This is the distance or the endurance talk of endurance talks this morning because we have three hours to do it. I don’t know how I ended up getting three hours of talk time, but I think it is going to be a real interesting talk. I want to say that this is the “Harvey and Peter Show” and I am not sure how this is going to work out. One of the things we are trying to do is to give you sort of a background of Maritza Correia who has been swimming with me since she has been nine or ten. This sort of breakdown is what we want to do in a somewhat structured way. We will talk for an hour basically about the time she spent with me as an age group development swimmer until the time she left our program and went on to Georgia. Then an hour on the things that Harvey and Jack did with her in Georgia in combination with what we did back home during the summertime. Finally, we will wrap the whole thing up with where she is now and where we hope she is going to be in the next couple of years. I think you will find that this girl is a pretty interesting girl and how she has done things. I think she is a very talented individual and has a lot of potential that doesn’t always show in her results. We will talk a lot about things that have taken a Maritza to where she can be, hopefully at the top of the world one day. So, that is basically the intro and outline.
In this day and age when we have so many parents videotaping their kids at a young age we should encourage the parents to keep those video tapes because they are a great record. We do not always get a chance to do that, but luckily enough her Mom kept a lot of those videos.
When I first saw Maritza in this tape I couldn’t believe it; she is so much smaller. This summer we had some pretty high expectations and they did not really work out the way we wanted them to… especially after last winter. We kind of got asked to do the talk after last winter and the comparisons between that swim and her fastest ever swim. I think the swimmer is very much the same. It is just a bigger and obviously stronger girl. Some of the things we are trying to look at is between the stage where we see the 11-12 year old and the 19-20 year old who was 21.6.
The factors that influenced Maritza at an early age had a lot to do with her family. Her mother is a really big part of her life and is a very, very supportive mother. She is supportive in what Maritza does in swimming and outside of swimming. Maritza relies on her mother being at swim meets, being supportive knowing what’s going on, and supporting the club and college programs. I know that Harvey will talk to that later on as well. I have been lucky enough to coach some real talented swimmers and having a real stable parent behind them is the one thread that seems to flow through those successful kids. At some point in their swimming they are going to need an environment that is going to help create stability around them. We can do everything we can in the pool everyday and coach them at meets and so on, but the fact of having a very stable home environment and a parent(s) that are going to be there to support them all the time is really, really important. I think that has sort of helped Maritza get to this point.
One of things that I also wanted to talk about is that when we start into the training part of it you understand how slowly she came along and how different she was. She was in a program with somebody like Brooke Bennett, who was a totally opposite type of person. As I will explain later, some of the things that I found to be difficult to try and make sure I didn’t do were some of things I did with Brooke. I didn’t want to compare them to things with somebody like Maritza so it is real important that we did things that are individual to what she is able to do and not pull her along with somebody like Brooke. We talk about this program and what she has done as a distance base swimmer and the things that have helped here get to this point. It really was very different than what Brooke did and it was very different than what the distance swimmers did. Mainly because I think she was always a great sprinter and I thing that was the thing I was trying to make sure we held onto from the very first day. She was just a skinny little kid that just wanted to get up, race, and swim fast. We battled a lot of times. We went through a lot of things to try and get her to the point where she is today. I believe that has helped her. I believe it has helped her longevity in the sport. I think it is going to help her in the future. Maybe it is not the way everybody else would train somebody with that ability and that speed. I do think when we are talking about athletes, we are talking about the long-term future for those athletes. If you can stick to your guns and believe in what you do, that is what is going to make your swimmers better.
After we had Maritza come to the University of Georgia, she obviously went on and was pretty successful, a lot of the reasons she was successful were all certainly due to Peter. One of the biggest reasons we were interested in her was because of the fact that she had come from a distance based program. The thing that made us extremely interested in her was her range. She obviously got a lot of notoriety from swimming a great 50 and great relay swims; however, we were really interested in her because here was a girl that could swim an 8:46 in the 800 meter freestyle and could still go :58 in the 100 meter freestyle. We knew we had somebody who could swim in our distance group and train that way, but also help us on relays.
I guess that she had been swimming with Peter since about the age of 8, and the first time I saw her swim was when I was on the National Junior Team staff. We were on a trip to Sweden and I was the Assistant Coach under Frank Comfort. He put me over in the corner where there were these two girls from Blue Wave Swim Team. One of them was Jean Lee and the other was Maritza Correia. It took me most of the trip to learn to say her name right and then even long to spell it.
Every time I gave a practice out or a warm-up Jean always thought we needed to do more. Maritza was this great distance kid from Brooke Bennet’s team and she always wanted to do a little bit less. I saw some sprint potential here. Anyway, that was really my first experience with her.
Another thing that made her very, very attractive to us was that she had a great IM and loved to swim IM. Swimming IM is probably one of the reason she stayed injury free. We have an IM based program, even with our freestylers. It is important to get kids that can swim all of the strokes because on the days when we are doing things that aren’t freestyle they use it as a mental break. The kids that can swim IM or stroke are getting training gains no matter what they do. We thought that it was important to come in able to do that and she is. Most people do not realize it, but she is able to come in and train as well as any of our IM’ers train. If we had IM’ers that could go :21 in the 50 free, I guarantee you, she would have been swimming more IM. But we cannot get our IM’ers to go that fast. So, that was another important factor that was really important.
Looking at her strokes… Peter had given her great technique. Since she has been at Georgia the main thing we needed to technique wise was to make sure she didn’t pick up any bad habits. Her technique was pretty much where it needed to be. We just had to make sure as she grew and as her body changed that we kept that technique smooth. Every coach there that watched her and that had a little hand in coaching her was mainly making sure she didn’t pick up a bad habit.
Gradual development… I know Peter has a reputation of being a big hard-nosed distance coach, but he did bring her along gradually. We knew there was a lot of gas left in the tank. We knew she could still take a lot more aerobic work in college. We knew there was a log more she could do. Jack and Peter talked we each other a lot after we signed Maritza. They both realized we had the potential of having a really good sprinter and someone who was going to be on our relays. We knew she was going to be a prime candidate so that was always in the back of our minds, but Jack and Peter had agreed that the first 2 years her goal was going to be pointed towards the 500 freestyle. I don’t think she swam any 50’s at all her freshman year. I know she did not swim the 50 at NCAA’s until this last year. She was always swimming the 500. That was really the main purpose for her and what we thought was important. I think I am supposed to turn it back over to you.
What we are trying to do is just give you a picture of how things sort of evolved. Try to go a little bit back and forth between both of us. I am going to spend some time on the things we did as an age-grouper with Maritza. Try to look at some of the things when she came into the program.
When Maritza started with Blue Wave we weren’t a really big team. At that point I was there only a couple of years, and we were still growing. We were still trying to develop the program and develop the team. Maritza came in as somebody that had swum before because she had been advised by a doctor. She had some back problems and some asthma problems. She started swimming as a way of helping her rehab. She had some scoliosis and some things like that. It was important for her to do a sport or activity that was going to be less stressful on her. She was a little timid and a shy type of person. She really is to this day although she is pretty outgoing when she is around people she knows. To this day, though, she is still pretty quiet. She finds it real hard to get up and talk in front of people. When she started with us she was real shy and wanted to be hidden in the group. That is totally different than Brooke who always wanted to be noticed. Maritza would be quite happy just to sneak behind everybody and just get lost in the crowd. She did it for a while because she was just that kind of kid. She was there. She showed up or she didn’t. She was just one of those sorts of people that was on your team. You knew she was a good swimmer and you knew she was a talented age grouper.
Lots of talented kids come into a program and one of things I try not to do is make a big fuss out of kids when they come into the program. I try to let them find their level. Let them find where they are at, and get them excited because they are fast and doing what you want them to do. I don’t try to get them to the point where they are feeling like they are the #1 kingpin. I try to make them mesh in with what goes on in the team and make them feel that they have to work to get where they want to go.
The building years were the type of time where Maritza was when she was 10 or 11 years old. If she made five workouts a week we were real happy. We were real lucky to see her five times a week. In the warm weather she was always there, but when it came to November, December, January, February, and March if we saw her twice or three times a week we would be real lucky. Maritza hates the cold to this day. She hates being out in the cold weather. We swam outdoors all the time, and if it was cold she would just disappear. You just would see her. She would maybe turn up one day and if it was too cold for her she would just freeze after 30 minutes. We would have to send her home. She was just that timid type of kid that we just didn’t want to feel that we pushed her. She did what she could and then she went home. Then she didn’t come back for three days because the weather was too cold or whatever it was.
That is the kind of start Maritza got and she very much enjoys the team aspect of what she does. I think that is where high school and college have been real important in her development. Within a club situation we had a lot of great individuals on our team and a lot of competitive girls. Our team was good and it was strong, but it was highly competitive. If you have coached a lot of girls at that age, 11,12, and 13 you know it is fun when they all get on, but is a real pain in the butt when they don’t get on. A lot of times the girls at that age fight and they fight a lot. That is just the competitiveness part of the program and she was always competitive.
