That is setting the bar high over there Joel; thank you, I appreciate that. So in preparing for this talk, there was not a whole lot of guidance and they left it up to me. So much so that I was noncommittal; the title was not even on the list, right. So you came here wondering: what is this guy going to talk about? And I still have kept it fairly loose: just some thoughts, some ideas, some things that I have learned—some of it the hard way. But I was thinking about if I am a young coach and trying to… aspiring to be head coach, or I am a head coach trying to get something going, what would I want to know? And I think this is the kind of information I think would have really helped me ten years ago, when I first took this over. When you are 29 years-old and you take over a program, you think you know everything. When you turn 40, and you have been there for ten years, you realize you know very little. That is called wisdom, right?
So some thoughts here. First of all, lots of people to thank. But certainly ASCA and the opportunity to be here, and John Leonard, Guy Edson. And then the CSCAA [College Swimming Coaches Association of America]. Bob Groseth was the past Executive Director; I think he did a phenomenal job. Those of you that have been around long enough to know CSCAA is I think a much more… serious maybe is not the right word, but much more improved organization. I think as a coach, I certainly feel personally that they are doing a lot for us. And I think Joel has come-in and brought a whole new level of enthusiasm and continued to improve and create opportunities for all us college coaches. So thank you, Joel.
As we go forward, of course this [on slide] is a highlight moment as a coach: from humble beginnings to be in a situation where you are coaching national champions, always special. What makes it maybe a little bit more special is the fact that as a freshman he went to NCAAs, he made it. But he did go 1:56.3 in 2009 with rubber suits. He struggled all meet long with figuring out the suit situation; and it was mess. So as a freshman, I had this conversation with him and I just threw it out there, I said, “Why can’t you come back here and have a shot of wining this thing? Why not?” And he reminded me after he won; I forgot that I had said that, but he reminded me.
So what I want to do here—and some of you were there and I do not mean to bore you but—I want to just take a moment and just share this race. It is about three minutes.
… but look at the top qualifier Carlos Almeida, swimming for Louisville his senior year, Coach Arthur Albiero…
[race starts, commentary continues through the race; note: video is of the Men’s 200 Breast final from the 2012 NCAAs]
So thanks for humoring me. Every time I watch that, I still wonder how did he win that race? He had no business; those are really good breaststrokers. I believe that was the fastest field, up to that point; third fastest time. And this was a short little guy who had no business being that fast, but he figured out a few things. And I wanted to show the team portion of it because… if you watch the interview after the race, that is the first thing he said. He said, I thank all the people that have done a lot of things for me. And I think… that is why we try to create a culture. To me, this race was a culmination of, at that point, nine years of creating something where this is okay, this is expected to happen. And the rest of the team was just as happy for him—you saw the guys on the sidelines.
Moving forward, you know, we are a product of our environment in many ways, and I am very fortunate to have an athletic director who, he is an outside-the-box kind of guy. You know he is an incredible supporter of the program. I had to earn his respect; and ten years later, I think I have, but it was not always easy. But the support was there, the vision was there. We are very fortunate to work with TYR. They have been great to us for nine years, and Brent and Steve have been good friends and I certainly appreciate their support. When we were in the bottom of the barrel, it was difficult to get any kind of support, and those guys were right there. Matt Zimmer, at that time, from TYR. But it has been a great partnership for us, and those are things that I think have helped us.
Many mentors over the years. My first club coach back in Brazil, Merco was his name, and he left a huge impression. A lot of us that came out of that club are involved in coaching today. And just the way he went about things: he included the athletes in the conversations. He would sit us down. There were no computers; he was not a computer guy—I still do not think he is. And he would have a written down plan, and I just… I loved that, I loved knowing what we were doing and the fact that this guy had a plan for me. It really stuck with me.
Ernie Maglischo: that was an enlightening experience. Unfortunately, it was one year; my freshman year. That is the main reason why I came to the U.S., from São Paulo, Brazil, to swim for Ernie. And then he left after my freshman year. Left a hole in my heart, unfortunately. But I ended-up moving to Oakland University, went on to win Division II Championships at that time, and Peter Hovland has been a great mentor, a great friend.
Jim Steen. I had an opportunity to go to grad school at Oakland. I had my master’s paid for; what an incredible opportunity. And then I got somehow invited, or invited myself, into the Jim Steen accelerated-learning program. And I learned, in three years in Division III, I learned more than… honestly in the last, you know, fourteen years since I have been away from Kenyon. There have been really very few things that I have encountered that were new situations. When you are in Division III, you are doing it all: you are dealing with the touch pads, you are cleaning everything—that is what we did. And certainly as a young coach, nothing is beneath us. And to this day, I do not… I feel like I can do anything. I do not feel like because I am the head coach, I should not do this or should do that. So I learned that
And then Dave Marsh. And I say Dave Marsh… when I first took the job at Louisville, I went to the clinic, I went to San Diego. And I had been on the job literally for… (I’ll go back to that). I have been on the job for just a couple of days, literally. Dropped my bags at Louisville, and went to straight to ASCA [World Clinic]. And when I got there, Dave Marsh was Coach of the Year. He was… first time, I think, he won the men and women; and the guy is on top of the world. I have known him; I used to be an assistant at Alabama and always had a good relationship.
But I asked him, I said, “Hey, can you give me some suggestions; give me some pointers, point me in the right direction here.” And that night he went to dinner, and he came back and he called me—it was about close to 11. He says, Hey, I am ready to talk and let’s meet on the courtyard. And we sat there for about an hour and a half. This guy took, for no reason, took me aside and really gave me an hour and a half of his time and his expertise. And I am very appreciative of that; that just got me thinking about a lot of different things—kind of jump-started the process. So I do not even know if he knows that, but he is going to find out shortly that I remember that.
