[Introduction] I am Mary Anne Gerzanick-Liebowitz. I am the Assistant Coach at Oregon State University for our women’s program and I am the First Vice-President of ASCA. I welcome you here this morning and I commend you for being at the 8:30 talk on a Saturday morning – nice work. I have the honor of introducing to you today John Ogden. John is currently the head coach and competitive aquatics director at the YMCA of the North Shore, Beverly, Massachusetts. He arrived in 2006. In his first year at the helm he finished 5th at the YMCA Nationals, which I believe was the highest finish that they have had so far. Prior to joining the YMCA North Shore, John was the head coach at the Glens Falls, New York YMCA. John’s swimmers have achieved over 1,000 YMCA All-American recognitions and numerous State level championships. He received the American Swimming Coach’s Association Excellence Award when his swimmers achieved Olympic Trials cuts, US Nationals, and Junior National qualifications. John has also coached at the high school level, as well as Division III at Skidmore College in Upstate New York. John earned his B.S. from Saint Bonaventure University where he also held the school record in the 1650, so would you please help me in welcoming John Ogden.
[Coach Ogden] “Training Your Staff” is my talk. I like to talk about perception versus reality. The perception is that – from a parent’s point of view – everybody on my deck or your decks are professionally trained coaches. That is perception. The reality in the typical age group situation, even high school and sometimes in college, is that your assistants are probably a little bit higher on the food chain than babysitters or substitute teachers.
When I first started coaching I was an assistant coach. My head coach literally had nobody to do the junior group and the little kids. I came to the program with really no on-deck coaching experience. Other than him taking me to an ASCA Clinic that first year, I was really on my own. When I was totally screwing up a workout, or a set, or a demand on the children, he would come over across the pool and he would take his focus off his older kids he was training and he would say, “Well John, you really don’t want to do that, you want to do this.”
I couldn’t really call us “buds” so we didn’t have long late night conversations about training and what to do with kids. He kind of got on his motorcycle and took off after each practice. He was a very good coach – distance based IM – I had a good foundation. The older kids were going, but as far as working with 8 and unders, I was on my own. So I went to the other coaches in the Adirondack LSC and I started a letter writing thing. Back in those days there was no e-mail, so we had telephone conversations once a month. I was trying to find out from my peers what they were doing in the workouts. Just then ASCA Came out with Debbie Potts’ book of drill skills and games – that is an awesome book. I have already bought it three times over my career and distributed it to my coaches.
Everything else was my background of trying to do something new every day in practice with 12 and unders. That helped me so much when I went on to coach the seniors when I took over the team two years later. I felt pretty good coming on deck at practice, like I knew what I was doing and the kids could feel that.
The first part of the little handout says, “Why Coach?” and of the reasons your staff –not necessarily you, but why they actually want to coach kids’ swimming. The major thing is if they come to you or you go to them and their eyes sparkle. They have a certain amount of passion and that is the Number 1 requirement. I have a huge staff. I have 34 coaches that work for me. I can honestly say that every one of them has that sparkle in their eye. The ones that didn’t don’t work for me any more. It is totally irrelevant how much experience they have.
Frank Busch talked at one of these clinics a few years ago. He is the coach of Arizona. He got up and was talking about re-kindling his passion for the sport, his passion for coaching. I was sitting in the back because in my early days of coming to this clinic I always hid out in the back. Maybe it was a little self-esteem issue. I was half listening and was trying to write some notes. I realized that this guy was having a major internal conflict of why he went to work every day, and he was actually telling us. Right then I started taking major notes about the passion for what we do and all his descriptions. It lifted me to another level as far as my view about the sport and how we do what we do so well. That is why when you go into Dick Shoulberg or one of these other talks, I sit down there take lots of notes. I have had some young coaches who I have brought to clinics walk out of there and say, “I didn’t get anything out of that.” I was talking to a coach this morning at breakfast and he said the same thing to me. We were talking about coaches saying they didn’t get anything and we were just going – what are you nuts? I got 14 pages written down. I have some great ideas. You have to have passion for what you do. It is the foundation of everything you do. I have never regretted coming to swim practice or coming to work one day in the last 19 years. I look forward to it. I am blessed. I look forward to it every day. I cannot wait – believe it or not – to get on deck for my Masters practice at ten of six Monday morning – after flying home all night. I am a deck coach. I love being on deck.
