David Marsh, Head Coach Auburn University Men and Women. Commitment, pride, passion and winning are the ingredients upon which head coach David Marsh thrives in pursuing success. His men’s teams have garnered four NCAA titles and his women’s teams three. In 2003 he became the first coach in history to win both the men’s and women’s titles in the same season, and then did it again in 2004! Since becoming the head coach of his alma mater in 1990, the women’s and men’s teams at Auburn have been successful in both the pool and the classroom. Marsh took a diminished program and revitalized it with confidence, support, character and success. During his reign at Auburn, Marsh’s swimmers have earned hundreds of All-American honors and scores of individual NCAA and SEC titles. Internationally, his swimmers have won medals in the Pan-American Games, Pan-Pacific Games, World Championships and the Olympic Games. Marsh himself was a world-ranked swimmer and five-time All-American backstroker.
I think as tradition would have it, I have seen at least two coaches that I swam under who had a profound impact on me. I want to thank them here. Jim Montrella who is now coaching with Mission Viejo probably put legs on the sport for me when I went to Indian River Community College and swam for him. He also showed me the extremes. I have a recorded workout, is Jim in here yet? I have a recorded workout in my log book that is six 800’s butterfly with hand paddles and do you remember the donut thing? The donut thing that absorbed water? It would sink your legs down with the donut on. So with hand paddles and a donut, so he showed me what is possible? So, it is no wonder that freshman year, when I was at Indian River, I swam the 500 free, the 400IM and the 1650 as my main events. By the time I got to Auburn, I was in the 100 backstroke and if there had been a 50 that would have been my event too. I had had enough. And Richard Quick, who I swam for at Auburn, he has really in many ways been my mentor. I really appreciate the opportunity to share the experience of coaching with him all the way through.
Also, I understand these presentations are recorded and this morning is my 11th wedding anniversary. So as you can imagine, being a swim coach, my wife deserves all that applause and then some. And because it is being recorded, I will say on the tape, “I love you Kristin.” And she will get the tape some day. The least I can do since I stole her away from coaching because I met her on the pool deck at an AA meet in Irvine, California.
Also, during the course of the weekend, you get in this reflective mode and I am just so inspired by hearing Nort talk and just all the things he still is bringing to this sport. Jon Urbanchek, you know, you still, where is Jon, Jon you still, I was amazed just watching you work with the Olympic group and the group that you had over there. You had all the extremes, especially in personalities in your group. You are just an amazing coach, the way you handle things. Then I thought the way Frank Busch is just steady as a rock through the process of being the Olympic coach and just in his coaching. You are going to hear him next. I think you will enjoy his presentation as well, but the Olympics you know, the thing about the Olympics is it is an emotional experience.
You know, we had Eric Shanteau drop three seconds in his 200IM at the trials. He dropped five seconds in the 400IM in the trials. He took two 3rd place finishes. Ryan Wochomurka, just you know, dropped time in the 100 freestyle. He dropped I think .5 in the 50 freestyle, but these guys were devastated. They were so disappointed because they missed what their goal was and I find it quite incredible. Mary Christensen, she took 3rd place in the 100 butterfly, coming from, probably but I am not sure she has ever made finals in a long course 100 fly and then, Demerae Christianson who dropped 4 seconds in the 200 backstroke to make finals at the Olympic trials. Now, they are ignited by this experience. So I have this going on here, alright?
I think the emotions just converge at the Olympics and that is probably the biggest challenge right now. People are saying well, what is going on this year. That is the biggest thing. It’s trying to get, you know, the thing is going like this right now so I say, “Okay guys, lets calm it all down and get refocused on what the next objective is.” But we kind of got it coming from all ends right now.
Courtney Hobb, who you haven’t heard of yet and hopefully you will some day, came on the pool deck the night before I was leaving to come to this talk. She walked on the pool deck with her little sister who looked to be about five years old. This girl, a 10 year old, and her mother, you know, they had that look when they walked on the pool deck like I don’t even know what I am doing here. I said, “Can I help you?” She said, “Well, I came to try out for the swim team.” I said, “Well that’s great.” So I was just kind of quizzing her as to what brought her there and I asked, “What made you decide to come and try out for swimming?” And she said, “Well, I watched the Olympics and you know, we are from the Baltimore area and you know we saw Michael Phelps do that, it is just, it was an amazing event.”
At the time it happened, Kirsty Coventry was getting out of practice and coming by. I said, “Kirsty come here then Kirsten, this is Courtney Hobbs, she is trying out for swimming.” It was a pretty amazing moment. The mother just starts bawling. I mean she just wells up and starts crying and she says, “You are the reason we are here, we watched your 200 backstroke, we want to be like you!” And she doesn’t even know Kirsty Coventry. If you know, Kirsty Coventry, you want your daughter to be like Kirsty Coventry. It was just one of those moments where of course I am welling up going, “Woooo,” but that is the emotion of the Olympics isn’t it?
It’s not just coaching the Olympic trial people and the Olympic team people, it’s also the stuff we kind of forget, the people who know nothing about our sport and in some cases fell in love with our sport. People who may be dabbling in swimming are ready to take the next step. It is an exciting time right now and it is a time that we should all take advantage of.
When I talked to John Leonard and he asked me to speak here at this convention, he asked, “What do you think the coaches would like to hear?” Since I wanted to give you guys some information, he said, “Well, what works in Auburn?” And so, that is how we got the title. That is where I said that is fine. I said, “We’ll talk on that.”
In preparing for the talk, success for me, if anything, at least the way that I have come to understand it and truly believe it is that the success that flows through me, it flows through me because of God’s blessings. I believe that God has blessed our program and me with so many things, but mostly with people and the people I get to be around. I am very fortunate to have Ralph Crocker, Dave Durden, Kathy Sursi and Kim Brackin on my staff. And of course, I am constantly challenging them. I challenged them about this talk. As a matter of fact, we said, “Okay, let’s try to communicate what we do in our program.” And since I know nothing about power point, I am decent at the reply button, but I am not good at almost anything else on the computer, I said, “Why don’t we break it up into four areas and you guys can put together a little part of the four areas.” Well, it came back and we looked at it. And we said, “You know, you can’t break it up in four areas, there is so much overlap and so much interdependency in our areas that it is hard to do. So we went back to the grease board and just started writing everything down. We ended up with a full grease board of what we do. Here is what we do to prepare the athletes. I think Kim came up with the pyramid concept to try to explain what we do for the student/athlete.
