PHOENIX, Arizona, October 16. WESTERN Kentucky University head coach Bruce Marchionda has enjoyed a remarkable year, and he relives watching his swimmer make the Olympic team and other highlights on today's edition of The Morning Swim Show.
Marchionda began to believe Claire Donahue could be a member of the U.S. Olympic team in 2011, and talks about how he and the coaching staff at Western Kentucky prepared her to make the dream a reality. He also breaks down the experience of seeing Donahue make the team and working with her to improve at the Olympics. Donahue's success in London has greatly helped Marchionda with recruiting at Western Kentucky, and he talks about the large number of recruits now visiting Bowling Green. This December, he'll be part of his first major international coaching staff at the short course worlds, an experience he said he will use to learn from the best coaches. Be sure to visit SwimmingWorld.TV for more video interviews.
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Jeff Commings: This is the Morning Swim Show for Tuesday, October 16th, 2012. I am your host Jeff Commings. In the FINIS Monitor today is Bruce Marchionda, the Head Coach of Men's and Women's Teams at Western Kentucky University. He is starting his 8th season coaching the Hilltoppers after a great summer helping Claire Donahue to a spot on the Olympic team and in the Olympic final of 100 butterfly, and he is continuing a great year having been named an assistant coach for the short course world championship team. Bruce joins us now in the FINIS Monitor from Bowling Green, Kentucky. Coach, good to see you, how are you today?
Bruce Marchionda: I am doing fine. Thank you for having me this morning.
Jeff: Well good to have you, congrats on a great 2012 so far. I would imagine this far exceeds all expectations you had.
Bruce: Oh absolutely. It has just been a whirlwind ever since the Olympic Trials and just to be part of the excitement and helping somebody reach their goals you know makes it all worth all the hours that you put in.
Jeff: Well I want to start on Olympic Trials and go chronologically from there. How much did you allow yourself to believe that Claire could actually make the Olympic team in a hundred fly after she made the final?
Bruce: We started to really believe that she can make the team out at Stanford at U.S. Nationals a year before when she placed second at the U.S. Nationals and made it to the Pan-American Games and at that point we felt like, okay, this is a realistic goal and we really sat down and tried to make sure that we did everything possible for her to be successful on that day.
Jeff: Well that is a pretty long time to start setting someone up for the possibility of it. How do you keep your emotions, Claire's emotions down while you are going through training while at that time the whole time thinking I could possibly go on the Olympic team?
Bruce: Well we tried to put together just an excellent support staff for her and we were able to do that. I mean John Stephanski is our strength trainer here at Western Kentucky and been with the program for six years now so very consistent. He understands the world of swimming and he was an instrumental part of that and then Betsy Shoenfelt, Sports Psychologist here on campus you know worked with Claire once a week for 10 months just in preparation for walking out of that final at the Olympic Trials. You know plus you know our — my kind of coaching philosophy is one of education and we just tried to have Claire understand it is much about her training as possible so you know she would be more motivated to do it correctly.
Jeff: This idea of sports psychology is something I have been hearing a lot from people that I have interviewed in the past few weeks. When did you start embracing the idea of using a sport psychologist to help your athletes?
Bruce: Well actually probably ever since I started coaching in at prep school 25 years ago — I hate to say that — but 25 years ago you know people like Keith Bell were writing books and we always use to use a lot of his stuff, Allen Goldberg from up in the New England area and borrowed a lot of things from him even at that early stages and it is always something I believed in and as we knew we had a realistic chance of making the Olympic team I just wanted to make sure that we had no regrets when we were finished and that was one of the things that we felt like we can do a little bit better for her and really try to beef that program up.
Jeff: So knowing that you had been kind of building up to that moment in the Olympic Trials final, what was your reaction when she got second place?
Bruce: Well, it was interesting because we were pretty much right on the sight line about the 15-meter mark out, and she actually started pulling away from people the last 50 meters which is a little uncharacteristic of Claire because she goes out so fast and so aggressive and you know she hit the wall and we kind of look up and once we saw the number two I think it was just pandemonium. Brian Thomas, one of my Assistant Coaches was there and I really don't remember the next 15 minutes. You know we were running around trying to find their parents and trying to find other people that were there with us. I think I got 47 text messages within 1 minute after she finished that race. And then once it is settled in you know we kind of caught our breath and then got to her down at the ready area and really kind of celebrated for awhile and then kind of readjusted our goals going into the Olympics.
Jeff: Now were you able to keep working with Claire in those weeks between Trials in the Olympics.
Bruce: Yes, I was very fortunate because I was able to go to Knoxville for the week that, that training camp was in Knoxville with all the Olympic team and got a chance to work with her and really sit down with Todd, Missy's Coach who was kind of her prime coach when I wasn't there and just really sit down and organized her plan and he was very, very good about you know making sure she was getting what she needed and of course I didn't go to France, but then hooked back up with her in London. I was fortunate enough to get a personal coaching pass from U.S.A. Swimming and we were able to work with Claire during the kind of week before her events and during her events and so it was great just having that consistency I think for her.
Jeff: What was it like for you to be able to be on deck and experience that whole rush of being at the Olympics?
