Name: Glenn Mills
City and State: Chester, MD
Age Group: 45-49
Team Affiliation: Arizona
How long have you been swimming in Masters & why did you decide to join?
I’ve been swimming masters on and off since my mid 30s — entering a meet here and there just to have some fun. I was never really serious about training until the last couple years, and only recently because a swimmer of mine needed a training partner. He’s a young breaststroker who had nobody to swim with, so I jumped back in to race/pace him for about 50% of his practice. I’d pick the 1st, or last part of a swim to do with him, and try to make him keep up with me. As a senior, he went 56.0 in the 100 breast and is headed to the U of Florida, so I guess my swimming served its real purpose. The offshoot of that is that he encouraged me to swim masters to see how I’d do. I even swam a couple USA meets with him, which was very fun.
I know you’re a pretty fast guy, how often do you swim in meets? What events do you hold age group records in right now?
I’ve had a couple (old age) medical issues this past year, so I haven’t been able to swim in as many meets as I’d like. Hopefully that’s all taken care of, and I can get back in more frequently this year. I’d like to compete more, and test other events for fun, but because I spend all my time involved in swimming, if I have some free time, sometimes going to a pool isn’t the best way for me to relax. :)
I honestly don’t know what records I have. I know David Guthrie broke the 200 short course record, which I think leaves me with a couple short course meters WRs in the 100 and 200 breast. I also had the 200 IM short course WR, but it was broken by 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist Alex Bauman of Canada. I just like saying that it was broken by an Olympic Champion… almost makes me sound like I was as good as him… which certainly isn’t the case.
What was your competitive swimming history before you made the move to masters?
I’ve been involved in swimming since I was 5 years old. I swam summer league, high school, college, then went on to coach at every level of the sport — club team, high school, worked as a volunteer at a couple colleges (currently volunteer coach at Navy), ran clinics all over, plus the video production and writing.
Getting involved in masters swimming, wasn’t just about racing, but rather to see old friends again. The swimming was secondary… almost a distraction from the real enjoyment of being around so many great people. In fact, the races kinda get in the way…. they do hurt. I like to be ready to race when I show up, because I do enjoy racing, so I’ll usually be fairly ready if I’m at a meet. Maybe not totally ready, but at least able to race if one presents itself.
When did you launch Go Swim? What prompted you to do so and what is the overall mission of your site?
Go Swim will celebrate its 7th year this fall. Barbara Hummel (my business partner) and I were previously working in the swimming business and wanted to move our focus a bit. We wanted to be free to look at swimming through totally inquisitive eyes. Try everything and find out what the great swimmers really think about while they swim. Rather than limiting people to a specific way of swimming, try to open people’s minds up to discovering the best way for THEM to approach the sport. It’s more along the lines of personal responsibility, and a constant experimentation to discover what really works for you.
Being around the sport for so long, the one thing that never ceases to amaze me is how many different styles succeed. Yet too much teaching, in my opinion, is done by a set of “rules” — more along the lines of the teacher forcing the student into their mindset, rather than the teacher adjusting the teaching to give the swimmer what will work best for them.
To force ourselves to think, we figured it was best to challenge ourselves publicly, to put our ideas on stage for people to pick apart. We knew that if we committed to showing some sort of skill, we better think about the validity of it prior to putting it out there. Of course, the initial goal for both of us was to ultimately be the best teachers we could possibly be, and by putting our ideas out openly, we’d be forced to at least try to put out ideas that made sense… in some way. This led us to developing the “Drill of the Week.” We started doing these in our first year, so we figure we’ve written and published nearly 350 drills. They started out as 500k flash files with no voice or sound and we filmed a lot of them in a backyard pool. Today, they’re more “produced.” We shoot them in HD, with footage from above and below the surface, and we do a voiceover. We’re currently using YouTube HD embedding to show the drills. It’s come a long way, and we figure that out of the hundreds of drills we do have online… somebody can find SOMETHING they can use.
Early on, we decided to try to create DVDs featuring great swimmers. We wanted to show what they do… that every swimmer could try to do in their own swimming. We work with each elite athlete to identify six key points they want to put out there for other swimmers. We figure that people will swim, at most, six days a week, so we wanted to give a technique point per day. We want to encourage people to not just go to the pool and approach swimming from a physical standpoint. We want them to approach it from a technical standpoint as well. Just going back and forth without focusing on something technique oriented will get you in better shape, but may not make you faster, or more efficient.
Our first DVD features our good friend Dave Denniston. Our first Olympic Champion was Misty Hyman. We’re somewhere around 25 DVDs now, and will be releasing our first triathlon DVD in the next couple weeks.
I think a lot of the work you do is really cool, what got you into filming swimming?
I was a visual athlete, a visual coach, and a visual teacher. In the early 90s, I had a team at Cleveland State University. It’s one of the best pools in the country. Wally Morton, still the Head Coach there, used to allow me to go down in the basement to use the underwater windows. I’d watch the swimmers under there during practice, and get FRUSTRATED with what I saw. The first real tool I purchased was a Sharp ViewCam. It was a new camera with a 3” screen on the back, rather than a view finder. I’d climb down the ladder to the underwater windows, film a few kids during practice, then climb back up the ladder, stop these kids, and without them getting out of the water, I’d turn the cam around and play back what I just saw. We’d quickly talk about what they’d have to change, and I’d send them on their way.
