[Introduction, by Tim Murphy]
Our next guest, I am sure many of you have heard speak before, if not just here at this clinic. Coach Sweetenham has a compelling life story. A tremendous contribution to the athletes that he has had the opportunity to work with, and I think that is matched by a tremendous contribution to the coaching profession. For me, I have always loved listening to his stories. I respect his experience, his knowledge, his expertise and his success. And actually, at times, it is difficult for me to listen to Coach talk, because he challenges me, keeps me honest. I am sure he does the same to you, in terms of the goals and aspirations, dedication to our profession, and making of champions—which he is going to be talking about evening. So, an honor for me and please help me give a warm reception to Coach Bill Sweetenham.
The title this afternoon is “The Making of Champions”. It is a step-by-step process through the development of early ages of athlete development, and the pathway guidelines, (and guidelines only) that great athletes have taken through their career. I have studied it for a long, long time; and tried and retried the process.
Just to start, I want to throw a couple of things into the pool that you can think about. Whenever I work with an athlete, the first question I ask: Is it an athlete first and sports-specific person second, or is it a sports-specific person first and an athlete second? That determines how you coach and train them. Look at Venus and Serena Williams: you have an athlete first and a tennis player second. You look at [Maria] Sharapova, and you have a tennis player first and an athlete second. And that, to some extent, dictates how you prepare that talent and how you work with it; and, more importantly, how you improve it.
To repeat the questions that I put-up yesterday: Is it excellence in life delivering excellence in sport, or is it the hope that excellence in sport will deliver excellence in life? If you know the answer to that question when you start coaching them, you will also have a pretty good indication of where you are going. You have to train the body to match the fitness of the mind, more importantly than training/coaching the mind to match the fitness of the body. So the athlete has character in strength of mind, in preference.
For those of you who work with junior athletes, as David just said, it is important to start the plan correctly. For those of you who are involved in swim schools or teach swimming, you have a choice, very early, when you set a model in place: do you teach swimmers or do you produce swimmers? So, you can teach swimming, which is a great health and safety thing and very good. Or you have quality teaching and you produce swimmers, from the ground up.
A couple of things I was asked that I will throw at you again. In my view and in my experience, strength and conditioning for females has to begin at the onset of maturation and it should be done every single day through maturation. If you want to have strong, powerful females for distance right through to sprint, then the body is receptive to change and adaptation at the onset of maturation, and females should lift and do strength and conditioning immediately [once] maturation begins—and perhaps, a little before it. And that will body-shape and produce power-to-body-weight ratios that will take them through their career. Also, I have found it beneficial, for adaptation, for the females during this period, and even later on in life, to do one extremely explosive, powerful lift just before they go to bed at night—immediately before sleep at night. So they do a maximum lift immediately before they go to sleep at night.
If you are in some of the Spanish-type countries, where you have a siesta in the afternoon, then gym is best done immediately before the siesta. The study of hormones and how they react and how they are released, [shows] it is usually about 10:00 during the day, half-past ten. And if you can do a powerful lift, or a few powerful lifts (or series) but not too many, immediately prior to sleep, then you will have a far better chance of adaptation and recovery during that period. I also believe that stretching should be done at night, prior to sleep; and it should not be done prior to training. A stretched muscle is an injured muscle; and if you immediately stretch your muscle and lengthen it and then apply force, in gym or in the water, you will have injuries. I have always done breaststroke and butterfly in my warm-ups, even if it is only short distances—4 strokes butterfly, 8 strokes breaststroke—and done them very fast and hard; you are warming-up the muscles, not the energy system. If you spend 2K or 2.5K doing aerobic training, warming up the muscles, then you are working an energy system. So, that might be some things for you guys to think about.
Before I start the slide—you will see it in the slides—I believe speed has to be taught very young. It does not mean you have to compete in speed events at a young age, but you have to open the athlete up to speed and speed development very, very early in their swimming career. There are three ways to train speed. The obvious way is distance: 8×50 on 2:00, hold the best average time you can, or descend 1-4 or 1-2. And they are maximum speed 50s. And you measure time and you measure stroke length—that is the traditional way that every coach uses. I think it has to be done in time, as well: 15, 20, 25 second optimal-speed repeats, and you measure how far the athlete goes in 20 seconds and how many strokes they take in 20 seconds. And if you measure that continually, you will get a very good indication of the growth of the athlete and the efficiency at which they swim to speed. And of course, the number of strokes: dive and 8 strokes, dive and 4 strokes, push and 4, push and 8—any number you want—so that you can compare speed against time, speed against distance, and speed against number of strokes. I think all three have to be done.
I think, also, swimming (and one of the coaches brought it up to me last night)… I also believe that swimming in a pool without lane lines, and reasonably turbulent water, is a very good exercise in developing technique. It is the same as lifting weights in a controlled machine as against doing free weights. The athlete has to learn to control technique in rough water. The learning is much better. You do not do it often. But if you can learn to swim in moving water and some turbulent water, the athlete will develop better motor pathways to hold technique under the pressure of some turbulence in the water.
