WSCA Letter From the President On Swimming Reform

–FROM THE WSCA OFFICE, 23 JULY 2018–

Letter to Insidethegames.biz from WSCA President, George Block

Original Letter Posted Here: WSCA Press Release 072318

The Basics
FINA is awash in money, because the current Executive Director, Cornel Marculescu, kowtows to Russia. As long as Russia, China and non-swimming middle eastern nations are willing to pay ridiculous bid fees, we may never see another World Championship in another major swimming nation. Since the money is sitting in the FINA checkbook, and has been for years, it is clearly “not needed.” We have to ask, Why the giant bid fees?

FINA (swimming) has moved up to a Tier I sport. It is now the lead-off sport for Olympic television. With that will come even more funding to FINA from the IOC. The questions you asked are spot on. Where should that money go? It has been in FINA’s bank account for years. Why does an international non-profit, with a steady revenue stream, need such a huge bank balance? Where should they be spending it?

Prize Money
FINA has (marginally) raised its prize money. This is a direct result of being threatened by outside organizations like the World Swimming Association (WSA) and the International Swim League (ISL). What is hidden in that number is that the ability for an athlete to support him or herself has barely increased. The increased prize money is primarily due to a dramatic increase of FINA events.

Many in Swimming would argue that funds that Swimming earns (TV rights, bid fees, etc.) are being spent on water polo leagues and cliff diving. “Swimming experts” would advocate for splitting FINA into five, separate corporations, with FINA’s only role being coordination with the IOC.

When we look at the top professional sports leagues (the NBA is the gold standard), the athletes get 50% of the revenues. It is easy to do the math. The prize money to the athletes is nowhere near 50%. It needs to get there – quickly.

The cities who pay the bid fees and the networks that pay TV rights pay for those swimmers, pay to see the swimmers who “swim at night.” That would obligate FINA to develop a sliding scale of prize money from 1st to 16th place in every event. Out of 50% of the revenue from those events.

FINA Family Expenses
This line probably deserves some forensic review. My experience, both as a FINA Family member and one on the other side, is that the FINA Family is taken care of via envelopes of cash. Last week I was in a meeting with a National Federation executive who corrected me when I said that the per diem envelopes were $500. He chided me to “get my facts straight. They are $400.” I stand corrected.

These envelopes are used to secure votes at the FINA Congress. The Executive Director has a series of dinners with each area as they arrive. He goes over the votes they will take and gives them the FINA position on these votes. At that point, he distributes the envelopes.

I must mention that per diems are totally unnecessary. FINA pays for travel, hotel, meals and even clothing for the entire meet and the meetings before hand. These envelopes of cash are strictly to buy votes.

There has to be some mechanism that converts a check into envelopes of cash. Perhaps the “marketing firm” is that mechanism.

FINA’s Portfolio of Events
FINA has too many events. In order to pad its wallet, FINA created events that had two, extremely negative, events. The first is that traditional, regional events (LEN Championships, European Championships, African Championships, Pan American Games, etc.) have all been devalued by the new FINA calendar. Instead of partnering with existing events, co-branding them and using them as qualifiers, FINA became a competitor with its own members.

The FINA (short course) World Cup series has swimmers jetting all over the world competing weekend after weekend, with no breaks for training. There is a way to succeed at that and it is to use Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). Additionally, they added more sprint events to the World Cups, creating an even greater PED incentive. Sure enough, the top performer in the World Cup series is now a multi-time drug offender.

FINA doesn’t need the money. One Olympic Games, one Long Course World Championship and one Short Course World Championship every quadrennial is plenty, especially if they would co-brand regional events and use them as wild card qualifiers in to their championships.


FINA and Anti-Doping

Here, FINA’s history is sordid. Your journalist colleague, Craig Lord, has recorded this history better than anyone else. They gave their highest honor to Lothar Kipke (East Germany) as he was injecting the backsides of minor girls in the 70s.

When the trials in Germany proved these charges, FINA did not revoke his honors, nor did they correct the medals from that era.

More recently, FINA gave its highest award to Vladimir Putin, while he was orchestrating the most detailed, national doping program since the East German days. There is a reason that both the East German and Russian details were discovered via investigations, not testing.

Today, we are using 1976 technology to try to catch 2018 cheaters. The cheaters use current technology. Additionally, we test from a menu of drugs. Any drug not on that menu is not tested for.

High Throughput Testing with Multi-Dimensional Analysis can basically spot anything in blood and urine that is not blood or urine. It is used commonly in medicine, in research, in forensics, even in food safety. It is just not used in sports – except by the cheaters.

Mr. Marculescu knows the technology is inadequate, but he uses it anyway. He also knows the testing panels are inadequate, but he uses those to his advantage. The favored swimmers who compete week after week on the World Cup series are rumored to get a “green card.” That means they will either be tipped off as to when they will be tested, or they are tested for a panel of drugs that would never be used by swimmers.

Mr. Marculescu was also urged to follow the example of Lord Coe and form an independent integrity unit for aquatics. He did not, although he could clearly have afforded to do so. Instead, he signed on with the ITA, which is anything but independent.

Development Activities
In the past, “development” consisted of bringing sport politicians to expensive cities for conferences. Now, there is some effort at taking kids from third-world countries and placing them into residential academies around the world. The irony is that if “Development” was successful, there would be no need to take kids away from their families. Instead of bragging about this ‘success,’ it should be viewed as a symptom of failure.

FINA has a unique position. It could stimulate “development” where it is most needed, and likely to take root, in the world. It could incentivize the pool manufacturers around the world to develop a standard training facility for swim lessons and swim teams. A six-lane, 25m pool going from deep to shallow would be wonderful. These pools would need to be made with “off the shelf” parts, so that a pool in Nicaragua wouldn’t be closed waiting for a part from Italy.

FINA could target one place at a time. Find the right community partner. Build a pool.  Start a swim lessons program. Let that lessons program feed a youth team. Let the youth team gradually develop international-level swimmers. Every year, plant one seed.

Real development would focus on ending drowning world-wide and becoming a real public health partner in the fight against the now world-wide epidemic of obesity and diabetes. Elite competitions should be a celebration of progress at the grassroots and should provide inspiration to people to use swimming and water exercise to get healthy.  There should be a public good involved, not merely public dollars.

The FINA payroll
I can’t think of a professional sport where the administrators make more than the athletes.

This is only possible because FINA still employs slave labor (after being told by the European Commission to stop). FINA has a series of rules (GR-4) that tells nations that any athlete who competes for an outside organization will be ineligible for the World
Championships and Olympic Games.

This prevents any outside event producer or promoter from developing a professional league or creating other professional events. As long as FINA is allowed to run a monopoly and employ slave labor, it can pay athletes whatever it wants. If other groups could run events, suddenly market forces would prevail.

The European Commission already ruled on this in the ISU (Speed Skating) case.  In its final decision, the EC told all the International Federations (IFs) that they had to delete those rules from their rule books. In response, Mr. Marculescu sent a letter to every NF telling them that if any of their athletes compete in an “outside” event, especially the ISL, that those athletes would become immediately ineligible for
FINA events and the Olympic Games.

FINAs Mortal Sin: Universality
As bad as all of the above are, there is something more damaging to world swimming. It operates under the guise of something magnanimous, but it is the conduit for massive corruption and demotivation of coaches and swimmers in the very areas they are pretending to help. The program is “Universality.”

Universality is a corruption technique that FINA learned from the IOC. In theory (or in
PR), “universality” is to ensure that every nation gets to compete in the World Championships and Olympic Games. On its face, that is sweet, but absurd.

We just witnessed the World Cup. Only 32 nations qualified, but every nation had an opportunity to qualify. Aquatics should be no different. Opportunity is the key word. The same thing is true in the Olympic Games. Regional Championships are used to qualify basketball teams, football teams, etc. Not every team qualifies, but every team has the OPPORTUNITY.

This is where FINA could use the regional championships for nations that do not have swimmers at the Olympic time standard. FINA could use its own “FINA Points System” to bring the best swimmers from every nation that doesn’t have a qualifier, but it doesn’t.

Instead, FINA uses paper entries and a very long lead time, so that entries from those nations are “appointed” (not qualified) to the World Championships or Olympic Games. How are they appointed? In typical third-world fashion, through family connections or, more frequently, bribes to the National Federation President.

The WSCA and ASCA (American Swimming Coaches Assn.) continuously run clinics around the world. At some point, in nearly every clinic, the coaches get depressed and one will say, “Why should I coach better? I already have the National Champion and he doesn’t get selected, because his family couldn’t afford the bribe.” A swimmer might say, “Why should I train harder? I am already the African Champion, but the 8th place girl was selected, because she is the President’s niece.”

These coaches and swimmers work and train in conditions that no American or European would tolerate. They are passionate about their sport and work hard. They are also completely demoralized by the organization that is supposed to “Develop” the sport. FINA could end this in a minute, but perpetuating it allows their loyalists to continue to enrich themselves at home.

The Bottom Line

Both the IOC and the International Federations exist because they say they do. There is no process to replace a corrupt and/or incompetent IF. It would take a massive uprising and a generation of athletes to sabotage their own Olympic dreams to even have a chance. Until IFs can be replaced, the corruption will continue.

 

George Block
President, World Swimming Coaches Assn.

WSCA Press Release on Anti-Doping Proposals

To:       World Swimming Media

From:   George Block, President

Date:    13 February 2018

Re:       Statement from the WSCA Board

One of the Olympic ideals is respect, yet it has become abundantly clear that the international leaders of our sports have traded this ideal for convenience and self-dealing.  To have respect, one must recognize that cheating ruins the sport for both the competitors that are now victims, but also participants and fans who no longer respect that anyone is competing fairly.   Thus, today, we are calling on athletes, coaches and leaders from around the world and across the aquatics sports to unite and fight to ensure that clean sport still is the cornerstone of swimming and all Olympic sports.

The “Russia Crisis” that has loomed from Sochi, through Rio and now, on to PyeongChang has clearly demonstrated that the IOC is no longer interested in either Clean Sport or Fair Sport.  What the world has witnessed over the past four years is the “abject failure of the international anti-doping system,” according to Bill Bock, the General Counsel of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

The current “solution” being proposed, the Independent Testing Authority (ITA), is not the solution, as it attempts to fix a failed system with a broken system.  In fact, ITA will be neither Independent, nor an Authority, with 50% government representatives (for whom this is the last thing on their to-do list) and 50% IOC board members (for whom this allows control of Olympic anti-doping efforts).  We are back to the “fox guarding the hen house.”  We should have recognized how broken the proposed solution was when the first positive response came from TASS (the official Russian news agency).

There is nothing we can do to affect the IOC; however, we can affect FINA.  To start, FINA must get serious about anti-doping – now.  That means that FINA should push back and not succumb to massive pressure from the IOC to become part of the ITA.  Rather, FINA should create its own Swimming Integrity Unit that is completely independent of the FINA government structure with a committed, long-term funding structure.  Fortunately, that path has been blazed by the leaders of the IAAF, the International Federation for Track and Field.  The IAAF has developed an independent “Athletics Integrity Unit.“  This unit will be completely independent of the IAAF governance structure, but with long-term, guaranteed funding.  It will handle anti-doping, as well as bribery, corruption, conflicts of interest, and more.  It will have jurisdiction over anything that threatens the integrity of the sport.  This is the model that FINA should follow.

Every coach and athlete should be contacting their own National Federation to insist that their federation supports real independence, by not succumbing to IOC pressure, but instead supporting the creation of a FINA Swimming Integrity Unit.  Working together, around the world and across the aquatics sports, we have the opportunity to return respect to FINA sports, and once again have clean and fair sports.  Let’s all work together to turn this into a reality.

 

View Original WSCA Press Release: 13 February 2018

An Open Letter to FINA

17 December 2017

Mr. Cornel Marculescu, Executive Director
Via email sportdep@fina.org
FINA
Chemin de Bellevue 24a/24b
CH – 1005 Lausanne
SWITZERLAND

 

Dear Mr. Marculescu,

As I am sure you have read, the European Commission recently ruled against the International Skating Union (ISU) regarding the ISU’s rules preventing non-ISU competitions.  The board of the World Swimming Coaches Association (WSCA) requests that you initiate the process for removing similar rules from FINA.

The WSCA requests that GR-4 be removed from the FINA rulebook as it most closely mirrors the rules deemed illegal by the EC.  We urge FINA to get in front of this issue to avoid dealing with the EC and to demonstrate leadership to other International Federations.

