SOUTH BEND, Indiana, February 28. NOTRE Dame head coach Brian Barnes has certainly had a full media slate this past week after Emma Reaney popped a 2:04.34 in the women’s 200-yard breaststroke at ACCs to set an American record, but Barnes made sure to take time out to chat with Swimming World to help our readers get to know Reaney a bit better.
Additionally, Barnes plans to provide Swimming World with some serious workout information after this weekend so that our readers can get special access to what went into Reaney pulling off an American record last weekend. Keep an eye out for that information in a future article.
What was your first impression of Emma? When is the first time you got to know her?
I knew Emma when she was eight years old when I was head coach at the Lawrence Aquahawks. I met her at a new swimmer clinic, but I never coached her until Notre Dame. I knew of her and followed her career, and knew that she was very enthusiastic and loved the sport.
What was the recruiting process like with Emma? Having followed her on Twitter @Chloreaney, it’s obvious that she has a strong personality.
We knew of each other, so it wasn’t difficult to reach out and introduce myself from Notre Dame. I remember calling her first thing on July 1. Emma was very easy to talk to on the phone. She was very mature and comfortable in person.
I remember doing lunch on a recruiting trip, and just talking to her about what she wants to achieve, and picking up on her enthusiasm. I sensed a very mature woman when I was recruiting her, and I had a really good sense of her family, and she comes from a terrific family. It wasn’t hard to offer Emma Reaney a scholarship, let’s put it that way.
What’s Emma been like as a team leader?
She definitely has grown into it. Making NCAAs as a freshman, along with her swimming at Olympic Trials, she had the chance to grow into a leader. And, she’s taken that on, and was voted team captain by her peers as a junior this year. She’s also made sure to help us devise new ways to get better. She’s been extremely smart about finding the different things that Notre Dame has to offer, and using them as part of what we do here. She already set up a leadership seminar this semester with the team, and that was all Emma.
Let’s get into some more specifics regarding Emma’s American record. It was almost a foregone conclusion that Texas A&M’s Breeja Larson would be a huge favorite in both breaststrokes this year, and she even set the 100 breast Americna record the night before at SECs. Then, minuted after Breeja missed the American record in the 200, Emma jumped into national-title contention with her amazing swim. What did it take for Emma to get to that level?
She’s just done the little things throughout the year. When Emma does a workout, I’m not very direct with her. She’d push a 1:03 in practice, or maybe go 1:02, and I’d say you could come back in 1:04 flat. She’s very good at putting two and two together, to know what the final goals are at the end of that work.
She’s the only woman I’ve met who can average 29s on 50 breaststroke on a 1:30. Little things like that definitely built her confidence. It’s interesting when you see and do things as a coach, and I have changed quite a bit from club coaching to Indiana to Auburn, but I’ve seen several people do the same set and Emma is as good as I’ve ever seen.
The thing of it is, and what is interesting about the record, I think people are surprised about it. You are surprised because you haven’t been paying close enough attention to Emma. She’s been putting up the times and improving. I don’t think this team is at all surprised, but is honored that she did it as part of this team.
We work very hard here at Notre Dame. I think if you were around watching how hard this team works, you’d see that Emma swimming this fast is a possibility. The other surprise is that it came from Notre Dame. This is great, and in my mind, it is the best university in the world. Notre Dame is about excellence, and that’s what we are doing here.
As far as Breeja, we paid no attention to SECs. We could not pay attention, because we had a job to do ourselves. We have an incredible coaching staff. Kate [Kovenock] is unbelievable. Emma is not successful without Kate. Josh [Skube], our volunteer, has been awesome as well. Without those two, no one is successful. I really enjoyed it last week, the way we communicated and did this coaching dance with the entire team. The effort involved in that is what makes it difficult to pay attention to anything else.
What do you see for the future with Emma?
I believe Emma has National Team potential. Emma made the National Team last summer shortly after being featured in Swimming World. I think she wants to be named to a team this summer. She wants to do the National Team experience in an international way. She has that potential absolutely. She’s the best 200 short course breaststroker at this point. She has extraordinary goals, but the details are left to her.
The plan is certainly to put Emma in position to do the best she can do in an Olympic year. That’s down the road though. There’s so much down the road in that. It’s not easy to do this full time as a profession.
Are there any other keys to Emma’s development?
Emma’s development has been calculated. Emma is fantastic in the weight room. We have an amazing strength coach Elisa Angeles. She is one of the few strength coaches that understands taper, periodization and the process.
I’ve had the same strength coach since my very first day here. If she is ever reassigned, I will be kicking and screaming.
Often times in collegiate sports, you have to have a second major and that second major has to be the weight room. The best athletes I’ve ever coached have been good in the weight room.
What about the record swim itself? What do you think was missed in any of the coverage of it?
It looked pretty confident. It was organized extraordinarily well. She stayed to a consistent plan, and when she dials into a plan her pullouts are phenomenal. It was confident. It was one of those swims that looked rather easy. Those are fun and don’t happen very often.