From there, I’d take the video home, and put it on the computer. I’d extract a clip every 15 frames or so, and print a small book for them to look at. EXTREMELY TIME consuming… but you know, I was making SO much money coaching, it was no problem (little joke there). The kids I was able to do this for learned a lot about how they swam, so I just started always looking for ways that I could show swimmers how to do things better.
I was also fortunate that as a younger swimmer, I was in a stroke film by Ernie Maglischo. I was very honored to be included, and learned a lot about my own stroke because of it.
Everything I do now is simply an outgrowth from those early days of just trying to be a good coach.
I’m always fascinated by some of the angles you get, how do you get the shots that you do above and below the water?
Above water… sometimes very risky and precarious camera holds. I’m afraid of heights, so when I get to a pool that has towers, I know I SHOULD get up there… but don’t necessarily want to. I’ll usually end up lying on my stomach, holding the cam out over the edge, and have that sick feeling that I’m going to drop it in the water.
Under water… a LOT of breath holding. People usually ask what kind of scuba gear I use. It’s simply too heavy to keep up with the people we film. This is when it’s good to be a breaststroker. We spend half our practices under water anyway… so the lungs are generally pretty good. I’ve only gotten myself in trouble once, and the athletes won’t remember because I was too embarrassed. I was filming Kaitlin Sandeno and Erik Vendt. The diving well was 16 feet deep, and I was at the bottom looking up. I didn’t realize how much effort it took me to get down there with the camera, and when Kaitlin started swimming, I knew I was running out of air. I remember looking through the cam and seeing just this GREAT shot of her butterfly and thinking… I can’t miss this. About a second later… I actually started to see spots. I dropped the cam (in water it’s not so dangerous), and tried to stay as calm as possible, but no matter what they say… that’s NOT easy. I think Kaitlin was still swimming by the time I got up and to the side. It took me a minute or two to regain my senses… kinda looked at her, said something like NICE… and went back down to get the cam. It really scared me, and I’ve been in better shape, and listen much better to how I feel when filming now.
Any waterproof camera recommendations for the aspiring amateur swimming film maker? Personally I really want to know what my stroke looks like underwater!
There are SO many great little underwater cams these days, it’s silly for a coach or serious swimmer not to have one. If you have a digital cam, it should be waterproof. Pentax has the W60 and now W80, which are 10-12 megapixels still, and HD video at either 15 or 30 frames per second. We’re talking just a bit over $200. Olympus has a great digital underwater cam as well as Sharp. Depending on your budget, I’m pretty sure you can grab a digital underwater cam for as low as $150.
I was a big fan of the video you did recently with Jason Lezak, how did you get hooked up with him to do the DVD?
Through Jason’s agent, Premier Management Group. We’ve done a lot of work with them over the years, and continue to work very well with them. Fortunately for us, they like our work, and know we always have the athlete’s best interest in mind. Jason was a great guy, and all the athletes we’ve worked with have been great people. We do our best to let some of that come through in their videos… even if it’s just during the credits. We want the videos to teach, but also want a little bit of their personality included.
Screencap from ‘Freestyle with Jason Lezak’
Since Jason is a sprinter it must have killed him to have to swim back and forth all day, how much did you make him swim to get all that footage?
That was a big deal, and we had a great time with that. We scheduled the shoot right after a meet, so he had to up his yards a bit, which helped. However, we went over the entire shot list with Jason, and allowed him to pick WHEN he was ready to go fast. We try to make sure we’re listening as much to the athlete as if we were their coach. If we try to make them go in the order that’s written, we may end up asking them to sprint on the 3rd shot of the day… not good. I think you’ll see in the credits of Jason’s video where he’s asking what shot we’re on… and what we missed from the day before. We try as best as possible to include them in the shot planning, so we get a better end result. Jason would have done anything we asked at any time… that’s just the kind of guy he is… but making sure he also has a good experience with the process is very important to us as well.
What can we look forward to next from Go Swim?
Online and mobile. We’re still a company of two people, but we have more ideas about trying to put useful tools into coaches’ and swimmers’ hands. We’re working with a couple other key companies that have technology that we can tie into to put some good tools into peoples’ hands. There are a lot of great people in the sport, and we’ve been fortunate enough to connect with some true fans of the sport who share our same desire to move things forward.
What’s your favorite drill for someone like me trying to take a few seconds off his 100 fly?
Probably think like Mike. Not Jordan or Phelps, but Barrowman. Early in my coaching, I had a chance to spend some time with Mike Barrowman, and he told me that in swimming breaststroke, there were two kinds… slow and thoughtful, or FAST. So, with that in mind, try not to spend too much time working through the drudgery of long fly. Once you’re practicing fly where you’re struggling to make it to the other end… what are you really learning? Swim shorter distances of fly, mixed with freestyle so that your fly is clean and solid… but try to keep the pace of that fly greater than you normally would.
Learn to use your chest press better, and to allow your hands to stay stable in front rather than leading the body up and down. For that, here’s an old drill shot before the “talky” days… but still valid (if not a little painful)
Check out the full video here
One more quick point… learn how you enter your hands. There isn’t one way, so you owe it to yourself to experiment and try something that may not feel right. Check out the following article and pics about how to enter your hands in fly:
Of course, our standard response to that question is… the best way to improve as a swimmer, is to listen to your coach. What we do is share ideas for you to think about, it’ll be up to you and your coach to determine which ideas are valid for you.
A HUGE thank you to Glenn for taking the time to do this!!! If you’re not familiar with the work Go Swim does I highly recommend you check out the site and watch out some of their excellent videos.