A funny story is (I am sort of hopping between 10 and now, when she is 20) when I had just moved to Ft. Lauderdale. Brooke moved down there to train with us and asked if Maritza would like to come and stay with her for the summer. I sort of bit my tongue and I wasn’t sure what to say because when they were 11 and 12 they were just enemies. They hated one another. They just couldn’t stand looking at one another in the pool. It was just funny and I said, “Well, you figure it out – if it works, it works.” They probably had the best summer together. They shared an awful lot of things. They were real good for each other. Brooke was real good for Maritza and Maritza was really, really good for Brooke. Brooke was in a real difficult stage in her career at that moment. It was really good and was amazed how times have changed. How they have grown and how these young people have grown into where they are at now. Don’t ever give up on that point. If at 11 and 12 they are fighting there is plenty of time for them to build and mature.
Brooke was a bit older than Maritza. She was really competitive, as we know. Maritza was just happy to be going to local swim meets, and if she got a blue ribbon that made her day. She really wasn’t too concerned about the National level. She really wasn’t concerned about that. She just wanted to have fun. She had lots of friends. She made lots of friends and a lot of her friends weren’t as good as her. A lot of her friends weren’t as committed as her to swimming. That made her waffle a little bit in her swimming, and I didn’t really mind about that because I really felt in the long-term she was going to be something special. It taught me a lot about myself because at the start when Maritza was in the program I really wanted to push her hard. I wanted to make her do the things that Brooke and some of the other kids were doing because she was physically capable of it. I really felt that if I do this with this girl I am not going to see her in a year’s time. She is going to be gone and there was a lot of soul searching in that sense. There were times when I did push her and I did lose her for a day or two or a week. There were times when I just didn’t. I learned from my mistakes, and I think that was the thing that was important for me. Sit back and watch her.
Then what used to kill me and killed a lot of my swimmers is when she was 11-12. She would jump in and maybe out of four days of training go :54 for 100 freestyle. You had a lot of other kids who were not even breaking a minute that were at practice a lot more and trained a lot harder. Then Maritza just jumps in because of that pure natural talent and was able to go those times. When we look at where she was when she was 11-12 you can see that she was able to do a lot of fast swimming without really doing a lot of work.
One of things we learned early is that she loved to race. She didn’t like the training aspect of swimming. I believe she is one of the best relay swimmers in the World at the moment. She has proven that time and time again at the NCAA and SEC level. I think anybody would love to have Maritza Correia on the back end of a relay. That is the way she was when she was younger as well. She always loved to be in that position. She never minded being put in that position. She never minded that sort of pressure because she felt that it was a team effort. She was doing it for the other three people, and she was part of the team. She never minded that, and she wanted to do it for the team. She loved to race and in the situation of training we tried to give her as many situations where she could race.
That is where she and Brooke used to get into it a little bit. I would purposely have her doing the middle distance set and have Brooke doing the distance set. I would always end up with some kind of set where they would come together. Maritza would invariably beat Brooke at the end of the set which would really tick Brooke off to no end. That was fine because Brooke needed to be beaten a lot of times. Maritza was floating up and down the pool and then she would end up beating Brooke on the last one. Even, at that age she loved the challenge. She loved to be able to get in, to look across the pool, and say “I think I can beat that person or I am going to try and beat them”. Especially if I was a boy! She always liked to do that. I think even Harvey will tell you that she still loves to that.
She just practiced once a day and that was until she was about 13 years old, and that was late for most of the girls on our team. We had most of the girls on our team going twice a day when they were 11-12. Again, because we had a very competitive group of girls that by the time most of these girls were 13-14 they were under 9 minutes in the 800 freestyle. That was a really tough group of girls.
We didn’t treat anybody like a sprinter in our program. Still today, in the program that I am involved with in Ft. Lauderdale doesn’t have a sprint group. I believe that we have a middle distance and a distance based program. They are either middle distance or distance swimmers. The distance group was IM and the longer freestyle events, and the middle distance group was stroke and the shorter freestyle events. Usually the volume was little bit different in those particular groups, but the emphasis was still very much aerobic based training. It just means that as we go into the season they would do things a little bit faster and maybe with a little more rest. We try not to ever have the sprint, purely because I think they are not sprinters until much later in their life. I think they are not to that point where there are really capable of doing the things that they should be able to do when they are sprinting. I am not a physiologist, maybe I don’t know, but I don’t think we have damaged Maritza. I don’t think that we have taken the sprint out of Maritza. I think she still has the speed with all the work she ended up doing. I just think that she did it in a different way, but I do not think we ever changed it because we went a lot longer with her.
As she developed she preferred to stay with the age group team rather than move in with older swimmers. She felt more comfortable working with the younger swimmers or swimmers of her own age. I usually try to, if they got to a certain level, fast track them through the program. Maritza was capable of taking the fast track, but I didn’t push her. I let her stay with the age group program and with what she felt more comfortable with. She did some mornings as she turned 13-14, she started doing some mornings. It was usually two mornings a week. That was as much as we could get her to do. I think it took until she was nearly a junior in high school when she started to do four mornings a week because she felt she getting to a point where she could handle both school and practice. In the early years if we got two mornings a week we were really lucky. I think staying with the age group team helper her feel comfortable and have success.
We always did mix the groups at some stage throughout the week, not every practice, but certainly throughout the week. We had certain times that we tried to mix the groups and did some fast things together. The fact that she was able to work with the younger swimmers or swimmers of her own age was real important.
The next thing is basically some of the progressions where she started from in 1991. The ones on the left are the meters and then further to the right are the yard times. Just to give you an idea of where she was as far as some of her swimming was and how quickly she progressed to the next level. When she started off she was just floating up and down the pool. Really not an awful lot of work, and she still had a lot of speed 30 to 29 in the 50 free. We didn’t have any 500 yard times for her yet at this point. She really fought against doing anything else but freestyle or the 50 when she started. When we look back at ’94 she was at :24, :54, 1:56, and 5:02. That was the first time she made a Junior National cut in the 500 free. She didn’t even want to swim the 500 freestyle that time. It was just something that we made her do, and she didn’t really want to do it. She got in and WOW! She went the Junior National time and really surprised herself.
I feel like she liked to race short course because she just felt it was little bit easier in the sense that we trained long course. 90% of our workouts at that point were always long course. We did very, very little short course, and I feel that she always liked short course purely because she felt that she was swimming faster. The fact is that when she jumped in to swim the short course meets she just felt much faster. She always enjoyed it and seemed to do her times short course. Even today with her breakthrough with the American Record being short course is just the dichotomy of where she is at. Her short course times do not really match what her long course times are. Maybe this is a sign of things to come with her short course swimming.
Looking at some of the progressions having always felt with Maritza there are three steps forward and then two steps back. She really makes some unbelievable steps forward until you go to the next meet and you are pulling your hair out. She would go 5:00 in the 500 freestyle and four weeks before that she swam a 4:45 or something like that. There is no sense to why, and she did that a lot when she was younger. I am not sure whether it is confidence. I think that a lot of where Maritza is in her swimming is self-confidence. I think she is getting a lot better at it. I think at a younger age there was a lot of self-doubt and a lack of self-confidence in where she was swimming. I put it down in some ways, whether it is right or wrong.
In some ways I developed the competitiveness of what we did. In some ways that can be negative as well as positive. I think you have to be real careful when you have a really strong group of age group kids. You have to learn how to protect them within the environment that you are creating. In looking back at how she grew up she was slightly intimidated by the aggressiveness of some of the swimmer around her, particularly someone like Brooke who was very, very aggressive. You have to be real careful. I have learned over the years because I have never had someone in that situation. I had never had somebody like Brooke and anyone that has worked with her knows what I am talking about. There are some coaches who have been on National Teams and worked with her that will tell you that she just has got something up her butt on some days. There is nothing you can do about it. She gets in everybody’s face. That can be very intimidating on your team. You have to learn to protect the other swimmers within that environment and maybe I hadn’t protected Maritza at and earlier age. I look at that as a great thing within Brooke because it is something that is real positive that you want to push or let that happen, but you have to be real careful of how you protect the other swimmers around them. As I think about things backwards, as we all do, it is important to hopefully no make the same mistakes again as I begin the next part of my coaching. It is just something I am trying out. I am not sure whether it is right or wrong, but it is just something I feel is an aspect of where she is in relation to some other kids.
I think one of things I wanted to talk about was the big breakthrough when we watched her swim like she did when she was young. I think at that point the breakthrough was when she made her first Junior National cut. She really enjoyed that experience, and she enjoyed the experience of stepping up into another level. You could see the lights starting to turn on in her mind. She felt that she could be as good as anybody. She even says it to this day. She said it when they talk about being African American. Maritza just wants to Maritza Correia. That is really important to her. She doesn’t want to be anybody else. She just wants to be who she is. She wanted to have an individual identity of how she did things, and I think she saw herself as becoming the best sprinter. I always encouraged her and always told her she was going to be the best sprinter.
