Training Natalie Coughlin by Teri McKeever (2003)


Published


I was figuring out how many times I have done this and we are working on single hands here, this is going to be the 6th time that I have ever given a presentation. This is, as Richard said, a risk-taking move for me, way outside of my comfort zone. I think we are always preaching to our athletes you got to go beyond where you are comfortable and you’ve got to live those examples too. So, I am going do that this afternoon and tomorrow. One thing I told the girls which really helps is just to acknowledge your feelings. If you are scared about that raise, you are nervous about this presentation to just throw it out there. It’s like going to the dentist, I get myself so worked up going to the dentist and then when I’m done it really wasn’t that bad. I am hoping I have got myself really worked up and that it wont be that bad when it is over.

 

Okay, I have never done a power point presentation before so here we go. All sorts of firsts. One reason it doesn’t have a topic is because I did not give them a topic, but I think it is best when you are trying something new is to go with what you know. The thing I know the most about is the programs I have developed that have been a culmination of five years at Fresno State prior to coming to Berkley and three years as an assistant at USC. So I wanted to just take this time to talk specifically about Natalie and more in general about the program. I don’t have handouts for this. I did check with people at school and when we are all done I am going to give you the website for our athletic department and for a week or so you could go to women’s swimming and you will be able to download the presentation, and at the end I have some workouts that I just want to share.

 

Like I said, all my coaching experience is at the college level. I love coaching at college. I love the fact that for most of these people I am their last coach. I was corrected today that their masters coach is their last coach, but in general, I love the challenge, the journey of being the coach that transitions them into real life. I think part of my passion and my responsibility is to help them see that the last 5, 10, or 15 years, whatever it is, that you devoted yourself to a sport and being the best that you can be is really going to accelerate you into a more productive, successful life after swimming. I very, very much enjoy that. I also am the recipient of athletes that come with numerous experiences and talents and abilities and Natalie obviously is no exception to that.

 

Natalie started swimming at the age of 6. Her parents had a pool in the back yard and they wanted to make sure that Natalie and Megan (her younger sister) were safe around the pool, so they started swimming. She was on about 3 or 4 different small club teams. She followed the same coach for that period and this gentleman now works in the newspaper industry so he is not even a coach. I think that speaks a little bit about her loyalty to people and we will talk about that more.

 

She started with the Terrapins in the late spring of 1995 and within six months she had moved into Ray Mitchell’s senior group and then joined us at Berkley during the fall of 2000, right after Olympic trials. I have heard her say in numerous interviews and to me personally that her goal in coming to Cal was that swimming now was going to allow her to get an education. It was about earning her scholarship. It was about spending 4 years to get a degree that was going to prepare her for life after swimming and then it was about retiring when that period was over. So, things when she started and things where she is now are real, real different and I think a byproduct of a lot of things that we are going to talk about.

 

One of the things that she was really excited about too, was just the team atmosphere associated in a collegiate program. I mean, how many kids love high school swimming? You know, it is different than a club situation and in some respects I think it is easier to coach. I told my team this last week, I like the fact that every August when I step in front of them it is like it stopped and now it is going to start again. I am not so sure a club coach gets that same sort of closure and then you move on. I like the fact that when we go swim UCLA we are all going to swim UCLA. I am not trying to prepare somebody for junior nationals, sectionals, senior nationals and Olympic trials. We are for the most part moving in the same direction. I will say when you start having Natalie Coughlin’s and Haley Coates and Keiko Prices assist in your programs and especially as they transition out of the collegiate program it does present new challenges. It is something that we are working through together and it is really new for me in just the last two or three years.

 

One of the things I have done is I have asked Natalie what she thinks our successes or what things were important to her success; whether they be from Terrapins or here at Cal – you know, what are the things that allow her to get up on the block and do the things that she has done and the things that I think she still is going to do. If you ask Natalie the three key things that she brings up that she really feels that her experience at Terrapins was exactly what she needed at that time when she was younger. It was a great program for her that pushed her and challenged her in ways that she didn’t even think she could do and she was with a group of boys that were about three or four years older than her. It is my understanding that Ray at numerous times had Bailey set up racing and challenging situations to allow her to do things that she didn’t think were capable at the time. She feels that her distance background and working on all four strokes as a developmental swimmer were real, real important too.

 

From my perspective, like Eddie Reese, I see when I retire from this, my dream is to open a swim school and teach little kids how to swim. I think that would be just as rewarding and just as exciting as what I get to do now. But I think if I were an age group coach, and again from my perspective, the greatest service you can do your athletes is to force them to develop a foundation in all four strokes. I think it allows them to be successful. It allows them to keep their minds challenge, and learn new skills.

 

I think, even at Berkley, Natalie swimming the 200 breaststroke is going to help her 200 backstroke – those aren’t mutually exclusive skills. They are learning opportunities that help you excel. It has obviously allowed her to break an American record in every stroke except breaststroke, but I think that that is definitely something Ray facilitated in his program – her mental toughness and her purposeful approach to training.

