[Introduction] It is my privilege to be able to introduce our guest speaker today. Most of you know him and his great accomplishments. Very simply, to me, I put Gregg into a category of a wild coach. By that I simply mean when he coached at Bolles over the many years, the results just say to you – WOW. He goes on to the University of Florida, has great success at the SEC and NCAA level. You just think to yourself again, WOW. Internationally, obviously, this year we all know about the tremendous success of Ryan Lochte. If you were at the talk yesterday you heard about the other successes of his athletes, both Americans and other athletes that went on to great success. Included are many you may not know or may have forgotten such as the NCAA female swimmer of the year this past year as well. You just say to yourself – WOW. Here now, one of the great, great coaches I think in American history of swimming. Please welcome Coach Gregg Troy.
[Coach Troy] After I am done with this he may take all that back. I have a couple of Ryan Lochte things from yesterday that I just wanted to clear up. Certainly in no way did I want to appear negative to Ryan. That was not the case. I just wanted to re-emphasize how proud I am of him. He is a great teammate. He is really respected by his other teammates. If you can get your best athlete to be your hardest worker and a kid that everyone else looks up to and at the same time they all like him, you are in a great situation. That type of leadership goes a long way. He has remained the same person through everything. With all his success, he is in a unique dynamic now. He signed a great contract basically two years ago that puts him on a different level than all of us. He is not quite in Michael’s ballpark, but most of us in here would be really excited to be where he is. Still, it has not changed him a bit. He has absolutely no respect for money. He still treats it like an 18 to 19 year old college kid. Fortunately, he is not on my paycheck any more like my sons, but he is just completely unaffected by it. He is still the beach kid from Daytona. He just has a little more of it to spend sometimes. He is very caring and interested in others. One of the best things about Ryan is when he comes in to me (it has happened three times in the last year). Here is a guy that is getting ready for Olympic performance and probably at the peak of his career while making a fortune doing it and he will come in and stop and say coach, you know, I don’t give you bad information. Then he will give me information about other people on the team. It is not in a tattletale fashion or manner. He is concerned about them because they are doing something that he thinks is a real poor choice. He was extremely instrumental in some of the success of some of our other people. It is absolutely amazing. We can have the hardest practice of the year and everyone else has taken off and he will have some younger athlete in the pool working on something one on one. It is like having another coach on the deck sometimes. He does it in a very non-confrontational manner with them. They really enjoy doing it and listen real well.
I think one of the things that is key is swimming is a passion for him. I am very concerned as we move into professional swimming. I know that Coach Schubert talked yesterday regarding professionalism being in two terms. That is professional in the terms he talked about and having your athletes handle what they do professionally and not being afraid to challenge things. In most sports the guys that would be the best professionals are the guys that are working the hardest and putting in extra time. It is not the guy that is taking his paycheck and taking the off-season off. He is also a professional from the standpoint of getting paid for doing it. My concern sometimes is some of the people getting paid for doing it are starting to do it for the wrong reasons. Our sport is too hard to do just for getting paid for unless you have a little bit of a passion that still exists. Ryan has a true passion for what he is doing. He is not doing it because of the paycheck. He got back from the Olympics and we are back in the water. The Olympics are over on 20 something and he walks in and the first thing he did, he got back in on the next Monday. Then he was in the weight room on Tuesday. He saw me Tuesday afternoon and wanted to know whether he should get in the water on Wednesday. When you read about a lot of the athletes that had success they are taking a year off or taking time off competition. Ryan, he is trying to figure out how to get going again. I made him take two weeks off. We are going to talk this week about the program.
I am especially proud of how he handled Beijing. At the trials it was a real hard decision whether we were going to go the two free or the 100 back. He made the decision. I went to him. The plan was to go the 100 back the entire year. During our final decision I said listen, here is where it is. I think you got a good chance at winning either one. You have a good chance of doing well at the Olympics in either one but there is probably a little more of a risk if you swim the 100 back of not making the team. He looked at me and said the plan has always been to swim the 200 back. He said, let’s stay on the plan and when he missed making it, it was just business as usual and went back to the next event.
In Beijing, there was a tremendous amount of pressure. It did not really affect him a lot. Maybe it affected me more than him because as more and more people jumped on his bandwagon there was always that expectation that he was an underdog and people really wanted him to win. Sometimes there were a lot of people that kept saying he was going to win. I think he is capable of winning. Maybe he just didn’t get something done or maybe the windows of opportunity were not quite there yet, but there was a lot of pressure there with it. He got sick for a couple of days. He handled it. He never complained about it. He swam the 400 IM and never said a word about it. He was very disappointed after the 400 IM. Most people do not realize that he came back the next night and time trialed the 100 freestyle and went his lifetime best time at 9:30 at night. He split 24.l / 24.4. I think he could have been really great in the 100 free if he had swum it in competition. After that, he comes in and he goes 1:44.2 which was probably the second fastest swim in the 800 freestyle relay. Then the World Record 200 back and came back with a really good IM. So, I just wanted to emphasize that I can’t say how proud I am of his performances and what he did. That is the end of yesterday’s talk from that standpoint.
For today John Leonard asked me to do a talk on what we do. I kind of did that yesterday. The program Ryan is on is kind of the same program that everyone is on. Now, there are certain aspects that were modified for him, but that is the same program other backstrokers and medley guys are on. Why do we do what we do? I can give you some of that today and why I believe in it. I had a talk and a presentation ready. I kind of did what I hope some of you do. I am real structured about my practice. You could see that yesterday, but I also really believe that flexibility of the moment is important. You have got to make sure you know what you are doing. Sometimes if you are not comfortable with your practice (I have this happen probably every week or two), there is something that is going on where we sit down. We have got to organize. We have all these groups going on all over the place. We have five coaches and my guys go nuts when this happens. We will walk in and it just doesn’t feel right. Then we scrap the whole thing and start over. I woke up this morning and I was not comfortable with what I put together so I scrapped the whole thing. So if I am leaping all over the place today it’s because I have some things here and they are on like five or six different pages. I have marked the ones that I think are important. I am going to try and do it in about 20 minutes and then just answer questions.
