Tim Hochradel was a former competitive swimmer who has focused on and utilized his dryland skills to support elite open water swimmers after his retirement from pool competitions.
He has served as a team manager for USA Swimming at the 2015 FINA Marathon Swimming World Cup in Mexico, the 2017 FINA World Championships in Hungary, and the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships in Japan. He described his responsibilities while working with Team USA:
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What are your specific and general responsibilities during international travel with the USA national team?
Tim Hochradel: Generally, the job of a manager is to support the athletes, coaches, medical staff, and USA Swimming staff, whatever that may be. One of the biggest things is handling a lot of the logistics and making sure people are where they need to be at the time they need to be there.
In open water this is important so you know when swimmers have to check in at the call room, attend the pre-race briefing, check in feeding sticks, etc. Another part of that is providing an accurate daily itinerary, which is also important for drug testing protocols. It is also ensuring communication between athletes, coaches, staff, etc. and sharing all necessary information. Those responsibilities also vary depending on what other staff are on the trip.
For example, at last summer’s World Championships, having the open water team separate we had a smaller, but still very robust, staff. I supported our dietician by shopping for snacks, preparing recovery smoothies, and making sure there was adequate nutrition at training and competition times. This summer with the larger staff, they handled that themselves and I wasn’t as involved. Some other minor but still important responsibilities are making sure everyone is dressed in the same uniform, we celebrate team members’ birthdays on the trip, and reserving team space in the venue and in the team seating areas. Overall, the job is doing whatever the team needs to be successful.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What are your specific and general responsibilities during an actual 5 km, 10 km or 25 km race during an international open water swimming event?
Tim Hochradel: It depends on the specific competition. This summer since the United States had ten athletes in the Pan Pacific Swimming Championship 10 km race, I was one of the feeders, responsible for one male and one female swimmer. Last summer at the FINA World Championships with just two swimmers per event, coaches and other staff members were responsible for the feeding. Other than that, I don’t have many responsibilities during the actual race as I’m not involved with the coaching. One of the biggest strengths of Team USA is the team support, so any time I can be in the stands cheering during the race feels like a big contribution.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: On race day, what is your schedule? How early do you get up and what time do you get back to bed?
Tim Hochradel: This depends on the specific competition. This summer was a unique situation because although the team and some staff were at the open water site a few days before the race, the rest of the staff did not arrive until the morning of the race, so with the drive from Tokyo and a 7:00 am start time, it was an early morning.
Generally, we arrive about two hours before the start of the race to allow the swimmers time to stretch, warm up, get a rub down, get their suit on, tape transponders, and other race preparations. Also, since there are usually on 1-2 races a day, there is generally time in the afternoon and evening for naps, massage, team meetings, and preparation for future races, and any other work. Since the races are usually in the morning, it can be pretty early, but everyone in the race is in the same situation. You are usually able to get to bed pretty early to stay rested.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: You studied molecular biology in college. How did you find your way to managing university and international championship teams?
Tim Hochradel: I swam growing up and through high school. When choosing colleges, I decided to attend the University of Michigan, knowing I could not continue my swimming career there. Coach Mike Bottom allowed me to serve as a volunteer manager my freshman year with the men’s swimming team at Michigan.
As I progressed, I gained more responsibilities, especially when the men’s and women’s programs combined in the 2012-2013 season. That year which was my senior year, the men’s team won the NCAA Championship. After graduation, I was fortunate enough to be offered a full-time position that was created as a result of the larger staff of a combined program. It was at Michigan where I first became involved with open water, attending the FINA World Cup meet in Cozumel with Sean Ryan and Emily Brunemann. That first experience led to more interest and opportunity to with the USA Swimming National Team at international competitions, and I have been lucky enough to attend those meets the last two summers. To get to your point, my cell and molecular biology degree was a product of my interests at the time, not knowing what I wanted to be when I “grew up”. There are a few options for careers with that degree – research, medicine, and teaching being the foremost – and I wasn’t especially interested in any of those. I was lucky enough to turn my love for swimming into a career that has led to places I never thought I would go.
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