 

I get asked a lot by different coaches and the media, “Why is Natalie so good? If I get ten seconds to answer that question instead of an hour and 15 minutes, like you are going to get – it is because of the mental toughness and just the purposeful approach in everything she does. It is exceptional and she walked in the door with that. I think it has improved and has gotten better with her maturity and her realization of the good results that come as a result of that attitude. But, it wasn’t something that she developed in the fall of 2000. I think that her Terrapin experience has given her tremendous confidence. I also think that it had taken a hit with her experience at the 2000 trials, and a year and a half before that with her injury in March of 98 that required about a year and a half to two years of rehabilitation. She was really questioning what her future in the sport was going to be.

 

I also think because of that the things that are happening now are happening as a result of high expectations. It correlates with pushing her. Ray pushed her to do things that she didn’t think were possible; therefore, she has expectations of what is normal. It is like when you go to a meet you don’t just go to the meet and swim the 100 backstroke. You go to the meet to swim the 100 backstroke, you swim the 200 IM, you swim the fly, you swim your relays, you go to NCAA’s and you swim 14 events as fast as you can for three days. That is what the expectation is because that has always been what the expectation is. So, Ray did her a tremendous service in that regard as well.

 

The next two slides just talk about general philosophies and coaching concepts that I have. Do I train Natalie different than the team? Yes and no. Eddie brought up a good point earlier today that if we did the same thing year in and year out we would get the same results. Or most likely, we would be going in the opposite direction that we want to go. So there is a basic core philosophy or concept that permeates through the program and then it gets changed according to who the athlete is and particularly how long they have been there. I think that is real important. I think the other thing that I find is that this is my 20th year in college coaching and I think the majority of these have not really changed in the twenty years. Now the way I do it is different or how passionate I am about how important it is is different, but because Natalie Coughlin is in my program now, I get the opportunity to stand up here and share that with you and I recognize that most of us are not going to get the opportunity that I am experiencing right now. I think my point is that because someone is standing at this podium does not make me a better coach than anyone standing there. It is about having your core beliefs and your philosophies and as Bill said earlier too, it is selling those. It is presenting those. It is finding people who want to believe in that too – especially what I get to do because we are in a recruiting process. So I can tell a young woman this is what you can expect if you come and swim here. That is obviously a different situation than the majority of you are in.

 

The first thing – fitness and the development of the athlete in and out of the water. I just think that a lot of times – I mean, how many times have we heard, “Oh they are swimmers they are not a very good athlete.” That may be true, but the exceptional athlete or the exceptional swimmer is an exceptional athlete and one of my coaching successes that I am most proud of is – and you have never even heard of her – is a young lady by the name of Michelle Harper. She joined us in the fall of 99, a very tall athletic girl came to the program 24:0, 52:8. When she graduated this spring she was a 22:2 on our relays. She was 49. People told her, “don’t go to Cal Michelle, you are not even going to make the traveling squad.” Well, here is a young woman that if you put Natalie or Haley’s talent in the water next to Michelle it is not even remotely close. By looking at her athleticism and developing that and the things that she could do it allowed her to have success as a swimmer. I think it is important that it can be done away from the pool. We do a lot of dry land and I will talk about that and variety in that dry land. I think that is incredibly important. I am the type of person that gets bored so I like to do things that I have never done before. I figure that if it is something that maybe stimulates or energizes me or gets me thinking is probably something that is going to benefit the team, so we have do that.

 

Second is emphasis on fundamentals. I believe that swimming is the ability to string – it is like building blocks. It is that pyramid and it is developing that foundation so you can go higher up the pyramid. I always tell Natalie that when we are doing things I just coach Natalie higher up the food chain than I coach some of the other people. But if someone, I mean, how many of us have an athlete that just will not hold their breathing pattern? Nobody but me? Okay, if they are not going to hold their breathing pattern, how are we going to go to the next skill? The skill has got to be mastered before you can go to the next one and I think, no matter how good you are, that going back and refreshing those fundamentals and taking it to the nth degree is going to allow you to improve.

 

The third one is awareness of your relationship with the water. What you do up here on land doesn’t really work when you get in the water, right? How many people have athletes that just beat the crap out of the water? Okay, that might work if you are on the football field or you are wrestling, but it doesn’t work when you are in the pool. You have to teach them. I don’t think that you can teach them as much as they have to experience ways to move in the water that are going to allow them to get down the pool.

 

When you look at our workouts there are basic things; sculling, the reverse swimming – again this last week we got people in there and told them to reverse swim. The freshmen asked what are we doing this for. I told them why they should do it. Haley Coates can swim reverse everything, okay? Here is a girl that goes breaststroke – instead of going like this she goes back instead of kicking here it comes here and comes around and she moves down the pool this way down the pool. Now that is not going to be an Olympic event, I am aware of that, but the skill and the time it took to learn that gave her awareness in the water and what is working and what isn’t working. We go reverse swims – well which way do I put my hands? I don’t know – figure it out. A lot of times I think they got to figure those things out on their own. It is much, much more powerful than us telling them something all the time. That leads into my next one.

 

Everyone is a coach. I believe that if you understand the skill and you can teach a skill to someone else, then that is going to help you. Also I think a lot of athletes think coaching means picking out what is wrong. I don’t know about you, but I have been most successful when I didn’t pick apart what someone was doing wrong, but when I accentuated what they were doing right. If they can see that in each other it is going to help their swimming. We do a lot of partner things – turns – watching each other.

