The Future of Swimming- Panel Discussion Moderated by George Block Panelists:  John Leonard, Phil Whitten, Bob Gillett, Bob Bowman and Bill Sweetenham (2001)


Published


George Block: This panel is about the future of swimming and trying to read some things and see what people in the world are thinking about the future. I came upon interesting quotes from everybody, from Mark Twain, who said, “The future is going to be just like the past, except different,” to Will Rogers who said, “What makes the future hard to predict is that it hasn’t happened yet.”  But there is a concept in industry that talks about bifocal vision. Bifocal vision can either be guys my age who can’t both see the pool and the workout at the same time, or it can be what is meant in industry today of simultaneously having to focus on what you’re doing and improving it constantly and doing it as well as you can do it, while simultaneously looking at how to make that obsolete and looking into the future and seeing what the future is going to be and seeing how and  what you are doing now can make itself obsolete while simultaneously preparing you for the future, and that is bifocal vision. And that is a tough discipline because frequently we either focus on what we are doing or we dream about the future.  But bifocal vision requires us to a very real and concrete way to perfect what we are doing now and plan on how that perfection is going to facilitate it’s own destruction and replacement with the future and how that is going to help us get there.

 

I need to thank in advance our panelists for today and some of them have been very tight replacements. One thing that I definitely learned this weekend is never count on a college coach for Saturday afternoon, they all have emergencies that they have to get back for. Football emergencies or recruiting emergencies, so I want to thank our panelists, John Leonard, Phil Whitten, Bob Gillett, Bob Bowman and Bill Sweetenham. I’ve asked Bob to talk about the swimmer of the future — the person, the body that gets in the water, and then we are going to pass the torch on to Bill, who is going to talk about the club of the future. Bill has studied clubs and intervened with clubs and prodded clubs for years.  From there we are going on to Bob for technology.  Bob is always about 20 years ahead of us in technology, and the things that he was pushing and prodding for two decades ago are standard practice now and widely for sale and widely practiced, and people consider it cutting edge. Bob was probably and probably still is on the bleeding edge.  And then I’m going to ask John to talk both about the pool of the future and how that relates to the meet of the future. And then Phil, from his perspective is going to talk briefly about the future on the drug issues and the future on the college swimming issue.

 

I’ve asked all of them to be a little bit edgy, to push a little bit farther then they’re even willing to push, to try and stimulate some thought in you, and to try and help you hone your binocular vision. Because I’m hoping to get a bit of a discussion at the end and questions and ideas and thoughts and maybe put two unlikely combinations together, because where innovation really occurs isn’t in the center of any one discipline.  Innovation occurs at the edges of multiple disciplines and where those two edges come together and at the edges of discipline is where we can put unlikely ideas and unlikely combinations together. And since I’m hoping today from just combining some different views, even though they are primarily within our one discipline, that we can look at some edges and get some ideas going in this room today.  So, I’ve asked all of our speakers to be provocative and to try and push you and push themselves a little bit farther than we would normally be pushed. And so I’m going to turn this over to our Coach of the Year, who is from a club who has historically looked for the swimmer of the future and they’ve historically seemed to find that swimmer of the future. And having Bob up here, he is a good young coach, and he is a coach that is going to be there in the future. And he maybe right now is coaching the swimmer of the future, but he has been places to have seen some of the developing trends and what he thinks are out there as well as some of the developing controversies that seem to be looming in front of us.

 

Bob Bowman: Thanks George. When I think about the swimmer of the future, in terms of physical characteristics and the talent that we are going to be looking for, or the world class swimmer of the future, I think that there are several parameters to consider. None of these are going to be earth shattering but they are very important.  And I think, as Forbes pointed out, that some of these physical similarities are becoming more pronounced as we go through time. The swimmer of the future is going to be taller more than shorter, I think some events lend themselves to slightly taller people.   Some, maybe the shorter access strokes, you can get by with someone shorter, but people who are going to compete in the sprint freestyle events are going to be very tall. They are going to have large hands and feet, they are going to be lean and they are going to be naturally strong and flexible at the same time.  Those would be the things that I would look at when you see children.  It is very easy to look and see the athletic individuals.  When I look at young kids I think that the swimmer of the future is going to have to be intelligent, and they are going to have to be well versed in an academic sense in science.  They are going to have to do that because they are really going to have to understand and interact with a group of people who are much more scientifically advanced than we may be today. And they are going to have to use quite a bit of data that is going to be provided to them, to design their training programs, to evaluate their performances, and to plan their future seasons and performance goals. I look for children who not only have the physical characteristics but I personally like to see a young swimmer who has a background in the arts, music and appreciation of those sorts of things.  Art and music because I think that kinesthetic ability and the ability to appreciate the arts and understand that go hand in hand.