Specifically:

  • The European Commission claim that ISU rules which had permitted sanctions…for those participating in unlicensed events were unfairly persecuting athletes and preventing the innovation and growth of the sport.
  • The severe penalties the ISU imposes on skaters also serve to protect its own commercial interests and prevent others from setting up their own events.
  • “The ISU now has to comply with our decision, modify its rules, and open up new opportunities for athletes and competing organisers, to the benefit of all ice skating fans.”
  • “In particular, the ISU should not impose or threaten to impose unjustified penalties on athletes who participate in competitions that pose no risk to legitimate sports objectives. If the ISU maintains its rules for the authorisation of third party events, they have to be based on objective, transparent and non-discriminatory criteria and not be intended simply to exclude competing independent event organisers.
  • The European Commission accused the ISU of “pursuing its own commercial interests to the detriment of athletes and organisers of competing events”.
  • It also claimed they were limiting opportunities for athletes and preventing sporting innovation.
  • The ISU now have 90 days to “stop its illegal conduct” and change its rules.

The WSCA requests that you use this 90-day period to initiate the process of removing GR – 4 from the FINA rulebook in order to gain compliance with the EC’s ruling on the ISU case and to free athletes and event organizers to innovate to the benefit of swimming and our sport’s top athletes.

 

Thank you,

George Block, President
World Swimming Coaches Association
127 Burr Rd. #4
San Antonio, TX, 78209 USA
georgeblock511@yahoo.com
210-912-3535

 

FINA Open Letter 12-17-17

FINA Open Letter 12-17-17 Traducción Española

 

 

The World Swimming Association: Why Not the Dream?

THE WORLD SWIMMING ASSOCIATION. WHY NOT THE DREAM?
–By John Leonard, WSCA Executive Director
 

 
Recently one of my good friends in swimming media asked me…”Do you really think the WSA can replace FINA?”

My first reaction was “who knows, my crystal ball is broken.” But that is not really the point.

The Point is, its time, after DECADES of talented and well meaning people trying to change the DNA of an organization hell-bent on self-aggrandizement and self-protection at the expense of all others, its time to go a different direction.

We should all remember the definition of insanity: “expecting different results while doing the same things.” Generations of good people have tried to change the organization. Those same generations come away embittered, disillusioned and broken or worse, complicit with the bad guys.

No More. I don’t expect to change FINA. No one else should either. Self-care is in their DNA, part of their every fiber. They serve themselves. Period.

God bless ‘em, if they can continue to sell that to the masses in this day and age of internet, instant communication and sharing, we all deserve what we accept.

INSTEAD, the WSA is an attempt to re-ignite the dream.

What dream? The one that led you and I into sports. The dream of young people competing with energy, love, enthusiasm and passion with like minded people from every culture on earth, and with every bit of their ability, and then…going to have dinner together afterwards in friendship and fellowship.

I had my “Olympic Dream Moment” watching the 10,000 meters on the track in Tokyo on our home grainy black and white TV in 1964, when an American Indian (An AMERICAN INDIAN!!!) Billy Mills, roared past the rest of the world on the last lap to win in dramatic fashion with a look on his face like it was going to explode from within. Then he reached back and hugged those whom he’s just beaten to the tape…..I yelled myself hoarse cheering for him..my mother thought I’d lost my mind, and I’ve been in love with the IDEA of the Olympics ever since.

You have each had your own similar moment. Do you remember your’s? Tell someone near you about it. Try not to cry. We love those moments…that much.

What I KNOW about the WSA is that those of us involved with it, are trying to get back to that Dream. And Make it Real. CHANGE OLYMPIC SPORT BACK to the DREAM.

It starts with a couple of basics:

Sport is for the Athletes. ATHLETE CENTERED in every regard. Today that manifests itself primarily in terms of money. The world best practice is the NBA. 49% of all revenues generated by the league MUST wind up back in the athletes pockets. The WSA is saying 50%.

Sport needs to be CLEAN. No Doping. It can be done. Only liars tell you it can’t. Today’s organizations don’t want to clean it up. It can be, and we know exactly how to do it. The only missing piece is the WILL to clean it up. WSA has that Will.

Our Sport needs Development. “Development” is not flying a President of a national governing body to a World Championship and Congress. Real Development is about pools, coaches, Swim Meets, Swim officials and growing participation and excellence.

The World Swimming Association will do those things (and more.)

We need YOUR HELP and the HELP OF YOUR SWIMMING FAMILIES to build the model of how Olympic style sport SHOULD BE.

Please join the WSA for just $15.00 per year USA / $5.00 per year International. Encourage your families to do similarly.

Together we can make the Dream of Sport real once again. Join Us. Please.

 

**JOIN THE WORLD SWIMMING ASSOCIATION TODAY**

 

 

 

The WSCA Response to the European Commission’s Speed Skating Decision

PRESS RELEASE FROM WSCA:

12 December 2017

–The WSCA Response to the European Commission’s Speed Skating Decision–

“The World Swimming Coaches Association (WSCA) welcomes the decision of the European Commission (EC) regarding the International Skating Union (ISU) and its rules that enforced sport-slavery for its professional athletes.  Nearly identical rules exist in most of the International Federations (IFs), in our case FINA, the international aquatics federation.

As delighted as we were to hear the decision of the European Commission, we were horrified to read the positions taken by the presidents of the ISU and IOC.  IOC President, Thomas Bach, spoke against the European Commission’s decision, saying that it was being looked at, “….only from a business perspective, the social value of sport is lost.”

As coaches who are dedicated to Olympic ideals, we never thought slavery would be listed as an Olympic ideal.  Clearly, this was only about business, because it only affected professional athletes and did nothing to change the competitive rules of the sport.

The WSCA supports the decision of the European Commission for the same reasons.  Professional athletes should be free to practice their profession (swimming) without being held hostage by an international monopoly.  The ISU held that the EC’s decision violated the (EU) Treaty, because it did not recognize the “voluntary” nature of sport.

The decision to participate in sport is clearly voluntary, but no athlete ever is allowed to join FINA or choose a different IF to represent his or her needs.  How can it be considered voluntary if the athlete never gets to choose?  To be voluntary, the person must have choices.  No athlete ever joins FINA, or is given a choice as to which organization would best represent their interests.

The WSCA will call on Mr. Cornel Marculescu, FINA Executive Director, to request that FINA drop all monopolistic rules that keep FINA in the same anti-trust position as the ISU.  Freedom for the athletes, not athletic slavery, is the issue.  FINA must act now or face a similar outcome in court.”

-George Block, President of the World Swimming Coaches Association

An Interview with John Leonard on Olympic Sport and the World Swimming Association

“Nothing in life is certain, least of all the concept of SUCCESS!

What I know for certain is that if people do not TRY TO CHANGE OLYMPIC SPORT, Olympic Sport will never change.

The World Swimming Association is an effort by all of us who care, to have athlete centered sport, without doping, without corruption, without management scandals, and WITH integrity, professional management And real DEVELOPMENT in the 190 federations around the world (of the 210 that exist) that lack pools, coaches, officials, and sufficient training and competition for swimmers.

Athlete centered sport means in part that the hundreds of millions of dollars generated by swimming over the decades, winds up at least 50% in the pockets of those to EARN IT. THE ATHLETES. Not in an organizational bank account.

Are we certain of success? Of course not. This is competitive sport. If you only play if you know you will win, that’s not sport, is it?

FINA has huge bank accounts earned on the backs of swimmers to whom they dedicate Pennies. World Swimming Association has the best interests of the Athletes as our central value.

I live in a country where the longest of long shots (rebellion against an impervious enemy in 1776) became reality because ethically, it was the right move. People saw that and joined. Often Against their own best immediate interests, but in the hopes of a truly better life experience for their children. Independence from Britain was the longest of long shots.

I think FINA is in trouble because deep in their DNA, they are for their own organization, not for athletes. The World Swimming Association is for what we all DREAMED ABOUT when we decided to get involved in sport. Just my opinion, of course.

On the issue of Code of Conduct, I cannot comment on the specific recent incidents since I have no first hand knowledge, but certainly respect for self, competitors, other coaches and officials should be a GIVEN in any sporting endeavor. It should not need formal processes, but if it does, the WSA/PSA certainly will put them in place. Respect is a fundamental value.”

Throw the Bums Out

Dear Friends, Coaches and Athletes,

Here is the sickening news:

  • FINA returned a President to office who has lied to all of us on multiple occasions times and changed FINA rules so he can keep sitting on the golden throne and keep ruling.
  • FINA returned a World Championship event to Kazan, Russia, where the national government ran (runs) a doping program.
  • FINA has now been led by a President from a minor to non-existent Swimming nation for forty year (of corruption, shame and disgrace).
  • FINA’s next king in line is from Kuwait, a nation suspended from the International Olympic Committee and FINA and who was not approved by his own federation (the suspended one) to run for FINA office. Kuwait? I know Kuwaiti coaches work hard. Does their federation help them or hurt them? Ever?

Is this what you signed up for when you began to coach or swim?
Me either. I signed up for the beauty of great athletes (clean athletes) competing brilliantly against each other.

Unfortunately the organization that is running that at the world level (and maybe, for some of us, at the national and local level as well) is as described above. Time to throw them out and replace them with real democracy.

The World Swimming Association wants to serve as an alternative.

FINA hates us. We stand for athletes receiving 50% of all revenues that are currently going to… who?
We stand for transparency, for real development (facilities, swimmers, coaches); not money to let more suits travel to more exotic destinations for “meetings” that accomplish nothing.
I accept that hate as a badge of honor.

Unlike FINA, you can choose to change the world of Olympic Sport to the type of thing you joined the sport for, as an individual part of the World Swimming Association. It costs pennies to join as an individual Member.

Join the World Swimming Association, and throw these bums out on their ear.

-John Leonard
WSCA Executive Director

World Swimming Association Constitutional Convention

THE HISTORIC DREAM OF REBUILDING OUR SPORT BEGINS HERE


Coach Jon Rudd, Ireland
Friday, September 1, 2017, 3-8 PM.
Washington, D.C. USA. (DRAFT TWO)

Proposed AGENDA

  1. Introductions – led by World Swimming Coaches Association President George Block.
  2. Review and approval of the Proposed Constitution of the WSA. Including Goals/Values/Principles of Operation.
  3. Review and approval of the initial list of proposed COMMITTEES of the WSA. And meetings of one hour with each Committee separately.
    1. Development of Swimming Committee. (aim: to improve the development options for swimming in nations NOT among the top 15 in World Championship results. To include open water and pool swimming. This is about structuring the program. .)
      • Age group development
      • Senior development (2 subcommittees)
    2. Athlete/Coach Development Committee. (AIM: To improve universal knowledge about the Athlete and Coach improvement process. This is about working with individuals as opposed to the structure above. )
    3. Facility Development Committee. (aim- to improve and develop a “standard pool” with standard components that are universally available and with high reliability that can be used in areas where facilities are a key issue.)
    4. Anti-Doping Committee. (aim – to develop state of the art anti-doping programs within the WSA.)
    5. Health, Safety and Learn to Swim Committee. (aim – to address the three issues for all those nations where current programs are inadequate to the growth of the sport.)
      Subcommittee 1 – Health (fitness swimming, water exercise)
      Subcommittee 2 – Safety and Learn to Swim.
    6. Officiating, Management, and Administration of the WSA Committee. (otherwise known as GOVERNANCE of the WSA). (aim – to recommend to the Congress, appropriate projects in the areas listed.)
      All attendees will be asked to join one committee each and contribute their experience and expertise.
  4. Review and Discussion of COMMITTEE by Geographic Area. Each attendee will join a one-hour meeting by geography below with the AIM- to discuss needs that should be addressed in priority order in each area of the world and report back to the Congress. (one hour plus report time of 30 minutes.)
  5. Voting for Inaugural Board Positions on the WSA Board as provided for in the previously approved Constitution.
  6. Closing comments (open to the floor).

Geographical regions:

  • North America
  • South and Central America and Caribbean
  • Europe
  • Asia
  • North Africa
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Oceania.

Respectfully submitted: John Leonard for the WSCA.