I have got a board here if you want to talk about sets and things. I have not done any of that nuts and bolts stuff. If you want to do that I will be glad to. If not, I have some other things, but before I do that I wanted to stress some things to you. This is not preaching. Please do not take it that way. It is not criticism in any way, but I feel very strongly that United States Swimming is at a real key point. I think that we have to take advantage of the situation. So this a perspective of mine that may be right and it may be wrong. I think there are parts of it that are right and I think it is worth our evaluating it at the moment.
I constantly hear when I talk to people what athletes won’t do today and what their parents won’t do and how we cannot be successful and how it is very hard to challenge athletes and they just won’t do it any more. Then I see the same thing a little bit. I have only been out of club swimming for ten years, but my wife owns a club team in Gainesville. They have progress now with some really great coaches. Nancy Hennessey, a great age group coach from Bolles runs the program. They have gone in the last year and have increased from about 80-90 athletes that were solid to about 140-150. They have the same dynamics everyone else has. They have people trying to sign up all the time. Right now, I think they are just going to take off in a relatively small community. It exists in a community where it is really hard to get people to do things. Nancy is very demanding. So, I think it is hard to do, but I do not think it is impossible. When I look back, in the 70’s we had a gigantic team in Ft. Myers. In the 80’s we had a gigantic team at Bowles. We are doing the same type of thing with the club team right now. Each of those programs progressed dramatically and every one of them was really hard. I am not sure hard is the right word. I think we did the challenging things.
In college, when I went there 10 years ago, I was told by all kinds of people that when their kids came back from college they couldn’t train as well anymore or they didn’t want to do the same challenging things. I was told that it didn’t work at the collegiate level. Now, I am not defensive in any manner. I like it. We are labeled as the hard work guys and the challenging and we are labeled as being very, very intense. I am fighting to get the kids not to come to school right now. My team is getting so large because there are all kinds of people that want to come. This is at the highest end yet they are not all the best athletes. There are a lot of people that are really good to better than average athletes that really want to get better. They are asking and they want to come. They are being told by everyone how hard we work so I have a little bit of a question as to whether that is really valid at some point. I look at other collegiate programs. Bob had the same problem at Michigan. He is another hard work type guy. He and Jon Urbanchek are anything but soft. You know, Bob talked about that hammer a little bit. He hasn’t put it away. He just doesn’t use it quite as often.
When I look at really big club programs like North Baltimore, now, they may do it a little bit differently sometimes. They do not do quite as many doubles, but if there is anyone in that area, they will tell you that that program is challenging. They are not afraid to challenge athletes and they have the results. I just walked in with Bill Rose this morning – Mission Viejo – lots and lots of athletes. Mission certainly is right now labeled as a hard work business type place and they have got lots of athletes. I look at other sports like tennis. Right now one of my assistant coach’s daughters plays tennis. She is 11 years old. They ask her to go to practice more and her practice is more demanding than what swimming practice is sometimes. She is a swimmer also and a good one. She would prefer to go to tennis. Take gymnastic programs. There are all kinds of kids’ gymnastics in Gainesville. I know when I was in Jacksonville it was the same way. There are all kinds of kids showing up for gymnastics and there is no sport that is more demanding of young people than gymnastics. They charge an arm and a leg to do it. If I even look at football programs – youth football programs – you go to practice and you are out in the hot sun. You are not really working with, sometimes, guys that are really professional coaches. Sometimes they are just moms and dads. Take hockey moms maybe too. I don’t know, but they are all on top of it and they are really demanding. I mean, you have got to practice. Soccer programs are the same way and soccer is flourishing. All three of my boys play soccer. There is no more demanding program than going to those long things they go to. There are practices at all different times. So I am not sure all the time that we haven’t just gotten a little soft and bought into an excuse of just saying, people won’t do it. It might be harder than it was 10, 15 or 20 years ago, but I really do believe that they will do it. I think that we have a very, very small window now at the moment where we can take advantage of it and maybe have the pendulum swing back a little bit.
Right now the best two athletes in the World or three maybe, I don’t know as much about tennis, but if you really look at it are Tiger Woods and Michael Phelps. Parents are buying into both of that. They see it. No one works harder than Tiger Woods, no one. The guy is amazing. It doesn’t happen by accident. He has put in the time. He changed his stroke, his swing and he re-invents himself. He puts in extra time. He fights through injuries. It is unbelievable. Now we have in our sport a guy where everyone in the United States and the World has watched. Every place you read they are talking about his tremendous work ethic and how many hours he put in and what he did. Everybody that I talk to has a massive influx of people and young kids that are coming to their programs because they saw Michael Phelps. What a tremendous window of opportunity we have right now to go back and upgrade everything we do. We will not have this opportunity again. You cannot wait until two years from now and say hey, maybe I should have done a little bit more work. Right now is the time to do it. I realize that it is easy for me because my salary comes from a University where it is not based on numbers. I hear people say well, I am a little worried about my job if I do this. I think that we have to understand that the people you are working for are parents. They are extremely interested in their child. They are not your enemy. I know this is a senior group, but the reality of the matter is, you are the one who has to convey this message to your age group coaches. You are going to have to give them some input and some direction on what to do.
