Coach George Block has been the Head Coach of Alamo Area Aquatics since 1978 and a columnist for Swimming Technique Magazine (since 1985) and American Swimming (since 1992). Coach Block has coached 5 national champions, numerous individual and team state champions, National and Junior National qualifiers, and Top 16 swimmers. Coach Block coached fourth Place Olympian (Jimbo Haley) in 1992 and he co‑coached Olympic Gold (Bruce Hayes) and Silver Medalists (Greg Losey) in 1984. Coach Block has served as the American Swimming Coaches Association’s 1st Vice‑President since 1992. He also served on the USS Senior Swimming Committee, USS Rules & Legislation Committee and as the General Chairman, South Texas Swimming. Coach Block has been honored with the ASCA Certificate of Excellence 1990‑1994, Coca-Cola Texas Coach of Honor (1992), South Texas Coach of The Year (1992‑93), USS Outstanding Service Award (1988) and Phillips 66 Performance Award (1987). Coach Block is a life member of both the American Swimming Coaches Association and United States Swimming. As well as coaching he has written over 50 professional articles, chapters and publications.
Coach Block: After we talk about the evolutions in the sport we are going to try and talk about a couple of specific situations that are of broad interest to the panelists and to many of the people who submitted questions. We are going to talk a little about current issues, about where are we now and let some of the past Olympic coaches take a look at us now from their perspective and see if some of the current Olympic coaches are willing to step into the midst of controversy. We hope this can be interesting and entertaining, as well as historic.
I would like to have you talk a little bit about how you felt you as a coach and swimming as a sport was treated in your Olympic experience both by the USOC and by our governing body, US Swimming now and AAU in the past.
Coach Stan Tinkham: Well I have to say that I thought it was magnificent. I say that from the standpoint that we had an opportunity to workout for approximately three weeks in California as a team and then two weeks in Hawaii as a team. Then of course the Games were hosted very, very well by Australia and then coming back we did spend a little bit of time in Hawaii again. I thought the treatment of the team was just glorious, in my estimation just great.
Coach Gus Stager: I was very satisfied. Both George Haines and I had a good planned trip by the Olympic Committee and very few conflicts with what they had planned. When we got to Italy everything was perfect. We found our way around very well and very, very happily.
Coach Counsilman: I don’t like to be critical, but I think sometimes we have to look at the places that we are weak. I thought that the two times that I was Olympic coach for the men we had a fantastic situation in terms of talent. There was so much talent in the men’s events. We know that the women were a little bit slow, but a lot of that I think is related to the use of drugs and I think this is one of the big things we have to concern ourself with. The future of swimming in the United States is bright. We are not too far behind, we are not in a situation where we have to change the program. If we just keep training hard like we have been doing I think, even with the use of drugs, the Chinese women are going to be surprised how good our girls are swimming. I’ve been concerned with it because a very good friend of mine is from China and he came to Indiana University a number of years ago and liked it. He had been the basketball coach of China and through him I have been able to have some access to the drug situation first hand, not that I’m taking it. We were concerned with it enough at Indiana University that we had two doctoral studies on it, using mice of course. I think that we are going to find out pretty soon how much the Chinese are really interested in stopping the use of the drugs. I would say that is our biggest concern right now.
Coach Jack Nelson: I would say that I got the most support from Ken Treadway and John Bogert prior to and during the time we were in the dorms in Montreal. I did not like the fact that the girls were one mile away from the dorms in which we lived. All the guys and the coaches were a mile away from the ladies and it was difficult to have meetings as simply as they are when everybody is together. I would also like to point out that a lot of these Head Coaches have written reports following the Olympics and I’m not sure that any of them have ever been looked at by any of the new people to find out what worked for these folks. I also feel that each person sitting up here trained their swimmers their way and not somebody else’s way. I think that a lot of the young coaches are confused with all of the information they are getting about how to do it instead of just doing it. That’s probably enough for now.
Coach Don Gambril: As you know I had the opportunity to be on teams from 1968-1984 so there were lots of things that were good, none that were really bad. But, I was able to see a change between the time that we were under the old AAU auspices and US Swimming. For example, we spent a month, George and I, with the team at Colorado Springs in preparation for Mexico City in 1968. Fortunately we had a great guy named Ed Olson there, but our head manager wasn’t there the entire month. He did show up occasionally for pictures or when there was going to be a press conference he would fly in. That’s about the only time we saw our head manager until we got to Mexico. Things have changed in the managers and managerial staff. Frankly, we never lacked for anything once we went under US Swimming. Almost anything that you asked for was there and available. Really, I don’t think that any of our teams would have any complaint in that regard.
Coach Daland: In Tokyo in 1964 with the girls I felt that the training camp in LA and the situation at the Olympics were both very good. We really didn’t have any major problems until the very end of the trip when it came to my attention that one of the girls on the team had access to a Tokyo apartment, as did one of the guys on the men’s team. That was when I decided we were going home that day, and we did. There was one little thing, we had a small disciplinary problem which was very curious. Our chaperon, who was a 60 year old, hard word working lady from Connecticut, spotted one of the girls walking around the Village at midnight. It was reported to me the next day so we called the girl in, actually there were two of them. We told them don’t ever do that again because we are all here so that you can swim extremely well in the Olympic Games. The very next night the same chaperon caught the same two girls, so I asked them why and they told me they came over there to see Japan and to see Tokyo. I said, “You should have told the girls that finished behind you and that are still back home, they would have liked to make the team.” They did not compete in those Games. They were relay alternates and we had a trial system and I told them that they couldn’t swim the trials to qualify for the relay.
In Munich we had a unique problem, we had 31 club coaches present. They were trying to have access to their athletes. The athletes were very confused because everybody was telling them something different. Finally, Ken Treadway issued a manifesto to these people saying, “We are happy to have you here, I know it’s encouraging to your athlete but please don’t come over the fence and get on the pool deck. You haven’t been invited by the Olympic organizing committee of Germany and you are really not welcome on the pool deck.” That was a little problem. The only other problem was the De Mont situation where he was disqualified from competing in the final of the 1500 in addition to having his 400 Freestyle medal taken away from him because he used Marax, which is the most common medication for asthma. The tragedy was that the medical people of the USOC medical did not inform manager Treadway, Coach Gambril or Coach Daland that he was using a no-no drug in his medical prescription. Since we didn’t know it and we had told everybody pay attention to the list, don’t use these things, we didn’t realize the situation until the IOC medical commission informed us that he had been disqualified. We made all sorts of appeals and lost out. Had the USOC medical told manager Treadway, as they should have, “You have a person using in his medical prescription a drug that is on the no-no list. We recommend that he change to such and such and such and such,” Rick De Mont would have a gold medal and might even have had two. I thought that was very unfair. But, in general I have to say that the team and staff were treated extremely well as far as the AAU was concerned, as far as USOC was concerned and as far as the other countries where we competed were concerned.
