by Chelsea white//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 Lake Erie 2012-2013 Age Group Coach of the Year, Tim Hable.
Tim Hable is an age-group coach at the Great Lakes Sailfish Swimming Club at Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills, Ohio, where he has been coaching for several years. Coach Hable brings many years of experience to the Lake Erie swim community and has had the success and privilege of coaching numerous national-level swimmers. He also has an impressive personal swim background as he was the captain of the men’s swim team at Dartmouth College in 1977.
Tell us about your swimming background.
“Well how far back do you want to go? I probably started swimming back when I was 10 years old at the local YMCA. I started swimming at the YMCA mainly because my brother was already swimming there. After the first season that I swam, some of the guys on the team decided to go over to this new club that was starting called the Silver Dolphins at the time, so I switched to that team. The team was started by Ron Johnson who then left to become the Mexican team coach for the 1968 Olympic Games. And then he went on to become the coach at Arizona State and had a hall of fame career as a coach and a swimmer. Once Ron Johnson left the team went on to hire Jerry Holtrey in 1967 who still to this day remains the head coach there—that was a smart hire by the people at the time! So I swam with the Lake Erie Silver Dolphins and swam at Hawken High School and then swam at Dartmouth College before I eventually got into coaching.”
How did you make the transition into coaching?
“Well I had always helped out and had summer jobs coaching. But when I came back from college I didn’t have a job lined up right away so my coach Jerry Holtrey said, “Oh by the way so-and-so is leaving the Shaker job, why don’t you do ahead and apply for that.” So I did and I got the job—that was Shaker Heights Swim Club at the time. Since I started way back then I have kind of have been coaching part-time ever since. I took that job and then I worked at a bank at the same time. Then I got a job at Case Western Reserve University as the full-time head coach there and did that for 5 years as well as doing the club team at night.”
Who has been most influential in your swimming career?
“Without a doubt, Jerry Holtrey from the Lake Erie Silver Dolphins, who I swam for for 10 years and then coached with for about 35 years; he has definitely been the person who has been the most influential in my life. He has taught me coaching style and how to relate to swimmers and how to prepare them for a season. Pretty much complete from start to end, Jerry has been the most influential by far. Also I was very lucky to have started on such a great team with Ron Johnson as the coach at the time. The way that he coached was an influence on me too from the very beginning. I have been very lucky to have several great coaches as mentors.”
How have you seen the sport progress since you same at Dartmouth?
“There is no comparison now. Times that would make nationals when I was swimming wouldn’t even place at women’s nationals now. In fact I probably would not even make women’s nationals now. So it is a completely changed atmosphere. The way people train, the way people think, I mean bottom line they just think that they have to be faster so they are. When I was swimming I think a lot of people thought I am a distance swimmer, I am a sprinter, I am a backstroker, I am a whatever, but you look at the top people today and they are just swimmers. They swim the 50, they can swim the 1650, they can swim all strokes. I don’t think you see swimmers being one-dimensional anymore. They can do it all. I think they put in more hours and I think dry-land and nutrition are completely different. We never thought of nutrition before and dry-land was something where maybe we thought we would do a little bit of weight work but it just is a completely different story now.”
What is your most memorable coaching moment?
“There are so many. Anytime you see a kid who did a time they did not expect to do. Kids reach goals a lot and that is always fun and amazing but every once in a while you get someone who had no idea they could do something like that. And those are the fun ones. I can’t say there is one specific one but it is when you see kids do something beyond their expectation.”
Describe your coaching philosophy
“We work really hard on trying to improve our swimmer’s athletic abilities such as their coordination or even their hand-eye coordination—anything to get them more in touch with their bodies and how they feel in the water. Our concentration is that you are a swimmer, not a specific stroker, just a swimmer. You should be able to do everything in all four strokes, so we do a lot of IM work. We do IM work every single day, at least for part of the practice. At the level I coach we just want to see them improve everything. We have had numerous experiences where someone goes on to college and they think they are a butterflyer or backstroker, but their team has too many of those so they become a breaststroker because their college team doesn’t have any. I think they have only been able to do that because of their experience trying to work on everything.”