A standard set that I do—I’ve done for many, many years; you can’t do it immediately but it’s to go 8×100 on 3:00 where the athlete does each 100 without breathing. You have to work-up to it. You might start breathing four [times only], then breathing every three, two. And then, finally, if they can do 6×100 and then go 8×100 on something like 3:00 and not breathe, the athlete learns to be efficient in movement. It’s not about the “not breathing”. It’s that the athlete learns to have a long, controlled, efficient stroke to be able to go 100 meters without breathing. They learn to swim long and slow and efficient. They learn to swim extremely efficiently.
I wanted to put those up right at the beginning to give you something to think about and perhaps, something to work on. I want to reiterate, and I’m sure every senior coach has experienced it. You get swimmers come into your program who are exceptionally talented and gifted but over a period of five, six, seven, eight years, they’ve developed technical imperfections (from learn-to-swim).
And of course, after the age of 16 or 17, technique change is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to put in place after 16 when they’ve done it for five, six years leading it into that stage. So, technique, technique, and technique at a young age overrides all other aspects of preparation. If the athlete can arrive at 16 or 15 years of age with great technique and efficient technique and has done speed training early in their life, you have a great opportunity to produce results with that individual.
It’s only been in the last six years when I’ve worked a lot in the corporate area and the corporate industry, in which I’ve changed my views on how I want to deal with athletes. It may be because of the Y Generation but I don’t believe that.
When I sit with an athlete, I ask them four questions before they start in the program. What are your goals and targets? Your goals are competition-related and your targets are training-related but attached to the goal of completion. So, your training targets must be in line with your goals. I ask the athlete to write that down. What are your goals? What do you want to do in competition? What are your training targets in order to achieve that outcome? Sometimes, they need help and you have to work with them on that.
The next question is, What are you prepared to do to achieve those goals? It’s no good saying, “I wanna be the greatest distance swimmer in the world, but I only want to come to six workouts a week.” It’s frequency of exposure to perfection to a given stimulus that creates improvement; it’s the specificity of the stimulus. The frequency of exposure to perfection of performance and stimulus related to the outcome creates a pathway for success. And, that can’t be compromised.
The third question is, What will you bring to the team? What do you personally bring to the team—enthusiasm, commitment, talent, skills, dedication, hard work, attitude, character? What is your gift that you bring to the team, why you should be included on the team? What are you going to deliver to the team?
The fourth question is, What do you expect of me as the head coach or the coach? What are your expectations of me? I then ask the athlete to write answers to those four questions, in detail. I show them a sample athlete agreement that someone has done before and I say, “I want you to go away and the next week, I want you to write your own athlete agreement. You can work with others on the team but you write your own athlete agreement. You write down your commitment to the team, not to me, but to the team in an athlete agreement you can put in any format you want but you have to sign it and you’ll have to live to it. We’ll visit it often but it has to be your agreement based on those four points.”
I, then, look at the answers in the athlete agreement and decide whether I want to coach that athlete. I decide then: do I want to coach that? Can I create winning, leadership, decision-making with that human being? Are they going to be decision-makers? Are they going to be independent? Are they going to be leaders in terms of optimal leading potential? And can they win? Winning is achieving the athlete’s optimum performance under pressure or under exposure to the highest level of competition. That’s winning.
So I look at the athlete and I see two people. I look at each athlete and see an athlete and a person. The person is the business owner and the athlete is the business product. Both must be in harmony. So you have two people with each athlete. Business owner, that’s their brand name, that’s them. They’re going to own that ‘til the day they die. Over here is the business product, that’s the athlete – That’s the result. You have to make sure that you, as the CEO, can make both those things work together in harmony. Quite often, that’s very difficult. Then, explain to the athlete that in this business model, there are three ways to improve the business, or “increase sales”. So any business has to increase sales. How do you that in sport? You win more often at a higher level. That’s what increasing sales are, in sport. A business model is for each individual to win more often at a higher level. How many performances does it take to get a result? Less is better.
The second, protocol is improved margins. How do you improve margin in sport? Very easily: focus on positives. You cut to the chase and work on strengths and positives that will deliver improved sales. Anything that doesn’t do that has no return on investment, and you’ll eliminate it. It has no meaning and no value. The third protocol is reduced operating costs. How do we reduce operating cost in sport? Very easily: the athlete only has to be told once to do things, and the athlete takes ownership of the brand name and the business result.
I then ask each athlete to list nine points of winning difference. What are the nine points that are going to deliver improved sales, improved margins and reduced operating cost? We each create the nine key points – I write then as coach/CEO, what I think the nine key points are. The athlete writes their own. After a week, we sit and swap. They give me their nine key points. I give them my nine key points, and then we negotiate. Why we got that? Why not this? I think this; they think that. And eventually, we agree on the nine key elements of winning for that individual. We document those down and then we work on a strategy of how to improve each winning point of a difference by only 1%! If you can do that, the chance of the athlete, the brand name, being successful will improve by about 25%-30%. They won’t get a 25%-30% better result, but their potential to achieve those three objectives will improve immediately by about 25%-30%. A fairly solid business model that you can bring back to sport. I have applied this very well in recent times.
