Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dear Craig: thanks for plagiarizing. Love, Swimbrief

Here at the swimbrief, we're proud to be a bunch of "blogging blockheads" (is that what he called us?) writing about swimming in our spare time. We know we're not professionals, in fact, we celebrate it. So you can imagine how proud we are this week to have one our posts paraphrased by the foremost journalist in all of swimming: Craig Lord (link to his article). What's that, he didn't even mention us? EVEN BETTER!

The post I am referring to is last week's "neverwet" nanotechnology post by the Screaming Viking. In it, Viking postulated that the next great suit war could be not over material but what is applied to the material, and included four videos showing some pretty crazy applications of hydrophobic spray. Nine days later, Lord put a post on Swimnews postulating that the next great suit war could be over what is applied to the suits, and linked to the same four videos.

The issue of plagiarism is complicated in the digital age. Usually, it works the other way around. Blogging sites like this are accused by established media of stealing articles. It's true that blogs do a lot of their heavy lifting by commenting on already existing articles. Of course, when I use Swimnews for inspiration to write an article, I always include a link to the Swimnews article I'm referring to and usually mention Lord.

The thing is, I'm really not even mad. Craig plagiarizing us is just another sign of the coming tide in swimming coverage. Established media sites like Swimnews and Swimming World Magazine are growing more desperate by the day. In the past, they had a huge advantage- access. When I started following swimming on the internet in the mid 90s, there was literally no other place on the internet for me to find results and read reports from all the various meets across the world.

All that is changing. Now, at many big meets, live webcasts, scoreboards and results mean you can often have the same experience watching the meet at home as you do at the pool. Furthermore, the stars of swimming are often taking to their own blogs or social media to represent themselves without being filtered by traditional media. Blogs grow more popular as people realize it's not great to have your information filtered by organizations that are beholden to this access.

When I got the chance to help Garrett McCaffrey with floswimming a few years back, we often dreamed of what the site could be. We hoped to take it all the way to the top, but it never happened. One of the biggest mistakes I think we made was shooting for access. As we went along it became frustrating that we would never get it- but the truth was we didn't need it. Swimming World and Swimnews can continue to hoard their access, and grow increasingly irrelevant.

So Craig, thanks, we'll take your plagiarism as a huge compliment. If you need any more story ideas, keep reading.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Neverwet: The Product That Could Ruin 2012 Olympic Swimming!

I had two girls standing side by side in LZR Elites this weekend, and one had water beading on it while the other didn't.  One was straight out of the box, and the other had been worn for one previous meet.  They oughtta last longer than that... wouldn't you agree?  They still have great compression after a few swims, but the kids know there is a difference between new and used tech, even after the days of neoprene.

Fabric has to be permeable to get the FINA tag on the butt, and once it has that tag nobody questions whether the suit is legal or not.  But what if you could find a permeable fabric that could be made water repellent after purchase?  Admit it.  Everyone out there knows at least one person who smelled like Rain-X at the big meet.  People have tried it... trust me.

Well, believe it or not, the day has not just come... Science has done better than we could have imagined.  Nanotechnology has evolved to the point that now electronics and even fabrics can be made not just waterproof, but  SUPERHYDROPHOBIC.  There is a big difference between those two terms. I think the big meet just added a new step in preparation:  taper down, shave down, suit up, spray up.

Watch these videos and then please reassure me that FINA is already developing a test for this.  You will see that it does not limit itself to fabric...  it works on skin as well.  And it is not that you just don't get wet:  Water apparently just moves out of your way.   It is invisible and it will be on the market soon.  I am absolutely certain that I am not the first person to have looked into this.  I guarantee that as soon as Yahoo! News broke the story that there will soon be a spray that can waterproof an iphone, all those coaches out there smarter than me were on it and probably got a foot in the door to get their hands on it first for testing.  Check it out.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Coaching Swimming is a Hell of a Drug

Rick James should have tried a conference meet

I was thinking about saving this post for a few weeks from now. I didn't want it to seem boastful or arrogant. That's not my point. My point is: championship season is upon us, and for coaches that means that we are about to get our fix. Inside the coaching community, we often joke about how little we get paid, the weird hours, and the weekends sacrificed. So why would anyone go into (or stay) in this profession? Because coaching swimming is a hell of a drug. 

To explain, I'm going to go back to my own swimming days. By the time you're in college, there's a good chance that your swimming has fallen into a rhythm. You train all year just to go to one, or maybe two or three meets if you're really lucky, and swim a lifetime best. It feels great to swim faster than you ever have before. All that work and it finally paid off. But I can honestly say it doesn't nearly compare to coaching.

When you're a coach, you get that same hit of dopamine from a swimmer achieving their goal. Only its bigger. In my case, I am lucky enough to coach ten swimmers. Many coaches train more. If your swimmers are tearing it up, that could mean you're getting a hit after hit of that sweet, sweet feeling .

I've talked with other coaches about this, trying to figure out what makes the feeling so much better as a coach than as a swimmer. The volume is certainly a factor, but there's more to it than that. I'm sure that some would argue that the person getting the best experience is the swimmer, but I say they're wrong.

