First of all I want to thank ASCA for allowing me to be here and speak in front of you. It is a privilege for me, so hopefully I can pass something along today. I think most important for me, if you remember anything of this, it would be three things that I believe. I call them tips, I guess. I do not know if my pronunciation is good because my English is not that good, but I call them tip, tradition, excellence and passion. I think these three key elements make Bolles successful, but makes any team successful.
The different components that makes Bolles such a successful program: History, the way Bolles works, the team structure, the philosophy and ultimate goal that we have established. The swimming cycles that we set up this year is a little bit different than last year, because of the type of people that we have. We will talk about the practice schedule and then we will go back to the tradition, excellence and passion.
History, I am going to try to go quickly because it is such rich place. It has over 50 years of very fast swimming, even before I was born. I think the coaches are one of the things that makes the history of a place. We have Gregg Troy who was there for over 20 years and then we have Larry Schoff, Jeff Papal and we have Vic Bishop. Those four coaches were there before me and they did an amazing job and they really gave me a very good situation to work with. I will give you some of the good points of high school, some of the accomplishments that we had the last three years. We have been 9 times National Champions and one time runner-up. On the girl’s side at the state level, 22 times champions and 5 times runner-up. With the boys, National Champions and 6 times runner-up and 29 times the state champions and 12 times runner-up. It is a hard tradition to follow, because I know that if I am the first one to lose, I am the first one to leave. They would probably fire me, but it is something that really, everybody at Bolles really lives and loves.
I want to talk about U.S. Swimming. We had a lot of success at U.S. Swimming the last 50 years, but I will go to the other end of the spectrum, the Olympic Games. At the Olympic Games since 1972 Bolles had 10 Olympic Medalists, 13 medal overall. Just in 2008, we had 17 people representing and being at the Olympics that have gone through Bolles or work at Bolles or study at Bolles. We had 6 current high school swimmers, 6 alums and 5 coaches. Three of that work there right now and two that are working right now at the college level. The way Bolles works is just to be owned by the coach. I believe five or six years ago the school took charge of it so it is owned by the school. Honestly, from my point of view, it is better. It is less headaches, so the school owns the team. The head coach and aquatic director runs the high school team and the club team. I will talk a little bit about it, about both of them later on. That is me. The way the school is set up I do not have to deal with parents. I have to deal with a Board of Directors. I have to talk with my Athletic Director and at the Speedo Swimming level with my Headmaster, so it is a very good relationship. I don’t have to deal with – well – I have to deal with angry parents. We have a lot of strange parents that might go straight to the Head Master and tell him that “Sergio is doing this wrong”. However, the Head Master and the Athletic Director really appreciate the history of Bolles, so they work with me very well.
At Bolles, we have three aspects. We have the academic level, which is very good. The athletic level is very good in swimming and the Arts Level, so the three of them combined is what makes Bolles such a great place. They expect excellence. They do not want anything else. They do not push us. They do not set goals for us, but they assume and they know that we are going to be the best or we are going to try to be the best.
TEAM STRUCTURE: Our high school group aged swimmers is a little bit interesting, because we have kids from 14 different high schools or 15 different high schools and we have the Bolles kids. I am going to talk first about the high school team at Bolles. The High School Team at Bolles this year, we have 73 student athletes, 61 of them are swimmers, one of them is a swimmer and diver and 11 of them are divers. We have 7 coaches, 6 coaches for the swim groups and one coach for the diving group. The rest of the high school kids don’t train with me. We have two other coaches. All the other high school kids that we have around the area come and want to train at Bolles. They train with the head coach of a different program. In accordance with the Florida High School Rules those kids cannot train essentially with me. It is illegal, so during the academy year I do not see those kids at all. We have different practice times. That program more or less has 50-70 high school swimmers, depending on the practice times, because they are different. So, it makes very long days for the kids so some kids don’t. They try it and after a couple of months they quit.
