Thursday, October 6, 2011

Autumn 2011

Don't worry fine reader(s). We're still here! We're still standing!... And yes, we are still enduring the hardships that come with limited capital, limited swimmers, and yes, limited time. It's hard to balance this all when you have a full-time job for which still is expected to pay the bills.

Thankfully we are not short on heart, perseverance... and a good sense of humor. This is who we are. This IS what it means to be part of "Race Swami." Are you ready to come along for this wild ride?

One thing that has been taught to me, first by my dad, then by KP... you really just gotta stop worrying and go for it already. If you truly believe, and you're not so worried about the concept of "losing everything", then aren't you just doing whatever it is you were destined to do? Life cannot be sweeter than the day you wake up and you just can't wait to go after it... to make it potentially the greatest day of your life!

As RACE SWAMI, we may never win a long string of state championships, true—and that would be a condition of numbers, not because we wouldn't have the talent to actually do it—but is that really what we've set out to do when we started this thing? No. We want to change lives. We want to make a difference. We want to present opportunities to kids who previously did not have said opportunities. We want to do what we've been doing now for almost nine years— and that's helping kids make good decisions in life... providing them with a toolbox so they can fill it up with all the things they'll need to get through life!

This summer, when I was at the Santa Clara meet I overheard one coach ask another: "Are we here to pad our own stats?... or are we here to keep the real score—the score of life?" Though I have yet to have the pleasure and privilege of coaching a swimmer who has qualified for Nationals, Olympic Trials, World Championships or any national or international Olympic team, I can certainly take solace in the notion that I have helped kids attain some really cool stuff—a future astronaut, a prominent engineer, a talented New York City-based artist. A number of published writers. An entrepreneur whom you'll soon hear about all the time. A whole slew of what will surely be some great teachers... So though I have yet to produce an Olympian, I like to think that me an this team of supportive parents, amazing counselors, tireless teachers, and so on, played an integral roll in this young person's path through life.

We can only hope that as RACE SWAMI grows, so too does our hunger for opening doors for kids of all ethnic backgrounds. All a kid really needs is an environment where they are unequivocally loved. Not loved for their money, or their athletic prowess, or their cagey good looks—they are simply loved because of who they are and the fact that they want to grow.

In all my years of living, I always noted why the best were the best. It's because they embraced their environment with love. Be it my father, who founded one of the most notable and successful companies in the early Silicon Valley days before Silicon Valley was coined Silicon Valley; or Kevin Perry (one of the most innovative swim coaches in USA Swimming history), or Judge English teacher/dynamo Linda Simpson (who has former students as far back as 20 years ago still coming back to see her), it's really a treat and honor to see people share their love of what they do with the people they truly love. With love, you will get your kids doing whatever it is you think they can attain, whether they may be aware of it or not. With love, you can get a person through any rocky passage because that person knows you've got their back no matter how bad it gets... With love, you open doors!

I think one of the greatest up and coming coaches I see today is a guy named Jim Harbaugh. It is so clear when you watch him coach—practice, games, etc—win or lose—that guy never stops loving his players, under any circumstances. I mean real love, man!... not that media variety. I mean the back stage love that no one ever really takes witness to except for the few who take note because they see how special it all really is. Like my dad. Like KP. Like Linda Simpson. Like so many other great leaders and teachers. A stat I love to throw around is how at my dad's company, Finnigan, they never lost employees. Everyone was treated like kings. Like they were special. Like they had something amazing to offer that would provide the betterment of the whole company... some 500+ employees. That's when the connection happens—when a student, or athlete or musician or employee—knows that their mentor or their leader will never let them down... they'll just continue to help open doors in making them a more valuable person to society.

Love, man. LOVE.

We want this to be our central most environment at RACE SWAMI. We aspire to be more than just a swim team. We want to connect with our young people so that we open doors to the rest of their respective lives. That regardless of race, creed, color and/or economic standing, they can feel free to dream as high as they want to dream knowing the reality is there as long as they are ready to put forth the work and be willing to love in return. Anything is possible... with love.

