Drew Baye is one of the most influential coaches in the world. His work with elite athletes such as Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, and Usain Bolt has made him famous around the globe. A former competitive swimmer himself, he’s been training people for over 20 years now. After being inspired by fellow Olympic champion Greg Louganis’ success story, Drew decided to turn his passion into a full time job and began coaching professional swimmers at age 25. He quickly became known as “The Coach” because of his intense training methods.
Since then, he’s trained some of the best athletes in the world including: Ryan Lochte (Gold Medalist 4x), Michael Phelps (Silver Medalist 2x), Ryan Hall (Bronze Medalist 1x) and many others.
In 2009, Drew was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. In 2010, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from USA Weightlifting. In 2011, he was named one of the top 50 fitness innovators in America by Men’s Health Magazine.
He currently lives in Florida where he works out all day every day. He enjoys traveling and spending time with his family.
What inspired you to start training elite athletes and how did you get into it?
I got into the sport of swimming very early in life. My parents put me in lessons when I was 3 years old. I quickly had an aptitude for the sport, which eventually earned me a scholarship to the University of Arizona. While I was there, my coach suggested that I become a swim coach when I graduated. He said I had a real gift for teaching. So after college I enrolled in a coaching certification program at Indiana University. While there, I was fortunate enough to be hired as an assistant coach for the men’s team at the University of Missouri. It was there that I learned how to teach swimming technique in a very efficient manner.
After one year, I was promoted to the head coach of the men’s and women’s program at Missouri. Over the course of my 5 years there, I developed swimmers that went on to compete on Olympic teams and set numerous NCAA records. In 1996, I was recruited by the University of California at Berkeley.
Over the next 12 years I took what was already a very good program and made it great. We won 8 NCAA championships during that time and our swimmers won an amazing 93 individual championships.
How did you become a authority in your field?
I think one of the secrets to my success as a coach is that I’ve never really seen myself as a coach. I see myself as a teacher first. I am essentially paid to teach people how to do something really well. In my case it’s teaching swimmers how to swim faster.
I think there is a big difference between teachers and coaches though. I’ve had some great coaches over the years but what I think sets me apart is my ability to teach. Some coaches are great leaders but not so good at teaching.
Others are great teachers but not great leaders. I’ve always felt that in order to be successful, you have to be both a good teacher and a good leader.
During your swimming career, what were some of the biggest obstacles you faced? How did you overcome these struggles?
I’ve always had a very positive outlook on life. I really believe that the attitude you have going into any situation will usually determine how successful you’ll be. That being said, I’ve had a lot of great coaches and mentors who always emphasized the importance of a good work ethic. So whether I was swimming or working at my dad’s gas station when I was 12, I always gave it my all.
While I was swimming in college, we weren’t recruited to our current Conference (Big 10). There were a lot of us that didn’t want to swim in the separate finals that they allowed us to compete in. We wanted the full Big 10 experience.
We felt we had just contributed to the schools success as much as any other sport and we should be allowed to compete in the same league as the football and basketball players. It took a couple years but we eventually got our wish.
It takes hard work to achieve your goals in anything you do. If it was easy, everyone would be successful at it.
What’s the best way to train for everyday people that don’t have your level of talent?
I think the best way to train is to have a structured workout. I’ve always been a believer that if you train smarter, you won’t need to train as much. One of the benefits of being a good teacher is that you learn not only from your own experiences but also from the experiences of others. I’ve read books by some of the best coaches in the world of swimming and have used many of their methods with great success.
What is the most common mistake swimmers make in their training?
I think the most common mistake swimmers make in their training is not having a plan. They go into the pool and just swim back and forth until mom makes them come out. This is probably how most of us learned to swim as a kid. While we might have gotten by with this technique as children, as our bodies get stronger and more developed, this method becomes less effective.
If you’re a serious about swimming and you want to improve, you need to take it seriously and have a well thought out plan of attack.
What is your opinion on the training methods of John Collins?
I’ve never been a big believer in complicated training methods. I think my success has been due to my ability to dissect and analyze the best training methods then simplify them into an easy to follow format that anyone can do. By keeping things simple, it allows for more repetitions and more practice time which should lead to faster times.
Sources & references used in this article:
1. Train hard by D Baye – baye.com