 

I have a freshman that to this day, she is a sophomore now, but when Natalie walks by this girl stares at her. She is in awe of her teammate – not always a good thing, so I pair them together to work on turns. Well here is my little freshman telling Natalie how to do her backstroke turns and I am just sort of chuckling to myself going like you don’t even know what you are doing, but that takes some guts. How are you going to tell Natalie how to do an underwater turn when you don’t even know what to do? But she felt confident enough to go back to the basics. Everyone knows what it looks like when you push off the wall and you don’t go as fast as you need to, or when you lift your head and you stop, or on your breaststroke pull out when you bring your knees up and someone stops. You don’t have to know necessarily how to do it right, as much as just to pick out things that they can work on. That is what I mean that everyone is a coach and not just in the pool. That is in the weight room. That is in the yoga room. That is in the speed circuit, medicine balls – it is your responsibility to coach and facilitate greatness in the people around you.

 

And the last one is to celebrate the journey. To me what that means – what I love about swimming is there is no guarantee in this sport. I am going to share workouts with you later. I don’t know if they work. We never saw Natalie swim any of them so don’t write them down. But there is no guarantee that they would have worked. But if we focused on what her performance was at world championships and we just let that dictate what we were going to do or how we felt about the summer or the whole year we are. But if you go back and you look at the things that we learned along the way and the process and the mastery of the skills there is always an opportunity to be successful.

 

One of the things about being on a collegiate campus is that you have other magnificent coaches around you. We have a Rugby coach on campus, Jack Clark, who is the head national rugby coach for the United States. They have won 15 national titles in the last seventeen years and Tuesday he came and spoke to the team. One of the things that he said that just really resonated me was that elite level athletes – if you can get to the point where you are a craftsman at what you do. Have you ever tried to explain swimming to someone who is not a swimming coach? It is when it just really hits you – its like dang this is complicated. There is a lot of stuff that happens and there is a lot of stuff then that you can work on to continue to get better. So its just that acknowledgement that there is an opportunity and a requirement to look at the journey and celebrate when things are going right.

 

The next one, and I know Natalie thinks this is important and something that I love doing, – I mean I love the technical part – but I also love the team building. We have all been in a team environment or on a team where we didn’t have very good athletes, but man was it magical. It is just the indescribable feeling of being around a group and having those common experiences. It is something they are never going to forget. I doubt that too many people in the room – if you were an athlete when you get back with your swimming buddies really focus on comparing times. What you talk about is this kind of stuff; the team, the relationship with each other and the richness of the experience. I think comes in the team environment.

 

A couple of things to work on in this regard. One of the requirements on our team is that you have to wear a Cal cap when you train. So if Richard is in the room – Richard, Jenny has been at the pool a couple of times and I had a Cal cap on her once so that was good. I don’t think because you wear a Cal cap you are going to buy into this team thing, but it is a visual way of reminding them that it isn’t just about you. The communication is tremendously important between the athlete and the coach.

 

There are different learning styles. There are different ways that people are going to relate to their problems. You know I am going to get stuff – it is the first time they have been away from home. It is just not about what were your 100 frees on – a lot of times it is the first time you are sick, your first birthday away from your parents. Those things. You might be all rough and tough at 17/18, but it still kinds of bums you out at times and I think you have to be able to communicate that with someone – whether it is a teammate, it’s the coach, its another person in the athletic department, someone that is going to help you start to feel connected with something bigger than yourself.

 

The other thing I wanted to say about that is honest communication. I know early in my coaching career one of my experiences as a coach was I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.I felt like I was just supposed to communicate by saying things that were positive and uplifting and motivating. What I have learned in the last three or four years in particular, is that I am not doing my job if I don’t look somebody in the eye and say you are not getting it done and you are not being honest. Now that doesn’t mean you know you are a piece of whatever – it just means we have got to make some changes here. You have got to be able to communicate that in a way that they are willing to hear. They have got to be willing to hear it too. Obviously, the other thing with communication is how do they do that with each other? I don’t know how many other people are coaching in a women’s only situation. Sometimes as women we do not always do a very good job of knowing how to be honest with somebody else, especially another female. We will be all nice to their face, and then we will go to the dorm room and say, so and so did this, did that or whatever. That will kill your team, okay?

 

We just had a meeting about attitude and what was expected in a training environment. One of my questions was “If someone is doing this and you said you don’t want this to happen, what are we going to do about that? What is going to be the acceptable way to bring that to someone’s attention.” I said that you have to talk those things through before they happen. The times I have done the best job coaching is when I have thought of the problems. I think we heard this earlier today. I know that is true when you think of the problems or the conflicts or what might happen when you talk about that up front. That way it doesn’t catch anybody by surprise and you have skills then to get yourself through whatever that situation is.

 

The team culture: just a common definition for, my example – I told them I expected a positive winning attitude at practice. I know what that means, but there are 27 people sitting out there and I have 27 different interpretations of that. So again, we brainstormed over what that was and then we came up with a definition for us this year. This is what the expectation is when you are at practice. Then it is really easy when you don’t see something that is inline with that is to call somebody on it. You know that is not what we talked about. You need to change or you need to leave for the day.

