Hi, once again, it is great to be here and thank those that are responsible for inviting me. And I feel in some ways obligated when I am asked to talk at these clinics to do so and be open, simply because as Ira didn’t mention, over the many years I have had a great relationship with many of the coaches from the United States who have offered me great support and inspiration through many years: Nort Thornton, Don Gambrill and all the guys that are still coaching today, Bob Steele, Dennis Pursley whom I had the enjoyment of working with for a long time so, and I can’t name everybody, but there is just an enormous number of coaches in America, the United States and every time I look around, Richard and I just see people all the time who have offered me advice and support and inspiration so I feel obligated to come here and be open.
Basically, my talk today is based on skills made simple and I want to present some ideas and then talk them through and hopefully they will have a practical and applied sense to your coaching. I have to pay tribute to this book; it is called the Badmenton Library. It was written and published in 1892 and hopefully, I am going to show you that all of the things that we think were innovative with and creative today were done well before we even existed by a couple of guys called Archibald Sinclair and William Henry. If you ever get the chance to read that, it adds a lot of value as a coach and hopefully some of the overheads that I have picked out today will highlight that.
Why do we coach? And I think that changes somewhat over the years. It certainly changed for me. Why I like to go on deck and coach. I changed the policy in Great Britain to allow my love of being on deck and coaching to still be there even though I am doing a job that requires a lot of administration and organization. So, we have a policy that every one of our technical staff, which is me, four or five field coaches and the policy director who is a coach, that they have to spend 30 hours a week on deck with a coach and a program and that is very difficult because some of us have thirty or forty hours a week of paperwork. But in Britain I wanted to make sure that the paperwork and the bureaucratic part of the job took second place to the practical and applied stuff.
So I leave here on Monday, I go back to Great Britain for a meeting on the 10th. I arrive on the 9th and on the 11th I fly out to Australia and I spend in the next four weeks, on deck, ten hours a day. I coach a 200 meter group in the morning of girls who are 18 and under and then I coach a middle distance group and I do the same in the afternoon, plus my headman work.
But I think it is important that if you really have a passion and a true love for coaching and I believe that everybody who coaches has to have that. That great passion for working with young people and people who want to on a daily basis push the boundaries and get the absolute best out of themselves. So, the school with our program is 30 hours a week on deck for every field operative person in the organization and at least two weeks a year where they have to run the program for a coach in a club. They don’t do it in the center; they go out and do club coaching. They have to be on deck and coach so for instance X coach who is very supportive of the program says Bill, I am going on holidays for a week and I like that situation and I feel good about it and I feel I can contribute I will go and run that program for a week. I will actually coach for a week to make sure I haven’t lost touch with being able to do it and I expect all the staff to do the same and it certainly keeps me on my toes. And it certainly keeps those people on their toes. So hopefully why we coach is to motivate and enthuse young people to get the absolute best out of themselves in a specified field of endeavor.
Earlier in my coaching, you know you enjoyed the accolades and the publicity and the rah rah and the ego part of it, I am not saying you don’t enjoy that later on, but I think for me in the last eight or nine years the enjoyment is of being on deck. It is always you have what you don’t want, and for me there is not a morning that I do not wake up at 4 o’clock and think, wouldn’t it be great to be on deck somewhere. So, I really love being on deck, especially early mornings with young athletes.
So these are the things, and I have bastardized these, for want of a better word, these are the ten common things about Olympic champions. But I don’t think you have to have a champion athlete to be a champion coach. I think you can be a champion coach without having a champion athlete because if you are a champion coach and you work like a champion those results will come. It is only a matter of time so ten common things about Olympic championships. It was researched and what the researchers found is that every Olympic champion had a good coach. Remember yesterday I said the qualities of the coach have to be far advanced, the experience of the coach of the athlete. I might add that the national body must be far in advance of the coach. It is no good if the coach is in advance of the national office. The national office has to be in advance of the coach and understand and appreciate and have empathy for the drive and the enthusiasm that is going to take place. Otherwise the coach is dragging and it is the same for the club level. It is no good having a club administration where the coach is in advance of that administration. You have to move that administration up and you have all been there. You all know that when you are hired you are fired – it is just the time differential that comes into question.