The making of champions, or Excalibur coaching? Most of you know what Excalibur is. No trickery, no shortcuts, no magic. There’s no Excalibur coaching. It does not exist. There is no magic. It is committed athletes with vision-leadership from the coach. Very simple, not difficult. You have a choice as a coach to develop very small shrubs which you’ll see on the right of the screen with very small roots or you have the opportunity to grow very strategic tall timbers. You can see why I’m a swimming coach and not an artist. The little shrub on the right, has very small roots. The moment that shrub hits wind, rain, drought, fire, disease, it’s in trouble. The tall timber on the left has deep-seeded roots that are going to withstand all adversity. Learn-to-swim are the roots. LTS: Learn-To-Swim. Also, it stands for learn the skills, skills-based quality teaching to start the journey.
Love the sport! Teach passion for swimming and passion for learning. Prize learning. Make sure the athlete child is learning to love the sport, learn new skills, while they learn to swim. Love the support of being in a group environment. That group environment is going to be converted to a team. Each person must feel the support of the people they are learning with and the teacher.
Of course, the important one is: learn to stop. Know when enough is enough. Coaches struggle with that one. When they’re doing something well, stop, praise and leave that memory with the child as they leave the pool.
[From] 6-12 years-of-age, you will find genetic speed. The athlete who’s got white fibers has got that early speed. He’ll do that by doing short repeats of distance, number strokes and time. You’ll easily see genetic speed in the young person. You should recognize it, understand it and then develop it into efficient speed – meaning speed by efficient stroking.
Swimming – no breath swimming for short period of distance, with the athlete doing long technique. Silent swimming is slow motion, with perfect technique.
As the tree grows because of the base that you put in place, the first objective, if you’re going to develop a high performance program is to find the best learn-to-swim teachers that you can find and get them into your program: quality teaching from the beginning. If you can’t, open your coaching business near someone who is doing that, so that you can have that feeding quality learn-to-swim into your high performance arm.
At pre-maturation, you already know now who’s got genetic speed and you will see which athlete are most likely to have aerobic and endurance capabilities. That will be, I will repeat, aerobic sets. And remember, the word aerobic should always be preceded by the word skilled. It should be skilled technique-based aerobic preparation, or skilled aerobic training. If the word skilled is not there, you will get sloppy aerobic training which is defeatist. Skilled aerobic training and measured endurance training. Always put the word skilled in front of aerobic and always put measured in front of endurance. Aerobic training, of course, is where you get bored before you get tired and endurance training is where you get tired before you get bored. Understand the difference. Young people have great recovery but you still have to teach them at a young age.
The branch of the tree, a tall tree is going to branch out for women, just prior or at maturation where they are going to become aerobic or endurance based athletes. You can make a mistake here. You can make a mistake and it’s quite okay. If you make the mistake and add some people on the branch that’s going out, you will soon identify that you got them in the wrong stream. They won’t be able to repeat aerobic training and they won’t be able to handle endurance training and you can feed them back in the main trunk of the tree. These are the people that are going to start a pathway for the 800 free and the 1500 free, perhaps the 400 medley, open water, and long distance swimming. It doesn’t mean you don’t have sprint training in there; you still keep up those three protocols of sprint. You will still have technique-based speed, identify genetic speed and you have technique-based speed.
Skilled Technique efficiency – by exposing the athlete, the tree forms in sprint training. You start the men at post maturation with strength and conditioning and the aerobic stream, so they can move over into that branch that’s going up. The speed-based people at around 18, at completion of maturation, at around 17-18 years-of-age when they stop growing, when the growing slows down, you can now have training-based speed. So you have to have genetic speed, then you have technique skill-based efficient speed and now you’ll have trained speed. In other words, you’re going to have speed training dedicated programs based on speed and your middle distance athlete to 200 IM and up with your 400 and 800 people in down are going to continue going the length of the tree. It’s going to grow as tall as you could possibly make it.
Genetic speed: mom and dad gave you white fibers. Those white fibers were taught to swim perfect technique for slow motion perfect technique swimming – high skill swimming. Then they can train speed. If you miss the aerobic base at maturation for female swimmers, you have lost the opportunity. It’s gone. It can’t be retrieved. It can partially be retrieved but you’ve done the athlete massive disservice. You’ve wasted talent. Aerobic and endurance athletes must be exposed to skill based aerobic training and measured endurance training, pre and during maturation for females, and post- maturation for males. In any number of studies you can see that.
You can also see that most great swimmers had a backstroke base. Nearly every great swimmer, 90% of all of the great swimmers can be traced to having a great backstroke base. Backstroke, of course, is the stroke where you can have the least flaws in technique, straight-arm recovery, head out of the water, no movement in the head for breathing, very efficient kick and it is easily taught well. The freestyle, if overused at the young age will develop flaws and skills and you’ll have problems. Six to twelve years of age, the 200 medley should be the most important event with their learning efficiency in all four strokes over 200 meters. The 50 butterfly, especially short course, should be essential for every young athlete. They learn the value of the dolphin kicks in 50-meter short course, both off the start and of the wall. This can be done at training; it doesn’t have to be competition.
