Training Ian Crocker by Sharon Power (2001)


Welcome to ‘Training Ian Crocker’. This talk may be quite different from other talks you may have attended on coaching a swimmer who has achieved the highest level of swimming – an Olympic Gold Medal and World Record. You will get a copy of some of the sets that Ian did, and the race statistics for the Olympic Trials. I will even give you the course that we followed in the final year, leading up to the 2000 Olympic Trials. I have no ‘plan’ to give you because every plan we set up at the beginning of the season for the final two years went out the window, and we had to re-invent the wheel. I knew what other swimmers and coaches were doing. I wanted Ian to do it, too. But, the path we ultimately chose produced the result we wanted – a spot on the 2000 Olympic Team. I spoke with him just the other day, as I was getting ready to prepare this talk. During our heart-to-heart, he told me that he had to go at his rate of development. He truly believes that he could not have arrived at the level he has achieved doing it any other way – and, I agree. This will be an unconventional presentation about the unconventional way in which an unconventional athlete prepared for his Olympic Debut.


The approach I want to take with this talk is to tell you the story of the development of a swimmer from a boy to a young man. It is a four-year journey, fraught with successes and failures, growing pains and the joy of achieving goals. At each turn in the road, he and I learned a lot about ourselves, and what it takes to be in the limelight. The final outcome, however, speaks for itself. Ian was the dark horse in the Men’s 100 M Butterfly at the Olympic Trials. At best it was a weak event for the men. Ian was able to take full advantage of this and find his spot on what he came to view as ‘His Team’. The rest is history. Now, for that history….


There were certain aspects of his training that were conventional. Early in his development, we concentrated on aerobic base, a broad spectrum of events and stroke and skill development. Later on, he built strength and learned how to read his body, the better to optimize his training. He took his talent to new heights. He finished the 2000 Summer Season with an American Record in the 100 M Butterfly in Sydney and an Olympic Gold Medal and World Record as a member of the Men’s 4 x 100 Medley Relay.


He is now training at the University of Texas with Eddie Reese. He is the current NCAA Champion in the 100 Y Butterfly and this past summer, he re-broke his own American Record in the 100 M Butterfly, winning a Silver Medal at the World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan with a 52.25 – all of this before his 19th birthday. Who knows what heights this young man will achieve. He believes he has the world record within his grasp. This summer he talked confidently about what he needed to do to be on top. It was a remarkable journey for both the swimmer and the coach. I am very proud of the young man I helped to develop.


IAN CROCKER – Physical and Personality Profile

Ian is a very gifted swimmer. At six feet, three and one half inches, he has the body for speed as one can easily recognize. His large hands can grasp the water effectively and pull his body along the lane. His large (but not overly so) feet (he’s only size 11), can generate power through flexible ankles, making his kick effective. He has almost hyper-flexibility in a number of joints, particularly his shoulders. This permits an exceptional range of motion for the butterfly. But, best of all, Ian is acutely aware of what all parts of his body are doing. Some of this is innate, but a good part was learned over the last several years. This ‘body knowledge’ that he possesses goes a long way to defining the talent that Ian Crocker has. Recognition of this ability, and nurturing it was a major key to his success.


Ian’s personality could best be described as ‘artistic’ rather than ‘analytical’. He loves music and plays the guitar much like he swims – by ‘ear’ or ‘feel’, rather than by the book. He struggles with math and is a visual learner rather than auditory. As long as he can see what he is supposed to do, he can process it. Further, he has to ‘feel’ what he wants in the water, and operates almost exclusively on that feeling. Finding out his ‘learning style’ helped with our communication, and enhanced his learning.


Ian’s personality comes into play with every facet of his development. He is a considerate, caring person. He would be upset if he thought he had said something to hurt someone. His concern for others is genuine. So concerned is he about what other people think, that caring actually got in the way somewhat of his further development and subsequent to 1998 performances in the 200 M Freestyle. Well-meaning on-lookers made such a fuss when he broke the 1:50 mark, that he felt an enormous amount of pressure in that event. At around that time, his body started to change – the feel for the event changed, and he lost a lot of confidence in his ability to swim that event. He has told me several times, how that pressure he felt was placed upon him to perform, got in the way of his performance. Although he still struggles with that sometimes, his maturity and experience level has helped him to deal with the pressure.


