David Marsh, Head Coach of Team Elite Aquatics, the top professional swimming training group in the United States, joins host Lawrence Peryer to share his thoughts and insight on the New Normal.
David Marsh, Head Coach of Team Elite Aquatics, the top professional swimming training group in the United States, joins host Lawrence Peryer to share his thoughts and insight on the New Normal.
In 2016, Team Elite placed more athletes on the U.S. Olympic team than any other program. If Team Elite were a country, they would have placed 3rd in the 2016 Rio Olympics medal standings. Marsh was the Head U.S. Olympic Women's Swim Coach in Rio, leading Team USA to the most medals in USA Swimming's already storied modern history.
Prior to founding Team Elite, Marsh was the men's and women's swimming coach at Auburn University. After becoming head coach in 1990, Marsh led the men's team to seven NCAA national championships (1997, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007) and the women's team to five national championships (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007). Marsh is the most successful Auburn coach regardless of sport and he is arguably the most successful in the state of Alabama and the SEC. Marsh's 12 NCAA titles surpass the six won by football coach Bear Bryant at Alabama. Marsh has won 17 SEC titles (13 men and 4 women), by far the most of any Auburn coach or team. In 2003 he led both the men's and women's teams to a sweep of the NCAA titles, a first in collegiate Swimming and Diving. Marsh and the Tigers went on to repeat this accomplishment three more times (2004, 2006, and 2007).
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Lawrence Peryer: What, if any role, does the music play in your day job? Do you use it in your training or are you able to bring those two things together?
David Marsh: That’s so funny you asked that because it’s like yesterday I was at the pool and had BeeGees radio on. So it was playing my music from my grooving days. We carry around a little boom box thing. They’re really small now. Back in my days boom boxes were huge, but now they’re little mini things so you just set them up.
And yeah, music all the time in our practices. Literally. It sort of sets the tone of the practices. When we’re doing sort of relaxed skill work, I have some Jack Johnson playing. I have some nice chill stuff. Lately I went to a Tame Impala concert and didn’t know anything about them and now I’m a fan. So now I play that when I want a little bit of that groove going on.
We’ll put electronic stuff on. It’s really interesting, too, even technical, that a lot of the – I guess it’s called EDM music where they do the techno stuff – is at a tempo very similar to the ideal tempo of an underwater dolphin kicker (ph) at the ideal speed.
So an underwater tempo is .45 per kick is an ideal tempo for an underwater kicker. A lot of the music is right at .5. So you can set that up and just say keep up with the music. So we’ll do vertical kicking. They’ll be kicking in place and they’ll just try to keep up with the music. It’s challenging because it’s race speed tempo.
So everything from mood setting to technical things even and nowadays the technology with the Speedo and some other companies are getting further and further ahead with being able to put music in the ears while people swim. That’s a bit of a game changer because swimming can be a pretty darn boring sport. You know you’re swimming one way and you turn around, you swim the other way. That’s pretty much the activity. And so putting music to it is definitely adds a lot more to it.
LP: How do they do that without impacting the aerodynamics?
DM: Oh, the speeds you’re doing for practices, you don’t worry about that so much. In fact, we actually will wear things to cause us to slow down. So we’ll wear extra resistance drag suits and we’ll wear occasionally different kinds of devices like a parachute that hangs out behind us to slow them down
It changes the mechanics of their stroke so they’re able to sort of grab the water a little bit more efficiently. So we go on and off different equipment all the time. So some speakers in the ears aren’t too bad.
LP: Interesting. Is the notion behind that they you’re sort of the lightest and most free in competition?
DM: Yes, actually. And then you try to squeeze into the tightest thing you can get into. It’s almost like a girdle but the suit that – really Speedo revolutionized our sport when they did the shark skin suit a long time ago. And now the technology keeps getting better and better and really now what with the racing moment, you’re wearing a suit that sort of holds everything together. It actually puts your body in sort of an ideal posture and it’s shaped to want to keep you there. And then the whole idea, too, is for the water to pass over as clean as it possibly can and for it to help you implode a little bit so – I mean fabric – tight fabric – is faster than skin because skin wobbles. Even the most fit people, it doesn’t matter. Skin is going to wobble and that’s going to slow you down. Anything wobbling in the water slows you down You don’t see dolphins out in the ocean have any – none of their skin is wobbly. They slip through the water.