The other thing is for the money – question mark – big question marks. You know, if I asked for a show of hands of how many people think they are underpaid we all should raise our hand. It is not for the money. We already know that. For the kids – if you enjoy children and working with children and want to feel that adrenalin rush when they do well, that is the reason you want to be there. You want to see success and feel that success. I have an assistant director in my program. She is assistant director for competitive aquatics and she handles all my dry side of the team. She is a team manager and actually I don’t know what she does. Her son swam for the team a few years ago and she started out as a volunteer. I made her a full-time member of the staff because she handles a lot of the parent issues and the dry-land. Also, she is our team manager on our road trips, but what she never gets is what we all get – that huge feedback when kids do well. She doesn’t get that. Part of my staff are people like her. I have to make sure I positively reinforce their actions and pat them on the back all the time. We get it as coaches. – If your swimmer is doing a best time and coming up to you with a smile on their face and doing a lot of things right that is our feedback for that. So, you know, there are different reasons people on your staff do different things.
You have volunteers who work for the team. You always have to remember to give them that big pat on the back to show how much you appreciate them. Another reason is, in our YMCA, we have some parents who coach. One of the reasons they coach, besides their passion, is for a discount on their fees. Our senior group is kind of expensive and they can save 25% – that is close to $500. By coaching they are not going to make any money by the hour, but they are going to save some discounts because their kids swim for the team. They have had some swimming background and we take them and we train them. You get what you pay for.
When I first started coaching in Glens Falls and I became head coach I had two assistant coaches – two moms who were passionate, dedicated and wanted to learn. They were basically swimming instructors. One was actually a gymnastics instructor and one woman was a swimming instructor. So we took them, sat down and we trained them on how we wanted to do things with the little kids and we mixed their training. I put them on deck during senior group. I put them on deck during the junior group and the little kids group as they were learning how to coach. One of the moms got really good at it. I mentioned it yesterday. She was probably the best technical coach, and still is, that I have ever seen. She has an innate ability to identify talent and to make minor stroke corrections with any age group and have them get it. It is a skill. I don’t know if you can teach it or not. I think it is a talent. I wanted her to work more and more for me. I am taking her to some clinics and every other year she could go.
She has two children and came to me one day and said, “I really want to get involved. Mike can watch the kids during dinner time so I want to get involved.” So I went to my YMCA and said, “I want her to be co-head coach.” And the Y said, “There is no money.” So I walked out of the room and as I walked down the hall I turned around in the hallway. I went back to my exec and I said, “Take half my pay and give it to her.” And I am a dummy, right? We took the money and split it. We re-wrote the job description and we paid her. It was probably the best move I ever made in my career. For two years she was on deck with all my groups and that is when we started to get to Juniors, Seniors and Trials. First, she needed the income to justify with her husband, but the other thing was that I had another job so I could sacrifice the money. Remember the YMCA never paid any money, or still doesn’t so it was a give-back, but it wasn’t – it hurt me a little bit. I couldn’t have my fourth cup of coffee every day or something like that, but it is a sacrifice that sometimes you have to make as a head coach. It is going to hurt your back pocket, but if you have great people, you have got to figure out a way to keep them – you have got to figure out a way to keep them.
In our training I have 600 kids. I have 34 coaches. I have 6 training sites. We spend over $10,000.00 a year training staff and the percentage of the budget is – I don’t know what percentage of the budget is, I don’t like to handle that kind of stuff, but I just know that we spend money on the videos and the books in there. We have developed. Our YMCA is big. It has a product development branch. We had our product development branch build our YMCA of North Shore Coach’s drill book. In this book of 40 or 50 pages there are all the drills that we will run on the team. Soup to nuts. When you walk into my program you are going to get a book handed to you. You don’t have to memorize it, but you are going to learn from it. It is a conglomeration of all these different books that we have had out here.
And drills, we try to get on the same page with what we do, what the approach is to the drill, and we do that at regular coach’s meetings. I have different group meetings – senior group and age group meetings and different site meetings. The goal is to run a meeting about once every 45 days to make sure that they are in tune. We also talk online. We e-mail each other all the time. They are always asking me about different things or new ideas and we send workouts team-wide. Our age group workouts are passed along to everybody on a regular basis so everybody in our team knows what they are doing all the time. I am going to get into what YNS does in the clinics, but clinics like this and even smaller level clinics are invaluable. I will talk about that in a minute.