A development plan: A short, medium and long-term. A development plan that is goal orientated, goal focused and most importantly goal driven rather than coach driven. So you want it to be goal driven. You want people to buy into the fact of what the goals are. Ability to focus on the goals and they are moving targets at all times. You can never have a stationary target in this field of endeavor in swimming, nor sport I guess because it is going to move. The standards set at one meet will be different at the next meet and you have to accept that you have to go to the highest level.
Development and maintenance of a healthy body, and illness and injury prevention. For instance we in British swimming accept that the beds at the Olympic village next year will not be of the higher quality or high enough standard so we have all our athletes today that have chances of making the Olympic team with good quality air mattresses and little generators and they sleep on this 365 days a year. So whether at camp, at competition, in the home they have a standard of rest and recovery that will be the same no matter what. So I think those sorts of little things are very important.
Medical screening and fitness screening, checking alignments, making sure your athlete is not going to get injured at the wrong time or ill at the wrong time. Trying to log each year when their periods of sickness are, knowing that just before, just as you change from the work load into taper there is always an area of concern for sickness. Right at the very back end of a meet if it is a six or seven day meet as you come out of it the immune system is down so that you have to take the protection mechanisms to make sure your athlete doesn’t get ill. An understanding of external and internal pressures, understand that what is going to be placed on them at the toughest meet that they are going to face. For me, I have a set of standards in Great Britain and I have a set of standards that I know are going to exist at the Olympic Games. The closer that I can move those two standards together and have athletes and coaches experience that often and frequent is going to be a determining factor in what we can achieve at that major meet each year and that is the same. It’s the same if you have a club situation. You have to train the athlete to be ready to have and handle whatever the conditions are at the national championships or your regional championships or whatever it may be. No good training down here to compete up there. You have to train up there to compete down here and that is a very important philosophy I think. For me it is anyway.
Ability to do the work under all conditions, but great athletes and great coaches do the work no matter what the conditions are. So, you have to win on your worst day. You have to be able to go out on your worst possible day: mother got run over by a bus, the pet canary died, the coach doesn’t love you and the boyfriend has just found another girlfriend or vice versa. You have to swim your best time on that day. You didn’t sleep all night. The fire alarms went off, whatever it is you have to do it, no matter what. But it has to apply to training on a daily basis. The motivation isn’t about being excited before the meet, it is what you do every day in preparation for that major assault, an understanding of how to rehearse control strategies on competition days.
I always ask athletes, how many times have you simulated or raced your heat swim at training? If you go into a major meet surely you had to have swum your heat time 10-15-20 times at training in the last six months. If you haven’t, you haven’t rehearsed in the morning for what is going to happen at the major meet so I think that is important.
An understanding of luck. Now luck is something that always happens to someone else, right? So you have to understand that the weather, the food, competitions, competitors, worst case days, but best performance. You have to create it. You have to make it happen. You can’t just let it happen. If you make it happen in training you can let it happen in competition. If you let it happen in training you have to make it happen in competition, not a good philosophy. So, periods of time the training environment has to replicate the level at which you wish to compete or higher. At least on a once a week basis and you create that by the intensity of your attitude and how you prepare athletes. How much you make them do it in the top conditions and they have to be ready to accept that and you ought not, you have heard and watched strategies I am sure.
You walk into the pool and you write up the workout on the board, put all the details in it, they all read it. You do the same, whatever you have gotten written down; the first 200 easy or 200 with X pace and you have them do that and then you immediately call a completely different workout. And they are all looking at you, looking at the workout board and they say “what did you put it up there for coach?” Why, I just wanted to see what that workout looked like. And I didn’t like it so we are doing something different. They have to be ready for that or half way through the workout you move off and do something. Or you put warm-up and you just put 50s and they will say how many and you say well how ever many it takes. Some it will take 10, some it will take 20, some it will take 40 because if you don’t everybody comes down to the lowest common denominator.
You write your workout for the weakest person or the least prepared person in your squad instead of setting it for the best prepared person in your squad. So swim downs, just put 50s or 100s. How many? However many it takes. For some you get done by four or five, others who are not diligent who don’t want to do it and have a bad attitude it might take 30 or 40, 50, 60, whatever it takes. So I think you have to be varied in your approach and you have to understand that they have to be able to do it in adverse condition.
