Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Nighttime Snack: The Athlete Coach Relationship

I seem to be the new go-to for stupid swim related *&%# on the internet.  Yay!  Keep it coming, people!

****WARNING*******Use of the "F" word at the end of the clip.******WARNING*******

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Magic in Water

 I'm dreading the end of the outdoor pool season.  Indoor pool season just isn't the same.  Where I live indoor pool season means it's gray, cold and dreary outside.  Everything dies;  leaves on trees, grass, flowers, and especially my happiness.  My happiness is inextricably tied to my daughter's happiness.  That happens when you become a parent.  The fact that I have 3 daughters and they're all 8 years old and one is on the autism spectrum means someone (at any given point) is not happy.  Therefore my happiness quotient is usually leveled as well.  But something happens in the summer...something magic.....especially for my daughter, Kate.  You see, there is no "cure" for autism.  But in my house, for Kate especially, there is a magic in water.

Autism is a developmental disorder that affects a person's ability to communicate and be social.  Most people with autism have issues with their sensory system;  things are often too loud, too crowded and generally "too much" to handle. They may not know exactly where their body is in space which is disorienting.  There's a "spectrum" so some people with autism are "high functioning,"  they may seem unusual or quirky.  Some people are "low functioning" so they may not speak at all and have distruptive behaviors.  Kate is somewhere in the middle, I guess.  She speaks but she's not really conversational.  Simple back and forth is about it.  She's learning to play with others and she's giving us much more eye contact.  Things are improving but like the saying goes, it's a marathon not a sprint. 

During the summer, in the sunshine, in the reflection of a clear blue pool, Kate comes alive.  She lives at the pool, she cannot get enough.  It's incredible to see the transformation.  It very much is like a caterpillar emerging from it's cocoon and blossoming into a butterfly.  In the water Kate is much more talkative.  She uses more words to form sentences and she describes things in much more detail.  She looks right at us and she's also extremely playful.  Instead of keeping to herself she commands our attention;  ring around the rosie, jumping into our arms, dunking games and singing songs together....it goes on for hours.  She's connected to us, she's with us, she is a part of us.  

Kate has also learned to swim this summer.  Missy Franklin she's not but she's able to be safe in all depths of water and she can easily swim to the side of the pool.  Her favorite thing to do is float...the poor lifeguards...she floats facing downward and can hold her breath for a really long period of time.  It looks scary if you don't know what she's doing.  She can do that forever.  She taught herself a breaststroke kick this summer.  I don't know how-she must have seen her sisters do it since they were working on it all summer.  Drowning is the number one cause of accidents/death for children with autism so her safety was paramount.  I don't care if she doesn't know who George Washington is...the kid's gonna swim. 

There's something about the warm sun on her face and the water.  As fall approaches I'll take her to the indoor pool and even have her splash around in the tub (which has always been calming for her) but it's not the same.  Over the next few years we're looking at moving somewhere warm again.  As beautiful as it is to watch her emerge during the spring and summer it's heart breaking to watch her fade away in the fall and winter.  We get used to "having her around" not just in body but in spirit.   It's the greatest gift.  I treasure every moment.  I take hundreds of pictures and probably hours of video of her "alive," happy, connected, laughing, looking right at us, asking us to play, giggling with glee and precious moments.  Because there's magic in water.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nighttime Snack: Man Steals Swimming Pool

Yup, that's where the fun used to be

 Some guy in Massachusetts stole a family's 24 ft diameter/52 inch deep above-ground swimming pool and sold it for scrap metal.  It took him 3.5 hours to disassemble it while the family was at work.  

Steal a kid's pool?  Why don't you just run over their puppy?  That's just mean.  My kids would need years and years of therapy to recover from this.  They caught the guy;  charged him with trespassing, larceny and being a grade A schmuck.                                                                                  

Friday, August 19, 2011

Yet Another Unreasonable Firing! Sue Everyone!

Maybe he has a chance as a beach lifeguard. Or a contractor.

It's ridiculous! Somebody call the lawyers! Burger King didn't just fire their King... according to Yahoo! News they decapitated him!

In my opinion the King was the only thing they had going for them. This makes no sense. What is wrong with people in this country!? Our beloved King probably did something small like refuse to wear a speedo to work or had on a t-shirt with the wrong mascot. The CEO of Burger King probably went to Oklahoma State. This sucks!

And to make it worse, in the comments of the Yahoo! article there are people making unsubstantiated accusations, calling him a child molester and accusing him of being caught eating at McDonalds as though he is some kind of burger traitor. How dare they! I hope the Burger Queen takes them for everything they have-- every damn one of those dirty SOB's!

Long Live the King!