To be the best sprinter there are certain things that she needed to do and stay focused on. She started to do things on a daily basis that I felt were important if she was going to start moving forward. She was accepting that move into that next group and she took ownership of what she wanted to do. She had to take that step, that ownership. She had to move in that direction where she wanted to go. I think that is what was starting to happen between those three years of 1993 and 1996.
We were starting to get excited about the Olympics. Brooke had made her first National team in 1994 and there were a lot of things happening that moved our program into another level. A lot of those other kids, Maritza included, wanted to be on that boat. They wanted to take that boat a little bit further. They started to believe in the dream because I was always talking to them about making it to the next level. We are going to be #1… You are going to be #1… You are going to make it to the Olympics… You are going to make it to the National Team. I was selling this everyday and they were starting to believe it. When you start seeing people like Brooke making it… you know, it is easy then. The boat was moving and it was easy to keep them onboard. There were a lot of good things that were happening with the program. A lot of things were easier for me as a coach. Jump on board and try to increase the level of performance within the training. That is all I have really tried to do. Really look at the training situation and ask how can we get better everyday. How can we bet better on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis?
Her ability to race was starting to make her very much part of what she liked to be in… fast races. That is how I coached her a lot of times. I always told her she should put herself in race situations because she will always beat somebody at the end of her swim. She has a great kick. She loves to race. She loves to finish. That is the way she sort of developed her races at that age. I didn’t focus on negative split or even split. I just tried to put her in a situation where she learned to relax a little bit more on the way out and race coming home. She sort of tied into that because she always liked to race, and that is the way she did a lot her training. She would go through a nice steady state and then she try to race on the back end of her practice. I thought that having the ability to race was real important so I tried to encourage it. She started to do some real good workouts. She started to increase from 4,500 – 5,000 meters a practice to 6,500 – 7,000 meters a practice. She hated to do long sets. She would moan and groan about doing 5 or 10 400s, the 3 x 800s, 4 x 1500s, or whatever we would do at practice. She would do those things, but she hated doing them. She would let you know about it. She would whine and give you one of those Maritza faces. I am sure Harvey will tell you about that as well. The real good faces and she has many faces. She always did the work though. She certainly did what she was supposed to do.
There are just a few example workouts that I pulled out. These were back in 1994 – 1996. They didn’t come out very well on this sheet. This would be typical of what she would do in 1994, she was 13 or 14. We would be going three 300’s on 4:20, 4:10, and 4:00 minutes just trying to go a little bit faster. I like to do a lot of work with our age group swimmers where we reduce the rest interval. I really think that they do not comprehend a lot of times when they go three 400s on 4:30, the next three on 4:30 a little bit faster, and the last three on 4:40 a little it faster again. I always like to just reduce the rest. They don’t need as much rest. Just let them swim. I think sometimes we want them to be smarter than they are. They haven’t figured it out, maybe when they get to the older senior level and sometimes they aren’t smart enough then. Give them an idea of what they can try and reduce or get faster. With the age groupers I have always thought that reducing rest was the best way to make them faster. If they want to make the time they are going to get faster, so you are accomplishing what you want to achieve. Let them just swim faster. They don’t need rest… five or ten seconds is enough. They will move on. They have nothing to rest. They are only skinny little things.
A lot of what we did was a bunch of kicking. She is a great kicker, and I think we did a lot of kicking in her early developmental stage. She is a really, really good kicker. I wish she used her kick a lot more to her advantage. That is something I will talk about later. Some of the things we are trying to do with her tempo relate to her kick. I don’t know how fast she is in relation to people in Georgia, but she is certainly fast anytime she comes home. As an age grouper, she would just fly up and down the pool.
There is another practice with some skilled IMs, switch IM, and a lot of that type of thing. It is a very standard type of work. It is not a real fancy type of work, but it is just good solid work. The workout below is where we went 21 x 100 on 1:20… she liked to do short rest sets. I think it was because she didn’t have to think about it. I think if you gave Maritza too much time to rest when we were doing this type of work she complained more. So, we didn’t give much time to rest. She would be fine if we would just send her up and down the pool. I think it really gives her relaxation in the strokes. She has a nice stroke.
I don’t spend a lot of time, as much as Harvey would like to tell you, on her technique work. We work on technique, but it is really to the point where we work on correction. We try to do things to make them better, but we really try to work that through the program.
We did some fast things where we would do 1 x 100 and then 1 x 300 on 4:15 which was a recovery type of thing. Then we get them up and dive 1 x 100 on 1:45. We do that 10 times so we are doing 4,000 with the last 100 of every 400 fast. We would do things where we would try and throw in some stroke or butterfly. I liked to do a lot of butterfly with Maritza when she was developing. She was pretty good butterflyer. I always liked to butterfly with the younger swimmers because I just think it is a great way of gaining strength and stamina. She really liked to do that. She liked to work IM and was always a little bit faster than a lot of other people.
That was sort of a sampling of three workouts during three different years that I just wanted to throw up there. They really didn’t change. I am most probably a really boring coach as far as what we do. We try and do a lot of the same kind of things. I am not real inventive when it comes to doing fun tricks and things like that within the program. They know each day we are going to have this type or the next day this type of work. There is not a lot of fancy footwork about it. It is just getting them to do what they need to do. Maritza liked the stability of that and I think that is why she keeps coming back. Sometimes they go away from the program and you are glad to see them move on. However, I am glad to see her come back because she likes to work and is always a great asset. This summer she came down to Ft. Lauderdale, and she was a charm with a lot of our kids. It was pretty neat for those kids to see people like Maritza.
She started High School in the 1995 – 1996 season, and she loved it. Although it wasn’t very competitive she loved the environment. She loved being part of the high school swim team. She loved the ability to have to race, and she race a lot in high school obviously because of the dual meets. One of the things I encouraged her high school coach to do was to swim in every event. Make her swim all the events so she gets the chance to race a lot of events in high school. That was real good for her and within Florida we are real lucky with where the high school season is. It is early in the season so she has got a real good chance to race early in the season. She was in a slightly weaker division and was not swimming against a lot of the top high schools in the state. She ended up winning the 500 free, 200 free, 100 free, and the 50 free. I think she won the 50 and the 100 free twice. She ended up winning most of the freestyle events at some stage in her high school career. I think that was a real important step for her. It gave her a lot of recognition with the area, and a lot of recognition with in the community. Because some people like Brooke were there, it took away a lot of the limelight. That gave her an opportunity to move into another level. I think that was really important for her.
One thing we started to do more of was dry land. She really was afraid of it at the start. She was afraid of getting big. She just had this aversion to thinking that she was going to be this huge muscle bound girl. She was a petite girl and I always called them “foo foo” girls. You know, they liked to have their hair done nicely. I would always give her a hard time about the fact that she would spend more time looking in a mirror and making sure she was just right before going to school. She was a “foo foo” kid.
You have to remember that this girl was probably just touching 100 pounds and was skinny as a rail. She just thought that the minute she did some dry land she was just going to be this huge girl. She was afraid of this. She is pretty big now and has gotten over that. That is a big part of where her improvement has come from in the last number of years.
We do a lot of dry land and what we did with Maritza is jus the basic core stuff… medicine ball, sit-ups, running, jumping, and just general conditioning type of things. That is all we have ever done with our age group program. We do not do weights and things like that with them. We leave that to the time when they hit college. I really feel that they are things that are easy for me to do as an age group coach. They are the things that are easy for a program to do and they do not cost a lot of money. It is time out of the pool. It is fun. You can make those things fun, and I am very fortunate that I had a really great age group coach. His name is Bud Bowden. Unfortunately, he is not working with me any longer. I wish he was because I think he is one of the best coaches on a dry land program that I have ever worked with. He really loves doing it. He gets into it with the kids. The kids love him doing it. He is hard and it is a real benefit having somebody on your team that really likes to do that. I do not particularly like to do it. I will do it, but it just gives me another time that I have to jump up and down with the kids. I thing the less they have to listen to me when they are away from the pool the better. I prefer that somebody else that enjoys it does it.
Building toward the 2000 Olympics… I am going to sort of jump over that because I think that was a critical time where she came out of high school and went onto college. I want to cover that later. I just wanted to give you an idea of the weekly plan with Maritza. Sometimes you try to be real fancy and then it doesn’t work out as well as you wanted. On Mondays we did about 7,000 meters of aerobic work. If you have your magnifying glasses out you will probably see it on the sheet of paper. On Monday afternoons we did one hour of dry land, one hour of gym work, and that is just calisthenics. We did about 6,500 IM threshold work. In the mornings where it says weights, we would just do more dry land. It wouldn’t be weights with that particular group. It would just be medicine balls, push-ups, and stuff in the morning. We would do about 45 minutes of that.
Bud was real neat; he is an ex-football coach or player. He would have them out in the car park pushing his car around the car park. It was fun to see these kids doing this at 5 o’clock in the morning. The parents would drop them off in the car park and Bud would have them do 4 laps around the car park. Bud would sit in the car with the window open telling them to go a little bit faster. He would have these kids pushing his car around the car park, and they worked hard. It was a fun thing. It was something different, and it was that old football coach mentality. It was something that they always talked about. I never heard anyone complain about it. They were sore and tired. Their legs used to hurt like heck after it, and they got a great workout. I do not know if it would be constituted as child abuse, but it certainly was fun for the kids.