The interesting thing is – on the bottom there – obviously the base can run substantially deeper. You know, there are probably twenty more things you can put down there. You can put things like their family down. Other things we can include such as, in our case, our associating with the TYR swim suit company over the last years. We have a Tiger/Splasher group for example. This Tiger/Splasher group last week, as an example, 170 girls paid $5 to try out, to come time at our meets. We only pick 50 of them – I know – you are going – how did we get that going. I shouldn’t say girls – actually we had two guys try out and they both made it okay so it is politically correct, but it is open to everybody and you know our marketing department, our media department – there is a lot more to the base than just this.
This is, hopefully, just a way we can stay on track and explain to you a little bit more about our program. I think in a broad spectrum, there are only three main areas. We have an overall environment. We have what our coaches do and then we have the people, the people are the athletes, the support groups, the community, all those kinds of things.
So, I am going to try to tell you a little bit about all three in terms of the base level environment in our program. I think we are very fortunate. You know, we live in an outstanding community. If you have ever known an Auburn graduate, they are at the minimum, enthusiastic. You don’t ever meet one that is non-enthusiastic about their experience of being an Auburn grad. You have probably heard the war eagle chant and expressions of the Auburn family. I think that we are very fortunate in that way. In fact, Swimming World, when they came for the NCAA’S to visit, they kind of named us the hamlet SW of Atlanta. I think in many ways, we are fortunate and very blessed in that environment to try to have a solid base. I also was kind of interested in looking at some of the industrial psychology books okay?
What is the culture that we have there? There is an effect called the Pygmalion effect. The Pygmalion effect is warped. They all said “don’t go there – don’t go there – don’t tell them that one” I am telling you now. The Pygmalion effect is where you basically treat somebody like they were successful. You put them in an environment where they have already basically sensed that they have been successful. I think we use that in our program. When they enter our program, the base level of our program has a certain level of expectation, which basically immediately says, to contribute, you need to do this, this and this. I get a lot of questions in the recruiting – can I help your team? It’s not “if” you stayed at those times, but you are going to get better. That’s kind of the way it works. Anyway, the Pygmalion effect has been popularized in the movie “My Fair Lady”. “Pretty Woman” has the same kind of theme and there is also the Eddie Murphy movie where he becomes a rich guy, “Trading Places.” That is basically the effect.
Interestingly enough, when doing the research, there is another effect called the Hawthorne effect. The Hawthorne was popularized by a Harvard business professor, Elton Mayo, in the 30’s. This is kind of interesting because you guys already know this. You didn’t need to do any research. As coaches we know this: The four conclusions that were drawn from the Hawthorne studies were: 1. Physical and mental potential of an individual. The amount produced is strongly influenced by social factors, but you knew that already. 2. Relations to supervisors. These include relations that supervisors develop with workers tend to influence the worker’s output. 3. Norms of what is a fair day’s work. This is what the group will gravitate toward as a good days work, yeah? 4. Work place as a social system. This is some of the basic industrial psychology work that we already do. We already know about these things and we are working on a daily basis on these factors.
At my team meetings they say is this going to be the hour long version, or could we have the short version, could we run it a little shorter?
In the pyramid we will focus on the top three boxes, but I wanted to kind of quickly go through the other areas. In the community, probably the biggest thing I need to say is there is an extensive appreciation for our program. There is an area of population of about 100,000 and most don’t know anything about swimming. But, they probably mostly do know about Auburn swimming, if that makes any sense. Their response is very interesting too and I think this can apply to you. What’s the response of the community and people who really aren’t into swimming? The #1 response they love to align with and get excited about is our academic success. When you talk about being academic All-Americans and those kinds of things, those are the things that light them up. The athletic success second and then the citizenship aspects of our program comes third. We tried to do a quiet trip last week, down to Gulf Shores, Alabama. The Gulf Shores were devastated by the hurricane and needed help rebuilding. We went down there for a day and helped them out. Well, some of the community heard about it and although we didn’t really want any publicity about it, the news spread. That’s the kind of thing that they really seem to appreciate and it makes a big difference as far as enthusiasm for swimming is concerned.
About nutrition, one of the things we do when our freshmen enter the program, we give them a cooking class. We try to give them at least a couple of things that they can make so they don’t eat macaroni and cheese for four years. We found the USA Swimming nutrition information on the web site to be extremely helpful to our team. That’s one of the ways we help with the nutritional aspects of our program. We really direct our team to that, to do their nutritional analysis. I think it is a very, very good thing.
We have had physiologists talk to our team. Here is what I tell the physiologist. Can you tell the swimmers what this food does versus this food? Please explain exactly how the energy is changed into their production during the course of the day. One of the same things I tell the team is look, we are expecting you to eat and get enough rest to where you are able to come in and perform at practice the next day. Basically you and I guess, by the way, some of the bad news as Ira would tell you, Dr. Binder, Adrienne Binder’s father, is one of the foremost sleep specialists in the country. According to him, the really bad news for college coaches is that a person needs pretty much eight hours of sleep per day. This is the amount of sleep you need for most of your life. There is a time when you are about 19-20 years old that you actually need about nine hours. Now, as you already know, about 5 or 6 hours is the norm for most college students, if they even get that a day. Well, all we are trying to sell to the team, to convince the team is to eat well, to supply the body with energy, and get enough rest and then we can begin to build on that, okay?
Let’s talk about the extended swimming program. The Auburn Aquatics team is our club team in town with 140 kids. The significant thing is that they are really part of us. We are trying to create the swimming culture by extending it out into the community, to include many people. We do special things like having the swimmers adopt a family on the club team. There is also a program where swimmers will adopt one of the training groups within their program and so for a semester, one of our varsity swimmers has the job of helping the coach of that group, to work with them and hopefully to inspire the young kids in that group. The masters program runs much the same way. Again, you know, we are just expanding the community outreach. I will say this about the masters. The first thing that comes to mind, though, is that they have the best fresh peach daiquiri and fresh corn party in the early summer every year. They know how to do it right. And, we also get our meet officials from our masters.