I am not talking about 15 to 400 different things. I just think the presentation and direction can be more demanding. We have an opportunity to do it now for two reasons. One, because they are coming to you and that already is in their mind. They know it. They have seen Michael Phelps so they are expecting it to be a little bit demanding. Two, I think there is a demand for a little more discipline because there are so many places in society they do not ask for it anymore. We have got an opportunity to do it. If you look at youth sports, our coaches for the most part are way more professional and better educated. Lots of them are teachers so they have an ability in the community to do those things right now. Even if you do lose a few people that aren’t interested, you are having a 10-15-20% influx of new people coming in. So I think it becomes very, very important that we in fact at least think about what you are doing and think about whether it is time to become a little more challenging and a little bit more demanding. If money is the reason why you are afraid to do it, because of fear of losing our jobs, then I think professionally we have got to go back to the people we work for and get some security in job contracts so that in fact your security in the club isn’t based strictly on numbers. It is one where you are working for three years and you are willing to take the risk to have something happen. I am concerned a little bit sometimes that we have justified what we are doing in swimming.
One for the reasons I just said and another because in giving presentations it is hard to do. This is really hard to talk to a group of people that are peers. There are probably half of you that know more than what you do and you are always questioning whether you do. It is pretty interesting listening to the coaches talking at the steering committee. Even at the Olympics in a training camp environment, the best coaches are looking at what other people do and they are kind of scratching their heads saying – wow – am I really doing the right thing? I think it happens all over the world. I watched some of the foreign coaches. They have got people that have been working with great athletes for a long time and they are walking around asking other people what they are doing. No one is 100% sure when their athlete goes to the blocks. Everyone is wondering a little bit. It is part of good coaching because you have to consider where you are.
In giving presentations, all the presentations are, I do not mean this as a criticism, please, I am not preaching to anyone, it is just thoughts. It is just something to think about. The presentations are a little bit soft sell because very much you want people to understand what you are doing and the appearance is not always what it is. I mean most of the guys that are giving the presentations to you and talking to you about swimming well, they all had the hammer in their toolbox and they all use it. I really hope in listening to Bob Bowman we all consider this. Bob Bowman is fantastic. I have known the guy since he started in Florida and he was an age group coach. He learns every place he is. He is articulate. He does the best work. He is on top of things, but he has the hammer. I really hope that you realize the times he used the hammer when Phelps was 12 – 13 – 14 – 15 – (even though he knew when to pull it off). He had known when he decided it wasn’t time to breathe every two was the whole process that contributed to Michael Phelps being as good as what he is. So, I would offer to all of you, talent does not always justify where we are.
One of the things that I was going to talk about is I think I have come to the conclusion in my coaching career that I work really, really well with over-achievers. My personality does not fit well with talented under-achievers. I think if we are going to get to the point that Mark Schubert talked about yesterday of winning half of the Olympic gold medals, then we have to look for talented over-achievers. Michael Phelps is a talented over-achiever. Ryan Lochte is a talented over-achiever. I am not sensitive about this. I feel the pressure from it. The last 18 months I have had all kinds of people tell me Ryan Lochte is a super talented athlete. He is, but believe me folks, when he was 14 – 15 years old he was not the super talented athlete in the water. The ability was there, but he was an over-achiever that developed at a point. My strength coach came to me, he is a football guy, but he has been in swimming now for six years. He hates working with football players. They do not work hard enough. He came to me and he said, “Coach, Ryan Lochte has made himself the best guy in the entire Florida Athletic Department in the weight room.” That is a humongous statement. He isn’t, he made himself that. He is a talented over-achiever. If we do not go back and start to challenge people on a regular basis we will not create talented over-achievers.
Even if you don’t agree with what I just said – which everyone shouldn’t – I would at least like to encourage enough thought that you go back and think about it before you start the next quadrennium. If someone thinks about it, it is way more important than any set I could give you. I just walked through the hall and there are sets posted out here. You can stop any coach at the clinic and ask him what his best set is and they will give it to you. You can revise it and make it yours. That is easy to do, but really seriously considering what you need to do long-term would be where you want to be. There is no replacement for that. If I can encourage you to think about that, then I have done something more important than giving you some sets.
Now what I really had is a talk. I am just going to hit a few highlights and then hopefully I can take maybe twenty minutes and do nothing but answer questions. These things are relative to what I said, but they are going to be real disjointed because I just didn’t have time to get it all back together. When I woke up this morning it was just one of those: I knew today’s practice wasn’t right so I needed to change it. My coaching was influenced in the 70’s. I came up in Florida. I pretty much always lived in Florida. I wasn’t a very good swimmer myself. I didn’t know how to swim until I was 14 and I always felt that the guys I swam for, while they were great individuals, the people were not professional about what they did and they were not willing to go the extra mile. I felt like my swimming career was hurt a little bit because of it because I was not given some opportunities I would have liked to have had. So maybe that gives me the perspective I have. I did come up in Florida at a time when I was a young coach when there were some great programs in Florida. Randy Reese was in Jacksonville. Jack Nelson was in Ft. Lauderdale. Jack Simon was in Cocoa Beach. Terry Schlichenmyer came into Jacksonville when Randy Reese left. You may not recognize that name, but you should. He is one of the best coaches we have ever had. He is retired, still working with some kids part-time. Tim Hill was in Sarasota. Kim Linehan broke the American record right after he left. It was a world record that stood for an eternity in the distance freestyles. Tim Blood followed him. He was a crazy man. Tom Lamar had coached for years in Florida and was at the end of his career. On the national scene, Mark Schubert and Richard Shoulberg were being extremely successful. In the 70’s you went to practice and when you came to a Clinic like this, you took home the sets they had and your challenge was to make your set more demanding if you were going to swim with them. It was very much a more is better philosophy. I am not sure that that is correct, but it did work and there is some aspect of it that is extremely important. When people left programs in Florida in the 70’s they went across town or down the street or another city. They went to the other program because the program was more challenging and asked more of them and was really, really hard because they would get better.
