For this talk what I decided to do is look at the last year, leading up to Athens. I am going to be presenting a few basic concepts about Natalie’s background, about general philosophies that I have at CAL that are incorporated with Natalie and everyone and then we are going to look at the 2003 World Championships in Barcelona and kind of take you through her and our experience leading up to Athens. A lot of it is not so much technical. What I didn’t know when I first started coaching and now that I have been fortunate to coach at an International and National level is there is a lot that goes into working and helping an athlete of that caliber and I think that in working with Natalie and someone like a Michael Phelps there is a lot of different things that these athletes have to consider and expectations that are put on them by US Swimming, their coaches, their teammates, their sponsors, their agents. I just kind of want to just share some of that with you and then at the end I have some of our training schedules. And I have about three or four workouts that we can go over and then if there are any questions.
I have been fortunate enough to work with Natalie since her enrollment at CAL in August of 2000, but there are a lot of great things and hard work that went into her preparation. Before that, she started swimming at the age of 6. Her parents put a pool in and they were afraid that if she and her sister did not know how to swim, you know, it was more of a life skill so she started swimming in a club situation with about three or four different clubs. She started with the Terrapins in late spring of ’95 and after being with the Terrapins for six months she was moved up into the senior group where she worked with Ray Mitchell and obviously did a lot of great things before enrolling at CAL.
Here are some training philosophies of our program and concepts that I wanted to highlight that are a core running through what Natalie does, as well as what the other women in our program do. One of them – fitness and development of the athlete in and out of the water – just the overall athleticism of the human being. I think a lot of times we make a joke about it and say they are a swimmer because they can’t do anything else, but when you look at the best swimmers, a lot of them are great athletes and I think if you can work on those skills – whether it be through dry-land, weights – we do a lot of yoga and Pilates and just an awareness of your body out of the water you can take that into the water.
Next item: An emphasis on fundamentals and technique. You know, I believe even if you are a 59.5 hundred backstroker – there are things that she is going to need to continue to work on and do to get better. Technique is just an ongoing thing that is stressed every day and is stressed away from the pool. One of the things that we talk about – there are 24 hours in the day – 4 of them are with us, but you are training 24 hours a day. You know, with your body – not position, but just the way you walk around – the way you carry your body – when you are sitting in class all day you don’t have the swimmer shoulders. Just an awareness of that and how it is going to relate to your overall performance is important.
Next one – awareness of your relationship with the water or feel for the water. I believe that feel for the water is something that you either have or you don’t have, but you can work on an elite feel for the water. And everybody can work on their awareness of their body in relationship to the water and if they are not working on that and if they are not aware of that, they are probably not going to swim very well or they are going to get to a certain level and that is going to be it so there is a big emphasis on an awareness of that. It is obviously going to vary with different people in our program and to me that just means thinking and being in the moment.
The team culture: it is a unique situation coaching in a college situation in that you have 20-25 women when we are all working generally for the same thing. I don’t have to concentrate on people trying to go to a sectional meet, a junior national meet and a senior national meet. You know, we are going to swim Stanford in February and everybody is going to go and do that and I think that lends itself to a really amazing team environment. They are living together. We are traveling together. We are asking them to wear a CAL cap but it doesn’t mean that that team culture is going to happen just by putting on a cap or a shirt – it is something that you have to nurture, develop and talk about.
The next one – everyone is a coach. They have a responsibility to help each other – to hold each other accountable and responsible outside of the pool. In the pool we will do technique work – a lot where it is coach driven – coach talking to the athlete, but we also do a lot of stuff where it is mentoring or working together. If we are working on turns – it is not myself or Whitney telling people, okay this is – do a freestyle turn – this is what we are going to work on – it is two people working in the pool and then giving each other feedback and giving each other feedback in a competition setting. A lot of times that can be a lot more powerful than what the coach has to say.
The last thing is a core belief of mine of just celebrating the journey, enjoying the process. I really look at and I know Natalie looks at her swimming as sort of being a master of your craft. One of the reasons that I think Natalie has been successful in our program of these 6 things that I have just discussed. She really believes with every ounce of her being and it is a relationship – it is a belief in what is going on so that is kind of the general.
So I want to go from Barcelona until Athens and look at what that year entailed as she prepared for Athens. In 2003 at the world championships she had qualified for four individual events – the 100 and 200 back, the 100 butterfly, the 100 freestyle and had hopes that she would be on all three relays – you know, coming into the meet she had just come off breaking the world record in the 100 back here in Fort Lauderdale, breaking the American record in the 200 back, breaking the American record in the 100 free – I think to that point she had 8-10 world records with long course and short course meters – 30 plus American records, American record in the 100 and 200 yard backstroke – 100 and 200 yard butterfly, 100 and 200 yard freestyle so there were a lot of expectations. 7 events – again, people are talking about Michael and her – 7 events – 7 gold medals so a lot that she was dealing with.
