While swimming around the still looks a lot different than normal due to the effects of COVID-19, we’re still highlighting and celebrating swim teams from across the country. This week’s Team of the Week is Fullerton Aquatics Swim Team (FAST), a year-round USA Swimming club that’s served Southern California since its founding in 1975.
FAST consists of roughly 175 competitive swimmers that train at two different sites, but also hosts swim lessons and a master’s program as well. Over the years, FAST has seen numerous swimmers make an impact on the national and even international, including four-time Olympic gold medalist Janet Evans.
Head coach Brian Brown has led FAST since 2011, and we chatted with him to get his take on what makes FAST special, as well as some of his thoughts on coaching in general.
Brown describes his coaching philosophy simply as:
“Work Works” – This applies to any training philosophy if you touch all four bases – Technique, Endurance, Power and Speed.
In addition to the mantra “Work Works,” one thing that’s evident is that, for Brown and the rest of the FAST coaching staff, trust is a key component of their approach to successful swimming.
FAST athletes and coaches aim to expand their potential. This builds trust in the process.
FAST athletes and coaches have honest interactions. This builds trust in each other.
FAST athletes and coaches challenge themselves daily. Success creates confidence; failure creates composure — both are necessary throughout life. This builds trust in oneself.
Together these characteristics create a respectful, productive environment which nudges everyone to be at their best. Once that chemistry exists, the magic of consistency takes over and great things happen.
One of the best parts of talking with coaches across the country is getting some insight into the different sets that teams like to repeat and the swimmers might considering iconic. Here’s a couple sets that Brown mentioned:
- 3000 for time
- 8 x 50 (or 100, 200, 300, 400 etc.) Descend #1-3, #4-6, #7 Cruise, #8 Move!
Mid-pandemic (we are using a 33.3M course to spread out, so they have done a lot of challenging odd distances):
Multiple rounds of 33s @ :45, :20, :35, :20, :30, :20, :25, :20 (bear in mind that :20 = 1:00 pace). Also, similar sets with 66s and longer.
The swimmers know the weekly training cycle and generally recognize workout themes more than the individual sets, but at the end of a tough week they often ask for Partner Swims – two or more swimmers do multiple repeats relay-style on a challenging interval such as 100s on 1:00 (33M) or 200s of stroke on 2:00 (SCY).
When you’re in a swimming hotbed like Southern California, clubs can feel like a dime a dozen, and the sheer number of choices for swimmers and families informs Brown’s response when we asked him to describe his biggest struggle as a coach, as well as how he’s responded.
Accepting that FOMO is a real thing for people in the information age can be a struggle. There are lots of excellent coaches and programs, so it is usually counterproductive to think the grass is greener somewhere else. Ultimately this mindset is damaging to swimmers, coaches, parents, teams, and the sport. It leads to unnecessary dissatisfaction and begins a cycle that typically ends in underperformance. Observing this can be depressing. To overcome this obstacle, you must be consistent in your actions: stay focused on your athletes, keep leading your team, and continue being respectful of your neighbors. The healthiest and highest-performing swimming environments nationwide are those where the fiercest competition is kept in the water.
Brown has been deck for a while, leading to plenty of great swimming memories, but in his mind, the best memories don’t necessarily have to come only from the “highest-performing” swimmers.
It is certainly special when you have swimmers qualify for the highest level – the World Championships or National/Junior Team – but the strongest memories inevitably involve someone overperforming. It can happen at any level. It can be a tight race won by an awesome finish, a dream time standard finally attained, or an impossible set that gets fully completed in practice. These instances are the most memorable because you know that you made a difference for someone who trusted your guidance.
FAST is one of 3,000 swim clubs in the United States. How can we grow that number and promote the sport?
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