The Transition from HS to NCAA Coaching by Dennis Dale (1998)


Dale: I think the transition from high school coaching to the Division I University of Minnesota coaching is still taking place. I think there are still things I’m learning that are new to college coaching and I think my goal is to come out this afternoon’s presentation with more knowledge to be better equipped do a better job this year than I did last year in coaching and hopefully I will learn things from you and hopefully you’ll pick up some things from me.


With regards to transition from the High school coaching, I have divided that transition into two areas. The transition that the coach makes on deck or in the pool so to speak, and I’ll talk that about that first, but there is also the transition off deck in the office if you like. It’s my real belief that it’s the transition off deck that is the greater transition to make. But there are some items that will take place in the pool that the coach has to deal with and be prepared to deal with.


The first thing that the coach has to do is, he has to be involved in certain self-examination. I’m not sure that all of us do that during life but you have to sit back and examine what makes you a good coach. I’m a firm believer that coaching is coaching. Whether coaching a high school team, whether your coaching a club or whether you’re coaching a University team, you have some things that make you a successful coach and that’s why now you’re a Division I coach, instead of a high school coach. You’ve landed a new job because you were doing your old job well and you have to know those attributes, those characteristics in your coaching that help make you a good coach.


When I made the change from Burnsville University, it took some time for me to decide what were some of the things that    I did, because I just coached, I didn’t worry about what I did to make the Burnsville team successful.  I just knew that I coached. I talked to some friends and decided that some of the characteristics that I did when I was coaching I wanted to carry over to the University of Minnesota. I wanted to make sure that didn’t lose those attributes in my coaching, so that I could still continue to maintain the good things that I did in my coaching. It’s very, very important I think whenever you make a coaching change to do a little self-examination and make sure that you carry those things forth.


For me I’m a very intense person, I’m not afraid to carry that intensity over to practice. I’m not afraid to share with athletes in the pool my concerns about their training. Whether I think they need to be trained faster, a lot faster, a whole lot faster or whether they’re not living up to my expectations. I feel very comfortable doing that, I have a knack for being able to convey to the athlete what my expectations are, prior to the start of a set. They know those and they know that I’m paying attention. I really have for me a strength that is really good communication with the athletes during the practice. It’s something that, when I first went to the University I wasn’t as comfortable doing, but I was aware that  I had to do it if I wanted to be me. Because I think you have to be true to yourself.


There are other characteristics that we all do. For instance, I’m a firm believer that you can do stroke work when you’re working hard. So that’s one of the other characteristics I carried over. I believe in letting the athlete know that they’re not swimming correctly, or the way that you want them to be swimming or the way that they want to be swimming, when they’re still training hard, just like when they train easy. I don’t take a segment of practice and say ok we’re going to do some stroke work here and then we’ll work hard here. I think you do correct stroke mechanic all the time, the entire time except for reasons not to use good stroke mechanics, it is one of the things that I share with the athlete and I’m not afraid to get in their face. Whether it was at the high school or the University.


One of the changes that you have to be ready to make is the length of season. I’m not sure what high school seasons are in the various places around the country, but in Minnesota we had a 14 week high school season, our University season is more like 26 weeks.  For me that was the easiest transition to make.   I mean just allow us to spend more time doing things like base work. We went through a couple more cycles but it was a much easier transition to make. I was fortunate, my assistant coach had college coaching experience and we talked a great deal prior to our first season. In fact at the University of Minnesota, we really divided our college season into 2 major cycles: we have a fall season, which arrested some of the athlete’s shape, and our winter season. So our fall season is like 10 weeks long and our winter season is like 14 weeks long.


There’s a change in how we do our training. In fact the length of season, is something you have to prepare to make. You have to prepare to deal with the athletes as they make that change in the length of season. To me that was one of the easier changes to make. Most of your Division I athletes are already used to that longer season it is not a major change to them. In fact it was not a major change to me, because I had also coached club when I was at Burnsville, so we were already fairly exposed to long seasons. The athletes were swimming at the Division I level, had basically been swimming yearly with fairly long seasons, so it’s a change you have to make.  I think that if you continue to try  to pound for 24 weeks during the college season that if athletes are not accustomed to it and not use to pounding for 24 weeks it can be very difficult. I think you’ll have to plan and in the way I coach you have to plan some recovery during the 24-week period. We plan for that to a certain degree by actually dividing the season into two parts of fall and winter dual meet season.  I firmly believe that you can be very successful in that way or you can be successful by just going at it for 24 weeks. Our rival in the Big 10, Michigan, rarely ever does a fall taper. They go right at it and they’re a successful program, you can go at that either way it’s just a question as to what you’re more comfortable with.