 

The team is a support network and I think that just transcends your swimming. They are on a campus with 30,000 people and I know for me when I went to college am I glad that I had that immediate niche, or set of friends. I think it is what sororities do for people. It’s what different clubs, the choir, the band do. It is a support network. It is a place to ground yourself in a new environment and it is important if you are going to be part of this organization. It is an organization that has certain expectations of you. It is a requirement. To use an analogy, it is a bank account and you know, Cal swimming, we have got so much in this bank account and some days when you come you are going to be depositing to that account and some days you are going to have to withdraw, but if we have most of us withdrawing and four or five of us are depositing, it isn’t going to be too long before we are broke, right? And I think it is just a really important thing to really challenge them on. Are you contributing right now, or not.

 

I have done some different things over the years that have visually pointed that out to them that I think have worked real well. I think balance and perspective important. It is important that you swim fast, but again lets not go crazy with how important it is. It is just going up and down the pool faster than the person next to you. Let’s keep it in perspective. Let’s have a balance with what your academic goals are. Let’s celebrate your accomplishments away from the pool.

 

We had a young lady two years ago who wrote a letter to the New York Times because they were ripping on student athletes and how they didn’t go to school. She wrote this article to the New York letter to the editor and it got published. I made a 3-4 minute talk about it at the beginning of practice. That is important – she took it to heart that the article offended her so much that she wanted to write something else about it. I have had women who were in the choir and have done plays. It is important to go see those and acknowledge those.

 

Natalie has gotten a lot of exposure. She has been in Sports Illustrated and on ESPN – you know what? Natalie knows it is my job is to let everyone know that the acknowledgement and successes that Natalie is having are a reflection on all of us. I think because we do talk about that, we don’t have a problem with Natalie and that is a lot about who Natalie is as a person.  Accountability and responsibility – this is the beauty of what sports teaches us – being on time, your actions affect other people. I mean I could go on and on and on.

 

Swimming fast is fun. You know, I am not a cruise director. My job is not to have a little game every day so that you have fun. You have to find fun in the mastery of the skill, in being with your teammates, in pushing yourself. The thing I miss most about being an athlete is that feeling when I got out of the pool and I knew that I laid everything on the line. I don’t know about you, but when I swim now I don’t want to feel that anymore. So, I am willing to give that up, but those are the things that are fun. Now my fun is trying to have other people see that to get to that point so they are experiencing that and they see that. To see a girl get  behind the block like, all right, I am ready to go. That is fun. You know, that’s fun for their teammates. That’s fun for me. Those are things that are enjoyable for all of us.

 

When you ask Natalie – and I ask her all these things – what are the keys – what are the five things that you would highlight as why she has been successful at Cal.

She has a good relationship with me and the other coaches on our staff. I just changed assistants and she is very open and effective in her communication style. We have been together three years now and I know every year that has gone to a more intimate level of being honest with each other and those unspoken things. When you work with someone long enough it is like she knows when I am tired just by the way I am carrying myself, just like I know when I look in her eyes what might be going on away from the pool. I think that is really, really important. I am smart enough to know there is a certain type of athlete that I do well with and Natalie is one of those types.

 

Natalie came to Cal because she felt like I was someone that she would be able to work with, and it has taken me three years to be able to come up here and say that. I thought that as she got better my role would be less and less. But what I have learned in this journey is that as she has gotten better, my role and my leadership and my direction are more and more important to her. She does not have to worry about the little things that I can do. About two years ago I just decided that here is a girl trying to be a fulltime student at the #1 public university in the United States, carrying a 3.5 as a psych major. She probably does anywhere from an hour to six hours of media commitments a week and there is no way she was going to be able to manage that. So that is something that I have taken on now and it is something that has definitely required a more effective communication between us. It also ties into belief and trust. There is a tremendous amount of mutual respect, belief – she believes in me – I believe in her, she trusts me. You know, I trust her. She trusts the system. She has bought in fully to what is going on. It is the reason this works for her. You know when you have an athlete that buys into to what you are doing – it is not a magic formula when you look at the workouts coming up, it is that she has bought into a system and a belief and a structure that she is very comfortable with. She has confidence that it is going to get her where she wants to go.

 

A support group: she has an amazing support group that really begins with her family. Her mom and dad and her sister are at every dual meet and invites the team over for dinner. Grandma and Grandpa go to all the international meets. Grandma is making the USA vest and always makes me one so I get to wear that walking around Barcelona in my little USA vest. Everybody is asking where did you get that? Grandma Coughlin made that for me and it is important that I wear it. That is incredibly important to her. She knows that they love her and care about her regardless of how fast she ever swims. If it ends tomorrow, they are not going anywhere. It is not contingent on what happens in the pool. She has a great group of friends away from the pool too.

 

She went to a private Catholic school for about six years and she still has a core group of friends that she does things with beyond her Cal friends and her Cal teammates. She just had her 21st birthday and there was just a collage of different people there. We all know that those friendships don’t always work both ways. She has to invest time in that too, and I know she considers her teammates and her coaches as part of that support group.

