Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Families Not Welcome

Yesterday, I talked about the discussion for NCAA qualifying, and seem to have found more than a few people's attention. Today, I want to talk about another issue that came up in San Antonio, different but no less important. Two of the speeches given at the talk were ostensibly about coaches who had just completed meteoric rises. Both sent a clear message: if you want to do this you better go it alone (and be a man).

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fixing NCAA Qualification

One of the most vexing problems in college swimming is the NCAA qualification process. In a sport that otherwise operates on concrete time standards, this process rests on a two tiered system of cuts, alongside an algorithm that makes it impossible for all but the most dedicated to authentically determine who will make the meet. Add in a frenzy of last chance qualifiers and you have a recipe for frustration on many levels. At the CSCAA conference last week in San Antonio, Division 1 coaches sat down to try to fix the process, and failing that at least make it slightly better.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Training in Traffic

Some kids just don't care if the lane is crowded.  Weaving through traffic at full speed is an under-appreciated swimmer skill.

We have all dealt with crowded lanes and made the most of it.  I have had to rearrange the order of swimmers sometimes to keep things running smoothly sometimes.  Just this week I had to start telling my age groupers to line up in order of their 100 free time just to keep them from fighting about who leads the lane.  It is not usually a big deal until coach gets out the watch and expects some race quality splits when you know people are gonna get run over.

I had a first last night-- something I had never seen, or at least never seen this executed so well...  I just have to brag on it.  It was impressive.  We were doing a set of 8x100 on 2:00 in the yard pool, best stroke (non-free) and I expected them to hold a pace that was in what we call "zone 3" which is calculated by taking half of their 200 time and adding 4-7 seconds to it.  It gets them right around VO2 max.  I let the kids take #7 easy so I could see how close they could get to race pace on #8.  This set is pretty typical for us although this was very short for this kind of set.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Great Assistant Coaches: Jesup Szatkowski and Jenn Verser

Among's list of Assistant Coaches of the Year, most honorees represent programs that have been consistently good (or great) for some time now. The biggest break from that mold is Dawn Kane, assistant coach at Duke University. It's hard to remember now, the way Duke competes, that there was a time that they lagged behind their ACC brethren the way Boston College does now. This is the type of coaching that really impresses me: stepping into a hopeless situation and injecting some hope. That is also why I feel that two coaches, Jesup Szatkowski and Jenn Verser, have been sorely overlooked.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Great Assistant Coaches: Gary Taylor

Gary, you seriously need a bigger picture bro.

We're only two entries deep into my "Great Assistant Coaches" series and I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that this will only be a list of coaches I've run into on a regular basis through my league affiliations. If you do, you're absolutely right. I can only write about what I know, and I know for sure that Gary Taylor is a great coach.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Great Assistant Coaches: Matt Davidson

For the second year in a row, has their list of the top assistant coaches in America. While I applaud the effort made by Greg Earhart to recognize the unsung assistants, I have a problem with the list. You see, in order to make it onto the list you needed to be nominated by a head coach. Taking nothing away from those awarded, I believe it represents great assistants who also have a great boss- someone that cares for and mentors them, and can advocate strongly enough on their behalf.. Not all assistant coaches are so lucky.  Therefore, I decided that I would come up with my own list. Over the next couple weeks, I'll be profiling some assistant coaches who I think really kick ass, but for whatever reason aren't being otherwise recognized. I'm going to start with someone who was part inspiration for my post before attending CSCAA last week.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Will College Swimming Lose a Generation?

Tomorrow, I'll board a plane for San Antonio to attend the annual College Swim Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) conference. It's one of the highlights of my year- a chance to connect with the small community of people in my profession, share ideas and organize our ranks on important issues. This year will be no different, but I have to admit I'll be boarding my flight with a heavy heart: I'm worried about the next generation of college swim coaches.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Faster Standards: What's the Point?

In the past week, much of the discussion surrounding Germany's Olympic selection meet has been over their standards. You see, the German's chose to make their athletes not just make the FINA "A" cut, but actually go a faster time, an equivalent to the 10th fastest time the world last year. Most notably, Georgia based swimmer Martin Grodzki cleared the "A" standard on the last day of the meet in the 1500 but was left off the London squad. This begs multiple questions: why does Germany see a need to have a higher standard than the FINA "A"?

Friday, May 11, 2012

View From the Stands: A Year of "Lasts"

The poster above my daughter's bed.  No, not the puppy.  The other one.

"And the journey begins today....Last workout in Bmore today....Time for some meets and fine tuning in Co in lead up for trials!"-tweet from Michael Phelps yesterday.

Okay, swim fans, it just got real.

We've known Michael's most likely retiring after London.  He's been consistent since Beijing that London would be his last Olympics.  There was about a minute and a half when Chicago was in the running to win the bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics where we thought, "he might stick it out for an Olympics on American soil."  Phelps said on 60 Minutes last week he will go to Rio for 2016.  To watch.  It's been inevitable, every athlete retires, but this isn't just any athlete.  What happens when the iconic face of your sport is no longer available?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Distance Memories

Buried in Craig Lord's 10,000 word opus on the future of swimming a few days ago was a quote from prominent coach Bill Sweetenham. In a rambling post that only Lord has the patience to produce, Sweetenham spoke the words of many coaches in his generation and peer group.

"short distance, high exposure has delivered many benefits to the sprint fraternity of world swimming but at a massive cost to the performance of 200 metre and up events on national and international scenes"

Monday, May 7, 2012

How to Become a (paid) College Swim Coach (2.0)

A couple years back, I posted a blog answering the question I am most frequently asked by readers:

"How do I become a college swim coach?"

I'm happy to answer because five years ago I was wondering the same thing. I had graduated from college and made some fumbling attempts at breaking into the college ranks. I knew I wanted to do it, but I was clueless. Before we get into the how, let's define a couple barriers.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Five Stages of Jim Steen

Jim Steen, the living legend of coaching swimming. made his retirement official yesterday. If you want to read an exhaustive breakdown of all that he has accomplished, go somewhere else. In the face of those accomplishments, all other coaches have had to confront Jim Steen. This blog is about the stages of knowing about Jim Steen, from discovery to reverence.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Greater than the Greatest: Alexander Dale Oen

It was certainly the type of news you hoped was just a hoax. Unfortunately, Alexander Dale Oen, world champion from 2011 in the 100 breaststroke and so much more, passed away two days ago. Details emerged over the course of the day that Dale Oen's heart had stopped. It's terrifying for everyone to see someone young and superhuman suddenly lose their life. Dale Oen was best known for his Shanghai victory, coming just three days after the most tragic event in recent Norwegian history. The truth was he did far more before and after with the time he had.