Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Excerpt by Chris DeSantis, originally published on SwimmingWorld.TV

ATLANTA, Georgia, October 27. IN my personal pantheon of coaching heroes, Doc Counsilman stands alone. I first knew of him only incidentally – his son had been the head coach of my club team when I started swimming. It wasn't until the summer of 2004 that I would truly discover the wisdom of Doc.

That summer I was charged with what was at first an overwhelming task: to look through 20 years of ASCA speeches and publications and pull them into one coherent document. I was to make a manual for introducing novice coaches to the sport. The reason I had been given the task was two-fold. My boss knew that despite the warnings of my elders, I truly wanted to be a swim coach. He thought I would learn a lot by putting it together, and that it would help those that came after me.

As I poured over the speeches and essays, I quickly found ways to disqualify certain items. Many were incredibly dated – coaches spinning yarns about who they were training at the time and how fast they were. But above all others, there was one guy who wrote prolifically and timelessly: James Edward "Doc" Counsilman.

Doc had concrete advice on how to coach. He covered wide ranges of topics, suggested sets, referenced sports psychology. He had the whole package. He was a swim coaching renaissance man. I never finished the manual that I set out to put together in the first place, but I certainly learned a lot in the process.

I was reminded of Doc last week when I picked up an ASCA magazine from 2008. Inside was an incredibly fascinating reprint of an article entitled "All That Yardage." I had never read it. It was essentially a rambling rebuke of the theories put forth by a young coach who Doc admitted had smarts but was certainly wrong. The name of the young coach? David Salo. Salo had just published an article entitled "The Distance Myth" where he had set out to disprove that everyone needed 10,000-20,000 yards a day.

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