The Development of Kevin Cordes by Dave Krotiak, Fox Valley Swim Team (2014)


[introduction by Joel Shinofield]
Welcome to Wednesday morning; good to see all of you here. We are going start today off with one of the great age group coaches, Dave Krotiak. I am Joe Shinofield, Executive Director of the College Swimming Coaches Association of America, and John Leonard has been kind enough to allow us to have a college-focused track here at the ASCA World Clinic for the last few years. So this is an extension of that, and Dave has agreed to start off this year.

Dave has been coaching for over three decades including his current position as head coach at Fox Valley Swim Team. He’s been very active in Illinois swimming and leadership including stints as the head coach of the Zone team in Illinois. He has also served at various leadership positions on committees, and on the board of directors of Illinois Swimming. His teams have won 4 Illinois Senior championships, 9 Illinois Junior championships and on multiple occasions he has been recognized as both the Age Group and Senior coach of the year in Illinois. He currently has three athletes who are on US National teams, including Kevin Cordes, who we will learn more about in a moment. But also Gia Dalesandro who moved up from the Junior National team to the Senior National squad this summer, and he also has Alyssa Gialamas on the US Paralympic team. So please welcome Dave and we look forward to hearing what he has got to say. Thank you Dave.

[Krotiak begins]
Thank you Joe. Alright, is this still working? Before we get going, there are a couple of people that you know I would like to say thank you to, a friend of mine Greg Busie who helped me set up all the video and also Jason who works on my staff. This is about 25 hours worth of working slicing and dicing on video so I wanted to recognize them. The first section of the talk is going to deal with his age group and his high school years and how he was trained and then we are going to kind of slide into where he is at in college and going through a transition from a freshman up to where he currently is at. It’s going to cover some videos, it’s going to cover some interviews, it’s also going to cover some drills and then we will talk a little bit about, you know, where he is going in the future.

Again, I’m Dave Krotiak, I’m Kevin Cordes’ coach and like I said before that this is about his development and the first part is to walk you through his high school years, his age group years and the second section is with Rick DeMont and some interviews. Kevin Cordes and fortunately enough, at the time that I was in Arizona, Russell Mark was out there simultaneously and so here is a little a bit of a mix of everything put together. And so this is the way the talk was designed.

So we are going to skip right on through, I already covered that. (See photo of Kevin) He is going to love me for that. He is eight years old here. And this is actually at my school. He is nine and 10 at the NAPA here and he has taken on the Illinois State Record. This is the high school years and the guy to his left is Matt Elliot. This is his sophomore year in high school. Now this is an awesome last 25 breaststroke!

(From video) Dave: So in growing up and swimming and how you transition from that into high school and then, you know into college to where you currently are which is the American record holder in short course yards 100 and 200 yard breast stroke.

Kevin: Yeah definitely. Growing up I think swimming was my best sport but it was probably my least favorite.
Dave: Really?

Kevin: Yeah. So I liked the all other sports like football, basketball, baseball. Um, I loved competing, I loved racing and swimming and that’s the one thing I loved about it and that’s why I stuck with it throughout all the years, and then once I got to high school I was trying to find what sport I wanted to do and then swimming became more clear to me; that would be the right path to choose and I kind of found myself throughout those four years as a swimmer. Instead of dreading practice I found myself looking forward to it more so, now I really got to like Sectionals, like more Nationals and I realized that this is something that I liked and it is something that I really wanted to do and I grew to love the sport and by my senior year I was really excited to take it to the next level in college and see what I could do from there.

Dave: The part where he brought up that swimming was his least favorite sport and my buddy was like are you going to leave that in there? And I’m like for sure I’m going to leave that in there because it is a really important thing. Many times this is the situation for great swimming and you have kids that are developing and they are trying to pick and choose what’s best for them. And I have to give a lot of credit to Mark Townsend and Doug Helm at Mavericks while he was growing up because he was only practicing once, twice, three times out of the week and they knew that they had a really talented guy here, but they didn’t look to push him and grind him into it, I think that knowing Kevin, that they would have been a real possibility that if that would have happened that we would have lost one of our greatest athletes today. And so that was a pivotal point, it allowed him to grow up; he was only practicing that way all the way till he was 13. Then he is going into high school and he knows some of the guys on the team, and his family just thought that if he was going to train in high school and train with a club and that maybe would be a good switch because we would operate out of high school pool where he is going to be swimming. So that’s how he ended up coming and swimming with me.

So as he goes through this he also is now going through a process of, going from where he is to actually now having to train five, six days out a week and that is not an easy thing for a guy to do when you are not used to being there, when the level of work is upgraded. But I felt that he was ready at that time where a lot of great athletes were around him and so the culture was just perfect for him to be able to develop in that. And so as he starts to do that, his focus starts to change, his perspective starts to change of what his swimming life could be. And he also starts getting excited. His parents were very supportive to the point that I could relax as far as what I was doing with him. They never overstepped their bounds and allowed him to grow up kind of gradually into the sport and if he came home on a day and was like mom I’m really tired, his dad was a great athlete (a football player at Arizona and a quarterback) and he knew the process, just told him to kind of hang in there, stay with it, you’ll start handling it and he did. And there is that transition of going from singles which during our short course season we do at all centers to training doubles and long course and more often and that was a little bit of a struggle, but he ended up handling it pretty well.