Training for Capacity vs. Utilization | Bob Bowman | ASCA 2011 World Clinic

I’m Matt Kredich; I’m one of the ASCA board members. It’s a pleasure to serve on that board. It’s a great pleasure and honor to introduce Bob Bowman to you today our next speaker. We all know Bob as the coach of Michael Phelps which means a lot and I’ll talk a little bit about what that means to me. Bob’s a visionary and I think all of us coaches can imagine that if we have an athlete and we see that that athlete at age 11 can do something that’s never been done, probably never been imagined in the history of our sport, then we’re a visionary. And that’s exactly what Bob did. He’s the architect of – in two Olympic Games, one man won 16 medals. Fourteen of those 16 medals were gold medals. To me that’s unbelievable. It’s hard to imagine especially in the age where we have prelim, semi‑finals and finals. In the age where information is distributed as quickly as it is now. In the age where all countries are having greater access to information and facilities, it’s hard to imagine that that will ever be done again and if it is it will take a visionary like Bob Bowman and certainly a great athlete to create those performances. It’s also fascinating to think that Bob has been coaching Michael for 14 years. If we all think about what that means, that’s extraordinary. I can’t stand myself after 14 years. I don’t know how two people can work together at that level and keep pushing boundaries and keep developing for 14 years. But Bob’s coaching goes way beyond what he’s done with Michael. My first memory of Bob as a coach was when I first started coaching I looked at the cover of an ASCA magazine and saw these awards that actually I can’t really find the description for anymore but ASCA used to give an award for the best stroke technician in the country and there was Bob Bowman on the cover. He’s a young coach and Bob won the award but he’s standing next to the head coach of Las Vegas gold which was David Marsh. Bob then went on to work for one of the greats in our sport Paul Bergen and he’s also had a couple of stints with Paul, did some coaching on his own and then went to work for one of the other greats in our profession, Murray Stevens. So he’s been mentored by David Marsh, worked with David Marsh, mentored by and worked with Paul Bergen, mentored by and worked with Murray Stevens, the tremendous amount of experience and knowledge that comes with coaching with those men and then of course he’s taken over the North Baltimore Club which has been named by USA swimming the top performing club in the country for two years running. He’s done it all. He’s been a college coach at the highest level. He was responsible for coaching six of the athletes on the last Olympic team and it’s exciting to me to imagine what he sees next and what he feels like we as coaches need to focus on so that’s enough for me and here’s Coach Bob Bowman.

Bob Bowman: Thanks Matt. Interesting he mentions those Schlueter Stroke Awards named for Walt Schlueter, great stroke technician in the sport and one of the things that they did was really recognize Age Group Coaching and it was kind of a way to make you feel good about your coaching when you’re just starting out. I actually remember one of the years there were six awards, right? So there were 9 and 10 boys and girls, 11 and 12 boys and girls, 13 and 14 boys and girls. And I think I was fortunate enough to maybe get three of those. Three out of six in one year and I guess not too many people turn them in but anyway.

I was feeling pretty good about myself after that banquet where kept calling me up and giving me all these stuff and after the banquet I was taking these – there’s was a plaque for me, a plaque for the kid, a pair of paddles all kinds of – it’s about this much stuff, right? And I was feeling pretty full of myself after that I was like, “I must be pretty good.” So I left the banquet a little bit early because I wanted to go out and have some fun and got in the elevator to go to my room and I looked over and George Haines was in the elevator with me.

I was so excited but I couldn’t speak to him because why would George Haines want to talk to me? And I had all this stuff, it felt so stupid. Kind of took me down to earth. But we got out of the elevator, he got out at my floor and we walked down the same hallway and our rooms were pretty close to each other. So I stopped and I was putting my key in my door and he stopped right before I went in and he said, “Hey, you know what?” I was like, “Yes, sir?” He said, “If you just worked a little harder, you could have won all these.”

Good lesson from the best, right? All right. It’s kind of widely publicized that I sort of dabble in a lot of different things and I started thinking about why I’m attracted to certain activities or sports or things like that, arts. And I came up with two reasons. The things that I like, number one, inspire me. They’re uplifting and make you feel good, challenge you to be more creative. And number two, they involve hard work and hard work to me is not necessarily just grinding all the time. It’s pushing to your capabilities. What is your potential? How hard can you work to get there? And maybe go beyond what you thought it was.

So I think those are the things that kind of captivate me. There’s certainly something that captivates me about swimming and there are a couple of things that have interested me and I wanted to talk about a couple of examples. You kind of know that I’ve been involved for almost 15 years now in horse racing. And horse racing inspires me for two reasons. It inspires me because the animals are so incredible. None of you could be near a thoroughbred horse right now and not say wow. You either be able to say wow because you’re scared of it or because you are in awe but it’s the physical power, the presence, just a lot of things that inspire you about horses.

The second thing that I love about it is the hard work that goes into the process of getting these animals ready to race. If you think that you work hard and I guarantee all of you do. Go to Bonita Farm in Maryland at 4:30 any morning of the year, every morning, 4:30 because what happens then is the horses have been fed at 4 am by some unfortunate man who spends all night with them and then at 4:30 there’s a crew of must be 10 people because the barn’s 25 stalls on each side and if you walk in there at 4:30, there are five people in charge of five stalls on each side so while the horses eat they are cleaning the stalls, they’re throwing the straw out in the middle of the shed row.

A tractor comes in they shovel all these into the shed row. It’s swept down completely clean, new bedding is put in the stalls; the horses are still kind of chilling out after they ate. So by 5:45 they’ve already done almost a day’s work, everybody grabs a cup of coffee, and then they start training the horses at 6. Nobody works that hard. That’s what I love about it. I have another little interest which I never really talked about before because it’s kind of nerdy but I really love it. A little known fact is when I was in high school I was in the band. I was kind of a band geek, right? And I fell in love with this thing called Drum Corps International. Anybody know about it? Anybody here? Cool, DCI, right? And what it is, if you imagine it’s kind of like a marching band on steroids.

It’s maybe some high school but mainly college-age kids that get together for the whole summer and what they do is there’s a staff that puts together this program, they get together in May and what they do is basically sleep on gym floors, get up, rehearse all day long, like eight hours. Do a show, get on a bus, go to the next town and they do this for months and it culminates in a world championship, which is usually held – now it’s held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. I try to go whenever I can but it’s a pretty cool event because it’s competitive and it’s artistic. And the thing I love about – the inspiring part is obviously the music and the emotional impact of those things and then they have their technical side which is also appealing to me as well.

But the thing about DCI, the point I wanted to make is when you go to one of these shows, there are judges everywhere. There are 10 or 12 judges and they judge the technical precision of what’s going on. Some are for music, some are for percussion, some are for brass, and some are for color guard whatever it is. And they go around and they do what they call ticks. A tick is a 10th of a point so everybody starts with a score of 100 and then they tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick and then you end up at 60 or whatever it is, right? But it’s very objective. Anybody who’s trained can see if someone was out of step, if someone played out of tune, if the phrasing wasn’t correct. It’s pretty easy to see those objective things.

And that I equate to like the science of swimming. You can see that. That’s the what. That’s what is going on, right? And then you get to the how, the art part of it. The other score that they give besides the technical score is called general effect, GE, and that is when you’re sitting in the stands. How does the show affect you emotionally? Does it make you stand up and cheer? Does it make you fall asleep? What does it do and the judges actually judge that. And my point here is that your programs operate like that. You have whatever you decide to put in your training program and that’s what I’m going to talk about today. I’m going to talk about the what. What to do?

But along with the – what goes the how and that to me is the art of coaching. How do you put it together? How do you communicate it? What’s the energy that surrounds it? What are the principles that go with it? So I think you have science, you have art, and it’s up to you to decide how much of which you put into your program because every program has both. Some are more science, some are more art. The great part is you can do whatever you want but I think I would like to give you some ideas today on how to organize that. But what we’re going to do today is talk more about training, one of my favorite things as Gregg Troy said the other night kind of labeled me.

Don’t label me please, but I’m one of those pounders. Not true. I’m going to show you how that works right now. What we’re going to talk about today is – I’m working with a lot of post-grads right now. I’m working with some pretty good high school athletes, come in contact with Age Group swimmers. I have a whole staff of coaches that I’m trying to educate to deal with all of those constituencies. When I ran into particularly with the post-grads, right? It’s just amazing that these athletes who have been in our sport for so long, they do well and they do well, and they do well and they listen to their coaches and they do well, and then at some point they don’t need us anymore because they know what they need.

Well, I don’t need to do that. So I was getting a little bit of, “I don’t need to do that,” and after I kicked the first two people off the team I decided that if I was going to keep doing that, I wouldn’t have anybody to coach so I decided, well maybe there’s another approach. Best part about my job is I’m not a college coach. People don’t have to like me. I own the pool. Get out. You don’t want to do it? I’m good. But I did think that probably a more educational approach would make things work better. There is one I couldn’t get rid of so I have to kind of educate him. He really owns the pool.

And pretty much me at this point but anyway.

We’re going to talk about two concepts of training. And don’t be afraid about the chalkboard. You don’t have to see – it’s not important that you see the details. I’m just going to do some kind of general things up here. We’re going to talk about training for capacity and training for utilization. And what those mean, how can you put those together in a program, and how they might help you explain what you’re doing to your athletes. They might actually, as it has been my case, help me explain it more to myself what we’re doing and analyze what we’re doing. And I guess there are about maybe three or four questions you should think about when you’re looking at your program.

Number one, do you know what is actually going on in your training program? That sounds like the most absurd question, right? But think about it. Do you know what’s happening in a certain set that made you want to do it on a certain day at a certain time? And once you put it there and they did it, do you know what effect it had on the next day or how it fit in to the day before? I think there are a couple of things that go with that and the first thing is, if you do not measure it, you can’t manage it. Step number one, for all coaches and there have been a lot of great coaches that don’t do this but I don’t know how they do it. You must record your practices.

You don’t necessarily have to do them in advance if you want to be an artist and you want to go in and let the muse strike you and orchestrate a brilliant practice but right after you got to write down what happened because you’re not going to remember. If you’re like me, I find myself right now I’ll be writing a workout and be like, “Hmm, it’s Wednesday.” And since I have things sort of organized by days, same kind of training thing I’m like, “What did we do last Wednesday?” If I don’t have that book in front of me, I can’t come up with it. So much has happened since then, right? I got a lot going on.

So you have to record what you’ve got so you can look back and see what you actually did because it’s kind of like those fish stories. The fish grows every time you tell it. And decide what you’re going to measure. North Baltimore Aquatic Club, we’ve had a lot of sustained success in our Age Group Program and one of the things that I think keeps that going and feeds into the goal setting process is that every swimmer on our team knows it’s important to get your time. Not have a coach read you your time. If they do, that’s nice. You have to get your own time. Start that with the little ones and we help the 10‑year-olds but we do lots of sets where – and with the older ones that really drives them crazy, right?

You’re doing pace work and I say, “Finish on your feet,” and they don’t. You don’t give them your time because that didn’t count. Well, it’s the same thing. If I do a set of something and I say, “What was your time on that?” And they don’t know then sometimes I just start everybody over and do it again, right? You only have to do that once. But it sends a message that it’s important. And if you know your times in practice, and you know your best time for 100 free kick and you know your best time for a 100 free swim in practice and you know your best time for 5000 for time and you know your best time for whatever you want to measure, you have a whole lot of things to be goal-oriented about, don’t you?

That’s how Michael came up. I’m going to try to do this whole talk without really using he whose name shall not be said – what’s the Harry Potter thing? That’s what we always refer to him, he who cannot be named. But when he was little, that’s what we would do in the sets. I’d be like, “You know, what’s your best in the 100 free?” And he’d be like, “Well, I think it’s you know, 52.” I was like, “Well, I think maybe by the end you could be 50.5, don’t you think?” And he’d be like, “Yeah, probably.” It just gives you a basis to work from. Instead of just doing a set where they go up and down and you don’t know what’s happening, that’s important. So write stuff down and decide what you’re going to measure.

Decide what your program is all about. North Baltimore Aquatic Club is so simple. For 40 years now we are about the discipline pursuit of excellence. Excellence we all know what that is. We want to be the best at every category. If we have 100 breaststrokers we want them to be the best. If we have 10-year-olds, we want them to be the best. If we have 30-year-olds we want them to be the best. If we run fund racing we want it to be the best. So we compare to what’s out there and we compare to the top. We don’t want to be the best in Maryland. We don’t want to be the best in the United States. We want to be the best.

Discipline, mainly self-discipline, that’s the life skill part, right? You have a plan. You follow it. You believe in it. You live it. It’s pretty simple, works for us. You can have whatever you want but you have to have something if you want to be any good, all right? As I said I wanted a way to explain some of the things we were doing in training to my athletes and it was pretty effective. I want to before I go any further give some credit, complete credit to go to Coach Nort Thornton who is in the back because a long time ago he wrote a paper about base training and sharpening training. Probably the best thing I ever read on training. And I went back and found it and re-read it and what I’m talking about today is essentially that.

I’ve sort of changed the terminology a little bit because I wanted to explain things a little more specifically from a physiological standpoint and because I think there are connotations with some of that stuff. I’m sure there are people in this room who will say, “That aerobic base stuff, that’s just a bunch of whatever.” It doesn’t matter. Well I say to you, “You keep thinking that because we’ll keep kicking your ass long course for the rest of time.”