The Four-Year Progression and Course

The following is his progression, beginning in the summer of 1996 (before I came to the team) to the Olympic Trials and the Olympics. All of these times reflect a ‘shaved’ performance


See Table “Long Course Meters” at end of article.


The 1996 and 1997 Times were ‘shaved’ performances. After Ian made Nationals in the summer of 1997, he did not shave for any short course times until this year for NCAA’s.


Shaving for Ian was a no-choice matter as he had already started shaving at age 13 with the previous coaches. Obviously I would have preferred to hold him off that a little longer.


September 1996 – August 1997

From the moment I first saw Ian in the water, I knew he had special talent. One could see as soon as he pushed off the wall that he had the right body, which became even more apparent as soon as he started to swim. His amazing ‘feel’ was apparent back then. When I first started to coach him, he had just turned 14 and was starting High School.


I had heard how important High School swimming was as soon as I arrived for the job interview, so I heartily supported anyone on the team who wanted to do it, to go ahead. – that was before I realized just how it would affect these athletes. Now I encourage each of my athletes to try it in their freshman year. Following their performance at our winter shave meet, we discuss their performance, and the effect their high school swimming experience had on their performance. Most of them make up their minds, as did Ian, whether they want to continue after that.


The plan for the first year was to get to know the athletes, and try to find out how best to work with them. At the very start of the season, I held a goal-setting session which all of the athletes attended, and instructed them on how I wanted them to perceive their goal setting and their choices. Then I set up meeting times with each athlete for 15 minutes, during which time, they would go over their goals with me. I asked questions, and sometimes had them make some changes. Then I went over with each of them what I thought they should commit to in order to achieve their goal. It was easy that first time as most, I think, were eager to please and agreed to follow the plan I laid out. Following the athlete/coach meeting, we would bring in their parents and go over the goals and the plan with them, hoping that everyone would be on the same page and working toward the same end. In Ian’s case, it worked very well. This set the basis for the next four years in terms of our relationship.

I view my job with my athletes is mostly one of education. The final result of going through the PPSC program, I hope, is producing an empowered athlete. This involves helping them find out all of the information available, then using the information to make an informed decision. Many times, the athletes make a decision I would agree with; and just as many times they do not. Part of the process is to help them understand that they have to live with the consequences of their decisions – beneficial or not. Sometimes it is very difficult to stand back and allow them to make the choices. I do my best to support them in whatever decision they make. This process begins for them when they reach the higher levels of the team, some beginning as early as age 13. Because I allowed Ian to make his own choices, he felt stronger, hence the empowerment. Telling him what to do would not have been the right approach. Discussing with him the options usually produced the desired result. He would not have survived in a program were the coach to take a more ‘authoritarian’ stance – what some might call the ‘typical’ coaching style.


Part of the reason for his rapid development can be attributed to growth and part also to his growing confidence in his abilities, nurtured by his growing empowerment.


Here we come to a very important point. Now I know that many of you know this, so I am only repeating this for emphasis. There is no ‘recipe’ to produce a top-level athlete. While there are certain givens such as work ethic, commitment to the goals, dedication to the sport and talent, each athlete has specific strengths and provides different challenges. If we seek to treat all of our athletes the same way, we may not be happy with the result.


During the first year, Ian and the other swimmers in his group were introduced to different splitting strategies, and learning to gain control over their races. Ian’s ability to change his racing strategies gave him early confidence in his ability to perform. During the summer of 1997, he broke his first National Age Group Records in the 200 Freestyle, first in short course at the State Championships, and then by winning the event at Junior Championships, qualifying for Senior Nationals. Back at the hotel that night, he got his first glimpse at the FINA World Rankings. His time would have placed him just out of 150th spot. He asked me if I thought he would ever make that list. He was only fourteen years old.