Fall tapers are getting more comment at the Division I level because more teams are seeking to try and make their NCAA time standards in the fall. Then they can go into their conference meets or the meets in February, knowing that these are the people they’ve already got qualified for the NCAA championship. In another area that I found and I learned as I went along is that we spend more time in specificity training. As I coached at the University we’d break into groups more often. When I coached at the high school level, we trained everybody almost exactly the same. There was really no such thing as a sprinter, there was no such thing as a distance swimmer. When I coached at high school we prepared everybody to swim at 200. Those that swam at 500, they were people who were a little more gifted and they went on to the 500. Those that couldn’t quite carry the 500 but had a little more speed they were a 100 people. There was not to any degree any breaking down in groups whereas at the collegiate level we do a lot of group training. We break into groups at the University of Minnesota every single day. I’m not sure you need to break into groups that often. We’ve gone more and more that way since I’ve been at the University. Our sprinters do something different from our distance swimmers, every single day of the season. Back in 1985 when I started we maybe broke into groups parts of practices, a couple days a week, but we’ve gradually broke into groups more and more often. My personal belief is you get more success that way. I think some college sprinters today, can’t train like distance swimmers. Distance swimmers they actually, I think it impedes the progress as a sprinter. Not all there are some sprinters, and I know there have been some great sprinters in the country who can train like distance swimmers. Neal Walker can train forever, I mean he’s a great trainer. Costa Bogra same thing was a great trainer. But there are some other sprinters, Bill Pilzcheck for instance who can train like that and so I think as a coach of a college team, you break into groups more and more often.


At the University of Minnesota we have three groups. We have a distance group, a middle distance group, and a sprint group. We have people who are from all strokes in all groups. One year at the Big Ten championship we had three swimmers in the 200 butterfly that all finished in the top four. One trained with the sprinters, one of them trained with the middle distance guys and one of them trained with the distance people. We try to train them based upon their previous training, their desires as to how they were trained and how they respond to the training that we offer. The selection process as to who trains with which group, for us was a selection process that both the athlete and the coaching staff got involved in. Just because a 1500 freestyler wanted to train with the sprinters didn’t mean he trained with the sprinters. He probably still trained with the distance guys or maybe the middle distance guys based upon his background. One the changes that I had to make was that we clearly had to have group training, which also allows us to have more individualized programs. Within the sprint group itself we have four different types of training groups that is they have practice schedules that are different.  There is difference in our distance groups. I think that the more groups you have the more coaches you can have in charge of each group the more individualized the training can be, that makes for happier athletes and happier athletes are faster athletes.


I think there is a drawback to group training and I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. It was one of the things we found over time at the University of Minnesota, is that if you break into groups, often and more often, it can affect team moral. That is if somebody was watching us at practice for a while they’d say “it looks like you have three teams here.” You don’t have one team you have three different teams. The sprinters are never doing anything with the other people, he was exactly right. We really had maybe three teams composed within the University of Minnesota team, that can have effects on team moral. It’s one  of those things you have to confront, you have to face and be willing to make concessions and do things that will keep team moral high. You have to talk about it, you have to discuss the fact that you never expect the divers to come over and train with the swimmers. The divers dive, the swimmers swim just like the sprinters sprint, the distance guys swim distance and so on. There’s other little things that we do at the University of Minnesota to help keep team moral high. Most everybody looks at the sprinters and says how they don’t work hard enough, they’re lazy. We try to sell the point that sprinters are sprinters because they do something that they can do very well which is to go fast. A start first sprinter is very important, so when practicing starts isn’t a matter of being lazy they are working on something that they need to be working on.


