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Profiles of coaches and student athletes

Coach Profile: Andy Clark

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

What is your coaching style like?

I attempt to emulate my own college coach’s style, one where she understood me as a person, knew what my needs were as a student, and what I was trying to accomplish as an athlete. I make it a point to know the students in terms of their individual interests and goals. While I value understanding each of the individual on the team, the thing I value most is a team-minded perspective. I firmly believe that all swimmers and divers can achieve higher results if they are team-minded.

Can you talk about the differences as far as the places you have coached like Stanford and Carleton?

Carleton and Stanford do have similarities – the students at both institutions are academically gifted and driven. Of course, there are also quite a few differences – most Division I student-athletes are on some form of athletic scholarship, and at some level, swimming or diving is their job. When I was at Stanford, the team won their third straight national title, and many of the swimmers had competed in the Barcelona Olympics. Students were expected to adjust their academics for their athletics. The swimmers and divers at Division III particpate because it is something they want to do, which is not only refreshing, but I believe rewards these Division III student-athletes with an extremely high level of fulfillment. We have expectations and commitment, but we are also aligned with the academic directive at Carleton. We are flexible about their classes and will work with them so that there is no sense of sacrifice.

What is a typical practice like?

A typical practice will usually go about two hours, and on a typical day we offer two workouts in the afternoon, either 2-4 p.m. or 4-6 p.m. Depending on when students have classes, they will attend one of the sessions. Early in the season there is quite a bit of technique work as we slowly increase volume and intensity. Later, the training focus will be more race-pace training for the swimmers - all out sprints and race paced efforts. Usually before every practice we will have a brief talk with the team, to draw out any specifics of the workout and expectations for that particular session. We have Trivia Tuesday, which is where I dig up any kind of trivia I can about Carleton, whether it is related to swimming, another team on campus, or some other rare fact.

Are there any team traditions?

In the fall, we have a pasta dinner at my house where the teams will come over, eat good food and carve pumpkins. Their pumpkin carving skills are impressive! Another tradition is the ugly suit contest that the women’s team does. Each member finds the ugliest suit they can and the coaches pick the ugliest one and the winner gets to wear an unsightly swim cap with their ugly suit at the first meet. We also have a Can of Corn award that the coaches give out at the end of each meet. The team member who is awarded the Can of Corn has exemplified the best qualities of our team throughout the competition, both in terms of effort and enthusiasm.

What was it like taking teams to the National Championships?

It is different each and every time. I remember the first time we went took our first women’s relay in 1998. The goal was just to go there, enjoy everything there and not be concerned about placing. We had a great time because it was exciting just to have a relay there. In 2005, it was a different mission, we were not there just to float around but instead to make an impact. When you have the top female sprinter in the country on your team the confidence of the others just swells. Especially true after day one when they won the 200 freestyle relay title. The difference was they went in with specific goals and the tremendous amount of confidence that went along with achieving those goals.

Do you feel that the team has changed a great deal since you have become coach?

The men’s teams and women’s teams used to be totally different entities, there was quite a significant amount of animosity between the two teams. The year I came to Carleton it was the second year with one coach for both programs. So when I first arrived it was a little more of a struggle trying to keep the team together. Over time, though, the spirit of the two programs has changed and improved. I am always looking for a new direction to take the teams in terms of what we are doing and how we can do it better. The two teams now are highly spirited and composed of team members who have strong backgrounds, both in terms of their training and competitive experience. When some of these new students head to Carleton, it is amazing what they have done already.