Ability to remain positive at all times. Great athletes surround themselves with positive people. The podium never recognizes poor work ethics, negative attitudes or poor technique. You never see those three things on an Olympic podium or a world championship podium. You never see bad attitudes. You never see poor work ethic or unprepared athletes and you never see poor skills or techniques. So, the ability to remain positive. The ability to never give up. Find the answer to the solution, every problem, have a plan B and a plan C. Your race profile plan at the 150; if it doesn’t work out you, you better have another strategy in your repertoire. So I think they are important skills.
The mental and physical conditions champions describe at the time of their extra-ordinary performances – mentally relaxed, right? Too many times you will see athletes sitting in the stands focusing on their event and they are all hyped up and they have swum the race ten times before they get to the blocks – it’s a thud. Bad result. Sit in the stands in the martial ling area and the core room and think about all the positive things in their life. All the things that are enjoyable. All of the things that they have done well. A feeling that gives them confidence that builds them up, that makes them feel good and I think that any of you that have been to the international competitions we have a routine with one of our guys on deck who do a lot of exercise and little competitions and we have inter-squad games on deck in the warm-up period that takes the athletes mind, keeps them aggressive. Keeps them fired up, but doesn’t focus them on the race. They have focused on that for 12 months, or 18 months or two years. That is going to happen. It is important to get mentally relaxed. Physically calm. They are not doing off the wall jumps or arm swings or they are physically calm, but warmed up. They’re confident and optimistic. Confidence only comes about by overcoming previous obstacles.
So a good way of psyching a swimmer up is to think of all the times that they have got up when they couldn’t, but they have stood up and done it under the adverse conditions. Focus on the present. They are only focused on what is happening now. Things that they can control and look after now. Highly energized. Feeling in that really highly energized state. Feeling good and make sure that they have done all the things in the last few days that makes them feel good.
Ate their favorite foods, had plenty of rest but not too much. Watch their favorite TV show. If a female, had her nails done and a hairdo. I bought a new pair of shoes. And if it is a male had a massage. Whatever. They have extra-ordinary awareness, absolutely aware of everything around them. They say the most alive person in the world is the person that is going to be hanged in the hour that their life appears before them. I am sure no one here wants to go through that door set, but would appreciate extra-ordinary awareness. But racing car drivers are the people that have that. If you get anyone who has driven Formula I or high speed racing cars – they are very, very good in that. To Hell and Back by Niki Lauder is a great book if you want to be aware of that but they are in control. They feel that they are totally in control then they are relaxed, confident, and physically calm and they are in the cocoon, that no one can touch them. That nothing can change the way they are in their state of preparedness.
Characteristics of the successful swimmer: they can accept criticism and praise in equal amounts. Remember you never ever criticize an athlete, you criticize the skill or the action and you always praise the athlete, as well as the skill and the action. Very important coaching tool. Never criticize the coach, all swimmers and parents do that, we should send that one out to the parents! But as a coach you never criticize the athlete, you criticize the actions of the athlete, and you always praise the athlete, so it is always a good combination.
Responsible for their own performance: They search for improvement. They take initiative. They are a self starter and they are extremely self-disciplined because you do not have to impose discipline on them. Because they want success more than you do, and every great athlete that I have ever been associated with always, always wanted success for themselves more than I wanted success for them.
Team orientation: They fit in and become part of a team, but they stay individually focused. They see what they want and they are individually focused and obsessive and desperate about achieving the result that they feel is going to give them the reward to say I got and gave my best, whether it is a state swimming championship, the club championship or an Olympic gold medal.
Good player: Quality skills, great tactics that they can swim the race any way they want – I still get the same result. Go out fast, come home easy. Go out easy, come home fast. Swim the middle – whatever it is they can do it all ways. Great technique and technique is so important. Technique, technique, technique, but it has to be engrained at the ground roots level.
Mental toughness: They manage distractions. They can take things that go wrong in their stride. They get up on the day of their Olympic final and there is no hot water, well, to hell with it, I will have a cold shower, alright? They can manage distractions. Have great concentration but they don’t over-prepare.
Attitude: of course attitude in my opinion is the #1 builder of confidence. I don’t think anyone has won anything without attitude, but it has to be the right attitude. To me, attitude is what makes the difference.