Coaching staff, that has been huge. Our diving coach has been there forever; I put “20+” because he does not even know and who is counting. And there are pluses and minus to that. But Ryan Wochomurka has been with me for six years. Rachel Komisarz-Baugh was two years a volunteer coach, when she transitioning from pro-athlete to college coaching; and then four years as a full-time coach. Chris Lindauer: in nine years, he is the youngest guy on the staff. Chris swam for us, and to bring somebody back who experienced that. As a senior, he went to NCAAs for the first time; Cinderella senior year. I felt that was important to have that belief, that culture, that hey, this can happen here. So whenever I had a chance, I brought Chris back. And he is been all that; he has done a phenomenal job. And then Vlad Polyakov. Some of you may know Vlad. I recruited Vlad out of a high school, when in was at Alabama, and coached him for a year. We have always had a phenomenal relationship, and the guy has been great, great addition to our staff.
And then previous staff, because we get to… we are where we are today because of all the people that you met along the way. David Walden, who was a G.A. [graduate assistant] at Auburn for a few years, who came and did a great job for us for three years. And Karin Olmsted, who was my right arm for nine years. So I have learned a lot of different things without Karin for the last year-and-a-half now.
And then my family. That is my oldest over there, 18 year-old; he will be a freshman swimmer at Louisville. And that might be another talk for another time—I will come back and tell you how that works. 18-year-old boy. 14-year-old boy, Nicolas; also a swimmer. Little Gabby, 11, and her name is true: she is a gabber—she talks a lot. And then my beautiful wife. (And in case you are wondering, we are going to the Kentucky Derby—that is what you are doing in Louisville, right? So, first time I brought my kids; they loved it, great experience. My daughter did say, “Dad, that was great, but I do not think we need to do this every year”. So that was a very nice, good observation on her part.)
Who am I? I do have a Junior on my name; nobody calls me Junior. There are a few people in the room that know me from my early years, and some people called me Junior at that time. São Paulo, Brazil, that is where I was born. Cal State Bakersfield, Ernie Maglischo; Oakland University with Coach Hovland. And then coaching: three years at Kenyon College, four years at Alabama, and now eleven at Louisville. (That is me. I did show my kid that picture, and my daughter says “Who is that? Is that one your friends?” So that tells you a couple of things; it was a long time ago.)
Why Louisville? Louis-who. A friend of mine called me and said, “Louisville had an opening for a Head Coach; you should look at it.” My first gut-reaction response was Louis-who? Swimming? What are you talking about? And I do not mean that disrespectfully to the previous coaches who were part of the program there. But certainly it was not a program that was doing anything on the national level, a regional level, or really not a whole lot was going on there. There were reasons for that.
But once I started learning about the city of Louisville, those are the things that impressed me. Ron Foreman; H&B, that is Louisville Slugger—everybody knows, Louisville Slugger bats. Investment firms; Humana, the insurance company. Papa John’s Pizza, Josh Schnatter is a University of Louisville alumni; he lives in town. I see him around. He drives his Camaro to the games: loves supporting U of L. Texas Roadhouse. UPS. Every package you send, anywhere in the country, goes through Louisville; and I have the luxury, I could put something in the mailbox at 11.45 p.m. and it would be in your house the next morning. Yum! Brands Corporation, that is… you know, everybody knows KFC. All the major food groups are covered: Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell [laughter]; that is all you need to know. Great place.
Home of Churchill Downs; literally about a mile from my office. And I think this year we have the 137th consecutive run of the Kentucky Derby. I do not know anything about horse racing, but it does not matter: it is something that happens and the whole community goes nuts. I still do not know a whole lot about horse racing, but it is a fun environment and definitely something that is easy to be a part of. And a great city to raise a family. Beautiful city, lots of thing to do, great environment, and a city that is crazy for athletics. There is no professional team in town, so anything Louisville athletics is… is what is going on, it is what on the agenda.
Cutting-edge leadership. I think this is a crucial point. The University President, Ramsey, is a hands-on guy. He is the kind of guy that goes to meets. He will… you know, I will invite him to a meet. And he will call me last minute; he says, “You know, I am really concerned about parking; I do not want to be late.” I go over there, I move my car, he parks in my spot; that is… President Ramsey is going to be at the meet, that is not a problem. And he knows that.
And then our Athletic Director, Tom. When I met him, I was still under the Louis-who impression, so I went in there skeptical—at best. And this phrase kind of changed things for me a little bit; he said “We don’t want to be a two-sport institution.” I said okay, that is sounds like a very novel concept. He said, “We want to be a 22-sport institution.” As a matter of fact, now we have 23: we have added Women’s Lacrosse. And when you look things, you say Okay, what does that mean? That sounds like a great thing to say for Olympic sports right? And you start looking around a little bit and this is a special year in Louisville athletics. Obviously Men’s Basketball, that is a big deal—that is good for Swimming. And this I took it straight from the website, so national champion, Joao De Lucca is there, and then top-25 nationally-ranked teams.
And I think the thing that impressed me about this guy is he is doing it. He is not just saying it; he is doing it. He is supporting… you talk to any of the coaches, there is incredible support. Everybody feels supported, whether it is Field Hockey or Rowing or you know. And there is a great community of coaches. That is something new to me; when I came in, that did not exist. And it is… the fact that the swimmers will go to the volleyball games, and the volleyball players will come to the meets and soccer players; there is this culture that is very different, and that is part of it.
And then of course, this past year we named it the Year of the Cardinal. And this is the entry, whatever… they had a daily something they put-out throughout the whole summer, and this was one of the daily entries. Fantastic way to promote our program, you know. And Joao De Lucca obviously won that 200 free in a fantastic race. And our A.D., he may not know too much about Swimming, but he knows winning. And he knows what top-10 means at NCAAs.