Coach Richard Quick: 1988, what a learning experience. There were mistakes made that hurt us such as no staff unity and coach preparation for the Olympic Games. Coach preparation for athletes for the Olympic Games is a critical part of success in the Olympic Games. We lacked a little of that and I, as the leader of that team, take responsibility for that. I think we had a great team that started out with a little bit of a glitch when we had the disqualification after the Trials. But, I thought our training camp in Austin and in Hawaii went well. However, during that time we weren’t developing the team concept that would carry us through a rough meet. I think that could have possibly helped us and I will forever regret that. Staff cohesiveness is essential to the success of the Olympic team and there were some outstanding people on the staff. We need to trust those people to take care of our Olympic athletes in the heat of a battle. I do think that the support from United States Swimming and the Olympic committee was truly outstanding in Seoul.
Coach Eddie Reese: I was with Richard in 1988 and he had an impossible job. I know at one time when we were in Korea his body weight went under 160 and he is 3% body fat. But, under 160 is real light and he had an impossible job. There were a few choices that we made that made it even more impossible. In 1992 we got caught up with a situation where we heard that the Hungarians were getting a helicopter ride to the pool and a van up to the pool and we tried to match them. We worried about that, that caused us some problems. I think a lot of times when someone makes an Olympic team they kind of expect everything to be perfect. The Olympic coaches try to make it perfect. When they are training with you and you are trying to put them on an Olympic team, or any team, it’s not perfect. I think we get better when we have to overcome different things, overcome hardships. The most powerful time I’ve ever been connected with swimming was a team meeting in Narbonne, France. We were training. The men’s team called a meeting, it was the only men’s team. We met out on the deck of the recreational pool at the hotel or motel, whatever they call those things over there, that we were staying at. I was just kind of a voyeur, that doesn’t sound real good cause it’s used in other terms, but that means you grin and drool a lot. This was leadership from the team and they took it over. You had the great common sense and intelligence of Pablo, the fire of Tom Jager and Matt Biondi who told a story that somebody needs to get him to tell, and I could never do it justice, but most of us in here regret his finish on the 100 Fly in 1988 and he talked about that night in 1992 and how he had put it aside because it had happened and it had been done with. But, that was the most powerful night of my career I swimming. There are some super moments like that and the athletes play a real big part in that.
Coach Mark Schubert: We did better in 1992 than in 1988, and we learned a lot in 1988 and made good adjustments in 1992. One of the things we did better was come into the Village later. We actually kind of planned it so it would be a little more like the Nationals. The observations, particularly in 1984 and 1988, that some athletes will get distracted, some will stay very focused if you go in early to the Village, but some will get caught up in the Olympic experience and forget that they are there for a swimming meet. I do think that us helped a lot in 1992. I had no complaints at all with the USOC. I think they did everything I expected then to do and if they didn’t the addition of a National Team Director was a big bonus because Dennis Pursely and his staff made sure that anything we expected to be done that wasn’t done they went out and did it or they went out and made sure it was done. I think for Eddie and myself the presence of the National Team Director to take care of little day to day problems and irritations, to take care of protests, to take care of things like the blocks being correct, really took a lot off of us so that we could focus on the athletes and get the athletes prepared to race. I think it was one of the biggest improvements we have done in our preparation for the Olympic Games.
Coach Block: Maybe we can pick up there for a moment. I would like you to think about the evolution of the Olympic coach. Last night Peter talked about calling it a team leader before it became a coach. I have heard complaints that now it’s nothing more than a glorified manager, that it’s not really coaching but coordinating the home coaches and various problems of that sort. Coach Daland if you could start out and talk about the history of the Olympic coaching position and go around the table about how it has evolved.
Coach Daland: In the beginning with Otto Wally, I think in 1912, he just tried to provide opportunity for the team to train on the ship going over to Sweden. They probably had a small pool where they could do their equivalent of tethered swimming, exercises on the deck and so forth. They could not do much more than that. Then when they got to Stockholm I am sure that there was no centralized training. They probably all went to the pool at the same time and each man, there weren’t women at that time on the team, probably followed his normal personal routine. Then in 1920 he was actually a coach. He was named coach and manager. It was probably a little more advanced and the pool was a little larger on the ship going over to Antwerp. Gradually, it developed into the head coach, there weren’t any assistants for a long time, actually running workouts. I’m sure when Kiphuth was women’s coach in 1928 and men’s coach in 1932, 1936 and 1948 he ran workouts. He had such status that the athletes were thrilled to be under his direction. The home coach was thrilled to have his athlete under the direction of someone of the Bob Kiphuth status. I think the status of the head Olympic coaches had a lot to do with the fact there wasn’t much conflict between the home coach preparation and the Olympic coach. But as time wore on the home coaches felt more and more that their program for the athlete should be followed by the Olympic coach. Now this has some value but it also has a negative side. I know in 64, when I had the girls, the swimmers from the major teams and the major coaches told their athletes, “Peter Daland and Bob Busbey are going to be your Olympic coaches and they basically know what they are doing.” Whether we did or not was a question but they say we did. So the athletes came prepared to adjust to us. There was no question of conflict except in one or two cases. We had one girl who was so closely related to the program that her home coach ran that we struggled with it. Finally, you won’t believe this but it’s true, when we got to Tokyo I had failed and Bob failed. If Bob failed it was hard to believe because he was such a wonderful person. I was a little more hard core and not quite as flexible. Her mother turned up at the Games to watch and we invited her into the practice pool to train her daughter. We saved the girl. Instead of going into oblivion she got a silver medal. Well, you may say that’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard, that sounds like an age group Momma. I thanked her for coming, I said, “Frankly we cannot provide the right program for your daughter.” It wasn’t a question of the workouts, it was the whole adjustment. She was overwhelmed at how tough the other girls were and how tough they were in training.
Then in Munich we had the 31 coaches there from clubs and colleges, it was unbelievable. They all wanted to jump right over the barrier and start coaching their kid. Well you can’t do that at an Olympic Games. There is no protocol for it. The Germans didn’t expect it, nobody expected it. But we did, Don and I. We tried to follow the outline of what the coaches gave us. We didn’t follow chapter and verse because maybe the kid was sick one day and if you give the coach’s workout for that day you might wipe him out so we tried to adjust. Don had some wonderful experiences following Don Swartz’s program for Rick DeMont because it was totally different from what anyone else was doing. I know when we warmed Rick up before the 400 he did four 50’s for pace or actually trying to go fast. On the last one he went 29.7 and I was ready to commit suicide, I mean this guy was doomed. So I said to him, with a smile on my face, “How was that Rick?” “Boy, I’ve never done that before and I’m excited.” Now the other guys were going 28’s and 27 highs and I said to Don, “We had better believe in God or this kid had better because he doesn’t have chance.” He won in world record time. But, you do find out there are many roads that lead to Rome. Every coach has his own system and I think it best to try to follow the outlines of what the swimmer has been doing and then fill in chapter and verse.
Coach Tinkham: At the 1956 Games we asked each coach to send a history of the swimmer and workouts that they had done. I think only one or two coaches actually did that. We had the opportunity to work together long enough in both Los Angeles and Hawaii to really gain a team cohesiveness. We went primarily through just a standard workout. We had no interference from outside coaches, which was really great. I can’t say really enough about the cooperation from the coaches. It was a good time.
