2016 U.S. Masters Swimming National Coaches Clinic—San Mateo, California

College of San Mateo pool

College of San Mateo pool

U.S. Masters Swimming held the National Coaches Clinic (NCC) in San Mateo, California, November 11-13, 2016.  This was the 2nd Annual NCC with over 130 USMS Coaches in attendance.  Guest speakers included: Dr. Ernest Maglischo, Steven Munatones, CokieLepinski, Olympian Sheila Taormina, Dr. Rod Havriluk, and Coach Ronald A. Marcikic.  I had the opportunity to attend this three-day clinic, and would like to share some of the wisdom that was shared by the Masters Swimming coaches’ community.

Dr. Ernest Maglischo

Dr. Ernest Maglischo has authored or co-authored seven textbooks and three booklets on various aspects of competitive swimming.  He also co-authored two booklets on nutrition for athletes.  His latest publications are Volumes 1 and 2 of, A Primer for Swimming Coaches, which were released in late 2015, and early 2016.  Volume 1 is titled Physiological Foundations, and the title for Volume 2 is Biomechanical Foundations.  One of my first textbooks as a new coach was Swimming Faster, which I had Dr. Maglischo sign.  I also have his two revisions: Swimming Even Faster and Swimming Fastest.Swimming Even Faster was once selected as the best competitive swimming manual by members of USA Swimming.

Dr. Maglischo explained that the same principles used for training elite competitive swimmers can be adapted and applied to the training of Masters swimmers of all ages and ability levels, if you understand the relationships between time, intensity, and energy metabolism.  Some observations of the effectiveness of HIT (Hi Intensity Training) and USRPT (Ultra Short Race Pace Training) were also discussed.  My biggest take-away from the presentation was the importance of recovery, and the quality of swim training.  Recovery includes: lactate clearance sets, and post workout recovery, including hydration and nutrition.

Steven Munatones

Steven Munatones is the founder of “The Daily News of Open Water Swimming” that has covered open water races in 159 countries and published nearly 15,000 articles on the trends, technology, and tactics of open water swimming.  He has been the race director for the Waikiki Roughwater Swim, USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships, and the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships 10K.  He created Openwaterpedia, World Open Water Swimming Awards, Oceans Seven, and the World’s Top 100 Open Water Swims.

Steven’s presentation was “Open Water, From Start to Finish.”  Section 1, for the enthusiast, was an overview of the previous 100 years of the sport and predictions for the next 100 years of open water swimming, from the Olympics to ice swimming.  Section 2, for the swimmer, discussed the Pyramid of Open Water Swimming Success, and seven key steps to swimming well in the open water races and solo swims.  Section 3, for the race director and kayaker, focused on the ideal open water race from the perspective of event organizers and volunteers.

The Pyramid of Open Water Success:  The Base + Details + Intelligence

  1. Base Training: 10 x 400
  2. Speed Training: 10 x 50
  3. Distance Tolerance: 8,000
  4. Fine-tune with Race Specific Training:
    1. Pace-line
    2. Deck-ups
    3. Positioning
    4. POW (Pool Open Water)
  5. Fine-tune with Skill Training:
    1. Navigation
    2. Sighting
    3. Feeding
    4. Drafting
  6. Open Water Acclimatization:
    1. Cold and warm water
    2. Saltwater and freshwater
    3. Calm and rough water
    4. Fog and night swimming
    5. In-the-water finish
    6. Body surfing
  7. Tactical Education:
    1. Packs
    2. Drafting
    3. Competition

Seven key steps to swimming well in Open Water races and solo swims.

  1. Power of the mind: Think positively and practice relaxed breathing.
  2. Strategies: Plan for the unexpected.
  3. Drills and skills: Train your open water skills all year round.
  4. Pool versus open water: Get the right mix of training.
  5. A general training week has 3 main components: fitness, technique, and Open Water.
  6. Consistency: The key to success.
  7. Enjoyment: The most important part of Open Water swimming.

Open Water swimming is on the verge of exploding in America.  There are over 25,000 events in the world each year with the largest event being the Midmar Mile with over 19,000 entries.  Ice swimming is an event that is becoming more popular, and the Beijing Swimming Association is applying for inclusion in the Winter Olympics beginning in 2022.