So moving forward, so how do we get here? Year number one, I accepted the position on August 16. My first day on campus was actually September 3; they had been in school for a couple of weeks already. I laid the groundwork to be competitive in the Big East. They told me, off the record, we had two years in Conference USA before we moved into the Big East and we want to win the Big East, by the way. Okay, I appreciate the lofty, bold vision. (We will go back to that in a moment.)
I felt it was important and actually it is a book; if you have not read this book, I strongly encourage the Good to Great book by Jim Collins. It is really a business book; but it is about people, it is about organizations. And I think that is definitely something that I felt was really important, is we had to get the bus in the right direction. But then we need to get the right people on the bus, and that is sometimes a painful process. And one that you have to very delicately manage. But ultimately that is key: you cannot go forward if you do not have the right people on the bus—if you will.
And then instill team pride in everything we did. That sounds very obvious, but when you take over a program that just does not know what winning is…. And winning is not winning first place or winning the trophy; just a winning mentality. Simple things: the way we carry ourselves, the way we carry of equipment bags, the way we leave the pool deck. To me, it is… I challenged them to take pride in everything they did, and created a little culture.
And there were some guys that were in trouble with previous coaches. And I just came in, I said clean slate, everybody has a chance—Carol [Capitani] touched on that today—a chance to reinvent yourself. If you were a lazy bum, today is a good day for you to start being the hardest worker on the team. If you did poor academics, same thing: start over. From my end, everybody has a chance, and then after that we will revisit.
So the mindset at that point was just daily focus on what it can be, not on what it is. What it was, it was not pretty. And there were plenty of days that I went home and I said: What am I doing here? Is there something else I could be doing in my life? True story. There were some major challenges. But that was the mindset: how we keep changing that, how we keep plugging away. Little by little.
So we had lofty visions, probably somewhat irresponsible, from day one. I had been there for three or four days; and some guy comes in, puts a microphone in my face, and says: “What are your goals for the program?” And really… the height of a 29 years-old, first-time head coach; I thought, you know, ‘Yeah, I think we can be a top-20 program, no problem.’ Not really knowing what that meant. But, certainly, once I said it, it felt like you could not go back on it, so now we had got to try to make good on it, somehow. But then we really started laying the groundwork to be able to achieve those things.
National respect. First of all, winning the Big East. We had two years in Conference USA, so we had a little time to prepare. Great start, great goals. This is exciting: we have got a new pool coming up—there was a lot of talk about this new pool we are going to build. But we had none of those things, so we are trying to set the groundwork. Top-20, in the state program, qualify athletes for Worlds, Olympics. I mean, why not? Even U.S. National Team: we have not done that yet, but that is on the to-do list.
And then create an environment where all flourish. Again, that sounds simple, but to me that is what I love most about college swimming. It was something that I experienced. I never experienced that coming from Brazil, in a club system that is just a little bit different. You come to college; that is your team, what you do matters. You know, somebody put you on the relay, it is for your team. It is not about you and how you feel at the end of a long week of training; you have got to do it for the team. And I love that; I felt like I have got the best out of my experience as an athlete from the team concept.
So the reality—shocker. The reality was… we want to win, we want to do all these things. But the reality was, we were 5th place in Conference USA. I do not say this disrespectfully, but that is towards the bottom; I believe there were six teams. And we were 4th on the men side, and I believe there were five teams. And that is the reality. U.S. Nationals qualifiers, we did not even post cuts—there was no need for it, certainly at that initial onset.
Regional respect—and I listed that in-there. Talk about a sobering experience. So I go to southern Indiana to visit a kid. Good kid. I had done some homework; I liked this kid. I go over there and am with him and his mom, and he let me talk for a little bit. About twenty or so minutes into it, he says, “Coach, can I be honest with you?” So, you know, you brace yourself: I am not sure where this is going to go. And he says, “I’m going to be real honest. Anybody who has ever been serious about swimming in this region, would never,”—with emphasis—“would never consider Louisville.” I closed my folder, I got in my car, hit the head against the steering wheel a couple of times. What am I doing here? But right then and there, I had to make a decision: Where am I going with this? Am I going to let that define me or am I going to battle that?
And that was a defining moment for me to say, Okay, this is where we are; that is the reality check. We’ve got to change everything. NCAA championships were something really nice, that we saw on TV every once in a while. There was no aspiration of going to NCAAs; that was just not realistic. And we had one full-time assistant coach.
So there was a seasonal culture. At the end of the first year, we finished the year and I said, “Okay, we are going to have a couple of weeks off, and then we are going to start some spring training and get ready for a good summer.” And, kid you not, kid comes up to me and he says, “Coach, I know you’re new here, but we don’t do spring training.” I appreciate you letting me know. We are going to miss you. Thank you for coming. [laughter] That is where we were; that was the culture. I am sure they ran to the Athletic Director to tell him I was doing more than twenty hours; I was making them do crazy things. You know.
We had a 6-lane, 25-yard dungeon—literally. But it had water in it, it had flags; we had two pace clocks—not the digital ones, the analog ones. And I felt there is no… if we do not swim fast, it is not because of facility. Sometimes we put ourselves I think in a little box, and the reality is: swimming is swimming, and you can get it done. You know, I trained a lot of my years in club swimming in a 20-meter pool, and a lot of good kids came out of that club. So, I think it is a mindset. This is reality though: we had 5 scholarships on the women, and half—that is not a typo, that is 0.5—on the men’s side. So we had some ways to go.
