Today we introduce the sixth presenter for The 2017 Seminar, USA Swimming’s High Performance Director, Keenan Robinson.  Keenan has worked with swimmers from North Baltimore Aquatics Club, University of Michigan and Team Wolverine, Arizona State, and USA Swimming along side with all time great, Coach Bob Bowman.  The success they’ve had has been immense, with their athlete’s  Olympic medal totals approaching 50.  With all that success, you’d never know his track record when meeting the man.  Keenan is one of the most humble people in the world of athletics and is constant striving to improve the preparation the athlete’s involved in USA Swimming.  Even with USA Swimming being, arguably, the most successful American sport organization in the Summer Games Keenan is constantly striving to find more efficient ways to improve the long term development of his athletes.  Keenan is a guy who’s never held a punch, and never hid what he has done with this athletes. He’s a fantastic ambassador for Strength and Conditioning Coaches and the sport of swimming.  It is physically impossible for me to be more excited to have Keenan on the docket for The 2017 Seminar, he is a fantastic addition to an already loaded line up.  Is it July yet???

JD: If you could, please give our readers a little background information about you, what your niche in the world of athletics is, accomplishments, how you got there, education, any products you have available and/or notable publications

KR:

Keenan with Coach Bob Bowman and Michael Phelps after Day 6 of the Olympics, titled Capacity vs Utilization on Keenan's Facebook page
Keenan with Coach Bob Bowman and Michael Phelps after Day 6 of the Olympics, titled Capacity vs Utilization on Keenan’s Facebook page

My name is Keenan Robinson, and I am currently the Director of High Performance for USA Swimming. I started this roll in September of 2016, after 12 years of “on the deck” skills at various swim locations. By way of formal education I am a Certified Athletic Trainer, but during my journey added strength and condition certification to assist in the General Physical Preparation development of swimmers.

I suppose I am most known for my work with Michael Phelps, being with him since 2004. However, I have designed and implemented quadrennial GPP plans for swimmers at the age group level(10-14), senior club level(14-18), collegiate level, and international level. I suppose the niche would be merging an integrated approach to the SPP, GPP, and rehab domains of this particular sport in a manner that is now popularly called “Long Term Athletic Development” In the particular sport of swimming the plan we have developed(I use “we” because this was created over the years by not only myself but also the coaches who tasked me with this goal, as well as (and most importantly) the athletes). We created a very logical progression of developmental skills, movement proficiency, and finally biological expression of the different domains of human strength and power. All of this was done in accordance with the swim coaches development of the energy systems required of a swimmer. This has led to the highest level of swimming at each of the aforementioned swimmer developments. In just the last quad for example, the team I have worked for had the only 18 and under male to win and individual long course medal at a FINA Long Course World Championship/Olympics, and produced the club with the most 18 and under athletes to win individual long course medals at an IOC/FINA swimming international meet. At the senior international level the program we have developed has led to over 15 Olympic medals, and then of course you may add the medals won by Phelps himself. I would say the other unique aspect of this program within the sport of swimming is that it has led to US athletes competing at a FINA Long Course World Championships or Olympics in events for the 100 up to the 10/25k.

JD: Discuss with us the mistakes you see made by strength and conditioning coaches in the United States and around the world, and what you feel should be done differently/how to correct these issues.

KR: I don’t believe I have the experience, knowledge base, or exposure too enough global programs to call something a mistake. I have spent so much time critiquing, modeling, and adapting my own that it would be incorrect for me to call out another program. I would say this, and this is coming from the capacity I serve in now, which involves more consultation than actual programing and implementation (which is true coaching), the “remote fitness enthusiast” model of providing a fitness program needs to be critically evaluated. My intent in this statement is that, if the program a swimmer/ coach are using doesn’t have a designated strength coach on the floor daily I would question that program hard. I still have yet to see a cell phone be able to get up and walk the floor, coach athletes, develop relationships to understand when one athlete is ready to bring the heat and the other is more concerned with mastering technique because they dominate in the pool and don’t want to get hurt. No manual, at least what I’ve experienced, has the brain and intuition to make the changes necessary if Plan A isn’t going to work. Perhaps Im ranting now, but I like the way Cal Dietz and Joe Kenn have presented their belief systems. A coach can purchase their books, look on their respective websites for their exercise demonstrations, and even send them questions via email and then implement Triphasic or Tier System. It doesn’t require an exorbitant annual fee to have House come every September and spend 48 hours with something that with inevitably change because of the human response to stress. Another reason I respect that is because Joe and Cal don’t have time to do that because they are coaching everyday the programs they champion, producing Super Bowl Teams and NCAA Championship teams.

JD: What advice would you give a coach to improve knowledge in the lines of continuing education, meaning could you point our readers in a direction to find the scientific and practical information to improve the methods they use to improve performance?

KR: This is a great question, and I believe an answer comes from what unique to you as a coach. Read the foundational books(Zatsiosky, Bondurchuck, Issurin, Siff, Yessis, Dietz, Rippetoe, Louie Simmons) and start programming and COACHING. As issues come up or questions arise start looking for resources that help answer those questions, for me programming became so clear and changed my approach after I read The Tier System. You and I reached out to each other because I coached a high school athlete who went on to work with you in college and we shared similar questions as to whether we are doing anything right.

Listen to podcast and the speakers/topics that interest you dive deeper into for me this is where Weingroff, Cressey, Bartholomew, Valle, Gabbet, Pat Ward, and others have influenced me.

This usually leads to other information uncovering other influences, for me it became coaches that I value incredibly high Buddy Morris, James “The Thinker” Smith, Dave Tate, and Tom Myslinski.

During all this time create a Strength Shoppe, a unique network of individuals who think, program, coach differently but are like minded in willingness to positively share information to make you a better coach.

JD: If you could give a brief description of what our attendees can expect from you at The Seminar?

KR: An explanation of system, particular to a unique/niche sport, that is specific to human development, not sport specific. This explanation, hopefully allows coaches to apply or seek out assistance in areas that they previously haven’t worked on or haven’t had exposure to.

JD: Any closing thoughts?

KR: This is without a doubt, one of the humblest professional experiences I will have in my career. For years, I have purchased the Seminars videos because the presenters are the absolute best in the field and to know have the opportunity to actually attend and being asked to present is overwhelming. Jay, you are one of the few that walk the walk in terms of being open to what you do as a coach, sharing information openly, and trying to aggregate information and disseminate it to the profession to make us all better.

We are hoping to provide the best possible content for strength coaches with each of our shows. If feel this could provide value for anyone else in the strength and conditioning field please feel free to share.

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