[Laughter]

Okay? It’s important. If you don’t think so, you’re wrong. I’m going to explain why in a minute. But thanks, Nort this is for you. All right. Let’s talk about capacity, what that means. The other part that went with this is I read a great book. I did a clinic in Canada, a guy named Jan Olbrecht. He had written a book called, “The Science of Winning.” And man is it a dense in terms of information book. I think I’ve read it eight times I almost understand it. But he talks a lot about some general training categories and he talked about – and I think a lot of it is the translation. Aerobic endurance and aerobic power, anaerobic endurance and anaerobic power and what he means by those are aerobic capacity, aerobic utilization, anaerobic capacity, and anaerobic utilization.

That’s why I use these terms today because I think it’s more clear. It doesn’t confuse the issue. When you think of capacity you’re improving the performance and potential of the athlete. How good can they be? And that’s going to involve some decisions from you about what kind of program you’re running. Where the athlete is in their career? A couple of things like that are very important so you’re going to have to think about those things but they call tie in. Think about improving and expanding the infrastructure of the athlete, right? If you think about it in some abstract terms it’s about like making a bigger warehouse, improving your capacity for inventory, having more trucks to haul stuff around. Its how do you improve the basis of what goes on in your business.

Capacity training is long-term and it’s more general than utilization training. So the method you employ might have more of a widespread and less specific effect therefore less volatile and therefore it’s going to take longer for the thing to happen, which is fine, right? Time is on our side for the most part. Utilization is about improving the actual. What can we do today? Standing here with whatever the athlete has right now when they get on the blocks, what is the absolute best possible performance they can get right now? Think about improving sales, that’s what we want to do. Let’s make as much money as we can right now with whatever we’ve got. Whatever the inventory is let’s sell it out right now. That’s how you think about it.

It’s short-term and it’s very specific. I’m going to kind of be going back and forth between the two. If you get confused, just fall asleep and ask a yearbook later, maybe you can figure it out. I want to talk a little bit about capacity and if you can’t see this, don’t worry. It’s not that important, just kind of general capacity. When you’re using a long-term approach, things are going to take time. You have to decide what the essential ingredients of your program are and how you’re putting them into the daily program. The most fun that we’re going to have all week is I’m going to go through before long and name some programs and tell you what they are.

Capacity training sacrifices short-term gains for long-term goals. You have to ask yourself, is it more important that my swimmer go a minute in the 100 breast this season? Or go 55 two seasons from now because some of the things that you may do might make him go 102 this season but help him go 55 three seasons down the road. It’s an important concept I think. Capacity training is methodical and systematic. You’re improving systems. Maybe not specific skill-oriented activities I guess would be the best way to do it. You’re trying to increase aerobic capacity. Well, what does that mean? Number and size of mitochondria improve the delivery systems. There are a lot of physiological things that you can read in the physiology books and they’ll tell what’s happening.

All of them are important. Promotes general fitness and general improvements so if you’re working for general improvement that means your swimmer is going to probably be overall better swimmer. They might not be a better 200 freestyler specifically but they will probably a better swimmer and across the range of events, they will do better. Even though it might be like this instead of like that. And in our visual representation here, capacity represents the cup. That is the worst cup ever drawn but you got the picture. You’re building a cup. Every swimmer has a cup which is his potential or glass. Capacity training makes the cup as big as they can be or small, depending on how you do it.

The goal would be to have a big cup so that when you go into the utilization training you can fill it up. Characterizations of utilization training. Short-term focus, what are we going to do this season? For me that’s as short as I can get. I don’t think I can get like the meet next week but I can get March from now. It sacrifices potential for actual right now. You sacrifice what they could possibly do two or three years from now for what they can do this season. And there’s some real value in that. I’m not going one way or the other. I’m not telling you should be doing one or the other. I think a balance is best. A good example of this would be North Baltimore Aquatic Club has a long history of sort of building swimmers and getting them to the top level and I remember Murray Stevens always telling me, “We only taper once every four years for Olympic trials and games.”

And I thought that’s kind of dumb because it seems like we taper every season. But what he’s saying and how he would explain it would be, Murray would say, “What you do in the Olympic year and the rest and the specific training you give them is going to destroy their capabilities to do capacity training. You’re going to take that capacity and focus on this other stuff and it’s going to go down. So that when you get to the trials their overall capacity to do ten 400s may not be there but their capacity to do a 100 back in a minute is there. I think that’s a good way to look at it.

Utilization training is dynamic and it’s volatile. You don’t know what’s going to happen when you start doing that stuff. You’re either going to get them really good or they’re going to get crushed. So you have to be a little bit careful with it. It operates at the edge of their capabilities. I think Coach Bergen one time wrote a paper on same concepts. Do you train within the swimmer’s capabilities or are you going to try to get him to train beyond their capabilities? And his conclusion was you have to have both. You need to have training in your cycles that are working on capacity, that are done within their capabilities and that’s kind of on the under edge of their potential, right?

Whereas when you’re training utilization, you’re trying to see what the limit is so you may go past it. You’re trying to do something beyond their current capabilities. And his conclusion was that you have to have both because if you don’t it’s like pushing the refrigerator. If you only push on one side, its true think about it, the why I like the balance of this. Utilization training fills the cups. What are some good examples of some swimmers and cups? I’ll give you one. Michael Phelps before the Beijing Olympic Games, a cup the size of the Atlantic Ocean filled to the brim, took 12 years. Michael Phelps for the Pan Pacs in 2010 a thimble, half full.

I swear to God when I gave him that example, it was like an aha moment. He was like, “Now I get it.” It’s so true. Didn’t matter how full your thimble is either because that’s what they want to do, let’s do more sprints. Okay, well fine but you can only do a thimble full, that’s not a very good shot, right, if you’re used to drinking two gallons. So that’s kind of how you need to think about it. I also think that it’s interesting to think about how this works throughout a swimmers career because they don’t necessarily need this in the right same proportions to their whole career. How about swimmers who come from a high school background where they’re doing lots of capacity training, they go to a college program where they do lots of utilization training, they get real good, don’t they?

I’ll be the first to say I don’t know what the hell Dave Salo does over there. Obviously it works, right? It perfectly works and I have a feeling I know what it is but I think Rebecca Soni’s better in that program because she had a big cup from Tom Speedling [Phonetic] [0:32:54] when she got there. They filled it up as he should. With post‑grads fill, the cup. With high school swimmers, build it bigger. How about Ous Mellouli [Phonetic] [0:33:07] well he trains for the mile. Well of course he does. Who did he have before Salo, Schubert, and big cup? How did Erik Vendt go 146 in the 200 free when he had only been 149 before? He came from Josh Stern, Mark Schubert, came to us. We just filled the cup up. We worked on utilization. We didn’t care that much about – and he still won his best mile 1445 by 14 seconds.

It all fits together in a long-term plan if you look at it that way. So now you can kind of see I think what we’re talking about. It’s not just for swimming. It’s for dry land, mental training, to have to have a capacity to accept some of these things. Then they have to learn the high performance skills. What do you do when you stand on the block at the World Championships? First of all you got to just be able to take a deep breath before you swim when you’re 10 years old before you get to swim, right? [Exhales] Okay, let’s swim. Then 10 years later, you can do that when you stand up at the Olympic Games. It won’t be quite the same. The sphincter will be a little tighter.

Particularly the coaches but it’s the same concept. And I think you do that in your coaching when you’re – early in your coaching career, you want to build your capacity. You want to get as much knowledge in there as you can and then as you move along, you sort of decide on the things you’re going to focus on. I thought Teri gave such a wonderful talk the other night about her toolbox, right? And having had a front row seat to Teri’s evolution as a coach we almost came up together, right? I think Michael and Natalie sort of came on the scene about the same time. Natalie had been there a little bit earlier. But to watch that evolution is just incredible and if you know her story you couldn’t be prouder of someone, right? But that’s what she did. She built a capacity and then she used it.

Now she walks on the deck every day. She’s got a tremendous toolbox. That’s her capacity, the big toolbox. Now she can use it. All right. It’s a spectrum, right? It’s not an either/or. And one of the things I gave you that little in the beginning about the what and the how as I think so many people these days think that the what is the how. We sprint, we work on technique and speed we’re technique and speed based. No you’re not. Not really if you look at it because those two don’t exist independently. And then you have the oven. Well there, those distance space program. No they’re not because they do technique and speed too. They may do it differently. It’s a spectrum and you’re in different places. You might be closer to one side than the other. Maybe at some points of the year you’re closer to one side than the other.

All right who are the cup builders in the world? And once again, I say this saying everybody does everything and all these people are successful and these are my subjective opinions. And since all these college coaches are at home recruiting they don’t get to be here to defend themselves so too bad.

I’m going to put myself in here. Schubert’s probably over here, right, cup builder? One of the great cup builders. Mark Schubert at Mission Viejo, I won’t write names so you can forget quickly, right? So Jack Simon in here, he’s built some cups. These are people that really value aerobic training and I do too. There are people over on this end, Dave Durden. I think Teri’s somewhere in here. Salo and rightly so, they’re college coaches with people who are mature and either have cups or don’t, you know what I mean. Perfectly fine. I think you’d find Gregg Troy and myself somewhere kind of near this end but in the middle you can actually find our band check right in here. The intensity level on Jon’s program is very high.

So you have a broad range of programs. You have a broad range but everybody’s doing everything in the way that best benefits their athlete. I want to talk about some real world examples. What are some ways you can use this concept in your just regular training program? I’m going to start out with what we did in Michigan. Here you go, go blue, big day today. Here’s the training week and this – I always use R for Thursday because that’s what they did in my college scheduling at Florida State so I always do it. And I do two S’s for the weekends, I don’t know why but that’s how it goes. All right. We have a.m., we have p.m. This is not earth shattering, okay? On Mondays and Fridays we work on power training or overload training and I think you can look at that one of two ways. There are plenty of ways you can do that.

If you’re doing vertical kicking with weight and you do 10 rounds of 45 seconds on a minute, I’m pretty sure you’re building some kind of capacity. If you do 10 rounds at 10 seconds on a minute, it might be something different. But for us it was more a mix. On Monday afternoon, we did threshold training which was the famous colors, right? And the colors were designed to give us a specific target. That’s capacity training right here. You got to see here big one. If we did active rest which is easy fast kind of work, it’s about a half and a half. So you can get more towards the capacity side if you cut the rest down. You get more towards the utilization side if you get the rest up. So a good example would be – early in the season, let’s say they did a set and I’m going to make this super basic, right? Let’s say they did 20 times a 100 free also 50 easy.

And we just did the whole 150 on 140. There’s only so fast they can go, right? And they’re really operating at more of an endurance-oriented deal. It’s kind of a mix because you got some rest, got the easy rest, but then two weeks before the conference meet we might go four times or fifty, plus a fifty of each stroke and descend at one to four so there’s only one fast one and they’re going super fast. There’s a minute race speed on that. That’s utilization, same kind of training just done a different way. So it would depend on the season. Once again, don’t worry about it, it’s not that good. All right, on Wednesdays we would do quality training. It’s a very vague term but anaerobic training and that’s pretty much utilization for college swimmers.

That will be something where they would do a broken swim. So they would do rested 100s one every six minutes, something that’s going to train a system that is going to be used immediately in a race that year. You can build a capacity for that too. If you did three of them it’s one thing. If you do 10 of them it’s another and that will be up to you to decide. My goal today is to give you a fishing pole, not a fish. You got to fish for yourself. I just read a great quote its like Benjamin Franklin said, “Everyone in America is entitled for the pursuit of happiness. They have to catch it on their own.” That’s what this is all about. All right and then we just kind of repeat this through the week. That will be easy kind of capacity building aerobic, right?

We would just do this again here, here, and here but that’s how you sort of look at it one way in training. I’ll show you a little bit of old school North Baltimore because I’m old school I’ve been told. Didn’t think that was funny? I didn’t either. All right, as has been seen in many, many clinics that Janet Evans said, “I hope you do it because it’s pretty versatile.” I’m just giving you the basics so I can talk you through it. Six hundred, oh no we’ll get a two, four, six, eight, two, four, six and eight and then one times 200. And this will be a way we would design a lot of sets because it’s kind of a mix and the reason that we like it is, it’s a lot less volatile than some of these other things like six 100 dive on six minutes. That kills them, right? They do that, they’re not doing anything for the next couple of days. They go one all out 200 within five of their best 200 time, they’ll come back tomorrow okay.

