Working in an Independent School Environment: The Bolles School Program by Gregg Troy & Larry Shofe (1995)


Coach Larry Shofe is currently the Senior Coach at the Bolles School Sharks in Jacksonville, Florida. He has been with the Bolles School Sharks since 1988 and has 13 State Championships, 4 Junior & 1 National Championships. Before coming to the Bolles school, Coach Shofe coached tat the Amberjack Swim Club in Jacksonville, FL (6 years), Head Coach Jacksonville Episcopal High School (6 years),  Head Coach Old dominion Aquatic Club (5 years), Head Coach Old Dominion University (5 years), Men’s Assistant coach University of California Berkeley (2 years). Coach Shofe received his MA in PE & Exercise Physiology, Athletic Administration from the University of California Berkley in 1977.


Coach Greg Troy is currently the Head Coach of the Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida. Over the past 18 years with the Bolles School and Bolles Sharks, Coach Troy’s programs have produced 20+ Olympians, 22 Florida State Championship Teams, 3 National Prep Championships, 7 Junior National Championship Teams, 1995 USS National Championships combined.  Coach Troy was the 1995 Pan Am Coach and in 1993 he was the National Junior Team Assistant.


Greg Troy:  First thing I’d like to tell you is that anything is  possible and I am the prime example of that.  In 1977 when  I went to Jacksonville and went to Bolles I was not a whole  lot more knowledgeable than I am now. I’d like to think I  have gotten more but I’m not sure sometimes.  I walked  into a program where there were 14 athletes total.  There  was no club situation at all.  We had average facilities which was a 25-yard pool.  It wasn’t great but it was good  for the time.  We had questionable administrative support  from the standpoint that I was a young guy and walking in real  new and I had one other job prior to that.  They said they were going to support me but I wasn’t real certain about  it.  I certainly wasn’t in a position that I still called  everyone above me “sir” and “yes, sir” and “no, ma’am” and “Mr.” and “Mrs.”.  I was really lost and I had a full plate in front  of me.


They had some  high expectations because there was a great tradition at  school.  I had a full class load,  two preparations, and  one study hall.  I worked on the dorm staff and lived in  the dorm.  Due to my inexperience and youth, desire to  coach swimming and feeling like it was going to be a good  position, I was working for next to nothing!  I had a head  master who did a great job of hiring.  We started the club  team from scratch.  There was no assistant coach in any  position and we were probably walking among the most highly  competitive swim areas in the State of Florida from the  standpoint that D. Schlessmeyer  was at Jacksonville Episcopal  and won the Nationals my first year there.  He had some of  the best girls in the nation which included Nancy Hoggshead  and several others.


On the plus side, the school did have a great tradition  of swimming.  They have been good for a long time.  And  there was no preconceived way about how to go about it.   Over the course of the summer prior to my start, (I started  in October,)  everything had fallen apart.  There was  basically nothing left so I got a chance to start all over.   I’d like to tell you I was successful because of the good  things I did but I think the main thing is that we were a little  bit lucky.  My only real goal at the time was I that I knew I liked working with kids.    I really enjoyed being around young people and I like to  see them improve and I had been fortunate enough to add a  few people that had scored at Nationals and knew that I  wanted to put people at  that level if at all possible or certainly give them the opportunity to do it!


Today we have a hundred to a hundred and twenty athletes that  swim on the high school team alone.  We have 250 to 300 in  our club program and I can’t tell you exactly how many  because we had 65 new swimmers show up a week and a half  ago and today is the day they are supposed to turn in all  their paperwork if they want to join the team.   We have  great facilities. Right now we have our own 50 meter pool.


I have eight to 10 assistants that are some of the best  people I have ever worked with. I’ll talk about that a  little bit later.  We have won national titles, both junior and  seniors several times.  We have won our high school state  meet a lot of times.  We certainly had a lot of real great individual performance All-Americans and Olympians.  And  while it would seem there’s no problems (we have no parents  organization that some people would feel would be a plus),  I can give you some insights on the negatives in  certain manners, too.


