Where Is The Next Michael Phelps Coming From? Buffalo?

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,

Gary Sr.

Visit the photo gallery of Gary’s trip to Buffalo.

5 Responses to Where Is The Next Michael Phelps Coming From? Buffalo?

  1. CoachDennis

    Another Phelps or Lochte? Id be willing to bet that there will be athletes that will surpass both. They may even be out there now. But they wont come along if the dont learn how to swim. USA Swimming gets enough credit last time i checked. At the elite level they do a great job. The pipelines need to be reworked though. What has to happen is those schools, YMCAs, and summer recreation leagues have to focus on getting talent and keeping them in the sport in a system that works. Swimming should be way way bigger than what it is but its not because so many dont know how to swim and so many people dont get involved in the sport.

    • Nico Messer


      I don’t think there will be another Phelps or Lochte. There will be great swimmers in the future and they will surpass the greats previous athletes established. But it’s going to get harder and harder at the top and we most likely won’t see someone dominate as many distances and strokes at the same time again. Take a look at the guys that are on top in the 50 (and maybe even the 100) free right now. They do swim other events but all their focus in workouts goes into those 21 seconds, one single lap.

      But your absolutely right on trying to get and keep the talent in the sport. I think a big part of it is that we need the right coaches for the right groups. They need to transfer the passion for the sport over to those young athletes (and I sure saw a lot of coaches doing the exact opposite).

  2. Stratocaster

    My club has attended meets in the Niagara District LSC and I have seen first hand the level of swimming for that area. All I can say is some of the slowest swimming we see all year. Basically they have lots of pools and host lots of meets. In addition, we don’t see many swimmers from that area at meets outside Buffalo, so the teams don’t seem to compete much outside their community. We know of some really knowledgeable people and resources from that area but they don’t seem to be actively involved

    • Nico Messer


      I think racing outside your district, state or even country when you get to that level is really important. You start to get “lazy” if you race the same people over and over again.

      And I guess having great coaches who don’t like to share their experiences or work with other coaches because they still think what they’re doing is top secret is a problem in many districts, states and foreign countries as well.

    • Greg

       While you may be right… there is NO  benfit in publicly  slaming the the local  LSC  & area in a blog  for being “the Slowest you see all year”.   It is a smaller metro  market & the Swim community  in Buffalo – Niagara performs releatively close to the Per capa ratios nationally within USA swimming.

      What is far more important is that the people in the sport in  the Niagara LSC and accross much of the country  strive to develop the clubs, working the  sport into the fabric of everyday life within the communities. 

       Lets all  raise the bar  in  swimming and our charactor.


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