At that meet he also learned how to swim the 100 M Butterfly. In the morning trials, he finished with a time that seeded him 23rd. He had not held any breathing pattern during that race and the consequences were a less than desirable result. At the conclusion of the race, I said to him what I say to every athlete that misses that point …. ‘two words, pal – Breathing Rhythm’. We worked on it in the warm-up. At night, he swam the race holding a one down, one up rhythm, and won the Bonus Final in a time that would have placed him third in the final. Great lesson! To this day he maintains the one down, one up rhythm. If you are looking for one thing to take home from this talk – one thing about which I am adamant with every race in every event – breathing control and rhythm. It is so important that numerous races have been won and lost on that one factor. Breathe at the wrong time and you can lose it all. We all know this, but I think that sometimes in the rush to find perfection in all things, we forget the basics. Breathing Rhythm.


September 1997 to August 1998

This year brought about several changes for Ian. He stopped swimming High School, and at fifteen began to swim double workouts once or twice per week. Physically and mentally he struggled with training twice per day. He started to develop shoulder problems due to his hyperflexibility and increased workload. I went with him to the orthopedic specialist who worked with us to strengthen the shoulder girdle and rotator cuff. He was not able to use paddles and was advised that if he were to experience pain, he would have to stop swimming immediately and switch to another exercise (such as kicking).


That Fall he found out that he had made the National Junior Team. He had to go to the training camp alone, then board an airplane that Spring for the National Junior Team trip to the UK for the British Grand Prix Meet. Also on that trip was future Olympic Teammate, Erik Vendt. Erik was from Massachusetts and swam as a member of the New England LSC, for the Ocean State Squids. Although Ian struggled with doing this, his mother and I pushed him gently to overcome his trepidation and do the trip. Once he had gone, he found that he actually enjoyed himself. He and Erik became friends.


He did his first Christmas Training Camp that year and completed some of the monster sets we do at that time every year. These include:


5000 M for Time


24 x 200 Butterfly holding Breathing Pattern


100 x 100 Fs


During this year, having qualified for Nationals, he began to formulate his goal of making the 2000 Olympic Team. The immediate goal was making the Pan Pacs that summer. The long-term goal was to become the best in the world. I started talking to him about setting his sights outside of the USA and to look to what was going on in the rest of the world. That year, another Ian burst onto the International Scene – Ian Thorpe.
Our talk and planning centered around long-term development. The Train Up and Race Down philosophy was beginning to sink in. The focus of training that year was the 400 IM and the 1500 Freestyle. A lot of distance work went into his program. His preparation for his first Nationals was to be strong at the back end of the race. His first swim in the morning prelims of the 200 Freestyle placed him third that night going into finals. He split the 200: 55.6 and 55.9. The focus that night was to keep the same strategy. He went out relaxed and was 8th at the wall on the first 50. He was 5th at the 100, third at the 150 and brought the race home in 27.7 seconds to touch the wall in second place with a time of 1:51.56. He almost ran down Josh Davis at his first Nationals. He had not qualified for any other event at that point. On a time trial, he made the 100 M Freestyle cut.


Once we got back home, the reality of the situation began to sink in and his training really began in earnest. I came up with a set from another coach-buddy that we call the ‘Monster Freestyle Set’. It is 7,200 yards long, and for many, it is a challenge just to complete the set. We had another young man training with us that summer who was a senior and a distance swimmer. John could out-distance Ian on the longer sets, but Ian would take him out on the shorter and faster ones. They made great training partners that summer. Ian had tremendous respect for John, so would take it – get mad, but get busy, when John would yell at him for giving what was perceived less than acceptable effort. No one else was ever able to get away with treating Ian in that manner. It had the effect of getting Ian to train at a higher capability than later on. That summer, I took him back to Junior Championships in Buffalo as preparation for Nationals. There he qualified in two more events that he could swim at the meet – the 100 M Butterfly in a :55.74 and the 50 M Freestyle in :23.28. That 50 Freestyle is still his lifetime best. Ian went on to placing fourth at Nationals and made the Pan Pac Team. Now he had made the Fina World List – his time placed him at 14th in the 200 Freestyle. That was when the trouble / challenges really started.


