By Lindsay Hock
PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania. October 16. ANYONE who has competed for an East Coast swim team most likely has seen their time flash on the mammoth scoreboard at one end of the Joe C. Trees Pool. Home to the University of Pittsburgh Panthers and Team Pitt Aquatics, it has been the setting for Speedo Sectionals, Eastern Zone Competitions and the well-known and well-attended Team Pittsburgh Christmas Invitational. Billed as the largest invitational in the country, the meet, held the weekend before Christmas for 46 years, has attracted large numbers and top-notch talent including Diana Munz, Brendan Hansen and Kristy Kowal.
But Trees Pool is not just a great competition site, it is also an outstanding training facility. With its 40 short course lanes spread across three pools, there is plenty of room to accommodate the 150 swimmers of Team Pitt Aquatics.
"We can run a lot of practice groups without having some of the problems other teams might have," said head coach Brent McAuliffe. "We don't have anyone running over each other or problems with passing; generally there are two to three kids per lane."
Those kids are divided into four practice groups said McAuliffe, who is a first-year head coach and also an assistant at the University of Pittsburgh.
Along with the help of four assistant coaches, swimmers are supported by six underwater cameras that are equipped with digital recording technology.
"We are able to tape our swimmers and that allows them to watch and improve on their technique," said McAuliffe.
Technique is the one aspect of swimming that has changed the most in the last 10 years, said McAuliffe, who previously coached at Mount Levin Aquatics and is a trained engineer.
"It's important for us to keep current, and stroke mechanics are so important," said McAuliffe. "We have to change with the times."
Speed work mixed with dryland training is emphasized at the TYR-sponsored team.
"We never go more than 10,000 yards in one practice," said McAuliffe, who does not encourage weight-training for his swimmers.
McAuliffe does encourage versatility in his swimmers, who are required to train for both the 400 IM and the 500 free.
"We like to mix it up," said McAuliffe, "if you can do the 400 IM or 500 free, you can swim anything."
Team Pittsburgh Quick Facts:
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Head Coach: Brent McAuliffe
Assistant Coach: Jeff Berghoff, Merci McCarthy, Mike Lovell, Andrea Shoust, Bethany Seidel
Number of Swimmers: 150
Number of Training Groups: 4
Team Web site: teampittsburgh.com