No Morning Workouts

What if my alarm clock is stuck?
So I realize I posted yesterday and promised grand blogs to come. This is not one of the blogs I promised. Instead, I am posting right off the top of my head in a stream of consciousness like I usually do. My thoughts are consumed with the coming season. The campus is flush with incoming freshmen. I'm trying something different this year, not without trepidation. Depending on how you look at it, I'm either catching the wave of the future, already way behind or destroying our future. I'll let you decide

This year I am ditching double workouts. No morning practice. Throughout my entire coaching career I have been locked into the same schedule (even back to my own swimming days. This will be the first year in ten that I do not have morning practice at 6 am sharp on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I've ditched them entirely.

I've made adjustments that I think will mean more work and not less. I've lengthened all my afternoon workouts from 2 hours to 2.5. Saturday practices may be longer as well. Without replicating warmup and warmdown twice a day, I think I actually gain time to do work. Most of my afternoon practices were bursting at the seems of the 2 hour mark last year, mostly because I became maniacal about warmdown, often forcing swimmers into warmdown sets that were 15-20 minutes in duration. Now I'll have some breathing room in the afternoon. 

Psychologically, I think it may also benefit the swimmers to come once a day. Everybody knows the wear that a swim season puts on swimmers psyches. While you may have the perspective that morning practice is all about becoming "mentally tough", there is no benefit if that isn't the actual result.

Physiologically, I am looking at a group of athletes somewhere between a traditional "middle distance" group and a "sprint". These are not high recovery swimmers, and I found often that I couldn't to get them to do my high intensity sets twice in one day. I am hoping that the schedule allows them to maximize their recovery a bit more so that I can in actuality make each practice harder.

I didn't pull this idea from thin air. I have known that Sean Hutchison was a notable coach who wasn't running doubles. But I would give primary credit in leading me to this conclusion to Joel Shinofield, head coach of Washington and Lee. Besides being boyishly handsome, Joel is also a mentor of mine and an extremely successful swim coach. I ended up stalking him down because I was really impressed for his propensity for taking mediocre high school sprinters and making them really fast. In my conversations, he presented pretty compelling evidence for once a day only, some of which I have put forth above.

Rationally, I have no doubts about the strategy. In my heart, I still have a part of me that just feels wrong not running morning workout. Maybe I'll just wake up anyway, drink some coffee and walk around the pool deck a bit. At least for the first couple weeks. 

Another Lawsuit-- This Guy was Fired Over a Swim Brief!

If Roy Lester worked for this website he would be fired.  Even Lisa has to wear a brief on the job with us.
I know people are scared to wear the brief.  You have to be pretty comfortable with your manhood.  I get it.  I swam with my high school kids during practice yesterday at a rival team pool (because we are still in renovations) and I wore my brief; big old belly hanging over it and all.  Awkward.  Intimidating.  Creepy.  Whatever.  I am being true to myself.

The cool part about yesterday is that the son of one of our high school principals is trying swim team for the first time this year, and I got to send an email to his mom that said "You had no idea how good I am at this coaching thing.  I got him wearing a speedo in less than two weeks."  He didn't try out last year because he didn't want to wear one and all he had worn so far this year was board shorts.  Ha!

I love the brief, and as you can probably tell by the comments on the "Rivalry Gone Too Far" post that I don't like to see people fired from a job over unreasonable circumstances.  The OU t-shirt thing set me off... so you can imagine how conflicted I was over this link on Adolph Kiefer's facebook page, with the story of a 61 year-old beach lifeguard who was fired after 40 years for refusing to wear a brief on the job!

From an article in the NY Daily News:

Lester sued the state, claiming age discrimination, arguing the Speedo is for the washboard stomach set, not aging dads like him.
"I wore a Speedo when I was in my 20s," Lester said. "But come on. There should be a law prohibiting anyone over the age of 50 from wearing a Speedo."
Lester believes the Speedo edict was an attempt to rid Jones Beach of its aging lifeguards. The former lifeguard union head estimates that more than 80% of Jones Beach lifeguards are older than 40.
"This was not right," said Lester, a bankruptcy lawyer who is representing himself in the age discrimination claim. "They were just trying to get rid of the older guys. To me the whole key to being a good lifeguard is experience. An older guy sees a save before anyone else. You know the water."

On the one hand I am thinking "I don't care how old or out of shape I am I can wear a damn brief if I want to."  On the other hand I am thinking, "Stick it to the man, Roy!  They fired you on unreasonable grounds!  Don't give up the fight!"

Adolph Kiefer seems to feel the same way as on facebook he posted "Cut the guy a break!" and "But I think it's okay to still wear the brief past 50.  And I do!" Of course you do Adolph.  Because you are awesome.