 

I think there is a lot of the biofeedback that you saw in Mike’s film yesterday if you were here, it is a very powerful tool. I think in the future, the knowledge of those sorts of things and the use of that in daily training and implementation of these plans are going to be important. As always, the swimmer of the future is going to have to have a very supportive and involved parent/family.  Now, are they going to be the traditional, mother, father, and two kids, family? Maybe not. I’m coaching a young man who has very supportive parents but they don’t live in the same household and haven’t for ten years. And quite frankly, their relationship is not at sometimes completely amicable, and that is something that I, as a coach, have to take into account.  All of these swimmers of the future are going to have parents that are willing to allow them to pursue this endeavor without falling into the trap of, “Well, we want them to do a little of this and a little of that, and a little of that.”  I think at a younger age, they may take a number of interests, particularly in to sports, but as they reach a certain age, and I think for the girls it’s ten or eleven, they are gonna start, you’re going to have to start focusing on what they are doing. The boys might be a couple of years later, but they’re going to have to decide that they are going to pursue this in a very serious fashion.  And the parents are going to need to support that and to support the coach and be willing to make the sacrifices that are necessary. The swimmer of the future is going to understand and work with a team of people and they are going to be using a variety of tools, which are available to some people now, and I don’t think that they are something that everybody really uses.

I would like to touch on the subject of nutrition and supplements, which has been raised by several people here.  You know we have had one major speaker say if you use any kind of supplements it is morally wrong, it’s wrong and you’re cheating.  Then we have had another major speaker say that the coach has a moral responsibility to give the athletes supplements.  Well, I’m probably right in the middle. I think it is foolish to think that you can be competitive on a world level and train on that level and rely on the three square meals a day nutrition that the normal kid who plays at recess. and maybe does baseball or soccer, depends on.  I think that they are going to have to learn early what is safe and what is healthy, and I think we have a good idea of those things.  Now, I have concerns in the area of quality control of supplements, and that of course is the biggest concern. But, I think you’ve got to seriously look at what the nutritional needs are, and what the basic foods are that your athletes are getting.  And I guarantee you that 90% of the athletes that you have are not getting a sufficient diet for the kind of training that a world class athlete might do.  They are going to have to use supplements to be able to continue to train on a level to reach a world record.

 

Now, how far do you go with it? I was in Sydney a year ago, and I was very fortunate to be involved in the Olympic team preparation. We were all kind of thrown into this world of a program that was extremely, meticulously planned, and quite overwhelming to me.  I’m not sure that, you know I can get Michael to take a multi-vitamin and we can ask him to take a sports recovery drink two times a day, but I’m not sure he can do 5 teaspoons of glutamine every three hours and take six other supplements.  So, at some point, you’re going to decide what the athlete can handle and what they can’t.  But I think to just take a reactionary position that nothing, you know it’s all or nothing, you’re either cheating or your not, I think that is very narrow and is not going to be the way of the future.

 

The athlete of the future is going to work with a team of people, and they are going to have to know how to interact on various levels with people of different disciplines and at the same time maintain their individual focus in their relationship with the coach. And the coach is going to act as the coordinator of this support team.  And I’m very fortunate we have been able to kind of build a team in North Baltimore, we have plenty of support. But one of the big responsibilities that I have is coordinating the efforts of these people and making sure that not one facet of the core of support tries to be more important than the others, that they all fit in their respective places. And the team is going be something like this.  You’re going to have a physician who is going to obviously take care of medical and health issues, monitoring health periodically throughout the training seasons. It is going to be like our case with Michael, we have a physician at John Hopkins who regularly takes a spectrum of blood analysis where we analyze three things.  We analyze his nutritional values and if we think that his body is getting the appropriate nutritional things that we want him to have.  There are general health markers, to determine his general levels of immunity and health, and then there is an overtraining spectrum of markers, which might indicate that something in the training program is not working, so the doctor is a big part of our program.

 

You’re going to have a nutritionist who is going to deal with a supplement issue and with basic nutrition. There is going to be a physical therapist, and quite frankly I don’t know, having now used a very good therapist on a regular basis, how someone could really achieve good world class performance consistently and maintain that training level without that kind of help.  And that might include massage, and it particularly includes what we use, which is a manual therapist, more of a nuero muscular and a more holistic kind of therapy then the typical physical therapist.  So, I think that is very important.

 

There is going to be use of a psychologist or someone like that, too.  I think right now with Michael, I’m the psychologist.  I don’t know if it is always going to be that way, but I think if you’re going to get in very detailed and advanced things, such as what Mike’s guys were doing, you’re going to need a specialist to use biofeedback, who is going to help them with relaxation, and right brain and left brain.  All of those things are going to be important.  They’re going to have some other people on the support team, like an accountant, because the swimmer of the future is going to be a professional.  There is my edgy part.  The demands of world class swimming in training and competition are such, particularly with the international counter becoming so crowded, that I think the traditional approach of, “It’s a two way swimming,” are moving on to maybe be a post graduate, is not going to work for everybody.  It is going to work for a lot of people, but I think that for the swimmers at the very top it is gonna be hard for them to maintain training programs, competitive programs that are going to work within the confines of the NCAA program.  And that is not at all a knock on the NCAA program, but I think if you really want to look at it, you might find that a majority of the best world class performances over even ten years have been achieved by post-graduates or high school students.  That is not to say that there haven’t been good performances, but I’m talking about world records and Olympic medals, so they are going to have their accountant.  They are also going to have an attorney, and hopefully they are not, but they are gonna have an agent, who is gonna handle their public life and manage that financial side of the equation.  So, there are a lot of people now involved in helping people swim fast.

