The other night I watched one of the most interesting races of the summer USA Swimming National Championships, Phelps vs Lochte in the 200 IM. This time Lochte got the win, although admittedly Phelps is not yet showing his best form. What was most noticeable to me, however, was how far ahead these two rivals were from the rest of the field, finishing several seconds ahead of third place. It begs the question, when two such talented swimmers are in the prime of their career at the same time, who will replace them when they retire?
Swimmers like Phelps and Lochte don’t come along every day. I can’t imagine anyone winning nine gold medals in the Olympics, but I didn’t think Spitz’s record of seven Olympic golds would be broken, either. One thing I am sure of is that there is an abundance of talented swimmers in America working their way up the ladder, dreaming of taking over the roles of Phelps and Lochte.
Most of the credit for creating this pipeline of talent should go to USA Swimming and the thousands of affiliated swimming clubs across America. It is not that the schools, YMCA’s and summer recreation leagues don’t have a role. They do. The real development of talent, however, is largely due to America’s swim clubs.
A few weeks ago I witnessed this first hand in Buffalo, New York. It was the first time I have conducted a Race Club Swim Clinic away from home in Florida. At the invitation of Greg Herzog, a passionate swimming parent in Buffalo, several clubs assembled 20 swimmers for one of the best weeks I have enjoyed in swimming.
The beauty of doing a five or six day camp, as opposed to a one day or half day clinic, is that one really has enough time to make some significant improvements in technique. In Buffalo, I had five days to teach 20 very talented young swimmers some critical fundamentals. More importantly, we had time to practice them and drill them so they became more comfortable with them by the end of the week.
Teaching swimming technique is my passion. In a sport where technique makes such a big difference in one’s success or lack of, it is really a pleasure to help swimmers get faster. No matter how great the coach, it is very difficult for him or her to spend any significant time studying technique in the midst of a busy and crowded practice. But in a Race Club camp, our focus is primarily on technique, analyzing above and below the water, working on drills that have a singular purpose to help improve speed.
Ryan Lochte grew up in Rochester, New York; not too far from Buffalo. There were some incredibly talented swimmers in our swim clinic in Buffalo last month. Perhaps one of them will be the next Lochte or Phelps or Coughlin or Soni. Who knows? All I know is that America has an abundance of talented kids that are willing to work very hard to realize their dreams. Even though superstars don’t come along every day, it is nice to know we have a strong foundation of swimmers coming up and a good pipeline of talent. Somewhere out there, another Phelps and Lochte are just getting started.
Yours in Swimming,
Visit the photo gallery of Gary’s trip to Buffalo.