite place, here comes the plug, Barley’s Brewhouse. 99 taps of beer on the wall and a cooler full of bottles. TV’s all over the place and a great atmosphere, great food. And I am sitting there, because the Olympics was on, and I didn’t feel like sitting home alone and watching the Olympics by myself. I didn’t really know the schedule, but I was watching and the relay came on. The women’s 400 free relay. And the swimmers march out and there was Catherine.

Just then some guy down the bar yells out, “HEY COACH! IS THAT YOUR GIRL?!” I said “Yeah, she swims for us, she is a Blazer, that’s our girl!” And the commentator is talking about this big nasty Chinese swimmer on the blocks. Swimmers take your marks, beep, Martino hits the water and off they go. And these two girls are ripping down the pool. They come into the wall and good old Catherine, all 5’4” of her unwinds, hits the water, and disappears! …….. ……………………………… For a long time! You see in the finals she got excited. She was only supposed to stay under water 4.2 seconds, she was under 5.3. Otherwise she would have gone a lot faster. She comes up a body length ahead of this Chinese girl who is fully a foot taller, and everyone in the bar goes “WWWOOOWWW!” I mean it was wonderful. The same guy yells, “COACH! SHE SWIMS FOR YOU, SHE SWIMS FOR YOU!” I’m saying “Yeah, she’s our girl. She is a Blazer. She is one of our kids.” The Chinese girl catches her at the turn, they come off the wall, Catherine blows up all over her butt and breaks with a body length lead again. They race into the wall, hit, good exchange, we hold the lead, win the thing, set the Olympic record, and at that point all the guys in the bar are yelling, “YEAH! YEAH! COACH! SHE SWIMS FOR YOU, SHE SWIMS FOR YOU!” And I’m saying “Yup! That’s MY GIRL!!!!!” And don’t you think for an that I was not sitting there saying to myself,”Don’t swim breaststroke!”

And that little moment the other day when Dick Jochums, at the end of his talk, had everyone close their eyes, I did. And he said, “Now see your swimmer winning a Gold Medal” And I got to tell you. At that point in the bar, the girls were all out of the water, it was in Time Magazine, Catherine pointing like that. Out of all of those thousands of people she saw her mom and dad in the stands, but guess what. From where I was sitting in the bar, guess who she was pointing at? Now I am a professional! I stood up, calmly walked outside to the parking lot, and screamed at the top of my lungs! Now THAT is an intangible. If you look up the word intangible in the dictionary, they will have a picture of me in the parking lot at Barley’s doing a screaming victory dance! Pete never for one day let me forget that I had a part in that. It didn’t earn me any money, all it did was make me walk a little taller, and coach a little better, because I want another one of those, I want another one. The intangibles.

I also get to be a part of a growing community of professional assistant/associate coaches. Those of us who know and understand the place that a good assistant/associate has. I tell you right now, those of you that know my boss, Pete has an ego that is about this big. Well-deserved and well earned. I am an assistant/associate, I am not allowed to have an ego quite as large as his. And maybe that is why I do my job as well as I do sometimes, because I do keep in mind that he is the boss. But as a Head Age Group Coach, as an Assistant, as an Associate I do have the wonderful opportunity to be involved with a group of people that are professionals at the same level that I am a professional. It is a growing fraternity that is at the cutting edge of a whole new professional position. It’s a wonderful thing. There is nothing wrong, it is not being an egomaniac for me to sit back and say that I get to choose which way the Blazers go. Pete sets the goals, he has the vision, and he shares the values. He says let’s go….. This way! And then it is up to me to decide how everybody goes. If I do my job then we go well, and if I biff it then we break our string of having a swimmer in championship finals at Senior Nationals every year since 1975. That is my job, to be sure that the string continues, just as much as it is Petes’. Pete can’t have a Catherine Fox if I don’t have a Catherine Fox.

