Whether it’s choosing a movie to see or picking a restaurant for dinner, coordinating a group activity can be difficult. Opinions run rampant, and it can be hard getting those involved to agree on even the simplest of subjects. Now, imagine the complexity in coordinating a multi-day international excursion for the world’s most accomplished and influential swim federation, and satisfying every need and request of more than 80 athletes, coaches and support staff. This is the daily life and challenge for Lindsay Mintenko, managing director for the U.S. national swim team.
Lindsay is no stranger to the sport of swimming. The Indiana native spent nearly 12 years at USA Swimming before assuming the role as leader of the national team division nearly a year ago. Prior to joining the USA Swimming organization, she competed in both the Sydney and Athens Olympic Games, earning two golds and one silver medal. Her intimate knowledge of and experience with the swimming community has given Lindsay the tools she needs to efficiently and effectively organize the national team’s grueling travel and competition schedule. But one may wonder: What exactly goes into planning for a U.S. national team event, training camp or competition?
“The most important thing, once we figure out where the international competition will take place, is to start looking at how we can best prepare our athletes for optimal performance,” says Lindsay.
She and her team begin this planning well in advance. This includes arranging flights, accommodations, transportation and meals, among countless other things. Lindsay and her team meet with coaches, athletes and committees, all with the goal of serving the athletes to the best of their ability. Each national team member has different priorities or items on their “wish list.” These wishes can range from the need for certain water temperatures and training equipment at the competition pool to wanting a Western-style hotel or nearby Starbucks coffee shop. Obviously, with any group planning, not every individual’s preferences can be satisfied.
“There are a lot of different opinions,” explains Lindsay. “We try to do the best we can and make the best decisions that will ultimately enable our athletes perform at their highest level.”
Event location also plays a crucial role when planning the team’s travel schedule. The national team division takes into consideration the country, time zone and adjustment period. The longer the travel time, the longer the athletes need to recover and acclimate before competition. A trip to Europe from the United States is not as taxing as a trip to Asia, for example. Even so, not all athletes adjust at the same rate or have the same issues. Lindsay’s goal is to minimize stresses as much as possible and find a happy medium between too much and too little time spent at an event.
“Some trips are too long and get stale. We try to move around in hotels and locations to stop this from happening,” says Lindsay. “As for a trip that is too short, you just do the best you can and try to come together as a team in the best possible way.”
As is the nature of these events, things never run 100 percent according to plan. The trick, Lindsay explains, is to stay positive, anticipate the breakdowns, and focus on problem-solving when unexpected hurdles emerge. The key to overcoming adversity, says Lindsay, revolves around teamwork and communication:
“We work very hard to make sure we are communicating with our athletes and gathering their feedback consistently.”
Regardless of the circumstances, Lindsay’s ultimate goal is to support the national team members. Her division must anticipate the athletes’ needs even before they do. The swimmers are there to compete, and everything else is taken care of by Lindsay and her staff.
“They are just there to do their job,” explains Lindsay. “They don’t have to worry about all the other stuff that is happening when they are getting ready to compete. All they have to do is to make sure they get up on the blocks and do the best they can.”
To learn more about Lindsay Mintenko and the U.S. national team, visit usaswimming.org.