Bruce: You know it was interesting because a lot of people ask me that. When we were at the meet you know you are in the warm up pool and you are running back and forth and trying take care of everybody and it is almost like another meet, but then all of a sudden you go home at the end of the night and you sit down and you turn the TV on and you are watching the Olympic Games and it is just like oh my gosh, this is just unbelievable being here and being part of it and just again for her, to see somebody reach their goals like that you know it just makes all the hours that we put in coaching worth it.
Jeff: Well I want to go back real quick to Trials. You had 6 other swimmers there, how did they perform?
Bruce: We had a total of seven including Claire, 6 of the 7 went lifetime bests so obviously we are very excited about that and we had one of our freshmen at the time now sophomore this year, we just started Hannah Runyon-Hass did a phenomenal job in both the 200 and the 400 IM and you know it was funny because after Hannah's IM's I asked her do you know what Claire placed in the 100 fly in 2008 and she said from 31st and I said, “Yes” I said, “What did you just place?” And she says, “32nd”So I said, “Well, there we go. 4 years from now let's do the same thing.”
Jeff: Really amazing. So you give your back from London now, how easy was it for you to transition from all that excitement to coming back and being a college coach?
Bruce: Well I mean you know it is what we do, so I think it was a very easy transition being grounded knowing that we have a lot of more work to do here, and it is going to be a very exciting time for our program and for recruiting and so we try to hit the ground running you know as soon as we got back from London.
Jeff: Well, talk about that, that is really amazing that you told me earlier you had 21 recruits come to your campus in 2 weeks. Now that is a lot for any school, I mean it doesn't matter Division 1, Division 3 whatever, I would imagine this has a little bit to do with the successes that Claire had in London.
Bruce: Oh absolutely. Oh you know in years past we would make a call and I would identify myself and you know probably eight of the 10 swimmers really knew nothing about Western Kentucky. They may have heard the name. Some of them didn't hear the name, didn't even know whether if we were Division 1 or two and now of course we call and oh yeah, Western Kentucky, Claire Donahue and it is just a different feeling when you are able to make those calls and it has opened some doors that perhaps were not open before because our message to everybody, which I think Claire sent very clearly, is you can reach your goals at Western Kentucky regardless of how high they are.
Jeff: Yeah, it is a good philosophy. So how does this season look for the men and women there?
Bruce: You know we actually start our dual meet competition tomorrow and we are excited to kind of see them race. We have 22 new faces on the team, men and women combined, and so a third of our team is new this year. We got a few transfers in. We have obviously a lot of freshmen and so there is a lot of unknowns there and how they are going to respond to what we are trying to do right now, but in practice things look good so we are very excited.
Jeff: And the men's team almost pulled off a conference win last season are you optimistic that is going to happen this time?
Bruce: Well you know this year is going to be interesting because our men have moved to Conference USA and so we are very excited about that move for them and yes, our goal is to go in there and win the conference championships, and I think we do have the talent to be able to do that, a lot of things will have to fall into place, but I think we have a legitimate shock of perhaps winning both conference championships this year, which obviously is our goal.
Jeff: Well before that, you have got your next assignment for U.S.A. Swimming. You are going to be Assistant Coach for the short course world championship team. What is the process for getting something like that?
Bruce: Well, I think it is kind of a stepping stone process, you know putting kids on to the national team, getting a chance to work with them and you know kind of network with other coaches. You know it was great to meet a lot of the other coaches and really get to know them at the training camp in Knoxville for the Olympic team and spending time in London so you get to know them and kind of get in your foot in the door and let them know that you know you are very interested in doing something like this. And Frank Busch was you know kind enough to give me an opportunity here to work with the World Championship team and I am very excited about that.
Jeff: Yeah, and you will be going over to Claire who I am sure is just as excited to be kind of feeding off her Olympic high, too.
Bruce: Exactly, exactly. I told her when I got the phone call from Frank and I think she tweeted it within 2 minutes and then I was getting calls from people, so she is very excited and she is just a great person to work with. Yeah, I have been working with Claire for going on year 6 now and so you know our goal is Rio 2016 to try and get individual medal there in Brazil.
Jeff: Yeah, that is well, you know she got close in London so you know the world is looking out for her.
Jeff: You know we know when swimmers going international trips they want to swim faster and win medals, but when you go over to Turkey, what do you hope to gain from the experience?
Bruce: I think the more international experience you get, the more prepared you will be to handle the bigger competitions and be more relaxed. You know that is why I was so excited about Claire making the Pan American Team to get that village experience, to get that international experience, so once she went to the Olympics she had that you know Olympic village experience and I think that really helped her. It gave her confidence going into the Olympic Trials. I think the Grand Prix Meets were excellent for her because in most of the Grand Prix Meets she stood on the podium in the 100 fly and she kind of got that mentality that I belong here. So anytime you can get some of that experience I think it is going to pay off down the road.
Jeff: Well it is great, coach, to see all the benefits that are coming from this not just for Claire and you but for Western Kentucky as well. Congratulations on all that and best of luck to you this season.
Bruce: Well thank you very much and we always follow your show, so we will be looking forward to all of the features you are going to do with all the great coaches.
Jeff: All right, thanks a lot coach.
Bruce: Okay, bye-bye.
Jeff: All right so that is Bruce Marchionda joining us in the FINIS Monitor today and that is going to do it for the Morning Swim Show. As always we invite you to join us on swimmingworld.com on Facebook or on Twitter to keep up with the latest news. I am Jeff Commings. Thanks for watching.
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