Love—or the lack thereof—is really the key ingredient of any great feat. That is my parting sentence as we move into Fall 2011. Plenty more to come!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Catching Up on the Meets of July

It's been a pretty high paced few weeks for RACE SWAMI. It began with a long, 3-day HAST meet after the 4th of July holiday, trailed by a quick short course yards meet in Park City in mid July, followed still by a Western Sectional Meet in Portland, Oregon, in mid-to-late July, finalized—for some, any way—with the annual Utah Long Course Championship meet at the tail end of the busiest month of long course season. Race Swami ended up finishing 12th overall in the standings.

Best of all, the team garnered it's third state record in four months when Zerin Wolfgramm broke a 20-year old record in the 100 backstroke, smiling admirably at the deck judge who stood overhead as the Z-Man touched the wall in record time.

And though 12th is probably nothing to shout to the Gods about, the feat was not bad when you consider the team did it with a mere 9 swimmers who made it to finals (12 swimmers overall). Further, Race Swami wasn't even in existence before January 2011.

Nonetheless, we were proud of our SWAMIs and we had some terrific races throughout the four-day occasion held at Kearns Fitness Center. All told, we logged a better-than-90%-best time bonanza and had a lot of fun with the races.

After that, most of our kids shut down for the next few weeks but we readied one of our SWAMIs for the Junior National meet hosted by USA Swimming at Stanford's Avery Aquatic Center. Amelia Wolfgramm swam the 200 back and 100 back at the meet and though not accomplishing absolutely everything she had set out to do, picked up some much needed national experience in swimming some fantastic races. She went par for the course in the 100 back and took 3 seconds off in the 200 back. All in all, it was a fun meet and gave Amelia a taste of what it will take for her to reach vast new heights.

The highlight of this trip to thew Bay Area, perhaps, was having dinner with paralympian and good friend Joe Wise, who competes for the Santa Clara Swim Club. The SWAMIs, along with Lily, enjoyed hanging out with the charismatic Joe for a night at the Wise's home. Joe's mother, Marie, baked some unforgettable pasta dishes in order to carbo-load both Amelia and Joe before their big races.

Joe happened to be readying himself for his own big summer meet—the Para Pan Pacific meet held in Canada. Joe, a mitochondrial disease fighter like our very own Lily, ended up finishing out a huge meet in the Great White North by winning three medals and logging three best times. Looks like Joe is well on his way to making the London Games next year.

That about catches you up on the Meets of July... More news to come!

Monday, July 18, 2011

High School Swimming in Utah

I'm a huge fan of high school swimming. As an athlete, it provided me some of the greatest memories of the sport. As a coach, I have had the pleasure of being part of some amazing teams at Judge Memorial, and as a result, having seen numerous JM alums graduate from some of the finest colleges in the country.

However, I don't think the current state of high school swimming in Utah is set up in such a way that serves the best interest of Utah Swimming—and its athletes. The environment here seems to be of the (false) belief that Utah Swimming serves Utah high school swimming, rather than Utah high school swimming serving as a component TO Utah Swimming.

Lately, we're beginning to see some of the most prominent swimmers in this state foregoing high school swimming, if the situation is not set up just right for them. And so too, many kids and coaches must constantly brief themselves on the plethora of rules and regulations so they don't find themselves in violation of the Utah High School Athletics Association (UHSAA)—or putting their school in jeopardy of looking like the cheat instead of being a likely victim of confusion and/or ignorance.

How the high school swimming situation in Utah ever got to this point is something I'm still trying to understand. Nowhere else in America have I found a high school swimming having to endure 5 1/2 months seasons which cross three UHSAA sports seasons (fall/winter/spring).