We went on our training trip to France and we moved on to Barcelona. The morning before the competition started – she doesn’t like to usually swim the afternoon before the competition – her first event was the 100 butterfly and so she swam that morning. I can remember, I can still see her saying that this is the best she had felt since breaking the world record. You know, my stroke is still good – I am ready to go – I am really excited. I went to workout that afternoon with some of the other people I was working with and when I came back to the pool or to the hotel – I have a little personal tradition that anyone that trains with me – going into an international meet – I try to get them something from the area and then write them a card – just you know, I am proud of you – keep it up – have fun this week – whatever it may be and I remember I had left her and Haley something on their door and she came up to thank me and gave me a hug. I was just like whoa – you are warm – she goes you know, I don’t feel very well. I went and saw the doctor and he gave me some aspirin, but I think that I will be okay. So, to make a long story short, she ended up swimming the 100 fly that morning – qualified I think 3rd or so and her temperature was up to about 99-100 – just kind of felt sluggish. She swam the semi-finals that afternoon or evening and qualified for the finals of the 100 fly and then led off our 400 free relay and then the next morning was the 100 backstroke.
She got in to warm up and you know, that morning – you could just tell – that Natalie has – similar to me – probably why we get along — you can just tell sometimes by looking at her like she is not in a good place. I could just tell she was tired and trying to put on a happy face and muster up the energy and at that point her temperature was up to about 101. She hadn’t slept all night and having the chills and that kind of thing so she swims the prelims of the 100 backstroke and goes 1:03.3 so the world record holder just got 32nd in the prelims. She obviously did not make the semi-finals and everybody wants to know what is going on. She obviously doesn’t feel well, she is upset and one of the things that I am most proud of that – that whole week was the way that she handled that with going to their press conference saying of course I am disappointed – I am not making excuses – I am just not feeling well. I will be back tonight to swim the final of the 100 butterfly.
So, we got her out of there. She swims the final of the 100 butterfly in what she likes to call – was her fly and die mentality. It is like okay, I know I don’t feel so great – I am just going to go and see what happens and she was good for about 30 meters and then it didn’t look so good at the end and ended up getting 8th I remember we didn’t warm-down and they had gotten a car to meet her to take her back to the hotel and I was walking with her back behind the swim stadium and she says, I feel like an old man and she goes you know, I am achy and she says, “I wonder when the last time was that I got 8th place in something?” And she just started kind of giggling and I thought well, okay she still has her sense of humor.
The next five days she doesn’t really eat – doesn’t really sleep – the temperature stays up around 102-103 and by the last day she is feeling a little bit better – I mean – she has got to scratch the 100 free, the 200 back and the 400 medley relay is on the last day and so she was feeling well enough to swim the finals of the 100 backstroke or the finals of the 400 medley relay. She swam backstroke – I think she was 1:02 something and you know, that was really hard as a coach to watch her swim and just know that she was giving it everything she could – it basically looked like someone had shot. She can’t move and because of all that I think it really flashed back to – in ’98 after she had you know, made nationals in every event – every distance – she hurt her shoulder which has been you know, well documented and spent about a year and a half not being able to swim. You know, she was supposed to be the wonder kid for 2000 and didn’t make the Olympic team and ended up 4th and I think in her mind she was going through – here we go, we are going into another Olympics and sort of my body has let me down so that was a tough time.
We came back from that and then she had some real decisions in the fall. One of the first things we did is to sit down and say, okay – you know there is all this hype about how many events are you going to swim – how many medals are you going to win – Natalie what are your goals for the Olympics and what I heard real loud and clear is she didn’t need 7 gold medals – she wanted to try and win one gold medal and she wanted to be part of the relays. So, we needed to look at how many individual events will that entail and when are the relays and look at the Olympic schedule. The Olympic schedule was fairly favorable to Michael and what he was trying to do. When you looked at Natalie’s events I know that the 100 fly final was going to be maybe 12 minutes before the semi-final of the 100 back and then it ended up that the 200 free and the 100 back – the final of the 100 back and the semi of the 200 free was something like 22 minutes before the final of the 100 backstroke.
