Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What Makes Cal Best (Men's Edition)

Last week, I wrote about what I thought made the California women's team the best in the country (besides the obvious "swimming faster than everyone else" part). This week, I hope to do so for the men. I don't pretend to know as much about Dave Durden as I pretend to know about Teri McKeever. Still, from afar, I think there are some obvious advantages that Cal is employing.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Danish Phenom Mie Ø. Nielsen

"Who is Mie Ø. Nielsen? How tall is she? What does she eat for breakfast". For the first time since I've been writing this blog, American swimming fans are actually curious about a Danish swimmer. Why? Because 15 year old Mie Ø. Nielsen went 59.62 at the Danish open to surge into 4th in the world rankings in that event. I'll pretend not to be hurt that no one seemed to care when Danish women went faster times than anyone in the US in the 50,100,800 and 1500 free this past summer. Let me be your one stop shop for more on the latest Dane to become an international contender.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Breaststroker's Lament

This is the cover of my new book on breaststroke technique.  Or, well... it might as well be.

The breaststroke was my specialty in college.  I know how fickle it can be, and as a coach it can be horribly frustrating.  I have had swimmers who can't do the stroke correctly without rest.  I have had others who get the timing one day and then not the next.  I have even had some who have a lousy 100 and then ace the 200 the next day.  It can seem random, but I have enough of an eye for the stroke and for my swimmers that I know when it is "on" and when it is not and I can often help them get on target in the warm-up pool.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

McKeever Magic: What Makes Cal the Best

You would be smiling too if you'd dropped as much time
Earlier this week, I went to visit a local club coach. I look forward to visiting his team because he's always ready to engage good coaching conversation. Knowing that I had just been to women's NCAAs, he hit me with it point blank: "What's the difference between Cal and everyone else?". It's a tough question. Often coaches are tempted to study success and reverse engineer it for themselves. It hardly ever works that easily. I would say often that's because we tend to latch onto the objective data. How are they training? Of course that's important, and I do think Cal has advantages over the rest of the NCAA field in that regard. But this blog is going to be about the subjective.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

URGENT-- The Viking Needs Your Help!

Don't worry... it's for a race.  NOT so I can make a funny blooper picture.

I need a tech suit.  Not just a jammer.  I need one of those rubbery, full-body, cheaty-cheater suits, like an X-Glide or a Jaked.

I am 6'1" and 3/4 and weigh about 200 pounds.  I can squeeze into a size thirty blueseventy jammer (although size 32 might have been more appropriate.)  If you have one of the old illegal suits laying around that you think might fit me and you know someone who is going to NCSA Jr Nationals this week, please pass it on to them to bring to me.

I don't know what I can give you in return, but I am hoping to make a video with it.  I have never worn one, but I surely am gonna need it because I opened my big fat mouth and there is no way I can win the race I might have coming up unless I can make up for 15 years of anti-fitness immediately.

Help a brother out if you can, eh?!

Hey... I don't really consider it cheating. You really can't expect me to stretch out a taper that started in 1996, right?  The guy I wanna race has been in serious training!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Is it Cool to Cheer for Michael Again?

Remember this? Here's hoping for more
Olympic years are different. They have a way of making the time since the last event seem totally irrelevant. The swimmer in recent memory who this used to hold most true for was Gary Hall. Hall seemed to go into hibernation after winning gold in the 50 free in 2000. And yet there he was again, in Athens, getting his hand on the wall first. Now, witness the recent signs that "THE GREATEST SWIMMER OF ALL TIME" is starting to look like it again, dropping world leading times at the Columbus Grand Prix. There is no doubt in my mind that Michael Phelps can once again wrest his crown as the world's best swimmer from Ryan Lochte this summer in London. The question is: do we (swimming fans) want him too?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Adding to Your Coaching: Professionalism

Over the last two years, this blog has turned a critical eye to the coaching world. It is, in many ways, a diary of my own journey through the coaching ranks. Much of that attention in the past two years has been focused on reshaping attitudes towards abuse of swimmers. Today, I'm going to tackle a more benign topic which is nevertheless sorely in need of changing. Swim coaches in America are, more often than not, unprofessional.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Time for USAS To Own Up on Stopkotte

Earlier this week, swim coach Ken Stopkotte had all criminal charges dropped by an Indiana judge. Stopkotte, of course, first came into national consciousness when he appeared on the ABC 20/20 expose of sexual abuse in swimming that also featured Chuck Wielgus' famous "You feel I need to apologize?" line. On the program, Stopkotte was featured as a whistleblower for the under reported problem of sexual abuse in swimming. Soon afterwards, Stopkotte was banned from USA Swimming for falsifying times and then later arrested on the criminal charges referenced above.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The OBU Bison Didn't Waste Any Time!