Today, when athletes leave your program, they leave your program and they go down the street because someone is selling something easier or a softer presentation and telling them that they can get better that way. I think as a profession we owe it to one another when an athlete gets ready to leave your program, what you should be saying is if you are coming in here you had better come in with it strapped on ready to go because if you don’t, you are not going to get better. If we do that, everyone gets helped and then athletes buy in confidence-wise to what they are doing. Every talk that we have heard, the single most important thing for an athlete to be successful is them be confident in what they are doing. The longer I do this I see people being successful in all different ways so I am certainly not selling one way to do it. I see them being successful, with them all having one common denominator. They are confident in what they are doing. I think if we can make swimmers as a group more confident and add a little bit more work and a little bit more demanding schedule – a little more like Tiger Woods – a little bit more like those girl gymnasts, then we are in fact going to have a better product the whole way around. There is a bad side to it, but there is also a good side. I think that we are providing a service because society does not do it. We are making people rise to challenges and occasions and in the by-product you are going to lose some athletes.
If you do not have athletes leaving your program because you are too challenging, then you probably are not going to create the really, really great over-achiever. We do have a tremendous number of athletes so it is a good by-product. Maybe I am getting old, but I find now that I am averaging an email almost weekly from athletes that I worked with 20 – 30 years ago that are thanking me for what they have learned by being challenging. They are not the people that were the best swimmers. So often they are the kid that left the program and they are very, very sincere. So, I am not trying to turn back the hands of time. I don’t think that is right. I told you yesterday that I modified a lot of what I do now. I really listen to my athletes right now, but by the same token, you also have to guide them. The information they give me I try to give back to them in a manner that it can be useful and successful for them.
So, all those coaches that I talked about, man they were going back and forth. Today, there are still programs like that and still folks that I talk to and there are lots of good coaches, but it is harder to do because I think that there is just not quite the same common denominator. Maybe that is why athletes are faster today, but I would really challenge it. I would love to take some of the people developed in the 70’s – late 70’s – early 80’s – some of those folks that held the world records. I would love to give them the new rules, the new suits, the new technology and have their same work ethic. We would still have world records left from that time I firmly believe it. I don’t know why. I look out here and we have Bud McCalister sitting out here and we just broke Janet Evans’s 800 freestyle record. She wasn’t wearing any modern suit and she did not have the advantage of all of these things. I work with a really great athlete, Anthony Nesty, he is one of my coaches and we talk a lot, we exchange ideas. I would almost ask Bud this. I looked at Anthony one day and I said, Anthony, you swam for me 25 years ago. It is way softer now than what it was then. I am a whole lot more reasonable. We do a whole lot of smarter things and I think some of the things we do are really, really good. Would you have been better if you did what we do today or would our athletes now be better if they did what you did back then? He didn’t even bat an eye and this is a guy who has no ego at all. He said, Coach, there is no question these guys would be better if they did what I did. Well, I don’t think he is right, but I do think that if we had a little form of it and had I been a little bit smarter than him he probably would have been better. You have got to remember – let’s see – he won the gold medal in ’88 so it was 20 years ago he went 53 flat. That was twenty years ago with no Lzr suit, no underwater kick, but he was a fantastic kicker. God, he could have been great doing that. When he graduated from high school the year before, two years before, he won the PanAm’s. He went 53.4 or 5 at the Pan-Am’s. I think if I knew what I know now I could have gotten him a little bit further, but by the same token there is something to be said about what he is saying. Maybe our guys now, we are not challenging them as much as what we should.
I think there are three ways you can get better. There are more than three, but if you really wanted to simplify it and I am a “keep it simple guy.” One, you can swim more and obviously in the 70’s people got faster. They got better in 100’s. They got better in 200’s. They got better in 50’s. Maybe not as good as today, but they did it through swimming more. There is a strength component. There is a speed component that comes if you do it long enough and there is a technique component to swimming it a lot, if you are intense enough to stay on them so that a lot of swimming you do is correct and not slop. I think that is the true technique component because if you cannot hold technique in the middle of practice then it really isn’t technique. You can swim all the 25’s drill you want, as many days as you want, for as long as you want, but if you do not start to do them with some level of fatigue and you can’t hold the technique together in the fatigue, it is not really technique work because that is what you have to do in the race. You can overdo it, no doubt about it, but you can swim better.
Swimming better means you are going and you are getting education and you are looking at the video that everyone talks about. You are finding ways for the technical issues to be better and you are teaching that to your athletes that you can swim faster. Now, when swimming faster you may have to make the interval a little bit bigger or maybe you become more challenging in the tighter interval, but you have to get them to swim faster. How often do you do it? Your guess is as good as anyone’s. No one has the correct answer. The best way to get better is to do all three of those things. I constantly have athletes when I am recruiting them say, “well how much technique work do you do?” It is the most ridiculous question in the world. We do it all the time. That is why our program is intense. It is not that we swim that far, it is that we are doing technique work constantly. It doesn’t matter what set we are doing, we are looking for the technique to be correct.
