2009 Program News

10/13/09: Apprenticeship Sites: Swimming

To improve as a coach at the national level, one must learn from those who have been to the top, who have the knowledge, dedication and experience necessary to create and develop elite athletes.

If you are a swimming coach, that means you need to learn from Bob Bowman and the North Baltimore Aquatic Club (NBAC).

Bowman has led NBAC’s coaching staff since 2008. Six of his swimmers competed in the Beijing Olympics, including Michael Phelps. In total, he has coached his swimmers to 34 world records, more than 50 American records and 17 Olympic gold medals.

ICECP participants Isabelle Zarb (Malta), Adam Mohamed (Maldives), Anastasios Papadopolous (Greece) and Majid Waseem (Pakistan) spent two weeks at NBAC with Bowman for their apprenticeship.

While there, they interacted with and interviewed Bowman and the rest of the NBAC coaching staff, observed practices and training sessions and watched Olympic swimming hero Michael Phelps train. During their stay, they saw the training programs for every level of swimmer, including youth, elite and master’s.

“The days started at 6 a.m. with master’s training,” Waseem said. “Then there was a break until 2 p.m. when swimmers would come in and each use a different lane depending on their training plan and level. Elite training ran from 3:45-5:45 and included water and dry sessions.”

Waseem added that there was a different training plan each day for each level and that something new was built into the training system each day.

“At each session they focused on something different, such as kicks, certain technique or different strokes. Overall, we were able to see every stage in the process of athlete development.”

When they weren’t observing practices, they had an opportunity to sit down with each member of the coaching staff, including Bowman.

“It was a great experience, getting to sit down with Bowman and the other coaches,” Mohamed said. “They were all very open and willing to share with us.”

While the entire coaching staff offered helpful information, some of Bowman’s lessons truly stuck with the group.

“What really stuck to me was that when [Bowman] coaches, he asks his swimmers to be their own coaches and self-evaluate,” Zarb said. “NBAC also showed me the importance of being a team and speaking a common language as a coaching staff.”

Papadopolous asked Bowman about his coaching secrets and got a straight answer.

“He said that there are really no secrets. The important thing is consistency and standardization of the program from each age group as they transition up to the next level.”

He also found it interesting that some of NBAC’s coaches were not certified swimming coaches. Rather, they were handpicked by Bowman and club founder Murray Stephens because they shared similar philosophies and fit into NBAC’s program.

“Watching Bowman work was educational in itself, the way he interacted with his subordinates and his athletes,” Waseem said.

Overall, all four coaches took away a lot from their time at NBAC, making it quite a successful apprenticeship.

“It was an exceptionally good experience,” Waseem praised. “Working with Bob Bowman was like a dream come true. If I had the chance, would have stayed there longer.”

More information about NBAC can be found here.