We have two coaches, one fulltime and one part-time. Then the age group program runs until 13 years old, like any other age group program in the country. We have an age group head coach, Martin Zubero and we have six assistants coaches in the age group program. They run like any other USA Swim Team. Once they go to middle school, like 7th grade or 8th grade they might move on. They might move into the high school group. For this year, 2009, we have out of the 73 student athletes, 63 day students, which live with families in Jacksonville. We don’t have any foreign kid because we put them with a family. We want any kid from the United States to be with a family. The school doesn’t allow us to do that because of liability, so this year we only have 10 boarders. One of the things that people think is that we are good because we have all these boarders and all these kids from all these countries. We have 10 boarders that are eligible to swim high school and then we have 4 boarders in high school that they are not eligible to swim high school. The reason for that is because when they came into the United States they couldn’t speak English very well. And because of the Florida High School rules you can only swim 4 years and since this is their 5th year they are not allowed to swim. They train. They compete in the USA and they go with their National Teams and try to get a scholarship to go to college.
Within my high school group, I have 3 groups. We have the Senior National Group. I set it up with Junior National Cuts. We have the Sectional Group with Sectional cuts and we have the J.O. Middle School Group that is under Sectional cuts, like J.O. times. Than we have kids that during the High School Season only swim 1 hour a day at the high school level. At our school we don’t have many of those because when somebody shows up for the High School Season and they see 70 people in the water, they last one week and they go. They go to other sports. I give you a little bit of expenses, because the High School kids have to pay.
I come from college coaching and you know, one of the good things that I love about Bolles is that I am not allowed to recruit. I love recruiting and when I left college it is something that I miss. But they told me – Sergio – you are not allowed to recruit, because of the rules. They have H.S.A. rules and it is very expensive at Bolles. I will give you an example. If your kid, your son or daughter calls me up and says Sergio, I am so and so and Brittany is a .59 100 fly, 14 years old and wants to come to Bolles and swim. The first thing that I have to tell you, I am sorry – I cannot talk with you – you need to talk to the person from Admissions – Mr. Fantom and they call Mr. Fantom. Mr. Fantom gives them all the information and the next thing comes with that information is the price tag. You can imagine that you have a boarder estimated at $45,000 or you have a U.S. boarder that is $45,000. The foreign boarder is $55,000. Usually what they do is like they delete that email and you do not hear from those people any more. I cannot call them, because one of the things that we have in Florida is that Bolles is always looked upon. They look at you like anything you do. They are going to scrutinize you, so you have to be very careful. Sometimes somebody will call and pretend that they have a kid and then they will report you to the F.H.S.A. Then you have a big problem. I cannot even talk to the kids, which go to the lane line. We have sometimes one or two kids going to the lane program and they transfer to our school and we have big problems with all that. It is a complicated thing. This year, I had minimum of 50 swimmers that applied and tried to come to Bolles. They were pretty good swimmers. However, two out of those five are not very good, so it is not what people think. It is a hard place in that sense and more with the economy the way it is. We don’t have scholarships. Any financial aid you have to go through the same way that you would go normally. You fill out all the forms and they keep me out of the loop. They do not want me to get into trouble with anything or say anything wrong, so I don’t know much. If somebody asks me about financial aid, I got to tell them – talk to Admissions.
Now, after we talk a little bit about the team structure I will talk about the philosophy and ultimate goal. Probably this has changed for a time, you know. I think when I came two years ago, I sat down with the coaches and I told them, my ultimate goal – you know – is that every single swimmer goes to college, because there are certain things in college that you are going to learn. Being a part of a team you are not going to learn in the classroom. It doesn’t matter if you study Biomedical Engineering – you want to be a doctor – there are certain things at the college level that you can learn working with a team that are very valuable – so that is our ultimate goal for every single kid – Division I, Division II, Division III, Community College. I am not the type of coach that I am going to feel good because all my kids go to swim for Eddie Reese or go to swim for Skip Kenney or some big time coach. We are going to try to find the best place possible for those kids and I think – you know – the philosophy that we try to is to teach each student athlete to understand and appreciate their talent. I know that is a cliché, everybody talks about it. I think where I come from – being for 7 or 8 years as a college coach – now I have to take a step back. My job is to provide four or five more years of good swimming to those kids when they leave Bolles, you know? And if you look at the evolution of swimming – you know – older and older swimmers are going to the World Championships and staying in the sport. Like in the last two years we had 12 out of 13 swimmers – seniors – at the high school group – 12 out of them went to college to swim. One of them went to college to swim, but he was 16 years old when he graduated and he felt like he was very immature with his body and he went to a Big 10 school and I don’t think he showed up the first day. He felt a little bit out of place and then we had five more kids, so a total of 17 swimmers went to college in 2008 and 2009.