We talked about over-achievers and under-achievers. Regarding my background, I never planned on being a swim coach. I planned on going to law school. I took a job teaching to get some money together and ended up coaching a little bit. I had a girl that was a gold medalist, Ginny Duenkel, who quit coaching in Ft. Myers. She came to me and said would you like my team? She said she was getting out of the profession so I took it over. I just have never gone back to school. One of the best things my father did for me when I was in school (planning on going to law school), he made me take all my electives in education. He was a depression guy and he always believed you needed a backup plan. So I had all my extra work in education. I really believe that part of our coach’s curriculum should be about learning how to encourage people, just like you would a teacher. Because, your #1 job as a swim coach is to be a teacher. You are teaching; you are teaching and you are teaching. It is the most important thing you do. You have to be constantly teaching. I think that the skills that I got from taking those education courses and doing the student teaching and all the stuff (that I absolutely hated when I was in college because it was keeping me away from the bars) that it was really useful. The child psychology courses and the basic psychology courses you take; they should be a must because if you don’t have some knowledge of that and you do not use that knowledge every day, it makes it really hard for you to be successful as a coach.
One last thing I want to emphasize. I was talking a little bit about how in training anything you do you can find an opposite example. I think you just have to look at all of them and evaluate them and come up with your own opinion. Jonty Skinner when talking at the Olympics said, “you know, you do a really good job, but you have got to be careful because you are traditionalists.” He said that he is afraid with the new suits and the new dynamics and the things that are going on that traditionalists are going to be behind. They are not going to be as successful. I took that as a compliment. I consider myself a traditional coach from that standpoint. I do think there is a component that is absolutely correct. I constantly want to evaluate those suits. I have got some real strong thoughts on it and the way we used it. I think he was correct and I think we could even do it better, but I think what we did was right for the moment. At the same time I look at things that are direct results. I already gave you a few club situations here in Florida and talked about other sports, but I am looking across the world in the swimming community. The Chinese distance freestyle guy – 1500 – 400 – he was in the finals. They had another guy that swam the 200 pretty well. They have got a girl, a young girl, who was a finalist in the 400 IM. She is a little thing. They say she is 14, but when you have a Chinese athlete, she might be 11. We are not certain, but anyway, she is young. Their backstroker was disqualified in the 100 back, but she led off their relay pretty well and she swam a pretty good 200 back. All three of those athletes, now I might be a little wrong, all three of those athletes have been training for the last 12 to 18 months with Dennis Cotterell in Australia. They talk about traditional? I mean Dennis is even a little ostracized in Australia because he is the guy that doesn’t make changes. He does some work, smart work, but he does some work. The girl that won the 200 butterfly, Chinese, she and a teammate have been training with Ken Wood from Australia. He is very much a traditionalist. She beat his own girl. So you have a Chinese girl that is winning the 200 butterfly. We are just going with what happened. There might be other issues that are clouded, but we are dealing with what happened. She is with a traditionalist, Ken Wood. He is really on top of it.
The Brits that are here will probably even know more than I. I do work with a British coach and the information he gives me tells me Britain’s women’s distance freestyle swimming is going to lead the world pretty soon. That is if they can build off the people they have. I do not know the guys personally, but the information I have says they are a little more on the traditional side. They are not afraid to do some work and they are really challenging people. I mean Rebecca Adlington’s 800 freestyle was a thing to behold. They got lost a little bit because the day of the meet everyone was focused on Michael, but she did break Janet Evans’ record and it looked like she didn’t take a hard stroke doing it. The other one I think swims for Bill Furness and Joe Jackson while another distance girl swims for Dave McNulty who is a little bit old school.
You see that happening. New Zealand, they are really a little country. They have fewer people in New Zealand than what we have in most of our big cities in the United States, but they have swum exceptionally well the last 18 months. I know that Jan Cameron is a little more on the traditional side. Now, she is smart. She is going out looking for new ways and doing new things. She had the butterfly that almost was the biggest and almost the best swim of the Olympics that kind of got missed. The guy was almost leading at 150. He was right there. At 175 he is still in the 200 butterfly then he fell apart and ended up fourth, but it was a heck of a performance. He has been in Michigan, smart but a little more traditional program, swum with Bob and Jon. I don’t know. It just seems to me that there are too many of these to be coincidental. I am back to the same thing. I think that you cannot be afraid to go back to work and ask people to do unusual things.
I have more, but it would take me too long so I think the best thing that I can do at this point with 15 minutes left or so is if you have got questions about something I will deal with them. If you do not have questions, I have got a few things that were questions yesterday that I answered for individuals that I figure if someone asked it, someone else might be interested. If you want to just write sets, I will put sets up for you off the top of my head. It doesn’t mean they are good, but it means that I could put it just like I was writing a practice today. I do not know if that is helpful or not helpful. I do have some thoughts about setting up some younger kid’s programs that are demanding.
Good, I will deal with questions.
Question: Yesterday I was left with the impression that the least amount of kicking you do roughly per week was 20%. Does that sound like a fair analysis?
