Sunday, August 2, 2009

Hitting For The Sake Of Hitting

There was an interesting article in this Saturday’s San Francisco Chronicle about the Oakland Raiders and their somewhat unique approach to training camp. David White writes, “Take the old school of two-a-day practices, add the new school of football teaching, and that explains all this standing around at the Raiders training camp…Instead of doing what normal NFL teams do at training camp – strap up and hit somebody – the Raiders are spending the first four days of camp in an outdoor classroom. No pads. No hitting. No plays run. No sweat broken. Just lots of teaching and, Cable (Head Coach Tom Cable) hopes, lots of learning. “It seemed like it was weird at first,” linebacker Isaiah Ekejiuba said Friday. “But you go through it and it’s a great concept.”

This is Cable’s idea: Teach the players what they are supposed to do, down to the last details, before cutting them loose to do it on the field. Injuries are limited, if only because it is near impossible to get hurt practicing at the speed of jog. “It’s a chance to really sort it all out and work through it before all of a sudden you put the combative part into it,” said Cable. He adds, “This is unique because we don’t have the stress, we don’t get beat up. We’re really learning and relearning.”

They are not hitting merely for the sake of hitting.

Swimming For The Sake Of Swimming

Often coaches, especially at the beginning of the season, want to emphasize aerobic fitness with their swimmers. Masters swimmers and tri-athletes often do the same. What can happen if you are not careful is that you end up doing a lot of swimming merely for the sake of getting in the yardage. To be sure, lots of yardage can (but is not guaranteed to) drive the general fitness level up; but at what cost?

We suggest that you take a page from Tom Cable’s coaching manual and spend some time getting your strokes more proficient, especially early in the season. If you are already in mid season training phase why not take one day per week and simply focus on technique? This will get you back to basics and give you a recovery day at the same time. Perhaps you take a lesson that day, or watch a video and then get in the pool and play with the new drill(s) you saw in the video.

We have swimmers on our team who are in great shape but make the same mistakes technically over and over again. We think that has some to do with ineffective coaching and part to do with swimmers who think they can “muscle” their way to the top.

We can tell you this much about the World Championships taking place in Rome this week: those swimmers in the suits setting world records are very efficient and proficient in the pool. It is inspiring us to rethink how we will begin our season in the fall.

Swimmers who want to swim fast need first to swim correctly and then work on their training systems. That much we are sure of…the rest of the stuff we are still working on!

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