To go back to the ultimate goal, I coached at Northwestern University and it was very hard because of the academic standards. Then, I coached at West Virginia University and it was very hard because the state – you know – when you call somebody and you say, “hey – I am the head coach from West Virginia University – you have to be very quickly to say and I can do this for you because they are going to hang up. They don’t want to talk to you. We had very good talented kids and very smart kids. At West Virginia we had to develop a lot of kids and I had to go around the country and look for a lot of talent and I realized one thing. I can build one of the best teams in the country with kids that have barely swum during high school and so we are not trying to do that. You will see like when I show you how much our kids practice – our kids practice a lot and the way practices are going to be set up at Bolles right now – they have been set up for the last two years. They are hopefully to preserve those kids and to have them go to college and be 4 or 5 years there.
For the 2009 and 2010 season I will show you the cycles – the way I set it up – 3 cycles. I know you probably begin March to August and you are thinking – well, the season starts in August. Well, the high school season in Florida started August 17 and it is a fast high school season. It is fast. It is one of the fastest states in the country and it is very competitive so I do not have time to build a base. From Day 1 they have to go and swim fast. My season planning goes from March until March, you know? The way I set up the season the year before I was done February 28 I believe – after Senior Champs – and I started my 2009 – 2010 season. Why? Because between March and August I had 21 to 24 weeks and you know – I could do more work than during the high school season. You had to go, go, go fast, fast, fast. Like this week – we had a dual meet on Tuesday. We have a dual meet tomorrow and we have an invitational with 500 kids on Saturday. You know – you have got to be ready to swim fast so we set up – the first season – the first part. March to August is building the base. You know – work on different things – different deficiencies that we might have – like this past summer we worked on kicking. We did a lot of kicking and I will share that with you later and give you the practices – some of the practices.
The second is August to December and you see it says 13 to 17 weeks because I think now that we have Junior Nationals – one of our goals is going to be to go to Junior Nationals every year in December and be competitive. I have to be realistic that I cannot be competitive with my kids in August because two days later – this year in Seattle we finished the Junior Nationals August 15 and on the 17th our kids were training. You have to be careful, I couldn’t force my kids to go to Seattle. Instead of having 20+ kids in Seattle we had 8 kids. I will get into that in a little bit. We have 13 weeks to 17 weeks – the 13th week is the State Final and the 17th week is the Junior Nationals. Last year we did the same thing that I am showing you right here and after a month after we taper we swim even faster and we went to Junior Nationals without really planning ahead. We never told the kids that we had a chance to win the meet. We told them that if we could swim very well and as things were going on and going on we kept telling the kids – we have a chance – we have a chance and we won the meet in the men and the women in the combined. This was a very big accomplishment and a couple of my coaches – they had been at Bolles for a long time – they were a little skeptical, because in the high school season we were working out on speed and power. – 200’s – 400’s or 500’s distance and you know – our kids kept improving so everything went very well. On the last day of Junior Nationals our kids in the 200’s were swimming pretty well so.