Answer: That might even be low. I don’t deal with it. I don’t know what our percent is. I know this, every Tuesday and Thursday we kick for one full hour. We do all kinds of stuff. We do vertical kick. We do kick on the wall. We do kick with a MED ball. We do kick against surgical tubing. I think it is some of the best kicking you can do. You tighten up a piece of surgical tube that will only go about 20 meters in a 25 yard pool that is filled with people. On one end there are 16 people with the surgical tube anchored and they are kicking on cycles that relate to a swim meet. So if you were a 200 freestyler you might be kicking ten cycles of a minute and 45 seconds and it is all out They would blast and kick with a coach there communicating with them, being on top of it. They are kicking stationary against the tube while at the other end we have a whole group of people that are kicking stationary on the wall. You have 32 people in the pool and it is not crowded at all. Then after we go a half hour at each side and flip flop so they go an hour of kicking. How far is that? I don’t know, but I know that they are not resting longer than 20 or 30 seconds. So in my mind if we did that, it is the equivalent of going 4,000 yards. When I put in my logbook, how far we went that day, I put in 3500. If the day’s practice ends up being 7,000 that day then we warm-up and swim afterwards and that solves my volume need, okay? It is for me. If I do not get that volume figure at the end of the week, I am too traditional there, but I have to have that volume figure at the end of the week. So that day it is 50% kick. So every Tuesday/Thursday we are 50% kick. On the other days we are going to kick at least a minimum of 20%. I need to do that because we jump around. We might have a day when we do not kick at all, but there are very few of those. On the days we just kick light, there is probably a thousand kick in there. It is right after a major series and it is real hard. The only long kicking we do I try to keep to fins, short fins, long fins, either one. We play with all of them, snorkel, paddle. Kicking this way you have your hands out in front of you. We are doing all kinds of things at the same time. It is really great. If you kick with fins, snorkel and paddle, even the cheaters have to kick pretty hard because they have got the snorkel on so they are sucking for a little bit of air. It is keeping their heart freed up and everything. You are going steady. We usually go longer kicks. Since we are kicking like this we try to make sure that 2 meters out from the wall we are submerging our head and getting through the turn and doing a double arm pull through the turn. So, we are getting turn work in. We are getting aerobic conditioning in. We are staying on top of keeping their legs tired. We are back to my traditional side since it is long kicking. We keep our volume up real good. I will say this, not much of our kicking is easy. I do think if you are kicking and I missed this one yesterday, I think you have got to rest legs a whole lot more than the arms because you just cannot get off of them. You have got to walk to go to class. You have got to walk to whatever you are doing. Someone had a question over here.
Question: When you were setting up your training cycle going back to Bolles, I think setting up a college team is a little bit different than setting up a senior program to a degree. With high school age athletes would you add on some general orientation? I have done this in the past, where you have taken two weeks of general orientation and then you are into developing your aerobic base. How have you gone in the past, setting up that season, planning out with regards to you know, a senior program?
Answer: It is not that much different what I do now and what I did then. I think the presentation is different because the athletes are a little smarter and older, but it is the same type of dynamic. That 26 weeks we came up with for Ryan the last year, I would like to tell you it was really great forethought. I went back to what I did with Greg Burgess in ’96 when he made the team the second time. He swam the 200 freestyle and made the team and he was a 200 IMer and 400 IMer, 200 backstroker. I had a girl swim the two and she was a distance freestyler. We came down to the two and the two fly because we felt like that year we were going to be 3rd in the distance events. So I went back to ’96 when I looked at what they did in ’96 in getting ready. I had three athletes make the team that year. We took five to the trials, three made the team. One I didn’t rest and she just was lights out in the summer. She never spoke to me again. Her parents felt like I kept her off the team. She would not have been that good. In March she needed the summer to get ready, but they did really well. I looked at their season. Their season was 26 weeks so the 26 weeks is what I came up with. I did it by accident in Melbourne. I went back and started studying some other stuff setting up this year and it was 26 weeks.
It is basically one month of just general fitness where we are really getting in shape. I try to do as much of that out of the water as I can because I feel like it takes off a little of that stress. Then after that we were right into training. I used to use a four week cycle. I think what I did then was we cycled by months. I would go a month that was all aerobic and a month that was all hard and then we would rest a month. It was something like that or that sort of, but it was 26 weeks. If I was back at Bolles, we would do something more of what we are doing right now. I would definitely go a four week cycle. I think the three week cycle is too soft. I like the four week cycle better, but that is for me again because I am that traditional guy. I like the volume figure. Just by the nature of what you do in the last week of the cycle, the volume drops down and I have a hard time doing that over three weeks.
Question: Regarding Ryan’s 200 and 400 IM, how did you approach those two IM’s for Ryan. Was there any difference long course and short course and did it change as he got older?
Answer: The 200 IM is his better event. It comes naturally to him. I felt like we needed to stay in the 400 IM because it gave him the background. This is not a Michael/Ryan issue. I do not want it to sound that way, but he is the guy we had to beat. I felt like Michael was ahead of him at what he did, especially when you listen to Bob and what he did at ages 12-13-14-15. If we were going to catch up (we might still be in that window of catching up), we had to stay in the 400 IM more than the 200, even though I think the 200 is his best event. From that dynamic, we stayed a little bit more in the distance freestyle because I feel like that is the back end of the 400 IM. We really looked at the 200 of the strokes because I think that is more relative to the 400 IM. Our training was directed more from that standpoint, but every week we had a set where he knew it was directed towards the 200 IM. I made sure I told him. Once every training cycle we did a set of 200 IM’s – maybe 9 – maybe 12 – maybe broken – all kinds of different ways. We do a set of 200 IM’s where it was a priority set for that training cycle where it was a 200 IM.
The 200 IM evolved as he got older. That is one reason why I went to the short course Worlds. We were looking for more speed development because the 200 IM is a speed event. It is actually a sprint in my opinion, especially if you are looking at short course. Short course 200 IM is the ultimate sprint event. You have got to lay all four strokes out and you have got to turn well in all four. In today’s world in the 200 IM if you are a guy at 1:44 you are not very good anymore at short course. With the new suits out, 1:44 may not be good. I think it is definitely a sprint event. You have got to have all four strokes. You have to lay them all out and you have got to turn well. I think if you look at the last year and a half you see him working at sprinting in the 100 freestyle, the 50 freestyle, the 100 breaststroke. You know during short course Worlds he went .58, 100 meter short course breaststroke. He was not rested and he was not shaved. So, I think that we put more of a priority on speed doing those things.
