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Coaching Philosophy – Bud McAllister

by ZwemZa on June 15th, 2020

Bud McAllister with Blair Evans.Picture: WA News

Having a long and successful career there are many lessons we can learn from Bud McAllister. With the goal of “Consistently putting swimmers on Olympic teams” Bud has produced swimmers of the highest calibre, such as Kristine Quance, Alexis Larsen, and world record holder and Olympic gold medallist Janet Evans.

After six years at WAIS, Bud returns to North America for the next chapter of his life.

From humble beginnings, first life guarding and junior swim coaching in Blythefield country club in Grand Rapids, Michigan in the late 70’s. Bud found his love of coaching and got his first coaching role at Mission Viejo in California, as an assistant coach. Over the course of the next 30 years Bud went on to coach at various centres in the US, Canada, UK and finally Australia, always finding a way to put his swimmers on International and Olympic teams.

Bud highlights the importance of training fast and “consistently improving your best workout times”. He says this is the best predictor of meet performance. Bud has kindly shared some of his thoughts and wisdom on coaching and getting the most out of his swimmers, specifically distance swimmers.

Bud’s Coaching Philosophy

1. Making Sure a Quality Session is Quality: Race Pace or Faster

Are your swimmers training at race pace or faster when you are asking them to go fast? If not, why not? What needs to change? During his time at WAIS, Bud experimented with different training schedules. He started off by training more morning sessions, but he found the cost of the number of morning sessions were taking away the ability of his swimmers to swim fast during quality sessions in the afternoon. Figure 1 below outlines Bud’s normal training week. Talking to Bud about cutting down on the number of morning workouts, he explained, “What is the point of a quality session if your swimmers are not going to be training at race pace or faster? Fast needs to be fast.”

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
AM Rest Aerobic Rest Aerobic Rest Aerobic Rest
PM Threshold Descending Quality Descending Aerobic
Quality Rest

2. Predictor Sets Give Athletes Confidence

Bud’s philosophy of coaching is largely based around sets he likes to refer to as “Predictor Sets”. These are sessions that he has developed over the years which he uses to get an idea of what times his athletes are likely to swim in races. Bud found that repeating the same sets with athletes was a great way to instil confidence in them. Talking about Janet Evans, who won three gold medals at the 1988 Seoul Olympic games, he commented on how repeating predictor sets with Janet, and her ability to consistently improve workout times, was a great way to motivate her and get her confident before racing.

Some of Buds favourite Predictor Sets:


  • 20 x 25 @ 1:00 – 100m speed & Stroke Rate
  • 8 x 50 @ 1:30 = aiming to go 2nd 50 of 100m Personal Best


  • 4-6 x (3 x 70 + 130 easy) 210m of fast trying to go faster than 200m Personal Best
  • 3 rounds
    200 easy @3:30
    (3x 100-1:15-1:10-1:05 (or whatever interval they can go to – 1:30-1:25-1:20) all sprinting
    The 3rd 100 trying to hit their 2nd 100 split in their 200.


  • 4 x broken 400m @10:00
    1. Dive 200 @3:00
    2. Push 100 @2:00
    3. 2x50m Push @1:00
  • 40x50m
    16 every 4th fast @:45
    12 every 3rd fast @1:00
    8 every 2nd fast @1:15
    4 all fast @1:30


  • 40x50m 1500m pace @:40
  • 4 x 400 @ 6:00 – 1500 pace
    3 x 300 @ 4:30 – 800 pace
    2 x 200 @ 3:00 – 400 pace
    1 x 100 – 2nd 100 of 200 pb

3. Technique of a distance swimmer

From a swimmer like Janet with a fairly unusual technique, to local WAIS swimmer Ben Roberts with the textbook distance freestyle stroke, Bud believes that a freestyle stroke needs to be modelled and corrected, but a stroke is also unique to the swimmer. Bud explained that Janet’s body type and physiology meant that she used a fairly high stroke rate, which resulted in a straight arm recovery, not typical of a distance freestyler.

For Bud, an emphasis on body position and body control should be of high importance for a distance swimmer and being able to maintain a strong core is crucial for maintaining efficiency. Bud talked about prescribing core and body control work like Pilates for a period of time but found that ultimately getting his swimmers to complete Predictor Sets, while maintaining a strong core and body position, gave him confidence that they would be able to perform in a race.

Reflection from Ben Roberts

Upon reflection of his time with Bud, Ben Roberts speaks to Bud’s immense experience and ability to remember workout times, which assists in tracking progress. Ben has shared some of the key features he believes has made Bud a great coach.

Ben highlights Bud’s ability to remember workout times for Predictor Sets. This means Bud is always conscious of where his swimmers at with their training. Ben emphasises how he enjoys the challenge of regularly repeating Predictor Sets. He says, “it is really motivating swimming a key session faster than I ever have before. Bud keeps a small notebook where he records all my times, so even if I don’t know I have swum a training PB he will tell me.”

Another key feature of Bud’s coaching is that he places the accountability on the swimmers. Ben says Bud keeps it super simple, “If you want to race fast, do the predictor sets and keep getting faster. If you keep getting faster doing the predictor sets then you will race faster.”

Bud’s Impact at WAIS

Bud has been an extremely valued member of the WAIS team and will be missed. Bud shared his favourite memory while at WAIS was getting Blair Evans a personal best in her 400m IM and earning a spot on the 2016 Rio Olympic team.

I think I can speak on behalf of the Australian and Western Australian swimming community how extremely grateful we are to have had Bud in our environment and appreciate the openness he has shown in sharing his knowledge to young and old swimming coaches alike.

Written by Leighton Cook | WAIS

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