 

Balance: Here is a young lady that is passionate about her academic pursuits. If you ask her about the highlight of 2002, it wasn’t being #1 in the world in however many events or being a Sullivan award finalist – it was being on the Today show with Al Roker and making pork something – I don’t even know what it was. Okay, but that was the highlight of her year because she is just so proud and she knows there is something there besides how fast she swims. She gets to show other people that it is not just about her swimming, it is about all these other skills and talents she has.

 

I think too, with the balance we have, one of the things that she considers is that she has a lot of ownership in her program. I believe that when someone comes and swims with me their job is to coach me to be the best coach for them. Yeah I have Haley and Natalie who both swim 100 backstroke, but I am an idiot if I am going to treat Natalie and Haley the same way or even coach them the same way. If you know them you know how true that statement is. So the balance is that Haley is the type that I have got to bribe her. I have bought things that I don’t even think that I should be buying to bribe her with to do stuff that Natalie, on the other hand, is just very intrinsically motivated to do. She gets motivated by knowing that when you look at our schedule we have a Wednesday afternoon off in the collegiate season and that Wednesday afternoon is just her time in the middle of the week. It is just really, really important to her that it gives he the time to go home and see her dog, to not be around the pool, to go shopping if she wants to, to see her other friends to just have a balance in what she is doing. It is also when we have looked at the time from NCAA’s to Athens and beyond. There are certain times, like August, that she wasn’t training. She was surfing. She was doing other things because that is really the last break that she is going to get for an extended time.

 

Now the whole team has that balance and perspective in the fall. I give everyone a three-day weekend and the requirement is that you can’t swim. I don’t care what you do. It should be fun, I shouldn’t say that, but within reason. It is just to recharge, to get away from this and to recharge your spirit. This is done so that when they come back they are ready to do it at the level that it needs to be done.

 

Then there is the variety and creativity in training. I would probably just classify it as different than what she had done before. She is the type of athlete and has a personality that responds to variety and something different. I will show you some examples of that later on.

 

If you ask me what I think the key is – it is the relationship. – I love that picture. For the rest of my life I’ll know what it felt like to give her a hug after she broke the world record in the 100 backstroke. And you know what, for the rest of my life I will know what that hug felt like when she was going to go swim the 400 medley relay at worlds this summer after everything she had been through. And to me, that is a more powerful moment than the one that is happy. That is what brings me great joy and I think that and again, it has taken me a couple of years to be confident enough personally to be able to say that that is a key to her success. It is a relationship that is definitely important to both of us. I think it is the environment, and she is a major contributor to the environment. Quality people attract quality people.

 

This is a world-class person who happens to be a world-class swimmer. It is not the other way around and I think that that is really, really important. Berkley is the perfect place for her. It is close to home. She wanted to be in California. It is a place where she and other people can be – their uniqueness and just who they are is celebrated. It is the perfect match for her and she knew that and that environment is real real important.

 

Her character – I alluded to that with just the quality person. I have this quote that I found on one of those Successories posters that talks about the essence of character – I am going to read it:

 

“Your true character is revealed by the clarity of your convictions, the choices you make and the promises you keep. Hold strongly to your principles and refuse to follow the currents of convenience. What you say and do defines who you are and who you are, you are forever”.

 

I just think that is Natalie. Her character is amazing. I am going to use an example from Worlds. Most of you know she got sick the day before the meet and by the time of the 800 free relay – I think that was about day 6 or so – and she had 102-103 temperature for about five and a half days. At this point she was at the pool standing up in the stands for the 800 free relay and I know she wanted to be on that 800 free relay. They are going for the world record and Lindsey Benko is leading off and Natalie is next to me going crazy “go benko – go benko!!, It was not someone who was sitting there moping saying “woe is me” or is back in the hotel. It was like okay, “I am strong enough now, I’m going to come – I cant swim but I am going to come and I am going to cheer and I am going to be part of this. I am going to celebrate in my teammates success and that is not mutually exclusive.”

 

After she swam the medley relay on the 7th day I have never seen her like that after she came down and was hyperventilating, she said “I feel like I am going to pass out”, and we walked down and 70, 100 media people were going Natalie, Natalie, Natalie, and she is gasping. When we got outside we sat down, she caught her breath there for maybe three minutes and said “I am okay. I asked her, “do you want to go and warm-down?” She said, “no, I told those media people I would be back.” So she went back and answered all their questions about is she disappointed. I can’t say what I really want to say, but of course she was disappointed. I would have said forget it, but she went back. – Her attitude was “I made a promise I was coming back.” and she went back and dealt with that.

 

The training variety and her approach to it I think is more important than the variety, its just her approach to it. The fact that she was coming off a year and a half of an injury and disappointment she arrived at a perfect time for me at Berkley. She was open to something new. A lot of times when you are successful do you want to change something? Here is a woman that made nationals in every event, every distance two years before. She is going to come in and change something right away? I have always been impressed with her willingness to do that. She says the injury definitely contributed to that.

 

I think the other thing is the dry land. I mentioned we do a lot of dry land, whether it be medicine balls, yoga and pilate., Nort Thornton has this wonderful speed circuit with the swim benches and she is the type that understands that her body position in yoga. It is not just Teri wants to do yoga and pilates, she understands why I am asking them to do that. If she can control her body outside of the pool and she can focus on her breathing and relaxing that is going to help her at the end of the race. At the beginning of the race she has again bought in and believes that that is going to work.