And then the first cycle will be December to March, which is a small cycle. The reason for these two small cycles are because I really believe that if I would not retain kids at a high school level, I cannot go up and down the pool non-stop because college teams do not do that. If you follow the rules at the college level you have 20 hours. I know that many teams do not follow and they have voluntary things and this and that, but they do not go 100,000 yards any more. You have not many teams that will do 100,000 yards a week so if you have the kids doing 100,000 yards a week when they are 9th grade – 10th grade – 11th grade – they are going to be done before they go to college. My thought was that I have between August and March – I set up two fast high school season – one with the high school meet and one with a short course meet and that short course meet this year was Senior Champs for us. We didn’t know how that meet was going to be, but the University of Florida brought their kids to that last chance meet and there was a very big meet for the State of Florid. We swum very fast and out of the blue, we won the men’s, the women’s and the combined. We created for six months – 7 months – a huge team environment. The kids were so happy that they translates this into the summer – hopefully that makes sense. I know the focus with your swimming is long course, but how many of us, besides high school would run clubs and we have issues retaining kids in the pool so you have to make it exciting. I will show you – I am not talking about working 9 hours a week. You will see the hours that we work and we work, but we make it exciting. We do a lot of – you know – well now days with swim flow and all the videos that you can see – we do a lot of things outside of the water with weights – with gymnastics and with running. The kids love that and that is a big way to keep them and also a big way to swimming fast is because I think you can build a base over time.
One of the things that I have to convince my coaches is that if a girl can go 4:50 in the 500 freestyle out of high school – because I take care of her – she is only going to go 4:53. Then when she goes to college can go 4:46 – I am going to do that. I am not going to go – I am not going to push that kid to go 4:50. I can be a better coach and then I burned that kid out so we are trying to have that mind-frame the way we set up the practices. Also, the way the season is set up – very important. I want the kids to have a life, you know. I really believe that they have to have anywhere between 3 and 4 weeks minimum a year of not having to think about swimming – being able to go home – being able to go to the cruise – being able to go and play with the kids with their friends – do whatever they want to do. They are not going to lose their aerobic condition and they are not going to lose anything. I cannot prove that scientifically, but I know because I have been in this sport for so long that I felt it with myself. You can see it with the kids. It is very important that in the summer they have three weeks off. During the spring break they can have 10 days off and then maybe they have 3 or 4 days during Christmas.
One of the things too is like when we set it up like this. I told my swimmers that we are trying to get to think about making the Junior National Team or you know – swimming at the highest level. Some of the kids that I am very happy took three weeks off. We had sophomores and freshmen that would have gone to Seattle and they swum well. They would have scored for us – they would have been – probably in the top 16 and some of them in the top 8 and instead of doing that – they went fly fishing with their parents. They did something else and when they came back August 17 they were fresh and ready. They really appreciate that.
The way our practice is currently set up – we had this for the last two years. We do not have 8th graders, 7th graders or middle schoolers doing any double practices at all. We have the 9th graders do just Monday morning and then they will do every afternoon and they will do Saturday. The 10th graders – they will do Monday and Friday – every afternoon and then Saturday and the 11th and 12th graders – they will do Monday, Wednesday and Friday – every afternoon and then Saturday. Why? Because they are student athletes and as you see – the 9th grader is doing 20 hours a week – the way we have it set up. So, I do not need the 9th grader to do more than 20 hours a week right now. It is very important that the transition from middle school to high school – they learn how to be a student. They learn how to go to zero hour. They learn how to go before classes start they learn how to go and sit down with the teacher and they listen. I have a problem with this math thing and we encourage them and we push them to do that. – well – I had one kid – an 8th grader that is from Singapore. He should be a 9th grader. He was used to training 11 times a week so I have him right now – just come like if he was a 9th grader. He is the same age you know and he is a very fast kid, but we had like one of our swimmers the last year was an 8th grader. We had two kids – like a girl that was 55 in the hundred back in yards and 1:04 long course or a boy that was 2:04.0 as a 14 year old boy – 200 back long course – 1:49 in yards in December as a 13 year old boy. He practiced once a day. He didn’t do doubles. He didn’t do weights. He didn’t do anything. I think it is very important that we preserve them – the ones with talent and the ones without talent.
