Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Coach's Coach: Paul Yetter

Becoming an elite swim coach seems to be at least as much about attitude as it is knowledge. For instance, it's blasphemy to say this, but I really don't think that most Division 1 swim coaches know more about swimming than my high school coaches, but they certainly think they do. Maybe it's not a fair comparison, not every high school coach is as knowledgeable as mine. If you're wondering why I bring this up it's because earlier this week, I was thinking about coaches who are kicking some major ass and it brought up a name that I think is especially pertinent here: Paul Yetter.
I first met Yetter at Olympic Trials in 2008, and he left a lasting impression. Paul was very different. I'll admit, I even thought he was pretty weird, which is not an insult in my book. For one thing, Paul didn't have the swagger of an elite coach. When I met him, he introduced himself as if I somehow should have no idea who he was, even though at the time one of the swimmers he coached (Katie Hoff) was getting near Phelpsian hype. It was the kind of humility that almost made me think he was messing with me. His subsequent interview with Garrett McCaffrey at those trials just confirmed the above. I tried to go back and watch them today so I could refresh my memory, but they seem to be unavailable. In any case, sitting awkwardly beside the interview, I remember how Yetter waded through all the geeky questions. He gave everyone a careful, deliberate and reasoned answer. 

Since then, I've seen him sporadically on the pool deck, and every time my initial impression has been reaffirmed. Yetter is a swim nerd. I ran into him randomly on deck at 2010 Nationals, just after he had become head coach of T2 aquatics. He spent probably 45 minutes talking about whatever- from what he wanted to do with the club to random training questions. Since he's been there, I've followed his results. He's just kept on doing what he was doing- making the best out of his situation. Over time, swimmers have gravitated back towards him. 

There are many coaches who are as accessible, nerdy and humble as Paul Yetter, but I can't think of any who have less reason to be so. He's like the kid in Calculus with a 100 average, only he doesn't want to talk about it and he wants to help you study for the big test. 

Which is to say, I hope my lead is wrong in this case. I hope that despite a noticable (weird?) lack of supremacy by Yetter he's still going to be really successful. I hope I'm wrong because him being successful could totally change coaching as we know it, in a very good way.

1 comment:

  1. His blog, while sparsely posted on, is pretty awesome too - http://developingthechampionwithin.blogspot.com/

    Oh, and I totally got a 100 average for a term of Calculus. Srsly. I don't get the opportunity to bring that up much, might as well use it now.