 

I remember the best advice that I ever got, it really wasn’t advice, but it was such a correct observation and it was at last year’s Olympic trials.  You know Michael made the team and immediately went into this processing for the Olympic team, and he was going upstairs and doing the media and doing this, and Murray said, “You know what? It’s really amazing how many people need to be involved after somebody swims fast.  It was two, now it’s 100.” So, the swimmer of the future is going to work in that environment and I think it is gonna be quite challenging for all of us and very interesting.

 

That was a great start, Billy want to pick that up?  (Changing speakers) I’m gonna use the overhead, I don’t need the mic, mine is gonna be short enough without one. I’m gonna use the overhead I know exactly the computer systems that we saw, I’m living proof that, it’s no match for the system proof idiot, so I’m just going to stay with the basics and go with the overhead.

 

Bill Sweetenham: First of all, I’ll carry on what George said, and I think that history is a term for the future and quite often what comes around goes around, and we tend to go back with the things that were done in the past.  So, in my career as a coach and as a coach of thirty years of age, I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time being a head coach organizing natural teams, and I’ve missed out on quite a bit of coaching, which is my true love.  George has asked me to be fairly provocative in what I teach, but it was easy for me.  Because I figure in about 6 or 8 years or 8 to 10 years I’m going to finish up my career by going back and coaching on deck and being a club coach, which is my true love.  So, I must finish my coaching career in my last 10 to 12 years.  Hopefully I will live that long to be a club coach and go back and enjoy the days on deck.  But listening to Bob I want to make my feelings clear that I think the world has lost the fight unquestionably with drugs.  I think we have lost the fight against performance enhancing drugs.  I think the wording has to change of the lord as I say categorically that if you take anything that enhances the performance you are cheating. And we know that everybody is doing that, so it is a matter of compromise.  Where do you draw the line in the sand?  What is legal and what isn’t?  What is cheating and what isn’t?  I think the rules need to be clarified to say the same.  Anyway, I think one of the things that we are up against today in sports and swimming is a dream for young people who want to go into the extreme force, like rollerblading or skateboarding.  And there is a huge attraction and I think the one major change you have to make is in our competition structures and our competition presentation.

 

So, I know to go through and take you through the things that I feel, and first of all I think you have to have a multi dimensional program that encompasses everything.  And that is facilities, talent, competition, budget and reward recognition. And I think that the parents are going to be supportive because they are unwilling to give up time to come and be involved as officials in your club.  So, I’ve tried to look at the United States, and I have limited knowledge of the club program, but this is how I see the club of the future, the successful club of the United States. The first thing that I see as a priority is having a major sponsor.  I think with the costs of the facilities, coaching, and what it’s gonna take to be successful a major sponsor has to be on board with any successful club.  I think that if the United States wanted to have a really good strong club in the future that they would tie up the university and the city swimming program.  All the great successful sports in this country, football, basketball, baseball are tied through a city. With any program that it is tied to a city, everybody in the city feels part of that time and gets more involved and more committed to that team’s success. All around the world people get behind city based teams and I think that is the way to go.  And tying up a university, which has a lot of facilities that are on tact is a great idea. And I think if you can tie up the club, the major club and the university together are great benefits for the club, and it would also put pressure on the university to have a development program rather than a recruiting program.  There would be more of an emphasis on developing talent within the area of the university and giving the swimmers in that local area a chance to progress through and stay in that area and stay part of their home for a longer period of time.  So, city representations in the national competition, with each city and university represented by a club and a university tie up situation would be good.

 

Anyway, I’ve always questioned why the United States with their scholarship program look forward to offering scholarships to foreign athletes.  If I was a tax payer in the United States I would feel bad if my child was denied a university scholarship because an athlete from a foreign country had taken up that scholarship. I’m probably standing on the university coaches toes a little bit, but that is how it feels.  The programs of the city in talent identification is basically mass participation.  The more people that you have swimming the more likely you are to find that super talent and the more likely you are to raise sponsorships and have a lobby.  By tying up a university and city program you would maximize pool availability and minimize pool pumps, which are continually being put under pressure and costing more and more and more.  The universities have great facilities and most of them go unused for the biggest part of the day.  I think the NCAA short course meters every three years with the long course meet, perhaps the year before the Olympics would certainly help as a club structure in the United States and make relevant between the coordination of the home program the club program and the university.  I think club support for those programs that are tied up is important.  And, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a stand alone, super strong club program independent of the university, but when you can tie up the university with the city program it needs financial support and aid from the national government.