I think the kicking is a little more of an issue. As a matter of fact, our kicking hurt him. In the backstroke leg of the IM he is over-using his legs, he is not over-swimming the backstroke, he is overusing his legs. I think that is a direct result of getting ready. His backstroke split in the 400 IM is what we would like to see in the 200 IM if we didn’t have the 200 back right before it. I think it would be very easy for him to do that, but he is using too much legs in the 400 IM. The 400 IM is arms out legs back. Unfortunately, I did a poor job coaching. I just never could get that message across. The 200 IM is a legs issue. I mean you got to be on it pretty good, except for the butterfly. Again, I just really messed up. He was getting so fast in the backstroke that I just didn’t hold him down. He was going backstroke 50’s when we warmed-up for meets. Some people say it is too much and maybe it is. We always go three 50’s in warm-up. We do them on 45 seconds to a minute. It depends upon the day and what I am seeing and what we are doing. If it is for a 200 event it is 150 that you are very controlled on and that you feel fairly comfortable with. It is just off pace, 1:50 just off pace and then the last 50 is at pace and I want you to press it. When he was doing those 50’s he was starting to get to the point where he would go three 50’s and it would be 27.7, 27.2, 26.9. He was doing so good that I probably was getting in his way because I wasn’t smart enough. I was going oh wow, we are going to go 1:52. This is going to be fantastic. He may not be ready to do it yet. We did so much of that that I held back the 1:52. When you really think about it that is not pace for 1:52. Hell, its like 1:48. He is not ready to go 1:48, maybe sometime. I finally got a handle on it when we got to Beijing. I just would not allow him to go fast. His 50’s then were 28.8. He said, “that is really too easy coach” and I said no, that is fine, don’t go any faster. He went 28.3 and I said don’t go any faster. The instructions on the first 50 were do not use your legs at all. When he was that fast I said don’t use them again because 28.8 would be great. As a matter of fact I think his last 50 was 28.8. On his last 50 he was still going 27.9 or 28 flat. I got a handle on that earlier. I think the 200 backstroke would have been a whole lot better and his IM would have been better because then he would have had a better feel. What we talk about in the 400 IM is we really wanted to be real close to your slow part of your 200 backstroke.
Question: What percentage of your training now is long course versus short course?
Answer: That is a pretty good question. We had a 50 meter pool. We had 8 lanes 50 meter and 8 lanes 25 yards at Bowles. We did not have that until the last 7 or 8 years. Prior to that, we did all short course and we went off site for long course. Right now we have five lanes that are 50 meters all the time and 8 lanes that we can do whatever we want with. I would say every athlete in our program is seeing long course water at least 30% of their practices. Now we do a whole lot since our pools are side by side. I really like it. If you have the availability to do it I think it is fantastic going half a practice long and half a practice short. Let’s say we have 24 people in two short course pools and then outside I have got another 15 long course. We are working three in a lane. We do a whole lot of things where practice might last 2 hours and 15 minutes where you rotate and you are going a set in each. I really like that kind of stuff. One practice might be 45 minutes of just all kicking and then you might go 45 minutes of some really fast interval stuff, short course and then you might do 45 minutes of descend work long course. They are in three groups by what they swim or something like that. By the same token, especially in big international years, the month of December is all long course. The month of September is all long course. The month of October might be all long course. The month of April is all long course. I don’t like all long course because I think it affects your technique. I do think if you do it for blocks of time it takes away that thought process of even thinking short course. It relates a lot to getting used to the pool. I am not a big believer in you must have long course. I think you can get it done with absolutely no long course water at all, but you had better have a long course mentality in doing it – 125’s – all kinds of odd things so that you are constantly in that dynamic. You have to be real careful that you are working on building. In relation to that, back to Ryan, maybe we just got so much speed swimming those five days at short course Worlds it was a mistake. I don’t think it was because of the 4:06 at the trials. I just think that at the Olympics was the way I explained it to him that day. I said between being sick and everything else we just had a bad swim at a bad time. Throw it away.
Question: If your ultimate boss came to you and said “your program is too hard and too challenging. You have to soften it up.” Now you have to soften it up to a phase that you don’t even believe in what you are doing any more. Other than quitting your job and going somewhere else, give me another response.
Answer: You know I don’t want to sound trite because everyone’s situation is different. One, I would be looking for another job. I would try to do it in the same area, especially if I had athletes that believed in what I was doing because I would try to take them with me. I would look outside the area even though I didn’t want to move because the worst thing for me personally would be to work in a frustrating situation. It would just drive me nuts. I would be more inclined to tell you that you need to ask that question to the gentleman sitting beside you because he is a master at it, Richard Shoulberg. I think I would design my program where there was a branch of the program that got a whole lot of my attention that was the people that really wanted to go. I would make sure they were the best swimmers in the program because if they are successful and they are the best swimmers in the program, the attitude of the group will change. The biggest mistake I see we make as coaches, at the club level, is we allow our best athlete to be the kid that doesn’t train. They don’t do what we ask him to do and then they become what everyone else wants. They are the reason why those parents will go to you and say we have to water down the program because my child works so hard and that guy doesn’t. I think that this is going to sound absolutely awful but if you have that kid in your program the one that doesn’t work and he is your best athlete, you have to spend more time with the kid underneath them so that they can beat him. You need to set up dynamics where he gets less attention. You have got to put them in a situation where they know they are getting less attention because they are not doing what you asked them to do. You need to be honest enough with him and say, “You know, you just don’t do enough of what I ask you to do for me to spend much time with you. I like you. You are a fantastic athlete. You are going to go to this meet, but you are not doing these things so I am not spending as much time with you.” So, I would have one stream that was directed towards the people who were great. I would find extra meets for them. I would find qualifications to go to that meet and be very up front with the parents about it. We are going to take these people to this meet. The reason why we are going to this meet is because they have made these many practices. Everyone else is going to go to this meet. It is a good meet and it is good competition too. You do not have to be at practice as often. It is a great opportunity to be good and you are going to go there. If it was so much an issue that I was worried about my job and had to have it, I would go with the weaker kids. I would send my assistant with the better ones, but I would give them real explicit instruction about what I wanted. So, just thinking on my feet, to answer your question, I think that is the only solution even if it is only one lane. You know, when you really think about it, we are back to that traditional thing, that whole Mission Viejo animal lane thing. That is what it was. They were all distance freestylers, but the best distance freestylers were in the animal lane and they got the most of Mark’s attention because they were doing the most of what he asked them to do. That is probably over simple, but I think that is what he did.