If you're a coach you know what I'm talking about. The swimmer takes flight in the race and becomes someone you've never seen before. They are a faster and stronger version of themselves. When they touch the wall, their head whips around to the scoreboard. Then comes that big grin and pure, childlike joy. When you're a coach, you know that you helped someone do that. You have less control over the outcome than the swimmer, and strangely that makes it better. At least, in my opinion it does. 

So I guess that's why this time of year feels like being a little kid waiting for Christmas. You know something good is coming, but the waiting feels like an eternity. You can't wait to rip off that wrapping. I'm just one week away from our women's championship and two from the men's. It's pretty hard to think about anything  else: coaching swimming is a hell of a drug. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Goodbye, Swim School!!!

Sisters racing each other on the last day

It was the end of an era Wednesday night in our household.  18 months after starting my daughters have "graduated" from their swim school.  According to the "criteria" they have met the basics for starting swim team;  they have a basic grasp of all strokes, they can do a reasonable flip turn and dive off the block.  While certainly not ready to be recruited by Bob Bowman for NBAC they have come a long way from paddling around with noodles and I'm really proud.

They're ready for a break.  They're always cold.  Competition pools are not exactly conducive to little kids with BMI's of 1% and Missouri winters are usually not helpful (although this one so far has been mild.)   I told them when they do swim team this summer they'll be warmer.  That was met with great positivity.  I think they'll really like the competition.  I see them "eyeing" the other swimmers they're sharing lanes with.  I know they're thinking, "25y freestyle, meet you on the blocks, homegirl." They're ready to race.

 Most of the kids in swim school don't go onto swim team, I wonder why.  There's no recruiting during lessons.  The coaches never talk to us parents sitting in the stands for lessons before they start their practices.  Come over, introduce yourself.  Shmooze.  We talk about growing the sport, here's a grassroots opportunity.  We're a captive audience.  Come say, "hi," tell us about the swim club and encourage our kids to try out.  If the dance teacher hadn't encouraged me to try out for the disco dancing contest when I was 8 I never would have won and received the top prize, a life-size standing cardboard cut out of Barry Manilow.  Who knows where I'd be today without that opportunity?

I have very fond memories of the pool I learned to swim in.  In fact, when I went back to Chicago this summer I took the girls there.  It looked very similar to the way it was in the 70's.  I wondered if they were still playing "Rumours" over the loudspeakers.  Anyone remember Marathon Bars? ("they last a long, long, long time....")  I used to get one from the snack bar every day.  I got a little emotional.  Even though I never became a competitive swimmer I did teach swimming when I was a teenager and, of course, I love the sport.  I told the girls they'll always remember their "first pool."

So on their last night of lessons we took pictures and then went out for ice cream.  I'm sure they'll be many more pools in their future and I hope they find great joy in the water for the rest of their lives.  Isn't that what every good swim parent wants for their kids?......  Just love it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Is John Leonard Flipping All of Us Off?

Five minutes ago my phone rang. A reader that wishes to remain anonymous directed me to the ASCA homepage ( What I found seemed like a practical joke. Posted on 2/1/2012 was a "Workout Wednesday" from Bryan Woodward, the (former) head coach of the Gator Swim Club who was arrested more than three weeks ago in a sting operation against child predators.

So it begs the question, is John Leonard just giving us all the finger? After all, this is the same guy who has proudly displayed Paul Bergen and Mitch Ivey in a photo album on the same site. He seems to celebrate defiantly the coaching careers of men who have come into disrepute as of late. I don't know why Leonard continues to keep those coaches in the album. If I had to guess, it would be because he doesn't believe the charges that have been leveled against them. He probably believes he has enough gray area to celebrate Bergen and Ivey. I certainly don't.

In Woodward's case, Leonard either has to be totally ignorant of what has happened with Woodward, or totally defiant. I'm not sure which is worse. Woodward's arrest was well publicized, and if the leader of the biggest swim coaches organization in the country didn't know about it, that is a serious problem. If he knew and decided to go ahead with it anyway, that's a bigger problem. 

In order for swimming to get better, we need a massive change in our culture surrounding abuse. That's extremely hard when the power players, John Leonard as exhibit A, don't seem to understand or even recognize the problem. Leonard had no problem getting on his high horse to save us all from "the suits". He had no problem railing on FINA for not involving "coaches" (him or his friends) vote in FINA. But when it came to children being abused by their coaches, Leonard has been totally silent. What kind of leadership is that? Worse yet, Leonard seems to act with impunity from USA Swimming, who despite whatever they say, have a mutually lucrative partnership surrounding coach certification with ASCA that they aren't willing to put before this issue. 

As if the workout wasn't offensive enough, it's accompanied by a photo of children with American flags that indicates to me this was some sort of 9/11 tribute (9x1100 is the set). I'm sure that in some way Leonard believes that putting kids through what is an absolutely terrible swim practice is a fitting tribute to all those affected by the worst day in recent American history. Could he be more out of touch?