LP: That’s fascinating. I never made that connection between the sort of tight, smooth external body on a fish or a dolphin particularly as it relates to …
DM: Oh yeah, absolutely. In fact, yesterday in one of our Zoom calls, we were visiting with several coaches. I’ve got sort of a private group called Eager Coaches. It’s just a list of about 60 coaches from around the world.
We had coaches from all over the world on the call and had some talking about that exact topic and showed the video of the penguins how these penguins that are made up of almost 50 percent blubber can get from the water and launch themselves into the air and they do that by following each other’s bubble path. When they travel the bubble path, it disrupts the drag that the water would normally cause so they travel much faster so they can launch higher.
Well we’re trying to figure out how do we use that in our sport. How can we create bubbles that we can travel through? So those are the kinds of interesting things that pre-quarantine honestly, we didn’t have the time to have these kinds of Zoom calls and be able to sort of dig in together. At least we didn’t make time, like we do now. And so, it’s been interesting to see the growth that’s going on, especially on the education side of coaching and the sharing side.
There’s so much sharing going on right now. It’s really – and it’s global sharing. It’s really cool because you know, swimming is swimming around the world. You don’t play different rules in China or in Taiwan or in France. You do the same thing and you try to figure it out the same. You speak different languages but you’re trying to accomplish the same thing.
LP: How much of those types of things that you find the coach and community sharing right now – how much of that would you have been reluctant to share in the past? Do coaches have their secret sauce that they would never fully divulge or is part of the fun making a little breakthrough and sharing it? Do you want to keep that to yourself or do you want the community to know about it?
DM: Well it depends on the coach. Yes and yes is the answer really. There are coaches that you can tell they try to keep their trade secrets. For example, when you’re a college coach, you sort of have to sell the image that you’re the coach of all coaches, and if you want to swim fast, you better come to my college.
Now that I – I did college coaching for a long time so I have that shirt. Now I’m doing professional coaching and also have an [unintelligible 00:07:56] team. So I’ve always been very open book in that I’ve let people come on my pool deck anytime.
But really, admittedly, the cumulative knowledge I have in the sport of swimming and what I use in swimming every day is really just a gathering of all kinds of information from lots of people and lots of time trying things, failing, and then re-setting and readjusting and evaluating and going at it again.
So I think there is more sharing going on – to your question – there is more sharing going on right now than I’ve ever seen and especially if you’re an Eager Coach or really probably in any kind of profession, if you want to learn more, now is an amazing time.
I’ve got several professional athletes that I work with here in San Diego, that are taking classes online. They never had time to take them or they never made time to take them. So I’m really thrilled at that because one of the problems with professional swimming is first of all, it doesn’t make much money.
So they’re not going to come out of professional swimming wealthy. And they’re generally going to be behind although they have great diplomas from major universities but they sort of lose that vibe, the eight-year gap of when they’re finished college and they’re still doing professional swimming to where they have a hard time entering the market. There’s really a bit of a challenge in that window because you enter as a 22-year-old because they’re competing with 22-year-olds at being a new employer.
In fact, I was talking to Emily White. You know Emily from Collective Entertainment and she’s written a book now on interning and literally that’s what the skills that these guys need to learn is to have skills to transition from sport into next steps of life and quarantine time has actually given most of them a chance to take a deep breath and have a little bit more time, require them to really evaluate. I think one of the first things when this thing first happened, I asked all the athletes to consider their why.
Ok, the Olympics has been postponed. So we’re going to re-set for the Olympics but before you do that, before you make your quick plans of what it looks like to get ready for the next version of Tokyo in 2021, consider why you’re doing it right now.
And I wanted the why, as they evaluated that, to be flushed out in the full zone which would be I’m doing it because I absolutely love it. This makes you want it more. This has just got me more excited. Now I have a little more time to even get better.