September 1998 to August 1999

He began the year insisting that he did not want to go to Pan Pacs – even though he had signed the papers at Nationals to say that he would commit to training for that International Team. There were so many emotions at play at this time. He felt enormous pressure because of all of the attention he got. Swimming wasn’t fun anymore because of the enormous pressure. Now it was becoming more of an obligation – a job. Added to that, his body was changing. The perceived pressures, growth in height (almost 2 inches) and his young age combined to create some very strong feelings of insecurity. He didn’t want to be on the National ‘A’ Team trip because he was the youngest male by two years. He thought that not only would it not be any fun, but that everyone would ignore him because of his young age. Ian was the first of the young teenaged boys, turning young men, to break onto the National Team. For him that was the hardest thing to deal with.


Of course, he equated hard work with swimming faster. But, look where swimming faster had gotten him! The whole year he complained about the upcoming trip and how could he get out of it. His mother and I both encouraged him to keep swimming, and put the trip into the back of his mind.


I was also beginning to feel the pressure. So many people had come up to me at Nationals saying what a fantastic performance that was, how the USA was weak in the Men’s 200 M Freestyle, and how this young talent could be the answer to our prayers. Ian was my first swimmer to make a National Team. Both of us were rookies, and I was expected to get this kid to the top of the heap! No Pressure! Dennis Pursley started to get a lot of phone calls from me. I really appreciate the patience and time he took to get us through all of this. I believe we truly have the best man at the helm for the USA National Team.


At Spring Nationals the 200 Freestyle did not feel the way Ian wanted it to, and for the first time, he did not swim a best time on a shave. Fortunately, the 100 Freestyle and the 100 Butterfly came through as best times to show him that he wasn’t all washed up. Now, I know most of you know that young swimmers should never focus on one event, and that we should keep all of their options open for them. Because of the attention on his performance in the previous summer, Ian thought he was a 200 Freestyler. He knew that he felt different in the water – that his body was feeling different. For an athlete who operates at such a high level on how he feels, this was approaching a disaster. For the first time, and certainly not the last, I started to hear about him quitting swimming. It took a lot of talking on the part of his mother and myself to help him to refocus his energies, take his mind off the 200 Freestyle, and finally to get him on the plane for Sydney and the Pan Pacific Championships.


That year, I had to find the balance between working as hard as he needed and as hard as he was able. He just wanted to have fun again, and break away from the pressure. I had to shoulder the pressure from USA Swimming and the swimming community, and allow him to follow a different path. I was hearing about all of the work he should have been doing, all of the hard sets other swimmers in the USA were doing, and I knew at the time that he was not capable of doing those things. We were at a point where I viewed that the most important thing was to keep him in the sport. There was no talk about making the Olympic Team in 2000. He was thinking that he should focus on 2004 instead. So we shifted the focus to five years down the road, took the pressure off performance, and looked at other events – ones he liked to do. Enter the 100 M Freestyle and the 100 M Butterfly.


His training reflected his change in event focus. We worked more speedwork into his program, and focused on technique. He did work on kick more than in previous years. We had been working on wearing shoes during kick sets. When he remembered to bring his shoes, it forced him to work the abs and the legs harder than he had done previously. He enjoyed the technique work, and I encouraged him to experiment with different ways of doing the stroke. He tried the kicking on his side, as Misty Hyman was having such great success, but didn’t like how it felt. I was getting frustrated trying to allow him to travel at his own speed and keep the folks who were watching from interfering too much. A number of coaches talked to him about his training and his focus. Thanks to Don Lemieux, Josh Stern, Mike Parrato and Tim Babcock, I was able to stay grounded, and Ian was able to see where he should be heading. At this point, though, he was balking at any suggestion that he be focused about his swimming. All he wanted at this point was to have fun again.


At Pan Pacs, Ian was adamant that he did not want the swim on the 4 x 200 Freestyle Relay – the event in which he qualified for the team. Fortunately, at Pan Pacs, swimmers can swim any number of events they want, so he chose the 50, 100, 200 Freestyles and the 100 Butterfly. It was his performance in the 100 M Butterfly at that meet that lead me to believe that he would make the team in that event.



