Each and every day, the swimmer is asked to give one thing, and that's effort. In the pool, effort is currency. And the question is always the same – how much can you spend without going broke?
For the Texas Men's Swimming program under longtime coach Eddie Reese, the Longhorns spend a lot and make a lot. After all, the Longhorns have won 11 NCAA titles since Reese's tenure began in 1978.
"Every year, we try to work out harder than we did the year before," Reese explains. "That's the only sure way you've got to improve."
Texas begins NCAA Championships competition this week in Atlanta as the nation's top-ranked team and returns 13 of the 19 Longhorns who competed in 2015 and delivered the program's 11th team title. With 19 Longhorns (16 swimmers and three divers) on the championship roster, Texas has qualified the maximum allotment of competitors for the third-straight season.
No one can quite explain the recipe to Reese's hard-working madness. Everyone just knows it works.
Reese's Longhorns have finished among the top-three at the NCAA Championships in 29 of his previous 37 seasons on the Forty Acres, and Texas has finished no worse than second at seven of the last eight NCAA Championships.
"They trust me," Reese says of his swimmers, "and I trust them."
Consider freshman Townley Haas who qualified for his first NCAA Championships in three freestyle events – the 500, 200 and mile. Haas is actually a rare form of endurance and speed. Reese explains that he has Olympic Trials cut times in every freestyle event, from the 50 to the mile, but when Haas arrived on campus, Reese started pushing him toward the distance training group.
"As much as I don't want to admit it, I'm a distance guy now," Haas says. "I realized that's what I needed to be doing. I could feel my body responding, and you just trust Ed's success in the past, the team success. I just have a lot of faith in him and what he tells me."
That's classic coaching and classic Reese. He saw a talented swimmer and his potential. Reese's vision and belief for Haas was greater than even his own, and with a healthy training environment, Haas was pushed out of his comfort zone into new territory, where future success lies.
In training, and in racing, the swimmer is reaching for the limit. They're pushing their bodies like a driver testing his fuel tank as the gauge edges toward empty. How many more miles can I get out of this tank? Well, for the swimmer, that's what he asks of himself almost every time down the lane. How hard can I push before the energy is gone and I can't even move?
"We push them for awhile. We're real careful," Reese says. "If somebody needs a break, we tell them to do a third of the workout, go easy and go home. We know the science, but we're also good face readers."