Talent development. Government bodies, some national bodies believe the above: At 14 years-of-age there’s a linear line to the gold medal at 22 years-of-age and you can put systems in place to create that. That’s what they believe success looks like. Those of us who coach know what it really looks like is the bottom line [on graph]. The journey is chaotic. It doesn’t go linear. You’ll have to have a great bag of tools as a coach. The first 4-6 years you coach, for any problem that comes up, you have one solution that may or may not work. The next 4-6 years of coaching, you won’t have problems because you identified them coming towards you and you’ll have strategies to prevent them from happening. Most of those would be parent-based. Your next 4-6 years of coaching, you will create problems to teach lessons. And that’s very important that coaches go through that process. As a teacher and a coach, you should always throw the curveball to test the athlete, but the curveball must never win. You must have a strategy so that the athlete can officially handle the curveball and feel good, and pray hard that they did that.
If you have teachers in your learn-to-swim program, try to recruit people who are great teachers, not people who have swimming experience. That might be okay. I was able to convince the learn-to-swim programs that I had influence on, to get teachers. For instance, show them a video of a Track & Field exercise, a hop and a skip or hurdle skip, or a lay-up in basketball, and then ask them to go and teach a mixed group of talented athletes or non-talented athletes, and see how well they teach that skill. How quickly can they teach, to perfection, a skill? If you can do that, it will be very easy to make them teach swimming very efficiently and effectively. If you have swimming people come in, then they will want to teach the way they have learned or haven’t learned, and any flaws that they might have had in their swimming career, will be carried over into their teaching methodology. Teacher training is very important if you want to have that bottom graph flatten out and be a little more linear, but it will never be as linear as what people and systems think the top one is.
The Journey of Performance – The average age of Olympians for their first time on the Olympic podium has been 22 years-of-age for the last three or four Olympics. This year, it’s changed for women: it’s gone down considerably. So, you have to plan for the athlete’s future to be on the podium at the Olympic-level or the National-level, around 20-22 years-of-age. For the endurance athlete is going to be more like 20. As an example, how many of the world’s greatest mile/distance swimmers have been able to improve at the Olympic-level after the age of 20? One, only one swimmer: a Canadian boy at the Olympics this year. Every Olympic 1500-meter person has achieved their best time around 20 years of age at the Olympics. [Vladimir] Salnikov won gold medals eight years apart, but the second one was slower than the first.
So, you have to make sure that you understand that you’re going to get the athlete to the Olympic podium in the endurance events between 18 and 20 for girls, 20 for milers, give or take, and 22 for most other speed-based events. If you can get them on the podium at that, you have a chance to get them under the podium in four years’ time as an older athlete. If you don’t get them there by 22, for whatever reason, your chances to get them on the podium after 22 is about 20 million-to-one. It is a fantasy and it’s based on hope that senior athletes, after the age of 22, again, to make it onto the podium as first-time podium athletes. It just, for whatever reason, doesn’t happen. If you want that to happen, you better be doing something completely different than what everybody else in the world is doing.
So, the 13-year-old girl in the 100 free swims 60 seconds. To make it to 22, she has 9 years to go, and she probably wants to swim around 52 or 53, so she has a journey of 9 years, and 7 to 8 seconds. As per the previous slide, around 12 years of age, you’re going to have an indication of genetic speed. White-fibered, so you’ll know whether it’s going to be 200, 400, 800, or the 100 and the 50. Around maturation or just after, you’re going to see technique by speed. Have you done a good job? At 16, chances are, she’s going to swim around 56 seconds, give or take. So, you’ve used up 3 or 4 years of her 9-year lifespan to the podium, but you’ve used up about 4 seconds of her time improvement. So now, from 16 years of age to 22, she’s got 6 years and about 3 seconds of time improvement. So, if you divide eight competitions a year, for 6 years you’ve got 48 competitions and the 3 seconds. You’re going to have frustration, headache, and problems keeping this girl motivated. You better have some other skills as a coach to make sure you can keep that athlete on the journey: assume other events, introduce relays, introduce the toys of pulling and kicking, do short course. You have to have some tools to come in there that will keep that girl motivated and focused at 22 years of age and 52 seconds or 53 seconds. That’s why we lose; maybe not so much in America because the athletes are motivated by university scholarships—that doesn’t exist anywhere in the world. So, you have a different model that can work and works better than anyone else.
So, make sure you understand the journey of genetic speed, technique-based speed and efficiency, and skill into training-based speed. If technique is not taught young, training-based speed will not exist.
Twilight Zone of athlete development – Biggest problem for nearly every coach in the world. You have athletes who train 6-8 hours a week, about 30 weeks a year, maybe a little more. And for them, it’s enjoyable and fun; a social aspect. It keeps them healthy, gives them a team aspect. It’s a small investment and a significant return, but not a high performance return. If you go to the bottom one, the dedicated athlete is training 18-20 hours a week, 45 weeks a year or more. It’s going to have a huge commitment; it’s going to have an expectation of return. It has to be a long-term, sustainable result; it has to be motivational. People stop performing because they stop improving.
