Q&A with Ryan Murphy on Back2Back Swim Camp

Photo Courtesy: BWYANT Photography

By Courtney Mykkanen, Swimming World College Intern.

Olympians Ryan Murphy and Jacob Pebley recently coached the first ever Back2Back Swim Camp in Palo Alto, Calif. The two-day backstroke camp consisted of 60 swimmers nationally who met the qualifying time standards. These qualifying swimmers not only got to train and race with Murphy and Pebley, but they also got to learn from them in a variety of settings: on deck, in the pool and in the classroom. Swimming World got to catch up with Murphy regarding the camp’s background, highlights, and future plans.

Swimming World: What was the main goal of Back2Back Swim Camp?

MurphyJacob and I have been involved in a lot of different swim clinics, and most center around inspiring the kids. We have left a lot of swim camps feeling like we didn’t really teach the kids. So, we wanted this to be a high-end training camp. We put them through hard workouts and get them to think about things at a high level, which is why we made time standards and got in the water with them to show what it is like to train at our level; hopefully they leave that camp knowing that the difference is not huge.

SW: What inspired you to work with Jacob and organize this camp?

MurphyJacob is an awesome guy and my main training partner, so we would talk about it after practice every once in a while; then we decided to have a meeting about it and formalize the idea. The idea was to have the two guys representing the 200 back in 2016 and 2017. It seemed like a natural fit.


Photo Courtesy: BWYANT Photography

SW: How did you and Jacob set the qualifying time standards?

MurphyWe did a poll of coaches around the area of what we think is fast enough that the kids are really motivated with swimming and also what is attainable to get kids to attend the camp.

SW: What was it like working with a variety of ages?

MurphyThe ages mostly ranged from 13 to 18. It was not too much different, because all of these kids have shown a talent in swimming and in terms of the set, a lot of it was effort-based, so you’re going to get out of it what you put in. We weren’t doing anything different when talking with different ages. We actually had Masters swimmers there also. With the camp, we were not treating ourselves differently than we were treating the athletes in order to teach them that there isn’t a difference between who we are as people and who they are as people. Everyone was treated the same.


Photo Courtesy: BWYANT Photography

SW: Was the camp centered more around strength training or technique?

MurphyWe built the stroke by starting with technique and then got into hard practices. I took them through my meet warm-up, then built into a good set. We finished practice with a 100 fast. On Jacob’s day, it was similar: he took them through drills that he does before races, built into a hard set and finished with relays at the end of that day.

SW: What do you hope left the biggest impact on these young swimmers?

MurphyHopefully they left being inspired. We got a lot of good feedback from kids saying: “My stroke felt great!” and “We really loved getting to meet you and Jacob. I’ve never been more motivated!” Hearing stuff like that is really cool, because one: the kids did learn something and had some good takeaways, and two: they are really motivated to be better.


Photo Courtesy: BWYANT Photography

SW: What is your coaching and clinic background prior to this camp?

MurphyI have done a wide range. I have done events with USA Swimming Foundation where I teach kids how to swim and get them comfortable putting their faces in the water. I have been at swim clinics at my old high school and been able to speak at a high level. I’ve really talked to all ages of kids before this but never really coaching, so that was a difference in this camp. I was actually getting times and coaching these kids while giving them feedback within a set. I took what I like about Dave Durden, Yuri Suguiyama, and Chase Kreitler and made that my coaching philosophy.


Photo Courtesy: BWYANT Photography

SW: What has been your favorite part of conducting this camp?

MurphyBeing able to interact with the kids was really cool. The first day, they came in super nervous; they didn’t know each other and were nervous about how Jacob and I would be. Seeing the growth over the two days and getting them comfortable talking to us about anything was what I liked the most – teaching them that there is no difference between me and them as a person so that they could come up to me and have normal conversations. I really appreciate that they were able to get that message and act on it.

SW: Do you have a funny story or moment from the camp that you’d like to share?

MurphyOn the second day I was coaching, we were doing a hard set. These kids were super motivated but tired, so we had the kids tell a joke between a set. We wanted to bring the mood up – not to “disinvest” in the set, but to take in the experience. One of the girls who came to camp to improve her backstroke, Claire Tuggle, stands up in front of everyone to tell a joke that I had actually never heard before. She said: “What do you call a cow with no legs? (pause) Ground beef!” I thought it was a hilarious joke, and while it was completely unrelated to swimming, it shows how all of us are people and have interests outside of the sport. Seeing some of their personalities was really cool.

SW: What are your future plans for Back2Back swim camp?

MurphyJacob and I are already talking about when and where we want to do the next swim camp. The idea is to make this an annual camp, or if there is a lot of interest, maybe twice a year. We are getting feedback from all the athletes at the past camp and might make some structural changes. We have hundreds of ideas for what we want to do with the next one, and we want to keep trying to improve it. It was a good start, but hopefully it turns into something really cool.


Photo Courtesy: BWYANT Photography

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.