To the other extreme would be you know what? I’m doing it because I’m sort of afraid not to do it and it’s my sort of self-image of myself because I’m a swimmer. I’ve labeled myself a swimmer and I sort of don’t want to let my parents down and other people down.
So my why may be time to evaluate and step away from swimming at this point and transition off. And I’ve had all of those conversations and I’m probably going to have more conversations about that as this goes on and on. And at the end of the day, I think we could be more healthy. We could be more better for this because there will be more purpose in what they’re doing, I hope.
A lot of times in sports and really, I’m sure, in different professions you work with, there’s a performance-based identity and that performance-based identity is like this is what I do. This is the me. And the reality is it’s not the you. There’s so much more to you.
And when you sort of have time right now to step away and recognize that there’s a lot more to you. There’s a lot more to the way you think, your philosophy, your faith. And there’s all kinds of areas you can go into and explore and now I see a lot of the athletes around the world that I interact with – but especially the group I have here in San Diego – taking time to consider that and being just a little more thoughtful right now.
LP: So part of your job and your role as a coach, you dig into that stuff more holistically than I think I understood coming into this call. You don’t begin and end just on the pool deck.
DM: No, when I first got into coaching – it’s been a long time now. I’m 62 now so it’s been a lot of years. I first got into coaching and what hooked me right away was working with people and the fact that you can impact people through a sport like swimming.
And swimming is a very unique sport in a lot of ways. One, because as we said before, it’s sort of this individual sport wrapped in a team concept. So you have those individuals that make up the Olympic team. You have these individuals that make up a college team. You have these individuals that make up this professional team we have out here called Team Elite. And this group, if they work together, they can get synergistic effect. They can get benefits of competition and practice off of each other. They can get – sometimes razzing each other and giving each other crap. And that helps sort of bring out some new efforts and energy.
At the end of the day, though, you step up on the blocks in your Speedo with your goggles and your cap and that’s all it is. I mean it’s a very pure sport. And you’re going into water which – God didn’t make us to be swimmers. I mean goodness gracious, any fish in the water is 100 times more efficient than the most efficient swimmer.
When I coached Ryan [unintelligible 00:13:17] in the last Olympic cycle and some would say he’s one of the most aquatic swimmers in history – and I would agree by the way – he’s not even remotely aquatic compared to the little sea perch I catch off the ocean here in San Diego. I mean those things can move so much faster and react quicker than he could ever think to do in the water.
So we’re trying to do something that’s really not natural to humans and so we’re learning that by becoming more aquatic in our training and working on our skills, working on our feel for the water. Technology helps us some with the swimsuits and the different training devices.
But, all in all, it’s a very interesting profession. But at the end of the day, it’s about people. Swimming people are some of the best people in the world. They do generally really cool things in life. They’re people that from a young age, they’re interacting with men and women and boys and girls in practice.
From a young age, they’ve all gone through disappointment. They’ve gone through plateaus. They’ve had to dig in and deal with limitations. They’ve had a variety of coaches that have influenced their lives as they come through. And at some point, they get into a college and they compete at that college for that team.
So the process of swimming from beginning to end is a very healthy process. It’s a process that prepares people for life if they’ll use it well. Pro swimming is a very new thing. This is a new area that really only has kicked up the last probably 10 years. Rowdy Gaines was the first professional swimmer that signed with an agent back in 1983 and it’s come a long way since then.
The money still isn’t big but the opportunity to get a chance to be your best – because for a lot of athletes, your best is going to be in your late 20s, maybe even in your early 30s. Emily, she represents Anthony Urban, and he swam in the last Olympics. He won the Olympic games at 35 years old in the 50 freestyle which is probably one of the toughest, most competitive events there are in our sport because it’s the fastest event.
So he’s an example that swimmers and probably a lot of athletes can get better as they get older because they also know how to train better. They take better care of their bodies. There’s a collection of information and skills you learn throughout a career and you sort it and put it together and it takes years and years to learn that.
LP: Do you think that with the advances in science and conditioning and the collective wisdom or the collective knowledge you refer to – will that age barrier continue to move out or does biology hit a wall at some point?
DM: I mean biology certain hits a wall at some point. So I don’t know what that point is yet. I think Dara Torres is pushing it earlier and I would say somewhere in the 30-40 age range.