Then in the afternoon we would do another gym workout. On Tuesdays and Thursdays we did a lot of jump rope, running, and jump rope running. If they did something harder on the arms in the morning we would try and do something less in the afternoon like aerobic threshold type of stuff. When I say aerobic threshold, I usually mean we try to do something with a short rest interval. We would do a task set where we go 300’s and try to get a threshold pace off of that. We would take off on Wednesday mornings and in the afternoons we would do some recovery work. It was about 7,000 IM, and it would be just swimming, a lot of drills, and skill type of stuff. Thursday mornings again would be whatever Bud would want… push his car or whatever he found out there to make them work really hard. Swimming would be around 3,000 like Tuesday. In the afternoon the gym work and threshold work. Typically, we would try to do a lot of short rest stops. In the mornings we would do baskets. This was just a little bit different where would just pull baskets or ordinary milk crates. Friday afternoons we would do something fast again… so both practices were that way. One would be more a power kind of workout and the other would just be more sprints fast. Whatever we could do fast we would do. We called it sprint Friday or fast Friday. Saturday mornings we would do whatever we could. Whatever we needed to do, whatever we could get in, and it was always pretty hard.
This is just the sample afternoon land workout: Monday and Wednesday the medicine balls with chest passes, bicep, triceps, push-ups, and ab work. Some of the older swimmers would be on the heavier medicine balls. Maritza was usually 8-10 pounds. She was pretty strong and is to this day. On Tuesdays and Thursdays we would try to mix it around with step squats, t-ball, reverse fly’s, and stuff like that. A lot of this is pure basic grunt work as I would like to call it.
She went :58 and tied with another girl for 1st place at Juniors. She won the 400 free in 4:20 and then went on to Nationals that year. Actually, this is where she made some cuts to make the National Junior Team and where Harvey got to meet her. I am just going to show you the back end of the 800 free. It is in Ft. Lauderdale. It is sort of funny when I looked at this again. I forgot it was in Ft. Lauderdale. This is about the 100 – 150. Looking at her again in ’96 she really is similar to the way she is swimming today. I really feel she has got a middle distance stroke. She has her distance stroke, and she has her sprint stroke. I think that is the hardest thing she finds to do is change from one to the other. The tempos are so different from what she does, and you can see here she is doing things there that we obviously try to correct.
She was real hard to change about things. She would put emphasis on the streamlining and things like that. It was not for the lack of trying on the coach’s part because we certainly were pushing that all the time. I remember when she came to Ft. Lauderdale to the swim this 800 free she really didn’t want to swim it. I sort of had to make her do this, and actually I can’t remember where she finished as far as placing. I couldn’t find that, but this was a real good time for her. It put her on the National Junior Team. I think, even today, this would put her in the top 25 of 800 freestylers in the country. She still could get up and do this swim today if she decided to do it. With Maritza a lot of times she really doesn’t want to do it.
I was watching these videos with Peter yesterday. Of course one of the biggest disappointments we have had through this wonderful roller-coaster ride might have been her 50 this summer. It really looked like she was winning. I was watching her coming down the pool in the 50 and her head is right where it needed to be with the last stroke to go. She is right here on the wall. All she had to do was finish and she would have been on the World Championship Team. She took that extra stroke. We e get so excited every time we watch one of these videos when she passed people and had these incredible swims. No one ever talked to her about the finish. You can watch her go sailing past somebody on every one of these tapes and finish with the worst touch ever. I think in 9 out of the 10 tapes you are going to witness these bad touches. You will see this when we show her swim in the relay anchor later on and when you watch the 50 where she breaks the American Record. The best start of her life… the best turn of her life… and an absolutely mediocre finish with a 21.6! You can see here, like typical Maritza style, she dogged that girl for the whole 750 and just blew past her on the last 50. That is pretty typical of what she always learned to do. That might have been the best finish I saw out of any of these videos. That was 8:46.78 as a sprinter. I just wanted to finish with that one because I just felt that it really brings home the point of what level she was able to swim. It is pretty impressive to be nationally ranked and consider yourself a sprinter. I really things that brings home the point real clear.
The one thing I noticed about Maritza the first time I was around her was that she was a great distance swimmer, a great sprinter, and she wasn’t a dummy. Every time she could take the shorter option… she did. Peter, Jack, and everybody believed that it was really important that she take the longer option whenever possible. I remember telling her story, and you might want to tell it to your age group kids:
We had a running back at the University of Georgia by the name of Hershel Walker. He was a Heizeman Trophy winner. You can argue with me if you want, but he was one of the greatest college running backs of all time. Our Athletic Director brings all of the coaches together in May for a motivational day, and Hershel Walker came in to talk to us. We have NCAA Coaches of the Year that are making a millionth of what Hershel makes, and the first thing he said was “I hate coming to groups.” He continued, “I hate coming to groups of people and talking about doing things better.” (You are all coming to the clinic and are listening to this stuff thinking that this is great. Three weeks, a month, or two months from now you are going to be tired as hell and go back to doing what you always did.) Hershel said, “I hate talking because people what they want to do, but they won’t say what they have to do. I am going to prove this to you. You are looking at the ground, and you aren’t paying attention. How many of you want to go to heaven? Raise your hands. Ok, we have some non-believers, that’s alright. How many of you want to die?”
You can’t get to heaven if you don’t want to die. That is what I explained to Maritza that day in the office. You have to want to do this stuff and sometimes it isn’t fun.
Maritza is a senior this year. Thank goodness we have another year. There are some people out there that really think it is her 10th year, but it is not. She is majoring in pre-med. She is pretty good academically, and I am going to talk about that later. We have to understand that academics are a big point in coaching college swimming. You’ve got to realize that these kids have to be able to do well in academics, and you’ve got to give them the work that they need. You have to understand that the demands are so much greater than high school. You have to, as a college coach, be ready to back off a little bit. As an age group coach you have to understand when they go to college they may not be doing the same program that you gave them. Because of the demands on them they are going to be more tired. They are going to be calling you at home and you have to be ready to support what is going on in that college environment. If not, you need to be able to call that college coach and let them know you are concerned because they need to know.
I am just going to do a little run-down of what happened. Her freshman year she came in ad swam a short course meter NCAA Championship meet. She won the 200 meter freestyle. It was a cool race, and you are going to get to see it in just a little bit. She anchored the medley relay that set an American Record. She had Courtney and Kristy on it, so you know it was everybody. We had a few sprinters that year and whoever got that spot knew they were going to get a little publicity out of it because they would be the last one to hit the wall. We knew that relay had a chance for an American record and they did. They broke the American record. She raced the 1650 in that meet and the 400 free relays on the last day. Actually, come to think of it… the medley relay set a World Record and our 400 free relay set an American record. Maritza had a chance to be on a World record relay at that meet. She swam some pretty good speed stuff on the relays, but keep in mind she swam a 16:29.9 1650 in the morning.
She won every freestyle event at the SEC Championships in her first three years. She has won the 50 to the 1650. No swimmer has ever done that. Those times shown there are unshaved times because they were done before she went to the NCAA Championship. Her sophomore year, the times shown there are shaved times. The 50 wasn’t done at NCAA’s because she swam the 500. The first two years when she came she focused on the 500 freestyle because Jack and Peter felt that was she needed to do for long course. The 100 was shaved. She did swim that her sophomore year. Her junior year was a really great season where she gained a lot of confidence in her individual events. Probably the most important swim of her life that gave her more confidence was when she swam on the 400 freestyle relay. Jack told me to make sure that I let you know that was her breakthrough swim. It was a pretty interesting scenario, and you are going to see that tape too. I am going to set the scene for you. We were solid, but nothing great really happened. We did not win an individual event that entire meet. We won one relay the night before. Maritza was the defending NCAA Champion in the 200 free and she was 8th in the morning. We thought she was going to win it. She had the second or third best time in the country going into this meet. We had two other girls, Kim Black and Julie Hart, in the 200 as well. We figured we would finish the 3 in the top 8, maybe 2 in the top 8 at worst. We had one kid who didn’t make the top 16. Ritz qualified 8th by the skin of her teeth, and we thought that she would come back at night and let them have it. It wasn’t any better. Our best three girls in the 200 free are wondering why they are swimming like this, and Jack sent me to talk to them. OK… We pulled some chairs together and went out into the hallway. I asked them that if this was half-time at a football game where they were down 14-0 would they still want to play. Would they want me to take them out? Steph Williams (whose uncle is one of the football coaches at Georgia) said, “I wanna play.” They all started laughing. I told them to get in there and prove to everyone that they are the best 200 freestylers here. I left them over in the chairs to think about it for a while.
