Blog: National Junior Team Camp


Saturday, April 12: Coach Shawn Smith (Hilltopper Swimming)
Let me start by thanking USA Swimming for the opportunity to coach at the 2014 National Junior Team Camp. It has been an honor and a privilege to have this opportunity.

Second, I would like to thank the athletes. This is a group of extraordinarily talented and hard-working athletes. They are the future of USA Swimming. Throughout the week, they have done a great job listening, learning and growing together as a team. The theme of the camp “Success is a Journey, not a Destination” has resonated in every meeting.  

Today started with a safe sport meeting. We transitioned into the pool for morning practice. National Team members Caitlin Leverenz and Anthony Ervin joined the team for workout. Anthony and the sprinters started some trash talking that would carry on throughout the course of the day. The workout concluded with some really fast swimming (and an Ervin win).  We had lunch, and headed to the famous Incline in Manitou Springs. The incline rises from 6,500 feet to over 8,500 feet in less than a mile. It was beautiful Colorado day, and the athletes weren’t done competing. Racing to the top, Connor Green was the first male to the top, he ascended the incline in a touch under 30 minutes. Quinn Carrozza was the first female to the top.  

After the incline, the women and men split into groups. The men headed to a nutrition talk with Alicia Kendig of the USOC. After over five hours of exercise, everyone was a bit slap happy. Alicia did an excellent job channeling the men’s focus into game of nutrition trivia. In a moment of hilarity, Jonny Roberts informed us all that “brown bread was more nutritious than white.”

We headed back to the pool. We started with men’s head coach Sergio Lopez sharing some wisdom with the men’s team. The workout was a bit lighter due to the hike. The guys (and girls) had some fun with some rope climbing and pull-up contests. We worked starts on the Omega fins, and everyone got a crack at doing a backstroke start on the new backstroke start foot ledge.

After workout, we headed to dinner. By now everyone was flat out goofy. The coaches sat down to eat dinner together. After three deserts (for appetizers) Coach Sergio loads up with a plate of meatballs, pork and chicken. He looks at the table of coaches and says "look at me I only eat protein and desserts... I am like a lion" And ROARS. We were almost crying in laughter.
The night finished with a great talk by Matt Biondi. He shared a great message about the trials and tribulations of Olympic glory. His journey through the sport and life, was a great finish to the camp.

Good luck to everyone this summer. GO USA!!!

Friday, April 11: Connor Green (Bluefish Swim Club)
On our schedules, our days look boring, meeting then practice then more meetings and another practice followed by more meetings. But the National Junior Team Camp is so much more than that. It's about building a team of Americans. And after each practice that bond grows stronger.

After breakfast we had our first meeting with USADA my second in two weeks after my team Bluefish Swim Club was up at the OTC two weeks ago. In the USADA meeting we learned about drug testing in competition and out of competition along with all the things that could be tested positive if we were to take it.

The next meeting was with the psychologist where we learned that mental toughness doesn't win races but it can lose them and hard work can't be replaced with mental toughness but it can help.

Our first practice with just the men’s team was a challenge. My home coach Chuck is the men’s IM/breast coach and I'm in his group! After the practice we did a men’s team cheer which got everyone pumped up.

After lunch the marathon of meetings occurred. The first meeting was with Dan McCarthy. He focused on our health specifically sleeping and how important it is for us as athletes and how a lot of sleep can enhance performance while lack of sleep could be devastating to our performance.

The most inspiring and powerful speakers I have heard was Eric Greitens. A veteran of Iraq and a navy seal, he now works with other veterans who are disabled and struggling to assimilate back into civilian life. Eric works with these men and women and finds them volunteer work which helps them find a purpose in their lives as vets which can turn into a career. Eric also talked about his time in Navy SEAL training and how intense it is mentally and physically. Eric was so inspiring when speaking about doing good within your community and sport.

Caitlin Leverenz was our next speaker and she talked about her journey thought the sport of swimming and how she has grown as a person as she advanced through the sport of swimming. She also focused on how when she won her bronze medal in London she got emotional not because of the medal itself but what it represented to her and her whole journey through the sport of swimming.

The second practice was combined with the girls and again the IM/breast group went hard and we really got into the practice and had a good workout! After we were done swimming the IM /breast group did my favorite cheer. The bonzai cheer!!

After dinner we had one of my favorite meetings with Russell Mark! We watched film of some of the greatest swimmers in the world. We took apart each stroke and focused on what the best do and what we as younger athletes can work on and improve.

I can't wait for what the rest of the camp has to offer and what new experiences and memories I can make! GO USA!!!!!!