I had the pleasure of talking with Steven at the NCC and we discussed the upcoming “2018 Oregon Swimcation,” which will feature OMS hosting three Open Water National Championships in 2018.  Read the “Daily News of Open Water Swimming” featuring the “Oregon Swimcation”.

Cokie Lepinski and Tim Waud

Cokie Lepinski and Tim Waud

Cokie Lepinski

CokieLepinski is Head Coach and founder of Swymnut Masters.  She writes regularly for SWIMMER Magazine and U.S. Masters Swimming, and was the 2014 USMS Coach of the Year.  She is a Level 4 coach, passionate about technique and committed to making sure swimming is fun and sustainable as a lifelong pursuit for her swimmers.  She has authored an e-book, “There’s A Drill for That.”

Cokie discussed top notch turns, while challenging to Masters, they have tremendous benefits as turns, and can account for a significant percentage of a race.  Using pictures, videos, and audience feedback, she was able to explain how you can begin to shave off big chunks of time with very small moves.  We were able to draw out ideas from each other on tips and tricks when teaching turns and had the opportunity to apply these concepts and techniques in our Sunday morning water session on turns.  I had the honor of working with Cokie on deck while we coached the “Crossover Turn” from backstroke to breaststroke.  We also learned a new skill called the “Tennessee Turn”, which allows a swimmer to use both arms to break out of a streamline swimming backstroke.

There are 8 common factors for each turn progression:

1)    Make adjustments early in the turn.

2)    Use the momentum from the turn to get you into and out of the wall with speed.

3)    Maintain a level plane, especially with the arms.

4)    Stay low in the water.

5)    Be quick with the head, feet, and knees.

6)    Get compact.

7)    Use core strength to drive into and out of the turn.

8)    Make sure you have a firm foot plant pushing off the wall.


There are also 3 common elements to each turn:

  1. The approach: Be aware of the wall and the momentum you bring with you.
  2. The execution: Wall contact, pivot, and foot plant.
  3. The breakout: Push off, streamline, underwater, and breakout.

Every day in practice we have the opportunity to practice turns.  One of the best ways to practice turns is to always be in the ready position for every repeat.  Having one hand on the wall, one arm forward, and both feet planted on the wall, is a great way to practice open turns repeatedly.  Practice swimming through your turns by swimming at race speed going into and out of the wall.  Practice flip turns in the middle of the pool during your warm up.  Practice makes permanent.

Sheila Taormina Swim Clinic

Sheila Taormina Swim Clinic

Sheila Taormina

Sheila is the only woman in history to have competed at the Olympics in three different sports: swimming, triathlon, and modern pentathlon, and at 5’ 2 1/2” she is the smallest swimmer to win gold in the last 100 years.  Sheila is as much a student of the semantics and the teaching process as she is to the mechanics and science of swimming.  Sheila credits her Olympic swimming success to her tempo training, which helped her maintain the stroke tempo needed to make the US Olympic Team.

Sheila’s presentation, “Beyond Mechanics:  Coaching a propulsive freestyle stroke,” coupled the science of swimming with photos, and videos of Olympic champions, and world record holders to give coaches a solid foundation and confidence for teaching the propulsive aspects of the freestyle stroke.  Sheila addressed such topics as the S-pull versus straight-back pull, hand speed change, the details of ‘rotation,’ the kick, and kick-timing.

Sheila also had a session on Halo tubing training.  Halo tubing gives a swimmer a huge competitive edge with respect to muscle tone, muscle endurance, pull path memory, and rate of turnover training.  In this session, Sheila detailed the proper pull-path technique, specifically the unique rotational movements of the upper arm that propulsive swimming requires.