Appearance of your staff – The first day you work for me you are handed two or three T-shirts and are told, “when you come on deck you are not allowed to wear jeans. You have to be presentable. If you are working morning practice – if you are hung-over or something like that – you know – dude – don’t come in, but there is a minimum I accept.” I sit down and I do this one-on-one with all my coaching staff and I tell them why. I just don’t say you can’t – you’ve got to do this. I tell them we have big glass windows in our main practice pool so when you walk in Sterling Center the first thing you see is our 50 meter pool. The second thing that you see is a coach because the kids are in the water. So, the second thing you see is one of my staff. On the back of the shirts it says YNS or YMCA of the North Shore Sharks. That is the second thing everybody of the 18,000 members who walk into that facility see when they walk in the doors, by the registration desk. I had been at the Y for about two years when I first walked in the door at the Y, in our first practice, and the coaches were wearing a college shirt, some other old shirt, and a raggedy old YNS coaching shirts with a pair of jeans.
I walked on deck and practice was to start at 6. There were 60 kids in this particular group. The coaches were talking. At 6:05, “let’s go – let’s go – let’s get in the water.” At 6:10 we still have 20 people on the deck. At 6:20 there are still five kids talking to the coaches on the deck. This is during warm-up. I went home that night to my wife and said, “What the heck did I get myself into?” The next day we changed the culture. By acting professional and looking professional, you might not know squat, and it might be your first day. I took a kid off the life-guard chair and had him stand behind me. This was for Master’s practice too. The kid comes and he has a beard, a real scraggly beard and he wants to learn how to coach. He is 25 years old, a great kid, really passionate and he comes in to practice the first day and he has his shirt on that I gave him. We pay for the shirts. We don’t charge the employees. – He came in, but he is looking real scraggly. I said, “John, you have got to trim that baby up.” It was really bad. He couldn’t grow a beard to save his life, but I found out that he was an actor in a stage play and he had to look that way for it. The play he was doing was in Boston and I understand he was very good, but he had to look this scraggly part. I said, “Okay, but let’s explain that to all of the people coming in the door.” So we actually promoted his play by putting him up around the pool, showing his picture, the scraggly beard part. I don’t know what thing he was playing, but we put that up so they understood that that particular appearance was part of his other life.
Philosophically, when you have coaches working on deck, it is really hard to get them to meet if they are parents and/or have other jobs or if you are traveling. So I sit down with the coaches and I really tell them – if you are going to coach, you have to do X number of meets per year, depending on the age group. You have to get on deck. We run three or four major USA Swimming meets at my pools. I have really a nice facility so that kind of gets done pretty easily. They can come over and work a day or an afternoon for which we pay them of course. So they get to see the kids swim. I think you have to attend meets in order to be a good deck coach and you have to see how they race in the water to be a good practice coach. How many times have we seen a kid, say a 10 year old, and he really doesn’t have any idea what he is doing. He gets to the meet and gets up on the block and he just rips it off. You look at him like where did that come from? At practice you have been seeing him lift his head out of the water, he is dropping his elbow and he goes to the meet and the kid is Mark Spitz or I should say Michael Phelps. It is one of those deals that you have got to go to the meet so you can relate the practice to the meets and vice versa.
I am into process – I am really into process and that is practice. We train to race – at 8 and unders – at senior. I used to train to train. I had some really good swimmers that I just didn’t do a really good job with. They could do a hundred hundreds on 1:10. They never could do them on a minute. They just weren’t Bobby Hackett I guess, but they could do a hundred hundreds on a 1:10 and they would go and they would go 5 minutes in the 500. I was very poor when I was younger at bringing the relationship from the process, from great training to great racing.
The problem was I didn’t know, as a coach, that it is all about winning your heat. I tell kids today all I want them to do is win their heat. I can have some arguments with some of you guys about that, but in my mind – in my years of coaching – if you win every heat you swim, that is your solution. I look at a kid and I say – if you win every heat you swim in, I don’t care if you are in the slowest heat – you know as an 8 and under or the circle seeded heat in a National event – if you win your heat, you are doing your job. Just once in a while you are going to get caught in a slow heat and your time might be off, but that is irrelevant to me. I would rather have a kid try to race and win their heat. When we train coaches I am adamant about that for coaches.
I was talking yesterday about pulling the stop watch. When I am on deck I will take the stop watch and put it in my pocket. I won’t pay too much attention. I will watch the swimming. I watch the rhythm of the race. I will watch the underwaters. Two years ago I went to my first age group practice. I like to sit up in the bleachers at our facility. I will sit up in the bleachers and the coaches won’t know that I am there. So I just sit down and take some notes. I watch them interact with the children and watch them go through what they are teaching. If they are doing underwater kick I watch them kick four or five times under water. Then the coach will give the instruction and the kids won’t do the desired skill. You know how kids do it. They will go four times and three times and then they get busy. My ratio is like 1:10 or 1:11 so the coaches kind of get busy and they forget. Then in a meet a kid pushes off the wall and may do one kick and go.