Another thing we use to do at University of Minnesota is that our sprinters invariably are the last group out of the water every day. We start practice every day at 3:45 and we’re supposed to be done at 5:45. I rarely let the sprinters go before 5:50. So the middle distance guys have a chance to get into the locker room first and the distance guys have a chance to get in the locker room first. That says a lot in itself to try and sooth the feelings a little bit that the sprinters aren’t working really hard enough. Then if we get sprinters who get sick in practice on a semi regular basis, they look at them and think, “there is so and so losing his lunch again, ok maybe those guys are working hard”. You have to make a conscience attempt to make sure your group training doesn’t have ill effects on team moral. I think that when we first broke into groups at University of Minnesota, we didn’t make those and we had team morale problems, we realized it was a problem. We have since learned that we have to attack it, you can’t wait for that to surface. You have to talk about it and make sure that everyone is aware and everyone is in the kind of training that we think will result in the best thing for them.


There are some differences in athletes, the high school to the Division I collegiate athlete. The obvious one is that you’re working with a more talented athlete. You have probably a much more homogeneous group of athletes but they are more talented. You’re with a group of athletes who have had success in the past and they’re talking about seeing the national time standards or placing at seniors as opposed to trying to make it to a state meet. There is also on their part, a greater degree of need and desire  to understand their training. You have to be ready to educate,  to teach and to talk about why you’re doing the things you’re doing as you do them. That desire comes because they maybe have more invested in their training. But also it comes from the fact, of all these athletes who are on your University team have experienced success in the past. They’ve all come from programs where they are probably the best athlete on their high school team, now they have come to the University and all of a sudden their being introduced to different training for the most part. They’re doing some things different from what they were doing before, they want to know why, they want to understand why they are doing things differently. Also you have to deal with the fact that you have a team of 35 swimmers, and you have 35 swimmers who are accustom to being the best athlete in the program they came from. They were expected and I don’t think conscience of the fact that they probably got more than their share of attention. But they probably did in the program they were with, they probably did have more than their share of attention, and they were used to probably more than their share of success. You have to be ready to deal with the fact that you now have 35 people who were all captains of their programs, they were all leaders and you don’t have 35 leaders and 35 captains any more, you have 1 or 2. So you have to be ready to deal with the problems that this can create. Everybody can play a role and everybody can be helpful in the program but not everybody is your best swimmer, not everybody can be your captain, which can create some problems. I think you have to be prepared to deal with some of those problems. I think you need to be prepared to sell your training program and your training regime.


Also you need to talk. I find that I try to make sure that I talk with the athletes multiple times every day. Now I work with the sprinters at the University of Minnesota. If I don’t interact with the sprinters, a half a dozen times every practice I’m interacting more often, I’m giving time to the athletes, I’m talking about terms, I’m talking about strokes, I’m letting them know that maybe they are going too fast or maybe they’re not going fast enough. I try to communicate often with them so that all the athletes get their fair amount of attention, but if our best athletes are needing more attention I’m not afraid to give them more attention and make sure that they hopefully don’t feel attention deprived.


There’s another reason I think that team unity and moral can be, an adjustment for high school coaches as they make that transition. That is at the high school level as you’re coaching, you have a high school athlete, this is probably his first close nit team, it is also the people he goes to school with all day long they have pep assemblies, they go the football games together, their high school is their life. In high school athletics I’ve always felt that high school athletes, if it’s a strong high school program, are the most committed & dedicated athlete that you’ll find any place, they are willing to break through walls. High school athletes who will break up with their girlfriends because they don’t want to have to maintain that relationship during the season and they’ll get back with her when the season is over. They want to have successful high school programs and they will also have incredible team moral and team unity.


When you get to the University level you have athletes who all come from different high schools, they have different loyalties. At the University of Minnesota we have athletes from other countries. So you have athletes who are loyal to Brazil for instance.  You have athletes who are loyal to St. Thomas High School. I think you have to gradually change those loyalties so that the University of Minnesota or whatever University you’re at can become their focal point for team unity. But that doesn’t happen overnight and I think it is more difficult to maintain than at High School. Just because they don’t go to pep rallies, they don’t have team bonding, kids have different majors so they may not see each other during the day, they might be in different parts of campus. So there are all sorts of reasons why the team unity and the team morale is not as close but rest assured it is not.