Dr. Rod Havriluk

Dr. Rod Havriluk is a biomechanist who specializes in swimming technique instruction and analysis.  Dr. Havriluk has coached swimming at all levels, from age group to NCAA Division I.  He serves on the advisory board for the Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming; the educational committee of the International Swim Coaches Association; the editorial board for the Journal of Swimming Research; and the review board of numerous sport science journals.  Dr. Havriluk’s research focuses on three primary areas:  optimizing technique, preventing shoulder injuries, and accelerating skill learning.  He has presented his findings at many conferences and published in many journals.  He has conducted clinics in many countries and has worked with thousands of swimmers and triathletes, including Olympians and world record holders.  “Swimming World,” magazine named Dr. Havriluk as one of the top ten people with the greatest impact on swimming in 2015.

Dr. Havriluk’s presentation, “Swimming Science:  Technique Misconceptions,” described how much of the conventional wisdom about swimming technique is based on modeling top swimmers.  He explains how this approach is seriously flawed because even the fastest swimmers have technique limitations and often excel because of their size, strength, and physiology.  Dr. Havriluk’s presentation discussed many of the common technique misconceptions, the science behind effective technique elements, and the learning strategies that accelerate skill learning.

Dr. Havriluk’s presentation was based on the scientific modeling of “Mona.”  Using a computer-generated model, Dr. Harviluk was able to show the ideal entry, catch, and pull path for each competitive stroke.  The model for each stroke detailed the technique misconceptions held by conventional coaching styles.  Through the discussion phase of this presentation I found that some of the science behind his swimming research is up for debate.  For example, Michael Phelps arm entry for the butterfly stroke is 220 degrees versus Mona’s ideal arm entry of 150 degrees.  Herein lies the debate about modeling top swimmers and swimming science.

Dave Weirdsma, Tim Waud, and USMS CEO Dawson Hughes

Dave Weirdsma, Tim Waud, and USMS CEO Dawson Hughes

Coach Ronald A. Marcikic (a.k.a. Sickie)

Sickie is the founding Director and Head Coach of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Masters Sports program.  This long-standing Southern California program includes 300 plus athletes in 25 weekly swimming, running, and triathlon workouts, with a coaching staff of 13 professional coaches.  Ron has been coaching Masters swimming for over 33 years.

The Coach’s Philosophy and Personality as Building Blocks to Success.  “It’s what you do every day that brings them back!”

  • Do you have a vision for the future of your team … tomorrow and beyond?
  • Do you have team goals? Are they specific and shared with your swimmers?
  • Do you encourage individual goals? How do they mesh with your team goals?
  • Do you have daily/monthly/weekly goals? How are they shared?
  • Does every coach share your vision to make every swimmer part of it?
  • What is your long-term vision for yourself and your team?
  • Who are you as a coach? Serious, demanding, freewheeling, outspoken…or?
  • Do you interact with your swimmers on a personal level, each and every day?
  • Do you as the ‘Coach,’ and you as the ‘person’ share the same characteristics?
  • Who is your go-to personality each and every day?
  • Are you consistent?
  • Are your workouts fresh, relevant, informative, reactive, and challenging?
  • Do you need to include everyone in the program?
  • Does it exclude anyone from participating?
  • Does everyone feel the love?
  • Do you go out of your way to create the mood you want at your workout?
  • How different do you want to be and can you sustain it over time?

Coach Sickie shared with us the importance of team building within a workout group, and the cohesiveness that becomes a biproduct of such activities.  Activities include: dancing in the morning before workout, “Swimmer of the Week,” homemade trophies for awards, weekly chips and salsa parties on deck, and memorials for swimmers who have passed away.  Coach Sickie is best known for his mismatched socks and the multitude of crazy Hawaiian shirts he wears on deck.

On Sunday, I was invited to the Pacific Masters Annual meeting.  Lunch was provided and guest speaker, Olympian Dana Vollmer, shared the highlights of her swimming career.  Lookout 2020 Olympics, Dana is on a quest to be the first female to break the :55 barrier, having been the first female to break the :57 and :56 barriers in the 100-meter Butterfly.

I hope you can use some of these ideas to better your coaching abilities and add some excitement to your workout group.  The wealth of information shared was exciting and a bit overwhelming.  I am grateful to have had an active part in this clinic, and am in the process of coordinating swimming and coaching clinics for our membership in 2017.

(Information for this article was gathered from the 2016 National Coaches Clinic presentation packet.)

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