We have too many athletes and our pool is saturated.  My  help is overworked.  So there are still challenges but they  are a different set of challenges.   I guess what I’m  trying to tell you is anything is really possible because  if we can do that in Jacksonville with a lot of  hard work by a lot of people, I think it can be done  anywhere.  I can’t give you any real simple reason why but I know  that part of it is related to having worked in a private  school environment and working with people that are true  professionals that are interested in having things move  forward.  I wish I could real simply lay things out for  you.  I can’t.


Our organizational structure:   I have  been fortunate.  I worked for 18 years now for the same  Head Master.  The school  itself has evolved from 500 students  to 1500  students on three different campuses at the moment.  When we started the  program the first thing I did is I sat down with the head master and  decide what the school really wanted.  I think sometimes  the biggest mistake we make in any situation is you need to  know what the goals of the organization, whether it be a  parents organization, whether it be an independent school  or public school, you need to know what goals they are  looking for.  If you don’t know what their goals are it  doesn’t mean that their goals have to be the same as yours  but you need to know what their goals are and  value what  they expect from you because if you don’t you are going to  be unsuccessful.  It doesn’t mean you need to change your  goals but it means you at least have to know where they are  and getting your goals to meet theirs, it’s going to take  progress and time working towards those two things.


We looked  at what the school wanted and the things the school was  looking for.  They were looking for a situation where we  offered people they wanted to get a good education, and a  great athletic opportunity.  Were they interested in great  swimmers per se?  No.  They were interested in giving people who wanted to be good swimmers and be good students at the  same time the opportunity to accomplish those things.


Fortunately, that agrees a little bit with my philosophy  so we can put those things together.  They wanted to be  able to do it in an environment where you understood that  the people were paying a high price and making that  commitment towards education.


There was some pressure to win.  They definitely wanted  to win swim meets but they didn’t want to win the US  Nationals.  They didn’t want to have people win the Junior  Nationals.  They wanted to have people represent the school  that they could be proud of and that were real positive.  Factors were positive in motivating people in the community  that would in fact bring other students to the Bolles  school.  They made the facility available as we saw fit, again  dependent upon no preconceived notion.  So I had the  opportunity to sit down and discuss with them what I  thought was important and what direction we wanted to go  with the program.  We set goals for each individual  and we  set up the program based around my goals for the team.   First of all, we wanted to have a good high school team.   We wanted to try to win the high school mythical if  possible.  We have won the women a couple times.  We’ve  never won the men.


We wanted  to be as competitive and win the high  school State meet as often as possible but always keeping  in mind that our general philosophy was we would sacrifice whatever it took for the individual to accomplish those  goals.  Probably our best male high school teams have  fallen in years where our best athletes were either foreign  or international level athletes and they swam our high  school state meets unshaved or at a semi-prepared condition  because there was something that was more important for  them sometime in the upcoming six weeks to two months. I think that this philosophy makes the athlete  believe in what you are doing more.  I don’t think it’s a  me-over-team situation.  The whole team understands it and  values those things.


The organizational structure of the team as I saw it  was that we have a pretty standard high school practice.   We were given one period a day where I’m scheduled as their  PE teacher and we ran doubles.   We took our high school  team and what we did is mirrored what our USS  team would  be.  And then our whole high school structure set up around  that.


We have double practices three days a week.  We had  two hours in the morning.  We have three hours in the  afternoon.   Day to day what the practice times were are as important as  how we related to other people on campus and made things  go.


We tried very hard to work with faculty members and  put the faculty in the situation where they become  supporters of the swim program and this isn’t too much  different — in Fort Myers I worked in a public school  environment and I found the same thing.  I think if you  take time and you work with the faculty members in your  institution we can make the swimmers.  The nature of them  being basically good students and good people to start out  with they are role models when compared  to other athletes  and the faculty members respect and help you.


