Coaches, News

’Hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard’

Coach Lazar speaks about Iron Swim, Serbia, the beginnings and plans.

  • Why swimming? In Serbia everyone chooses water polo or basketball…

In Serbia swimming is not in the top8 sports, but my parents put me in swimming, because as a child I was sick all the time. I got bronchitis and stuff like that and my parents thought it was a healthy sport. So, I started swimming when I was five. That was the beginning and after that I was better and better.

  • What caught you in swimming?

Let’s be honest, it is a boring sport, just swim up and down, there is a line under you, or if you swim backstroke the ceiling above you. But I fell in love with swimming, I liked the sport, the process of developing, how it helped you personally. You have to think what you do, you have to be aware of how you do it. You have to really fall in love with the sport to be able to improve. All the great swimmers in the world love it. Just think about Katinka. That is how you can become the best. I like the process how mentally become strong, how push yourself to push the boundaries. I think I will swim till I get pensioned or even further.

  • When did you realize these values that the swimming could give you. I do not think that at the age of five you felt that it was great to be mentally strong because of swimming.

Surely it happened later, at the age of 13-14. I started to get into swimming because I wanted to go to the US to study at a university. In Serbia my club was a Slovenian type of swimming, a lot of arms and pulling and just swimming, swimming, swimming. Details and turns and underwater stuffs I had to learn by myself. So, since the age of 13-14 I started to watch videos about swimming. I just realized that we did not do enough for good swimming. I was the first one in my club to learn the Michael Phelps/Ryan Lochte touch turn back to breast, Then I showed it to all the kids in my club. Just because I saw it on a video. I practiced it a lot and I learned it. I learned the underwater technique, the freestyle technique Phelps and Ian Thorpe did. I had a lot of videos, probably about 300 swimming videos on my laptop with American and Australian coaches what they do and how they do it with their swimmers. And then when I was 15, I was invited for the first time in the national team and since 2009 I swim in the national team.

  • If you have such serious goals in the national team, why do you work as a coach, too? How did it come?

When I was 18, I finished high school and I was supposed to go to the US. But I missed it unfortunately. One coach offered me 80% of scholarship and the next year I would have 100, but those 20% was 9.500 USD, my parents did not have money to pay that. That same summer Christopher Tidy, the coach of a great Serbian swimmer came to a summer camp. He watched me swimming and asked me whether I wanted to come to Dubai to swim for him and work for him as a swimming teacher. I was improving and improving, swimming and teaching also, and last year moved to coaching. I stayed there more than three years. It was rough time in Dubai but learning time as well. I became more professional, more aware of why swimming, why I am doing this. I started to develop me as a coach. I was good, I never had a complain about my work, Chris knew that and cherished me as a teacher, as a coach. When I left, he was like whenever I want to come back , I am more than welcome.

  • You are a competitive swimmer and you work as a coach, too. How can you combine these two roles?

I do not have problems, because coaching is for me is not hard work, I love it. I love kids, they give me the best energy ever. I know that for real professional swimming there should be only swimming, rest, eating and stuff like that. But it works for me.

  • Does it mean that you have already given up the real big goals as professional swimmer?

No, it does not mean. I think that you can be like this. You do not need to do all the time just swimming, swimming. You have to have something next to swimming, your mind out of pool, something to relax your mind, so for me coaching is perfect. I do not concentrate on swimming when I coach the kids, and when I have sessions, I concentrate on my swim and do not think about the kids. It is a good exercise for the brain to concentrate and focus on one thing.

  • So, if you have goals in competitive sport, what are those?

To qualify for Tokyo 2020. I set myself a goal that if I make the Olympics and make the semifinals, I continue swimming because it is worth. If I do not make the semifinal, I will focus more on coaching after the Olympics. I would like to train myself to become as good coach as I could be.

  • Iron Swim includes Katinka’ American sense of purpose, Árpi’s Swiss accuracy and the Hungarian mentality as well, but what about your Serbian way of thinking, how could you add it to this mixture?

I was really taught of Western mentality, British mentality, since I worked in Dubai. I pay attention a lot what I do. I learned a lot how Western people did, but certainly I have my own Eastern mentality and passion as well. I grew up in Serbia, so I know what Slovenians, Hungarians do. It is a little bit different, but if you put those two together, it is the best mixture. Because I think you need quantity, but you also need quality. If you put together the two nicely, it can work very well, and Iron Swim does exactly that. Me personally I am very wild, I like to have fun, but also get serious when it is needed for work. I try the kids to understand that. When we have fun, we have fun, but when we work, we concentrate on work. I think they understand that and getting to respect it more and more.

  • How do you get on with the kids?

I think very well. I like them and they also like me. They like the part that I still swim and they can see me swimming sometimes and I can show them in the water what to do. They understand me, they listen to me. I try to act professionally and to teach them manners, discipline and to teach them to fall in love with the sport.

  • Do they try to have fun, play wag sometimes?

Of course, they do! They are kids, teenagers, they do that all the time. I let them a little bit, but when there is work, the work has to be done. I have the ability to be very strict, too, but also to go down on their level and have fun with them. My Mum works with kids in a kindergarden, so I got that from her. She really likes to deal with kids. I do also. I can joke with them, but I can be serious as well.

  • And what about the language? Do you feel any disadvantage of communicating in English with them?

A little bit, yeah. But I learn what I need to say during the session, like numbers, distance, strokes, the small things that are important in swimming. But if I want a deeper talk with them, I need language, so I started to learn Hungarian. I will be better in a couple of months. I think the mixture is good, little bit English, little bit Hungarian, it is good for them, good for me.

  • What do you like the most in Hungary?

Goulash! There is a restaurant where I often go to eat goulash. I like the city, Budapest is very similar to Belgrade, but the center is a lot bigger and cleaner and nicer. I like walking, running, riding a bike. It is not like Dubai where it’s 47 degrees and you cannot walk.

  • What do you do when you do not swim, do not coach?

I have a rest. Sometimes I ride the bike and play basketball, if I find a partner. I do not have much time. Basketball and water-polo, two things that Serbians know how to play. If you don’t know wou are not Serbian. But certainly, basketball and water-polo are only hobbies for me, for my soul.

  • Do you think you can find some talents in Iron Swim?

Of course, we have a lot of talents. But hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard. Any talents have to work hard, if they want to be good. Swimming is a marathon. There is a lot to learn, important to be patient and not to rush. Nobody becomes Michael Phelps or Katinka Hosszú by the age of 12-13.

  • Do they understand that when they are 10-11?

At that age no, but at the age of 13-14 yes. One of my group is of that age and I can see that they definitely understand it.

  • What do you want to teach the kids besides swimming?

How to have fun. I want to teach them life, to be mentally strong. How to organize themselves. My dad always says organization is half of the life. If you organize yourself, you already have half done. I want to teach them belief in anything, swimming, school. If you believe, you are half way there.

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