 

You know, the only successful countries in world swimming today have financial support from their national government directly in the clubs that have a history of percent and have shown that they can be successful.  They also have visitation from the national body on a frequent basis and I think perhaps the way of the future is that the national team will have swimmers and coaches of contract.  For instance in Australia, we play a pretty ridiculous game called cricket, and every member of the national cricket team as in the national football team, is tied up at X salary for the year and so is the coach.  Because coaches that go to work at the national level are away from the program so often and for so long they are national team representatives. They have to have a structure to afford to have a good coaching program based below that national team.  So, perhaps swimmers on the national team each year should be put under contract and paid a salary so that they are on call for the national program, whenever they are required to go to meets and to be available for coaching at those meets.  I know they are showing in Great Britain, and it’s certainly something that they are showing in Australia, but with coaches today, I don’t think you can be capable of doing everything in every area, psychology, biomechanics, physiology, it is not possible for a coach to be skilled in all areas.

 

A coach must know their strengths, identify their weaknesses and employ people to look over the weaknesses.  The improvement that should be looked for in the coach/swimmer ratio of maybe 8 to 12 students to one coach, maximum.  Sports medicine you’ve got to keep your athletes healthy, you can’t swim well with athletes that aren’t healthy and on sports diet.  Even though sports diet per say isn’t a contributing factor in dominating country success it certainly is heading that way.  And I think that you have to have great sports science support.  And for a club to have that I think the only way it could be facilitated in most western countries is though a tie up for the club to develop athletes locally and push them to the local university. They need to have the sports diet’s back up within that university so it can be handed down to the better club athlete within that one program.

 

The head coach has to be a head coordinator, manager and facilitator.  I think the days of the head coach, after being a head coach, being a jack of all trades, I think those days are limited.  Going on some of the things that Bob said, certainly a biochemist to work was making sure that the athletes are in prime running condition, their blood profiles are always perfect, the supplementation within the rules acceptable, and well worth it. I think the eighth program is offering some great innovative and support for us understanding the immune system and so perhaps recruiting people.  Doctors are certainly helping us in understanding how the immune system works and it’s developed greatly over the last two or three years, I think in their areas the problem of the future will have to erase.

 

But the other one, I think the other important area is the competition. I think that with the competition structure the way it is we have seen little gains.  I think there has to be a move toward the skins philosophy in the club program, where you have the skins in the 100’s and the 50’s.  And I think everybody is aware what a skins meet is, when you swim the heats over with the team or eight people, depending on the pool size, to make the finals.  And you swim a number of elimination files where one or two swimmers drop out at a time, so you end up with just two people standing up head to head on the 7th 50 to go head to head and try to win it.  And maybe the 100’s you have the heats and then you have 9 100’s and you swim three finals in the 100 and each time the slowest three swimmers are eliminated. So it means the first three that win the 100 eventually has to swim perhaps five times the 100 in an hour in a half or two hours.  But I think there has to be a move away from the traditional swim meets. I think we have to move on, because I think we force parents out of the sport because they sit around on weekends.  And surprisingly you go to a meet with little Johnny or little Mary while Mom’s being the referee or time keeper, and if you talk with the mom or the coach you find out that the swimmer at swim meets eats healthy.  And then you ask the guy that runs the shop and find out that they sold 20,000 cans of coke and 10,000 mars bars and 10,000 meat pies and no one ate them.

 

So I think we have to be careful to run meets that are more parent friendly and we advance the needs of the athlete so the swimming is more attractive than the other sports that we see taking over, like rollerblading, skateboarding, surfing and all of those traditional sports. I feel because we haven’t moved with the times, we are missing out on the best athletes, because those athletes are going into the more exciting sports environment.  So, hopefully those are some stimulating thoughts here on how I think the crowd of the future will be.  Thank you very much.  Ready to pick up Bob?

 

Bob Bowman: I realize that we are there at the end of the time element, so I’ll try to make this real short.  I did have a handout, I hope you got it, if you didn’t we’ll probably have some more in the back of the room and I have some more up here after the talk is over with. What George asked me to talk about was what I thought would be the most influential thing for club coaches to do to improve swimmers’ performances in the future.  And of course, I have always had a great interest in technology and I think that will be a major contributor to us as coaches to get kids to swim faster in the future.  I’m kind of almost on the edge and I’ve felt like I’ve talked myself blue in the face.  And I can remember back in 1982, and I said the same thing and I think we are on the edge of a real revolution in technology application for swimming.  And that was the first time I was ever exposed. I’m 57 now, so I started coaching as a youngster, back in the 60’s, and was exposed to some great coaches like Walt Sluter.  And there was another man who was very innovative named John Tallman.  He had a real futuristic type thinking and I was just exposed to this as a young coach and I thought that was part of the big job of coaching, was to come up with innovative type things and try to improve your swimmers.  And I did do some original type work back in the 60’s with now what is called computer assisted race evaluation. Conceptionally, it started in the 60’s and then went into the 70’s.  The real progress in it occurred in 1978 when they first came out with a turnkey computer that was affordable, a Tandy TRS80.  Some of you that are old enough might know about those.  We paid $4,500.00 for a real small, what would be less than a hand held today, but it was in a big huge package.  And we started what we call computer assisted race evaluation.  And I remember, I went to the training center in Colorado Springs, which had just opened and presented it to the national swim coaches seminar at that time, and it fell quite on death ears.  There was absolutely 0 interest in technology application at that point, but we continued on with it and we put race evaluation into a hand held device, an HP41 in 1982.  And I remember that they asked us to have a presentation at the American Swimming Coaches Association, so for two years in a row I talked about the application in micro computers and this idea of race evaluation that we had put out.