During the summer is a little bit different. In the summer – we finish the high school May 29 or 30 so I like to have double practices every day. Why? Because instead of having 3 hours and you know – I know it looks like – instead of having 3 hours I have maybe 2 hours or 2 hours and 15 minutes or 2 and ½ hours, but every day I can work on something different and I can make sure that they recover well. Then I focus on something else the following day instead of having to do everything in one day and then have a break. The 8th graders , the 9th graders – for three weeks – for the 9th graders for three weeks in June they come to double practices and if you look at this it is like just 26 hours – 27 hours. A lot of that, I am going to explain now. It is not just swimming everything, so the increased load – it is big, but it is not as big as it seems, but they only do it for three weeks. Ok – between August and March we have in the morning – we do 10 minutes of stretch. It is a very important thing that I – what we did when I was in college and you know – we do it with the team now in high school. We stretch as a team. At the beginning of the year or the season I direct the stretches or one of the coaches directs the stretches and it is 10 minutes of moving. It is not just stretching or going like this, but different exercises and pom, pom, pom, pom, pom and every day. At one point the Captains are going to be the ones doing the stretches. I think that is a very important thing because when we walk at Junior Nationals with 33 swimmers or when we walk at the State Meet with 50 kids and they go to one corner and they stretch with the T-shirts and with the uniform it is very impressive. It is just like – it sets the tone and for them – doing that every day – it sets like a pride, you know? So 10 minutes we stretch as a team.
We also do dry land. The dry land – I am not going to go through it you know because we do so many things, but in the morning we will do running – gymnastics – what I call gymnastics – it is anything with your body. You know – when I was a kid we had gymnastics in school in Spain so you know – summersaults or tumbling – no summersaults – tumbling and you know – cart wheels and all those things. I don’t know the names, but I tell them how to do them and we do a lot of those. We are very lucky. Right next to the pool we have a football field and we have a weight room so everything is connected. We are very privileged in that sense and then we do weights. The weights – it is very interesting because – when I was in college I didn’t believe in doing weights with high school kids and when I went to Bolles I thought I wasn’t going to do weights. You know – the kids – my first year we didn’t do weights actually.
You know I had a kid at the Olympic Games in 2008 that was 15th in the 200 freestyle that when we started training for the Olympic Games I took the weights away from him and you know I said – I am going to teach you how to do this with medicine balls – with this or that. Then when you move on in college – when you go to one of those big schools you are going to do weights to stop a train so we took that out. We took that out of all the kids and they were very successful, but then the swim suits came along. If I look at the progression of the year the way people swum you know – big kids – even fat kids, but big strong kids were the ones that benefited the most so I thought – if this is going to be the trend then I need to get my kids stronger – not without jeopardizing their – hopefully their careers, but I got to get them into the weight room. I have to teach them a little bit. I have got to put some muscle on him and that is why we started the weights. So I haven’t changed this season with the weights because last summer went very well. I am going to see how it plays out because I am not sure what is going to happen with the suits either, you know – we don’t know – so, but with the weights we don’t do a lot of heavy power, but with some good weights. Swimming in the mornings after dry land we try to transfer everything in the water – we will do speed work – running dives – variable speed – resistance speed with parachute, fishing poles, stretch cords.
The yardage is not that much. We practice for two hours in the mornings, but the yardage is anywhere between 1,500 to 3,000. A fishing pole is a gadget. Many years ago – actually it looks like a fishing pole (a fiber glass rod). I found out – I started using it with some kids because of injuries and I like it a lot because you keep your center of gravity very high and you teach the kid to ride the water in every stroke. The butterfly is a little bit harder you know, but you know – we always try. The swim suits help you out with the center of gravity – you know – all those jackets. They changed the sport because the center of gravity now stays on the surface so it keeps the speed constant so then you swim faster. Well, you try to teach the kids how to – to train how to do that so the fishing pole is a very good drill after doing weights or doing dry land to get in the water and do sets of 15 seconds – 20 strokes and you know – the kid can feel the hips on top so I like it a lot.