Remember the previous slide? How many performances does it take to get a result? Less is better, as I’ve said. It has to be coaching excellence in there. It has to have a high return-on–investment. There must be repeatable excellence, and governed and measured repeatable excellence. Mentally, that’s essential. It has to have progressive overload and specificity of stimulus. It has to have performance rather than popularity. It has to be reality ahead of hope. And most of all, it’s going to take frequency of exposure. This is the dedicated, committed athlete after maturation, after maturation. I’ll say it again, after maturation.
However, the majority of the world’s Swimming population trains between 6-8 hours a week up-to about 12-13 hours a week. This is the twilight zone. They train about 36-40 weeks a year. This is where frustration and headaches come in. It is too much for the enjoyment of the 6-8 hours a week. It is too little for commitment. It’s a participation string. It will deliver unfulfilled dreams. It will applaud mediocrity and will have popularity ahead of performance. I walk about 10 hours a week. Do I look like Usain Bolt? No. (Didn’t have to be so critical in the front row there, but they’re the facts.) If you want to be great, it’s frequency of exposure with dedicated effort at a given stimulus and addressing perfection as often as possible.
Your job is to convert up or down from that big middle group. It’s all right to convert down. They take-up less pool space; it’s a lot more fun; it’s more enjoyable; there’s no heartache or frustration. And they leave more room for the committed, dedicated athlete at the top who are going to go for 36-38 hours a week.
Functional utilization of fitness – Look at the right hand column where you’ll see commitment and competition. And at the left hand side, you see speed, and at the bottom you see fitness. The right hand side is the best. The champion thoroughbred. They have high speed. They have high commitment and they have high fitness. Below that, you have the better. The workhorse, it’s not the best but it’s great. This is the guy or the girl who has limited talent, but high commitment and dedication. They deliver that to the program.
On the left hand side, you have high speed, low fitness, and participation focused. These are bottom; I like those people to train in someone else’s squad. I don’t have room for those in my squad. And the low fitness and low speed is a person who wants to come four sessions a week. Well, if they’re prepared to pay the same price as others and I have the room, then financially, that’s a good deal, but they’re never going to make the right hand side of the column.
Coaching is converting involvement and participation into commitment and competitiveness in both training and competition. Be certain that all of the program, swimmer, parents, coach and officials, fit into the right hand boxes and that the stimulus for progression is in that direction. Make sure if you have a committee and you can’t kill them, make sure they understand that problem, that situation.
This is how I see that pyramid model of development. At the wide bottom, you’re going to have a group, a wide-based group who convert in the squad-focused teams and then you’re going to have some move across to the left as a delivery team. You’re going to have sprint, distance, and stroke at the bottom of the pyramid and it’s going to move up due to maturation, everything you’ve seen so far in the previous slides. Pretty simple pyramid project there. However, your participation that your 6-12 hours-a-week people and the twilight zone people, are going to take up an area of that pyramid, but not across the base, they’re going to go in a pyramid format up until around 16 or 17 years-of-age. Chances are, they will find something more interesting: boys, girls, work, study, and move out of the program around 16. That’s when we lose swimmers dropping out. They can’t get a collegiate scholarship. They get frustrated with non-improvement and they fall off the deck, but they stay there usually until 15, 16, maybe a little older. Then you have a squad-focused group that will be fed by the participation group. In other words, they can move across the interlocking pyramids – there will be a regional squad. It might be a national squad. And that will go into a senior squad. They can move across backwards and forwards into that participation group or they can move upwards governed by age, from a regional age group situation to the national youth situation and into the pyramid at the top for senior athletes. Hopefully they, at about 18, they will have achieved FINA A time and moved to a different stream or around 16 years of age, they would’ve made a FINA B time and moved into a different stream. But the athletes, depending on their commitment and performance, can move up or they can move across.
The people on the top of those three pyramids that get it 95% correct 100% of the time. These are the McDonald’s hamburgers: they offer consistency but never excellence. So it’s important to understand that. They’re the journeyman. I don’t know whether you know what a journeyman is. A journeyman is a name given to a boxer who fights to learn about 45 years of age: they never win anything but they have to keep boxing to pay a mortgage of home, a house and family. They are people that are on the journey, they don’t deliver excellence; no one’s fault, just the effect of life.
The USA is lucky, they have 350 universities that can cater to the majority of these people and they get an education from it and that’s fantastic. The rest of the world hasn’t got that, and they have to pay for that. So it’s a difficult one and of course that feeds across into another triple pyramid which is the stream which is a delivery team. This is where the regional squads and national youth will move over hopefully into the national age-identified talent group. They’ll go to the international youth team and they will move on up to the international open team, this is your international or national team of open senior swimmers. These are people that get it 100% right when it counts, these are the people that at the bottom of the previous ride who are committed, talented, and highly skilled and want to take it the whole way. There’s not a lot of them, they’re not normal, they have to be treated with kid gloves, they are your formula one cars, they do not come off an assembly line and it’s the same with the coaches. They get it 100% right, 95% of the time and especially when it counts.
