Tuesday, October 28, 2014

In the Interest of Accuracy We Offer the Following

And we freely admit to “knowing for certain” very few things. Thanks to Asher for helping correct us on this one.

David Berkoff
Personal information
Full name
David Charles Berkoff
(1966-11-30) November 30, 1966 (age 47)
Abington, Pennsylvania
5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
154 lb (70 kg)

Bernal's Gator Swim Club
College team
Medal record[show]

David Charles Berkoff (born November 30, 1966) is an American former competition swimmer, Olympic champion, and former world record-holder. Berkoff was a backstroke specialist who won a total of four Olympic medals during his career at two different Olympic Games. He is best known for his powerful underwater start, the eponymous "Berkoff Blastoff".
At the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, he won a gold medal by swimming the backstroke leg for the winning U.S. men's team in the men's 4x100-meter medley relay. Individually, he also won a silver medal by placing second in the men's 100-meter backstroke event.
Four years later at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, Berkoff earned another gold medal by swimming for the winning U.S. team in the preliminary heats of the men's 4x100-meter medley relay. He also won a bronze medal by placing third in the 100-meter backstroke.
Berkoff was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an "Honor Swimmer" in 2005.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

What is the Next Big Breakthrough? There may actually be more than one

It occurs to us as we watch our sport progress that most everyone now fully acknowledges that underwater dolphin kicking is extremely fast and therefore a beneficial skill to possess and refine. Upon reflection it is perplexing that it took “us” – the collective sport – the better part of 30 years to come to this realization. It is especially confounding when we all saw it with our own eyes or via the image on the TV screen.
DavidBerkoff, trained by Joe Bernal, won the 1988 Olympic 100 backstroke title dolphin kicking underwater for the overwhelming majority of both laps. There was no mistaking his prowess. We are told by Joe that in college (he went to Harvard) David kicked a 50  in a free relay underwater in the low 20 point range, maybe it was even 19 high – we cannot remember…and it – the time – doesn’t matter. What matters is that this athlete demonstrated a better (faster) way to “skin the cat”.
Now the whole world buys it. In the last decade or two several dozen athletes bought in but still the masses wouldn’t allocate the resources to acquiring this skill. What resources you may ask…simple…spend the time learning how to do it; then commit to doing it in a race.
So many coaches are preoccupied with building aerobic bases that they will not allocate the time to developing this critical skill. But wait, when you hold your breath under water for ½ a lap – every lap – you are actually building your aerobic capacity AND refining your dolphin kicking prowess…two birds with one stone; nice!
So what are coaches and swimmers going to be saying, “We need to do this” in the next 10-30 years? If you as a coach or swimmer can identify that one (or more) item(s) you will be a trend setter instead of a follower. We have been both and the former is much preferred. It gives you an edge. In the world of competition, edges make a huge difference.
We know you are out there, reading this. If you will share your thoughts, we will publish them anonymously, in hopes of stimulating a major positive breakthrough. One of the most significant positive attributes about our sport is the willingness to share. Let’s see if we can do so with this question as the cornerstone of the discussion…
What is next?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Food for Thought

We went to the ASCA World Clinic in Jacksonville and came home with many notes jotted hurriedly at the moment of inspiration. Some of these notes make more sense now after 5 plus weeks of reading and re-reading…some make less sense. Fortunately in both cases verification or clarification can be had at a rather reasonable price from the ASCA web site.
Our apologies to the sources if we misspeak; it is unintended…
Gregg Troy: there are very few things in life where if you put in less time you get improved results. We work in a delayed gratification sport, in a short term gratification world. Girls between the ages of 12 and 14 – give them everything they can handle. THE learning moment; tell them the truth at the biggest moment of disappointment – meaning at the meet. If you don’t repeat a specific workout, how can you possibly evaluate if it was good or not? Getting ready for a meet: rest either 3 days or 3 weeks – in between that, nothing good happens.
Kirk Grand: we didn’t hear the entire presentation, came in late. We will buy this talk; it may be the most important one given…”Limits to Superior Performance” – about the brain, how it functions, how it processes information. Keep the brain quiet in big spots (races). The “Last Chance” meet vs. the First Chance meet. This guy is really smart, imo.
Paul Yetter: value of hard work; praise and value attitudes over statistics; find ways to coach everyone well; what you say matters…might be better to hold your tongue.
David Marsh: win something every day, even if it is only the warmup. Use vertical kicking for rest period – i.e. 100’s on the 1:20 do vertical kicking during the rest phase. Not my “best time” (which is my “old time”) rather what’s my “next time” (goal time).
Steve Bultman from Texas A&M: when a swimmer takes their training to the next level their times will follow; it is just a matter of when.
Bill Wadley: our job is to lift them up, get them to believe they can do something they haven’t done before; ask them, “how many of you are more confident today than say 2 years ago?” We forget how far we have come. If at first you don’t succeed, try something harder.
Dave Durden: his program is senior driven – each senior has a role. Training – win the day, as in “win the travel day” - win whatever day it is. Debrief from last year. Take a fall break of 4 days…plan it, calendar it, tell everyone…plus take “4 hour vacations” now and then. Help freshman learn how to practice and how to manage a season…have patience with them.
Dave Krotiak: allow kids to grow “into” their sport. Get the athlete to understand what we want from them. Make sure your body is always moving forward in the water. Be conscious of the exhale. Start with the goal and work backward to today to figure out what needs to be done. A set of 25’s at 200 pace with specific stroke counts…Cordes was 14 high to 15.0 with two strokes after the pull through…amazing to watch.
Mike Bottom: change is critical. When we teach a life lesson under stress, the lesson tends to stick. Make decisions based on principle vs. on convenience, rules or circumstance. Honor your traditions – and we – coaches – build them; don’t let the swimmers build the traditions. Take club kids to local college meets, this helps build enthusiasm for the club programs. Need to make motivation synonymous with volition.
Bill Boomer: the 20th century swimmers were surface warriors; in the 21st century they are/will be sub-surface warriors.
Matt Kredich: inhaling is about survival in the moment, exhaling is about survival in the future.
George Kennedy: 90% of teams underperform. Sleep is huge – if you have 2 days with 6 to 6.5 hours of sleep you need 5 days to recover…so a really good cycle might be 2 days on and 1 day off – would take some real courage to see if that is true!
Also, some of the more valuable information got exchanged in the hallways, at lunch or dinner, ok – at the bar…our favorite was…source unnamed, “why do we seem to ask questions that we think we already know the answers to?”
Thanks to John Leonard, Guy Edson and the whole staff of ASCA for keeping this stimulating exchange moving forward. We love that our sport is so open when it comes to sharing information.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Overcoming Fear