In talking to other coaches – whether it was talking to a Mark Schubert or Richard Quick – you know, that you could win five silver medals, but if you win one gold medal that that is really what the sponsors are going to look at – that is what is going to set the signature of your career and it was very, very important that she wanted to be on all three relays so what it came down to – we will swim the 100 back – we will try to be on the three relays and then we will either go the 100 free or the 200 backstroke. If you could pick the events think of your swimmer and the event that they hate the least – Natalie Coughlin hates the 200 back – double that – for whatever reason – I don’t know why, but 200 backstroke is just something she can not stand.
I am hoping that we can maybe change that in the next couple of years, but it is not something that she really enjoys so after identifying the goals we had to look at she was coming into her senior season and you know, do we stay with a collegiate environment – that we know that we are comfortable with or do we go professional and do you take advantage of the financial opportunities that are available to someone of her stature going into an Olympic games and this was – you know, it sounds easy to come up here and say it in two minutes and bang, but you know, it is not like we didn’t or she didn’t think about this before the fall and you know, a lot of people giving us input on this. One of the things I am really, really thankful for is Mark Schubert who was our head Olympic coach for the women. I think he has been on 7 staffs and worked with countless people of this stature and I had talked to him and he had given me some of his opinions and I asked him if he would come up and sit down with Natalie. He was generous enough in the beginning of a collegiate season to fly up for the day and go to lunch with Natalie and I and just share some of his insight so she decided that she was going to stick with the collegiate situation.
I felt like I knew how to really help her and facilitate greatness in the college setting when she was part of the collegiate program – I know that we now are in a new stage with her being a professional and not being part of the college team, but I didn’t know how that was going to look and wasn’t as comfortable doing that – going in to you know, the biggest meet of her life to that point. Also, we hired a new assistant at CAL – Whitney Hite. Whitney had worked with Jack Farley at Georgia for five years. He swam for Eddie Reese at Texas and it was real real important that I bring someone in that had been around winners – you know, that knew what it was going to take to win a national championship, a person that was around athletes and teams and coaches that had achieved the highest level of excellence in our sport. Whitney had the experience of working with post-grads at Georgia and I knew that we were moving into that new territory.
One of the things I love about being a college coach is I like that right now there are 22 women looking at me for direction and motivation and that that team is going to go all the way until March and even if I took those same 22 next year – it would be different because of those experiences. I really like the starting and the stopping and you know, we had seniors graduate – we had new freshmen came in and Natalie felt really good about the team environment and how that environment could help her continue to improve.
We also had lingering health issues. Prior to Barcelona I can honestly say that that young lady never missed a workout for any reason – especially from being sick. I don’t remember her being sick except for maybe your know, a sore throat, I have a headache, but not something that took her out of a practice or let alone was that you know, sort of incapacitating. It really lingered on until about December – just being overly tired – not being able to train at the level that she wanted to train and knew that she had to train and it was definitely something that was very frustrating and caused some concern on her part.
There were also personal changes going on. She was fortunate enough to purchase a new home so you know, you are 22 – you are a senior in college – you purchase a home in the Bay area – those of us who live in the Bay area know how expensive they are. And any time – no matter where you are – when you buy a house do you understand those 35 pages you just signed? You know, they want you to initial at the bottom and everything. So doing that – setting up a new household – it wasn’t right next to campus so where she could go back in between classes. It is 4 miles away – she lives down in Emeryville which is right at the base of the Bay bridge, going into San Francisco, 4 miles from campus so it is not far, but it was enough to kind of throw off her routine.
Also, in October – I had worked with Haley Cope and Haley had been part of our program for seven years and Haley wanted to make a change and so she left and just the way that that whole thing transpired was a little bit disruptive to – not so much the team, but to Natalie and myself and I was real worried that her training partner and someone who really had the same aspirations on an international level wouldn’t be there anymore would effect her.
And then the competitions and the results of those competitions during the fall – she just wasn’t swimming what she was used to — 200 free she might go 1:49-1:50 in a dual meet where she had been used to kind of going 1:46-1:47 and this 1:49-1:50 hurt a lot more and just wasn’t at the level that she wanted it to be. We, as a team, went to an invitational at Princeton University in December and asked her – you know, she swam the 200 IM and did her best time. She swam the 200 back – I think she was 1:52. The team – we had an unbelievable meet as a team and that I see as really sort of the turning point for her to kind of get back on her feet confidence wise so that was a big bonus.