For those states where consistent and numerous top level swimmers are developed (Arizona, California, Florida, Texas to name a few), not one has a high school swimming system that dominates and monopolizes the swim environment like Utah's does. All produce amazing high school programs, but they are fused and fed by amazing and terrific programs affiliated with USA Swimming. In these states, high school swimming has a large number of participation rates, and swimming has never been so popular. The difference? Their seasons are generally no more than 2 1/2 to 3 months long. And unlike a sport such as football, college swim programs depend on USA Swimming-trained prospects, generally not high school swim programs.

The arguments for the five month long season in Utah always seems to be the same. They're valid arguments to a certain extent, but seem shortsighted and even a little narrow minded. I tend to think they're self serving to the coaches as well.

At Judge Memorial over the past 8 years we have not been blessed with club swimmers. Most of the kids come from the country clubs, or kids who may have had some prior club experience but have since gotten involved in other sports (lacrosse and soccer are the most popular). Over the years, we have essentially worked with what we had, and thus, tended to build a program around doing extensive technique work and training for athleticism. High school swimming doesn't require much in the way of distance training, nor versatility. Though we emphasize both, it may take three years for us to see the development of a relatively "new swimmer." However, for the short term, we will generally try to "fill holes" when looking at an event-by-event synopsis.

With that said, you'd think I would be all for having as many months as possible to work with kids so that by the end of that 5 1/2 month cycle, we'd be ready to roll.

Honestly, I could have these kids ready to race in 2 months. The end result wouldn't be a huge difference, because I'd simply take my seasonal plan, pare it down, and still have them ready to go. At the same time, I'd be proactive in that if an athlete really wanted to improve and expand on their abilities in this sport, I'd urge them to find a program where they could do this; that is, a USA swim club, a country club, or both. Whatever gets them in the water, working on their skills.

Isn't that the case with any sport, activity or hobby? The more you do, the better you get? The more you put in, the farther you go? For instance, if you really wanted to be the best bass player ever, would you only pick up the instrument for 2 or 3 months (or 5?) and expect to improve enough to realize the dream? Fat chance...

Since I began coaching 8 years ago, my argument as it relates to Utah high school swimming has always been, "why is the dang high school season so long??..."  3 months is just as conducive as 5. At the end of the day, you still have to get these kids back in shape from their time away from the pool and if it takes you 5 months to do it, what the heck are you doing with all that time?

I know there can be arguments made for those rural schools with little or no means to get kids swimming year 'round, but my argument to that is, that's a convenient excuse... and life is not always fair. Learn to work with the situation you've been handed instead of expecting everyone else to conform to your own perceived needs. In swimming, 3 months really is no different than 5... you still have the get them back into shape, you still start from scratch.

It remains to be said that this 5+ month high school season is NOT in the best interest of Utah Swimming and that the current system needs to be obliterated in favor of something consistent with swimming in other states—never mind every other sport in THIS state. As far as I can see, there is no other sport that covers three school seasons like swimming does. Why?

I could go on and on and on, but the bottom line really comes down to this: is it really necessary that a high school swim season be a 5 1/5 month life? Is that really in the best interest of Utah Swimming? Utah Swimming is more than just high school swimming. By shortening the season, there would be no repercussions as to the excitement that high school swimming creates—these kids will still have lasting memories and they will still be ready to race whether it's 5 months or 3. It's not the length they will recall, it's the brief moments of glory shared that will live with them forever.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Bad Blood? Not here!

With no names or other swim clubs mentioned in this passage, there are rumors circulating abroad that we hold a grudge towards another club who shall remain nameless. In all honesty, I'm not sure what's the deal there other than to say we do not hold any grudges towards other teams—we just wish to be extended the same respect we hold for them. If anything, we remain quite fond of the team's accomplishments as they continue to grow and flourish and reach new heights.

Here are the facts: Race Swami is a small club of some 25 swimmers, varying in ages 7 to 17. Our growth and prosperity will come from our immediate community surrounding Rose Park. This is our foremost mission, which has been clearly stated in our business plan. The way we will achieve this is by offering programs from the bottom up (i.e. kids who will learn to swim), and to serve our immediate community. Aside from a few Judge Memorial kids who chose to follow us here, we never counted on, nor expected, attracting kids east of the I-15. The outlook on that front has never wavered.