Another problem that can crop up is, and I’ll try to state this so it is not a bad thing but it happens. Athletes have commitment conflicts. There are some differences in athletes from the high school to the Division I collegiate athlete. The obvious one is that you’re working with a more talented athlete. You have probably a much more homogeneous group of athletes, but they are more talented. You’re with a group of athletes who have had success in the past and they’re talking about seeing the national time standards of placement seniors as opposed to trying to make it to state meet. There is also on their part, a greater degree of need and desire to understand their training. Having a right to educate and to teach and to talk about why you’re doing the things you’re doing as you do them. And that desire first of all comes because they maybe have more invested in their training. But also it comes from the fact, of all these athletes who are on your University team have experienced complex. It doesn’t mean they don’t want to swim well, or that they don’t care about swimming. It just means that they have other things in their life that are important, When they’re in high school is almost like, I know when I coached high school, during swimming season they were willing to put everything on hold and they could do a good job in school whether they were practicing hard or swimming hard it seemed like they were all smart, school came easy to them they did a good job and their life revolved around swimming while they were in high school. They get to college and all of a sudden there are some other things that are important to them. All of a sudden their major becomes an area where they can no longer not study and get A’s. They’ve got to study and work at getting As so doing a good job in school is important. Doing a good job at their major or getting experience in their major becomes important to them. They often times develop significant relationships with others.


We had one of our best swimmers this year got married two weeks after NCAA’s was over. He assured me that it wouldn’t affect his season. Now you can imagine with him getting married two weeks after NCAA it affected the season throughout the season. There were things that always came up about his upcoming wedding. Those were things that you have to deal with it. Anyway he told me that it wouldn’t affect his season. I said yeah, right, sure, of course. Of course I knew it would and it did. It didn’t affect it necessarily in a bad way, there are just other things that are very important that develop pre conflicts. We had a swimmer and getting into medical school was of crucial importance to him. This University of Minnesotan was taking his M-CATS, was going to University of Minnesota school and was doing research with one of his doctors who was going to be one of his references for medical school. Well he is accustomed to taking a nap. When he grew up and went to high school as he went through his years, he took a nap after morning practice all the time. Well he just didn’t have the time, it wasn’t that he came to practice and loafed it was just that he wasn’t getting enough sleep because his life didn’t allow for it. M-CATS took place during Nationals, he didn’t go to Nationals because of M-CATS.


I think at a collegiate levels other things become much more important to them. It is not to say that swimming ceases to be important, it’s just that there are some other things that they now have to juggle. They have more things on their plate and they have to juggle swimming with all those other things. I think as a coach you have to be ready and willing to deal with those. That often means multiple practices, adjusting practice times. That University of Minnesotan with who was taking his M-CATS we finally decided that he wasn’t going to swim every morning at 6’ o-clock. Because I said, there are two days a week that we had him come. Once he came at ten and once he came at twelve just because I wanted and he wanted to make sure he got enough sleep and see if that would help pick up his practice performance. Clearly he would have swam better on June 1st better than he did at the end of July because he just kept wearing himself out. It wasn’t something that he wanted to do but it happened. It didn’t mean that he is not a good person, he is. He just had other commitments. I think as a coach you’ve got to be willing to accept those other commitments and work with those commitments.


Q: Is there ever a time that you sit down with your athletes and say; “You have too many commitments?

  1. There have been, we had an athlete at the University of Minnesota a few years ago, who was really involved in community service. He did community service through his church, he did it with other organization. \\\during his junior year his swimming suffered considerably, because of his community service and we were constantly making practice adjustments, he did all of the workouts. He sometimes had to do them at different times because he was so involved with his church and with community service. At the end of the year we had a discussion and we said “Scott, we’ve got to make some decisions. We want you to swim well and we want you to have the kind of senior year that you can have. We’re not saying you can’t do all of this community service, we just think they should be limited to one weekday per week. We can talk about making adjustments on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, but it’s only going to be one day a week. The other days we want you to come ready to swim. Saturday morning likewise, we want you at practice. If there are some adjustments to made that one day we’ll be happy to do it, but we want you to cut down on the kind of community service you’re doing. It doesn’t mean you have to be a bad person, it just means you don’t have to give as much of yourself because you’re spreading yourself to thin. He came back and had a fantastic senior year. He now works for the church and does all of the community service he wants to do, he was happy and he had a great senior year.