How do you find that talent? Well, as I’ve said yesterday you have a six by six by six testing method, you teach/show a new skill, you give the athlete a chance to do it six times different ways, and you have six different ways to teach it and you don’t teach it for more than six minutes. Anyone that can learn it to perfection, you put in that left hand side of the pyramids, the delivery team. Then you test if they can do the same thing in a four by four by four and you do something four times, they do it four different ways then do it for more than four minutes and they get it 100% right. They are accelerated rate of learning and that’s what talent is. Talent is accelerated rate of learning; training is accelerated rate of adaptation. Point of winning difference is our ability to learn faster than our opposition at any competition and that way we bring about change exactly the same way. Eventually you’re going to test a two by two, you’re going to take a six by six by six, the four by four by four, wait a month and just see if they can get it right twice in two minutes.
In other words it becomes a rehearsal not a test, retention of skill is important. Has to have a pre-and post audit, performance audit, are we getting it right? Are we headed in the right direction? Are we delivering where we should be and have we got everybody on a pathway? That’s an idyllic pyramid; no country in the world has it. But if I could design and put a program in place and get a country bought in like that, I would do it but you can modify it and put it in place for your club. How do you know what your strengths as a national body are? You have an infrastructure and a facility, A, B, C, D down that left hand column. A is a club that has a great parent body, great logistics, management, organization, everything going for it and a great facility. B is something a little bit less, C is less again and D is the bare minimum. Ordinary facility probably all weather-beaten and probably has a lot of committees in that D model.
Coaching and coaches, you have learn-to-swim/ the wide base, you have high performance club programs and you have coaches who can coach that. They coach with international strategies on a daily, hourly, weekly basis, and they don’t coach with club strategies. They have moved their club program to an international program, they have high performance learn-to-swim, high performance club programs, and coaches that can deliver that. Then introduce sport science after the youth area, if you have to bring the news a sport science delivered by sport scientists earlier than 18 years of age, chances are you can’t coach, time to look for another profession. You bring in sport science that will make the coach a better artist, a coach is a paint artist, paint what they feel, they don’t paint what they see. The great artist of the world paint what they feel not what they see and great coaches are great artists. Sport science is most valued when added to the art of the coach. [This will] make the coach a better artist. Sport Science introduction and athlete development, quality learn to swim, identifiable and superior skills. 6×6, 4x4x4, a youth program and then the top of the pyramid in terms of athlete development.
How many programs do you have that you have A, the coaching model in place and the athlete development model in place and you just compare, no good having a facility that’s in the A and an infrastructure in the A. If the program is already running a learn-to-swim teaching children to swim, that’s a wasted facility and a wasted coaching situation. You’ll see a lot of A’s and coaching and coaching, only the first two phases of the pyramid and that will modify and limit the potential of the athlete development. So, you have to judge each facility, do they fit into that model? Of course you want the model that has A or B and delivers that stream and coaching and athlete development.
This [slide] is a group of swimmers that I was responsible for leading into the 2000 Olympics, I won’t get through all their names. Grant Hackett is on the right and that group of 11 swimmers had 100% PB stroke rate at the Sydney Olympics and 100% medal stroke rate, podium stroke rate at the Sydney Olympics. The girl sitting in the bottom in the right hand corner is Giaan Rooney who was a junior world champion, and she was recruited into Swimming from Track & Field as a high jumper. If you want to find talent for Swimming, go to the school sports department and recruit every high jumper. They have long bodies, they have great coordination, they have white-fibers and they’re really greatly coordinated. Steal from Track & Field, it’s a very good way to go, extremely good way to find talent. High jumpers make great swimmers, powerful body weight ratio, long limbs, right body shapes, great coordination, and fantastic way to find swimmers.
Coaching intelligent and athlete development, the pyramid on the left is pretty basic and simple. The experience and knowledge of the staff must be in advance of the talent of the athlete. Guys its simple, the experience and knowledge of the staff must be in advance of the talent of the athlete. You have participation at the bottom of the pyramid, regional club, University and Olympic and world podium. However, the coaching and intelligence on the right hand side starts off at the bottom. This very little knowledge, education, experience, but great teaching skills. That knowledge I’ve repaired of, time will grow just prior to university, 18 years of age, 17 years of age. That the knowledge of the coach will be extremely good and the staff and will be able to give it downwards.
However, it will fail to deliver upwards unless there’s a coach education and development program put in place that will start with an the inverse pyramid and the learning will commence again. So that coaches are developed into international coaches from club, regional and district coaches. That model fails in most countries, but it’s an important model to redevelop the coaches who are producing results. Have a map of talent development in the country that you’re working with or the area you’re working with. Know which learn-to-swim teachers are teaching quality teaching and are producing athletes, and recruit them into your program. Marry them, pay them more but get them in your program – they will determine your success. Clearly they will determine your success. Employ the person, develop the skills, never employ the skills and then attempt to develop the person. It never works. Employ the person, develop the skills. The right person will find a way to get the job done. A fully integrated, multidimensional club program delivering international coaching to a club model, hourly, daily, weekly.
