In the past 3 months, we’ve seen an epic slew of swimmers in the United States changing teams. I don’t know it for a fact, but the number of National Teamers who have switched teams less than 18 months from an Olympiad might be historic. It started when Peter Vanderkaay moved from Ann Arbor to Gainesville to train with Ryan Lochte, and the most recent splash made by Mike Alexandrov taking his talents, and his brocabulary, to Southern California and the Trojan Swim Club.
Each announcement has been interesting for it’s own set of unique circumstances (training groups, change of scenery, love), but in an interview with Peter Busch on Swimming World’s Morning Swim Show the other day, sprint star Kara Lynn Joyce made perhaps the most intriguing move yet. She will be leaving the National Center for Excellence at FAST (which has been the destination of many of the moves) to train with Missy Franklin and the Colorado Stars. Yes, that’s correct, a 25-year old is moving to train with a 15-year old.
The dynamic of this move is unlike any of the others we’ve seen. FAST was not an ideal fit for Joyce as the only sprinter with a bunch of mid-to-distance swimmers. She was basically training on her own. But she decided to basically move to train with an Age Group and High School program that has no real post-grad training group.
Obviously, this situation will be a positive for Stars coach Todd Schmitz and Missy Franklin. Joyce’s maturity and experience will bring a level of professionalism to the elite training environment in Denver. And the Stars are certainly in the top 10 under-18 training programs in the country (along with maybe NBAC, SwimMAC, Palo Alto, and a few others). But they are also one of the only teams mentioned at the top that doesn’t have a reputation on the post-grad level (Hershey PA falls into this category too).
With that being said, the group of female sprinters they have verges upon what many top post-grad programs could offer, especially on the women’s side, despite their ages. Take a look at their top LCM sprinters from 2010-2011, who will make up Joyce’s training group, along with ages those times were swum at:
Kara Lynn Joyce (24.86-24 years old)
Missy Franklin (25.26-15 years old)
Zach Suter (25.52-15 years old) Male
Kelly Naze (26.52-16 years old)
Stuart Hennessey (26.71-15 years old) Male
Caroline Piehl (26.81-17 years old)
Matthew Ammon (26.93-17 years old) Male
Painton Spencer (27.02-14 years old) Male
The Stars also have the top-4 100 freestylers from the state of Colorado (at any age) from last year, in Franklin, Piehl, Jordan Mattern, and Naze-all of whom are better than 57.5’s in LCM. And if Joyce wants to get in some cross training, take note that Franklin, who is an above-average butterflier at the elite level, isn’t even the best butterflier on her team. In fact, it’s not even close. Her teammate Kelly Naze swam a 58.79 in the 100 fly at US Nationals last year, where she won the B-final.
So Schmitz does certainly have the ability to train top-flight sprinters at young ages. He has been honored as such several times, including three Colorado Swimming Coach of the Year awards in the past 3 seasons, and USA Swimming’s 2010 Developmental Coach of the Year. But these are a bit of uncertain waters for Schmitz. (Someone correct me if I’m wrong), but it doesn’t appear as though Schmitz had much experience working with swimmers of Joyce’s age.
It will be an interesting dynamic. This is not to say that Schmitz can’t handle it, but he is in his early 30’s (graduated college in 2001). That makes him and Joyce effectively peers in the world sense, as compared to the authority figure he has over his high school and age group swimmers. By all accounts, both he and Joyce are great people, and easy to get along with, but there’s no question that he’ll have to tweak his motivational tactics to work with Joyce. It’s by no-means undoable (almost every great coach made that jump at some point in their career), but it will surely be another big step in his evolution as a coach.
If this experiment is successful, there could be other sprinters following Joyce to the Mile-High city. Denver already has the built-in advantage of altitude training year-round, and has a culture (similar to Austin) that would appeal to many young swimmers. Women’s swimming is desperately in need of a good sprint group to congregate at. The closest thing they have is probably the Bay Area programs at Cal and Stanford, but there’s nothing even close to the scale of Auburn, Arizona, Cal and SwimMAC that the men have.