So, I am up there watching and I will go right down on deck and the kids didn’t know me from Adam. I had a coaching shirt on and there was a guy and two girls on the deck. They see me coming down through the stairs and the exit and just about died. They didn’t have any interaction with me beforehand and I walked up to them and I said, “Do you mind if I take the group for a minute?” The coaches said, well – no. One gal says, well – you don’t know them. I said, “It doesn’t make any difference. Why don’t you guys go over there and just relax for a minute.”
I took the kids and was trying to show the coaches one thing. It was the goal of doing one thing, doing it well, and staying with the one thing to make sure that you get it done – short-term tasking. So, we went to underwater kicking with 4 kicks under water with 9 year olds, to a no breath stroke breakout. We were practicing it off the walls. I went with the kids and got down on the deck. I talked to them like I would talk to a much older child and gave them feedback as they went through the exercise. Yes, that is right – no, that is not correct. Then we did 25’s. I said, “We are going to do one 25.” I told them if they do one 25 great you are out of practice and we are going to go and play on the rock wall. So they were all pumped up. I said, “Here is what you have to do – 4 kicks off the wall – don’t breathe on your first stroke and don’t breathe from the flags in at the end of the 25. That is what you have to do.” Everybody has to do that one time. Twenty-five freestyle and we are going to go and play on the rock wall.
They were all psyched up – they were all pumped up and my coaches were over there with their jaws hanging down – like what is this guy doing? He is going to let them out of practice? Well, as we all know, the 22 kids take off and they go down the pool. Two kids screw up and I said, “Well, that is not too bad guys, but we have one 25 to do.” The kids look at me like, what are you talking about? We just did it. I said, “No, everybody has to be perfect once. So the 9 and 10 year olds push off and one kid messed up. I never point the kid out. I said one guy. In the senior we will point out the lane. When my older ones really screw up I point them out by name – the best swimmers – that is really pressure on them. So, they went another one. Twenty-two minutes later we did one 25 perfect and we had a big team cheer. And then we went and played on the rock wall up in the teen center. The point was that if we don’t do that one skill right the rest will fail too.
When I was selling cabinets and designing kitchens for years, I decided to hang out with a carpenter. He was about this big and just about could fit into a cabinet. He had a big tool belt and was a big drinker. He was the most knowledgeable man about his profession I have ever seen. He said one thing to me that stayed with me. He said, “Never put good work over bad.” “Never put good work over bad.” So if you are building a house and the framing is not right you cannot put your drywall on top of the framing because it is going to look like crap afterwards. Never paint over something that is not finished correctly. You can’t fix it. You can’t go back and pull the walls out. You can, but it is going to be hard.
So when I get a kid in the senior group or a junior group who breathes off his walls or he doesn’t do his underwaters or who doesn’t do a back to breast flip turn, I have got to re-train. What happens when you re-train these older kids? It takes forever. Triathletes come in to me and they want to work on their swimming. I sit them down and say, “Well, we run all these programs – 14 workouts a week – we have technique lanes – we do this – we do that and he says okay.” Four or five weeks and I am going to drop my times. I said, “Well actually, it is like two years. Two years of three days a week and then you are going to get some difference on how you catch the water. There is no instant gratification in swimming. I am sorry.”
You have a certain talent level with children – very talented – let’s call them elite. And there is a huge pool underneath of kids who want to be there, work hard, do everything you say. This is the huge majority of kids. I train to this group. Make this group go faster. We set the intervals on the top kids, but we really make sure that group underneath gets our attention and gets the work done because they push the other guys to do better.
Coaching miscues: You can’t sit on deck. ASCA did a survey once among elite athletes and what was important for their coach to do on a pool deck and what was important during warm-up. It was important for their coach to be standing over them during warm-up, and 80% of them said, “I don’t really care what the coach is doing while I am warming up. He could be you know – talking to another coach.” One hundred percent said that once the workout starts, the coach has got to be paying attention. Think about it when you are on a pool deck – warm-up. During warm-up time I allow my coaches to have conversations about the actual practice, what is going on with the races – talking about the kids. Once the warm-up ends – we are on task from that moment. They are not sitting down, unless you have a bum knee or you did something running or tripped over something, but you are on deck and you are being engaged with the swimmer – interactive. I see a lot of coaches over-coach, both at meets and at practice. I think that is probably more of a problem than what I call the under-coaching. Under-coaching is sitting around and not doing much. Over-coaching is giving too much stimuli to a swimmer during practice and specifically during a meet. I don’t care if they are 8 or 18.