 

We begged U.S. Swimming to get involved in it and I can’t tell you how many directors we approached trying to get into it and no one would listen.  We wanted a descriptive study of the swimmers, how many strokes they were taking, what their tempo was, and we wanted it expressed in seconds per cycle as well as in strokes per minute.  And we pushed and pushed and we got no results on this at all for years and years.  And I’m happy to say that from 1982 to 2001 now, it has changed quite a bit and if you were at the senior national championships they were handing out race evaluations on every race between preliminary’s and finals.  Almost every country in the world is doing it, so that part of it I think has been very satisfying for me to see that program adopted and it flourishing so well.  And I think that you need to really look into that program. They have great resources on the web site for U.S. Swimming, and Walker up there has done a great job of getting it available to all the coaches.  And so that is a technology type thing that you need to avail yourself at.  It will help you with your coaching of your swimmers tremendously, if you are not using it you need to be using it.

 

In the handout today, George asked me if I had talked to him about the idea that I had, one pet project that was mentioned back in the 80’s, and it still hasn’t come about. And I think it would be one of the greatest steps that United States Swimming would make if we can get this system.  I’ve described it in the hand out available to us, which is a group heart rate monitoring system.  We do a lot of things and spend a lot of money on things that really don’t help the coaches be in a situation to really help their swimmers, and something like this would just be invaluable.  And we do have the technology to put it together right now and in fact the new organization, the supplementary organization I would call the National Club Swimming Association is making this a major project.  If any of you would like to participate in a group project to try and encourage the development of this monitoring system we would like for you to get involved.  If you know resource people that can help us, for example you need to get resource people involved maybe from Motorola.  If you have an applications engineer as a parent in your group, these are the kinds of things that can be constructive and really help, by bringing their expertise to technological development.  But, we would like to see this become a part and I won’t go into a lengthy description of it other than it would help you a great deal.

 

Of course we have a heart rate monitoring system right now and it is called Polar, and that is the most famous one and it does not work very good for guys if you’ve ever tried it.  For the girls it works pretty good.  I included a little an example of this in the back sheet of the handout and this happens to be one with Misty Hyman back in January of 1996.  She actually wore a heart rate monitor from the time she went into the senior group at 13 or so years old, all the way through until she went to Stanford.  She came off once and then she went to Stanford and then periodically it has gone back on and off, and I think it will probably be back on in the future. But, this happens to have been used in a little study that we were doing, kind of what we call an action study, to the effect of what we called band training, and it involves blood restrictive training that she was involved in very heavily in 1996.

 

The handout shows what you can get but it can be very helpful to your swimmers and your whole team to be able to do this and it would be extremely influential in your coaching.   I would suggest you would take a look at this and if you support this and again if you want to become involved, if not, maybe encourage and talk about it and see maybe if U.S. Swimming would use some of their resources.  They are the ones that should probably be the leader and the development of this but I don’t know whether it is going to happen. But anyway, I think that applications for technology will greatly help you out in the future.  For example, if you are teaching young kids I think that we are coming to the day where we are gonna be able to make greater use of video on deck to actually teach the kids good technique.  We will be able to say, “Hey, we want you to carry your elbow in this position, and here take a look at it.” And we will be able to call that up and put it right on deck and that is there already.  It’s really getting possible because of random excess and the ability to burn in discs and things like that, so I encourage you to not close your eyes in the area of innovation and in the area of technology.  Even though you may not be a real technical person, sometimes like George was saying, sometimes you have a discipline in one area and the discipline in the other area and when they come together that is what creativity is all about a lot of times.  Thank you John.

 

John Leonard: 120 seconds on swim facilities or swimming pools in the future is not very provocative and 120 seconds on swim meets in the future is very provocative.  Swim facilities of the future are here, they are plastic pools being manufactured in Australia right now.  We can’t do it legally in this country yet, and stainless steel pools are metal pools with liners, what is the advantage?  They can be built in any size, shape or depth.  My biggest advantage is they are mobile.  Don’t put it in the ground, put in on the ground, and put it on a concrete pad, brace it and have a swimming pool.  You got total access to all the plumbing there is, not ripping and tearing when you got a problem.  You got no problems with leather you’ve got no problems with maintenance.