But again, you’re going to have athletes that are 16 years old breaking world records, too. So we’re a sport that it really – you want to take advantage of the moments you have because even sort of in your life cycle when you want to get married. You want to have a family. You want to begin to get a job. You want to start – all those things kind of interact, too.
So I think it’s a combination of a lot of things that make up when your ideal time to swim well is. The unique thing in swimming is we try to hit it every four years because the Olympic games is a thousand times anything else that happens in our sport. It’s nice if you win a world championship, but to win in the Olympic games, to be on the USA Olympic team is a lifetime game changer, at least in the emotions of every swimmer there is in the world.
We really hold this Olympic goal in the highest esteem and having been someone that’s been to all the Olympics since the Barcelona Olympics, I see why. I see why. And we’re in this world pandemic right now. I can relate to this because I can relate to the Olympics.
When we go to the Olympic village, you know, we’re one community. There isn’t people at odds there. We’re eating together. We’re – I mean in the last Olympics in Rio, there was a day when I was sitting at one of my tables with one of the Israeli swimmers. I work as an Israeli consultant for their national swim team and I was with one of the swimmers. We had an Iranian fencer that came over. We had an African runner. And we had this brilliant conversation.
Nothing to do with anything except the experience of the Olympics. And the experience of the Olympics for a very small percentage is about winning medals and almost everybody else, it’s just about being there and soaking it in. Giving it their best effort because they’re probably not going to win a medal.
And there’s this moment for these two weeks in this village that when you get to experience it, it really changes you from the inside. Knowing that we can do this and in this world pandemic, I just heard a stat that there was not shootings in March. No school shootings. I mean it’s sad that it has to be a pandemic that brings this kind of thing out, but the reality is we can do better as a global community.
We know that the pollution is as slow as it’s ever been. My daughter and I were driving down 101 going up to Encinitas the other day, a big whale comes up. The back of the whale breeches up – and that’s not because of the pandemic necessarily – but it just represented to me that nature is really reclaiming its territory a little bit.
So it’s – like a lot of your people you’ve interviewed so far in listening to several of your podcasts – and thank you for doing it. They’re really interesting guests you have. We need to learn from this to be better coming out of this. We don’t need to jump back to the same thing.
And it’s the same in sport. We need to learn from this in sport. I’m an ESPN junkie. So I come home, I go on ESPN and I want to see what the latest top 10 highlights were. And honestly, I’m not missing it. I’m not missing my basketball game. My football – a little bit my Auburn Tiger football team – a little bit. But I’m really not missing it that much.
So it’s been interesting to sort of sit back without sports when that’s such a big part of my life and say ok, at least the entertain part of sports on TV – you know, I don’t need it as much as I thought probably I did need it.
LP: Yeah. There’s a lot in what you just said. There’s a lot in there, but what’s really been fascinating to me to observe and to read little pieces about is that notion of nature and reclamation.
There was a piece the other day about the bears and the coyotes and such at Yosemite. With no people around, the bear are walking down the street and getting closer to the quarters where the employees live and I think we’ve seen lots of anecdotes about that. There’s coyotes back in San Francisco.
But I think back when I was a kid. I grew up in Connecticut in the northeast and the fisheries were – the fresh and salt water fisheries – were really in bad shape. If you could catch any meaningful fish, you certainly couldn’t eat them. And just in my lifetime, the rivers got cleaner. Long Island Sound got cleaner. The commercial fisheries came back. The lobster industry came back. There were world record striped bass caught. And we’re talking in a period of – I don’t know – the early 70s to certainly by the mid-80s it had all came back. Late 80s maybe.
But it’s really amazing how resilient nature is and it doesn’t take – to me there’s a lot of optimism in that. And if any of these things that you talk about could carry through, there’s a lot of really positive that could come of this if we could allow it.
DM: Yeah, for sure. No, it’s a – one of the houses that I stayed at when I first got here to town, there’s a beautiful view of La Jolla. But I had a friend over, Matt Donahue, and he was looking with me – and he lived in San Diego his whole life. We looked over to the right and we see Catalina which you see every once in a while. But you could see it really clearly.