According to the poll on the article, it seems like 88% think Roy Lester shouldn't be forced to wear the speedo on the job if it doesn't interfere with his performance.  Apparently, the guards have to test out by swimming 100 yards under 1:15 and Lester said he could do it in Dungarees.  The article points out that he is an accomplished triathlete.  Judging from the picture, I am pretty sure I would hire him even if he wanted to wear a bikini.  The kids at our pool just behave better when at least one of the lifeguards is older than them and could beat them in a race.

I am anxious to see how this one pans out.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

I Missed You Too!

Little known fact: Denmark has BEAUTIFUL palm trees
Hey everybody, I'm back! I know that all of you have been worried sick these past couple weeks, with me not posting and all. You probably thought I had a mental breakdown after blogging 359 times a day during Worlds and then from the pool deck at Nationals. I'm here to tell you that everything is fine. I just went on vacation, ok, so you can stop worrying. (Scanning posts and comments). Wait, no one noticed? Seriously?

Well in any case, even though nobody missed me, I definitely missed you. Even on my vacation I had a few pots brewing for the Swim Brief, so in the next few days you can expect my blogging to resume at a steady clip. I had a chance to meet an honorable member of the Faroese swimming delegation while I was abroad. I will also be taking a few chances to put Shanghai and the summer in context with the Olympics just one year away. I will also be silently planning revenge on the people who didn't show the proper respect while I was gone.

By the way, have you heard about this Sun Yang guy? He is really good!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rivalry Gone Too Far

It's all in fun until someone gets sued.

Missouri State and Drury have a traditionally strong swimming rivalry between them in Springfield, MO.  The thing that is great about it is that after all the trash talk and incidents, at the end of the day the kids are all still friends.  I am not going to say that there has never been bad blood between the coaches or the kids-- there is a great history there.  Drury's Brian Reynolds actually swam for Missouri State's Jack Steck back when Jack was leading the Panthers to some of their first national championships.  As a matter of fact, there was a twenty year gap where the two schools were not allowed to dual each other because the administration worried it would just be too much for Springfield to handle.  It was pretty heated between the two programs.

Still, after all of that, the two teams have been able to set it all aside and get together for some pretty intense match-ups that are great for all involved. And the best part is that when the meet is over, the swimmers from both teams get together and have a great time, just as they do throughout the year.  I can't say the same for some of the big sports rivalries like MU/KU or North Carolina/Duke, but fans of several rival teams have fun-spirited banter and that makes for great conversation between sports junkies.  Graduates from the two local colleges here among our teaching staff constantly rib each other about wearing the wrong colors.  That is a part of what makes sports worth following.

Sports rivalries are meant to be fun.  Not ugly.  Not bitter.  And they should definitely not require lawyers getting involved...  unless of course you are into football and you live in Oklahoma.  Then it gets ridiculous.

Oklahoma State Football Coach Mike Gundy is being sued because he fired a contractor from a $30,000 job simply for wearing an OU baseball shirt while on the job. 

For reals.  From USA Today:

According to the lawsuit, Gundy arrived at the house at 9:30 a.m. and spotted Loveland's shirt. "How dare you come into my house and offend my wife," Gundy allegedly said.

Gundy then allegedly used profanity as he told the contractor to get off his property. He called Loveland a "stupid idiot" for wearing the shirt on "OSU soil," and refused Loveland's apologies. The contractor offered to turn his shirt inside-out, but was refused, according to the lawsuit.

Besides just the absurdity of the whole situation, I have to ask some real questions:

How in the hell are they gonna find a jury in Oklahoma who isn't a fan of one team or the other?  And if they ain't a sports fan, aren't they gonna be biased against the sports coach?  If you are not a sports fan, this is an even more ridiculous situation!  This is going to be dismissed and it will be a real shame.  This coach should not be able to get away with treating anyone this way.  The sad part of it is that I can only imagine he is being hailed as a hero in Stillwater for his Cowboy loyalty.

This makes me want to laugh and throw up at the same time.  Relax, people.  Please just chill.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Let's Talk About Jewelry!

If he stops to take off his jewelry they are just gonna DQ him for 'delay of meet' anyway.
I have never understood why the high school swimming rule-makers have such an obsession with jewelry.  Kids can't wear any, even if it is just a hair band that a girl put on her wrist and forgot to take it off.  Every Olympic year my swimmers come to me and say "Hey!  Every girl they interviewed in the Olympics was wearing earrings!?  What gives?"