As a philosophy, these are my philosophies as far as the way I train whether it’s Kevin or anybody else. I like to keep things simple, straightforward, in teaching I’m pretty direct as for exactly what I want. And then, I ask the athletes to take it from there and use their own talent and imagination and see what we come up with. And then we go through a process of revising these things. And he’s an amazing student, so, he and I coming together almost was a perfect match; I’m a technician, he loves to be taught. So, here’s a formula that that I use and right off the beginning is a vision. If an athlete doesn’t know exactly what you want out of them, it’s hard for them to do it, the body is an amazing machine, it will do whatever that athlete tells it to do or not. So, if you go along that way the mental preparation of them coming in and learning exactly what you want, painting the picture and watching some video if it’s necessary if they don’t get it, but any way that you can get them as soon as possible to understand what you want out of them.

And then as far as the physical properties in the swim: Body position, body position is going to dictate a lot as far as your sculling motions, how you were going ride through the water. When we talk about this, it’s through every segment through a swim; from one transition to another. And as we go through this talk and the drills and you watch them swim, keep that in mind and especially watch his hip position because it’s not going to vary very much and that’s not by accident. This is the movement, I’ve always believed that anytime that you make a movement, there’s an optimum position to be in for bringing in the stroke; your body should always be moving down the pool. It could be moving forward; it could be moving forward and up, forward and down, but it’s always got to be moving forward. And so, when I’m coaching somebody and I’m looking at them, a lot of times from the side of the pool, I’m watching through different parts and sections of their sculls through the kick, what they’re doing in any of the strokes that we’re swimming. And if there’s something that seems problematic, I will let the athlete know. If there’s something that I really enjoy watch them do and it seems to get more and more effortless, then that’s what we want.

Rhythm; Early in my coaching career, I didn’t really think as far as artsy I guess or rhythmic, but I would see athletes that would go out on races and fade out. I guess the terminology in coaching is dying, right, so they’d be out there dying. So the skill levels were out there, but it wasn’t poetic, it wasn’t rhythmic. So the flow of a momentum, peak momentums from one stroke into another are really critical, and you’re going to see this when this guy swims because he does it beautifully. Then speed; once you start establishing these things integrating speed and there’s always a transition on what’s happening then, it doesn’t just go from having a perfect stroke asking them to race and it’s just there. So, there’s different times that we’re asking him to do blast outs where it’s just coming out as fast as you can, go one two strokes to see how he handles it, then building that to 25s, 50s, 75s to 100s, and it’s goes back and forth all the time. This is something that I saw that is true to this day.

Power; Right away you may think as far as power goes that that’s going to be something that is just in the weight room or doing buckets etc, but both Rick and I agree that what we’re looking for in this, the description of a power is that they’re taking all their tools and blending it together, and now you’re getting the power within the stroke. So that’s what we’re looking for.

Outside the pool: building the best athlete possible. I really consider it in my dryland programs we, do an hour and a half a day three times out a week for dryland with med balls and then in the weight room, but, do a lot of things that also build their agility. So build an athlete, and then teaching them how to swim. Uh technical, the yardage, once somebody decides to lose out and believe to keep on the process so they’re fighting through it, um, that’s not just the way that I do it. So, I’ll always go over skill levels much more than, than going over yardage. And if they don’t have it on a particular day, I don’t try to muscle through it. Using control variables, like stopwatches, and the architectural grid, I imagine as if it’s like an architectural paper where you have segments by feet, by yards, different, different mindsets when I’m watching different things, and looking on how much they are carrying from one stroke to the next is, are there areas in which they’re breaking down consistently and then addressing that accordingly. And then of course matching all those things together and then having some film analysis as you go through so the athlete can see what you’re talking about.

Okay. As far as technically, I’ve covered some of these things, the body position and body alignment. So, in regards to Kevin, having the hip position through the shoulder and the back to the neck get long is really critical. So when he’s going through the scull motion and the strokes, he’s stabilizing his core, and trying not to have a lot of hip flex within the stroke. So he really needs to work on that, and there are times when he has trouble in races, he’ll be a little bit excited and overreact and start getting that head and shoulder up instead of maintaining that line. When he’s swimming exceptionally well, the line is really, really something to watch. The suits I think Tyler saw a lot and as far as the level in which you want to swim which is high and top of the water, so we were really working towards him surface forward, surface forward. So his stroke is built around his kick. Right off the bat I saw this guy swim, he used to take a ton of strokes. And, I actually had him go to the far end lane and he couldn’t swim with me or the others in the faster lanes until he started working some things out. So was going the length in nine, 10 strokes. And I said you know what, I know that you can do some of these things, it won’t take you that long, but I want you to go here where there’s no pressure you’re going to swim in lane seven or eight, and once you get down to a consistency of six strokes in length then I guess the best way to put it; you’ll earn the right for us to have a relationship now. And, in the meantime you’ll work with these other coaches and they’ll help bring it around; they know exactly what to do with you, but, it was along those lines when we started.

So right away establishing that we want to get some distance per movement, learning how to set up the 25s mentally, and what to expect out of himself, and then everything kind of flowed from there, and it didn’t take him long to be able to do that.

I’ll back up a little bit and talk about the head position to the hips where keeping that hip alignment and the back straight through sculls coming through here, and then, just holding that line as the hands accelerate through here and the kick starts to be pushed in there; it’s set up almost like cobra where it’s going to just dart forward, gets narrow through the water as possible and never break the line. It sounds like such an easy thing to do, but when you’re going after so much power, and building speed, it easy to be impatient and start moving the head, moving the hips a little bit, so it’s taken a long time to be able to do that.