Crawford pool: that is where we were. Crawford pool holds this mythical thing at the University of Louisville—maybe no longer—because Crawford gym is on top of Crawford pool. Crawford pool is in the basement, literally. And that is where the basketball team from 1986 trained before they won the national championships. So that was like a place of worship, almost; this place is an eyesore on campus. And still there; the day we left, they put some tape around the pool, locked the door, and it is still there.
And then really, the low internal expectations. There were none to be honest with you. They were happy to have a t-shirt and say, Hey, I am part of Louisville athletics. I can go to the games; I get special privileges. They were not bad kids, by no means; and some of them are involved in coaching today and hopefully we are on good terms. I did my best to remain on good terms. But the reality was, we were trying to do something different and change is hard. Change is really hard. And poor team self-image—I mean that goes without saying. You know, they were just happy to be there.
So elements of change, as I call them. They are not in particular order; ;ike I said, these are somewhat random thoughts.
- Elephant thinking. Elephant thinking is… if I say to you: How do you eat an elephant? You know, now depending your personality, you might say, “Man, an elephant has thick skin. It is going to take a long time to cut all the little pieces. Might be a little chewy.” You might go that route. But what I am trying to get to is, Look, it is a big thing: you have got to one little bit at a time. And we continue to remind ourselves: elephant thinking. How do we… you know it is a little phrase that we always use. We have just got to keep going; one little bite at a time.
- Establish a new culture. And I would be lying to you if I told you that I thought through, I sat down and I came up with this brilliant plan of these are the four pillars. They kind of evolved. And looking back at it, that was a huge thing. That was a huge thing because the four pillars are the same today. And I am sure you may have something different in your program; they are just things that are non-negotiable. Every time we have a problem, we go back to the four pillars: if it does not fit, there is a problem—it is really simple.
- Raise the expectations daily. Sounds redundant. It is still something that we do every day and we will continue to do. For that group especially, it was a challenge.
- Teach, teach, teach. How to push-off from the wall, how to read the clock, how to manage a set, how to… do everything.
- Constant one-on-one meetings. I learned that from Jim Steen; Jim Steen holds meetings pretty much every day at every opportunity. And I love meetings. I know my kids go crazy because I love meetings. To me, this is where it happens. It is a little bit like politics; you know, you can deliver a great thing on the House floor, but if you did not work the background and people are buying-into that ahead of time…. Because change is hard, so you have got ease into it, one by one.
- We realize that we had to meet the athletes where they were. So for me, posting the National cuts was not a reality; it was counterproductive. It was not a reality for that group.
- Challenge one-by-one to “more better“. That is a concept by Coach Eddie Reese. That is to do more things, better. We are not trying to break the World Record; we are just trying to do more things a little bit better, every day.
- Realize—this is a hard realization for me and I still struggle with this—that not everybody wants to be saved. Okay? And I was talking to a swimmer a little bit earlier today. And it is sometimes you, as a coach, keep throwing the buoy. Grab it; they do not grab it. You keep throwing the buoy, keep throwing the buoy. After a while, you have to say, okay, I cannot be throwing the buoy anymore and they may drown. That is the reality; it is a little bit sad. But it is a reality that we all have to face: not everybody wants that. Not everybody wants to be part of the program; not everybody wants to commit. And as a team that is trying to change your culture, that was definitely… there were lines of people who are against my ideas.
- And then, this is the big one: we had to earn the respect within our department. Not freely given, we had to earn it. We had to show that we are a contributing member of the athletic department.
So continuing on that, what are the things that we felt we needed to make some adjustments. I like the idea of touch: establish relationships with all the people who touch our program. Anybody and everybody that has an impact on our program, I need to make sure that that person understands what we are doing, I need to make sure they feel like they are part of the team. Whether it is the lifeguards; the guys in the physical plant that make sure the chemicals are correct, the temperature is where it needs to be; or the guys that I need to call if we have a problem and I know they are going to be there in a heartbeat because they care. We had to establish the relationships. The janitor: we have a guy right now who does a phenomenal job. I admire him, because I come in the pool… he works all night. When we come in; the place is spotless. And those are things that sometimes we forget. But I mean that guy, his job, has a huge impact on what we do as a program, and we cannot lose sight of that.
And then of course, in college you got the recruiting part of things—small little part of it. And that is something that I think for me is a key. I want people to share the vision, who are going to be crazy enough to believe that we could do those things when there was nothing there. Special group. Looking for self-starters, maturity. Humble and hungry combination: that is definitely something that I think if you talk to anybody in the University of Louisville Athletic Department and you say define the Athletic Department or define your program, you are going to see a combination of those words in some fashion. Humble and hungry. And it comes directly from our Athletic Director, and that is his personality. There is a lot of talk about Football, Basketball and this and that and all the sports doing these great things; and he is just like, “Look, we’re just trying to get a little bit better. That’s all we are trying to do.” Humble and hungry.
So year two. Carol touched on this: year two is harder—I promise you. Year one, everybody is willing to give you a shot; year two, reality sets in. Now we have got a new regime here, and I have to make a decision whether I want to be a part of it or not. So we lost a few I call them, honorably; and I appreciate that they had the courage to say, “Coach, this is not for me, but thank you.” Those people have high… I have high regard for those people. That had the honesty to say this is just not what I signed up for, awesome, I am going to support you, but I am going to step away. A delicate process, but I think it is one that we need to encourage.
And then the first recruiting class, I call them the brave pioneers. They were not superstars; they were not necessarily major scorers for us. There were people that were crazy-enough to come-in and say, You know what, this guy is crazy, but I like it. I want to come in with him; let’s see what we can do. I respect those people tremendously, and there is no team meeting really, especially at the beginning of the season, that goes on that I do not touch on the impact that that first group of people really… especially the ones that stayed through four years. There were a couple that came-in and realized the going was a little bit tougher than they wanted. But those that stayed all four years really had an impact, and some other things we have be able to achieve as a program ties directly to those kids and what they did in there. They are grown-ups now: they have families, they have babies. But certainly they had a lot to do with it.