Learn-to-Swim to High Performance – In the program I worked in, and Kiki sitting here worked in the same program came out and spent a year or 2, and worked in this program took me a long while. Phil King was my business partner; we’ve sold all the businesses. Phil was the head Track & Field coach for Australia. He recruited me to help coach his wife, who was the Olympic gold medalist in the hurdles in 1988. He took the tapering model that I had in Swimming and applied it to Track & Field. We had many arguments about Track & Field versus Swimming and the facts are these, in Track & Field, especially track, the athletes efficiency is decided by the least contact time with the ground that they can possibly have creating the most amount of speed and power in each footprint on the track. In Swimming, we seek the maximum amount of applied force on a firm body of water that we can get. There is no absolutely no comparison in the physiology between Track & Field and Swimming, and it’s crazy to compare them. Minimal contact with the ground, maximum force, maximum contact with the water and maximum resistance …can’t compare.
Anyway, he ran a participation arm and I recruited out of that participation model and brought talented athletes and talented teachers over into a high performance arm. We had two streams running. We had a participation arm and a high performance arm.
Mona Lisa Coaching – the artist as you all know was a tremendous artist but you’ve got to look at the person who mentored that artist, and if you get a chance to read it you will get some great coaching skills from researching the guy who mentored Leonardo da Vinci. Anyway, the Mona Lisa, is she smiling? Is she looking at you no matter where you stand? She sees everything. Is she smiling? Just has wind and is grimacing? No one can tell. Unemotional, high quality artistry is what coaching is about. The making of champions, what’s that about? It’s about young people who have needs. I want to learn-to-swim. I want to learn to swim well. Those needs creates desires, I like to be really good at swimming. Then you have to sell it. You have to sell motives, purpose, and character. Are you willing to really pursue this and go after it? That creates drives, you have to overcome and accept challenges. You have to have the capability and capacity to drive forward to a high competition arena. Those drives that were created by motives and desires and needs will now create behaviors. Those behaviors are training the body to match the fitness of the mind and of course behaviors create winning which as it should be, the only considered option or optimal performance and repeatable excellence.
You have to be able to do that when changing goals and changing plans. My job as a coach and a teacher is to make the journey very difficult but to ensure each individual reaches their optimal performance and makes it. When they fall over and fail, you dust them off, you teach failure in a foreign field, you don’t teach it in the Swimming, you teach it in Track & Field or you teach it in rock climbing and all of the athletes that I work with today do rock climbing.“Y Factor” – Weight belts on their wrist and their ankles, tennis balls on their hands, they have to press harder.
So, teachers become facilitators, facilitators become innovators, innovators become leaders and leaders become sporting entrepreneurs. There’s not one coaching license program or accreditation program in the world that addresses that, and it’s very important that that model should be incorporated in the development of coaches. You can read that, it’s there.
You have to plan. Plan is having knowledge of the product; knowledge of the product is knowledge of the athlete, knowledge of swimming. Knowledge of teaching is not just singular. It’s knowledge of every aspect of the product. You have to prepare role clarity. In Formula 1, the company will pay you if you’re the best in the world to change the front right hand tire of the car under pressure about 15 to 20 times a year, about half a million dollars. But you better be the best at it and that’s all that’s expected nothing else. Role clarity is important.
Present, you have to present. That’s a task and presentation of product. If you go into a showroom and they show you the bonnet of a car, you don’t buy it; you want to see the full product. If you go in to get your child taught to swim, you want to see the product. If you go to buy a house, you want to see the house that Jack built before you buy it. If you want your child to learn well, you want to see the finished product and it better be good or you don’t buy it.
Perform: accuracy, precision, execution and performance of staff. Rehearse and research, earn the finish, only one chance, very few have done it before. It’s individual and you got to be good at it. Win: you’re the best prepared in all conditions and repeatable excellence, sustainable and consistent, and every club program as well as every national program must have that.
I’m not going to go over this one too much. I did it last night. In all teams, you have 20% who have the attitude, “I will win.” They are your supporting entrepreneurs and your corporate athletes if you’re in business. They give 100%, 95% of the time when it counts, they create winning and they are the pillars of performance, whether it’s in business or sport. They create winning, they convert nerves into excitement. They win under pressure but you win because you remove pressure. They have repeatable excellence.
Good athletes are the 40% people who can. They’re saying, “Can I win?” They need great leadership, great logic, great management, leadership, future and visionary, and remember, management is in the current. Any company that has great management, that’s in the now. Organization is history in a past and it’s carried forward, great organization in a company. Leadership is the future and the vision. And you have to have all of those things. Current management, past organization brought to the present, and futuristic and visionary leadership.
Of course, the last 40% are the struggles, “I can’t win,” they’re the people on your team for the first time but you can’t change them depending on your youth program and your development program coming through. You have seen your athletes who have loyalty lapses, made the team, give me the tracksuit, get my picture taken and I’m ready to go home. Of course, relay alternatives, will I get a swim, why don’t I get a swim? They’re a problem. You have to be clear.