Of course, I just shrug my shoulders.  I don't have an answer.  I write it off as one of those rules that makes sense for some activities so they just make it a rule for all sports with no consideration for each sport individually.  There isn't really an injury risk or a competitive advantage, right?    It is just nit-picking for the sake of nit-picking, and in my opinion it is ridiculous to disqualify an athlete over an earring or a wristband. Nobody wants to lose that way and nobody wants to win that way either.  What bothers me is that jewelry becomes the dominating conversation at most of our coaches meetings before the season and at meets.  Now whenever I host a meet I actually put in the meet info something like this:  "There will be a brief and awkward coaches meeting at 12:45 so we can talk ad nauseum about jewelry!"

Even on the year cheatajima forced us to add the dolphin kick to the breaststroke pull-out and there was so much confusion about where the dolphin kick was allowed to be placed, we still spent the majority of our meeting talking about jewelry and virtually ignored the important stuff in comparison.  The best part of that was that the guy who ran our meeting had the pull-out rule all wrong and we argued about it all season because officials in my area were making bad calls.  Seriously... it was absolutely ridiculous.

Last year, I thought we were starting to get it right.  The rule was that if the officials saw a kid wearing jewelry they gave them a warning.  If the kid ignored it, they got deeq'ed.  I could live with that.  So, naturally I was ticked this week when I got the email below:

·         By the approval of the MSHSAA Board of Directors, Missouri will put into place a more restrictive rule than the NFHS.  This adoption was made for the sport of track and field for the 2010-11 school year, and it is being expanded to include swimming and diving for 2011-12.
·         Each swimming/diving meet should start with a coaches meeting prior to the start of the meet to handle scratches/adds and other meet information. The meet Director may run this meeting; however, the Referee/Starter will attend to administer a Jewelry Warning to the entire field. From this point forward, any violation of the Jewelry Rule will be a disqualification of the athlete from the event in which the violation occurred.
·         At meets where a coaches meeting is not possible, a request for an alternative method for issuing the Warning may be requested from the MSHSAA Office.
·         At the State Championships, the Warning will be attached to the Team Packet which must be picked up by each HEAD COACH. A Warning will also be given during the FIRST CALL to every event; for example, “First Call 50yd Freestyle: The uniform and jewelry rule are in effect.”
·         The ultimate responsibility for having each competitor compliant with the uniform and the jewelry rule lies with the COACH.
·         This adoption also appears in the 2011-12 Swimming and Diving Manual, which can be accessed from the MSHSAA website, and as a stand-alone article in the swimming area of the website.

Come on, guys!  Really?  We all know that kids are gonna forget to take it off.  Do we really need to take it that far?  Is jewelry ever going to not be the last thing on my mind to talk about with kids before their races?

Ugh.  How frustrating.  Just let the kids wear their dang jewelry. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Emmert's NCAA Retreat Wrap-up

Mark Emmert, about to scrape the charred remains of the Husky swimming program from the bottom of his frying pan in 2009.

So, Mark Emmert wrapped up his NCAA retreat and is being applauded for actually making a decision without doing the standard NCAA "let's form a committee and a task force and come talk about this again in five years."  Well,  from the sound of it, they talked about a lot of stuff and ended up moving on just one decision.  They plan to hold some teams out of post-season play if they don't meet grade standards, which I guess would have taken some heavy hitters out of the basketball tournament this year according to the scores that will now be required... but of course those schools will find a way to pay for whatever necessary tutors and bribes they need to be in compliance.  That's how it works. Apparently they have to have a record of half of their students on track to graduate.  That shouldn't be too hard to get around, right?

Big whoop.

If you read this article at SI.com you can see some of the other things they talked about and plan to address in the near future.  Of course, there wasn't really anything about non-revenue sports being cut.  Gee, I wonder why that didn't come up?  Wasn't there recently some kind of a cooperative agreement between the USOC and the NCAA to address that?  I tried to google it but apparently it is not big enough news to even come up on a web search.  Go figure.

The best part of the Sports Illustrated write up was this:  When they talked about allowing athletes to be paid additional money to cover the "true costs of college" it was actually brought up that only the big conferences could afford it and that would give them a competitive advantage.  Wow.  They acknowledged one of the many legitimate problems with it... but of course it was all shrugged off when "the presidents seemed to be lock-step with the commissioners in believing said imbalance already exists."

So, why is it a problem if we make it worse?  Just a drop in the bucket, right?


Friday, August 12, 2011

Jump in for Joplin!

Because swimmers are the coolest people on Earth.
After the May 22nd tornado hit Joplin, there was an outpouring of support from swim teams from all over the nation hoping to help swim families get on their feet.  Joplin was crawling with volunteers from all over the country and it is amazing how much has been done in the months since the storm.  We all knew though, that after the initial surge of volunteers came and went, there would still be many families with needs that would not have been met for various reasons.

