David Marsh is one of the most successful coaches in the history of the sport of swimming.
One of the reasons for his success is his ability to develop an environment of excellence and a winning culture. Marsh was the Head Coach at Auburn University from 1990 to 2007. In that time his teams won 17 SEC titles as well as seven men’s and five women’s NCAA Division I Championships.
In 2007 he left Auburn to take over the SwimMac Mecklenberg Swim Club. During his nine years there he built a power house club team and the first USA Swimming Center of Excellence, now known as Team Elite. While in Charlotte he coached 15 American Swimmers onto three Olympic teams. He also coached swimmers who earned 38 National Championships, 27 Junior National Championships and 233 Academic All-Americans.
Marsh left Charlotte this summer to take the job as Head Coach of the University of California San Diego. He is now in the process of building an environment of excellence in one of the most fantastic places in America.
When visiting San Diego I got a chance to sit down with Coach Marsh to discuss his keys to building a winning culture.
Where ever he has been creating a place in which swimmers have a true belief in the outcome has been a huge factor. The belief comes first, then you can fill in the process.
Many feel that belief is something that comes naturally to many of the best, but Marsh believes that it can be learned. Many times it is instilled by a club coach who sits down with a swimmer and genuinely expresses their belief in them.
He also knows that belief can be developed at the college level having seen it happen many times throughout his coaching career.
Just like belief, some are predisposed to have the focus and determination that will not let anything stand in their way on the path to their goals. Just like belief, Marsh knows grit is something that can be learned and developed.
He describes the successful swimmers he has coached as having “eyes of fire”.
He defines grit by arriving ready at all times, especially when not feeling at your best, being willing to put in the extra work and loving the process.
Marsh believes that his swimmers at UC San Diego have that mindset when it comes to academics. Now it is his job to translate that mindset to the pool.
The love Marsh talks about comes in many forms. Love for the sport. Love for your teammates. Love for your support network.
Marsh will talk to his swimmers about falling in love with a sport where they control the outcome. He uses the examples of Rowdy Gaines and Ryan Lochte who seemingly can’t live without being in the water.
Creating an environment at the pool with your teammates where you have a strong bond and appreciation for each is another expression of that love. Having that initial bond and growing closer with challenges that are put in front of them is a huge part of the process.
Finally having gratitude and recognizing everyone who does and has supported you in your journey is extremely important. Recognizing that without your family, friends, coaches and teammates, you would not be successful.