David Salo

Headcoach USC


Dr. David Salo, PhD, and head coach of the University of Southern California, will be a presenter at the 2020 WADC. The scope of Dr. Salo’s  accomplishments are unmatched in modern swimming. He is an anomaly in swimming, a trained scientist with a PhD in exercise physiology who also coaches. He has applied science to swimming in an unique, personal, and innovative way.

David’s 1990 book Sprintsalo, based on his scientific knowledge of swimming, and his personal experience as an athlete and as an assistant coach at USC, went against the norms of the swimming culture of that era. The book itself was disruptive, but once David began coaching as a head club coach in 1990, his achievements became equally disruptive.

As the head coach of Irvine Novaquatics in Southern California in one of the most aggressive and competitive age group swimming environments in the world, he rapidly established himself. With emphatically dominant success at the local, regional, national, and international, and Olympic Games levels through application of his principles, he placed 5 athletes on the Sydney 2000 USA Olympic Team, an unusual accomplishment for a club coach, and only 10 years after taking over the club.

At Irvine, David was anything but the common figurehead coach who coached a handful of elite athletes while situated at the receiving end of a pipeline of swimmers. He was hands-on at every level of this program, which included getting into the water to teach swimming lessons as a way to expand the quality of his club. He remarked that he began to see learning to swim as an opportunity to shape what he wanted to see 17 years later in the older athletes on his club.


In 2007, Dr. Salo became the head coach at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where his success has continued with USA athletes, but also athletes from many countries around the world. Continuing to place numbers of USA athletes on Olympic teams every four years, he also placed athletes from other countries on their Olympic teams. His swim club associated with USC, Trojan Swim Club, is a magnet program because of Dr. Salo’s presence.


David is perfectly situated to address the themes of this year’s WADC. One theme is to identify the commonalities across all aquatics, from infant learn to swim, drowning prevention, therapy, recreational swimming, club swimming, and elite swimming. Dave has intimate knowledge of this “red thread” concept, and, as is his custom, also has hands on practical experience from learn to swim to Olympic medalists and world record holders. A second theme is how to create change in processes in response to changing conditions and changing goals. Dave has been in a constant state of reinvention and change throughout his career as his athletes change, society changes, and his training environment changes.

WADC will use a non-traditional format to take advantage of Dr. Salo’s presence in Sweden. Rather than the traditional titled talks, conference participants will submit questions which will be vetted, and selected with Dr. Salo’s input. David’s responses during the conference will happen in a moderated, interactive, and conversational format. New questions will also be taken from the floor.

Conference participants will be solicited for questions during December, once registration is complete.

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