'Fortune' lists JHU swim coach Kennedy among 'The World's 50 Greatest Leaders'

He has won DIII national coach of year honors seven times in 29 seasons

Hub Staff Report / March 26, 2014 Posted in Athletics Tagged swimming

George Kennedy Image: Christopher Myers

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Coach George Kennedy trains swimmers' bodies. But to really help them go fast, he trains their minds / Johns Hopkins Magazine

What does Johns Hopkins swimming coach George Kennedy have in common with Pope Francis, Bono, and the Dalai Lama?

They all made Fortune magazine's list of "The World's 50 Greatest Leaders," which was published last week.

Kennedy, 58, just completed his 29th season as coach of the Blue Jays' men's and women's swimming teams. He was named Division III coach of the year for the seventh time this past weekend in Indianapolis, Ind., where JHU's women's team finished a program-best third at the NCAA championships. In 29 years, his teams have finished in the top 10 nationally 41 times, and in the top five 16 times.

But, he told Fortune, "My four favorite words are 'We can do better.'"

Kennedy was the subject of a profile in the Spring 2013 issues of Johns Hopkins Magazine, which noted "Johns Hopkins swimmers learn that one constant of their coach is his willingness to try anything new that might make them faster.":

Kennedy's swimmers follow detailed and color-coded training schedules that change every day and are based on continuous monitoring of the latest sports training research, what other programs are doing, and new ideas discussed on Internet swim sites and discussion boards. Kennedy and his assistant, Nikki Kett, gather data on lap times and stroke rates and race tempos, and forward those data to the swimmers. To swim fast requires strength and endurance, strong muscles and hearts and lungs. But Kennedy will tell you that what matters more is what is in the the athletes' heads. Were he to name his method that name could be Head First. Essential to turning a talented high school kid into a fast collegiate swimmer is convincing him or her to believe in Kennedy's method. Follow the program and listen to the coaches and you will go faster. "To me, the whole person steps up to race," he says. "I think the emotional part might be the most important thing. If someone really thinks they're going to go fast, 90 percent of the time they will."

Kennedy is in distinguished company on Fortune's list, where he is joined by a who's who of world leaders, sports icons, war heroes, and—this being Fortune—CEOs. Bill Clinton, Warren Buffet, Derek Jeter, Jeff Bezos, and Angelina Jolie are on the list. So, too, are former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (a 1964 Johns Hopkins graduate) and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, who, we announced yesterday, will speak at JHU's commencement ceremony this year.

Notably not on the list, The Washington Post points out—President Obama.

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