The hand and the elbow position are really critical. I kind of visualize different sports into ours, if you take the idea of somebody throwing a baseball and the continuation or the momentum, you don’t throw a baseball and stop at here, you continue to follow through and has an effect on the flight of the ball. So when he’s swimming breaststroke, and this is true with a lot of strokes with fly and breaststroke, when he’s following through he’s following through with an extension that now he’s going to be soon swimming into another stroke and blending it into there. So as he’s doing that that sets up a little bit different type of a stroke at the beginning, well he’ll end up accelerating into the scull, keeping that head back position, and then turning that little finger down and in to establish. The whole time remember the properties of the body are continuously moving down the pool, and that’s really critical. Once you start moving the hands and the body, Rick calls that doing chicken wings which is bringing those elbows back, it totally changes the timing of the stroke and you’re losing something out there. And when he gets in trouble is when he gets excited and he goes to that a little bit. But, when he’s locked in and he gets the hands coming out on the scull, and the body is lined up and he turns the acceleration and that’s flowing, how much acceleration you get through here is just unbelievable.

And like many good things in swimming, its less effort to actually do that than not. The other is a lot of work, you have the muscle from stroke to stroke and we don’t want anything to do with that. Kick speed and focus so keeping up the body alignment with your focus and making sure that you are bringing the feet up around the curvature and not hesitating. Now this is a critical thing because this is when the hands are coming right in through here, where the foot speed is coming up around the curvature, the toes all coming out and this keeps the body flowing forward and then almost like it’s going over a mountain top or a hill. Softly going over the top. So then the legs just continue to accelerate. I know that the 50.0, was a tremendous swim but if you watch the video tape and you see the back six yards, I’m disappointed that he didn’t go 49. If he would stay in the moment a little bit more, and keep the kick going directly back, it would have been there. So he is very capable of doing these things, and he knows this, and Rick is talking with him constantly and working with him but even for somebody that at that level they still have things that they need to work on.

Breathing and timing, both in fly and in breaststroke we work on breathing along with the stroke, just like you do in freestyle over and over and over again, again this sets up the stroke to have the opportunity to be great throughout the whole duration of the stroke. If it’s messed up, it can prematurely move into getting the elbows coming back on the stroke so what we work on is, as he is following through and is aiming the way, as he is starting to exhale consciously, as he then begins through the scull and then comes up through the swim. Underwater pull outs and kicks over and over, taking that and segmenting it, isolations I call it. So doing jumps, maximizing jumps trying to go as far as you can, sometimes you can make it all the way out to 14 yards on just a jump and the follow through and then complementing that with a pull, and then a kick, but every, each part of that is that they are not looked at as one unit until the very end so it goes through this process, back and forth, jumps, jumps and pull outs, jumps off the walls, or a kick, looking at the style of the kick, seeing that what the momentum is during that whole process of the kick and then bringing it all together and seeing how it goes.

Okay here is a little slow-mo video, and if you think about the things that I’m talking about, you can see it, there’s the head, this is where maybe he is a little bit off, I’d like to see him start the scull and then bring the head forward, the back position is a little bit different, the kick is awesome – but during this time his hips don’t move a whole lot but as he refines that, it gets better and better and we are going to see that a little bit later on. Let’s look at right at the end of the stroke and the kick, at how much speed he’s carrying as he is going into the scull. And this I will just consider that it’s okay and Rick and Kevin would say the same thing. Alright, these are drills that everybody uses. So two kicks per arm stroke, always looking on the timing in the water, no matter what we are doing and that kind of goes along with the distance per movement um and then we are going to fill into the timing of the breathing we just talked about that, but when they are doing the two kicks the second kick, they had to go as far as when they are doing a regular stroke and they have to hold that alignment and it’s a great opportunity for us to be able to work on the timing of the breathing and exhaling, sculling and consciously doing that so that’s the rehearsal.

Now, breast arms with fly kick or freestyle kicks. I love doing those different speeds, sometimes at a point where I want them to almost breakdown. I think speed is the most important thing and then go back technically and go back and forth, back and forth with that. I usually use fins a little bit more towards the back of the season when I want more speed and I want to see how he is loading up at the front of the stroke, and I look at using fly kick with breaststroke arms if I have a rhythmic problem and I want to get a little bit more flow, I usually go to that right away, working on speed and power in the upper body and maintaining the hip position and using the abs and tightening those up, that’s when I go with flutter kick in isolating the upper body so there is no like up and down and variation in that. The kick is very stable, the hips are stable, there’s a six beat kick it doesn’t go off and on, the heels are just breaking the top of the water and deepen the kick and the propulsion is consistent, so when we are doing these, it’s like in a 20 yard pool, 25s at the most – we don’t do 50s, we don’t do 100s or that sort of thing. Maybe built into a breaststroke set where they’re going 100s and then the last 25 or the first 25, I started them out with this. But generally when we are doing those, the focus is on the drill so we’ve go like 80, 85% in the regular breast stroke and then amp it up to 90%, 95% when going through the drills. I don’t really believe in doing drills very slowly.

