Monday, December 11, 2017


Experiencing worry, unease, or nervousness, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome…wanting something very much, typically with a feeling of unease
While in Iowa City at the Winter Junior Nationals we had an “ah-ha” moment. The air in the natatorium was decent but not perfect. Several swimmers had some difficulties breathing, especially as the days went by. Many had little or no irritation. It was difficult to say exactly who was affected and who wasn’t. For sure some were not, or figured out how to deal with the air. Several meet records were broken and even 2 or 3 pool records were set. It was a very fast meet, for many events.
And yet there was this “static” in the background about the air. One of our swimmers came up before an event on the last day with a rather panicked look saying, “I don’t think I can swim.” The statement was made because the swimmer had been around several other competitors who were coughing and complaining about how hard it is to breathe. Long story short, our swimmer swam 2 events that day and managed to deal with it. But it wasn’t easy by any means. Fears and doubts needed to be overcome and “group think” had to be put aside.
In talking about this with two other coaches later that session one of them said he worked and taught in the field of mental health. He said today’s youngsters have much higher levels of anxiety and even depression than was evident in a generation or two gone by. He said it was because today kids are not taught how to figure out rather common causes of “fears”. This can even lead to more general levels of depression. His take was that since parents today don’t let their kids learn how to deal with normal stresses they – the kids – learn how to become anxious thus creating a situation where the parent will intervene to make everything ok.
We thought about this a while and concluded that our parents never, ever, said all they wanted was for us to be happy. In fact we couldn’t ever remember hearing that phrase. Yet today we can easily recall parents saying, “All I want is for her to be happy”. Or “I just want him to be ok”.
When stressors make life difficult, kids need to figure out how to deal with the bumps in the road and make adjustments, without simply saying “I’m having a panic attack” so as to call in the reinforcements.
In the case in Iowa, there were several options everyday…an athlete’s lounge with excellent air; a leisure pool adjacent to the main pool with air noticeably better, an open gym above the main pool with sight lines to the pool and scoreboard so you could see exactly which heat was in the water. There were options. Many figured that out and chose those options and while yes, being bothered by the air, they weren’t thrown into a state of “paralysis” by it.
We – parents and coaches – need to let the kids know we are standing by as a safety net. And yet, we cannot, nor should we, solve all of life’s challenges for them.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Words of Wisdom

The American Swimming Coaches Association is the single best and greatest resource for the aspiring coach. If you haven’t joined you are missing out on a continual source of vital information. Just Google ASCA… and go from there.
In the course of reorganizing the home office we saw in a 2013 Newsletter with an article by world renowned and respected Bill Sweetenham entitled “Uncomplicated Coaching”.
A couple of gems from that article:
“If you fly blind, disaster is assured, so knowledge is important; knowledge of the product…a guy getting out of bed and a sign that says – first your pants and then your shoes. The coach’s experience must always be in advance of the athlete’s talent.”
[Got a young phenom on your team?…better stay ahead of his/her talent…or he/she will move to another team]
“Too many people believe; well, I can train this way but when it comes to competition I will rise above it. The exact reverse applies. You will never compete above that level”
“Squads should have athletes training and preparing at a level of effort and commitment higher than the most talented in the group.”
3 gems that can reshape your career – athlete or coach. Thanks Bill and we just got a good idea for this week’s training. Thanks ASCA for making the wisdom available!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Do Everything Right

MEXICO CITY — Before this season began, the Raiders, coming off a 12-win season and loaded on offense, were a trendy pick to possibly unseat New England atop the AFC.
In the wake of his team’s 33-8 loss to the Patriots on Sunday, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr stood at a podium in the shadow of Azteca Stadium and acknowledged the standard still being set by the defending Super Bowl champions.

“They don’t do anything special, they just do everything right,” Carr said. “You sit there in the first half and they don’t have any turnovers, I don’t think they had a penalty. They do the little things right. And it starts in the offseason; it starts with the culture in their room and their building and all those kinds of things.

“It’s something that we’re building. It’s something that we’re striving toward, that efficiency and all those kinds of things. But obviously, we have a long way to go.”

As a swimmer and/or a swimming coach Carr’s comments hit the nail squarely on the head. “Do everything right” is a very demanding, tough task. But if you want to be the very best at whatever you do then this is what you must do.

So many people, regardless of their chosen path, are willing to do some things right. A smaller percentage are willing to do many things right. A very few are willing to “do everything right”; those that choose that difficult, demanding and at times daunting path are rewarded greatly.