I felt the second year was going to be a defining year for me personally and for the program, whether I was going to really impact the change or not. I was just a nice guy, working hard to try to do something, and I had to make some decisions. I started thinking ahead: Okay, two, three years and I am ready for the next thing, because it was difficult. I had a… (I did not put it in here), but I had a Women’s Soccer coach—she is still there—and she was my… my office was beside hers. And quite often, I came into her office and shut the door, and she was awesome. She said, “Just hang in there. You’ve got to stay long enough so everybody that’s in the program is people that came in with that vision. It’s going to be night and day.” And I said, “Karen, I do not know; I do not know if I believe you.” She is like, just hang in there, hang in there. And that was so true. It was like this cloud was lifted-off once we got through that period where all those kids had been part of the program.
This is one of the defining moments. Carol touched on this today, and that is to me was something that rocked my world a little bit. Because I came in as an assistant: high-strung, energy, and I want to do all these things and I believe the sky is the limit. But I am thinking as a head coach; I am thinking as a coach. And my boss, Julie Hermann—now Athletic Director at Rutgers—she pulled me aside, and she says, “Arthur….” When somebody says your name, it catches your attention, right? She says, “Arthur,” so I looked her in the eyes, she says, “you are not the Head Coach of the program.” I said, “Wait a minute, my title says Head Coach. That’s what my contract says; that’s who I am.” “You’re not; you are the CEO of the Swimming and Diving program.”
Well, that was a life-changing event for me, because it meant global thinking, much more higher level than just coaching. And that is something that… sometimes when you are an assistant, I thought I was ready, I thought I knew everything. Honestly, right? 29 [years-old], man, you are on the top of the world, you know everything, right? And when you get to that situation where you are handed the keys, now, it is on you; now every decision is global. Every decision I make it is… everything is connected, and I have to think globally. So my staff sometimes gets a little frustrated because I am a little bit slow to make decisions, but they are seeing as a coach-perspective and I am seeing as a CEO of the program perspective, little bit different.
We are very proud of that [NCAA top-10 banner]: we got a little banner in there. And that is something that it kind of sits alone; it has its own place of notoriety, if you will. But it is definitely something that we do not take for granted. Those of you that have been doing this for a while, you know that to be a top-10 program in the country and level of coaches that we have, level of structure, facilities, everything else, it is… for Louis-who to be in that level, it is something that we take great, great pride.
One of the guiding principles—and just talking to somebody here—passion. Right? If you do not have it, it is… it is just work. I love what I do in coaching because I never feel like it is work; it is just something I love doing. I am passionate about building a program; I am passionate about helping kids to be successful, in the classroom, in the pool, in everything we do. I am passionate about helping people be successful. The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire. And every year I feel like it is my responsibility to continue to keep that fire burning. And if I can impose or share that responsibility with my entire team, then we are all on fire, then good things are going to happen.
So the four pillars: I put a trademark in there—it is not really true, but I just want to let you know that I trademarked that. Umm… really simple. That is nothing like really… I am disappointed. That is your four pillars? Yes, that is the four pillars: academics, swimming or swimming and diving, team, social responsibility.
High-level commitment to your academic career. Sounds silly. Let us call like it is: when I went to college, I went to class, I got good grades, but my goal was to swim. I wanted to swim. That is why I left Brazil to come to California: to swim for Ernie Maglischo. I came to swim. That was my dream, I am chasing it. Academics was secondary. And then you learn quickly—some quicker than others—that is kind of a big deal. And that is something that I want to impart all the time, especially with the freshmen. Do not miss a step from the get-go, fully utilizing all resources available to be successful. There are people that get paid now to be there to help you be successful in the classroom. That is insane to me. When I was in school, we went to the seniors or we went to somebody on the team. Now we have an academic advisor whose sole purpose is to make sure that our athletes are going to the right classes, they are doing the right things, they are fulfilling their assignments. It is almost like you have to really try hard not to be successful.
High-level commitment to your, your, development as an athlete. And I think that is an important one for me. I will sometimes use the idea of, you know, I am looking for people who have a burning desire to get better. If you do not have it burning, you are not my guy, you are not my girl. I want burning. Because to me that ties into your commitment to your development. It is your development; it is nobody else’s, it is yours. It is personal. And I like the idea of partnership: fully partnering with the coaching staff and creating and executing a plan. Just like my old coach did it to me: he showed me the plan, he included me in the plan. That is something that I take it to heart, and I make sure that everybody has a great understanding of what we are trying to do.
Be a team player. That is the reason why you go to college swimming. And I hear this all the time, I just heard it last week: summers are great, but they are also tough because we lose the team. We want to be here, we want to be with the team. To me, that is what college swimming is all about. That certainly summarizes my experience, being a team player. And I expect people to be in that position. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts: very profound, yet so simple—yet so simple.
High-level commitment to social responsibility. And I put the picture of the city in there because we do have a city behind us. And everything we do has consequences either way, positive or negative. Remembering that you represent the entire organization, at all times—that is something that our Athletic Director always puts in. We live in a glass house, and you have to be aware. You recognize when you come and you are a student athlete, a lot of things are given to you. You have incredible access to things, that most regular… you know, regular population does not. With that being said, you have a responsibility. You have some responsibilities that come with that kind of freedom, if you will.