October 1999 to August 2000

The Course we followed to the Olympic Trials will be this part of the story.


Upon his return from Pan Pacs, Ian had a renewed surge of desire to be part of swimming with the National Team. He actually found what he was looking for – it was FUN traveling with that team. His friend Erik Vendt had been on that trip, along with another New England Swimmer, and newcomer to the National Team, Samantha Arsenault. As far as Ian was concerned, they were his teammates.


That Fall however, he was determined to finish High School and graduate with his class, even though his mother and I were both supportive of his taking a year off. In addition, he wanted to set himself up for the next year, and going off to college. He did five recruiting trips that Fall – far too many – although he had picked five excellent programs and coaches to visit and could not have made the decision otherwise. He was saying that his goal was to make the 2000 Olympic Team, but his actions were telling me that he really wasn’t committed to the idea yet. Again I had to temper his program, trying to get him to do what he needed to do, and bring his focus back to where it needed to be. Instead he was agonizing over the decision of where to go to school and the four coaches he was going to have to disappoint.


He entered both the World Cup and US Open Meets that Fall. At the World Cup, he was at one of the lowest points I had ever seen him. Don Lemieux commented on how unhappy he looked. He performed at a lower level than he had in a long time at that meet. He was still struggling mentally with what he really wanted. We traveled to Germantown Academy in Pennsylvania to swim with Richard Shoulberg. I wanted him to be part of a great training experience with a great team and coach that had produced numerous Olympians, and currently had a member of the National Team, Maddy Crippen. Maddy ate him alive at the workouts. I think Ian realized at that point how hard others were working and he was not. I wanted him to get inspired, instead he was so negative about that training experience. He did not attend the US Open that December, believing that he was not ready to face another meet, knowing he was not prepared with all of the distractions that Fall to perform well.


In December, that year, Ian reached his lowest point. Ian’s mother introduced both of us to an energetic trainer she had heard of through another worker in her office. Joanne Arnold met with both Ian and I. I agreed to work with Joanne, and we determined that the answer to his dilemma was to shift the focus away from the goal and to return instead to re-learning how to read his body. The combination of changes in his body and the distractions from the Fall was becoming more than he could handle. We worked through the winter, allowing for the shift to take place, and talked instead about 2004. We were back to that again! This however, took the pressure off him and allowed him to refocus on the development of the strokes and how his races should feel. We had to return to ground zero.


In January, we received money from USA Swimming to aid in his preparation for the 2000 Olympic Trials. I had filled out and sent off the application in the early Fall while Ian was still keen to make the 2000 Team. After talking with his mother, we determined to keep the course, and in as mush as possible, I prepared to get him ready for the Trials in August.


More pressure on me!


Thank heavens Trials were in August! If they had been in May of that year, I would not be standing here now, telling you this story – another reason why a late Trials worked – we got the best available athletes for that Team. The success of the USA Swimming Team at that Olympics leaves no question.


At Spring Nationals, I could not get him to swim the 200 Freestyle. His 50 Freestyle was off, but his 100 Freestyle was a Best Time. I reminded him that he was still improving, and could continue to do so. He thought he probably should re-look at the 2000 Games. I agreed that it may be possible. Then he swam the 100 M Butterfly. Not only did his time show good improvement, he placed third and was the fastest American at the meet. In the car on the way home, he said it would be stupid if he did not make the Olympic Team. Finally! We were on our way!


Although he had been working at an aerobic level through the year, I knew he had not done the intensity he needed to gain the speed that would be required of him. That Spring we had to deal with the added distraction of Graduation – that meant missing the Training Camp in Colorado Springs that year, and sometimes four workouts in a week. He also missed a marathon weekend of work in the long course pool in Dover, New Hampshire, to take his girlfriend to a concert. This was driving me crazy. In the end, I figured that the only way I would be able to get out of him what he needed to do to make that team, was to race. So race he did.