I think every once in a while you need to make some  commitments to education. There are some major meets that we’d like to attend  that we can’t attend because they coincide with the week before our exams or the week after our examination,  sometime right around  test period, where we can’t go.  But  those aren’t insurmountable objects.  They are things that  you work around.  Plus, what happens is that the faculty  becomes a real consistent group of  people that will stand  behind you and work toward the athletes and give the  athletes a respected situation on campus.  They will actually encourage people to swim!


One of our major problems at school at the moment is,  because the athletes make up work, they don’t show up to  class on time and it is  something we have to work at.  It  doesn’t happen by accident.  I mean, you constantly have to  reinforce with the athletes that they are there to be  students in addition to being athletes and we’ve got, quite  frankly, some kids that would much rather be swimmers than  they would be students.  I think that the emphasis on what  you ask them to do is real important so we are constantly  working with them from a grade standpoint.   One of our major problems becomes that the faculty members  sometimes aren’t as demanding with them as we are at the  swimming pool and faculty members sometimes will ask the  student if they have enough time to do their work because  they realize their practice schedule so we constantly even  ask them to be more demanding, not  less demanding, than  the other students and they value that.


In setting up the varsity program, we spent a  lot of time working with the school stressing to them that if they really wanted people that were good swimmers and they wanted to attract swimmers to come to school, there also had  to be some provision for them to train and swim on a year round basis.  So from the very start we emphasized a club  team and a year-round participation as being very important to the success of the high school level.  As a matter of fact,  what it has actually evolved at our school is that the school administration realizes that they always feel that the club program is more important  than what the high school team is.  And if you have a  chance to work in an independent school situation I would  emphasize to you that if you can convince your people of  that, the administration director at school becomes your  biggest friend because he likes nothing better than  anything that creates a good public image.  What happens?   We have a lot of  seven, eight , nine, and ten year olds that come to school at Bolles later on who do  not continue swimming.  They don’t really want to swim but  their first exposure to the swim program is to Bolles, has  been through the swim program.  Age groupers came to  campus, swam at first, but then but then got  involved in other sports.  Their first exposure is one of a  positive light; and the school really likes that because we  have actually shown that we are a professional organization  interested in the individual and that’s one of the main  reasons why they make contact with the school.  I cannot  over emphasize if you work with a private institution how  important that is because they view it as students and  indirectly it’s dollars because while we are in the  business of education , the business doesn’t go in if the  bottom line doesn’t show at least dead even.  We are not in  it to  make  money, but we’re certainly in it to make sure  the situation perpetuates itself.


So what happens is our high school team  has actually become a vehicle for success during the rest  of the year. We  tried as often as possible with our staff to tie the staff  directly to the school.  When we hired people through the club program we try as often as possible to tie them to  some position at school.


We have one assistant coach whose position  evolved,  He’s presently a full-time coach.  When he  started as a part-time coach, his first position at the  school  was to pick up students,  specifically swimmers  early in the morning, and drive them into campus because  they needed a special bus route to get them in.  As often  as possible, we try to get them involved in the dorm  program and work in other areas of school.


Our U.S.S. club situation evolved from  encouraging the school that we needed to do that and the  first goal was to try to supplement what the varsity team  did throughout the year.  It makes the program much more  continuous in that we coach both.  In a public school  setting, the same situation is possible.  When I worked in  Fort Myers we had an identical situation but it requires  time on your part to go in and sit down and talk with the  administration, talk to the board members, to talk to the  teachers and make sure they see the importance of the  program.  We’ve always  stressed with our administration is that swimmers are great  people —  that they are people that are goal oriented.  They  are committed as students.  They represent the school in a  real positive manner.


Our Head Master spoke with me this  past year and was discussing in particular at that point  boarding students and his comment to me was, (and again  it’s the same person  I have been working with for 18 years), “I know they are no angels.  I just had one that was  kicked out of school this year that didn’t do all the right  things and we always have a few that are in grade  problems. But that they are always working in  some direction and they are the most positive members of  the school society even though they are not involved in a  whole lot of fringe activities because of their swimming  activities.”  He said what they have actually become is  they have become role models for everyone else.  I think it’s because  we are working with people that are professionals that  are really interested in children, that they like to have  swimmers as boarding students because they are the most  conscientious people you can work with from the standing  they have goals and orientation.


