PHOENIX, Arizona, December 20. INDIANA University's head swimming coach Ray Looze joins today's edition of The Morning Swim Show on the heels of successful mid-season meets.
Looze analyzes his decision to not have his swimmers do a shave and taper for the winter nationals, and how they fared against more rested swimmers. His men's team gets a boost this season with the return of Eric Ress, and Looze talks about getting him back into the groove of collegiate swimming competition after not making the French Olympic team. Looze also talks about his expectations for the women's team and what he's looking forward to seeing from his teams at NCAAs. Be sure to visit SwimmingWorld.TV for more video interviews.
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Jeff Commings: This is the Morning Swim Show for Thursday, December 20th, 2012. I am your host Jeff Commings. In the FINIS Monitor today is Ray Looze, head coach of the men's and women's teams at Indiana University. The Hoosier men are consistently in the top 10 at the NCAA's while the women are knocking on the door of the top 10 finish this season and Coach Looze join us right now from Bloomington.
Ray Looze: Thanks Jeff.
Jeff: Ray good to see you. How are you doing today?
Ray: I am doing great. Good to be on your show.
Jeff: Good to have you. So are the Hoosiers already in Holiday training or are you gearing up for that now?
Ray: We are in it right now. We just finished final exams on Friday and we are going to be training here for another week or so and finishing up on Saturday and then the kids will be going home to spend holidays with their families for the next week.
Jeff: Are you going to take them anywhere for Christmas training?
Ray: We are staying put this year in Bloomington, so we will spend a week training here. They will go home and then we will come back spending another week before start our spring semester.
Jeff: What's it like there in Bloomington especially you know between semesters? Is it pretty quiet there you know if the kids don't really have much distractions, I would imagine?
Ray: You know it is definitely a college town, but we all tend to enjoy the little more when the bulk of the students go home so it is a little quieter but it is a cosmopolitan city in the sense there is world class restaurants that basically any type of food that you could imagine and we have a really good music school so there is a lot of live music and that type of entertainment almost every night here so there is plenty of stuff to do, but less traffic right now which is always appreciated.
Jeff: Well I am sure you will be training them really hard so I know probably all the swimmers will be probably too tired to go out and do anything.
Ray: Pretty much.
Jeff: That is what you want to have at least.
Ray: Yeah, you know when you are young you always have a lot of energy but this is a pretty good group that we have got this year. They are very dedicated and you know pretty focused people and you know I expect they will kind of do what they need to do this week to take care of themselves so they can you know perform in the pool since we don't have any academic points to worry about right now
.Jeff: Speaking of dedication and focus, these guys, you sent some of these guys to nationals unshaved and untapered. That is a pretty tough group to be able to go up against guys who are at the peak of their season like Arizona and Southern Cal. What was the thinking behind having them go there and not be fully rested?
Ray: You know we don't typically do a December shave and you know we wanted to take things up a notch and really challenge our athletes mid-season so that you know they would get a good mental sense of what NCAA's is like and I was really pleased with how many pros turned up at nationals. It was a faster meet than we initially anticipated and so we wanted to you know kind of simulate if you will you know getting into the final at NCAA's is going to take and we didn't make many A finals but we kind of broke through on the last day. I think we got in there through four times and I think we did a good job of getting our athletes ready for you know what they are going to face in March.
Jeff: Well as a coach how do you get these kids motivated to swim fast knowing that they are going to be going up against people, you know professionals, Ryan Lochte and Matt Grevers among others?
Ray: You know that is one of the hardest things to do is going to a meet unshaved and really unrested, because we pretty much did a full day of training on Tuesday then got on the plane Wednesday. You know it is one of the more challenging things I found as a coach to kind of overcome, but I think they were excited to hit the road and you know they kind of worked their way into the meet is what happens so you know the first day you know being C finals. And then you know ending up by the you know by the third day of the meet with quite a few A finalist and almost everybody we brought to the meet scored so we ended up splitting our squad you know half of them went to an invitational in Columbus and then the other half went to Austin and rarely were just looking for the ability to get second swims and gain experience against top global competition.
Jeff: Steven Schmuhl got some pretty good competition himself. He was at the short course world championship last week. He got 12th in the 400 IM. What are your thoughts on how you did it?
Ray: You know we were pretty happy that he got that opportunity you know he certainly wasn't the first choice for that team, but you know in the post Olympic time period you never know when your opportunity to make a national team might come and that was the first time you know outside of maybe a youth Olympic team that he has gotten a chance to represent team U.S.A. and you know I think he went a 4:10.3 which is equivalent to you know right around the 3:44 and for a guy that really can count on one hand how many times he swam a 400 IM, it is not a bad time to go at this point in the season and literally you know his rest started as he stepped foot on the plane to head to Turkey. It would have been nice to see him in the A final and he was real close but we were pretty thrilled with this result nonetheless.
Jeff: Yeah, I think this world championship team, especially in United States, it was an opportunity for those younger swimmers to get that experience and I think like you said he is going to come back and really you think he is really going to have that confidence going in NCAA's. You know that is the thing for Steve is it is all about confidence you know he is probably, he did something his freshman year last year that I have never seen happened to a person.
Ray: He did not score a point at the Big 10 conference championship individually yet he scored individually at NCAA's and you know really the difference was you felt more confident in himself and since that 200 fly at NCAA's last year he is kind of taking off. We had a great summer, awesome Olympic Trials and then an even better U.S. Open which you know gave me opportunity to head to Turkey to represent team U.S.A. so you know he is really on a roll right now and I think it is going to pay great dividends you know moving forward into the future.