Then our training schedule during the collegiate year – this is a typical training schedule:
Mon / Fri 6:00-7:45 AM Swim (LCM)
1:15-3:30 PM Swim (SCY)
Tue / Thur 6:00-7:00 AM Yoga and Pilates
7:10-7:50 AM Spin
12:45-1:30 PM Weights/Speed Circuit
1:45-3:30 PM Swim (SCY)
Wednesday 6:00-7:45 AM Swim (LCM)
Saturday 7:00-9:30 AM Swim
Swimming in the morning long course and in the afternoon – 1:15-3:30 on Tuesday/Thursday. In the morning our dry-land emphasis with yoga and Pilates for about an hour and spin on the bike – a lot of cardio work and we will do weights or speed circuit which is mini-gyms – isokinetic. Nort Thornton has this amazing set-up that he lets us use and we get in the water after that. Wednesdays we swim just in the morning – I started that about six years ago and it I think it has helped give us kind of a mini-break in the middle of the week. Then by Thursday afternoon when we get back in the water the quality of the workout in the latter part of the week has generally improved. Getting up every morning is something that is difficult, but you know, you read anything on sleep and they talk about if you can stay in a regular pattern that is a good thing so that was what we were trying to – we were trying to force that on them. Saturday mornings and Sundays are off.
So then, in the winter –we were fortunate enough to take our entire team down to Sydney, Australia and train with Ian Thorpe and his coach, Tracy Menzies and their group so we went down there for nine days. It was a great experience for the college team. I felt in doing this that you know, how great for all 25 of us to experience swimming in a country that reveres swimming like they do football, basketball, baseball here. When we were down there, Natalie and myself – it gave us an opportunity to meet with different people from different parts of the country and we had the opportunity to really have some intensive technique work. Milton Elms has worked off and on with myself and our program and he was able to be down there and you know, those of you that are fortunate enough at any time to take your team on a training trip or a long extended weekend – know what it can do to the camaraderie of your group.
There were also some challenges team-wise. Everybody has got some kid on their team that is better than the other people and the jealousy that comes around that and the envy and Natalie and I were doing a lot of things between practice and so, therefore, I would give her some time off of practice and it gave one of those teaching moments to sit down and kind of have a look. Gang, we are here because of people like Stacy Anastitz in your program – Haley Cope, Natalie Coughlin that allow me to meet coaches from all over the world that allow us to be invited – but allow all of us to have this experience and that that was something I don’t know if they heard, but I think they did hear and it was really the thing that I wanted to point out. I also wanted to point out that Natalie’s goals – Olympic goals – international goals or anybody’s on our team do not have to be in conflict with what we are trying to do as a collegiate program – that they can enhance what we do.
Then we move into a college dual meet situation and we went undefeated for the first time in CAL history. Those of you that are familiar college and rivalries – CAL/Stanford is a huge deal. CAL had not won a dual meet from Stanford in 28 years. Karen Moe Thornton coached before me at CAL and we had never beat them. The CAL/Stanford meet was our last duel meet – we beat Arizona which was ranked in front of us on the last relay – we beat UCLA on the last relay and somehow we beat Stanford on the last relay with getting 3rd instead of second and so it was a really, really an emotional season and a lot of great, great excitement which took us into a PAC-10 championships and a collegiate championship. At the PAC-10 Natalie swam the 200 IM and the 200 free and did some different things.
One thing that I wanted to say about the college dual meets is – one thing that became challenging for her is that when she would get up and race it wasn’t about her doing her best – which is the place she likes to operate from or like I said, to be the master of your craft – but it is not only about your time, but it is about working on this technique – what do you need to do? I know when we were working toward breaking the World Record and we would be at a Santa Clara meet what are we going to work on? Well, we are going to work on a World Record quality turn because you might not have that World Record performance, but you are going to have a World Record quality turn. It became that every time she went to swim — she had not lost a college dual meet race — she got up to race it was all about not getting beat as opposed to getting beat. I know that a real turning point I think and again, a teaching moment, was when we were down at SC racing them and I had asked her to swim the 200 free and then the 200 fly – which in a college dual meet is maybe at most, 15 minutes apart and both of those situations she was going to have to race Kaitlin Sandino. When she gets up for the 200 free the announcer, doing his job, trying to get people motivated, talks about how she has never, she is a senior, she has never lost a race and she and Kaitlin go neck and neck on a 200 free. I think they were 1:47 and Natalie did beat her – just by you know, a couple of tenths and she went down to the warm-down pool and was not real happy with me about the fact that I am going to ask her to swim the 200 fly. She ended up I think about 1:54 in the 200 fly and Kaitlin was 1:57 and I took her aside and said, “Nat, that is about the only person in the United States – maybe the world – that could challenge you like that and you just beat her.” Because we had had such a sort of a rocky fall about her not thinking she was in shape and those kinds of things and I think that was a turning moment or an opportunity to say, “hey – you are ready to go.”