Truth be told, I have utmost respect for all the clubs in Salt Lake City and enjoy watching them flourish. The bottom line should always be that we all do this for the kids... And it's never a bad thing when said kids are swimming FAST, regardless of what club they represent. I just wish we'd all remind ourselves of this and call it good.

What's best for Utah Swimming is that there should always be open lines (or in swimming terms: lanes) of communication. And maybe a heavy dose of good will. I have quite enjoyed getting to know some great coaches whom I previously had not known, or maybe only heard about.

My own swim coach, the late Kevin Perry, use to profess that the only way to continue inner growth was by "learning to learn." And to listen. And to engage. Whether that's related to swimming or to life, KP always ensured his swimmers learned and listened. We may have rolled our eyes at the time when he constantly nagged us between sets, but thankfully we listened... KP would say that by becoming a better person it must be demanded of us that we always strive for nothing but our best—regardless of outcome and regardless of our story—because that was really the only way we'd be able to "hit the slider life will surely fire at us in our many moments of uncertainty," (KP was a starting pitcher at San Jose State once upon a time, so he use to use a lot of baseball terminology with us growing up).

Obviously, KP knew what he was talking about because the slider life threw at me back on May 18th, 2004, when the neurologist at Stanford told me that my daughter had a rare disease known as a mitochrondrial disease; that moment could have had devastating effects. Instead, I've chosen to be a force for Lily and though we surely tread on rough times more than not, we are prepared to go the distance with a smile and a lot of faith.

There really is no other way. People are not out to get you simply because you open up to them. They only respect you more in terms of how you carry yourself through the good and bad.

At the end of the day, it's not how many fast swimmers you produce... it's really not. KP had plenty of those (Tyler Clary for one) but it's not what made him special. What people remember most about KP was what he gave to the sport, especially in Northern and Southern California, where he spent most of his years coaching. The lives he touched along his storied 30+ year coaching journey, the programs he started—including a learn to swim program in Fullerton CA for low-income children—those are the memories people recall most fondly of him.

I don't wish to preach or point fingers... I know we all strive to mean well. It's just a matter of extending respect. I guess we'll just have to earn ours over time.

Our objectives at Race Swami are not to supplant others, but rather, to bring more kids to this great sport, and perhaps make a difference in their lives. With or without the blessings of others, that is what we plan to do... and we'll continue to cheer for all our fellow teams as they continue to reach their own goals and objectives. That's what makes it all so fun for all of us.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

July Meets... and More!

Wow, there's a lot of meets coming up for the athletes of Race Swami. For instance, this week we have the Red White & Blue Meet hosted by HAST and held at the American Fork Rec Center in Utah County. It's a big, annual meet and should prove to be the last "big meet" in Utah until the end-of-season JO State Meet at Kearns Aquatic Center.

However, SWAMI will appear in array of meets between HAST and the JO State meet, namely, two "Last Chance" meets at South Davis and Park City, so our kids can get some more racing in (never a bad thing!). In mid July, we travel to Portland, OR for the Western Sectional meet for a couple of SWAMIs. That will be their final tune up for Junior Nationals at Stanford (we hope the second one can qualify), which takes place during the second week of August.

I must say... the summer season goes by quick! ...It feels like we barely got started. Whereas the high school season seems to drone on for months (which it does), the summer training bolts by like a strike of lightening. Since we returned from the Keys and Santa Clara it's been pedal to the metal. Thankfully, with lots and lots of preparation prior to each new week we face, we can stay on top of things as we move through an abbreviated season. I mistakenly use to think that the high school season was the season of quick and necessary adjustments while the club season was one of seemingly endless cycles. How wrong I was...

Still, it's been so much fun learning right there with the kids; of course from a different line of sight. For them, it's mastering the strokes, picking up on new vernacular, growing with the changes we make to their way of swimming. For the staff, it's just learning everything from meet entry protocol, "give and take" with the varying moods of your athletes, and just being a sponge on the pool deck and embracing the highs—and lows (from which you learn more from).