I had another young man who was in Material Science Engineering, he had done some part time work at 3-M which is located up in Minneapolis not too far from campus. They offered him an internship his senior year. He came into the office and sat down and talked to me about this internship. The young man was a breaststroker and I thought this guy is never going to score the big tens in the 200 breast stroke.  We talked for a while and  we just mad a whole sale adjustment, he never did doubles, he did weights when he could and he made one practice a day. Because this internship we knew would lead to a full time job, it was crucial to what he did after he graduated. He was going to graduate in four years so we made sure he graduated in four years and he had his internship experience and he still swam in his 100 breast was fine his senior year. His 200 breast was what we expected not to be as good, but he only scored for us at the Big Ten championship. We will try to make adjustments, but there has to be a point where you have to say enough is enough. There is so much you can do. This may not be the politically correct thing to do but clearly if the athlete is your star swimmer, you are going to do everything you can to make sure you make the adjustments to that athlete can take part in your team effort. I think Dave Anderson who was my assistant coach always said “Everybody on your team, everybody needs some special consideration in some things”. We’re going to give them that special consideration whether it’s understanding that this person has trouble in school and he’s a sprinter who is a Big Ten Champion. We decided finally during his senior year, we gave him every Wednesday off. He didn’t practice on Wednesday. That year he won the Big Ten Championship, and was not practicing on Wednesday. The reason was because he had so much trouble in school. He was one of the guys who had to take the ACT test three times to get a passing score. He worked his tail off and he had tutors. No one doubted how hard he worked, he just was not academically gifted. He graduated in 5 years from the University and I thought to myself this guy’s graduation was as much of an accomplishment as any person we’ve had in our program, he worked so hard to do it. Our part of that was to give him a little more time and give him Wednesdays off. So that on Wednesday he didn’t swim with us. Instead he studied and met with a tutor. It was important for him and it was important for us. I think he didn’t swim quite as fast in the 100 his senior but there were other things he ended up being eligible which not might have been if he didn’t have every Wednesday off.

Any questions or thoughts about any other and I had those listed under in-pool transition.


Q: Dennis, do you find it hard to motivate college students throughout the year, especially during Spring? Do you find it hard at the high school level as well?

A: I think that it’s was difficult at high school level to motivate your swimmers to swim in the spring time. I want you to know as you ask that question, I thought, you know I never was as concerned about it when I coached high school. Our swimmers when I coached high school swam three times a week in the spring time that was OK. I can live with that, but at the college level, the high school team I coached, only a third of the team swam in the University of Minnesotans time anyway, so we’re not talking about a lot of athletes. Whereas at the University level and at the Division I level, if you’re trying to accomplish being a top ten team for instance they have to swim in the spring time. If I have trouble motivating my swimmers in the spring time, you bet! I think it is one of the biggest problems with the schools that are on the quarter system. Schools that are on the quarter system, don’t get out of school until June 10th or so. We don’t start until the late September, but we don’t get out until June 10th. They have to be training in the month of May. I mean we start training in April and we train through May and it’s like pulling teeth. We’re going to semesters here one more year at the University of Minnesota, on the quarter system then we’re going to the semester. When we go to the semester system I’ll be one happy camper because I won’t have to worry about spring training. Clark Campbell and I this past spring, kept thinking we can’t wait to get to semesters and not have to fight this battle because they didn’t want to train in the spring time. We basically said you’re training. We lost one of our most promising athletes decided he wasn’t going to swim, if he had to train in the spring time that was it. He was a young man who came to the University of Minnesota as 1.46 200 freestyler. This year as a sophomore he went 1.39, and he quit swimming because he didn’t want to swim in the spring time. We made a decision can’t afford to have people not swim in the spring time. So he decided to move on into other things. We wish him nothing but the best, but we would love to have him on our team. So Keith, you’re on the quarter system, so I’m sure you have the same problems as we do and it’s a very tough road to hoe. Now what we do at Minnesota is one of the NCAA rules is how many days we can practice a year. We save a lot of our days for spring training. So we have days where we can say look, we have 24 days that we are setting aside for spring training. Your people have to come for training. So we get them going pretty strong in the spring time. It’s mandatory that they come. That’s one of the NCAA rules that you have to live with.


Any other questions?  Okay.


