New coach Brackin keeping women swimmers "grounded”
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As she prepares for her initial season as head coach of The University of Texas women's swimming team, Kim Brackin has one chore to accomplish at home first.
"I'm working on my two-and-half-year-old making the 'Hook 'em Horns' sign," Brackin said with a laugh.
Brackin, who was named women's swimming coach on May 5, reported that she had gotten the "Hook 'em, Horns" sign down and now was concentrating on her little one.
"It's either the peace sign or three fingers," the coach said, breaking into a wide smile. "But we'll work at it. We'll get it."
That was the same approach Brackin used with the preponderance of Texas women swimmers who were in school this summer.
"About three-quarters of the team was on campus this summer and that enabled us to begin working on teamwork," said Brackin, who came to Texas after a sterling career at Auburn University where she worked with the men's and women's swim teams from 1997-2005.
Brackin, who was a part of seven NCAA Championship teams -- three by the women -- served as the women's co-head coach in her final three years at the Alabama school. In that post, she guided the Tigers women to back-to-back NCAA titles in 2003-04 and finished second in 2005. Brackin was NCAA co-Head Coach of the Year in 2002 and Southeastern Conference co-Head Coach of the Year in 2003.
"I think the most important thing we (Brackin and the assistant she hired in May, Jim Henry) accomplished this summer was the foundation of relationships with the players," Brackin said. "We began to work on teamwork this summer, talking about group goals and not individual goals. We talked about how we approach things as a team and not individually.
"Team building is so important."
To that end, Brackin wore a cowboy hat and flashed the "Hook 'em, Horns" sign at her first team meeting after all of the swimmers were on campus.
"I have a tremendous amount of pride being at The University of Texas," Brackin said. "The tradition of success the swimming teams at Texas have has given me a tremendous sense of responsibility to be successful and to help all of the women on my team achieve success."
Success is something Brackin has enjoyed throughout her career not only with the Auburn teams, but internationally. She has mentored five Olympians (who won three medals), seven World Championship swimmers (who won nine medals, four gold) and 12 World University Games swimmers (who earned 15 medals, six gold and five silver).
Brackin has found that success has come by making her swimmers athletes who swim, and not just swimmers.
And we're not talking semantics.
"We will be on land until mid-October," Brackin said of continuing to 'ground' her team as she began this summer. "We'll continue aerobic work, running stadium steps and jumping rope. We want to achieve a high level of fitness. We spent the summer getting the women in shape versus getting them ready to swim their career best time.
"The conditioning work done will help them be better swimmers."
When practice commences again, the Texas swimmers will be tossing the medicine ball, as well as doing the aerobics and the like as they did this summer. The women began by working 50 minutes per session and got down to 30 as the summer ended.
"In the fall," says Brackin, "we'll go 90 minutes three times per week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We'll work with weights and do stretching. We want to create a group of young women who are excellent athletes and not just swimmers."
This "on land" philosophy worked for Brackin at Auburn.
"The hard, physical work together helped the team building that we did at Auburn," she said. "And, again, building a strong team is so important. At the NCAAs, they have team scores, so the focus must be on what each individual can do for the team.
"It is not about individuals. It is about the team."
And it is about athleticism.
"Being fit, flexible and having agility helps lead to success," Brackin said. "Just look at our (United States) team that swam in the Worlds. It is a most conditioned, athletic group."
She and Henry are confident in the "on land" philosophy.
Brackin also is confident that her move to Texas was the correct one.
"I was thinking that coming here was a dream come true," she said after being named head coach in the spring. "Then, I thought, that I shouldn't think like that. This job isn't about my dream, but about how we go about winning National Championships."
And about getting her two-year-old to get the "Hook 'em, Horns" sign down correctly.