O’Brien, Kerry

After being on deck with the Walnut Creek Masters for only a short time, I came to the following conclusion: “Everybody wants to be treated the same, differently.”

Now into my 25th year of coaching, I try to adhere to this pnnciple as a foundational piece of my coaching philosophy. As long as I am aware of the physical limitations a swimmer may have as an individual, each swimmer-regardless of age or ability-wants to be treated equally. Each wants to be held to the same standard of expectation.

If I believe it is important for a USMS Top Ten swimmer to streamline off the walls to carry more speed, it needs to be clear to everyone and why:

* Equal instruction.

* Equal encouragement.

* Equal praise.

When approaching stroke mechanics and technique, our staff will often talk in terms of “Basic Laws of Motion” (such as action and reaction, directional momentum, keeping an object moving, etc.) and “Basic Laws of Swimming” (balance and length, long and short axis, speed through efficiency, etc.) and how these apply to a particular stroke.

We will go through a series of “full body check-ups,” a series of 25s (usually 16). We swim the full stroke, but change the focus from the hands to the elbows to the shoulders-all the way down to the feet. Swimmers get a sense of what each part of the body does and how these parts interconnect to produce an efficient stroke.

Following are some sample Walnut Creek Masters workouts:


Warm-up: Swim 300, kick 200, pull 200

SET #1: One hour of 100s

* 15 minutes: Alt 2 x 100 @ fastest possible send-off and 1 x 100 @ FPSO + 15

* 100 EZ and regroup

* 15 minutes: Alt 100 free and 100 IM @ moderate interval

* 100 EZ and regroup

* 10 minutes: 100s pull @ choice of interval

* 100 EZ and regroup

* 8 minutes: 100s kick @ choice of interval

* 100 EZ and regroup

* 12 minutes: descend 100s @ choice of interval

Coach O’Brien: “The interval will determine how many you descend (for example, 4 @ 3 mm.; 6 @ 2 mm.; 9 @ 1:15). Obviously, the softer the interval, the higher the quality of the descend. What I like about this set is that everyone finishes at the same time.”


Warm-up: Swim 300, kick 200, pull 200

SET #1:

* 12 x 25 @ 10 sees, rest

Alt kick/drill/swim for each stroke

SET #2:

* Swim 8 x 50 @ moderate interval

Odd 50s: IM (5 strokes fly, 10 back, 5 breast, rest free)

SET #3:

* Swim 3 x 400 @ 1 min. rest

25 fly-25 free-25 back-50 free-25 breast-75 free-75 IM-100 free

SET #4:

* Pull 4 x 125 free

75 stroke focus/50 build-up

Total: 3,300

Check out SwimInfo Interactive at for three additional Walnut Creek Masters workouts.

Kerry O’Bnen has been coaching and swimming Masters for 25 years, and has distinguished himself on both sides of the pool’s edge. As a swimmer he surpassed his collegiate best in the 200 yard fly by three seconds with a time of 1:55.5 ten years after graduation, and he consistently ranks among the nations leaders in his age group.

O’Brien has used the same determination to build the Walnut Creek Masters into one of the premier Masters programs in the world today. Since becoming head coach in 1980, he has led his swimmers to 33 national team titles. In 1987, he was named USMS Coach of the Year, and in 2001 he received the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award from the Masters Aquatic Coaches Association. Here, in a nutshell, is Kerry’s coaching philosophy:

Copyright Sports Publications, Inc. Apr 2005

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