We traveled from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Long Island, New York to participate in as many long course opportunities as we possibly could. We were told that our athletes should be prepared to swim at their best in Sydney. This involved swimming fast enough to make the team at Trials, but they were expected to be even faster in Sydney. I figured that I would have him race right up to, and including Juniors, giving him approximately eight days until he swam what I was figuring was his best chance to make the team – the 100 M Butterfly. I knew he had not done what he needed in terms of training to prepare for the 200 M Freestyle. I also figured that he did not have the size or speed yet to make it in the event he thought would be his best ticket – the 100 M Freestyle. I didn’t tell him all of this until later. Instead, I sat Ian down, laid out the plan, brought his mother on board (she was very skeptical, but supported our decision), and we began the summer from hell. Ian had a couple of weekends off, but I didn’t from Memorial Day until the end of Trials. I’ll tell you folks, I know that a number of coaches were talking behind my back saying, WHAT IS SHE DOING WITH THAT KID? HE’LL BE RUINED! HE’LL NEVER MAKE THAT TEAM! I knew I was taking a real chance, but I truly believed it was the only chance he had.


Ian would gain the intensity of work he needed by racing. He always gave everything he had when he got on the block. During workouts, he would / could not put out the effort needed. During a race, he would. So on the weekends, he raced with intensity, during the week, he swam recovery and technique workouts. He was able to get the racing experience in the long course he needed, perfect his strategies and become very race-sharp.


Now I would not recommend this strategy for most athletes. I knew I was taking a real chance, but I believed that this would work. Thank heavens it did!

At Trials, Ian’s first event was the 200 M Freestyle. I helped him prepare, but I know that somewhere back in his mind, he knew that he didn’t have a hope of making the team on this event. He placed 65th after the prelims, and we turned our backs on that event with a great sigh of relief. It was the event to get him into the meet.


His next event was the 100 M Freestyle. He swam exceptionally well in that event, and made it through to the semi-finals, where he placed 10th with a 50.04. He had to be under 50 to make it back into finals, one of the fastest fields ever for the men’s 100 Freestyle. He was disappointed and frustrated, especially where Samantha and Erik had already made the team. He kept saying, “They are my teammates, I’m as good as they are, why am I not on this team?” That was good. He was finally determined. Now came the 100 M Butterfly.


Ian’s best races and results have generally come from the following strategy. Powerful start; good underwater, without taxing the breathing, come up; lengthen and build the stroke to the wall; then blast off the wall and build the stroke home. He is successful when he really builds the legs on the last 50, powering them back the strongest on the last 25 meters of the race. In the prelims, he swam that strategy, breaking the Olympic Trials record, narrowly missing the American Record, and qualifying first for the Semi Finals. He was far enough ahead of his next competitor, so that when he wanted to change his strategy and try to go out fast, I encouraged him to give it a try. He went out too fast and had trouble bringing it back. He swam slower, but was still the top qualifier. He did not like how that race felt, so returned to his previous strategy for the finals, winning the race, his spot on the team and lowering the Olympic Trials record to within two tenths of the American Record. I will refer you to the following table, which lays out his Olympic Trials races. For comparison, I have also included earlier races in 1999 at the Pan Pacs and in 2000 at the Spring Nationals.


This information was taken off the site provided by John Walker and the Sports Science Team at USA Swimming


See Table” Ian Crocker – Race Analysis” at end of article.


If you look at the difference between the splitting strategy for the semi final and final races, you will see that on the semi final, he was out two tenths faster than on the final. But he was able to come back almost a half second faster. For him, learning to budget the effort expended at the beginning of the race so that he can finish stronger, and this results in a faster time. What good is it to be winning the race at the 50 in a 100 Meter race, if you can’t bring it home?


August & September 2000 – Olympics

After the Trials, we came back home for a couple of days and planned what he should do for his preparation. I had a feel for what type of preparation he needed. Working together, we came up with a rough guideline for the coaches at the camp. He was to have free reign over the remainder of his preparation within the guidelines:


Here are the basics I recommended:

Long Warm-up 2000 – 2,500 yards or meters

Technique Work 3 – 500 yards or meters

Kick Set 500 – 1000 yards or meters, approximately 200 of it quality on alternate days of both camps

Speedwork At the LA Camp 100’s on 5:00 on alternate days

At the Brisbane Camp 50’s on 5:00 on alternate days

Get a Time Trial in 100 Fs once the Games have started to give him a race before his 100 Fly on Day 2 or 3.