Speaking about NCAA rules, I meant to bring my NCAA rule book here with me. But the NCAA rule book is a mammoth publication. I think mammoth maybe understates how big it is. It’s kind of interesting because when we built our new aquatic center in 1990, we opened up the time capsule for the memorial stadium at the University of Minnesota. In that time capsule we found some things, one of the things in the time capsule was the rule book, the NCAA rule book for 50 years prior. Actually it wasn’t 50 years it was in 1935 when our stadium at the University of Minnesota was built. The rule book back then was not  as big as my billfold. It was pages this big and about half the thickness of my billfold, 25 pages. The rule book said things like “Students athletes should aspire to get a degree.” “Coaches should not say mean things about other coaches.” These were the kind of rules they had. I looked at it and it was so entertaining and so refreshing to think that those were the kind of rules that they were living by. Now you have a rule book that is about  300 pages thick of small print. It’s unbelievable the University of Minnesota of rules covering various situations. Every major school and most schools have compliance officers. We have a compliance office at the University of Minnesota. It’s now three full time employees and one graduate assistant employee and their purpose is to give us their interpretation and tell us about rules and help the coaches stay in compliance with the rules. I think the increasing scope of the NCAA rules has resulted in lots of jobs for lawyers. I’m not sure that it has resulted in anymore equity on the playing field. I’ll site a rule to illustrate this. There a rule that says that NCAA coaches may not talk to prospects and prospects are from 9th grade to 12th grade at the site of a competition, from the day that competition starts until that athlete finishes his competition and is released by his coach. Once that athlete is released by his coach he may talk to college coaches at locations other that the site of competition. That is open to lots and lots of different definitions.  There are some coaches who think the rule really means, you can talk to prospects prior to their first race even though the competition has started. There are some coaches that think you can talk to athletes after their last race but they still have time trials to come or the last individual race. There are some coaches who define the site of competition at the 50-meter by 8 length pool that the athlete has stepped out of the pool he’s fair game. There are coaches who think they can talk to the athletes in the warm up pool, in the bleachers, and all sorts of places. Now our compliance officer at Minnesota has been very careful in outlining us in what we can do, and he’s checked with the NCAA where he used to work. And for us the definition is “You may not talk to them until after they have completed their last race whether it is a time trial, relay, or individual race. You may not talk to them until they finish that race and they have been released by their coach, and they’re off site.” Off site for us means outside the perimeter. That is like this University of Minnesota’s Nationals at Red Culver he said outside the fence. At the University of Minnesota where we often hold nationals, it means not in the pool, not in the warm-up-pool, not in the bleachers, you can go upstairs, outside or even in the lobby and talk to them. You can’t talk to them at the site of the competition. He defines it there. If you go to these major meets you see these coaches and athletes talking all over the place and my question is we now have about hundred pages of rules covering this, yet it hasn’t resulted in any more fair or equitable playing field, we just have more rules. I think it is also important that as you take the college out that you try to become more aware of the rules. And I think it is really important that you read some parts of the NCAA rule book, particularly the sections on recruiting and on eligibility. I think if you read those and get a feel for the rules. I think that you have to be ready to use the compliance office that you have on campus. I would say that we talk, I would venture guess that this University of Minnesota we talk to our compliance office maybe a hundred times. Sometime about gaining rules, sometime about gaining NCAA clearing from the clearing house on athletes where kids come out and visit and all this kind of stuff. But you have a good relation with your compliance office. You have to be willing to seek interpretations. So often coaches say “Our compliance office say something else”. I’m sure they didn’t actually talk to them. Many times you think of a rational of how you can do something and then go ahead and do it without really talking to your compliance office who might say that logic is flawed here and here. Being aware of NCAA rules as mammoth as they are and reading certain portions of that, you’re never going to remember the whole rule book it’s just too big for that. You can certainly read the parts on eligibility and recruiting and make yourself more aware of what you can and cannot do.


Any questions about recruiting at the NCAA level?


At seniors at the University of Minnesota you could have seen a coaches demonstration of different definitions of the rules for every coach that was there.