Engage in community outreach opportunities. That is something that I think our university does a phenomenal job of creating opportunities for people to interact and do a lot of different things. We host a Special Olympics meet, normally in April. It is one of the most moving events; you know, to be in that environment, to be able to give back. And we have something called L Care, L for Louisville. It is something that is an outreach arm of the university. And everything that happens, we expect our athletes to be involved in some capacity.
Special group of guys [on slide]. Our first NCAA top-10 team. We have only had one, but I am a positive guy, so that is our first. Interesting story: as we are driving… this is Seattle, so we decided to take the overnight flight, for a number of different reasons. And we were on the van driving from the meet; we had just left the meet, got on the van to the airport. And one of the guys in the back of my van says, “Coach, I’m going to be honest with you.” One of those statements where you go oh boy, here we go. And he says, “That the first time you talked about being top-10, I thought you are full of… I really did. And to be honest with you, even until last week, I didn’t believe it.” I said, “Do you believe now?” He goes, “Well, now I do.” We were 9th. Leah is here, so we had a shot at Florida: they were one point ahead of us. One point for 8th, so….
But you know, it is a bunch of random group of guys, that believed in something… somewhat stupid at the time, because it was not reality. Our progression before that, it was 22nd, 17th; and we had really no business thinking that we could be top-10. Very few people believed that. But those guys—well, with exception of a couple, as they told me. Enough of them… let’s put it this way, enough of them believed, and I know my staff believed. But you know, it was definitely outside-the-box thinking.
So how do we continue to move in the spectrum? I think those are things that we have done and continue to do. The President of the university, and the Provost, were at the Men’s NCAA meet; that is unusual, right. I do not know how many of you that can say that, and I think it says a lot about who these people are—they make a big deal about it. We invite our Athlete Director to all the home meets; he does not come to every one of them. He is definitely on the schedule, he comes to our senior day, and he comes to a lot of different meets. But not all of them. But the fact that he is there, and shows this is the priority, I think is important for our kids to know. And that is what I told him. I said, “You need to be there, even if it is for twenty minutes. Our kids need to know that you care. That carries a lot of different weight.” And he took me up on that, so he shows up.
In the history of Louisville Athletics, we have had two Fulbright scholarship winners. That is a big deal: academic scholarships, national program. And we have had two student athletes; well, both of them were swimmers. So we were in good standing with our admissions office, and doing a few things that way. That is part of continue to move that spectrum. Community involvement; we volunteer at the Louisville Ironman last week. Special Olympics, I mentioned that. The L Care.
And then I say this somewhat shamelessly: promoting/market the program within the community at all times. Anybody in radio and TV, they know that if they have an open spot and they need to put somebody in there, they can call me and I will be there. Hey Arthur, I need you to be at Kroger’s down Shelbyville Road; that’s about twenty minutes away, in an hour. We have a live-TV and we need somebody, somebody fell through, can you be there? Yes. I am going to be there to talk about our program, and I am going to bring some kids. And I think you have got to have that mentality to be able to promote, and whenever I can.
Once a week, there is a radio show; it is called the Cardinal Insider. And I battled my way, so every Tuesday, for about ten minutes, there is a little update on the Swimming team. And the first time, my wife says, “You know, you are crazy: nobody listens to 790 AM radio. I mean, who listens to that?” Well, in the city of Louisville, the entire population listens to that. And the reality was we went to church… the first time I heard about the radio thing, I was really excited. I went home, and she says, “Come on, I am sorry to burst your bubble, but nobody listens to this.” So we go to church on Sunday, and I could not go two feet without somebody saying, Man, I heard you on the radio; great job, keep it up. It is reality: people listen to that thing—they are crazy about sports. So every opportunity, I put myself in that position.
Booster touch. Our university does a great job of, you know, it is the Final Four, they invite the head coaches to come in for no other reason than just to hang out with the boosters, to the people that support the program. And it is a system in place, and whenever I can… you know. When we hired Charlie Strong, our new Football coach, it happened last minute and I got a phone call. It says, “Hey, by the way, we are doing something for Charlie, downtown Marriott. We invited all the head coaches.” You know, it is a Thursday night, in the middle of the week, a lot of things are happening. I called my wife, and I said, “Drop everything you are doing; we are going to be there.” So we went in-there to welcome Coach Strong and his wife. I was the only head coach there, all right.
To me, those things are important, and it is part of the global thinking of… those are things that for Athletic Director, those things make a difference. And again, Tom is a fantastic guy, but I do not take any chances; I keep playing the game.
And then being a team player with the Athletic Department. I get a phone call from the Football team. It was not. Coach Strong, it was the strength and conditioning coach. Hey, Football guys need to get-in the pool. And we need to come-in at this time; that’s the only time we have. Can you help us? Rearranged my schedule; not all the time, they do not abuse that. But I rearranged my schedule to make sure they had access. Guess what happens? Next time I need something, a little chip, I know where to go, right. And it happens, and it happens. And I think that is something that happens really well at Louisville. You know, coaches are not… the facilities are open to each other, and it is a great synergy.
I think we are in the business… I do not think, I know—the way I think of it is—we are in the business of developing people. It is always sobering when, you know, somebody walks-in your office—it happened to me a couple of days ago. Somebody was waiting in my office; I am on an important phone call. And they are sitting there waiting for me for 45 minutes; and I am thinking, wow, this is going to serious. This is a young lady that… let’s just put it this way, we did not see eye to eye for most of her career and she made some questionable decisions that I never approved of and we went separate ways. And she disappeared for a few years; I do not know what happened to her. And she is outside my office waiting to talk to me. And I am thinking, ‘Oh, boy. I do not know where this is going.’