Coach Haines: You know I had the unique opportunity to have been one of the Olympic coaches over a longer period of time than some of the other fellows, except for Doc. So things changed quite a bit. For an example, in 1960 we had 14 total athletes. I think that counted the divers as well. I had three of those girls, three out of the 12. It was easy for me to run a team where I had three of my own swimmers on and that doesn’t always happen. To handle that small of a team was a very easy job. We didn’t have as many events and gradually in 1964 the team got bigger. In 1968 the team was bigger. There was a man who come along by the name of Treadway. When you wanted something done for your team he saw to it that it was done and he made it easy for us to coach. We had some pretty good managers too. We had a guy named Ed Olson who just passed away not too many weeks ago. As a matter of fact he was 92 years old. He was one of our managers, a great guy, and he could make people who were upset laugh at any time. He could help these athletes with any problem they had.
So the structure of the Games has changed and so has the responsibility. I am one of these people that feels when an athlete makes a team he’s used to having his head coach making all of the decisions, or at least most all of the decisions. Don and I had the opportunity to assist Doc in 1976 and that was great experience because Doc was the Head Coach. He was our coach as well. I think that was the greatest amateur athletic team of all time in any sport. Any time I get a chance I tell anybody. Doc was the head coach. The point I’m trying to make here is this, Doc was making all of the decisions. The managers were along and they helped a great deal but when you are coaching your home team you don’t have all of these other people to make decisions for you. I think it is great that we have Dennis Pursely and all of these people. Maybe sometimes we don’t have the one person making some of the decisions that should be made and that is the head coach. That’s my opinion, it’s a little bit different than what Don and Mark have said and so on. Our national team leader has a lot of things to do besides run the everyday decisions that I think the head coach might be doing better at.
Sometimes the athletes are not too sure who is supposed to be making the decisions so they test you a little bit more. I know in 1978 prior to going to the World Championships, and I was head coach of both teams, it is my feeling that I had to run this group the same way as I ran my Santa Clara Swim Club when we took like 45-50 kids to the Nationals. It was no big deal to run a combined team, to coach a combined team, and I had great assistants on that team. Prior to going to West Berlin George Breen, who was our head manager, and I took about a ten day trip in January or February of that year. We went to Germany and we met with some people we knew over there and we established a training camp in Darmstadt. We got the best hotel we could get. We went from there up to Berlin and we made the arrangements for the hotel. We did it all, myself and the head manager and it was like at Santa Clara. We had a lady on our team named Mrs. Watson. After every outdoor Nationals were over she would go from the outdoor Nationals to the spot where we were going to swim the next summer, one year in advance. She would go to all of the hotels and all of the restaurants around. We would try to get the best spot one year in advance of the Senior Nationals. So this was the thing we were trying to do with the team when we went to Berlin for the World Championships. For the first time we combined the team in a long, long time. We had one head coach and I had assistant coaches and we delegated a lot of work. I’m not trying to say I was making all of the decisions but most all the decisions went through the head coach so that he knew what was going on completely with the team. I really believe that the team probably had as much cohesiveness as any other team I’ve ever had to deal with because we knew in advance, a year in advance, what we were going to do, where we were going to train and what the training camp was like. We had two 50 meter pools, one indoor, one outdoor, plus a 25 meter pool, all in one area. We had a great hotel. The food was great. We took care of it well in advance. We knew before we got there what was going to happen. I’m not so sure that is happening, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But, that’s the way I felt we should run the team.
We did hand out questionnaires to all the club coaches. I think I’ve always been able to get along with people and I thought I got along with other coaches around me. So we had this questionnaire and the coaches sent back what they wanted their swimmers to do. Most of them would fill them out quite extensively and then during the practice or training camp we would say, “OK, this is a Jack Ridley workout,” or “This is a Kenney workout,” or “This is a Schubert workout.” That would make the kids feel like they were getting something from home. Most of the coaches were great. I’ve found over the years that when you get the questionnaire you should fill it out to the best of your ability because if you want your swimmer to feel at home then he or she has to experience something that they are used to doing at home. So that the Olympic coaches can say this is Jane Doe’s workout by Mitch Ivey or whoever the coach happens to be. I think that has to be adhered to by the Olympic coaches as much as possible.
Then when you put your athletes on a team I can remember when Peter was going to be the Pan Am coach or going to a World Championships and I had swimmers go from Santa Clara. One time I had a swimmer call me and say he didn’t want to do this and didn’t what to do that and he didn’t think things were going right. I said’ “Listen don’t call me up and talk to me about what you are doing in your training camp. Those fellows are my best friends that are coaching those teams. You are going to do what they say or don’t come back to Santa Clara. I don’t want to hear anymore about it.” I got no more phone calls. The guy went on and swam well in the Pan American Games. That’s what you have to do, if you don’t put your athletes in the hands of the coaches then they are not going to feel at home. They are always going to be rubbing the security blanket and sucking their thumb. That’s some of what I feel should happen with athletes on Olympic teams. You can only do so much, you put them up to a certain point then you put them in the hands of the Olympic coaches.
Coach Stager: I’m going to pass in just a moment because much of what George said I would totally agree with. I think that there is one recommendation that he made about us that the coaches who were assigned and the manager getting to the Olympic site a year ahead of time and seeing what was going on and to reconnoiter and make early decisions. It was very great suggestion. When we were there in Rome one of the biggest problems we had that we solved very, very easily was transportation to and from the workout pools which were all over the city of Rome. We solved it, but it was a problem for us in the beginning.
The Olympic Village in Rome was really very noisy. Our manager found that there was space in a Holiday Inn that was adjacent to the Olympic Village. We took money from some of the funds our manager Ray Daughters had and he made reservations there. The girls who made the finals were able to sleep in an air conditioned room that was quiet in preparation for the finals. I think that was a very necessary factor and it probably could have almost been solved earlier if the conditions in the Olympic Village were difficult.
Coach Block: Doc you are sort of legendary for what you did with the 1976 team. We are going to go into that in some detail in a moment. But, if you could just talk about what you feel is the evolving role of the Olympic head coach.
Coach Counsilman: One of the big problems that we faced with the Olympic coaches was when the Olympic coach has several of his swimmers the team. He has to be careful that he doesn’t unwittingly spoil the opportunity for somebody who is swimming against his own swimmer. This happens nearly every Olympics. You have to be very careful that you don’t try to scuttle somebody else’s swimmer in favor of your own. To give you an example, I had several boys on the team. When we made up the team George took a certain number and I took a certain number. We tried to keep it down to where we were not biased towards our own swimmers. I think we did a pretty good job of doing that. I felt that sometimes the Olympic coach has difficulty in working with somebody else’s swimmer and we tried to avoid this. I had Jim Montgomery for instance, who is from Indiana and I didn’t take charge of him. He was turned over to Don Gambril. Don would ask me, “This is what we are doing today. Is that all right with you?” I’d ask other coaches what to look for. So I think this is a problem we always have when you are an Olympic coach, you tend to favor your own swimmer and spend a little more time with him. Maybe you unconsciously psyche another coach’s swimmer down not intentionally and you don’t even know you are doing it. I think this is one thing you have to be aware of.