Question: All things being equal you have parents that are lined up and kids lined up with your thinking and you are motivated and the kids swim 1:50 for their 200 IM. How do you get them to that next level? Down to that 1:44. What types of things would you do with them to get them to that next level?
Answer: This is an interesting story and maybe it relates and maybe it doesn’t. I wish I knew what year it was. I believe it was the year Anthony Nesty graduated so we are looking at about ’86. I had a tremendous group of guys at the high school level. Some of them were from Jacksonville. We had guys from all over the country that would come and live in the boarding program. I know that I have always been in really unique situations, but I will tell you, we created those unique situations. They were not that way when I walked into them. We made them that way. I’m a little defensive there, sorry. But, I had a great group of guys. They were just fantastic. I want to say we had 12 guys signed Division I scholarships and like 6 of the 12 scored at the NCAA’s when they got there. Martin Zubero, Anthony Nesty and a whole group of guys underneath and a lot of them were medley guys. The youngest one in the group was only a sophomore. It was Greg Burgess. He went 2 minutes a long time ago. He was a silver medalist in the IM. He went 1:59 200 back and just missed the team in the 200 freestyle. That year they all graduated and we had these two lanes. Man, they would just cook. They were honored all the time. The next year I’m thinking it will be great. I got Burgess coming back. We will lose a few guys, but I got a lot of good younger guys. I come in and start running the same practices on the same intervals. We always had at that time two lanes of guys, maybe three some days that were on the fastest interval. They are cooking every day. It was a lot of fun coaching, with great leaders – Anthony Nesty – Martin Zubero – tough, tough guys. The other guys are following. I am thinking Burgess, who is almost as fast as them, but is younger, is going to take over. The next year I go the first six weeks of practice and I am a raving maniac. The guy Bob was talking about, I am hitting everyone on the head. I am after them all the time. I am yelling and screaming. I am miserable and finally I realized I didn’t have the people to do the set. Burgess was capable physically, but he wasn’t mentally ready to come in and do it. He certainly wasn’t ready to lead it even though he had done it the year before on all the intervals. He couldn’t do it by himself. I am real slow so it took me a while to figure it out. Once I figured it out, instead of me having those two or three lanes we shortened it to two. I looked at my practices. I backed off the interval. We had a 7 lane pool and one lane was still on the really, really fast interval. Greg Burgess used to get really, really upset because everyone was crowded into the other 7 lanes and there was one lane of open water. The only way that you could swim in that lane is you had to be able to make last year’s interval and make it the whole way through the set. It took him about three months. He figured it out. When he moved over some other guys moved over with him. So if you got one guy in that 1:51 situation, I defined in practices of someone that had a 1:48 IM’er in high school, I would be saying, what kind of things you can do? Give me 6 or 7 things that you do and let me go back and think. Then I would be sitting down with Adeline saying this is what the guy does that you want to be. These are his sets. Let’s tighten them up just a little bit and see if we can do it a little bit better. I don’t care if you do it more times, tighten the interval, do it faster and do it more often. I would be giving him that type of thing so he felt like he was moving in that direction.
Then the absolute last resort. I was talking to Ben Shepherd yesterday. Ben Shepherd used to swim for me. Some of you may know him. He runs the Outreach program in Oakland. He is one of the leaders in that. He was talking to me how hard it was for him this year because he had a young man from Intercity Oakland who had gotten to be the best guy in the program and he was having a little hard time motivating him. He just wasn’t ready to go to the next level. The problem was he didn’t have anyone else to challenge him. He sent him to another program where he had athletes to swim with because he knew he was not going to be able to get it done in the current dynamic. That is tremendous coaching. I cannot give you hard and fast, but I know you are not going to get them there by doing the same thing. I meant to clarify this yesterday when I told you that I told Ryan Lochte he was not as good as Michael Phelps and Aaron Peirsol. I said you are not as good now but the only way we are going to be as good as anybody is not by doing what they do, but rather by finding something they do not do and doing it better. We’ll also find out what they do and do it better. It has always amazed me how athletes want to do what the other guy does. If the other guy is ahead of you, you can learn from what he does, but if you do exactly the same thing he does for a while you are going to catch him. There is a talent factor. I tell everyone on our team. I think it is a real important work-related item. I tell them all at the beginning of the year in a meeting. I refresh it all the time. No matter how good you are in this room right now there is someone out there that is equally as good as you and if they work harder than you, you will not beat them. I think harder needs to be qualified with harder and smarter than you. If you think in this massive world there is not someone out there more talented than you; you think there isn’t someone out there that knows more than you do about coaching and isn’t better at it? There is somewhere someone who probably does exactly what you do, but is even better at it. They are going to out-coach you if you do not do things different. That is a really primitive philosophy, but that is kind of where I go with that one.