And she comes into my office and she says, “Coach, I just want to thank you.” I fell off my chair, because this girl was not a thank-you kind of girl; had not been. And she said, “I finally got my life together; I finally figured it out. I’m sorry it took me so long. I got a job. I am doing this; I love it. I get-up at 4:30 in the morning.” I am like, What? You struggled with 6 a.m.? She goes, “I know, it is hard to believe. But I get up at 4:30 because I am doing this and I am coaching Masters, and I teach school all day and I am loving it. And I get up early so I can – I love to get my day started.” It was very sobering, all right. But to me, that is a great reality that those kids that are making poor decisions, they are going to grow up, some sooner than later. And it is important that we provide that: developing people. As students, of course it is a big mission of it, as athletes and as people.
And I always tell them, you are going to be a CEO of a company one of these days. You are going to be a very successful. You are going to be husband, you are going to be a wife, you are going to be a parent. You are going to be a parent: that is always a scary thought, right, for a 20-year-old kid. You are going to be a parent. And you have got to make those decisions; you have got to think globally.
I like the partnership approach, and I know different people have different ways. And I have been accused of being a little soft at times: so be it. That is my personality; that is the only way… that is who I am. So I am not trying to be somebody that I am not. I am not a dictator; that is not the way I work best. I have tried, and it did not quite fit. So I like the partnership.
And I realized this in a… those of you who are married, appreciate this, I went to a marriage retreat a while back. And I learned this, that partnership is not 50/50; it is a 100/100. And I use this often with our kids. I am giving you 100% of everything I represent: our university, our personnel, the entire staff, it is a lot of people; a lot of things are here for you. What do they expect from you? I expect 100% of who you are; the best shot. Give me everything; do not give me 98, do not give me 99, give me a 100. And that is the way I think the partnership works best, when everybody is committed together.
And then we go to great lengths. This is where it is gets a little hairy, as we try to tailor the program as individual as we possibly can. This chart did not come-out properly, but normally what you would see—and I took the names out because it is irrelevant. But basically you have all the names in here, and I have it broken down, so each person has a different schedule. Now there are a few people that have the same schedule. But I really felt it was important that if we are going to do what we say we are doing, which is still an individual sport, and I am going to be a partner with them, I want to hear their thoughts and I have some suggestions. So I put this together and I post it. And I give them about a few days to give me some feedback. And if you do not like what I have in mind for you, come tell me. Coach Steen used to say; “I have a great plan for you. Unless you have a better plan. You have just got to convince me that you have a better plan.” And that is the same idea as I try to impart. I think what it does is they know that Wow, this is my plan; this is my plan. There is a confidence that comes with it.
So this is a little behind the scenes. Different schools offer different things. I think this is one of the things that… it is a movement, it is growing tremendously. It is Fellowship of Christian Athletes at the University of Louisville. And we have a number of athletes that are involved that I am certainly a great supporter, personally. But the guy in the middle is Chris Morgan. This is our football meeting room; it fits about 150 people and you can see, it is standing-room only. This is from a couple of nights ago; Monday nights. And I think it just… it creates a different connection within the athletic department that I had not seen before.
And then toys. To me this is… I did not want to come here and talk to you about training. You guys know the training: we do a little kicking, we do a little pulling. A little bit more, a little bit less. To me that is not ultimately…. That is important. I have a Master’s in Physiology; yes, that is very important. But to me, the structure, having the structure, is more important than the physiology, honestly; to build a program. If I am training three people, this would be a whole different conversation. But I am talking about moving a group of people, 60-strong, okay. So just a couple of things.
I am really excited for this [an endless pool]. We got this late spring, and the feedback that I have gotten has been fantastic. It took me a two-year project to be able to raise some money. And you know, a couple of companies in town liked the idea. Again, this is a father whose daughter is involved in the Age Group program, and he has a company that is very successful; and I got him at the right time and he was willing to write a check. And it basically took two companies to do it, but it is something that is different. I think it is something that breaks a little bit of the monotony of what we are trying to do in the pool, and the feedback from our kids has been fantastic.
AvidaSports: we play with it a little bit. The biggest challenge I have is, because I am trying to do the team thing, that is difficult. I am trying to… I do not want to single a few people out, you know. So I think there is great value. We play with it some; lots of graphs. And I can tell you a little bit more about the things we have found and the challenges that certainly we have faced.
Power towers—you have seen those. This is not a commercial for Sam VanCura, even though him and Jim Steen were partners in this company. But I think it is part of toys.
So I always use this phrase: we have to find a way. You know, you have to find a way. No matter what, you are going to have obstacles; and you have got to find a way. So this is right after the training camp; this girl is from Pennsylvania. And I said, “You have got to find a way. You cannot go home and just lay on the couch. You have got to find a way, keep moving forward. You know, when I see you six days from now, you need to be readier.” And so she thought it was funny to send me that picture [she is swimming in snow]. And I told her, I am going to put it to good use. But to me, that is so simple and silly, but that is… she is like, “Coach, I am finding a way.” And I think that is the attitude; that is what we are trying to pass, the mentality.
And of course [new picture], that was the highlight of that swim. It was not really the swim; it was the celebration of the swim and how he did the little clap. I had no idea that was going on; apparently it is been a dare within the team. And, you know, he won it. I said, “Were you planning on doing that?” He goes, “Oh yeah, the whole time.” I am glad, because that is not… I did not even want to talk to him about, Hey, you know, in case you win, you might have an interview. I said nothing. “Just go swim. Do what you do.”
So anyhow, it is been a pleasure. Hopefully this is… you know, like I said a little bit random. A few thoughts on what I have learned. And the biggest thing is I realized that there are very few things I do know and I am learning constantly. I love coming to clinics, because there is so much you can get from somebody. And hopefully, if you have got one little nugget out of here that can help your program, I think that then we are going to call it a successful day.