Friday, April 11: Katie McLaughlin (Mission Viejo Nadadores) and Kathleen Baker (SwimMAC Carolina)
Today we woke up and enjoyed our first breakfast at 7:30 a.m. Our first meeting was at 8 a.m. with USADA. Right after the meeting the girls went over to the pool for our first specialty practice! Kathleen and the IM group did a tough practice focusing on their IMs. Katie and the stroke group did a challenging set focusing on 200 frees and 200s primary stroke.


After practice we gathered in the Dirks building for a sports psychology seminar where we each learned our mental weaknesses and how to overcome them. After the meeting, we couldn't wait to eat lunch. The chocolate milk was a hit and it was hot fudge Friday, if you know what we mean. After enjoying our food, we had a meeting with Dan McCarthy about how important our health is for our swimming.


Next up, we had an amazing meeting with an inspirational, selfless and determined Navy SEAL, Eric Greitens. We learned that nothing that we do in swimming compares to what the Navy SEALs go through in their training. He also encouraged us to challenge ourselves and to live in the moment. The next meeting was with Olympic medalist, Caitlin Leverenz. She told us about how she has overcome her failures in her swimming career while managing to keep us captivated and laughing. She answered each of our questions in great detail and told all of us about the journey from Junior Team to National Team and beyond!


After Caitlin's talk, we had a combined practice with the guys. Kathleen and the IM group did a 200 IM pace set, while Katie and the stroke group did another set working on 200 pace. To end practice, each of the groups did their own USA cheer to build team spirit. After that, we gladly made our way to dinner where we again enjoyed the hot fudge and ice cream. Next, we were enlightened by the famous Russell Mark. His passion and dedication to the details of each race inspired everybody to be better.


For our final meeting of the night, the girls and guys separated and talked about "The Perfect Moment" with our coaches. We reflected on how well the camp has been going so far and how close of a team we are already! We can't wait for the next couple of days with the team. Go USA!

Friday, April 11: Curtis Ogren (Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics)
Hello fellow swimmers,
First I want to give a shout-out to my friends, family and teammates back home. I'll be back in California soon!

I just want to say that it has been such a great experience for me so far here in CO Springs. We as a team got to listen to some amazing speakers and we have the best coaching staff out there. I also have the best roommates – Gunnar Bentz and Jay Litherland.

After waking up to "Three Little Birds" by Bob Marley, we grabbed ourselves a hearty breakfast. We proceeded to go to the West Wing (not that of the White House) and learned more about USADA. We learned the three goals of the U.S. Anti-Doping agency: compete clean, be the voice for the right choice and enjoy the sport.

After that, the boys went to the Dirks room. There, we learned more about the mental side of swimming success. Shortly after, we had a brief workout and lunch. I even played a game of life-sized chess with my future Stanford teammate Liam Egan.

Then the good part came. We were lucky enough to listen to Dan McCarthy on sleep and blood chemistry, and Eric Grietens, a Navy SEAL who talked to us about his background, and experience at the front lines and during training. It was an honor to listen to him. He is such an inspiration. Closing the talk, Caitlin Leverenz talked about her journey to becoming an Olympic bronze medalist.

We then had our second practice, and then dinner. Closing the day, Russell Mark gave stroke, start and turn advice to us.

I just want to say that this camp means a lot to me, and it has truly been eye-opening. I just want to continue on my journey; because we all know that success is a journey, not a destination.