Larry came from another institution that didn’t value swimming as  highly.  What has happened is the swim program has also become kind of  a model for the  other athletic programs on the  campus.  They don’t always like it.  Our football coach is  pretty begrudging about using the medicine balls and the  surgical tubing that we do, but every once in a while they  have taken our medicine balls and used them on the side  when they think we don’t know it;  but they have taken a  whole lot of the same products, same training devises we  use, general fitness things and they do a lot of them.   Fortunately we have this ability to work with them and we  have some things they have done, too.


When we started our  club, I started from nothing.  And in the course of the  first two months, we were fortunate enough it was a small  team that did have a board run organization that used our  facility.  We went to those people and explained to them  that we wanted them to stay on campus.  We had no desire to  force them out of the swimming business at all.  Which I  think quite often is the opposite approach that people  would take.  Again, I’d like to say this was by design but  it was just lucky.  And we told them what their hours were  going to be when we started a full fledged program that it  was going to have a low impact on them but we would do  everything we could to work with them, at which time they  came back and suggested the possibility of joining us.  I  sat down with the head coach and he was basically an age  grouper so we  inherited a club team of 20 to 30 athletes  that actually became the nucleus of our club team.  So,  from the original 14 that we started with, we ended up with  about 44 on the first year!


In the nature of taking that over, we also inherited a  parents organization and I found that working with those  people was a very positive situation.   I offer to  you some thoughts on working with parents:  if you think  you want to work in an orphan’s home it’s a real mistake.   I know it’s a common coaching statement and a little bit of  a joke, but the parents are the single most important  resource that you have that you can work with.  And what  I’ve always tried to do is try to encourage their support.


I gave a talk for Bob Steele at one of his local coaches  clinics about working with parents and the single biggest  thing we do wrong as coaches is let parents set the tempo  for where we are at.  We view them as being  a problem  before they actually become a problem or are afraid they  are a problem before they ever become a problem and we  think they are going to coach before they ever start  coaching when in fact, by the nature of doing that, we tend  to ignore them.  We tend to be short with them.  We tend to  treat them as outsiders when the single most important  thing in their life is in the pool so we have to find some  way to motivate their interest.  And for me that single  biggest thing is you have to sell the parents, regardless  of whether a child swims well or swims poorly, that you are  interested in their child as an individual and working  forward.  I am not going to say we don’t have parent  problems.  We have those.  And our parent problems are even  heightened because we have people that come to us from  other places and within the Jacksonville community.  There  have been as many as six or seven other clubs in the Jacksonville area in my 18 years.  We named our team the  Bolles Sharks and the common response in town was we should  have been the Sharks of Bolles so our initials would be  SOB’s.  When other swim team families from the Jacksonville area come to us, is the last  resort.  It’s not the place they really want to be.


But  the single biggest mistake we make as coaches is we know  that there’s a problem usually.  You know when an athlete  isn’t doing well.  You usually can tell ahead of time that  the parent thinks the athlete isn’t doing well.  If you put  it off and put it off until the parent calls you, then they  have become the expert and you are defending your position.   The single biggest thing you can do as a coach working  with parents, is to pick up the phone and call the parent and  tell them there’s a problem before they have a chance to  call you.  Almost invariably, if you can do that before they even  know there’s a problem, then they realize that you are  caring and you are interested in their child and you don’t  present the problem as something like we are kicking the child off the team and we are throwing the family out of the club.  You are  soliciting their support and asking them how can we deal with this  problem, what can we do?