And then you see this more island and he says, “I’ve never seen that island in m y lifetime. I’ve lived here my whole life. I’ve never seen that island.” And it’s an island that’s off of Santa Barbara. Santa Rosa area. And you could see that far.
So even here in California where the skies seem pretty clear, it’s amazing what’s happening in nature. Yes, it’s a going thing and hopefully we all learn from this and get better. I bought a couple of those specialized eBikes and I’ve been using eBike a lot and it’s amazing to not have traffic and to be able to move around a little bit without traffic. It’s quite pleasant to be out on the bike and not feel like you’re going to get run over by a car every two seconds.
LP: Well I was hoping that I could ask you a few questions about the Olympics and about how your athletes are preparing and how this situation changes their preparedness.
I guess specific to the Olympics, what’s your take on the process that went into calling the games and was there really any alternative to the outcome that we’re with? Was there ever any chance that they could have gone?
DM: I don’t think so. I think they waited too long to call it. Here is the deal. So in that window of time, it was basically late February, early March. We were training full on. And we knew this pandemic was sort of kicking in. I had taken a group of athletes to some competitions over in Nice, France and then ended up – for that window of time in France when the first corona viruses were found in France.
And so, we knew this thing was escalating and we’d heard in Italy it’s really escalating. So it was just at that window of time, we came back and we sort of knew we needed to begin to adjust things or things were going to adjust. But there was nothing said at that highest level. There was nothing said at the international athletics level and in the IOC. I thought and Tokyo took too long to make the decision because clearly – it was to me clear, two or three weeks before.
And I think when Canada took the final step in the sport of swimming and said we’re not sending out athletes, period. If it’s this summer, it’s over. We’re not sending them. I think that was a very strong signal to sort of flip things over to another level and became more and more – countries became serious about that. Then I think everybody felt the pressure and it was announced for a year later.
It was a good decision but in that window of time – those three or four weeks – we were still training. And even when they started shutting down pools – I mean world class athletes are going to train until their told – if you’re saying there’s an Olympics four months away, they’re going to train full on for that Olympics.
They’re willing to risk a lot of things to do that and as a coach, I mean I have to honor that too. And I chose to honor it and moving around with them as they would close this pool. Then we’d move to this pool. Ok, when that got closed, we ended up out in the bag in Coronado and in some cases out in the ocean out in La Jolla and then they closed the ocean.
So we were out of that, too. So we’re actually – you know, this moment right now, we’re operating out of a backyard pool and they’re swimming some, but it’s all – which we’re people the house – the people who are roommates with each other, they’re staying together and they go to the pool – an outdoor pool. They swim and then they only swim 40 minutes and then they get out of there.
So these athletes that have gone from 20 hours a week training to an hour and a half to two hours maximum per week in the water actually, it’s sort of a radical adjustment. We went from our – we trained at the Jewish Community Center in La Jolla as our home pool and then when pools started closing, we had to make adjustments the whole time along.
And fortunately, there is – one of the groups of the athletes, they live in an apartment complex where they left the pool often, too. So they do resistance work there in the pool. So they’re getting touches in water and swimmers, they don’t know what to do when they’re not in the water a little bit.
So we do try to get them in wherever we can and hopefully if things are going well, I feel like as the curve flattens, I think one of the early things they’ll do is reopen the ocean. And out here in San Diego, I really encourage the professional swimmers to get there to learn how to surf, to use the ocean, to take advantage of that natural resource to become more aquatic and learn more about how to manage themselves and become more athletic in a variety of ways in the water.
LP: So it sounds like – hopefully I’m not making too big a stretch – it sounds like part of what you’re saying is take any water you can get, and just keep the feel for the water? The time for training will come back but just get in the water if you can.
DM: You’ve got to keep in mind there’s – again, it’s a global sport. So we’re not just a U.S. sport. And these guys are seeing the Australians are training full on. The Chinese are training full on. So that’s their competitors.
So these athletes – some are using it right now. In fact, even in the group I have, I’ve given full option. Guys, we’ll do all we can to give you what we can safely. At least, we feel like as safe as we can possibly make it.