I ate at a steakhouse with three of my athletes after finals at Sectionals on Saturday night.  While there, I checked facebook on my phone and saw that a friend had posted a link to a live-feed Ustream video page of the NAIA National meet going on in Oklahoma City.  Another friend, our former club coach Eduardo is now an Assistant Coach under Sam Freas for the new Men's and Women's teams started at Oklahoma Baptist so I was interested in checking it out, but before I had the chance to even click it, I get a text from Ed that says: "We are down by one point heading into the last relay."

Holy crap!  I gotta get that live video going!  So there we were, me and three swimmers from the club watching the last relay of the NAIA champs on my phone, and on that little screen we witnessed a pretty amazing race.  The OBU men swam three seconds under the national record with a 2:57.83.  They had to swim that fast because Fresno Pacific also went under the record with 2:58!  It was intense, and it was clear that both teams know how to get a group of sprinters ready for a brawl.  What a fantastic swim and what a great way to end a championship meet!

I am not sure if there have ever been any first year programs that have won a National Championship at any level in any sport.  I would imagine that their AD is patting himself on the back for hiring Dr. Freas to build the program from scratch.  What most people don't know about their men's team success story is that there were some behind the scenes happenings at the meet that very easily could have knocked their team out of contention entirely.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Swim Themed Book Club!

Me in 5+ years....

Book clubs are not for middle aged women who watch "The Bachelor" and have an abundance of stray cats in a teeny apartment. And yet, I regularly watch "The Bachelor" (Courtney doesn't deserve Ben and yet I hate Ben too...) and I own 3 cats in a teeny apartment. I am also in a "couples" book club in Brooklyn. Make your own assumptions about me, if you want.

I'd like to start a swimming-themed book club. I asked around on Twitter and I have 4 people interested. Who else? Coaches? Athletes? My fear is that we will run out of good swimming books to read after about Month One (there seems to be about one or two "good" swimming books in the mass media... then I'm just not sure...) 

Anyway, if you want to be part of this, find me on Twitter (MikeLGustafson) or write a message below with your contact information.  We'll figure out a way to discuss the book some way. Maybe via an email chain. Maybe via another post on SwimBrief where we write in comments. Maybe via carrier pigeon. I just don't know. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Proposal

Matt Grevers and Annie Chandler at the Missouri Grand Prix last month

A few weeks ago on a cold February evening on a pool deck smack dab in the middle of Missouri a young man... a swimmer,  proposed to his girlfriend... also a swimmer.   Quickly, the swim sites went bananas but within 24 hours the video was being shown on mainstream news outlets, too:  Yahoo, MSNBC, CNN all had links to the video.  Almost 3 weeks and more than 2.6 million hits on You Tube later I watched it again last night.

2.6 million hits.  That's incredible.  Now, I know 92% of the people who clicked on the link and watched the video had absolutely no idea who Matt Grevers and Annie Chandler were.  It didn't matter.  Love is universal and only the most cynical and emotionally-damaged wouldn't be touched by Matt's public declaration of his love and Annie's reaction.  It's like visual Prozac, you can actually feel your serotonin levels rise as you watch it.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

My Job is Pretty Awesome Sometimes... JROTC

As Aquatics Director for our school district I get to teach swimming a bunch of different ways to all sorts of different groups. One of my favorite units of the year is JROTC.  I offer a "drownproofing" course for our school and four others in the area. They come over to the pool and cover a little bit of basics to help them to be comfortable in the water.  We spend a little time helping them to tread efficiently. We talk to them about the signs and symptoms of hypothermia and how they might help.

You might say I am carrying on a Georgia Tech tradition in this course as one skill station is the actual "drownproofing" pioneered by their long-time coach Fred Lanoue.  I don't bind anyone's hands or feet obviously, but it is nice to be able to teach it as a skill that can help people who haven't had much opportunity to take a lot of swim lessons. Read up on it.  It really could be practical in a situation where a person might have to survive more than just a few minutes waiting for a rescue.  I actually read an article once about a pilot who survived for days without flotation by using this very skill.  It is pretty fascinating stuff.  The manual I was given when I took the job was actually printed in 1944, from back when the Navy first embraced it as a way to reduce drowning rates.