I think that the buck stops here was always something that Harry Truman said and I think this is true in the case of picking the order of the relay swimmers. I would say the head coach has to make the decision, you can’t keep passing the buck. As the head coach of the Olympics you have got make the decision who’s going to swim on the relay. You can get the input from the other coaches but in the final analysis it’s your decision on the relay. There are a lot of decisions in there that you can get information from the other coaches on the kids they are coaching and get this input from your assistants. But once again you’ve got to do the actual picking out of relays. We had a very tough situation with the 100 Freestyle. One of George’s swimmers was the fastest swimmer in the Olympics but he actually was not swimming the 100 Freestyle. He only went to the Olympics as an alternate and we knew in camp, both George and I did, that this young man deserved to be on the relay because he was the fastest one in the world but not having a real good Olympic Trials meet and he had an injury too. George had to take himself out of the decision. I had to make the decision there because it wouldn’t have been fair for Schollander to just be pushed off the relay so we set up a certain time that George’s boy had to go. How did that work?
Coach Haines: Actually the two guys involved in the medley relay were Don Schollander and Steve Clark and they were both my swimmers. So Doc and I had to talk it over about how we were going to handle who was going to possibly anchor the medley relay. Prior to the Olympic Trials Clark had injured his shoulder and wasn’t able to perform as well as he might have had he not had a slight dislocation of the shoulder. So he made the relay team as fourth in the 100 Free at the Olympic Trials. Then we go through training camp his shoulder got better and better and he was getting faster and faster. I felt I should stay out of what decision was going to be made because both of these guys were my swimmers. So he came up with this idea and then talked it over with me. His idea was that Schollander’s time in the straight 100 would be a time that we would use for the swim off and Clark led off the Freestyle relay and his time from the lead off was used as part of the swim off. It was fair in some respects but in hindsight it tells you maybe it wasn’t too fair. But, I had to stay out of the decision. Doc made the decision and I agreed to it. Schollander went 53.1 or something and won the 100 Free, then Clark led off the relay in 52.9. Well it kind of tells you he had no competition and he was out there in a flat pool. That was how we picked who was going to anchor the medley relay. The sad part was that Schollander won four gold medals and he would have had the opportunity to win five the way we do it today, the winners of all four strokes make up the medley relay. Which is a pretty fair way of doing it. We tried to give Steve Clark a situation where he had the opportunity to swim on the relay also. That’s the way it was and Schollander is warming up to anchor the Freestyle Relay and when looks up and sees Steve Clark’s lead off split he knows right there that he’s off the medley relay. So I tried to avoid Schollander for the next two days. That’s how we did it, it was a fair decision. Doc made the decision with my agreement to it. Steve Clark ended up winning three gold medals by swimming in all three relays the 800, the 400 Freestyle Relay and the Medley Relay. He was just an alternate going into the meet. Schollander won four and he could have possibly won five had we been operating under the way we do it today. But that was the way we basically decided who was going to swim the medley relay. When you have a decision to make like that the head coach has to stick his neck out and Doc probably had Mrs. Schollander all over him like a wet blanket. Anyway it was a decision he had to make and I had to kind of step aside because both of those guys swam for me.
Coach Nelson: I think the head coach should have total and complete responsibility. I think every staff member whether they are paid or volunteers do exactly what the head coach asks so the job can be done. I think personally that Dennis Pursely should go and get the hotels and set up the food arrangement and the transportation and never talk to anybody. That way the coaches can handle the swimmers and everybody would be happy. I would like to slide to 1956 very quickly and tell you that probably one of the greatest things that ever happened to me in swimming was riding in a two prop plane between Doc Counsilman and Charles Silvia to Australia, Melbourne in 1956. Those two guys talked continuously for 23 hours and I never understood a word and I’m still trying to understand the science of swimming. Doc, thank you for all of your help.
I would like to jump now to 1972 and everybody talked about Mark Spitz yesterday. I have all sorts of stories but here is one that Mark deserves. First of all you must know that Mark had four coaches during his career. He had George Haines, Sherm Chavoor, Doc Counsilman and Mr. Spitz. I figure if those coaches could survive Mr. Spitz so should Mark. In 1972 I was one of those 31 people that Peter keeps referring to and I’m damned proud of it! If we’ve got 31 coaches in this country putting 52 kids on the team that is super! Those people need to be recognized, they need to be honored for that. In 1972, before I tell you the Mark Spitz story, I had one of my young swimmers who had never even been able to spell Olympics much less make the team and she was with George and she was having a little nervous problem. George Haines invited me to come, not on the competitive pool deck, but, on a deck where I could work with the young lady. After about 30 minutes she had gotten back her last couple of years of training and understanding. Fortunately she was able to break the Olympic record and the World record but she came in fourth when she broke the World record. But the facts are, here is a man who recognized that sometime there is a bond between swimmer and coach that needs to be taken care of not necessarily on the pool deck where they are swimming the competition so you can be seen but somewhere, somehow you need not to jerk them away from each other.
I love Peter Daland and respect him for all that he has done but he and I have some disagreements. One of them is, I can’t believe that we’ve got eight great coaches down on the pool deck as marshals when we’ve got coaches up in the stands buying tickets to watch their kids swim and have to yell at them over the rail. I say we find a pool somewhere, you know this is not the Olympic pool, so the 31 coaches can come out there and be on the deck. You know what I’m saying? Let the coaches spend some time with their kids. It doesn’t matter how old the boys or girls are they still need help and it is very difficult for one or two coaches to take care of 26 people.
OK, now back to my Mark Spitz story. 1972, the terrorists raid the Israeli village and they kill a number of Israelis and take some hostages and run off to Munich to the airport. People are frightened, people do not know what to expect. You never saw so many Germans with burp guns since the second World War. They were everywhere. Mark Spitz was the most famous Jew in the world and now he was even more famous and their village had just been raided. We had no idea what to expect. I have never talked to Peter about this but I’m sure they went through some hell. Someway or another I got volunteered, and I was very proud for that because I wasn’t allowed on the deck. I was a part of going with a German lieutenant in a little white, unmarked van to pick Mark up and drive him incognito up to the pool tunnel where people could go through and guard him all the way. Here’s a young man who is in the process of winning seven gold medals and he also could be the receiver of a sniper’s bullet, that’s what we didn’t know. I just wanted to say that I thought that it was relatively fantastic of the greatest male swimmer of all time that he was able to win the golds while withstanding the pressure. So that’s one for you Mark, you need one.
Coach Block: Have you finished your notes coach?
Coach Nelson: Hang on just a minute. Oh yes, I have one more thing. I think we should have an ironclad formula for not only for how the swimmer makes the team but how the coach makes the team. I’m fully aware of coaching compatibility and I’m also aware that only one time in the history of my involvement with the Olympics have we had incompatible coaching situations at the Olympic Games. I don’t think that’s enough reason to take away the opportunity for all the coaches to make the team. It’s embarrassing to me to see good friends of mine, respected coaches, working as marshals when there are twice that number of coaches in the stands who can’t even get a friendly hello. Excuse me but when politics overcome the reality of coaching and swimming then it really saddens and weakens us.