I do love—and hate—the ebb and flow of this experience—the obstacles and (brief) victories continue to pour themselves over this new club. On the one hand we might receive our blessing from the IRS as it relates to becoming an official non-profit entity; on the other, we might suddenly discover that we weren't accepted into a local meet— and, oh yeah!, we're out of money.

Having been through a number of business-related start-ups myself during my lifetime, I have come to find they are certainly a journey—and a very rocky one at that. But none of those experiences compare to this start-up of a totally different nature. Not only am I and my cohorts dealing with the pains of what a normal start-up would conjure up during the infancy/growth stages, but I'm also having dealing with some very tenacious teenagers... I call that the "x factor times 50"! I must say, cagey venture capitalists have absolutely nothing on a moody 15 year old.

So there are certainly my share of days when I ask myself, "how the heck did I agree to this?" when I'm feeling like everything is a lost cause... including my ever-growing debt that seems to expand on a weekly basis. But then I see the smiles on our kids' faces, adorned with the proud symbol of the fleur de lis on their forest green swim caps... and that symbol reminds me of the perseverance my daughter seems to conquer every day with a mito disease. And then that reminds me of our bottom line mission: to serve an underserved community that is full of flavor and vibrance and excellence.

We thrive to stand up and be a club with vision—not one of countless Olympians and excessive swimming accolades (although that would certainly be a nice by-product) but of a foundation that goes beyond swimming... one that teaches our youth about love, compassion, honor, accountability, mentorship, giving, being proud of oneself and the team... This is who we are—and aspire to always be.

Swimming is just the tool for which we bring these fine (and yes, sometimes moody) kids together... However, we want our SWAMIs to represent more than this one tool; for we want them to aspire to have a tool shed worthy of sharing with the world, a world that could certainly use a shed of worthiness in order to promote a better world... regardless of where we might have come from. Personally, we are proud to represent Rose Park and the "west side" of Salt Lake City. And we can't wait to make a much larger impact in this neighborhood.

Friday, July 1, 2011

It's already July?

Wow, it's July 1st! Where the heck did June go? It's amazing to think back about how long the summer swim season use to feel when I was an athlete training in the Bay Area, swimming as many as 10 practices a week. Many of those harsh days of training just seemed to drag on and on until, finally, we readied ourselves for the annual mid/late July meet in Clovis, CA before heading off to the final meet of the season—Junior Nats or Nationals, which were always in mid to late August.

Now that school seems to start earlier each year, so too, the summer swim season has moved it's respective meets up into July, so that there isn't much left in August, save the few National meets and a nice little vacation.

Still, we have one SWAMI who will be preparing for Junior Nationals, which will take place at Stanford the second week in August. There is also Western Zones (hosted at the aforementioned Clovis, CA facility), for which we would have as many as four SWAMIs racing in, but because of travel costs, we're going to pass on that meet.

It's been a great summer so far. After a lackluster SYAC meet at the beginning of June,—a time when we were just getting use to the notion of long course racing—we've been turning it up a notch in our training regimen. We had perhaps one of our best, most creative weeks yet. Lots of circuit training, lots of tempo work, and lots of stuff from the blocks. We're just trying to keep things "off balance" so the kids don't get into any sort of a rhythm. That might sound crazy from the standpoint of training for the intent of "methodical preparation", but the unique thing here is we have put quite an emphasis on preparation by knowing WHAT we want to accomplish but not knowing exactly how to get it. So we tend to make some "game time decisions" as we go. For instance, how do they look during warmups? What kind of collective mood are we in? Are they up to the task of whats et we planned for that day, or perhaps, can they handle more?

We just want to accomplish our objectives by keeping things unpredictable so our kids don't fall into a comfort zone. If we were planning for a little recovery, but the kids are on fire—maybe we need to boost  it up a notch or two. That last kicking set last night didn't end so great, so maybe we need to start by giving them another shot to master it this morning.