We talked about the length of the stroke and the timing of the breathing we’ve already covered that with the scull, isolations I just described that and it can be just on the jumps, it can be just on the upper body, you will see that when Rick is doing some drills with him. And then, managing technique during practice and meets. So what I mean by that and it’s a matter of choice, many times when we are watching breaststroke or when they are going down the pool even at the most elite level, you can see that they’re fading. I don’t think that necessarily they are dying, they’re losing their body position and you can alter them even if they are feeling fatigued in the race or maintaining what the most important thing is which is moving forward. So if I take somebody and they have a full scull and through here and they are getting a lot of power but in Kevin’s case where they have a tremendous kick, maybe a better choice is to go a half a stroke through here, cut your losses and hit that line and put the energy levels into the kick. Rick sees this example many times where if you have just a coke bottle or something like that and that’s your energy level in it, you only got so much, you don’t get extra that’s it, so you have to determine how you are going to use that. It is very important that you understand that because it’s not just well, try harder. No they are trying hard as they possibly can and this is mechanically or maybe they can help themselves a little bit, as they are going through. You rehearse those things in practice and then hopefully carry that into a meet.

Okay this is during his high school years – we didn’t swim a whole lot of yardage um 5,000 yards generally. I put this up because during these four years he is swimming with me and then during his high school season he is swimming with Chad the high school coach who does a wonderful job with him at the time. Chad and I work on the same staff as far as during the non–high school season and so we have a lot of common things that we bring to the table so it’s not confusing for Kevin but the high school situation does put a play into it and I think in his development because he liked to race, he’d much rather swim meets and the race sets do those kinds of things than ever going out and grinding out workouts of you know 15 100s things like that. So in the fall we would always look at that that’s the time that we going to be building and in the spring that we going to be developing our physical nature so in and out of the pool, we are going to get our technique down and we are going to swim sets that are mainly based at those times of the season that we are going to be basing around 1,200 yards to 1,400 yards and the style of the sets are always looped, I rarely swim like 15 100s or anything – I did do it at times but I’m much more up to going like 2 200s, 2 100s, 4 50s looping it back around, changing the speed, changing the focus on it from the 200’s to the 100’s based on what I want to see ultimately in the race.

So the way that I design workouts is, I look at exactly what I want to happen at the end of the year and I start compiling those notes as far as what I exactly want to see happen and then I base my workouts around it. I can’t expect somebody just to kind of wing it at the end so we need to rehearse this all the time, so I have to them put them in a position where they are allowed to be able to do that. During the winter season he’s swimming some doubles, 6,000-6,500 yards at that time in high school, he does break down. So there are problems with that. Rick will talk that little bit in his interview, so remind yourself of that. So those times where he fades in and out of that, he’s not doing it all the time and he’s truly a guy that less is better and swims very fast when you give him the opportunity, and not so well when you are dialing up a 2,000 yard set. In the summer time, we would do those, we would have practices where we would also move up and go 7,000 in a practice and then have about three weeks where we are doing that, and then come back down and a lot of that, but with a substantial amount of kicking.

So at the bottom you see 2,000 yards per practice, sometimes it would be 2,500 and we would have sets where they would be very challenging intervals. We moved at one time we just moved 1,000 yards per practice on kicking and Roric would talk with me and I described what was going on in my program and is there something that I can build more speed on, and he advised that I was doing everything fine but needed add more kicking. Once I did that, once I learnt this formula, my sprinters all together went down in time, substantially. It wasn’t too, too far after that when I got :44 100 freestylers in high school. I think that that was a pivotal thing and we teach kicking like we teach any stroke as far as jumping, and just feeling the water, same thing through the stroke and breast stroke, knee position but actually those kicks sets where we are doing stroke work in an active set and then going back and then challenging them and seeing how well they do with it.

With this taper, this gives you an idea of generally what he does; I don’t think it’s that far off of what Rick does with him right now. Week to week I would monitor how he does. I have a philosophy that nobody ever tries to get out of anything, because they would come every day and work. So I will allow them if they want to get out, in a set and they want to stretch up or they don’t feel quite right, I allow them to be able to do that but in general terms, this is what the guidelines are. And even when I go to a meet here this is what I’m working for you guys to do, if you like to have that kind of direction, but if you feel you need to stay in a little bit more or you want to come out, that’s up to you, watch your swim. So I truly give them ownership, the other thing that the sets that I design have a lot of choice in it, so I allow them to swim what they want but it’s easy as a coach to come over and go, hey pick that to do today and that’s what you’re doing, maybe you decided to do something else with it or go to another stroke and they say, “Okay, you’re right, I am choosing this, it’s my time, I should be doing this better.”

Dave: So can you explain why technique and going to practice is now what you are able to do to make happen?
Kevin: Yeah so like in college, I didn’t know that much about breaststroke.

Dave: I appreciated that. I didn’t cut all the good stuff out!

Kevin: So I learnt a lot from the older guys but then once I kind of got the hang of it and kind of got used to some different training I could really prepare myself for each practice and what I wanted to do and have something in mind. I’m going to practice and trying to execute that throughout the whole practice and not straining from that. That’s helped me, getting my body ready, staying hydrated, eating healthy and preparing that way. You can’t just mindlessly swim you have to be always focused and paying attention to what you are doing you can’t just go through the motions.

Dave: Now you’re best known for swimming with a long stroke. Tell us how that evolved and what direction are you going in?