Friday, April 11: Coach Tony Batis (Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics)
After a great first day at this year's National Junior Team Camp, day two began with a coaches’ meeting and breakfast at the dining hall to discuss the day's events. With a very full day planned for everyone, it was important to remind the athletes to stay hydrated, rested and remember the camp theme - "success is a journey, not a destination".
The first meeting of the day was with Ladonna from USADA followed by Sean McCann's sports psychology talk for the men's team while the women trained and the groups then switched. Both talks were very informative and gave the athletes and coaches information important to be aware of and important for their futures in the sport. After the second talk in the morning, the men got in for the first practice of the day. This was the first practice where the team was split up into their training groups. I am working with the mid-distance/distance males in this camp, and the nine guys did a great job in this practice. While it was only an hour and a half workout they swam a 2,600-meter main series in which they were asked to hold several strong paces. All of them put forth the effort and energy to put up some very strong results. I was very impressed with the fact that even in the toughest moments of the set, all of them found a way to encourage and support one another.
After a lunch break, we set off for an afternoon of guest speakers covering a wide range of topics, including a blood chemistry lecture with Dan McCarthy, a talk from one of Forbes Magazine 100 Most Influential People, Eric Greitens, and guest Olympian Caitlin Leverenz. Dan got the afternoon going by discussing the importance of rest (impossible to perform at peak levels with lack of proper sleep) and understanding readouts of blood draws. Without overemphasizing it, he spoke of the pitfalls of the supplement industry and what to be aware of.
Eric Greitens, the writer of "The Heart and The Fist" spoke to the group about the journey and how to repurpose yourself when life creates challenges, serve your community and be a good citizen.Through his life journey including his time becoming a Navy SEAL and serving in the military, he talks about how he chose to serve the veterans of military service find ways to become contributing members of their respective communities. The athletes engaged Eric with questions sparking good dialogue.
Caitlin Leverenz, spoke of her journey as a young swimmer growing up in Arizona to becoming an Olympian. She spoke of her "failures" or "failing forward" and how to "fail successfully.” She used each experience as a stepping stone to attain her success including a college degree, an Olympic medal and a recent engagement.
Our second workout of the day was combined women and men with everyone swimming with their training groups. All of the groups put in a strong training session with a lot of support being given to teammates by their other teammates. Each group finished up their respective workouts with their version of a Team USA cheer which was received well by all of the USA Swimming staff. After a nice dinner and brief rest, we finished up our day with Russell Mark from USA Swimming. As always, Russell was well prepared with his knowledge of all things video that can help the camp swimmers be better.
In the spirit of the National Team and how they work together, the National Junior Team ended by meeting with the staff to discuss the events of the day. Having been fortunate enough to be at prior camps in the past, this camp is proving to be one of the best camps I've been too. All of the home clubs, teammates, family and friends should be very proud of the athletes here and how they have conducted themselves to this point.As well, the coaches and support staff here along with the support of the USA Swimming staff have made this a very smooth and rewarding event. Looking forward to the rest of camp and wishing nothing but the best to all who are attending this event. GO USA!!
Thursday, April 10: Courtney Weaver (Flint Y Falcons)
Day one of the 2014 National Junior Team Camp is in the books. For most kids, it was a very long day. They met in Houston, Denver, and Chicago in order to fly into Colorado Springs. The first group arrived around 11 a.m. and the other groups were all in by 1 p.m. As soon as we got here we got our credentials which allow us to get into almost every building. We also picked up our gear for the camp. While waiting for other kids to arrive, we ate and introduced ourselves to new people.

Our first team function was an introduction to the camp staff in the USA Swimming building. After that, we had our first practice together. We mixed around the lanes after each part of the set so we could meet and swim with new people. The first practice at altitude was tough, as the air up here is thinner. After practice we sat out on the bleachers and numbered off 1-5. Each group went to their designated part of the pool and we treaded water while trying to learn everyone in our groups names. The game rules got changed so many times that nobody knew what was going on. We ended up choosing one person in our group to name people. The game ended up being you had to recite everyone on your teams name with your back to them. The winner ended up being Mimi Schneider.

Following practice, everyone ate dinner. We walked to the west wing where Frank Busch talked to us about the National Team culture. Then Jack Roach talked to us about enjoying the journey and not only focusing on the end destination. We discussed books that influenced us and then did an exercise. We had five concentric circles and the inner circle was people who had immediately had an impact on our swimming. And as the circles went out, they had less of an impact. We were given a list of everyone at the camp and we had to put everyone in a circle. Jack encouraged us to reach out and get to know everyone. He said to get out of your comfort zone and reach out to people who were in your outer circles. At the end of the meeting, the team nominated captains: Kylie Stewart, Courtney Weaver, Gunnar Bentz and Jonathon Roberts. Immediately following this meeting, we walked back to the dorms and went to bed. I'm looking forward to these next few days! The first day of camp went very smoothly, and I can't wait to get to know everyone.

Thursday, April 10: Coach Sergio Lopez Miro (Bolles School Sharks)
First of all I just want to say that what a privilege is to be part of Team  USA, and very thankful to have this  opportunity to be a member of this 2014 National Junior Team Camp here in Colorado Springs.
For the coaches today was our second day and we started the day with several meetings with Jack Roach our Junior National Team Director and also with the USA Swimming staff. In the meetings we had great discussions about strength and conditioning with Amanda Whittenmeyer (USOC) and also about tapering with physiologist Randy Wilber (USOC).  Personally, I really enjoyed learning how all the other National Team coaches talked and
explained how they taper their swimmers. It was very intellectually stimulating as a coach. Great first part of the day!
While we were at the meetings, our team managers Eric Fucito and Maureen Tolliver did several trips to the airport to pick up the swimmers and make sure that the check in into the Olympic Training Center went smoothly. Honestly, I don’t know what we would do with Eric and Maureen. THANKS!
At 3:30 p.m. we had our first meeting with all the swimmers where Jack made the introductions of the coaching staff, camp observer (coach Dick Shoulberg), USA National Team swimmers (Anthony Ervin and Caitlin Leverenz) and the USA Swimming staff. After all the introductions were made divided the swimmers in groups and went to the pool for our first practice. Many new faces and names to learn ;-)
Jack had a general practice with the main objective being to have the swimmers and coaches get to know one another and to try to learn the names of the swimmers.
After the practice we all went to have dinner and get ready for our last meeting with Frank Bush our National Team Director. Frank gave a great talk about what it means to be part of Team USA and what a privilege it is to represent our country. After Frank’s talk the swimmers chose our team captains for the camp: Gunner Benz and Jonathan
Roberts for the men’s team and Kylie Stewart and Courtney Weaver for the women’s team.
The last thing we did today was an exercise that Jack wants each one of us (swimmers and coaches) to complete by Saturday. This exercise has a direct relationship with the theme of the camp: “Life is a Journey, not a Destination.” It challenges each one of us to seek new friends and to form stronger bonds with present friends.  The ultimate goal is to create “perfect moments” with each one of the relationships we have, and at the same time to identify what we value about them and to also say “thank you.” A book that Jack recommended reading is “Chasing Daylight” by Eugene O’Kelly.
Great busy day and now ready for to sleep ;-)

