Who Is Mike Bottom? The Sprint Coach Legend. - Swim Like A Fish (2024)

  • Abbie Fish
  • May 17, 2024
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What makes a sprint coach legend? Is it the amount of titles a coach produces? Building a sprint program from scratch? Or is it having a lasting, positive impact on your swimmers? For legendary sprint coach Mike Bottom, it’s all of the above.

Mike announced his retirement at the end of the 2022-2023 NCAA season after an incredible run as the Head Coach for the University of Michigan Men’s and Women’s swim team. He was a nine-time Big 10 Coach of the Year and has coached medalists at the last SIX Olympic Games. Michigan was known (and is still known) as a distance powerhouse when Mike arrived. Years later, Michigan is now also an epicenter of sprinting excellence. He’s worked alongside other historically important coaches like Jon Urbanchek. So what makes Mike Bottom a sprint coach legend?

1. Adaptability

Mike Bottom is known for an incredibly adaptable approach to his workouts which is in contrast to what a lot of sprint programs preach. Although he’d go into practice with a set plan, it was programmed in to be altered based on how the athletes were looking that day. Or, if an individual athlete looked like they needed something different, just their practice would be altered. In fact, he reported that it was rarer to have a practice go completely “according to plan” than it was to have a practice adapt to the athlete’s needs. He considers adaptability to be one tenet of the future of swimming.

2. Planning

Although Mike made his workouts adaptable, he was also meticulous about planning. He’d keep a countdown to all of the major meets at the forefront for both him and his athletes. He used this to help swimmers track where they were in the season and to keep them focused on what they were working towards. He always encouraged swimmers to “look to the horizon” (aka the next big meet and what they were working towards) rather than “looking in the mirror” after a race where they fell flat. That’s why he comes into workouts with a plan that was appropriate for where swimmers were in the season itself.

3. Buy-In From Athletes

Mike is legendary for the relationships he developed with his swimmers. He’s known for his wisdom and high-level coaching speeches. He says things like “swimming is just swimming” and “making changes is not swimming.” He works hard to instill a value system of gratitude in his team and opening up swimmers to the challenges and changes that inevitably come in a season.

One of the ways that he encouraged buy-in from his swimmers is that he would walk on deck with lots of “mini sets.” He would allow his swimmers to pick which sets THEY wanted to get after that day. Because his swimmers got to pick what they were focusing on and what they were working hard at, they took ownership of their sets and got faster results because of them. This happened within the confines of the plan that Mike had already set into the season.

Get Mentored By Mike Bottom

4. Middle Of Practice… Dryland?

One of Mike Bottom’s signature styles of coaching includes throwing a dryland set right into the middle of a tough practice or main set. He would do this either as a way to help swimmers recover in between sets OR to increase their muscular activation in the water. This dryland emphasis makes perfect sense with sprinters as they need power and reactivity in order to be successful at the shorter events.

It’s secrets like this that Mike will be helping you implement in his mentorship program. His goal is to give away his knowledge and expertise for those who want to grow as swim coaches. His 2022-2023 college season plan is also available for you as the culmination of his experience.

5. Organization

Like we talked about already, Mike Bottom is the perfect blend of adaptable planning across his season. He relied on organizing his daily, weekly and season plan workouts into excel spreadsheets. He’d also print multiple copies and hand them out at practice so that athletes could look at them and follow along. Again, he was big on athlete buy-in. His organizational skills was what allowed him to then be adaptable in practices.

In conclusion, it’s impossible to answer the question “what makes a legendary sprint coach” with a straightforward answer. That being said, it’s equally impossible to say that Mike Bottom ISN’T one of the greatest sprint coaches of all time.

Until next time,

Abbie Fish and the Swim Like A. Fish Team

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Who Is Mike Bottom? The Sprint Coach Legend. - Swim Like A Fish (2024)
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