Determination, work ethic, physically able which is why I rate that 7th, but as coaches, we usually write that #1. I think if you don’t have the other things then the physically able part doesn’t count. If you don’t have 1-6 then #7 counts for naught. You have to have all the others because 7 by itself won’t make it. You have to have endurance, speed, strength, back-end and great skills, but I put it in #7 place.
Coaching characteristics and this is what we got to talk about. Requiring quality. Stand for it. Whatever you want, get it. Whatever Bill wants, Bill gets. Alright, whether it is from the athletes, the administrators, whatever. What I want I get. Very selfish, but that is what I think it takes to be successful. So, stand for it and know it, right? Ask yourself as coaches how many parents come down on deck at a meet and say, coach, I want to thank you for what you have done for my swimmer. It wasn’t his best performance, but I know you gave it everything and I appreciate everything you have done. In other words they congratulate you and thank you when the swimmer has done a bad performance. That is when you know you have got a good parent and a good support team. Right? So that is very important.
Work ethic: Set the example. Be on time. Never leave the workout early. Never come late. Spend an extra five minutes with an athlete, a different athlete each day. Be well prepared, right? Never come in without a workout having done. Never come in with anything left to chance. Be flexible. Open them to new ideas. Be approachable, alright? Except if it is a parent.
If it is a parent your approachable on Mondays. For me as an on deck coach, parents can ring me on Mondays, but chances are I will have rung every parent in my squad on Monday, but if you ring or contact me after that, then I can decide whether to accept your call or not. But if I do, I am going to put a tic beside your name and at the end of the month how ever many tics there are beside your name I am going to multiply that by 10 pounds and add it to your coaching fees. If you don’t think that is fair, ring your electrician, ring your plumber, ring your doctor, alright? Add a 100 pounds beside your name if you want to ring your lawyer, alright? But it is a fact; we are the only profession that get taken for granted. We do things for free all the time and, therefore, little Freddie doesn’t listen at the workout and mom rings you at 10 o’clock at night to find out what time workouts are tomorrow morning.
Audible ready – make sure you listen. You must be consistent, alright? You must be consistent, but you mustn’t be predictable. Consistency is being fair all the time, but it is not about being boring, alright? And as I said, swimmers read coaches way better than coaches read swimmers. Praise, redirect and reprimand. You have to do all three, but you obviously offer the ten times if you praise an athlete, you may reprimand them once, alright? So make sure that the praise is always in advance of the reprimand. Be honest, clear and straightforward in your inter-actions.
This is Bill’s alright? No textbook stuff, this is Bill’s five rules of biomechanics, alright? If I look at a swimmer this is how I evaluate the swimmer: if the head is up, chances are the hips are down. Whatever technique it is, therefore, you have maximum resistance. When the head is up the hips are down, alright maximum resistance. You want the opposite. You want head down, hips up and the majority of the time minimize resistance.
Hips before hands. No matter what you do in swimming, if it is freestyle the hips rotate before the hands apply force. Backstroke – the same thing. If it is breaststroke hips have to be in position before the kick can be undertaken. If it is butterfly hips in position before the arms. The hips are always in position before the application of force of the hands. I don’t like to see the force of the hand being used to dictate the position of the hips. I like the hip to be in position before the hands apply force so the force is directed forward or in a positive motion rather than a positional motion of putting the hips in place.
Pick up what you can’t feel. It is no good trying to swim if the swimmer hasn’t learned feel of the water and doesn’t understand the feel.
The most important. Always slow to fast. Slow to fast means you have to teach something slow and efficiency before you can teach it fast. You can add speed to efficiency, but can never ever, ever add efficiency to speed. Alright, you have to have efficient first and then you get speed. You don’t have speed and then become efficient so you have to learn things slow before you can become fast. But most importantly, it also applies to slow, fast, slow, fast, slow, fast. Everything you do in technique is slow to fast no matter what stroke. Everything goes slow to fast.
Hips I position slow to fast and everything you do has to be fingers first. Fingers first, backstroke, fingers first. If you try and pull, fingers first so okay? There you have it, alright? My basic very simple, don’t need to go into all the signs, don’t need to get technical, those five rules.