Kevin: Yeah starting in high school I was doing way too many strokes you told me. I started off with five strokes I believe and if I couldn’t get to five then I had to just start over. I think that’s just helped me stay accountable when I’m training you know really focus on my kick and because my kick’s part of one of my biggest strengths. So if I want to use long strokes I know I need to have the kick completely right. So that helps and then if I can go and do say four, three strokes a lap in practice what can I do then in a race? So that also helps me stay in line like what I’m doing in long strokes and just gliding and you know paying attention to that and staying on top, I’m not letting my hips sink or anything like that.

Dave: So, strategy coming up? You’ve got Nationals coming up in another three weeks, do you have a goal for that as far as technically, I’m not going to throw times and all that kind of stuff because those are all byproducts of you executing your swim, so is there something that you are trying to accomplish that you haven’t done before?

Kevin: Yeah last summer, at Trials I went out pretty hard and I kind of died on the last 50 now I’m working on the last 50 and trying to keep a longer stroke and do fewer strokes and keep my hips up with my kick, keep my pull a little bit cleaner and faster and not pull elbows back so my hips drop. So for the 200 I’m really going to be working on that really get to learn to build into the wall and you told me I need to work on my foot speed and you know staying on top of that and especially in last two turns.

Dave: Yeah hey thanks for your time, appreciated.

Dave: Alright so, I really loved that he said he didn’t learn a whole lot from me, that was beautiful you know, but I know what he means. I’m not that sensitive. What he meant was that as he went to college, I truly believe, he was a young guy, a year ahead, so he’s 17 just turning 18 going into college but I thought the timing was really pretty good as far as the transition of him going from where he was at with me. Do I believe that he could have swum faster, if he stayed with me sure, but I don’t think that as far as the overall development that he would have been on that year where he ended up. So in his high school year he’s 53 in the 100 (breast) and I’m like God you know there is so much more to that.

So we are so at a meet, I think it was a Junior Meet and I had one of those beautiful moments where my backstroker hit the laneline whole side right off the first 25 and uh I’m actually taking notes – because this guy is pretty steady and he just rails it and all my friends that are standing right there – Um they just go holy shit and I’m like what? And here I see everybody heading off the wall and my guy they just went, he just went right in the lane line and took off.

Well what happened is, he fights his way all the way through and keeps us in the game but I mean he’s a guy that should have gone 50.49 high and through there he goes 52 4. It’s a magical moment because all of a sudden Kevin just goes okay here it goes you could just see him on the block going, okay it’s my time to do something about it. He ends up just reeling that out and he might have spun a little bit on it, but also on the swim that we really thought he was capable of arriving with 52.4 on a medley relay in high school and – I just said that’s what I’m talking about, there you go and – my friends were just all going crazy around him and we ended up competing all the way to the end. But he just stopped thinking and he just went and raced, that was a beautiful moment and after that he just kind of went on a roll, he went 1:01 in the summer that summer at Nationals. And that was the first time that I actually brought him to Nationals. I always kept him at Juniors because you get a second swim, I thought mentally he was better suited for that at that time. And when the timing was right emotionally for him to move up, that’s when we moved up and started Swimming Senior nationals when he was seventeen that summer.

But once he got to college he talked about all the pros that were around him and the difference in the culture in that. That’s something I couldn’t do for him. There is no way I could simulate that. We go to Grand Prix meets and Michael Alexandrov was tremendous, he would spend time with Kevin and it meant a lot to him and a lot to me that he would take that time. So that was the environment that he got every single day there (at college). And you just can’t duplicate it so it was a beautiful time for him to move on.

All right, here’s my buddy Rick.
(Rick) All right let me just describe this: Unfortunately we have a limited amount of time. This conversation was about 30 minutes and it’s just scraped down to about six. And both when we were doing drills and in the interview, I wish I could have put it all in there because there’s insight as far as what to do with breaststroke and what to do Kevin, is spot on. And there are some things that we cut out due to maybe some clowning around which I think from a coaching aspect love it, little bit of slang in there. When we go into the drills a little bit later on we had to cut out the audio because there was a diving competition in the background and it was way overriding but the dialogue between both of us was tremendous.

Dave: What do you find unique about him (Kevin)?

Rick: Well you bring up his kick, and I guess my experience with him up until a year ago was mostly me observing and just watching him because Eric was coaching him before I got a hold of him. And the thing I noticed was watching him try to swim free style and it just brought to mind all the summer league kids that I coached and you know it’s probably like 5% of people who use a breaststroke kick to go in freestyle – and he had that thing going and that’s kind of a familiar breaststroke marker, when you’re actually throwing breast stroke kick to move in freestyle. So it makes me think that from teaching so many little kids how to swim back in the 80’s that I know that I wouldn’t have been able to teach him a flutter kick for a million bucks and you know I think it’s kind of cool that people like that get pretty far in swimming because that can be really discouraging as an eight year old or a young guy, you’ve only got one skill set, all the workouts are done in freestyle and you’re back there sucking and you’re actually amazing! So I mean he had to go through that you know to get to where he is. Where you got him.

He is really a specific one–stroke guy. But one of other things I noticed about him is butterfly hurts him and we don’t do backstroke. So he’s really an anomaly and trying to figure out ways to train him which you know you already been through this. But you know we can’t work on his breast stroke all the time and so for one thing his freestyle is getting a whole better. And we’re trying to balance that out, that is kind of something that we’re trying to get in to his mind, just to get away from breast stroke a little bit and have something else to – to think about.