We have a Swim Camp. The most interesting thing to me is watching our swimmers who have never coached, coach at the swim camp. It is always one of the best experiences for me as a coach. It’s great to see the swimmers coaching, especially when they have to teach those 10 year olds. You know, those kids are just all over the place, they aren’t really interested. So, I just kind of stand over there and snicker at them while they are trying to work with the little kids. That is always kind of a fun thing to watch. Also, another thing I have enjoyed is a kind of hands-on think tank. This is where we have a lot of visiting coaches coming in to help with practice. I get a lot of ideas from these sessions, too. We talk about technique a lot. One of the sessions might be all technique while another might be all training. I remember Bruce Marchanda came in and talked about the triangle drill in butterfly. The triangle drill is basically where you make a triangle. You don’t separate the triangle until you put your head down in butterfly. You know, for all those late-blooming butterflyers that we have at a young age and what a great way to explain that to young kids. I have used that drill ever since Bruce showed it to us. I even use it with the varsity kids. The triangle drills are now a part of the standard drills in our program.
Miss Diane, she is our, well, that is a kind of a Southern expression, Miss Diane, she is actually married, but it is a Southern thing, is our administrative assistant. She is information central. She has contact with the parents, the most important direct contact with the parents. The deal is, if they have to go beyond her, for the parents do try and we know we are getting a call and we know it is going to be a long call. She is really good at handling a lot of the stuff to keep them focused and on track. Our biomechanist, I am going to let Brice tell you about her. (Plays the videotape) Wendy, our biomechanist, she teaches our swimmers Tai Kwan Do. It’s really interesting. She has now been drawn into our swimming culture because in the biomechanics class she teaches, swimming has become her usual examples of what she wants to teach. I went by her classroom the other day and she had Margaret Hoelzer’s backstroke up on the screen. They had it up on Dart Fish and they were analyzing it. So I got to slip in there and listen for a little while. It is always interesting to hear their observations as non-swimming specialists, but yet biomechanic specialists.
The alumni are just another part of the whole picture. You know one of the things you fortunately get to do when you get to be an older coach is you get to tell old stories. You know, they get tired of hearing about my 1994 team for I do embellish those stories a little bit. I kind of exaggerate a little, but it is one of the good fortunes of having them be long enough removed to where nobody remembers. Now the bad thing about alumni things is that, with Ralph and me anyway, you know, we swam at Auburn and they have pictures. They have pictures and I had a big Afro! It was cool back then. The athletes somehow, I don’t know how, but they generally get a hold of my afro pictures and get a big kick out of that. Ralph had the Peter Frampton hair working. So last year the distance group, our hot group, made a shirt with his college picture on the back. The swimmers loved it. That was a lot of fun.
The pictures of the banners are here because they were purchased with the blood, sweat and tears by a lot of the alumni. They also financially purchased them. The team room is brand new. They just completed it. It is called the alumni room to remind the present swimmers that it was because of the swimmers that came before them that we have this real nice room. There are the emails and letters on the wall from the championship meets where we got a lot of encouragement from across the world.
About our administration, the most significant thing about our administration probably is that our President and our Athletic Director go to NCAA’S. It’s really important because in our sport, in college swimming, most of the time in dual meets they are swimming, they are finishing, looking at times, whatever, you know, getting in and out of the water. At NCAA’S they could finish, be .8 slower or 2 seconds slower than their best time and get 8th place. So what our Administrators have seen over the years is just the essence of what this thing, college swimming, is all about. So they have, it has helped draw them into our sport. What I would suggest to you is, if you don’t, if you aren’t able to get your administrators and principals and whoever is administrating your program to not travel with you, what I suggest is to bring the video back. They need to see the passion of those athletes when at the key meets because that is where, in our sport, the passion wells up to a whole other level.
There are Sports Physiologists who are really most significant in our health and human performance department at Auburn. They are engaged in the sport of swimming. We have Dr. Dave Pasco who came from Ball State and did a lot of work for the team. Dr. Gladden who has done extensive research on lactic acid. I have interesting conversations with him on a regular basis.
We are blessed to have terrific facilities. We have a 75 yard pool with a separate instructional pool. The significance here is that the athletic department runs the pool. We program the pool and we are able to get the hours we want to get. Also, when it comes to the facilities, one of the things I like to do, I go to extremes to not have the swimmers get bored. We try to change their environment on a regular basis and we use lots of things to change practices. We have one of those swimming flumes on the deck and the swimmers like it because it is heated, with a mirror on the bottom. They get a lot of feedback just swimming in the endless pool flume. We will have them jog over to the city pool and workout in the city pool, then jog back. It is probably a mile from our pool. We are fortunately, in the near future, going to get our own 50 meter pool, an outdoor pool. We also have a great lake near us, Lake Martin. We go out and do lake swims on a regular basis and again, just to change the environment, I will just say, see that thing you can barely see off in the distance, swim to it. Then we will swim back. We have boats and stuff to follow them along. There is a water park in town. I remember Roco Cedo got me on this. We would go out to the water park and swim with the waves. Our sprinters would body surf the waves. They really enjoyed that when we did that. I have a regular neighborhood pool in my community. I have had the swimmers over there for workout. It is just to change things up for them. You know, when we are doing a sprint session, I don’t need any more length than that. And, I think that does help.
Another thing we are adding this year is a web casting. We take it to a whole other level when we are web casting, or anything we want to web cast. It can be turned on any time. There are six different cameras. There is one movable camera to where we can, literally, what I did last week was, I had a wireless mike like this on and I talked into the mike. We were recording the practice with the cameras and I could just press any camera I wanted. I could talk about their strokes as they were working out. The mike would pick up my comments. I could then copy it on the VHS. Then, of course, we would get on the bus and torture them with the VHS tape of the workout. They would have to watch workout again with me, talking over the video of workout. But it was a lot of technique work and things like that which we discussed. We also can, it is amazing what you can do now, but you can send the video to be stored. Then, they can retrieve it from their home computers. The swimmers can just look at their portion of the workout. Obviously, this helps with the motivation side of their parents, whether they are in Zimbabwe or California. They would be able to watch their children swim. And, a coach being able to watch their athletes compete live is motivating for those athletes. I will tell you where it started. This is where it might relate to some of you, it was fairly expensive, but the way it started was we put a monitor, a tvo unit and a surveillance camera on the deck. We were very impressed with how the athletes would stay after practice and watch what they were doing. If you can get those three things, a tvo set, however, get a tvo series 1, not a series 2. If you do get a series 2 you have to register and everything, with a series 1 you can just get them on Ebay. They cost about $100 on Ebay. The surveillance camera and the monitor would probably cost $250. And you have you a video system right there on your deck okay?