Great athletes know what good athletes don’t. Great athletes and coaches commit to winning. Good athletes and coaches commit to competition. Great athletes and coaches know something that good athletes and coaches don’t. Good commit to competition, great commit to winning. The coach has to be the most highly energized person in the program. As a coach, you must be more highly energized than your the most energized swimmer. They have ability to make the athletes and staff feel valued, special and important without indulgence or pampering. They know the heart and mind of the athlete and the staff, the opposition and the competition.
Remember, when you coach 40 athletes, they know you better than you know them. An athlete reads one person. You are trying to read 40 swimmers or 40 athletes or 40 staff. Their knowledge of you is greater than your knowledge of them. Remember, the athlete’s ability to learn by copying is far greater than any teacher or coach’s ability to teach. Anyone, the greatest teacher in the world, I happen to think I’m it, but that’s my ego speaking. But the athletes that I work with, their ability to learn by copying is greater than my ability to teach. They have to see the end product to know.
They have to have an open mind, they have to be creative and innovative, technically advanced, timed at task and a knowledge of product. When is the last time you did something for the first time? Ask yourself. If it hasn’t been in the last six months, go and book a funeral home, you’re ready.
Repeatable excellence, is winning important to you? Coaches, have a mind game here. I want you to think of the event at the Olympics in which you would most like to coach a gold medalist. What do you think? You just think now, if you could coach an Olympic gold medalist, what event would it be in? Everybody done that? Okay. Who won that event at the last four Olympics? If you don’t know, perhaps coaching is not important to you. If you don’t know who won that event in the last four Olympics, well, at least who holds the world record and what the splits were?
Is winning your only considered option? Can you create winning? I know less than 30 coaches in the world who can teach winning and create winning, very small group of people. Can you make every staff member a winner and a leader? Your staff has to be winners and leaders. Can you make a difference with those who will make a difference, athletes and staff?
Delivering international coaching on a daily, hourly, weekly basis to national level programs, not the reverse. Are you more energized than your hardest working athlete or staff member? Can you make a difference when it counts? Do you display raw example? Think outside the box. Calculated risk-taking, take the untrodden path, being what you want to be, not what you have to be and daring to be different. Communicate upwards, across and down, make sure you do that.
It is better to have hunger and adversity than complacency and comfort. You talk to Novak Djokovic, the tennis player, and ask him where he learned his skills, he will tell you: war-torn Serbia. No tennis courts but he found a 50-meter swimming pool, it was empty, put a tennis net across it and that’s where he practiced and learned his skills in tennis. He hit uphill in the slope of the pool, he hit downhill in the slope of the pool. They played for three hours at a time non-stop. It was like racquetball and adversity.
Is it a case of coaching the mind to match the fitness of the body? Is it excellent sport delivering excellence in life or is it excellence in life delivering excellence in sport? Winning partnerships win the big ones. The athlete must have unconditional trust in the coach and the team. The coach and the team must have unconditional faith and belief in the athlete. The coach sees what the athlete can’t and the athlete feels what the coach can’t. The greatest artist paints what they feel and not what they see. Coaching will always be an art. Be a great artist.
I will start this sentence, you have to finish it. You would take Swimming Australia out and put your own club team in there. I will create winning and excellence for those I work with because I will… and now finish that sentence. Think about it. Ask your athletes to do it. I will create winning and excellence, not for myself, but for those I work with because I will… and you finish that sentence.
Put your club team in here, Swimming Australia will succeed because I will… well, what will you do? And if you can get people to finish those two sentences, you’ll have buy-in commitment. This is the shot that won the U.S. Open three years ago, Kim Clijsters. Have a look at her right ankle; it’s converted inwards with only the instep on the ground and only the slightest impact on the ground. Her knee is concave. Her left leg is exactly the opposite. The foot is on the ground, the ankle is outward extended. The knee is concave. She couldn’t be any closer to the ground. Her eye is focused on the ball and the racket and her spare arm is being used as balance.
I thought that was one of the greatest sporting photos I’ve ever seen. I took it to my tennis friends and said, “This is fantastic.” They said, “Bill, she has to get in that position because she’s not fast enough to get to the ball in the right position. Therefore, she’s placing herself at risk of injury.” I still think it’s a great photo.
The legacy and the vision – Make sure as a coach you’ll leave a legacy and a vision for the athletes you work with. This lady is called Lisa Alexander. I’ve been working with her for three years now and I mentor her and I work with her, a fantastic lady, one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever worked with. She shares a passion for mass, which I do, and we have something in common and she is the head coach of Netball Australia. My knowledge of netball is nil. I have no knowledge of netball. I have to look at the scoreboard. When I go home in October, I will work with her on her quad series where the team will play the rest of the world in netball and it’s a case of me being able to deliver the lessons I’ve learned in life across to another head coach and the legacy of my learning and my job is to have a life of learning. I want to have my life be a life of learning. So, I’m getting as much out of that as she is.
The endless summer, 12 weeks of warm weather camps, preparing the best with the best and have your best athletes go head to head, I think is key to the outcome.
Great coaches teach leadership without ever mentioning the word leadership. Great coaches teach leadership without saying leadership. Decision-makers become leaders but difficult to achieve this in reverse. Teach winning and decision-making and enjoy the rest of the night off and thanks for inviting me here.
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