Total yardage – anywhere between 1500 to 3000. Saturday we do not do dry land. Sometimes we maybe will do the 10 minute stretches and then we will swim anywhere between 65 to 8,000. The PM between August and March we have – you know – 5 minutes and 45 minutes – sometimes maybe longer, but we practice for 3 hours – between 3:15 and 6:15. I am not going to have the kids swimming for 3 hours so some days we will talk about the weather and we will just joke around, but many days we will talk a lot of team building things. You know – team building activities or the way you need to think. I teach them a lot about meditation and visualization so I will explain to them the exercises and how to do the stuff so we use those five to 45 minutes to become a team. Then we will do a 10 minute stretch and as the season progresses and we are getting into the big meet we will do always – before we get in the water – 10-15 minutes of relaxation and visualization. Sometimes right after that I tell them – today – you are going to visualize that you do this – that and then right after that we will go and we will swim one more hundred from the dive – you know – like 10 seconds of your best time – trying to do what I told you to visualize. I think – as an athlete – I can only speak from my experiences – I was very lucky that somehow – on my own – I learned how to do all that stuff and was in touch with that a lot so I am trying to pass those experiences to my swimmers.
Dry land: we do med balls two to three times a week. I used to do them five times a week – not very hard all the time. The med ball – we don’t use a big ball – we use anywhere between 4 pounds to 8 pounds the most. The med ball exercises – it is not about how heavy it is – it is about – you know – learning how to use the power of the person in front of you. You know – when you swim – you know – you learn how to generate power and feel that stroke and feel that – you know – feel the water. With the medicine ball you can – you know – and more when you have a partner – you can feel that. You can learn how to feel and absorb the power of that person and throw it back so I don’t have anybody using more than an 8 pound ball. I think last year I had a boy – that now he is in college – he was a big guy that wanted to use a 10 pound so I let him use it, but even when I was at Northwestern – my college kids – they never used anything above 8 pounds. Now, because of the weights, we do not do the med ball that much. We do med ball – we do a lot of med ball in the water during practice – you know – we will do some sets – we will come out – we will do med ball – we will do the routine – we will do another set.
For swimming we will do pace development – race pace – negative split swimming that I believe is very important. Kick ball swim – swim with med balls – lactate training. I will go through these if I have time at the end and I have practices here that if you want them I can email them to you too and then we can talk about them. The structure between March and June changes a little bit. Well, the structure does not change because we are still in school. What changes is that the type of work that we do. You know – instead of like working on speed and power we will be more aerobically oriented. We will try to do longer sets and we will try to do work. We always work on technique, but – you know – work a lot on technique, but – you know – work a lot on technique. You know – many times the 45 minutes before we get in the water we will show them videos a lot – you know – starts and turns or strokes and so we will spend a lot of time with that. Yardage wise, we are not a high volume team. Between March and August I liked it because I had 20 class weeks and for a period of 8 weeks or 9 weeks I did anywhere between 50-65 and that was great. But, we are not a high volume team any more. I really believe that you can have a kid swim the mile – the 500 in high school is not a distance event any more – it is a sprint event, but you can swim the mile very well without having to just pound and pound and pound and pound. You just need to teach a kid how to understand speed and how to swim smartly and do everything properly with good technique.
Between June and August – once the school is out we change the practice a little bit. Why? Because in Florida we get very bad storms in the afternoon so we will try to have the main practice – the longer practice in the morning. We will do the dry land and we will do the rest in the afternoon because we have to spend less time in the water so if the storm comes – sometimes they are only for 20 minutes – instead of swimming we can go to the gym and do what we need to do and we can come back and then swim. Same thing – you know – between that time too we do a little bit more yardage – anywhere between – in the morning 7,000 to 8,500. Before we were going anywhere between 6,500 to 7,500. In the P.M. in the afternoon we will do – you know – the dry land and then we will try to keep a little bit working on the aerobic base, but also you know – start working on the speed and getting the kids ready because we have – not all of them. If they have a big goal – like making the Junior National Team or we have a lot of kids – some of the boarders- they have their international meets. We have also many Europeans, so European Championships or whatever meets we need to prepare those kids for those meets. Between the first week of July until August it is kind of a nightmare to write down practice because in my group I have to sometimes write down 5 practices because I have 5 different groups going to different places so I just gave you a general idea.