Coach Gambril: I’ve got some notes too. First of all, I would just like to present exactly what you are seeing in front of you, you are seeing a group of coaches up here and you are seeing a different ego and a different perspective — a different view on everything from everyone of us. A good many of these people were on my staff in 1984 and it’ll be the same kind of make-up of the staff next time. One of the main jobs the head coach has to do is to regulate and get each swimmer with the right group and the right coach. He has an adjustment factor with the coaches that are continually competing against one another their entire life now putting them on the same staff and making decisions. So, there does have to be a head coach and I completely agree with Jack that all of the coaching decisions should be of the head coach. I also went through the transition period from running as head men’s and women’s coach in 1984 up through 1991 World Championships where I was only coaching the men’s team. In 1989 we added the National Team Director and at that point we had essentially what I felt was somebody that was a manager 365 days a year to do things for the team and that’s the function of the National Team Director. I agree with Jack, I don’t believe the National Team Director should have anything to say about the actual swimming of the team or the competition. But, there is a real function for his position and I think it is necessary with the things that have to be done continually.
Now the notes that I have, and I was sent this thing and asked to send it back and I don’t think we are going to get time to it so I’m going to bring it up now and it’s a complete change of direction and it is maybe the last chance I get to talk to you. I’m not saying it’s the way to go but I do think it is something that you really need to think about. I’ve always loved tradition, I hated it when they changed the NCAA format for dual meets from three place scoring where it took 57-56 win to some place where they score five people now and I can’t figure who is going to win the meet until it’s over. Fortunately I didn’t have to coach in that system, it came right at the end of my career. But, when I go to dual meets I can’t tell what’s going on because you can’t figure out all the scoring and they are giving out two places to people for finishing a race, things like that. One thing that would definitely break tradition but you should give it some deep thought and maybe we only need to do it once every four years. But, I think to consider having an NCAA championship in a 25 meter pool instead of a 25 yards. Now that they are keeping short course meter records, that would bring tremendous publicity to the sport of swimming and to the NCAA schools involved just when we need that to keep the gender equity factor, perhaps a little lower, as far as canceling men’s swimming teams by breaking all the World records at a men’s national NCAA championship and then turning around and breaking all the women’s records. We could do it very easily, the records aren’t fast except maybe the 1500 but I will still put Dolan in a short course pool against that time and give him a shot and I’ll tell you he will be right there. But this is stuff you need to think about and maybe we only need to do it just the Olympic year, do it every four years to still give people the shot to take a shot at great NCAA 25 yard records. This is something I feel is an idea that would be progressive for swimming, something that would bring great recognition to the sport and something that would entice the press, they love things like world records. That’s the end of my platform.
Coach Quick: I think the role of the Olympic coach is to provide an atmosphere where the athletes have a chance to reach their full potential. That sounds so general but it’s a very complicated issue. You are bringing athletes together that come from different backgrounds and different coaches so the communication factor is huge. At the same time while you have these individuals together I believe the strength is to have a team concept in this individual sport of swimming where the coaches and the athletes are working toward the same goals. Another thing that I think has changed in the role of an Olympic head coach is that to ask the coaches and athletes in the United States to talk about and focus on the Olympic Games and not just the Olympic Trials. How many of us are guilty and will be guilty this year of from the first day of practice talking about the Olympic Trials? The Olympic Trials and not include the Olympic Games as part of your overall plan? It’s my opinion if you do that, if you include the Olympic Games, swimming your best time in the Olympic Games that the Olympic Trials will take care of themselves.
Coach Reese: I thought about this last night when we talked about Lance Larson down in Rome. Had Dennis Pursely been on that trip, Lance Larson would have won that gold medal or we would have been at war with Australia even today. The head coach has a lot of decisions to make and he is not going to make all of them correctly. I’m going to tell you three short stories and maybe four if I can remember that one. We had a young lady going to Korea with us in ’88 and we stopped in Hawaii to train and she wasn’t doing very much. So the coaches talked to her a little bit and she still wouldn’t do anything. They called her home coach and she talked to him and she still wouldn’t do anything. She still swam all right but not near as well as she could have swum. There was nothing that could be done about that situation I mean there was no power that could make that work.
Another story: a world record holder went to World Championships in Guayaquil in an event and his club coach did not go but wrote out everything. The guy that was working with him thought it was too much so he cut it down and the world record holder did not win. Those kind of things are going to happen. The club coach and the guy who cut the workout down got together and talked about it. I wished I’d been there I know them both and they are both excitable people. But it was over at that moment as soon as they talked about it because the guy that cut the workouts in half said, “Yeah, yeah I know I shouldn’t have done that but it just looked like too much going into a World Championship.” There are decisions you have to make on the spot that are very, very important. Some are right and some are wrong.
In 1992 trying to figure out the 400 Freestyle Relay we had a Russian team that went 3:16+ in the morning without their best two guys on it. I knew our relay couldn’t do better than 3:16 low. I figured all they had to do was put Popov on for their best swimmer in the morning and they were going to beat us. I was going to coach the team that was going to lose the 400 Free Relay which we haven’t ever done. So I thought what do I do? I’ve got Jon Olson who is the hottest anchor man in the country that summer and is still a phenomenal relay swimmer wherever you put him. Or Matt Biondi who has anchored everything for this country whether it’s an 800 Free Relay in Korea and saved his college team numerous times by splitting 40.8 on the end of a 400 Free Relay yards. So I went to talk with Matt and he liked the idea of going second. Well anyway we won the relay cause the Russians screwed up. They went slower than in the morning with Popov on it and he was 47.8 I think. But I wanted to end up on a positive note and know that we can make right decisions on occasion but there are decisions that are tough to make. You’ve got to make them there. You can’t make them beforehand and you can’t worry about them afterwards. You’ve got learn from them but what’s done is done. Talking about it and not learning from it is the worst thing that can happen.
Coach Schubert: I think one of the roles of the Olympic coach is obviously being a liaison with the club coach it is very important and has become more and more important. One of the observations that I had over the years that I have been coaching is it seems like we have gone from training the Olympic team as a team and doing things together to doing things very separately. It seems like now everybody brings their own workout and you put the workout up on the bulkhead and you have 30 different practices going on. I know that it is important to give the athlete what they need but when you stop doing it together basically what you have done is created an artificial situation that they don’t have at home because at home they are competing against people in practice. In a lot of cases what has put them on the team is that competitiveness everyday in practice. I would like to see us go back to doing more things together during training camp because I think that’s what makes us more cohesive and I think that is what makes us more competitive when we get to the Games themselves.
The other role on the part of the coach is to keep the team together during the war. The Olympic Games is a war. Things are not going to go your way every single event. You are going to have real high peaks in emotion when someone does well and you are going to have real low valleys. I think it is so important for the staff to work together so that the valleys are something we can get out of as the meet goes along. One of the things that I was proudest of during the 1992 Games with our women’s staff was that we were able to stay focused on the meet and not be over focused on what the media was doing and the atmosphere that the media was creating which wasn’t the atmosphere of what was happening to our team at the meet. We were able to stay in the meet. I think one of the most notable performances was that by Summer Sanders who after getting second time after time and the press saying things like she didn’t do well when she did her best time but then was able at the end of the meet to win the gold medal. That’s what we want the team to be like. We all dream about having a meet like Doc had in 1976 but the reality is that that is going to come on maybe once in a lifetime. We are going to be at war every time we go to the Olympic Games and we need to stay as a team when we go to war.
Coach Kenney: I’m just taking this all in and I hope that being an Olympic head coach is going to be a lot of fun. I’m really glad these guys are going to be marshals on the deck so I can say, “How in the hell do you do this?” So I’m glad to be here.