Dave: So how do you train him? I mean okay, so you watch him and now you get a chance and you’re working with him and you’re starting to figure him out and it’s through your first year with him so…

Rick: One thing that I noticed is that he works his ass off. He comes in swinging you know, he comes in swinging, He trains real hard, gets his heart rate up because he never goes easy, he never goes easy! You got to be the guy who tells him to slow it down, let’s just get some cruising yardage here because from what I have experienced he goes all out, and breaks down then we’re dealing with a broken guy – you know whether it be a shoulder problem, a groin problem, it’s you know he just will go until it doesn’t go anymore.

Dave: And well he doesn’t train like a traditional kid there. He’s just going to go 50 and 100s and all that. You have him on buckets; you have him on several different things. Can you explain like because it’s like nothing I’ve seen before?

Rick: The one part that you can call traditional is he can nail kick sets with everybody and can actually thrive on those. So kicking is a huge part of his coaching.

Dave: That was true when he was younger too, I mean he used the dial up 2,000 kicks sets and just totally get into it, and it was part of his training that well that’s traditional.

Rick: That – that part is traditional then a lot of the other stuff is not – you know he is really forcing me to expand my game and figure out ways to get my mind around this anomaly. A lot of drills, a whole lot of drills and we’re doing a lot of bucket work and a lot of power work. You know when – when I do power work with him it’s usually like you know 25s with not a whole lot of water in the bucket but still the stroke count. This is what’s amazing to me is you can put weight on the bucket and he can still hit his line and glide. And while he is sitting there, not doing one thing in the water, the bucket is going up, okay. And that just doesn’t happen with very many people you know. Most people just will have to do “this” to keep them from going backwards and start to pull right away. He can do DPS with weight. Now we don’t put a ton of weight on it but we do some stroke count stuff with the bucket and he shines in that.

Dave: And that was a cool thing when I came out in January and you said hey you got to watch this and he was holding a line and started accelerating forward even though he was holding the line and just holding there, but there was no kick coming in there, it was just how much power he was getting.

Rick: Yeah.
Dave: Yeah very spectacular.

Rick: So yeah that’s just been amazing. Then his attention to detail. I’ve coached a few other athletes like that, it separates you know regular from the amazing – their attention to detail and what they’re feeling, it’s like you better listen to him. You know you better listen to what that guy is feeling and saying. Because he’s teaching you how the future is you know. And athletes come along like that where you go “Okay, I guess I just got to keep my mouth shut and humble up here and just try to learn from what I’m seeing and what I’m hearing.” He kind of fits that category even though he is a very, very quiet guy. He doesn’t volunteer a lot of information; he is very, very quiet. And when he does open his mouth I really try to tune into what he’s saying and what he is feeling and what he is thinking. Because it’s always astute and it reveals a lot. And I think in his case you see the sport change.

Dave: All right so the direction is really clear. When Rick right now is working with him he is going for more speed cutting his time down. It’s not a choice of dialing it up more. It’s going to be maintaining the stroke count, if anything at different times of the race, bringing it down and go for some efficiency and power within the stroke. One piece we couldn’t show is when he was doing the bucket work. And he is coming out of the weight room like three times a week and doing this. And it’s not the only time he does bucket work but this is the day that I saw him. So he is coming out and doing an hour and 15 minutes in the weight room loosening up a couple of 100 and then going into buckets right away. So it’s a continuation on that day of developing power. But he is truly holding a line and accelerating where normally you would watch somebody starting to get hold back and he is holding that line. And again it’s a great opportunity for him to work on his breathing, while he is doing that and the drill work and everything that comes into play also applies to when he is doing that.

I’m going to keep going because we got a lot to cover yet so this next one is going to be Rick working with him inside of the pool. It’s a shame that I had killed the audio on it so I’ll try to explain what’s going on but he is going to go through the eight different stages with him and some of that stuff is going to be as far as traditional just swimming down the pool, working out some swimming on a straight plane underneath the water. He does a drill called moose which is he is underneath the water he’s just all forward but it’s all about being connected out on the front. It’s not so much about this part of the stroke as is getting here and getting connected with the kick and through there so I’m just going to play that. And it’s really a shame that I killed the audio because he was very insightful, we were having a lot of fun at this time, the dialogue was a lot of fun but he had some great. So he’s got a snorkel and all he’s working here as his line, he’s trying not to move his body up and down at all, get the kick delivered straight back a little pop to the hips which is going to be something that drives him through the stroke and keeps his hip elevation when he puts it all together.

