Coaches You Should Know: Special Edition
By Chelsea White//USA Swimming Communications Intern
This week instead of a typical Coaches You Should Know Q&A, USA Swimming received an amazing submission from an 18-year old swimmer from Oregon who wanted to nominate her outstanding coach as the Coach You Should Know.
George Sampson, head coach of the Chehalem Sharks Swim Team in Newberg, Oregon, started swimming when he was a senior in high school and he eventually found his groove as a butterflier. He then continued his career in college at Lindfield College in McMinnville, Oregon. After his freshman year he transferred to Oregon State in Corballis and trained as a redshirt. OSU cut their swim program in the spring of 1975, but Sampson was able to continue swimming at Simon Fraser in Burnaby, B.C., Canada after his coach found him a spot.
Below is the article submitted by Martina Chione from Aurora, Illinois who came to coach Sampson when she was 17-years old and asked him to teach her how to swim.
While most head coaches have the privilege of working with kids who either moved up from lower levels or came from another team, my coach got me. I walked onto his pool deck at seventeen and told him I wanted to be a swimmer. I had a few months of private lessons and my own time in the pool but that was about it.
I didn't find swimming, swimming found me. It just decided to find me when I was a lot older. I never really discovered the water competitively before. I was always fascinated by swimming as a child, but I really fell in love with the pool when I first became a lifeguard at sixteen. I used to watch the swim team practice while I guarded, and I was awed by the uniqueness and incredibility of the sport. It grew on me until I decided one day that I wanted to do it too.
The first thing I learned about Coach George at my first practice was that he values his swimmers; all of them equally all the same. "I value my beginners just as much as I do my state qualifiers," he said, "And I'd rather work with a beginner who works hard than a national qualifier who is arrogant."
He continues to prove this to me through the six months I have been on his team. He tossed me in with the slow lane, which actually felt really fast to me. Sometimes he would modifies sets for me personally because the regular ones are way over my head. He always seems to know exactly how to make them where they push me just over my limits.
Often times, especially during a sprinting set, he sits in a chair at the end of my lane and shouts to me, "Come on, Martina, move those arms, kick kick kick!" And when I start swimming faster, he shouts, "Catch him," meaning to swim up onto the heels of the person in front of me.
In between parts of sets, Coach George gives direction to the swimmers individually, usually about their technique. Then at the end of sets he gives direction as a group.
I lifeguard at a YMCA and I watch their swim team practice sometimes. I went back to my coach and told him what their practices looked like. I commented that they seemed a lot less intense than ours. He informed me that he works us harder than the average swim team. He said that if he had more pool time, he'd be having us swim 10 to 15 thousand yards a day. My full week of training is an hour and a half, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, three hours on Tuesday and Thursday, and two hours on Saturday.
Coach George is the most positive person I have ever met. I used to be a negative person, but he drained every last bit of negativity out of me. If I had to describe my coach in one word, it would be “inspiring”. Though this is probably a commonly used word for coaches, it is very much fitting for Coach George. It does not always show in what he says, but rather it is in his tone of voice, his character, his attitude and his energy. He is very dedicated to his team.
He is a great coach because he never doubts somebody’s ability to do something. When I first tried to join a swim team, I was not accepted. When I asked the coach why, she said it was because the other swimmers had been swimming their whole lives. She said they used a pace clock and I would not be able to keep up with it. When Coach George saw me swim, he did not turn me out the door, he handed me a pair of fins. Eventually, I was able to ditch them.
I have to admit that I do not think I would have improved in the way and at the rate I have if Coach George were not my coach. I know this now from watching other coaches. I can hardly find the words to describe him and my gratitude towards him. He never takes any credit for himself. At my team's awards ceremony, the entire room cheered for him and he just proceeded to gather his papers without looking up.
My favorite quote from my coach is, "What is the diffidence between excellence and perfection? Excellence is doing the best you can do. Perfection means you get it without flaw every time. And if you are getting everything perfect every time, get out and quit because you have nothing to work for."