In practice, focus on one skill and drill at a time – even when they are swimming during regular sets and swim sets. When I am training staff I say, you can’t tell a swimmer, “okay, make sure you work on your turn – you want to come off – you want to build the third 50 – on the last lap you want to really kick in your legs and finish strong.” With an 8 year old that doesn’t work. The kid loses you after you know. Jimmy – streamline off your walls – 4 kicks – end of sentence, let’s do it, okay? You have to remind your staff. You have to remind your coaches.
Sometimes you get so emotional about it, especially at a meet – they do a best time, they come over, high 5, great job you gotta give them the great job, right? Great job and everything else and they got a smile on their face and they walk away and the coach didn’t say a word to him. I ask, “Well – why are you there?” And the gal is sitting there going – what do you mean – they did great, a best time. I asked, “Is that the best they are ever going to do? No! Let’s reinforce that.” You have them there in a positive mental frame of mind. Use it to teach. Right then they are going to be most open to receiving coaching. When they have a bad swim and you come over and tell them, “Billy – you really missed that flip turn – it could be better.” When they are 8 and 9 years old all their thinking is, oh man, I gotta go see my parents, I did a lousy time. I am not going to get the chocolate bar after the meet, I am not going to get my ice cream – they are not listening to you.
When they do a great time, “Oh, I loved how you streamlined off the wall. You know what? You did those 4 kicks – they were awesome, but if you just held your breath on the first stroke, I think that time could be even faster, but that was great.” So you are giving them some information while they are at their emotional peak. There is some science about it, but at their emotional peak as far as accepting that. Their informational input has to happen in a positive frame of mind, same thing in practice. We talked yesterday about talking to each kid twice at practice when you really gotta go to four times with 10 and unders and 12 and unders, you hit each kid four times with some kind of positive statement. It is hard enough teaching a senior group when they do not want to be there. You have heard other coaches say – “Go home.” I am a big fan of that. If they are not into a workout I will pull the kid out and say, “Let’s start again tomorrow – see you later.” I do this because that is going to disrupt your whole practice. So I think that you have to listen the swimmer after they swim or in practice. You really have to listen. It is a skill that is developed over time. One of my coaches is right up there – you gotta do this – you gotta do this – you gotta do this. I said, “Wendy – relax. You have to listen to them. You know they all are having trouble with flutter kick coming off the wall. They are going to give you some information if you give them a chance to talk to you during practice or during a meet.”
The ideal coaching day for me is if I could have all my coaches do this. I might have them go 8 and unders first for 45 minutes, and then the junior or senior group for a couple of hours, and then spend an hour and a half with the Masters group. That is probably an ideal training coaching day. I have actually had coaches do that. That shows the coach similarities between the three and also relationship. If they don’t really do a good job with those young ones, look what I have when they are older.
Teaching is proportionate to how much time you spend on the pool deck. We try to get our coaches to coach as much as possible. My wife is always on me about my expense line for my part-time employees – especially when I am hiring new staff. I go over what I am allowed, but since my contract really doesn’t involve that, I can go over the line on purpose because I am all about programming. I am all about teaching and building a better staff so I make sure that they are trained. If you can come five days a week when you are starting out, I will let you do it, knowing that after a month or so you are going to back off two or three days and fill in a regular slot in my timeframe. So we will overuse new staff. That is not the right word, but I really want them to get a lot of training – as much as they can – as fast as they can – a lot of input. I really don’t like teaching a staff member once a week. Sometimes we will ask them to come in – if I am going to pay them for two days and they say boy, I would like to come some more and I say, “Well I can’t pay you, but if you want to come in on a weekend to audit the group that is great.” They usually do, but I don’t ask them to do it. I have 34 people, so if I am training four staff, my budget is going to go up in numbers
In our coaching program the first requirement is passion and we will train all the rest. We will make the time to talk to you about teaching. I will take from any walk of life, if you want to do it, we will take you in. You have to be careful of the college kid coming out of college who wants to coach – especially if they swam in college. I talk to those guys and girls a lot about it first thing. Half of them want to do it for the money because they do not have any other experience and they think it is an easy way to make a few dollars and get a Y membership for nothing. That is included and I’ll say it to them right off the bat. Say I have a kid starting Monday and he comes in and I really get antsy with him. I don’t have a good feel for this. I don’t know if you have enough passion for it. I’ll tell him what we do. So I proceed to sell them my program. I spend 28 minutes, no more and no less. I time it with a stop watch – 28 minutes describing what we do and what I need from him or her. At the end of 28 minutes, if I do not see the sparkle in the eye – the conversation is over. Have a great day. I will call you. If the sparkle is there and they are on the edge of their seat we are going to go with him.