Now one thing I worked with him with was that as you go through a kick and you are pressing it through and it goes through the back and the kick to actually push up the knees up it will go through. So if you have a direct plane going back and you work on that a little bit then you will actually take the kick and pare it down just a little bit more and you work on that as you’re going through your sets. See a lot of breaststrokers lifting their feet above their hip line or their knee line. So this is moose drill and then he will go into a double moose. (In video)
“two moose into one breaststroke swim but he is going to get a little elevation on the breaststroke swim so he is not going flat the whole time but I think what we are trying to see is how high up can he be when he is doing this drill cumulatively in the lap”

Dave: So what we are talking about when he is going through these drills back and forth is the position of his feet, his toes with his heels, the width of the kick… giving him dialogue back and forth as far as little things that we want him to tweak and he is doing a pretty good job on this. Now these films were taken in July the front films were done in January. Well actually, actually the film at the end was in January and that’s going to be a special 25, 50 sequence put together that you will see how this whole thing comes together ultimately in the end. So he is doing a little fly kicking with breaststroke arms and they are going a full breaststroke kick in there so the focus is all on his upper body. So now he’s going to moose into regular stroke. Well actually he is swimming one stroke up one stroke down, now he’s just swimming breaststroke underneath the water in a straight plane and watching his head position making sure he doesn’t tuck his chin down at any time. Looking at the width of the kick at the top finishing through, making sure the speed around the curvature is good there and then the closure on the back end of the kick. So if you watch like the last eight inches of this kick where he brings it together that’s exactly what we want and I was talking about carrying over into the race at NCAA’s. If he would have as if he carried that same concept he would have gone faster, but right at the end he got a little anxious and got the kick out wide – he has got to learn to manage that. And then ultimately at the end we go back to doing an isolation of going underwater pool kicking one stroke and this kind of goes back and forth all the time. You never take it for granted they have it down. That’s pretty good but he is going to do something better at the end here.

Alright so Russell’s out in July and he has an opportunity to watch, he hadn’t worked with him much before so I asked him do me a favor and do little analysis with Kevin on his breaststroke. Alright ladies and gentlemen – Russell Marks on Kevin Cordes, hope you enjoy it.

This video is from nationals last year /world championship trials the second 50 of the 200 breaststroke so Kevin’s efficiency is really shown at its best right here. As all great breaststrokers you will see that Kevin’s breaststroke starts and ends with a great line. So his hips stay high the entire time as you watch these few cycles you will see that the hips stay in the same line throughout the stroke and the head gets in line the body from finger tips to toes, there is a great line at the start and end of each cycle. That’s just a hallmark of great breast stroking. You will see that every cycle starts with a nice outsweep so the palms flash outside, there is a nice outsweep. The stroke is very round; the arm stroke is very round in its shape you don’t see sharp corners where he is pulling water directly back. What you see is the outsweep and the hands round into a nice circle, one thing that you might notice but that I think is key is you also see where his elbows end up too. That they never squeeze together underneath his body – to me that really allows his body to propel forward into that motion. You don’t see the elbow squeezing in front of him, to me that gets in the way of the body being able to drive into that line. On the recovery you don’t just want your hands to shoot forward you want your body to shoot forward in synchronicity. I don’t know if that’s the right word, but you understand so basically you are shooting forward your arms and your body forward into that great line and your head at the same time – it’s a good lunge motion. You see again hips staying high, the legs set up – he has great ankle flexibility; again another trademark of a lot of great breaststrokers. What you see with the ankles is that they turn out just when his upper body is hitting that line.

So his legs are pushing back, that propulsive part of the kick is happening when his upper body is in that line. Makes sense, he’s kicking when his upper body is in line, he is pulling when his legs are still extended up. When you watch his timing, his heels come up pretty fast, so if he is pulling with his legs still on the line he doesn’t start to bring his feet up, doesn’t start bending his knees until his hands are pretty much done with that insweep. You have to bring your heels up very fast in order to set up that timing. So it’s a nice hamstring action, fast heels and when people think about late timing I think fast heels are a really important part of what you are trying to do. I think that really rounds out the main key points that you can gain from this video. I think coach Dave and Rocket have some really great insight as well and different perspectives – every coach has a different way of looking at the stroke, even the same stroke, so I think the different language and the different explanations might lend itself to some really, hopefully some positive thoughts that you guys can have and some good ideas as to how you look at breaststroke as well. But I think that those key points as you watch Kevin uh in my mind that’s what makes him go fast.

Dave: Now Russell we just got done watching about 40 minutes of film on all kinds of different breaststrokers. Is there something that is unique with Kevin that separates him from other breaststrokers style-wise, performance-wise, front and back and other ways? What do you see?

Russell: Yeah what I see in Kevin is that his tempo is a lot slower than most, even the top world class breaststrokers. Obviously, the thing that stands out when you watch him at NCAA’s is the stroke count, people marvel at how low his stroke count is, I think that is a huge part. I mean it happens because of his training that’s definitely what has been emphasized, and I think that efficiency is awesome, so I would say the tempo is even longer, for him than many of the top world class breaststrokers. Then the ability to manage that tempo so as the race goes on, as the race progresses, he’s able to manage that tempo so that he doesn’t spin out of control at the very end but still able to increase the tempo on the last 50, and still get some good speed, so I would say a little bit longer tempo. I think that’s a tribute to how awesome his line is and – I would say that he does just a really great job accelerating into that. You see the quickness, I think a lot of people notice the quickness in great breaststrokers through this insweep as they transition into the recovery, and to me that’s thinking about the elbows, thinking about where the arms are and then also getting the body into it. When I think of Kevin I think of stroke count and I think of how he does that so well and I think that’s a great example for lots of people to try and mimic.

Dave: Alright. So it was a privilege to be able to hang around Russell for a few days out there and get his insights as far as what’s going on. Now this next clip is going to be Kevin swimming a set, and going into a practical application of it. So when we started out this set it was a set of 50s and 25s and he started out going four strokes a length, like you’ve seen him do in a 200 breast stroke. It was more around 200 base dialing up speed, we were looking for him to be able to go each 25 exactly the same, and say around 29 seconds in there, 30 seconds was okay, and each of the 50s and then 40 and five somewhere right there on the 25s, but it was more of having him just swim, and watching him swim when he started out, we thought that he was being lazy, so we made a little adjustment – with all the principles still involved.