They got in there and won the 800 freestyle relay. This was a very close team race between us and Stanford, extremely close. It came down to the last relay. You are going to see her leg on the last relay. What happened was that Texas was swimming out of their skulls. We knew they were going to win the 400 freestyle relay. They were ready to break the American record and they did. The problem was we had to get ahead of Stanford, but another team had to beat Stanford in order for us to win the National Championship by half a point. We knew the only team that had a chance to do this was Arizona. Stanford is in there, we are there, and Texas was there. When Maritza’s leg came around we were in 4th place. Not only did she have to do what she had to do, but Arizona to this day is still our very best friends. We went over and pumped up their kids probably harder than Frank did for that relay. They were sitting next to us at this meet as a matter of fact. Anyway, we thought that was a really important swim. I remember Keegan Walkley was our Captain that year, and she walked over to Ritz in the ready room and asked her if she was nervous. Ritz stood up almost looking through Keegan and said, “If I have to go 47 on the end of this relay I am going to do it.” I think her split was 47.1, no actually it was 47.5. That convinced her that she belonged up in the top of swimming.
Now I want to talk to you a little bit about our training components. Basically, go over the things that we did when she came to Georgia. Just so you know ahead of time… it was nothing real special. What I am telling you is what we do with our middle distance group. A lot of our sprinters train in this group. She was comfortable not being a headliner and could really benefit from it. I think the more you try to do special things with her the more she felt more pressure than she needed. Everybody just wanted to talk about Kristy and Courtney… the twin towers. We had Steph Williams and Ritz in there getting it done. Ashley Robe was swimming a :59 in the breaststroke behind Kristy, so a lot of the kids were getting it done without much recognition. I think that was tremendous for their focus. It helped them start thinking more about being on a team instead of who was getting the credit. On thing we knew when she came in was we wanted to continue the things Peter was doing. We try to do that with everybody in our program. You have a great opportunity to train during the college season if you don’t get too worried about winning dual meets. I know people think we want to win our dual meets, but we also want to make sure that we do what we have to do for the kids training. Dual meets to us are training. How do we make that person better? We knew that Maritza had to swim every single freestyle event during the season. If we were not sure which one to put her in we always chose the longer. The other thing we tried to do was we tried to swim her in all the butterfly events. We tried to get her in the 200 and 400 IM every single season. My job when making the meet line up was to make sure that was taken care of before the end of the season. Jack also told me that we weren’t allowed to lose a meet. So that was one of the things we wanted to make sure we did.
She trained in our middle distance group. Our middle distance group emphasizes long course training. This helped her a lot for doing better in the summers. 6 of her 9 practices would be long course. The dry land work she did on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays was weight training and medicine ball work. On Tuesdays and Thursdays she did Pilates. If you haven’t tried this you team, you should. It is a lot of core body work and is a combination of yoga, breathing exercises, and relaxation exercises. We had everybody try it. The girls tend to really like it. The guys, that probably need it, don’t like it as much. Then on Saturdays everybody does a pretty serious dry land, medicine ball, and calisthenics workout.
Maritza’s heart rate runs a lot higher than most kids. Her heart rate tends to run 160 – 170. We were at this stage a few years ago where everybody has got to be in the 120-140 range. Maritza would just look up and say “Well, this is worthless; I am not getting any work.” Jack just has to hear that once and well by God… go as hard as you want. We found that with a lot of our kids their heart rate is dependant upon the individual. You have got to watch people’s individual heart rates, and we coached Maritza more by her facial expressions. Sometimes we can get a lot more than we think.
We use hand paddles and pull buoys. She loves pulling with hand paddles. We use “Oof” balls (they are like medicine balls) in the water, and the possibilities are endless. We like to do a lot of things in the water where they are vertical kicking, throwing, and doing medicine ball work while they are in the water. You can probably do longer endurance type stuff, and so “Oof” balls have been good. Last year we started using fins and snorkels. I know that some places have been using them for a while, like Auburn. Maritza felt like that might have been one of the biggest things in our program that helped her gain even more confidence in her stroke. Anytime we used the snorkels and fins it was usually aerobic work and technique type of stuff. It also helps with her head position. Even though she is not rolling I think they learn to feel where their head need to be to go fast. If it is too high with the snorkel it doesn’t feel right… it really helps them find the neutral position. Most of the time it is fins, snorkels, and maybe hand paddles. We usually never use the snorkels alone. We do occasionally use it in warm up just to make them think about technique.
I did a lot with paddles, fins, and snorkels this summer just because I wanted to look at how she was doing it. As Harvey said, it was real good for her. I have never used them before mainly because we just don’t have the money to go out and buy them. It is just another expense for the kids.
She really got a good feel on the catch part of her stroke. When you watch her swimming freestyle her catch is a real important part of her stroke. She gets very early in the catch. That is one thing I tried to teach her and Brooke, they both have a very similar stroke. They swim totally different, but they do one thing very, very similar – the get early in the catch. They don’t spend a lot of time out in front playing around. They just get into the water and into the catch. The snorkel, fins, and paddles are really good for that. It just really focuses on that part.
I want to take what Peter said and go into this. I will tell you right now we are probably going to pull the fins off of her when she is doing her snorkel work because of the feedback Peter got. We are thinking that is something we can do even better if we take the fins off of her. He does a lot of things individually with the group that makes every kid feel pretty special. Joey Benjamin swam with Jack, and a lot of times he got to do special stuff. He would get to put fins on during breaststroke sets while nobody else got to. This type of stuff makes kids think they are really something and that their coach is thinking about them. I think it really is just a nice coaching technique us can use at any level. Jack is really good at that. He will look at his group and immediately know who is going to bag a set because they are not going to want to do it. He would send the kid over there and say, “I want you to stop and go 10 seconds rest every time and I want a new piece of equipment on, and this, this, and this.” All of a sudden you have that kid in your pocket, and that is one of the ways we are able to get a large group to train pretty hard regardless of what they can or cannot do. He identifies strengths. As coaches, I think, we tend to always look at our kid’s weaknesses and tell them about their weaknesses everyday. We tell them what they are not good at and try to make them do it better. We take great kids and put them in the back of the lane until they can kick. We take a terrible puller and make them do it twice as much as everybody else so they feel like they suck twice as much. Jack goes the other way around. He likes to find what kids are really good at, what they try can beat everybody at, and what they will work harder at. This builds confidence and everything else. In Ritz’s case, she hates fins. If we put fins on Ritz she is going to get last and put on her crappie face. We found that we can take her fins off, put hand paddles on, and she will beat the kids that are wearing fins. You have kids in your program that are like that, so try to experiment and not waste their time with stuff they are not getting anything out of. That is where the coaching and the flexibility part come in.
I believe it was Mike Bottom talked about doing bulkhead swimming when he was at Auburn. We like to put the bulkhead out at the 15 meter mark. We like to do it once a week. They might go a set of 4 – 10 swims. They will start with some 30 meters where they are doing a turn and they will finish with a couple of 15 meter sprints. We do it in heats. We do it with a beeper. We do it with touch pads so that when everyone comes in they can see their times. Obviously some of you guys have different facilities. If I can get the distance kids finished quick enough that day I will let them go over and try to beat the sprinters. I don’t think it hurts them a bit. Everybody likes to go fast and not hurt so that is a good way to do it. That is what I would say are the main components of the program that she was part of her first few years.
We want to show you another video and this time I think you will see that breakthrough swim on the relay. That is when we got them all together and all swam a bad 200. They came back and won their only event.
The next thing I want to go into is when we really began to analyze her weaknesses going into the next season. If we analyze anything the first thing that would happen would be Jack and Peter got on the phone and talked a whole bunch about it. We were not just thinking about what we had to do at NCAAs, but we were also thinking about getting Ritz on some National teams. She had just been at World Championships last year, right? She had a good summer coming off of Worlds. We are talking about what we wanted to do going into this season. Peter had a lot of input on what we needed to do. We do not do anything with Ritz without calling Peter first. Jack doesn’t even have a meeting with Ritz involving swimming until he has talked to Peter about what is going to be said. Anytime we have a meeting with any of our kids at Georgia of any importance at all we are going to try to call that Age Group coach. We are going to try and let them know that it was going to be an important meeting. We tell him what we are going to talk about and that they are probably going to get a phone call. We get a lot of support from the home front. Probably outside of mom and dad, the two people that they are going to trust most will be the college and club coach. We need to be on the same page here.
So anyway, the weaknesses that we thought she had going into last season were her inconsistencies at meets. She could go 4:48 in a 500 and the next week she could go 5:02… only 5 days apart. Sometimes a 5:02 was all she needed to win. I think a lot of the inconsistency was because she liked to be in the comfort zone. I think, as coaches, we needed to demand more out of her in a dual meet situation if we knew she was going to win anyway. We needed to make sure she got out of the comfort zone more so she would do it more when it really mattered. Another big thing we needed to work on was starts and turns. If you were here for the first talk you know she was doing the Spiderman dive when she was little. She tended to turn a little too far away from the walls and not getting much out of her legs. We thought her starts and turns were really of key importance since we were going to start focusing a little more on the shorter stuff.