If there is one thing I really took from watching and talking to Gary Hall Sr, it's to always read the body language of your swimmers, and to never let one length of swimming go by without trying to perfect what it is we're doing in the water. Every turn needs to be perfect. Every underwater streamline needs to be extended. Every length needs to be technically sound. As Gary put it, survival swimming is great if your plane has just crashed in the middle of the Atlantic and you need to swim to shore, but for short, fast swimming, meticulous and technically sound swimming must be executed if you're planning to race at the highest personal level.

We have spent a wealth of time with this notion in June. Who knows if the times will reflect it  for the short term, but for these SWAMIs, who are all still relatively young, we're looking at the long term. I do have faith their times will drop... We just need to stick with this plan and trust the training!

On the dry side of SWAMI, we are still surviving... First off, some good news came in the way of donations from some terrific families we have gotten to know. That will give us some breathing room financially (for a little while, at least). So too, we received a fairly thick envelope from the IRS while I was in Florida. In it contained the "thumbs up" we were looking for—we are officially a non profit entity! As Mary Chris put it, "it was like opening a college entrance letter..." the anticipation... yes or no? Usually, thick means yes, thin means no. In this case, it was definitely thick and the results positive. Now we're on to the task of asking for more sizable donations from area foundations. We're hopeful we'll be able to get some help from them, because we're going to need it!

This week, I talked to Ben Sheppard from the Oakland Undercurrents swim program, a successful outreach club located in the east bay that primarily serves low-income youth in the area. Similar to our mission, Ben has built something special in Oakland, CA. Understandably, I was ecstatic to have had the opportunity to pick his brain. We chatted for more than 30 minutes and the ideas he posed to me were priceless. We now have much fat to chew on as we move forth in serving our mission in Rose Park.

SWAMI is still a very small club. We have maybe 30 kids, although I haven't counted in months. I'm not much into the numbers game right now only because I'm thrilled with the kids we have and the fact we don't have 28 kids in one lane trying to make do. We're thankful we have the lane space and that our kids can work on everything we intend to work on as part of our club objectives. There have been no restraints in that department, thus far. I can't really say that if we were a club of say, 100 (much less 50)... I wouldn't know what to do other than have odd and even days for when kids can show up—kinda like the gas wars of the '70's when your license plate was "odd" numbered, you could fill up on X day.

Frankly, until we can get some support, we need to stay relatively small.

And with growth we need qualified assistant coaches! That can be hard to come by in a place like Utah, where the coaching pool is somewhat limited. The coaches already with job are definitely qualified and are working. Every team in this state seems to have a great staff in place. SWAMI has struggled to fill our holes, but with college kids home for the summer, we're making it work for now. Where I feel I need to improve as a coach is in the time I take to help them out... to give them the tools to succeed. That takes time, though. It's been tough to find that time as I strain to build a new club, care for Lily, and balance a full-time job away from the pool. But it is what it is... we strive to be our best and do our best, all the while still managing to have fun and building something great.

July will be an interesting month. We have the HAST meet coming up. Then on to Portland, OR for Sectionals. Back for the J.O. meet. It'll be our first state meet as a club, since back in March we were still awaiting word from USA Swimming... We're even hoping to fill in a relay or two. Make a great show for a small, fledging club. We'll see how it goes, but in the meantime, it's back to the pool for some more fun and fast swimming!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Race Club Camp

So part of the reason for our inactivity with the SWAMI blog has been due to the fact that lots of exciting things have been going on in the world of RACE SWAMI. For starters, in mid June we attended a five-day, 10 session swim camp in the Florida Keys for 12 of our senior-age SWAMIs. It was not only a terrific learning experience for the swimmers, but for this coach as well.

Led by three-time Olympian Gary Hall Sr. the Race Club sessions focused on the science of swimming—along with good, sound feedback relating to skill improvement and innovative training ideas. It was one of those experiences where you couldn't wait to get back home and get to work using some of the new ideas. In all, Gary—and his TRC assistant Nico Messer—were more than helpful, forthcoming and open to the exchange of working towards the notion of better, more efficient swimming. And they did it all by using our swimmers as the Guinea pigs!

