Remembering Doug Stern...

author : garyhallsr
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By Gary Hall Sr.
The Race Club

For my first article for BeginnerTriathlete.com, I want to start by remembering triathlon’s first swimming guru, Doug Stern.

I met Doug only one time, when he made a personal visit to The Race Club in Islamorada to check us out. Doug was always looking for interesting new places in the world to take his triathletes and since he made an annual trip to the Caribbean, he stopped for a visit on the way down. Doug had an inquisitive mind and was always looking for new and better techniques to improve his triathlete’s swims. He was the first swimming coach that I know of who dedicated himself to understanding the needs and skills required for the tri swim.

I remember standing on the pool deck with Doug, talking swim technique theory, when his eyes were locked in on one of our Olympians, Anthony Irvin. Anthony was a gold medalist in the 50 meter freestyle in Sydney, where he tied with my son, Gary Jr. He was anything but a distance swimmer, yet Anthony has one of the most beautiful and perfect stroke techniques I have ever seen. Doug realized that right away.

“If I could get my athletes to hold the water like that…” Doug said.

Anthony is one of the reasons I have come to realize that swimming is as much about technique as it is about training. Although he was about 6 feet 3 inches tall, he couldn’t have weighed more than 170 lbs soaking wet. He couldn’t out lift anyone in the weight room, didn’t have the fastest kick in town and probably wouldn’t have won any pulling races either. But put it all together, he was almost unbeatable. Anthony was a master technician, reducing drag to a minimum, as he sliced through the water with almost an effortless motion.

“Look at that high elbow,” Doug continued, almost with childlike enthusiasm. “And his recovery…look at how he attacks the water from above.”

Doug was one of the few swimming coaches who really appreciated how important swimming technique is and would spend as much or more time with his athletes making sure they got it right, rather than just counting laps or yards. Doug understood that there was no replacement for hard work and would always make sure his triathletes were aerobically fit for the distance of their swim. But he would spend time in each workout working on important drills, so that they would swim smart…not just hard.

One of Doug’s swimming students, Jane Budimir, came to The Race Club camp before he passed on and could never stop talking about her beloved coach. She endeared to him as did so many triathletes who swam under him or those who appreciated him through his writing and teaching skills.

I am not sure that anyone can fill Doug’s shoes as the go-to triathlon coach for swimming. I love to work with triathletes, partly because I was one for ten years. I love the sport. As Doug did, I also understand that unlike the bike and run, where there is an almost direct correlation between the number of miles one puts in and the performance, success in swimming is much more technique sensitive. It is the difference that performing in water vs air makes. Doug also understood that in swimming, one size does not fit all. The technique must be driven by the area of strength of the swimmer, such as kick, flexibility etc. and the distance swum.

Doug, just know, years after you have gone on to bigger things, you are still remembered here on planet triathlon.

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.

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date: November 9, 2010

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garyhallsr

Hall's record is one of amazing successes. Gary has held 10 world records. In both 1969 and 1970 he was named World Swimmer of the Year.

Since retiring in 2006 as a physician and moving with his wife Mary, to Islamorada in the Florida Keys, Dr. Gary Hall has now dedicated his life to coaching technique and training methods to children, masters, fitness and health swimmers, triathletes and others at The Race Club Camps.

Author

avatargaryhallsr

Hall's record is one of amazing successes. Gary has held 10 world records. In both 1969 and 1970 he was named World Swimmer of the Year.

Since retiring in 2006 as a physician and moving with his wife Mary, to Islamorada in the Florida Keys, Dr. Gary Hall has now dedicated his life to coaching technique and training methods to children, masters, fitness and health swimmers, triathletes and others at The Race Club Camps.

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