By Kelsey Reese//USA Swimming Communications Intern
Editor’s Note: Every Friday, usaswimming.org will publish “Coaches You Should Know” featuring some of the best age group and grassroots coaches in the nation. This week, we bring you ASCA’s North Carolina 2012 Age Group Coach of the Year, Andrew DeSorbo.
Andrew DeSorbo grew up swimming. From age five he tried to keep up with his older siblings at the pool. DeSorbo went on to swim at the collegiate level for George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Desorbo’s coaching career began six years ago in North Carolina. Since April 2013 he’s coached for the TAC Titans, outside Raleigh, North Carolina.
DeSorbo has coached athletes at a high level for several years. His swimmers have been chosen for the NCS Zone Team, US Zone Select Camp, NCS Select Camp and NCS All-Stars.
Who has been most influential on you as a coach?
I learned a lot from Kit Raulerson at RSA (Raleigh Swimming Association) about coaching style and philosophy and beliefs. He has since moved on from there and is now coaching in Virginia. Since I was with RSA for most of my career, he was the mentor that I had for five or six years while I was there.
My age group coach from way back, Nicky Rosenbluth at Rowan Aquatic Club, was also very influential. She no longer coaches but she was always thinking outside the box, doing different things daily, you never knew what was coming, which I definitely liked as a swimmer, so I try and do some of the same things now. Likewise with Kit, he definitely is an outside-the-box thinker as far as drills, ways to train, and race strategy. That’s probably what I learned from both of them, thinking outside the box and trying something different; it might work, it might not but you can try. You don’t have to do the same things that you did as a swimmer, or that your college coach did, or back in the 80s. Try and be creative as much as possible.
Do you have any tips for other coaches?
Try to have the kids be intentional and let them know why they’re doing something as they train instead of just giving them a drill and telling them to do it without explaining why. You get more buy-in if you explain “hey, we’re doing this drill and this is why, or we’re doing this set and yes it’s difficult but we’re doing it because its race strategy.” That way the kids know why they’re doing something and can be intentional about it.
Secondly, it’s important to give kids the chance to do things on their own and keep them accountable for their choices. For example, letting them do a set with no interval and they pick their own interval for eight 100s or three rounds of four 100s. They pick their own interval every round and they are supposed to challenge themselves. The idea is to give them the ability to be accountable for how hard they are challenging themselves but it also lets them take ownership of their training and they’re excited about it.
Those two things would be my main advice, letting kids know why they’re doing things and then allowing them a little bit of room to be mature, accountable and to make their own decisions. I think a lot of coaches mandate things every day. Letting kids have some more freedom to decide what they can and can’t do is a good thing. A lot of the time kids will surprise you and go on an interval or do things that you maybe wouldn’t have written in a set because you didn’t think they were quite ready for it. When they do things on their own they can surprise you and even overachieve.
How would you describe your coaching philosophy?
Those two things have a lot to do with it; in general, keeping intentionality and accountability up at the swimmer level. On the training level, I do a lot of race-pace type efforts, a lot of speed stuff, trying to get them to go fast and a lot of active rest so they can really get up and go fast in practice and always be ready to race. I tell my swimmers and parents in meetings that we always want to be race ready. They should be able to be fast in October and be fast in December and they should be fast at the end of the season, hopefully faster at the end of the season than in October. A lot of intensity, a lot of high effort stuff all the time so that they are always ready to race.
What is the role you play in helping your swimmers prepare for college?
We’re probably one of the very few club teams in the country that has someone whose job is dedicated to being able to help swimmers find schools and pick schools at which they can swim.
What I try to do is educate parents and swimmers—I gave a talk last month and have another one coming up in about a week—talking about the likelihood of getting a scholarship, or things to consider when trying to pick a school, where you fit in if you’re trying to swim, and how good you need to be, and the different divisions. One part of that role is educating and then the other is advocating for the swimmers when they’re ready for that step, to talk with coaches or help them make contact with other coaches, or help them put a list together of people that may be a good fit in club teams.
I think there are a lot of misconceptions about college swimming, about how good you have to be, about Division I or nothing. I want to get them to understand that if they want to swim in college, they can and it’s just about finding a place and finding the right fit. It’s easier if they are open to some alternatives like Division II or III or even NAIA. It’s been great to be able to help them and get those processes in-line and help parents and swimmers really understand what they’re looking at for colleges.