Now this is the thing that – that Rick was talking about and I was discussing earlier is that Kevin loves a challenge, and he will work his butt off when you put something out there that’s a possibility. So now we’re going three strokes a length, and the reason why we made the adjustment during the set, was that he had to be much more meticulous on that part right through there. I thought he was practicing being soft, so he cannot float anywhere to be able to produce three strokes a lane, and go on the time.

Okay, so you can’t see but Rick is taking a series of splits, I’m taking a series of splits during each of these times.

Dave: He’s going to get a little more now. He’s now really executing that saying.

Rick: Yep. He’s pretty good, a little bit wide, on the back half of the kicks.

Dave: So Rick is talking to him quite a bit about what he’s seen during the set, and little things he want him to adjust around walls and coming out through the break out. And as he’s going through the set he’s delivering. This was at the end of a long day, we really wanted to be able to throw him up on the block, and see what he would have done doing a 200 breast just going three strokes a length.

Rick: Careful when he hits the top.
Dave: This might be him just going one stroke – or two. This is a singular stroke.

Dave: So it goes back to alright, you’re doing an awesome job, you’re making these adjustments, wonderful thing, and then throw in a couple of 100’s out there to remind him that maybe there is a little bit more in there, so the underwater point kick got cut out but he was really explosive, it’s not being dragged out, I wish we would have ran a watch to see how fast he got, from the start point to where he concluded around 22 yards, 23 yards out there, because he was moving. But the idea is then to take a look at that, make sure that he observes that, and then imagine him being able to, imagine, if four is really that hard to do, basically then with some speed.

I will have one minute for questions if anybody would like to ask anything?

[audience member]: Does he get to pick the number of breaths for the 200?

Dave: Alright well this is a great question because one of the dilemmas that – that Rick has brought up, that his training and what makes it unique is if you think about it over and over in freestyle term, and you have somebody swimming the sets that he’s doing, and they’re only breathing four strokes a length, it’s almost that he is outgrowing the 25 yard pool. So he’s very hypoxic when he’s going through the training, and being able to do that so you got to be really careful as far as rotating sets, making sure that he’s getting amount of rest, on a continuous basis from workout to workout. So does that answer your question? No.

[audience member]: Well – well, you know if you ran 800 meters on the track, you know and only breathe 24 times a lap, what kind of run would you have, would he be able to do that?

Dave: And one of the comments as far how training a 25 yard pool will do in adjusting to a 50 meter pool is the underwaters. Because he’s going seven seconds underneath there, seven and half of no air, on top of swimming that long in a stroke, so he’s not getting a whole lot of air, and so I think there is going to be adjustment of him actually swimming a little bit more 50 meters, in the next year. That Rick is planning on doing with him. Anything else?

[audience member]: How much sprinting in high school? And in doing a lot of breaststroke and trying to figure out how to break it up once in a while, when you had him how much was he doing breast stroke in this overall?

Dave: Well he did quite a bit – he was able to handle a lot of kicking. I get very concerned about blowing somebody’s knees out, especially when they’re going very intense. So when we’re doing a sprint set like on 1:40 and he’d go 1:05s on them, and hold those. So he’s really going after it, but he would do probably about 80% of the breast stroke, and then we throw just some freestyle kick in there. Maybe he’s doing five 200s and going through five 100s but 25 of all of those would be a freestyle kick if he felt that he was getting a little bit tweaked there. So we were very concerned about like, putting him in a position where he would be totally overloaded.

[audience member]: Is he doing a lot of kick with the board, or something else?

Dave: He does a mix of both, he does kicking with snorkel quite a bit. When he was with me he kicked quite a bit on a board. And working on kick stroke rates where he would be doing sets where it would be the emphasis of speed and trying to get the speed of the kick and the endurance on the kick – so he would have to hit like a second per stroke rate or kick rate, on, on sets of 100s, 50s, 75s, 25s and maintain those. And then on some of those he was kicking for a number of kicks on the lane. But with me he mainly kicked on the board, and with a straight line underneath the water. With Rick I think he has him go back and forth with a lot of snorkel work. Anybody else?

[audience member]: First props to you for setting the groundwork. I was curious if he was resistant at all back when he was a kid? If you told him, come back and we can do this X number of strokes per lap how resistant was he to that?

Dave: Well he just didn’t look at the pull that way, and so – right off the bat with the idea being explained to him, he liked the challenge or direction. And so it was about two weeks, to where he was doing it consistently and now right off the bat where he was doing 25s and things like that and 50s, it was easy, it didn’t take him a long – he really almost developed the underwater pull and kick because he would come popping up, not too far off the flag line. But when it was explained to him. He was like hey I did it; I said yeah you did it on half of them. So you got to do it on all of them, if you are swimming 150 sets, we swim a lot of like – 150s where you go 50 breaststroke, 50 free, 50 breasts. He’s a pretty good freestyler; he went 20 point in relay in high school, he threw a 1:41, so it’s not that he can’t do those things, but he did a more a variety of work with me with IMs etc., but I do believe what Rick is saying that; he couldn’t do too much of it with fly or back, he would get injured.

Alright thank very much. It’s been a pleasure.

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