Whitney, one of our coaches, came from the University of Texas. He worked with Eddie Reese, and Eddie is a tremendously close friend of ours. Whitney was put in charge of Maritza’s starts and worked with it a lot. Ritz wanted to make sure that I gave a lot of credit to Whitney for working with her on the starts. He did a lot. She also wanted me to than Coach Carol. She worked on her turns about once every three days. If you saw the turns in the early years and compared those with where she swam the American record it is obvious that Carol did a fantastic job. Jack feels it is really important that everybody on his staff has a chance to contribute with the development of the top athletes, no matter how attached an athlete is to a particular coach. As coaches we see that as a danger sign. If we see an athlete getting to dependant on a particular coach we will start having the athlete work with another coach from time to time. That way the swimmers can be confident with any coach on our staff. Our kids are very comfortable and very confident with any coach on our staff.
General strength is another thing we had to work on. Weights came in to the picture. I did not actually print any handouts about what she did in the weight room, but in the last Swimming Technique (the one with Ira and Adrian Bender on the cover) it has all of our workouts in it. You guys can grab it there because if I put something up here it would be too small for you to read.
The other thing we did was a lot of butterfly work. We stepped up her butterfly work, and she did a good amount of fly work. Whitney did a lot of stuff with our flyers, and there is a handout you will get at the end of the talk that has a sample fly workout. Increasing the amount of fly she swam really helped with her strength. If you have kids that are not successful in the weight room you may want to increase their fly work. They will get a little bit stronger and when they go to the weight room they will be able to do a little more. They will start to gain some confidence. It was kind of tough getting Maritza in the weight room and was difficult getting her to lift hard. As she gained strength through pull-ups and stuff like that she gained a lot of confidence. That pretty much covers the weaknesses going into the season.
She had a lot of strengths. Once again, we are the type of program that is going to play on strengths. She had done some of the fastest relay splits ever so we gained some confidence. Her background with Peter was a big advantage, and we made sure we reinforced that all the time. She could work hard and convinced her that was her advantage over a lot of other 50 swimmers. We told her she could outwork them and she was a believer in that. In physics I think WORK = 4 x DISTANCE, or something like that. With Maritza it was WORK = FOCUS x DESIRE. She does not waste her time in the pool.
We have a weekly plan and one again I have that run off. I am not just going to read through it. You can look at it. The hardest practice of the week in our program is Monday afternoons. That is where we do the longest, hardest endurance set of the week. The whole team comes in Monday mornings so it is everybody’s second practice. Most kids dread Mondays. It is amazing how many people give major tests on Tuesday mornings, and our University tends to have meetings that kids can’t miss on Mondays. It is ten times easier to catch any type of cold or flu on Monday afternoon. It is amazing how quickly you can heal in the 24 hours between a Monday and Tuesday afternoon. It is also the easiest time to be healed of any illness. Ritz is a little opposite than the general part of the group. She told me in our little talk that one thing she thought was tremendous was her Monday afternoon practices. She felt that was the most important part of her training. I will guarantee you there is nothing on the Monday afternoon that a 50 yard freestyle only type of person would ever want to do. So anyway, that was a big part.
Another advantage she has coming into her Senior year is the fact that she is in peace with herself academically. If I can give you any piece of advice… the quicker you can get your kids to feel grounded the better. You are going to get better performances. These kids do have a life outside of swimming, and I don’t know how many times I have told kids that when they come into the office. It really hit me when we had Bobby Brewer at Georgia. He walked into the office in tears saying that if he could just make the Olympic team he wouldn’t care if he worked at McDonalds for the rest of his life. That is when I said, “Bobby, that is why you are never going to make an Olympic team.” If it is that important and it means that much to you then you have too much heat in the kitchen. You can’t force the thoughts out. You have to have a good plan B if you are going to be good at plan A. If you whole life depends on plan A… I would rather be at the crap table and betting on that deal. I know you are going to get different opinions, but that is our opinion at Georgia. You have to have balanced kids. I have told the kids that if they can go a 43.8 in the 100 free, but have a 1.9 grade point and raised it to a 2.9… I guarantee that 43.8 is going to be a 42.8 because that is that much more time they could focused on their swimming. The worse the GPA is, the more energy you are using worrying about it. Maritza really was good in that area.
The fact that she was able to train all four strokes was a huge strength. Maritza could always swim IM. It really helps prevent injury if they are training all four strokes. If you can swim all four strokes well you are getting training gains as well. Lots of times you give IM sets to people that have a very, very weak stroke and they bag part of it. The practice becomes an easy practice instead of what you really want.
I want to say one little thing before I get started. Jack was on the Olympic Staff in Sydney in 2000 and before he left, he met with me. One thing Jack told me was when he went to the Olympics to coach was that I would have the team for the first six weeks. I guess we had won a National Championship the year before and he said, “You know everybody is expecting us to repeat. I just want you to know you got this team the first six weeks. If we don’t win the National Championship again, it is your fault. So you have to do a great job.” I thought ‘No problem, I will take care of it Jack.’ “You know what,” he said “if we win the National Championship, it will be because I got back just in time.” So all of you aspiring assistant coaches… that is the glamour of your position.
Let’s see, I left off with the strengths of Ritz going into her senior year. Another thing that we were going to take advantage of and make sure that she continued to do and do well was the kicking and pulling. I told you before she was a great puller. Any time people swam with fins she wanted to put on their pulling stuff and race them. We allowed her to do that. Now the other thing she was really good at was kicking. With the group that I coach on a regular basis, the distance kids, we do an all out kicking set within three workouts a week. We take that a little bit from what John Urbanchak does up at Michigan with his guys. If we are going an all out kicking set, it is going to be of a duration between 1500 and 2000. It’s going to be as hard as you can go, and on as short an interval as you can make. If I have a kid that is kicking impaired, I am going to be standing there giving him his times. He might be doing 100 meter kicks on 3 minutes and going 2:55, but I am going to be damn excited if he goes 2:49. Eventually their kicking is going to get better, and they will get in some really good threshold type work in the mornings with only their legs. Two of those, well actually all three of those workouts are long course as well. On Tuesdays we always do our 2000 kick set and there is nothing else really hard in the workout so they can really focus on it. Ritz liked to do that. She actually asked Jack if she could come in and do our kick workouts on Tuesdays. She looked forward to doing those 2000 meter kick sets. We were doing 200 meters kick, I think 10 of them were on 3:30 or something like that. She went 3:03, 3:02, 3:02 so I was finishing up with that and I got her out of the water and said, “Ritz, you know, I don’t think I have been coaching a long time. In that time, I don’t think I have seen a girl ding under 3 minutes on a regular basis. If you are sitting at 3:03 every day and you could break 3 minutes every time you came in and did one of these sets, I think you might be better than almost anybody in the country.” Boy she got into that and she started coming in fast. We had other girls that were pretty good kickers that were right with her. Pretty soon we had a deal where we didn’t finish a set of 200s on 3:30 long course kick without two or three of these girls kicking in the 2:50, 2:49, and 2:48 range. I don’t know what other people do, but I think that is pretty solid stuff. Now she makes it a point to finish that set under 3 minutes every time…even if she looks horrible.
She does lots of fast kicking, 25s and 50s short course in the afternoons with Jack. I think that helps her speed, but being able to do those long kick sets is important for the 13th swim of a meet or for the last day of a meet. They have to have their legs and she did because of the kicking. Another thing Jack likes to do is something fast every single day. For those of you guys who do not know Jack, he is not a very patient man. He will sit there and say we got to rest these kids, we got to rest these kids – they look really tired. Let’s give them a recovery practice today. Halfway through the workout he will say, “Alright, I want this all out. I can’t watch this crap any more.” I will tell you what, every day you are going to see them do something fast. Jack is not going to murder them, but he is going to have those kids stand up and rip something because he has to see it. He has to see something. We are all a little big like that, maybe a lot like that and it makes them stay sharp. People that have followed our program notice that we swim pretty fast in dual meets and we do not rest. Those kids have done something fast the day before and they are going to do something fast the day after. It could be anything, but they are going to do something. He is going to tell them to go hard as they can every single day. When you watch them go hard you are looking for how they look in the water. That is a better indicator than how they look when they are going easy. That gives us an idea of how tired a team we really have. I think that is something we have always tried to do. Her consistency was a problem at meets but was great at practice. I think it is really important to you swimmers that you don’t care what they can do on their good days, but would like to see their bad days look pretty good. We are not really looking to see how fast you go… we are looking at how fast you go when you are going easy. We think kids need to need to be actually paying more attention to going fast when you say go easy rather than going fast when you so fast. That would be the best advice I could give anyone that is having problems with tapers.
Another advantage she had was her ability to stay in shape during breaks. I have never seen Ritz look anything outside of top condition even when she takes a break. If you can figure out ways to keep people fit over the breaks you won’t be starting from ground zero. She was really good at swimming well after disappointment due to her inconsistencies at meets. That can be a great advantage, but it can also make you too comfortable. She would sometimes be thinking – oh well, I will get it in the next race. That was a plus and a minus.
