Written By: Jason Calanog
I am not perfect. I do not claim to be perfect. That is a hard concept for me to get, though. No matter the level of coaching you are involved in - perfection and change will never correlate; and as a coach, I had to realize that very difficult concept. We want to win. We want our swimmers to win. We want our team to win. We want to see our athletes succeed and get their best personal times. We want them to do well academically. We want to see them make progress and reach goals for themselves; and we want to support them as much as possible. How do we do that? How can I help them achieve their goals, if I don’t have all of the answers? How can I help them if I am not perfect in my coaching styles or techniques? How can I help them with change, if I, myself, don’t always understand what changes need to be made?
As a coach, going from club swimming to college was not an easy decision, nor was it an easy task to accomplish. When we work with club swimming, we are doing everything ourselves - from coaching our athletes individually and as a team, to booking hotels and busses for our next invite. Club coaches do those things and everything in between; whereas college coaching truly focuses on the sport of swimming and each individual athlete bringing their unique skillsets to the team. In college, our athletes have a Head Coach, Assistant Coach(es), Athletic Trainer, Nutritionist, Scholastic Supervisor, Sports Performance Coach, Psychologist, Director of Operations/Managers, Student Workers (in various programs), Teachers, and Parents/Families. Additionally, if an athlete is an international student, there are additional people involved with the athlete’s training. Each person listed above has their own styles and techniques for working with student-athletes. Collaboration is key. There is absolutely no way to coach without collaboration. Your student-athletes will be the ones that suffer, when communication and collaboration is not a top priority as a college coach. When you come from club swimming, you are having to think about each of those skillsets altogether between yourself and your assistant coaches. In another aspect, there are several things that are done differently in college, where club teams may not have had the opportunity to experience - such as weight lifting or dryland workouts. Once again, communication across the board is vital when an athlete begins their college careers, especially if they have not had those experiences with their high school or club team.
While I can continue discussing the overall differences between club and college swimming, at the end of the day it is the communication and collaboration that matters most to the success of a student-athlete. When I mentioned there being a variety of disciplines working with one particular athlete, I also want to point out the ongoing learning of one another’s styles and interactions when it comes to working with our athletes. If you do not necessarily agree with one of your colleagues about the way they are handling a particular swimmer’s training, you have to know how to approach your colleague to move forward and to have a true vision of their teaching styles. Having open dialogues with one another is also a necessity, while understanding there are open lines of communication (or dialogue) for a reason, which can take place at any point in time - directly with those individuals involved with the athlete. Athletes choose their schools based on every single person they would be interacting with on a near-daily basis. Those experiences should be transparent and validated. While you may not fully agree with another person, having the space to share and receive that open dialogue will always be key. Everyone has different specialties, and at the end of the day - you need to trust one another, just like the student-athlete is trusting every single person working with them.
The last, but certainly not least, part of the puzzle is your athlete’s parents and/or families. When you are working with club teams, parents are also part of the communication tree - trying to retain that sense of unity between swimming, school, and family. However, that is very different within the college realm. When working with student-athletes in college, you are trying to give them a sense of family they are missing when they move away from home and everything about their lives completely change from what they have been used to for 17 or 18 years. Now, not only are you trying to retain their sense of family, but you are also trying to teach and maintain a new lifestyle. They are also trying to maintain the collaborative piece of their lives with everyone involved in their training, in addition to their families.
I know I discussed some key differences between club and college coaching, but there is one key aspect I also want to point out. When we look at things on an overall spectrum, we focus on overall wellness in both club and college swimming. We want the athletes to be well-rounded, well-adjusted, and well-focused on their goals. At the end of the day, the most important piece to any coaching puzzle is the athlete; and coaches are there to help in any way we can - working together to help them achieve their goals, in any capacity. Perfection is not needed. Changes invoke goal-setting. Communication is needed; and Collaboration is KEY!
Energetic and motivating, Jason Calanog was originally hired as an assistant coach at Texas A&M, on June 5, 2015, and has since been elevated to associate head coach. Calanog's infectious positivity and attention to detail have paid immediate dividends as the Aggies returned to the top 25 at the NCAA Championships in his first season, flirted with the top 15 in his second campaign and placed 14th at the 2018 meet. Every school record had been broken since Calanog arrived in Aggieland, with the longest standing record dating back to 2017. Calanog helped guide the Aggies to a historic performance at the 2020 SEC Championships as the team matched its best finish at the meeting, taking second. Six individual school records were set at the 2020 SEC Championships, as well as four relay school records. The Aggies brought home 15 medals as Shaine Casas became the first Aggie to earn multiple golds at SEC Championships, claiming the 200 IM and erasing U.S. Olympian Ryan Lochte's SEC record in the 200 back. Casas was awarded the Commissioner's Cup, given to the top point-earner at SEC Championships. Benjamin Walker also had another historic performance at the 2020 championships. After becoming the first Aggie to earn an individual SEC swimming title in 2019 winning the 200 breast, Walker repeated in the event as a senior with a school record-setting performance. In dual meet action, the Aggies remained in the top 10 in the national rankings all season, moving as high as No. 4 in December and finishing with a 7-3 record, including an early defeat of then-No. 5 Ohio State to start the year. The Aggies experienced a breakthrough season in 2017-18, setting a school record with a runner-up finish at the SEC Championship and placed 14th at NCAAs. Over the year A&M went 7-1 in dual meets, including the first victory over rival Texas in 55 seasons. In 2016-17, the Aggies placed 16th the NCAA Championships while tallying a 4-1 dual record. In his initial season in Aggieland, Texas A&M finished No. 25 at the national meet, had two school records broken and compiled a 7-1 dual meet record, which was the team’s best in more than a decade. Prior to coming to Texas A&M, Calanog served as a senior assistant coach at The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida, from 2007-15. During his time with the club team, his swimmers set multiple national age group records and qualified for the Olympic Games and FINA World Championships, as well as the Junior World Championships, U.S. Nationals and Junior Nationals. Calanog was named a USA National Team coach in 2016 and served as a USA National Junior Team coach the previous three seasons. He was also tabbed as the head coach of the USA Swimming Diversity Camp West team in 2014. Calanog has a long history of coaching with the Philippines National Team. He was the Philippines head coach for the 2010 Pan Pacific Games (Irvine, Calif.) and the 2009 FINA World Championships (Rome, Italy). He was also an assistant coach for the Philippines National Team at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, as well as the 2007 and 2009 South East Asian Games. Calanog added to his swimming repertoire by serving as television analyst for the Florida Swim Network’s recap show at the Florida High School Athletic Association’s state swimming championships in 2014. He was a reporter for the Florida Swim Network at the 2015 NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships. Calanog served as volunteer assistant coach for then-head coach Sergio Lopez and the West Virginia Mountaineers from 2006 to 2007. He helped the Mountaineer men’s team to the 2007 Big East team title and the women’s team to its highest conference finish in school history. He also was an assistant coach for the West Virginia Aquatics club team. Calanog, who is married to the former Tracey Mascola, earned his bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies with a concentration in business administration, communications and economics from West Virginia in 2007.