As Ken says, there are three groups of people (swimmers on your team): 1 – those on the bus; 2 – those standing at the bus stop deciding if they want to take the ride; 3 – those who don’t even know there is a bus…

David Carr + Ken DeMont = 2 smart guys

Thanks to Matt Kawahara of SF Chronicle for the coverage of Derrick Carr

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Short Swimmer’s Quiz

1 - Which is more important?
A) genes        B) hard work            C) feel for the water
2 – A swimmer benefits most by the coach yelling out during a race          
A) kick            B) race           C) tempo       D) all of the above   E) none of the above
3 – Which is more important to a successful outcome?
A) tempo        B) distance per stroke                    C) all of the above
4 – In preparing for the big meet, in descending order which is most important?           
A) rest                        B) shave        C) tech suit   D) the breakfast burrito
5 – Thinking about underwater dolphin kicks, which is most important?
A) how far you go     B) how many kicks you take          C) the tempo of your kicks
6 – In a 100 free race which is the most critical for breath holding?
A) lap 1          B) lap 2          C) lap 3          D) lap 4          E) laps 1&4
7 – You are racing outdoors. Which parts of your body lose the most heat?
A) legs           B) arms         C) torso         D) hands, head, feet
8 – Name the swimmer who most inspires you and say why
9 – What is your BIG racing goal for the next 6 months?
10 – What sacrifice will you make to reach that goal?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Keep It Simple

At the US Open in August we saw this brilliant T-Shirt on a man from Texas (UT)…
Whoever put that together should win a medal. The first person who sends me a shirt (I wear extra-large – Don 36 Montego Key, Novato, CA 94949) I’ll send you a $100 bill.
It got us to thinking about simplicity. We have a youngster on our team, an 8th grader named Sydney B, who has some pop in her game. We asked her the other day if she knew she had some skill in our sport. She smiled sheepishly and nodded her head “affirmatively”. We then asked her if she had any “will”.
We said SKILL+WILL = WHAT YOU WANT. In our attempt to keep it simple we reaffirmed that skill is acquired through repetition of correct swimming. The will part comes from each person/swimmer deciding that they want something they don’t have.
This is called a goal…again keeping it simple.
We had a girl this weekend who swam an awesome 500 free. She has tons of skill and is working on the will component. We asked her how come Katie Ledecky swims so fast; there are many skilled swimmers. We asked her to consider Ledecky’s “will” component.
Would really love that T-Shirt J

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Talking Today

Had a chance today to talk with the brothers DeMont – Ken and Rick; as always a fascinating, liberating time. We were free to talk about kids and time and coaching…three topics of main interest in my (Don’s) life.
What happened to free time? Where did it go and why? How come everyone – includes adults as well young ones – has every minute scheduled? Who decided that this was a good idea…and why?
I am of the opinion that when you do not have free time you have no time to touch your wandering mind; the mind that often comes up with really good ideas; the mind that invigorates you; the mind that provides solutions to challenges you face…the list is perhaps endless.
So today and tomorrow and every day after this one I am going to set aside some time – even if only 10 minutes (I am certain I can carve out more) – to allow myself the privilege to “free wheel”…
I am betting it will feel awesome…oh yeah, and be productive since that seems to matter as well J

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A Plug for Process

This sounds like a broken record in many ways but still is worth stating; trust the process and the results will come to you. There are so many examples of this in life. One of the great benefits of sports, particularly our sport of swimming, is that often when you least expect it, success pops up right in front of your eyes.
Swimming is especially blessed since it rewards individual effort with success. Ours is a team sport, make no mistake. The right culture on a team allows all who wish to reap rewards a chance to do that. But as an individual it is YOU who decide if you want to move forward; it is YOU who decides to plug ahead despite adversity; it is YOU who chooses the “harder” path even when others seem to have it “easier” than you do.
Today at the pool we were doing this drill…you all know it well…or some version of it. We call it the 3 second drill. While wearing a snorkel (so you have perfect body position while breathing) you leave your hands extended, one behind you and one in the catch position for 3 seconds. This gives you the opportunity to make certain you have completely finished with the trailing hand while having the leading hand in the correct position – in front of your shoulder with fingertips lower than wrist which is lower than your elbow.
Mia, a younger swimmer and thus certainly not the fastest swimmer in the pool, was doing this very precisely. We had all our kids – 50+ of them – watch as Mia swam a 25 demonstrating proper fingertip position. They loved it and she was beaming. We made the comment that Mia just became a faster swimmer because she is now a better swimmer.
Process = Results - as Steve Bultman, Texas A&M Women’s Coach says - you cannot predict when but the work does pay off.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Buzzer Beater

The other day TK observed this about the proverbial buzzer beater; “If the person or team who needs the buzzer beater spent a little extra time/effort earlier in the game then perhaps the last minute shot to tie or win wouldn’t be necessary.” Who says those of us who are a little older cannot learn from those who are younger?
In basketball (pro season just opened and Kevin Durant missed a game winning buzzer beater at the end of game one – Warriors open their season at 0 and 1) the phrase was coined long ago since those games typically end with a real “buzzer” sounding.
In football we have the last minute field goal attempt as time expires; or a “Hail Mary” pass into the end zone. In baseball it is the “walk off” RBI or homer; in hockey it is pulling the goalie putting six offensive players on the ice leaving your goal exposed; in soccer it is perhaps the penalty kicks…the list goes on in every sport.
In swimming it is the “last chance” meet; the time trial between heats and finals; the swim off; or “Coach, can I lead off the relay?”
As TK observed, if the swimmer had put forth more effort earlier in the season then just maybe the last ditch attempt to get that cut would not be necessary. Perhaps a good phrase in workout might be, “OK, let’s all make this next repeat (which of course wouldn’t be the last one in the set!) today’s “buzzer beater”.
Whadda ya think?

