Coach Graham will be presenting a clinic, This is a “DRAG” Clinic, based on his learnings from the National Coaches Clinic on January 27th at Simmons University.
Contributed by David C. Graham, NEM-GSP
I’m not exactly sure when I started thinking about the takeaways from the USMS National Coaches Clinic (NCC) in Maryland. I remember leaving the deck on Sunday from the morning pool session and starting to ponder it. I bid our fellow New England coaches from the Cape a safe journey home (they were driving), and then corralled 3 other NE coaches into my car for a drop-off at BWI. The conversation turned to thoughts about the clinic and we threw around some of the highlights and a few lowlights as well. Once I left them curbside at their respective departure gates, my drive was about 3 hours to my aunt’s house in New Jersey, where I would stay the night and finish the drive home to New Hampshire the next day.
Today, I looked at my notes; not so much the ones that I took at the clinic itself, but the scribbles I wrote on 3 sheets of paper once I arrived at my aunt’s place, and then the 2 more from after I arrived home. I guess the 8 hours spent in the car allowed my mind to wander to the weekend with the topics and notions presented.
It truly was a great weekend: 80+ coaches from all over the country, together for the sole purpose of not only to further their knowledge, but to absorb that knowledge and be able to bring it back to their swimmers to enhance their ability to perform in the water. I got to meet many new coaches from across the country and catch up with some I have not seen in a while. I was particularly excited to see Coaches Tim and Dean, the USMS coaches for 2014 Masters Worlds in Montreal, my first big meet, and I am forever thankful to them both for their support and friendship at that meet and beyond.
One of the things that stood out in my experience at the NCC was the varying approaches that coaches from across the spectrum have for just about anything. Listening to Gary Hall, Sr. speak was mesmerizing, and in his soft-spoken tone, he still commands the attention of the room as folks listen to his every word. The notions that he presents — coupling motions, frontal-drag, vortices, etc. — are truly on a scale well beyond the everyday on-the-deck Masters coach, but he does a great job of taking the information he gathers with world class athletes and bringing it to an understanding level for that on-the-deck coach. I came away with things that I not only need to focus on, but some simple fixes that each swimmer can build into their every lap to improve.
On the flip side of Gary’s information, there was Bruce Gemmell, Katie Ledecky’s coach early on in her career. Bruce did not delve deeply into the science of swimming. His approach was more about a feel for the athlete, how they were doing, and paying attention to the simpler things that I notice and keep track of with all my swimmers: stroke count, stroke rate and tempo. Much of his information was much simpler and more relatable as, I imagine, many other coaches operate on the poolside level as he does.
It was also a great experience to be in the water while Gary ran us through some of the drills he uses for teaching and feeling butterfly and breaststroke. It’s not every day you get to swim a drill set and finish at the wall and look up to see Gary Hall Sr giving you a thumbs up for a job well done. The pages of the LMSC newsletter could not hold all the topics and takeaways from the NCC, but check out my This is a “DRAG” Clinic on January 27th where we will put to paper and practice many of the learned items from the NCC applicable to Masters swimmers, especially how we can reduce frontal drag on many fronts, no pun intended.
I would like to thank the LMSC for providing ample funding and support to myself and all the other coaches whom were able to take advantage of this bi-annual opportunity offered by USMS. I am looking forward to the NCC 2 years from now in the middle of the country as well as bringing this year’s information to our vast expanse of New England Masters swimmers.
Swimming since the age of 14, David is a level 3 USMS & ASCA-Masters coach as well as an ALTS Certified Stroke Technician. David has spent 15 years as an aquatics professional operating aquatic facilities and programs from NJ to MA. David serves as an adjunct faculty member at MWCC and FPU and most recently as an Assistant Coach at Keene State College. He is a member of the Granite State Penguins and has competed at 2014’s World Masters Championships in Montreal as well as a swimmer/ on-deck coach at 3 USMS National Championships since 2015.