So this is how it works. You’re going four two’s on the most basic interval 230, the three two’s or 225, 220, 215, it can be anything. It can be free, fly, whatever. It doesn’t matter. The stuff in between is kind of on a moderate interval, 220, let’s say we’re going yards, 440, eight, seven minutes and 920, how are we going to do it? And you just kind of make that suit. The in-betweens are relatively low stress and you start pretty low stress up here. So this is kind of building their capacity to do four 200s on a decent interval, right? It’s not an easy interval and they’re doing some quality but the quality is higher here and by the time you get to the pair we are all over them. We are all about the pair. If you do two 200s IMs it should be close to your best 400 IM time. That’s starting to get into some utilization training. That’s immediate, that’s neuromuscular, and that is super specific.

That’s allowing all the myelin that has been wrapped in years and years of doing four and eight and twelve and ten to do its job. If you’re a Talent Code fan and I am. And then we go at 800 and right here that’s it you go for it. When Michael was 11 and 12 almost until he was 13, every time I did this set with IMs, he did his best 200 IM on the last one. I mean meet time best. That’s some pretty specific training but it didn’t, we didn’t give up much because its 4000 set right? There was a big general component to it but it ends as something very, very specific. All right, how are we doing on time? You people in the back don’t run out early for your lunches. It’s not true there are only 400 free ones.

I want you to look at it another way. Let’s say you have your training program and this is something we did in Napa when I was his coach. Bergen and I actually use it a couple of times, it works pretty well. Do you remember? I don’t think we talked about it that much anymore because it’s kind of negative and there are other ways to express it. When you guys were swimming, did you have hell week? All right, week after Christmas, right? Merry Christmas and basically in hell week you just swim as far and hard as you can, right? Swim as far and as hard as you can, very scientific. Talk about capacity building I mean I think some of Dennis Pursley [Phonetic] [0:46:10] swimmers were still ready to taper. But, am I too for that matter but what we did in the course of our season. We started experimenting with this concept and were like, “Why is that good?” Well, it’s good because it builds their capacity to do some things, right?

There are some physiological adaptations that take place in that kind of training that don’t occur anywhere else and there are a lot of psychological adaptations or maladaptations that occur during that kind of training that you can’t get. One of my favorite is 5000 per time. Why would anybody do that, right? That’s dumb; all new school people told you that’s a waste of time. Their stroke breaks down to da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da. Okay, I use it because if you’re doing a 5000 straight, it’s about an hour and they’re swimming at whatever their maximal effort is for that and they’re swimming a stroke, which I like. I just like 5000 free you can mix it up you can do all kinds of stuff. I kind of like just free. But I like free because there is set up a time for one hour where very small muscular movements are going to be made over and over and over with really no escape except for the turns.

You’re going to target a specific movement and many smaller movements that support it in a way that cannot be done any other way. You cannot get that by training ten 500s. It’s just different. It doesn’t mean its better but it’s certainly another way to do it. It’s certainly a way to build some confidence in people that don’t think they can do anything hard and it’s not even really that hard. Well, not for me but that’s why we would do some things like that. It’s muscular endurance. It’s not about aerobic capability. I can get them aerobically fit by going six 400s or something. It’s about that. So that’s why it gets back to saying, “Do you really know what’s going on?” And it’s mental too, right?

I tell you the best thing I ever did on Michael. He’s usually a step or two ahead of me sometimes in these little games that we play but I really got him one time because I had for years on of my distance guys in North Baltimore to go 10,000 per time long course and I felt like that was something that you can’t really give him very often. I’ve only done it once but I had a group of girls, they’re really distance-oriented and I had a boy who was really distance-oriented and I thought it would be good for them to do for these reasons. So we just talked about it and it was going to happen on Saturday and this is back when we were training on – we were doing some doubles on Saturday. We would do singles during the week and double on Saturdays.

So Saturday morning they came in and I said that I didn’t have Michael on that lane and I had him over here and I had the distance guys over here. I said you guys got 10,000 per time, everybody does a good job on this, and you can take this afternoon off. He was like, “What about me?” I was like, “You’re not doing 10,000 per time so you’ll be here this afternoon. “Well, can I?” I was like, “Hmm. Why of course you can.”

And he actually did it, and did a really good job. You got to sell this stuff but back to what I was talking about. We had this hell week concept and what we thought about and what we really figured out about it was if you’re training at your program at a certain volume and I think volume is important when you talk about your training but it’s only important for your program. The volume that Dick Shoulberg does has a meaning within his program. The volume that I do has a meaning within my program meaning that if I say 7000 yards we’re going 7000 of this kind of training that has a pretty standard intensity level. Jon Urbanchek and I, we’ve worked together so long now we say, “Look, let’s just go 8000 threshold, 4000 main set,” and we know exactly what that means. But it probably means something different to another program. So, while you talk about mileage being something I like it because you can hang you hat on it, it’s kind of program specific.

I’m sure that if Teri looked at it, she probably thinks about it as time. I don’t know. I haven’t talked to her about it. Maybe she thinks about it as 4000 but maybe it’s an hour and 40 minutes. It’s the same thing. Yardage is time. So, you can think about how much you’re doing and usually program to program within your program it has as definite meaning in terms of consistency. So let’s say you’re working at your program and your average mileage is 7000 a practice. I’m just doing that, right? And then for one week you bumped it up so your average was 9K. And then you come back to your seven. Our theory is that this is a better seven after you’ve done the nine. Why because you built your capacity to do some things that you would then come back to in your normal program and use.

So we took that concept and we did a thing where most people have a meet in December that you kind of ready for, right? I would think and might get ready, some people shave and taper, and some people go three weeks. I go like four, five days of kind of rest. But what we did was three weeks out; we were working on our program. Three weeks out we did the hell week and what we did was a drastic hell week. That means if we were training in the water for I think we had an hour 45 to two hours in the water and we had another 45 minutes to dry land. So let’s say we were two hours and 45 minutes total in the afternoons, we drop to dry land and swam the whole time. We got serious about going as far and as hard as you could.

But no dry land because that – how much stress can they take? We did that for a week, then we came back to our program and this was three weeks out of the meet. We had three, two, one. Actually we would do it sorry, the third week out we come back, we’d have kind of a normal weeks but maybe the quality was a little higher and then we’d have a week where we rested. Man that worked like a charm. But that’s not normally how we do it, right? We did hell week and then you just go back to hell week and I actually like this hell week concept. I did hell decade, right? I think it was the 90s. But it’s just something to think about because you’re building some capacity here then you’re going to go a week of utilization training and another one where you really kind of rest up and get very specific.

So there are any number of ways that you can think about this. Jon Urbanchek calling. Jon, you should be here and then you wouldn’t be interrupting me. I’m trying to watch the time. My watch broke so I’m just trying to make sure I don’t cut over too much. This concept, it changes with age and I think one of the reasons I like to do this to talk about this today is that if you’re in an Age Group Program, and you have developing athletes and you’re looking for something to hang your hat on in terms of how you’re going to train swimmers. I think you can learn so much from every coach in America but every place isn’t the right place for everything. I think if you’re working with 10 and unders and 11, 12s and you’re running Dave Salo’s Program, I’m not sure that’s developmentally correct that he does for his post-grads. Because that’s all you hear about, right?

Well, what are they doing today? It’s great, I love it. And you shouldn’t do what I do with my post-grads. You shouldn’t do what Dick Shoulberg does with Arthur Frayler but you should have a vision of how you’re going to get there and then work yourself back. It doesn’t mean you can’t do things that are in the theme of those work-outs but if you’re running a utilization program and you ace your program predominantly, they’re just going to level off and not get better. If you’re only doing capacity they’re probably going to get bored because it’s super slow even though they’re growing. Balance it out. The younger they are, the more capacity. The older they are, the more utilization. There’s some sort of progression there. That’s my main message.

And one thing that I’d also like you to do, as young coaches, don’t try to re-invent the wheel. I won’t give you this total boring story that I told at National Team Coaches but I got hooked up with Paul Bergen when he was into horse racing right and he had gotten into this totally foreign environment. This is a guy who’s a genius in one area, gone over to this new area because it was exciting and he wanted to deal with it and I was with him. I was his accomplice to these crimes against horses. Not really, we never mistreated a horse. I don’t behave like that. But we looked at this from like; they’re doing these things the same thing the way did it 200 years ago. They’d take them out, they do a short run, they come back, and they stay in the stall all day. Surely there’s a better way. Well, we found 10 better ways only they never want to race.

They’re not strong enough. Let’s give them weight training because it works for swimmers, so we did, we built a sled and we had the horses carry – a race horse, right? Number one, can you imagine putting a race horse in a harness, it wasn’t the easiest thing to do but we did that and then they would pull this sled and get stronger. We were convinced that made him stronger and you know what? It did but there were some other things that we couldn’t figure out and that was if you’re going to make any money in race horsing so you can live to actually enjoy it, you have to work with 50 horses. It took one horse, two people and hour to get this strength training done. So it didn’t work. We wanted to train them in the gate, right? We put them in the gate because starts are important, right, just like swimming. Starts.

We’d walk them in the gate; we had this whole elaborate thing. First we want them comfortable in the gate so I would sit on the gate and feed them carrots while they stood there, right? Okay, fine.

And then we wanted them to be able to stand there by themselves so we did although they started to get pissed when they didn’t get the carrots every time, right?

And then we’d open the gate and they’d walk through it and there was this whole elaborate progression and they would start pretty well but you know what? I’d watch these other barns come up and they’d stand them in the gate and then they’d open it up and they’d kind of gallop out, and then they do it again and hit them one time and they’d come out pretty fast. We were trying to do things that – they race for millions of dollars that kind of focuses people on what works. We were just doing it for fun and obviously that’s – so when you’re coaching, right? It doesn’t have to be new to be good. When I talked about aerobic base and I was joking, that’s a serious point. I think 11, 12s need to swim some mileage. Do they need to swim some sloppy mileage? No, they don’t.

I think if you’re going to have young girls that are going to be world class someday they need to be doing some work before they’re 14. What does that work entail probably not 20,000 a day but maybe 10 sometimes? There are things that are proven to work, find those things out, become a classically trained coach and then go crazy. If Beethoven walked in today and opened a score of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, he would recognize every note. He would be able to read everything on that page. The instruments would be basically the same and he wouldn’t know what the hell was going on in that page but he had a basis from which to appreciate it and he would probably love it.

He didn’t just – Stravinsky didn’t come in and say, “Okay, I’m just going to throw away scores and just write x’s and o’s on a page and then that’s how we’re going to play music. His early compositions are harmonic and melodic and he evolved to something incredible but very different and that’s I think how you should go about your coaching. Learn the scales first, learn all the scales. Da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da. Then learn how to do something crazy because if you just start out here, you’re going to miss a lot of things that work and you’re going to learn what they are but it’s going to take you a long time to get back to that.

The Theory of Motor Learning, Part 2 | Michael Brooks | 2016 World Clinic Talk

[Introduction by Kathleen Prindle]

Most of you have been in here, but if you are new to the room, you are listening to Part 2 of the talk by the great coach, Michael Brooks.

[Brooks begins]

Alright, I spent the first whole hour and it really kind of flew by at least to me.  It’s kind of setting the stage.  I want to talk now, fairly sensibly, about the motor learning principles and prescriptions that guide what we do in practice every day and how we try to make the changes, and make them stick.

I mentioned earlier that motor learning is the science of learning movement skills—how we learn best.  It’s important to note at the beginning of this, that the kind of set, the format of the set that will result in optimal learning is very different from the format of the set that will result in optimal improvements in physiology.  These are two different animals.  So, I think it’s very important when you’re trying to write a practice, and the sets that will comprise that practice, that you understand what your aim is with each part of the practice, because you’re going to get certain results, certain adaptations and those depend on the kind of sets that you’re giving swimmers.

Here, of course, I will be focused primarily on formats that will result in optimal learning.   Physiology is another talk.  So, the basic format of this section, I’ll talk about the motor learning principle.  I’ll talk about how it applies in swimming. Then, a sample format, or a couple of different kinds of sets that we would use to take advantage of this principle.

The first is modeling.  I’ve talked about this already, so I won’t dwell on it.  But it’s giving kids a standard of comparison, a standard of reference or to compare with, when they perform the skills.  If I can get the screen to show us what we want, I will show you what I mean by my model.

For each stroke, I came up with what I call the stroke catechism.  I’m Catholic, so a lot of the terminology I use is theological.  The kids deal with it, you can deal with it.  Stroke catechism.  For each stroke, it’s a list of approximately six to 10 skills that I consider fundamental to an effective stroke.  Each of these skills is illustrated by a video clip.

So, for instance, this is one of the videos that we use.  This is to illustrate the high elbow catch.  The words we use are wrist, rotate, press.  So, wrist cocked, elbow rotated, press straight back.  Each of these skills, each of these fundamental skills has a little cue and we use the same words every single time.  It’s short, sweet, to the point, has to be replicated.  Swimmers don’t individualize it and make it their own.  They use the same words every time.