One of the emails I got that offered help went a little above and beyond what I had seen.  A coach in Wisconsin who I had become friends with over email, Vicki Terlap, sent me a message saying that she was organizing a fundraising event called Jump in for Joplin.  How cool is that?  She got a few swim teams together and made a truly inspiring event of it.  They raised $1159.00 and it looks like they had a lot of fun doing it!  They had all sorts of games and races and it looks like they made it the best kind of party-- the kind that helps a group of total strangers who are friends through swimming.

I sent them a list of swim families who had major expenses and needs that were not covered by insurance.  Some were ER bills, some were expenses accrued from trying to salvage their homes, some had to do with the loss of vehicles that did not have appropriate coverage.  They were all swim families who have lost a lot, including the lives of loved ones.  Their act of kindness will go a long way to help those who are still in need months after their lives were changed after the terrible storm.  Thank you to everyone involved in the Jump in for Joplin event.  Thank you, thank you, thank you! I hope we can get together at a meet some day and have some fun.  You are amazing and we are eternally grateful!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The End is Nigh: Emmert's NCAA Retreat

The NCAA booted this guy out of their meeting for speaking up on behalf of non-revenue sports.  Then they made a rule stating that new pools built at universities must now have a lazy river for football players to play in instead of lap lanes.

The Viking's summarization of day one of Mark Emmert's NCAA Reform Retreat and all of the self-contradictions therein:

Yes, we at the NCAA don't ever want to leave amateur athletics and move to pay-for-play spending; we are certainly concerned about outrageous coaching salaries and the disparity between Division 1 schools with $5 million dollar budgets compared to those with $145 million dollars to spend and the competitive advantages it affords them; and we know that most schools are already losing money trying to keep up with athletic spending of their competitors... 

but we really feel that the solution is to expand scholarships to provide money up to the full cost of attendance.  You know, the money it really costs to go to school beyond tuition, fees, room, board and books.  This has the support of all of the schools in the big conferences who can afford it, and after we make this move all of the rest of the schools and their non-revenue sports will dry up and die and then we won't have to listen to their whining anymore.  This really will solve all of our problems and the challenge is to make sure this happens "quickly and thoughtfully."  

At least, that is my take on it.  You can come up with your own take by reading about it in the following articles.

NCAA Calls for New Scholarship Rules at Retreat- AP

Emmert's Retreat Can't Fix NCAA's Tough Issues

To be honest, Ralph Nader's Sports Manifesto is sounding less and less crazy every day.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Olympic Numbers Game

Since I caught a bunch of grief for not sharing some of my "other" "swim" "writing" here's an article I wrote yesterday for USA Swimming. My numbers might be off, and perhaps the rest of you can come up with some better/funnier/edgier/sexier numbers (like the sheer number of condoms used at each Olympics), but here are some pretty fun facts I discovered during my morning research (performed while sipping coffee and listening to my 25 lb. cat wail and moan for more food, the fat piece of fat):

.00014%: Percent chance you’ll qualify for the Olympics if you are a USA Swimming swimmer. 

9,600: Miles (estimate) that the average competitive swimmer swims between Olympics every four years. 

360: Days until the rematch between Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps in the 200IM in London. (Of course they have to qualify first.)

360: Days until I throw up from sheer excitement. 

 Read the rest of the article here, and so but now finally heretofore and thus, Desantis, stop hassling me!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Nighttime Snack: One Year Out, Just Not What We Expected

Unfortunately, this is not the Olympic Torch 
My official "Olympic Glow" has taken a bit of a tarnishing lately.  For the 3rd night in a row there have been riots in the streets of London, starting in Tottenham in the north of the city, now moving throughout London and even to other cities like Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester.

Not **exactly** great PR for London as it looks to host the Olympics 353 days from now.  On twitter, the usual tweets of excitement were replaced by tweets like, "Looting:  The New Olympic Sport" and "Can't wait for the Olympics.....should be a riot!"  There was also my favorite, "Good luck with the Olympics, London.  I'm outta here."  Scotland Yard has made it a point all along to assure the millions of tourists it will be sure to welcome next summer they are safe and they have everything under control.  The events this week have made some question whether or not that is actually the truth.

London has a long, sorted history with riots.  During the student riots in November the situation was mostly peaceful and the pockets of disturbance were quickly squelched.  These riots, sparked by a police shooting, seem to be much more spontaneous in nature.  During the royal wedding in April there was tremendous planning and no incidents.  I'm sure the security planning for the Olympic Games is beyond anything ever undertaken before in the UK and that these extraordinary measures will produce a safe and secure event for everyone.  By the way, if anyone reading this has tickets  and doesn't want to go please send your tickets to me cause I will.