Assistant/associate coaches, where do they come from? Many a head coach has asked that question, “Where the heck did I get this guy?” Do great swimmers equal great coaches? I think I mentioned in the outline the flame throwing medley relay of George Haines, Dick Schoulberg, Murray Stephens, and Pete Malone. Pat Hogan would you bet on that one? You would? I would love to see them all on a coaching staff, but I don’t know that I would want to take splits on Murray swimming 100 butterfly. But nobody can say that they can’t coach. Just being a fast swimmer doesn’t make you a fast coach. I think I do OK. I was a horrid swimmer. I was the guy they pointed to when they were recruiting and said “You can kick his butt!” In my program, like in yours, I am looking for kids that can swim butterfly but also the ones who can coach. Half of the summer leagues in the Johnson County Kansas area are coached by Blazer swimmers or former Blazers swimmers. It is a great recruiting tool. When I see that I have kids with the gift to be a coach I nurture them.

“Mary, I want you to go over to lane 1 and show Bosco how to point his toes on freestyle”.


“Bosco, do this!”

“Mary, would you go over and tell these kids how much fun you had at the last swim meet. They are afraid to go to a swim meet”


They have the gift and I am going to nurture it, because somewhere down the road, you see, as an assistant I have an obligation to my assistants, I have an obligation to the sport to be sure that there is someone coming up behind me. Not just behind my swimmers. You know, I can’t find enough coaches. I have heard people say this week, “I have another pool but I can’t open it because I can’t find enough coaches”. Make them, grow them. I mentioned the other day that I now have a staff of 15 coaches. And the last 4 that I hired are all swimming instructors. I finally figured out that I don’t need someone to teach them to go fast, I just needed someone to teach them to GO! And that seems to be paying off. I am afraid to go to the pool for our tryouts next week. We had 91 new families on our mailing list for tryouts.

Do you have to have a degree? It probably helps. I don’t have a degree. I made some changes in mid-stream in my education. People who know me will be scared to death to hear this, if they didn’t know it already, but I went to school for my first 2 years to be an Assembly of God minister. People who know me are chuckling. I found the visions and values for my life when the football coach, a man named Richard Moon, took me aside one day and told me that sometimes kids need people in front of the pulpit more than they need them behind it. That changed my life.

Unfortunately there is no degree in coaching. There is no Bachelors of Swimming. So you have to go through the whole gamut of course. You take PE, Human Biomechanics, Prepubescent Physiology, Adolescent Sport Psychology, Time Management, Human Resources, Staff Management, Board Management, Business Administration, Pool Chemistry, Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, Advertising, Public Relations, Fund Raising, Tax Accounting (assuming you get paid). Where do you go for all of that? Here is a good place! After Coach Reese got done this morning about 90% of the people in this conference left the room. Then we voted in 5 new board members for ASCA. This really is an organization that is working to help coaches. I am not on the Board. There are some things that they do that I don’t agree with, but heck there are things Pete does that I don’t agree with. There are things I do that Pete doesn’t agree with, which is far more important!

The education is out there to be had. The degree makes the doors open easier if you are going to schools but it is not necessary.

Another place you can learn is from a mentor. You order the ASCA job service and look for good coaches looking for assistants. You take a 50% cut in pay and you go and work for a great coach. Remember this is an apprenticeship program. Find a good head coach and go work for him/her. If you coach in high school and have the summer free, bail out of town for the summer, find a good head coach and learn something. I mean if you are young enough, if you don’t have a family, you don’t have roots. My God what a great way to learn how to coach. DON’T LEAVE YOUR FAMILY! E-mail works well for me when I have a question about someone’s program, I e-mail them a question.

Head coaches you need to make these opportunities available. We get calls all the time. “Hello, I am Joe Blow from East Teaneck, New Jersey. Can I come and watch a few days of practice during Christmas vacation?” “Yes, absolutely!” Our doors are open to kids who are visiting and to coaches as well. If we have any information to share it is out there and available. Coaches have this obligation.

