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A Question And Answer With Tim Welsh

Nov. 16, 1999

By Alan Wasielewski

Notre Dame men’s swimming coach Tim Welsh is entering his 15th season at Notre Dame. The Irish are coming off one of the most successful seasons in the program’s history, finishing second at the 1999 BIG EAST championships, breaking 16 school records and posting three NCAA consideration times.

Welsh, who was named the 1999 BIG EAST Coach of the Year, was recently appointed to the United States Olympic Committee’s (USOC) Board of Directors to serve as a member of its coaching committee, a recognition of his long career of coaching and education at the collegiate level. He recently had the chance to reflect on his appointment to the committee and his years at Notre Dame.

Q: How did the opportunity to serve on the committee come about?

A: That is a very mysterious question. Where does the opening come from? I don’t know. I know that Dale Newburger, who is currently the elected president of United States Swimming and the Director of the Indiana Sports Corporation down in Indianapolis nominated me. Also, John Leonard, Executive Director of the American Swimming Coaches Association played a hand in it. Dale, John and I have known each other for many years. They know that one of the things I am most passionate about in life is education programs – creating, developing and teaching them. So an opportunity to serve the coaching world in the format of coaching education is something I would be very passionate about doing.

Q: What did it mean to you to get such a honorable position?

A:The whole situation was a surprise. The honor of it just kind of staggers me. I feel an enormous responsibility to acknowledge that I may be the only active coach on the committee. If that is true, I will have to be really good.

Q: What do you perceive as the goals of the committee?

A: Its overall format is to work on the development of coaching education within the Olympic movement. What is not included in that? Hardly anything. What is specifically included in that? An idea that there might be ways to make current thinking available to coaches in every sport. I have not been to a meeting yet, so I don’t know the specific assignment I might have.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with the new position?

A: My interest at this time in my life and career is specifically in the area of trying to develop educational programs. Whether they are here at Notre Dame, in summer camps, in leadership programs for the American Swimming Coaches Association, or on the new Olympic committee. My intention is to serve. I’m not really going in with much of an agenda. I just want to serve as well as I can and with as much energy as I can give.

Q: Reflecting back on your long coaching career, how has coaching grown since you started?

A: It has grown to the extent that it is more wholistic. It is more 360 degrees, more 24-7. It is more of everything than it once was, specifically on the technical side. My career has spanned the great development of exercise physiology, strength training and nutrition. In swimming, athletes continue to get faster and faster, because we know so much more than we did 25 years ago. That means there is still more to learn.

My career has spanned the great developments in athlete psychology. I started coaching so long ago, people were not even doing strength training. People lifting weights? That was a novel approach. Now, I would challenge you to find a program in the United States that doesn’t lift weights. It was the same thing with any kind of sports psychology. The mental training, goal setting, imagery preparation … when I started coaching that was really far out stuff.

The other thing that has happened is that it has become more apparent to me that when the athlete performs – the whole person performs. The bones and muscles are doing the work of it, but the whole person must be ready. Does it matter if you get along with your parents? Yes, it does. Does it matter if you do well in school? Yes, it does. Does it matter if you eat healthy? Yes, it does. Its more global in that way. All sports at every level, all the way to junior high, seem to be more specific and year-round. Like in our sport, you have to look hard to find times when swimmers are not practicing. Athletics has become more of a calendar year event.

Q: How has the program changed at Notre Dame?

A: All in the same ways that I mentioned before. It has become more intense. The addition of coaching staff, separation of the men’s and women’s programs, the build-up of scholarships, especially on the women’s side, a new commitment to more intense competition in the BIG EAST conference and everywhere. Things have become more intense.

The schedule we follow now is completely different than when I first started at Notre Dame. Our first goal was to become the best student-athletes at a Catholic university. That took into account everything that goes into each student and each athlete. At one point we developed and ran a National Catholic swimming meet at Notre Dame. It was well attended, but as budget crunches started to affect the other programs and teams dropped out, that meet no longer exists at the present time.

But Notre Dame is Notre Dame. People come from all over the country and have high ambitions. Also, when you build a pool like Rolfs Aquatic Center, and people see it, people start to say, ‘Well, I could go faster there.’ It just started to emerge as a national program by itself.

Q: What does the future hold for you at Notre Dame?

A: Notre Dame is where I want to be. Age is not one of the things I enjoy adding up. I think of myself as young and energetic, and I still have a lot of things to accomplish at Notre Dame.