Holding Onto Your Soul in Swimming: Michigan’s Jim Richardson

OAK BROOK, Illinois, May 23. SWIMMINGWORLD.TV had the great chance to speak with retiring Michigan women's head coach Jim Richardson at the Central States Clinic in Illinois earlier this month. Richardson spoke with Swimming World's Tiffany Elias as the two looked back at some of Richardson's memories, but also focused on some of the most important things Richardson had has learned from decades of attending and speaking at the events.

During a solid conversation, Elias presented Richardson with a simple question, “What's the most important thing you want someone to take away from a clinic.”

“From a technical standpoint, it is getting kids to be very efficient and elegant in the water,” Richardson told Swimming World. “From a personal standpoint, it is about being able to negotiate everything thrown at you by this sport. You need to hold on to your soul as a person. That's not an easy thing for parents, coaches and swimmers to do. You need to participate in the sport in a way that is fulfilling. The sport alone isn't a substitute for parents and coaches that get the big picture. Swimming gives you the opportunity, but it is the people in it who show you the way.”

Richardson, a clinic veteran since first attending in the early 80s, gave two talks at the latest clinic, one focused on long-axis swimming. The other is focused how to train to race.

“My first talk was on long axis strokes and maintaining efficiency,” Richardson told Swimming World. “We cover a lot of things that were first developed by Bill Boomer and Mitt Nelms. There is a lot of video presentation about technique in that talk as we are trying to build strokes. The second talk is on training to race with specific sets in practice that correlate with racing.”

One of the things Richardson loves about the clinics is the wide range of coaching philosophies he gets to mix with.

“At a clinic like this, you have a wide range of coaches,” Richardson told Swimming World. “There are the foundational coaches that are focusing on learning the basic techniques, and you also have high end coaches as well. The presentations cover the full gamut. Whether you are a new coach, or someone with an elite swimmer going to Trials and maybe making the Olympic team, everyone can garner something from the clinic.”

Richardson had high praise for the person who first provided the incentive for him to attend the clinics — Ernie Maglishco. Maglishco's epic coaching career included double digital national championships at multiple institutions, as well as a commitment to contributing to the coaching profession overall with several teaching vehicles including books and computer programs.

“For me, Ernie was always the man,” Richardson told Swimming World. “He had a scientist eye, but always put it in practical terms for his athletes. His methodology and style hasn't changed one bit, but his thoughts about things have changed through the years. He has also stood up and said he was wrong at times in the past. That's a mark of someone you want to spend a lot of time with.”

Richardson plans on continuing with the clinic circuit even after retiring from Michigan after his 27th season of coaching the Wolverines.

“It is a joy to share, and a lot of times people will contact you and tell you that something really worked,” Richardson told Swimming World. “There's not a lot of new ideas under the sun, we are just passing things along that we have learned and tweaked to help the swimmers get better.”

Richardson also caught up with SwimmingWorld.TV at the 2010 Eastern States Clinic.