Sunday, October 15, 2017


The word "community" derives from the Old French comuneté, which comes from the Latin communitas "community", "public spirit" (from Latin communis, "shared in common").[4]
Human communities may share intentbeliefresourcespreferencesneeds, and risks in common, affecting the identity of the participants and their degree of cohesiveness

In the United States swimming world we have large and small communities. From the larger USA Swimming organization to the smaller local LSC to the even smaller local swim club we all take some measure of solace knowing we are linked together through a common purpose.
Often we get overly absorbed in our self-importance. This is natural and understandable given the pursuit of achievement our activity engenders: best times, “cuts”, making finals, touching the pad first, being recruited, getting accepted, committing to the college of our (and their) choice. The list is endless, or at least seemingly so most times.
However, often lost in the fray is the humanness of the community in which we reside. Now and then we are acutely reminded that the most important aspect of community is indeed the human connection.
This last week here in Northern California we have received a jolt of reality; swimming is not actually the most important item in our life – let alone how fast we swim. The communities of Sonoma, Santa Rosa, Napa, Calistoga – the list is nearly endless – burned to the ground: Literally.
So many of our swim community have been affected. Loved ones have been lost. Homes and business burned to the ground. It is an ongoing tragedy.
We have not had swim practice for a week. Tough for us but not really. The pools will reopen and the air will be breathable again, sooner than later.
Those who have had their lives turned upside down by the fires are changed forever. We have responded as a larger swim community to those in need. Our hope is that the giving – and the receiving – will remind us that the community is once again – and always – more important than any one of us.
Tough life lesson.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Mom is Making Eggs

A mom is making eggs for her teenage boy for breakfast. As he walks in, “Mom, don’t burn them. Careful! Careful! Don’t mess up, don’t let them burn. You are going to mess up. Be careful! Be careful!”
Finally the Mom snaps. “I know what to do. I’ve cooked eggs before!”
“I know Mom. I was just trying to show you what it’s like when I’m playing soccer”.
We overheard at a meet this weekend a Mom saying, “She added a second” using a tone that you might have thought belonged in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the hurricanes.
And the beat goes on…

Sunday, October 1, 2017

3 Sets

Here are 3 main sets we have done. Our warmups are usually about 1000 yards or so then some sort of warmup set before what is usually a main set. Sometimes there are multiple rounds of the main set. These are ideas you can riff off of to your heart’s content J
Mill Valley Mile – we did 1 round of this short course in the afternoon last summer after long course in the morning
2x25/.25 fast then 2x25/.45 smooth
4x25/.25 fast then 2x25/.45 smooth
6x25/.25 fast then 2x25/.45 smooth
8x25/.25 fast then 2x25/.45 smooth
10x25/.25 fast then 2x25/.45 smooth
8x25/.25 fast then 2x25/.45 smooth
6x25/.25 fast then 2x25/.45 smooth
4x25/.25 fast then 2x25/.45 smooth
2x25/.25 fast…1650 total…a Ken speed set; lots of group energy on this one

IM Round Robin – we did 4 rounds of this last summer in our long course pool which is 40 meters; each round is 20 laps or 800 meters; the interval is 45 seconds per lap
1 lap fly then 4 laps free
2 laps fly to back then 3 laps free
3 laps fly – back – breast then 2 laps free
4 laps IM then 1 lap free…took one hour to do 3200 meters…awesome set from Ken

500 freestylers rule the world – done this fall for our 200/500 group
500/6:30 negative split
300/4 each 100 gets faster
2x100/1:15 progressive (many of you say descend)
2x50/.35 one fast; one faster
300/4 As Above
2x100/1:15 As Above
2x50/.35 As Above
2x100/1:15 As Above
2x50/.35 As Above…2000 yards in @ 27 minutes; we did 3 rounds with a minute rest between rounds…Don prefers things that have descending intervals while swimming faster as you get deeper into the set
Got a favorite set that worked? Share it with us and we’ll push it out for the rest of our sport’s community to benefit from your experience.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Let’s Make Sure Everybody Can Do…

Most coaches seem to have a formula; you know, a way to get everyone into shape so that each swimmer can do the work required to be great…or at least some version of great.
The question still remains, what if everyone is different? How do we then approach our developmental paradigms? Take breaststroke for instance. It has so many various ways that it is nearly impossible to have everyone swim it the same way. Certainly there are some basic “musts” but beyond that the wise coach figures out how to take what the swimmer has and work with that.
Same with conditioning; if your race takes 2 minutes then you need to get in good enough “shape” to be able to deliver the goods for the entire 2 minutes, without a smidgen of let up. Then you need to get control over your brain’s desire to keep you from killing yourself. It wants you to ease up a bit, here and there. You need to control those very real, very natural responses…for the last parts (different amount of time for each swimmer) of those 2 minutes.
When we saw the image below it resonated with us. Perhaps it will for you as well. Have a great workout, a bunch of them, this week!