So when we go to the college championship meet we really wrestled with what events to pick and I know in asking other coaches whether it is more impressive to win 3 events four years in a row or to win different events. I was just getting people’s feedback, but she decided we were going to swim the 100 back, the 100 fly and the 200 back. Also, we felt like as a program, we had an opportunity to win an 800 free so she came to us and said I would like to be on the 800 free relay. She had not been on that yet at an NCAA Championship. What that meant was that on the second day she was going to swim morning – prelims and finals of a 200 medley relay where we need her to go 23 in a 50 back so that we can get in the top 8 and to swim prelims and finals of 100 back, prelims and finals of a 100 butterfly and then to lead off the 800 free relay which she did. We ended up winning from lane 2 and I don’t think anybody, but our team and those four women, really thought that we could do that and I am really proud that Natalie got to experience a team championship and I can honestly say that that is the most excited that I have ever seen her in a long time. There are two moments that come to mind when I have seen her have genuine emotion and joy and excitement and that was one of them and this past spring when Emily Silver got 6th place in the 100 freestyle at World Championship trials and Natalie had won the event and she is pumping her arms that Emily got 6th place and that kind of speaks to the character of the young lady.
So, we go into the last day – last individual events – that 200 backstroke again and she ends up getting 3rd and you know, I think that when I look back at that, it was almost a relief to kind of get 3rd. I think it was definitely the turning point of what event are we going to swim at the Olympics – the 100 free and the 200 back. I also think — I hate to use the word losing that 200 backstroke — because of some technical things that we were working on that were keeping sort of the big picture in mind, that she just wasn’t able to incorporate in a stressful situation.
So going into about February and March – we wanted to make sure that we stayed true to her NCAA eligibility, but we also wanted to start moving forward on looking at a sports agent and representation. Beginning in February she decided on three individuals that she was going to interview and I know just personally, that was something that I had done a lot of the sort of ground work and screening on and I learned so much about our sport that I never even encountered or considered before and when it came time for her to really interview these people she decided that she just wanted herself and me – which quite honestly, felt a little weird that she didn’t want her parents involved. It was a little bit like – because I didn’t see this as a swimming decision – I saw this as a life decision and I was honored that she wanted to have my input on it so we did all that. She had to process the different information and very, very different presentations and different things that these agents felt that they could help her with as she looked beyond her collegiate years.
Also, the ongoing publicity and other things outside of the pool needed to be dealt with. That really became something during the last two years from about 2002 after PAN-PAC’s and her world record performances. I had to talk with people from US Swimming. Mary Wagner at the time suggested us having a media day so there would be one day a week that any time an interview request came in, that is when we would schedule it. As you can imagine, it got exponentially just more and more and more as Olympics approached and it became a challenge as the coach. How do you run workout and also have Natalie over there with 15 people from Glamour Magazine taking pictures. They really want her to do it for six hours and you just told them they can only have two. You know, I can’t tell you how many times and I learned things from Richard Quick – I asked Richard if we could go to lunch and if he could just share some of his experiences working with Jenny and Summer and he gave me great, great insight into how to handle it. The reality is that Glamour Magazine wants Natalie and so when they come and they say they want six hours – you say she has two. At first that was really outside of my comfort zone and I was thinking we are supposed to accommodate these people with Glamour magazine and I found out later that I was able to get them down to the least amount of time. How did you do that? and I just started yanking her off at two hours you know, numerous times saying, “you have 5 minutes…you have 3 minutes…you have 2 minutes” and then bang, just kind of pulling her because they will take pictures and do interviews. She had to start formalizing what she wanted her public persona to be.
She also had an opportunity to do some really neat things. I don’t know how many people had a chance to see this, what NBC Sports did that was in movie theaters. It was with a track and Paul Hamm and Roulon Gardner and they showed it when you go to the movie. We went down to LA for a day and a half and doing that and seeing the end product and you know, just as a coach, I have gotten to see and experienced things that are way outside of kind of the pool stuff. That took us into spring and after the collegiate season she selected an agent.
She is working with a woman named Janie Miller who worked for Gold Medal Management and then got out of the profession for three or four years to have a family and now has her own agency. She works with very few athletes and it was just a really good fit for Natalie. Then, the first decision was selecting an apparel company so she was looking at Speedo, Nike, TYR – you know, the financial part of that, and what do you want in your contract. What is important to you as you look at that agency and how are they going to take care of you? How are they going to take care of your family? How are they going to take care of your training needs as we move forward? What are they going to expect in return? She decided to go with Speedo – so she works with Speedo and then of course the first thing they want you to do is go do a photo shoot so that you can be in their catalogs so then we went and did that. For some of this stuff I went with her – some her agent went with her and I really wanted to go and felt it was important to be a part of it so that I would understand what these new demands were going to be on her time.