I try and breathe into every swimmer I coach that they are the five basic rules of core skills and core biomechanics because every great swimmer that I have ever had anything to do with had all those. I always claim that I taught them, but most of them developed them through good practice in early developing years by a quality learn-to-swim teacher or a junior coach.
So in business and I have a massive swim school still in Australia in Melbourne, the first person I look at is the person who is going to be the Junior coach. They determine my success or failure at the end of the line. I don’t determine it. I can add #7, as we saw before, the physical part of it, but the attitude, the desire, the will intent, the enthusiasm, the core skills are developed before they get to me so the best person in your business will be either the front receptionist who takes the money alright? And the junior coach who develops the athlete. Okay?
A coach, the track and field coach said this to me at the turn of the century – what? – 2000. The only true invention in this last century has been that of plastic. I thought about it for a long time, true, the only true invention in the last century was plastic. Everything else, everything else, right?
We do Pilate’s today and we try and get fancy and we have Swiss balls. Now surely someone is going to come up with a square one just to be different, alright? And it will sell well, but I know some of you younger people in the audience won’t relate to this but some of us more ancient people will. I don’t know whether you can read it.
Children of the 50’s and 80’s according to today’s regulators and bureaucrats, those of us who were kids in the 50’s to 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s probably shouldn’t have survived. Now, baby cups were covered with brightly colored lead based paint which was probably chewed and licked. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles or latches on door or cabinets and it was fine to play with the pans. When we rode our bikes we wore no helmets, just flip flaps and fluorescent clackers on our wheels. As children we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags, riding in the passenger seat was a treat. We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. It tasted exactly the same. We ate dripping sandwiches, bread by the pudding and drank soft drinks with loads of sugar in it, but we were never over-weight because we were always outside playing. We shared one drink with four friends from the same bottle or can and no one actually died from this.
We would spend hours building go carts out of scraps and then went top speed down the hill only to find out we forgot they needed brakes. After running into stinging nettles a few times we learned to solve the problem. We would leave home in the morning and play all day as long as we were back before it got dark. No one was able to reach us all day and no one minded. We did not have play stations or X-boxes, no video games at all. No 99 channels on TV, no videotape movies, no surround sound, no mobile phones, no personal computers, and no international chat rooms. We had friends. We went outside and found them. We played elastics and street rounders and sometimes the ball really hurt. We fell out of trees, got cut and broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits. They were accidents. We learned not to do the same thing again. We had fights, punched each other hard, got black and blue; we learned to get over it. We walked and talked again as friends at their homes. We made up games with sticks and tennis balls, ate live stuff and though we were told it would happen, we did not have very many eyes out, nor did the live stuff live inside us forever. We rode bikes in packs of seven and wore our coats with the hood only.
Our actions were our own, consequences were expected. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law; imagine that! The gentlemen has reproduced some of the risk takers and problem solvers and inventors ever. The past fifty years have been an explosion of innovations and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility and we learned how to deal with it all and you are one of them, Congratulations!
Alright, I think, as I said we do Pilates today and we do all the fancy exercises, but some of you here will remember the big chain swing that had four feet in a triangular fashion in the ground that were not cemented in and if you got up enough speed you could actually lift two of those out of the ground. And the seat was about this thick and timber and as you slid you usually got a couple of splinters in the butt. And it was hard to get moving and no one wanted to push you so you actually had to use all your core strength to get the swing up and going. We did exactly the same thing, but we just did it a different way.
So I was upset in the office one day and getting irritated with coaches who wouldn’t do things and wouldn’t adhere to policies and things I wanted done. And an old Shelia in the office came out and said, Bill you better read this and that is what it was. So all the innovative and creativeness that I thought I was doing I wasn’t. So in 1893 this book was written. I am going to take you quickly through some slides and explain.
In the 1600s they learned to get across rivers by floating, running and jumping in and floating in a very good position and they learned to do it upstream and they learned to feel. You can see the line of currents. That if you jumped in at a certain place you would get back to the edge at the right place. They learned to scull and we all thought sculling was new about 10 years ago or 15 years ago, but they all learned to scull and they created a whirlpool and vortex of waters, right? And went around in circles. Skills that we think we are being really creative with today.