In the meantime, tonight's images of flames and riot police will be replaced tomorrow with Londoners with brooms and garbage bags cleaning the city.  Already, twitter has a trending hashtag, #riotcleanup.  After all, this city is hosting the Olympics in 353 days.  Citius, Altius, Fortius.  Faster, Higher, Stronger.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Snack: Swim-Life- Should Senior Swimming in the US Take a Step Back?

Take that Stone Cold Button! Ha!

I want to draw attention to another blogger out there, not just because he is Alaskan and that automatically makes him awesome, but because he is putting some ideas out there that deserve to be heard. Cliff Murray, Head Coach of Northern Lights Swim Club in Anchorage, Alaska has a blog called Swim Life. It is a collection of workouts and random thoughts about swimming. Recently Coach Murray has put a few posts out there that question the progression of Senior qualifying meets from the LSC level up to the Olympic Trials. Cliff seems to think that the old system with Regionals, three Junior National sites and the US Open made a lot more sense than the current system of Sectionals, Junior Nats, then Nationals. Cliff also is also able to give a lot of the dynamics that come into play that differ between large and small clubs.

If you have ever thrown up your hands wondering why there are such big jumps for senior swimmers to move up to the next step in the progression as I have, you really need to give these three posts at Swim Life a look:

Save Senior Swimming in the USA

Senior Swimming in America- The Progression We Should Be Following

The Facts About Senior Swimming in America

Check them out and sound off. Do you like the current system or is Cliff on to something?

Nighttime Snack: Tech Suits and the Anonymous Voice of a Pro.

I know that Spidey's black costume turned out to be an alien symbiote that tried to kill him and all... but I couldn't help drawing a parallel between this picture and the tech suit issue. 

In case you haven't been following along, Tony at the SCAQ Blog is a Masters Swimmer and has always loved his tech suits.  At his blog though, no matter how vocal he has been about wanting tech back, he has allowed anyone and everyone to voice their opinion even if it disagrees.  Apparently a professional swimmer decided to "school" Tony and the rest of us on what tech suits really did to professional swimming and the suit sponsor system that they count on, and this seems to be the voice that was missing from the argument the first time around.  It is worth the read.

Yes you might think that reading more about tech suits is just beating a dead horse, but you need to keep in mind that FINA recently announced that they are considering equal coverage for men and women in 2013.  This all could come around again.

As usual, Tony's blog has attracted many commenters who feel strongly about the subject and it is worth hearing what they all have to say as well.  Check it out in Part 1 and Part 2.

Keeping it in Perspective

Before this National meet started, I stated unequivocally what I would be watching for- the young swimmers that would replace the current generation of US stars. Depending on who you ask, we have just seen it. I remain more doubtful. While we did see a legendary NAG record go down over the course of this meet, the swims are not keeping pace with international competition. Why do I keep hammering on this point?  Let me explain:

First, I've always made a point of compariing US results to international results. I've only had a blog for three years, so if it feels like I'm constantly pessimistic about swimming talent development in the United States, know that it's a recent trend. I write this blog as a way to engage with fellow coaches, swimmers and fans. So far no one's been able to give me a reasonable eomeback.

The most frequent arguments I get against what I write are on pool decks (I wish some of these guys would comment online). I will paraphrase them here -they range from semi-credible to ridiculous. The semi-credible retort is to show current results. We are certainly by far the strongest swimming country in the world and have proven that we only need a few stars to pan out to continue to do so. It is very possible that I am wrong and we will have swimmers comparable to Phelps/Lochte by Rio.

On the ludicrous end, I had the tired old argument that the 19-20 year old international swimmers that were so dominant in Shanghai are clearly products of doping. This is one of the most tired put downs we place on international results. The logic follows that if anyone is doing that much better than us, they must be cheating, because WE'RE THE BEST.

And therein lies the problem. I think that swim coaches in the United States do very little to study why pockets of success creep up around the world. We suppose that they are perhaps random, that in a few years Danish women's freestyle won't be really good and that this is the Faroe Islands one hurrah. I've tried to highlight those accomplishments in my blog to pique curiosity about just how those undermatched programs succeed where we do not.

Lastly, lest you think I am pointing the figure everywhere else, I know very much that I (and my cohort of college and club coaches) deserve a lot of the blame here. There is no lack of talent in the United States, nor is it that "kids these days" don't want to work hard. We have become stale and overconfident in our methods. It's time to look more outside the country, learn, and be better.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lifeless Crowds

When's the A Final? It already happened????