Next topic: the ongoing publicity, opportunities and media commitments. How do you manage that or schedule changes as we go into a summer? I have found that I would like to look at it as sort of a different season and I get bored so I wanted to do some different things and I have that on the next slide. I think that the one thing that we talked about to our team is that from April on until Olympic trials that we were focusing with people on the Olympic team and that I was going to coach like I thought an Olympic coach needed to coach and that I was going to operate from the point that I wanted to give myself every opportunity to be on that staff and just kind of publicly put that out there which was something that I was and is a little bit out of my nature. I really felt like it was important that everybody, the team and everybody, understood where we were coming from.
The training schedule next. Then going on to summer we went into the Grand Prix events and we looked again at the schedule. I mentioned earlier that the 200 free was not an individual event that she was going to be able to swim at Olympic trials so I called Mark on a number of occasions and said Natalie would like to be considered for the 800 free relay. What kind of things do we need to do going into trials – going into the Olympic games so that she will be someone that will be considered.
A really smart move on our part I felt, was to go to the Janet Evans meet that was at the Olympic trials site in Long Beach. I know, when I look at preparation for 2008, if they do that again where you can go to the site – I think that was invaluable for not only Natalie, but everyone on our squad and Mark had given us some parameters so we wanted to take care of those going in to the Olympic trials. She had the fastest time – American time — in the 200 free. I think she had been 1:58.9 or so we felt good about that and then at trials the first event was the 100 backstroke and you know, making the team was just such a relief for her and for me. If you look at this picture at the Olympics – Natalie on the far right. To me that is not an expression of joy, that is an expression of relief and I think there is something different in that it is a different experience. She didn’t have the opportunity to make an Olympic team and have this immense joy, because if she doesn’t make an Olympic team – she is a bust, right? And so I think that that is different and requires different things from her and different things from me. So after making the 100 backstroke there was a huge sense of relief.
We have got to swim the 100 freestyle and I remember for the next two or three days, talking to Whitney and other people, it’s like Nat doesn’t really seem like she is in it here. Do I say something to her? For the 100 free she didn’t have the same purposefulness that she had going into the 100 backstroke and so in the 100 freestyle she ends up getting second. Afterwards she goes, “man – I wasn’t really in that very much so it made me feel better that I wasn’t.” I chose not to say anything and just go okay, she is a big kid, she is going to have to kind of figure this out on her own and fortunately she was able to make it in the individual event.
We had decided going into the meet that we were going to be there anyway through the meet. She ended up swimming a 50 free which I think was a great way to just keep her more in the moment. If we had not swam the 50 free I think I would have had two or three days of her being in Long Beach and kind of being somewhere else where when she swam the 50 free I think it helped her hundred free – I think it just helped her speed and helped her race situation and then it allowed us to get through the meet.
We had to take care of some media opportunities and commitments that she had right after. We had three days then to get to the training camp and the first part of the training camp up at Stanford really was great because it was close, but it was terrible because it was close. You know, I think Natalie felt that she was so close to home that and it was so difficult to be that close, yet so far away from sort of what your normal routine is and what you normally get to do and I know going into her making the team and things I had talked a lot with Mark and Everett about would there ever be a possibility where Natalie could go home for an afternoon. Knowing her I knew that if we could just get her in her own space, if she could just go to her condo and you know, take a nap in her own bed and watch TV, play with her dog that she was going to be in a much better place as we moved forward into the meet and fortunately they allowed her to have some of those opportunities. It also allowed her to work with a gentleman named Toma Cook, a Pilates instructor, through about February on and allowed us to continue that relationship a little bit longer.
We went then to Majorca and had a really great experience there and I think the other thing – being named to the Olympic staff – it gave her some familiarity that Haley was in a group that I was working with, as was Jenny Thompson. The previous two summers Jenny had been in a group that I was responsible for and Colleen Linay from Nova and so it was an intimate group, but one where we could really work together as a unit – we could do the same workout. I think that that provided just camaraderie and a great situation.
Then, obviously, we go to the Olympic games and you know, good things happened. Golden – the 100 backstroke, a little scary there with Kersty Coventry coming out of lane 1. Luckily where I was sitting I never knew it was that close or I would have had a heart attack. Then the 800 free relay – you know, I am incredibly proud of just her leading off and her performance in that. I think that really showed where she was and then her leadoff in the 400 medley relay – the 59.6. I think that during Athens and especially this summer in Montreal that the nice thing and I think what maybe you can take back to your athletes is that you can be the world record holder and you can still be learning about how to swim your race more efficiently and more effectively and that that changes with your preparation. It changes with your age. It changes with the other stress that is going on in your body and that it is an ongoing process.