 

The most important thing for coaches of the future is you own a pool.  You lease a site, you try the site for five years, you don’t like it, you move it.  Demographics change on it, you move it.  You want to move to another part of town, you pick up your pool and you move it.  How do you do it?  You start with owning 20 small 20X40 teaching pools, 31/2 feet deep, find the best location to run lessons in your market and put it in a shopping center, in a building on a one foot high pad. This means teachers can be on dry land and in most cases standing upright while teaching children in the water.  They can be comfortable, they can teach for hours, and they can put a great video teaching setup, just like Bob just talked about, right in the store next to them on the pool station for their demonstrator. Alright, make your money that way, move on up to a bigger pool, move on up to a bigger pool, move on up to a bigger pool.  Change up to a whole different section of swimming, move up to the Olympic trials, put them in major stadiums with perfect seating comfort, and a great spectator set up- this is how we are probably going to have our Olympic trials next time around.  We ought to be having all of our major meets in great stadiums with portable pools.  I know Chuck Wilgus believes in that and I believe we need to do it.  Don’t invest in facilities that are going deteriorate or have the market move away from you.  Invest in a facility that you can move with the market and that won’t deteriorate.  There are at least three companies on the market already, Keifer, Murpher and Yamaha, who are building metal pools and there is an Australian company building a plastic pool.  You’ve got flexibility, you’ve got convenience, you’ve got ease, you’ve got no land investment, what could be better? A portable warm building, but that is a topic for another time.

 

120 seconds on swim meets.  Number one. United States Swimming will finally realize in the future that the center piece of our sport is age group swim meets, so they will ban the making of money in swim meets, which means the only reason you’ll run a swim meet is actually to have children have a good experience. That will solve a 60-year old problem in the sport.  We are gonna have different kinds of meets.  We are gonna have sprint meets for all those 50’s and 25’s and some underwater swimming, we are gonna have 400 IM’s or 800 IM’s, 400’s of strokes, and we are gonna have different types of meets for different types of folks.  Bill mentioned that a little bit before, we are going to sneak computer chips in kids caps so we can learn and inspectors can learn all about the different things that are going on during a race.  We are going to do something that some people are already doing right now at an age group level in this country, and that is we are going to put aqua pacers in kids caps.  There is nothing in the rules right now that says that they are illegal.  You think kids can’t swim faster with that little beep going on in their brain?  I’d wait and see what is going to happen.

 

Last thing, somebody mentioned the other night we want to get more people interested in the sport and make it a more TV spectator sport.  I need to get some violence, how about we build some circular racing pools and we swim by weight class?  Phil, your turn.

 

Phil Whitten:  How do you follow that?  I’m actually going to talk about two things and since we are way over time here I’m gonna make them brief. Although, I can’t talk nearly as fast as John can.  First of all I want to say few words about drugs, which is a topic in which I’ve had some passing interest for the past several years.  First of all, I think what Bill Sweetenham said earlier about drugs is basically correct, that the battle has been lost even though the war has been lost, even though we have won several battles.  But, what we need to do is redefine and what I suggest we do is to redefine according to the Hippocratic oath.  First, do nothing that’s harmful, so any drug that we know or any substance that we know causes harm.  A person who tests positive for any drug at any time should be banned from the sport for life and everything that the person has won all of the times all the awards and so forth should be rescinded and given to the person who actually earned them.  Both in our sport and in the United States as a whole, we are not serious about the drug issue even though there is a lot of Broderick and we have conducted a so called war on drugs, which by the way I think is misguided, except in the area of performance enhancement.  We really are not serious, and I think, and this is a bipartisan comment, and I’m just going to give three recent examples involving the three most recent presidents.  George Bush, the first man appointed as his chairman of the president’s counsel on physical fitness was a man named Arnold Schwartzenager, who never would have gotten where he was without the use of steroids, and has admitted that.  Instead of using his platform to convey against the use of steroids, which probably led to his heart surgery at a very young age, that was just ignored and his star power was the thing that was emphasized. That was an opportunity that was lost.

 

This was quickly repeated by president Clinton, when he appointed as co-chairman of his president’s counsel on physical fitness, Florence Griffith Joyner, at age 39.  Probably, almost certainly, the use of drugs, or at least drugs were a contributing factor, and again Flow Jo was a romantic figure. There was never any talk about the effects that drugs had on her either before her death or afterwards.

 

And finally, last year at the republican convention one of the featured speakers was some guy called the Rock.  I don’t know what his real name is but this is a guy who is built of steroids and the republicans who are supposed to be the hardest on crime and the hardest on drugs has this guy as the star.  So, until the two political parties are serious about dealing with the drug issue I think society as a whole is not going to get very serious about it.

 

What I wanted to do at this point was to go on to some other issues related to the drug issue, designer drugs genetic manipulation or ultimately cloning or some version of it.  A topic that was raised with regard to the taking of Ian Thorpes blood in July and the possibility that some geneticists either in the present or the near future might be able to take that blood and create Thorpe clones in other countries. Presumably so, Australia would have a national interest in defending his blood and making sure it wasn’t used for the wrong purpose.  Yes, they have a great relay, we have trouble beating them.  These things sound far out, I was asked to be edgy and I wish I could go into them a little bit because I don’t think that they are far out at all.  The other thing that I was asked to talk about is the problem with the NCAA’s and the NCAA issue.  And this is something that I’ve already spoken about here and I’ve written about and I’, constantly writing about on our web site.  Just to bring you up to date, there is a lot of good news that is happening, or at least potential good news.  One is that we have formed and we are ready to go into business with our legal defense group.  This is a group of lawyers under the ages of a scholarly master swimmer, former competitive swimmer, who is a state judge in the State of New Hampshire.  This will make it possible for us to fight in the courts, every case in which a swim program is cut at the NCAA level and presumably at the high school level as well.  The relevant case law will be made available to the 60, currently 60 or so lawyers who have volunteered their services pro bono.