 

She is also very, very good with technique adjustments and she has a great way of processing information. I think that she is willing to accept information from me, other people, teammates, other coaches on a national team. And then she sifts through what works for her. When we make adjustments she is willing to try it for a while and come back “I really like that” or come back and say, “hey that is not working right now, you know we need to look at it” and she definitely has a layering effect of her skill acquisition. When she gets something you can give her something and I have said this to people before, it is kind of like coaching a doll.

 

I had this realization maybe the second year – December of the second year – I am not good – her sophomore year – we had gone to the World Cup meet and she had broken her short course world records. And then we traveled to Austin to meet the rest of the team and she was swimming some different things. She was swimming a 50 free and I had made two comments – one on her start and one on her turn and when she did them that night, bang – in a racing situation – it was perfect. I just started chuckling, oh my god, that is just like scary and awesome at the same time. So those are things that she definitely comes to the table with.

 

Just looking at our typical week if we got any NCAA police, I know this is – notice the word typical, okay. Probably over 20 hours, but it is just typical there. And long course and short course – I think is important and just the variety in that. I like to use the long course for some of the opportunities just in the skill development or having them just swim long and kind of experiment – the awareness of the water – some of the stuff I talked about in that regard. We go six mornings a week. That takes a little bit of time for some people to get used to, but I know if you read some of the literature, if you can keep someone’s sleeping patterns fairly regular that in the long term it is better for them. I was finding that if I gave them a Wednesday morning off then what do they do? They just stay up late Tuesday night and then they maybe sleep till 10:30-11 on Wednesday. Then when they come to practice at 1 on Wednesday afternoon you are like, I haven’t even had a break. This way on Wednesdays at 7:45 we are done, and tell you what – that helps the coach sometimes too. Tuesday and Thursday mornings the majority of the people don’t get in the water: Natalie does not get in the water. I think that helps them with the ability to get up every morning.

 

This is going to be the first year that we have done weights after we have swum just because of some of the time changes in the weight room so I don’t know how that is going to work, but we are going to try that. We also are going to have ball spins, speed circuits, just depending on the time of the year. Those things all change, and as I alluded to earlier, I get bored so I like to change things in the summer so I feel like we have two sort of distinct times that we are working.

 

This is more like three workouts on, one off which gives us Tuesday and Thursday afternoons off. There is probably more water time, more just general time for the summer. I think with Tuesday and Thursday afternoon early on that is when she goes surfing. Her boyfriend teaches – works with a rec team. She goes out there and does clinics and just you know, gets to do the normal stuff.

 

I have six different workouts here that I just kind of want to point out different things – now how am I doing on time? The more toys the better. And I think that the equipment is just a way to work on different skills so you know they all have paddles, they may have four to five different paddles. They have fins. They used to have two different kinds of fins but now we only have one. We are scaling back. We have a snorkel, but I think the equipment is a great way and its variety. The drilling – there is a lot of time early on for drills. I was getting too complicated and I had all these different drills and I sort of limit it now to three to maybe four drills per stroke that I will specifically request that they are doing and that they really understand. It is kind of like going back to the fundamentals – why are we doing that drill. You know, they need to be able to explain that.

 

There are times when I will just say, like those three 100’s and say 50 drill 50 swim. One of each stroke, no equipment. That is when they can do whatever drill they want to do. That is when I go crazy sometimes when you see something and you are like what does that do? I don’t know, we used to do it before. My thinking on a drill is that they better know why they are doing the drill or you have sort of lost the purpose of the drill. One thing I heard Bob Bowman say that I love about drills. I think it is important that your athletes recognize is that there is a cost to the drill. You might do a drill that is working on a certain aspect of your stroke and it might be messing up something else you want to do when you are doing full stroke and they need to understand that you are just working on that particular piece.

 

Certain times when we do intervals it would be the first group of things there where it says 100 swim builds to peak. That is pace 200 or pace 100 and is just based on what they feel will be their 200 pace. I have found that a lot of times when you give a workout and you don’t give them a base a lot of times they go harder than if you give them an interval. If someone is feeling good let them go. Natalie’s aerobic speed is going to be very different than someone else’s and it allows everybody to get what they need in more of a team situation.

 

Natalie likes, and I tend to coach this way, where we will do something and then there will be rounds of it. So it’s sort of the cyclical way of a piece and then doing it again and again. That is something that she fortunately likes because she is doing it a lot. And the other thing is just practicing the piece part, so if you look at that set that is 150 kick drill swim. they are just doing whatever they want. Then they are going a 50 swim, where they are building to a race finish. One of the things I love doing is telling them like a race finish and then I want you to celebrate when you win the race. If you can’t do that in a training situation where there are only 20 of us and you cannot passionately celebrate, that just tells me that you never thought about winning your race or smiling. How many of you have had an athlete that does their best time and they are you know, that just infuriates me. You know, smile, give me a little love. Turn around. Give me a little smile and then I know its okay. So I think you have got to practice it if you want it.