Quite frankly, we have some of the worst parents in the  world from the standpoint of reputations coming into our  program and quite often those people are the easiest to  work with after we’ve had  them  two years.  But you need to understand where the problem is and you’ve got to make sure  that they understand that you are interested in their child  and you’ve got to be interested.   I think I’ve gotten  even better about after having children myself because my  perspective is entirely different.  Now I can understand  their commitment to their child.  I understand why when they see their child at practice or  see them at the meet and see something wrong, they are only  watching one individual.  It’s much easier for them to see  something wrong.  If they are one of those  really good  parents and you discourage them to come to  practice, you don’t ever want them to do anything, just let  their kids alone, it becomes even more heightened because  they don’t see their child swim very often.  When they see  them swim, they all of a sudden see this glaring error and  it’s glaring to them because they haven’t seen them.  It’s  usually something  that has happened over a course of time  so then it becomes a major problem for them.  They want to  talk to you about it.


We have always taken a philosophy,  be it right or wrong, maybe everyone can’t do it or  shouldn’t do it, but our practices are  always open.  We tell them as soon as they come to the team  they are more than welcome to come and watch the practice  but they are not allowed to coach in any manner.  All the  assistant coaches are told  that the first time the parent  is involved in practice they have to walk over immediately and tell that  parent that they’d love to talk with them about their  child’s problem, they’d  appreciate any input they get from the parent about what  the child is doing wrong, but the place would be a fiasco  if 40 sets of parents were to come out and want to be  involved in coaching the team.  And they understand that.


By the same token, what we do at practice isn’t top  secret.  It’s not like we are trying to prevent them from  being there.  It’s not like we don’t want them to see  what’s going on and the mere byproduct of them coming to  practice every day, they start to see what their child does  wrong.  They start to see that maybe Suzie doesn’t do  everything right.  Now they are going to see that Joan does  things wrong, too, and they might come to ask you about  that, but they are going to see their child do some things  wrong.  Quite often, they may even come ask you what they  are doing wrong and ask if there is any way they can help?   You  can tell them I’ve just never had a problem with it.  The  more open we are with them it seems like the better they  are to work with.  We do the same things about trying to  give them jobs to do.


Working with the parents board — I have a recommendation  for anyone that works with a parents board.  The nice thing  about it, in an independent school environment, is that we  want everything to be through the school.  All our billing  for our Sharks organization and our club organization is run  through the school.  The school pays our payroll and  everything.  That’s a real plus.  I’m not sure everyone can  organize it that way but if you work with an independent  school I am not sure what yours is like but in ours, one of  the major concerns is always cash flow.  If you can show  them cash flow, money coming in every month even if it’s  going out at  the  end of the month, they just like the  idea that it’s coming in.  We paid pool rental to them and  everything.  We have gone from a percentage situation and now we  are on a pool rental situation every month.  It’s  reasonable because they understand that we are a feeder  program to the school at the same time as we are for  providing a good public image outside.


But out of  necessity and putting the two clubs together, we ended up  with a parents board.  If you  work with the parents board  and you have problems working with them and you want to get  rid of your parents board, I think the single most  important thing you can do is assume as much responsibility  as they let you have.  Every time there’s a job at the  board meeting that someone doesn’t want to do, take it.   Every time it doesn’t matter how menial the task or how  time consuming it’s going to be for you.  If you want to  take your parents board out of being in a  situation where  they are constantly in your hair take the responsibility for as much as possible and what you are doing indirectly is usurping their  power.   We reached a situation in the  first 10 years where I just kept taking more and more of  the power and it wasn’t power, it was just doing things but  doing things is a power.  So we did more and more of the  things and I gave it to other assistant coaches or I did it  myself.  I used my wife to do as much of it as I could and  when we eventually got to the situation where we had a  parents board in theory but nobody did anything.  We  finally got to the point where the  president of the club’s child stopped swimming  and he  turned in his resignation and there was no longer need for a  parents board.