I tend to think a lot of coaches in this sport—particularly head coaches—shy away from welcoming hands-on advice as it relates to training their own swimmers. They have no problem trading and sharing ideas... but to actually allow someone to sit down with your kids—for any amount of time—well, that's not such a comfortable thought for some. It's as if they might be admitting they need help or maybe that they aren't really up to the task of figuring out how to get the most out of their swimmers—how to make them faster.

But after reading a terrific book written by legendary coach Bill Walsh (The Score Takes Care of Itself"), it was clear to me that the only way Bill was able to become the coach he was was by being a virtual "sponge"... by watching what coaches around him were doing—and why they were doing it. Bill learned a lot from the likes of Paul Brown and others whom he worked and developed under. He mentioned that he would have been crazy not to have taken special note of those he worked under—those who showed innovation and inspiration in building successful programs. At the same time, he also took note to what wasn't working and that too became an integral part of his growth process as arguably the greatest football coach of all time.

My own swim coach, the late Kevin Perry (known affectionately as "KP" to those who trained under him), became one of the most noted age group swim coaches in California, if not nationally. Had he lived to this day, he would have rightly become notorious for having developed a kid named Tyler Clary, whom he trained for many years at FAST in Fullerton, CA. Instead, KP will go down as one of the best swim coaches in the US whom many have never heard of. I don't mean this disrespectfully; KP was more about the kids than receiving any props from his peers. However, those who were in the “know” knew exactly who KP was.

I took many mental and actual notes during my six years as an athlete under KP (usually forced to do the latter because of team journaling). His style was very innovative, and while most programs around us in the Bay Area were focusing their training on swimming lots and lots of yards, KP was ahead of his time because he was giving us a steady diet of speed, technical skills, recovery, and threshold sets. Our program flourished under this style as we went from a program that had previously no swimmers qualifying for Nationals, to a team that possessed more than ten.

Like Bill Walsh's "west coast offense" (a title Bill actually despised) where the "football minds" of the time mistakenly took Bill's system as "gimmicky" and not "real football," so too, KP's style of training was thought by some to be "the easy way out" of good old fashioned hard work. They thought just because we swam 5-6 k per practice (although sometimes it was much more, other days much less), the practices were easier.

Having personally been in other programs that trained for massive "aerobic conditioning" (10,000+ yards per practice), I can honestly say I never threw up as much as I did when I swam under KP. The lactate/VO2 max sets were the most physically and mentally demanding series of sets I'd ever embark on during my swim career... more difficult that my college swimming experience, which encompassed swimming sometimes twice the distance, but at a much lesser intensity level.

KP gave us a heavy dose of mental preparation as well—highly unusual in those days. And KP demanded that we associate ourselves with excellence in everything we did—not just swimming. Aside from my parents, I can easily state that KP was the most influential person in my life... someone who was fair minded by demanding the most of me, EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. There were no "days off" with KP...

My interactions with Gary and Nico reminded me of my days talking to KP... there was a clear love for the sport and a welcoming presence for anyone willing to listen and learn when conversing with them. Gary isn't the kind of guy who will tell you, "it’s my way or the highway" in terms of sharing his ideas... he’ll simply tell you, "this is why I believe what I do and why..." I liked his approach to the sport—everything was about efficiency. Efficiency leads to faster...

The Race Club Camp was awesome, and we will surely return. As for what happened next, we had a few Junior Swamis who competed at the CHAT meet, and two more Senior Swamis who competed in the Bay Area (Santa Clara Grand Prix and the De Anza A-B meet, respectively). The times right now might not be mind-boggling, but I feel we're moving in the right direction just as long as we continue to trust in the work we put forth. We might not be swimming farther than anyone out there, but we are likely training as intensely.

More to come (promise!)