This week’s BSN Sports Swim Team of the week is the Riptide Swim Team, which is located in Apple Valley, Minnesota and is the largest swim team in the state. We’ve been seeing a lot of great swimmers come out of Minnesota recently, and Riptide is a big part of the reason for that.
Riptide is a 2017 & 2018 USA Swimming Silver Medal Club. It’s only been in existence since 2012, but has rapidly grown in both size and prominence. Today it has over 575 swimmers, ranging from brand new swimmers to teenage athletes who are making an impact on the international level.
Just a few days ago, Riptide swimmer Regan Smith broke her own world junior record in the 100 backstroke while competing at the Bloomington Pro Swim Series stop. Smith is a member of the USA National Team, and will be representing Team USA in the 200 back at this summer’s World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea.
Mike Parratto is the head coach for the Riptide, and has over three decades experience on the deck, during which time he’s coached numerous athletes, including USA Olympian Jenny Thompson, one of the most decorated athletes in Olympic history. He was on the USA coaching staff for last summer’s Pan Pacific Championships, where Smith won a bronze medal in the 200 backstroke.
BSN Sports Team Ambassador Jessica Hardy spoke with Parratto to get his take on what makes Riptide so special, as well as some of his thoughts on coaching in general.
Asked to describe his coaching philosophy, Parratto described how he pulls together various ideas and styles as he approach’s the team training plan.
I don’t have one exact philosophy. I try to use everything under the sun. USRPT for example. Every kind of training has value to it. I don’t use that exclusively, but we try to hit everything. We do endurance, IM swimming, skill sets, as much as we can weekly. I use everything at my disposal, make it fit into my team plan, and try to perfect that as I go through a season.
Still, Parratto knows that no matter how perfect the training plan is, team’s success is going to depend just as much on attitude and culture as the X’s and O’s of training.
Team culture is something we’re constantly working on. There is never a time where you can be satisfied with it. You want to make it as strong as you can, day in and day out. Culture defines who you are as a team, club, & program.
You want to be on top of things as much as you can, make sure your swimmers know what you’re working on. How you set your team up, your expectations that you have for them. I think swimmers like that a lot better.
Like many other club teams, Riptide serves a wide variety of ages and skill levels. Still, having swimmers who are known nationally, or even internationally, could potentially cause some challenges, but Parratto has had plenty of experience in this regard.
We keep most of our swimmers with their age group friends, over the years I’ve had exceptions. I’ve had 12 year old’s in my senior group, they were sometimes better than the rest of the kids in the group, but I didn’t want them to do senior level swimming. Keep progressing, keep a high ceiling in their training, and then I’d send them off to my wife in the diving well, spend time away from what we were doing with the rest of the group to put a limit on their yardage. I’ve been lucky with swimmers who have a lot of support. You’re always going to have kids that are a little more talented, and I think sometimes, that it can be a mistake to push them a little too fast. You can keep them with their group, they can develop, move them up in a few years with a few friends, so they enjoy the experience. That’s important if you want to keep swimmers around in the long run.
That’s one of the lessons Parratto has learned in his years of coaching, but it’s by no means the only one, and he explained how he has seen himself grow as a coach over the years.
As a younger coach I really wanted everything to be as absolute as possible. I’d get upset about everything that was off. An example: our pool was closed for some reason, or thunder would keep us out of an outdoor pool & I’d get upset that our training program had been comprised. Now, I take things the way they are, & adjust for tomorrow. Things are meant to happen, adjust them and make them as best as you can. Relax a little bit and understand that these things happen. If I’ve grown, it’s to be a little more relaxed & figure things out as they come.
Parratto knows that while he’s grown a lot, there is also more to learn.
I think what’s important is that coaches need to continually learn, you can’t just sit and lean on what you’ve done in the past. Continually improve, adjust. At the end of every season, we try to evaluate what we’ve done, I keep what it like, I subtract what I don’t think we need to use the next year, and then add new things that will improve us. The next 5 years will continue what we’ve done throughout my career, adjust, improve and learn. There’s a lot of info out there, share ideas, there’s a lot of ways to grow and I think that I will be doing the same thing that I’ve always done that way.
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