Coach Block: Let’s talk about 1976. It may have been the most pivotal year in international swimming. For the men the team that coaches Counsilman, Haines and Gambril staffed set a standard that we may never see again. For the women they had to face the monster of drugs for the first time. When we got the questionnaire from Skip his only question on it is, “What made the 1976 team so special?” The success was unprecedented. Everyone knows how successful it was but obviously there was something special on that team. I would like to just start with Doc as the head coach to talk about the 1976 team.
Coach Counsilman: We felt privileged to work with the team. As I told my wife, “My grandmother could coach this team and win.” There was so much talent on the team, but also, I think there was the factor of the team being so relaxed. I never coached a team that seemed to be so confident. We had the best talent. We had a good training session and I just don’t think we can claim too much credit but I felt that things fell in place and I often think that it was the result of good timing between the qualifications and making the Olympic team. With nearly every world record broken by our swimmers and I think that in final analysis there were only two events where we didn’t set world records. I think there was a certain relaxation. I felt that at all times our kids didn’t have any trouble sleeping. They felt very confident. The biggest enemy you are fighting when you get to the Olympics is tremendous pressure you have on you. We tried to keep the pressure down. We tried to keep the swimmers busy and we did follow, pretty much, the plans that their coaches gave us in the very long questionnaire. Several times we would have to change it. When we felt the kids were getting too tired from the particular workout they were doing we could talk it over with the kids and say, “Do you think you are working too hard, too late?” The coaches, I think, did a good job keeping their morale up. I don’t think we will every see anything like this again in any sport where they dominate so amazingly. Well, I would just like to ask the assistant coaches to say something about this, George.
Coach Haines: I think the thing that impressed me as much as anything about the 1976 team was what a group they were, how well they got along together and how Doc handled the first meeting that we had when we went to Canton, Ohio. We were staying in this nice motel and we had this big room to have our first team meeting. We talked about how we were going to handle the situation of everybody being together, what kind of rules or standards we were going to set for themselves. This was before we had to sign the honor code and all that. Doc brought it up and said, “You guys have your team meeting.” I think the captains were maybe Gary Hall and I forget who the other one was. But they had a team meeting and they decided among themselves what they were going to do. They set the curfew, they established what rules they were going to live under and they lived by those rules. Then we brought up a point that after they qualified in the morning and then swim at night and we had to have a team meeting prior to going over for warm-up. The thing that amazed me about that group was every man to a person, and we had a couple of guys who were dillies on that team, you know what a dilly is — a jerk, but they swam great they all came to every team meeting prior to going to the finals that night. As the Games go along and people get eliminated they’re only in one event maybe two events, but they were still coming to the team meeting prior to going over to swim in the finals even on the last day. Most everybody was there maybe one or two guys weren’t but the big percentage of the people came to every team meeting and the support for each other was absolutely phenomenal. Another thing that was amazing in workout was that Don had his group, I had my group, Doc had his group and we were trying to do the workouts of the club coaches had and put in our ideas and so on. But, they were competing against each other a lot in Canton at the training camp. I think that’s something we need to think about while you are in training camp — we allowed them to do a lot of what they were doing but we were able to insert our ideas too. They competed against each other a great deal but in all the team meetings prior to swimming the finals of the Olympic Games I think that was the most impressive thing to me and also the standards that they set for themselves to live by and we didn’t have to give them any rules daily, they set their own rules.
Coach Gambril: Well it was certainly a great opportunity for me to work with two coaches like George and Doc. The thing that amazed me the most I think was Doc being the head coach set our team goal to win every gold medal. We didn’t quite do that but we came close. It was obvious that he felt that we had a team with great talent. You know, the weakest point of that team was the breaststrokers and the IM’ers and I think if I was head coach I’d probably would have given those to somebody else, Doc didn’t do that. He took the breaststrokers and the IM’ers himself and then divided the other swimmers up between George and I. We had lots of people to coach, about 10 each I think. I had 12, distance and sprinters, you just kind of tell the sprinters do this and work with the distance swimmers. He had mentioned earlier about Jim Montgomery and this is the truth. Jim had to swim almost every day, and think it was in about a nine day period, because he swam the relays and the 800 relay and the 200 and he had to swim hard events and hard doubles. He didn’t have to swim preliminaries of course in the 800 relay. But I’ve never seen anybody rest quite as much as Jim Montgomery did except for Joe Bottom and I had both of those guys. I kept going to Doc and saying, “Now Doc this is what we planned to give Jim today, do you think this is quite enough for him cause we are still two weeks out.” He would say, “He knows himself pretty well and he seems to be doing good. That’s about what he usually does. You’re doing a fine job just keep doing that.” Doc never once walked over from his side of the pool. He was on one side, George was in the middle and I was on the other. He never one time walked over to see Jim nor did Jim go over to ask him. Maybe they had all night meetings, I don’t know about that. Jim did break 50 seconds in the 100 and swam a great 200. He was great throughout every race throughout the entire length of the period.
The first thing I did was get on the phone and call Jonty Skinner who was up training in north Jersey while we were at the Olympic Games. I said, “Jonty I don’t want you to go under 26 seconds between now and the time you swim the 100 meter Freestyle in Philadelphia. I have never seen anybody rest this much.” I’m a slow learner, Jonty won the NCAA one year and the next three years he lost the NCAA but the week or two after he won the AAU’s. I never did figure out until then how much rest he required. Jonty never went 50 point, he had been 51+ and as you know he went 49.44. But that was a key off of the rest that Jim Montgomery had. At that point I decided that if a sprinter is in great shape when you get him within two weeks you can’t give them too much rest. Again, I just had the utmost respect for Doc to just say, “Take these guys. You are capable of handling them.”
I’d had tremendous log books from Brian Goodell and the guys who brought their logbooks. Doc had us call their home coaches once or twice during the training camp and just talk things over. I do recall, however, there was one swimmer that George had that had a nightly call and maybe even before morning and afternoon practice with his coach the entire time. He wasn’t one of the winners but he was a medal winner. It was a great pleasure to work with that staff and that team.
Coach Block: Coach Nelson you were sort of living on the other side of the street at that meet. While the men were having everything go their way you took a team that was badly abused in the press. We will never get to know if your team could have been that good. It’s only now that we are even starting to do something about drugs and it’s coming from the coaches. We’ve seen generations of women be cheated. There was 1976 and of course our whole team in 1980. In 1984 most of the cheaters stayed home but in 1988 and 1992 it was back again. Who knows what the result will be this year? I sort of wanted to ask you and Mark as well, since you were the home coach of one of the most abused swimmers by the press. What should have happened? What should we be doing now? Should we try and go back and change history? Should we rewrite world records?
Coach Nelson: Once again, probably everyone in the swimming world except for Frank Elm, Jim Montrella and myself thought that our American women lost that meet. Well let me guarantee you folks, when you break nine American records and four World records that certainly isn’t winning 12 out of 13 golds, but it is pretty good. So we still stand very proud of our young ladies from 1976. I also feel that with Richard Quick’s leadership that our ladies are going to do real well in 1996. If I may take this opportunity George, to tell you that Don Gambril came up with a real simple but great idea about the 25 meter meet. The NCAA’s, high schools and YMCA’s take real good care of short course yards. For United States Swimming to promote a short course yards meet as opposed to a short course meters meet is ludicrous because in short course yards you cannot break world records and you cannot get any publicity, which our sport very much needs. I would strongly advise all of us to consider having, if you are going to have short course at all, have a short course meters so that your racing the world not the YMCA, the high schools and the NCAA. Thank you very much.