The home coach is up on the next level. Here is a sampling of logos that we pulled off of US Swimming’s website. I always think, when I see the logos of the clubs, I think it is a collection of the people behind those logos that makes the club tick. I mean, every high achiever we have had in our program, every one of them has been personally impacted by a coach at some point. You know, I think of Dave Boggs and Pat Calhoun in Seymour, Indiana. There was a plan way back, that he could do it. He had a belief, before he ever got to Auburn, that he could do it. Paul Blair put a belief in John Hargus, back when John was a :58 100 yard butterflyer. Paul believed that he could be special. Keith Anderson got Margaret Holzer when she was older. She was in high school when he had a chance to work with her. But, he turned her and by the time she got to Auburn, she believed that she could do some special things. This past year, Pete Morgan convinced me to take a walk-on, a 21 high 50 freestyler. Pete ends up taking him and Joe Basco. After one year of being with our team, he is down to 20 flat and has a scholarship. So those kinds of things make the biggest difference and are part of our, we consider a part of, you know, our program.
We do use massage therapy, well I think we have the best massage therapist in the country in terms of Connie Sellers. She has been on lots of National Teams and one Olympic team. This past year, they used her when she could do it. She is also training fortunately, one of our in-state champions, Lionel Monroe right now. Lionel is fabulous as well. We have them on a year around retainer to help with our program.
About sports psychology, last year you all, a lot of you heard Doug Hankes speak on his Power of Ten. If you didn’t get a chance to hear Doug’s talk, there is a tape you can still buy. He is outstanding. He works with athletes individually and gives us presentations in a general sense every now and then.
We have a brand new building, so new that we don’t have a picture of it. This brings us to the point of our program being an academic sport. We have a brand new building and I guess one point I want to make here is, this one place that we are benefiting from the arms race and college sports, a lot of times, what is going on is that you got to keep up with each other. Hey, we have the newest academic building. So for swimming, this is now a bit of a benefit. Our school just spent $20 million on fixing the concourse and building a couple of more luxury boxes in the football stadium, but when it came to the academic support center, we now have the best and the most State of the Art building, the building is basically wireless. Our wireless engineering program pretty much challenged them and our school to become wireless in the next ten years. I thought it was interesting. Yesterday, there was a meeting with Colorado Timing Systems and one of their ambitions is to be completely wireless. So, it does look like that is what’s in store in the future.
If you look up to the top, at the top three areas in our water training, we have some guiding principles we go by. Generally, we work from an overall individual medley. With this kind of attitude and training standpoint, we then move into the prime strokes as the year progresses. We move from a quadrennial plan to a yearly plan to a seasonal plan and then down in kind of a weekly template which we work off of. About technique, teach technique from the inside out as most of you do now. Be concerned with the core movements, how the body is positioned before we worry about what the hands are doing. In general training, we will start off with two or three groups and as the year progresses, we break it down to 6-8 groups. What are some of the ways that we challenge them? Early in the year, we challenge them to just survive the week. We are coming at you almost every day, good old school training, right? Then, it moves into those times when they make it through the workout, so we may have two or three good hits in a set. Or, during the course of a workout, doing multiple sets which just elevates their overall workout.
Then, as we get into the competitive part, we get more into focusing on sets or even efforts within sets as being the focus of the whole practice. Probably about once a month we, on purpose now, try to offer them a practice they can’t make. We just put it out there and say, okay can you make it? We know they probably can’t, but we believe in the philosophy of stretching their limits. As they stretch for those limits, sometimes they grow a little bit. Moving into the year, a typical year for us, in preseason, we will go back to the swim camp. We basically go back to the fundamentals by beginning to teach them from the very base. I mean we break it down to the furthest drill and start building it back up. Last year we had a senior, Jeremy Knowles, he was a great example. I always use at our regular swim camps, you know, he came into Auburn his 4th best stroke was butterfly.
We don’t have a worst stroke. If you want to see the worst strokes, go to the open swim and watch some people swim. There are some worst strokes, but a 4th best stroke. His 4th best stroke was butterfly and by his senior year that became his best stroke, 1:59 flat or so. He was a 200 meter butterflyer from the Bahamas and it was interesting because I think the attitude of our overall team was, we try to keep working on different strokes. I think we find that a lot of our swimmers end up swimming other events as they develop their technique. In the competitive season, just different priorities, just trying to show you there are different priorities makes differences. When you move to a comparison of the fall and the winter training, we will post these on our website so you guys if you want to pull any of this stuff, all you need are to go on the web to download it, you are welcome to do that. I guess what I want to show you is that as we move from, this is a middle distance swimmer in our program, as we move from the fall to the winter, some of the changes that happen.
One of the big changes is we separate out at least once a week, sometimes twice a week, the men’s and women’s teams. I mean, in January, often our women will be doing the Max VO2 set while the men are doing, especially middle distance and sprinters, will be doing a lactate set. So it gets customized, based on what their needs begin to be at that time of the year. In the winter time, there are more active recovery days and for most of the swimmers, Tuesdays and Thursdays become more recovery days. They know when they come into practice; it is going to be that kind of day. If they have a lab, we want them to schedule the labs on Tuesday/Thursday if possible so it kind of works with the flow of our week. The sprinters, I think, what motivates them are shorter sessions. They get out of the water a little bit sooner. They get their work done and they get out of the pool. The distance swimmers, well, they are still in the water a good amount of time. Ralph has them in his, they call it Ralph’s house of pain, R Hop. When he is in, he has a lot of them on Thursdays and really works hard core distance on Tuesday. Also, they cover a little extra distance on those days.
We go to the SEC championships. We are fortunate enough to be in the SEC that Ira alluded to. It is a fabulous conference and the environment really, in many ways, allows us to go into that conference championship for the most part unshaved and still come out with the NCAA’S cuts. It has a great tradition and I think we take full advantage of the atmosphere that is created by that event. It is still a combined meet with men and women. To be honest with you, it is the most energized meet of the year. It is generally more energized than the NCAA’S later on in the year when we split out the sexes.
For our NCAA’S preparation, we just consider a whole bunch of things. You have to consider the individual. You break it down to what are they trying to get accomplished? You know there are many things that come into play, as you guys know. What are some of the things we have to consider, examples include, did they break up with a girl friend or a boy friend? You know, well there goes a week of having them tuned in. Parents phoning at the end of the year is another example, how are you going to do – how are you going to do, what about tickets, these kinds of things. These are the kinds of things we have to build into for preparing our swimmers for NCAA’S. And then the championships of course, it is a lot of fun. It was about our team and this past year was really exciting. One of our big goals was to score in every event. We did score in every event on the women side and actually finaled in every event on the men side, which was a first for us. That was one of our sub goals.