Jeff: Well, you were a 400 IMer yourself in your competitive days so it must be a good feeling for you to kind of to have a swimmer doing so well in that event now. Yeah you know there was probably my first.
Ray: I have been at Indiana 10 years now. In my first 8 years here we really didn't have an elite level 400 IMer until the last year when Sam Trahin broke in and got 4th at NCAA's for our men's team and then Allysa Vavra did quite well at the women's meet so you know then to have Steve kind of stepped into that role as well. It is always nice to see his 400 IM is a blend of – you know a lot of things all 4 strokes. You got to have some speed, versatility and it is really a beautiful event and a lot of race strategy can occur so it is always kind of neat to watch a person you know develop into one of those people that can you know swim a 400 IM or even a 200 IM.
Jeff: Well your men's team is looking really good this year. We just talked about Steven and obviously getting Eric Ress back after his Olympic Redshirt. Probably would you say his return adds a big boost your ting, not just point wise but mentally?
Ray: For sure. You know it adds a big boost to him as well. You know it was an long year for him you know it is the second time he has redshirted for you know whether for the Olympics or an injury so Eric was so excited you know when we did our first dual meet of the season he goes man this is my first time swimming in a collegiate meet you know in almost 2 years. You know so it is great to have Eric back. He is a wonderful leader and an even better person and it really gives us some good quality at the top of our team for sure.
Jeff: Tell me what it was like for you as a coach to get him back on the collegiate side of things. Was it easy for you to do especially knowing that you know he had had the disappointment of not making the French Olympic team?
Ray: You know it was not easy. It has been hard for him. When he didn't make the team last spring you know he came back and said all the right things and you know tried to get himself you know refocused on new goals but you know just in the past month I have seen the old Eric, you know the happy guy that was really enjoying himself start to blossom again. So it has been a process you know whenever you come really close to doing something that special yet fall short, you know it is probably one of the biggest tests of your character and your perseverance that you are ever going to deal with and you know I just shared with him some of my personal experiences getting third at Olympic trials in 1992 and kind of what I went through and how I approached it and you know it doesn't make you something any quicker, but it is always nice to know there is other people are dealing with the same emotions that you are.
Jeff: Yeah, it probably does help knowing you have a coach who could kind of who has had that on their own personal experience. Now as I said you've got a lot of big stars on your men's team. The women's team still kind of working its way up to be a little bit equal. What are your expectations for the women this season?
Ray: You know it is a fair statement about our women. You know I think by the end of the season they may surprise a lot of people. We have a very good freshman class that is really coming to its own and you know one of the most important things is we have great leadership and you know so if they continue to develop and you know just get exceptional team chemistry which they are definitely pointed in that direction they are going to surprise some people you know on what they might be able to do. But I think the rankings of that team are fair right now and you know the only ranking that really matters is the last one and I always talked to both teams about this. That is the only one that matters is how you perform at NCAA's so our goal is to surprise a few people by the end of the season.
Jeff: With that said, I am sure you put a lot of focus on the Big 10 meet as well. I mean that is a very competitive meet and you guys have won a couple of championships so I would imagine the focus is still very strong for that.
Ray: You know we made a conscious decision you know within the past year or so to try to put more focus on the NCAA meet, so in all honesty you know we have tried to really you know make our team an NCAA focused team. We still want to perform well at Big 10's you know and always compete for a Big 10 title but really we want to be a top team at NCAA's and we feel like we are attracting enough talent you know certainly on the Men's side this year and in the near future on the Women's side to make that a reality so I would have to correct you there Jeff.
Jeff: I am glad to hear that. It is probably the right focus to have Ray, so it is good to hear. Before we go, I want to kind of talk about you coaching a combined team because for many years before you got to Indiana you were only a men's coach and you coach just the men's team in Indian for a few years so was there any kind of a change for you when you started coaching a combined team?
Ray: It is the hardest thing I have ever done. Really, really challenging and I have such great respect for all of my colleagues that have done it successfully year after year after year. You know and I think anybody that has recently you know taken over you know programs that have combined would stay the same thing. You know you are just your meeting a lot of different meets and the key is to have a you know great staff and a great support system and you know mine starts with my wife Candice, she is a former coach of a very high level and she is always super supportive and keeps me grounded. She doesn't let me complain or you know feel sorry for myself and then just — we have a phenomenal staff here you know in Donny Brush, Michael Westphal and Marie Marsman and you know that you know just do a fantastic job so that when you know I need to go do some recruiting or take care of things that help the program and come back and things are calm and along as if you know I was present.
Jeff: Yeah, that has got to be a great help and it is interesting you talk about your wife. I mean they always say success begins at home, so it seems to be working for you.
Ray: For sure.
Jeff: Well great Ray, it is good to catch up with you again and it was great seeing you at nationals and as I told you there, it was good to see you guys swimming well against kind of a little bit of adversity so it probably looks like it is boding well for you guys in the end of the season.
Ray: Well Jeff it is an honor that you noticed and even more so wanting to be on your show. Thank you, Happy Holidays.
Jeff: All right. Happy Holiday, you too, we will see you in March.
Ray: Sounds good.
Jeff: All right so that is Ray Looze joining us in the FINIS Monitor for today's Morning Swim Show and that is going to wrap it up for us. Be sure to join us on swimmingworld.com on Facebook and on Twitter to catch up with all the latest news. I am Jeff Commings. Thanks for watching.
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