All week I've been bringing you observations from the pool deck at US Senior Nationals out in Palo Alto. By the way I know that's not the official name but I don't want to type out the long drawn out name. Today I'm bringing a more downbeat one. As I probably mentioned, there are a ton of people at this meet. Upwards of 1800 swimmers. Throw in coaches, parents and other various spectators and you have enough people to create the atmosphere. Still, yesterday during the "A" final of the women's 200 free, one of my swimmers turned to me and said "when are they starting?". The swimmers were already a 50 into the race. That is both part of the problem and revealing.
I don't fault the meet announcer, Sam Kendricks, who does a good job trying to rile up the crowd during each and every race. I actually think the problem has far more to do with the content of the crowd. Think of the upwards of 3000 people I just told you were at the meet. Almost none of them are their because they just like watching a big swim meet. They're there because they swam, or know a person who is swimming. Could they get a little more excited? Of course, but USA Swimming makes very little effort to attract anyone to our premier competitions that is not somehow involved in them.

Even if they did- there would be room for precisely none of those people to attend the meet. I know what a difference such an atmosphere can make because I was in Omaha in 2008. The first men's final had Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte battling stroke for stroke for the world record. The crowd absolutely exploded. Here was a large group of people that were invested in results that had very little personal connection to them.

Of course, its hard to compare because the stakes aren't nearly as high out here in Palo Alto. But there are stakes here- and storylines that deserve to be followed. What if we actually tried to host nationals like it was a big time swim meet? Right now it feels like a lazy money grab for USA Swimming, wherein they attract as many people as possible to say they are at "Nationals", collect all the entry fee/time trial revenue, and then sit back and count the money. What if we invested in actually building excitement around our biggest national meet of the year, promoted it and held it in a venue where spectactors could come and watch?

If there is a consistent theme that cuts across swimmers, coaches and the bureaucrats it is a fear of change. We fear losing what we have so we don't take the risks to get a lot better. A year from now, post London, I think we'll have all the momentum we need again to build something in swimming. I fear we'll waste it again.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Why So Many Comebacks?

Why not come back? I'm faster.

As you can tell from our two nighttime snacks, the deck was aflutter with talk of Brendan Hansen last night. USA Swimming fans had been hungry for a breaststroke savior after that was perhaps the weakest men's event for them in Shanghai. There was an audible groan through the crowd when Hansen failed to break 1:00. Nobody was really cutting him any more slack after this morning- they wanted their Brendan back. Beyond his performance, I had a number of people on deck suggest a reason why athletes like Brendan have returned. It's related to the blog I just wrote.

Here's how it goes: typically each generation of swimmers in had a new one nipping on their toes in almost no time.  For instance, Tom Dolan was the best IMer in the world at age 25, but just two years later Phelps broke his world record and never looked back. Dolan retired confident that the torch had been passed. Now, you could argue that current stars Lochte and Phelps do have a younger guy to pass too- that's Tyler Clary. But some of these other comebacks highlight areas where that just didn't happen.

The 100 breaststroke is a great example. I think its reasonable to say had there been a young guy coming up the ranks in the last decade who had been right on top of Hansen or breaking his records up the line, he wouldn't be making an Olympic comeback at 30. But if you're Brendan Hansen looking at this field of US breaststrokers, you still feel like you could beat all of them. Don't you feel like Ed Moses feels the same? He was long retired but then noticed that if he could return to form he has a legitimate chance at making the team. Unfortunately for Ed he is still a ways off.

The theory stretches to more events. How man years in the last 11 has Dara Torres surveyed the state of US women's sprinting and realized that she could be the best? It may be the best reason she continues to stick around- because she's good enough. Do you feel like Aaron Peirsol looks at the backstroke swims from this summer and thinks "Man, there is no way I can hang with our young guys!"?.  I think he absolutely doesn't! Do you think Ian Crocker notices that the 100 fly winning time this summer was still slower than his 50.40 world record swim and wonders if he should make a comeback too?

The comeback mentality filters even to the not quite as great swimmers. It will also be another thing for me to watch as this meet progresses.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Nighttime Snack: Breaking News

"I'm on a mission.  I don't like watching World Championships on tv and I don't like Rowdy saying Kitajima is the world's best breaststroker."-Brendan Hansen 

Brendan Hansen is back.  We knew this from what we saw in Santa Clara but now it's official.  Hansen swam 1.00.08 in the finals of the 100 breast tonight at Nationals.  Hark, the breaststroke angels sing.

Why This Nationals is Far More Important Than You Think

I hope he's not alone.
I'm writing this on a plane out to Palo Alto. The fact that I'm doing so astounds me. I mean I am LITERALLY flying through the air. This is very cool. As I fly, I'm pondering the fact that many people are viewing this nationals as somewhat of a sideshow in between World Championships in Shanghai and the coming World University Games. Here's why they're wrong.