The next 8 slides pertain to our dry land program. It is all about developing the athlete. That is the bottom line, we want to develop an athlete and then move that athlete into the water. In our pre-season evaluation, a real important part is we consider the swimmer’s personal history. We test them. Our tiger fit lab, like I talked about, at our university puts them through a myriad of tests, 16 measurements including body composition and girth measurements. We measure things like this so we have some baseline information. Interesting story on that, George Bovell for example, he came in Auburn with a shoulder injury and when measured out, his one bicep was about a half inch smaller than the other. After this Olympics, we measured it and it was still about a quarter inch smaller. He still protects it quite a bit when he trains. When he lifts, is it a balance issue? So, the short of it is, is that okay? You have got to stay on preventative rehab and be continuing to build it until we get balance. We want balance. We do land/water power testing; the same protocol as Unitis does at USA Swimming. We use that as information they provide to us, but then, there are other considerations of course. The dry land phases, again this will be available on the website for the details, but just suffice it to say, it goes from general and basic to very individualized training during the course of a year. This is actually an annual plan here. I am going to show you a short video here. Early in the year, we do this thing called a circuit and we have actually moved the circuit to the water at times to try and replicate the atmosphere. It is a, you call it muscular endurance, but probably it goes from that to just being a toughness thing. This video was put together when Fox Sportsouth came and they were kind of intrigued by what they saw. Actually, they were filming basketball and the basketball coach told them about our swimmer’s circuit.
The basketball coach told them if they get in trouble, he sent them into the swimmer’s circuit. They didn’t know what the swimmer’s circuit was so they ended up coming and looking at what we do. By the way, basketball players can’t survive the total circuit. There are about six stations and the circuit is also a kind of a team building activity. They kind of love it and fear it at the same time. It is really interesting, what it has evolved to be, very interesting. This video here was put together by Katie Taylor, Muncie, Indiana, who has gone on to do work in film and things. She has already won a regional Emmy award and this video was actually nominated for a regional Emmy at the end of this. You are just going to see a portion of it and you will see the team is well into workout, I think probably about an hour, an hour and a half into the circuit. That is pretty much station to station, in continuous motion unless they get in trouble. If they get in trouble, the strength coach, we had PK in here, our strength coach talks to the swimmers about it, he doesn’t push them. Yeah, I think you will see in the video what really goes on, he pushes them.
I think the circuit can bring out a level of discipline in many that they haven’t seen before and some of it is probably a little bit of fear, but I think there is a healthy dose of fear in all of the sports at the elite level. Any time you travel to the edge as an athlete there is a point at which you are leaving your comfort zone behind and there is fear involved there because you want to stay comfortable as a human being, but yet excellence demands that you step out a little bit. We have had a few people feel ill and what have you, but that is going to come from, you know, it’s not from me pushing them it is from themselves really – pushing themselves and I am just kind of there making sure that they are still going along. Yeah right, he didn’t push them. It is actually very nice to have someone other than our deck coaches doing that. He actually does, PK has, is into overall sports except football.
Actually, he has been working with this team, he is a big part of our team now. In terms of moving, and again you can check the details of that if you want on-line, but the moving to teaching, one of the components that is real important in our program because we do Olympic lifts, is the teaching aspect of it. We take ten weeks to basically teach our freshmen the proper progression to the Olympic lifts. Without that, we would have a lot of injuries. I wanted to show you a couple of things here. One would be the progression to cleans and another I think you will find interesting is the bar complex. It is a, let’s do cleans first. The cleans would be, let’s start with this, it start with a jump shrug, goes to a muscle clean and then a hand clean. This is the progression, so we do a lot of these first, just jumps. These are the muscle clean and the full hand cling is this. That is basically the progression that they follow.
The bar complex, BJ Jones, one of our swimmers from the area, he has got us dropped from probably about 4:30 down to 4:17 in the 500 in his career. He had a great career so far. Fortunately he is a senior now and one of our captains, but he is demonstrating the bar complex. The bar complex you can use in two ways. One, we use it for warming up so before they go and lift they will go with a light weight. He is using no weight on the bar right now, but they will put a light weight on the bar and go through this little routine as part of their warm-up. The other way we use it is to test them so as they do this more, this will be part of a bigger testing so they will put on as much weight as they can do all the exercise properly with. That will be part of the testing that we do, I will get to in a minute. I am going to show the bar complex here. These are the upright rows here. We will do two of each. They do six reps when they are doing it testing. This is muscle cleans right up into overhead press, right behind the neck, the squats, forward stretch of the hamstrings, a good morning, and then out front for bent over rows. As I said, that will be part of their testing later on.
Okay? We move on to the core. There’s a lot of core work in our program. Core stability in moving, basic core movements that you guys are mostly familiar with, using the physio ball or just the mat into movement involving the core. You can see Aaron Ciarla here, recently retired, Aaron Ciarla from swimming doing it. She can still do these things. You know, recently retired, you can do these kinds of things. Pretty soon, they won’t be able to do that either, but in terms of flexibility, a couple of things on flexibility, something that most of us don’t have time, enough time for the flexibility training we need to do. The only things that I have found works is I assign stretching groups. They get stretching partners and they stay after practice and hold each other accountable to stretching. Our trainers always teach them how to stretch first. The basic thing we tell them is, look, you stretch before practice to warm up for practice and to prevent injuries. You stretch after practice if you really want to gain flexibility. So that is one of the basic things we tell them. Personal appointments with athletic trainers, they can do that to gain more flexibility.