Another example.  This is metronome six-beat.  The idea here is I want to see a six-beat kick.  It’s essentially straight up and down.  It’s a metronome, regular beat.  I don’t want strong, weak, strong, weak.  I don’t want a broken rhythm, stops, or pauses, I want an absolutely regular six-beat kick.  Because every single time there is a break in the rhythm of the legs, there is a problem some other place in the stroke, whether it is the head position on breathing or whatever.  So, problems are always connected.  But, for each of the eight or ten or whatever it is for that particular stroke, we’ll have key words for a skill.  And, by and large, we will work on these skills in the context of full stroke.

I’ll talk in a few minutes about drills and what I think of them.  Some of you already know and the rest of you will be scandalized, but, just as a basic idea, almost all of the technical work that we do, and we do a lot, is with the kids swimming full stroke focused on one skill at a time.  The skills that we are focusing on are drawn from the stroke catechism.  We use the same vocabulary every time to describe a particular skill.  It’s really simple and I think very effective.  Yes, question?

[Audience Member]:  “How can we sign up for a stroke catechism class?”

[Michael Brooks]: Well, the question is, how do you sign up for stroke catechism class.  I came to the stroke catechism and it changes a little bit from year to year, as I decide one thing is little more important than another, where I change the way that I describe a skill.  But, I came to it by watching hours and hours and hours of elite swimmers video, primarily underwater video, and trying to figure out what the best people in the world were doing.  No two of them had exactly the same stroke.  The rhythms look different.  Michael Phelps doesn’t look like Tyler McGill or like Chad le Clos on butterfly.  They are different.  But, they share about 99% of their technical DNA and there are a lot of commonalities.

So, boiling down all the individual differences, it came to a list of what I consider the most important skills.  You know, probably no two coaches are going to agree entirely on what they think is important, on what model they have of the stroke.  It’s probably not that important that we do agree, entirely, at least.  But what is important is that you, not me, but you have thought about it, and done the legwork to figure out, “I want my kids to swim like this.”

So, I came to it by watching a lot of video and I change my ideas every now and then.  Somebody does something new.  It seems to me to work according to laws of physics and hydrodynamics and whatever. I don’t feel like I have to defend whatever version of the catechism was in the book because I retain the right to get better and to learn.  So, I’m not going to stake my reputation on what I had in a book a few years ago.  So, this way I get to write second edition and I can make oodles more cash in royalties.

[Audience Member]:  “There you go.”

[Michael Brooks]:  So, we’ve got the stroke catechism and we’ve got the video catechism, which is a set of clips that illustrate those important skills.  Now, super fun stuff, random practice.

Usually, random practice is compared with what we call blocked practice.  Examples, blocked practice would be 20x25s catch-up on 30 seconds. I am giving the kids two or three things to focus on.  They swim the whole set doing exactly the same thing, thinking about exactly the same thing.  That’s blocked practice.  You’re doing a whole bunch of things and it’s very uniform.

Random practice would be 20x25s on 30 seconds, where each repeat, we focus on a different skill, from the stroke catechism so that with every single repeat, a swimmer has to think, “Okay, reset.  Now, I want to focus on metronome six-beat.  I have this idea in my head.  I swim, trying to swim according to that model.  I finished.  I compared A and B.  Okay, what’s next?  High elbow focus or finger-drag recovery?  Okay, reset.  Now, I want to do this.  I swim.  I try and swim according to the model.  I finish.  I compare.  Okay, reset.  What’s next?”

So, every single repeat or very close to that, they’re changing the intention.  They’re changing the attention, they’re changing the sensory information that they’re paying attention to.  They are learning.  With the blocked practice format, after the first two or three repeats, there’s not a lot of learning going on.  Brain is on autopilot and the analogy I like to use is like from math, super simple.  Question number one, what’s five times three?  Fifteen.  Excellent.  Good job.  Question number two, what’s five times three?  Fifteen.  Question number three, what’s five times three?  Fifteen.  Question number four — what’s five times three?  Okay.  Ad nauseam.

The first time, I had to think a little bit if in I’m second grade, but after that, maybe after the second one, there was zero thinking going on whatsoever.  But, if I’m changing it up every time, five times three, 13 times seven, 48 times 17, you know, whatever, every single repeat or every single question, I’m having to start from zero again, kind of reboot and then attack the problem.  Question.

[Audience Member]: I appreciate that you allow for an exchange, however an eight year old is going to be at a different level than a fifteen year old. Does the set vary according to the swimmers level?

[Michael Brooks]:  The question is, does the kind of set we give kids vary according to the age and developmental level of the swimmer?

[Audience Member]:  “How many things do they have to think about?”

[Michael Brooks]:  A number of things they have to think about.  Well, in reality, I’m only asking them to think about one thing at a time.  I’m just changing after every single repeat.  Did that make sense?

[Audience Member]:  [Indiscernible]

[Michael Brooks]:  So for, but it is the case that with an eight-year-old or a brand spanking new swimmer, I probably won’t do full-scale random practice.  I would do more blocked.  I might do four repeats in a row with one focus, because all these skills are so new, it’s going to take them three or four or five repeats to just get a general idea of the skill that we’re talking about.

[Audience Member]:  [Indiscernible]

[Michael Brooks]:  The question is, do I have in my head kind of an idea of what sort of practice is going to work best with different ages?  Yes, I got a lot of stuff crammed up in here, a lot.  And, I’ve been doing this long enough so that I do have an idea.  I can look at a swimmer and see how they respond, and that’s what I’m really gaging after.  For instance, with my new group right now, and they’re senior level swimmers, I can’t do the kind of random practice that I could do with my York kids, because for these kids, everything is new.  The vocabulary I’m using is different, the particular skills are different, so I’m having to treat them like I would have with my 10-year-olds in York.

So, yes, it does depend on the level, the experience of a swimmer and the group, the swimmers in a group.  You pay a lot of attention to your swimmers and how they respond.  But the idea is you want to keep them on the edge.  As soon as they really get the skill, you change it, so that they are having to struggle again, or at least, to reset their onboard computer and attack another problem.  Yes?

[Audience Member]:  [Indiscernible]

[Michael Brooks]:  Well, it’s really interesting because right now in Chapel Hill, I’m not only working with a lot of swimmers to whom this is completely new, I’m dealing with a coach and staff to whom this is completely new.  I’m cutting them a lot of slack, because what I can do without thinking about it, because I’ve been working on these ideas for a long time and trying to implement them for a long time, they can’t do.  So, it takes them longer.  The tempo of practices isn’t nearly as quick.  So, it’s hard at first.  It seems really complicated at first.  To me, it’s not complicated at all anymore because I have the framework in my head, and I can just put in different parts and keep it all organized.  But, that has only come with a lot of practice.

The beginning of the season when you have a slower pace for practice anyway, is a really good time not only to introduce this to swimmers but to get it introduced to a coach, because practices will go a little slower, really working on skill work.  Physiology isn’t quite as important.  So you have time to make your mistakes and learn how to do it.  But, it took a long time.  Where I am right now is a level of sophistication that is well beyond what I had a few years ago, just because I’ve been working on these by tweaking and polishing these ideas every single day.

[Audience Member]:  [Indiscernible]

[Michael Brooks]:  The question is, they are doing a lot of different things but where are they getting the repetition, the 10,000 hours of deliberate practice or whatever you want to call it if you want to go that direction, which I don’t, but I will for the moment.  In motor learning circles, they talk about repetition without repetition.  That you want to get a lot of reps of something, say freestyle, but you want to do that with as little back-to-back repetition as you can.

So when you think about it, if you’re doing a Michael Brooks random practice set, they’re doing 20x25s freestyle, but they’re focused on something different every time.  They’re resetting the computer every time.  When they do that, they are giving those different skills, those, say, ten skills in the catechism, a chance to work together and fit together which they would not get if they just did 20 of them focused on one single thing.  So, it’s repetition without repetition.  The learning rates are drastically accelerated, compared with your typical blocked practice.  Kids have to think every single repeat.  They have to compare their performance with the model every single repeat, so they are learning a lot.

Now, one of the ways that we put this into practice is really simple ideas called rainbow focus, pass it on.  We’re doing our 20x25s on 30 seconds.  I tell the kids one time that, “Okay, on repeat number one, the focus is metronome six-beat.  Let’s say we’re doing 50 s because that’s easier.  I don’t have to keep walking back and forth.  But, say we’re doing 20x50s, okay.  First, swim metronome six-beat.  They swim.  When the first group, the leaders in each lane get to the wall, I’ll announce the second skill.  Finger-drag recovery.  I say it one time.  First person passes it to the second, second to the third, third to the fourth, all the way done the line, okay?  They have to say it loud enough so I can hear it every time.

It’s like a chorus.  I say it one time.  We don’t have to wait for the last person in the lane to finish, and then, for me to give a speech.  So, we can get a lot of learning done, a lot of repetition without repetition, a lot of deliberate practice, thoughtful planned practice in a short amount of time.  It looks like a normal set.  But the rate of learning is accelerated because they’re swimming.  They’re not standing around waiting for me to talk to them for a lot of time.  There’s very little downtime.  Further, they have to take responsibility for listening to the message from the kid in front of them, passing it on to the person behind them.  So, that helps reinforce that particular skill in their heads every single time.

It really works, and it works with the 10 and unders.  John Nelson, my old assistant, now the Head Coach at York, had been working with our 10 and unders the last couple of years and they are really good!  Kids can do amazing things if you give them a chance to prove it.  They can pay attention, they can do the stuff, and it really, really helps.  Question over here?

[Audience Member]:  [Indiscernible] “I have them say thank you just to make sure that they received it.”

[Michael Brooks]:  Okay.  The statement was, she’s been working with rainbow focus for three years and, not only does a swimmer acknowledge the message but thanks the person who gave it to them, for passing it along.  And I assume that also makes a much polite swimmers.  So, thank you.

That thing about social media is totally true!  My wife will text her daughter, my stepdaughter, who’s one room away.  I thought it was only teenagers who did that, but it isn’t.  So, yes, it’s nice to actually talk to each other and pass along important information.  Was there a question over here?  Yes?

[Audience Member]:  “So when you are doing the random practices and you’re working on skills but you see that that the skills are not being demonstrated the way you like, how do you handle that?  Do you have them repeat, or they just move on?”

[Michael Brooks]: The question is, what do I do if they don’t look the way I want them to look?  I’ll usually make sure that I cycle that skill back in again relatively quickly.  I won’t go through a whole cycle, just to see if it was maybe an aberration.  If I notice that it’s still a problem, I might put that on the backburner until they do a few more.  Then, I might stop the whole group and kind of reinforce.  And, remember, finger-drag recovery means you’re not swinging your arm out, you’re picking the elbow up, just sliding it along, straight forward, setting it in nice and pretty.

So, I would probably, after a little bit, stop them briefly, unpack the skill a little bit just to make sure they all understand what I want to see, and then send them off again.  But I try and make sure that any speeches from me are very short, very pointed.  So, we are not spending a lot of time on the wall.  They are getting as much learning as is humanly possible in any practice.  So, I keep it very, very short.

Now, a variation on this rainbow focus pass it on is, what we call HRPK.  Sounds, and it will sound, when I elaborate on it kind of complicated, but not really. HRPK means H: head, R: recovery, P: pull, K: kick.  So, we’ve taken four fundamentals of how the body swims.  And in freestyle, for instance, our H focus would be head steady, one goggle breathing.  The R would be finger-drag recovery.  The P would be wrist, rotate, press.  The K would metronome six-beat.

So, if we’re doing any repeat that’s divisible by four, say hundreds divisible by 25s, or a set where the total number of repeats is divisible by four.  It doesn’t really matter how you do it.  I would just have kids focus serially on first H, then R, then P, then K, so that I don’t have to spend my whole time at the end of the pool telling them what I want them to focus on.  They’ve got the main points of the stroke that they’re going to be focused on, one at a time.  It keeps their attention much better.  I know because the order is the same every time what I’m supposed to be seeing, and I pay fairly close attention to aberrations, especially when they become patterns.

It helps the different parts of the stroke harmonize with each other, because they are working one at a time.  It’s a very simple way of allowing kids to do essentially random, you might call it serial practice, getting the main stroke focuses repeated over and over and over.  It allows me to watch more than I can when we’re just doing a rainbow focus pass it on.