Coach Schubert: Well I think it is great that we talk about the 1976 Women’s team and recognize what they accomplished. The reality is, those women will always be scarred by the fact that they didn’t get the recognition at the time of the event. A lot of them will hold a lot of bitterness from now until they die. I think we are very naive when the East Germans were having their success. There was a lot of whispering, a lot of talk that illegal drug use was going on. But I think a lot of us were idealists and thinking the best of people. It’s always good to think the best of people and try to give them the benefit of the doubt. We should have stood up then. It’s so important that we stand up now and say that it is wrong. Last year the World Championships in Rome was the most incredible swimming meet that I’ve ever been to because it was the first time winners got no respect. I mean no respect, no applause, and no adulation. I think that’s exactly what they deserved and I think unless we have testing that can clean up the sport it’s going to cause, potentially, the death of our sport. Certainly, on the women’s side. You can’t blame a woman for wondering if it’s worth it when you consider what you have to put in to be the best in the world and then you have to compete against somebody that’s cheating.
Coach Haines: I’d like to make a point about something that Mark talked about that happened to the 1976 team. I had girl on that team and a couple other girls were there from Santa Clara that Mitch coached. They do feel bad about it to this day that they were cheated out. I wanted to tell you a story that happened in 1972 in Munich. I had a girl by the name of Keena Rothammer that came to me via Richard. She was a backstroker, I think, in Texas and I thought she was a pretty good freestyler. So she swam, and won, the 800 meters in Munich. Afterwards we went over to testing where the girls would go in and give their specimen. For some reason it always takes the American kids an hour to an hour and a half to pee. I’m sitting there waiting for Rothammer to come out and go back with her to the village so we could enjoy each other’s ego. But anyway, Nancy Garapick (Andrea Gyarmati), does that name ring a bell? She was just taken into the Hall of Fame this year and she worked out at Santa Clara a couple of summers. She was from Hungary and her mother was her coach and that’s a famous family. The father, the mother and the now the daughter, are all in the Hall of Fame. I’m sitting there and talking to Mrs. Garapick (Gyaramati) and she said, “Coach Haines did you ever sit here and wonder why it is that your girls take so long to give their specimen and the East Germans can go in and out of there in a minute and two minutes? They go in there and they come out.” Now she’s from behind the Iron Curtain at that time so she’s got to be careful about what she says. She’s looking around and she says, “I’ll tell you how they are doing it. They are going in there with a little bulb of urine underneath their armpit with a tube down their arm. When they go in they squeeze somebody else’s urine into the bottle cause no one was watching them.” When I came and told that story at the convention and went to some of our leaders in swimming I was told I have to go through channels and I don’t know that to be a fact. I thought it was a pretty good fact when this lady was a pharmacist. Mrs. Garapick (Gyarmati) was a pharmacist in Hungary, still is. She was telling me what her idea was as to how they were doing it and I had an idea that she knew how they were doing it. So we should have really jumped on the band wagon in 1972 because that was the first meet that the East German girls really started to do pretty well. Then a year later we had a dual meet with them in Concord. I wasn’t able to recognize the one breaststroker who was nice and tall and thin in 1972. In 1973 at the dual meet she looked like she had just swung out of the nearest tree. We must keep on the case and don’t be afraid, no matter if some of our leaders want us to be quiet.
Coach Daland: Jack I’ll reply to you in private, I don’t want to drag the whole house through it. Jack and I are very good friends but it is impossible to agree with any one person on every subject. On the question George has discussed, I think her name was Gyarmati. Eva is a friend of both of us, and she was an Olympic champion herself back in the 50’s and a great one. She is very aware of what is happening in swimming and I’m sure what George has related was absolutely true. As the President of the World Swimming Coaches Association I can assure all of you no stone will be left unturned in the relentless search to bring equality into swimming and to stop this drug business. If any of you hear of anything that you feel is important that we should know about please get in touch with John Leonard because he is the chairman of the doping sub-committee of WSCA. We have a very dynamic and active group.
In Japan a week ago I personally had lunch with Moustafa Larfoui, the president of FINA, at his invitation. Our coaches are now being recognized and listened to. Before, the officials said, “We don’t want to hear from you coaches.” They are now listening. A lot of this is due to the fact that John and his committee have raised hell around the world on this issue. We are greatly in the debt of our Australian friends because they led the charge. Forbes Carlisle, a great, great coach — you may remember Shane Gould and many of his other great swimmers — is now dedicating the back half of his life to cleaning up the mess. ASCA has given John special time off from some of his duties so that he may pursue this and he is working his head off. He went to Vienna only to check and see where the doping control situation stood with the European leaders. At the Pan Pac meet our WSCA organization met with the leaders of the Pan Pac association. We gave them our interpretation of how the FINA Congress in Rio anti-doping meeting should be presented. They were pleased at what we are doing, so I can assure you gentlemen and ladies we are doing our best.
Will Atlanta be clean? Probably cleaner than it would have been otherwise but realistically I don’t think it will be clean. The handicap will be there but perhaps not as great as it would have been otherwise. Hopefully, by Sydney we’ll be in better shape but the robbers are out to a fast start and it’s very tough for the cops to catch up. But if you have any ideas call the ASCA office and talk to WSCA doping control chairman John Leonard.
Coach Quick: I have just one thing I’d like to say about that. I believe this drug issue became a popular issue to be on the side of because of the courage of a gentleman that works for us and that’s Dennis Pursely. At the World Championships in Rome Dennis Pursely organized a press conference in the face of possibly loosing his job over it. He was advised not to organize such a press conference of the nations that were concerned about this issue. Now it’s become a popular issue to be on the side of. Prior to Rome and the World Championships it wasn’t very popular. In the face of criticism from FINA and in some cases in face of criticism from United States Swimming, Dennis Pursely had the courage to organize and get the signing done to bring this to the forefront in the world. I thank Dennis Pursely for starting it. I thank John Leonard for carrying on the battle.
Coach Block: We will just go around the table just one more time this morning and I am going to ask you what your personal philosophy of coaching is, and for the retired coaches as well why did you retire?
Coach Nelson: I personally feel that with more individual attention you give a swimmer and with more attention a swimmer can give back to the coach you are going to reach a lot farther into their capabilities than if you just run a group of 66, which we have all done and have had no choice at certain times. It appears now that a lot of the great coaches like “” and other great coaches are taking their numbers down somewhat and trying to focus on a few to give them everything they possibly can. Everybody doesn’t have that opportunity and practically every coach who does now, at one time had those 66 in maybe eight lanes or six lanes. But, I really feel that personal attention is so vital.
Coach Quick: Olympic gold medals, Olympic team membership, national championships — they are all very important. They’re the motivation that athletes and coaches are striving for, the standards we set for each other. But in the overall scheme of things athletics aren’t really very important. What’s important is that the people in your program have a great experience. That they learn about themselves, they learn about life and they come away from it as healthier people. We as coaches carry a huge responsibility in that matter. Our tool is swimming. You don’t have to compromise excellence in swimming. But don’t forget, for every single person that we have an opportunity to work with we ought to consider it an honor because they have trusted us to help them get through life.