In the weight room, there are probably two types of flexibility that we use, dynamic flexibility would be the word for it, but one is for warm-up, that would be things like the quad walk and the Frankenstein, and then dynamic flexibility would be with strength, so you put weight on and do good mornings or Romanian dead lifts. I will demonstrate this for you if I can. Quad walk is with the, we just started on this, so you hold a foot like this and you take another step, you basically walk a long way and as you are more limber like the young people are, they can do it pretty quickly. And the Frankenstein is hands up and you go like this, so that is the Frankenstein. Then the Romanian dead lifts would be soft knees and up in here, so it is all the way from the ground and then up here, okay? The good mornings you saw on there, they are basically stretching the hamstrings. The other thing interesting in flexibility, I was fascinated at one point last year, I don’t know what made us do it, I think …… oh I know, I think a visitor came in with a rope, tied it to the top, and then we just laid down about 8 ropes from our hand rail up top. It was amazing how they just started stretching more because the ropes were there. So they would stay after practice and do this. I have always known that we have to get mats out after practice and try to encourage them to go on the mats. We do have restrictions as to the number of hours we can do this kind of stuff. They have to do the extra time on their own, but give them the resources, ankle stretching boards and things like that. If they have it, a lot of times they will do it, especially, if they are encouraged and they have their teammates and a little social atmosphere to do it with.
With our dry land testing, we want to see how they are progressing. For our early season testing I would include a two mile run, max pull-ups, three second slow bikes and max pull-ups so basically body weight work. Then as we move into the later part of the season, this is, a lot of you can’t see it, I’m sure, I can hardly see it, and this is Mark Gangloff in September. And then in December this past year, what this is, is a point system we have come up with where we consider their body weight and then with the squats, we consider the amount of weight and the reps they do in terms of max, to come up with a point total. And as you guys know, swimmers, they like numbers. If you can give them a point total, give them a score for something, they love those kinds of things. So this is a way we came up with something to give them a total score. This is an eight station testing that involves everything from push ups and pull ups, to squats, vertical jumps and box jumps. Box jumps are kind of interesting because you just let them jump on top of a series of boxes to see how high they can get.
We now transition to the water element. You know, it is nice to be strong in the weight room and you do have some swimmers that have a point of diminishing returns. Aaron, as you saw on that video, he never lifted leg weights in our program because he already can hop like a gazelle and was already very big. So you are dealing with a lot of flexibility issues and just frontal resistance, when you have that much body mass. I mean, you are dealing with major frontal resistance. I didn’t want him to get any bigger so all his stuff was polymeric in the weight room. What we will do in the weight room is we will try to come up with ways to put them in position. Then we try to get them to move thru the year in that position. One of the things we use would be high pulls and the lat pull machine for example. We grab up here and basically try to keep their scapula raised, as you just lift down here. This is a good example because, like with trainer, you can teach them that of course, you are much stronger doing this, but in swimming we have to do this. You have to raise the scapula. You have to push the elbow forward to set up a stroke. You don’t do this. This you can do as strong as you want, but you are not going to go fast. So, we do a lot of that stuff in the weight room as we transition. I believe we have a little shot of, what is this? This is Demerae Christenson doing one of our types of specific things that we do to remind them to keep your elbows up.
We do the power rack program and just basically progress it through the year. The weight stays the same as we have them match their tempo. Then, the numbers of reps decrease and the amount of time they get between increases. We have in training a power group. Now, the power group is probably more known for the sprinters making it up. This has to do with the work that they do. A lot of times, especially later in the year, the middle distance and sometimes the distance, not so much the distance although occasionally I will have distance swimmers in there, gets into the power group. Middle distance swimmers will come in and join them in the morning or some other times. I think January of last year, we had them all in the water and this is what you are seeing, just straight up racing with t-shirts on for 15 meters. Most of the stuff we do here would be 15 meters or less. This would be a power rack race. The strongest swimmer goes first. The person going behind has t-shirts and fins on and they try to catch them, so it is just a race. We just race. We have another group going over here.
This would be the men and the women. This would be our female backstrokers and our guy breaststrokers all with fins on. They are racing and just try to get them in that racing mode. After every race, the coach tells them who the winner was so there is a winner and there is a loser. We say there is the winner and this year, we had a fun thing where they used part of the tour de France with the sprinting jersey, the green jersey. The big winner of the day would win the green jersey and so whoever had the green jersey would award the next winner on the next day with the green jersey so it was a good tradition. They worked hard to get that green jersey for the day. We also had Colorado Timing under water speakers, so that is a new thing that we have used in our power program. It allows us to talk to them under water so they get lined up. One of the biggest thing you know, for swimmers is when they push off the wall, they are pushing off in the wrong form. They are doing this and it is not the right way. You want them squared off, on their back, pushing off like they are coming out of a flip turn. So one of the nice things about being able to talk to them under water is, you can actually talk to them, line up, flatten your back, no, you know, line up your back, now go. And so, they release from an ideal position. But, we also use a lot of toys, a lot of different toys. These are basically whatever I can come up with to make it a little bit more interesting, paddles. Like I said, t-shirts, drag suits, short fins, surgical tubing, all of those kinds of things, we use a lot of that kind of stuff.
I am in favor of developing athleticism which just generally means I’m trying to convince them to live an athletic lifestyle. It is amazing these college students in their dorm, they can throw a rock from the dorm and hit the pool building, but they will get in a car and drive over to practice. So just convincing them to form that kind of athletic lifestyle is something which I do. I think we have a video of Kirsty, last Tuesday, doing in our circuit, one of the stages, just doing a front roll into a jump, just trying to turn it into something similar to swimming, so front rolls, straight up into a jump, so it is, she is, I am getting too long. I have to start looking at my folks down here to tell me what to do. This is the rope climb. If you don’t have a rope outside somewhere, you can hang it up on a bar like this. It is again, part of the circuit, so they take probably an hour into doing a lot of this kind of stuff. You can see, they are so happy. Anyway, this is the kind of thing that they will do just for athleticism. Last year, I took them in the gym with the gymnasts and our gymnasts taught our guys, mostly our sprinters, how to do a back flip, a standing back flip. So about half of them actually learned how to do a standing back flip and they loved it. Of course, they got to work with those cute gymnasts, but they also got a chance to be out of the environment of the pool and do something really athletic. Now it is a challenge for them, I can do a back flip, can you? No, okay? Well you are not an athlete. They play those kinds of games. Golf was interesting this past year. We did a group outing going to play golf. We have a girl on our team who many of you know, I think, Jerri Moss; she’s a backstroker on the team. She’s quite a character, a beautiful girl. We were playing golf out there and we are on the first green. She apparently hadn’t played golf before and she comes driving up in her golf cart. She drives up onto the green, right next to the pin, and she gets out and says, “How do you like my outfit?” She is going to kill me for telling you that.