And if you all put your heads on the side like this, alright, can you turn that one around? That was really good that they could do that, but they learned to do some core strength and some swimming skills, basic as they might be that helped them. And some of these skills we teach today and think we are being innovative and creative, but these skills are important. I know any of you old enough to have read Kiputh, you know that all of these things existed with him as well and the imitation of the torpedo.
I sent it to Ian and said, hell, you thought you were the first cab off the rack, and all we had to do was put a page in there and there was a torpedo.
But you see the sculling at the back and learning to control body position in the water. We don’t teach that today in our learn to swim lessons. We are too fast to move on to the next step. No one wants to take the time to teach those things. And to move that one down a bit, you can see that that girl is actually getting a breath and we have all done it, talent identification. Put the swimmer in the water, hands by their side. If the water comes to that level on her you immediately recommend baseball, tennis, golf, alright? If the water comes to here you got a chance. If the water is just under the armpits you recruit them immediately into the squad and give them a scholarship. And so the same skills pretty much apply today and are probably applied a little better today than they were then.
And the old scull, behind the head, sculling behind the head that we introduced some 15 years ago as a new innovation, alright? Obviously someone read the book somewhere and kept it a secret and come up with this new skill. Alright, floating after plunging of course. I don’t know whether the stick is giving them a target or ready to belt them if they don’t make it, it depends on your attitudes of the 80’s and 90’s I guess, but push and glide, basically streamlining.
Once again some core skills in the water, learning to summersault, learning to do the core exercise that most of your children do not learn and the parents are not willing to pay for to learn how to do in a basic learn-to-swim session. And fins, of course you knew. Alright? That was the 1890 version of the paddle. They even had the nice little claws on the end. I guess that was help with crowded lanes. You sort of didn’t have a problem with someone in front of you or behind you by getting in your road. I have thought about that one but of course, a couple of new innovations on that. Someone will come up with that in the next couple of years. And it will be good for breaststroke or butterfly or that will be a specialized piece of equipment. I am sure one of the people in the halls out there could have a look at that and next year we might see one on display.
This one is pretty appealing, nice white belt around the middle, some opening and closing fins on the feet, it was obviously for a breaststroke swimmer but that one has a lot of appeal to me as well. I don’t know what the half paddle was, but someone will come up with it. This is one obviously for breaststroke, obviously a tight fit by the looks of the rolls of the fat on the tub there, probably helped with cutting off the blood circulation as well. Just to put a bit of a pain factor in there. But obviously it is at the bottom of the leg where if you lift up they shut and if you push down they open up and give you a bit more power.
That one? Can anyone figure out what that one is? I couldn’t work out whether it was a dummy and someone spat it or it was one of those East German suggestions of having an anus air sac. So I couldn’t work out what that one was, alright? To help flotation so take your pick and here is the whole outfit. The mask though you can’t breathe, the shoulder pads so you can’t really get too much rotation, but really good hand paddles so you can really have to work against a great amount of force on both your arms and legs so it is a resistance device.
A foot paddle that opens and shuts. They are probably used for breaststroke, but certainly doing something that was ahead of the time in terms of what we have. There is the other version of it with it shown with a shoe, just to make it a little more difficult. And the standard old paddle as we have it today, but not in such a refined manner, but this was 1892 we are talking about where someone was so far advanced the way.
I would hope that there is someone in swimming today that in 2100 they are going to be looking back saying, can you believe someone had this invention way back then in 200 year’s time or 150 year’s time. We are going to be doing something today that someone is going to rediscover in 150 years time and I think that would be great if we had that. But someone out there, someone is going to be innovative and creative enough, right.
Now there is a pretty decent one, strapped to the leg, a funnel that opens and shuts as you kick back, probably you would think about that rolling over and doing a breaststroke. A couple of different types of paddles and we see those versions here today, right? They are not too much different than someone coming up with one of those new fangled paddles today that you can pay 50 quid for or 50 bucks for to get a new form of paddle.
A swim bench. A swim bench was around then and it was one that you could put in the water or you could put on land. It was both, one that you could; there is a diagram of it in the water as well as on land. This is a little more complicated, but it was the basic swim bench and of course towing machines, alright? We all thought towing machines were new, but here obviously not. So, a towing machine has been around for some 150 years and we are inventing it today. Are you done with them? Ok, that’s the slides.