 

You have to tell them what’s important to you. 100 on 1:45 with race quality, 15 meters in and out of the turns so we are just picking that piece and working on that. Then we are going to get up on the block and go a 50 where she is going to focus on her dive, the breakout and the transition into four cycles at full speed. Then she is going to go a 50, 25 double arm, 25 reverse swim so when you are tired and as you go through the rounds, the reverse swim is just going to force you to hold your line and be more aware of what is going on.

 

One of the things she really likes to do is to kick/swim with the board. That would just be kicking a 50 with the board out in front of you and then putting the board down between your legs and it is vertical and the board is going to rotate as you move down. She does that freestyle or backstroke and like I tell the rest of the girls we are not playing sharks here, when someone is going down the pool and they got the shark tail going that is not what we are looking for so Natalie really, really likes that.

 

What I will do sometimes is have the team wear fins when we do under water work and Natalie just will not. She doesn’t particularly like wearing fins. When we were in …… and she found a pair of fins that she really liked. They were smaller, maybe four inches of blade, and they were nice enough to let us purchase a pair so she is happy now she has her own personal French pair of fins. At one point I had talked to Natalie about if she wants to race and have X # of kicks under water lets practice X+2, X+3, X+4 – she brought up a great point. She didn’t like doing that because if she is going beyond she doesn’t know what it feels like to be at that exact distance. So if it is 12 kicks – everything is 12 kicks and it is done at 12 good kicks – not two crappy ones to get through everything. So it is just 12 kicks. I thought that was kind of an interesting point.

 

One of the things that we did earlier in the summer is – she really likes green paddles and we do a lot of stuff with green paddles. She doesn’t go bigger than green paddles because of some of her shoulder stuff; but, I wanted to do more power with fins and paddles in the water and went to a red paddle to try to get her race up. So that was some of the fins and paddles with the smaller paddles. We probably do the monofin once every two weeks or so. Someone like Nat will go 50 under water and she can maybe repeat like 21 seconds or so, She is going pretty good. I worry about are you going to hit yourself going that fast? I told her a couple of times you have got to slow down so we don’t break a finger on the wall.

 

Okay, just going back to some of the fundamentals – some of this when I was writing it out I am like this is – I can’t even write it down. I do not keep real great records of exactly what we did, but I tried to do a better job of it this summer and I think it is really going to help me long term, but just with an example of working on the fundamentals. The balance up is just pushing off the wall underneath the surface, coming through the surface and holding a balanced position for ten seconds and then going five hand hits before she brings her legs into it so she is balanced up. She is going to go five hand hits where she has to maintain her body line without her legs and then she can bring her legs into what she is doing and then swim the rest of the lap. Then she does the turn and does the same thing off the wall so we have that and then the breath control. Like I said, a lot of different ways to do this.

 

This was a good set that we did down at the bottom, Haley and Natalie both did this one: three 50s on 50 and this is long course. The first lap they get three breaths. The second lap they get two breaths. They get one breath on the third lap. Then they are immediately going to go into a 25 blast which means over race pace, just as fast as you can go, don’t think about what you are doing, just go 25 in whatever stroke they chose. They had to stay with that stroke on the next two 50s and we would get up on the block and it would be a rehearsal of either the first 50 if they were working on their 100 or their first 50 if they were working on their 200. Then the second 50 would be either at the 200 pace or the second fifty of their 100. So basically it is a broken swim. They have to tell me what they are doing before or I will tell them. You know, I don’t know exactly what Nat did but I would imagine she would have practiced a hundred fly, a hundred back, a hundred free and then probably a two hundred free as well. Haley would have done something geared around the hundred backstroke and then she was swimming a 50 and we would have probably modified instead of the second 50 she would either have gone the second 50 of her hundred or swim until her first breath of her 50 so I am going a round of that as well.

 

And one thing that I know Richard brought this up last night was that sometimes when we get into a taper phase or a sharpening phase, whatever you want to call it, as you prepare for that final meet tha,t as a coach, we get wrapped into wanting to see a certain time on the stop watch. What Natalie has really taught me with not only herself, but other people is that it just either tells them they are going to do well or they are not going to do well. So with her, in particular, because she really buys into this it is just rehearsing the different pieces of her swim. If you would have asked me what her goal times were last summer I don’t know. When she swam that 100 free at PAN-PAC and she was out in 25.8 and then she hit and it was 53:99 and I went oh, I asked “what is the national record?” and I didn’t know what the American record was. That is the second person that has ever broken 54 and good or bad, I didn’t know that. I knew it was fast, but it wasn’t something that we talked about – here on the 58 or do this or whatever it is more about these different skills are what we are really going to work on.

 

I think the other thing when you have someone like that that she is not going to go a 53:9 every time she swims a hundred free. So if we are at Janet Evans during the summer or Santa Clara, in the morning in particular and at the night, the conversation is okay, what are you going to work on. Like what are you going to work on – her 200 back at Santa Clara invite – not her 200 or 100 back. I said “give me one thing that is world record quality.” So she picked what it was. She told me what it was, and then that is how we judged if it was successful or not. That really works for her.

