A few days before one of its biggest meets, coach Terry Stoddard told his Swim Pasadena team that they were going to have an extra practice with a special coach. The team was used to guest coaches coming in every now and then, and the popular guess among the team was that Michael Phelps’ coach Bob Bowman would be visiting.
They were close.
Instead, it was Bowman’s star pupil who surprised the Pasadena, Ca. team last Saturday in a guest coaching appearance that doubled as a promotion for Speedo, Phelps’ main sponsor, who arranged the practice and then filmed it. It was the inaugural “Surprise a Swim Team” event for Speedo.
Swim Pasadena was shocked. In what Emily Carideo, 15, called a “surreal dream,” Phelps fielded questions from the team and then, after the team split up into four training sets, helped the swimmers with their dives. His main lesson was the importance of paying attention to detail.
“The main thing was working on tiny little things, like focusing on streamlines a lot and keeping our head down,” Carideo said.
Andrew Barmann, 16, said Phelps was very active in his coaching role. “He would stop us and get people out of the water and tell us what we were doing wrong and help us fix it.”
Stoddard added that Phelps taught the team training techniques as well. He discussed when to go hard in practice, which sets to focus on — techniques that the Pasadena team has implemented since. “It was special that he could come and do this, but we’ve been using [his methods] on a daily basis, so it’s had a residual effect on our program,” Stoddard said.
The experience was especially exciting for Young Tae Seo, 15, who challenged Phelps’ record in the 13-14 long-course 400-meter individual medley last year. Phelps and Seo discussed the record, and Phelps encouraged Seo to work towards breaking records in the 15-16 age group category.
“I told him I’d try 15-16 first, then 17-18. And then he asked ‘how’d you swim the 400 so fast?’’ and I said ‘train hard,’” Seo said.
Phelps trained at the Pasadena pool in 2000, before the Sydney Olympics, and then again in 2001 before the world championships in Japan. He told Stoddard that he remembered doing butterfly sets at the pool and was really comfortable at the facility. So, to cap off his appearance, Phelps jumped into the pool and swam two relays against the team.
“I thought it was a great experience, definitely something that I would love to have again,” Berklie Oscarson, 17, said. “It was amazing for us all.”
Speedo’s video of the inaugural “Surprise a Swim Team” event, featuring the Swim Pasadena team.
Tags: Michael Phelps