You can throw in so many different variations.  I mean, you’re limited only by your imagination.  You start throwing in breathing patterns on freestyle or butterfly, stroke count variations, stroke tempo variations, descending speed variations, and pretty soon, you’ve got lots of moving parts and kids are really having to be on the ball because they’re supposed to be controlling or mastering more than one variable at a time.  It’s just fun.  It really keeps them on their toes.  They like it.  I mean, they usually say, “Gosh, I have to think so much.”  That’s their way of saying, “That was good coach.”  Yes?

[Audience Member]:  “When you put that together, did you order it specifically or is that just random order?”

[Michael Brooks]:  The question is, did I order the HRPK for a reason or is it just randomized?  Essentially, it’s for a reason because with the H and the R, it’s kind of setting the body line.  With the P, after you’ve got a nice straight line, you’re going to be able to pull more consistently.  I always want kids hard on their legs coming home.  So, it didn’t start out as HRPK, it was something else.  I can’t even remember.  Then, I started thinking, “You know, it makes a lot more sense if we do it the following way.”  So, this is probably the third iteration before I found the one I really like.

But, you know, like I said, what I’m trying to do is throw out ideas for you to play with and presumably come up with better ideas than the ones I’m giving you.  And then, it is your obligation to get back to me and tell me how I can get better, because that’s part of the deal.  Yes?

[Audience Member]:  [Indiscernible]

[Michael Brooks]:  Okay.  The question is, some kids are going to be more visual learners, some are going to be more verbal, just kids have different learning styles or skills, and how do we take that into account when we’re giving kids set formats?

I’m going to zip ahead for a moment and, talk about some of the ways we would use a video catechism because, we show a lot of video.  It’s a huge part of our technical improvement program.  We call it video catechism day, or video catechism set, where we would take one of the clips like I showed you.  I would have it slowed down, about half speed or one-third speed, so slow motion.  Kids would sit in their training group, in front of the very large flat screen television.  They would watch, actively watch a particular clip for about three to four minutes, okay?  And actively watching means you watch Michael Phelps do metronome six-beat, but you feel yourself do that skill just the way he is.  Three minutes or so.  Really dial-in.  Then shut your eyes for a minute and I want you to feel yourself performing that metronome six-beat.  Start at a slow tempo, same tempo you just watched, and I want you to gradually pick up your speed until your swimming race speed performing that skill.

So, watch first, observational learning. Then imagery or visualization. Then we’d pick another skill.  Let’s just say since we just did legs, we’d switch to the other side of the body, other end of the body, and we do a catch: wrist, rotate, press focus.  We do the same format.  Three minutes watching, active watching, one minute imagery. Then we’d get in and kids would do for instance, 12×50’s on :50 or whatever, alternating the two skills.  If kids are relatively good at this, we would have them descend by pairs, so they start very slow and they gradually build in speed.  So they’re only alternating between two skills, but then, the speed or intensity is changing from start to finish.

It’s a way of bringing in that visual learning which I think is absolutely key; being able to see a model and to feel what he’s doing or she’s doing.

Another variation of that is we would wheel that televisions as close to the end of the pool as is financially possible, and the kids would watch the video clip in between repeats.  So they’d finish, they’d watch about 20 seconds, they’d shut their eyes for about 10 seconds and kind of plan, “This is what I want to do.”  Then they’d swim, trying to mimic or imitate the model.  I might do three or four in a row with one single skill and then switch it.  The idea is that they watch, they perform, they watch, they perform, so it’s very quick back and forth.  I think that it’s a really simple format and very helpful for solidifying that ability to distinguish between the model and what you’re doing.  Yes?

[Audience Member]:  “Is that like the principle of neuroplasticity?”

[Michael Brooks]:  This whole talk is about neuroplasticity.  I didn’t want to scare anybody by using that.  But, yes, we are after rewriting their brains, and that’s what neuroplasticity is all about.  Yes, Bob?

[Audience Member]: “Would you use any physical movement in the curriculum?”

[Michael Brooks]:  Some kids do and you can see them.  For instance, when they are shutting their eyes and they’re on deck, I see some of them and they’re kind of knitting their brows and whatever.  Sometimes, I’ll have them swim watching a mirror, so they can see themselves.  So, yes, there’s some movement involved sometimes.  Some kids more than others, sometimes, I’ll tell them to. So, there’s a lot of variety.  But, the basic principle on both, the video catechism and the having come up with a cool name for that variation, but basic idea is they’re watching, imaging, performing and just trying to move their stroke closer and closer to that model skill that we’ve got on video.

So we talked about modeling, we talked about random practice.  Very quickly, variable practice. That is distinct from constant practice.  Here, examples would be constant practices, race pace training, 20×50’s on :45, hold your 500 race speed.  Simple.  They get a lot of repetition at a certain stroke, certain speed, certain stroke parameters.

Variable practice.  The simplest example would be 20x50s on :45, descend one to four, five to eight, et cetera. Where they never do two repeats in a row.  In this case, the same speed.  They have to make adjustments the whole time.

Now, some ways of descending training are a total waste of time when you get a swimmer whose four repeats in a cycle are 32 flat, 31.9, 31.8, 26.2.  That does nothing.  However, if the swims are controlled and in a nice progression, then it teaches a lot.  Sometimes, just from talking with some friends, we tend to think pacing is just kind of, well, whatever.  Distance swimmers do it, and we’ll do some descending stuff every now and then.  But, you know, what we really care about is number four, number eight, number 12, number 16 and number 20, how close are they to race speed.  That’s how we really care about.

But, I think pacing skills are fascinating and I think, key to technical mastery. Because we’ve got all these skills and presumably, we’re doing a lot of technical work and learning these skills.  Pacing is how we put them together under a range of expectations, demands, and needs.  Can we control our stroke? Can we optimize our stroke through this range?  That’s what pacing really is.  Because, if I swim a 50 at 30 seconds, and then I swim a 50 at 28, freestyle, those are two very different freestyles.  The tempos are going to be different.  The distance per stroke are going to be different.  The precise way that I perform each of these skills and how they fit together are different. The physiological demands are different.

These two things are like apples and oranges.  And even more, if I swim 30 seconds on a 50 and I’m fresh as a daisy, that’s very different from swimming 30 seconds on a 50 if I am dog-tired.  The motor unit recruitment of the particular muscle units that are being used, are very different.  Usually, the stroke skills are going to be very different as well.  It might not be easy for us to see it, kids can probably feel it, but a stroke is not this monolith that’s the same at all times.  It’s different at every single point along this speed curve.

Fairly recently, I was listening to this really old talk by Bill Boomer, and he talks about speed choices or something like that.  And, what I was thinking about with pacing, because by then I was already freaking out about these talks, was dovetailing precisely with what he was talking about. Kids are making choices.  Often, those aren’t explicit choices at all.  But we’re probably better off if at least initially while they’re learning to be, we make those choices as explicit as possible.  How does your stroke change as you get faster?  Because pacing is, how do you swim at a particular speed efficiently?

If the two of you swim 28 seconds per 50 and you can do it at 140 heart rate and you have to do it at 160, my bet is on Brant.  And, you know, everyone has seen at the end of the sets almost always have the kids do 6x25s on 30 side-by-side racer guts out, because we want finishing kicks as good in the pool as the Ethiopians or the Kenyans have on the track.  So, no matter how tired they are, no matter how long a set is, we finish with some crazy fast sprints.

Well, if in order to go fast the kid has to take eight more strokes than they’ve been holding throughout a set, then they’re not getting faster intelligently at all.  And the kind of stroke that they use, usually one where they’re seemingly attempting to beat the snot out of the water, that’s a stroke, that’s a choice that they’re not going to be able to maintain, because physiologically the demands are so high they can’t do it.  So, they’ve got to be able to swim at any particular pace as efficiently as possible, and they’ve got to be able to get faster intelligently.  That takes a lot of practice.

Pacing is so cool when you think about it.  There are a whole bunch of different ways that you can work on pacing skills that will help kids optimize their stroke at any point along that speed curve.  It will give them technical mastery, and that’s what we’re after.  It’s one thing to be able to swim the skills and have them harmonize together. But can they do it in different situations, in different needs, and in particular in racing?  So having that control over the different speeds used in racing is absolutely a key, but training speed is important as well.

There are a lot of different kinds of sets that we use with variable practice.  I kind of want to jump to the next thing because it’s the most controversial.  And if we have time or if you buy me a coffee, I’ll tell you anything.  We can postpone the kinds of variable practice until later.

Next, really important motor learning principle is the primacy of full stroke.  If you look at our program, we might do drills at most 5% of our technical work. And the overall program maybe 2%.  So, by and large, we are working to improve our swimming skills by swimming the full stroke.  Again, not all the time but really close to it.  We’ve been blessed to have had a number of these visitors over the last couple of years, because we’ve had some kids do fairly well.  So, people want to see what we’re doing.  And it astounds people the way we work on strokes.  “Well, where are your drills?”  “We keep them in that storeroom and we never open it.”  So, there are ways to do this that I think work a lot better than drills, and I’m about to tell you why.

Probably most coaches use drills extensively to improve stroke skills from age group, all the way through the pros.  Now, you always see “my top 10 favorite drills for freestyle,” by some famous coach.  That assumes that when you work on this drill and improve on this drill, that you are going to get better on the full stroke.  That there is going to be some transfer from this work to this work.

Usually, we assume, or we start from the observation, that these two things share a particular skill and that’s going to be our target.  So, this drill has this particular skill A, the full stroke has this particular skill A.  These two really aren’t the same, but they share the same thing.  So, if we work on this, this is going to get better.

That is a highly problematical assumption because transfer works best when you’re dealing with a brand new beginner learning a skill.  And the more that you work on a skill, the better your stroke skills become. The more precise, the more specific you swim.  So, it may be the case for an eight and under or a new nine-year-old, 10-year-old.  So, for the younger kids having them do, say, catch-up freestyle really does help their regular freestyle.  But, once they’re older and their stroke skills are relatively good, there’s probably almost zero transfer from the one to the other.

Next, I have a wonderful quote by Richard Smith, about transfer and how it lessens as skills develop… but you’ll have to trust me that I have it.

So, transfer applies best with beginners, and that lessens as skills improve and become more specific.  Further, it’s usually the case that coaches will give swimmers a particular drill and they’ll do it, but it causes certain problems.  So we give them another drill, because this compensates for this problem.  But, it causes another problem so we give them another drill because it compensates for that second problem.  And we give them another in practically infinite regression.

When you think about it, if you have to have a series and a growing series of drills to solve all the problems that the drills have caused: A.) It takes you a lot of time to go through all those, and. B.) It’s a highly indirect method of getting faster at freestyle.  We can get faster at freestyle by working on freestyle and working on one skill at the time. Again, using that stroke catechism as the basis for skill work. But it’s very direct, to the point way of improving the skills.

Now, it is the case that with the younger kids, say 10 and unders, we would have them do more drills, because the goal is different.  With a 10-year-old, I might not be aiming at explicitly improving, optimizing this little kid’s freestyle.  Instead, the goal would be to give the swimmer the biggest arsenal of movement skills they can possibly acquire, not only in the water but out of the water as well.  Make this 10-year-old kid a master of movement, so that it’s easy from that foundation to have him or her improve and work on strokes skills more specifically later on.

So for 10-year-olds, I think the goal is very different.  So, the guidelines that I have always used are different from the ones, say the 11 and overs, unless you have a new swimmer.  You know, 11 and 12, new to this sport.

Another reason why drills don’t work, just to be blunt, and that’s for the most part, because there are a couple that I really like.  But for the most part, drills don’t work because a swimming stroke… again, let’s just use freestyle… is a collection. It’s a series of skills that all fit together continuously. And how I do one, affects how I do the next one.

Super simple example, if a swimmer breathing lifts the head up and tosses the arm on their recovery, then one time their stroke is starting right here.  Then, they don’t breath, it’s going to start right here.  Sometime it starts two feet underwater, sometimes it starts six inches underwater.  They never start a stroke in the same place twice because of what the previous skills or, the poor performance of the previous skills.  All of those skills were together.  That’s one reason with HRPK that we started beginning with body line because I realized that if the body line skills were awful, the pulling skills couldn’t be good.  So, these parts all fit together, really tightly.  They interact strongly.  Everyone affects every other one.  And given that interaction, it isn’t a reasonable assumption to say that these two things, this drill and this full stroke share this skill.

So, if I work on this, I get better at this. Because this skill is embedded in a drill whose wholeness, whose parts… the interconnection of the parts, is completely different from this one. We can’t say, “Well, this skill, take it out like a surgeon and transplant it into this.”  Because motor skills just don’t work like that and it’s so much easier.  So, if I need to fix a recovery to work on freestyle, and have them think about recovery, and I want to have them work on the kicking skills, we do metronome six-beat.  Yes?