Then there was the post-Olympic experience – taking advantage of that there are so many great opportunities – getting to be on David Letterman, going to the SV’s – just great, great things that she has been able to do and be part of and people that she has been able to meet. I think it was real, real important this year for her to take advantage of that. She was going to swim at short course worlds and as many people know, she ended up breaking her foot – just doing a little run along the side and jumping in. How she did for four years previously… she doesn’t do it anymore. But I think that in a way that that might have been a blessing – it just gave her time to kind of to enjoy some of these other things and reap the benefits of working so hard.
Here is a typical training week during the summer of 2004.
Monday 7:00 – 7:20 AM Medicine Balls
7:30 – 9:30 PM Swim (LCM)
1:30 – 4:00 PM Swim (SCY)
Tuesday 7:00 – 7:30 AM Speed Circuit
7:30 – 9:30 AM Swim (LCM)
Afternoon Pilates w/ Instructor
Wednesday 7:00 – 7:20 AM Medicine Balls
7:30-10:00 AM Swim (LCM)
Thursday Late Morning Pilates w/ instructor
1:30 – 4:00 PM Swim (LCM)
Friday 7:00 – 7:30 AM Speed Circuit
7:30 – 9:30 AM Swim (LCM)
1:30 – 4:00 PM Swim (SCY)
Saturday 7:00 – 9:30 AM Swim (LCM)
You obviously have a little bit more time during the summer and we have incorporated some medicine balls. She has really left the weight room after we started working with Tom and the Pilates, which has done more for strength. It is geared around medicine balls and physioballs and exercises on the mat – exercises in a Pilates studio. There has been some changes in that, something that as we move forward we will continue to evolve and then the Pilates instructor too is about an hour away so that required extra travel. This summer I was able to go with her so it was a really great working situation in that I could go and watch and listen to what Natalie had to say and incorporate that down into the pool. And then what we were doing in the pool we could work with Tom on. One of the things that I have learned the most when I learn about Natalie and what was great about managing the media part of it was I would get to hear her do interviews and so the media asks different things and just by getting to hear her responses – I could really learn a lot about where she was and maybe things that I might need to adjust – things that I maybe wouldn’t have normally been aware of that made me more aware of and I think be more effective.
Here are some training sessions and I don’t think there is anything real magical about this – it is just like everybody else. You use a lot of different equipment and try to keep it exciting and try to keep it fun and try to keep it different. As I mentioned with sort of a core philosophy of awareness and feel for the water so that somebody has got to keep thinking all the time. I think one of the things this set down here at Stanford – the swim four rounds of – that if you can read that and decipher all of that, one of the things that I have found in working with Natalie that I have incorporated into the team is that doing things and not knowing a time or not going wall-to-wall is okay. We get sometimes concerned about what the time is and that dictates whether it was good or bad and I think there are a lot of other ways to judge: are you making progress and are you moving forward toward this ultimate peak performance that we are all looking for.
Training Session, January 11, 2004, Long course in Sydney:
400 Choice/ 300 K-S w/ board/ 200 w/ fins (25 under-25 K arms @ side-25 drill-25 swim)/ 100 (50 choice-50 reverse)
Pull: 2 X 300 w/ snorkel (neg split) w/ 20 rest
Kick: 12 X 50 (2 @ 1:00/ 2 @ :55/ 2 @ :50 twice)
Swim: 4 X 50 @ 1:00 (25 awareness- 4 cycles blast)
Swim: 4 X 200 FR- breathing every 5 @ 2:45
Fins: 6 X 100 (50 drill- 50 strong kick) @ 1:45
Swim w/ paddles: 8 X 50 for form w/ 10 rest
Swim: 6 X 150 (100 FR- 50 primary stroke strong) @ 2:20
Kick: 4 X 150 w/ board (Kick-Swim-Kick)- rest 20
Swim: 12 X 50 1:10/ 1:05/ 1:00- every 3rd FAST
Loosen: 300 swim
Training Session, May 3, 2004, Short Course in Berkeley
3 X 600 (#1 Choice/ #2 IM (6X100 KDS)/ #3 Choice w/ 2 pieces of equipment of your choice)
12 X 100 (3 Rounds of 4 X 100) @ 1:40
#1- 50 Kick/ 50 IM
#2- 50 Drill/ 50 FR w/ 2 breaths
#3- 75 choice/ 2 bobs/ 25 sprint
Pull: 3 X 300 w/ band and snorkel only w/ 20 rest
4 X 150 w/ equipment of choice BK w/ 20 rest
200 FR @ 2:30
150 (75 IM + 75 FR) @ 2:00
100 Back @ 1:30
50 Choice @ 1:00
Loosen: 8 X 50 @ 45
Training Session, July 24, 2004, Long Curse at Stanford
Warm-up w/ team: 400 Swim/ 4X100 50 Drill-50 Swim/ 4X100 50 Kick-50 Swim/ 400 Choice