Thursday, April 10: Jonny Roberts (North Texas Nadadores) and Gunnar Bentz (Dynamo Swim Club)

The Junior National Team was up bright and early this morning to catch our flights to Colorado Springs. Soon after everyone arrived, the energy was high, along with the altitude. Some people relaxed playing ping pong, while others played basketball. The first practice started off well with both men and women combined. Our first meeting kicked off with National Team Director Frank Busch's motivational monologue. National Junior Team Director Jack Roach talked to us about our spheres of influence and all of the people that inspire us in our journey through swimming. As day one comes to a close, we are all excited for the next two days and thankful for the opportunity our friends, family and USA Swimming have provided for us.

Go USA! 

Thursday, April 10: Kylie Stewart (Dynamo Swim Club)
Day one of Junior Team Camp has come to an end! With most of us waking before the crack of dawn, we are all exhausted. Our flights left early in the morning and we had a layover in either Denver, Houston or Chicago, where we met up with other fellow campers. The team bonding begins as we start trickling in upon arriving at the training center. When we walked through the doors of the OTC, we immediately got our credential, which is basically your life line here. It's the key to your room, the way you get into the main building, and most importantly, it's your meal ticket. Most of us ate lunch together and met the other kids as they arrived. We then headed to Dirks (USA Swimming building) where we were briefly introduced to our coaches and separated into groups.

We then headed to the pool for the first practice at altitude, and it was rough. Altitude training is harder than the typical practice because the air is so thin up here. We practiced together as a team and will split into our groups tomorrow. We finished up practice with a game where we split into five teams and had to learn everybody in our group's name and then chose one person to recite all the names without looking at anybody's faces. Mimi Schneider won by getting the most names in her group correct.

After that, we headed back to the cafeteria where we chowed down on dinner and kept the team bonding rolling. We followed that up with a meeting in the West Wing (a bigger meeting room than Dirks), where Frank Busch introduced himself and gave us inspiring words before heading off to Florida for the Crippen Cup 10K Marathon Invitational.

Jack Roach then spoke with us about cherishing the memories we are making at this moment because it will affect our future relationships. He said to “make an effort to get to know somebody you wouldn't normally see.” Whenever Jack talks to a group, people react and listen so well because they want to learn from his experiences. Wrapping up the evening, the team chose captains: Courtney Weaver, Gunnar Bentz, Kylie Stewart and Jonny Roberts. About 10 p.m., we started the walk back to our dorms and got ready for bed.

The first day was a success in my eyes because we have already met new friends and are making memories which we will cherish for a lifetime. 
Thursday, April 10: Coach Jason Turcotte (Dynamo Swim Club)
Day one of the National Junior Team Camp is in the books, and off to a great start.

While the athletes arrived Thursday, the coaches all arrived Wednesday. As exciting for the athletes as the camp is, the coaches find it equally exciting. Jack Roach brings us in early and puts is in position to have a successful camp, and also set up meetings with strength and physiology from the USOC. That and the chance to be around these other coaches is a real opportunity for coaches to grow themselves.

Day one was one to meet and greet all. Many of the women at the camp have been to the NJT camp before, or on a USA Swimming Team trip, which makes getting to know everyone even more important.

After a welcome and introduction from Jack, we went off to our first practice. The focus was on adjusting to altitude, and introduction to your training groups. After dinner, National Team Director Frank Busch addressed the team, followed by Jack with, as always, some thought provoking idea.

Congratulations to Courtney Weaver and Kylie Stewart, who were elected women’s captains of the camp, the same two captains from the Junior World Championships in Dubai last August.