And then there’s a group that is in the middle and they’re trying to just sort of hold their fitness level. So most of them are doing mostly dry land work. So we’re doing Zoom calls in the morning doing work. We have [unintelligible 00:28:32] is our dry land coach. He puts on a Zoom call in the morning.
And then there’s a group just taking a break right now. And they’re not trying to do sports right now. They’re actually taking a mental break, a physical break and they’ll come back online after this is over.
But as a professional athlete, it’s your choice what you want to do. And we’re trying to provide at least some basic training that they can do. A lot of the training we do is – we send them [unintelligible 00:28:57] riding and then they can go do their work.
But there isn’t much pool space available in California. All the public pools are closed. All the community pools are closed. Really almost everything is closed down right now. I live two blocks to the beach but I can’t go walk on the beach anymore. So it’s kind of been sad. At the same time you have to understand because it’s – you know t here was a lot of people gathering around places like that.
LP: So as someone who a big part of their job is to get someone in the water and make it so they can go fast on demand …
DM: That’s the job.
LP: Yeah. How does this impact the preparedness – like how do you get somebody back into that place physically and mentally knowing that it’s not just the Olympics next summer? It’s the qualifying rounds. It’s the competition for that. It doesn’t seem like you just press the re-set button.
DM: No. No. But here’s an interesting thing. I think one of the things that’s different about swimming now – and fortunately it’s different – is that swimmers are more athletic than they have ever been right now. I mean there’s a reason Caleb Dressel can do a 50 free style really fast. One of the reasons is he has 43” vertical jump. He’s just an athlete. He’s an explosive athlete.
So we really challenge the whole team – our age group team, Team Lead Stingrays and our professionals – to say hey in this window, become a better athlete. Increase your pull-ups by five to 10. Increase your push-ups by 15 to 20. I mean I’m talking about in a maximum set.
Increase your ability to go out and do a one or two-mile run at a certain speed. Just be more athletic. Some of the guys have picked up some of the movement work that’s out there. This morning – a lot of our swimmers are on a yoga call. One of our athletes teaches yoga. Lynn Ann Mack she was teaching it to the – she was leading it with our team.
So trying to work on all the different things – a lot of times when we’re swimming 20 hours a week, the energy in a course of a week is not fully there to do the dry land. So we’re just trying to make lemonade out of these lemons we’ve been given. And the situation right now is build a better athlete in this window of time.
A lot of the mindset stuff – I’m having a lot of the sports psychologists and friends that are involved in that – communicate with the group. Just before this call here, I’ve been – what’s happening back with the group on the value of visualization. The value of imagery.
And again, it’s one of those things where athletes, unless they’re very disciplined or just really fully are committed to that, they don’t do it systemically. They’ll generally do it sort of toward the championship meets and toward the big times the season will.
Now’s the time they can get really good at it and imagery is very valuable in all aspects of life. Because if you can’t see it, visualize it, the chances of it actually happening, is very remote. You have to feel that – I’m sure the artists you work with, they see themselves on the big stage. They visualize themselves playing front of a sold-out audience.
Same thing for an athlete. They need to feel that and see that they’re standing on the blocks in lane 4 at the Olympic games ready to throw down the best race of their life. And if they can visualize that – you know the mind doesn’t know the difference between something’s that’s vividly imagined and something that’s real.
Their sub-conscious mind experiences that like it’s really happened and so it sends great messages to your body that you’re capable of it and that you can do it.
So here’s a window of time where we can spend time on that and develop that and become perhaps even better.
LP: Wow. Well nothing about your positivity surprises me and the fact that you neither had the time nor took the time it sounds like to really wallow in the fact that the Olympics are postponed for a year.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to be working towards a peak, to have the mountain and then lifted and moved to an entirely different destination.
DM: Well I had two different situations. My daughter is a senior at Duke. So she’s one of the ones that caught in that little window of time where her NCAA meet got canceled two weeks before she was going to go to her final and biggest senior meet.