At that point they couldn’t get  anyone  that really wanted to be the president and the first time they said they were having a problem I  volunteered immediately.  I told them I was real interested  in the club, I had been there a long time, I’d love to be  the president, at which point I picked a treasurer, which  treasurer happens at the moment to be Larry’s wife.  With all the other board members, as their child got to the point when they graduated and left the school the parent decided  staying on the board was more than what they wanted to do.  As we rebuilt the board we tried to put the right people  in the positions to start with.  I had a president that did  what I asked him to do and worked with him.  We fought some  battles.  There were times that they wanted to know some  things especially about the school situation. But again, I was responsible to the  Head Master, not those people, and they were dependent upon  me for pool time so maybe I was in an idealistic situation.   Everyone can’t be there.  Larry’s wife is treasurer now and my wife is the meet manager.  She doesn’t like it all the time but she runs all  the meets.  Larry is the vice-president.


So we still have a yearly board meeting.  The last time we had one we also had a team meeting.  Of the 150 families in the club,  15 to 20 of them showed up.


I want to emphasize that  contrary to popular belief most of our kids speak English.   They are not from out of the country and they don’t live in  a dormitory.  We board 70 boys when we are at our capacity.   The most we ever had is 28 to 30 boys boarding.  We didn’t  board girls prior to three years ago and our girls boarding  program only boards 50.  The most we ever had in the girls  dorm is 15.  So they are a significant part of the team but  they are real isolated.

All the parents in our  club and all our athletes belong to two organizations.   They are a member of the varsity team and they are a member  of the USS team.  The kids on the USS team practice and use  the school facilities but they use it after our commitment  to the varsity team is already done so I wear two hats.  I like to tell the parents I have to make  sure I always take care of the varsity program first.  They  get the priorities and the hours.  That’s where my first  responsibility lies and I take care of that, but we don’t  have much fighting between the groups.  It just never  existed.  We stress with the coaches that it doesn’t matter where  the club team athletes go to high school.  We try to provide them with the same  opportunities.  We have athletes that go to the rival high  schools and swim in the same districts.  We have had people at Bolles not go to the State meet because we coach people from other  schools that swim better at the district meet and the kids  accept it.  They are really great about it.  It’s just a  matter of presenting that we are all in it for the same  reasons.


There’s little or no resentment from the standpoint of  the school of outsiders coming in and using the facility  because they realize it’s a selling point for the school.   My head master has said in a board meeting that the most positive comments he gets every year  stem from the fact we host our local city, country club  league championship and the people are surprised how well  it runs.  They love being on campus.  They like the  facility and they like our staff being around talking to them.   It has become a feeder program for the school and a  feeder program for the club.


So I guess working with parents you need to make yourself  an expert, fight your battles on your ground, and not fight their battles on their ground.  I’ve often thought it would be really  great and probably be hilarious if a successful coach would do a description of their career and highlight all the things NOT to do.  I always go to clinics and hear people tell what to do.  But I have found in my personal  situation that by sitting back and watching other people and going  to meets and watching other clubs, I’ve learned more about watching what people do in my opinion that was wrong, how  they could have made a decision a little bit better than  I’ve learned about people telling me what to do right. It  strikes me that one of the biggest mistakes we make as  coaches is putting ourselves in a lose/lose situation.  We  do that a lot with parents.  We want to fight battles that  we can’t win.  They are just interested in their kid.  We  look for as often as possible to put ourselves in a win/win  situation.  Can you make a parent happy and still have the kid swim, well maybe not quite as well sometimes.  I  think maybe we compromise some performance once in a while  but the people we are compromising the performance on,  almost invariably, it was going to be the same situation  anyway, it was just going to be a bigger battle.


I’ve gotten so much better in about  the last 8 to 10  years.  I have Larry to thank for that.  He came to me  after about two years working with me and explaining to me  I was spending too much time worrying about what the kid  that was doing wrong was doing wrong and not enough time  worrying about what the kid that was doing things right was  doing.  It’s helped me a lot.  I’ll probably live a few years  longer, yell at a whole lot less at people and everyone seems  happier.  That’s how the organization and the club is set  up.