Sorry to butt in there, but one of the things we use to have problems with was that she would be a great nighttime swimmer. We could never get her to put together a great morning swim because she was so use to floating through age group meets when she was younger. Subsequently, when we went to the National level there were so many times that she would slide in 8th or end up 9th. That was a huge problem. I think she has gotten over that and is a lot better now. She is a lot more consistent. She gets up and swims in the morning a lot better. She usually always makes finals where she is suppose to. It was a real big problem during her last two years of high school. It was really evident at the National level when she went to Juniors or Seniors. It didn’t happen as much at high school because she was able to win those meets pretty easily.
The next thing I want to go into is actually the taper, and people always want to know what you do during taper. When she was going to the SEC Championship we were fortunate every year that we had a strong team and because of that most of our kids had already qualified for NCAAs. We were pretty good at making sure a lot kids were in a lot of relays so we didn’t have to worry about shaving anybody for SECs. Any college coach in here can tell you that is what you want to try to do. She never really had to shave and most our kids didn’t going into the Southeastern Conference Championships. They would work their normal load because they were still a month away from the NCAA meet. The NCAA meet was all we were really thinking about. Obviously we want to make a good showing at the conference meet because that is a real positive going into the NCAA meet but the kids weren’t going to get a lot of rest. They are going to be challenged. Maritza’s taper started the Saturday before we left. She had four days. We would leave and she would be swimming on a 200 medley relay. Then we would bring her back and have a recovery day after the conference meet. Then they would go back to hard work and keep her in the weight room. We would basically start cutting back on her work roughly ten days out. Ten days out she would drop from 6-7,000 yards per practice down into the 4,000 range. Actually, we would take ten days and drop to 4,000 on the Saturday before NCAAs. She might go 4,000 in that practice and volume is not what it was all about. Intensity work and swimming something fast everyday was still our focus. We would leave on Tuesday with the first event on Thursday. We would work down to about 2,500 per session the three days out. Then, we would just look at where each swimmer was at and try to decide what they needed to do. From there on out they are pretty much on their own. We thought it was important for Maritza to be in the water once every day; even it was only for a little bit. We would do a lot of tempo swims, build ups, and speed work. We didn’t do a lot of dives, maybe one or two. That was the kind of stuff we did during our taper.
I would like to put in video #3 and let you see what happened at the end of that season we just talked about. The first thing that you are going to see is the 100 freestyle, and that was where she broke the American record. I think the next thing you will see is the 400 freestyle relay where she was the anchor. Then, Peter is going to show you the 50 again. She has grown a bit since that first video as you can tell. There is a nice bicep shot there. Carol has done a great job on those turns. This is our relay leg, and she had to do a little chasing here. This is where she is the best… right after the 100 free… the 13th swim of the meet. She is a very competitive person. I believe that is Maggie Bowen next to her so that is not chopped liver in the lane next to her. Maggie had ripped her rear end out in the 800 free relay the night before. Those are two girls that do not like to lose. The split on the end of that was 47.1. The next thing is the 50 freestyle. In case you didn’t know that 100 was an American record until the 400 freestyle relay when Natalie led off. That showed Maritza how quickly things go away. Back to the 50 free… great start, great turn, and bad finish. Peter is going to talk a little bit tapering and tempo now.
What I found this summer working with Maritza was she never wanted to do a lot of work on the taper. We discussed the taper this summer a lot and what I found is that she was wanted to this summer was stay on weights a lot longer. I think Nationals started on Monday and she was still lifting on Thursday. She likes going into the weight room. She has gotten very comfortable with feeling of the weights and moving the weights. We battle about the time that it takes out of the yardage. She does a preset warm-up that I have been doing the same for the last 13 years. It is usually about 25 to 2800 meters of warm up. I never give in. I tell her she is doing the warm-up, but I know she only does about 1500 of it. I am never going to tell her to do 1500 because then she will only do 12 or 1,000. I would always tell her to go do the meet warm-up and then she would go do her little bit of thing. I would ask her if she had done it all and she always said she did the whole thing. I knew darn well that she hadn’t.
What we really try to work on is reducing the intensity. Just keep the swimming going but reduce the intensity. This really leads into my next point. I really started to focus on using the aqua-pacer, and this is something I did with Brooke in the past. When I started thinking about Maritza coming down this summer I wondered what I could do differently. What could I do to make her swim faster? It was always frustrating that she would swim the middle distance pace, she would swim the 200 pace, she would swim the 100 pace, and she would swim the 50 pace. She had all these different types of places that she was in her tempo. When you watch her 50 free she is at 55 – 56 strokes per minute which is a very high tempo rate. It really surprised me when I started watching it with her. Then we watched her 100 free and her tempo was 49 – 50 strokes per minutes. Her 200 tempo was around 44 strokes per minute. You can see that there is a huge variance from the 200 tempo to the 50 tempo. I really felt that was important.
During the summer I was getting real excited because I was watching her do thing with the aqua-pacer that I had never seen her do before. I will tell you some of the sets, but what I want you to do is look at the tape here when I turn on the aqua-pacer. This the tempo that we were training with over the summer on some of her sprint sets. Can you hear that tempo? That is her 50 free. That is each arm going into the water. I just wanted to put that on with the race so you can see how it correlates. Just watch her arm cycles and try to match the beats with it. We did a lot of work with Brooke on this and I thought that I needed to get Maritza to swim or train at this level.
Where I felt she was falling down was that she was not training enough at this tempo so we started to think about how we could get her to train at the same tempo as her 50 free. We were asking her to swim like that but never gave her to opportunity. Sometimes she would race somebody and her tempo would be where it should be, but a lot of times it just wasn’t there. I felt it was real important to get her working on this. We did some amazing things this summer, and it didn’t work out. Maybe I am not as bright or smart as I thought I was. I think it is where she is going to be and where we are going to take her swimming down the road. I just wanted to share this because I am real excited about it. We did a lot of this with Brooke when we were trying to figure it out from 1996 to 2000. How are we going to go faster? We really focused on how to make her tempo more efficient. She didn’t change her tempo but became more efficient at the same tempo. She got stronger and was more efficient in what she did at that tempo. It was similar with Maritza.
I brought this tape to Maritza and asked, “Do you hear that? That is how fast I want you to swim.” She told me she couldn’t do that and I explained to her that it was the tempo from her 50 free American record swim. She couldn’t believe it because she just thought that was so fast. She told me she couldn’t hold that. I gave it to her one day at practice and explained that was tempo she was asking her body to swim at in a meet. It is real important that if you do not feel comfortable with your tempo you understand that it is never going to happen. I think one of the critical areas is that she just doesn’t know how to turn that button on. Sometimes she just doesn’t know how to turn that button on in her mind. I don’t think there is anything wrong. I think within her mind she hasn’t turned that button on to get that tempo going right. So what we did was a lot of things where we did our normal work with every second day being tempo work. We did some stuff in the afternoons with fast tempo work and it didn’t really matter if it was yards or meters. We were going to try a push or dive 25 yards and I would ask her for her 25 split. She would say she didn’t know and guess a 10 or something. I then had her do five 25’s with tempo and she was consistently able to go 10.8 or 10.9. I have never had someone go that fast in practice.
We started to do things like 100’s that we would break down to 25’s on tempo. The next 100 she would break down to a 50 on tempo… the next would be a 75 on tempo… etc. The first day I thought my watch was broken because she went an 11.8 on the first 25 meters. The she went a 26.8 on the 50 meters and a 41.8 on the 75 meters! It was pretty amazing how she learned to master it. We did it with the aqua-pacer, we did it without the aqua-pacer, and she started to learn to do things without. She really started to believe. I really believe that there is something in the mind. Mike Bottom talked about it yesterday. He talked about training the neuromuscular system. I believe there is a sound that this makes within the mind. I think it sort of down in there, and it can instinctively hear it in their subconscious. All of a sudden it starts to trigger what they want to try and do. It might sound a bit kooky to you, but I believe it might have something to do with it.
I may have needed to start this earlier in the season. I think it was a real effective thing. It didn’t work as well at Nationals, and I think we lost a little bit of it at Nationals. It worked one day and it didn’t on the other. It did the day of the 50, but she had a terrible finish. The day of the 100 she wasn’t able to latch onto it. I think it was a lack of concentration on her part. It just opened my eyes. I had worked on this with Brooke for 4 ½ years before and done a little bit with Maritza. Ritz didn’t like it. She didn’t really see what it was doing for her. I related it to her American record and other fast swims so I really was working backwards. I looked at that sort of thing and she started to buy into it. I know that Jack and Harvey are excited about that part of it because I think they also see the benefit. I think that is sort of where we are going to take her. If you look at her fast swims and compare that to her 100 freestyle at Nationals you notice it is a totally different swimmer. She lost the tempo. Her tempo was down. Where she should have been 54 to 55 she was down to 50-51. She didn’t start it properly and she didn’t maintain it. What we found is when she gets the tempo going she gets her legs in the right position. She puts the legs in the right position as far as how they are timed with the stroke. The arms and legs are in the right sequence.