 

Let’s see, the thing down at the bottom – well some of this vertical kicking.  I think is something that Nat likes and we do with a lot of people. The 4 X 50’s vertical kick through the transition would mean that if she is going backstroke she would vertical kick butterfly the number of times that she would be under water. Then vertically she is going to transition into the flutter kick. Then she is going to get to the wall and then she is going to practice it off the wall plus two cycles through the breakout. That is one 50 and we go down to the other end and she does it again. A lot of that you notice there is not a base.

 

Okay, the 200 touches the odd 50’s working on body tone. That is just going down the pool and going from being a pencil to just a jello, spaghetti swimming down and just an awareness of what that is and just thinking about it more than anything else. I think through the four 50’s fast performance. A lot of times when you do something where you tell them fast and then easy to the wall, how many times do get four cycles that look perfect and then it is immediately into this cruddy cruddy stuff going down the pool. I think that you need to practice swimming fast, maintaining your form and then changing your speed. A lot of times too when I say okay you need to go faster what are you going to think about. Oh, I am going to go fast. What are you going to do to go fast? You know they need to have a plan so they can work on that.

 

Then this is just a short course meters workout when we were in Norborne and, especially for Natalie, a lot of her work is kick swimming or all kicking and I think that is real important. One of the things to work on is power. At this point she is not doing weights any more and we were doing medicine balls until about 8 days out from the start of the meet. But the eight 25s on 35 and 45 on the even ones they pushed off the wall and they balance up and they are just holding their breath and holding that balance position until I blow the whistle. Then they are going to sprint three cycles. So the idea of going immediately from a dead stop in the water to get power and speed and then taking three cycles.

 

We do lots of stretch cords with her. I think it is the cheap mans towing machine Putting her down there pulling her she is working on body position. She enjoys that more than probably going fast. That has been a really, really powerful learning for people on my team and it is not just powerful for the person in the water, if you get them to pull each other and you start talking to them about what kind of waves are coming off their body. If you pull Natalie and you pull someone of lesser skills down the pool and you look at what kind of waves are coming off their body you can learn a lot and they can see that they do not have to be a college student to figure that out. I always tell them that they are smarter than I am anyway because I do not have a Cal degree.

 

This was the last day that we were in Norborne before we went to Barcelona and I just picked this workout like I said earlier. I have a tendency to sort of think of things and then they disappear. Haley always does this to me – she says Teri write that one down because this is really good. I know that this 8X50 set now I did a really nice job on this and it was with paddles – she was going two on a minute, 55, 50 and 45. She would go 25 freestyle without breathing and then immediately onto her back and went a 25 backstroke into the wall. Obviously she was getting faster as we went down through it. The other thing I wanted to say was to not worry about the time.

 

I know one thing that has helped me in the last year and really helped me with Natalie is that I look at her facial expression when she is swimming backstroke in particular. Richard talked about this yesterday, when you look at Misty when she was behind the block and you can look at that relaxed and happy state. I forget what he called it, but you know that she’s ready to go. I think when they are swimming if you can catch a look of that face or that body language while they are performing in the training situation it really helps. They might not even be aware that they are holding their breath or are carrying themselves awkwardly. If you have a lot of energy your shoulders are up here

 

This is my shameless attempt to promote the University of California Berkeley. No. I don’t know if anyone has any questions or.

 

Question: How much of her underwater was taught when she was younger or how much of that is the result of increased strength?

 

Answer: I would say that it was definitely a strength when she came to Berkley mainly as the result of having an injury and only being able to kick and you know sort of forcing the situation. But I think what she has done in the last two or three years is like you said, she has gotten stronger, but she has also taken that not just ok-I am going under wate,r but what am I doing when I am under water, what am I doing as I get to the surface, what am I doing when I go through the surface, and those are the pieces that she is really dissected and worked on that have helped her because she is fast under water. She is even faster as she breaks through the surface. You know it is not someone that is kicking and then says alright I am going now and now I am going to swim. You know she has carried that momentum off the wall and that is I think the difference personally.

 

Yeah, how demanding is the – I think that I mean it is definitely a University that is academic, the load is demanding and she is in a field that requires a lot of her. I think it is her balance and she is a young lady who makes appropriate choices away from the pool and you have to learn that. I think that is something they all have to learn. Then you have to decide what is important to you. I know there are times she goes to bed when she probably could keep studying. Yes, training definitely gets adjusted. There are different times of the year that traditionally are more academically stressful and I think that goes back to communicating. One thing that I think the injury has helped her with, is that she listens to her body now and that she will let me know what is going on. She is someone that needs to sleep. When she gets tired you are better off cutting something out and letting her rest

 

So last question – Coach Daland: Why has Natalie tended to avoid IM swimming?

 

Because she doesn’t want to swim it right now. I think that some of that is tied in to previous experiences and that it was more like moving forward instead of maybe doing something that she had done before. I don’t think it is something that would totally rule-out. I definitely push for my 400 IM every year but I don’t think we are ever going to get it on an international stage and she does it in training so, thank you.

 

The website if you want is www.calbears.com and it is the main athletic website and then my understanding is that you will be able to go to women’s swimming and you will be able to do whatever you computer people do to get to it – download – that is the word that I am looking for. Calbears.com.

 


 

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