So it was devastating because she actually had a really good ACC meet. She actually since has been voted Duke’s senior student athlete of the year. So she was having that kind of year. A great senior year. And her best meet that she was going to be tapered and prepared for – and the only time that year she was fully tapered and prepared – was going to be that NCAA meet. And that was unfortunately taken away.
So she didn’t get a chance to do that crescendo event at the end of her career. She’s taking her classes online. I mean she literally – they had a team meeting and they said this is it. Go clear out your locker. Your career at Duke is over. Like literally you’re going to finish everything online.
So she moved out to California. She was taking a class right before this. It’s actually been fun at this age and stage listening in to the Duke classes. They’re quite interesting. The professors are having a lot of cool stuff.
But yeah, so it’s pretty dramatic. And then you know I had Kathleen Baker here who is already an Olympic gold medalist. But she just came off of the March meet. Came out of that meet ranked number one in the world in her event. That was after a year of having a really rough year, a really rough year. And then she was just coming into it.
I think she would have rocked at these Olympics. And she has Crohn’s Disease. She has a herniated disc. So she has a lot of things that make another year a little more complicated, a little bit more challenging than for most athletes. So her moment could have been that 2020.
Now she has to readjust, re-set and we have to make a plan for 2021 and most of the time with Kathleen, I have to hold her back. She’s super motivated. She wants to go, go, go. So I said, “Hey, let’s use this time to fix your freestyle breathing, try to get a little more flexion on your breast stroke kick. And let’s see if you can be faster because of this.”
But in order to get faster sometimes you have slow down a little bit to get faster. And I think those are some of the lessons that athletes often have a hard time learning is the patience part of the process.
LP: Coach (ph), do you think that you’ll lose any athletes or that the Olympics will have a different makeup because of people that will either age out or for socioeconomic reasons, won’t be able to hold on for a year? Or kids that won’t – I mean the story about your daughter is really – that’s a tough one to hear.
How will those kids that were on a track as college athletes or young adults training – are we going to miss a year, a class of kids because they’re not going to have the chance to shine in that last end of the school year competition? What’s the implication on that for individuals?
DM: Oh, yes, there were many records that would have been broken. I think my daughter would have re-wrote the Duke scoreboard at least. But even more so than that, there are a lot of records broken in March because that’s a big window of time for a lot of high schools, all colleges, even some professional teams. When I say professional teams, we’re really one of the only professional teams. Other than that, it’s mostly professionals that train at colleges. We’re one of the only dependent professional teams.
But it definitely is going to impact the Olympics and what I say by that is yes, there’s a group that’s going to be one year older. And it’s interesting that you say socioeconomic – I think our sport is an issue with socioeconomic because it’s an expensive sport to have pools and have coaching and all that.
But I think economic – pure economic – there is a challenge because most of these professional athletes they plan with their families or maybe if they had a sponsor, they’re trying to hang on to a sponsor. Well now that sponsor’s company probably isn’t doing financially like it was last year. So are they going to re-up the sponsorship? Hard to yes to that. You know?
But most of them really just are surviving off their own means or with their families’ support and this is another year on the family that they’re going to have to ask for more money.
Fortunately, the International Swim League which is a professional swim league that started last year, did step up and they’re doing – they’re paying athletes that are in that league a baseline of $1,500 per month if they’re in a league up until the Olympics. So that’s been a really good thing.
A lot of the athletes I’ve been coaching have been able to get into that league. I coach the LA Current team and in the LA Current – we have a lot of the athletes that are on that team. There’s 10 teams from around the globe that compete and will compete in October and November, assuming we can. That may have to get adjusted, too.
But the cool (ph) commitment was by the owner of the league that decided to pay everyone at least some stable amount of money to help underwrite their training expenses. And that’s helped a lot. And I think it’s nice to see that.
But we’re going to have to – you know, just before this happened, I was going to have a fund raiser. We have a foundation called Stand By Me Foundation that’s to support these professional athletes that don’t have sponsors otherwise and to help with building the community of swimming with underprivileged kids in the community and being inspirations to them in creating that.
Well we were just about to have our main event the week before the shutdown happened. So we had to cancel it. Fortunately, we were still able to secure some donations but, at the same time, we’re sort of back to the drawing board of that. So how to reconfigure the team.