Going back to the thing I said earlier about Doctor Councilman. Whoever that kids coaches were, I would love to talk to them. What a sinful thing. One of the things I am going to do after hearing that comment is write a letter to Guy Edson and see if a history of the sport can be added into the Level 1 School curriculum. I was just talking to the coaches from the Parkway Swim Club in St. Louis, the second best team in the Midwest, I have talked to other folks too. Here is a test. In 1972, Mark Spitz won 7 gold medals, why was that so impressive? Well, because it was 7 gold medals. WRONG! Because he was one guy and he did it 268 all. WRONG! How about because in 1972 for the only time in Olympic history, individual events were prelims, SEMIFINALS, and finals! In order to win four of those medals he had 12 world class races.

That’s nasty! Add the relays and you see why it is impressive! There are not a lot of coaches that know that. Why is it important? Because it is important for you to give this kind of information to your coaches and swimmers. Because if it has been done before it can be done again. Who was Steve Genter? Aside from the first guy I ever saw shave his head in competition. Steve Genter was the guy who chased Mark Spitz to the gold medal in the 200 meter freestyle ………. with a hole in his chest because the night before his prelim swim, his lung collapsed. They tubed him and inflated his lung, and he got out and swam the prelims. Then the doctors put him back in the hospital and let him out in time to swim his semi-final, and they hospitalized him again. Then he got out in time to chase Spitz to the gold medal.

“I can’t swim coach. I have a cramp in my toe.”

“Oh, yeah? Let me tell you about Steve Genter!”

Rick DeMont, my God what a horror story for coaches everywhere. World record in the 400 freestyle, Olympic Gold medal, all pulled from him because a doctor didn’t read on his medical form that he was taking an asthma medicine that was banned. What a horror story for a coach. We have a great drug education program on the Blazers.

Brian Goodell? Whew!

Who was the greatest 200 IM’er in the United States to never make an Olympic team? University of Tennessee, LeRoy Engstrand. Six time American record holder in the 200 yard IM, couldn’t make finals at the Olympic Trials because he couldn’t swim meters. There is a great lesson for you, be a swimmer, not a turner.

Jeff Rouse. Jeff Rouse is the only swimmer, except for 13-14 year old Brooke Bennett and Amanda Beard (and they are mutants), the only swimmer on the past 2 Olympic Teams who was a nationally top ranked 10 & Under!

“Guess what Bosco? It doesn’t matter that you didn’t make top 16 as a 10 year old. That doesn’t have any impact on how fast you swim when you are older.”

George Haines. Why is it important for a young coach to know who George Haines is? Well because he was a great coach. At one point when world class swimming meant American swimming, the Santa Clara Swim Club defined American swimming. At one point he had 5 of the top 100 breaststrokers in the world in one training lane! See if that won’t make you nuts! Just having a lane of breaststrokers drives me crazy. He had Brian Job, John Hencken, Thomas Bruce, Mark Chatfield, and I can’t remember the fifth guy off the top of my head. But I have heard each of them say that going into the 1972 Olympic Trials every one of them knew that they were going to make the team. It couldn’t happen of course, but what a great coach to have that kind of talent all in one place, all knowing that they were going to win.

George Schlitter, whew, what a legacy. Johnny Gallic, Doc Councilman. If you are not teaching your assistant/associate coaches who these people are, you should be ashamed of yourself because that is the only place that these people are going to learn the history of this business and this sport that is so wonderful for you children.

Experience. Well we already talked about the fact that you don’t have to be a great swimmer to be a great coach. But the more life skills you collect the better it is. The breaks. I lucked out and got a job with Pete Malone. I am 45, so I was 35 when I got there. Pete was 37 and he was really worried about hiring a coach so close to his own age. He and I were only a few years apart in coaching experience. Now why would he want to go and hire a coach of similar age that might argue every point you bring up? I don’t know, but he did?

You need to teach your assistant/associate coaches to have the coach’s eye. Teach them what they are looking at.

“Little Bosco is swimming in the water over there, Look at what he is doing. This is why he is doing it.”