You know – our practices – if we have time during the questions and answers I can answer anything you want and then afterwards, if you want, I can give you the practices. I have practices here – examples of everything that we do pretty much so I will give you the XL files and you can take them with you and if you have any questions you will be able to ask me. I think if we go and I start showing you practices we are going to be here and waste one hour for one practice, but there is some useful information. I am more than happy to share anything that we do with you guys. The next thing, you know, I want to go into the tradition. I know that when you look at Bolles – you say well Sergio – you are lucky because – Gregg Troy – the other coach I do not remember his name, but the coach before Gregg Troy was there for many years. He is a very good man and he did a very good job. Nobody knows him, but you know – everybody thinks well – you know – you are lucky because Gregg Troy set it up for you or for whoever came.
Well, I think that tradition can be set in 15 months. You can set your tradition in 15 months – you know – how? In 15 months you have two high school seasons or you have a USA Swimming season plus a Junior Nationals or something like that. So when you start working and you know – you are new at a club – you know – if you have been there for a long time, but you decide – hey now – I need to take this thing to the next level, you can do it. You just need to figure it out – something that you can sell to the kids from that place. I know when I went to West Virginia – people told me – Sergio – you are nuts. Why are you going to West Virginia? You know – At Northwestern now – you have Greevers, Bill Bolles, Alexandra. We had amazing swimmers and at West Virginia and I told them – I said Guys – I think I can build something special. Now, in two and a half years we are in top 17 – top 15 in the country. How?? Finding that tradition and trust me – when I got there that team was full of alcoholics. A lot of people drinking and partying – they didn’t care much for me. They didn’t swim for – between February and August – until I got there. Not one of those guys touched the water. [Q. How much of that came from the International Success with recruiting?] Some came from that because that is the avenue that I had, but my first recruiter at West Virginia was a kid from the U.S. National Team – a Junior National Team. Then I had – one of the kids that came to West Virginia was a walk-on – was Shaun Mahoney that if you know about Shaun Mahoney – last year he broke the NCAA record or almost broke the NCAA record in the morning at NCAA’s – 1:51 200 breaststroke in yard. He went all the way from California to West Virginia as a walk-on because we didn’t have money so we had a lot of international success, but because I can barely speak English you know, but we have recruited a lot of kids – you know – like – my last year at West Virginia – only three teams had more freshmen than I at NCAA’s – Auburn, Berkley and Arizona.
Now, I had 5 girls. 3 of those girls nobody really, really recruited them and they were Pennsylvania, Delaware – two from Pennsylvania – one from Delaware – you know – and the other one was a foreign kid. I recruited foreign kids and it is an easy way to be successful, but we develop a lot of kids from – American kids, but you have got to find something. The point is- that you have got to find something. What I found is I can create a team you know. Being a mountaineer is something special you know. If you live in West Virginia and you set a foot on Morgan Town – it is not the greatest place – I love it there. For a lot of people it is a small town, but being a mountaineer is very special so we make everybody believe that it was a special thing– you can do that. The same thing should happen in your teams and the first season is good. They swim fast. Now you have a tradition of swimming fast. I think that it is something exciting and contagious and it goes quickly and most important is the state of mind.