Coach Schubert: I think it’s really important in life that you have a dream. I think as a coach it’s really important that you help your athletes figure out what their dream is and that you do everything you can to help them achieve it. Sometimes the dream will be just a very small contribution to your team but it is a huge dream on the part of that athlete. Sometimes that dream might be an Olympic gold medal. Sometimes you can help the athlete to see a little bit bigger picture and perhaps take the steps to bigger dreams. I think we need to keep working on finding out what the dream is and helping them achieve it.
Coach Block: Doc you have probably written more about this than anyone at the table, but if you could talk a little bit about your personal philosophy.
Coach Counsilman: I think the main thing a coach should concern himself with is to help the athlete to get into college. It’s amazing how many people we’ve had at Indiana University who came in as poor students and now are MD’s. You don’t have to worry about these boys, the ones that you have to worry about, and lose a lot of sleep over, are the kids who come to school and don’t study. They fail out of school. We try to avoid this as much as possible, but I think the main goal should be the college education and that they graduate from college. I think too frequently we put how fast they swim in front of whether or not they age going to be prepared for the world when they get out. So if you take the best measure of your success by the number of swimmers that graduate from college and achieve success in some profession — that’s what college is all about, it’s not about success on the football field. The kids are to get an education so they have a better life afterwards. I always feel real good when any of the swimmers who swam for us show up and spend a weekend with us so my philosophy is a lot related to their academic success.
Coach Haines: I had a guy come up to me last night, Kurt Krumpholz. He’s the young man Peter was talking about — the world record holder and didn’t get a chance to go to Munich. Yet he set the world record in the trials and then he got fourth or something in the finals in ’72 and didn’t make the team. Still he held the world record, our fastest 400 meter swimmer at that point. This is the thing you coach for and he said, “I came all the way across the country just to be here because I saw that you were going to be here.” Don’t think that doesn’t make you feel good. So my philosophy has always been to give the people that swam for me at Santa Clara, for me at Stanford and for me at UCLA the feeling that I cared about them. I’m going to try to give you the best program possible. If you, the swimmer, have any ideas towards that goal let me know. Write it down and give it to me. Write down your goals. I can remember at Santa Clara a number of years ago every time I ran onto a swimmer coming up through the program who I thought was going to be a pretty good talent for the future I would bring them in with their mother or their father and sit down and talk about a long term goal. I would tell them exactly what I thought they could do and that I thought they should be striving for and I wrote some of the goals that I thought they should be striving for on a 3 by 5 card. I can remember when Mark Spitz came from Sacramento. He was about 13 years old. After about three weeks I brought him in and talked about long term goals, not just what we thought he could do this year but what we thought he could do in two years if he followed the plan and what he could do in four years. I don’t think that he was the first one that I brought in and talked with like that. So you have to have a dream yourself about what you think can happen but you have to make the athlete feel that you really believe in them.
I took a group to the Olympic Trials in 1972. We had 44 swimmers and I honestly believed that 43 of those swimmers felt they were going to make the Olympic team. We had every swimmer swim their life time best times because they believed that I believed that they could make the team. You have to make them believe that they can do it. You can’t do it by not talking to them. You have to give them a card and say, “Write down your ideas. What do you think you can do? What do you think you need to do in practice?” Make them start thinking about what they want to do.
Don Schollander made a comment once to some newspaper person who said “Well, you’ve got four guys from Santa Clara in the finals here tonight in the 200.” Schollander said, “Well, Coach Haines is going to have all four of us believing that we have a chance to win. He believes in us and that’s the reason I swim at Santa Clara.” That really made me feel great. Here’s a guy who was probably going to win saying the other three guys feel that they can win. You don’t do that by just showing up at the meet, you have to start talking to them about their goals three and four years down the road. That’s kind of the rule that I have lived by in all my coaching years.
Why did I retire? I got tired. I can remember coming home every day and my daughters or my wife would say, “When are you going to retire?” This was about 1982 or 1983, something like that. Finally, I had to take a stand and say, “I’m never going to retire! So I don’t want to hear anymore about it.” So one time when I came home, when I was 64 and I was going to turn 65 the next March, I said, “Well, I think this is going to be my last year of coaching.” They said, “What’s the matter with you, are you sick?” I said, “No, I just think these girls at Stanford need a younger coach.” I was still having fun and we were being somewhat successful. I was still having fun, I was still beating everyone to the pool everyday, I was taking the pool covers off the pool for Skip every morning. I just decided that it was time for me to go play softball and you know you are getting old when your batting average in slow pitch softball goes down under .700 for the first time.
Coach Kenney: George did take the pool covers off. When I was a new coach, I was at the Dads Club following Richard Quick. I’d have to go out to the pool to do something and I would always say, “Do you think George Haines does this?” Then I finally had chance to work with George and George did all that. George took off the pool covers, George put in the lane lines. George was on his hands and knees putting in lane lines. So I learned a good lesson from George. The joy of coaching for me comes from the joy of being an educator. I really believe the joy of being an educator is what allows me to get out of bed with excitement every morning to come to work.
Coach Daland: I think the reason you people out there and the guys up here are in swimming and are coaching, is certainly not financial because your level of living is probably much lower than it would be in another profession. You are smart people and you could make double the money doing something else. But the reason you are coaching is because you are working with the best people in the world, the swimmers. There has never been doubt in my mind about that fact. My feeling about the philosophy of coaching is that it is part of the education of young people and swimming is a way to develop work habits. Swimming is a way to develop team play. Swimming is a way to develop concentration and a lot of other things that our youth desperately need.
Why did I retire from swimming? I think when you are 71 years old and you are in good health and you have other things that you want to do in life it’s time to walk out the door. There is a time to go in, there is a time to go out and for me it was time to go out. I am very busy right now, probably busier than I have ever been in my life. I’m doing a lot of different, very exciting things and I’m having a lot of fun. This particular convention and being together with my friends, my Olympic friends, has been a wonderful experience.
Coach Block: I want to thank all of the Olympic coaches for what they’ve done this weekend. I need to make one apology. Last night at the Olympic Coaches Dinner I had the opportunity to formally welcome, on behalf of all of us coaches, the master coaches who have set incredibly high standards for us. In the process I only had one personal note to make and I forgot to make it and that’s to Coach Peter Daland. There is sort of an inside joke, and I know that everyone hates hearing inside jokes, but Peter tends to adopt people and there’s a few of us who have been adopted by Peter. I don’t know why and I don’t know how but at one point Peter decided to adopt me and I wouldn’t be here now without him having done that and without him having decided to volunteer me for his mentorship. He just drafted me and I can’t tell him or you how much that means and has meant to me. It is only because that he is so incredibly slender that as I looked down the table last night I completely overlooked him. The inside joke is that Mark Schubert and Richard Quick are the good sons and that John Leonard and I are the bad sons. Occasionally John and I get sent to our rooms and Dad comes up to talk to us. I have to apologize to Peter for not thanking you last night for all the incredible guidance you have given to me the last few years and tell you in front of all of our friends how much that has meant and I can now see why I’m one of the bad sons, but thank you very much.