[response to question from audience]  We have people in our club practice that  go to  probably 10 different high schools.    We have our high school practice and then the other  people practice afterwards.  They do the same practice,  they just start at different times because of when they are  out of school.  We have times when people in the evening  have been better than what our varsity team’s been at  school.  (Some of our best athletes have been the evening  swimmers).  We have had one or two years where we had three or four people that had the senior standard in the late  practice and no one had it in our guys varsity team.  They  are member of both groups.    All the morning practices,  they all go together.  The weekends practices and all the  summer practices are ability based so it’s a mixture of  everyone.  Anytime there’s a vacation or school break, we  put it all together.  Then we do that as much as possible.


[response to question from the audience]   In convincing my administration to allow both teams it is important for you to know that they were  sold a little bit on swimming to start with, which made my  job easier.  I think it’s real important that you sit down  with your administration on a one-to-one basis when they  have time to do it.  And you stress to them what you are  looking for.  They are not used to talking to coaches in  other  sports that come in and say that they want to have  kids that are good students.  They are not used to that.   The football coach doesn’t do that.  The basketball coach doesn’t do that.  We’ve got some great professional people at our school and all of our  sports programs are outstanding.  But they just don’t go in  and do that.  You got to go in and the first words out of  your mouth are that you want to have good people that are  good athletes and good students.  Good students and good  people are first.

During Larry’s first two years with me, we worked with  some athletes that quite frankly I was trying to be a  social worker more than I was a swim coach, I guess, and I  was trying to reclaim some people that had some great  talents but they weren’t willing to do what they needed to  do.  At the same time, we had some really outstanding  athletes in that group and I’d like to have those years  over because I think I hurt the outstanding athletes trying  to help some other ones.  And Larry and I made a decision  after that, that no longer we were going to work with  people that weren’t basically good people.  We’ve asked  some really good athletes to leave the program.  Quite  frankly our administration respects that and we rarely try to have athletes who have been declared ineligible reinstated. Our  eligibility requirements are if they have two D’s they are  ineligible or if they fail a class they are ineligible.  There’s an appeal procedure and I think in  18 years I have appealed two or three students.   They  were all foreign kids or  someone who is away from home the first time.


[response to question from the audience]  There’s nothing that’s been more positive  than having the foreign athletes in because they are much  more committed than our American athletes are.  They  appreciate the opportunities they have.  It’s twice as hard  for them academically.  Some of them speak different  languages and don’t speak at all American and our academic  people cut them no breaks at all.  The only break they have  is we have an ESL course that they can take.  And they come  in and they handle everything and study twice as hard and  like  what they are doing.  And they are good students.  So  I think you sell those type of things to them.  And it  takes time.  Again, I have been lucky and they gave me some  time to do it.  But the other thing I found is you are  really working with people that are professionals and  interested in what they are doing and an interest in  education.


Some other things people ask:  I asked a few coaches I  know for some questions and things they thought I should  cover because I think it’s a little tough to ask questions  sometimes in this situation.  I am not ever coaching for  the money.  I have been real fortunate.  I’ve gotten to the  point since my meager beginnings where things are a little bit  better at school and it’s not just because they wanted to  be nice to me.   But I do it because I like what I do and  I like working with young people.  If you do it because  it’s a job, you are doing the wrong thing.  You need to  get out right away.   You never want to compare the number of hours you  want to put in to do it right and put that on a pay scale.


It seems to me  there’s an awful lot of us in the profession that when another job becomes available that’s actually a step up,  the first thing we do is apply for the job, interview for  the job and then we tell the people we are already working  for.  For some reason as a profession we seem to have this  fear that people hold it against you because you look for a  better situation.  We are really lucky in  swimming.  We work with people that are highly educated .   They are very good in the business sense and they know  exactly what they want to do.  If you walk in to them and explain to them the very first  time you are talking to someone about the job, especially  if the people courted  you, and you go in, you tell them  you are looking at another job and why are you looking at  it and the reasons why, they value that.  They do not hold  it against you.  It makes you that much better in planning.