 

The second thing is that ASKA has decided that it is going to fund, or hire I should say, hire a lobbyist that will assist the College Swim Coaches Association of America in fighting the attempts to cut swim programs.  This is something that has been needed for this organization, because even though they should have been the leaders in this fight in the last few years, until very, very recently they have ignored the issue.  And now, their eyes have been open and they realize that everybody is in danger.  When one of us is threatened, all of us are threatened.  This is meant and this is quite literal it is not figurative and ASKA stepped up and I think this is a fantastic thing and I think it shows that the swim community is finally working and can serve with each other.
The third example with this is I volunteered some time ago out of my experiences being involved in a journalistic sense and a proactive sense with a bunch of programs that have been cut or threatened with being cut to write a “How to Save Your College Swim Program” booklet.  That booklet is now finished and I sent a draft out for review a few days ago.  I’ve gotten the comments and by Monday evening this will be finished and United States Swimming has stepped up and offered and we certainly accepted and offered to print this and distribute this book to every college swim coach in the country.  It will also be available on line and we hope that we will be able to make copies available to high school coaches as well.

 

Having said that, what I really wanted to talk about and I’m just going to hint at some of the issues here is that the problem with male swimming at the college level starts much earlier than that.  It starts at are not tailoring our program to fit the needs of boys and Bill Sweetenham touched on this subject yesterday.  For those of you who don’t speak Australian, he talked about Sheila and Blokes, those are girls and boys, we need to tailor our training programs psychological as well as physiologically to the different needs of girls and boys.  We first have to recognize that these needs exist and then we need to put into place a program that speaks to the needs, not only of girls, which are well spoken to at this point, but to boys, because there is a declining number and more importantly a declining percentage of boys in our sport in our country.  I have some ideas in this area but I know that we’ve gone overtime so those are the ideas that I wanted to throw out for now.  If there are any questions or if we have time for questions I’d be happy to entertain them.  Thanks.

 

Due to the constraints of time, I was going to bounce a couple of quick questions around you and then we will take a fifteen minute delay and then we will move right into Bill’s talk.  If I could start with Bob Bowman and Bill Sweetenham.  Both of you sort of eluded to a coach now going away from the generalist role to the specialist role to the coordinators role. I’m wondering if that is really saying that where we have to move to is almost to the professional model, where we have a general manager that will sort of handle all of the coordinating details, and a head coach who can actually go back to being a head coach, or if you think the coach by definition has to coordinate all this stuff.

 

I think that is an excellent question and I think you have to look at it maybe in two ways in terms of the collective organization of clubs, or any sort of training program.  I believe the way of the future is to have a general manager, more of someone like that, and a coach of a professional franchise, who may not be responsible for a particular element of the program, but for coordinating the assistant coaches and having them do more specific jobs, so that would be something that we are actually trying to be responsible.  Where Murray Stephens is administering a very big growing program, and I’ve taken over more of the day to day coaching of the senior athletes on the specific side, in terms of one athlete, I think that the coach, while having to perform the jobs of coordinating with the other people, is ultimately the person in charge of the training program.  And the bottom line is the key to performance and it’s going to be the consistency, the planning and the daily implementation of the training program.   I don’t think anyone but the coach can do that and all of these other people effect that.  So if we are going to maintain the integrity of the training program and the planning process I think on a individual basis the coach has to be in control of all the other people in the support team.

 

Bill, from your looking at clubs in depth and trying to almost develop a new club system in Britain, how do you see this working?  Is the coach going to be able to manage all of these dispread professions or is he going to need a collaborative manager as part of his team?

 

I think we have a lot of coaches in the world who either prematurely retire or stay in the sport where they have great knowledge, but their motivation wanes a little and I think that their expertise is lost.  I think that there is a great opportunity to have, to seek a coach who stays in the sport and runs the management of the program and has a younger coaching staff, a very enthusiastic staff under him.  It is the old story in coaching, that when you’re young you lack the knowledge and you have great enthusiasm, and as you move through your coaching you end up with a whole lot of knowledge but time takes its toll and the enthusiasm wanes a little.  You should have the best of both worlds, keep the senior coach with an expertise in there and put a coach instructor under that when the head coach recruits. That is what’s required for the team for the implementation of the coaches who are running the program, and I think it is going to be such a complex issue, coaching in the future, that no coach is going to be able to coach as a stand alone coach without having a recruitment of expertise.

