By Elle Meinholz, Swimming World intern
Sergio Lopez, head coach of Bolles School Sharks, is no stranger to fast swimming. Starting his swimming career at the early age of 4, Lopez, a native to Barcelona, Spain, became a 1988 Olympic Bronze Medalist in the 200 meter breaststroke. Swimming plays an important role in his life, and his passion is something he has always wanted to share as a coach.
“When I swam I felt a power, like I was invincible. I felt that I always wanted to be a coach so I could share that power with my swimmers. Swimming means a lot in my life, and I want to be able to coach my swimmers in a way that helps them understand life,” Lopez said.
For Lopez, swimming is about more than putting in a lot of yards. He believes that although working hard in the pool is crucial, the mental game has more influence than anything else. In order for swimmers to achieve success, the belief in themselves is absolutely necessary.
“If they don't believe then they don't dream about being the best and they'll never get very far. Yes you need to work hard and it helps to be in a good training environment, but the difference between a very good swimmer and a not-so-good swimmer is that they believe they are the best.”
Coaching a predominantly younger group of club swimmers, Lopez's overarching philosophy for his program is to have a progression for his swimmers so that they may develop into collegiate-level athletes.
“The club is set up to prepare kids so that by the time they are 17-18 years old, they are ready to swim another 4-6 more years in college and have the best years of their career,” said Lopez.
A great example of this is Bolles swimmer Ryan Murphy, a senior backstroker who committed to California earlier this year. At the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, Murphy finished fourth in the 200 meter backstroke and sixth in the 100 meter backstroke.
“Ryan has really developed in the past five years as a part of this program, from a club swimmer to a nationally-ranked athlete.”
Lopez also had the chance to coach another successful Bolles-connected swimmer in Charlie Houchin. Houchin won Olympic gold as part of the U.S. 800-meter free relay at the 2012 London Olympics.
“I cannot take responsibility for Charlie's swimming. He's a professional who has had many great coaches throughout his career. It was a valuable experience to have him with his last big push for the Olympics,” said Lopez.
Lopez is an exceptional coach who pushes his swimmers and focuses on preparing them for the future. When it comes to training, he places a lot of importance on swimming properly, having good strokes, and being able to swim each stroke well. IM training is a priority for all Bolles swimmers in order to help each swimmer to be as well-rounded as possible.
“The goal is to make each swimmer versatile so they are prepared to swim multiple events when they reach college swimming,” said Lopez.
The objective is to prepare the kids the best he can so that they develop in the program and continue to develop even after they leave Bolles. Lopez's practices are based on a cycle, rotating through dryland, circuits, pace, and aerobic practices. Different from a lot of coaches, Lopez does not believe in hammering out the yardage; training is about the progression, versatility, and mentality of the swimmer.
Lopez does not attribute what makes this program successful to the practices or the coaching. Bolles Swimming is successful because the swimmers believe in themselves and each other, according to Lopez.
“We believe as a team that we can be great. The team supports each other and they work hard together. The swimmers want to be better and make the team better, and that's how you achieve success.”