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  • Nov

    Coaches' Corner: Q&A with Darin Mai

    On this month's coaches' corner series we're diving in to how Darin Mai, coach from AquaSol Swim Team & SwimLabs El Dorado Hills, develops a wildly popular swim program in California. Read more about this coach's training style and what drives the team to success. 

    Q: What makes AquaSol unique?

    Darin Mai: I believe our culture is what makes the team unique.  There is a strong sense of team and that everyone understands that it just isn’t a few that make it work but everyone.  This past weekend we ran a senior trials and finals meet and we had the entire team out helping with the meet.   We do not have volunteer hours that each family needs to reach each year and we do not track the number of hours they work.  We let the team know our goals and plans and ask for help in running those programs. 
    We, as a staff, know that each swimmer has something to contribute to the team whether they are new to competitive swimming or competing at the National level.

    Q: Tell us about the team training philosophy?

    Darin Mai: We focus on the athlete as a whole.  First and foremost we focus on technique especially with our younger swimmers.  We strive for the swimmers to learn all four strokes and to be open minded in racing all the events and lengths. In our training, once we have the foundation of strokes developed we like to enhance the aerobic system through a cross section of middle distance to distance training coupled with sprints. The swimmers are capable of handling a “traditional” style of set (say 13 x 200 free descending in particular patterns) and/or a set of 20 x 50 mixed with race pace style swimming.  We also like to incorporate a good deal of kicking to develop that base level with the legs.

    Q: How do you teach this philosophy to your staff?

    Darin Mai: I am fortunate that we have an extremely knowledgeable and experienced staff.  We talk regularly and share sets together all the time.  We have our “geek” out sessions where we talk about an article we read or a video we may have watched.  Myself and Aimee Lehr have been coaching together for almost 12 years so it is very easy for us to know what the other is planning and doing with our respective groups.

    Q: What do you feel makes your program innovative?

    Darin Mai: That we really work on empowering the athlete and work on helping develop them as student-athletes.  We use concepts of the week (originated from Jeff Pearson) and John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success to help convey our message to the team and athletes.  We are very proud as a staff that the team continues to improve while striving to develop the athlete as a whole.

    Q: Are there any tools you’re using in practice that you feel are vital to your swimmers’ improvement?

    Darin Mai: I don’t think there are specific tools that are vital.  For dry land I really like to use a pull up bar and the jungle gym straps (similar to the TRX).  In the water we’ll use a tempo trainer and parachutes.  We’ve also started using dragsox.  I like to use the equipment at different periods of time and in different ways for training.  It really just depends on what the needs of the group are for that time period.

    Q: What prompted you to start pursuing a SwimLab franchise?

    Darin Mai: I’ve always been intrigued about running a swim school but wanted something that could teach both the learn to swim and enhance the competitive athlete.  In the past I had the opportunity to work with an above ground, current pool for instructional purposes at varying meets and had always been blown away at how quickly athletes picked up on changes.  Once I saw the SwimLabs template and teaching protocol I knew I had to look at the opportunity.  This was a venue that would allow the learn to swim to be taught and the ability to work with the competitive athlete.

    Q: With the grand opening just days away, what are you guys most excited for?

    Darin Mai: I am excited to announce that we are now open and things are going great.  The feedback thus far has been tremendous.   We are very excited to show the aquatics field here in El Dorado and Sacramento County what video technology can do to enhance the sport.  Already the feedback has been great from both the learn to swim and the competitive swimmer/triathlete.

    Q: How do you see the SwimLab facility tying into AquaSol?

    Darin Mai: Our hope here at SwimLabs is that the facility helps to “raise the bar” of swimming in our area.  The goal is for swimmers to learn each of the four competitive strokes and to be able to swim 100 strokes of each stroke.  Thus, whether they continue on to AquaSol or other local programs they are prepared and ready to learn more.  As the swimmers continue they will also be able to return for future analysis of their strokes to try and continue to be the most efficient that they can be in the water.

    Q: What are your goals for your program and your swimmers?

    Darin Mai: The program last year took a huge leap forward and we look to continue moving on.  Last year our age group program jumped from tenth at the LSC’s junior Olympics to placing fourth in both short course yards and long course meters.  This year our goal is to “break into” the top 3 for the short course season!  We also doubled the number of swimmers that attended the S.W.A.G.R. meet and the Far Western Championships and this year are looking at placing in the top 10 at both of those meets.  For our senior group we want to increase those numbers and have a squad going to Futures and one or two more swimmers attending Winter Junior Nationals.

    Q: What do you feel is your greatest coaching accomplishment with AquaSol, so far?

    Darin Mai: The team culture the staff has developed while tripling the size of the team and raising the level of competitiveness from top to bottom.

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