Chuck Warner, the author, is a coach and an old friend. Thoughtful and passionate about the sport, he has studied the details behind what it takes to achieve swimming excellence.
Did you every start to make brownies, cookies or a cake? Where did you go for information to start? In my experience the source of information for getting started is from someone’s experience in the past. In our kitchen we have a big handy cook book with loads of recipes and also an occasional family “hand-me-down” from our mother. This column is intended to also be “hand-me-down” information or lessons that we can use from people that have achieved excellence in the past.
My personal search for “Swimming Excellence” began when I was a thirteen year old swimmer and decided that I wanted to become a coach. After forty years of coaching, having some success and writing two books, I want to share with you Lessons From Legends, thoughts that may help you as a swimmer, parent, coach or fan to become more fulfilled in your experience in the sport of competitive swimming and its effect on your life.
A good place to start is to understand there is a big difference between an “excellent swim” and achieving “swimming excellence.” The former is by chance. The second is by design. The former may never happen again. The second is a method that you can use to continue to have success in swimming. It is also a method you can transfer into your achievement in school, in life, in your career or in your family.
In 1988, at the Seoul Olympics, Matt Biondi’s achievement of “swimming excellence” produced five gold medals, two silver medals and one bronze medal. Matt has described his “process for excellence” as:
- Skill Acquisition
- Skill Refinement
The most highly achieving backstroker in the history of the world, Aaron Peirsol, wrote an article about Matt a few years ago. He pointed out that at the Texas Swimming Center most of the pool records have been rewritten many times over the last quarter century. But the 100-meter freestyle record set by Matt Biondi at the 1988 Olympic Trials of 48.4 still adorns that record board. Matt did it in a brief suit. For all these years that record has withstood the challenge of great swimmers who wore jammers, leg suits and full body suits with the advantages of increased buoyancy and compression. Matt Biondi is a Legend and one who offers us many lessons. One of the most important ones is the power of having your own personal system to achieve “Swimming Excellence.”
The first chapter of “…And Then They Won Gold” is devoted to Matt’s career and articulating this process. Today he is chairman of the math department for his school district in Hawaii passing on his process for excellence to his students and fellow teachers.
This is what Matt looked like at the 1988 Olympics winning the 100-meter freestyle. Look at his skill development. Matt was a ‘nobody’ his first two years of high school. But he stuck with his “process for excellence” even when nothing seemed to be working to develop his skills while he began to dream of being the fastest swimmer in the world.
…In 1986 Matt Biondi split 40.98 on the Cal 400 medley relay. Did anyone swim that fast in 2012?
…Tracy Caulkins once held the American record in every single stroke… do you think she should be a legend? …do you think her individual medley was any good?
…The head of “Cardiac Surgery” at our local hospital just joined our Masters swim group. He came to his first early morning practice. The next day he smiled and said, “That was great! I felt better all day!” He’s not much of a swimmer but a Legend in our area for saving lives and knows how great swimming can be to start one’s day.
Chuck Warner has been a swimming coach for more than forty years. His teams have won seven national Y team championships, been runners-up for the NCAA Division II championship three times, been a USA National Team coach three times and Big East Conference coach of the year four times. Chuck has authored two books: “Four Champions, One Gold Medal” about the training and race for the 1500 meter gold medal in the 1976 Olympics. “…And Then They Won Gold: Stepping Stones To Swimming Excellence – Volume I” is due out in mid-June. It is eight short stories of some of the greatest male swimmers in history. The second volume devoted to women’s swimmers is due out next year. He is the founder, President and CEO of Arete Aquatic Services and owner of the ARETE Swim Camp.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON ORDERING “…And Then They Won Gold” go to www.areteswim.com and access “Books/Media.”