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  • Mar

    Coaches' Corner: Q&A with Sean Hutchinson

    Each month, we're highlighting a new coach, someone who is innovative and noteworthy in the swimming world. To kick off spring swimming in our new Coaches' Corner series, we're featuring Sean Hutchinson, a former Olympic coach and the program director at a five-time gold medal-winning program, KING Aquatics in Seattle, Washington.

    Q: As a five-time gold medal-winning program, what do you think makes KING Aquatics stand apart from other clubs?

    Sean Hutchinson: What you lead in with, innovation. I’m a big believer in the process of mastery. That process comes from having a mentor, or copying what I know work. Like running practices you know work. Jon Urbancheck and Sergio Lopez were a big influence on me. That’s really the method we subscribe to; use what’s known and then push into the unknown. 

    Q: How has the team changed since you took over in 2002?

    Sean Hutchinson: I think it’s several things. They were a decent club when I got here, but then we defined what we wanted to become. Then became a very successful performance club. We changed the culture. 

    What I believe in the most is it doesn’t work to just focus on the best athletes. What works is coaching the group as a whole. By doing that, you’re not treating everyone the same, but giving them all the same value. If you do that, then they take your lead and treat everyone with the same value. If you spend the same time with the athletes that aren’t having the most success,the more you bring them up. In doing that, everyone will follow and success pushes up. 

    When Ariana Kukors was an age grouper, we had developed so much depth in the age group program, we didn’t know who would be the one to stand out. What was interesting to me, was the standard to expectation was different. The standards we had at KING were extraordinary, and everyone loved it. I remember looking at world rankings and thinking... 15th in the world was not good. For the standard of what we created, 15th was not where we wanted to be.   

    Q: How have your coaching methods changed since you first started at KING?

    Sean Hutchinson:
    I think it’s a never-ending evolution. When I first came, I had historically been a volume based coach. In Maryland that is what I knew. After being exposed to other things, I got into the mindset that technique wins and technique with athletic power is what works. 

    Q: It seems like, each year KING has 10-15 kids go on to collegiate swimming. How do you keep swimmers motivated toward this goal?

    Sean Hutchinson: You know, other than trying to do a reasonable job of giving them information about what swimming in college means, we don’t do that much intentionally. We love that a lot of our athletes earn scholarships and swim in college. I believe that if you’re only swimming for that reason, it’s probably better to go to class and spend time in the library. If swimming’s a job, I think that shouldn’t be the reason you do it.  

    Q: What products are you using in practice that you feel are vital to the swimmer's success? 

    Sean Hutchinson: We did a study in the fall, with a high school team in FLA. After 8 weeks, the year around swimmers in the control group improved by .8 and the IKKOS group improved by 4 seconds. 

    Learn more about Ikkos.

    Q: How do you incorporate IKKOS into your training methods? 

    Sean Hutchinson: The biggest issue is, how do we incorporate? People do not wanted to give up the group practice structure. It’s a great way to go from the outside world to practice mode. It focuses your mind directly.  

    Q: What do you feel is the greatest innovation to swimming in the last 5 years.

    Sean Hutchinson: I think there’s some cool stuff, with the data feedback, that stuff is awesome. I am bias and I feel like ours (IKKOS) is it. To show you the value of feedback, we’re working with a company called QUALCOMM. They make the chips in your phone.  We’re working with them and one of the world’s largest textile company to have wearable clothing. For swimming, let’s say you wanted to learn from Kelsi Worrell. She put the suit on, swim one cycle (i.e. 50 Fly) and it would record her data. That data would go sit in a channel and anyone in the world who wanted to learn, could swim with the smart clothing (smart suit) and compare their feedback with Kelsi Worrell’s

    Q: What role does AMG (Aquatic Management Group) play in fostering swimming in the Seattle area?

    Sean Hutchinson: It could be bigger. I do feel for south King Co. that if we didn’t step in at the time we did, there wouldn’t be much swimming in that area. We filled in the blank and stepped in to help them run the facilities. These were already existing facilities, that were old, not well taken care of, and inefficient. They were on the chopping block. We got together and got around 1/3 of the funding to keep the pools open. Since starting, we’ve saved them millions of dollars. 

    Q: Do you feel AMG is a crucial recruiting piece for the team? 

    Sean Hutchinson: It’s interesting, Yes and NO. It was a really good lesson to anyone building a program. Even if we suggest to the people at these pools “you should go swim”, if the programs there are not appealing, no matter how much you suggest it they will not swim.  The only advantage is if you do a great job. 

    Q: With all the success the team has had, what is your proudest moment?  

    Sean Hutchinson: That’s tough, um, shoot, that’s really hard. What’s interesting, it doesn’t have anything to do with records or Olympics. I have a couple of moments. I used to have a top ten of my favorite moments. Sometimes it was people you knew and most of the time it was kids you don’t know.

    Number one; I knew we were getting good, when our section changed the relay rule to you could only score 1st and 2nd because we were getting 1-3 or 1-4. We were at Mount Hood and I was given the award for 1st and 2nd place in a relay. Mount Hood received the 3rd place. Mount Hood declined the award because they knew the KING kids had finished third.

    Another one, was being at Sectionals one year and we had 90 kids at sectionals. Our team was only 380 kids at the time. One third of our team was there at a really fast Senior Sectionals. It was the morning before the meet was starting and I looked over and the whole bleacher was all black.  

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