In the world of coaching swimming, there are all kinds of coaches. There are coaches who acquire almost universal admiration (think David Marsh). There are coaches who attract a cult following (Milt Nelms, Bill Boomer). There are female coaches who...well, I think we've already been over that a few times.
But there's a special class of coaches who seem to drive other coaches mad. They do so because their presence needles away at common insecurities or frustrations. They appear to not be playing by the established set of rules, and their continued violation of these "rules" leave many making up reasoning after the fact for why they don't like them.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Michael Andrew, and while much of the coverage of his swimming is rightly about him and not his coach, it's possible that Peter Andrew makes many people even more upset than his son.
What they'll say: Many people will couch their criticism of Peter Andrew in the fact that they think he does too much religious talk. This is a criticism I find weird, even as an atheist. Religion makes people happy, so good for the Andrew family. Other criticisms of the father Andrew seem to boil down to him talking about what he thinks has helped his son to be successful, of which he is probably asked ALL the time, so what else shall he say? But I digress
What really makes people feel insecure: Peter Andrew is a dad coaching his kid. In an age where the surest way to get a nice slap on the back from other coaches is to post another article about how "parents these days" are ruining sports for their kids, a parent effectively cutting professional swim coaches out of the picture and then having his son go on to be one of the world's top juniors is very threatening.
In many ways, Shane Tusup represents a nice evolution in the "coach in a relationship with the swimmer he is coaching" progression. Tusup and Hosszu are roughly the same age and met while swimming teammates at USC. Furthermore, Tusup coaches only Hosszu, so there is no conflict of interest to worry about with another swimmer in the "group"
What they'll say: Criticisms of Tusup basically form around him behaving like a stark raving madman on the pool deck. Which, um, I guess is pretty fair. Or, they might accuse his wife of doping, which is not as fair and pretty squarely an attack on him as well given their level of intimacy.
What really makes people insecure: Much like Andrew, if it's possible for a coach as well regarded as David Salo to be replaced by the swimmer's husband, what does that say for the rest of us? In fact, Hosszu's career has taken off since switching over to Tusup. Gulp.
What about ratios?
In both cases, I think there is something completely different at play. Coaches of college and club teams shouldn't compare what they do to the work of these two. Put simply, however much they are individualizing, they are still dividing themselves into many pieces as coach.
Coach to swimmer ratios matter. Even the best coaches in the entire world cannot do right by a big number of high ability swimmers. Shane Tusup coaching one to one is a better coach than David Salo split 50 different ways- and that's not an insult to either one.
Want to add some individualized coaching to your own swimming or team? Write me.