Swim Down 400 – 600 yards or meters after every workout


He assured me that he had done most of what we had planned, but as I had also wanted him to, he altered it when he felt he needed to. He was clearly more confident in his preparation and abilities than he had been over the last two years. The earlier work on empowerment was beginning to pay off.

At the Olympics, he had to wait for six days for his chance to get into his race. The excitement for the USA team was building each day. He was like a racehorse in the gate. In his preliminary race, he repeated the mistake he made during his semi-final race at Trials. After the race, the first words out of his mouth to me were, ” what a stupid swim!” I replied, “you’re right, it was, but you know, you did what you needed to do – you are back in semi finals. You got rid of the jitters. Now just settle down and do the job. You know how to swim that race, now like Nike says, ‘Just Do It’!” He swam faster, with his best strategy in the semi finals, making it back into finals with a time that seeded him third.


Now the excitement was rising for the final, as he saw where he was seeded and believed that at medal was within his grasp. He had two goals – break the American Record and to come home with an individual Medal. This was a long way from the kid who thought, only 9 short months ago, that his best opportunity was for the 2004 Olympic Team!


He did achieve one of those goals – the American Record. He was coming back with all of the big boys, but mis-timed his wall and ended up placing fourth. Such a small mistake cost him the Medal. But instead of crumbling under that disappointment, it only made him hungrier. He refocused, and corrected his mistake for the relay. His 52.10 was the fastest fly split by an American to that date and helped the team on the way to the Gold Medal and the World Record.

The following is the analysis of his Olympic Games races.


See table “Ian Crocker – Race Analysis * – Sydney 2000 Olympics” at end of article.

Again, this information was provided by USA Swimming


Ian’s strength, remember is a remarkable ‘feel’ for what he is doing. The rhythm of the stroke must be on. He had great technique. This is why he is still a better Long Course than Short Course swimmer. He also has not finished growing. His body is still underdeveloped compared to most other athletes who are swimming at his level. That is very exciting.


If I had followed a convention training plan with Ian, then even he says he would not be swimming now. He is one of those gifted athletes for whom one has to re-invent a new wheel. I had to be able to ‘think outside the box’ in terms of his preparation. I had to have the patience, trust and vision in both his abilities and mine to bring all of this together. I did not do this alone. Without going into my presentation tomorrow, I have to thank the following people who helped both Ian and I get him where he finally figured out he wanted to go!

Mike Parrato

Don Lemieux

Josh Stern

Richard Shoulberg

Dennis Pursley

Gail Crocker

Joanne Arnold

Tim Babcock


Ian’s training at the University of Texas has been excellent by all accounts. He is excited about his training and his capacity for hard work – a delightful change from the years of struggling. He has other Olympians and National Team members with whom to train, a fabulous coaching staff, and the excitement of being on the number one college team in the country. His performance in the 100 Butterfly at World Champs brought home the Silver Medal, a new American Record and a new confidence.


Indeed, now that he is on the right path, who knows how far he will go!


The following is an example of the type of training he did during his development years leading up to his 1998 performance in the 200 M Freestyle:

Monster Freestyle Set: SCY

Warm-up: 1000 Yards easy swim

En1 / 2              En3

800 Pull            1 x 100 Fs Swim

700 Pull            2 x 100 Fs Swim

600 Pull            3 x 100 Fs Swim

500 Pull            4 x 100 Fs Swim

400 Pull            5 x 100 Fs Swim

300 Pull            6 x 100 Fs Swim

200 Pull            7 x 100 Fs Swim

100 Pull            8 x 100 Fs Swim

This set was done on a 1:15 per 100 base with the exception of the 100 Pull it was on 2:00. The goal for the 100’s Swim was to hold them at sub-:58. He was generally successful at this until he got to the 200 Pull / 7 x 100 swim where he would run out of fuel and then was holding over 1:05 for his 100’s. If he was failing on the set, I would stop him, have him re-fuel with Gatorade, and sit out the remainder of the set until the others were done, then do the Swim Down.