We have coaches meeting every three weeks. We go over business and coaching assignments. We also go over anything new that has come up in technique. Remember when they first put the flip turn in backstroke? There was some confusion for a while. People were wondering maybe you could maybe you couldn’t use it in the IM. Well we got the information before other folks because Pete told us. We blew everybody up because we were out there doing flip turns from back to breast and none of the officials were sure if it was legal or not and they wouldn’t disqualify us. It was cool! But if we hadn’t had meetings and passed information down to the assistant/associate coaches about what was going on, what was new, what was exciting they never would have known anything.

Assistant/associate coaches are a real, real important part of the sport. They are worth their weight in gold if they are good, they are worth their weight in lead if they are not. The story about the sculptor who was asked how he could create such beautiful art replied that it was there all the time he just had to do was take away the ugly stuff. Head coaches you may have the gem right there next to you on 269 deck. If you can knock off the ugly stuff you have a great tool, a great asset. You have a friend, you have a partner. If you are willing to teach them and not be afraid of them. Yea, they may leave and go to another club. They may come back and kick your butt! Oh wow then your area has two fast teams! What a great thing! Maybe the professional pathway of the future for us is going to be start off as the assistant/ associate, the rookie, a part time professional, and then a full time professional. And then move to head coach. THE MAN, THE WOMAN, THE BOSS.

I think I wrote in the outline “The Peter Principle”. Does everyone know what the Peter Principle is? The concept that we keep rising in our professions until we reach our level of incompetence. We rise in position above our ability to do the job. Then we move back to assistant. It’s easy. I’ve been head coach, I’ve been owner, I’ve coached college, I’ve coached high school, I’ve coached big clubs, small clubs, slow clubs, fast clubs, now. It is all coaching. If you know what you are doing, if you can evaluate yourself. If you have a head coach that is good at evaluating you. You are really going to be able to maximize your ability. There are no big bucks out there for the most part.

I told everybody Thursday that I am leaving the Blazers in April. I am getting married and moving to Huntington Beach California and I am looking for a job. But I am trapped by my salary. $36,000 doesn’t go very far in Southern California. I don’t know of a lot of assistant coaches that are going to make $50-$55-$60,000 in Southern Cal. I may have a problem, then again I may not.

Another problem is that you get no respect. The head coach knows everything, that’s why he is the head coach. You don’t know diddle, that’s why you are the assistant/ associate. I think I put in the outline, although I am here. Someplace someone though that I had a clue, therefore I get to come here and talk to you wonderful folks. The fact of the matter is, I got coached by a good coach to be a good coach. Your job and your obligation, head coaches, is to coach your assistant/associate coaches to be good coaches. Your job, assistant/associate coaches, is to be good coaches so your head coaches can coach you more and take you farther up the ladder. And I have just enough ego to understand that f iI do my job right, United States swimming gets better. American swimmers go faster.

I told Pete the other day that maybe I should apologize because we don’t have any good milers anymore, maybe I didn’t do my job right. I work my tail off like a lot of other coaches do, and we still can’t get under 15:00 in a 1500 freestyle. We all need to get our noses to the grindstone.

USIL. You are the strength which is at the base of the pillar. I want to leave you with this little thing. I have this poster at home and I have it as a mouse pad on my computer with this on it. It is from Successories. It has this cute little kid in a little red, white, and blue outfit. And he is standing at the edge of a lake looking out over the water. It is all calm and tranquil and peaceful. And the caption says, “Priorities” “ A Hundred Years From Now It Will Not Matter What My Bank Account Was, The Sort Of House I Lived In, Or The Kind Of Car I Drove…But The World May Be Different Because I Was Important In The Life Of A Child.”

That is your obligation as an assistant/associate coach. Your obligation as a head coach is to find assistant/associate coaches and train and coach assistant/associate coaches to fulfill that priority. Thank you very much.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Sponsorship & Partnerships

Official Sponsors and Partners of the American Swimming Coaches Association

Join Our Mailing List

Subscribe and get the latest Swimming Coach news