This kid the other day before I came out here was interviewing with me and the interview lasted about an hour. I did my spiel and he said, “I want to go – I want to do it.” But wait a minute, he is still a senior in college and his swim time is the same as the age group time. I said, “you know what? I have a morning practice and I have got Masters. Why don’t you come in and shadow for that. He just flipped out. He goes, “beautiful – I love it. What time in the morning.” He is a D3 swimmer so he is not swimming in the morning so he is going to come in to three master’s practices a week. After the season is over we are going to move him right into the age group coaching. It is purely that I see that passion in them. – I think I am good at identifying that. I can honestly say that I have not had a bad hire in the last ten years. Before that, believe me.
Our staff is made up of moms and dads and I said yesterday that when a mother or father works for me, I spend an inordinate amount of time explaining to them that they are no longer a mom or dad, that they are a staff member, a coach. You do the mom and dad outside the pool on the way home. I tell them it is a very good idea not to talk to your children about swimming outside the pool.
I did that with my son. I coached my daughter and my son and at 9 years old I had a post-it note on my bedroom door. It said “Dear Dad: I quit swimming. Love, Your son Shaun.” A Post-it note from my 9 year old on my bedroom door and I said to my wife at the time, “you have got to be kidding me. He was a good swimmer.” And she said, “No, he just doesn’t want to deal with you in that sport all the time.” My heart was killing me, so I said okay, hands off, do what you want to do. Two weeks later my wife came to me and said he really loves swimming. He wants to talk to you about it. He really wants to swim with the kids. So I said okay and I talked to him. We do our thing and he is in the little league and all that stuff. So my 9 year old son sat down with me and said, “Dad, I really want to swim, but we have got to do something about us.” I said, “What do you want to do?” And this is a 9 year old talking to me. He said, “Outside the pool, I do not want to talk swimming. Inside the pool you can be my coach, but we cannot talk swimming outside the pool.”
And we shook on it and I figured this is no problem. I got him back, he is swimming. A week later we were on the way home from practice and I started talking about the practice and he said, “I thought we had a deal.” I zipped up the mouth and kept going, but I said, “Okay, look, here’s the deal. We won’t talk swimming unless you bring it up, how is that?” “Okay,” he said, and we have done that. He is 24 now and we did that for the rest of his career. It was probably the hardest thing I ever had to do. Coming out of the meet – getting in the car – driving away – how did the Yankees do today? I am dying, you know? So I was talking about baseball or how’s school, but you know what? It showed me how to do it, so I tell moms and dads this story. I said, “That is how you have to handle it if you are going to coach for me.”
Post-college – the athletes – I just explained that to you. I have a lot of professionals – sports psychologists – chiropractor – doctors that coach for me. Our average age is 33. These people love to teach. The only thing they needed two years ago was guidance in how to get their own education so we had to and we are going to show you how we did that. Career coaching: I’ve got two full-time staff coaches and we are hiring another one and my goal is to have seven by 2011. Full-time benefits paid – soup to nuts jobs. And these are – I would call them entry level full-time coaching jobs so when they work with YNS they probably can get any small team head coach job in the country and do a very adequate job with it. That is one of my staffing goals is to make sure that they can do that. I worked for Radio Shack for a period of time as a manager trainee and they brought me down to Dallas-Ft. Worth. That is where the Tandy Corporation headquarters was. We sat in a meeting in a room like this. There were 700 or 800 of us and the director of training got up and said, “Of the 700 of us here now, in three years only 300 of you will be working for Radio Shack. Right now we are going to give you a training experience that you are going to be able to use in any business you work for throughout your whole life.” When I train my staff I know, especially the full-timers and the part-timers looking to go full-time, that 90% of them are going to move on and I want them to.
I had one of my best staff come to me and we had coffee at Starbucks –he is here today – and he tells me he is a passionate guy, that is, he is just driven. We are at Starbucks and it is like a big balloon locked in with a big pin and he pops my balloon and said, “I got a full-time job at Harvard coaching Masters and Assistant Women’s coach. I smiled. It killed me and said, “Oh great.” He said, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know whether to stay here.” So I am also a mentor so I have to listen to them and let them make decisions because they are adults. You can give your opinion, but you have to train your staff to understand that you know – sometimes they are better than where they are, so you want them to move on. I was very happy for Matt, but you know, when he walked out of Starbucks, I was ready to kill somebody, but I didn’t have enough caffeine at the time.