I will give you an example – I think I have time – I will give you an example. When I went to West Virginia I was at a football game. I didn’t know much about songs and fight songs and things, but we were playing Maryland and it was a very tight game and finally West Virginia beat Maryland and out of the blue. The whole stadium and the big screen TV’s – they put this clip of somebody climbing a mountain and they put this on “Country Rose” – that is a famous song for West Virginia and the whole stadium was singing that song. I was with my son – Colby – who had to be like 4 years old. I was holding him – you know – and I god goose bumps – you know – I got goose bumps and I was like WOW – this is even better than when they put the medal on me at the Olympic Games. At that moment in time I realized – I can use this – I can really use it. Now, a few months later before I go to the conference – I go – conference or some meet – I go to my son’s room the night before and I say – Colby – hey – I am leaving tomorrow and you know – you want to wish me maybe good luck and he sits down in the bed and he sings “Country Rose” to me and the light is out and he is like, “Country Rose, take me home” and I am like – I don’t know the song, but the kid was already into it. – you can grow it quickly you know and it is very contagious. You know – people want things like that. I am a very dysfunctional person and I am not going to stand in front of you telling you that I am excellent at everything I do, but it is the way you portray yourself towards your swimmers and you know – you want to keep the best out of you. The problem that we have many times is that we look at what we don’t have and that is an excuse for all of us. I keep telling people – I don’t have a 50 meter pool – I don’t have a weight room – I don’t have this – you know. I am preparing myself the way so that I can fall and it is okay because then I can go to my administration and say, “well, you know, we don’t have this and we don’t have that or my Board of Directors go yeah – we need or we need that – we need more money – NO – Excellence starts by appreciating what you have and working with it. You know – you make 100% out of that – 110%.
I think the kids – you know – many days when I go into the pool – I am not sure about what I am going to do with practice. I have it written down, but sometimes you like wonder – is this the right thing? I can assure you of one thing – my swimmers do not doubt. When they see me – they believe. You know? And I know I am a very emotional person and if I am sad or I had a horrible day in the office and I walk on deck and I am pissed – the mood changes. You know – the kids get upset – sad – you know? So, you know – you have to control that. You have to be excellent. You have to go out there and you know – make sure that the kids see it in you. If they see it – they will pick it up and they will do it. They will translate into the school work if you keep telling them – if you punish them for not going to class – for having bad grades – you know? I don’t let them go to Junior Nationals if they don’t behave. I had a kid this year who had made the Junior National Team. He was being very disrespectful towards his mother so I told him – it is like – you are not going to Junior Nationals. You have to sit down with your Mom – you have got to set up a plan. You have got to learn respect of your home. You are going to do this and do that. You are going to learn how to do chores at home and then we can talk about it. I do not know if he has changed. It seems that he has changed – you know – the mother seems happy and they are not fighting that much, but it starts with us, you know? You have got to show the kids that you care – passion. I think – you know – it is in everyone. I think for all of us – you know – how many times do we get goose bumps so we try – you know – when we see one of those videos with people winning and going like this and going like that and you know – when Michael Phelps wins 8 medals or when they show those videos – like yesterday they showed that video at the end of the presentation – you know – we get goose bumps and we can feel that passion you know? All of us have a reason to be swim coaches or had a reason to be swimmers. All of us felt that so now we need to make sure that we translate that to our kids and we allow them to feel that to our kids and we allow them to feel that.
You know – I think many of the things – I guess I consider myself lucky – you know – many of the things that I have done – that I tell the kids – my experience as an athlete – I was very blessed so I can really talk with the kids and make them feel like there is a purpose inside. The last six years of my career I trained very hard to even improve 1/10th of a second so I know how it feels to get up every day and work with Joseph Nagy. He is a living nut – you know – and work and work and work and work and go to the meet and swim bad so you have got to be there and you have got to teach the kids that you care. It is also – you know – it goes very quickly and it is also very contagious.
Any questions you have? This is my email address and if you do not have a zip drive or whatever – email me and I will email you the practices and I can email you the presentation too if you want. Any questions or anything? I want to thank you all and then there are two more things – keep in mind – you know – the tradition – excellence and passion of your team is not a matter of chance – it is a matter of choice. The choices you make will most likely decide the fate of your team. You know – it is not about what Michael Phelps does in the water – it is about what you do with the kids and what you make the kids believe that they can do. Thanks.