If you look only at medal count, Shanghai was clearly a success for team USA. After a down performance in 2009 that was primarily blamed on those pesky body suits, the US team won twice as many medals as the 2nd place team (China). In 2009 the US team tallied just 22 medals, in 2011 that number rose to 29. The number rose for several reasons: the US women reasserted themselves in the relays, winning two and taking silver in one after failing to medal in both the 4x100 freestyle and medley relays in Rome. For the men, Ryan Lochte boosted the count by taking on the 200 freestyle and several other role players chipped in.

However, if you look beneath the surface of the meet there are undeniable reasons for concern. All those reasons make this week's national meet, and the subsequent Junior National meet, all the more vital. Here are a few things that worry me as I look across our results:

1. Men's sprinting- What seemed like nothing to worry about twelve months ago suffered a downturn in 2011. Much of this, unfortunately, falls on the shoulders of Nathan Adrian, who was excellent in winning both the 50 and 100 free at last summer's Pan Pacific Championship. This summer was a different story, as Adrian regressed slightly while a younger James Magnussen dramatically vaulted past him.  2011 was also the year that France started showing a bit more of the scary depth they've appeared to have in the last few years.

2. Men's breaststroke- The performance by the male breaststrokers in Shanghai was one of the worst I can remember, Michael Alexandrov failed to make it to the semi-final in the 100 and Gangloff finished last in the final. Shanteau nearly medaled in the 200, but again our second breasttroker failed to make it through to the semi. What's more troubling again is the relative age of the swimmers involved. Germany's Christian vom Lehn is just 19 year old and likely to get significantly better over the next year. Likewise Hungary's Gyurta is still just 22, making him younger than both Keefer and Shanteau.

3. Women's Freestyle- As I've joked about on our facebook page and twitter, the US team is now behind tiny Denmark in every women's freestyle event save the 200 free. This is not good. Part of that has to do with the fact that Missy Franklin hadn't yet emerged as a force when this World team was introduced. She likely would have medaled in the 100 free and given her age should only improve over the next year. Still, Franklin likely won't take on the 400 or 800, where the US has had a serious drought of star power in recent history.

Now here's the good news for fans of America's swim team: we're still on top. The women's team is going to get a nice bump from Franklin. The bad news is that the trend is towards the best swimmers 20 or under being mostly being foreign in men's events. Consider this list of the highest finisher under 20 in each men's Olympic event alongside the fastest American of similar age:

50 Free: 21.96 vs 22.97
100 free: 47.49 vs 50.46
200 Free: 1:44.99 vs 1:49.37
400 Free: 3:43.85 vs 3:52.88
1500 Free: 14:34.15 vs 15:04.84
100 Back: 53.50 vs 54.90
200 Back: 1:57.23 vs 1:58.96
100 Breast 1:01.26 vs 1:01.99
200 Breast: 2:09.06 vs 2:13.53
100 Fly:  52.44 vs 52.21
200 Fly: 1:54.79 vs 1:58.53
200 IM: 1:59.02 vs 2:00.61
400 IM: 4:13.62 vs 4:20.55

As good as David Nolan is, he has to continue to improve rapidly to be competitive The lone faster American male is Tim Phillips in the 100 fly. Many events aren't even close.

Now to be fair, this is comparing performance from this summer to American performance mostly from last summer. But, it should highlight strongly just how far we have to come to keep pace with an ever quickening world.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Gutter Talk: Bodysuits Back in 2013?

SwimNews recently reported that FINA will be revisiting the tech suit issue in 2013 with consideration of equal coverage for men and women with textile fabric being allowed to cover the body from knees to shoulders.  Among other issues, some feel this would be beneficial in that sponsors would be given space to advertise, while others think that covering the male torso will eliminate some of swimming's sex appeal.  


"This is not enough.  All world records should be erased from the books unless they were set in wool body suits.  Period."  Johnny W-  Former World Record Holder.

"No, dude... stick with the brief.  You know you want this!"  Chris D- Swim Blogger
"Advertising space should be a priority if you want to grow the sport.  You might think it's the mustache and the physique, but really chicks dig all the logo's."  Johnny F- NASCAR Driver

"Getting rid of tech suits was just plain unfair to us guys with man-boobs.  I haven't gone a single best time since Rome '09.  Bring them back!"  Brett C- Former Professional Swimmer

"Body suits are a bad idea.  If we all wore two pieces, equal coverage wouldn't be an issue and the sport wouldn't lose all it's sex appeal."  Tito J- Unemployed

"I bet I could make them change their minds..."  Michael P-  World Traveler