PHOENIX, Arizona, January 5. MIKE Spring, the head coach of Crimson Aquatics, is taking on additional coaching duties at a new college in the Boston area, and on today's edition of The Morning Swim Show, he talks about the new opportunity and how his coaching philosophy works at Crimson Aquatics.
Spring, who says he takes a scientific approach to his coaching, talks about the program that allows him to get feedback, and why he feels that working on stroke rate almost daily is key for age-group swimmers. Be sure to visit SwimmingWorld.TV for more video interviews.
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Peter Busch: Welcome to The Morning Swim Show for Thursday, January 12th 2012. I'm your host Peter Busch. In the FINIS monitor today we'll talk to Mike Spring. He's the head coach of Crimson Aquatics and he is also the coach of the newly-formed Men's and Women's Swim Teams at Merrimack College just outside of Boston. Mike joins us right now in the FINIS monitor. Mike, welcome to The Morning Swim Show. How are you?
Mike Spring: Good. How are you?
Peter Busch: Good, tell us about Merrimack College.
Mike Spring: It's a small Catholic school, about 35 minutes north of Boston. The school's looking to expand the next couple of years, bringing in more students. We're a Division 2 program and just really excited to get going with the team.
Peter Busch: Natural fit for you. You've been living in that area for a long, long time, you're familiar with the swimming talent in the area.
Mike Spring: Yes, I've been here for about 18 years now so I'm real familiar with what's around, I'm hoping my access to the national meets with my club kids will get me some contact with kids throughout the US and I can really kind of expand the program quickly.
Peter Busch: So what size of program are we starting off with here?
Mike Spring: I'm looking to do seven men and seven women in the first year, kind of getting a way higher, I realize I'm behind the recruiting process so I'm just hoping maybe there are even some kids on campus that had swam in high school looking to get back into it.
Peter Busch: So are they giving you some scholarships to work with?
Mike Spring: Yes, I'm going to start off with about almost five scholarships for women and three for men and then hopefully as the years roll on I can keep increasing that.
Peter Busch: Are you going to be able to continue working with Crimson as you have for many years while still doing the college gig?
Mike Spring: Yes, right now the Merrimack job is part time and so then I was sent here to keep going to Crimson. I love the club, I built the club to where we're at and I'll continue to do both and I think I would figure out a way to make them both work.
Peter Busch: Crimson is kind of like the club team for Harvard, right?
Mike Spring: It is. We kind of use that as our base pool. Sundays we can get together and train the whole club together and it really works out well for us.
Peter Busch: But you have satellite programs then if that's the base pool?
Mike Spring: Yes, we have a satellite here in Andover where I coach and then obviously there's the one at Harvard and then there's another out in Whitinsville which is about 40 minutes west of Boston.
Peter Busch: How many kids total?
Mike Spring: We're just about 300 kids. We're a little shy of that. But we're growing at a pretty rapid rate I think. Our biggest problem right now is actually finding pool space to fit the kids that want to join in.
Peter Busch: Yes, I would say pool space in any urban environment's a bit of a challenge but you're definitely making it work, coming on USA Swimming Club's Excellence List again.
Mike Spring: Yes, we are, we have a great coaching staff, Carl Cederquist is in Whitinsville, Jack Leavitt is head coach down at Harvard, and myself. I think we have about 22 coaches. We really try to keep that ratio of coach to swimmer small. I think it's just a great group here. We get along great, we really like hanging out together and talk about swimming and I think that's really what makes it work.
Peter Busch: Now how would you describe your coaching style? How do you like to train kids?
Mike Spring: I'm more a scientific coach. I think swimming I look at it as being more of a learned response. We do a lot of time – we spend about three days a week for an hour just doing 25s where we work on just tempo and speed and trying to put two plus two together. A lot of kids we put them through a stroke frequency test, which shows me which rates they should be swimming at and then we kind of just train that repeatedly hoping for a great response when they dive in the race.
Peter Busch: So give me an example of a kid's… a 200 swimmer. You're doing 25s, trying to be at that 200 pace just over and over again?
Mike Spring: Yes, we'll do it for about an hour, we'll do sets of 16 with about a minute rest, a minute and a half rest between each set, and we'll do that for an hour.
Peter Busch: Now can that work for shorter distances or I'd imagine it's a little bit more challenging for 50 and 100 swimmers?
Mike Spring: It is, that would be good, but I think – I'm not looking for – we're a developmental program I think. We're looking for kids to reach their peak in college, not really necessarily with me, so we're really kind of just trying to set them up for a great college career and I don't really want to pigeon hole anybody at this age and it really works, the whole dynamic of every event. I think, 60% of my kids their first junior cut's the mile, so I think we can train them from the 50 all the way up to the mile. Rachel Moore just got third at juniors in the 50, she went 22.9. And then we had Ashlee Korsberg who got fourth in the mile, went 16, she was 16:31-something I think.
Peter Busch: The thinking is if they can understand the pace then that sets a great foundation?
Mike Spring: Yes, I think so. I think it makes them really familiar with their own bodies and what works and I think a lot of it when we do 25s there's instant feedback, you can talk to a swimmer after every 25 and do stroke correction and that gives them a lot of self-correction, they know if they're not making their time at what they're doing their rate because we use a tempo trainer then they can make some corrections on their own even.
Peter Busch: Now there's like actually computer software you can use to train with this kind of stuff right now.
Mike Spring: There is, the Avida Sports system which we use at Harvard on Tuesdays and Thursdays mainly with the distance swimmers. It has the attachments to the wrists, the ankles, and one in the cap and that actually takes a step farther by showing much more that's going on during practice and during swims, it says on the back that we can look at tempo, race pace, lap speed, lots of other things like you can use out of that system that makes it expand on it.
Peter Busch: So somebody like Alex Meyer, one of the better open water swimmers in the country right now, does he use that?
Mike Spring: He does. What we're trying to do with Alex is find the right tempo and pace for a 10K, obviously much longer than what we'd ever do in a pool, where we're going to conserve enough energy but maintain speed so he could stay with the pack without wearing himself out and then have enough left for a good sprint at the finish.
Peter Busch: Do you get the feedback instantaneously where you can correct things within a specific set for example or is it something that you have to look at a computer readout after?
Mike Spring: No, it will send you every time they do a turn, it then sends the information to the laptop so you can take a look at it. So we can look at after every swim or we can sit down and wait and do it at the end of practice. We're trying right now to come up with some good test sets and parameters to apply this to so we're really kind of in a lot of learning stage right now with it and to press on with it in the future, really get a lot out of it.
Peter Busch: It's funny how there are so many different ways that you can teach swimmers to be successful – the many different coaching philosophies that we've talked about on the show and those that just exist out there.
Mike Spring: Yes, there are a thousand ways to skin a cat and I think there are a lot of smart guys out there coaching swimming, so I think they're all getting the job done obviously with the success that the teams out there are having.
Peter Busch: Well Mike, thanks a lot for sharing some of your knowledge and good luck with the move back into college swimming. It should be fun.
Mike Spring: Thank you, I'm looking forward to it.
Peter Busch: That's Mike Spring joining us in the FINIS monitor today and that's it for today's show. I'm Peter Busch reminding you to keep your head down at the finish.
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