Kick- 2 Rounds: 150 Moderate @ 3:00 50 Fast @ 1:00
100 Moderate @ 2:00 50 Fast @ 1:00
Swim: 4X150 w/ 20 rest
(25 scull/ 100 KSDS/ 25 Reverse)
Pull- 2 Rounds: 250 w/ snorkel 150 BK-FR-BK 50 Choice
Swim- 4 Rounds @ 5:00
Race 20 seconds off block/ double arm back to 15M mark/ rest 15 seconds/ Race 30 M in/out of wall (turn) from balance position/ rest 15 seconds/ Race 20 M into wall (finish) from bounces off bottom
easy 100 + swim after each round
Loosen: 15 minutes on own
And then this is just more of a taper type workout – a lot of kicking. I have always felt as an athlete and I thought it was tremendously important to me and the more I listened to the Eddie Reese’s and the Mark Schubert’s and the Richard Quick’s I just think that kicking is more and more important and kicking not in a sense that it is recovery to swim. Kicking in a sense that you are training and Natalie is a perfect example of when you can only kick for a year and a half that you still can use that to move forward.
Training Session, August 7, 2004, Long Course in Mallorca, Spain
300 Choice + 200 Kick-Swim w/ board
300 Pull w/ snorkel + 200 Drill-Swim
10 X 50 (3 Rounds of 3, plus one)
50 starting from floating on board-then build @ 1:15
50 (25 build or drill + 25 strong) @ 1:00
50 3/3 transition sprint @ 1:00
50 from dive w/ build effort/ rest 20 seconds/ 50 swim rehearsing the second 50 of 100
Swim 300 of choice @ 6:00
Pull: 3 X 200 descend 1 to 3 w/ 20 rest
Kick: 3 X 100 (75 cruise + 25 strong) w/ 15 rest
Loosen: 400 choice
These are the things that I think are important and I would encourage you as a coach to just stay a learner and by that, what I mean is be curious and ask questions. I know one of the reasons I wanted the CAL job is I wanted the opportunity to work with Nort Thornton and I swear to God it was more than two years before I asked Nort Thornton a question because I was scared that Nort Thornton would think I was an idiot. So I was going to kind of watch him and not ask and I don’t know who said it yesterday when we were in another room, but it might have been Richard, asking and, I really preach this to our girls, asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is, in my opinion, a tremendous sign of strength.
Another thing with that is when you do coach someone like Natalie or the best kid in your region or whatever, a lot of people do want to give you their opinion and at first when people were giving me their opinion I took it as, “what, they don’t think I can handle this?” You know, and “well why are they telling me this” and what I think is important is that people are giving you insight and information and whether it be an athlete who is getting information from a coach, an assistant coach, another athlete, a parent; or they go on a national team and other coaches are giving them information – it is your job as an athlete – it is your job as a human being to decide what information works for you and what information doesn’t work for you.
Two last concepts: that when I personally started focusing on being the best Terri McKeever instead of an imitation of a Richard Quick or an imitation of a Mark Schubert or an Eddie Reese or whoever “the premiere coach is”, then lots of good things happen. I didn’t want to talk at these things for a long time because I don’t have a little chart that says train in this zone and do it that way and do it this way and this is the recipe for success. I am very much someone who just coaches from their heart and I didn’t know how to convey that and now I know that I don’t have to convey that. All I have to do is just be myself and talk about the way I do things. The last thing is that I wish and I talked to Mark Schubert this morning – I wish someone would have told me that the year after the Olympics is a lot harder than the year going into the Olympics and presents many new challenges and new opportunities. I am going to have the opportunity now to work with Jessica Hardy and Jessica and Whitney and I had a great conversation this last week about the anxiety of being in a new place, new program, new coach. I looked at Jessica and I said, “Jess, I know how to do this. I feel really confident that I can help you and we are going to do great things together.” There is a lot more anxiety for me personally as I move forward with Natalie, someone that I have been with for five years and that you know is one of my best friends that I love and respect and treat as someone in my family. There are lots of things that go through my mind on a daily basis like, “oh my God Nat, what do we do now?” So, and I don’t think that that is a bad thing to say that. We are going to figure it out and it is going to be better than it ever has been.