So, questions for me, comments. Yes sir. Coach Schubert, it is an honor, by the way; thank you.
With Carlos, we dabbled a little bit back and forth in a lot of different ways whether he was going to, you know. He actually got disqualified a couple of times, painfully, for lack of separation of the hands. So it is something that we kind of… we took a while to…. And it actually did cost him the chance to swim the 200 Breast in the Olympics in 2012 because that was his final chance to qualify.
But, you know, we think of strengths and really the ability to… there is a connection. You know, I remember having this conversation with Sean Hutchison awhile back: everything happens in a perfect sequence. And really I think we try to break it down, the components. And really concentrating on, you know, to be honest with you, making it as simple as how fast can you be to the 15. And we played with it, we tried different things, and we constantly just kept playing with it. And what you find is, you know, Carlos is a short guy, stocky, very heavy legs. The way he works his pull-out is going to be very different. We had another kid on the team, who was not quite as a good breaststroker but a little bit quicker actually, and he has to do it totally different.
So what I found is—it is not a great answer, coach, I apologize. But what we found is we just kept going trial-and-error, and tried different ways. And try head positions. Trying… hold your breath a little bit longer, you know, make sure you lungs are fuller, so you have a little bit more of a buoyancy effect to it. And again, for him, he took that. And I wish I could tell you that my entire team figured that out; he did. And he is a special kid; in many ways, he understood those things and he made adjustments. And there are some that are still trying to work on it.
So I do not know if that is a great answer to your question. You know, there is no… I wish I could give you a scientifical… do some drawing for you. But the reality is, the kid is special and I think we created an environment. Maybe that is the best thing I did: I created an environment where he could try to really play with it and figure out his talent. Thank you.
Coach Monty Hopkins, thank you.
[inaudible audience question]
Sprint program? We… I am very fortunate to have a guy like Ryan Wochomurka, who has been a huge part of our program. What he brought (there it is)… he brought some different things from his time in the heydays of Auburn, and the synergy that they had as a group. I think that is the key. There is a pride within our guys that… and the girls too, to be honest with you. And some of it comes on Tuesday mornings.
The first six weeks we do a lot of things together as a team. I am trying to build the whole team thing. But then after that, we start breaking-up into really specific groups and we go into what we call power mornings, power group. And power mornings are really Tuesday mornings and Friday mornings. And the idea is they go to the weight room for 45 minutes, maybe; it is not lifting, but it is athletic development. It is jump boxes, boxing; anything that is fast and active and, more importantly, in a competition environment. And then they go straight from the weight room, they come to the pool for the last, you know, I do not know, 30 minutes so, but depending on how quickly you do the transition. And all we do in the pool is we do simple, short, racing things. And so you are under the flags, you have your back against the wall. On the whistle, you do a flip turn, swim to the wall, flip turn, come on back; whoever gets to the 15 is the winner. And we line them up in heats, and we encourage trash talk; we expect trash talks.
So what you get is at 6:45 in the morning, incredible energy—incredible energy. Where some guys… Almeida never won anything, he got to beat every time. But he is one of those guys like, Well, it’s going to be there when I get there, you know. And he is a confident guy—what can I say?
And then we do something silly: we found a heavyweight belt—it is a replica, something at the Dollar Store. And we pick the winner of the morning. And you think, well that is so stupid, right? You would be shocked. When we announce the winner of the morning, and we hand them the belt, they keep the belt on the locker until the next practice. It is for life, it is for blood; and there are plenty people that leave upset because we did not pick them, you know. So we created this culture where it is okay to race; it is okay to… if you got beat, you are going to take it and you have got to get-up and do something. I think that is been a big part of it.
So I do not know if that answers your questions, Coach Hopkins. I do think that something that adds to it. You know, certainly, training. But I think what I found is you create a little synergy. To get really four random guys to put-together a relay, like we did this past year, to go 2:50-point, that was absurd—to be honest with you. You know, because we thought we had one leg, we had a half leg, and two legs that we had no idea which way they were going to break. Those guys put together a heck of a relay. So I hope that is helpful.
[inaudible audience question]
In the power, yes. And then they go to the weight room another two times, that actual lifting.
We have a phenomenal strength and conditioning coach who is an Ironman triathlete. So he thinks very differently than most strength and conditioning coaches I have met. And so he brings this idea of the athletic development is crucial in everything he does. It is random. It is different things. You know: heavy ropes is something that we found that we like to do, is different. He went old school with some different things, and kettle bells.
You know we run a little medley for the first six weeks: we create a little competition environment where we are building them as a team. And then we come to the Red and Black week, which is the sixth week. And that week is competition only, in anything. It is a mile run. It is a… I think it is 15-mile on the bike, for time. And you are scoring points for your team. It is shuttle runs. There is a truck push—that is where it finishes. We have the Kentucky fairgrounds about… almost a 3-mile course. And we thought it would be a great idea to divide them in teams, red versus black, and they push this truck around the whole thing, for time, as a team. Four at a time; every minute you have got to switch to a different four. And the goal is to get the darn thing through the line. And you will be shocked how much they put-out for those things, you know.
These are competitive people. You create a little environment and you let them go, they go. It is creating, I think, a team setting that really… I find it to be very special and I want it to be the case all the time. You know, because we have got to play—this is what we know—we have got to play at the top of our game. You know, our range is small as a program; so if we are going to do anything, our margin for error is… we do not have to perfect—I do not like to say that because I think it puts a little too much pressure. They do not have to be perfect, but we have to play the top 5% of our game. That is my challenge for them every day: top 5% of our game. And if you know the bell-shaped curve, that is what we are talking about. It is a special place.
Any other questions? Okay, hearing none, I appreciate the time. Thanks for listening. Thank you.
##### end #####