Recruiting. There is a brand new task with something I had never done before at Burnsville High School. It was something I never had to do at Burnsville High School. Recruiting can be incredibility time consuming at the University of Minnesota. It can  be frustrating, but it is probably the most important task that the Division I coach does to have a successful team. You have to be able to recruit talented athletes. I’m reminded of the expression my mother taught when I was young, “You can’t make silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” No matter good a coach you are you have to some talent in the water to have good athletes. You can help athletes to become better, but if you want a great team you’ve got to have some great athletes. My first step in becoming a recruiter was to get an assistant coach who could recruit. At the University of Minnesota I have always had an assistant who was a good recruiter. In some cases they were great recruiters they handled that burden of our program. It wasn’t like I didn’t do anything, I did some things which regarded recruiting but they carried the ball. They were our recruiting coordinator and that was their off deck responsibility. In our particular case, I made a decision. I’m sort of a quite person, I’m an introvert as opposed to an extrovert. I think it is important that you have somebody who is comfortable making contacts, is more of an extrovert that I certainly am. I try to hire and try to get assistant coaches who are not images of me, but rather hopefully complement me and I complement them. I’ve always looked for an assistant coach who was comfortable in large groups, was comfortable making contacts, were very gregarious, a little too strong of a term, but they certainly were comfortable and they certainly were extroverts. We have some policies that clearly NCAA rules allow you to call recruits once a week. If you want to be successful you’ve got to live with a phone on your ear. You have to be making calls if you want to be successful. At the University of Minnesota, we have some obstacles in front of us. You have to decide how you want to handle it. For us Minnesota is sometimes known as a cold climate state. Some people are a little afraid of the snow, so we have to be ready to deal with that. We don’t have a whole lot of success down in California, Florida and Texas when we go to recruit. They think it snows to much or something, so but those are obstacles that you have to be ready to deal with. The recruiting needs to be a year round activity. It isn’t something you can do in the spring or fall, it is something you have to do year round.


Another big difference in high school coaching and college coaching is the amount of support you have in the environment you work. In high school you’re a teacher and a coach, you coach and you teach. Coaching is only a part of your activity then all of a sudden you go to a major University, you are part of a huge complex in which winning and being successful is important. Everybody around you are talking about making sure that you a strong soccer team or a strong swimming team and so forth and everybody is involved in that. You have a lot of support staff. You have a strength coach. For us our strength coach plays a big part of our program, we trust him, we have confidence in him. I let him run he strength program. We have an academic counselor, who helps our athletes, she runs the academic counseling part of our program. We have assistant coaches, This year we had Jack Patton who was our distance coach and he ran our distance program. Clark Campbell was our middle distance coach and he ran our middle distance program. You have to have people who you both have confidence in and you can trust that they can in fact run their program. Give them the authority and the responsibility and hold them accountable for doing the job.


There are sports physiologists, media relations people, and all these people that you have to be ready to take advantage of to have the best program that you can have.  I would say that  you have to be ready to delegate at the University level. Whether it is delegating responsibilities and duties to your assistant coach or whether it’s delegating duties and responsibilities to a student assistant or whoever it is, you have to be ready to delegate, because you can’t do it all by yourself. At the high school level you did everything, you’re the jack of all trades. At the college level you have other experts and you have to take advantage of them. I think it’s part of the difference of the environment at the high school. At the high school level athletics are extracurricular. At the Division I program they are what that department does, that is their sole activity, having good athletic programs.


That is all I have for Off Deck Transitions, are there any questions comments anybody would like to share with us?


Q: Do you at the University have a policy involving recruiting out of the country? Are you looking at the best athlete or do you have a leaning one way or another?

A: I have a leaning, and our lean is to recruit the best athletes out of Minnesota first. Secondly, we go after the best athletes  in the upper Midwest. Third, we go for the best athletes in the country. And fourth, we take athletes from out of the country. I mentioned earlier that we have some obstacles and that is there are a great University of Minnesota of the best athletes in this country live south. I tell the story of the time I called a young man from southern California who I had worked with on three different trips and three different occasions, regular relationship and I was talking to him. On my third call I suggested to him that maybe Minnesota might be a place he would consider going to school and come in for a visit. There was a brief pause before he started laughing. He said, “Coach I like you, but it’s cold up there and it snows. He said, “You’re not mad at me are you?” I said, “No, I’m fine. You’ve let me know exactly how you feel.  I can move on and talk to other people.” So I think you’ll find that we’re not afraid to go international. But if we find a great athlete in our area like Tom Malchove we’ll go after him like gang busters if we can get a chance. Unfortunately we weren’t very successful in that area. But those are the kind of things. We like to get people locally if we can. There is a good butterflyer out of Minnesota this year and we were lucky enough to get him to come to Minnesota and a good sprint freestyler who chose the other M school.


Any other questions or thoughts? Thank you very much for coming.

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