Now how many times do we talk to someone and they say so and so left this job and they gave everything  the other guy wanted to him right away?   All of a  sudden they realized what they were missing.   They would  have realized that if the first person would have gone and  told them.  I am not talking about using this as a method of leverage.  I  think you walk in point blank and you just explain the  situation to them and why.  Again, I guess I have been  lucky but they’ve always come back to me in a situation  where what can we do to make this situation better.  That’s  how we got a 50-meter pool built.  Because it was a  priority.  They told me they were going to build it when I  first came to school.


But you ought to remember that people that we coaches tend to be critical and only be on one side.  Our schools, our clubs, they are  running a business.  I don’t care if they are running the  board of directors.  I don’t care if they are running your  public school or private school.  They are running a  business.  And their business is to hire people for what  they can get them to work for that is reasonable.   They’ll find things for you if you  present to them why it needs to be done but you need to be working hard and doing a good job up front.


Other things I emphasize to  the school:  Publicity, we  certainly like the publicity.  We certainly like having Jackson on the cover of  Swimming  World  and they like the won-loss record and  self-discipline for students.  Emphasize an involvement.


We have never cut anyone from the  high school program in 18 years.  We’ve evolved, like I  said, from 14 students.  We actually have, just on the high school team, 80  varsity team members.  We have another 30-25 to 30 on the junior  high school.  Then, our elementary school.  I take one  night of my varsity practice and we offer it  as a convenience for people that are on our  club team.   Our age group practice doesn’t start until  5:30.  We run a 3 o’clock practice right in the middle of  our varsity practice three days a week for people’s  convenience to come in.  We tell them right up front that  we are not staffed as well to handle them then.  We don’t  feel it’s as good a practice, but if as a matter of  convenience they feel like their 10-year old would be  better off  swimming 10 in a lane than one in a lane and  come in three days a week we’d rather have them come in and  do that than drop out of the sport completely.


That becomes a real selling point at school because when  I sit down about once every fourth or fifth year and get an  opportunity to talk to our board of directors, when you  tell them that you have 100 to 110 people involved in the  sport they are ecstatic and they don’t care what level  those people are at.  They don’t care if they are 59  for a  hundred yards or 59 for a hundred meters.  The school values  involvement, they value the people moving along.


Frankly I think American athletes are pampered a little  bit.  We are so used to having everything perfect that  we  think it has to be perfect for them to swim well and I  think sometimes we have to get back to that situation where  they are swimming with some younger kids and they see some  true enthusiasm and things.  I think our kids are jaded lots  of times.


Summer league swimming:  I think this is a real big thing for us.  It may be for  other people’s programs.  We have a lot of clubs that swim  in the summer.  We let our swimmers go back ask them to come back  whenever they have a chance. We ask them to try to bring a friend back with them.  They always swim in summer league.   30 kids swim in the summer and won all H. P.  trophies. We lost age group championships the first 4 or 5 years  because so many of our kids were unattached.  We had 65  kids show up at tryouts.  All were  B or better swimmers. Good people show up.  It makes  my job better.  I think we’re taking an organization that,  if we fought it by the nature of age group parents, they  would of stayed in that summer program only.



I’d leave you with 7 things:


Patience – need to be patient to give things time to  work.  We jump around too much.


Flexibility but consistence – need to be interested in  the total individual and that’s our goal.


Cooperate with other people.  Use other assistance.


Teach responsibility to athletes.  It’s always someone  else’s fault.  It’s the teacher’’ fault they didn’t understand.  Or it’s the coach’s fault.  They want to  blame it on the coach.  Put responsibility where it  belongs, directly on the shoulders of the athletes.   They’re responsible to get to practice.  It’s their  responsibility for their performances.  Their  performances need to make me a better coach.  Sometimes  we feel we need to make them better swimmers.   They need to come to us and  ask questions and be asking what we do.


Honesty – The more honest you are right up from with  them, the better off you are.  I don’t care if you are  talking to parents organizations, board members or  administration.


Caring – I think what you need  more than anything else is caring.  You need to care  about yourself and you need to care about the kids you  work for or family.  You might spend more time with them  than their parents do.  You need to care about them.


Luck – The last thing you really need to be is to be lucky.  I think  that’s a lot of what I had going for me.


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