Just quickly on team atmosphere, I think that is probably the key to our team. I mean, I am not so sure it is exactly what we do; I think it is maybe how the people put it together, that is really the key. But in a short version of what I feel like, we do well in all of our, if you look at the basics again, designs for what makes things work for a young person. You can go all the way back to the beginning, safety, affiliation needs and first of all is physiological needs. You have to satisfy those needs to some level before you can get to a team and in the area of the team, it is, I am going to read this part: A need for high evaluation in performance, based in reality. Satisfaction of these needs produce feelings of self-confidence, prestige, power and control”. The esteem level here, I would say, is an enormous part of what you do as club coaches out there in the US. You build that esteem and not just in swimming, but also with their swimming athletic esteem. You build their personal esteem and on top of that, Naso says a man can, what a man can be, he must be. This is self-actualization that is reaching your full potential. But, esteem is a vital important part of that and it makes a lot of sense and I think at Auburn, we have a lot of the base levels covered.
They certainly feel safe and I think there are a lot of affiliation needs that are met immediately as well. Mostly, it is based on friendships. We have, fortunately at our university, we have this university wide creed, and it is called the Auburn creed. In it contains thousands of virtues of hard work, education, honesty and truthfulness, sound mind, sound body and spirit. My country, talk about believing in my country, and from the book of Micah in the bible, it talks about doing justly, love, mercy and walking humbly with your God. The interesting part is the University relations department called me earlier this year and asked if they could borrow our swimmers for a couple of days. I said, “Well, no, you can’t have them for a couple of days, you can have them for….well….. if you are going to tell me what this is about I can give them to you for little windows of time. But, they asked if they could use them for the commercial this year, during the football games so last week at the Tennessee-Auburn game. It was a good game by the way. During the half time commercial representing Auburn University was this commercial which featured our swimmers. So it was pretty exciting to have the University relations department just basically take swimming to be representative of the sports the university participates in. For those athletes, they will be on all the Auburn games that are on TV.
Early in the year we do evaluations, all of our work is really team based. For example, early in our training, that is showing the rope scores, I think we did two years ago, we didn’t do that this year, but we kind of mixed it up some, but for example when we do pre-circuit training to get in shape, all the running they do when they time is all team based. It is getting the last person across the line. It has nothing to do with the first person across the line. So they are actually, a lot of times they will be running, they will be locking up arms with somebody and carrying them to have to get under the set time. I think that is pretty substantial in developing our team atmosphere. PK is out there encouraging them. How do we do with putting guard rails on? Our team rules have been interesting, they have been an evolution. It used to be I had to set all the team rules. Now, it is definitely at the point where they are very invested in creating the team rules for the team. They take ownership of the program and it has been a good experience because they deal with the peers first when they are breaking rules. Then, if they can’t deal with that, it comes to us and it gets ugly, no, it just gets clear. We try to do a lot of training camps when we can. We get away. In fact, I had a hard time convincing my AD when I first got there. He says, “I just built a 10 million dollar pool and now you tell me you need $50,000 to go on a training trip? I don’t understand that concept.” But as you all know, getting them away, getting them together in a calm training environment is always a positive thing. This is our last year at Sebastian.
Unfortunately, Sebastian probably doesn’t look like that any more. But, to help in creating trust within the athletes, we will just have them, on a bus trip, we will say, today you are not allowed to sit with anybody that is a roommate, a friend, your same class. You have to talk to somebody else. So a lot of it is just getting to know the people. As I tell them, this will be the experience they will take from this program more than the swimming itself. I mean, they will not remember the swimming year as much as they will remember the relationships they build during their time at the university or at the club in high school. The goal setting, again, the big thing is there are two ways to kind of go about it. One would be very personal, to kind of getting your goals ready which is basically taking the goals and putting legs on the indicator sets that you make. They tell us indicator sets. It is not just all of us telling them what they have to do. Then the other way would be what is a team contribution? Ultimately at the end of the line, how are you helping the team and that may be working on your 3rd event, that may be working on your teammanship, your enthusiasm, that may be working on your relay starts so we can count on you if we need you on a relay.
Let’s have the next video. I find that one of the things I try to explain to the team is there needs to be a balance between your team and yourself. Where do you have to be in here somewhere, which means to move a little for different times of your career and with different times? I know coming off the Olympics, it got over toward me, right? It became focused on what they need to do with me. There are people on our team that are too team oriented. They are just too reliant on the atmosphere. Those are the people that only go really fast on relays. It’s like no, you have to figure this out for yourself too. There are people who spend more energy cheering than they do in their race. No, that is not the idea. They need to be a little bit more on the “me” side so there is always a balance there. We talked a lot about that concept with the team. Then the athletic self and personal self, we try to be aware of their image when they come into our university. Through the process of growing up, they have an athletic image and they have a personal image and when we are dealing with them we try to consider both things because it is really important. Some of them have a very strong athletic image and a very poor self image. Others have a great self image and need to build up the athletic side. As we work with them, we try to consider all of those kinds of things.
The last slide I have up here, this on the right side is kind of bling,bling, right? They like the tangible rewards. I have been amazed with the things that we have given them in terms of rewards. With big occasions, for example, they get to be recognized at football games, given rings, watches, and things. Do you know what they like the most? They like pictures of themselves on the wall at the pool. You know, they like seeing themselves in a picture at the pool on a regular basis. So we have these giant photos made by a company, they take pictures and we put those up in the pool of our championship teams. I have always been amazed at how well that picture serves as a motivator. They also come up with things like trainer of the week. Two years ago, the men’s team made shorts. In fact, I think Brad Glenn helped to put together a suit that was made out of the actual Hooters fabric. This was the Hooters short fabric, the real bright, bright orange and whoever got trainer of the week got to wear the Hooters shorts for the next week. They seemed to be pretty motivated by that. Just to get in some quick information on test sets in the test set, we try to turn around and have those results ranked, who is the fastest, who is the slowest and then placed out by the next day. To get that information quickly back to them, is one of the things that we can do to reward them, to encourage them, and to motivate them.
I am going to wrap things up here. There is a little saying; I saw it just this morning and it was there are three things needed for success in this world, a backbone, a wishbone and a funny bone. I think about one of the things when our team is doing well, we have a lot of laughter going on in our program. With our staff, with our swimmers, I always tell them, please do not make the laughter based on chopping someone else down. You know, make it creative, pure laughter, not something at the expense of someone else.
