This weekend I attended my first swim clinic, the Ohio Swimposium put on by Kast-A-Way Swimwear, Inc. I was a little nervous at first, and a little scared, because I thought that I would have to wear a polo shirt. Glenn assured me that the polo wouldn’t be necessary. I actually got a chance to unveil the new Go Swim T-shirt, which got rave reviews. The reason that I was able to attend was because Glenn was the featured speaker for the folks at Zura.
We flew into Columbus on Friday during the day, and spent a little time touring around. Columbus is a happening place; I can only imagine what it would be like during a game at the Horseshoe. We checked into our hotel with enough time to shower before heading out to a campfire with the Zura team.
Before we went out, we went down to the lobby to hang out for a bit. In the lobby Glenn started talking to Pete, whom I assumed was associated with the swimposium. As the conversation progressed I gathered that he was Pete Malone, Head Coach of the Kansas City Blazers. The conversation was casual with the usual talk about swimming, and how he was preparing to be the Head Coach of the USA Short Course Worlds Team in Indianapolis in early October. It took a second for that to register: Head Coach of the USA National Team. It usually takes things a little longer to sink with me, because I am just a slow person, but it was the nonchalantness of it. Pete was just a regular guy sitting down having a chat with Glenn and some other regular guys, and I was just some guy listening in. That is it. He didn’t have any airs about him. It seemed that he was interested in what Glenn had to say, especially when the conversation shifted to his bikes. He has two BMW motorcycles that he takes cruising. We were there for about 15 minutes before we had to meet our crew and head off. We parted ways and said we would see him tomorrow.
Next stop was cookout time with the Zura crew. It was great to just sit around a fire and talk about some nonsense, and ridiculous websites. I got a chance to learn a bit about one of the companies that is pushing the envelope in swim equipment design. At the end of the night, the campfire scene ended up feeling a lot like blazing saddles. We headed back to the hotel so that Glenn could get his beauty sleep for his big deck talk.
This clinic started with a pool session conducted by all of the presenters. First on the list was Glenn, coaching turns and pullouts to a bunch of age-group swimmers. Glenn was introduced by Bill Wadley, the Ohio State Men’s Coach. Bill Wadley was a coach at Alabama while Glenn was there. It turns out that Bill was in charge of watching Glenn when he was being recruited so that no other coaches would talk to him. I was starting to get the picture that Glenn knows everyone in the swimming world. I think that my bias would show if I evaluated Glenn’s presentation. Anyone who has ever seen Glenn speak in front of a crowd knows how good he is, and if you haven’t I suggest you do.
After Glenn, Pete Malone taught starts and the underwater swimming segment. During his talk he mentioned some of the achievements that he has had throughout his coaching career. I won’t list them here because this article would be ten pages long, but here is a link to his team website so that you can see for yourself (Kansas City Blazers). During his talk and demonstration Pete emphasized one point about coaching that I took to heart, and that I have tried to do with my athletes up to this point. He talked about the value of educated swimmers. “It isn’t enough for swimmers to be able to do what you ask. They have to know why they are doing it.” He even went so far as to say that when his swimmers finish with his program, they know it better than he does. He said that they are the ones who are the true innovators and they end up teaching him. So this is the same regular guy who is the National Team Coach, now giving credit to the athletes and not to himself.
The afternoon was full of meet and greets, followed by lectures at the hotel. Having dreaded lectures during my academic career, I was only half looking forward to these. So I decided that I was going to give it a shot and if it was boring I would just go back out to the booth and pump up the product. The first talk I went to was Glenn’s. It might have just been the Drill of the Week CDs that he was giving away, but the crowd was into it. Pete Malone was on after Glenn, and, based on what I had heard from him so far, it was worth checking out. I decided that I was not going to take any notes because I hated doing that when I was in school. I ended up taking notes on my phone, because there was so much information that I didn’t want to lose. One thing that struck me was that he was just scraping the surface of what he truly knows about the sport of swimming. He talked about the importance of setting goals and dedicating yourself to them. When he was done I was so motivated that I went back and wrote out a five-year plan for myself.
After Pete’s talk, which was the final for the day, we headed out for dinner with team Zura and some people from Kast-A-Way. It was funny to listen to people who have known Glenn longer than I have been alive. I don’t think I stopped laughing until dinner was over. When we got back to the hotel, Ernie Maglischo, Roque Santos, and some other coaches were sitting around a table in the lobby. Of course it was another group of people that Glenn knew, so we sat and they talked and I listened for a while. They were just talking about the old days of mustaches and head-up breaststroke. Then I thought for a second. Ernie Maglischo has twice as many years of coaching experience as I do years alive. It was late so we headed off for the night.
The final day was an abbreviated speaking day highlighted by Ernie Maglischo’s talk. It was a talk on shoulder adduction and what he thought was the key to swimming fast. He used a series of slides from various swimming legends past and present. Even with all of his experience, he started every point with it “appears to me that….” He never once said this is the way it is because I am right. This is someone who knows more about swimming than 99.99% of the world. He admittedly doesn’t know everything and said that he has been wrong about some of the things that he had believed in the past.
Glenn had one final talk, which had a special guest appearance from his mother. She told me stories from Glenn’s childhood while we sat and listened to his speech. The crowd was more than attentive; they were rolling out of their seats. When you are around Glenn every day, you kind of forget that he is who he is. The other presenters were probably no different, just regular guys who happen to know quite a bit about swimming.
If you are a young coach and debating whether to go to one of these clinics or not, do it. You don’t have to take notes, there isn’t a test, and you get a chance to just sit and listen. It puts a human face on the people you read about, and the people whose books you have read. More than likely you won’t have the golden ticket that I had being there with Glenn, but you will be able to see and hear greatness from regular guys.