I think that has an awful lot to do with how you take your kids to the next level. I have always been one who just gets in and goes up and down the pool. I worked the kids real hard. When you get to this point you have to start finding different ways to try and make them enthusiastic about how to step up to the next level. I think that is what we are trying to do at this point… try to look at things that will get her to swim fast. We know she has these things, but how do you put all of those things together. How do you give her the confidence to be able to put it together so that she does it consistently? That is the evolution of where we have gotten to at this point. It is the process with where we are going to get to in the next point of her career. Hopefully, in two years time I can stand back up here and say it has worked. I could have pushed her out of the sport if I had pushed her the same way that some of the other kids were swimming. I think the consistency and patience that we showed her is important because of the type of athlete she is. I know I most probably lost swimmers because I didn’t show them the same consistency and patience that I showed Maritza. How many great swimmers do we lose in our sport because we do not become aware of their particular needs as they grow and develop?
Well, there are a couple of things Jack wanted me to put in the end of the talk and we are getting into the 4th quarter. When you see a sprinter swimming that far ahead of everybody you are probably wondering what kind of supplements we have her on. She has never been on anything outside of wheat. We realize recovery is real important at meets and we like to have something for the kids after they finish their races. Some kids like Endurox. Maritza likes Go, so she will take a little carton of Go after every one or two swims. She is drinking those at the pool before we go back to eat for recovery purposes. She has a great diet. That is the key, and she knows how to eat. She knows a lot about nutrition. She takes care of herself and we had an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution about high school football teams back when creatine was a big thing. They were interviewing all the top high school coaches in the state. One of them said they used creatine, and it went on to explain who was on what. They went down to Valdosta, Georgia and interviewed their coach. He had been there longer than anyone, and his quote was, “Well, we use supplements down here… we use green beans and weights.” That is about what Ritz is on. She is on green beans and weights.
The other thing that we try to do with her and everybody is challenge them in workouts. Like I said, he is not a real patient guy. It can be one of those days where he sits the team down, has a big meeting, and talks about recovery. Then they start on their little recovery set. He will walk over and ask Ritz to see if she can hold around 1:02. She would answer back that today was supposed to be recovery, and Jack would just say “today 1:02 is going to be recovery.” We are always trying to keep the kids from getting too comfortable in their comfort zone. He is constantly throwing those little challenges in.
The other thing Ritz likes to do, and Peter eluded to this… she likes to race boys. Guys tend to know if there is a girl having a bad day. As long as they are quiet that is fine, but if one of those girls wants to tell the boys they are having a bad day you hear about ten guys go “aha aha aha aha” and all that. Then the girls get real quiet and the boys better realize the deal is on because they are going to attack. Boweval was probably the best ever at baiting the girl’s team into training hard. 90% of our success in fast swims in workouts came from somebody that was in Boweval’s lane. He just loved to see if he could stir them up. He would and Maritza would get real quiet. She told me that she loved Bo for how hard he could get her to work. She said that nobody made her want to beat them up more than Boweval. I remember one time he started in on her and Ritz even brought this up. He made her so mad that she pushed a 3:13 long course. The he started telling her it wasn’t good enough. She went a 3:10 on the next one. Just keep them from fighting, but you know kind of let them barb each other a little bit. It is not a bad thing.
The last thing I want to talk about is the relationship Jack and Peter have. It is easier for me to talk about it than it is for Peter because he is in the middle of it. I would like you to see what I see from the outside. Like I told you in the other meeting that there is not any time that we are going to talk to Ritz individually without letting the other party know in advance what is about to happen. There is total confidence on both ends of the spectrum. If she is down on one party the other is going to go whoa, whoa, whoa… you are out of line. Just like Mark Schubert said you need to defend your assistant coaches and make sure you back up your staff. Well certainly we have to do that within our staff, but I think age group coaches need to do it with college coaches. College coaches need to do the same with age group coaches. If there is something that needs to be worked out it needs to be worked out behind closed doors. It has always been done that way. We don’t really have to work out much because there is basically a total agreement in philosophy and training. You know anytime we get a call from Peter it is a breath of fresh air. He likes to talk to Jack and everybody. We are just all happy and hug each other all the time.
We have about 10 minutes for questions, is that how we handle it boss? Yes, anybody have any questions?
Q: What is ahead this year for Maritza?
A: Maritza is sort of funny about goals and how she sets them. One of the things you don’t spend a lot of time doing is talking about times. You can talk about achievements and trying to achieve certain things. I think with Ritz that is important. I know it looks like she is on (although she missed the Pan-Pac team) the World Championship team, but I don’t know that in her mind that she wants to make a real good representation if she is on the relay next summer. I know at NCAAs because it is her last year she wants to have a good impact. The way I think she will look at it is that she will look to have the best performance of her career at her last performance. She will approach it that way more than anything else. I have never seen her swim at the NCAA level so I know that she is obviously thinking that she wants to have something special and finish on a real high note since she is asking me to be there.
Just too kind of reinforce what Peter said – She does not like to talk about times. I don’t like to talk about times. Jack doesn’t like to talk about times. I am not sure Jack even likes to sit down and talk about what time they are going to go because 50% of the time they are not going to get it and 50 % of the time they are going to go a lot faster. She wants to do really well for the team and wants the team to place well. She wants to be a key player. We talked earlier about strengths and weaknesses going into the season. A goal meeting with Maritza is going to be about what we are going to do better. We are not worried about how much better. We know she is going to get better. That is not a problem. What can we do everyday to make sure whenever you throw down a swim it is the best you can go? We don’t always know what it is. She doesn’t know what it is. I guarantee you; we would not have said that her goal was to go 21.6 last year. There is no way. Maybe at that time last year we might have still been thinking about the 500. I am not sure. So, I think you have to be careful throwing times out. Sometimes the times on the refrigerator stuff may be a little more limiting. I don’t always think the glass is half-full.
Q: Do we do anything above race tempo with the aqua-pacers?
A: Yes. I have done it with Brooke and I have done it with Maritza this summer. She will go the stretch cords and we will get her to the stretch cord work with the tempo. I will set it maybe at 60 or 65… really, really fast and they are going only 15 maybe 20 meters. It depends on how far the stretch cord goes, but that is a heck of a work out. We will do it with fins, although she doesn’t usually like swimming with fins. It is a really good way of getting them to learn to hang onto the water when they are moving really fast.
Q: What kind of leadership role does Ritz play on the college team?
A: She has always been someone that is looked upon as a leader for what she has been able to do on a relay situation. Until this year her personality was to be with the team at every team function. If they said she had to be there… she was there. She cared about her teammates, but she preferred to be with other friends that were away from the team. She didn’t eat, sleep, and breathe swimming. She got away from it, and we think that was probably a plus. We have kids that can be good leaders, but in the past they haven’t been our leaders so she is going to have to make a little change there for us.
Q: Is there anything that we do to try and emphasize the catch when she enters the water?
A: When she is entering the hand I try not to look for the kick to glide and roll into the stroke. I try to think that as she enters the hand she rolls onto it nearly immediately. It is near this point here where she comes in that she rolls onto the hand and then catches the water. I really try to look to the roll in and onto the hand. When she gets flat in the water she inclined to swim a bit square. She will end up not really doing that and she loses the feel on the front end of the stroke so you get her back to rolling into that stroke a little bit more. She feels real comfortable. It is really not one specific thing, it is more roll into the stroke type of situation.
Q: Do you shave for the conference meet?
A: If they do not have an NCAA cut… yes. They don’t shave for conference if they already have a NCAA cut. From what I have talked with Peter, I think they are pretty close. We did mention what we did with weights, but Peter said they got off weights 6-10 days out… we are pretty close to that. She still keeps up the dry land until right before she leaves.
With what I did this summer it was a little bit different because I just thought we did a lot of work. She was home pretty early and we did a lot of work early in May and June. We did a lot of pounding away and working pretty hard because I really wanted her to swim real well this summer. I wanted her to not think about just the 50. My biggest concern this summer was that she might think she is the American record holder in the 50 free and she wasn’t going to do anything else. I was really scared about that and I didn’t want her to think that way so we just kind of hammered it out of her. When she came home and sort of remembered that this is where her nuts and bolts are. I gave her a little different taper in that sense because I think she worked really hard this summer and I backed off about 2 ½ weeks out. She started coming down about 3 weeks out. She was consistently doing 13,000 meters a day during the normal workday and that was ten workouts a week. She was going 65,000 – 70,000 consistently over the summertime so I gave her a little bit longer flow down to that last week. We went three mornings and five afternoons when we started her taper. All of the afternoons were no shorter than 3,500 to 4,000. We also got in on Sundays during taper and went about 3,000. It wasn’t really just a drop dead taper, it was pretty gradual.
In the aqua-pacer you can put the splits. I don’t. I think it is a distraction. I used to do it a lot with the distance swimmers. They sort of threw it at you because sometimes they missed the time and really the focus wasn’t the time. The focus was the tempo that they were supposed to be training at. I don’t use the time unit any more. I just use the tempo unit.