CHUCK WARNER: Lessons From Legends
Have you ever been suspended in time and space? Like an astronaut floating without the pull of gravity?
One of the greatest feelings a committed swimmer experiences is the overwhelming fulfillment when they’ve realized their goal and are warming down immediately after their race. It begins with one more push off the edge of the deck. One’s body flops through the crust of the pool’s surface and enters a suspended world, wrapped in the cloth of the swimmer’s best friend…the water.
While gently stroking down the pool for these precious minutes, there is only the emotional rush of personal satisfaction and no thought of what is to come. Warm-down and an internal celebration of months and even many years of investment returned in gold or in a goal time can be the highlight of a swimmer’s season. To the most committed swimmers this emotional time can bring tears blurring the clarity that their goggles ordinarily give to their sight.
Many American swimmers had this glorious experience in London.
A large part of the USA Olympic Team returned to the grand stage from the previous Games in Beijing. Is their success because of their talent or their training?
Surely a combination of talent and training is nearly always present in the development of athletic excellence in 2012…and so is timing. Whose “rocket” of athletic achievement is ascending into the future and toward Rio and who’s is fading and falling? Those that can combust a fire inside them to get back to training and begin to prepare for Rio in the next six months will have a huge advantage over their Olympic peers in the quest for Olympic glory in Rio.
In 2016 there will also be the young and hungry competitors that may not even be teenagers right now. Where is the 11-year old Michael Phelps or 13-year old Aaron Peirsol that were that young in 1996? And who is the 13-year old Missy Franklin or Lia Neal from 2008? Few swimmers can see their potential when they are that young even though if fulfilled they might be a budding swimming star in 2016. Their coaches can be their beam of light to articulate what that athlete might achieve, when and how to get there.
Here are two short excerpts from the book …And Then They Won Gold: Stepping Stones To Swimming Excellence that point out how some coaches in the past have tried to turn on the light.
Lenny Krayzelburg – Triple Gold Medalist 2000
The Olympics were in Atlanta  the last week of July and the US Nationals in Ft. Lauderdale the second week of August. On July 26th Lenny sat at home watching the finals of the 200-meter backstroke on television. Brad Bridgewater won the [Olympic] gold medal (1:58.54). Lenny’s phone rang immediately. The sound of a crowd cheering was in the background.
Mark Schubert’s voice came through the phone, “Lenny, in four years this could be you.”
Lenny responded, “Mark, I will do everything possible to make that happen.”
Aaron Peirsol – Current World Record Holder 100 & 200 Back – 5 Olympic Gold Medals
On a dark, cold night at practice that season [1996-97] the senior group had trained for two hours and Aaron was exhausted. They had just completed a test set of 3 x 300s on 5:00. Everyone was dismissed except for Aaron. Coach Salo asked him to stay in the water. Dave was clearly unhappy with Aaron’s performance.
“Aaron, I want you to do another.” Dave told him.
“I’ll do my best,” Aaron responded respectfully. Aaron swam again. Dave wasn’t satisfied.
“Let’s do another,” Dave ordered. Aaron swam another 300 but it was not faster.
“Let’s do another,” Dave said again.
Aaron thought to himself, ‘What do you want from me?’ But he swam another and it was no faster. Aaron touched the wall and Dave knelt down at the side of the pool in front of him.
“Listen.” Dave said to him. “You have the ability over the next four years to do something really special. Our goal is for you to make an Olympic Team. In order to do that you have to train like [former world record holders] Jeff Rouse and Brad Bridgewater did when they were here.” Aaron knew those names and respected them greatly. He fed off of his coach’s belief in him and the excitement over the prospect of being able to reach his special goal. He intensified his training to get there.
Less than four years later Lenny Krayzelburg adorned to the cover of TV Guide Magazine as one of America’s greatest hopes for gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. In the same time frame Aaron Peirsol made his first Olympic team as a junior in high school. While Coach Schubert and Coach Salo had already been legends in the making, Lenny and Aaron responded to their coach’s belief in them to help them reinforce their belief in themselves and become legends of their own.
2000 Olympic 100 backstroke:
2000 Olympic 200 backstroke:
…the joy in the American Women’s Olympic Swimming Team had Coach Teri McKeever’s fingerprints all over it. Coach McKeever is an unsung orchestrator of the USA’s great female success because she understands how important that joy is to swimming fast. Mix in a free personality like Missy Franklin and you have a loose nucleus of letting loose one’s potential. If you don’t believe me, “Call me…Maybe.”
What is the oldest time that would have made the final eight at the 2012 Olympics? Is it Mary T’s 200 fly from 1981 of 2:05.9? In the men is it Matt Biondi’s 48.4 from 1988?
The real measure of Michael Phelp’s impact on putting Swimming on Sportscenter and into the main stream media will be what happens after he retires. How will USA Swimming take advantage of his fabulous career?
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 out now. 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 towww.areteswim.com and access “Books/Media.”