 

This is similar to what is happening in football in this country and football in Australia, where perhaps you have a coach that comes in once a week just to work on turns, like you have a defensive or an offensive coach in football.  Maybe not to that extreme, if you have expertise recruitities under the guidance of a very experienced coach who hangs up his stop watch so to speak and runs the program from that position.  This is probably one of, a good subject for the application of even technology here, and one of the things that we’ve been interested in for many years.  John will know about this, it is what we call remote site coaching, and it is where we basically, it’s a reality now, we can use the Internet to visit anyplace in the world that we can get the appropriate band width in and that’s our problem. That quality is low right now but it is going to be real high quality and eventually what is termed as distance learning or that will all be available for support, so it’s going to be a big influence on it.

 

John you have probably visited more clubs then anyone in the United States and one of the common problems is that clubs can barely afford to be at the status they are.  They can barely afford to pay their coach and barely afford to pay their eating bill.  If this is where clubs need to head or maybe are heading in, in having a very broad support staff and maybe two people at the top head coaching at GM, how are they going to afford to do this?   They’re not. I’m dead serious. I mean I think if that is where it’s going, we are going to have the haves and the have nots.  And the haves as Bill said are we are going to have to go out and find a sponsor and there aren’t that many sponsor’s out there because our sport is what? It’s somewhere behind the Westminster dog show in terms in popularity on TV, so there are going to be very few sponsors that are going to be willing to do that until our sport gets more popular. So, if you haven’t got sponsors, there are going to be a few haves and a lot of have nots.

 

Bob Gillett, you all sort of led us in technology, but in just going down the technology that you mentioned, it was as cutting edge as the trash 80 polar heart rate monitors. Now you can find it in almost any elementary school in the United States today and the most advanced technology of all rubber bands, it doesn’t seem like the technology that you are recommending is what I would call advanced technology.

 

Well again, it is mainly because of resources and I and you know, that this is one area where I think we can get some sponsorships, because a lot of spin-offs are available just like the heart rate monitoring system that we talked about.  It involves a lot of technology from Metronics.  In fact, we did have Metronics on board in the early 80’s to develop what is now called the Polar. The reason they opted out is because it was so expensive to develop a medical quality EKG device and that was taken.  I carried that up personally to the training center and talking to them up there there was 0 interest in it at that point. And one of the problems is we are not embracing technology.  We have to go out there and pursue it and tell people how important it is and participate. We can just stand back and say it’s not possible to do that, but it is possible we can do those things.

 

Phil, I’m going to finish with you on the boys issue.  The boys issue isn’t new to swimming, it’s been a two decade long decline, if not more, and it’s just not swimming’s problem. Until recently, it was every single Olympic sport. Male participation was dropping and the last couple of years its even dropping in such things as football, and we see the State of Oklahoma dropping high school football teams and then suddenly we see boys dropping out and not even going to junior college or even four year colleges.  And something somewhere along the line that we’re doing to the young males in our culture is really bad.  What is there in this room that all of us can do when we go back to our pools, to turn that around in our neighborhoods? Maybe we can’t change the world, but maybe we can clean up our street corner.  What can we do to bring boys back into the traditional sports, which to me means, into our traditional value systems which leans to things like higher education and those types of larger participation?

 

George, I don’t claim to be an expert in this area at all, but it seems to me that we need to think seriously about the psychology of young boys and the interest of young boys.  We need to and tailor our programs especially at the younger ages to meet those physiological and psychological needs.  Boys, I think that Bill Sweetenham mentioned the other day, no it wasn’t Bill Sweetenham, it was Mike Bottom. Mike Bottom mentioned, that boys in particular that are sprinters, have shorter attention spans than girls and Bill talked about the greater ability of young girls to work harder with shorter rest intervals than boys.  And yet while I’m sure there are programs that exist that do this, I personally have never seen a program in which sets were divided up by sex or gender, is that the word these days, yes we like sex? O.K. Where sets are divided by sex, so that girls are doing one set and boys are doing another.  Probably, a better idea than that is to separate them at a certain ages and have the workouts done separately. But we need to think seriously about that.

 

We also need to talk about reward structures for boys. For example, I just posted a story on our website the other day, yesterday about Kim Black being named one of the finalists in the NCAA Woman of the Year award.  She was also a finalist in the Honda Woman of the Year award.  Each time I put it in there, I realize there is no similar award for boys.  Likewise, we have here a very, very good clinic structure called Girls Power Clinics.  These are clinics that focus specifically to the need, the wants, the desires, and the interests of young girls.  We don’t have anything like that for boys.  I think the genesis of this is the woman’s movement and the political correctness of seeing girls and soon to be women, as being an oppressed group, and they are not.  I don’t think they were then. although there were inequities that needed to be overcome, and they certainly aren’t now.  But, I think now for some reason it is not yet politically correct for us to focus on the needs of boys and I think we need to get beyond that political correctness and focus on the issues that are impacting the youngsters who are or could be in our sport.  That is, the concept of the future of swimming might be in truth as opposed to political correctness.  Panelists thank you very much.  Audience, thank you for hanging in there on a Saturday afternoon in New Orleans.

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