When a swimmer stands alone on the block with a lot riding on the outcome of a race one thing that absolutely must vanish is fear. Coaches are constantly working with their athletes in all sports to assist them in putting the result out of their mind so as to free them to do what they have trained their bodies to do. If you plan on being among the best at what you do you must devise a strategy for setting fear aside.
The following comes from Ken Bokelund who is a highly accomplished rock climber. This passage is in Shattered Air by Bob Madgic. It is a true account of catastrophe and courage on Yosemite’s Half Dome.
“Climbing for me has always been the strength of the body over the weakness of the mind. If you train so that you are very strong physically and you have mastered the techniques, then all that’s left is believing. Freeing your mind of fear is the key. This is very difficult to do, but when you can achieve it, then you are in true harmony with the rock. Fear is just one more thing to worry about and is very distracting. It can make you fall.
What sometimes happens when fear enters the climber’s mind is sewing-machine leg – a leg that starts shaking out of control. It happens to all climbers at one time or another and obviously is very dangerous when one is clinging to the side of a rock. But when you know you are strong enough to complete any maneuver, once that level of physical confidence is achieved, then you are able to put fear out of your mind. Climbing becomes a very simple pleasure. It’s just you and the rock. It’s a total clarity of being, a time when nothing matters, you’re moving without any thought, you’re in a place where time stands still. Even when you’re on a wall for days, when you get down, everything seems exactly the same, as though time never passed.”
If his analysis is correct – and our recent study on the subject of flow in sports suggests it is – then our training must absolutely give us command of our physicality and technique. As coaches we can then plan our training sessions with those two twin pillars of success…get the athlete into such great shape that s/he knows the race is much easier than anything they have already done and also get their technique where it needs to be automatically under any condition.
Fear often comes from uncertainty. Work diligently to obliterate uncertainty and fear will evaporate.
See you at the next meet to witness our progress!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Relationship between Fun, Training and Success

On our team like all others we have swimmers who are doing their best to figure out this sport. All want to swim fast and want to have fun doing it at the same time. The issue is how to get both of these things while dealing with the training and time and effort it takes to do that training.

While not professing to have the absolute answer to this, I believe that fun changes over time depending on your age. What is fun for a 6 year old in this sport is not what is deemed as fun to a teenager….and that is the way it should be.  6 year old swimmers should be all about the joys of swimming with little to do with actual training other than learning the proper skills of the sport. We are lucky to have most coaches in our sport understand this and show the patience to allow the young swimmer to develop at the proper speed. Because of this the successful 6 to 8 year old swimmer will be the one with the most natural ability (plus having some size to them also helps).

But things begin to change as kids get into their middle age group years. Suddenly it becomes more important for the swimmer to train at a certain level in order to have success. Natural ability is still a piece of the pie, but a much smaller one than when the swimmer was younger. Those swimmers that never develop a training ethic have much trouble through this transition. They liked the days of showing up and having success with little investment. Without learning that ethic they will often leave the sport prematurely.
On our team we do what we can to help our swimmers through this transition. Our ultimate goal is to teach them the joys of challenging themselves in their training. I believe the education of how to do that has as much value as what you can often get in a classroom as learning to stretch yourself and the work ethic it teaches can last a lifetime. The added benefit is that through their work they have a better chance for “results” (although the work itself is a big part of the success).  The reward of doing something that makes you happy even one that tests you daily keeps you coming back for more even when the results are not there.

 Intrinsic rewards…a big part of a swimmer for life!

(Another gem from the pen of Ken…)