The boxes we have up here and the pyramid that we showed you, they are fine for the presentations, but every box that you can see is represented by a person, not a department, not a title, not a category, it’s a person that makes the difference. Also, you are probably thinking, “Well gosh, I have all these resources.” I just want to say that we have worked hard with those resources. You know, we worked hard at politicking within our system; we worked hard developing folks in the community, and with our school to align with us and feel like they are part of our team by sending them t-shirts, by sending them thank-you notes, and developing those things. It takes time to develop, but we work hard at it. It has fortunately become part of our overall program. When I first arrived at Auburn, I am going to tell you this real quick, when I first arrived in Auburn, this is where we were. When I got here in the early 90’s, we went into workout in the coliseum and running stadium stairs. They were having cheerleader trials and the cheerleader leader, after we were running for a while, comes over and says, “You have to leave the building, we are having cheerleader try-outs and you guys are distracting the cheerleaders.” The first time the swimmers kind of saw me blink, but I just said, “Well, we are not leaving, your cheerleaders can come and make us move if you want to. Then I pulled the team back in the room and said, “If you cheerleaders can’t live with this kind of distraction, what are they going to do with 85,000 people! I mean, give me a break, we are just running stairs.” Anyway, we got back to the pool and that was one of the things, those are the kind of things that we don’t run into anymore. I mean, we certainly have our challenges. There are certainly political battles we are trying to resolve every day with the paperwork at the university and the different bosses we have now. The biggest growth level has been athletic administrators. That has just become a huge layer nowadays so that continues to be a challenge for all of us college coaches. Again, we will post this stuff on the website.
I do want to say congratulations to our US Olympic team and our US Staff. I got to watch them at training camp and then over at the Olympics. I was watching some from a few steps back and they did a masterful job of putting together a team that did a tremendous job for all of us over there. We are all starting our 4 year plans, getting ready for China, we are kind of resetting right now. At the ASCA board meeting we talked about the American Swim Team and it is a concept where all of us are invested in what is going to happen. It is not just four years from now, but in the long haul in American Swimming and we all need to feel a part of it, as you all are. I want to encourage you to take care of your Courtney Hobbs and the little girls who come; that 10 year old comes on your pool deck and it is the first time that they are there. My children just started swimming this summer and at the end of the summer they wanted to swim during the winter. I said no, we will start next summer. I want to make sure that hook is sunk in deep. I want them to keep wanting it right now, so what I take from that is when they come in the door, for those young kids, make it fun. Have them love it, but here is the deal, they are not going to necessarily love the sport; they are going to love the person that they are working with. That is what’s going to turn them on to swimming. It is not going to be the water. It is going to be the person they are working with.
Make sure that the coach you have there, or yourself if you are doing it, be that kind of personality that can handle just grabbing their interest. They can enjoy the process from the beginning. Next, try to teach them technique. I told the guys at the business meeting that I noticed in my first race with my child, I looked at my left hand and this was running and I didn’t intend for that to be going at all, but guys, when they are beginning is not important. Worry about them taking fewer strokes to get across the pool, to kick faster. Teach them to be more competitive young people. That is what is important. Then start getting times, start developing a career plan; that is when Courtney Hobbs, hopefully you will hear from her down the road, that is when we are going to see the kind of ability that our country has in this sport. We lose a lot more talent, probably in the first two weeks of swimming, that we get the chance to develop at the back end. I want to challenge all of us to keep along those lines and I really appreciate your time.
There is time for a couple of questions. Yes? Oh, the specialty IM set, we use different test sets in different years. Our standard test is three 800’s. We test them on 300’s, take stroke counts, we do heart rates, and then times. And then pretty much the deal is they have to get faster season by season. In terms of our IM’s, you know, we tested 200 Ims. I tell you what we do, we do a lot of 100 Ims and we do a lot of 300 Ims because they love them. The times are, I think they do not sense the pressure when they are going that distance, and in terms of test sets, yeah, I should have more IM information I guess. We have had a pretty good IM year but that is another talk. Oh, by the way, the next talk will be about getting ready for the Olympics. I will build that into that one, I am sorry that I don’t have an exact answer for you right now.
Another question? The average 19 or 20 year old, according to Dr. Binder who knows a lot more than any of us in this room about sleep, needs 9 hours a night. Now, I am guessing we are mostly sleep deprived, especially at that age. But yes, that is what he was talking about. Recruiting, well didn’t I do that in the last hour? No, I, recruiting is, you could probably go to that whit board and do a whole other, I mean, a whole other intertwined presentation on that because it is constant, it is never ending. I wish it would end and they even added more rules for us, so I am sorry club coaches, we are now allowed to go out and contact your juniors in March and we are allowed to go to our high schools in April. I am sorry, we don’t want to come, but our competition is also out there, so we gotta come. Oh yes, so hopefully we will get some controls on that, so I think most of us coaches are talking, let’s be reasonable, we will try to come up with some rules. We are not there yet, recruiting or selecting the right people is absolutely vital. It’s people, then the swimmer is the order we try to stay in as much as we can.
Any other last questions? Your team is really noted for tremendous relays, what do you emphasize on relay starts? What we emphasize is relay starts, what would we emphasize on relay starts? What we really emphasize is a relay attitude more than just the start. It is kind of like, there is an understanding, our guys that are already probably on the relay are already working with our young guys to get them ready for that relay. The biggest thing we emphasize in race starts is not to false start because that takes you out of the team hunt immediately. So, as I was telling the Colorado people when I was telling them about the relay judging platform, it is like you know, we don’t use them to get as close as we can, we use them to be able to do a .10 that is a perfect start in our program. We’re not looking for a .03 and then it is the athletic explosiveness in the exchange that we watch. It is the most athletic movement we are going to have, with the most coordination of all, so your best athlete, try to develop an athlete, we plug that into a lot of the work that we do in workout. We will start off practice with a relay swing. One of the, oh, I have to give this to you, one of the best things that I think I picked up from our track coach at Auburn. They do half speed exchanges a lot in track because they do not want them running at full steam and getting injured, so we do the same kind of thing. They should be able to go off a swimmer coming in at any speed, even at half speed. The key is, as you know, is the finishing person has to have a rhythmic long extension touch. If they go up here and they go long it is always the person in the water’s fault. So, that is probably a couple of things that we do. We are going to need to wrap up.
Thank you very much.
Pre-Season, September, December, April
Pre-season conditioning Tests
2 mile run, max pushups in 60 seconds, 3 second slow bikes, max pull-ups
8 Station power test: point system based on percentage of body weight (Table below)