We require coaching certification. YMCA requires a lifeguard minimum. If I have a single coach on deck and they are not USA certified we have to have a lifeguard on deck. If they are US certified that covers that. Our Y does background checks as USA Swimming Certification does now. Valid driver’s license – it is a big deal – big deal. You have got to be able to get from point A to point B. You have got to be able to get to work. It is one of those things that as you go in your progression, you might be driving a team van. I used to take it for granted, until I had a coach who got so many speeding tickets they yanked her thing. She was a speed demon and she couldn’t drive the team van in Glens Falls when we had to go on a training trip. It blew my mind. We had to go to Plan B, so a valid driver’s license is pretty important for our program because we travel so much.
As I said yesterday, and I will repeat, after your first year of working with YNS, you have to have a Level 1 US certification. After your second year you have to have Level 2, the home course and after your third year you have to have Level 3 done – mandatory – you are not employed by me on your anniversary date if you don’t have it done. And as I said yesterday, I had two coaches send me a text when I got down here. The text was, “We passed our Level 1.” Their anniversary date was the next day and they were unemployed if they didn’t get the test complete. Sometimes we will work with them on that if they have a little bit of trouble, but it is one of the best things that I had done in my first two years there. Now we have people involved and know what they are doing. They are all ASCA members. We pay for everybody. You start working for me – three months into work you are an ASCA member. You start getting all the material. You start getting everything. Every coach who coaches high school should be a NISCA member. They have to have that stuff. They have to go to a clinic every 18 months; they have to attend a clinic like this. We have the Eastern States Clinic in New Jersey on the east coast. This year we are running a Greater Boston Clinic. They used to have a clinic that we took over and one of my sites is actually the home of the ASCA FINI Clinic, so you know that our coaches can get to that clinic pretty easily. We are bringing two of the top age group coaches in the country from Mission Viejo so that is awesome stuff. My coaches can’t wait to go to this clinic at the end of the month. They are psyched.
Going back to basics again, they have to show up early for work. You can’t walk on deck later than the kids and a lot of times if they come in 30 minutes early I will pay them for their time. I don’t welsh on them. If they have got to get out early, it is very seldom that I will let a coach come to practice. If you have to get out early on a regular basis we are going to try and change your training group to make it work, but you have to be there at the end with the kids because that is when the kids get out of practice. That is your decompression time with them and you can talk to them about great job today and everything else. They have to be there for the end of practice. The most important thing I think is – and this sounds harder than it is – our coaches are coaches and they are not the kid’s friends. As the kids get older coaches can play with kids. Games and drills and they have fun and laugh and we have little Halloween parties and stuff like that. But, we are professionals. You have to know your sport and they have to know the rules. That is where that Level 1 thing comes in. They have to know all the rules in and out of the sport.
My coaches follow sports on all levels, not just the Olympic Games. NCAA’s, we are in touch about different high schools’ swimming. That is another whole topic I can get into at a later time, but we are in touch with the whole scheme of swimming, not just our little pond. That is where the internet comes in. We give them the internet sites – floswimming.org. Does everybody see floswimming.org? You should be watching that every day. I mean – Garrett does a great job of getting workouts on there and everything else over the course of the year. He actually got to the Olympics. All my kids, I have 13 and 14 year old boys, watch the floswimming workouts. They came into me one day and they said, “did you see what Auburn did?” I said, “No.” They were chugging Gatorade and swimming 50 meter freestyles, and they kept chugging until they puked. I said, “You are kidding me right?” So I go up on the line and sure enough he is showing this video, and all the 13 and 14 boys thought that was the greatest thing in the world – when can we do that?
And then the senior boys saw it and they were in there too. They asked to do a Gatorade practice. They want to chug Gatorade and swim fast and I was sitting there saying, “No, we are not going to do that. We are not going to do that. I am not your friend. We are not going to do that.”
I think that you know probably my best advice to you guys before I ask for questions is that you have to love to come to work every day. You have bad days – believe me – you are going to have rough days, but you have to love to come to work. The second you don’t love to come to work – go to the tennis court or do something else. If you see a coach not paying attention in practice, bring him aside and say, “What’s up?” It might be an 8 and under coach who is getting a little dragged out by 8 and unders. They should go and do some Masters coaching to get decompressed. You want to decompress? Go coach Masters for a while. That is probably the most fun thing you are ever going to have. It is also very stressful because there is a high expectation level from the Masters, but they are the same as 10 year olds to me. Masters and 10 year olds – same – same – same – sorry guys – I still swim myself, so I kid around with them all the time. I think it is the same expectation level. Kids want to have fun – masters want to have fun.