I think the important thing is that how we relate those skills today and how do we use the equipment that we have got to produce better athletes and what the most important and creative things that we have as a coach. What do we have as a coach that makes us better than our predecessors? They had the equipment. They had all the jargon that we have, all the tools and the toys that we have today, but why weren’t they swimming as fast? They set higher standards. We set higher standards. We demand people meet those standards and we reward people who do that, via the coach or a swimmer.
So, in my opinion, that is how we coach better today. We set standards. We don’t compromise the standards. We sell and sell and sell and then we reward people who meet those standards because the next generation takes them another level up. We don’t do it because we get better toys or better tools. We may do some of that, but we shouldn’t rely on it so, what makes a great coach? Don’t get excited at the start of this because it is okay at the end. If you have heard it before, I apologize, but I am going to repeat it.
There were two gay ants. One was called In and one was called Out and they decided that they could not stay in the colony of ants because they were ostracized. So they both said we are going to go out and live in a little community by ourselves and we are going to build a fortified home where no one can get into and no one can touch us, not like their colony that mightn’t like us or any one else. So In and Out went out and build this little home at the base of a tree and they said, well one of has got to clean house and the other one has got to forage for food. So on the first day after they built the house In said I will go out and Out, you stay in. So In went out and Out stayed in and In foraged and Out cleaned house. In came home and knocked on the door and said “Out, its In, can I come in?” and Out said “Hold on In I am just finishing up and I will come and let you in.” The next day Out went out and In stayed In, right? In cleaned house and Out foraged for food. Out had a special knock. The knock came. Out sang out “In its me, Out. Let me in.” In said, “hold on Out and I will come to the door and let you in.” This went on day after day. In would stay in and Out would go out. Out would come home and knock on the door and sing out, “In its Out, can I come in.” In would say “yep, I will open the door and you can come in.” Anyway, finally after years of this routine Out went out and In stayed in. Out foraged and In cleaned. Out came home and knocked on the door; no answer. He walks around, stood on the roof, knocked on the windows saying “In, its Out can you let me in.
Think about what your greatest coaching skills are and ask yourself how Out knew that In had died. Anyone got an answer? Instinct. So I want you to remember that one so instinct is your greatest attribute in coaching and you only get that while living it every day and experiencing it and living the experiences of your athletes. If I can give you any advice at all or anything that I can take and give to you is that remember every athlete is an experience of one.
What applies in general terms to the group in these teams, you have to individualize and you have to use instincts because there is never the same answer to any given problem for any given athlete, And you can use all the tools and all the toys and none of them will make up for quality coaching at club place where you give totally to an athlete and you accept that you are accountable and responsible for that athlete and how they perform and you live it, feel it and read with every athlete every day and you passionately give totally to the athletes who give totally. You give the priorities to those athletes that give the most.
Don’t be persuaded. Of all the things that I regret in my coaching the one thing I regret most is compromise and you have heard me talk on it. You have a group of athletes and you have little Freddy who only comes four sessions a week. He is 13 or 14 and the school swimming championship is coming up and Dad says Bill will you spend some extra time with Freddy and help him with his stroke? And because you want, you have a passion to want to help you say yes. The next time say no. Say no. When Freddy comes to all the sessions every week, whether it’s 6, or 7, or 8, then I will be happy to help, but until he does that, I can’t help because I am giving more than he is. And whenever the coach gives more than the athlete does, you have a recipe for failure.
So, when you are handling parents, coaches, if you are a young coach, use your instinct, set your standards high, don’t compromise, live the athletes being every day. Live it and feel it and go with the flow, but your instinct will be better than any sports science you have ever used, any tool that you have ever used. And remember history is a mirror to the future and you will take with you lessons along the way and those lessons as I said are confidence that you know and read and do a better job than any other coach. And if you don’t believe that I don’t think you can be successful. You have to believe what you do is better than what anyone else does. So the supreme confidence in what you do.
Guys, I am going to leave it open for questions. Art: Johnny is not here? Oh there he is – sir? Okay? Anything else. Someone in the back – did you have a question? Celebration of a victory is a right of passage and is something that belongs to the athlete and coach at any time it happens because victory in any form is the best way of developing confidence and greater confidence for the bigger and higher challenges. So victory in itself is a celebration of life itself and that has not changed. The rite of passage since life begun and it should be done. It should be done immediately or time after.