My swimming pool contract was ending this year so they don’t have a new pool space contract signed for next year. So I have to still have to even make sure I have even water space going into next year and water space is not inexpensive.
So there’s a lot that goes into it and it does cause some complication. But hey, compared to what some people are dealing with in this – losing their jobs and different things like that – I can’t complain. You know, I’m getting to do at this stage at my age what I want to do and not doing what I have to do at this point. So this is a luxury for me.
I just want to see that I can truly offer the athletes that choose to try in my environment, the best I can give. And that’s what we’re on. So we’re constantly working on that kind of thing right now with all the different ways we can support them.
LP: One last quick question. I know we’ve gone over the time we had. Do you spend much time in the water?
DM: You know, I don’t like the black line. I don’t like the black line but I have found since I moved to California, I love surfing. And I wasn’t a surfer. I moved out here at 61 years old and I took up surfing and l literally a couple times now walked my board – they closed the parking lots for a while – and had the ocean open. I was walking my board from my house over there to the ocean and surfing. And I’m usually surfing with these 12 and 13-year-old kids who are just doing crazy cool surfing things. I just try to stay out of their way.
But I do love the water. I grew up in Miami. My dad raised me on a boat and we went skin diving, spear fishing and fishing. That’s what we did on weekends all the time. So I do love the water but not the kind that has chlorine in it so much.
LP: That’s so funny. Well thank you so much for making time and for all your service on behalf of the community that you work with. It’s really great to talk with you. I appreciate your perspective.
DM: Well thank you. Thanks for such diverse folks you’re having on these podcasts. I’m really enjoying your shows.
LP: Thank you so much. Be well, coach. I hope you and your family stay safe.
DM: All the best to you.
LP: All right, take care.
The 2016 USA Head Women’s Olympic Swim Coach and one of the top D1 NCAA coaches in history.
In 2017 David Marsh moved Team Elite from Charlotte to San Diego. Coach Marsh has continued to develop the Marsh Swim Academy offering unique camps, clinics, and consulting.
Marsh joined MAC in 2007 and during the 10 years in Charlotte, he lead MAC to become the top club in the nation.
Prior to his time in Charlotte Coach Marsh had a dominate 17-year career his alma mater, Auburn University.
His collegiate coaching accomplishments included numerous NCAA Team Championships, 7 men’s (1997, 1999, 2003-07) and 5 women’s (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007). It is an unprecedented achievement that 4 of these Men’s and Women’s NCAA titles were earned in the same season. His teams earned 1,312 All-America honors by 276 athletes, along with 45 NCAA individual titles and 30 NCAA relay crowns. At the conference level his athletes won 17 SEC Team titles. Coach Marsh was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
Coach Marsh has been a pioneer in the evolution professional swimming. He coached a Pro group in 1988 in Las Vegas,NV and continued leading his Auburn post grads to the top levels during the 90’s and 2000’s. In 2007 USA Swimming sponsored his move to Charlotte to initiate the first Pro Excellence Center. Currently Coach Marsh is the Head Coach for the LA Current in the new International Swim League.
Team Elite athletes have earned 15 Olympic Medals and millions in prize money and endorsements.
Team Elite has featured some of the world’s best swimmers including Cullen Jones, Davis Tarwater, Mark Gangloff, Kara Lynn Joyce, Nick Thoman, Anthony Irvin, Kathleen Baker, Jimmy Fiegan, Ryan Lochte, Katie Meili, Cammile Adams and many more.
Coach Marsh has become known by his unmatched “coaching tree”. Many of the world’s finest coaches have swam for, coached with, or are mentored by David. He currently serves as technical advisor for the Israel National Team.
Coach Marsh was honored by being named the USA Head Women’s Olympic Swim Team. In Rio, the USA team had unprecedented success in total medal count and in the improvements made between the Trials and the Games. Marsh is one of the most respected coaches in the country and was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in the fall of 2021.
Marsh is married to the former Kristin Burke who was a swimmer at California-Berkeley. She earned her masters degree in English Education at Auburn in March of 1995. Together they have three children; son Aaron & daughters Alyssa and Maddie.