They are there. Triathletes are another whole level, with different views. If you coach a tri person who is not a good swimmer, God bless you. We have about 70 of them and they are totally focused people. Type A is not the word. I won’t say the thing for another word, but they are just out there, but they are fun, they are a lot of fun.
Question: Do you have mandatory staff meetings and you are saying that you try to have them every 45 days. What type of environments do you have for your staff members to make those meetings?
A: It is mandatory and they better come up with – excuse my language – a damn good excuse not to make it. My assistant director sends out a thing saying when are you available? The question was how mandatory do I make staff meetings? And they are mandatory to the point where the staff gives us some ideas of dates they can make and we will make those dates up and set the date for them to make the meeting. And probably we might have one or two staff out of a group not make it. Maybe I am doing a senior staff meeting of 10 – so we will put the meeting where that is most functional for them. In the beginning I had a little problem with a few staff so what I do is pay them when they come to the meeting. They generally last an hour and a half. The one I had the other day lasted 2 ½ before I came here because we started talking about the suits. Coaches of 10 and under talking about LZR’s and what is wrong with that, you know? That is another whole discussion. I really talked to them. I am very blunt with my coaches. I back them to the hilt with the parents. I mean – I never, never, never don’t back up a coach with parents and that is huge. If your coach knows you are going to back them up all the way, you have great employees. You cannot agree with mom and dad and turn around and tell the coach they were incorrect. Now, if it is something really stupid you bring them all in a room together and I say we did something really stupid because I take responsibility with them because I am training them. I take total responsibility for the whole team. I get about 60 emails a day from parents – all my sites – all different levels – they have my cell phone number to call me about a question. Just like if we had a small team of 80 kids – mom and dad – call John. 600 kids – what’s the difference? In this technological age – email – text and I will get back to them within 4 hours. That is hard to do, but you have to do it. Parents are my best allies – I will say it again – parents are my best allies – most importantly – educate them. Sit down with the parent and look them right in the eye and tell them what your dream is – they are in no matter what they think of their 10 year old being Michael Phelps. They will get onboard with you so you have got to be honest with them and set them up right. Don’t let them get out of control – they will go nuts on you.
A. We have two fulltime staff members doing data base and HyTek and all that stuff. It is up online right away. Everything is done We go to the website. I am a stickler for after the meet results that they are up within 24 hours on the website. If you go to my website you will see that we have already transferred. When I first got there they had a website – you clicked on it – it said 2001 Champions – New England Champions. And it was 2006. I said to the parents at the first parents meeting – if we are not going to do a phone chain and a news letter – we better make the internet viable. I mean – we spend – we have a site that we manage ourselves so we get it set up so we spend – I spent a lot of money on it, but it is totally interactive. You can enter meets online – pull out meets online without making a phone call to my office so anywhere at my six training sites it is a phone call away, an email away, or a click away on a mouse when you want to let me know your child is going to swim a meet or not as we go through the season. It is not – I have – one of my staff members is a site coordinator at Ipswich – she runs the Ipswich site with three other coaches. During the day she is in the office with my assistant director who runs the site. Carol runs the dry side of the team, but we also have another part-time staffer that works three days a week and she helps out. Registration right now is crazy because I have 600 payment things going through and everything else and Carol – she was working this morning. I stick my foot in my mouth all the time with my assistant director because I am just an idiot. I asked, “How is it going?” You know? It is Saturday morning. She is at the Y working, and by the way she is salaried staff so there is no overtime. She said, “How do you think it is working, coach? You are in Vegas and I am here.”
Question: What are your expectations on your meet trips with your assistant coaches on deck?
A: I think it is mostly – there is one head coach – me. Everybody else is a team – it is a team thing so I really don’t – I had some staff interact – like my site coordinators interact with their staff and they set schedules. But they come back to me, and the actual performance of that schedule is up to the site coordinators. I am so interactive with them all the time – it is just a daily thing that there is no – I run it like a small club – I have got to be honest with you. You know – it is a lot of work for me, but I don’t really care. Like I am saying – any information – a parent wants or a coach wants is emailed right to me. A lot of times I will stick the parents over to Carol and she loves that.
Thanks guys very much – I appreciate it.