For me as a coach whenever I have a great performance from an athlete is the time I am really critical of them. I challenge them. This wasn’t good enough; you can do better and really get into them about how we can make it better. When an athlete has a bad performance I want to be there, pat him on the back and say look, the sun comes up tomorrow, it wasn’t what we wanted, it wasn’t what you are capable of, we can make changes. Tell me what you think the changes are. come back to them later and tell them what you think the changes are.
Let them tell you first because they will go with their emotions immediately. As soon as an athlete finishes a race be there and say what went wrong. How did you feel? Could you have turned better? Could you have started better? Let them talk to you because emotionally they will come out and tell you. Two hours later it was the coach’s fault. He doesn’t look after me. He doesn’t care. Mom didn’t make me the right breakfast this morning. It will be everybody else’s fault but theirs.
In victory you can celebrate it then, the next day or two days later, alright? But victory is a celebration that should be experienced to develop confidence and greater confidence for the next and bigger challenge. Alright? And it can be celebrated any time. It is the rite of passage for everybody that has it. Everyday.
No I don’t like visualization. I think that is for hopers and I don’t like visualization. I like reality. I like stop the practice: Richard here, hop up on deck. You have got to swim a time trial within 3% of your best. Everybody stop and let’s watch him. If he doesn’t do it we are going to go a 1K swim for time. If he does do it, we are all going to hop out ten minutes early. Drive the swimmers.
Try this one. The next time you are driving to a meet. Pick out the swimmer who really suffers pressure, in other words, times well but doesn’t perform great. Stop outside McDonalds. Hey Richard, run in and buy yourself a big Mac. Everybody is wondering. He goes in, comes out and buys this big Mac and I said now eat half of it. And you have got to stop at half. The bus is double parked in the middle of the street alright? So there is a bit more pressure there. He eats half and I say stop. Now Richard, I want you to go back in and convince the person who sold you that there was something wrong with it and they have to give you a new one, alright? And if he comes with a new hamburger, but don’t let him have any more money, right? Then all the team gets ice cream. That is a way of teaching an athlete who doesn’t handle pressure to handle pressure. But it is totally unrelated to swimming, totally unrelated to their swimming performance and there are many ways you can do that. That’s what I like. That makes mentally tough athletes.
Steve: I can usually mess politically charged questions up, but go ahead. No, I wouldn’t last. Let me tell you the reason that I took the position as National Youth Coach in Australian swimming. I will take you back in 1983, I fell out of a box in West Germany and my left leg was torn off except for a little shred of flesh like that. The bone was stuck in the ground. I had to lay down and had to pull the bone out of the ground and my foot and leg were hanging off against my hand and I went in the hospital. And I was in the hospital in Germany for 13 weeks. Don Talbott who was the head of the Sports Institute had taken a job back in Canada, but before he left he paid for, from the Sports Commission Funds, and organized a doctor to come over and bring me home in two first class seats in Quantis. I owed, I owed big time. I honored that debt to Don by taking the National Youth Coach of Australian Swimming to support him in his drive to make Australia what they wanted to be in the 2000 Olympics. I owed and I paid and I enjoyed it. Okay? So that is why I did that.
I think that the challenge is America is far different than the challenge of Australia and Great Britain because you have such a huge massive country and you have so many clubs. That is a hell of a job for someone, I am not sure if one person could do that job in America, the United States. Hm? I owe a lot of debts, but I ain’t gonna pay them.
It’s like the old story of Boris the Russian and Abraham the Jew. And one night laying in bed poor old Boris couldn’t sleep. He rolled and he tossed and he was up and down and finally his wife said to him, “Boris, what is the matter.” He said, “well I owe my neighbor Abraham, the Jew, 20,000 rubles.” His wife said, “is that worrying you so much that you can’t sleep?” He said “yes” and she said “hold on” and went to the window, opened the window and sang out, Abraham was in the field working, “Abraham, my husband Boris owes you 20,000 rubles and he will never, ever pay.” She said, “Now you can sleep and Abraham will lay awake at night.” Thanks guys.