[Audience Member]:  “So, in essence, the drill is basically another stroke?”

[Michael Brooks]:  The question is, in essence, the drill is another stroke.  Exactly.  For new swimmers, beginner swimmers learning a skill, that is probably not true and there is transfer.  But, once kids have gotten to reasonable level of confidence, the body sees them as different animals, one’s a cat and one’s a dog.  And even though a cat has ears and a dog has ears, the cat’s ears are all working with the cat’s parts and needs, and the dog’s ears are working with the dog’s parts and needs.  So, they aren’t the same and you can’t just take my dog’s ear and put it onto my cat and have everything work well.  It just doesn’t work.  Those two things are different.  So, that’s exactly the point I’m trying to make.  Said very succinctly and I’ll put that into edition two.  So, thank you.

And really, full stroke swimming is the only thing you don’t have to make accommodation for.  It’s a very direct way of getting to the heart of the problems and solving the problems.  And I do understand that, you know, for most people, what I just said is heresy because, you know, I learned how to coach from a coach who did drills all the time.  And when I was starting out in coaching, I kind of called myself the “drill king.”  And, yes, I am not proud of that.  But, I had a whole smorgasbord of drills that I used because I thought that was really, really smart, because that’s what my coach told me to do and that’s what I knew.

And fortunately, my brother steered me to motor learning and I starting to learn.  I was just in shock and in horror with each page. “Oh, my God, what have I been doing?”  And, you know, one of the challenges is that a lot of the motor learning experiments have been centered on very simple skills because they’re easy to measure, like tapping drills.  They’re very simple skills, rotary.

The problem with really using and applying the principles of motor learning has been that, I’m dealing with a full-body movement, very complicated timing among the different parts of the body and the limbs against resistance.  So, physiology plays a huge part in swimming.  It’s a really complicated thing.  One of the newer schools, probably not new anymore, but the newer schools that constraints led ecological psychology, dynamical systems.  I mean, they go by different names, but they’ve really started looking at these complicated movements like we do.  I’ve been stealing from them as much as possible and trying to figure out how their teachings apply in the water.

Another challenge is that so few people have worked in the water with swimmers because it’s hard.  Water goofs things up.  It’s hard to get really good on-the-spot video because Wi-Fi doesn’t work underwater.  And, when you’re on deck what you most need to be able to see, you can’t see very well. Even when somebody is in the lane closest to you.  What’s really going on underwater, you don’t have a clear view of.  If they are eight lanes over, no chance, what so ever.

As a coach, you need to get really good at being intuit about what’s going on underwater from what you see on the surface.  That’s why I love to watch from the side of the pool, because I can watch momentum.  I can see changes in speed.  I can try to put together, connect the dots between what I see them doing, and how much forward momentum they get or don’t get.  But the reason I have to do that, is because we’re not playing volleyball.  I can’t just set up the camera on the edge of the court and be able to see in great detail exactly how a player is performing a skill.  It’s so much harder for us.  And that difficulty has funneled into the motor learning field. So very few people have really worked on what we need, desperately need, if we want to do our jobs really well.

So I’ve started to kind of amass a little network of motor learning people.  Thanks to email.  Goodness gracious, you can talk with a Brit in two seconds and it’s wonderful!  But, try to get some people who are interested in these questions, thinking about our questions, and how to solve our problems, and not a volleyball player’s or soccer players. Yes?

[Audience Member]:  “If you’re into learning motor skills in the full stroke, where do you see the dedicated kick sets and the focus on kicking with strengthening the legs?”

[Michael Brooks]:  Great question. If I like full stroke, what do I think about kicking sets?  Because, that’s part practice if there ever was any.

Okay.  Well, I’m of two minds about it.  I know that kicking is very important, but I also know that kicking inside the rhythm of the stroke is what really matters.  And, I see it all of the time, kids who are wonderful kicking on a board, as probably most of my current senior group.  Put board on them… Boom, they are awesome kickers.  Take the board away and say swim, not so great.  Because they are being able to integrate a true metronome six-beat kick into the full stroke, the rhythm of the body, the role of the torso, et cetera.  Those two things are really different;  kicking on the board and kicking while you’re swimming.  This is more important than this.

And, one of the things I’ve done just in the last week, because it took me about four seconds to see this gaping problem, was when we’re working on kicking skills.  Right now, we’re alternating.  So they might do a 50 with a board and then a 50 regular freestyle focused on metronome six-beat.  And, I’ll be asking them questions the whole time.  When I see weirdness, I’ll just try to guide their attention to problems that they might have, so that a couple of weeks from now, I will see orthodox six-beat kicks and I’ll have a group of kids who, at least in theory, are ready someday to go off and break a world record, because right now it is not happening.  Yes?

[Audience Member]:  “How do you feel about equipment?”

[Michael Brooks]:  The question is equipment basically.  I feel about equipment the same way I feel about drills.  My grand principle is the more I digress from full stroke free swimming, the better reason I better have to do that.

So, if I’m going to use a piece of equipment, I need to know why I’m using it and not just for a change of pace, or to give the kids a little break or whatever.  I have to know exactly why I’m using it.  I have to ensure that I’m not getting reliance or dependence problems so that there’s going to be some alternating between equipment and full stroke drill and full stroke.

I’m going to have to pay very close attention to unintended negative consequences.  And as soon as I see them, change what we’re doing.  The drill, or the piece of equipment, has to give kids access to important information that they weren’t getting otherwise.  So, it’s got to actually bring something to the table and at least, in theory, allow them to improve the full stroke. In the end, that’s what I want.  We want to get better at freestyle, we want to get better at backstroke, et cetera.  I don’t care how well they do with an ankle buoy.  I don’t care how well they do one arm backstroke.  I want to make sure that their full strokes are getting better and everything else is a means to that end.  As soon as it starts becoming the end in itself, then we’re going off in the wrong direction.

Let’s just take at least a few minutes for questions.

[Audience Member]: “Do these principles work in all four strokes?”

[Michael Brooks]:  Yes.

[Audience Member]: “For young swimmers?”

[Michael Brooks]:  For young swimmers?

[Audience Member]:  “Yes.”

[Michael Brooks]:  The question is, do these principles work in all four strokes and even for younger swimmers?  For instance, butterfly.

We do more drills.  The proportion of technical work would be higher with drills when we’re working with younger swimmers and fly.  But even so, we really only have two drills that we do in butterfly.  One is what we call a one-arm B, so one-arm butterfly.  The arm you don’t use is down by your side, and you breathe forward every other stroke.  It’s pretty challenging.

The other is what we call single-double B and that’s single arm, full stroke, single arm, full stroke.  You breathe on the full stroke.  But, those two drills retain the rhythm of the overall stroke.  They simplify it, both in terms of motor learning and the number of moving parts, but also physiologically, so kids can do more of it.

But, I would say even with the 10 and unders, we do try and do full stroke butterfly for technique, or we just might do more interweaving of alternative freestyle and fly, or dolphin kick and fly. This is so that they’re never going to be asked to do more consecutive fly than they can handle well, because I love beautiful things.  I love beautiful swimming.  And ugly swimming turns my stomach.  I can’t handle it at all.  I spent a lot of time on deck.  I want it to be aesthetically pleasing.

So, we don’t do more butterfly.  We don’t do more of whatever stroke than they can do.  So, yes, the same principles apply, but they’re tempered a bit to the ability level of the swimmers’ strength and the fitness levels as well.  Okay, yes?

[Audience Member]:  “So you mentioned how you format your sets for technical changes different than how you format the physiological changes.”

[Michael Brooks]:  Right.

[Audience Member]:  “So could you give us insight to the thought process behind your daily planning and simple planning to achieve that balance?”

[Michael Brooks]:  The question is, sets for physiological improvement look different from sets for technical improvement and how do I figure out all that – how do I figure it all out.  And unfortunately, that’s about a 40-minute long answer.  It depends on how I structure the season.  And, in a very small nutshell, we have about a 4-5 week technical improvement phase where there’s a lot of technique work all the time, all the time, all the time.  So lots of random practice, lots of varying and all that.

Then we have kind of our ordinary time where we have four-week phases.  Each phase is completed by a meet.  In particular, by a prelim, final relatively important meet. Where are in this phase, we have one week that’s called a Techweek.  We’ve use the data that I’ve gotten from the previous meet, like what are our most important problems that we need to aim at.  So, we have one week where we really aim at those, a bridging week, where the goal is to take that new skill and give it legs; make it a little stronger, make it a little faster.  Then, two weeks of just more normal training where in theory at least week and now train on this new skill.

The last six or seven weeks, which consist of a pre-taper and a taper. My kids will tell you that our taper last about two days.  This actually is longer than that.  But, you know, this last six or seven weeks, the goal is to bulletproof the different technical advancements we’ve made throughout the first, five, six months, whatever, of the season. Because if kids are not ready to race on those skills, they’re not learned and they’re of no real value to us when they get on the blocks at nationals.  But it’s a long answer.  Yes?

[Audience Member]:  “Do you incorporate underwaters as its own stroke or as part of all the rest?”

[Michael Brooks]:  Do we incorporate underwater work as its own thing, a separate animal, or do we work on it with all the rest?  A little bit of both.  And probably, it depends more on the part of the season.  Right now, it gets its own place at the table.  As we go, it’s just part of maybe not every set, but pretty darn close.  So, yes.  Yes?

[Audience Member]:  [Indiscernible]

[Michael Brooks]:  Okay.  Once we get in to more of the conditioning focus where the aim is physiological improvement, are we still using this random practice, variable practice, et cetera, et cetera formats?  Yes, yes, yes.  I think a lot of times, coaches will have the first month, where we want to get better technically, and then the goal for the rest of the season is just to maintain.  We can train the snot out of them and hope like crazy that we maintain the strokes, but that doesn’t happen.  So we’re trying to get better all the time.  Yes?

[Audience Member]:  [Indiscernible]

[Michael Brooks]: The question is, how do you implement this more random practice or rainbow focus when you’re dealing with kids with a wide range of ability and wide range of send-offs?  Well, one variation to rainbow focus is the leader of each lane determines the stroke focus, which means that no two lanes may be doing the same thing, but the rule still applies.  You need to pass it on.  This does give them some ownership of what they’re doing.  Especially, if you’re changing the order of lane so that everybody gets to lead some time.  That’s a way to take into consideration this difference in abilities and still get the same kind of learning done.  So, yes.  Yes?

[Audience Member]:  [Indiscernible] If you are working with a high school team, and you’re not the high school coach — if they train with someone else in the morning, and with you in the evening will they still be able to retain what you have taught or will they lose it.

[Michael Brooks]:  Okay.  The question is, if you’re dealing with, for instance, high school age swimmers and they are training with somebody else in the morning and with you in the afternoon or vice versa, how do you ensure other than lots of Hail Mary’s and Our Fathers that the lesson you’re trying to teach them make it through the gauntlet of this other coach or practice and show up the next day?  Is that a good translation?

The answer is, if you have communication with the other coach, it really helps if you let them in on some of the mysteries.  It helps a lot if you’ve educated your swimmers that they need to take responsibility for their own technical improvement and not just depend on you or your teammates, or your practices, but it’s something that they need to be thinking about and working on all the time, whether they’re with you or with somebody else.  That helps a lot.

Sleep helps consolidate motor memories, and just as a general thing, if they get enough of it will help a bit at least.  But, if swimmers are watching a little bit of the video catechism before they go to bed, you know, just watch five or 10 minutes and really actively watch observational learning that accelerates the consolidation overnight.  So I highly recommend that our swimmers do that.  It also helps make those new patterns, new connections more stable.

[Audience Member]:  Do your swimmers have access to the videos?

[Michael Brooks]:  Yes.  I make the video catechism the whole series available to the swimmers.  I don’t force it on them.  They have to bring in a flash drive and I give it to them.   I tell them how I think they can most effectively use it. Some of them do. Some of them don’t.  Yes?

[Audience Member]:  “You said they think that taper is two days.  How long is it actually and then what age?”

[Michael Brooks]:  Do I taper the younger ones? No, not really.  For senior level swimmers, I’ll start planning for the last day before the meet, seven-week.  Well, since the beginning of the season but really I’ll start setting it up seven weeks up.  The actual taper in my eyes is three weeks.  But we swim fast all the way.  We swim faster and faster as we get in, but for shorter and shorter repeat distances and with greater and greater rest.

So, we go into meets swimming crazy fast.  The kids who have tapered best and had the biggest improvements, are the ones who are swimming the fastest going in.  Because some kids will self-taper and say, “Well, you know, I’m just going to make myself tired.”  I think that what they really are doing is not sharpening those motor skills enough.

Unfortunately, we have to call it an afternoon.  Thank you very much.