Swim Down: 400 IM Drills


Butterfly Monster Set / Christmas Camp: SCM

Warm-up: 800 Easy Swim

800 IM Drill / Pull / Kick / Swim x 50

4 x 100 IM Swim Descend on 1:40

4 x 50 Freestyle Sprint on 1:15

200 Easy Swim

2.4 Km

En3 set: 24 x 200 Butterfly 4 sets of 6

Hold Breathing Pattern for 6, add 10 seconds to the pace time

Start first set on 3:00

Ian did this whole set on 3:00 – declining to take the easier pace and still held the breathing pattern for the entire set.

SWIM DOWN: 800 Double Arm Back / Breaststroke x 100


Century Swim / Christmas Camp: SCM

Warm-up: 1000 Easy Swim

En1 – En3 Set:

20 x 100 Fs Swim on 1:30

20 x 100 Fs Swim on 1:25

20 x 100 Fs Swim on 1:20

20 x 100 Fs Swim on 1:25

20 x 100 Fs Swim on 1:30


At the conclusion of this set, we still had 40 minutes of practice time so I had planned to give them all a long cool-down. We were practicing with another team from Canada. The swimmers were tired of swimming after so long a set, so Ian volunteered to do a get-out swim if we would cut the swim-down time in half. The other coach and I agreed and set the performance at 100 Freestyle under :53. The other coach timed him at 51.6 – what does that say about the amount of warm-up a swimmer could have?





Long Course Meters


Age 13


Age 14


Age 15


Age 16


Age 17

100 Free   53.01 50.60 50.38 50.04
200 Free 2:06.85 1:53.87 1:49.48 1:51.99 1:54.39
100 Fly 1:04.03 57.67 54.94 54.34 52.44


Short Course Yards


Age 13


Age 14


Age 15


Age 16


Age 17

100 Free 49.24 46.24 45.64 44.30 44.43
200 Free 1:47.33 1:39.20 1:38.09 1:39.05 1:38.85
100 Fly 55.38 50.73 50.94 49.67 48.84


Ian Crocker – Race Analysis *

Meet Name and Date Breakout




Split Drop




Time Tempo


DPC Velocity Turn


Pan Pacs 1999 Semi Final 4.11 11.5 25.59   18 25.59 50.4 1.19 2.13 1.79 .73
  2.26 5.5 28.72 3.13 22 54.31 51.3 1.17 2.02 1.68  
Spring Nats 2000 Final 3.75 10.25 25.14   19 25.14 54.0 1.11 2.09 1.86 .98
  2.08 5 28.47 3.33 23 53.61 54.0 1.11 1.97 1.77  
Olympic Trials 2000 Prelim 3.30 9.25 24.91   19 24.91 53.2 1.13 2.15 1.89 .63
  1.83 4.5 27.91 3.00 24 52.82 56.0 1.07 1.92 1.79  
Olympic Trials 2000 Semi F 3.22 9 24.62   20 24.62 55.8 1.08 2.08 1.92 1.08
  1.85 4.5 28.45 3.83 24 53.07 56.0 1.07 1.91 1.78  
Olympic Trials 2000 Final 4.10 11.5 24.81   18 24.81 54.0 1.11 2.09 1.86 .73
  1.91 4.75 27.97 3.16 23 52.78 55.5 1.08 1.93 1.79  






Ian Crocker – Race Analysis * – Sydney 2000 Olympics

Race At The Meet Breakout




Split Drop




Time Tempo


DPC Velocity Turn


Prelims – Day 6 3.89 10.75 24.52   19 24.52 57.5 1.04 2.01 1.90 .69
  2.42 6 28.93 4.41 25 53.45 58.3 1.03 1.76 1.70  
Finals – Day 7 3.89 10.75 24.69   18 24.69 53.2 1.13 2.15 1.89 .63
  2.89 7 27.75 3.06 23 52.44 57.1 1.05 1.87 1.77  



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